A Promise is a Promise
By: Airelle Vilka
Professor of Illusions
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Summary: The night before his wedding, Severus Snape receives a visit from an unexpected guest…
Severus Snape awoke with a headache the size of a hippogriff. He ran a hand through his black hair and reached for the goblet on his nightstand, containing spiced wine and a full dose of Disorientation Solution. He brought it to his lips, but then stared at it, sitting up in bed as he did so. The goblet was already half empty; he'd drunk the first half -- at this Snape glanced at the candle which the goblet had been next to, slowly dripping wax down its long stem -- about three hours ago. Which meant it was nearly two in the morning.
The lump beside him on the bed shifted and shivered under the dark green sheets, and Snape turned his head slightly. She was probably having nightmares again. Her head was under the covers.
He stared at the goblet a little while more, then set it back into the dust where it had stood. Rising off the creaking bed, his naked feet cold on the stone dungeon floor, Snape threw his part of the emerald cover double onto his fiancee.
He smiled at himself. Fiancee. It was a matter of time before she would become his wife. Ten hours, to be precise.
But then again, she was already his wife in all ways but one – the ceremony. After all, she did everything -- she was everything -- a wife should. She was his constant companion, his aid, his complement…his lover. She had always called him by his first name…unlike…unlike…
Snape shook his head. She'd made him wash his hair daily now, smile more often, look presentable-- But once upon a time, there had been another…
He bent down and lifted his jet-black robe, which lay strewn across the floor near the bed. He threw it on over his nightgown and sighed. He would not have any more sleep tonight.
The Potions Master trailed his thin finger down the carved headboard of the canopy bed, and then drew the curtains shut.
The woman in the bed stirred yet again. He had not made love to her that night, and in effect it had been a good thing. Perhaps he'd come up with something new on the wedding night.
Snape grinned despite himself. What a subject to be innovative in.
He stared at the closed curtain, and thought of how mild the person behind it was. She was so tender, fragile; and she melted like a perfect snowflake in the fire of his touch. But once upon a time, there was another… who, if he'd had her, would have surely returned it with an equal burst of vivid flame…
You're a demented fool, a voice deep inside his head cackled shrilly. You lost her love a long time ago, after what you did…Death Eater!
Snape's black eyes narrowed and he pushed up his sleeve. The hateful brand glared at him, insolently and mockingly, from his arm.
Disgustedly, he blew out the candle, and let the sleeve of his robe drop and hide the Dark Mark. It was ironic, really, how badly it burned when it was out of sight.
Snape's gaze perused the darkness. The door was on the other side of the room, directly across from him. Looming, an unsightly blur in his night vision, and a thin line of light under it.
The Potions professor found his shoes, walked to the door, opened it, and stepped out into the majestic torchlight of the hallway.
There was no sound anywhere, save for some nocturnal birds crooning softly in the treetops, which swayed gently in the warm summer air. Snape had been walking for some time now, but had still not reached his destination. The castle of Hogwarts was behind him now, as he began to skirt the edge of the Forbidden Forest, his wand -- protection -- hidden safely inside the folds of his robes.
He had not tread the path for years. But he knew the way nonetheless.
Snape turned sharply right and stopped in front of something that looked like a giant bush with yellow dogwood flowers. He pulled out his wand.
"Excedo," he murmured, and the bush parted down the middle, admitting him through, black robes swishing behind him. In front of him, trees bent inward and down over a small clearing. On the far side of it, something enormous and silver gleamed in the thin stream of moonlight that trickled down from the leafy canopy above.
Snape walked closer to the statue. It was a giant eagle, its mighty wings spread wide and curving like a cloak around its base, which was encrusted with years' worth of green ivy. Kneeling at the base, he breathed in the air, and touched the leaves of the plant.
And it was then that Snape heard the soft rustle of grass behind him.
"You were the one who first taught me that ivy was a prime ingredient for a Memory Potion," came a voice from the other side of the clearing. A voice, firm and melodious, one that Snape recognized immediately.
