Title: A Glimmer of Hope
Age-Range Category: Three
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape, Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore (portrait)
Beta Reader(s): My sister
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Suicidal thoughts, Character death.
Summary: After a mysterious encounter in the Room of Requirement, Severus gains a small glimmer of hope, where before there was only despair.
The frigid February night air nipped at his exposed skin. Harsh winds blew in great gusts through the barren trees. Severus Snape sat on the bench next to the Great Lake, a fag lit between the numb fingers of one hand; the other tucked into the pocket of his billowing robes. He often sat there on cold nights to reflect. There was something to be said about the hollow silence of winter. It was very cathartic. And very, very cold. He could cast warming spells. He never did. Cold was the only thing he allowed himself to feel anymore. Gone were the dark days of anger and mourning. He welcomed this newfound numbness.
It was nearly a decade since he went before Albus Dumbledore on his knees, begging him to protect the only woman, the only person he had ever loved. Nearly a decade since that protection failed, and just like that, she was gone, taking with her his only reason for living. The memories of those first few months after Lily's death were clouded and vague in his mind. The days seemed to run into each other in a haze of grief. But he remembers running. Sprinting down the paths in the forest near Spinners End; only stopping when his lungs burned, legs ached, and heart hammered in his chest. He remembers the hollow pain of hunger. For days on end he would just run, sleep, and sit in silence; sustained only by numerous cups of tea, swigs of firewhiskey, endless cigarettes, and the occasional slice of toast or apple. He prayed that the starvation and outright exhaustion would end his agony.
His existence had always been a painful one. Even as a small child he never lived, just endured. He endured his mother's cold indifference, his father's drunken stupors. He endured the endless questions and taunts at muggle primary school;
'Did you get that coat from the principal? Did you get that bruise on the bus? You should wash your hair more. You should look more like us.'
And then he met Lily. She was the light to his darkness. The smile to his frown. He was all scrawny, gangly limbs, and hollow eyes. She was a thing of beauty; soft red hair, and a bright clear smile. Glittering green eyes dancing with playfulness. And when she got her Hogwarts letter, Severus had never been happier. He told her everything he knew about the wizarding world. He was so proud to be the one to introduce her to magic. The look of pure wonder that lit up her face was a bittersweet memory.
A memory was all that was left of his Lily now. And it was his fault, he had killed her. When he had joined the Death Eaters he was high on his rage and quest for power. He was just so angry with the shit hand that life had dealt him. He knew he could never have the charm and dashing good looks so many of his classmates possessed—he had asked his mother once as a young boy if he was handsome, her reply had been a 'You've certainly got character, Severus,' and a pat on the head—but he was intelligent, and a skilled Wizard. He deserved power, respect, friendship, women; all the things that had been denied him. And so he joined his fellow Slytherins, who hadn't shunned him, who had told him he could have all of the things he desired if he followed their Lord.
Oh, how wrong he had been. He knew now that his so called "friends" just wanted him around for their own means. And of course he should have known that, he was a Slytherin himself. He knew now that he didn't deserve the power and respect that had been granted to him upon delivering the prophecy. He didn't deserve to live, while so many of the people on the right side of the war, including his Lily, went to early graves.
But he had to hold on. Just until he repaid his debt. He had to make sure her son would be protected during his time at Hogwarts, and he had to make sure the Dark Lord was defeated for good. It was believed by the general public that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had been defeated that night in Godric's Hollow, and was gone forever. But Dumbledore knew better, Severus knew better; he could feel it in his skin. The putrid, evil presence of Voldemort pulsed through his Dark Mark. It was nowhere near what it had been, but it lingered there.
It would be only be a year and some months before Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, arrived as his student. Then he could begin his atonement.
In the meantime he would continue to live his solitary life; the unapproachable Bat of the Dungeons. In the last decade he had perfected living with the bare minimum. He had fully submerged himself beneath his ocean of occlumency. He kept his emotions, his desires, regrets, hopes, and dreams hidden away; frozen within him. His job was never neglected, he did his duties, went through the motions, just at a distance. If he found no joy in life there would be no reason not to sacrifice himself in the end.
