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    Many thanks to the reviewers and critique-ers who helped me get this chapter out at last. About a year too late, but now at least I know where this story is going.

    Chapter Three

    “I don’t see why I need remedial Potions.” Vivien sat across from Grimm, ignoring the near-tepid cup of tea in her hands. “It’s not a subject I’m interested in, anyway.”

    That was not the sort of thing one told a Potions specialist. He may have been stuck in the Arithmancy position, waiting for Slughorn to leave (whether it be by death or retirement, Grimm didn’t care), but that did nothing to decrease Grimm’s enthusiasm for the subject.

    He sighed, leaning back in his chair. “Snape has offered both himself and Evans to help you, and they’re the best in the school. It would be unwise to turn that offer down.”

    Viven shifted in her chair, not noticing the tea until a drop spilled onto her hand. She scowled down at it before placing the full saucer on Grimm’s desk. “But why me? That’s what I don’t get.” She looked across at him, brows furrowed. “Is it you who’s doing this? Trying to get me into Potions?”

    It came as a surprise when Grimm shook his head. She’d been sure that he’d been behind this; it was the only logical explanation. He wanted her to become like him, or be useful, or something. She managed average grades with seemingly no great talent for anything in particular. Quidditch didn’t interest her; neither did anything else.

    “Snape brought up your name. I didn’t know that you were acquainted with him.”

    So it was Black’s doing. He had everyone wrapped around his little finger, including the greasy-haired loner. Not that such news was shocking. Snape was a half-blood in Slytherin, a rare enough occurrence. It stood to reason that he would desire greater standing among his housemates. Providing favours to a member of the Black family would certainly go a long way to achieve such an end.

    “Unless he assumed that you would share the same interest as me.”

    That helped to put an end to the conversation. Vivien slumped in her chair, unwilling to meet his eyes. Yes, she should have been interested, at least in something, anything. She was reminded of her mother, without talent or interest. It was an unhappy thought. Bad enough that she hated all of those practical classes - Charms, Transfiguration, and Defence Against the Dark Arts – knowing that, once in a while, she could get nothing to work, her wand impotent, useless.

    “The majority of students are no different from you, Vivien. Very few know what they want to do after Hogwarts.” There was a little smile on his face. Anyone who didn’t know him well would see it as encouraging.

    To Vivien, it was worse than a death sentence. No different from other students, ha! It was the worst insult possible.

    “I’ll try, Grimm.” She stared at the floor. “I’ll go. Nothing else to do, anyway.”

    “Well, you could always try the Gobstones Club.”

    She raised her eyes. His smile was wider now, a half-grin, that silly schoolboyish expression that annoyed both her and Professor McGonagall to no end. If there was anything the two witches could agree upon, it was Grimm’s failure to achieve a suitable level of maturity.

    Vivien did not return the smile.

    “How soon must I start?” Her tone was funereal. Remedial Potions would not be the highlight of her week.

    He took a sip of tea before responding. “They meet every other day in the Potions classroom after dinner, but there’s no need for you to attend every session.”

    Indeed not. Her grade was a reasonable Acceptable. A high Acceptable, according to Slughorn, who had at least made the attempt to appear encouraging. Grimm hadn’t even bothered with that. Anything below an Exceeds Expectations in Potions was tantamount of failure. Vivien had seen his grades from school; all of them high, all of them pointing to a successful student.

    She looked at Grimm now. With his intelligence, he could have done anything, been anyone, but he lacked ambition, lacked a whole lot of things. Instead, he was at Hogwarts, teaching a subject he was good at, but did not enjoy. Yet he did not leave this place, had kept this job for nearly twenty years without a sign of leaving.

    Perhaps it was no great wonder she did not see the point in high grades.

    Soon after, Vivien took her leave, not bothering to drink the tea. She did like taking tea with Grimm every Sunday – a sort-of-routine that reminded her of home, Grimm’s home – but today’s subject of choice was, to be cliched, not her cup of tea. He had come too close to asking her that inevitable question: what do you want to do after Hogwarts. He already knew her answer would be the negative, a stubborn “don’t know, really” that was repeated among half the student populace. It wasn’t as though he offered to help her decide. Until now.

    It was quiet in the castle, most people busy doing other things, whatever those may include. The silent hallways were more gloomy, shadows poking out of every corner, the suits of armour laying in wait for any student who drew too near the dangerous blades. She liked the image of the armour coming to life, protecting the castle from outside intrusion. She wouldn’t put it past Dumbledore to think of such things, preparing for the likely attack by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. So many people were already dead. Mostly Muggles, but all the same, dead, lost, mourned. Some of the professors had wanted Dumbledore to ban the Daily Prophet from being sent to students. Too much violence, they had said. It would upset things too much. But Dumbledore had prevailed, as always. The students needed to know what was going on around them, he’d said.

