Severus stood in front of his neighbour´s door, bracing himself to knock. If he knew Ms Black, and after a couple of days he was sure she was easy enough to read, he was about to voluntarily put himself through a lengthy ordeal of infuriating small-talk and pushy kindness. He sighed...It had to be done...Severus could hear music coming from inside...the mellifluous voice of some male singer he could vaguely recognise but wouldn´t be able to identify if he tried...Aznavour? Brel? Montand?...He could never tell these Frenchmen apart...It was just something that sounded nostalgic and sensuous like old French songs tended to sound in general. So this was the kind of music she liked...didn´t exactly come as a surprise. Taking a deep breath he knocked.
The music came to an abrupt end and he heard very soft and quick footsteps coming towards the door. As it opened, his eyes were immediately drawn downwards...Had Ms Black suddenly shrunk? He didn´t remember her being so much shorter than him. She still looked somewhat tall, but she was surely missing more than a couple inches from the last time he saw her. He looked at her, his eyes scrutinizing her frame from head to toe. She had one of those muggle exercising garments on, excessively tight black Lycra pants and a sleeveless red top that revealed a hint of beige underwear...Once his eyes reached her feet, Severus almost laughed at the realisation: of course she looked shorter than usual...for once she didn´t have her vertigo-inducing high heels on. Instead her she wore some ridiculous mix of shoes and socks, knitted from soft green wool that would have suited a toddler far better than a grown woman.
"Hello." she let out in a quiet voice, he face wearing an uneasy expression as she pulled on the top in a futile attempt to cover up a bra strap that insisted on showing. Severus wasn´t sure what bothered him more, seeing her standing in front of him wearing such "casual" garments,or the fact that Evelyn herself seemed less than comfortable with it. He could swear she was blushing...
"Hello...I see it´s a bad time..."
"Not at all, come in..."Before he could answer, she opened the door all the way and walked back in, awkwardly reaching for a sweater on a hanger and putting it on.
"Sorry about the mess, I wasn´t expecting any visits..." there was a tangible tension in her voice, as she pulled nervously on the oversized sweater, as if it didn´t fit her body in the way it was supposed to. "Take a seat. Can I get you something, water, coffee..."
"No, please, don´t bother...I just came to return your book." He stretched out the book to her and she took a step forward, getting it from him and smiling, seemingly more relaxed.
"Oh, you´ve already...Oh, sorry, I´ll be right back" she abruptly turned to get into the kitchen. Severus looked over and saw as she tied up her hair and leaned over the stove where it looked like she had something cooking.
"I should get going then..."
"No! Just a minute!"
"I really don´t want to bother..."
"You don´t bother at all."
"But you´re obviously busy..."
"It´s just a stew, once I get this done, it´s going to sit on the heat for a couple hours...there aren´t many ways you can disturb a stew, you know. Just give me a second and I´ll be with you"
Severus crossed his arms over his chest, shrugging inside his jacket. Seriously, this woman...he watched through the door as Evelyn fussed over a pan, the sound and smell of pieces of meat touching a sizzling hot bed of butter, onions and spices slowly filling the air around him. When was the last time he had smelled home made food as it cooked? Probably back when his mother was still alive...Ms Black certainly cooked well...just struck him as the type, with all the bland domesticity she exuded. He shook his head smirking...Probably shouldn´t have skipped lunch today, he was thinking nonsense.
Much in spite of himself, his eyes followed her. She had her back turned to him, occasionally turning to fetch some ingredient or another, the soft late afternoon glow coming in from the window that overlooked the backyard enveloped her frame and shed a golden light on her swift movements. The back-light allowed him to perfectly make out strong shoulders, a somewhat generous bust, and rather sturdy set of hips and tighs....Those combined would have made any woman of a more delicate frame look frankly plump, but Miss Black was handsomely tall and built in such a way he could carry a few extra pound most women wouldn´t be able to afford. Yet as sensuously solid as she may have looked while resting, once she was in motion her movements were feather-light and fluid. Severus followed her hands as they picked up ingredients,mixed, combined...
There was something quite similar between potion-brewing and cooking, regardless of the obvious difference in the nobility of the two arts. But the simmering pan, so much like a cauldron, the ingredients mixing, loosing their original forms and connecting with each other to form something new, the necessary combination of technique and intuition...He remembered how, as a young boy, he watched his mother cook with much the same awe as he observed her potion making (which was a rare event given his father´s less than positive disposition towards magic). He took a step forward, immediately chastising himself...his curiosity was about to get the best of him...he must have been particularly bored to find something as prosaic as a muggle woman cooking a simple stew anything worthy of attention.
