“Any for me?” he asked, nodding at her coffee.
“I didn’t think you drank coffee,” she replied shortly.
“I don’t, but I really meant anything hot and wet.” He smiled, but she didn’t return the gesture so he shuffled across to the kettle to make his own.
“I’m sorry Harry didn’t take it well yesterday,” he said as he stirred his tea before bringing it to the table. “I know you wanted it to go better.”
He hadn’t had the chance to speak to her since yesterday, when they had all heard the verbal explosion in Harry’s room, because she had closed herself away, refusing to talk to anyone else. He had thought this was pretty dramatic behaviour until he had seen Harry’s red face and felt his sharp tongue as their paths had crossed on the corridor. Then he knew that whatever had passed between them had been extremely hurtful.
“He will come around,” he added, but even as the words left his mouth he knew they were just banal platitudes.
“I don’t want to talk about it, Remus, really I don’t.” She looked at him with the bitter tang of defeat all around her.
“You should,” he persisted, “because I’m not going to see you for a while.”
“I made a dreadful mistake. I ruined things with Harry. I need to forget about it and move ahead to my work at Hogwarts.” Her voice was devoid of emotion as she drank her coffee, which was still so hot it scalded her tongue.
“I can’t make you talk about it, but it might help,” he said, his voice full of concern. “Don’t bottle it up, eh?”
“I’m not a child,” she said in a tone that suggested that was exactly what she was. She wasn’t pleased with her slanging match with Harry the previous night, but he had reminded her so much of Severus, with his pigheadedness, that she had lost her temper with him. They had both said some unforgivable things. It was irreparable. She had to put it to the back of her mind and focus on other things. They finished off their drinks in silence, an awkwardness about them that so far they hadn’t experienced. Remus blamed this on her imminent departure, which meant they wouldn’t be in contact for the foreseeable future and was perhaps causing her to push him away slightly.
They heard the front door open with a soft click, causing Maeve to glance at the clock; she wasn’t quite ready to leave yet.
“That must be Alastor. He’s early,” she said to Remus, who looked at her anxiously.
“You know I wish I was coming with you, don’t you? I want you to send me an owl the minute you get there.” He looked at her with tender eyes. “In the short time we’ve known each other you have come to mean a great deal to me, so I want you to take very good care of yourself.”
She bit her lip to try to prevent the tears that threatened to fall, managing to catch a sob before it escaped, but unable to disguise the sadness in her eyes. Maeve allowed Remus to enfold her in his arms as Mad-Eye came clomping into the kitchen. The old Auror cleared his throat loudly to break up the embrace.
“One minute, Alastor,” Remus said, his voice muffled by Maeve’s hair. Mad-Eye nodded, backing out of the door with a clatter. She stepped away from him with a shaky smile on her sad face.
“Thank you, Remus, for everything.” She kissed him modestly on the cheek. With a final promise to send an owl when she arrived, she went to join Mad-Eye in the hallway. Remus listened to the door open; there was low exchange of voices followed by the trunk being clunked down the steps and then she was gone. He sat back down heavily at the table, wondering when, if ever, he would see her again.
The journey back to school was thankfully undisturbed, and Mad-Eye kept a discreet distance from her. The train was buzzing with talk about the two recent deaths. There was a general feeling of terror and anticipation, but also just the vaguest suggestion of excitement. Everyone was very animated, eager to suggest their own theories as to why the two wizards had been killed. Naturally, there was also whispered speculation as to who would be next. She closed her eyes to all this talk, managing to drift into an uneasy sleep that was populated with dreams of an angry Harry, Draco Malfoy and rank on massed rank of Death Eaters. Only when the train drew into Hogsmeade station did she open her eyes to be greeted with a view of the rugged countryside that she had left only a week ago. It was beginning to seem like years.
There was a carriage standing at the entrance to the station with one of the Hogwarts Thestrals between the shafts. Its black skin glistened in the late afternoon sunshine as it watched her with its white eyes, giving the occasional lazy beat of its wings. She pulled her trunk across the platform under the watchful eye of Mad-Eye Moody, who had remained on the train, and she was grimly aware that she had no idea whom Dumbledore would send to meet her. The door of the carriage was opened briskly by a youngish man, who stepped out with much smoothing down of his robes and patting of his hair. He rushed across to her, giving her a thin, polite smile as he took in her appearance.
