"Can’t you watch where you’re going?” Severus shouted from the cobblestones of Spinner’s End. He was about to continue his tirade but stopped short as soon as he caught sight of the clumsy idiot who made him fall. Under the bright sun of June a … human-like creature was standing. Its skin was sparkling so much that he had to cover his eyes.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t hear your arrival,” a smooth voice coming from the … creature said. A vampire, Severus’s memory supplied while he was getting up.
“How so, you didn’t hear me? Don’t people of your species gloat all the time about your senses, so superior to the Humans’?”
Now that he was at the same height as the vampire, he could distinguish the traits of its face behind the characteristic sparkling of that species—a species that had managed to live hidden from the wizarding world for thousands of years. This was a prowess they could be proud of. For the rest, they had nothing a good potion or charm couldn’t imitate.
The foreigner, whose hair was in disarray and harboured a weird bronze colour, leaned his head on the side. His frown expressed incredulity and frustration.
“I wasn’t listening to noises. I was searching for your voice.”
Severus smirked. “I’m not senile yet. I don’t talk alone aloud.”
“I wasn’t speaking of that voice,” the other retorted with impatience, but without offering further explanation.
“Sorry, but I only have one voice,” Severus said curtly. Obviously, dunderheadedness wasn’t limited to the human species. Perhaps it went with the ability to think. The vampire interrupted Severus’s musings.
“I’m sorry, I forgot my manners. I am Edward Cullen,” he said, holding out an icy hand. His face had taken an indifferent expression, as if he were trying to be polite, which convinced Severus that he had a favour to ask him.
The wizard glared at the hand. He hated the cold, and those creatures were dangerous, all the more because their skin resisted magic, not unlike the giants’. However, he had heard about the Cullens being the most human among vampires. Above all, the Cullen currently in front of him was standing too close and would be able to grab Severus before he managed to escape. So he took the proffered hand, hoping for the best.
Severus felt rather disconcerted by the way the vampire was staring at him: he was scrutinising him with frustrated concentration. It was a bit too much like the Legilimency sessions he had to endure when he was Lord Voldemort’s servant. The parallel was troubling enough for him to reinforce his Occlumency.
“What can I do for you?” Severus inquired. He hoped to get rid of the visitor as fast as possible, for he was ill at ease in his presence.
The other sighed deeply and shrugged as if he had been renouncing something.
“Could we go to your home? I’d rather have that conversation in a private location.”
The contrary would have surprised Severus, who nodded. “Follow me.”
Once inside the house, the two ... men sat down on the wizard’s worn out armchairs. They remained silent a while, avoiding each other’s eyes. Then Edward spoke. “My family and I have heard about your abilities in potions.”
Severus raised an eyebrow.
“Do you think you could brew potions that would have an effect on vampires?”
Severus raised a second eyebrow as Edward was staring at him.
“What kind of potion?”
Edward’s eyes roamed the book-covered walls, carefully avoiding Severus. What potion could embarrass him so?
“What do you know about my family?” he asked instead of answering the question.
The Potions master’s curiosity got inflamed by the vampire’s avoidance tactic. He was careful, though, to hide his reaction. No need to give the other some idea of how to manipulate him by showing too easily which behaviours and questions got a reaction out of him. So he twitched his lips into a small smile to signify that he had understood the vampire’s discomfort and would not hesitate to use it if the occasion arose.
“You live among Muggles, I beg your pardon, I mean Humans, and you try to remain unnoticed by them.”
“And we manage it thanks to some ... adjustments.”
The wizard kept his face smooth and inexpressive, although he was inwardly jubilant. The situation was very funny. He felt like he was back at Hogwarts, questioning a student caught in the corridors in the middle of the night.
“I suppose those adjustments have become insufficient, or you wouldn’t be here.”
Edward nodded again. His ochre eyes met Severus’s, who suddenly recalled something he had read about the diurnal vampires, as the Ministry called them, whereas the other vampires who, like Slughorn’s friend Sanguini, could only go out at night, were called nocturnal vampires. The article spoke of gifts not unlike magical abilities, like predicting the future or reading thoughts ... Shit! The member of the Cullen family currently seated in front of him was the one who could read thoughts. Severus narrowed his eyes—the only external sign of his internal rage. He grabbed his wand in his pocket. However, the other man did not seem to notice anything and carried on watching Severus with a frustrated expression. The wizard smiled broadly, making him look like the predator.
“I practice Occlumency, you know. Permanently.”
Surprise could be read on the vampire’s face, then understanding.
Silence. The two men gauged each other.
“So, you weren’t born like that. It’s an acquired gift,” the creature mused. “Bella is still unique.” He seemed to like that idea a lot.
But Severus did not care about this Bella. “Let’s go back to the purpose of your visit,” he suggested. “What do you want from me?”
