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The morning sunshine heralded a surprisingly cheerful November day outside, but as usual, the Potions dungeon was dark and cold. The air was thick with gray smoke, the result of a botched Delirium Draught attempted by one of the Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw fifth-years from the previous lesson. Now, thirty more fifth-year students sat in three rows facing Professor Slughorn, Gryffindors on the left and Slytherins a comfortable distance away on the right. It would have been interesting for an observer to watch the variety of expressions on the students’ faces as Slughorn made his way through his carefully rehearsed introductory speech on the purposes and ingredients of the draught. Sirius Black sat in the back corner, resisting the urge to put his feet up on the table and doze off for the duration of the lesson. Remus Lupin, seated next to him, quietly took notes while keeping one eye on Sirius in case Slughorn noticed him in the midst of a nap. Severus Snape, who had chosen the furthest possible back row seat from Sirius and Remus, occasionally scribbled something in the margins of his textbook but mostly relaxed in his seat with an air of mild curiosity. Lily Evans sat in the front row, paying rapt attention to Slughorn whilst trying to pretend she couldn’t feel James Potter’s eyes boring straight into her back. Next to her, past the invisible house border on the Slytherin side, sat her best friend Lucy Malfoy, whose face was most interesting of all, not only because it was beautiful but also because her expression betrayed a different emotion altogether: true, honest-to-God worry.
You see, Lucy was in danger of failing Potions.
She tried to blame it on Sirius; well, Sirius and her parents. She and Sirius had been dating on and off for three years already, and her parents were starting to drop hints over dinner that she needed to give him a little push or two if that was what he needed to go on and propose to her. True, he wasn’t the most upstanding pureblood wizard who had expressed interest in her, but the Malfoys and Blacks were very close thanks to the impending union of her brother Lucius with Narcissa Black, and her parents weren’t particularly picky when it came to the future of their unwanted second child, at least as long as her mate satisfied the basic requirements. Lucy felt certain that Sirius loved her, but he was about as immature as they come, and she knew it would start a fight if she made a serious attempt to steer their conversations toward settling down. All of this made for a cumbersome burden for a fifteen-year-old girl, so of course her Potions coursework had suffered slightly in the process.
Not that she was actually kidding anyone. Sure, trying to tame Sirius Black was a little stressful, but the truth of the matter was that she was too grossed out by Potions to try to do well in the subject. She found it hard to appreciate the “quiet elegance” of a brewing potion, as Slughorn put it, when she had to cut up rattails and pound stinkbug larva into liquid form in order to achieve the final effect. She could barely understand how people could consider this to be magic, let alone wrap her mind around the finer details of becoming proficient in such an area. As a result, she had passed only half of the year’s lessons so far, and she had barely scraped by on most of those. Her only salvation had been Lily’s occasional hints, whispered urgently to her from the Gryffindor side. As she stared at the complex list of ingredients and procedures detailed on the page before her, she glanced at her best friend, hoping she could bail her out once again.
Slughorn completed his lecture at last and set the class to work. Lucy arranged the cauldron before her and checked the list for the first step. Slice wings of monarch butterfly into long, thin pieces. She completed the traditional opening ritual of potion making, dropping several cups of water into the bottom of the heavy, black cauldron and setting it to simmer, and drew her knife as she turned to the dead butterfly sitting before her on the table. She cut the wings up into near-perfect splinters and dropped them into the cauldron, where they contentedly drifted down to the bottom of the cauldron. Lucy glanced back to the list. Add four frog legs and stir. Wrinkling her nose at the thought of handling dead frog parts, she dropped the legs neatly into the brew and gave it a quick stir, anxiously waiting for the liquid to turn purple as instructed by the book.
Instead, however, she was greeted with a curtain of white smoke rising off the top of the liquid. Panicking, she tried stirring more, but it only made the effect worse. Lucy glanced around the room, noting that she was the only one having trouble with the draught. Even Peter Pettigrew had figured it out, though his success could probably have been attributed to Remus’s vigilant eye. She looked over at Lily, who was now watching Lucy’s cauldron with concern but offered no solution for her friend.
Sighing, Lucy tried to ignore Slughorn, who was watching her with an air of disappointment, and looked at her textbook again to make sure she hadn’t made a mistake. Slice up butterfly wings, add frog legs, stir. Wait. Just there, between steps one and two: Allow potion to simmer until wings have dissolved and water appears iridescent. Oops. But it was such a small step; how could it have affected the results so profoundly? Lucy looked up again, noticing that the group next to her was already on step four.
Lucy started, glancing behind her, where Professor Slughorn stood with his arms crossed.
“Yes, sir?” She answered timidly.
“Your Delirium Draught seems to have run into a few complications.” The professor attempted to look firm, but it was difficult to recognize criticism when it issued from an otherwise polite demeanor. “In fact, as I recall, you seem to have been performing consistently below standards for much of the class so far. I’m afraid I’ve become slightly discouraged with regard to your future in Potions.”
Lucy tried very hard not to smirk. A future in Potions? I’ll pass, thanks.
“As it is, I have to be honest with you, Miss Malfoy. If your grades don’t improve, I simply can’t recommend that you be allowed to sit for your O.W.L.s in this subject. I suggest you put more time into your studies. As for now, please clean up your area and share with Miss Evans.”
Lucy begrudgingly did as he asked, scrubbing the now sludgy mess out of her heavy black cauldron, and took the empty seat next to Lily. “What am I going to do?” She said dejectedly. “If I don’t take my O.W.L., I won’t be allowed to move to move to sixth-year Potions. And you need Potions in order to do basically anything.”
“You could be a bored housewife.” Lily suggested.
“Very funny.” Lucy glared at her. “Seriously, Lil, can’t you help me?”
“I don’t have any time, Lucy, not with Prefect duties and the Slug Club.” Lily sighed, dropping coriander leaves into her draught and looking down at her friend. “You know, though, now that I think about it, I do know someone who might be able to help you.”
“If you’re talking about Remus, I think he’s got his hands full with Sirius and Peter.”
“No, not him.” Lily glanced behind her to the Slytherin side of the room. In the back corner, working quietly amongst the chatter of his housemates, Severus had just completed a perfect Delirium Draught with ten minutes to spare until the end of the period. Satisfied, he scooped a small portion of it into a vial to show Professor Slughorn and calmly began to pack up his things.
“You’re joking.” Lucy bit her lip. “Lil, I know he’s kind of your friend, but I can’t have word going around that I’m spending my evenings with him, even if it is for purely academic purposes. It’d be social suicide.”
“You not making it to sixth-year Potions would also be social suicide.” Lily replied with a terse smile, which quickly softened. “Besides, he’s probably available on weekends as well.”
Lucy glanced back at Severus. If it’ll wipe that look of pity off Slughorn’s face, so be it.
Meet me in the common room at seven. Bring your textbook.
Lucy glanced down at the note in her hand again. Lily had successfully halted Severus on his way out of Potions the other day and convinced him to take Lucy on as a pupil. He had passed her the piece of parchment on their way into Charms the next period. She wondered what Lily had said to persuade him into spending his Saturday evening over a bubbling cauldron with her.
She’s very pretty, Severus… she’s a nice girl, Severus… I think she puts out, Severus.
Yes, likely that last one. Damn.
She was now seated in the common room as requested. The clock read five minutes to seven. She pulled her lavender tank top down and her black sweatpants up, adjusting her position on the overstuffed green couch as she waited for him to appear. Most men would have arrived early for a chance to spend time with her, but this wasn’t a date, and Severus didn’t strike her as being much like ‘most men’. Thus, she attempted to look patient as she waited.
A door opened upstairs where the boys slept and she heard footsteps on the stairs. He stepped out of the shadows at the bottom and took a seat next to her, still wearing his school uniform. “Good, you remembered.” He commented, arranging his set of ingredients around his cauldron.
“Of course I did.” She murmured, a little offended that he was surprised to see her at the appointed place and time. When he didn’t respond, she looked down at her lap, where her textbook lay, barely ever opened except for when she was actually in class. “Oh.”
He began cutting up caterpillars, dropping them into the cauldron.
Lucy consulted her textbook. “There are no caterpillars in the Delirium Draught.” She frowned.
“Good observation.” He remarked, not looking up. “This is for a Forgetfulness Potion.”
Lucy looked back at the text. “We aren’t supposed to attempt that for three weeks.”
“I know.” He finally looked at her. “I’m a bit ahead of the class. Not that it concerns you.” He finished adding the caterpillars and turned to her as they simmered softly. “Let me see the book.”
As she handed it over, Lucy noticed for the first time that he hadn’t brought his own. He can’t possibly be able to do all of these from memory – can he?
Severus pulled a quill out of his pocket, turned to the Delirium Draught, and began to cross things off and write in new instructions.
“Wait, what are you doing?” Lucy grabbed for the book, but he held it out of her reach.
“A favor for you.” He replied, moving to the next potion. “Trust me, just follow these instructions and you won’t ever have any trouble with Slughorn again.”
Lucy bit her lip, allowing him to work his way through the rest of the text. When he was finished, he handed it back to her. She opened it up, looking over the changes. I see. He doesn’t need the book. Bit useless with all these changes, really. He should just write his own.
“Thanks.” She said softly, glancing over at the cauldron. “So, since you’re using yours for the Forgetfulness Potion, should I go get mine, or—?”
