Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I own nothing…
Summary: "And what if I don't want to love him?" The Oracle shook her head at Hermione and her unnerving smile widened. "No, child. It's not about want… It's more a… a matter of need." How do you love someone because you have to? That, I guess, Hermione and Severus will have to find out on their own.
Pairing: HG/SS with some AD/MM moments later on.
. A Matter of Need Chapter One
A Matter of Need
"Now would be a good time to go, Miss Granger, before I need to start deducting points for being out beyond even your curfew."
Hermione started and set the measuring vial down on the table with a sharp tap. She blinked, then turned to look at Snape as if she had never seen a human being before. All his own work had been cleared away and he was stood at the door waiting to lock up.
"I'm sorry, sir. What did you say?"
Snape emitted a low growl. "I said now would be a good time to go, Miss Granger."
"Oh. Oh!" Her eyes widened and she began to hurriedly pack her ingredients away, the glass clinking noisily in the silent classroom. "Um- sir?"
He sighed exasperatedly. "What?"
"It needs a few more hours to simmer, can I leave it overnight, please? I'll come back in the morning and clear it up before our lesson."
He frowned at her, but he knew the eagerness and dedication, and especially the absorption, all too well. "Fine."
Her face cracked into a timid grin and she quickly cast a few safeguarding charms on the cauldron. She gathered her bag and picked up her robes, then made to leave.
"Thank you, Professor. Goodnight."
He simply looked at her blankly and she turned to leave, but not before he saw the disappointment in her eyes. Did the girl really expect him to say goodnight? He watched her hurry up the stone steps until she was swallowed by darkness. The only sign she was there was the receding tapping of her heels on the stone, and only when he could hear them no longer did he finally swing the door shut and perform the necessary locking charms.
With a lingering glance at her softly bubbling potion, he crossed his eerily silent classroom and exited through his office and into his private quarters. No fire burned in the hearth, there were no personal possessions whatsoever, and the old, dark furniture and hangings made it a rather unwelcoming and formidable place. And that was how Snape liked it.
He threw his robes over the chair and unbuttoned the top of his dark shirt. Making his way over to the drinks cabinet – which was almost ritual after his seventh-year Gryffindor-Slytherin class – he eyed the scrolls scattered over his desk, his untidy red scrawl covering the pages with his usual snide comments. Marking … Oh what joy! he thought with bitter sarcasm.
He determinedly ignored the pile of essays that still needed to be marked and poured himself a Firewhiskey. He didn't even wince as the liquid burned the back of his throat, nor did he feel the warmth spread through him like that accustomed with the alcohol.
His thoughts travelled to the potion in his classroom, and to the young witch that had investigated, designed and brewed it. He shook his head as if trying to banish such thoughts from his mind. An action that failed.
There was no denying she was smart, but… She could regurgitate information so well it wasn't even funny, but clever in all the wrong ways. She needed to evolve her intelligence, he had said, develop an enquiring mind that could be used to research and create previously unbelievable things, and make advancements for the whole wizarding world. There is more, he had said, to being clever than reciting knowledge; it is the power to shape and apply what you know to different situations that makes you stand out.
Which is why he had been dumped with that blasted Gryffindor three nights a week. Minerva had found it very funny when she had suggested the idea…
He glowered at the amber liquid slowly swirling in the glass tumbler and slammed it down on the small coffee table. He crossed the room to where the unmarked papers adorned his desk and set to work, consoling himself on seeing the large pile that the comments he would come up with now would probably send the students crying.
It was a couple of hours later when he made his way to his bedroom, stiff-backed, ink splattered, and the little faith he had in his students totally diminished.
He extinguished the lights, for even the ancient texts that lay on his bedside table did not interest him. In between the sheets there was a rare heat in the dungeons, thanks to his house elf, and Snape stretched out before pulling the covers around him and closing his eyes, even though he knew his sleep would be fitful at best…
The air was gently rippling around him, carrying the sweet smells of the blooming flowers that lined the cobbled road. The sunlight that managed to penetrate the almost tropical looking trees overhead was blinding, casting a white light over everything and giving the place a pure, heavenly feel.
He felt sorely out of place. A black speck amidst the seemingly endless white.
"Ah, Severus. I have been expecting you."
Snape whirled round to face the woman. The white dress that fluttered around her full figure gave her an ethereal look, and a small but intricate necklace hung around her neck. She hitched her shawl up around her shoulders and gestured down the road.
"Why don't we walk."
Snape nodded at walked with the woman. At a loss as to what to say, he stayed silent, the only sound being the sharp click of his heels on the cobbles. Bright pink and white petals fell to the floor around him, and with them a sense of calm. But that still didn't stop him being Snape.
"Why am I here?" he said abruptly. As if to annoy him further, the woman merely chuckled.
"I wondered how long it would take you to ask." She shook her head and her dark curls bobbed about her face. "Why do you think?"
Snape looked blankly at her. He didn't know, but his questions were disrupted as he studied her with his scrutinising look. He couldn't guess how old she was simply by looking; her face looked a reasonable age, yet her eyes were haunted, as if she had seen terrible things. But still, her smile was warm and friendly, and the grey hairs had yet to mingle with the black.
