Beta Reader: gelsey
Recipient's Prompt: Trelawney has suffered an unforeseen accident whilst on holiday/on a duty-free sherry run to Calais. As she's been taken to a Muggle hospital and put in traction for several months, Headmaster Snape has no other option but to try to recruit a replacement at short notice. Guess who's been writing the Quibbler's uncannily accurate horoscopes.
Summary: It is not the most similar people who should form inexorable bonds; they are too alike, they do not need more of their own reasoning and heart. Opposite souls wind together and complete each other, each giving what the other lacks.
"Gah! Look at them; they're acting like besotted teenagers again. I don't even understand how they came to love each other. They're so different!"
"I think love was the easy part; we both love them, don't we?"
"You know what I mean! You're a hopeless romantic!"
"Philosopher, you ice-logical scientist."
"So, tell me, oh great philosopher of the heart, why they're still madly in love, why they haven't gone completely mad and murdered each other a hundred times over?"
"They're soul mates."
"Heh. Now, that is the most counterfactual statement I have ever heard, Nargle-brain."
"Based on what definition of fact, dear brother?"
"The definition of soul mate—a kindred spirit, a compatible soul, two people having a natural affinity. They cannot be soul mates if they are opposite in most ways, dear sister…"
"Hah! And you claim to be an astute Magiphysicist. By your own very narrow definition of attraction, it is the opposites that are drawn together!"
"And by that reasoning, how could we not conclude that souls behave according to the very same principle—it is not the most similar people who should form inexorable bonds; they are too alike, they do not need more of their own reasoning and heart. Opposite souls wind together and complete each other, each giving what the other lacks—they make a single, neutral, peaceful atom if you need a more succinct summary for your linear and ordered mind. Doesn't that make sense entirely, eh?"
"Argh! You're more like Dad than you imagine, sis."
Her office was flooded with light, so much light that it made his eyes hurt. He hesitated in the doorway, lingered in the cool shadows like a vampire afraid of spontaneous combustion. He ran a slim index finger along the high collar of his black, military-style tunic.
"Headmaster Snape," she said in a voice that matched the clean and pure light, "how lovely to see you again."
Just for a moment, Severus absorbed the clear sincerity of her words, wanted her smiled greeting to be more than polite etiquette, and then he scowled at her for evoking that lonely thought, for making his solitary soul resonate with the harmony of her smile.
"Thank you for your time, Miss Lovegood," he said tightly.
She stood up and moved around her desk to shake his hand. Flyaway strands of hair glowed like white-hot filaments around her head. A tinkling, mirrored ornament hanging near the window sent reflected light dancing along her jaw line, down her throat, sparkling off the earrings that glinted up and around the shell of her ear.
He'd seen her rarely during the last four years, but each time their paths had crossed, he'd avoided her because she was utterly foreign in the alien glow of her light-bright soul.
"I would have cleared my entire schedule for the smallest chance to see you," she said as she shook his hand. "I'm surprised you came down to the Em-Pea today. I'd have come to Hogwarts if you'd asked, you know."
Because Severus had just spent ten minutes dodging Rita Skeeter in the maze of corridors and stairs of the Magical Press building, he allowed a wry smile. He would have preferred to hold this meeting at Hogwarts, but he was about to ask for a rather large favour, and he was hardly in a position to summon.
"I have long been required to venture into enemy territory, Miss Lovegood."
"Yes. Yes, you have," she murmured, staring at him with her large grey eyes. Severus felt naked in that moment, like she could see right through to his sundered soul, to his fragile heart. Her open gaze felt more penetrating than any Legilimency attack. Finally, he blinked and turned his head away, licking his lips nervously.
"Please, sit," she said, lowering the intensity of the light that streamed in from the window behind her when he winced and squinted at her. "Ah, sorry," she said with a rueful shrug. "I forget that Hogwarts is set to permanent twilight. I think that's the only thing about it that I really don't miss. Sunlight is good for the soul and for growth, I think."
Severus, who had been mentally crouching into launch position, tilted his head and frowned. "I had thought most students were only too happy to escape."
