Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to the goddess, JKR.
A Simple Deck of Cards
That single word could barely be heard over the boisterous chatter that inevitably was a part of every Christmas Feast. Severus Snape, Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House was practically scowling at the new Divination professor, Lavender Brown. She smiled sweetly and showed him the brand new deck she had purchased from a shop in Hogsmeade.
"Professor Snape," she continued as if he had not just refused her offer of a tarot reading, "I have invited the rest of the staff to my parlour for an evening of readings and revelations. You must be curious as to what your future has in store for you."
"Professor Brown," he practically hissed, "my future involves getting older, teaching dunderheads and eventually dying. That is all the information I desire…the rest is superfluous nonsense."
She smirked in a rather superior manner. "I could always do the reading without you there…and share the information about your many secret admirers with Professors Black and Lupin."
Severus gaped at her in ill-concealed horror. "Meddlesome woman."
"That is quite the compliment coming from you, Professor Snape. I do believe you are developing quite the soft spot for me," she simpered, batting her eyelashes in a manner that curiously resembled a nervous tic.
Severus massaged his temples fiercely. The last thing he wished to do was spend an evening with the other staff looking at a ridiculous set of cards that were supposed to discern what was beyond the whispery veil of the present.
"An utter waste of time," he thought to himself as he took a sip of pumpkin juice and glanced at the afore-mentioned professors of Defence Against the Dark Arts and History of Magic who were laughing themselves silly over a Chinese finger puzzle. "Evidently, it does not take very much to amuse a small mind."
"We will be meeting at 9:00, Professor Snape…although my mind's eye tells me you will arrive just one minute late on the hope of annoying the rest of the staff," she smiled again as she got up to leave. "I must prepare…there are candles to light and incense to burn. The atmosphere must be conducive to a true reading."
Severus watched the woman leave the High Table with a true sense of relief.
"I hate incense," he grumbled as he attacked a roast potato rather savagely with his fork.
"I know…gives me a bloody headache," a voice to his right made him turn around to see the new Charms professor sitting down next to him.
"Good evening, Professor Granger. Have you also been forced to attend Professor Brown's soiree?" he asked.
She nodded ruefully. "I don't believe in any of this tom-foolery but you can't decline such a forceful invitation."
"You would rather drink a vial of undiluted bubotuber pus?" he smirked as he passed her a basket of fresh rolls.
"Gladly. I have never been one to understand the popularity of such a vague…science…although calling it that is a bit of a stretch of the imagination," she took a roll and bit it thoughtfully.
"You did not continue in your Divination studies while you were a student here, did you?" He asked as he took a piece of salmon from a platter.
"I found it more profitable to curl my hair with Flobberworms," she practically snarled as she also took a piece of salmon, sprinkling it liberally with lemon juice.
"I vividly remember Sybil's harsh words after your debacle in your fourth year…"
"My apologies, third year…she said you were the only student to walk out of her class. I distinctly remember something about…how did she put it? Ah yes, a girl with the aura of a Puffskein."
"Meddlesome woman…always predicting a horrible death for Harry. She wasn't quite on the mark with that one, was she? He defeated Voldemort and managed to stay in one piece. I think he survived just to spite her."
"Perhaps she meant that, by a happy marriage and the birth of several children, that his former life would die?" he queried as he placed some cauliflower au gratin in his plate, offering some to her as well.
"Of course…how could I miss such an interpretation? Everyone knows that marriage is fatal to all who enter within its sacred domain."
"You sound astonishingly like a young woman determined to become an old maid. Do you not believe you will ever marry?"
She flashed him a warning look. "This is not a topic for discussion at the present, Professor Snape."
Severus chuckled as he returned to his meal and turned the conversation to the continuing antics of Sirius and Remus.
After a meal that featured, as usual, far too much food and crackers with even more outrageous trinkets (Severus hid the pair of socks which featured flashing potions bottles in his pocket before anyone noticed…he was not quite so lucky with the matching cravat), he made his way towards the chambers that belonged to the Divination professor. Taking a deep breath, he knocked politely.
The door opened within moments and Lavender, wearing an outlandish purple and green cloak and a yellow turban (decorated with a large purple stone and a green ostrich feather) smiled and ushered him in. He immediately felt suffocated by the scent of incense and hoped that his reading would be first so that he could escape before a massive headache took control of his actions.
"Did I not tell you that you would be exactly one minute late, Professor Snape? The mind's eye never lies," she said in a dewy voice.
"He is always one minute late for staff meetings, Lavender…your mind's eye is remarkably good at picking up well-known habits," Severus chuckled to hear Hermione's annoyed voice behind him.
Professor Brown sniffed pompously. "If you do not open your mind to the power of the cards, Hermione, the reading will not provide a great deal of information."
