Author's Note: Hi everyone! This was originally set a few years before Harry enters Hogwarts in the canon universe, but I've fast forwarded it to around the time between GoF and OoTP. Warning: Pottermore spoilers ahead.
Although he would never admit it to a living (or dead) soul, Severus Snape had grown fond of patrolling the quiet corridors of Hogwarts at night - if you could describe the inexplicable feeling as fondness. He sneered at himself; Severus Snape and fondness did not belong in the same sentence as far as he was concerned. No, it was a feeling of satisfaction when he strode in the dark, musing over more complicated matters that had dug into his life recently, in an environment where he was free to dwell over important issues without interruption from staff nor students...
Well, not completely free from the thick-headed skulls of the dunderheads. Snape snorted inwardly as he swooped into another deserted hallway. The amusement he received from snarling at students out of bed and watching them run off whimpering while he docked off a considerably large amount of points, did admittedly make up for the minor disturbance. Scaring out of them what little magical ability they had, was also a bonus.
It had taken a shamefully long time for Snape to realise that all the decisions he made in his woebegone life had the advantages as well as the disadvantages, but he made sure to appreciate whatever the positive points of his choices were. It was all secret appreciation of course; if the likes of Dumbledore discovered that Snape wasn't all doom and gloom, he would probably make it his life mission of making Snape appreciate all the 'delightful' things in life, whether it be the lemon drops he was so disgustingly fond of, right down to the 'lovely' knitting patterns that had Snape gagging on his bacon when Dumbledore had beamed and slid the Muggle magazine across the table at breakfast one day.
It was with this horrific memory in mind when a barely audible sniff directly to the right, broke his train of thought and sent him back into reality. Snape frowned as the unidentified thing - probably another oversensitive, female adolescent whinging over trivial matters - sniffed again and sighed miserably. He swivelled around and stood in front of the door of the classroom where the sound was emitted from, shaped his face into a characteristic sneer and opened the door with a single, fluid movement.
Minerva McGonagall had always prided herself to be a tough woman who, even under the most stressful circumstances, did not bend easily and start moping around or do any other typical female, hormone-driven reaction. She never saw the point of whinging over the hardships in life; instead, she continued marching on as if nothing out of the ordinary occurred or kept it to herself. After all, Minerva was no stranger to the unpleasant surprises lurking in life, ready to pounce on anyone who was unlucky to cross paths with them. She now greeted them with a sense of resignation as the inevitable emotions of misery and irritation swept over her, as if a giant, grey rain cloud incessantly hovered above Minerva's head and poured all the maudlin feelings she had tried to suppress into a small corner within her mind, right back onto her.
With that firm belief hammered into her head, it was to Minerva's great annoyance and surprise when she found herself pacing mechanically through the mazes of corridors at the stroke of midnight, opening a door to one of the numerous classrooms in the castle (as for which one, she could not say; the momentary astonishment had temporarily clouded her sense of direction), dropping into the professor's seat at the front of the classroom and promptly beginning to weep. The sheer bewilderment at her lack of control only caused more tears to cascade down her face, the rivulets filling the lines of her aging skin as if they had never seen themselves being flooded by a torrent of ceaseless water.
Minerva knew what had caused the outpour of emotions but nevertheless, it irritated her to no ends. The joyous event that her former fiancée, Dougal McGregor, found himself looking forward to in the near future provoked her more irrational emotions of envy and regret. The more Minerva thought about Dougal's engagement with the daughter of a local farmer, the more she conjured pointless scenarios filled with "what-if's" and nostalgic sighs. What if she hadn't had a change of heart and married Dougal, though he was a Muggle? Would they be watching over their children, fondly chiding their bouts of accidental magic? Or would she be like her mother, hiding her wand away and feeling terrified at the thought of revealing what she was to her husband?
Minerva sighed and sniffed again, scolding herself for her childish fantasies. She knew she was making the right decision when she ran away from Dougal and set out for London that day. Nonetheless, it was difficult to acknowledge that her love for him still occupied a large section of her heart.
Standing up, Minerva was ready to head back to her chambers when the door suddenly opened. She started, but was ready to admonish any students who were roaming around at night when a familiar voice broke the silence of the castle.
As Snape opened the door, he could make out a black silhouette standing behind the professor's table. The silhouette flinched as he began to stride to the table.
"Having a late night sob, are we Miss -" Snape was momentarily speechless as the silhouette looked at him, equally astonished. It was Minerva McGonagall.