Although, he conceded, Luna Lovegood had never been ordinary. Perhaps if she had merely been a smiling fool he'd have felt more comfortable teaching her. But she'd been an unsettling contradiction: flawless potions from a young lady who'd stared around with a meandering vagueness while she'd brewed; insightful answers in a dreamy, sing-song voice; deadly accurate hexing from uncoordinated movement. Although a miasma of her childhood eccentricity lingered around her like a halo, she seemed to have learned to turn herself into sharper focus since then.
And then he recalled when he'd last seen her at the school, and he wanted to swallow his words. How could she have been happy to escape Hogwarts, then, when he'd sent her to Malfoy Manor, to the dungeon dark? Never mind that it had been on the Dark Lord's orders—Severus had been the inevitable tool of action, unable to protect her or hide her away. No wonder she basked in the sunshine, now.
But she merely smiled widely and snorted a laugh. "Maybe at first, yes, but then we find out how much time proper work actually takes up."
Severus smirked. "Mr Potter was of much the same opinion the last time he invited himself to tea."
"He admires you very much, you know."
Severus started to roll his eyes with dramatic irony, and Luna leaned forward and said earnestly, "No, he really does respect you… like a sort of surrogate father figure."
Severus felt his chest close tight around his heart. I wanted to be the father of Lily's child, once. His face remained an impassive mask, however, and he shrugged nonchalantly while his heart ached. "Is that how you see me?" he deflected.
A light flush raced up the line of her throat. "No, it's not," she answered. She tilted her chin upwards. "You've changed since I was at Hogwarts, anyway. Why don't you wear robes any more? You've driven the gossip columnists at the Prophet mad with speculation."
Severus felt his carefully planned conversation unravel and flutter loose in the wind like ribbons.
He never granted interviews, avoided the press like they carried the plague. Such questions may have seemed innocuous, but they sought answers that had immense weight and meaning—he associated wizarding robes with the pure-blood elite, and he did not have to pretend to covet their traditions any longer. To Severus, his Muggle-style trousers said, 'Yes, I am the son of a Muggle prole, but just look at the powerful and intricate magic I can weave in spite of it.'
Determinedly, he attempted to pull the threads of his plot together again. "Well," he said sourly, "it's really their fault that I'm here."
Luna's eyebrows drew together, and she twisted a finger around the rope of beads that hung from her neck. "And… you want me to help you sabotage—"
Severus shook his head and held up a hand to cut her off from wild conspiracy theorising. "If I really wanted to get rid of Rita Skeeter and Sally Lander, I could do so alone, and without a speck of evidence," he bragged.
"I know that," she said without any trace of alarm. "That is why I have to admit that I'm confused about what it is that you think I can do for you, Headmaster Snape. And I'm not naïve enough to think that you'd give me an interview or concede to letting The Quibbler publish anything about you." She sighed softly. "Without causing a legal fuss, that is. The Prophet made a loss for months after your settlement, did you hear?"
Severus stifled a satisfied snort of amusement and forced his mind off this new tangent Luna had set them on. "So… Those harpies finally gave up on getting me to talk and began to hound Sybill about her Prophecies." He grimaced—the wicked witches had wanted to know about his role in taking the Prophecy to Voldemort, doubtless.
Luna covered her face with her hands and sighed, "Bitches." Glitter glinted in sparkles in the clear polish on her nails.
"Quite," Severus agreed, struggling to keep his face straight. He'd dreaded this appointment, loath to face the girl he'd been forced to give up to the dark. He'd never expected her to smile at him, to make him want to chuckle darkly.
He tucked his hair behind his ears and continued: "They discovered that she made regular trips to Hogsmeade for, ah, medicine—"
"I know Professor Trelawney drinks," Luna put in mildly. "I don't think she should be allowed to teach in that state, by the way."
Severus sighed and rubbed at his temple. God knows, he'd tried to stop her—and look where that had left him. "It is not easy to put aside precedent—" Particularly when it was his fault the woman hadn't been allowed beyond the castle gates until Voldemort had discovered the Prophecy's wording.