He met her eyes. “No, we’re done here. You’ve got everything you need in there.”
“Oh.” She stood up, feeling rather foolish and at the same time wondering why she cared how she looked in front of someone as unimportant as Severus Snape. She crossed the room to head up to her dormitory, but as she stepped onto the first stair, she paused, looking back at him.
If I’m really going to show Slughorn a thing or two, I need more help than that, don’t I?
He looked up at her, surprised she was still there.
“It’s not the instructions.” She tried not to blush. “I mean, it is, but… it’s more than that. No offense, but Potions completely grosses me out. I just don’t get how people can do it.” She tried to read his expression, but he maintained a straight face. “You sort of seem to understand it, though, and I was wondering if maybe you could… I don’t know, walk me through a recipe or two, just to help me on my way a bit.” She leaned against the stair railing. “Are you free tomorrow night as well?”
He leaned back slightly against the sofa. “Erm, yes, I suppose.”
She nodded. “Excellent.” She turned to go up the stairs, but then he spoke again.
“You want to meet here, then?”
She glanced back at him. “Sure.” Then she turned and headed into her dorm, afraid that if she walked too slowly, he might change his mind and cancel their… appointment.
When she came down into the common room at seven, he was already there.
He had arrived at 6:30 this time. After all, he had no other plans, and he might as well make sure everything was ready to go when she turned up. He set the heavy cauldron in front of the couch and then opened his bag of ingredients, laying each one out on the couch next to him, between where he was and where she would be seated. He was surprised to suddenly feel a bit nervous at the thought of her sitting so close to him. Last night he had detected the slightest hint of her perfume when she played with her hair. He had even noticed that she looked better without the layer of makeup she usually wore during the day, her blue eyes no longer competing with her thick eyeliner and black mascara. He blinked, realizing that he didn’t really know this girl, who had shared a House with him for nearly five years now, and here he was practically fantasizing about her.
He was thinking about how he’d never fantasized about anyone but Lily before when she entered.
“Hey.” She offered, smiling slightly as she took her place on the couch, markedly friendlier this time. Last night hadn’t been so bad, and she figured he might not be so quick to get rid of her if she acted like she didn’t hate every minute of being with him. Which I don’t, surprisingly enough.
“Hey.” He replied softly, and then cleared his throat. “So, I figured we’d review the Delirium Draught tonight, and then maybe go over the Anxiety Antidote afterwards so you can do it in class tomorrow.” He looked down at the cauldron. “You know, if you have time.”
“I’ve got time.” She replied. “Thank you.”
They began working on the Delirium Draught together. Severus carefully showed her how to slice the butterfly wings, which she already knew, but she appreciated his demonstration of how to mix them in and let them dissolve, finally recognizing the hue the textbook had described when the water had fully absorbed them. They went to the frog legs next, stirring and stirring until the water turned a deep purple. The colors are quite nice when you get them right, Lucy observed silently. As she paused, Severus proceeded with the next step.
“Why are you being so nice to me?” She suddenly blurted, causing him to halt.
“What do you mean? I’ve got no problem with you.” He looked at her, puzzled. “You’re Lily’s friend, you’ve never done anything to bother me… there’s no reason not to be nice to you. Well, except for the fact that you’re dating Sirius Black, but until now he hasn’t been mentioned, so all is well with me.” His expression darkened just slightly all the same.
“That’s it.” She almost laughed with realization. “That’s why you wanted to get rid of me.”
“Get rid of you?” He shook his head. “You mean last night? I thought the revisions would help.”
“Are you kidding? You barely said two words to me, except to send me away.”
“Right, that’s what I wanted to do.” He sighed, looking at her. “Fine. The revisions were an attempt to end our meeting early, I admit it. But I only did it because I thought you’d want to get back to your life. You don’t want to spend time with me.” He paused. “I’m not even sure why you insisted on this lesson, really.”
“I need your help, that’s why.” She replied. “You haven’t been so bad, anyway.”
“Fine.” He nodded, going back to the potion.
“Fine.” She agreed softly, watching him for a moment. It was sort of hard to see him the way Sirius always described him, so entranced by his work that it hardly seemed like anything less than a hobby for him. He must have already brewed this potion several times, between his pre-class preparation sessions and his time performing in class for Slughorn’s approval, and yet he seemed newly amazed by the delicacy of the brew. Quiet elegance indeed.
After a few minutes, it occurred to Lucy that she wouldn’t learn much if she just watched him do all the steps. She watched for the water to boil as indicated in the text, and then she picked up an earthworm, the next ingredient. As she leaned over to drop it in, he turned back from the cauldron, reaching for the worm to complete the step himself. Their faces halted an inch from one another, their eyes meeting. Neither of them moved for a moment, too surprised to know what to do next. Finally, Lucy pulled away, muttering an apology and turning back to her book to avoid looking at him and falling in love with Potions again.
They worked their way through the draught, and Lucy showed promise when guided by Severus’s patience and thorough examination of the procedures for the Anxiety Antidote. When it was completed, Severus drew a small vial from his pocket, filling it up and handing it to her. “You know, just in case you get nervous when Slughorn starts breathing down your neck tomorrow.” He said quietly.
“Thanks.” She slipped it into her pocket. “Same time tomorrow night?”
“You’ll do fine. You won’t need my help.” He shook his head. “But we can meet if you like.”
“Please. One session isn’t enough to fix me.” She smiled. “Good night, Severus.”
“’Night.” He replied, realizing he had forgotten her name. He looked over at the couch, where she’d accidentally left her Potions book behind. He opened it to the inside front cover.
Good night, Lucy.
The air in the potions dungeon seemed slightly less stale when Lucy stepped in the following morning. She took her seat with a smile, ignoring the curious look on Lily’s face as she set up her cauldron and arranged the ingredients for the Anxiety Antidote on the table before her. As Slughorn went through his lecture on the history and purpose of the potion, Lucy instead focused on her textbook, reading through the revised instructions one last time.
“So, how did it go?” Lily asked, setting her cauldron up as well.
“I guess we’ll see.” Lucy smiled at her. Then, as Slughorn concluded, she began working on the potion.
Step one: Cut wild mushrooms into thick thin slices. Add to cauldron. She carefully cut three large mushrooms into delicate pieces and dropped them into the cauldron. Step two: Add four drops of dragon’s blood. The brew should sizzle briefly. She uncorked the small vial of blue liquid and let four drops slip out and into the mixture below. As expected, the mixture sizzled like hot grease for a few moments before settling back down.
Behind her, Severus watched with a slight smile, noting her new proficiency.
At the end of the lesson, Lucy and Lily tied for second place, with Severus’s potion winning as usual because of his speed. Lucy could hardly believe the results, and judging by the looks on her classmates’ faces, they were equally surprised. She made a mental note to ask Severus about improving her speed once they had gotten through the remainder of the year’s assignments and packed up her things, getting ready to head to Charms.
“Lucy, tell me it’s not true.” She heard Sirius’s voice tinged with laughter behind her.
“Sorry, but I have in fact decided that lesbianism is preferable to dating you.” She grinned, turning around into his embrace, greeting Remus and Peter as they approached behind him.
“Hah!” Sirius laughed again, in his usual barking manner. “As hot and appealing as either of those realities sound, I am referring to the ridiculous rumor going around that my gorgeous girlfriend is spending her evenings doing remedial Potions with Snivellus.”
The smile dropped off of Lucy’s face. “I am, actually.” She gestured to the sample of her potion she’d submitted to Slughorn. “He’s responsible for this beautiful creation, to tell you the truth.”
“Couldn’t you get Lily to help you?” Remus frowned slightly.
“What? She delegated.” Lucy shrugged. “It’s nothing. He’s nice, he helps me with Potions. The end.”
“Whatever.” Sirius replied. “Anyway, I’m sneaking off to Hogsmeade with James to grab some Butterbeer tonight. You lovely ladies want to join us?” He gestured to Lily in an attempt to include her in their conversation.
“Ugh, no thanks.” Lily wrinkled her nose, demonstrating her reticence to hang out with James Potter, especially if it meant breaking school rules.
“I’ll pass, too.” Lucy glanced at Lily, agreeing with her sentiments on James. “Besides, I already set up another tutoring session tonight. It would be rude of me to cancel now.”
“Fine. But you’d better be careful, or else worse rumors concerning you and Snivellus might start.” Sirius laughed again, kissing her on the cheek and strolling off with the Marauders in tow.
“I dunno why he has to be so mean.” Lily frowned, picking up her bag. “Anyway, you ready to go?”
Lucy nodded. “I just wanted—“ She looked around the room, trying to find Severus, whom she wanted to thank one more time. However, he had disappeared. “Nevermind. Let’s go.”
The two girls strolled out into the hall, chatting about Lucy’s new achievement. They were coming up on the grand staircase when Lily suddenly checked her watch. “We’re going to be late.” She groaned. “Come on, let’s go the back way.”
The girls turned and walked back down the corridor, heading out around the outside walkway and up alongside one of the lower towers. Lucy had discovered this route to Charms while seeking some extra time outside between classes on the first warm day of the year. She especially liked the beautiful view of the lake that it offered. In fact, she was in the midst of admiring how the sunlight hit the lake’s surface when Lily stopped right in front of her.
