Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask. JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers.
Summary: AU. Sequel to 'A Love Before Time'. At the height of the 2nd War & After Snape has his own peculiar destiny to face. SS/OC.
This story is rated R/M.
Chapter 001: Summer Wishes
Late Summer before Harry Potter's Second Year at Hogwarts
'Ah, Severus!' Headmaster Albus Dumbledore exclaimed as he cast his twinkling eyes over the typically dour countenance of his Potions Master as he walked into the staff meeting room at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. 'Glad you could tear yourself away! Enjoying your summer holidays, I hope? This shouldn't take too long and then you can get back to letting your hair down!'
A few of the other professors sniggered behind their hands or rolls of parchment or quills. Most carried on as usual in laughing at him to his face. Snape frowned and as he did so the vertical line between his eyebrows deepened. He might well have been 20 years older if his looks these days were anything to go by. His had been a very hard life even after the death of the wife and child no one had known he'd had in the First War – all save the Headmaster. Every bit of difficulty, misunderstanding, rejection, heartbreak and pain was etched both on and in him – body and soul. Dumbledore cared to a degree, but his concern had come with a price – a very high price.
Professor Snape stalked to the only available seat next to the school's Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall and ignored the other staff. The Headmaster carried on with the usual sorts of announcements about timetables, extra books for those students who were sure to be missing something and preparing for the forthcoming start of the new school year.
'…and finally, said the Headmaster, 'As you know, Professor Quirrell has had to be replaced for Defence Against the Dark Arts…'
'Position's jinxed if you ask me,' Professor Harmsworth-Quays, the Muggle Studies teacher, proffered in a bored tone. 'Every year it's the same old thing. One DADA Professor out, a new one in and old Snape sulking because he's still Potions Master rather than Hogwarts' resident expert in the Dark Arts…'
'I don't recall that anyone did, Huntingdon; and you can keep your opinions to yourself!' Professor McGonagall said sharply, peering at him over her glasses. She was dressed head to toe in the Highland Tartan of her clan and was eager to get back to the 738th Highland Games of the Gathering of her extended family, the Clan Mackenzie If anyone was to slow the pace, usually for unnecessary commentaries, it was always Harmsworth and she wasn't having it.
'Huntington – a word in my office after we break,' Dumbledore said idly. The usual twinkle in his eyes was gone. 'Right; as I was saying we had a vacancy to be filled and I have found someone who believes he will be "marvellous" and "breathe new life" into the subject! It is not often that we find ourselves graced with the presence of one so esteemed…'
Most of the professors looked at each other disbelief, then at the Headmaster and finally at Snape whose veins were pulsing at his temples. Nothing registered in his cold, onyx eyes.
'I would like to welcome…'
'Ahh Greetings one and all!' chirruped Gilderoy Lockhart as he swanned into the room. He was a sight to behold decked out in screaming powder pink and powder blue robes trimmed in gold. 'Thank you SO much for your warm welcome! I dare say I will revolutionise the teaching of Defence Against the Dark Arts! Although you would know this if you have read my collected works! Now – as you know I am a five-time winner of…'
There was faint coughing.
'Gilderoy, forgive me for interrupting; Summer cold you know,' said Professor Dumbledore who looked the picture of health and sounded it too. 'How nice of you to join us for the last two minutes of the only meeting we will have before the term commences.'
Snape sat up in his seat with the evillest of sneers that came natural to him.
'Lockhart better watch his back,' someone muttered in response.
'Ladies and Gentlemen – I give you our new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor, Gilderoy Lockhart!
Most of the women in the room swooned and cooed at Lockhart as he waved and flashed a blindingly white smile. Professor Sprout, Head of Herbology and Hufflepuff House giggled and quickly conjured some velvet gloves to hide her dirty nails.
'Have you ever seen anyone with such perfect teeth', simpered Madame Pince, the school's Librarian.
Lockhart gave her wink and tried to be cool as he ran a hand through his golden curls.
Snape looked like he would kill the fool the first chance he got.