“Professor Lupin, I presume. I am here to escort you back to Hogwarts,” he announced officiously.
“Thank you,” she said with a glance back at the train. Mad-Eye gave her a nod so she presumed this was the man she was supposed to meet.
“If you would care to step into the carriage then we can start our return journey. It is advisable that we hurry, for your own safety and mine.” He looked around him as if he expected Voldemort to jump off the train at any minute.
He left her to lug the trunk to the carriage, holding the door open as she struggled to get it up the step. She had always felt that witches could get along fine without the help of men, indeed during her youth she had briefly subscribed to the magazine Feminist Witch. She had stopped reading it when they had proclaimed that the traditional witches pointed hat was a symbol of male oppression, urging witches everywhere to take them off and burn them. She had always thought her hat suited her and wasn’t about to burn it in the name of freedom. But despite her weakly feminist attitudes, she still thought it was pretty unhelpful of him to stand there watching her struggle with such a large trunk. He tutted at the amount of time she was taking, giving a sigh of relief when she finally managed it. He cast her a look that clearly implied he thought she was a liability.
Once inside she watched as he picked up a clipboard from the seat beside him and began making a series of ticks on a piece of paper.
“Everything seems in order,” he said by way of an explanation. “Professor Dumbledore trusted me with this extremely important task. I think I have made a jolly good job of it.”
“I’m sorry, you seem to have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I’m afraid I don’t know yours,” she said.
“Weasley,” he announced grandly. “Percy Weasley, Chief Personal Assistant to Professor Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Percy. May I call you Percy?” she said, wondering how many personal assistants Dumbledore actually had.
“Ah.” He looked piqued. “I’d prefer Mr Weasley, if you don’t mind. It maintains my position with the students and is, I feel, more respectful.”
“Well, Mr Weasley,” she said with a degree of sarcasm that was completely lost on Percy, “you must be related to Molly and Arthur Weasley.”
The frown that dashed across his face was fleeting, but it was enough for her to realise she had put her foot in it. When she came to think about it, Molly and Arthur had never mentioned anyone called Percy.
“I am related to them, unfortunately,” he replied, hiding his face behind the clipboard while writing something down furiously. She felt that the conversation had come to an end so turned her head to stare out of the window, musing on the broken relationship with this Weasley and the ones she knew.
Hogwarts was far more active than it had been when she left it. With only two days to go until the start of term, there were frenzied preparations going on throughout the castle. As she alighted from the carriage, Maeve re-enacted the earlier scene with her trunk. She had to fight the urge to drop it on Percy’s foot, but she restrained herself, letting it slide gently to the floor. She mentally laughed at herself for her refusal to use magic to perform such mundane tasks. Living with a Squib – a very bad-humoured Squib – meant she had tempered her use of magic for ordinary things.
As Percy ushered her into the Great Hall, they narrowly avoided a collision with a herd of desks that were being shepherded from one classroom to another by a very short, out-of-breath wizard whom she recognised as Professor Flitwick. He gave her a cheerful wave as he continued to flick his wand at the desks, marshalling them into some sort of order before propelling them down the corridor.
She could hear a clip-clopping sound that made her glance around hurriedly, surprised to hear a hoofed creature inside the Hall, but all became clear when she saw a centaur approaching. She had always found centaurs to be the most mystical of creatures, but the opportunity to meet one in the flesh had seldom presented itself; they were usually very prickly around humans, keeping themselves to themselves. She was intrigued, therefore, by the presence of one inside Hogwarts Castle.
“Good day to you, Professor Lupin.” He was a handsome man with blond hair that was almost white, his coat a beautiful creamy palomino colouring. He inclined his head at her respectfully and she smiled in return. “My name is Firenze. I share the responsibility for the teaching of Divination here at Hogwarts.”
“I’m delighted to meet you, Firenze. Please call me Selene.”
His eyes looked straight through her. She knew there would be little point in deliberately lying to him. Centaurs had the ability to see far beyond what was evident to most. He would already have discerned something of the true nature of her presence here.
“We must speak privately at some point,” he said cryptically. “I believe there are things perhaps you are not aware of.”