He let his eyes wander around the room, instead. There had been a considerable amount of changes since the last time he had been there. The number of books had, at the very least, tripled, all displayed in a pair of neatly arranged wooden bookcases. Some gaudy objects had vanished, replaced by more delicate and discreet alternatives...a small desk had been brought in, atop of which sat folders, papers and notebooks decorated with dainty flower patterns, the old-fashioned pink couch had new and colourful cushions and the walls had lost the heavy tapestries and gotten a wealth of photos and some of those obnoxious French-style turn of the century posters of cats.
"Crazy cat lady..." he chuckled as her black cat walked into his field of vision, making itself comfortable on a cushion laid out for him by the fireplace.
"I´m sorry about that...." she walked back into the sitting room, still looking very much awkward inside her sweater, her cheeks flushed...he wasn´t quite sure if from embarrassment or the heat of the simmering pan "Actually, if you could give me just one more second...I was about to go upstairs and take a shower, I promise it will be quick..."
"Ms Black, I think I´ve been enough of a nuisance..."
"Not at all! I´ve been looking forward to know what you think of the book, but I´m smelling of garlic and onion soffrito. and this is no way to entertain a guest" She smiled, still visibly uncomfortable "I promise it will take just a second. There´s fresh tea and orange juice in the kitchen help yourself of anything you want. I´ll be right back."
Severus raised an eyebrow...Was she really going to leave a man she knew for a little over a weekend all alone in her living room while she went upstairs to take a shower? Were all Irish people naïve yokels or was she a special case? The bloody woman had a handful of published academic works, graduated from one of the most prestigious muggle universities, was obviously intelligent enough to carry on complex conversations and yet, she could be this much of a rattlebrain? If this was her usual approach to dealing with people she hardly knew, he hoped for her sake that she had had some sort of security system installed in the house...or at the very least some strong lockers on her bathroom door. Still, her being such a blockhead was quite convenient for him. A few minutes alone in her living room might be precisely what he needed...
"Well, in that case..."
"I promise I won´t take long..." she smiled turning to hurriedly climb up the stairs
"Ms Black?" He called out before she could reach the top
"Would you mind if I helped myself to your library for a second?"
"Make yourself at home."
Severus waited for her do vanish from his sight and looked around, quickly scanning the room for anything that might be interesting. After a few second taking in the layout of the room and where each object was, he turned to the wall covered in framed photos that dominated the room. Family photos...He approached and started to look at them one by one...
On the top row of photos there was a black and white picture of two men and a boy, all dressed in their Sunday best. The picture seemed to have been snapped on somebody´s front porch, the younger man was standing up while the older gentleman was sitting on a rocking chair with a boy of four or five years old on his lap, all smiling at the camera. The older man had a well-groomed greying beard and greying hair and a serene and dignified expression on his face that matched the younger man´s to a t...Actually they looked almost like the same person with the sole differences being the beard and the amount of years separating them. Father and son, surely. And the young boy with hair just as dark as the father´s, cut in a neat bowl-cut must have been the grandson. In another photo the same boy, a few years older now, in his swimming trunks, under a soft orangey glow of sunlight. Next to him there was a a younger girl....a little girl with wavy brown hair and serious brown eyes, wearing a red swimming suit. Both were wet and covered in sand, standing next to a black Irish Wolfhound that had a little blond girl of barely two years old ridding its back as if it was a miniature horse. Severus immediately recognised the brown-haired girl, Evelyn Black still had the very much same facial features from her youth. The boy and girl were probably her siblings...Some other family pictures...a picture of Ms. Black´s graduation...standing next to her was the same young man of the first picture, now much older and uncannilly resembling his father (or the man Severus thought was his father, but he was more than quite sure).Another picture of Ms. Black wearing dreary 80s fashion, striking a silly pose with a younger woman with blondish-brown hair in a ridiculous Madonna-like outfit. Finally some more recent pictures of her and random family members...One of the most recent photos depicted another pair of little girls, dressed for Halloween most likely, a blonde toddler wearing an Alice in Wonderland costume and a brown-haired girl of about five dressed as Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz. Severus blinked and looked closely, the older girl was almost identical to Ms.Black...He tried to remember if she had mentioned having any children of her own...