"I know," Luna said with a crooked smile. "Headmaster Dumbledore twisted too many rules, set up too many conflicting precedents. It must have been a challenge to sort it all out."
"A bloody nightmare," he agreed, even as he realised that she was drawing him off on another tangent, drawing confidences from him with deft and feather-light ease.
He began to frown, immediately suspicious that her leading questions indicated she might return to this conversation in Pensieve and violate his anti-press opinion. Well, before this afternoon was out, he'd have his privacy oath-sworn, he vowed.
His lips thinned, and he adjusted his collar, making sure it covered the jagged scar on his neck entirely. "As I was saying," he said in clipped fashion, speaking rather quickly in an attempt to dissuade further interruption, "Sybill came under ambush each time she went into Hogsmeade. The house-elves were… not allowed to requisition sherry any longer—" On Severus' strict order, thus compounding his complicity in this fiasco. "—and so Sybill… borrowed a school broom and flew to the nearest Muggle village. After… testing the quality of her purchases rather thoroughly, she began to fly back to Hogwarts. She botched her take-off rather badly and landed herself in traction in the Muggle hospital—"
Luna wrinkled her nose. "I'm not sure what this traction thing is, but if you want me to go and visit her—"
"No, no," Severus said quickly. "Not unless you wish to, of course…"
Luna nibbled on one glittery thumbnail and stared at the mirrors spinning and twinkling like little stars at the window. Eventually, she sighed and turned to Severus with a look of melancholy so deep it reminded him of his gaze from his mirror when he was naked and defenceless to himself, lost in his own loneliness. "No, I don't," she murmured. She ran her fingertip across the tiny, diamante stud in her nose. "That sounds really uncharitable, doesn't it?"
Severus didn't think so, no—the only reason he'd visited was that it was expected. But if he admitted to that, he'd look like a heartless employer, and he was trying to lure the woman into a part-time teaching position for God's sake! "Ah…"
Luna fluttered her fingers, tapping them together lightly, and her many rings winked in a rainbow of light as her voice took on that childhood sing-song quality: "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." At Severus' blank expression, she expanded in her usual soft voice, "Thomas Jefferson."
Severus nodded gravely, not intending to advertise his continued ignorance.
"I was never in her class, so I didn't know her as a teacher at all, really. But still…"
"You never took Divination as a subject?" Severus asked incredulously.
"No, I didn't," Luna answered simply, tilting her head so that her ash-blonde hair cascaded past her left shoulder.
"But… you write The Quibbler's horoscope," he blustered.
How could she not have taken Divination, this fey and eccentric woman? She screamed Divination to Severus, even more so than Sybill the Unaware with her ubiquitous pack of tarot cards and her trail of gossamer scarves.
Luna shrugged. "Well, if I didn't write it, I'd have to pay somebody a fortune to write it for me; the horoscope is a very popular regular. Most of The Quibbler's featured articles are written by freelance reporters, but it's only a monthly publication and circulation isn't high enough to allow a staff. Merlin, my father used to run the printing press at home before I insisted on getting a small office here at Em-Pea." She smiled almost ironically. "Anyway, I've heard the talk around Em-Pea—I'm not deaf or stupid… Who would want to work for The Quibbler?"
"Ah, I see," he said, regretting how often he'd denigrated the publication. "Well, the teachers confiscate a great many copies of the publication each month, many more than I used to when I taught… So, either your readership is up or the students are not as adept at reading publications in class..." Or, more likely, they'd just been frightened of even trying such antics in his classroom.
Luna smiled at him, all traces of irony or bitterness sublimated into the sunlight. "I was right, then…" Her grin hinted at self-satisfaction.
Severus was master of ignoring luring hints that were dropped into the air like invisible, sticky traps; among his staff, Poppy and Pomona were masters at this technique.
He heard himself asking softly as he leaned forward in his chair: "Right about what?"
Severus wanted to bend over and smack his forehead against her desk. He was an idiot! Either the light had addled his brain, or she was a far better manipulator than he would ever be.
