I would've never guessed that running into someone could totally change the course of my life. And I really mean running into someone.
A few weeks prior, I had been honoured as a recent winner of the North American Potioneer Society's "Rising Star Award" with an invitation to attend an exclusive lecture being given in London by Professor Severus Snape. He would be presenting his dissertation on the effectiveness of demi-human blood in restorative potions and the controversy surrounding its use. I couldn't believe my luck when I received the invite; my Remedial Arts Thesis (R.A.T.) was on potion-making in the healing arts, so this lecture seemed made for me. I was also dying to hear Professor Snape speak about anything. His innovations in the art of potion-making were famous, and it was almost entirely because of his position as a staff member that I applied to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for my teaching apprenticeship following graduate school. Despite my intense desire to go, my mother had tried to talk me out of applying there. Although she regarded Albus Dumbledore as one of the most important and powerful wizards of the modern age, she worried about me being so far from home. I managed to convince her eventually by reminding her that Britain held far better opportunities than our home in rural, though picturesque, Nova Scotia.
Anyway, I had arrived in London a few days early and spent most of them pursuing normal Muggle-ish tourism like visiting Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Foolishly, I hadn't spent nearly as much time on my magical sightseeing, so it took me longer than I'd planned to find St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries where Professor Snape was holding his lecture. A Healer at the reception desk directed me to the sixth floor, mainly administrative but also holding several assembly halls as well as observatories for interesting magical operations. By now I was on the verge of being late for the lecture. As I stood impatiently in the elevator, I berated myself repeatedly under my breath for my unpreparedness, poor time management, and having acted like a primary-school girl on a field trip.
I pushed sideways through the elevator doors the instant they began to glide apart and whipped out a paper directory the desk greeter had handed me, despite my polite protests that I probably wouldn't need it. It appeared she knew better than I did after all; the sterile corridor I'd alighted into bore no signs or any sort of guidance whatsoever and appeared to branch off into a labyrinth of passages in each direction. I traced a quick path with my finger from a little flashing green dot on the parchment, indicating my present location, to a box in a bottom corner that the Welcome Witch had circled with red ink, which was apparently my intended destination. I set off down the corridor to my left.
I hurried down the long and twisting hallways with my nose buried in the directory pamphlet. After several incomprehensible turns that seemed to send me back in the direction I'd just come from, I appeared to be growing close to the hall … only to have the supposed location come and go on the map without anything resembling an assembly room appearing in my sight in the real world. I turned back and tried again. I was seriously going to be so late at this rate. I picked up my pace, still relying more on the location of my dot on the paper than paying any attention to the physical hospital around me. Therefore it was hardly surprising when I crashed into someone at a virtual run, the impact strewing the contents of my bag across breadth of the corridor. I dropped to the floor to collect my scattered belongings while being gently dusted by loose leaves of parchment floating down from the collision.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry!" I gasped and looked to see if my victim was injured. My eyes came to rest on a wizard, who appeared several years older than me. His long, black hair hung over his eyes as he stooped over to pick up the closest of his dropped documents, an empty file folder clutched in his left hand.
"Yes, I should hope," he muttered irritably. He then retrieved the far-flung papers astonishingly quickly with what seemed to be a nonverbal Summoning Charm, directed with his empty right hand, as his left continued to gather the parchment around his feet. Watching this deft spell-work left me frozen in amazement for a moment in an awkward half-crouch as I was trying to clean up my own things; the wizard was not even using a wand. Within seconds he was standing, and his folder was full once more. Then he looked down and saw my upturned expression, which must've been a strange mixture of undiluted awe and utter mortification.
His scowl softened somewhat, and he said in a marginally politer tone, "Forgive me. I'm quite late and was not paying attention to where I was going either." He knelt down beside me and helped me quickly locate the rest of my personal items, as I fetched a quill of his that'd been hiding behind me. Once or twice his eyes darted to my Muggle corduroys and white cardigan, different in every way from his expertly tailored robes of deep charcoal with black top-stitching.
"No, it was my fault. I think this stupid map is broken." I shook the piece of paper in my hand with irritated emphasis as I clambered ungracefully back to my feet. "It's sending me around in circles, and the location the lady marked on it for me ended up being a men's room. I'm trying to find the hall where Professor Snape is giving his lecture. Am I close to it?" The wizard looked at me with a strange expression, the exact reason for which I couldn't guess, besides the likelihood of it stemming from how pathetic it must sound for me to admit to getting myself lost in a relatively small hospital.
"I can escort you if you like," he said after a moment, straightening up himself and rearranging his grip on his bundle, perhaps just in case another maniacal twenty-something crashed into him again.
