Dumbledore had caught him on the way up to her rooms to warn him, as if a warning were needed, that she would be very tired and quite possibly disturbed by all that had happened in such a short space of time. Not much escaped the headmaster. He was already aware that Severus had paid her a visit during the afternoon, courtesy of Professor McGonagall who had sent up the tray of food. What he did not know was the outcome of the meeting, but he would make it his business to find out. Remus tapped again, a little louder this time, and then slowly opened the door, calling out a soft hello as he did so.
Disturbed by dreams, Maeve was only lightly sleeping, so she heard the click of the latch as the door closed. She was already sitting up in bed when she heard his muted call.
“Through here.” She answered his hello with sleep still heavy on her tongue.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” he said apologetically. “But I didn’t want you to think I had forgotten about you.”
“No, don’t worry,” she said. “I was just taking a nap.”
“You should be doing more than taking a nap.” Remus’ natural concern for others was apparent from the worried frown that appeared across his forehead.
She got to her feet wearily, wondering if she was really up to talking with him. Conversation suddenly seemed beyond her, because all she wanted to do was go back to sleep. At least in the land of her dreams she could forget about the earlier tension with Severus.
“Why don’t you come through to the sitting room? It will be more comfortable for us to talk through there,” Remus suggested. She followed him meekly to the other room, where they sat down in front of the blazing fire. Remus poured them both a glass of wine from the bottle that had miraculously appeared, along with two glasses, on the table in front of them. She shook her head as he offered her the glass, knowing it would make her more tired and sluggish than she already was.
“It has been a long time, Maeve,” he said softly. “A great deal of water has flowed under our respective bridges since we last met.”
“I think there has been a lot more under yours than mine,” she remarked, a light laugh in her voice to conceal the fact that she was starting to feel the hurt of her wasted life.
“Possibly,” he conceded. “Not all of it good, I’m afraid.”
“No, I don’t expect it was,” she replied ruefully. “But we have the chance to catch up again now.”
“Yes, we do indeed. Although, I would have preferred a different set of circumstances.”
There was none of the wariness that defined her conversations with Severus; Remus was an altogether easier person to talk to. She hadn’t spent much time with him at school, but she remembered him as a likeable boy, if sometimes a little too eager to please.
“So what have you been doing with yourself? Life can’t have been easy.” She watched his face for signs that he perhaps didn’t want to talk about this, but he was apparently willing to be open with her.
“No, it’s been very difficult, but you have to make what you can of life, don’t you? Without Albus, things would have been much worse. I take work where I can find it. I worked here for a year.” He looked sad as he thought back to his brief time as a professor.
“I read about your dismissal in the Prophet; I’m sorry about that.” She wondered if it would be appropriate to ask him what really happened, but he saved her the trouble by launching straight into an explanation.
“It was wrong of me to come here as a teacher. I was still potentially dangerous; I’m always potentially dangerous.” Maeve made no comment about this. By choosing to go with him, she was accepting whatever small danger there might have been. “I could have killed people many times over. On the night I forgot to take my Wolfsbane, I would have killed students. It was completely unforgivable. Severus, of course, was fully vindicated in his dislike and mistrust of me.”
“Why does he dislike you so much?” She wondered if she would get any closer to the truth behind Severus’ earlier comments regarding the attempt on his life.
Remus sat back and exhaled slowly, his face displaying discomfort.
“It was a long time ago. The protagonist is now dead.” He knew she wouldn’t be happy with that, but it was worth a try. One thing he hadn’t anticipated discussing so soon were the events of the fateful night beneath the Whomping Willow.
“James or Sirius?” she asked, proving him right in his estimation that she would want more.
“Sirius, it was James who saved him. It was I who would have killed him.” His head sagged dejectedly.
“Did it happen at the time of a full moon?” she asked, intuition giving her an idea of what had happened.
He nodded mutely, and then looked at her with anguish in his eyes as he remembered that awful night, a night filled with a blackness that had held repercussions for them all. If only Sirius could have seen it at the time.
