Chapter 14: A Future Alternative
Professor Snape's pace was quick, but it still felt like an eternity for him until he reached the headmaster's office. He was no fool. This was the final evening. And he had worked closely for so long with Dumbledore that he could only imagine what he had in store for him this evening; especially after what he had seen the previous evening.
They were alone and without any witnesses, assistants, or nuisances if one were to ask Snape. The atmosphere in the office had changed. Even Dumbledore had ushered Snape into his office most quickly and with less pleasantries as usual.
"Are you ready, Severus?"
"Well, let's be off then. And let me caution you that this is a few years before the time period we saw of Professor Vector last night. If things were different…"
"I'm not sure what you mean, sir." He looked concerned.
"You will. Come closer and make sure the loop is securely around your shoulders."
The scene lasted about twenty minutes and then they both returned to the office. It was more the initiative of the Headmaster to return. Snape had said nothing. He had just stared in bewilderment, disbelief, and then his face took on so many contortions, a series of varying emotions that not even Dumbledore could quite put his finger on all that his employee and preserver had been thinking and feeling.
When they were once again back in the office,Snape still hadn't spoken, so the Headmaster gestured with his decent hand to two chairs in his office.
"Why have you shown me this? Taunted, teased me with a life that I cannot have." Snape's face was pained. He closed his eyes and sighed audibly in misery.
"You are the only one who believes you cannot have it. I believed it would be for your benefit to see…possibilities,"said Dumbledore firmly.
"I do not wish to, you ask enough of me. I have come here several nights, I have done as you have asked, with little complaint, and I do not appreciate you pointing out what I cannot have, what I cannot do or….it is enough." Snape looked adamant and much more animated since entering the office.
"No, it is not…not nearly enough, not nearly what you are capable of if you opened yourself up. This is my greatest hope….for you, for Harry, for us all." Dumbledore posed and asked in a lighter tone. "What did you notice from our last viewing?"
"Vector was constantly pestering me."
"Would you really call it pestering?"
"Er, no," Snape backed down and admitted the truth to himself.
"What if I told you what I observed? Unbridled and unapologetic affection. She kept touching your shoulder, squeezing your arm; constant warm hugs, kisses, ruffling your hair with her hand. She is a brave girl," clucked Dumbledore.
Snape smirked. "She had on a ring." Snape peered at Dumbledore in agitation, with last night's memories fresh in his mind.
"That you gave her."
"Well, I really believed after I saw your face that you had seen enough and believed you to be perceptive enough to note many things from the future we just viewed. Perhaps, we should have stayed longer. It was an engagement ring and may I go so far as to say you have excellent taste in fine jewelry. Also, I found it charming that you tipped your hat to emerald, one of the colors of Slytherin house. You know, you were Head of House when you two met."I
"How splendid," muttered Snape. "How touching, really, Dumbledore," he said in embarrassment, still feigning that he hadn't observed everything Dumbledore had. That it hadn't pleased him yet rattled him. Because he truly believed that due to his past it was not to be.
"When did I ask her?" He listened, but his thoughts flew in another direction as he remembered what he had just seen. How he had looked languidly at her kissing him and showing everyone her ring as she blushed and giggled like a complete imbecile, a schoolgirl, and told Molly how much she loved him and that she was crazy about him. Probably no one else because he had to admit Mrs. Weasley was a good sort and never judged him. And she had never given up on asking him to stay at 12 Grimmauld Place for dinner.
"Soon after the war, if I remember correctly, when I visited that time without you. What else did you notice?"
"She…she looked…" he paused and contemplated what he just saw, "very, very happy. I… looked er, happy, as well." He wasn't smiling like a maniac as Vector was, but he could tell by his expression that he was pleased and contented; er, for him anyway. It was himself after all.
"Yes, you were both very happy and with each other. What else caught your notice?"
"She was beautiful. I have never seen her so beautiful. Her smile…she was radiant." He spoke slowly and deliberately and in an almost wistful tone. His students would never have recognized him if they could see him in this office, in this moment.