"Oh, that would be great!" I replied, and we took off down the hallway together. I'd only been a few doors away after all, and if I hadn't been completely absorbed in that mislabelled directory, I would've seen the placard in front of the hall bearing the words: "Professor Severus Snape of Hogwarts, 'The Benefits and Shortcomings of Demi-Human Blood Usage in the Restorative Arts,' Saturday the Twenty-Second, Noon to Two O'clock, Questions and Answers to Follow," lit up in silver lettering. The wizard opened the door and held it ajar for me.
I gave him what I hoped to be a charming, apologetic smile and said, "Thank you and sorry again for that." I held out my free hand to him, wondering if the British did that sort of thing. The wizard, who I was now noticing was quite interesting-looking, with his sharp facial contours and fathomless, dark eyes, gave me the same peculiar look once more but took my hand nevertheless. I noticed his gaze lingered on the little Canadian flag pin I always kept on the strap of my bag.
"It has been a pleasure," he said, almost like he meant it, too, and walked into the auditorium. I scampered in after him and tried to find a seat as quietly as I could without attracting too many disparaging stares from the austere, academic witches and wizards around me. Stealing into a seat near the back, I quickly took out my notebook and auto-refill quill while glancing around out of the corner of my eye to see where my poor, battered wizard had settled himself. I couldn't say why exactly, but he'd intrigued me. My breath caught when I saw he hadn't taken a seat at all but was striding purposefully to the center of the theatre-in-the-round. He took his place behind the podium, on which he briskly sorted through his many sheets of notes, thoughtfully rearranged by me. I sank down into my seat, as if he could've seen me all the way in the back row, and covered my face with my hands. However, that didn't stop me from hearing his polished baritone state, "Good afternoon, I am Professor Severus Snape. I apologize for the delay."
Nice work, Avrille. You have full permission to die now. That could possibly help things. Possibly.
I had never been so mortified in my entire life. I'd just physically assaulted my future mentor, without a clue as to who he was. It wouldn't be such a big deal if not for the fact that I'd be "meeting" him in a mere week's time when I arrived at Hogwarts to begin my apprenticeship. No wonder he'd looked at me like I'd been speaking Mandarin when I referred to him in the third person. Even though I was lucky enough for him not to know who I was now, he'd certainly recognize me at Hogwarts since I was going to be spending a lot of time under his tutelage; that was why I applied to Hogwarts after all. I could just picture him a week from now upon seeing me. "Oh wonderful," he would think, "I get to spend the vast part of this year with Head-On Collision Girl." As it happened, my mental self-berating caused me to miss the introduction to brilliant, forgiving, normal Professor Snape's lecture. What a fantastic beginning I was having here.
Fortunately, I had a squat witch in front of me from whom I was able to glean what I'd missed by peeking at her notes over her shoulder. So far it seemed Professor Snape had just covered his education, qualifications, and experience, mostly things I already knew from reading his essays and books a hundred times. He attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland, graduated 1977, second in his class; was accepted into the highly exclusive Academia Veneficiorum in Rome for graduate school; wrote his B.A.T. (Black Arts Thesis) on potion-making and the Dark Arts and received unprecedented full marks; graduated top of his class from the Academia in 1980; was hired a year later by Hogwarts to be their Potions master after six months of apprenticeship under the previous Potions master, who was retiring that year, and has been teaching there ever since. Yes, I knew these facts well enough. What amazed me, now really thinking about it for the first time, was that I'd never actually seen Professor Snape before. His picture was never published in his works or any journal articles, as far as I knew. So he couldn't blame me, obviously foreign from my accent and pin, for not knowing who the hell he was. Honestly!
I listened with rapt attention. How could I not? Professor Snape spoke with an authoritarian certainty about everything, making me never question once that he could be incorrect about any of it. Not to mention his rich, deep voice that seemed almost hypnotic as I furiously scribbled down every word he said in shorthand.
At the end of his dissertation, which I was convinced was at least five hours too short, Professor Snape called for questions. I had come to the lecture with more than one query in my mind, yet I feared now whether or not I had the fortitude to ask any of them. To speak out would draw attention to myself and risk the possibility of further embarrassment. Several witches and wizards around me were already raising their wands, tips aglow in the darkened hall. I debated back and forth the pros and cons of asking a simple question.
Pro: asking a really insightful, intellectual question would not only show I'd paid excellent attention to the lecture, but also that I wasn't an absolute spaz, contrary to what Professor Snape might now be thinking. Con: I could always ask him my questions later, in private, when I was at Hogwarts just in case they were not as clever as I thought. Pro: asking now meant that when I met Professor Snape later, he might remember me as "that girl who asked me that really great question" rather than "that girl who almost gave me a concussion." Con: I was totally petrified.
"Only one more question, please." Professor Snape's statement jarred me, and without realizing it, I shot my hand in the air, my wand emitting little sparks from my over-zealousness. Professor Snape looked my way with a slight squint through the bright stage lights and raised an eyebrow when he was able make out that it was me.