“I could have killed him because Sirius decided to be even more reckless than was usual.” Remus hesitated, as if aware that his statement laid most of the blame at a dead man’s door. “It was as much my fault as Sirius’ for wanting to fit in and be normal. As if I could ever be normal, running around the school wild once a month,” he said in a self-deprecating tone. In one easy move he had shifted the blame back onto his own over-burdened shoulders. “Severus knew something funny was going on at the Shrieking Shack; it was where I went when I was transformed into a werewolf. Sirius thought it would be clever to give him a pointer that he would find something interesting if he used the passage below the Whomping Willow. Of course, had he done that he would have encountered a full-blown werewolf. At the very least, he would have been bitten and spent the rest of his life like me. But in all probability he would have been killed. James stepped in at the last minute and stopped him. Severus knew what Sirius had done to harm him, and what James had consequently done to help him. He couldn’t cope with either fact.” He took a large drink of wine, as if the alcohol could erase the unhappy memories.
She frowned at him as the information sank in. It explained a great deal regarding Severus’ attitude to the trio and his continued dislike of Remus. The room was still, apart from the crackling of the flames and the chink of Remus’ glass as he refilled it from the half empty bottle. Maeve was struggling to put her thoughts into words without sounding unduly harsh.
“That’s an incredibly awful thing to do to someone,” she said finally. “It is hard to believe you could be so cruel.”
In her mind, she was picturing the scene. She could well imagine Severus’ triumph as he realised he had found a way to discover what they were up to, and then the horror when he realised the trick that had been played. However anyone looked at it, and no matter what Severus had done to them, he didn’t deserve what Sirius had done in return.
“Severus hardly endeared himself to people you know. He had a real pure-blood fixation. You, of course, wouldn’t have known about that, being pure-blood yourself.” Slight resentment crept into his voice. “And, of course, when he found out about the werewolf problem he became insufferable.”
She reached forward, deciding she did want a glass of wine after all. Maeve knew all about the prejudice that existed towards wizards of non-pure lineage, knew that Severus had indulged himself occasionally with the odd taunt. She still couldn’t accept that Sirius would have gone that far in getting revenge for those with mixed blood in their veins. Something told her there was far more to this than just age-old intolerance. Whether she would ever discover what it was, was an entirely different matter.
“We sometimes find it difficult to see things from other’s viewpoints, but surely you can see, after coming close to death, why he resented you.” Her hand shook slightly as she raised the glass to her lips.
“Of course I can see that, Maeve, and now here we are and ironically Severus helps me through each month by making the Wolfsbane potion for me. I can’t criticise his skill as a Potions master, although I rather think he does it to please Dumbledore than for any benefit it gives to me.” Remus gave a huge sigh. “I am also aware of my own failings as much as Severus’. I know I was too easy on them; they did some pretty awful things to him. It turned into a ritual of constant humiliation by the end of the sixth year.”
He looked genuinely sad, for Remus had had plenty of time to reflect on the things that had happened at school. She was sorry to see him look so dejected. Unlike Severus, who had an almost impenetrable shield around his feelings, Remus was transparent. Maeve suddenly felt the loss of the years when she had been removed from Hogwarts. Had she stayed, she would have seen this all unfolding and understood better. As it was, she could only guess at the scars the events of the intervening years had left.
“I have no idea how hard things have been for you, Remus. I can’t even begin to understand what it is like to lose your three best friends and have to live on the fringes of society.” Severus was forgotten now as she turned her attention to the weariness of the man before her. He was clutching his glass tightly, looking at the fire as if he wished he could dive in it and emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes. “How have you survived?”
Remus took a moment to collect his thoughts before answering. He sensed an understanding growing between them and felt he could be honest with her.
“It’s easy, Maeve. You just lock away any hopes or dreams you may have had. You learn to treat other people as you yourself would like to be treated, but you learn to acknowledge that they will rarely reciprocate that courtesy. You learn that people such as Albus Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall are rare indeed, with their endless compassion and understanding. You also learn,” and here he smiled, “that sometimes people are surprising. Sometimes people turn out to be not at all what you expected?”
“Well, you for instance. The pure-blood, ex-girlfriend of a former Death Eater who lives in a huge house in Ireland and who comes from one of the most powerful wizarding families there is over there. Who left Hogwarts because her father didn’t consider it was good enough, and who then went to an exclusive school in Ireland. I hardly expected you to be so down to earth, least of all understanding.” He hoped she would take the comments in the half-teasing spirit they had been intended.