    She stepped closer to a particularly large suit of armour. One hand held a mace, highly dangerous. It seemed to have a little stain on the spikes. Perhaps–

    “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

    The voice came out of nowhere, plunging into Vivien’s consciousness.

    “Oh, what? Sorry?” The mangled syllables were all she could manage.

    The Head Boy stared back, mouth set in a boringly firm line.

    “You shouldn’t be loitering in the hall, Ravenclaw. Keep moving.”

    Vivien pictured the mace slowly rising over the Head Boy’s – what was his name again? – head, its spikes brushing against the top of his skull. Then it would pull back, gaining momentum before making the hit, smashing against the head–

    “Did you hear me, Ravenclaw?”

    She blinked, waking from the fantasy.

    “When you know my name, maybe I’ll listen.” The words came out clearly this time. If only they weren’t signing her death warrant. Her eyes widened at the realisation that she had actually spoken those words to the Head Boy. And to think she’d been lately trying to control her temper.

    She tried to walk away, following his command as though she hadn’t said anything at all.

    “Look here, Ravenclaw!” He was coming toward her.

    Vivien increased her speed. Perhaps the armour would come to her rescue, after all, the shining armour without the knight.

    “Ten points from Ravenclaw, then. Suit yourself.”

    He had stopped, straightening his Slytherin robes with hands ringed with scar tissue.

    Vivien remembered him now. Edmund Wilkes. The scars were supposedly from an attack by a wild creature. She guessed it to be a flesh-eating slug, though some Slytherins claimed they were from a dragon Rosier had captured while on holiday in Wales. Ridiculous story.

    He was gone when she looked up again. Good riddance. Before continuing to... well, she wasn’t sure where she was going yet. But before she left the hallway, Vivien offered a glare to the suits of armour. Great help they were to her plight. And now ten points down? Bloody hell. All for standing in a hallway for one minute too long for the Head Boy’s liking.

    It was never good for Hogwarts when a Slytherin made Head Boy. He may not have been as bad as some of the others (yet), but it didn’t make him a good person, either.

    Thinking about Slytherins made her think of Black again, and Snape. She checked her watch. Still a few hours before she would go see if Snape and Evans were down in the Potions classroom. Wouldn’t it be great fun, joining them for Potions work? The dungeons were cold, gloomy, and filled to the brim with Slytherins. Lovely.

    Vivien stalked off toward Ravenclaw tower. There was a little time to get some reading in for History of Magic yet.

    ~ * * * ~

    A lone spider crept across the desk in front of Snape’s eyes. He did not see it, and it scurried off behind the neat row of Potions ingredients. They were organized alphabetically. A scrubbed cauldron sat beside them, ready for that evening’s experiment. Snape added the final ingredient bottle to the row and turned to Jigger’s Magical Drafts and Potions.

    That girl was coming, the one Black had requested join them. The very thought of his time with Lily being interrupted by a snivelling fourth year, Grimm’s own ward, for Merlin’s sake. If she was anything like the old man–

    “Sev? You’re early.”

    Lily took the seat beside him, plunking her books on the desk, pages dog-eared, covers folded and smudged. Snape kept his eyes averted from such atrocities.

    “We have a student today, Lily.”

    She laughed, not loudly, but the sound was still penetrating, sending a shiver down his spine. “It’s not that serious, Sev. She’s one of the quiet sort, anyway.”

    Snape flipped a page, glancing over another potion’s instructions.

    “You’re not convinced, are you? Yet it was your idea.”

    To continue in silence would give away too much. She was a bloody mind reader at times. All of the time, actually.

    He took a breath. “Put it down to nervousness. I haven’t ever taught anyone before.”

    She leaned back in the chair, staring up at the ceiling. “I suppose not. Well, it’ll be a new experience. Not that we’ll be teaching her much. She should already know the basics.”

    His eyes shifted in her direction. “You hope.”

    Her only response was a sigh. Whether it was out of impatience for his gloominess or from an entirely different reason, he could not tell. Snape continued going through the book, and after a few minutes, Lily began to unpack her own materials: two quills (one slightly chewed), a cauldron with a chip on the rim, as well as various other things in similar conditions.

