A/N: Anything you recognise from the Harry Potter universe in this story belongs to JKR and/or WB. I own nothing but the plot and the OC and am not making any money with this story. Hence, any reviews will make me very, very happy :-)

Many thanks to my beta Apple Blossom.

Chapter I: Anaesthesia and Coffee

Cassandra Svensson, date of birth October 31, 1963, height 167 cm, weight 63 kilos, car accident, fracture of the thigh bone, head trauma, internal bleedings probable.

Severus put down the chart. Just another patient, he thought and started with the necessary calculations, just as he always did. He was good at his job, the best in the hospital. Some of his colleagues jokingly called him the wizard of anaesthesiology. He couldn't help but grin at that comment. If his colleagues only knew … if they only knew that he indeed was a wizard. But they did not know, and that was exactly how things were supposed to be.

He arrived in Operation Room Three early enough to prepare his equipment before the patient was rolled in. Normally, he would have introduced himself and made sure that the patient felt safe and relaxed, but as this was an emergency operation, he had no time for small talk.

'There is no need to be anxious,' he simply said. 'You are in good hands.'

When he looked into the patient's face, he almost dropped the anaesthetic mask he had been holding. He knew this woman. He had seen her in the park just a couple of hours ago. He had been sitting on a bench, reading a book. Yes, in the park, outdoors. He was himself surprised how much he enjoyed being outdoors nowadays. Earlier – in his old life – he had spent his days hiding in the dark, in his dungeon. That had gone so far that people had started wondering if he was a vampire. They had never figured that his preference for the dungeons had less to do with his aversion for the sun than with the fact that he simply didn't like the people around him and hence preferred his privacy.

Anyway, it had been there in the park that he had seen her or heard her. He usually didn't bother too much about the people around him, but kept his nose in his book. But her laughter had made him look up. It had sounded so happy, too genuine to ignore.

She had been sitting on a bench on the other side of the small pond. If Severus had just happened to look in their direction, his eyes would probably have lingered on her friend – a tall, curvy lass with blond hair. But the woman's laughter had made him look at her instead. She had been all dressed in black despite the relatively warm midsummer weather. She had spiky, raging red hair, a friendly face, blue eyes and was at least two heads shorter than her blond friend. No, not the type of woman he – or most probably any guy for that matter – would turn their heads for. But her laughter and the irresistible smile on her face had made it almost impossible for Severus to take his eyes off her. He had stared at her from behind his book, dreading to be seen staring and at the same time hoping that she would notice him. But she hadn't noticed him, and eventually, he had been forced to go back to the hospital for his afternoon shift.

And there he was now, dressed for surgery, responsible for anaesthesia.

Once more he looked into her eyes. They were not all blue as he had thought. There was a thin line of gold just around the iris. And those eyes were now looking at him, anxiously.

'You are in good hands,' he repeated. 'Now, I need you to count backwards from one hundred. Can you do this for me, Cassandra?'

She was out before she had even reached ninety-seven.

When she was rolled out of the operation room, Severus looked after her, frowning. This had been the first time he had felt nervous about an operation, the first time that he had felt emotionally involved. And he had the feeling that he would not have seen Cassandra for the last time.

His shift ended before Cassandra's anaesthesia was calculated to wear off, and Severus had to let one of his colleagues take care of Cassandra in recovery. He had seriously considered sticking around and waiting, but eventually he had decided against it. That woman was, after all, just another patient.

He bumped into her about a week after her surgery as he came sweeping around the corner in the cafeteria. He almost knocked her off her crutches, and only his fast reaction time and his firm grip kept her from falling.

'As if one broken leg wasn't enough,' he heard her mumble and couldn't help but smirk at the ironic tone in her voice.

'I am truly sorry. I didn't mean to …' He broke off his apology and looked straight into her eyes. He had wanted to talk to her ever since that afternoon in the park. Now he had his chance. 'Are you alright, Cassandra?'

'Yeah, I am,' she said and smiled. Then her eyes narrowed, and she gave him a piercing look. 'Why do you know my name?'

'Oh, I'm sorry.' He suddenly realised that he was still holding her shoulders and let go before he cleared his throat. 'I was in charge of the anaesthesia during your surgery.'

'Ah, I see. Well, thanks, you did a great job. Didn't feel a thing.' And then there it was again, that lovely laughter that had made him look into her direction in the first place. And again, he just stared at her, more or less mesmerised.

'Say, do hospital employees have a discount in the cafeteria?' Cassandra suddenly asked. 'Because if they do, then I suggest you invite me to a cup of coffee.'

And Severus was so surprised at her straightforwardness that he could not utter anything smarter than: 'What can I get you?'

'A cup of coffee, milk, no sugar,' she answered and then tilted her head, grinning at him. 'And your name, please.'

'My name is Smythe,' he answered. 'Severus Smythe.'

'Smythe?' Cassandra asked as he returned with their coffee. 'Well, if your accent hadn't given you away already, I would suspect that you're not from Iceland.'

'No, I am not,' Severus simply answered. He didn't like it when people asked private questions.

'Oh, the silent type,' Cassandra concluded. 'That must mean you're British.'

Severus cocked an eyebrow at her, and she laughed.

'C'mon, laddie, don't give me that look. I carry the same burden.' Her English accent was so thick that there was no doubt whatsoever about where she came from.

'Northumbria?' Severus inquired.

'Yes. Born and raised in Alnwick, the place where history lives.' Again she grinned. 'You're from the north as well, aren't you?'

Severus just nodded and then decided to change subject. He wasn't ready to talk about his past.

'Cassandra is a rather unusual name,' he stated.

'Now look who's talking, Severus,' she retorted, once more laughing. 'That's not too common a name either, is it?'

He just shrugged.

'Latin origin, meaning severe, strict,' Cassandra went on, tilting her head slightly, narrowing her eyes, scrutinising him. 'Is that the type you are, Severus?'

The look in her eyes told him that she was not really expecting an answer, and Severus decided to hold his peace.

'Might just be,' she stated. Still, she was looking at him with an intense gaze, and Severus instinctively raised his mental shields. He knew what people with gazes like that were capable of.

'I think there was a boy called Severus at my school,' Cassandra went on, the look in her eyes suddenly much softer. 'Not the nicest of blokes, but he turned out to be a good person in the end.'

And once more, she smiled.

A/N: Alnwick Castle in Northumbria is the second largest inhabited castle in England and has been used as film location for – who would have guessed – the Harry Potter films.