"Severus? What are you doing here? I thought you were patrolling tomorrow night." In truth, Minerva hadn't thought about that at all when she practically ran into the classroom she now found herself in.
Snape stepped closer, uttering a quiet "Lumos". In the dim wand light, he could see fading tear tracks and bloodshot eyes on her blotchy face. This left him puzzled; he had known McGonagall since he was merely a boy and he had never imagined that he would ever see her in this pitiful state. She upheld the typical Gryffindor qualities of self-righteousness, stubbornness to the point of stupidity and reckless bravery, but was also an intelligent, tough witch who displayed traits that he grudgingly respected and admired. Snape frowned, pondering what could have befallen the professor as he began to speak again.
"Professor. I... my... harsh words were.. unnecessary. I merely thought that a student was... out of bed," he finished lamely. "Forgive the intrusion."
Minerva watched as Severus swivelled and started making his way out of the classroom, but abruptly halted midway. After several seconds of standing frozen to the spot, he swivelled back and stiffly said, "Your previous statement was also correct. I do not normally patrol this night but nonetheless..." Snape paused, wondering whether he should subtly ask what had happened that left McGonagall so distraught, or bid her good night and hope that one of the other female professors would take up the alarming job of comforting her, crying with her... doing whatever females happened to do when they found one of their compatriots breaking down.
Despite her shock and lingering feelings of heartache, Minerva found herself containing a chuckle as she watched Severus hesitate. "Oh no, Severus Snape wouldn't bat an eyelid if You-Know-Who suddenly appeared and declared that he was on a murdering rampage, but he'd positively squirm when he faces his sobbing female colleague," she thought dryly. "I suppose I've found more ways of irritating him, along with Potter's rule breaking and rubbing my umpteenth House Cup in his face."
"Nonetheless, it is... soothing to be pacing through the castle's corridors. There is adequate time to dwell on things that are left unthought-of during the day. I am assuming that you are very much the same, Minerva," hinted Snape, cutting her thoughts. He raised an eyebrow.
Suddenly, it was Minerva who was hesitating. Expecting a swift farewell and a flurry of robes hurrying out of the classroom, Minerva now had to either spill her complete story to her former student, or do them both a favour and re-buff his offer.
How he could possibly understand her predicament, though? Even she herself thought that she was being moronic and unreasonable. Through the years that Severus had been teaching at Hogwarts, Minerva quickly saw through the acerbic facade and found a man who was witty, dark-humoured and utterly, completely brilliant. However, the one thing she could not imagine was him comprehending her irrational feelings of love and envy. Though she discovered that Severus was not as emotionless and cold as he appeared to be, he seemed to be void of any affectionate feelings.
"But so do you," she reminded herself. "That does not mean you've lived without them." She sighed and plunked back into the professor's seat. Snape pulled up another chair and mirrored her action with a bit more grace.
"An astute assumption as always, Professor Snape," Minerva replied, a grim smile on her face. "But before I delve into my story, tell me. Have you ever been in love?"
"How odd that the cause of her predicament is a rather generic, female problem," he noted sardonically.
"Yes," he simply uttered, his face as fathomless as ever. A flicker of disbelief and astonishment registered on Minerva's face. "Fortunate to know that I still retain the ability to surprise," he mused.
"Yes, well... A fair warning though, it's a long and tedious tale. I expect you're not accustomed to listening to anecdotes told by your former professors," she answered.
"Do you really believe that I of all people, would be sitting here patiently awaiting your undoubtedly fascinating yarn if I had no motivations?" Snape retorted, with a touch of his usual impatience. "Really now, I thought you knew better than to prolong this insufferable tarrying with me, Minerva. Your observations could be noted by a lesser being with a slice of your aptitude. Now I suggest that you proceed; this anguish you are suffering has clearly stunted your ability to adequately come to a logical conclusion," he finished condescendingly.
Minerva fought back another chuckle. She silently thanked Merlin that it was Snape who walked through the door and not a simpering sympathiser who would have merely encouraged her to wallow in her self-pity.
And so Minerva divulged her story. Her complicated upbringing laced with secrets, the decision to run away from her first, genuine love and now the news that he had proposed to a local girl. Long-drawn pauses were made, bouts of heartache seeped into her tone but for the most, Minerva stayed calm and frank. Severus remained silent through the entire recount, gazing stonily at her face.
"...So now I find myself here, moping over his happy occasion," she ended, grimacing. "I realise it must seem pathetic."
