Subject: Ms Comanec
Dear Ms Granger,
I have corresponded with Ms Comanec on a few occasions and have followed her work. She is a truly gifted Potions mistress, with a deep passion for her art and the rare ability to think outside the box. Mr Malfoy can congratulate himself on securing her as head of the research department at DM.
I can understand her very well. When I am in the middle of a research project I tend to become grumpy, not only when disturbed but also when forced to interact with other people.
I will be away from an internet connection for the next ten days.
He had surprised himself there. Why would he care whether Granger waited for a reply or not? Why had he offered snippets of his private life?
Before Halloween, he usually locked his cottage from the inside and got drunk. He had talked about Lily’s death extensively with his therapist, but that particular date still shook his equanimity badly.
This year, he had toyed with the idea of spending the holiday in Vienna, vaguely considering not getting drunk at all. He had finally accepted that her and James’ deaths weren’t his fault. From a distance, his obsession with Lily didn’t look good, neither did Dumbledore’s feeding of said obsession for his own purposes. Snape grew more determined than ever to spent this All Hallows Eve differently.
Subject: Tempers and Time-outs
Dear Mr Princip,
I fully understand Ms Comanec (and you). In no way did I mean to disparage Ms Comanec. I just needed to vent a little after spending a day with her in the lab.
To my everlasting shame, my last relationship ended when I hexed my partner because he disturbed me during a complex and crucial calculation. There were extenuating circumstances, but still ...
I used to spend Halloween at a friend’s (it is the anniversary of his parents’ death). Now he is married with two little sons. The youngest—Albus Severus—was born on the 31st of October, so this time of year has a different connotation for him now.
You probably know about the Houses at Hogwarts from Headmaster Snape. My friend was in Gryffindor, just like me, which is notorious for not thinking things through (a trait sometimes confused with courage). I would shake in my boots with fear of being hexed from beyond the veil for naming a child thus. (Originally, the Sorting Hat wanted to put me into Ravenclaw).
The weather forecast for your part of Europe is favourable; therefore, I will imagine you walking through the karst mountains under an impossibly clear Autumn sky, harvesting saxifragas while I curl up with a book in rainy London.
Have a good time!
Severus shook his head about Potter. Albus Severus. Poor boy.
Granger’s image of a hiking trip, however, seemed rather tempting. He made an appointment with his therapist for the 31st and booked a room in the small B&B he had used during the time he still had to rely on trains for transport for the first days of November.
Then, he packed and shrank everything he needed for the trip. He planned to hike up the Soca Valley and harvest whatever he found there. To avoid burdening himself with samples and vials, he prepared self-sealing containers in his lab and took a box with him that transported everything he put in it directly to his lab. It was a tricky bit of magic he had developed while still a Potions apprentice, and he was quite proud of it.
The weather forecast indeed came true. Severus spent the late Autumn days hiking and collecting, often enough left breathless by the beauty of the Soca River and the already snow-capped mountains on the horizon. He spent the night in simple lodges after a hearty meal in the company of fellow hikers. And he slept like a log.
On the 30th of October he reached Kamno where a small farmers market was in progress. He bought bacon, bread and honey and was looking for a quiet corner to shrink his purchases when a stall selling local headscarves caught his eye. They were made of wool, black with floral motifs in muted colours. On a whim he bought one.
The weather in Vienna was not as nice as in Slovenia, but Severus enjoyed his stay nevertheless. His therapy session on Halloween was exhausting, but reinforced a sense of closure. After visiting Vienna’s central cemetery in the mist early on 1 November, he planned his evening in the usual way: He closed his eyes and tapped his finger randomly on the theatre listings. After an early dinner at Neni’s on the Naschmarkt, this landed him with Gluck’s Telemacho in the Theater an der Wien, a theatre that had seen the premiere of Beethoven’s Fidelio.
Severus was fairly well read in Muggle literature, but he knew next to nothing about classical music. His mother had been an avid Elvis fan, and he had inherited a surprisingly large record collection of early British blues, rock and folk from his father, but that was the extent of his contact with music.
Regulus Black had tried to get him interested in opera, even claiming that Mozart had to have been a wizard, but Severus had known that what was considered mildly eccentric in the scion of one of the eldest Pure-blood families would do nothing to enhance the standing of a poor half-blood from a working-class background in Slytherin.
So now, he was content to let the music wash over him and to soak up the atmosphere.
Back in Opicina he checked his email. Unsurprisingly, there was none from Granger.