"The power of love, Severus; do not underestimate it. Wizards more skilled than you have. Why even an acquaintance of us both that I am sure you are familiar with, and has apparently suffered the consequences and may still suffer more in his future."
"I know but, could it really happen?" Snape asked, but appeared apprehensive.
"Yes, it is one of the future's possibilities, because anything is possible. Now for a very important question that I have been most curious to ask. Would you ever be open to it happening?"
"Headmaster, what I tell you now, you are not to repeat." Snape eyed him with all seriousness.
"Severus, if you wish me to take the Unbreakable Vow, I will. It's the least I could do. Please make up your mind, because I will need what little is left of this wand hand," said the headmaster with humor and sarcasm, but in a sober tone.
"Stop it sir, You know I will do everything in my power to aid you. As you know I already have," said Snape. He looked stricken and almost hurt by what Dumbledore said. He still ached that there was only temporary things he could do for him. No cure; just assistance in lengthening the inevitable. "Anyway, I would be the happiest man on Earth if she even considered me. She is so beautiful, so lovely."
Dumbledore wanted to exclaim "go on" but knew he didn't want to risk Severus clamming up again after the progress they had just made.
"Have you ever seen her eyes? Think for a moment of the sapphires rising up to the top of the Ravenclaw hour glass," offered Snape, the exact color in his mind's eye as he described it to Dumbledore.
"How odd that you would say that, you know, they do drop on occasion as well, when er, points er, are not being deducted," said Dumbledore cheerily.
Snape gazed at Dumbledore, but let it go.
"They are purple-almost…"It was getting easier. Something within goaded him on. Perhaps it was the pleasure of finally sharing his thoughts about Vector with someone who he trusted.
"I couldn't agree with you more, Severus, about our noble arithmancer. I have noticed. It is hard not to. A most becoming shade of blue…"
"And what about Lily Evans? Will Miss Vector constantly be compared to her and live in her shadow?" With all jesting aside, Dumbledore thought it only prudent to bring this up so Severus may entertain this.
A small pain went through his chest. "Time has dimmed things, if not her memory exactly." He chose his words carefully before he spoke. Sometimes he still wasn't sure the pain would go away or how he felt on any given day. Guilt was like that…he thought.
Dumbledore pressed on because he cared for Professor Vector too. "You know that as painful as it is, if she were alive she would still have been with James Potter," he hoped his tone was light and tried to be as gentle as possible while dishing out some hard truths for Snape.
"Sir, that eventually is what made it slightly easier for me at times…to finally get that through my head. I did her a disservice, myself as well; and they had a son. And it was one of many reasons I have pushed Vector to the side. I had to be sure I could handle it….that I was fair to her…because that wouldn't be fair to do to anyone and they are both different people. Well, Lily was."
Dumbledore positively beamed at him. It was what he had been afraid of and it now looked promising. His work was done.
Severus Snape had passed, had persevered and come a long way in his book.
"Headmaster, may I ask what other things might happen?"
"Oh, I observed a few other things in my time travels. Well, first, not surprisingly, the Cannons show no signs of rallying. Most unfortunate…"replied Dumbledore ruefully. "Uh, anyway, Aurora Sinistra was living in London and married Kingsley Shacklebolt. I am assuming she leaves Hogwarts as well."
"Are you sure of this is. Are not being a bit far-fetched….Sinistra, really…my owl is positively frightened of her. He thinks she is ghastly," drawled Snape in disbelief.
"Your owl gives her a hard time too, does he not, Severus. Harry Potter marries Ginny Weasley, Ronald Weasley marries Hermione Granger…ah, let me see…Arthur Weasley opens a muggle antique store and left the Ministry with a rather substantial retirement bonus. Really all of the Weasleys married, with tons of grandchildren running about the halls of Hogwarts. Though some things nag at my mind…"
"What is it, Dumbledore?"
"These are all possibilities and the future is ever-changing; every day, because we exercise choice…I wonder that there were certain people that I did not see in any future timeline, but I will not share those names with you, Severus, regrettably." Dumbledore appeared saddened.