“Luce.” She pointed down below them, at one of the greenhouses. Normally, the windows were steamy and covered with vines, but at this time of year, the vines were mostly gone, and the hour offered a few rays of sunshine that penetrated the windows, allowing for a clear view inside.
Incidently, that was where Sirius Black now stood, busily snogging a Ravenclaw before their eyes.
“Are you all right?”
His words shook her from her busy reservoir of thoughts. Lucy looked around. It was evening, in the Slytherin Common Room. She was sitting on the couch, her normally lustrous blonde hair looking plain in a ponytail, and Severus was sitting next to her, having paused to look at her before adding another ingredient to the Common Cold Concoction brewing steadily before them.
“Yes.” She nodded, more to physically clear her head than anything, forcing a smile. “I’m fine.”
“You just seem a bit distracted.” He observed.
Thank you, Captain Obvious. She sighed. Apparently he wouldn’t take no for an answer. “It’s just that my boyfriend is an asshole. He goes on and on about how beautiful and perfect I am, and then I catch him snogging some random Ravenclaw girl with huge breasts in the greenhouses on my way to Charms. I just don’t know how I can be expected to charm some guy into marrying me if he can’t even stay faithful to me for five minutes! Honestly, what am I going to tell my parents now?” She exclaimed breathlessly. Judging by Severus’s expression, her voice had gotten a bit too loud, indicating that she had been ranting to her poor, helpless Potions tutor. Oops. “I-I’m sorry.”
Severus cleared his throat, returning to the potion in an attempt to conceal his smile. Finally, someone else who saw Sirius for the selfish prat he truly was. “It’s no trouble.” He replied.
“No, really, I didn’t mean to just unload my life on you.” She added with a sad, apologetic smile, feeling tears welling up at the back of her throat. Oh, no. But her concern was too late – a couple of tears rolled down one cheek, and she was forced to hastily wipe them away, lest he see them.
“Don’t cry.” She looked up to find him studying her. “You’re right. He’s a jerk. You can do better.” He suddenly looked down at his hands, slightly embarrassed.
“Thanks.” She smiled a little wider, even through the tears. “That’s the nicest thing I’ve ever heard. No one else thinks I could do any better than Sirius Black. Especially not my family.”
“Trust me.” He said, giving the potion another stir. “You seem like a nice enough girl, Lucy. I’m sure one day you’ll find someone who will treat you better than he did.”
Lucy found she liked the way her name sounded in his voice. Still, she was forced to correct him. “Does.”
He paused in his stirring. “You haven’t broken up with him?”
She looked down. “No.” She sighed. “I mean, I don’t know if I’m going to. I’ve been trying to tie him down for a while, at least as far as spending time with me instead of his friends. It’s not like I’ve never suspected that maybe he had a girl on the side. I’ve just never actually seen it before.” She picked at her nails. “I’m sure he’ll come around if I lay down the law.”
Severus locked eyes with her. “He won’t. Besides, you shouldn’t give him the chance, anyway.”
“You just want to see him unhappy, don’t you? This isn’t even about me.” She frowned.
“Seems to me that you’ll be the one who’s unhappy, you know, since he has ‘girls on the side’.”
She almost got angry, but she was still forced to admit that he was right. She had more pressing issues as it was – she would have to put this potion together in class tomorrow, and so far he had been letting her pout while he did all the work.
“Here’s the newt tail.” She offered, picking it up and handing it to him for the next step.
He suddenly felt bad for deliberately snapping at her. “You know, a few sessions ago, I don’t think you would even have had the nerve to touch this thing.” He smiled slightly. “Nice work.”
She returned the smile, trying to drown her thoughts in the aqua hue of the potion before her.
Severus and Lucy continued to meet, though they spread their sessions out to three times a week instead of every night as Lucy’s skills improved. As the need for instruction waned in favor of mere practice, their conversations switched to more personal topics. She learned that his father beat him and his mother and hated the idea of his son doing any magic at all. He learned that her older brother and father ignored her on good days and treated her with thinly veiled disrespect on bad ones. They continued to grow closer as they exchanged tales of Sirius Black’s idiocy. Lucy found herself spending time outside the common room with him, even sitting with him for lunch, though not without pausing to say hello to Lily and Remus and shoot Sirius an angry glare beforehand. Severus noted with delight that Sirius left both of them alone as long as they were together.
They were discussing their mutual dislike of Quidditch over a batch of Snoring Solution one rainy night when Severus decided that Lucy had learned all he was allowed to teach her.
“What, tired of seeing me already?” Lucy asked, slightly afraid to hear his answer.
“No, of course not.” He laughed softly, and she visibly relaxed. “It’s just that we’ve covered the entire curriculum. You learned too fast. You don’t need a Potions tutor anymore.”
Lucy glanced at the potion, thinking. She scooted a little closer to him. “What about next year?”
“Next year?” He frowned slightly. “Lucy, I can’t personally walk you through every potion. What are you going to do years from now, when we’re all out of school and you have to make something for your child’s stomachache?”
“Maybe you can help me.” She met his eyes.
“You really expect me to be around that long?” He laughed, but his skin tingled just slightly.
“I hope so.” Suddenly her lips were on his, kissing him all the way down to the quickening beats of his heart. As if they had rehearsed this, she placed her hands on his face, tangling her fingers in the hair toward the back of his skull. He kissed her back, placing his hands on her waist and sliding them up toward the middle of her back, holding her delicately. After a few passionate moments, Lucy came up for air at last. They sat staring at one another for a moment before she spoke.
“S-sorry.” She couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. “I’ve just been wanting to do that—“
“—For a while?” He finished, smiling shyly at her. “Yeah, I’ve thought about it myself.”
It was Lucy that thought far enough ahead to turn off the heat under the cauldron before their lips met again.
Although she wasn’t hungry, Lucy came down early for breakfast on Monday morning. She had successfully avoided seeing the Marauders all weekend by purposely putting off all the essays due for this week until Saturday and feigning a bad cold so she could stay in bed on Sunday. However, Monday had to eventually come, and with it came the end of her excuses for not talking to Sirius and her other Gryffindor associates. She had been so tormented by this thought that she had been unable to sleep at all the night before and had resigned herself to coming down to the Great Hall before most of the other students so she could think in peace.
Technically, she had cheated on her boyfriend, even though said boyfriend was a cheating scumbag himself, one that she had yet to properly confront. She and Severus hadn’t really talked since their romantic moment on Friday evening, and she wasn’t sure if he was avoiding her on purpose or if he too thought she was busy wiping her nose and writing essays all weekend. I hope he doesn’t think I’m avoiding him, she thought, this newfound third option causing her stomach to turn a bit.
Suddenly, a shriek from above interrupted her thoughts. The morning owls had begun to filter in, dropping off letters and packages in their wake. Lucy looked around for the first time since sitting down, noticing that students were now seated all around her. Blimey, how long have I been sitting here? She frowned, glancing over at the Gryffindor table. Sure enough, the Marauders were sitting there, but Lily wasn’t yet among them, and they hadn’t noticed her either. Good.
Unexpectedly, a letter dropped into her lap.
Lucy picked it up, checking to ensure that it was indeed addressed to her, and opened it slowly. She recognized her mother’s tidy cursive at once.
Hope you are doing well in your classes.
I’m sure you’ve heard, but your brother proposed at Thanksgiving.
We’re having a party over the holiday, and I don’t want any family arguments or jealousy to detract from the festivities, so don’t bother coming home unless you have a ring of your own.
See you at the end of term.
She blinked, unsure of what to think. Naturally, she didn’t like spending lots of time with her family anyway, and she couldn’t imagine being jealous of anyone who had to spend her life with Lucius. Still, it was a little hurtful to see her mother’s disappointment made so plain.
“Is that your invitation, then?” A voice said softly. Lucy looked up to see Narcissa Black standing in front of her, looking like a porcelain doll as usual. She noted the brilliant square-cut emerald surrounded by diamonds on a white gold band, looking cumbersome yet elegant on Narcissa’s delicate finger. This ring was part of a set of treasured jewels that had been passed down in pureblood Slytherin families for years, and so naturally there had been no hesitation in choosing it to symbolize the joining of the houses of Malfoy and Black.
“Oh, right, to your engagement party.” Lucy offered a small smile. Bella’s got to be driving herself mad with jealousy over that rock. “Erm, yes, but I don’t think I’m going to make it. I’ve… I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on over the break.”
“Oh.” Narcissa said quietly. “Well… that’s too bad. I wish you could come.”
Lucy nodded, wishing their exchange could be over. Narcissa was a nice girl, but to say they were friends would be a bit of a stretch.
“At least you’ll have Severus to keep you company.” Narcissa added.
“What?” Lucy looked up, surprised.
“Lucius invited him, but he said he couldn’t go because he had agreed to help Slughorn with potions inventory or something.” She met Lucy’s eyes. “Between you and me, I think he’s just not the party type.”
Lucy laughed softly. “You’re probably right.”
Narcissa looked like she might sit down, but then she looked up to see Severus entering the Hall and heading over to where they were. “I saw you two the other night.” She added softly with a slight smile. “I know he’s a little unorthodox, but it’s sort of sweet, I think.”
Lucy gave her an embarrassed smile, not knowing quite what to say.
“Anyway, I’ll see you around.” Narcissa said finally. “Happy Christmas.”