“Is that what you thought of me?” She looked dejected at this revelation. “That stuff about Hogwarts was just my father’s usual bluster. The school I finished my education at was no better than this one.”
“I did think you might be a bit…well… standoffish.” He looked a little sheepish, which gave her some encouragement.
“Having spent ten years shut away with my awful father, a few servants, not to mention a horse, I hardly think I should waste my time ignoring people, do you? Especially not people with the potential to be as charming as you.” She gave him a grin as the mood began to lighten. In just a short while they had established a rapport that boded well for Dumbledore’s plan. She was now genuinely looking forward to their so-called working holiday. Maeve had to hand it to Dumbledore; when it came to a good plan he certainly knew how to pull it together. Despite this, the vision of a disgruntled Severus forced its way into her head, but she quickly pushed away the thought that Severus had his doubts.
Remus glanced at the clock, setting his glass purposefully down on the table when he realised the lateness of the hour.
“It’s time you were in bed, Maeve. You have had a long day. I only popped by for a short time just to make sure you were all right with all of this. Perhaps I should be getting off now.”
“Yes, of course,” she agreed, getting up from the sofa. “I had not expected my return to Hogwarts to result in finding such an interesting new friend.”
“I am glad you came back,” he said simply. “I never really got to know you when we were at school. Our different relationship with Severus kept us distant, I think. Those things don’t seem so important now, do they?”
“No, the passage of time changes things, doesn’t it?” she agreed. “I just wish it had changed Severus too.”
“How do you feel about him now?” he asked cautiously. He remembered an awful lot about their schooldays. Even though he hadn’t known her very well, he could still remember the firmness with which Maeve and Severus had stuck together. It was highly unusual to find a Ravenclaw and a Slytherin intent on spending as much of their time together as those two had. But then, it was highly unusual to find a Slytherin associating with anyone outside his or her own house.
“I don’t know, Remus.” She shook her head. “I really don’t know. Part of me feels exactly the same way I did when we were at school. There is something indefinable about certain bonds we make with people. I never really knew why I loved being with him, I just did. I know things have happened to him. I know he has made some difficult, and wrong, decisions. What I don’t know is the person behind that wall he has surrounded himself with now. It’s as if he has put up an impenetrable shield.”
“I know. I have tried to extend the hand of friendship but it’s futile. He doesn’t want to know,” he said. “But maybe I am not the person to befriend him, given our history.”
“I’m not sure there is anyone that fits that particular bill.” She wanted to change the subject because she didn’t want the evening to end on a gloomy note. As they walked across to the door together, she asked him where he would be going after he left her. He was rather vague, mentioning something about returning to London. She would be alone the following day and then on Friday they would travel together to the cottage so she could learn all the details she would need to be convincing in her new identity. This was the part of the adventure she was most looking forward to, a quiet fortnight in the countryside with someone companionable.
“Take care, Remus,” she said, as he opened the door to leave. “I have no idea what work you are doing, but I have an inkling it could be dangerous.”
“Getting up in the morning is dangerous, if you look at it that way,” he said with a smile. “Don’t worry about me. I will be back here on Friday to whisk you away.”
She reached forward to embrace him; it was impulsive but she suddenly felt the need to touch another human being. He returned her embrace with arms that were unused to such open gestures of affection. For a few precious moments she felt completely at ease in the safe boundaries of his arms. Maeve broke away first, looking into his eyes with gratitude.
“Thank you for coming by, it means a lot to me.”
“My pleasure. It’s nice to get to know the sister I never really had the chance to be with.” He gave her one last squeeze. “I’ll see you Friday.”
And with that he was gone into the night. Maeve was left alone with just the waning moon and the soft, night wind for company.
Friday morning found the castle’s few inhabitants up early. For some this was usual. Severus often rose early to collect plants fresh with the morning dew still on them, an important ingredient in itself. Dumbledore also found himself rising earlier and earlier as he aged, perhaps increasingly aware that time was running short and he should make the most of all that was available. McGonagall also rose early, usually because she had a lot of school things to attend to, but today because she wanted a quick word with the headmaster before he left for London.