Her face bore a look of concern as she looked into his ice-blue eyes, but his smile eased her sudden apprehension.
“Nothing to be worried about, I can assure you, but nonetheless, I think you need to know.”
“What does she need to know?” A cold voice interrupted them, making her jump. She hadn’t heard Severus approach.
“Ahh, Professor Snape, good day to you.” Firenze gave a bow to his fellow professor, but Severus merely grunted in response. He repeated his demand to know what it was that Firenze wanted to discuss, but Maeve cut him short in his pursuit of an answer by thanking Firenze, promising she would make time to come and see him. Firenze nodded at her once more before trotting away down the corridor, leaving Severus and Percy looking at her with interest.
“Thank you for accompanying me to the castle, Mr Weasley,” she said in a tight voice to Percy, who simpered slightly under the praise, “but that will be all.”
“Good,” he said gratefully, “because I have so much to do before the start of term, and I don’t know how I will fit it all in.” He hurried off shaking his head.
“Good time in London?” Severus drawled.
“Yes, very good,” she replied. “I have a lot to do, Severus, so if you’ll excuse me.” Maeve turned to walk away, but he coughed. She stopped, turning to him with a questioning look.
“Was there something else, Severus?” she asked, hoping that he wouldn’t want to talk about the last time they had met.
“Be careful with Firenze. You know what centaurs are like, they make predictions and prophecies without knowing if what they are seeing is true.” His lip curled scornfully. “I think they make it up,” he added, emphasising every word carefully, his lips curling around each syllable.
“Thank you for the warning, Severus. I will bear that in mind when I speak with him. Now, if there is nothing else?” She didn’t know why she was suddenly angry with him; perhaps it was Harry and their eternal feud, or perhaps it was the memory of that night in the cottage. Whatever it was, she wasn’t at all comfortable talking to him, and she was very relieved when Professor McGonagall appeared. After giving her a warm greeting, the Transfiguration teacher requested Severus’ help with something so Maeve was released from having to make further conversation. She escaped up to her office, using her wand to levitate her trunk up the stairs. It was one thing lifting it into a carriage, but she wasn’t going to struggle up several flights of stairs with it.
She dressed in one of her new green robes for the start-of-term banquet, and approached the Great Hall with a fluttering feeling in her stomach. This was only the first of many tests she would have to face over the coming months. She knew it would be a nervous time for her. Spending so much of her life alone had left her feeling uncomfortable in crowds, and it didn’t get much worse than this; being on display in front of hundreds of students who were all eager to see their new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Her trepidation was mingled with anticipation at the prospect of participating in the annual ceremony, which previously she had only seen from the viewpoint of a student.
She entered the Hall from a side door, which brought her straight to the long teachers’ table that ran widthways across the room, whilst the student’s tables ran perpendicular to it. Professors Flitwick, Trelawney, Binns and Sinistra were already seated, and greeted her with smiles and nods. She hurried past Professor Trelawney, just in case the dreamy-looking woman decided to throw another prediction her way. Maeve didn’t feel up to another of her thunderbolts; she had enough on her plate just getting through the ceremony. A pretty little card announced her place, so she sat down, surveying the empty Hall with the four tables all set ready for the feast. Candles hovered gracefully in the air, tempting her to look up at the famous enchanted ceiling. Maeve felt a rush of pure pleasure as she watched the twinkling stars in the unreal night sky. The door to the side creaked open and Severus swept in; he quickly scanned the table, nodding at the other teachers before silently taking his place beside her. He sat back in his chair, pressing cold fingers to his mouth in a gesture of contemplation. She cast him a sideways glance, startled at just how ashen-faced he was. There wasn’t usually much colour to him, but now it looked as if every drop of blood had been drained from his body.
“Are you feeling all right, Severus?” she whispered, unable to keep a note of concern from her voice.
“Yes, quite all right thank you, Professor,” he replied quietly, keeping his face forward as a loud cacophony of voices rose from outside the Hall. The opening of the huge main doors allowed the students to enter, and they filed noisily to their House tables, preventing her from pursuing the matter. She watched as many curious glances were sent her way so she fixed a smile to her face that she hoped was welcoming and approachable, although one or two students from the Slytherin table were heard to mutter that they didn’t know who she was, but she looked a bit simple.