Severus shook his head...Snooping though her happy family memories wouldn´t help him at all. Smiling faces in little perfect petit-bourgeois portraits of cliché family bliss wasn´t going to give him any useful information. He looked around once again and tried to recall where Ms. Black kept the wooden box her grandfather had left her. Last time he had been there it was in a cabinet, but that had been removed...So, where? He quickly located all the pieces of furniture that had drawers on them and proceed to open every single one. He had to find a locked one. She would surely have that box inside a locked drawer, those papers were just too important to her to have them laying around...He just hoped it was in the living room and not in her bedroom.
"The desk! Of course!" He walked up to her desk and pulled on the drawer. It was locked. Severus grinned "Jackpot!"
He pulled his wand from his pocket, silently congratulating himself for having the forethought to bring it with him, and unlocked the drawer. Inside, he found a couple of folders labelled "documents" and "bills to pay", some random papers neatly organised with coloured paper-clips and under everything the wooden box with the Black family crest carved on the lid. Trying to make as little mess as possible he removed the folder and papers, taking care not to disturb their order, and retrieved the box. Inside he found the same papers Ms. Black had shown him, the family tree, the house deeds and some letters....Two bunches of letters, both tied in satin ribbons. Severus quickly went through the letters bound in red ribbon...From the little he could see they were all from "Marius"to "Elizabeth" or from "Elizabeth" to "Marius"...Ms. Black´s grandfather was certainly "Marius"....maybe her grandmother was "Elizabeth"...Love letters, probably...he set those aside and moved to the bunch of letters tied in a straw-coloured ribbon.
Those looked more promising. They all had the the Black Family crest and seal on them...all of them to Marius from "Violetta Black"... Severus immediately remembered the family-tree he had been obsessively studying...Marius Black, the disowned squib, was the son of Cygnus Black and Violetta Black, née Bullstrode....These letters where from Marius´mother...Ms.Black´s great-grandmother...Violetta Black had been writing her son after he was disowned...For a second Severus contemplated opening one of those letters, but he wouldn´t have the time to re-tie them in the same way as to avoid Ms. Black noticing they had been touched....
Hurriedly, he looked for something else, something he could read...but there was nothing...Severus heard the sound of water coming from upstairs stop. Ms Black had just finished her shower...There was nothing useful in this box...feeling a little disappointed he placed all the contents back and closed it. But as he picked it up to put it back in the drawer his fingers felt something odd in the bottom... He turned it upside down he found a very small latch. He gently tapped the bottom of the box and noticed it was hollow
"A false bottom?"
He carefully opened the latch...it was so small and delicate it seemed like only opening could break it. The bottom of the box immediately popped open to reveal another letter inside. Severus took it out and the surprise almost cut his breath short. He had seen so many letters like those in his life he could even recognised the particular smell of the paper they were written on...Severus himself had waited, hoped and prayed to get one of these....and when it arrived...it had been one of the single most joyful days of his entire existence... This letter, hidden away in a false bottom, had Hogwarts crest and seal....
The envelope was too old for the recipient´s name to be clear...actually it was so worn out even the crest was blurry...it looked like that letter had been handled so many times, folded, unfolded, even crumpled to such an extent the recipient´s name had simply vanished...Severus opened it, but before he could retrieve the letter, the sound of steps upstairs brought him back to reality...He felt the urge of shoving it into his pocket, but Ms. Black might notice...He wasn´t sure if she knew of the false bottom or not, it was too much of a risk...Instead he just put it back. With meticulous care, he put everything back into the drawer in the exact same order he had found before and closed it, listening for any noises coming from upstairs. He moved away from the desk as soon as he heard the faint sound of steps approaching the stairway. Shoving his hands into his pockets, Severus stood in the middle of the room facing away from the stairs, putting on the most natural façade he could muster.
"I´m all yours now." the joyful voice of Ms. Black came from behind him and he turned, pretending to have just noticed her return. She no longer had those dreadful muggle exercising garments on, having changed into a pair of jeans and a burnt orange wool sweater. She had also gotten rid of the ridiculous toddler-like footwear, now replaced by a much more sensible pair of black slippers. She was visibly more at ease, and Severus himself felt more comfortable, he had to admit.