Luna Lovegood didn't answer him directly. Instead, she gazed past him, not looking at him at all, and said with a wistful smile, "You really do remind me of my father."
Dismay washed over Severus in two suffocating waves: First to be compared to a scatter-brained conspiracy-theorising lunatic and second to be reminded of the fact that he was not a father, had never been granted the chance to have that gift.
He pushed up from his chair abruptly. His throat was tight with anger, and his voice was strained as he said, "Good day to you, Miss Lovegood," and turned on his heel.
He heard the tinkle of bracelets behind him as she moved swiftly around her desk, smelled her floral perfume when she darted in front of him to block the doorway. He was in a black enough mood that he'd have felt no compunction at pushing her aside, but her wide, calm eyes made him pause. There was a great sense of sadness and understanding in them, but no panic. Only clear, grey calm, deeper and stiller than the ocean.
"I apologise. Sometimes I still speak thoughts straight from my mind without considering that they might sound out of context and place to the person who is listening," she said softly and quickly. "You see, most people thought that my father was a very strange man, a man not to be taken seriously, and a man who believed in unbelievable things. But many people are misunderstood… some are reviled and hated and feared for it… and some are disregarded and laughed at."
Severus' seething anger ebbed slightly, but he folded his arms across his chest and scowled at her. "Are you saying that I am the same as your father?" The thought was laughable!
She laughed softly and shook her head. "Only in that all through being misunderstood, you both retained a kind and noble heart. But otherwise, you and my father are complete opposites in my mind. White and black; short and tall; affable and… not so affable; father and—" She bobbed up on tiptoes and pressed a soft kiss to his shock-parted lips. "—man."
The kiss had been fleeting, but his lips tingled madly, as though she'd ripped a tear in the fabric of the universe and turned the world inside out around them.
She took him gently by the hand, and he allowed himself to be led back to the chair, meek as a lamb in his utter shock.
"If you don't want me to visit Sybill Trelawney in hospital, then what do you want?" she asked, her face as serious and quiet as her voice.
He blinked. What he wanted was to press her up against the window and let the sunlight warm his skin while he breathed against the vitality of her pulse, to take her hand when he stepped into the shadows so that he'd keep a part of that warmth with him always.
He cleared his throat. "Some of the staff—" He would not admit to reading his horoscope. "—found that The Quibbler's monthly horoscope was uncannily accurate. That is why they have urged me to ask if you would consider teaching Divination while Sybill recovered."
Severus wasn't sure why he'd just admitted the true reason for his afternoon quest, given that Luna Lovegood had never set foot in the Divination classroom before.
"Do you read my horoscope?"
Severus cleared his throat and turned his eyes from her smile. "Ah… I'm not particularly inclined to be fond of Divination and Prophecy, you know…"
Her eyes narrowed. "That wasn't what I asked."
He shifted in his chair and rubbed his palms against his trouser seams. He could lie for years to Lord Voldemort—how was it that he could not bring himself to lie to this quicksilver woman? He lifted a hand, palm up. "Occasionally," he prevaricated. "How… do you write them if you don't use Divination and Astronomy?"
She wasn't using some form of illegal, semi-sentient sensing spell was she? He'd certainly never sensed anything like it on the paper, nor seen the text of the horoscope change for anybody.
"It's not Divination, and it's not Astronomy," she said simply. "There are only twelve star signs and hundreds of readers—I can't possibly Divine the future for all of them. So, each horoscope is vague and generalised enough that people take their own meaning from the words, adapt their interpretation of the horoscope to fit their individual reality and life." She smiled sadly. "So, I don't think I could possibly come and teach Divination at Hogwarts… although it would be lovely to be there for a while again."
He couldn't argue with her unsuitability for the job, but that didn't stop him from wanting to offer the post to her still. It would be uplifting to see her sitting in the wintry Scottish sunlight, bringing light to the twilight of the castle.
"Ask Lavender Brown," Luna added regretfully. "She's a true believer. She works freelance for WWW, so she should have a flexible schedule."
"Sybill recommended her, yes." He grimaced and added sourly, "She did not give the impression that her schedule was all that flexible."