'It's going to be an interesting year,' Professor McGonagall muttered under her breath as Lockhart was cut short yet again from telling them all how wonderful he was.
'Now I know I have many fans here in these hallowed halls, Lockhart said with a cheesy grin as he looked around the room. 'The 31st of August and 1st of September I will be signing autographs and giving out my newest portraits at Flourish and Blotts – the photographer is simply a whiz…!'
'Thank you, Mr. Lockhart,' Professor McGonagall interrupted, jumping to her feet and cutting short what would have been at least another half hour of uncalled for hot air. 'Enjoy the rest of your holidays everyone. See you at the end of August. Albus, if I might see you for a moment before your appointment with Huntington, please.'
She gave Dumbledore a look that let him with the distinct impression he was in serious trouble.
Severus Snape, Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, sat in an old armchair in the rather luxurious sitting room he still hadn't gotten used to. He'd had enough of the grimness of his childhood home in North Yorkshire and had decided on a whim that there was no reason why he shouldn't have a decent summer holiday like his colleagues, though he could imagine quite a few of them questioning the rationale of vacationing in Foxhill, supposedly the least-admired area of the World Heritage City that was Bath by those who did not live there or know it well.
Despite his selection of Foxhill Farm Bread & Breakfast, this holiday was to be the first of many revolutionary acts to come, though he did not realise it in that moment.
He gazed idly at the book he'd been attempting to read for the past hour or so.
'Sod this; I've had enough…'
He threw his unread book on the sofa as he stood. It was well past lunch time and he hadn't even had breakfast. Snape went into the kitchen and foraged around the now almost-empty refrigerator. He was due to go shopping, but it was more effort than he wanted to be bothered with at the moment. He was in search of a cup for tea in a cupboard by the sink when something caught his eye out the window.
He moved the midnight blue curtains back just enough so that he could see out – and no one could see in. He could just make out two adults, one male and one female, in the lane that separated the farm property from the residential street behind it. As far as he was aware there wasn't anyone who lived in the house immediately behind – which was the main reason he'd picked this cottage out of the others that were available. He fleetingly wondered if that was about to change, not that it really mattered.
Snape watched as the couple looked over at the house, obviously discussing it, and then continued on their way up the lane out-of-sight of the inhabitants of Perrymead Road, the residential street on the other side of the dirt track.
He made a mental note to thicken the netting so that he wouldn't notice passers-by when he was in this room.
Audrey Llewellyn sat quietly with her knees up to her chest and stared out at the pounding surf. Despite her best efforts, the twelve year-old was still not happy. They had been on holiday for two weeks already and she'd had enough of the peace and quiet.
Her old friends had all envied her when she told them about the family trip for this year. Instead of the usual fare her grandparents preferred with holiday camps or the hot beaches of Spain overrun with the 'Bucket and Spade Brigade' comprised of a certain type of gobby, yobby Brit, there was a large rented house in a little hamlet near Bayeux in northern France. Rolling hills of lush greenery, moderate temperatures, medieval architecture and good food; for everyone else it was enough.
Not for Audrey.
The other children nearby didn't bother with Les Anglaises. The French were starting to feel the sting of British ex-pats buying up everything in sight trying to create Britain in someone else's country rather than make the most of the rich history where they were from. It seemed that the English really did not want to adapt to the French way of life. This wasn't true for the Llewellyns, but even the locals weren't above stereotyping. As bad as the adults could be, their children were worse. Audrey wasn't used to so much time on her own with nothing to do, but it was better than being bullied all the time if she tried to hang out in the village down the road from their home.
She sighed and looked at her watch, one of the newest from the Storm line that she'd received last Christmas – just one more thing for the local farmer's kids to hate her for. It was almost five – getting close to dinner time.
'Might as well go home,' she thought to herself.