"That´s quite a collection of photos you have here..."he casually pointed to the wall
"Oh, just some family photos..."
"Is that your grandfather?" He pointed to the black and white picture at the top row.
"Yes, that´s grandpa Marius" she smiled "with dad and Paul."
"Yes..." Severus looked at her face as she stood besides him, looking at the wall, a subtle shadow on her expression making her golden brown eyes suddenly appear darker. Evelyn shook her head lightly, turned to another picture and continued talking, almost as if she was conversing with herself rather than with him "There we are, Paul, me and Caitlin, our baby sister...She´s ridding Fergus. She loved pretending he was her pony. I tell you, there was never a more patient dog in this world..."
"And the little girls?" Severus pointed at the more recent picture of the two girls in Halloween costumes.
"Ah, Alice and Lizzie. They are Caitlin´s girls."
"The older one could pass for your kid."
"Everybody says that!" she laughed softly "Well, Alice is more like me and Paul, we take after the Black side of the family. Caitlin was always the one that looked more like mam, a Finnegan through and through..."
"Does Paul have any children?"
"No...Paul passed away when he was very young...But you didn´t come here to look at family pictures, right? Please take a seat. I know is extremely pushy to just go asking what people think of my works, but I´ll admit I was curious to know your opinion."Severus followed her as she sat down on the couch, pulling her annoying wee beast of a cat onto her lap. "I know, I know...it feels like an enquiry, doesn´t it? Like I´m giving you a test...I´m just really curious" She smiled as he sat down next to her
"Not at all...actually I´ve been meaning to talk to you about it..." he reached for the book on the coffee table and opened it on the index page. "The trials you refer to...I knew some of them, but there are so many here that I´ve never seen listed into any other work I´ve ever had the opportunity to read before...I took a long look at your bibliography, and I saw you have a great number of primary sources and..what?" he did a bit of a double take as he noticed she was staring at him, her face filled with surprise.
"Are you sure you´re a chemistry teacher?" she smirked
"Last I checked..."
"Is just that you speak like a professional historian..."
"As you know, History is a hobby of mine..."
"You seem to take your hobbies seriously."
"It´s not just because it´s a hobby I shouldn´t take it seriously..."
"Of course...Oh, dear, I can´t keep my mouth shut, can I? Go on..."
"Uh, yes...Your sources...The primary sources you used for this book, the are quite interesting. Maybe I´m just not as well versed in the subject as a professional historian would be, but some of the documents you´ve consulted...I don´t remember ever seeing those mentioned anywhere, which is understandable seen as many of the events you talk about are quite unheard of...I hope you don´t think is a stupid question, but how did you discover these trials? They seem to have gone unnoticed by all other historians I´ve read so far" Severus bore his eyes into hers as he spoke, looking for any sign of tension or anything that might give away any knowledge about the wizarding world she could have. He hated the idea of using legilimency in a muggle, but if it was necessary...She let out a soft sigh, almost as if she was bracing herself for a long lecture.
"Would you believe if I told it all started with one of my grandfather´s books?"
"Your grandfather? I don´t recall you saying he was a historian as well...Is it a family business?"
"It is, in a way...My father was a history teacher, but my grandfather was just a history-buff...much like yourself... He was a fisherman, actually, but he filled any idle time he had with the most eccentric books and oddities..." She stood up and started to look for something in one of her bookcases "I swear to this day I have no idea as to how he found such bizarre things..."
She pulled out a book from one of the shelves, a very old and thick volume, bound in good quality red leather. Severus narrowed his eyes, trying to catch a glimpse of the faded golden letters on the spine, with no success. She walked back and sat closer to him, carefully laying the heavy book on her lap as if it was a relic. Severus could feel the faint smell of old paper and leather mingle with the soft lavender emanating from her and fought back the urge to scoot away from her...But the fresh perfume was still a better option to the appetite -opening scent of the stew that was starting to come from the kitchen...He really shouldn´t have skipped lunch today....
"You see..." she went on "my grandfather was a...how can put it?...A peculiar man. Growing up we used to go to his house almost everyday, some times we slept over...my grandmother made us cakes and cookies and he would tell these crazy stories about wizards and witches...I´m pretty sure he made all of them up, I have no idea how he didn´t become a writer....it was scary how imaginative he was...Anyway, he had this crazy books about witchcraft and history, and I´m pretty sure those were where he drew inspiration for the stories he told us. This was one of his favorites." She handed him the book and Severus ran his fingers on the cover. There wasn´t a title.