“You too.” Lucy said, watching her go, feeling her aversive emotions toward the girl who planned to become Mrs. Malfoy in the near future melt around the edges. Narcissa Black may have been just another stuck-up, shallow pureblood girl, but Lucy had to admit that it took courage to make such a long-lasting decision and face such high expectations at the tender age of sixteen.
“Hey.” Severus said, sitting down beside her and pouring himself a cup of pumpkin juice. He almost kissed her on the cheek in greeting, but settled for reaching for her hand under the table instead, remembering that whatever they had together had not yet been made public. “I’m going to assume that’s not your invitation to the party of the year.” He gestured to the letter.
“Good guess.” She sighed. “Frankly, I’m sort of grateful she gave me two weeks’ notice before telling me not to bother getting on the train.”
“Are you upset?” He asked, confused. She had always been so negative about her family.
“No.” She shook her head, smiling at him. “Especially now that I know you’ll be staying here, too.” She squeezed his hand slightly. “But why can’t Slughorn do his own inventory?”
“Hmm?” He took a sip of juice. “Oh, that. I’m not really helping him.”
Lucy met his eyes, puzzled.
“You know how I am about my family.” He said, lowering his voice slightly. “I never go home over the holidays. I wish I could stay here over the summer, too.”
“Oh.” Lucy smiled sympathetically. “Yeah, I kind of do too.”
“Well, it’s about time for class.” Severus observed. “You ready to go?”
“Sure.” She replied, standing up and getting her things together.
They were about to leave when they found their path blocked by Sirius and the others.
“How come you’ve been avoiding me, Luce?” Sirius said, cocking his head at her.
“Gee, Sirius, I would tell you, but that would require that I talk to you.” Lucy frowned, attempting to push past him. “Leave me alone.”
“Fine.” He said, thrusting his hand out and pressing it against the doorway so as to block her escape. “Enough games. Lily filled me in already.” Lucy now noticed Lily, who appeared to have been hiding behind Remus for the entirety of breakfast. “Look, whatever you saw, it meant nothing. You know you’re my main squeeze.”
“There’s just one problem.” Lucy glared at Sirius. “I don’t want to be your girlfriend anymore.”
“Come on, Lucy.” Sirius appeared to be growing impatient. “Do you really want to hear me say it? Fine. I’m sorry.” He placed his hands on either side of her face. “Okay?” Suddenly, he leaned in and kissed her.
The curse came from behind her. “Reducto!”
Sirius was knocked backwards onto the floor, directly across from Severus, who was holding his wand straight out in front of him and gritting his teeth.
“Snivellus!” Sirius growled, enraged. James and Peter jumped to his aid, all three of them pointing their wands at Severus.
“Stop!” Lily cried, stepping between the two groups. “There’s no need for all of this. No hard feelings.” She looked desperately back at her best friend. “Right, Lucy?”
Suddenly, Lucy needed no time to think.
“No.” She said firmly, turning to Severus. “Thank you. For everything.” She looked back at Sirius. “Screw you.” She said, giving the entire group of Gryffindors an icy look. “Come on, we need to get to class.” She said, speaking again to Severus, who nodded and escorted her out of the Hall, her entire group of friends still staring at the two of them in disbelief.
Lucy couldn’t recall ever having been more excited for the start of Christmas vacation. She wasn’t being forced to go home and see her family, and she wouldn’t have to uncomfortably avoid the Marauders and Lily for a whole month. Best of all, she had Severus all to herself for the month, with nothing to do but snog and get to know one another better. These joyful thoughts filled her mind as she walked around the castle, wishing friends she passed a happy Christmas and looking for Severus. She poked around the common room and looked around each floor as she climbed the Grand Staircase, wondering where on earth he could be. Finally, she found him on the Astronomy Tower, staring out through the softly falling snow at the Hogwarts Express.
“Hey.” She smiled, perching next to him. “Saying good riddance?”
He said nothing for a moment, unable to pry his eyes away. Lucy followed his gaze, surprised to find that he was staring at Lily. James had his arm around her, and they were engaged in a last-minute snowball fight with the rest of the Marauders. Oh, right, they’re together now, aren’t they? Lucy realized. She had heard the rumor, but simply couldn’t believe it. Yet here they were, right before her eyes.
But why did Sev care?
“Mmm.” He said at last, breaking up her thoughts. “You want to get late breakfast?”
She nodded, hoping he didn’t notice her faded smile. “Sure.”
“You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”
He looked up from his chair, a nicked copy of Most Potente Potions laying open in his lap. Lucy was standing across from him in her pajamas, her arms folded, the two of them alone. The common room was perfectly dark and silent, except for the crackle of the fireplace.
“Who?” He said weakly, trying to buy time.
“Lily.” She sighed, letting her arms fall. She paused before continuing. “How long?”
“As long as I can remember.” He admitted quietly, surprising her with his candidness. “We’re neighbors. She was my first friend. We got on fine, at least until they got in the way.”
“The boys.” Lucy nodded. “Erm… does she know?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I’ve never tried to hide it, I suppose, but I’ve never said it outright, either. I can’t. Potter and Black would put me on the ground.”
Lucy stood still for a moment, and then took the sofa across from him.
“Anyway, she’d never look at me twice. She and Potter got together two days ago.”
Lucy looked up. “She hates him.”
“Not as much as she hates me.” Severus closed the book, looking at her.
Lucy stared back at him, puzzled.
“It was right after our Defense Against the Dark Arts midterm. I was just out there, minding my own business, and they came up over the hill and started torturing me again. Well, Lily caught them, and she yelled at Potter to leave me alone. And—it just sort of slipped out.”
“Mudblood. I called her a Mudblood.”
“What?” She asked more urgently, sitting up straight.
“Yeah. I don’t know why I said it. I was just embarrassed.” He looked like he was about to cry.
“Sev—” She felt a pang of sympathy, moving closer to him.
“No, I deserve it. It was a terrible thing to say.” He shook his head. “I don’t even buy into all that blood purity nonsense.” He added softly.
“I know.” She said quietly. “But I’m sorry, all the same.”
He looked at her, not used to being treated with kindness. “Lucy, I do love her.”
Lucy nodded, sitting back a little.
“No, wait.” He placed a hand over hers. “But—I really like you, too.” He looked into her eyes. “Not as an alternative or anything, just… for you. You’re amazing.” He smiled just slightly. “You really don’t give yourself enough credit.”
Lucy laughed softly, looking back into his face. “Thanks.”
“The point is, I’d be willing to give this a try, if you’ll have me.” He said finally.
Lucy just watched him for a moment, knowing he needed an answer after going out on a limb like that but wanting to make sure she gave him the right one. Though she hadn’t thought much about stringing Sirius along, she felt that Severus deserved better from her. Illuminated by the gentle firelight, he looked so different from how she’d seen him for the past five years, hiding away in the back of classes to escape the derision of her old friends. Now everything about him emanated patience, precision, and a strange sort of beauty. The others surely had never seen him like this, his fingers lighting gently over his potions instruments, his eyes carefully searching for the slightest change in color in a brew. She had seen those same eyes search her, appreciating things about her that no one had ever noted as beautiful. He searched her now, craving a response, and she shook herself from her reverie to deliver it to him.
“Yeah.” She nodded at last. “I—I really like you, Sev.” She kissed him for a long moment, placing a hand gently on his face, taking in every second of it. You’ll be mine. I’ll take good care of you, I promise. I know you’ve been neglected before, but you’ll never feel that way again, not as long as you have me. Her kisses made these quiet promises to his lips, to his broken heart.
Inside, she pleaded with him to make the same promises back to her.
On Christmas Eve, the wizarding world glittered with lights and music, and people bustled from shop to shop to make their final purchases. Small children whined to be allowed to go home and open gifts early. Old women ate toffee and gossiped while their husbands bought one another celebratory Butterbeers. Peter Pettigrew checked his watch, hoping his shift at the Magical Menagerie was almost over, but he still had nearly three hours to go.
Remus Lupin shivered alone in a dark building, having resigned himself to his transformation with no thought of what to do about heat. He dared not set a fire, fearing he might accidentally allow the entire place to be engulfed, him included. Soon, however, the familiar convulsions began, and he no longer noticed the cold.
James Potter sat up in his room, sharing a stolen bottle of Firewhiskey with his friend Sirius Black, who had come to the Potters for Christmas as usual. After all, his family’s idea of Christmas cheer was outfitting the house elves with jingle bells and setting his mother’s dogs after them. Mr. and Mrs. Potter had noticed that James seemed slightly more spirited than usual this year, whereas Sirius seemed to lack most of his usual charisma.
Lily Evans helped her mother light candles around their home. The power had gone out in Spinner’s End once more, but fortunately the elaborate pot roast Mrs. Evans had prepared for dinner was done. As she sat down to eat, Lily looked out the window at the small house down the lane where she had once found a friend. As usual, it was pitch dark.
On the other side of town, Lucius Malfoy raised a toast to his bride-to-be, who blushed at all of the attention and tried to forget how her tight dress was making it difficult for her to breathe. As he sipped from his glass of champagne, the new tattoo on Lucius’s left arm twinged slightly. After a week of the pain, he had figured out how to hide it behind a cold expression, but it bothered him nonetheless. He wondered when it would stop hurting.