She cast her eye over the Gryffindor table, immediately spotting Ron Weasley’s flaming red hair. He was having an animated conversation with a young girl whose main feature was a large amount of bushy hair. Maeve watched with amusement as the girl gave Ron a filthy look before turning to the boy on her other side. As the girl leaned forwards she caught a glimpse of his face; it was Harry. He looked almost as tired and pale as Severus, and was clearly in no mood to talk to the girl, who Maeve guessed must be Hermione Granger.
The rest of the teachers had arrived by now. Professor Dumbledore had slipped in unnoticed; with a few minor adjustments to his robes he sat down beside Maeve with a brief, but warm, greeting. A hush descended on the Hall as Professor McGonagall led in a troop of timid-looking first years, their eyes darting around the Hall in abject terror at the sight of so many strange people. Maeve couldn’t help but feel a certain kinship with them in their discomfort at being under the scrutiny of the rest of the school. The Sorting Ceremony got underway with its usual seriousness. Before long all the children were sitting at their respective House tables being warmly greeted by their new fellow House members. She still couldn’t keep her eyes off the Gryffindor table or its occupants. She raised an eyebrow because Ron had suddenly gone very pale; she followed the direction of his gaze to see that Percy Weasley had joined the staff table, perched on the end like an afterthought. Poor Ron, she thought. He didn’t seem to have expected that, and the horrible thought occurred to her that they might be brothers.
At this point Dumbledore stood up to allow Professor McGonagall to take her place beside him at the table. He remained standing, clearing his throat before addressing the Hall.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome our newest students to Hogwarts and, of course, to welcome back our old ones.” His voice rang across the Hall as he stretched out his arms in a gesture of welcome. “I have the usual start-of-term notices to read to you, but I think that can wait until after we have eaten.” He gave them all a huge smile as their tables suddenly began to fill up with food.
Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor House ghost, floated across to the Gryffindor table, taking up a position beside a round-faced boy, who immediately shuffled further away from him. The ghost was watching them eat longingly, but they had long since ceased to notice poor Nick’s urge to taste food, all except the first-years who were gawping at him with fascination etched on their faces. That is, until he showed them why he was called Nearly Headless Nick, and then they became rather more interested in their plates. The girl that Maeve presumed to be Hermione kept glancing across at her, looking away quickly when Maeve caught her eye. A few times she said something to Harry, but Harry was steadfastly refusing to look at the high table. Maeve realised it was probably rather unfortunate that she was seated next to Severus as this would just reinforce their connection in Harry’s eyes. Severus was eating very little, pushing the food slowly around his plate in a lacklustre way. He kept looking across at the Slytherin table with a frown on his face. The students and staff finished off their puddings, the noise level once again began to rise as thoughts turned to the new school year and the current state of the wizarding world.
It was at this juncture that Dumbledore once again stood up, and the students immediately quietened down. He paused for a few moments before beginning his speech, looking slowly around the Hall with a sombre expression on his face. The students shifted uncomfortably in their seats, aware that Dumbledore’s speech this year might not be a cheery welcome or a simple list of things they could and could not do.
“I hope you all enjoyed that magnificent banquet,” he began in a light voice. “And whilst you digest it I would like to go through a few things with you. Firstly, I feel obliged to say, as I do every year, that the forest is out of bounds to all students, a fact some of our older ones would do well to remember.”
He looked towards the Gryffindor table with an admonishing twinkle in his eyes, causing a few of the Gryffindors to grin sheepishly.
“I have also been asked by Mr Filch to bring to your attention the fact that his office is forbidden to all students, and under no circumstances will tampering with his equipment be tolerated. This comes after a particularly unfortunate incident in which some of his buckets were charmed and followed him round the corridors tipping dirty water over him.” If some of the students detected a hint of amusement in Dumbledore’s voice they didn’t let on, although there were one or two guffaws from the back of the Hall.
“I am immensely pleased to introduce a new member of the teaching staff to you. Professor Selene Lupin has kindly agreed to take on the rather unpredictable role of our Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher, so I hope you make her feel very welcome.” He nodded to Maeve, who stood up, smiling out at the students. She was rewarded with a small ripple of applause, although Harry merely stared straight through her. There was an outbreak of laughter at the Slytherin table and she could see Draco Malfoy surrounded by a small group of students looking at her with undisguised glee.