Audrey's parents had said she was to get out and do something other than sit in her room or in the back yard of the cottage they were renting with her nose stuck in a book or moaning about being bored. They'd relented and let her bring her prized telescope, but had only allowed her to use it for an hour so far. Her grandparents didn't help with their never-ending stories about what they hadn't had during the war and how they absolutely despaired what the world was coming to with Audrey's generation. They might as bloody well still be in World War II with all the sentimental rubbish about it, the young girl had thought to herself. They always romanticised it when Audrey was certain living through it was anything but.
The young girl had a passion for art, music and writing but loved astronomy even more. If she had been able to immerse herself in any of her favourite pastimes she would have been fine. She did have a mound of maths work she needed to get done for school – and had managed to put it off. At least her father backed her up for once, saying he didn't think it was right for homework over the holidays. Her parents had had a massive row over it and her father had taken his daughter's school bag and thrown it into his study, locking the door behind him. No one else had a key for it, so Audrey's mother had to concede defeat for once.
In spite of her age, Audrey was astute enough to realise that hers was a creative mind. The intellectual rigours of advanced maths and science were far beyond her capabilities it seemed. A career as an Astronomer was out of the question, she was told at school with a derisive laugh. Her counsellor had held up her latest maths test with a rather oversized red 'C-' with great relish. Le Lycée Française d'Avon prided itself on working within a realistic and achievable framework when it came to its students. Her parents were so proud that she'd been accepted and that she seemed to be doing alright enough with the exception of her math and science grades. She barely passed Chemistry at all, but made up for it with her French and Liberal Arts studies.
Audrey was the only one in the family that could even speak French. It was easy enough because when she started school it was with the Lycée. From day one it was intensive immersion in all things French. It was a good school; private and privileged. Not everyone who even thought of attending had the means of affording it. It was also highly competitive. Already the young girl was being forced to make choices about her future when she didn't even know what to do with the next five seconds of life in her body. As far as her teachers were concerned, she would do well to aspire to the things all ladies of good breeding aspired to: marriage to a gentleman of means. In other words, she should aim to go to finishing school in Switzerland, do three years at one of the elite Universities and then settle on a career as one of the 'Ladies That Lunch'; ladies that had nothing better to do than eat at the finest restaurants, shop for designer labels and lend the family name to charitable causes whilst running the house or estate with hired help to manage. But in her case it would have to be to 'someone like her'.
Audrey's family were what most of her classmates referred to as 'new money'; meaning they'd had to work for it rather than inherit it. They were not Blue-bloods and should not get ideas above their station. Her parents and grandparents were well aware of the elitism and snobbery of the circles in which they had to move, having been subjected to it one too many times when they were just mere statistics in the working classes of Britain.
The family's pharmaceutical business became very successful. It was down to her father and grandfather, but they had worked hard for the privileges the family could now enjoy. However, their success made it impossible to knock about with their old contemporaries from the council estate in Southern Bath where her parents and older half-brothers had been born and raised. Audrey had been 5 years old when they finally called it a day and moved into the more genteel affluence of the North Central district of Bath. They "only lived in a townhouse" – not on one of the grand estates or lush residences in the elite Circuses of Bath. Apparently it was nothing special, "just a small townhouse in Bear Flat" – or so she had been informed by a snooty girl from one of the oldest families in Avon let alone Bath itself. Nevermind the fact that it "only has seven bedrooms, a pool and a rather large guesthouse with four bedrooms for her grandparents down the hill," Audrey had retorted.
"My family are in the Doomsday Book." Diana Brocklehurst-Dent had said arrogantly as she tried to belittle Audrey because she came from St. Saviours, one of the roughest and crime-ridden estates in the Avon valley.
"Most families who were here in 1086 are in the Doomsday Book', Audrey had replied coolly. 'Even prostitutes and illegitimates were accounted for – like your family. It's only a census – not exactly Burke's peerage with its emphasis on blue-bloods. You wouldn't know much about being a Blue-blood any more than I do."
Even with "new money" there was a pecking order. Diana was no better than her, even if her family did have a long history in the area. They were originally working class too. But at least her family didn't change their name and throw in hyphens – an archaic sign of being upper middle class at the very least. Unlike many of her peers Audrey wasn't filled with phoney airs and graces even though she could easily afford to be. She wasn't ashamed of background and said so.