Hogwarts was no exception to the holiday. The small group of faculty who remained were gathered in the Great Hall with a handful of students, enjoying an elaborate spread. The house elves dutifully trimmed the tree, making sure each and every ornament was in its proper place. The giant squid fell into hibernation beneath the icy surface of the lake.
Deep in the dungeons, a skinny boy with stringy black hair slept on the sofa. A slender blonde cuddled up next to him, laying her head against his chest and drifting into sleep along with him.
They were perfectly alone, and yet neither of them felt very alone at all.
Several things had changed for Lucy by April of her fifth year. First, she was no longer the worst student in Potions, having gladly handed her title over to Peter Pettigrew, who was barely passing with the help of Remus and James. Second, she no longer really noticed that her former best friend, who had provided her with treasures like her first piece of hand-me-down Muggle clothing, hadn’t spoken to her or even looked her in the eye in weeks. Third, she had finally gotten used to having a boyfriend who was essentially the polar opposite of Sirius Black.
For the first few weeks, his hand had visibly tightened around hers every time they’d entered the Great Hall or a class where Sirius and his friends were present. She could sense his nerves tensing up as he readied himself for attack, and pangs of pity assaulted her heart as she realized how long he had been conditioned to react this way to human interaction. However, if her old friends still held grudges against her for her defection, they at least respected her enough to leave the two of them alone. Sirius and James were occasionally unable to resist shouting insults at Severus over their shoulders as they passed in the corridor, but there had been no physical altercations since Christmas, a change that Lucy suspected was due at least in part to Lily.
After another blissfully smear-free day, Lucy and Severus were now sitting across from one another on his bed, taking turns reading to one another out of Brave New World. Lucy had discovered soon after meeting Severus that he had acquired a secret and vast collection of Muggle literature, a pastime that served him well in his unusually solitary life. When they had begun spending more time together, she had asked him to let her read some of his favorites, and now reading the novels out loud together had become a regular occurrence for them.
“Well, that’s the end of chapter six.” Severus closed the book after carefully folding down one corner of the page to mark their place. “It’s getting a bit late.”
“Yeah.” Lucy nodded. “It’s too bad. This one is very good.”
“I like it.” He agreed. “It’s very sad, though.”
She scooted a bit closer to him. “That’s all right. I’m still enjoying reading it with you.”
He looked up at her, midnight black eyes softening slightly as they met her blue ones. “I’m glad. I’ve never met anyone else in Slytherin who seemed like they could appreciate these things.”
She smiled, taking the book and examining the cover art. “Speaking of which, I think I’ve got some news you might appreciate.” She said softly.
“This.” She pulled an envelope out of her pocket. “It’s the result from my Potions O.W.L.”
In truth, it was a miracle she had even been allowed to sit for the exam. With Severus’s help, though, she had managed to turn Slughorn’s looks of disappointment into proud, beaming smiles. Still, the test had been brutal. If she hadn’t devoted most of her study time to reviewing Severus’s instructions instead of memorizing the textbook’s standard recipes, she would have likely scraped by with only an Acceptable, if she’d even passed at all.
He gently took it from her, sticking his thumb under the broken seal and pulling out the letter within. “Exceeds Expectations.” He grinned, looking back at her. “Lucy.”
“I know. I can do N.E.W.T. with you next year now.” She smiled. “It’s all because of you, Sev.”
“No, this is you.” He handed the envelope back to her. “You sold yourself short when I met you. You’re not nearly as stupid or shallow as you imagine.”
She laughed softly.
“I’m being serious.” He said quietly. “You should be very proud. I know I am.”
“Thanks.” She blushed slightly. “Personally, though, I’m glad you wound up being more than just my Potions tutor.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty happy about that myself.”
She stood up, smiling gently at him. “Well, I’ll let you get to bed.” She placed her hand softly on his face and kissed him, moving to the door.
“Oh, wait.” He stood up as well, turning to her. “I almost forgot. I’ve got some news too.”
“What news?” She asked.
“You know Mr. Jiggers down at the Apothecary, right?”
“Sure.” All of the Hogwarts students bought their potions ingredients there each summer. The shop was co-owned by Mr. Slug and Mr. Jiggers, but their personalities couldn’t be further apart. Mr. Slug had an endless sense of humor and constantly hung around the front of the shop, eager to greet the customers. Mr. Jiggers, on the other hand, preferred to spend his time back in the storeroom, and he was typically quite gruff with the students when he did have to sell to them. Both were accomplished Potions Masters, and Severus was on good terms with each of them.
“Well, the other day I stopped in to get some poppy seeds for that Shrinking Solution we’re doing in class next week, and he was having trouble with something, and I took a stab at it, and I was right.” He said excitedly.
“That’s great.” Lucy smiled. It was sort of adorable, how worked up he got about Potions.
“Anyway, he said something about how I had good insight, and he offered to take me on as an apprentice starting next year.”
“Really?” She had only ever heard of a few students earning the prized apprenticeship, a feat so rare that a photo of the selected boy or girl with his or her new mentor always made the society page of the Daily Prophet. The training was comprehensive and challenging, and students were well prepared to sit for the Master’s level examination at the end of the year. With two years under Jiggers, Severus would likely have his pick of Potions Master positions upon graduation.
“Yes, even though most people don’t even get to try to apprentice until after seventh year.”
“That’s really great.” She leaned against the door, beaming at him.
“That’s not even the best part.” He looked at her, his smile reaching up to his eyes.
She looked at him expectantly.
“It’s paid.” He openly grinned now. “Can you believe it? That’s unheard of!”
She laughed, wondering how long he had wanted to tell her. Without warning, it slipped out.
“I love you.”
It was soft and mostly unintentional. It was just that he looked the happiest she had ever seen him, like he could physically see his dreams coming true, and he was staring at her like he might throw her over his shoulder and dance around the room. In fact, he still looked that way.
“I love you, too.” He replied quietly, reaching for her hand.
All of a sudden, the door opened, knocking her out of the way. Their hands were forced apart.
“Ah, Severus.” Lucius Malfoy stood in the doorway, looking disdainfully at his sister. “I was told I might find you here.”
“Well, it is my room.” Severus said, glancing at Lucy, who had backed up against the wall. Though he appeared collected, he was inwardly torn between keeping up his very businesslike friendship with Lucius and making sure his girlfriend felt comfortable. He looked back at Lucius, stepping back to allow him into the room. “Please, have a seat.” He added at last.
“I’d like to discuss a matter with you, if you don’t mind.” Lucius continued. He suddenly paused, looking at Lucy as if he could barely believe she was still there. “Some privacy, baby sister?”
Lucy looked at Severus. Well, it is your room.
He thought for a moment before speaking, but he already knew what he should say. “Certainly.” He looked back at her, opening the door. “Good night, Lucy.”
She gave Lucius one last look of suspicion and then quietly took her leave, ascending the girls’ staircase to her bed even though she knew she was now much too worried to sleep. As she dressed for bed, she realized she had accidentally taken the book with her.
She wondered if he would still be the boy who read Muggle novels with her in the morning.
It was the end of Lucy’s sixth year, and Narcissa’s wedding was in two weeks.
Apparently, as she had learned, it was perfectly normal in respectable Slytherin families to get married only a week after graduation, as Narcissa was doing. There was a proper order to things. A pureblood boy would propose to his pureblood bride sometime before the end of her sixth year, never wanting to be the last one out of the gate for fear of embarrassing the poor girl in front of her friends. After all, Rodolphus Lestrange famously waited to pop the question to Narcissa’s elder sister, Bellatrix, at their Charms final, and she would have had his head had her mother not spent long hours reminding her what a good match the Lestrange boy would make for her. After a glamorous engagement gala, the bride and her family would have her entire seventh year to make preparations for the day of her nuptials, and the groom’s family would pay for it all. Underneath all of the glitz and finery, it really was just a very elaborate business transaction.
Nevertheless, Narcissa was just as excited as any other bride would be so close to her big day.
“My dress is just grand.” She sighed, taking a sip of pumpkin juice. “It’s got a high lace collar, and the train goes on for miles. My mother even embroidered our initials in gold at the end of the train. Isn’t that adorable?”
Lucy smiled, watching the girl obsess over her wedding day attire animatedly from her place across the table. “Yes, it sounds lovely.”
“And your dress is nice as well.” Narcissa added. As a member of the groom’s immediate family, Lucy was guaranteed a place as a bridesmaid, though her family had said nothing about it. She wasn’t altogether thrilled about the prospect herself, really. Lucius’s friends were quite unattractive and rude, in her opinion, and being a bridesmaid meant spending copious amounts of time with Bellatrix, who loved nothing more than to be the most crude, unladylike female at any given social event. She hoped Severus would at least consider his invitation.
“It’s all going to be just perfect.” Narcissa continued. “People will be talking about it all year, I just know it.” She looked at Lucy. “Pretty soon it will be your turn, you know.”
Lucy nearly spat out her pumpkin juice. “Excuse me?”
“You’re almost to the end of sixth year. Severus’ll need to get a move on.”
“We’ve only been together for a year and a half. There’s no pressure for that.”
“Oh, why not? It’s just the natural thing to do.” Narcissa said airily, as if she had no patience for this sort of thing. “You two make perfect sense together. Much better than Sirius.”
Lucy bit her lip. “I don’t even know if he wants to marry me.” She said softly.