"Airelle!" he exclaimed, rising and whirling around.
She stepped out of the shadows, misty and unreal-looking, like a specter out of the past days. Her gossamer robes seemed to float like the wind on her. Her long white hair and piercing black eyes were still the same as he'd remembered them to be. Undoubtedly… this was his best friend from student days… she, Airelle Vilka.
"None other, Snape," she replied, grinning from ear to ear. She had always, even after so many years of knowing him, still called him 'Snape;' rarely, if ever, by his first name.
The Potions Master stared at her. "What are you doing here?"
The smile did not fade, although it did not quite reach her eyes. "I heard about your wedding."
And Snape suddenly remembered. A long time ago, on this very spot, they had made each other take a certain vow…
"Yes," she said, as if reading his thoughts. "I keep my promises."
The two sixteen-year-old friends had once sworn that they would, no matter what, visit each other on their wedding night. 'No matter' being the key word; that meant that even if they were angry with each other, or enemies… Perhaps she had known even then, Snape wondered, what would happen when they left Hogwarts…
"It is strange," continued Airelle, walking closer, "that we meet again in the very place where we had first taken the oath. I mean, the place itself is weird enough."
Snape smiled genuinely, for the first time in fifteen years. He smiled like he did when he'd been young. It was not trying to be what others wanted him to be. It was not a sneer, a grin, or a sly smile. It was just what it was – a lifting of the corners of the mouth, all belonging to Severus Snape. Why was it that Airelle could understand it?
She smiled back. "While the other students would frequently haunt this secluded clearing to…err… exchange saliva…"
"…we would come here to test potions," Snape finished for her. And it was true. Ever since they had met, he and Airelle had secretly furnished a room deep inside Hogwarts, behind the defunct fireplace in the Potions classroom, to concoct difficult potions from textbooks of the Restricted Section of the library. And then, the duo took to brewing their own creations, and testing them in the clearing in the Forbidden Forest where they stood right now, years afterwards. And in their student years, Snape and Airelle were not just good at Potions-- they were the best. But no soul knew of the little room behind the fireplace, and everyone always wondered how they got such excellent marks.
Well, Snape had to admit to himself grudgingly, everyone except Dumbledore. That man had always given them the strangest looks, his eyes twinkling merrily and mysteriously behind crescent-shaped spectacles…like he knew…
"It is too bad we cannot test more delightful potions here anymore," said Airelle fretfully, staring away into the night.
Snape's blood went cold. In their last and seventh year at Hogwarts…that was when it all changed. He had decided to become a Death Eater under Voldemort. The night of Graduation, he'd wanted her to come with him. Airelle had refused.
And then, they had parted, and years went by. She became an Auror and an expert in all sorts of spells…but it was not enough. Not enough to--
Snape looked up at her, anger and sadness together for the first time in years. He'd missed her, wanted her, and hated himself for it. "Damn it, Airelle! Why are you here?… I lost your love for me—"
His best friend's gaze bore through him. She walked closer, almost near enough to touch his hand.
"Snape," she replied, "you never lost it, however much you may blame yourself for doing so. You could not protect a small part of me from Voldemort… but you protected the bigger thing."
There was silence from the both of them, with only the air and the birds and the moonlight, and the wings of the eagle spreading over them.
He did not want to look at her. Why? The answer was simple enough. Snape and Airelle had understood each other, and shared an intimacy that even few married couples possessed. He had never ever so much as kissed her. And yet, they could sense each other's feelings. Which was why to a third party, they might have seemed unemotional, even cold. But there was something in them beyond anything that could be termed love. Everything to them, relating to each other, was friendship on a new level. This was why Snape had felt so empty all his years as a teacher at Hogwarts…because there was a void that needed to be filled. He had lost a part of himself with her. It sounded sentimental, yes, un-Snapelike, yes, even blatant sappy. But it was the absolute truth, as irrefutable as if he had drunk Veritaserum and gave all his secrets away.