Severus turned to Hermione, who rolled her eyes and held her nose behind the Lavender's back. He walked into the parlour and saw that, indeed, everyone else who had been invited was already seated. He spied two empty seats beside Minerva and sat down in one, Hermione sitting in the other.
Unfortunately, neither of them were first…or second…or third. Severus felt himself falling asleep as he heard Lavender drone on about mysterious strangers, upcoming opportunities and unforeseen dangers. In fact, his eyes were almost closing when he vaguely realized that she was calling his name. Clearing his throat, he moved towards the table where she sat, and settled himself in the chair opposite her.
"Now, Professor Snape…I am certain this is not the first tarot reading you have ever experienced. Clear your mind of all extraneous thoughts and concentrate on the powers of the cards. The fates are swirling around you…let them reveal their secrets to you," she said in a monotonous and dramatic tone as she shuffled the cards carefully and began laying them out in a horseshoe spread.
He had to admit they were a nice set of cards and showed a distinct Egyptian influence. They were genuine wizarding Tarot cards and he watched as figures in the various cards moved around. He was tempted to laugh but managed to repress it.
"A most interesting and intriguing combination," Lavender began. "There are more Minor Arcana cards than Major Arcana cards which means that your fate is ultimately in your own hands."
Severus heard a snort and guessed that it had to be Hermione…who had not had her reading yet and had spent much of the last hour surreptitiously writing notes back and forth with him. There was something of the truant schoolchild in their actions and had earned an amused glance from Albus.
"This first card represents your past…the king of wands in the reversed position. This signifies that you were influenced by a man of darkness, an evil man who was intolerant, violent, bigoted and ruled by his passions. Worldly wise but spiritually poor."
Another snort that was hastily changed into a sneeze.
"The second card represents your present…the chariot. This signifies victory over the darkness of your past, despite the difficult odds. I see renewed optimism and motivation…perhaps some unexpected good news."
Apparently Hermione had choked on something, judging by the sudden onset of coughing.
The third card represents hidden influences at work…how intriguing…the Lovers. This represents that an important choice must be made between desires and duties. The significant change in attitude, referenced by the chariot card, shows that happier times lie ahead."
Someone cleared her throat. Severus was sorely tempted to turn around and stick his tongue out at that someone.
The fourth card represents obstacles to be overcome...the queen of cups in the reversed position. This represents a woman who is vain and deceitful…someone who constantly craves attention. She is beautiful, sensuous and imaginative…but demanding and possessive."
Severus tried not to look at Lavender too closely and was glad she could not hear his thoughts as to who this might be.
"Meddlesome woman," he thought.
"The fifth card represents the attitudes of other people…the eight of cups. This represents the need to leave the past behind…that there is still much to experience and see. It is important for you to take heart for the future promises to be brighter than the past. Follow your emotions and do what you truly desire. Perhaps the choice that is highlighted by the Lovers card will be an easy one to make."
"The sixth card represents what you should do…the two of cups. This represents commitment…a love and understanding between two people. Really…the majority of the cards are from the suit of cups which shows that the main focus of your reading is love."
There was the sound of laughter…Severus vowed to make Sirius pay for that little outburst. His Christmas gift would do the trick.
"The seventh card represents the outcome…the World card…how fortunate. This card indicates the end of one cycle and the beginning of another…perhaps the result of the choice that you are about to make. Remember, your friends truly desire your happiness and feel you have suffered enough. It is time to move on to another phase in your life and allow love to find you."
"Thank you for such an intriguing reading. I am certain that it highly amused my colleagues to hear such promising news surrounding my personal life," he said grimly. Her smile faltered momentarily but she quickly picked up the cards and began shuffling them again in a clear sign of dismissal.
Severus returned to his seat and was immediately nudged in the ribs by Hermione. She grinned mischievously before going to the table to have her reading done. She was the last and he watched the proceedings with some interest…after all, he hoped that someone else would be just as humiliated as he was.
"Hermione…your reading is equally mixed between cups and pentacles, which means a focus on love and prosperity. There are more Minor Arcana cards occurring which, again, means that your fate is in your own hands," Lavender looked at the cards intently.
"How amazing," Hermione replied dryly.
"The first card…your past…the Strength card. This shows that there have been many obstacles to overcome but that victory has been achieved…triumph over the mean attitudes and hatred of your enemies."
Hermione nodded politely.
"The second card…your present…the eight of Pentacles. This represents learning…the continuous drive to improve yourself through education. The skills you gain now will bring you much abundance in the future."
"I am pleased to see that my second doctorate in Potions will have some use in my future," Hermione commented in a very casual tone. Lavender frowned slightly.
"The third card…hidden influences…the two of cups. This represents a harmonious relationship and emotional contentment. It sometimes signifies the concept of opposites attracting but in any case shows that love and understanding are present. Hermione…you never told me."
"Lavender…you never asked," Hermione replied sweetly. Severus could see Hermione drumming her fingers on her leg under the table and chuckled softly.