    Snape said nothing. His own things were old, but well-kept, hidden away during the holidays, out of his father’s sight. Lily was not so lucky where her sister was concerned.

    The draught of peace. That is what he would work on today. Leave the fourth year to Lily, who was by far the more sociable of the two. Helped that she was a girl, too. ... powdered moonstone... had he brought that? Yes. Though Black had asked him to work on the girl, soften her up. Now how was he supposed to do that? He didn’t even know her, another faceless fourth year from another house. ...syrup of hellebore... There might be just enough of the stuff, but it would be close.

    This would be the first of many sessions with Horne. He was not, by any means, required to make her like Black within the space of a single hour.

    “Do you think she’ll even come?” Three more minutes had passed. Lily fiddled with the edge of a parchment, rolling and unrolling.

    “What can you–”


    Snape’s words died on his tongue. Vivien emerged from the dungeon corridor, holding her textbook to her chest. Nothing much to look at, really. Snubbed nose. Small lips. Eyes too far apart. Face too wide. Hair as dark as his own, with an insignificant curl. Eyes almond-shaped, but a dull blue in colour. She looked at him first, eyes probing, brow furrowing at the sight of him. Or his robes. However little people knew of the Death Eaters, they did know that all had been in Slytherin.

    Lily was the one who jumped up first, eyes alight with curiosity.

    “You must be Vivien. Might as well get started right away....”

    Snape nodded at the girl, but concentrated on his own work. For now, he would watch, try to understand what it was Black saw in Vivien Horne. Compared with Li–


    But his eyes drifted toward her all the same. Although she may have been messy and a pack-rat, she was always presentable: hair cleanly bound back in a long braid, robes in place, only marred by the specks of dust that permeated every inch of the school. The prefect badge was slightly crooked, that was all. He liked looking at her, watching her movements, her ever-changing expressions. It was easier when others were around, offering comparison. None could surpass, not even match, Lily. No one.

    “Is it alright to call you Vivien?” Lily was smiling at the younger witch.

    A nod. Vivien hadn’t yet put down her textbook. She shifted her weight from one foot to the next, biting her lip.

    “What is it that you’re working on in class?”

    This answer demanded a verbal response.

    “Um, the Deflating Draught. Antidotes and the like.”

    Of course, Lily already knew all this. Snape could see it in the line of her mouth and the lustre of her eyes. She was trying to draw the girl out, get her to communicate. She’d done the same to him too many times, making him tell her everything about the magical world.

    Now that she knew it all, he sometimes feared she wouldn’t need him anymore.

    A sometimes fear, nothing more.

    “Well, lets try it out, then, shall we?” Lily’s smile didn’t even flicker. She would make a great teacher, if that’s what she chose.

    They started on the antidote – the most elementary of them all in Snape’s view – while Snape began his own work. As Vivien rarely spoke except to mumble a response to a question, Snape was able to concentrate on Lily’s voice. It in itself was a draught of peace, far stronger than any potion could manage.

    ~ * * * ~

    Vivien was silent, but her mind was not. She swallowed swear words as her potion grew lumpy, looking more like curdled milk than any antidote. She dreaded the moments when Lily would glance over her shoulder, offering a pretty smile or a word of encouragement that was entirely undeserved. It wasn’t helping any.

    Although she had never met Lily Evans face-to-face before this moment, she knew just about all one needed to know about the smartest, liveliest witch currently in residence at Hogwarts. There wasn’t a professor who didn’t like her, and only a few Slytherins had ever said anything remotely negative about her. Even they had trouble finding anything negative to say.

    It was all very curious. Vivien wanted to see this saintly girl in action.

    Which was very difficult to do when one was supposed to be concentrating on a blastedly difficult potion. Just when she thought she would explode (rather like her potion, which had curdled to the breaking point), Lily told her to look more closely at the list of ingredients.

    “Is there something you haven’t added or done?”

    Meaning that there was. And it was an obvious one she had looked over in her haste.

    “Oh. I always do that.”

    Lily was nodding. “That’s something you need to look out for.” She pointed to the list. “Make sure you read it through more than once before you actually begin. You see what Severus has done over here?”

    The two of them walked over to Snape’s desk, where all his ingredients were still lined up in a perfect row, replaced in its exact spot after use. He busied himself with his cauldron, keeping his back half-turned.

    “He makes sure that everything is ready before starting, checking and double checking that he has enough of each ingredient and that he’s used it properly.”

    Lily looked back at Vivien, the smile replaced by a very serious sort of expression. “That’s the thing about the classes that doesn’t work as well for some. You’re always rushed to get things done and cleaned up before class ends. What you need is to take your time.”