"Snape?" she repeated.
He raised his eyes to hers, and kept them there.
"Well, here is the Snape I know," said Airelle, smiling smugly. "Dark liquid eyes, brilliant mind, and a permanent scowl."
"And you like me for that?"
"Have you been overdosing on the house elves' wine storage again?" she laughed. "Why wouldn't I? It is the real you, after all. If I would have come all this way to find a fake friend, I'd have been very disappointed."
He just looked at her. Dear God, what was he thinking? This woman… caustic, argumentative, sarcastic, ambitious -- everything the woman in his bed was not -- still had an unparalleled respect in his heart.
"Please don't tell me this is going to get emotional," she laughed, nudging him as she always did when they were young. "I do not feel like wiping body fluids on my nice robe."
He smiled. "No. I just wished to ask you the real reason why you've come."
She looked up at him, her face looking every bit as it did years before. She did not change. And he did not change for her, either.
"Well…I wanted to make certain you were doing the right thing."
"Care that much?"
Her grin widened. "Well, that is for me to know, and for you to find out, eh, Professor Snape?"
"Very well, then…"
"And I also wished for you to know that you are not getting rid of me that easily."
He looked down. "How could I?"
"You couldn't even if you tried," she laughed. "Snape, look at me. LOOK at me."
He glanced up. Airelle's eyes swept over his, and he remembered all the innumerable days they'd spent together – whether chasing off James Potter and the Marauders, or avoiding Dumbledore, or continually exploding potions in the dungeons – All those single moments, united like in a photo album flashing through his mind. She, a Ravenclaw, and he, a Slytherin, side by side, against anything and everything.
"Remember us like this, Severus Snape," she said. "Because in the end, that is what matters. And treat this other girl as you would have treated me had I been your wife."
He raised an eyebrow, forgetting all the past for those few moments– the Dark Mark, Hogwarts, everything. It was just here, now.
"But you'd never have been my wife in any case, would you?" Snape asked. "My best friend…" It was one of three times in which he'd actually called her his best friend, and her eyes sparkled.
Airelle opened her mouth to say something, but closed it as there was a stir from the yellow-flowered bush. Snape caught her furtive smile before turning to the bush.
And it was, to his great surprise, Albus Dumbledore who stepped through onto the clearing.
"Ah, Severus," he said, "good to see you tonight."
Snape turned towards Airelle, thinking of a way to explain.
There was no need. She was gone. Only the silver eagle stared at him forlornly from its lonely base.
"I see you have come here for thought?" asked the Headmaster, crossing the clearing towards Snape.
The latter nodded. "Yes. I have."
When Dumbledore did not answer, Snape looked up, and saw the elder's eyes twinkling at him merrily. Much like they did many years ago, at him and the Ravenclaw girl from his past.
"You still love her, don't you?" he asked, and Snape pursed his lips. Normally, he'd have said something to the extent of 'I do not know what you mean, Headmaster.' But now… there was simply no point.
Snape's eyes swept over the cradling wings of the statue. "It is a different sort of love. And yes. I always have… and always shall."
"Severus," said Dumbledore, his eyes still twinkling, "believe me, I know how you feel. Come, let me tell you…"
And they walked off through the bush with the yellow flowers, leaving the silver eagle alone again. But it would not be forever.
The ivy that Snape had touched finally fell to the moist grassy ground, exposing the full base of the statue. And in the middle, shining brightly as ever in the glow of the moon, was carved the inscription:
of Ravenclaw House
Rest in peace, dear friend.
Author's Note: This story strays deeply from my actual Harry Potter fanfiction. First of all, I wrote this for the sake of showing the extent of friendship between Airelle and Snape. In reality, in my other stories, Airelle is NOT dead. She was not murdered by Voldemort with Snape unable to help her. In fact, she is the successful Illusions Professor at Hogwarts. And Snape is NOT getting married. Not to that fiancee girl anyway. wink In this story, I merely showed what would've happened if Airelle had died.