Severus was trying his best not to look too interested, but under his emotionless face, he was shivering with anticipation. So Marius Black had indeed told her about the Wizarding World... In the form of fairy-tales. Quite cunning of him...No doubt, as any Blacks worth the family´s name, he would have made a fine Slytherin. Opening the book, he read the title page and swallowed hard.
"'Great wizards of Britain and Ireland'...this is..." Severus bit his tongue before saying anything. He knew this book. It was a comprehensive list of the most famous wizards and witches from the XIV to the XVI century. It was a rare book, the most recent edition had come out in the 40s. A book like this in the hands of a muggle History professor could be potentially catastrophic. "How did your grandfather find this book?"
"I have absolutely no idea. I never found one like this, until this one day back in college, when I took a trip to county Gallway and found another copy in an antique book store. The owner seemed so surprised when I told him I had the same book, I think he was under the impression his copy was the only one in existence...Actually it was rather amusing, he seemed genuinely surprised at the fact that I had walked into his shop at all...most odd little man with the most odd little shop...
"Interesting...this bookstore, does it still exist?"
"I don´t think so...I told a colleague of mine about it, even gave him the address, but he never found it. Must have closed. But anyway, I always thought this was some sort of fantasy literature, as grandpa Marius had many such odd things at home...But when I grew up I started to entertain the notion that maybe this book was the product of a time people believed in witchcraft, maybe an informative guide like the 'Malleus Maleficarum'. My grandfather´s edition doesn´t have any information concerning the year of the first print of even the editor. But it does have a wealth of notes concerning libraries and archives, some of which I had never heard of. So I decided to hunt down the original references, and let me tell you, it led me to the most strange places..."
"Some odd little town archives scattered all over Ireland and Britain. Back then I was working specifically with Irish history, so I went back to Gallway, Kildare, Kerry...And to my surprise I found a wealth of forgotten trial procedures, books and other sources all hidden in tiny villages that I couldn´t even find in a map...almost as if people didn´t want them to be found."
Severus couldn´t believe his ears. Could it be that these archives, these small towns that weren´t in any maps...Maybe they were hidden for a reason...Could they be wizarding communities, wizarding libraries? No! Ms Black was a muggle, she wouldn´t have been able to see a wizarding library, let alone walk into one. Her sources were certainly simple muggle documents, lost to time and lack of care about conserving history...as it was usual with Muggles. But still, he knew now for a fact that her grandfather had told her about magic...she might not know about the wizarding world (and Severus still couldn´t rule the possibility out), but she surely knew where to dig...and if she kept doing that....
"Oh, excuse me....I´ll just check the stew for a second."She stood up,and went to the kitchen.
"All right" He answered absent mindedly, still staring at the book in his hands. Evelyn Black´s grandfather was certainly the same squib Marius Black that had been disowned decades before, Severus was convinced of that. And he had told his granddaughter about the Wizarding world, but in such a way she thought it was all a crazy collection of bedtime stories...Nevertheless his "fairy tales" had somehow encouraged her to pursue a career studying witchcraft. Why would he have encouraged such pursuits? It was far too risky giving away such information to an impressionable child, he must have known this could result in a breach of the Statute of Secrecy...
Suddenly, Severus remembered the letter in the false bottom of her grandfather´s box...A Hogwarts acceptance letter...Severus stood up and walked towards the photo-covered wall, once again studying the pictures one by one. Who was that letter addressed to? Certainly not Evelyn or either of her siblings, Severus would have known if a Muggle-born Black had entered Hogwarts around the same time he was there... if any of Marius grandchildren they had gone to Hogwarts, he would have met them...Evelyn´s nieces were too young, even if one of them was a witch the letter wouldn´t have been sent just yet. Then who?!...
"You´re staying for dinner, right?" Evelyn asked from the kitchen
"It´s very nice of you Ms. Black, but I think I´ve taken up enough of your time."
She walked back into the living room, crossed her arms over her chest and rested her shoulder against the doorframe.
"Actually you´d be doing me a favour..."
"You see I have enough food here for at least four people..."
"Do you have guests coming?"
