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At Great Personal Risk by academica
Chapter 6: On Fire
It has been said that love is friendship set on fire. Sometimes it burns steadily, and the flame thrives for months and years until it is finally extinguished by that old enemy, time. Sometimes it grows into a crazed inferno, destroying everything in its wake, including the lovers themselves. Sometimes, however, it just sort of burns out, perhaps even before you realize that it’s gone.
Lily was not sure which of these outcomes had come to pass in her case.
How long had she and Severus been drifting apart? Who was to blame, the popular Ravenclaw with a hundred demands on his time and attention or the lowly, ugly Hufflepuff who gave up prematurely on the love of her life? Her heart dropped into her stomach. Did I do this to myself?
Come meet me in the dungeon we used to duel in. I’ve got something to tell you.
She had been foolish to think that his note conveyed any sort of emotional connection to her.
Yet she went, as if drawn by an invisible thread. She would always go to him, even if it took all she had to make the journey, even if all he wanted was to take more from her upon her arrival.
“What is it?” She asked when she got there, finding him sitting on the edge of a box of spare robes, his feet dangling childishly over the edge. He looked happy. It almost made her smile.
“I’ve got great news.” He grinned, walking over to her. “Narcissa and I are getting married.”
Lily stared at him. It was worse than she could have imagined.
Severus didn’t seem to note the look of displeasure that invaded her features. “I proposed to her this morning before Transfiguration. We’re both so excited, but we haven’t set a date or anything yet.” He paused to breathe, looking at her. “You’ll come to the wedding, won’t you?”
Lily blinked, frowning heavily. “Will I come to the wedding?” She spat bitterly.
Severus stepped back a little. Lily was slightly threatening when she got upset.
“I don’t believe it.” She crossed her arms. “Look at you, you’re proud of yourself.”
“And what’s wrong with that?” Severus countered, anger rising in his voice. “She’s a great girl, and she’s crazy about me. I care a lot about her.” He frowned as well. “Don’t you care about me, Lils? Don’t you want me to be happy?”
“Don’t bloody call me that.” Lily replied coldly. “And yes, as a matter of fact, I do. You’re my-” She paused for several seconds. “You’re my friend, and that’s why I can’t let you do this.”
Severus gazed at her, looking extremely hurt. “What do you mean?” He asked softly.
“Well, you can’t marry her. She’s a half-blood. It would be disgraceful.” She said flatly. It was the best attempt she had at stopping him from going through with it, though shortly after their exchange it became plain to her that she had not selected the best route for getting him to choose her instead. In fact, the distaste in his changing expression suggested that she had chosen the worst. She worried that she would never be able to get the picture of his face out of her head.
“I’m a half-blood.” He said, barely audible. Color rose in his cheeks, a result of shame, anger, or some combination of the two. His dark eyes, however, betrayed a foreign emotion: disappointment. He had never looked so sad, and it broke her heart to know she’d caused it.
Lily opened her mouth slightly. “Sev—” She could scarcely believe she’d forgotten.
“Don’t call me that.” He replied softly, and he strode past her, leaving the dungeon and her life.
She didn’t really remember what had happened between then and now. She should have been concerned about the events of tonight, not drowning herself in thoughts of what might have been with her lost friend. Surely everyone else who sat around her in the old, rickety house was thinking of nothing but the pain of the tattoo that would be burned into their forearms in mere minutes. Perhaps that was all they had been thinking about for months, ever since Sirius had held his secret meeting and sung the praises of the Dark Lord and his coming Mudblood purge.
Lily refused to join their conversations, competitions of ambition and strength that masked the weaknesses of mortal men unsure about which side to take in the brewing war. She had secluded herself in a corner, curled up in a plush chair with serpentine arms. She was wearing a luxurious black gown that hugged her every curve, arousing the attention of every man in the room and sure to win the favor of the Voldemort fellow of whom Sirius had spoken so fondly. She still didn’t look anything near pretty, at least as far as she was concerned, but she had fluffed her hair to the best of her ability and taken extra care in applying thick, dark liner to her cold green eyes.
The purchaser of the gown, her most prominent suitor, entered the room and came to her side.
“Don’t look so down, Evans.” Sirius smiled darkly, his sleeve rolled up to proudly display his year-old tattoo. It had been his fault that she decided to join up in the first place. He would make an idle claim that the Dark Lord would really value her skill in Charms, and that she could finally look into learning those illegal spells that had fascinated her for so long. Then, just to seal the deal, he would flash her a smile, causing the light to play in his eyes, the male equivalent of a woman fluttering her long lashes at her love interest. She ultimately found him difficult to resist.