“Do you think,” asked Professor McGonagall anxiously, “that you are doing the right thing?”
Dumbledore looked over the top of his glasses at her, as if the thought had never occurred to him. He continued to stroke Fawkes' tail absentmindedly as he answered her.
“Oh yes, I think so, Minerva. In fact, as well as the idea of having a little secret that Voldemort doesn’t know, I also think it will do the pair of them no end of good. They have both spent a long time suffering. I do believe this will give them both the opportunity to” – he paused as if searching for the right words, and then his eyes twinkled as they found them – “live a little.”
Minerva McGonagall didn’t look at all convinced, despite having the utmost faith in Albus Dumbledore. Perhaps the time spent in a hospital bed at St Mungo’s had made her a little more circumspect than she would otherwise have been, or perhaps she just didn’t think it was a good idea.
“I can see why you think they would be good company for each other, Albus, but I was also thinking of Professor Snape.”
Dumbledore’s eyes clouded a little as he thought of his Potions master. The discussion they had had yesterday about Maeve and Remus Lupin had been unsettling. He had seen the jealousy in the younger man’s eyes, and some of the hurt too. There was no doubt that Severus was deeply wounded by the past and by Maeve, who had been innocent as far as he could discern, but Severus hadn’t quite seen it that way. He knew from the harsh words spoken that Severus still loathed Remus with every fibre of his being, a loathing made all the worse by the death of both Black and Potter. Instead of the hatred being spread evenly around, it was now directed at one man. Dumbledore trusted Severus with his life, but he knew the man could wound deeply with his words and attitude. He was still very much the boy wanting approval at times and only Dumbledore, and perhaps Maeve, knew how much it had cost him to go against his upbringing and conditioning to turn to the side of good. There would always be a shadow of darkness around Severus Snape, but at least that was now tempered with the will to do good rather than evil.
“I know, Minerva, I know. But he has to learn. He has justifiably been very disconcerted by Maeve’s return. There is no doubt in my mind that that young lady loves him very much. He must come to terms with her return and subsequent involvement both with the school and the Order.” Dumbledore leaned forward and started to rummage around in his desk drawer.
Minerva had never understood how the fiery young Irish girl had been attracted to the aloof Severus in the first place. It seemed the most unlikely of partnerships, but she had to concede that they had been very good for each other’s development. Dumbledore had commented upon their relationship when the Sorting Hat had made the pointed chant the previous year about all the houses standing together. You couldn’t get a finer example of a joining of different personalities to make a stronger one. Minerva had also pointed out at the time that Maeve was a pure-blood, and she wasn’t so sure Snape would have had much to do with her had she not been, but Dumbledore had dismissed that.
“It could make his difficulties with Remus much worse,” she said almost reprovingly. “It could also make Remus’ problems a lot harder to deal with. What happens if Severus decides to stop making the Wolfsbane potion out of spite?” Albus’ rustling in his drawer was distracting her from her train of thought. “Forgive me, Albus, but what are you doing?”
“Sherbet lemons, I know there are some in here; I just can’t locate them.” The desk muffled his voice and she pursed her lips at his inattention.
“I have already dealt with the unlikely event that Severus stops making the potion,” he said, sitting up abruptly, clutching a small, crumpled white paper bag and wearing a look of triumph on his face. “Whilst they are away, Maeve will be responsible for making and administering Remus’ potion. She is more than accomplished in the Potions field. I should imagine she would find it a relatively simple task. If necessary, she can continue when they return.”
McGonagall looked sceptical, she was foreseeing all sorts of complications with Severus and none of them were pleasant.
“Perhaps that would also alienate Severus,” she reasoned. “I have to register my strongest disapproval at this whole plan. You are also asking her to make Wolfsbane for the first time, and then be alone with him during the transformation. It’s so risky.”
Dumbledore sighed, smiling indulgently at his assistant. He appreciated that, on the face of it, his plan might seem rashly conceived, but he knew it was the best way of keeping her safe and allowing her to move on. It would also, temporarily, give Remus the family he so desperately craved. He looked at Minerva’s steely eyes and accepted her reservations with good grace. She was still tired after the attack at the end of last term; it was affecting her judgement slightly. He was sure she would be her usual alert self by the start of term, but for now she was below par and this worried him slightly.