Suggs Llewellyn, Audrey's father, always liked to say that the Llewellyns were more English than the current Royals. After all, her majesty's family was mostly from Germany and had changed the name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor because of the first world war when the tensions were high against Germans in Britain. And her husband, the Prince Consort, is Greek even if he is fair-haired and blue eyed and speaks with the Queen's accent.
"And even he worked hard to change who he was…" her grandfather had huffed indignantly as he pounded the table.
Audrey couldn't resist being cheeky and pointed out that the Llewellyns were Welsh. The English hated the Welsh even more than they hated the Irish and "The Problem" that was Northern Ireland.
It was yet another one of these discussions about money, class and status that had driven Audrey from the house and down to the beach.
Twenty minutes later Audrey was strolling up the path to their rented home.
'Hello love, we was about to send out the SAS for yah!' her grandfather yelled.
'Oh for God's sake,' she replied with a roll of her large chestnut-brown eyes.
'Aww come on kitten, it's not that bad!'
'Right… What's wrong now? One minute I'm being kicked out the house and the next I'm going to get yelled at for not being at home…'
'Stop the exaggeration and get inside,' sniffed her grandmother.
Audrey narrowed her eyes.
Something was up, no doubt about it.
She went inside careful not to slam the door.
'It's only me…' she sang out.
'About time too! Get up those stairs and have a good wash!' her mother Andrea shouted without looking at her. 'And none of your cheek neither!'
'I wasn't going to say a mumbling word,' Audrey grumbled as she tried not to storm up the steps.
Once in her room she decided she was rather sticky from the beach and had a quick shower. Her long reddish-brown hair was almost bright red from the sun. She decided her fringe was getting too long and gave it a trim before scraping it all back into a ponytail. While she was getting ready someone rang the doorbell. As she was situated at the back of the house there was no way to see what was going on. It struck her as odd that they would be having visitors – her parents would have mentioned it before.
Audrey dressed in a pair of jeans and a simple white t-shirt and large black belt. A pair of bejewelled olive green flip-flops and she was set. Better to get downstairs before her mother came up to get her down.
She went down to the cavernous room that was the sitting room. Her parents had doled out drinks and were looking very pleased.
'Ahh – here she is! Monsieur Didier – our daughter is growing up so fast. Audrey say hello to Monsieur Didier! You might not remember it but you've met him quite a few times before. The first time you were about two months old; we've run into each other here and there over the years…'
'Bon après-midi, Monsieur. Je m'appelle Audrey. C'est un plaisir,' Audrey said coolly as she extended her hand.
'Ahhhhhh Salut Mademoiselle! Vous parlez Francaise – c'est tres, tres, bon!'
'Merci beaucoup…' came a dry reply as she snatched her hand back.
It was easy enough for the Frenchman to be patronising and tell her she spoke the language very well when she hadn't said anything terribly complicated. 'Good afternoon', 'my name is' and 'it's a pleasure' certainly weren't worth the fuss. Her teachers, all French-born speakers, wouldn't be the least bit impressed.
'What's going on Dad?'
'Now, now Audrey,' her father admonished her with a chortle. 'Wot I tell yah, Didier old chap – sharp as a tack my girl is!'
The young girl looked the man up and down. Something about him wasn't quite…right. And something about his accent wasn't right either. She doubted he was originally from this country. He looked to be sort of Chinese – but his eyes were weird; a strange milky white grey. He was spooky to look at. And that voice – well it straight out of a horror film as far as she was concerned. If spiders could talk – that is what they would sound like, she thought to herself.
'Of all places, fancy running into you at the farmer's market!' her mother cooed.
'Please God, make this quick!' Audrey thought to herself trying her best not to make a face.
Her mother tended to perform just a little bit too much with guests she was eager to impress and it really got on her nerves. No matter what her mother said – she really did want to ingratiate herself with the upper classes.
'Just passing through on business. It's a busy time of year for us; the height of the tourist season throughout Europe,' came a reply in perfect English complete with a posh upper-class British accent.