“I’m fine.” Lily said shortly, but her longing stare into the thunderstorm that raged just beyond the ancient windowpane said otherwise.
“Look, I’m glad you finally came to your senses.” He said, looking down at her. “I just don’t know why you waited so long.”
“I just wanted to get things at Hogwarts done and over with, that’s all.” She and the others in her class had celebrated graduation just one short week ago. Severus had been ignoring her for three months at that point, following the incident in the dungeon, and she hadn’t heard from him since the class had disbanded. She supposed that whatever they had, if anything, really was over now.
“Well, trust me, you’ll get a better education here than what those crackpots at Hogwarts can offer you.” Sirius said silkily. “But you’re right, I suppose. No better time to start a new chapter.”
She watched him walk away, realizing that the ceremony would start in a few moments. She stood up, adjusting her dress slightly and putting on the heels she’d kicked off on the floor for the sake of comfort. As Sirius exited, she wondered absently how many people he’d killed so far.
Her stomach twinged slightly. The thought of murder bothered her slightly. She had never thought of herself as a bad person, just one who inevitably seemed to end up holding the worst hand at the table. She imagined standing over a Muggle, holding an innocent life in her hands.
There had to be something out there better than her life as is. Maybe this was it after all.
Across town, another initiation ceremony was taking place.
Severus couldn’t believe it was his turn. Narcissa stood beaming at his side, having just received her Order membership. Down the line, ready to join after his initiation was complete, stood his new friends, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. A dozen others waited with smiles on their faces.
Tomorrow, Severus would take his final test under Jiggers, the Apothecary owner and his personal mentor while he was still an intern. He would then be granted his certificate as a Healer, his specialty lying in the realm of dangerous poisons and potions gone awry. He would get his dream job at St. Mungo’s, bringing in enough money to furnish the small flat he and his fiancée had purchased last month. They were to be wed the following weekend in a simple ceremony.
The last time he had felt this happy, he had been holding his Hogwarts acceptance letter.
“Severus Snape.” Albus Dumbledore stood in front of him. “Are you prepared?”
“Yes, sir.” The eighteen-year-old wizard and recent Hogwarts graduate replied. He stuck out his arm as was customary, and Dumbledore shook his hand, holding it firmly. Behind him, Minerva McGonagall pointed her wand at their joined fingers, whispering an incantation. Severus felt his hand growing ever warmer, though never painfully so. They were bound in a Fidelius Charm.
“Severus Snape, you have come here tonight proclaiming your intention to join the fight against the growing threat of Lord Voldemort and his league of followers, the Death Eaters. Do you still wish to pursue this course of action?”
“I do, sir.” Severus replied. The temperature of their hands rose just slightly.
“As a member of the Order of the Phoenix, it will be your duty to defend our headquarters, keeping this location and the names of the other members of the Order a complete secret. You will take this information to your grave. Do you understand and agree?”
“You must be willing to lay down your life, if necessary, to protect the wizarding world from the schemes of dark wizards everywhere. Do you understand and agree?”
“Finally, you must vow to always use your magical talents for pure and noble intentions. Do you understand and agree?”
“I do, sir.” Severus felt his fingers start to burn somewhat uncomfortably.
“Then, Mr. Snape, welcome to the resistance.” Dumbledore shook his hand once, firmly, and then let go, and with the departure of his skin, the burning sensation dissipated as well.
He let his hand fall at his side. Dumbledore had moved on to Lupin. To his left, Narcissa squeezed his palm gingerly. “Does it still hurt?” She whispered, smiling softly.
“No.” He whispered back, hoping this behavior did not constitute rudeness.
“Me, either.” She grinned, squeezing his hand one more time.
Severus thought of his mother and father, who were likely still beaming over the announcement of his engagement to the beautiful Narcissa Black. If they knew what he had accomplished now!
Sadly, this would be one of the final blissful, peace-filled moments in his life for some time.
The quote “love is friendship set on fire” is credited to Jeremy Taylor.
What did you think of my Order of the Phoenix initiation ceremony? Oh, and I realize that the ending of the friendship between Severus and Lily went a little differently in this story; what are your thoughts on that?
I hope to find some comments from you in the review thread :)