“Trust me, Minerva, trust me,” he said gently. They had both had their share of unhappy experiences recently. Dumbledore knew that he had been proved wrong in hiding so much from Harry, but nonetheless he still had to believe in his own judgement. He must do what both his head and heart believed was right.
McGonagall took one of the sticky yellow sweets he offered her and popped it into her mouth, looking unconvinced by anything he had said. She left him to his musings and made her way back to her own office. Walking along a corridor, she bumped into Argus Filch, who was busily polishing a suit of armour, taking it apart piece by piece and grumbling away to himself as he did so. She was well aware that Argus was disappointed by Umbridge’s departure. He was very much of the opinion that the school would revert to pandering to the students, allowing them to get away with everything short of murder. Argus would not have been out of place in one of the old Ministry of Magic sponsored Schools for the Impoverished that had been the only option for some a few hundred years ago. She had studied them during the History of Magical Education correspondence course that she had taken before coming to Hogwarts, and they were dreadful places. She suspected that Argus got most of his ideas for pupil management from those harsh establishments.
He stood up as she approached, dropping the visor, which fell to the floor with a noisy clatter, startling her.
“Professor McGonagall,” he said, by way of a greeting.
“Argus,” she responded. “You’re keeping yourself busy, I see.”
“Well, you know, Professor, what a lot there is to do around the school before those little blighters return.” His face hardened at the mention of the students. Professor McGonagall frowned at his dislike of the children, before quickly carrying on down the corridor. Filch, in a moment of nastiness, picked up the visor and dropped it again, his mouth twitching into a smile as she missed her step because of the sudden noise.
Mrs Norris, his cat, swirled around his ankles and purred loudly.
“Not herself that one,” Filch said to the cat, who looked up at him with bright-green, attentive eyes. “Not herself at all.”
As the early morning light filtered through her curtains, Maeve shifted in her bed, opening a sleepy eye to the morning. She still wasn’t quite used to waking up in this pleasant room, which, thanks to prompt packing by Liam and a quick trip on Fin Keane’s boat, was now filled with her own possessions. She allowed herself to doze for a while before glancing at the clock; it was still only six. Maeve padded across to the window and threw open the curtains to take in the morning. It was a fine one, with sunshine bouncing off all visible surfaces and she knew she had to go for just one short walk before it was time to leave. There would be no one about at this early hour, and she would be very quick. Her mind made up, she slipped into her clothes, allowing herself time to make her bed, a habit she couldn’t break despite the presence of house-elves. The pink cardigan that she had left out for the laundry had mysteriously not been taken away and she wondered if there was something magical about it that would make the house-elves not want to touch it. It was now stuffed back in the drawer that she had found it in, to be forgotten about once more.
She slipped from her room quietly, creeping downstairs and out into the courtyard. The sun was climbing steadily in the sky, while the birds were singing at the tops of their voices in direct competition with a strange squawking that could only have belonged to one of Hagrid’s creatures. She made her way to the edge of the forest, which looked as forbidding as always but, despite its reputation, she had always loved its comforting gloom. As she explored the unusual flora that grew from the fringes of the trees, she was stopped short by the sight of a black-cloaked figure bending over some plants with a small bag on the floor next to it. She watched for a few minutes as the figure diligently picked a few heads of Coltsfoot before standing up to brush something off the front of its robes. It was then that she recognised the tall form of Severus. She was about to turn quietly away when he spotted her and froze. Neither of them knew what to say as the stillness of the early morning echoed their own inertia. Severus quickly tied up the bag and stalked over to her, clearly annoyed.
“What are you doing?” he hissed. “Do you want to be seen?”
“I’m sorry, I wanted to come out for a walk.” She did her best to look apologetic. “I didn’t think anyone would be around at this time in the morning.”
“Are you mad? Hagrid will be up, as will Filch. There are house-elves, not to mention any number of other undesirable presences.” He nodded towards the forest.
“Well really, if anyone did see me, they would be seeing Selene Lupin… not the real me.”
He winced at the surname and it made him even surlier, if that were possible.
“Yes, well I’m so pleased for you,” he said waspishly. “I don’t know why Professor Dumbledore didn’t just marry you both and have done with it.” He glared at her, daring her to respond, but she wasn’t going to play this morning.