Severus took one last drag off his cigarette before vanishing it with a snap of his fingers. He stood up slowly, joints stiff with cold, and made his way back up to the castle.
The next night, due to a bout of insomnia, Severus found himself patrolling the halls. As he was passing through the 7th floor corridor, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He quickly spun around with a dramatic flick of his robes, expecting to catch a student out of bed. There was no one there. He lit the tip of his wand with a quick Lumos and cast it around in a circle, searching for what had caused the movement. His light landed on the wall to the right of him, that's odd, a large wooden door had appeared. The Come and Go Room only appeared when someone had great need for it. Perhaps there were students inside, and the castle was alerting him to that fact.
But when he opened the door, there was no one inside. Just a simple room with a fireplace, and a solitary writing desk in the center. As he got closer he could see a blank sheet of parchment sat on the desk, alongside a quill and full bottle of ink. What did the Come and Go Room intend for him to do here? He thought, just as neat, loopy writing appeared on the previously blank parchment:
'Dear Professor Snape,'
An enchanted parchment? Severus put his wand to the parchment,
"Specialis Revelio," Nothing. More writing appeared,
'I know you must think me completely mental, writing to a dead man.'
A dead man? Someone must be taking the piss. Logically, he thought he should just walk away. After all, it wasn't very sensible going around replying to random notes from a possibly cursed parchment. But, he had to admit he was intrigued. Not to mention the lack of sleep was certainly getting to him. So, after using his wand to check for any enchantments or traps once again—and finding none—he dipped the quill in the ink and replied;
'Who are you?'
Hermione stared at the parchment in shock.
It was a few months since the Battle of Hogwarts, and she had elected to stay behind and help with the repairs. She'd had to do something to help. She couldn't stomach the thought of just moving on, like nothing had ever happened, like most of her peers had done. They had won, and she was grateful, but she just felt so empty. Too many people had been lost.
Fred, Tonks, Professor Lupin, Colin Creevey—her heart ached at him especially—and Professor Snape. Hermione felt the most guilty about Professor Snape. No, he had never been nice to her, but she had always respected him. She recognized how intelligent and skilled he was; he was the professor she strived for praise from the most, although she had never gotten it. She had empathized with him on some levels—she knew what it was like to be the plain-looking bookworm—and her sympathy grew even more when she found out about his role in the war. She couldn't imagine the amount of stress he was under, not to mention the torture Voldemort had undoubtedly put him through. It was no wonder he was a snarky git.
When Dumbledore had been murdered she had doubted him at first. It was difficult not to, when Harry swore he knew what he saw. But the more she'd thought about it, the more sense it had made. Harry had told her about Dumbledore's blackened, cursed hand. It was fitting that he would use his impending death to benefit the "greater good", even though it, in a sense, dragged Snape down with him.
After the battle when Harry had told her everything he had seen in Snape's memories, her heart had broken. The man had lived under the tremendous pressure of guilt, over the death of the only woman he had loved, for which he really should've forgiven himself long before. He had been so very alone his whole life, and yet he protected her and her peers fiercely, and sacrificed his entire life to aid in the defeat of Voldemort, all the while being painted the villain by the very people he was saving. Severus Snape deserved a happy ending, another chance at a better life. But he had died on the dusty floor of the shrieking shack. If only she would have done more to try and save his life, if only she had been more prepared...