'Er wot line of work are you in again?' her grandfather asked politely.
Audrey eye-balled him suspiciously. It wasn't like Spencer Llewellyn to have to be reminded of anything. The man had a mind like a steel trap.
'Exports; produce and spices from Asia, Africa and the Middle East,' said Monsieur Didier without missing a beat. 'Not as exciting as pharmaceuticals – but just as lucrative I assure you. Why just last week I had a meeting with Mohammed Al-Fayed; the Hong Kong address helps. Had it been Shanghai it might have been a different proposition altogether.'
'Give over! The one-and-only – the one wot owns Harrod's?' asked Audrey's grandmother incredulously.
'The very same. He also owns the Ritz Hotels in Paris and London amongst other things. I have just negotiated and inked a deal to have some of our products sold in the Food Hall at Harrod's and to provide spices for the catering and kitchen facilities at their hotels. We are looking to expand and this is a good opportunity to test the waters so to speak. Ritz and Harrod's customers have an exacting palette. I am certain our products will be well received.'
'Very impressive indeed,' said her mother as she noted their guests impeccable tailor-made suit from Saville Row and expensive Italian shoes. A Rolex and perfect manicure topped off his look. The the top-of-the-line Mercedes parked outside didn't hurt either. 'Would you like to stay for dinner? It's no trouble to set a place for one more.'
'Ah that is very kind of you; but I do not wish to impose,' Mr. Didier said smoothly.
He reached down for his briefcase as if getting ready to leave.
'Ohhh it's no trouble at all!' exclaimed her father.
'You must stay for dinner, that's that!' said her grandmother as she pounded the arm of her chair for emphasis.
Audrey's grandfather looked at his wife like what planet was she from and Audrey stifled a laugh.
'Isn't that lovely Dad, Audrey!'
'Yeah Dad – great…'
'Of course, Suggs old son – splendid! I hope Mr. Didier here will enjoy our feeble attempts at French cooking!'
Audrey's mother had a face like thunder and excused herself to go the kitchen.
'Audrey – set the table!' she ordered.
'Excuse me – I have to set the table,' Audrey said as she followed her mother out.
She caught her grandfather's eye.
There was no way he believed the stranger's story about his business any more than he believed that it was just a happy coincidence that the man was just passing through.
Her grandfather wasted no time once they were all seated.
'Er, Mr. Didier…'
'Please, call me Andreas. We are all friends here, Mr. Llewellyn,' the stranger said with a smile.
'Er right, Mr. Didier… so what exactly brought you here? The farmer's market in the village is alright – but I wouldn't have thought that there was a niche here for your products. The French can be just as backward as the English when it comes to integrating a multi-cultural sensibility even about their food.'
'This is but a small village on the route between very large and famous towns, Sir. The whole of Normandy is a renowned hotbed for tourism – especially because of the D-Day landings on the beaches… and forgive me for saying so – but of all nationalities in Europe it is the French who take their gastronomy very seriously – it is ingrained in their culture. As a businessman I am certain you will understand that to my firm – there is nothing to lose in trying.'
'True – but no sense in wasting valuable time either.'
'Well considering the appointments I have arranged, I would say my time was very well spent.'
The stranger reeled off some names of Michelin-starred establishments throughout the region.
'You certainly know your business, Didier!' Audrey's father said admiringly.
'Andreas, s'il vous plait.'
'Ahh right… err Andreas!'
'Mr. Didier, I don't think I have ever heard you mention your life back home – where is it that you live again?'
'My main residence these days is Paris, but I also have a place in London as you know. Originally I am from Tibet, as I have mentioned to you before.'
'Tibet?' asked her grandfather. 'Where the hell is that then?!'
'Grandad! What are you like?!' Audrey said clapping a hand over her mouth to stop herself from laughing.
'Spence for heaven's sake!' her grandmother sniffed, clearly embarrassed.
'Well – his name don't sound Chinese or whatever to me!'