    Vivien stood with crossed arms, taking everything in. “Is that why you work here outside of class?” Her eyes narrowed as she observed Snape stirring his potion ever-so-carefully.

    “Yes, exactly.” Lily grinned. All the other smiles had been polite, nothing more. This one meant something.

    Nodding, Vivien drifted back over to her cauldron.


    With the cauldron (mostly) clean, she started again.

    It didn’t work out the next time, either, but the resulting potion wasn’t an entire disaster. Lily had gone back to helping Snape, their voices no more than murmurs, too low for Vivien to hear above the bubbling cauldrons. They were a very strange pair of friends, entirely mismatched, yet entirely at ease with one another.

    Snape’s hand trembled when Lily took over the stirring, her fingers brushing against his.

    Not entirely at ease.

    It stood to reason that Lily would be an attraction. She certainly was attractive in the way wizards tended to like. All that red hair, for one. What was it the Victorian Muggles said about girls with red hair? Rossetti had liked them a bit too much, painting that fiery hair over and over again. And then there were the eyes – a deep emerald – piercing, yet soft. But being pretty wasn’t enough, was it? Was that all Snape liked about her?

    Not that Vivien cared. They were just supposed to be helping her, and Snape wasn’t even doing that. He had suggested that she, not any other student (and there were others doing far worse than she was), join them for their sessions. Even if Black wasn’t involved – and she still believed that he was – it was suspicious, even more now that Snape was failing to pay her the slightest bit of attention.

    Her potion was bubbling too high; the spatter burned her hand.

    “Damn and blast!”

    She shook her hand, running toward the washbasin. Lily arrived there first to turn on the water. It was cold as ice, and Vivien swore again.

    “Are you alright?” Lily the ever-helpful held out her handkerchief.

    Vivien took it begrudgingly. She bet that Lily wouldn’t have gotten any splattered on herself. The kindness beaming from Lily’s face was overwhelming. Vivien wrapped the starched fabric around her hand, mistaking it for a bandage. Lily’s smile faltered a bit, but held. Well, perhaps she wasn’t so perfect after all.

    “A burn?” Snape must have finished his own potion. He looked down his nose at her hand, brow furrowing slightly at the makeshift bandage. “Murtlap.”

    That name prickled Vivien’s memory. Grimm standing over her, reaching for her hand. She had ventured too close to his work, had touched the side of a boiling cauldron. A little cry, her hand burning, burning, worse than now. He had reached for a container, opened it, and told her to place her hand inside.

    “Always keep this around. It works for wounds, too. Soothing.”

    Yes, she knew it. A cooling jelly, incredibly strange, but like he had said, soothing.

    “Here.” Snape, still in a monosyllabic mood, placed a small jar at her side.

    Vivien made use of the stuff, sitting to one side of the room as Snape and Lily cleaned up. When Lily wasn’t looking, Snape would straighten or move something she had just put away. It was not exasperation or perfectionism, more like a desire to touch whatever she had just touched. It should have been romantic.

    Vivien found it disturbing.

    Black would have laughed at this reaction. Grimm would have been equally amused at her cynicism. What Vivien had trouble understanding was why Snape just didn’t tell Lily that he liked her. They were close friends, had been for a long time, if she had heard the rumours properly. There was nothing that should stand between them.

    Except one thing.

    His robes were green.

    She stood back and waited. The temptation to confront Snape – “I know Black put you up to this” – was there, but it was small, nearly insignificant. It would serve no great purpose anyway. She would lose out on the extra instruction (which she clearly needed) and also on the opportunity to observe.

    How Snape looked at Lily.

    And how Lily never looked back.

    ~ * * * ~

    The news erupted the following morning: a whole Muggle village destroyed by Death Eaters. There were one or two survivors, stolen away in the dead of night to St. Mungo’s by Aurors disguised as Muggle doctors. Nothing being said about their condition, but if they’d had to be stolen, one could always guess. One could also guess at the darkness, the fear, the terror of the defenceless Muggles. They might have had guns or weapons, but what could they do against magic? There was no defence against an Unforgivable Curse.

    Copies of the Daily Prophet were circulated among the students at breakfast. The professors, even the ancient and conservative Muggle Studies professor made no comment; usually she was the first to complain, to say that children should be protected from such things. Professor McGonagall read her copy with tight lips and a pale face, Grimm peering over her shoulder at photographs of the Dark Mark floating above the ruins of a church.