She winced as the vision of Snape's death flashed through her mind;
He laid crumpled on the floor, his billowing black robes a stark contrast to his deathly pale face. Gone was the inscrutable expressionless mask of his; it was startling to see his dark eyes filled with helplessness, pleading for escape as he clawed at his bleeding neck. Hermione had rushed to his side, digging through her beading bag, searching for a healing potion, essence of dittany, something to help save him. She was running out of time. Unable to find anything with her wobbling hands, she discarded her bag and lifted her wand, trying every healing spell she knew. He lifted a weak hand and feebly batted her wand away,
"No," he barely croaked out, his face tight with pain, "Venom. Nothing you can do.." Hermione dropped her wand hand to her side, realizing there was nothing she could do but delay the inevitable. Big fat tears rolled down her cheeks and into her lap. She reached out and grasped his hand, squeezing his quivering fingers tightly. She would stay by his side as long as she could; no one deserved to die alone.
"Here… Take them," he urged, blood gurgling out of his mouth. She looked up to see him looking at Harry, two small tears blinking from his eyes, one rolling down his cheek, the other dripping off the hooked end of his nose. "Take them!" He rasped as urgently as he could manage, coming out a harsh whisper. She quickly fumbled in her pocket and pulled out a small vial; she pushed it into Harry's hand,
"His tears Harry! Collect his tears!" She cried. Harry fumbled to pop the cork out of the empty vial and scooped up the small tears. She sat back and watched as the life bled out of Professor Snape's eyes, feeling hollow inside.
"Hermione, we have to go," She glanced up to see Harry and Ron heading out of the shack,
"We have to return to the battle. He's gone Hermione.." He swallowed thickly. She nodded slowly at them, and took one last look at her Professor.
"I'm so sorry Professor," She whispered as she squeezed his limp hand one last time. She took a deep breath, let go of his hand, and returned to the battle.
She shuddered at the memory; the very one that kept reoccurring in her nightmares. She thought about him every day, she just couldn't let go. That's how she got the idea to write to him. It seemed like a strange thing to do, but she felt it might really help her to have some closure. She'd decided the Room of Requirement was the best place to write, it could provide her with peace and quiet and the perfect room to write in. What she hadn't expected when she began to draft her letter, was that she would get a response.
'Who are you?'
She stared down at the familiar, spiky handwriting. No, It couldn't be. She used her wand to check both the parchment and her quill for enchantments or traps. None. This reminded her far too much of Tom Riddle's diary for comfort. But her curiosity got the best of her, and against her better judgement, she put her quill to the page.
'I should be asking you the same thing.'
The loopy script replied. Severus scoffed, what kind of prank was this?
'I would assume you already knew as much, considering your letter is addressed to me'
'Severus Snape is dead, which means that you obviously cannot be whom I addressed this letter to. Who are you really?'
He was beginning to get angry. What would possess a student to joke about his death?
'I do not find this amusing. You can be assured as soon as I figure out who you are, a hefty amount of House Points will be taken from you'.
After several minutes, the mystery person began to reply,
'I am not joking. Okay, let's assume you are Severus Snape… Tell me, what does the spell Sectumsempra do?'
Severus sat back in his chair in shock. Who was this person and how did they know about a spell he had created as a student? He hadn't told anyone of that particular creation. They couldn't have read his mind, he was an impeccable Occlumens. Not even Albus Dumbledore could get past his shields. He angrily put the quill to the parchment,
'I demand you tell me who you are and how you know that spell at once!'
Hermione bit her lip, quill in hand. It certainly seemed like him. But how was that possible? Had Professor Snape made a Horcrux?... No, he wouldn't have done something like that. Not after the catastrophe that was Voldemort. He'd sacrificed his whole life to fight the very evil required to make a Horcrux. What other explanation was there?
As much as the thought annoyed her, she knew her best bet was to speak with the portrait of Albus Dumbledore. He was a manipulative man, but he was wise, and perhaps in the long life he had led he had come across something of this nature.
Just as she stood up to make her way to the Headmistress's office, a portrait appeared on the wall to her left.
"Ah, Miss. Granger. It seems my presence has been requested," The late Headmaster twinkled down at her from his frame.
"Um, yes, hello Headmaster.." Hermione responded, unsure how to continue,
"Hello dear. What is it that I can help you with?"