Severus’ sharp voice made her jump and the Syltherins were instantly silent, looking shocked at the interruption by their Head of House. Dumbledore cast a warning look at Severus, who bowed his head and sighed deeply.
Dumbledore continued his speech with dogged determination.
“It is with great regret that I have to tell you visits to Hogsmeade will not be permitted this year.” There was a chorus of groans from all tables and whispers of protest from some of the older students. Dumbledore raised his hand to silence them.
“In light of recent, tragic events my staff and I feel that your security cannot be guaranteed away from the school grounds. I must stress that we have not made this decision lightly. I understand your disappointment, but we will treat any attempted breach of this rule very seriously indeed. I would have to consider sending home anyone caught leaving the school grounds.”
He paused for a moment to allow this to sink in before continuing in an even more serious manner.
“This brings me to the final thing I wish to talk to you about. You will all be aware by now that Lord Voldemort has returned.” There were shudders of revulsion from most people in the Hall. “I cannot lie to you or give you false assurances. There may well be dark times ahead for us all. Some of you have families who may be directly involved with the fight against the forces that are gathering against us; some of you may be afraid and uncertain as we face an unsettled future. I want you all to know that, whilst you remain at Hogwarts, I will be personally responsible for your safety. Both myself and my staff will protect you no matter what the cost, even if that price is our own lives.”
Percy, who was still clinging to his place at the very end of the staff table, looked very doubtful about this last part. When he had taken on the job no one had said anything about laying down his life for anyone. He wasn’t sure that he would have taken the position had that been in the job description. His face was in direct contrast to Professor Binns who, unsurprisingly, looked unconcerned by this. As the only ghost on the Hogwarts teaching staff he had little to fear from this promise.
Dumbledore continued in his grave vein.
“I must ask, in return for this pledge on our part, that you take great care with your own safety. This means following the school rules to the letter, and obeying all instructions given to you by the staff no matter how strange they may seem to you.”
He paused again, as if the tone of the speech were making it difficult to continue. It was hard enough to hear, so it must have been terribly difficult to utter.
“Because of the level of the current threat, I have made the decision to allow the organisation known as Dumbledore’s Army to continue.” There was excitement in the Hall at this news. Hermione bent her head towards Harry, whispering furiously as she did so.
“There is one condition, however. All meetings will be supervised by a member of staff. Professor Lupin has kindly agreed to take on this responsibility.” Severus snorted derisively at this. “And I am sure all members will benefit greatly from her guidance. The organisation will also only be open to fourth-years and above due to the nature of the work involved.” He waited for the groans to subside before adopting a kindlier, more reassuring look.
“I can see anxiety on all of your faces. I understand your doubts and fears. None of you have experienced anything like this in your lives before, although your parents will have. We must hold together at this difficult time. There can be no room for division within these walls. With a great deal of perseverance and unity, we shall overcome the threat that hangs over our lives. We shall emerge the stronger for having been through it.”
The students were listening avidly, although some of the Slytherins were sneering behind their hands at the suggestion of unity. Dumbledore suddenly broke into a huge smile and threw his arms wide again.
“But enough of this gloomy talk! We have a whole year to look forward to, a year of learning, of making new friendships and renewing old acquaintances. Most importantly, we also have many more of these delicious feasts to look forward to. So please make your way to your common rooms and get yourselves settled in. We will see you bright and early for your first lessons tomorrow morning.” He raised his glass to them in a toast before sitting down to a noisy round of applause from the students.
“Excellent speech,” Professor McGonagall said as she stood up from the table to supervise the students leaving the Hall. “I hope it has calmed a few fears. Maybe it has also made a few students think twice about getting up to unnecessary mischief.”
“We shall have to see about that, Minerva,” Dumbledore said.
“I rather think we can expect more of the same from the usual suspects,” Severus interjected acidly, talking across Maeve as if she wasn’t there. “I think Mr Potter will find it just as difficult this year to avoid trouble as he did in the last.”
