All characters and locations from the Potterverse belong to J K Rowling. Assorted international publishing houses and film companies also have rights. I have none. I have never made money from anything Harry Potter BUT I have spent money on books, films, merchandise and web space. Please don't sue.
My only rights are to this story. Please ask if you want to link to it or archive it.
Major Spoilers for "Half Blood Prince"
Do not read it if you don't want to know what happened in HBP.
This completed one-shot piece is set just after the events of HBP and has an "angsty" bent. Will Madam Hooch and Professor Snape ever see each other again?
Please read and review.
I Shall Wait
The woman's distress was unbearable and yet, somehow, she had borne it for two whole days. The first day, Pomona Sprout had been assigned to watch over her. She was told that Xiomara was hexed during the battle with the Death Eaters and her recovery needed to be observed. Physical restraints had not been applied but a nerve tonic had been administered. Minerva, being no fool, was as concerned about signs of treachery as she was about a breakdown but Pomona was not told this. With the school in turmoil this state of affairs could not continue and the moment that Professor Sprout was assigned more pressing tasks, Xiomara had smashed the bottle of nerve tonic and taken to pacing distractedly around her tower rooms. She longed to fly but was forbidden from doing so, ostensibly for security reasons, and instead spent hours staring out of the windows at the stormy sky.
Her spiky silver-grey hair stood on end more than usual, a symptom of the frequency with which she was running her hands through it in distraction. Her usually clear golden eyes were a muddy bronze shade; dull, dark with pain and bloodshot. The dried tear tracks on her face were at least a day old. Even her tear-ducts were exhausted.
In her long life, Xiomara Hooch had become versed in both joy and pain. But this time she didn't know if she would survive this despair, this total absence of hope. Her mind throbbed as she replayed the events of the past few days. So much had happened. Too much. The last time they had been together it was she who had insisted on spending the night with him in his rooms. He had wanted her to leave; had said it was too dangerous; had been angry at her refusal. He hadn't slept and she had only pretended to. He had clung to her all night like a sailor to flotsam, praying for salvation that never came. When she kissed him goodbye that morning and made to return to her own quarters he had insisted upon escorting her back. Their goodbye, at her door, had been a silent, awkward, intense look and then he had turned on his heel and stalked away. She hadn't seen him again and now he was gone, and she couldn't see a way back for him; for them.
Xiomara should not have been alone but the one person that she wanted to be with, that she needed to hold her, was the one accused of causing her this anguish.
Severus, where are you? She thought, pulling at her hair. What is going on? It doesn't seem possible. What to do?
In all the years that she and Severus had sustained a relationship, she had learned to keep all visible displays of affection hidden. It had been easy. Xiomara was not a demonstrative woman, by nature; intelligent, strong-willed and loyal, she understood full well that the discovery of her relationship with Severus would have compromised both their safety. Even with Lord Voldemort gone there had been enough former Death-Eaters loose who wanted revenge on the turn-coat. They would have destroyed her to hurt him and then made her watch as they broke him. She had accepted all the limitations that a relationship with Severus Snape entailed and she had never regretted it.
Now, belatedly, she realised that they had created their own little bubble but she knew nothing of the larger world that he moved in; had no way to reach him in an emergency and nobody to share her concerns with. She had no contact with his family and didn't even know if he had any contact with them. She was all alone with no way of knowing if he was dead or injured, captured or in hiding, guilty or innocent. That last spectre rose unbidden to her mind. She refused to accept it. She had loved that man, slept in his arms, held him when he woke shaking from night terrors that he never articulated; She had been loved by him, needed by him and desired by him. He had never betrayed her trust and never forced her compliance. He had respected her need for her own space and her commitment-phobia, so much so that she had not even noticed the passing of the years. How could she believe that he would kill Albus Dumbledore? And yet, Dumbledore was dead and Harry Potter was a witness.