"Well, you see sir, It's a bit embarrassing really, I was writing to Professor Snape—"
"Ah, yes, a lovely idea," He gave her a grandfatherly smile.
"Yes, well, I know that seems a bit barmy, seeing as he's dead. But I thought it might afford me a bit of closure… Anyways, I started writing my letter, and it seems, well, the parchment seems to be replying to me.. Oh you must think me quite mad," she began chewing on the quill as she waited for his response.
"Oh no my dear, I can assure you, you are quite sane. It is rather peculiar that you are getting a response, isn't it? Alas, I have seen stranger things happen. The fact that this has all transpired in this room is very telling Miss. Granger." She gave him a questioning look,
"Why is that sir?"
"Hogwarts is more than just a castle my dear. Surely you've noticed over the years that it seems to have a mind of its own?" Hermione thought of the moving staircases and the Room of Requirement itself,
"Yes, but, surely you're not suggesting the castle is sentient?"
"Ah, but that is exactly what I'm suggesting dear girl. If you ever find yourself the Headmistress of Hogwarts I think you'll see what I mean. I believe throughout the centuries of magic being absorbed into the castle, it developed somewhat of a sentience." Hermione seemed to mull that over for a moment before replying,
"I see. And if that is true, what does it have to do with this parchment?" Dumbledore's eyes twinkled madly behind his moon shaped spectacles.
"I do believe the castle is granting you a portal to the past. You'd be very well to use this situation to your full advantage. This has been a lovely chat, Miss. Granger. I do hope you visit me again sometime soon." He winked before the portrait disappeared.
"Bugger. Could you be a little more vague Headmaster?" she grumbled to herself. Well, she thought, perhaps I'll treat this as if it really is Professor Snape, and see what I can find out. She cracked her knuckles and got to writing.
Severus waited for a good 10 minutes, and when he received no response he smirked smugly. Good, hopefully I've scared off the little dunderhead. Still, the fact that the mystery person knew of one of his secret creations was bothering him. He just didn't see how it was possible. He grabbed the parchment, intending on taking it back to his quarters where he could figure out what hidden enchantments were surely on it when more writing appeared.
'My name is Hermione Granger. The date is the 15th of August, 1998. Your name is Severus Tobias Snape, son of muggle Tobias Snape, and Pureblood witch Eileen Prince. You were, or rather are, in love with Lily Evans Potter. You created the spell Sectumsempra during your years as a student at Hogwarts. You were bullied by James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. If that's not enough proof that I know you in the future, I will provide more. It would be helpful if you could tell me what year it is for you, so I don't give away any too much of your future…'
That got his attention. Who was this woman and how did she know that much about him? He was utterly bewildered. Which was not something that was easily done to Severus Snape. As much as his judgment urged him otherwise, he was intrigued, and it wasn't as if he had anything to lose, seeing as this woman seemed to know so much about him already... He told himself it had nothing to do with the fact that he was pathetically desperate to cling to the idea that someone wanted to talk to him..He dipped the quill and once again replied,
'The date is the 24th of February, 1990. How is it that you are writing to me from the future, if that really is what's going on here? And how is it you came to know so much about my person? If I find out this is some elaborate prank, and trust me I will find out, there will be dire consequences..'
The reply came only moments later,
'Oh, professor Snape, it's nice to see that trademark snark of yours. To answer your first question, I really don't know. I came to the room of requirement to write you a letter, I wasn't expecting a reply to show up on the page! As for how I know so much about you, that is a long story, and I'm afraid I might cause quite a mess if I tell you too much about your future. Just know that we will meet in 1991, which is next year for you. I assure you this is not a prank, I am not the type to do something of that sort. It is really great to be able to speak with you again. My main reason for writing this letter was to thank you, and tell you I'm so very sorry… I suppose I cannot tell you why, but just the same I want you to know. I've valued and respected you very much in the years I've known you, and I regret not letting you know that. Although I'm sure your response would be less than pleasant…'
Good lord. Severus stared at the parchment with unconcealed surprise as the words poured out over the page. Merlin, he was going to need a drink if he was to continue to read this utter tripe. Just as the thought crossed his mind, a decanter of firewhiskey, along with a small glass, appeared next to his quill. A small smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. He pulled out a flask from within his jacket and winked at the room. Severus knew he could most likely trust the Come and Go Room, but he was a potions master, and he did not simply drink from bottles which randomly appeared to him.
