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Chapter 1: Portrait
Lily crept into her father’s room, wand outstretched, watching for any sign of movement. Twenty-five years of being an Auror had given Harry lightning-fast reflexes, and she didn’t want to dwell on what could happen if he was startled awake. That, and her plan would be foiled.
Casting furtive looks at her sleeping parents, Lily whispered ‘Lumos’ and moved towards her father’s desk, hoping he hadn’t cast any protective charms on it like he’d threatened after James took his invisibility cloak. The picture of her grandparents was in the top drawer, like she’d hoped. She drew it out, pausing briefly to look at the famous Lily Evans.
The young woman in the picture was beautiful, her hair the same dark red as Lily’s. Other than that, though, she couldn’t see any resemblance between herself and the woman in the picture. People had always told her she looked like her mother, and while that was a compliment in itself, she couldn’t help but feel disappointed she didn’t look more like the original Lily.
Pushing her disappointment away, Lily slipped back out of her parents’ room and studied the picture with a practiced, artistic eye. Yes, she could paint her. Those sparkling green eyes would be a challenge, but she figured she could always model them on Albus’s or her dad’s; they were exactly the same. She had heard enough about those eyes to know how important they were.
Lily painted in secret, slipping out to the Shrieking Shack three times a week to work on her portrait during term time. Finally, she decided, it was finished. Lily Evans looked incredibly lifelike, and now all that was left was for her to do the charm that would truly bring her to life. Nervous, not wanting to ruin it, she closed her eyes tight as she whispered the incantation, before daring to peek through her fingers. She felt like a child.
“Hello,” the woman in the portrait spoke, looking confused. “Why have I been painted?”
“I wanted to bring you to life somehow,” Lily explained. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Did you paint me? You’re quite talented. What’s your name, love?”
“Lily Potter, same as you.”
“Potter?” Understanding seemed to dawn on the young woman’s face. “Are you Harry’s daughter?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Wow,” she whispered, leaning forward so her face filled the entire frame. “How is he? Tell me about him. Tell me about yourself. I want to know everything.”
That night, Lily tracked down Albus, who had ‘borrowed’ the Invisibility Cloak from James for the remainder of his time at Hogwarts, bribed him with Butterbeer and Chocolate Frogs, and hurried through the castle under the Cloak with the portrait tucked under her arm.
“Password,” the gargoyle outside McGonagall’s office demanded.
She thought fast. “Godric.”
Lucky guess. The door swung open to admit her, and she scurried inside, finding the portrait of Professor Severus Snape on the far side of the Headmasters’ Wall. Muttering apologies to them, she put the other portraits under a Sleeping Spell, pulled the portrait of Lily Evans out from under the Cloak, and hung it up beside Snape’s with a Temporary Sticking Charm. She knew it would be taken down in the morning, but it didn’t matter. Her work was done, and she quickly ran back to Gryffindor Tower.
Severus opened his eyes as if awakening from his feigned sleep. He didn’t know what Lily Potter had been doing in the office, but he couldn’t help his irritation. She had no right being in the Headmaster’s office…same as she had no right having her name.
As always, he felt a twinge of pain when he thought of her. Fifty years, it must have been. At least fifty years since he last spoke to her. Fifty years and every moment he had spent with her would replay, over and over again. Five decades, and only a few years of memories to fill them with.
He pictured her. Her deep red hair, her sparkling green eyes, her mouth that when it smiled, made the sun come out. Fifty years and the picture was just as clear as it had ever been. Fifty years and the pain was just as sharp.
Lost in memory, he could hear her whisper his name. “Severus?”
He would not go through this again, and lifted his eyes to the opposite wall, the blank wall reserved for future Headmasters.
From the wall, Lily Evans looked back at him.
“Lily,” he whispered, the name almost foreign to his lips. It had been so long, so long since he had uttered her name.
“Severus,” she repeated, leaning forward. “Why are you here?”
“I was…Headmaster. For a brief period.” He paused, and the urge to tell her the truth seized him. The truth of who he had been. “I was appointed by Death Eaters. As one of their own.”
“And you’re still on this wall.” Her voice was flat; in it Severus could sense the disappointment, that he had turned out exactly as she had expected. But he had waited fifty years to talk to her, and wouldn’t stop now.
“Your son insisted,” he said quietly. “He went to the Ministry.”
“You knew him, then? Harry?”
“Tell me about him,” Lily said simply. “Tell me about him. Tell me about Voldemort. Tell me how he knew you, and why he insisted your portrait hang next to Dumbledore’s.”
Severus told her. He told her everything. He told her it was him who gave the prophecy to Voldemort. He told her everything about his life as a Death Eater, the things he did for Voldemort. He told her how he, as a teacher, had treated Harry when he arrived at Hogwarts. How his resentment for James had taken over. He sought no falsely gained forgiveness from her. He told her nothing could make up for the things he did. Reluctantly, he told her about his allegiance to Dumbledore. His involvement in the Order. His role in Dumbledore’s death. His role in protecting Harry.
He told her why.
And then his words ran out, and they were repeating, tumbling out as if he couldn’t stop them.
I loved you, Lily. You were the best part of me. I love you, Lily. I’ve loved you since the day I met you. It was all for you. I love you, Lily. I love you. I will always love you.
Lily was silent.
She stood. Walked out of her frame. Into his. Placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I love you too, Sev.”
He didn’t have to ask her in which way she loved him. He knew, from the tone of her voice, from the way she sqeezed his shoulder, in the smile she gave him through her tears.
It didn’t matter she didn’t love him in the same way.
It just mattered that she did.
She knelt beside him, wrapping one arm around him. Resting her cheek against his shoulder. Silently sharing in his pain. She didn’t need words. They hardly ever did, her and Sev. Even when they were children, sitting in the abandoned playground, swapping magic like stories.
She didn’t need words to heal the wounds of the past. She didn’t need words to tell Severus she had forgiven him. He didn’t need words to tell her that her very presence was the only thing he had longed for in those fifty years. The only thing he needed to feel whole again.
As dawn broke and he could hear the castle begin to stir, Severus knew his time with her was almost over. But for once, the thought of being without her didn’t hurt. For the first time since he had called her ‘Mudblood’ all those years ago, he felt at peace.
“I wonder what Lily will do with me,” she said softly, and he realised she was talking about her granddaughter.
“Take you home,” Severus suggested. “You can talk to Harry.”
As she smiled at the thought, Severus knew there was one more thing he had to address. “Perhaps,” he began, hesitated, and pressed on, “Perhaps your granddaughter can paint James for you.”
The smile she gave him told Severus she’d understood everything he had put into those few words. She stood, returning to her frame.
“Lily,” he called suddenly, and she turned to face him. “Best friends?”
She smiled, and at that moment the sun broke over the horizon, flooding the room with light. “Always.”