Think Xiomara, think. She sat on the window seat playing with her hair and watching the clouds scud by. Snape's close relationship to Dumbledore was common knowledge in the staff room, and often a source of jealousy. Albus' absolute trust of him had been amply rewarded; Severus' loyalty to Dumbledore had been proved time and again as he saved the school and Harry Potter. She had teased him about saving Harry, whom he continued to loathe, but he would shrug and say "Dumbledore believes he is important". And it was more than that. He wasn't just loyal to the old man. He loved him like a father. Snape's own father had been the worst kind of muggle; a drunken, violent, bully. Albus had offered him security, trust, and compassion when nobody else believed in him. She would not accept that he had killed Albus Dumbledore.
With that realisation, Xiomara, found her own path through her torment and to survival. She made a decision. She must find a way to contact him. Even if she couldn't be with him, at least she could ascertain that he was safe and uninjured. And innocent, her treacherous inner voice asked. She could let him know that he was not alone. After some consideration, she concluded that a letter was her best option. The school owlery was being watched in turns by Argus Filch and Hagrid so she would need to find another owl or a way to send a school owl without having her letter checked.
First things first, the letter.
The letter proved trickier than she would have believed possible. Severus had taught her to hide her identity and she put to use all the techniques he had shown her. A charmed quill disguised her handwriting. It was harder to ensure that the contents of her letter gave away nothing of her identity or whereabouts.
I am driven to distraction. I don't know what to do. Where are you? Where have you gone? Dumbledore is dead. They are saying that you did it. They are saying that Harry Potter saw you do it. I cannot believe them, Severus. It seems unreal, a waking vision of the end of our world. Without Dumbledore, we are lost. Without you, I am lost. In one terrible night, all our certainties have been shattered and we are bereft of hope. I need you now.
My heart tells me that you are innocent, but why have you fled? Why do you not make contact? Tell me it wasn't you. Tell me Potter was confused. I would believe it. I would believe you. Severus, they are hunting you and they have no mercy in their hearts. They believe Potter. You always joked that he would be the death of you. It is no longer a joke. He fully intends to be the death of you.
Mere words could never adequately express what I feel for you.
I shall wait.
Xiomara rolled the letter up very small and secured it with plain wax, no seal was applied. She slid it down the side of her leg into her flying boots and left her rooms for the first time since Dumbledore's funeral.
At the entrance to the Headmistress' suite, she paused, still debating what strategy to use. It occurred to her that she had been so caught up in her own grief she had given no thought to Minerva's feelings. Poor Minerva; her best friend, partner, lover and mentor had been cruelly snatched from her just two days earlier and she was expected to take his place.
'Headmistress,' the word caught in her throat. It sounded wrong when spoken out loud like that.
Minerva looked up from her desk where she was busy reading a mountain of scrolls with her head clasped in her hands. She looked grey and exhausted yet Xiomara knew never to underestimate her shrewdness.
'I wanted to see how you are coping, and to offer my services to the school and to yourself in any capacity, and for as long as you need me,' she said calmly, realising, as she looked at her old friend, both that she meant it and that it didn't conflict with her loyalty to Severus.
'Xiomara, that is a generous offer, and I do appreciate it but I am concerned that you are not up to it. I am the only person left at Hogwarts who knew the reality of your relationship with,' here she paused and winced, 'Snape; I suspect that it may take you some time to come to terms with what has happened.'
Xiomara stuck her chin out and her shoulders back, her whole body spoke determination; yet her words were delivered in a gentle tone.
'Minerva, the same horrific incident has deprived both you and I of those that we held most dear in this world but we have not the luxury of time to mourn and recover. Without Dumbledore every last one of us must unite to resist the rising tide of evil that Voldemort and his followers will unleash. I loved Severus but the man that I loved and the man that killed Albus are not the same and I will never confuse them. And do not underestimate, either, the love that I had for Albus. He was my teacher, my mentor and my friend. The two of you made Hogwarts a home and a haven and I am well aware that the two of you conspired with Accalia to push Severus and I together all those years ago.'
'Xiomara Rolanda Hooch. You are a genius.'
Minerva had sprung to her feet and was hurrying around the desk. She pulled a startled Xiomara to her feet and hugged her.
'Welcome aboard. Your first task is to contact Accalia and see if she knows where Snape might hide. Her loyalty to him may be greater than her loyalty to us. You are the only person she may be willing to tell.'