    Vivien, Iris, and Tully shared a paper, flipping through the pages with wide eyes. Iris read passages aloud for the third years sitting across the table.

    “They say that there isn’t anything left of the village. It looks like a place out of a horror film, all dark and quiet like.”

    “They wouldn’t be saying that in the Prophet, comparing it to a horror film. That’s Muggle stuff, you know.” A blonde girl sniffed, her pug-like face scrunched in distaste.

    “Maybe not, but it gives a clear picture,” Iris shot back with a glare. “If you don’t like it, then get your own paper to read from.”

    The boy next to the blonde girl elbowed her in the side. “Quiet, Lizzie!” The girl on her other side echoed the sentiment, and so the acrimonious Lizzie sat silently, arms crossed and shoulders slumped.

    Iris continued reading from the paper, adding her own embellishments as she went.

    “In the ghastly ruin of the schoolhouse, they’ve found the bodies of Muggles who’d gone there for safety, hiding within its strong walls from what appeared to be a monstrous cyclone or hurricane.”

    Vivien wondered just how much of it she was making up. Surely the Prophet didn’t get quite that graphic?

    “Death Eaters captured and tortured a few of the wealthier Muggles, then went about murdering anyone who appeared, even going around to all the houses and buildings to root them out of hiding places.” Iris looked up into the frightened eyes of the third years. “They couldn’t get to everyone, of course, which is why there are survivors.”

    Tully leaned over Iris’s shoulder. “A total of two, from the sounds of it.”

    Vivien leaned over the other shoulder. “Who knows what sort of curses they got placed on them. Could be anything, really. The question is why.” The others faced her. “Think about it. Why kill the Muggles? They’re harmless, if anything. It’s not the Middle Ages anymore. They aren’t burning us at the stake.”

    It was an honest question, she thought. Why this sudden resurgence of hatred against Muggles? Through two wars Muggles and wizards had worked together side-by-side (unbeknownst to the Muggles, but all the same), yet now, wizards were out murdering Muggles? If they’d done it back in the thirteenth century, it would have made more sense, but this was the twentieth century. People were supposed to be more civilized, more understanding.

    “You’d be better to ask the Slytherins something like that.” Tully’s voice shook at the edges. “There’s no logic to it from what I can see.”

    No one else spoke for a time. All of them busied themselves with chewing on their breakfasts, eating because it helped take the mind off death and murder and senselessness.

    “I don’t like it,” said the girl sitting beside Lizzie. Her face was sickly pale, her eyes wide as saucers. “M’ parents live in a village like that, and they en’t Muggles. How’ll the Death Eaters know who’s who?”

    Even Lizzie looked upset by this question. Everyone’s minds turned to the people they knew outside of Hogwarts: family, friends, acquaintances, maybe to the random people on the street one passed every day. No one was safe from the Death Eaters and their master. No one.

    Vivien didn’t think so much of the people outside of Hogwarts as those within. She really had no one beyond the walls that she cared for enough. She wasn’t the big-hearted sort that cared for all humankind. As much as she hated the thought of violence, it still seemed a long way off. A nameless village filled with nameless people, none of them like her and the rest of them at Hogwarts.

    For all that she disliked the philosophy of purebloodism, she couldn’t quite escape it. Too many of those old ideas were rooted in her mind, her blood. Would it drip black instead of red, or perhaps with a tinge of green?

    She looked to the Slytherin table. They were not pale-faced and scared. Pleased, even victorious would describe them better. Wilkes and his prefects made a half-hearted attempt to hide their expressions, burying their faces in eggs or porridge. None of the current professors, not even their own Head of House would support the actions of the Death Eaters. The Head Boy and prefects had their futures to protect.

    From Gryffindor table, the sounds of Sirius Black’s loud commentary caught Vivien’s hear. Other students were looking his way, and Professor McGonagall sent a fixed glare in his direction. Only Remus Lupin, the Gryffindor prefect, caught sight of it, hunching lower in his seat to avoid telling off his friend.

    “To go after Muggles, how cowardly is that? It’s not like they can do anything back to you, not like a proper wizard. I’d like to see them try–”

    His voice was stifled. Someone had shoved a piece of toast in his mouth, to the amusement of many Gryffindors. There were additional murmurs between the laughter, probably warnings of a sort, not that Sirius Black would listen. If he was anything like his–

    Regulus was exiting the Great Hall. Alone.

    And for some illogical and very strange reason, Vivien excused herself from the table and followed him.

    For once, curiosity was getting the better of her.

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