"Yes … Miss?" he asked, pointing to me.
Before any more internal debate could occur, I heard my far-away sounding voice ask, "Owing to the fact that the giant population is rapidly diminishing, what would work as a substitute for their blood in potion-making if the race soon becomes extinct?"
Professor Snape looked at me for a moment, contemplating. "There are several possible substitutions," he said simply after a minute, "but I would like to research more thoroughly which one would be most effective before giving a definitive choice. If you wish, you may leave me an address by which you could be reached by owl, and I will write you an answer when I find one." His reply was completely serious with no hint of sarcasm or condescension. With that said he addressed the full audience once more, thanking them for their attendance and giving how he could be contacted if any more questions needed answering. As soon as it was polite to do so, I bolted from my seat and out of the hall, annoyed by my own unanswerable question. Of course Professor Snape would probably be wondering at this moment where I'd gone, but I just couldn't face him right now. He'd be able to answer me, if he still wished to, in a few days when I showed up on the Hogwarts doorstep.
The air outside of St. Mungo's was fresh and breezy compared to the stuffy lecture hall. After a moment I began to smell once again the automobile exhaust and industrial smog, but the smells were blocked out as I pressed a hand over my mouth, cursing my bad luck. It was just so frustrating and unfair. I'd spent hours and hours since I received my Hogwarts acceptance letter, rehearsing in my head exactly how I was going to present myself, with poised, studious maturity, to my academic hero when I finally got to meet him. Appearing as a flighty, non-punctual headcase had never really figured into my grand imaginings. Maybe I was making too much of it all. Maybe Professor Snape would forget all about me between now and my arrival at Hogwarts …
Ok, ok, probably not.
Hopping on the Muggle Underground, I let my body gently sway with the motions of the train car, closing my eyes and trying to dispel the headache that was slowly spreading from my temples. I tried taking a few deep breaths but only succeeded in nauseating myself after inhaling the smell of body odour and jacket potatoes that seemed to be as much a part of the train as the seats or handrails. Finally the train came to my stop, and I gratefully disembarked, taking the upward steps in twos. Emerging once again in the London afternoon, I spotted The Leaky Cauldron a bit down the street. I jogged the last few hundred feet to its peeling green door, desperate for a cold, hard Banshee Buster on the rocks. Entering the tavern, I saw it was practically filled, mostly with students and their parents seeking entrance to Diagon Alley or just a chilled Butterbeer. I managed to push my way into a seat at the bar and gave Tom the barman my order, blowing my bangs angrily out of my face.
"Rough day, Miss Asphodel?" he asked with a smile as he placed my smoking green drink in front of me.
"You have no idea," I replied and downed my Buster in three scorching gulps. I decided to head up to my room; the rising level of noisy chatter was not agreeing with me as more and more people filed into the tavern. Upstairs, my room was much as I had left it, robes and books scattered absolutely everywhere. As I flung the door closed behind me, my cat Caligula opened one blue eye. I named him myself. I thought it was amusing. My mom said it was morbid.
Throwing myself down on my hastily-made bed, I covered my face with my arms and let the day wash over me once more. Nope, forget that. That was way too depressing. Turning over onto my side instead, I pulled over my latest copy of American Witch. I thumbed through the pages, wanting to lose myself in the shallow familiarity of the latest in hairstyling spells and magicked nail polish. However, I found no matter what I tried to read, my thoughts kept wandering back to Professor Snape, with his black hair falling over his melancholic eyes …
I did some quick math in my head. Graduated 1977 means … born in 1959, therefore … thirty-three years old. And you are how old, Avrille? Twenty-four?
Why am I even thinking about this?
With an exasperated sigh, I flung American Witch across the room, Caligula voicing a resentful yowl when it missed his tail by an inch. Ignoring his indignation, I rolled over onto my stomach, ready for a nice, long nap.
Author's Notes: Though the majority of the story strictly follows canon, I decided on most aspects of the plot before Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince had been released. Therefore a few certain things, like aspects of Severus' family history, will not follow canon. (I originally gave this story an AU genre, but have since decided to remove it, even though that was the category of the Silver Dobby the story won. I worked too hard to make the story canon for me to feel comfortable calling it AU.)
Please note, in this story I have Severus as having been simply very good friends with Lily Evans. He was never in love with her. This is important to keep in mind in later chapters because the likelihood of certain feelings and motivations of his might be called into question otherwise.
Thank you for checking out my story, and I hope you keep reading! If you have time, please leave a review because they mean the absolute world to me! And many thank-you's to Celticbard for the gorgeous chapter images she was able to make me in the past.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. All original characters are products of the author, as is the premise and plot.