“Please, like he could get better than you.”
Lucy looked up. “That was a little mean, don’t you think?”
“What?” Narcissa picked at a nail and sighed. “He’s a bit weird, there’s no denying that. He’s perfectly nice, of course. But you’re not exactly fighting off the competition, are you?” She smiled, squeezing Lucy’s hand softly. “Trust me, he’s very lucky to have someone as pretty as you.”
Lucy blushed softly. Narcissa was one of the most beautiful girls she’d ever seen. That was certainly a compliment.
It was strange, spending so much time with Narcissa. Lucy had just sort of fallen in with her after so much time without another girl to hang around. As the wedding approached, Narcissa had shed most of her demure shyness for a more confident exterior. She was truly preparing herself to be Lucius Malfoy’s wife. Lucy didn’t know if she liked the change.
“Anyway, I’ve got to go make sure my other bridesmaids are up to speed on the wedding schedule.” She smiled, standing up. “Good chatting with you.”
As she left, Lucy finished the last of her lunch and checked the large clock on the wall above the entryway. She still had half an hour before class, and she figured now was as good a time as any to finish the History of Magic essay due for the final exam. Sighing, she downed another gulp of pumpkin juice and picked up her bag, aiming to go to the library.
“Lucy, wait.” A voice said quietly behind her, coming from the Gryffindor table.
She turned. Lily and Remus were sitting there alone, watching her. Peter was gathering up his things, and a glance to her left revealed that Sirius and James were anxiously waiting for him to catch up before they could go back to the common room. Sirius was avoiding Lucy’s eyes.
Lily and Remus both got up and came over to stand next to her. “Can we talk?” Lily asked.
Lucy blinked. “Um, sure.” She replied, unsure of what to expect. They hadn’t spoken in months.
“How are you?” Remus asked tentatively.
“Fine.” Lucy said shortly, looking up at them. Concern was etched deeply into their expressions, whether or not they were attempting to hide it.
“Lucy, I just want you to know what you’re getting yourself into.” Lily said quietly, sitting down next to her old friend. “The things he’s involved in… his friends… it’s all bad news.”
Lucy frowned. “How would you know? You haven’t spoken to him in weeks.”
“We’re just worried about you.” Lily insisted. She looked as if she was in pain. “I—If I had never set you up with him for potions lessons… none of this would have happened.”
“What are you getting at?” Lucy asked, but she knew as soon as the words left her lips. The funny thing about Lily was that she was so perfectly good-hearted that she really felt it when she thought she’d done someone wrong. Lily clearly thought that she had led Lucy into a trap by encouraging her to develop any sort of relationship with Severus. It was almost as if she felt guilty for avoiding that trap herself and then allowing her friend to take her place.
“I’m fine.” Lucy repeated firmly. Severus loved her. He would never hurt her.
Remus looked at Lily, who was still staring hopelessly at her old friend. But the two girls weren’t really looking at each other. They were both gazing into something that wasn’t there.
After a moment, Remus placed his hand gently on Lily’s shoulder. She blinked and stood up, tearing her eyes away from Lucy. Together, they turned and walked away.
“I told you it wouldn’t do any good to talk to her.” Lily said sadly, glancing up at Remus as they turned the corner.
“Well, it was good of you to try.” Remus said. “She just deserves fair warning, that’s all.”
Lily paused, looking at him. “She’s not stupid. She won’t let him drag her into it.”
“She might really not have a choice.” Remus said with a sigh.
Lily looked at him expectantly.
“I—I don’t know how to say this.” Remus looked sadly at her. “He—The other day, I saw him playing with something in his pocket, like he was checking to make sure it was still there. He’s been doing it for a week.” Up ahead, he saw Sirius and James waiting for them outside of Transfiguration. Remus lowered his voice and looked into Lily’s beautiful green eyes.
“The thing in his pocket—I think it’s a ring.”
Lucy leaned against the balcony in her room, staring out at the fading sunlight. She couldn’t bear to wait inside the house with the rest of the family. Some of the other guests had arrived, but she didn’t care to go down and speak with them. Finally, she saw him approaching in the distance, his usual black ensemble visible for miles. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Severus, along with several of his friends, had been invited by Lucius to have dinner with the Malfoy family. On the surface, it appeared to be a casual evening with family associates. Lucy was no fool, though. The young men in attendance had surely been carefully chosen, as per the terms of Lucius’s mission from the Dark Lord. Tonight was just another attempt at recruitment.
Wearing a little black dress, her usual uniform for the few times a year she lived at home, Lucy came quietly down the stairs, brushing past Avery and Mulciber to greet her boyfriend. She immediately took his hand, earning a curious glance from her mother and father, to whom she still hadn’t broken the news about Sirius.
“Glad you could make it.” She said quietly. She meant it more seriously than it sounded.
“Yeah, of course.” His soft reply soothed her nerves slightly.
Crabbe and Goyle, two extremely large and ugly boys from Lucy’s year, entered the room, signaling that it was time for dinner. Everyone sat down around the long dining table as the French onion soup was ladled into small bowls and placed at each setting. Lucy sipped from her spoon, keeping one eye on Severus as the dinner conversation commenced. Lucius took turns quizzing each gentleman on his traits and talents, taking a moment between interviews to eat a bite or two and try to commit the details to memory for his report to the Dark Lord.
“Severus, I heard you were apprenticing under Jiggers.” He began.
Severus glanced up from the chicken he’d been slowly working on. “Yes, that’s right.”
“Severus is quite skilled in Potions, among other things.” Lucius explained to his parents. “He’s been working with Jiggers for a year, and he’ll continue this year. It’s quite prestigious.” He looked back at Severus. “Think you’ll make a career out of it, then?”
Severus looked at him blankly. “Yes, that is the goal.” He stated. Wasn’t it obvious?
“Not a lot of money in that, though.” Abraxas Malfoy commented, glancing at Severus disdainfully. “You’d be better off looking for Ministry work, like Lucius.”
Undaunted, Severus took a sip of his drink. “Perhaps, but my work with Jiggers will pave the way for me to find a number of valuable career opportunities.” He said. “My skills will be incredibly marketable. When it comes time to select a position, I can choose a high-paying one.”
“How long have you and Lucy been together?” Drusilla Malfoy cut in.
“Mother.” Lucy said quietly, but the woman shot her a cold look.
“Erm…” Severus looked like he might faint. “About a year and a half, now.”
“Really?” Drusilla trilled. “So funny, we thought she was going to marry Sirius Black.”
Lucy scooted back a bit in her chair. “Excuse me.” She said softly, standing up and escaping upstairs to her private bathroom. Once there, she leaned against the sink and stared into the mirror, taking deep breaths and attempting to slow her racing heartbeat.
Suddenly, Lucius’s image appeared in the mirror, where he stood behind her.
“Having a good dinner, sis?” He smirked, coming to stand next to her.
“Can’t you just leave me alone?” She hissed, glaring at him.
“Oh, what’s the matter?” He smirked. “I think they like him.”
“I don’t care what they think of him. You, either.” She looked back at the mirror.
“You’re right. It doesn’t matter.”
She turned, looking surprised.
“I mean, once he hears all the dirty things you did with Black, he won’t want you anyway.”
“Stop!” Lucy grabbed his arm, preventing him from leaving. “Please.”
“You take your hands off me.” Lucius growled, his eyes growing dark. But he never gave her the chance. With a swift motion, he knocked her to the ground. She felt her body hit the expensive marble floor, shattering the corner of a loose tile, and then everything went black.
“Can you hear me?”
She could hear his voice, but it sounded so far away. As he continued to query her, it came closer and closer until she finally opened her eyes. Severus was sitting right next to her.
“Hey.” He said softly. “Are you okay?”
She groaned in response and tried to sit up, but the pain in her body brought her back to bed.
“Don’t try to move.” He added. “Give the pain potion time to work.”
Lucy laid still obediently, but her eyes still roamed around the room. She didn’t recognize the faded cream curtains or brass furnishings. There was another bed on the other side of the room, and next to it, an old lamp rested on an end table. There were two doors, one closed and the other cracked open just enough to reveal that it led into a tiny bathroom.
“Where are we?” She asked finally.
“A hotel.” He said, applying a warm cloth to her arm.
She felt a sharp pain and looked down, startled to see purple bruises beginning to appear.
“You were gone for a long time.” He explained without being prompted. “I went upstairs before dessert to check on you and caught your brother slapping you around. I tried to get your parents to help, but they didn’t seem to care. They just excused their guests so as to avoid a scene.” His expression darkened. “I told them I wanted to take you with me. They agreed to it.”
She blinked, looking at him. Suddenly, she remembered Lucius’s warning. Either he hadn’t been told any of the dirt Lucius supposedly had on her, or he simply didn’t care. Why else would he still be there?
“We can stay here for a couple of days and then catch the train back to school.” He continued. “I’ll sleep over there, and you can stay here. I’ve got enough money to get us meals at the pub downstairs, so don’t worry about that. And I’ve got all your things from home here too.”
Lucy glanced over at the closet, where he had left her schoolbag and a trunk of clothes. She then looked back at him, watching him diligently tend to her wounds. “Thank you.” She said softly.
“You’re welcome.” He replied. “It’s no trouble. I like having time away from my family, too.”
She offered him a slight smile, which he returned.