"No...Is a bit ridiculous, really...This is probably the first time I´ve lived alone in my life...Pathetic, right? At age 35...I´m just not used to cooking for one. Today I was just craving some Irish stew and I just went and made enough for a whole family..."
Severus felt like coming up with an excuse, but he just couldn´t leave without getting more information out of her. And judging by how eager to talk Ms. Black seemed, he wouldn´t even have to bother with legilimency. To be quite honest, he was getting hungry and the smell of that stew wasn´t helping his situation much. Oh well...it wouldn´t hurt to be sociable for a little while longer...
"Well, then I don´t see any reason do decline..."
"Great! I hope you like Irish stew." She went back into the kitchen and Severus followed
"It sounds like you and your grandfather were very close..."
"We were...grandpa Marius, Paul and I...our grandma called us the three musketeers..or the three stooges depending on how silly we were being..." she laughed softly
"And your sister?" He asked for the sake of small´talk, taking off his jacket and putting it in the back of a chair.
"Caitlin? Oh, she was much younger than us. She was just five years old when Paul passed away...can barely remember him..."
"And how old was Paul?" He sat down and watched as her body visibly tensed.
"Eleven..." Her voice was barely a whisper. Severus knew he was better off not going down that road, as much as he wanted to...Eleven years old..no, he shook his head and decided to drop the subject..
"I´m sorry to hear that..."
"It was a long time ago...You drink?"
"Stout or lager?"
"Stout. It´s a weekday"
"There you go" She openeded the fridge and took out two bottles of Guiness, handing him one. Severus smirked. Guinnes and Irish stew...He wouldn´t be at all surprised if she wiped out some soda bread as well. The woman couldn´t be more Irish if she was a leprechaun.
"It´s okay, you can leave it..."
"Well, I can´t just very well sit here doing nothing as you clean after my mess" Severus had always hated the idea of being served. Even as a teacher at Hogwarts having the house elves cook and serve his his food had always been mildly annoying to him. He didn´t have Lucius disposition to sit around idly and just let other people do everything for him (which knowing Lucius probably also included the wiping of arse). Inactivity and self-indulgence were two of the things he most abhorred. And he had to begrudgingly admit, he didn´t quite remember having such wondrously cooked food in a long time. This was possibly the first time in about seventeen years he had had seconds. And decent conversation over dinner? Rare event. Helping clear the table and do the dishes just seemed like a fair compensation. He swiftly moved the dishes to the sink, trying to remember how when was the last done the dishes without magic, if ever...Well, he would be damned if he couldn´t figure out something as simple as washing a couple of plates and forks.
"You seriously don´t have to."
"I insist." he let out sternly, rolling up his sleeves and proceeding to the task. But she wasn´t about to give up and walking up from behind him, got a now clean plate from his hand."Ms. Black, please..."
"No, no wa..." the smile suddenly disappeared from her face when she looked down. Severus followed her eyes and immediately regretted having rolled up his sleeves. Evelyn was staring at his left forearm, where the scar-like remains of the Dark Mark were still visible, even if barely. It came as quite a shock to him that she had even noticed at all.Most muggles couldn´t see it, and even some wizards had a hard time doing so. He let go of the plate and looked up at her face, not sure if her shocked expression amused him or not.
It took her a second to snap out of it. Without looking at him in the face she reached for a tea towel and started to dry the plate, avoiding his gaze.
"It´s okay, you can ask..."
"About this...on my arm."
"I´m so sorry." she looked up at him, sighing "I didn´t mean to stare. I have no issue with tatoos or scarifications, I swear, is just that..."
"Mine is different, right?"
"I...yes, it is..."
"Does it unsettle you?" He raised an eyebrow. Her reaction had been a bit too exaggerated for somebody who had simply seen a tattoo,or a scarification (which his Dark Mark resembled much more than a regular tatoo). Particularly considering how much of a cultured woman she was. Something like this shouldn´t shock her. Could it be that the Dark Mark made her uncomfortable? He wouldn´t be too surprised...muggles could have some rudimentary sensitivity to magic, particularly dark magic. It was almost like a sort of defensive instinct that every human being possessed.
"Well,it´s rather...distinctive, but I wouldn´t say unsettling"
"For a moment I thought it had scared you."
"Is just a tatoo" she smirked "Nothing scary about it."
"You think?" He grinned
"Why should it be scary?"she laughed "Don´t tell you got it into a cult initiation or something like this?"