Maeve pushed her chair back quickly, muttering her excuses before marching away from the table and out of the Hall. She walked straight into a fast-flowing stream of students, who eyed her curiously, and she had to sidestep quickly to disentangle herself from them. Maeve paused at the foot of the staircase to watch for Harry. She knew she probably wouldn’t get the chance to speak to him, but she still wanted to see how he was. It was Ron she saw first. He gave her a quick guilty smile before digging Harry in the ribs. Harry looked so dismayed to see her standing by the stairs that she quickly moved back out of sight and hurriedly walked in the direction of the staff room, away from the chattering of the students and Harry’s accusatory look.
The staff room was empty, for which she was grateful. Maeve sank into the deepest chair she could find. Why, she wondered, did people have to make things so complicated? As a relatively uncomplicated person herself, she had a hard time understanding why things had to be made so difficult by others. She could see the night sky through the staff room windows. It was deep black, pierced by the tiny glittering pinpricks of stars, and she could hear the wind begin to pick up, sighing mournfully around the building. A knock at the door made her jump. She hesitated; if it was a pupil with a general question she was in no mood to answer it, but it could – it just could – be Harry.
“Professor Lupin, are you in there?” an unknown female voice called from the other side of the door. Her fears were realised, she thought. It was a student wishing to talk about something. She rose slowly from the chair, feeling full of trepidation as she went to admit the caller. Opening the door, she found herself face to face with Hermione Granger, who wore a look of puzzled concern.
“Professor, would you mind if I had a quick word with you? It’s just that I’m terribly worried about Harry. From what Ron has said you seem to have both fallen out. Ron did say that before that you were getting on really well with him, and I just wondered…” She stopped with a sudden squeak as if it has only just occurred to her that she was talking to a teacher. All the time she had been planning this conversation in her head she had forgotten she would be dealing with a real teacher, and what she was saying suddenly sounded very inappropriate given their student/teacher relationship.
“Wondered what, Miss Granger?” Maeve asked gently, seeing the doubt flit across the young girl’s face.
“I wondered if you perhaps might try talking to him.” Hermione looked like she was fighting a battle with herself; on the one hand she didn’t want to be disrespectful to a teacher, but she did want to help Harry, who was even more sullen now than he had been at the end of last term.
“I really don’t think that will help him much right now,” Maeve said. “I think the best thing to do is let him come around in his own time.”
“But you will be teaching us; you will be supervising D.A. There must be some opportunity to talk to him,” Hermione pleaded with desperation.
“You don’t understand, Hermione. I would talk to him, but he wouldn’t want to hear what I have to say at the moment.” Maeve shrugged her shoulders in a hopeless gesture, and Hermione was sad to hear a note of finality in the teacher’s voice. “Harry needs to put some things behind him and grow up a little this term. He needs to let go of things from the past and face the future,” she added with a harsh tone to her voice that surprised even herself. Hermione also looked surprised because she took a step back and made to leave, but before she did she couldn’t stop herself from passing on something Harry had said to her during the brief conversation they had had about Professor Lupin.
“Harry mentioned something about you not being who we think you are.”
She knew instantly that she had gone too far from the angry expression on Maeve’s face. She was shocked into silence when Maeve grabbed her arm, yanking her back into the staff room and slamming the door behind her. For a few moments the taller woman, whose eyes were blazing with fire, frightened Hermione.
“What did he say?” Maeve asked urgently, her voice a low snarl. She was frightened by the trust she had put in Harry and by the fact he seemed to have betrayed that trust. She was instantly reminded of Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy regarding a bitter betrayal… was it Harry who had been the betrayer? Her fear was making her harsh; she could feel herself acting in a way she would not normally act, and even the fear in Hermione’s eyes didn’t calm her down.
“He just said,” Hermione began in a croaky voice before she stopped, embarrassed.
“Go on,” Maeve insisted, resisting the urge to grab her and shake her.
“He just that you were nice enough on the outside, but inside you were cold and… well… horrible.” She went bright red and looked at her shoes.
“Is that all he said?” Maeve growled at her.
Hermione nodded mutely, and was about to turn and leave again, when the door was flung open. Severus black-robed figure stood there, glaring at them both.
“Ah, Professor Lupin. I see you have met our resident know-it-all.” He glowered at Hermione, who went even redder. “Miss Granger, don’t tell me you are already displaying your infuriating talent for knowing everything. School hasn’t even officially started yet.”