'That is because when I became a European citizen I had the option to change my name – so I did. No different to many other people from foreign lands trying to integrate…and Tibet, by the way used to be an independent country. It was invaded by the Chinese and our spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, forced into exile in Dharamsala in Southern India.'
'You don't have to explain yourself Andreas, really.' Suggs said. 'Dad's always grilling people. The milkman here won't even come up the drive he's so intimidated!'
Monsieur Didier laughed.
'I do not intimidate easily, I assure you.'
'I bet you don't,' Audrey thought to herself.
'So – Suggs; how is that you are spending so much time in France and haven't picked up any of the language?' Monsieur Didier asked politely. 'Your daughter is doing quite well. Then again – children tend to pick up languages quite easily.'
'There you have it – too hard at my age! But our Audrey – quite a head on her shoulders she's got.'
Audrey's father launched into a long-winded tale about the Lycée and Audrey's studies.
'I'm not that brilliant. I'm just scraping by in maths and science,' Audrey said giving her father a pointed look. 'Stop exaggerating Dad!'
'Oh?' said their guest with a look her grandfather could not place. 'You should be studying geometry and chemistry at your age, yes?'
'I got a C in both. And unfortunately I don't have a choice – I have to take Trig even though I will just scrape by in that too. I mean honestly, they should have failed me; but there was all this palaver about me trying so hard and it would be a shame for me to have to leave the school… would be a shame not to have any more "donations" from Llewellyn Pharmaceuticals more like. I don't know who the Principal is trying to fool.'
'Interesting – so what subjects do you like?'
'Art, Music and Writing. The Liberal Arts classes are great – I do really well with them. But mother is obsessed with me going to Oxford even though I could care less and won't get in off my own back anyway…'
'And what would you like to do then?'
'Have my own art studio. I love painting and designing things… I'd much rather go to the Chelsea School of Art and then the Royal Academy.'
'I told her I'll send her off to Venice to do a course in mask making next summer – they had a go at 'em at the school and my little girl took fifth place!' said Suggs.
'She would have got a First if'n they weren't so up their own arses!' roared her grandfather. 'Local comprehensive not good enough for 'er he says!'
'Now Dad, you know this is a VERY good opportunity for Audrey. It's impossible for her to go to a state school. And we can do much better than that!'
'Excuse me,' she said as she covered her mouth and yawned again.
There was another look from their guest.
'So tired and it's not even seven o'clock,' he teased.
Audrey's mother laughed but it was not quite reflected in her eyes.
'That's what I keep telling her but will she listen? Watches too many horror films and then has nightmares that keep her up and us along with her!'
'Nightmares – not very good at all,' Didier said a strange almost ethereal voice.
'For a proper balance of Chi energy sleep is very important,' he continued after patting his mouth delicately with his napkin. 'Your mind must be alert and focused. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious illnesses.'
'Oh right, here we go – the mental illness thing again!' Audrey huffed. 'God isn't anything sacred around here! I knew something was weird – he's another bloody psychiatrist trying to check me out to see if I'm crazy!'
She threw her napkin down on the table and stormed to her room.
'She's a bit – erm – high strung,' Audrey's mother simpered.
'It must be her nightmares,' Didier said cryptically.
'That's what every doctor has said…'
'Nevermind that – she's got my temper is all. Hates being discussed even when it's to her face,' Suggs said off-handedly.
'So who are you and what are you really doing here?' Spence demanded.
He trusted Audrey's intuition and there was no doubt that she was very gifted when it came to spiritual things. He believed in a lot of things that good Catholics weren't supposed to believe in. His granddaughter clearly felt something was wrong just like he did and he wasn't going to go against her. Something wasn't right about any of this and never had been. He wanted the creepy stranger out of the house and out of their lives for good.
Mr. Didier looked at him as though confused.
'I am here because I was asked to dinner.'
'Enough, Dad!' Suggs hissed.
He cleared his throat.
'Listen about those botanicals you were telling me and the missus about before… the ones that can only be found where you are from…You said there are other uses for them besides cooking...'