“Because that would have been entirely wrong and unacceptable, both to Remus and myself,” she answered calmly, “and well you know it. Will you walk me back to the school?” she asked, expecting him to snarl a no at her, but to her surprise he nodded. They walked in silence until they were within sight of the main entrance and he stopped her with a hand on her arm that clutched a little too tightly for her liking.
“Whatever happens, Selene,” he said the name with venom. “I want you to know that for a brief time I was happy sharing my life with you. For the briefest of moments we could have succeeded, but life and others interfered. I know now that that wasn’t your fault and I am sorry for both your pain, and mine.”
“Thank you, Severus… Time is always uncertain. Things happen over which we have no control and they continue to do so.” She wondered why his attitude had suddenly changed, not that she didn’t welcome the change.
“I didn’t want you to leave thinking I hated you; of course I don’t hate you.” He scanned her face as if searching for something, perhaps a sign of the person he had loved. All he found was this new incarnation that looked too much like Lupin for his comfort.
“I never believed you hated me, Severus, I did get a distinct impression of dislike though.” She knew she was rather heavy on the understatement there.
“I’m sorry.” He gave her a look that she couldn’t decipher, before becoming businesslike. “I need you to come to my office. There is something I have to show you before you leave. Something for Lupin.” Most of the earlier anger was gone from his voice now and he sounded almost exhausted.
“Of course,” she said immediately. “Of course I will.”
Maeve was relieved to see there was still something of the Severus she had known beneath that hard exterior. She did not know, could not know, the effects of those years in Voldemort’s service. She was dreading the day she would have to look at the brand that she knew was etched into his arm. She had thought, many times, of the fact that he must have killed in order to have gained that Dark Mark and it made her stomach feel hollow. Would she ever summon the courage to ask him about it? Somehow Maeve doubted it. For the moment she would take every indication of the Severus she had known as a sign that the people they had been could be again. Nothing was irredeemable; no one was beyond some small redemption.
They walked down to his office in companionable silence. Memories emerged in her head as she began to remember other walks and other silences. They had always managed to maintain a connection that did not need words in order to remain firm. It would not have been unusual for them to walk the circumference of the lake in total silence, only the occasional brush of hand against hand linking them together. As they reached the forbidding black door of his rooms, she was brought back from her daydream. He unlocked it for her, indicating she should enter first with a tight nod of his head.
Maeve had never seen his office before. It was a cavernous place full of jars and pots containing all manner of things, some identifiable, some not. Candles lit the walls, flickering over the heavy books that lined the shelves. Nowhere was there any sign of a Severus that existed separately from his work.
“It’s not much.” He gestured around him. “But it’s an adequate place for research, and for withdrawing from the mediocrity of school life.”
“It is exactly how I expected it to be,” she said, picking up a book entitled 101 Potions for the Cure of Common Muggle Complaints. A quick flick through showed magical cures for the common cold, influenza and mumps. She smiled fondly as she thought of her grandmother, who had cured the local village children of all of those things using strange and foul-tasting remedies that she had since learnt how to make herself. The children hated her grandmother because of the awful concoctions they had had forced upon them, but of course the villagers adored her for her knowledge and kindness. A few hundred years ago, she might have been burnt for a witch, although the passion for burning old women had never quite gained the popularity in Ireland as it had in England.
“Useless, of course,” Severus said, cutting through her thoughts. “We would never be allowed to officially use them on Muggles. They develop their own strains of these complaints and find they can’t cure them.” He snorted derisively.
She placed the book back on the desk and perched herself on the edge of it.
“So, what do I need to know for Remus?” she asked, grinning as he moved her from the edge of the desk, directing her towards the chair that sat beside it. “You always hated that didn’t you?”
“Hmmm,” he said, pretending to ignore her comment. She always sat down in inappropriate places, usually when there was a perfectly good chair available, and it had always irked him. “Well, firstly, you need to know that he can be very dangerous, which is why I think this whole thing is foolhardy.” His eyebrows knitted together in frank disapproval.
“I know about the trick they played,” she said quietly. “Remus told me. He blames himself for being here.”