He poured a more than modest amount into the cup and raised his glass to the room around him, before taking a large sip of the acidic liquid. He shivered slightly as the whiskey burned down his throat, and looked down to see she had written more,
'Did firewhiskey just appear for you as well? It seems I might need it with the way this night is going..I know I'm babbling, and I know that annoys you to no end, but I have to get this out before you interrupt me. So here goes… Severus Snape, you are without a doubt the most infuriating, sarcastic, dour man I've ever known.'
Severus snorted. She certainly lacked subtlety. Who was this witch, and if she was from his future, what in Merlin's name did she have to thank him for? He didn't foresee doing anything that deserved recognition in his future. He hoped to achieve his goal, behind the scenes, and then at least disappear, if not die. Severus did not wish for, nor did he deserve, recognition or sympathy. Especially from mystery witches, who certainly didn't know him like they claimed to. He finished off his whiskey and poured another healthy amount into the glass.
'You are also the most intelligent, powerful, loyal, protective, strong, talented man I've ever known. If I could be there with you right now and let you legilimens into my mind, I would, so that you could see I am being sincere. I just regret that I didn't tell you this sooner. Although I will admit I was quite busy the last time I saw you. I'm sorry this is all quite vague, I shouldn't really give anything away…'
He swallowed thickly. A few droplets had fallen on the parchment as the words had appeared, smudging the ink. Something tightened in his chest at the thought of someone crying over him… What had he done in the future to warrant that? Never before had someone complimented him in that way. The firewhiskey must be getting to him. Why else would he be reacting so pathetically to the words of some anonymous witch, whose words were most likely a fabrication to get some kind of information out of him… Perhaps he would play along just a bit longer, to see if he could find out the true motives of this person. Yes, just keep telling yourself that's why you're still sitting here… pathetic. He grumbled at his inner voice to shut the hell up, and brought the quill to the page to reply.
They continued on like that for quite some time, Severus suspicious and curious, Hermione determined to make him believe he was a good man. After they had both consumed more whiskey than they should have, the conversation took a different turn. They started teasing each other a bit, Severus trying to get her to reveal things about his future, Hermione resisting as much as possible, in a slightly flirtatious way. Severus knew he was making a mistake letting his guard down, but his brain was fuzzy with alcohol, and he figured he really didn't have much to lose. So he grasped onto the closest thing to friendship he had experienced in some time. And the only time a woman had seemed interested in him, other than death eater wannabes who clearly had ulterior motives.
He was becoming quite mesmerized by this mysterious woman. She seemed to care about him for some reason, and the way she wrote suggested she was quite intelligent. Severus thought they might get along well, as well as he ever got along with anyone that is. It was true he prefered solitude, but he had made exceptions for a select few in the past. His heart clenched, thinking about how well that had turned out. Ah, he was known to linger on the pain of the past, but tonight he felt oddly different. He felt, as much as he didn't deserve it, that he could forget about his miserable life for just one night. Perhaps it was the whiskey's influence; it wasn't as if he hadn't been selfish before, he reasoned. He could return to his self imposed atonement tomorrow.
And so they continued to write back and forth, quite drunkenly, until the wee hours of the morning. Severus awoke a few hours later, slumped over in the desk chair, head pounding. His mouth was dry as the desert, and tasted as if something had crawled inside and died. He groaned and sat up. Slowly the events of the night before came back to him. The last thing Severus remembered before falling asleep was Hermione's vague warning about the future. She had told him that there would come a time when a very unique antivenin was invented, and he should perhaps think about keeping some on his person at all times. She wouldn't say more than that.