"But on a brighter note…let me tell you what I have seen for the potential of your co-workers. Minerva and Kingsley might run the school and my personal favorite is Flitwick retiring and only assisting with his true love, the Hogwarts choir. That would make him happy, to still do what he loves when he is ready to leave the classroom."
"Please assure me that I do not have to be subjected to Sinistra's singing due to my impending, inevitably long life if I survive," Snape rubbed his eyes with a hand.
"So, what does it matter, if Septima agreed to marry you?'
"It wouldn't," he admitted.
"Good, because you leave Hogwarts… And this is one of many possibilities. It is your future. When I am gone, chose wisely."
"To…do what?" Snape had thought about it over the years yet knowing it was impossible. It was so odd to hear that it was possible after all. Not that he wouldn't miss Hogwarts, it was the only true home he had ever known.
"Lecture, write books…you come back to do special presentations, especially on theory and the Dark Arts which you always liked better than Potions. You even team taught with Potter once…"
"The very thought…overly optimistic, are we, Headmaster?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "Severus, I could never fool you. That is the only one I lied about. Still hoping though…"
"You made a lot of money, sold your house, and bought a new one that was quiet and private and that you really liked."
"Well, if I left, Vector, er, Septima stayed at Hogwarts to teach then?"
Dumbledore looked at the open and almost childish concern in his eyes, in his voice, which made his own pale blue eyes dance.
"She wished to very much, but she refused their offer. She said it would take her away from you, so she resigned and went with you so she could be with you. Gringotts even offered her a promotion but she would have to travel so the answer was…"
"No." He shook his head in disbelief. He felt a burn at his eyes and willed the tears away. "I wouldn't ask her to do that. Her work is also important to her. Was there anyone this unselfish?"He asked almost to himself in a soft voice.
"Very few indeed, Severus, that I have met in my very long life."
"So what did she do then?"
"I saw her helping you edit your book. She took a few free lance jobs, not that you both aren't comfortable, and….er, because," and Dumbledore avoided eye contact"…she knows she will be very busy when you are married and she er, also told Sinistra that you both had been very busy because she wanted to have ,er, a child with you as soon as possible."
Snape's mouth dropped and he turned a violent shade of red. As if Sinistra would keep this to herself, he visibly blanched.
"Sir, I think you have made your point. May we speak again tomorrow? Are we ,er, done for the night?
"Er, yes." The two men nodded and wished each other a good night, and Snape fairly ran out the door.
Oh, Merlin, how embarrassing…he felt his face and it was still flushed.
The Next Night…
This was another difficult one yet it was also the easiest after all they had delved through of thoughts of the past and visions of an ever-changing future. Snape was only happy that he had the possibility and hope of having any kind of one. Snape wondered, if it even could be described as such. Perhaps difficult because Dumbledore helped answer a question that he couldn't even answer himself.
"So, Severus, is this to mean that there will be no more special deliveries of blood lollipops and the like?"
"Like the cockroach clusters and…"
"Which is quite rude, yes, but maybe just my wishful thinking…why Minerva even stated her desire that she gets the cup back again before you entered the other night."
"We shall see about that," said Snape. "Let us not hope for too much now. But one can always learn to…"
"It think we have determined that people can and do learn from everything, even errors. Perhaps hope is what drives us all. I have always thought so. I hope that you have seen that despite your attitude, it is not too late. When gifts or special people enter our lives you have always appreciated it. You have with Lily. Why not Septima? I would caution you that there are some missed chances that come back again and others do not. But perhaps I do not have to because you have learned that. You have lived it. All I can tell you is to appreciate the potential in everything and everyone. It has steered me in more positive directions than wrong ones. But the choice lies with you, Severus."
"Headmaster, I do love her…Vector"
"Good. Then keep that in mind every day." The Headmaster said good night to Snape and walked over to his desk.
He saw Snape turn on his heel and reach the door. He called out.
"…and for future reference."