“Yes, well so he should. I can’t imagine what Dumbledore thought he was doing. A school is no place for a werewolf.” He flung himself into the chair beside her, his fingers beginning to drum on the arms. “It nearly killed me, and it could have killed others. It may well be in the past, but I cannot and will not forgive those who did it. However, I am more concerned about your welfare now that you are off on this madcap scheme.”
“Are you?” she queried.
“Concerned about my welfare?”
“Of course,” he blustered. “As I would be about any member of the Order shutting themselves away with a werewolf who is prone to forgetting to take his Wolfsbane. Which brings us back to why you are here.” He reached behind him and lifted a book from his desk, which he offered to her. “In there is the correct formula for the Wolfsbane, and in that bag,” he gestured to a large leather satchel that sat by the door, “are all the raw ingredients to make it.”
“Ah, of course. It will have to be made fresh each day,” she said, flicking open the book.
“Not necessarily, but it is preferable. You can make it in advance.” His scornful look told her all she needed to know about his views on making potions in advance. It wasn’t something he had practiced at school and he obviously hadn’t changed his mind about the practice since. Severus had always maintained that if he spent hours with a potion, the least he could do was use it as soon as possible.
“My gran knew a potion to prevent the transformation at the full moon,” she said absently, as she pored over the book.
“Yes, I am sure she did. It was probably a variation on this, which takes away the madness. Lupin can keep his own mind at the full moon, although he still gets ill beforehand and suffers after-effects… But at least as long as remembers to take it he remains sane.” He stressed the word “remembers” with a sneer.
“Yes, but Gran knew how to stop the whole thing. I never quite believed her, but she was adamant she had once helped a werewolf.” She shook herself away from the book. “Do you need to go through it with me or do you trust me?”
“I trust you implicitly. After all, it’s your neck if you don’t do it properly.” He gave her a warning grimace.
“You can be so charming, you do know that, don’t you?”
“It has been remarked upon,” he said and he smiled. It was the first smile she had received from him since her return and it made her glad to see he hadn’t forgotten how to do it.
She leapt up and tucked the book into the bag, wondering if there was anything left to say. She quickly decided the shrewd move would be to leave on a good note.
“I had better get going, Severus. It is already half-past seven and I have to meet Professor Dumbledore and Remus at eight. Thank you for this.” She touched the bag.
“You are welcome. Or rather that brother of yours is,” he said smoothly. “We are all playing our parts so well already.” It was costing him a great deal to be a part of this pretence, when all he wanted to do was stop her from placing herself in such danger.
“Yes,” she retorted. “So we are.”
He moved over to the door as she opened it, placing himself between her and the open space beyond.
“Please take care, Maeve… If you ever need anything you can come to me. Come to me before you go to anyone else. There are things that even Dumbledore doesn’t sometimes understand.” He looked so insistent that she nodded in response; unable to imagine anything Dumbledore didn’t understand. “And if Lupin gets too difficult to handle, I will help you, despite what happened in the past.”
“Thank you, I appreciate that, more than you know.” She was conscious of his vast presence. It threatened to overpower her and, at that moment, she just wanted to return to their school days when everything had seemed so much simpler. For a horrible, dizzying moment she felt all her resolve abandon her. He took her by the shoulders and balanced her. Looking deep into her, he managed, for a brief moment, to recreate the bond that they had once shared so freely.
“When you told me you cared for me, Maeve, that hurt as much as it healed. Now is not the time for us. There is too much in the way. I don’t cast aside your affection easily, you must appreciate that.” He was so formal, and yet she could feel their connection, that used to be so relaxed, beginning to be reformed and she knew he was fighting against its return.
Failing to find any words that could adequately explain how she felt, she leant across to kiss him very lightly on the lips before saying a quiet goodbye. Then she was gone, clutching the bag tightly to her chest as she sprinted along the corridor and in the direction of Dumbledore’s office.
Severus closed the door behind her, sinking back into his chair with a sigh. As he hunched over he looked a desolate figure as, for the first time in a long time, he felt real, emotional pain. Although he knew she would be back in a few weeks, he felt he had abandoned her to a fate he couldn’t predict. And, even worse, he couldn’t shake the feeling that, despite her declarations of care, he had just handed her over to another man.