Maeve was dismayed to find that it wasn’t just Harry that irked Severus. She wondered if he was like this with all his students. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, although given her treatment of Hermione a few moments ago she could hardly claim to be the most understanding of teachers herself.
“Hermione was just having a quiet word, Severus. It need not concern you. Thank you, Hermione, you may go now.” Maeve gave Hermione a wide smile, confusing her with the sudden change of attitude. The young girl said a hasty goodbye, scuttling off before either of them had the chance to say anything else to her.
“Severus, why do I find that wherever I am you also appear to be?” Maeve asked accusingly. “It is beginning to get rather tiresome.”
“Don’t flatter yourself that it’s your scintillating personality,” he said. “I have been told I have to keep an eye on you. It’s proving as odious a task as I had anticipated.”
“You don’t have to keep an eye on me,” she said resentfully.
“What did Miss Granger want?” he asked.
“Nothing, really. She wanted me to try and talk to Harry.” Maeve looked despondent again.
“Oh, good grief!” he said, rolling his eyes. “Is the boy still sulking?”
“He’s not sulking, he is upset.” She quickly closed the door. “He is upset because he knows who I really am. Harry was looking forward to getting to know a friend of his parents, until he realised who I had had a relationship with at school. Funnily enough that seemed to put him off me. I can’t imagine why.” She shot him a look that would have frozen a hot spring, but he was impervious to it.
“I can’t believe you trusted that child with your secret! Of all the people to tell your real identity to? Have you taken leave of your senses?”
“Apparently so,” she said in a small voice.
They stood watching each other for a few moments before she remembered she had wanted to ask him about his tired appearance. He was very evasive and mentioned something about working for the Order. She became quite cross with him, insisting he give her a proper answer. He held his head high, looking at her coldly before delivering his response.
“Voldemort knows you have escaped,” he said finally.
“But he knew that anyway,” she said, a cold feeling seeping through her bones.
“No, he merely had the uncorroborated word of someone whom he only half trusts that you had been seen. As such he was suspicious.” Severus suddenly looked vulnerable as he let the hard mask slip for a moment. “He has now been told by someone in a position to confirm it beyond all doubt, therefore he knows I betrayed him all those years ago. Our lives have suddenly become very precarious, Maeve. It’s not a pleasant feeling knowing the most powerful Dark wizard is after your blood.”
“Welcome to the club,” she said, but her attempt at flippancy fell flat. “Now you know how Harry feels.”
“Do I? Oh, I don’t think so, Maeve. The boy hasn’t seen half of what Voldemort can do when he is feeling exceptionally vindictive. I know what our fate will be if the Dark Lord gets his hands on us.” His face once again became hard and impenetrable.
“Who told Voldemort about me?” she asked quietly, but before he could attempt to answer her the door opened. The imposing figure of Professor McGonagall swept in, looking very annoyed at something.
“Professor Snape, perhaps you would care to visit the Slytherin common room. It would appear Malfoy has pinned one of the first-years to the wall above the fireplace because he asked him if his father was still in prison. The boy in question is understandably very upset. Your presence is required immediately.”
Severus gave an impatient grimace. Without a second glance at Maeve, he left the room hurriedly, setting off in the direction of the Slytherin dungeon. His ability to place certain aspects of his life into compartments and set them to one side had always made Maeve wonder how he managed it.
“Are you well, Professor Lupin?” Minerva asked, concerned for the young woman who stood facing her. She thought she had been placed in an almost impossible situation between so many warring personalities. She wasn’t sure if Maeve could hold her own in the melee she had been tumbled into. Dumbledore kept insisting that she was a powerful witch, but looking at her now she looked beaten.
“Yes, thank you, I’m just tired. I think I need an early night. My first class tomorrow is with the sixth-years, the Gryffindors and Slytherins,” Maeve said quickly to cover her consternation at the news Severus had just given her. She was annoyed at not hearing the name he hadn’t had the chance to impart.
Professor McGonagall smiled sympathetically.
“Well, you will certainly need your wits about you for that class,” she warned before allowing the younger witch to pass her. “Watch Malfoy, Professor. He is the one who will give you the most trouble.”
“We have already met. It wasn’t pleasant,” Maeve admitted. With a weary smile she wished Professor McGonagall a good night and climbed the now quiet staircase to her rooms.