And then Poppy and Pomona had pleaded for their own private daily dose of Luna Lovegood, had whined so well that he had made this damn appointment.
Luna gave him a mysterious smile. "Galleons make the world go round, for some people."
He grunted his disgust.
Luna laughed merrily, loud and entirely contrary to her previous calm. "She likes it when people suck up to her, too…"
His scowl deepened as he realised that he'd have to beg the damn woman, and she'd probably enjoy every last minute of it, the mercenary little Gryff. A dull ache throbbed at his temple when he remembered how he'd berated her when he'd been her teacher.
He raised his scowl to Luna, who was still snickering softly behind her hand. "Perhaps…" he ventured gruffly, and he closed his long fingers into a fist. No, he would not ask Luna Lovegood for this favour; it was his appointed duty.
Her merriment blinked away and she nodded eagerly. "Of course," she agreed.
"Of course, what?"
Luna smiled serenely. "I'll tell Lavender Brown that Hogwarts teachers get preferential publishing with The Quibbler. She's been trying to sell her article on Glamour Charms and something about them causing wrinkles for months—it's not really brilliant work, given that she can't really separate and quantify the effects of ageing from the effect of the charms, but…" Luna shrugged.
Severus' spine straightened. "You don't have—"
"I want to," Luna said firmly, setting her jaw.
Her moods shifted like shimmering light, so fast that it would give anybody a headache. It should have been disconcerting, uncomfortable. Instead, he felt himself repressing an amused smile.
"Thank you," he said seriously.
"You're welcome," she replied with equal gravity.
He sighed and prepared to push up from the chair. However unconventionally, Luna Lovegood had helped him with his Divination teacher problem, and now there was no reason to stay. None at all.
Luna sighed and muttered, "I really do wish I had offered you tea and put Veritaserum in it."
His eyes widened with surprise and startled horror. "What did you say?"
She shook her head and sighed again. "You're really impossible to understand, you know." She waved a hand at him as if to say, 'You! Yes, you are impossible.'
His eyebrows climbed halfway up his forehead. "I'm impossible to understand?" He laced his sarcasm with acid and a touch of heavy irony.
"Well, you never say what you want to say, what you're really thinking. I have to guess."
"Ask any member of my staff and they will inform you that I am quite liberal with my honesty," he retorted.
Hah… And if the entire world walked around spouting undiluted honesty like she did, then there would either be a great deal more peace and understanding… or murder and mayhem.
"Only when you want to make a point or to be disparaging," Luna argued. "But you never say the important things—"
Her expression reminded Severus of when he was six and his mother had caught him stealing her wand again. Weary patience and deep disappointment. "You were going to leave without asking me to dinner, or tea, or… something."
He pulled on his long, thin fingers, displaying open discomfort. How could he imagine having dinner with a woman who seemed to see his every private thought? How could he not?
"Ah…" He shut his mouth, pressing his lips together tightly.
She leaned back in her chair; her shoulders slumped slightly, and she whispered, "I had hoped that I could learn some reserve from you, exchange some honesty for it—thought we could temper each other, but… no matter."
A wide, bright smile parted her lips. "It was lovely to see you again—"
He could not bear to listen to her over-bright voice spout such lies; it sounded unnatural coming from a voice that should shine with truth, be full to the brim with vibrant and mercurial life.
"Dinner, eight tonight," he fairly barked.
Her smile froze for a moment, and then her lips turned downwards. "You don't need to humour me, Headmaster Snape."
He hit his thigh on the corner of her desk in his haste to reach her, to pull her into his arms and to kiss her with such passionate honesty that even she would not doubt.
"I think," he said a long while later, rubbing at the sore spot on his leg as he winced, "that it should have been perfectly apparent that I never humour anybody."
"Hmm," she hummed as she touched the window controls and the sunlight spilled around them in a bright flood to embrace them warmly. "I think that you should let somebody look at that bruise for you, just in case…"
Ah. She looked like an angel in the golden light, but the glint in her eyes was positively devilish. "Would you happen to know anybody who might be suitably qualified for such a task?"