"The fourth card…obstacles to overcome…the three of Pentacles in the reversed position. This represents attitudes that are perhaps too conservative…an unwillingness to take chances and an avoidance of all risk. After all, you can't score if you don't take the Quaffle and fly with it."
"The fifth card…attitudes of others…the High Priestess card. This is most interesting because it can mean that a secret is about to be revealed. It can also mean that your friends want you to go with your instinct rather than your mind. Live for the moment and take a chance."
The drumming continued.
The sixth card…what you should do…the Tower in the reversed position. This represents that you should take your friends' advice and take the chance. This may mean initiating a change that could cause shock or surprise to everyone…possibly showing a rebellious side that you have kept carefully hidden. It compliments the three of Pentacles and the High Priestess cards."
"Are you suggesting I elope with a tall, dark and handsome stranger, Lavender?"
Lavender blushed in embarrassment and quickly turned to the last card in the reading.
"The seventh card…the eventual outcome…the ace of Cups. This represents that you will embark on a new phase in your life…the beginning of a new partnership…perhaps marriage. In short, all affairs of the heart will prosper."
"And I will be certain to invite you to the wedding," Hermione stood up.
"You never were very open to looking into the future," Lavender began to put the cards away as the various staff members stood up as well and said their farewells. It was well past 10:30 pm according to the wizarding clock on the wall.
"My life is not ruled by a simple deck of cards, Lavender. That's all. And I do promise to invite you to my shocking wedding," Hermione smiled at her former classmate.
"And I promise not to be shocked."
Severus noticed that they both giggled for a moment. Their friendship had survived more terrible things than excessive studying and misty predictions and there seemed to be no danger of it ending anytime soon.
"Professor Granger…would I be premature to offer my congratulations on your upcoming nuptials?" Severus asked, walking up to her.
"Thank you, Professor Snape," Hermione yawned. "But perhaps it would be best for me to go to bed. Tomorrow is Christmas, after all."
"I quite agree. I will accompany you, if you like. Then you can divulge this secret that will change your life and shock your peers," he drawled. Hermione smothered another giggle.
They bade farewell to Lavender and left the chambers. The other professors quickly left them behind, eager to talk about the various items in their individual readings. Before long, they were alone in the corridor.
"What did you think of your reading?" Severus asked.
"What did you think?" Hermione asked, turning to him.
"You have a choice to make. Have you made it?"
There was silence for a long moment.
"And?" Severus asked impatiently.
"The answer is yes," Hermione smiled at him.
Severus could not speak for several moments.
"Are you certain?"
"For once, Lavender did perform a true reading. For both myself and for you as well."
Severus touched her cheek softly.
"You are not afraid of what people will think when our secret is revealed?" He asked.
She embraced him warmly and his arms automatically went around her.
"I am not afraid…the people who truly care for us will want our happiness more than anything else," she murmured into his chest.
"Then, I should do this properly, should I not?" Severus asked.
"It's really not necessary, Severus."
"Oh, but it is. Wizarding protocol demands it and who am I to break such long-standing conventions?" He released her and went down on one knee, taking her hand in his. "Hermione Granger…will you do me the honour of giving me your hand in marriage?"
"Just my hand?" She teased, although her eyes were suspiciously bright.
"Snarky Gryffindor…yes, more than your hands…your arms, your face, your throat, your legs, your feet, your lips, your…"
"I quite get the point, Severus," she interrupted with a blush. "And I accept your kind offer."
His heart racing, Severus pulled a small box from a pocket in his robes and gave it to her. Standing, he watched as she delicately opened the box…
"Oh!" she cried in delighted surprise.
"Do you like it? I know that your taste in jewellery is rather conservative so I chose a more traditional setting."
"It is lovely…I hope you didn't give the salesperson a heart attack. Professor Severus Snape buying an engagement ring? It's worthy of the front page of The Daily Prophet," Hermione said as he took the ring from the box and placed it on her finger.
"I threatened him with several hexes if he let word of my purchase escape his lips."
"How very Slytherin of you, Severus," she smiled as she kissed his cheek.
Severus looked at her and smiled.
"So, when do we inform the others?"
"Tomorrow…after breakfast. Lavender will be difficult to bear…what with the reading and all that."
She looked at him. Her eyes sparkled with love, with the hopes and fears of a future that held so much promise for both of them. She stood on her tiptoes and, holding him close, kissed him deeply. He could taste mint and chocolate in her kiss. He kissed her back, wanting nothing more than to snog her senseless. She pulled away slightly and smiled as she traced his mouth with her finger.
For a moment, he wondered what she meant.
But…only for a moment.
A/N: This was just a little thing that was beating its way out of my mind. I will be off for a while but wanted to get this story out beforehand. I will be back in late July. Thanks for reading! Oh, and all the bits about the tarot cards are from "Tarot" by Jonathon Dee. Lots of love to all my friends.