“Potion must’ve kicked in.” He joked gently. “Come on, now, try to get some rest.”
She drifted off to sleep, and didn’t wake up until the middle of the night. She looked over to see him relaxing in his bed, flipping through a textbook. “Hey.” She called quietly.
He glanced up, getting out of bed and coming over to her. “You okay?” He asked.
“Yeah, it’s just—” She stood up gingerly, and he allowed it, though he watched her carefully. “I’m a little cold.” She whispered, and then she pressed her lips to his. As they kissed, he hesitantly held her waist, but Lucy, having more faith in her strength, pulled him firmly back toward her bed. It wasn’t really big enough for two, but what did it matter?
The moment his lips moved from her mouth to her neck, the pain in her body disappeared.
This time, the daylight greeted her as she stirred, the sheets twisted around her slender form. She brushed a stray piece of hair out of her face and looked around, putting one foot carefully on the floor. As soon as she put weight on it, however, the pain returned. Groaning, she turned to the sleeping boy next to her. “Think you might go down and get breakfast soon?”
He turned over in his sleep, and she saw an ugly black mark on his left arm.
She wasn’t stupid. She knew what it was. Her father and brother both had them.
He opened his eyes slowly to find her staring at him in horror. “What?”
“I thought he was trying to recruit you.” She said, shocked.
“What?” He followed her eyes to his tattoo. “Lucy, it’s nothing—”
“Nothing?” She almost shrieked. “Do you even know what that means, Sev?” She gathered the sheets up around her, as if physically covering herself could protect her from the mark.
“Of course I do.” He said calmly, and then he sighed. “You’re right. It’s not nothing.”
She didn’t move.
“Don’t freak out, please.” He reached for her hand, and she very hesitantly let him touch her. “I know you think it’s awful, but he can protect us. I’ll take care of you, I promise.”
“What makes you think he would ever want to help anyone?” She spat.
“Lucy, I’ve been afraid my whole life.” He said firmly. “Afraid of my father, afraid of Black and Potter… this is my chance to actually make something of myself.” He looked at her. “I need this.”
She continued to stare at him, but she saw something different now. He was trying very hard to be defiant, to lay down the law with her, but his vulnerability leaked through. She could see him struggling to make her trust what he was saying. She could see the fear he spoke of in his eyes now, fear about losing her. She could see how desperate he was. I need this… I need you, too.
“Okay.” She whispered, warily taking her eyes off the tattoo and moving into his arms.
The snow fell thick and wet from the sky as the students of Hogwarts began to file excitedly off of the train and into the arms of their waiting families on the platform. This year, Lucy could at least partially imagine what it must feel like for them, carefree children ready to go home to elaborate holiday meals and thoughtful gifts from loved ones, their midterm exams already flimsy memories shoved to the back of their minds.
As he offered her his hand to help her off the train, his shirt sleeve slipped up just enough to give her a glimpse of the ugly black tattoo. She blinked, trying to erase it as she accepted the gesture.
In the weeks since she had first discovered that Severus had aligned himself with the Dark Lord and his followers, Lucy had slowly grown accustomed to his new way of life. She knew that she should not ask questions when he left suddenly and reappeared in the middle of the night with equal lack of warning. After all, these questions only led to painful silences that were pregnant with the things he couldn’t begin to explain to her. She knew how to toe the thin line between ignoring his new crowd of friends, associates of her brother’s, and intruding on their conversations. She knew how not to see the looks of anguish that crossed Lily’s pretty face every single time they passed one another in Potions class.
Still, she was not perfect. She still jumped a little when the mark burned into her skin, which occurred every time he was summoned when they were in the midst of making love.
She tried to put these things out of her mind now, though she did not find it as easy as it surely must have been for the students who were merely concerned about the results of their exams. He must have noticed her mental absence, because he squeezed her hand, and she instantly snapped back to reality. A look at his face revealed an expression full of guarded excitement.
Together, they walked down the main thoroughfare of London, and Lucy thought she could barely go any farther when he suddenly turned down an alleyway. When they emerged from it, she found herself in an impoverished but quaint neighborhood. The snow had stopped falling, and small children made feeble attempts at snowmen in the center of the main street, providing the only noise for miles. Severus led her past them to a simple house at the corner of the street and another alleyway. Taking a deep breath, almost like he was saying a prayer, he knocked.
The door opened slowly, revealing a thin but fairly pretty woman with dark hair and green eyes. “Severus.” She smiled, giving him a hug. “I’m so glad you’re home.” She glanced at Lucy, taking her in with a look of surprise. “Do we have a guest for dinner?”
“Yes, Mum. This is Lucy, my…” He paused for a split second. “Girlfriend.” He finally settled on the appropriate word. “Don’t you remember? I mentioned her in my last letter.”
“Oh, of course!” The woman nodded. “Welcome, dear.” She offered Lucy a smile. “You’ll have to forgive me. The letter was quite some time ago…”
“Yes, Mum, just been a bit busy.” He explained hastily. “Can we come in?”
“Of course.” The woman stepped aside, revealing a simple living room with a battered sofa and a small kitchen off to the side. “Tea?”
“Yes, please.” Lucy answered, following Severus to the dining room table. He offered her a seat and kissed her on the cheek. “Got to use the restroom. Be right back.” He whispered.
Lucy watched him head upstairs, and the woman sat down, offering her a cup.
“Thank you.” She said, taking a sip. “English breakfast. My favorite.”
“Should be called something else. It’s good any time of day.” The woman smiled.
Lucy returned the smile. “You have a lovely home.”
“Oh, nonsense, it’s nothing.” Severus’s mother laughed. “But thank you all the same.”
The door opened just then, a mild gust of cold air filling the small space. Lucy looked up to see a tall, angry-looking man enter the house. If Severus’s mother had given him his best features, this man was clearly responsible for his worst. She could see elements of his temper, of which she had only seen brief flashes, his hunched posture, and his brittle, underfed body structure.
“Eileen, breakfast, now.” The man said, and then his eyes found Lucy. His expression changed to one of perverse delight. Lucy recognized the look immediately; it was very similar to the one her father and brother adopted when they’d come up with new ways to torture her at home.
“Who’s this?” He slurred a bit, and then he glanced up and frowned coldly.
Severus had just come back down the stairs. He immediately locked into the defensive stance he’d taken for so long when facing Sirius and James, but his face betrayed his anger. It was frightening, really, to be sitting at the table between two mirror images of rage.
“Thought you said he was going to be at work.” Severus was clearly addressing his mother, but he spoke through gritted teeth, not willing to take his eyes off of his father.
“I—I thought he was.” Eileen said nervously, skillet in hand.
“Quit.” The man proclaimed. “Well, sort of.” He smirked. “Seems they don’t much appreciate me drinking on the job.”
Severus glared at him. “How very shocking.”
The man glared back. “You know better than to speak to me like that, boy.” He snarled.
Lucy would not find out why he knew better. Severus came down off the stairs and took her arm, marching her firmly past the man and out the door. “Thanks for the tea, mum.” He called back.
He led her for several yards before she finally pulled away. “That’s your father?” She asked.
“Regrettably.” He looked at her, still angry. It melted away when he found her eyes, and he sighed. “I didn’t mean for you to meet him, or see… that. At all. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She brushed his hair out of his face. “It’s not like you haven’t warned me about him. Besides, you’ve seen my home life. I’m not exactly new to this kind of thing.”
They stood there in silence for a moment, and then he reached for her hand.
“Can I show you something?”
They walked about a mile down the main road before they reached a very snowy playground.
“Come on, sit.” He took one of the swings, brushing off the seat next to him for her. She did as he asked, watching the children play a few feet away with a slight smile.
“This is where I met Lily.” He confessed softly. “We spent lots of time here getting to know each other. This is where she showed me her Hogwarts letter, the same day she received it.” He looked at her. “Lucy, you know almost everything about me. You’ve proven that I can trust you with just about anything. I brought you here because this place made me feel safe for a long time, and now you are the thing that makes me feel safe.”
She smiled softly, but she was confused. “It’s comforting, yes, but… I don’t understand.”
“I brought you here because I need to be honest with you about something.”
Her heart fell into the floor. He loves her too much. He can’t be with me. Oh, God.
“Do you remember when I brought you to the hotel, when I took you away from your parents? I told you they had let me take you. You remember?”
“Well, it didn’t exactly go like that.”
“I—They had to get rid of me. Get rid of you. They were afraid I would tell people what I had seen, and then your little family secret would be out. It would ruin the Malfoy image. So… they gave me a choice.” He took a deep breath. “I would agree to marry you, or they would kill you.”
Lucy stood up, coming to stand before him, blocking out the bleak sunshine. “What?”
“They were going to just hide your body and tell people you were on vacation or something.” Tears fell from his eyes. “It was brutal. It reminded me so much of my father. I—I couldn’t.”
She stared at him. “Severus, we are not married.”
“According to them, we are.” He finally looked up at her, and she could see the fear in his eyes. “You have to understand, I couldn’t let it happen. Please.” He took her hand. “Look, the only people who know are your family members. It’s not on the books or anything.” His eyes pleaded with her even as he uttered his next words. “You’re free to go whenever you like. I won’t hold you to it. I would never try to force you into something you weren’t comfortable with.”
“So, what, they just expect me to disappear into a life with you?”