“A potion to reduce the sparkling of our skin,” Edward answered in one breath. If he could, he would probably have blushed. Did vampires have inferiority complexes because of their ‘skin colour’? The Potions master’s suspicious mind came at once to a conclusion.
“So that you could hoodwink the Humans more easily? You have the reputation of being pacifist and vegetarian, but if such a potion were to be found in less benevolent hands? Like vampires drinking human blood?”
Arrogance and defiance appeared on Edward’s face. “We don’t intend to use that potion on a permanent basis. And we are certain that nothing will happen.”
Suspicion and mistrust could be read on Severus’s features. They were so obvious that Edward felt obliged to elaborate his point of view. He sighed noisily. “My sister Alice can see the future. She didn’t see any trouble coming from us using the potion.”
“We need that potion. We’d like to live elsewhere than in cloudy or isolated lands.”
“I’m not bothered that your living choices are limited to those lands.”
“Please. My father is an excellent doctor. Think of all the good he could do if he could settle in Africa for example.”
Severus considered his visitor silently. He was persuaded that he had not been told everything; to be a Legilimens had its advantages. “I don’t think you’re entirely honest with me.”
Edward stiffened. He was so immobile that he looked like a dressed sculpture. Then, abruptly, his shoulders fell and his body relaxed.
“My daughter and her husband have elected to live in Florida, near her grandmother. My wife and I wish to move near her. And Florida is very sunny.”
Severus almost felt sorry for the creature that had so reluctantly let him know one of his deepest desires. Almost.
“Did it ever occur to you that your daughter may have chosen to live in Florida just to put some distance between you?”
The pained expression on Edward’s face told Severus that the vampire had thought about it. Worse, he was probably right.
“But we miss her so …”
“That’s no reason. Such a potion in vampires’ hands, however pacifist they might be, is a danger for the human species.”
“Don’t you trust our ability to keep that potion hidden from our kind?”
“I don’t trust anyone, Human or otherwise.”
The men’s voices steadily rose through their arguments. Their similar stance—their hands tightly gripping their respective armrests—betrayed their mounting irritation.
The door was slammed open by a dark-haired tornado.
“Dad, I have the best marks of my class,” a ten-year-old girl shouted excitedly.
A woman with brown hair streaked with grey followed the child into the room.
“Eileen! Don’t you see that your father has a visitor?”
Said father paled so much that his complexion could rival his ‘guest’s’. “Go upstairs and do your homework in your room,” he harshly ordered his daughter. “Your mother’s going to help you.”
Eileen’s countenance froze with stupor. Then tears invaded her eyes. She turned on her heels without a word and with as much dignity a child her age could muster, but the room’s atmosphere was charged with her pain and disappointment.
Hermione seemed taken aback by her husband’s tone. In fifteen years of marriage he had never talked to her or their daughter so … disrespectfully. However, she had already heard that particular nuance in his voice: fear. A visceral fear, the kind of fear he felt when confronted with a werewolf. She peeked at Edward and a groan escaped her lips. A vampire! Now she understood why Severus was so scared.
“I’m going to see what she’s doing.” She left the two men to go and console their daughter, who was in all likelihood crying her eyes out.
“I wouldn’t have hurt her, you know,” Edward said.
He looked saddened by the scene his presence had caused. Yet comprehension could be read in his eyes, too. Severus remembered that the vampire was also a father, fearing for his daughter’s life, happiness and security, because that was what fathers did: to fear for their children and to protect them. That observation definitely convinced him to not help the vampire. His daughter would not live in a world where those vile creatures could deceive more easily their human prey. Or if it ever happened, it would not be because of him.
“You won’t change your decision, will you?” the vampire asked, resigned.
Severus’s eyes travelled from the door leading upstairs to Edward. “No.”
Edward gazed at the old floorboard, sighed softly, then looked at his host again. “I understand. I would probably do the same, were I in your shoes. Will you nonetheless allow me to give you my address? Just in case you’d change your mind. Or for anything else,” he added after a moment.
Severus nodded. That done, Edward Cullen quickly left Spinner’s End. The wizard climbed up the stairs, his feet heavy. He had excuses to make.
Edward Cullen’s request refused to be forgotten during the next days. It was not that Severus was bored by his newly retired life, what with all those “special” potions he brewed for customers in search of discretion. If only those potions had not lost their mystery in Severus’s eyes. And to create a potion assimilable by vampires … what a challenge.
Two weeks later, he had to give in. He had become distracted to the point of forgetting to return his books to the library; he was dreaming about it at night; he had not made love to his wife since the vampire had left his house. It was unavoidable that he succumbed to the siren’s song of potion creation. After all, he did not have an obligation to shout out on the rooftops what he was about to do. And wasn’t he allowed a harmless pastime like any other retired person?