He started and looked away, her steady gaze unnerving.
"Child, I am timeless, as is the place we are in." She couldn't help but smile when his head snapped up to look at her.
"You can read minds?"
"No, of course not," she said, her voice reprimanding, but her lips twitched into a smile. "To read a mind is impossible, don't you remember?" she added innocently.
He snarled at her and she chuckled again.
"You didn't answer my question," he asked instead.
"No… No, I didn't." She resumed walking and Snape had no choice but to follow. They came to a large open courtyard with a magnificent fountain in the middle. Women were congregated in small groups or on their own, all dressed in white, though each one appeared to be different. A gentle laugh floated on the breeze that ruffled his hair and made his clothes rustle.
"Who are they?" he asked, his voice hushed for a reason he didn't know.
"Some of them will make it onto the High Council, one will take over from me when I… cease to exist."
Snape shot her a sidelong glance.
"This, Severus, is our Haven. We are all Oracles, Seers, Prophets."
Snape stopped dead. "What?"
"Welcome to our Haven. I'm sure you can now guess why you're here."
She stopped walking and turned so she was directly facing him and studied him. She eventually said quietly, "Sometimes things just don't go right and you guys need a… a helping hand. Times are troubled, and the future doesn't look that bright either, but – and there's always a but – there is light to come. When, I cannot say, but there will be a release, some time. Do not give up hope."
"I don't think I have a lot of hope left," he whispered.
She reached out and gently cupped his cheek; an action that he would normally not have allowed, yet it was an almost frightening prospect to pull away from her. She smiled warmly, her eyes never leaving his.
"You like her, even if you don't know it yet. That will turn into love, though perhaps first will come irritation, exasperation, even embarrassment. But eventually, love."
Snape opened his mouth, then snapped it closed again. "But- I-" He shook his head and said weakly, "I don't think I had a lot of love to begin with." He turned away and ran a hand through his hair. "I think you've got it wrong; very, very wrong. I'm sorry but…"
"Always the but…"
"I don't love," he said loudly, and his voice echoed around the courtyard. "I don't even like people-"
"And yet you like her."
"Her? Who is she? How- Merlin! Like I said, I don't love, I don't want it, I have never felt it, and I hardly need it at this point in my life."
She shook her head sadly. "How wrong you are. You have loved before, Severus, and you know it. That is nothing, though, compared to what is to come. As for never knowing love? Next time you walk through the halls of Hogwarts and see your colleagues, look them in the eye and you will see it. They care for you, Severus, no matter how hard you deny it. Albus and Minerva see you as their own! And you know what, you care for them too." She sighed heavily. "Yet the worst thing is that you do need love in this life, unless you… wish your life to end."
Severus narrowed his eyes at her.
"Are- are you saying that- that-"
"Hush, child," she whispered, raising her hand to stop him. "Heed my words. Never ignore them." Tears were shining in her eyes and Severus looked at her, concerned and confused. "I'm sorry. I truly am. You have a good soul in there-" Here Severus let out a hollow laugh and she brought her hand down and patted over his heart "- and you never forget that. What you did, what is happening, and what you are about to do… Just remember what I have said."
"You said there is always a but. What if I fall in love but I don't act on it?"
"Then… Then you die."
Snape blinked at her for a moment, still taking in her words, then nodded once. Immediately the world began to fade, the colour slowly draining away, leaving only him stood in a world of white.
"Remember…" said a small voice, though it was so soft it could have been a whisper of the wind.
"How- How will I know- When… She?"
"You will know," was the reply.
Then the world turned black.
He awoke with a fierce start. Panting heavily, he pushed the covers away frantically. Sweat ran down his face and his body shuddered uncontrollably. He slowly managed to regulate his erratic breathing and shakily made his way to his bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror, clutching onto the sides of the washbasin, he stared at his reflection. He was only trembling now, and he was beginning to regain his normal thought processes…
"What the hell?"
He rubbed a slightly shaky hand over his face.
Oracles? They existed, didn't they? He had always doubted them, as no one had ever proven their existence, but Seers existed, even though not in the form of that Trelawney upstairs…
But why him? To tell him that he was going to fall in love?
He laughed out loud and the sound reverberated around the tiled room, hollow, humourless.
He would never fall in love… yet he had once, but that- that was to remain in his past. But now? He falls in love and acts on it so he doesn't die?
The bell rang throughout the school. It took him a moment to realise what this meant. He darted to his clothes and took out a pocket watch that informed him he was going to be late for his first lesson. He growled at anything and everything before hastily pulling on fresh clothes and robes.
When he finally pulled his classroom door open, his seventh year Gryffindor-Slytherin class froze. He moved aside to let them in and, on his way past, Draco Malfoy stopped.
"Are you okay, Professor? You look like you didn't sleep well last night," he said, his voice oozing with false innocence. The look on Snape's face made even Malfoy step back in alarm and rush out of the Professor's way.
The matter of life and death could wait until later. Right now, he had a class to teach, and first he had to survive through that.
Thanks for reading! Look out for the next chapter next week. :)