Severus said nothing and continued to stare shrewdly at her, absently tracing his lips with his thumb. Minerva sighed and stood up.
"I've wasted enough of your time. I'd appreciate your discretion on this matter," she said, and headed towards the door. As she was just about to open the door, Severus spoke up.
"An... associate of mine once said that loved ones never truly leave us. They may walk out of our lives, never to be seen again, pass away... But they do not simply vanish without leaving a mark etched on our soul," he quietly said. Snape stood up and returned the chair back to the desk, his face shadowed in the dim moonlight.
"He was correct. That mark will always be a constant torment in our mind, eating away at our conscience until the memory of them merely disappears into a black void. Suddenly, you wish that you had never met them, to spare the anguish you now suffer," he continued, his eyes now directed back on McGonagall.
Minerva moved back slowly towards Severus, a mixture of emotions now flitting across her face.
"Do you ever regret loving... this individual?" she questioned, the muted curiosity evident in her eyes. Severus looked down for a moment and turned his calculating gaze towards the window.
"Never," he murmured. When Minerva did not answer, he began pacing between the classroom desks, carefully phrasing his next reply.
"If she and I had never crossed paths, it is true that the bane of my existence would be non-existent, but the life I live now is shaped around the few that I have cared for in the past and the present. If she had not existed as a significant presence in the life I have lived, where would I currently find myself? Very much like you Minerva; had Mr McGregor not been in your life, the privilege of residing in the place you now cherish as your family would not be yours to enjoy." He paused and watched the comprehension dawn on her face.
"Our loved ones mould the path we take," Snape said bitterly. "There are fine turns and there are deplorable turns but know that at every crossroad, the mark ruthlessly scrawled onto our minds comes into play. Nonetheless, only we can take credit for the good and bad decisions made in the end."
Minerva suddenly had a feeling that Severus wasn't so much talking to her as he was to himself. She watched as he began striding to the door, his heavy robes lightly brushing against Minerva's shoulder. As he reached the door, he turned back to her.
"Unsurprising that you chose the right path, unlike so many others," he remarked. "Had you not, I do believe that your Gryffindor pig-headedness would have led you back undeterred."
With a slight flourish of his cloak, Snape departed. Minerva blinked and shook herself out of her stupor. She gazed thoughtfully at the doorway and gave a slight smile. Few people had blessed her with words of wisdom that surpassed their age, and Snape was one of them. Minerva couldn't help but feel inquisitive of the identity of the individual who had touched Severus's life so significantly.
"Perhaps he and I have more similarities than I previously thought," she thought to herself. Minerva momentarily entertained herself with the thought of enduring Severus's sour stare and equally acerbic retort if she declared them to be kindred spirits.
However, her smile soon vanished and she became pensive once more. They really were both very akin to one another; both were guarded entities, hiding their turmoil under a tough exterior. Unsurprisingly, Severus had seen right through her and allowed his façade to temporarily fall, letting Minerva gain insight into the man who had his heart shattered, like so many others.
Minerva walked up another stairway and reached her private chambers. It was strange to discover, she thought, that the people who were seemingly ignorant to the power of love, could comprehend the conundrum more fully than those who wore their hearts on their sleeves.
The human emotion to feel wanted, to feel understood, was both a blessing and a curse, Minerva decided, as she laid on her bed. However, the one thing she was certain of in both her mind and heart, was that she had shared a rare moment with someone who genuinely knew the complexity of love. That, she thought, was something that even magic could not create.
Author's Note: It took me a painfully long time to write this since nailing the dialogue and trying to not stray away to OOC was quite hard. I'm still not completely happy with it, but hopefully as I write more, I'll improve.
I got the concept from Pottermore, where Dumbledore finds McGonagall crying over McGregor in a classroom one night. I read McGonagall's backstory and thought, hey, it's uncannily similar to what happened with Snape and Lily! Normally I don't have the guts to write up a story, but this plot bunny just wouldn't go away so I just had to get it down on my computer. After 3 months of on and off writing and frustrating editing, this little bunny has turned into my first, hopefully halfway decent story.
It was originally a one-shot but it's turned into a 3-part series and I have the general outline of the next 2 chapters in my head. Note that this will NOT be a romantic story, I'm just going to be exploring the friendship of Snape and McGonagall, and how it might have turned out if this happened. Depending on how much feedback I get, I'll see if I can get the chapters done without too much trouble. Please drop me a review and tell me how I went! :)