“Essentially.” He sighed, defeated. “Lucy, really, if you don’t want—”
“It sounds wonderful.” She almost laughed. “I just wish it was real.”
He paused, taken aback, and then sat up slightly. “It—It can be.”
Her blue eyes stared at him questioningly as he pulled a small box from his pocket and handed it to her. She opened it gingerly, revealing a large round diamond on a white gold band.
“I saved for a year before I bought it. Took me forever to find the one I thought you’d like best.”
She pulled it from the box and put it on her finger, admiring it.
“Is that a yes?” He looked up at her, barely resisting the urge to grin.
The kiss she gave him next said more than any words ever could.
This will be the final chapter of Disgusted. It has been an absolute joy writing this story. I can hardly believe my little idea has already gotten over 2,000 reads, and I am excited for others to stumble across it and read it in the future. Thank you for remaining so devoted to Lucy and Severus, and ultimately to me. I am planning more Lucy and Severus to come.
This chapter is dedicated to all of the people who took time to read through each chapter, especially those who decided to keep reading once they’d finished chapter one, then chapter two, and so on. It is dedicated to the readers who were kind enough to leave a review, an event that absolutely makes my day every time it happens, and especially those who faithfully reviewed each chapter as it was posted. Finally, this chapter is dedicated to the individuals who liked my story so much that they added it as a favorite, and especially those who were so convinced that I might come out with something else worth reading that they added me as a favorite. I am truly flattered, and I hope I will not disappoint you.
The gown had only cost twenty-five Galleons in the end, but it was perfect.
Lucy stared into the mirror before her, making last-minute improvements upon her appearance. Her straight blonde locks hung freely down about her shoulders, and her makeup did just enough to accent her natural beauty without overwhelming her delicate features. The off-white dress, however, was clearly the center of the picture. It was strapless with a simple sweetheart neckline, and it fell smoothly to the floor, just long enough to cover up Lucy’s plain white flats. The outfit was embellished with an elegant white belt and silver buckle, which accentuated her small waist, and the tiny pearl pendant about her neck.
This was the second time she’d worn the necklace. The other time, she had put it on while standing before a smaller mirror in her dormitory. It looked better with the wedding gown than with the shorter black dress she’d paired it with on that occasion.
Amending the will was the first thing Severus’s mother had done when her son told her about the engagement. She was too thrilled to wait to add Lucy to the family. A month later, she was dead.
Eileen Victoria Snape. E. V. S. The gold engraving on the pearl betrayed its original owner. It had been the only thing left to Lucy in her future mother-in-law’s will. It might well be the only thing ever left to her in anyone’s will. Severus, on the other hand, had received a tidy sum of five hundred Galleons, his mother’s potions book, and a reason to abandon his father for good.
Officially, the investigation was still open.
Upon returning from the funeral, they had closed their eyes and chosen a date from the calendar, both fingers landing haphazardly on June 13th, a Saturday. It was a week after graduation. Lucy remembered smiling to herself and thinking about Narcissa. She was on schedule after all.
Over the next few months, Severus paid for a seamstress in town to design and build a one-of-a-kind gown for his bride-to-be. While Lucy was busy working out those details, he concentrated his efforts on finding a small but adequate flat for the two of them to share. Secretly, he took money from his wages at the Apothecary to upgrade the plain wedding band she’d picked out to one sprinkled with tiny diamonds all over. When he offered to use the rest of his inheritance to pay for them to invite their few remaining friends and have a nice group meal after the ceremony, she gently declined. They had been alone the entire time; why should it change now?
The city clerk was very busy in June. The only available slot was at eight o’clock. They took it.
In the main room, Severus waited nervously for Lucy to appear. Part of him wondered if she’d gotten cold feet and ran for it at the last minute. The rest of him knew her too well.
As he waited, he noticed that the hall was accented with beautiful white lilies. It was ironic, considering that they appeared to be standard here, that he loved lilies more than any other flower. After all, they had always reminded him of his Lily. Now, though, he automatically compared their delicate, unblemished beauty to Lucy. He imagined her walking through the double doors, radiant in all white, and instinctively plucked the blooms from their container.
Just then, the doors opened, and he saw her.
She offered him a soft smile as she trailed slowly down the aisle, the clerk coming in behind her. A wisp of blonde hair fell gently into her face, and he caught a flash of the expensive diamond on her left hand as she brushed it away. His heart dropped deliriously into his stomach.
“Hey.” She said softly.
“Hey.” He managed, pushing the bouquet lightly into her hands. As he let go, he blinked briefly, just long enough to tell Lily goodbye in his mind. Farewell, love. Hope you’re as happy as I am.
“Thank you.” She smelled them gingerly. “They’re perfect.” The symbolism was lost on her.
“Are we ready?” The clerk interrupted.
They faced each other, staring into each other’s eyes, barely able to concentrate on the vows they were supposed to make to one another for life. Severus agreed verbally to be with her until death, jarring her to the realization that it was now her turn. She listened carefully to the clerk, letting it sink in that she was now responsible for being a partner to Severus, and then she said, “I do.”
Not so far away, the Potters were throwing a belated graduation party for their son. A large portion of the recently graduated students in Gryffindor House were present, and Mr. and Mrs. Potter were currently milling about their home in an effort to meet each and every one of James’s classmates in person. James had taken the opportunity to sneak out to the back garden and enjoy a pint of Firewhiskey with his best friend, another Gryffindor graduate.
“I’ll miss Hogwarts, I think.” James said, taking a swig and passing it to Sirius. “You?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Sirius took too large of a gulp, forcing it down. “I think it’s high time I moved on to bigger and better things, you know?”
“I suppose.” James sighed. “Listen, you can stay here as long as necessary, mate.”
“Don’t get all sappy.” Sirius said bitterly, his brown eyes darkening. “I’ve been here for almost two years. I need to go out and find a flat of my own. Besides, how am I supposed to convince the next cute girl I meet at the bar to come home with me if I still live with you?”
“Oy, love, you’ll have to excuse my roommate, his mum hasn’t come ‘round to do the laundry yet, but she’s making dinner at seven…” James mocked, sending them both into chortles.
Inside, Remus excused himself as he bumped lightly into James’s mother, who was on her way with Mr. Potter to interrogate Peter about his future aspirations. Being careful not to spill the two glasses of punch in his hand, he crept upstairs, where Lily was perched on the roof next to the open window that led into James’s room.
“Here.” He said gently, offering her one.
“Thanks so much.” She took a small sip. “You know I would have gone down to get it myself, but there are just so many people… the attention…”
“I know.” He said with a smile. The brilliant square-cut diamond, which had resided on Lily’s left hand for barely a week now, was impossible to miss. Every time during the past week that she’d run into old classmates while out and about in town, the girls had swooned as a group while the boys made crude but well-intentioned remarks about the wedding night. He took a sip from his own cup, leaning back against the house and gazing at the stars. “You set a date yet?”
“God, no.” Lily laughed. “If I have my way, it won’t be for a while. We’re just so young.”
“I don’t know.” Remus looked down sadly. “Things are getting awfully serious, you know, with his people running around and causing chaos. It might be best not to delay matters like these.”
“Don’t worry, Remus.” Lily smiled at him. “We’ll just wait until the world seems as bleak as it could possibly be, and we’ll have it then, just so everyone will have a reason to celebrate.”
He nodded, brightening a little at her attempt at humor. “You going to invite them?”
Lily didn’t have to ask whom he meant. “I guess we’ll see how well I know them then.” She said with a sigh, looking down at the ring again. Lucy had been the first person she’d wanted to tell.
“Do you wish we had invited people?” Lucy asked.
The newlyweds were perched on the edge of the pier, watching the ships unload their cargo in the harbor. Lucy held her shoes and the bouquet, which was beginning to show signs of wilting after having been out of water for so long. Her new husband was holding their marriage license.
“No, I don’t think so.” Severus said after a minute. “I think it was good, just this way, just us.”
She nodded in agreement, looking down at her hand, which now boasted not one but two beautiful white gold rings. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Hmm?” He shook his head, physically clearing his mind and moving his hair out of his face simultaneously. He had been so busy gazing up at the stars that he hadn’t even heard her.
“The ring. My wedding band.”
“It was nothing. This one goes better with your engagement ring.”
“The other one would have been fine.”
“Yeah, but Mum didn’t leave me all that money so I could get you ‘fine’.”
She laughed softly. “All right, have it your way. Yours is just still so plain.”
“I like it that way.” He met her eyes. “In case you forgot, I work with my hands.”
“Oh, I haven’t forgotten.” She smirked at him, her blue eyes lighting up playfully. “In fact, when we get back to the flat, the first thing I want is for you to mix me up something strong.”
“Oh, really, that’s the first thing you want?” He asked, causing her to giggle.
They looked so normal, sitting there laughing together. Lucy had completely forgotten about the ugly black mark on his arm, at least for tonight. Now, all she could think about was getting to their new home, kicking off her shoes, and beginning her newly blissful life. Her role as a housewife and mother, which she had always dreaded before, now seemed ideal to her. Maybe she just needed to find the right man with whom to share that life, one who would let her take off her fancy dresses and expensive shoes and get earthworm juice on her skin from time to time.
It was so perfect that she almost wanted to cry. Then he kissed her, and all she wanted was him.