It wasn't late, though it was already dark. It was only five in the afternoon of the 5th January. The wind had been steadily gaining in power throughout the day, and now darkness had cut in it had grown icy cold. Most shops had shut their doors early due to lack of customers. Though the quietness in trade could be no less the weather's fault, as it was the uprising of dark wizards. As life was now – most wizards considered it unwise to move around after sundown.
If they had any care about their well-being, that was.
The stern boy stood rigid and upright, a thick heavy hood hiding his head. All that could be seen of his face was a nose, which struck a sharp profile to the shadows beyond. The shop sign creaked noisily in the wind above him.
He stood facing the window, seemingly staring into it for as much as several minutes, his cloak being tugged and whirled by the breeze. Finally, giving quick glances up and down the street he lowered his hood and entered the shop. The chimes clanged and complained as the eldritch conditions he brought in threatened to all but swallow the shop's quivering candlelight.
"Goodness me, what a night!" exclaimed a frail voice from within.
The boy threw a disdainful glare at the chimes before shutting the door and turning to the speaker. With one look at the elderly, iron-haired witch's delicate indigo robes and lavender patterned décor he gauged an opinion of her character in an instant. And was she reading one of those novels? A hint of a sneer pulling at his lip, he curled his fingers around a single coin in his pocket.
"Fortune telling is for Muggles and fools," he muttered in a low voice.
A knowing light seemed to shine in the old witch's eye.
"Yet, you say those words as if quoting someone else," she replied, watching him carefully from her chair. "Mere repetition. What do you think of Fortune Telling yourself?"
The young boy's eyes narrowed slightly. "What are you trying to say?"
"No matter." She gave a slight smile. "How may I help you?"
"You are not going to help me. I don't need help. I am here on a promise for someone else," came the icy tone.
The witch took deliberate care to mark the page she was on before slowly closing the volume. That done, she rested her hands primly on her lap and peered back up at him. "Oh. You don't want your fortune told, then?"
For a moment the boy's eyes flickered with what seemed like rage, before he clenched his fist. The coin pressing hard into his palm brought him round and seemed to calm him slightly.
"That's what I'm here for in your dingy little shop, obviously. That's what I promised," he managed to grind out.
Her pale eyes gazed thoughtfully at the sulky young boy, already with permanently set shadows under his eyes. He was trying to upset her, trying to provoke a reaction, anything that might give him an excuse not to go through with his promise; she could see that.
"Well then," she said softly. "Ask me a question, and I will promise to read well for you. But first, I need something of yours to hold to help my concentration. Something that matters."
The boy gave an ugly scowl and dug into his pocket, and looked almost about to make another rude comment as he pulled out a delicate, shiny grey quill.
"Don't damage it," he snapped.
She took it carefully, giving him a small smile, before leaning back in her chair. Closing her eyes, she gently twirled the quill around her fingertips.
Loss. The presence was strong and immediate. She quivered and almost dropped the quill as the strength of the nausea and grief washed over her. Then a lingering depression, or long term deterioration, as if she were drowning slowly in a dark putrid well.
She opened her eyes to find the boy staring at her. "What's the matter?" he demanded.
His tone was scornful, indifferent. But then his stare seemed fixed on her, only moving from her face to the quill and back again, as if she had his full attention.
Which was it?
She paused a moment, placing the quill on her lap, she needed a moment to distance herself away from the rush of emotions. His eyes watched her constantly.
She had to speak tactfully in front of this young man, not because she was afraid of what he might do. No. All the magics in the world did not matter, for as long as she had a client's faith, she had power over them. If she was ever afraid of anything, it was of abusing this power.
"I am sorry if I alarmed you," she replied gently. "I felt too much emotion, all at once. This tends to happen if a life has been full of feeling. Of....ups and downs."
The boy's features darkened slightly. "I bet you say that to everyone."
She pressed her lips together and gave a slight nod. "Many, but not all."
He snorted. "So, you label me as one of the emotional ones, I see?"
Her pale-eyed gaze held the dark-eyed boy's firmly. "You must understand I only describe what I feel, I am sorry if it is not what you want to hear," she returned.
The boy clenched his jaw and looked away, paling slightly.
"Emotions are nothing to be ashamed off," she said gently. His eyes darted back, afire.
She motioned quickly down to the quill before he could begin a retort. "Is this yours?"
The mouth turned ugly, the voice cold. "Of course it's mine. Took one look at me and presumed I stole it, did you?"
She appealed to his angry tone with a soft look. It would have been too easy to label him as a thief. Behind his coarse cloak, his appearance hinted only of neglect. His black eyes, which on a cheerier countenance would have been fine, struck her with their glint of cruelty.