Minerva's face had softened and she added quietly,
'as for the rest, Albus valued your friendship very highly, as do I. We both thought that you and Snape would be good together but it seems that his old loyalties were ingrained more deeply than we could have suspected. Albus paid with his life for his belief that the good in a person would overcome the bad.'
'I'll need a note from you authorising me to send owls,' Xiomara asked confidently. Severus had taught her well.
The official enquiry to Accalia had been sent off, as directed, and she had also managed to send her own note to Severus. Now all she needed to do was wait for an owl back from either or both of them.
A cadaverous hand held a scrap of parchment; a laugh like a snake's rattle and a summons that couldn't be ignored.
A popping sound as a large stupid-looking man apparated away and then, shortly thereafter, another popping sound as two men apparated back.
'My Lord, you summoned me,' said Severus Snape sinking to his knees before Lord Voldemort's chair. His black eyes glittered in the firelight, the only illumination in an otherwise dark room.
'Read this and then tell me the identity of your girlfriend or boyfriend so that we may fetch them for you.'
Snape looked confused for just a moment, but he took the parchment that was held out to him. He read it all the way through twice, impassively. Finally he handed it back with a weary sigh.
'I apologise, my Lord, that your time has been wasted on this drivel. I fear that I have not had a regular partner since my schooldays. As you know, my personal circumstances have been rather precarious since then.'
'Who is writing to you Snape?'
'My Lord, one of the perils of working in an environment full of youth is adolescent attachments. I have been the unfortunate victim of these on several occasions; young women with domination fantasies or rosy dreams of reforming the bad dungeon-dweller. You may take your pick of any number of these confused young ladies. There was one some years back who covered her books with images of me. It was all most embarrassing. From the appalling handwriting and the juvenile nature of this letter which is scrappy, poorly presented, devoid of information and over-sentimental; I would suspect that some young lady who dislikes Potter has decided that she will be the one to redeem me. In the past I have found that handing out detentions and deducting house-points does, eventually, dampen the ardour of even an adolescent female,' his face remained impassive and his voice neutral.
'And yet, there have been women, have there not?'
'Yes, my Lord, but inconsequential ones; nothing regular, nothing to arouse the suspicions of our enemies or give them ammunition against our cause.'
The cadaverous hand gripped Snape's chin as a pair of red eyes looked into Snape's black ones. He felt the blunt pressure building up against his mind and submitted to it. The only sound for some little time was the popping of dry twigs in the fire. Eventually the hand released Snape.
'Maybe we should stop dissuading these young women and, instead, give them a taste of what it is that they long for,' he hissed, through the grimace that was the closest the Dark Lord ever came to a smile.
Snape smiled back with his head bowed respectfully.
'I am sure that any number of Slytherin girls would volunteer, my Lord; and I have always felt that it would be interesting to test just how brave Gryffindor girls are. With Dumbledore gone, we can take our pick of the litter, whenever you like. '
Voldemort's laugh rattled out again as he dismissed Snape and tossed the scrap of parchment into the flames.
The safe house was quiet for a change. The Death-Eaters who were based there had been sent out to loot and pillage Wizarding homes. The long-term goal being to raise levels of fear and helplessness in the wake of Dumbledore's death. Severus Snape lay on his bed, grateful for the rare peace. The majority of Death Eaters were severely lacking in finesse and he was tired of their loud boasting and their constant need to compete.
The sight of Xiomara's note had shaken him but he was proud of her. In a time of extreme distress she had not forgotten the things that he had taught her. He had held in his hands a physical token of her love and her faith in him. It was unlikely that he would come out of this alive. The most probable outcome was that he would die without the opportunity to clear his name or reveal the master-plan. He had reconciled himself to that a long time ago. Now, however, there was a "but"….but if he made it, she would be waiting and she needed him and she believed in him and she loved him.
Xiomara never got a reply to either note that she sent that day. The Daily Prophet printed a story the next day that El Sueño, Accalia's hotel, the place where she and Severus had first got together all those years ago, had been wrecked and that both Accalia and Xavier were missing. True to her word, Xiomara helped Minerva in any capacity that she was asked and she waited for Severus to come back to her.