He glanced down at the desk to find the enchanted parchment gone. His stomach rolled with disappointment. It seemed his escape from reality had come to an end. Severus let out a long sigh, and returned to his quarters in the dungeons as quickly as he could, fortunately not running into any students on the way. As he showered and dressed for the day, after taking two hangover potions, he thought about everything the mysterious Hermione had told him.
He thought of his future, and when he thought about the fact that she might be in it, he found himself reluctant to think of his death, rather than looking forward to it. How had one night and an enchanted parchment gotten to him so much? He was still the same man he had been the day before. He still felt overwhelmed with guilt when he thought about Lily. He still felt he deserved to be punished for her death, and everything else he had done.
But underneath all of that, Severus felt a strange sensation in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps it was selfish, in fact, he knew it was, but buried beneath all of his self hatred and guilt, he felt a small glimmer of hope. Hope for the future. Hope that one day maybe he would redeem himself. He hated himself for it, but he clung to that little glimmer. And as he went about his day teaching, he was still the same dour, cantankerous man his students had come to know. He didn't go easier on them, he didn't change his daily habits, he didn't have a sudden change of heart and seek out the friendship of his colleagues. He still drank too much, ate too little, and slept too little.
He lived on as the same Severus Snape. But something deep down inside had shifted. A small promise of the future. He would still do what needed to be done. But he would always hold onto the memory of the mysterious woman. The proof that he was brave enough to do the right thing, even if he had to give up his life to do it.
Hermione woke up with a groan. She had fallen asleep slumped over in the desk chair, and her neck was sore from the awkward angle. Her breath was absolutely horrid, and she couldn't remember feeling more thirsty in her life. A large glass of water appeared on the desk. Thank god for the room of requirement, she thought, and emptied the glass in large gulps. She checked her watch, and saw she was nearly late for breakfast. Hermione jumped out of her seat and immediately groaned at the pain in her head. She had had entirely too much whiskey the night before. Thinking of that reminded her of what had happened, and she glanced down at the desk, only to find it empty. The parchment was gone.
Her heart clenched in her chest. At least she had gotten some sort of closure, even if it hadn't really been him. But something told her it was. Her cheeks pinkened when she remembered some of the more flirtatious things she had written to him. Argh, that was embarrassing. No doubt the alcohol had had a hand in that. But she had to admit to herself, she had always had a bit of a confusing attraction towards the man. Hermione sighed deeply, and smoothed down her wild hair as best as she could. Hopefully she could make her way back to her rooms without being seen.
Thankfully, most everyone must have been in the Great Hall already, for she only saw one teacher in passing. She hurried to her rooms and took a quick shower after downing one of the hangover potions she kept on hand, usually for Harry or Ron. Afterwards she rushed down to the Great Hall with still wet hair, hoping she hadn't missed breakfast. When she entered the room, she stopped dead in her tracks.
No, it couldn't be…
Sitting there at the single table that was set up for the teachers, students, and others helping to repair the castle, was Severus Snape. He sat there calmly, sipping from a mug, like nothing was out of the ordinary. Everyone else who sat near him were talking amongst themselves and enjoying their breakfasts, none the wiser.
How was that possible?? She had seen the man die! Why was no one else acting surprised by this??
Then it hit her. She had spoken to the Snape from 1990, before the events of the war. Could it be? Did her conversation with him change the past? Everything else seemed to be in order. It seemed they had still won the war. But Professor Snape was alive. Had her words affected him enough to save his life? Tears began to well up in her eyes as she stood there in the doorway staring at him.
He must have sensed her staring, for he looked up and locked eyes with her. He studied her for a moment with his deep, obsidian eyes, and must have found what he was looking for, for he gave her a slight nod and the smallest hint of a smile, before turning his attention back to his breakfast. Hermione just grinned, and made her way to the table.