She sighed. "It wasn't what I implied, I'm sorry. I meant, is it an heirloom?"
The boy's lips pursed for the briefest of moments, but he did not answer.
"I notice it is a very old piece. A very beautiful one too."
"It should be, coming from where it did," he sneered. "So are you going to do something with it sometime this week, or have you forgotten what I gave it to you for?"
She straightened in her chair, and bowed her head slightly to view him over the top of her glasses, losing not one whit of her patience. "I like to ask things, it helps me to understand what my customers want from their visit."
She ignored the resulting glare, and with careful fingers went to pick up the quill again.
The emotions washed back over her. The first few moments often hit as a confusing miasma of colours and sounds, then gradually the pace would slow, and things would become more tangible.
The first and foremost thing she felt was a sense of power. Though she didn't know whether it was a wish or a future destiny - it was not always possible to distinguish between desired and actual emotions. She had a sense that these feelings were masking fear and sorrow, yet she didn't understand why. Was this due to the loss she felt before?
She didn't have much chance to think before the sense suddenly changed, bringing the nausea back with it. Then full-blown rage, with a horrible feeling of sickness following. Wave after wave of physical sickness began to hit her, the moments of weariness following them, then an indescribable sensation.
More fear, yet different this time. Horror. Awe?
Then nothing. She felt nothing, saw nothing.
Where was she now? A state of mind?
She slowed her breathing and tried a different direction.
More darkness. Something faint tugged at her here, a slow heartbeat. This was dark magic, a drugged state of trance, almost verging on madness.
She backed away quite quickly and tried another way.
She saw light, finally. But the emotions that came with it weren't welcoming. She felt skittish, out-of-control, suppressing the need to lash out again and again. She was thwarted, hated, but defiant. Why defiant? She pressed further: a sense of power, ah yes; power to be shown off, sharpened with intelligence.... A recipe for defiance indeed. Now this was new, and much preferred.
Before she could prepare for it though, the power sapped and the nausea returned. She was horrified as her whole body throbbed, her muscles tremoring with weakness. She felt it was the end of a long period of unease, and feared she would be incapable of moving for quite some time. She feared she might be insane. She mustn't be, not until...
Severus...listen to me....
Here come the voices. And she had the young man's name, her sense told her so.
Severus...don't take this to heart. He is but a boy. He is still learning...
I feel hatred. There is no excuse...
It is just to feel this way. I did nothing wrong. Not just any boy...
She pressed further, concentrating. Who is the boy?
The feeling was indistinct for some time, and then it seemed to split. She didn't understand this, she felt different in each half of the split, yet felt the same emotion about them. Finally, she thought she could understand what the splitting meant.
If only she could reach them. She went to lean forward, but sucked in her breath sharply as a burning pain shot up her arm. It began to quiver uncontrollably, and before she knew what she was doing she cried out and grabbed for her left arm with her right.
The quill nose-dived to the floor, breaking her concentration.
"What in Merlin's name do you think you're doing?" snarled the boy jumping forward to pick up his quill.
She couldn't answer him, she needed a few more moments to understand what she had just felt.
He inspected the nib closely with narrowed eyes, scanning for damage. "If you think I'm paying for that clumsy show you are mistaken!"
She opened her mouth to reply, but he had already pocketed the feather and turned away from her, his cloak swirling behind him in his haste to get to the door.
The boy abruptly stopped dead. The FortuneTeller couldn't see his expression, but looking down at his hand she was certain she saw it quiver slightly.
Her voice began to tremble as anxiousness got the better of her. "Severus, my child...promise me to think wisely about your future. Don't allow grief and hatred to guide your skills, you will regret it. Follow your heart, Severus-"
A nasty, embittered laugh cut through her.
"Follow your heart, Severus?" the boy jeered back mockingly. "Oh very good. If you knew anything at all about this Severus you'd know-"
"-That he shouldn't forget why his mother loved him."
The boy went quiet. The witch had to swallow to ease the painful feeling in her throat.
The boy had had enough; clenching his hand into a fist he moved hastily to the door, only stopping to fumble in his robe pocket. She distinctly heard something clatter onto the tiles and roll before the shop door banged shut.
The wind chimes clanged madly once again as the witch watched her customer until his dark shadow melted into the darkness of a street corner. When she could see him no more, she sighed and bent down low to retrieve the coin that had collided with her foot.
It was only a silver Sickle, but as she picked it up her eyes screwed shut with emotion. To the boy it had been worth considerably more.