"What if it was?" Severus simply looked at her, serious. Her eyes were wide and he could feel her tension. He shook his head, mildly amused "Don´t worry, I´m not a in cult..."
"Oh, my God. I´m such a ditz, I´m sorry, I didn´t mean to imply..."
"It´s quite all right, Ms. Black..You see..I did a lot of stupid things in my youth...as many a kid my age. I´m sure, as a teacher, you´ve seen this happen more than once. You want to impress your peers, so you start getting involved with the wrong group of people and before you realise...there´s a stupid looking tattoo on your arm...and that will be it, if you´re lucky enough to get out"
"Does that bother you?" he let out acidly
"Not really. You know what? If you insist on doing the dishes then I´ll make some coffee...I didn´t prepare any dessert, but there´s ice cream in the fridge if you like..."
"Just coffee will be fine" He told her, as he finished with the dishes and reached for the tea towel.
"I´ll dry the dishes once I´m done with the coffe. Just leave them there"
"All right.." He was starting to feel a little restless, maybe it was being reminded of the dark mark still marring his arm, but for some reason Severus was just agitated "Do you mind if I smoke?"
"You know smoking can kill you right?" she chided
"I just told you I was once part of a gang and you´re worried about tobacco killing me, Ms.Black?"
"Oh, well...since you´re living on borrowed time, by all means go ahead, Mr. Daredevil"
Severus couldn´t help the soft laughter that escaped his lips. "I´ll step outside for a second...."
"Oh, no...the backyard is a mess"
"You call this a mess?" He told her as he went outside."You´ve obviously never had eleven year old students"
"Well if you count tutoring my sister"
"That hardly counts"
"You´ve obviously never met my sister."
"Touché..." he answered as he sat in one of the rusty iron cast garden chairs he found outside and lit up his cigarette. Severus breathed in the chilly night air, looking up at the dark star-studded cupola of the sky above his head, as the smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the air around him. Soon enough Evelyn stepped outside, bringing him a cup.
"Thank you." He breathed out, noticing she had a bowl of ice-cream floating on coffee on her other hand wich she proceeded eating with gusto even before sitting down.
"Affogato" she smiled. "Do you want some?"
"I couldn´t possibly fit it. Actually I´m wondering how your stomach still has room for it after the massive meal we just had...I guess is true that the Irish have a very hearty appetite"
"Oh, trust me, you haven´t seen anything...You´d be shocked!" She giggled, taking in another spoonful of ice-cream
"Remind me to never treat you to dinner..."
They sat silently for a while. Severus closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the stark contrast between the cool night air and the warm cup of coffee on his hand, the feeble smoke as it came out of his lips making idle arabesques in the air. Maybe he was a bit too relaxed, or the few beers he had over dinner were kicking in, but he could use a nap right now...How long had he gone without drinking any alcohol if a couple bottles of Guinness were throwing him off his balance? He glanced sideways, catching a glimpse of Evelyn´s figure locked between the golden light coming from inside the kitchen and feeble blue-white light of the stars above them. She she sat on a cast iron bench next to his chair with one leg tucked under the other, completely relaxed, looking up at the sky, distractedly eating her ice cream. Indeed a Black...that patrician profile and sharp serious eyes were virtual proof.
"You know..." she told him casualy "you should stop calling me 'Ms.Black'. We´re about the same age...and you´re my neighbour....You can just call me Evelyn...or Lyn, all my friends call me Lyn..."
"Maybe is a bit too soon to start calling you Lyn. I´ll just try to get used with Evelyn"
"Meanwhile, can I call you Severus?"
He shifted uneasily on his seat, finishing up his coffee. "I think I really should get going..."
"But it´s still early..."
"I took up too much of your time. I don´t want to be inconvenient. Thank you for dinner, it was splendid."
"In that case, let me get your jacket"
"No, please...Just finish your dessert, I can see myself out" His protests were useless, as Evelyn insisting on getting his jacket and escorting him to the door.
"Well, good night then." she smiled, almost motioning to kiss him on the cheek, but choosing to hold out her hand instead.
"Good night. Once again, thank you for everything." He shook her hand and walked away briskly, hoping he wouldn´t stumble on his legs. Why the hell was he feeling dizzy all of the sudden?
"You can drop by whenever you feel like...is no bother at all."