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The thirty-first of July was an incredibly important day in the wizarding world.
There was much ceremony surrounding the departure of the owls that carried the acceptance letters for the new class of first years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The house elves had been working around the clock for a week; half of them busily inscribed identical letters on immaculate pieces of parchment, and the others carefully composed standard supply lists to accompany the message. After many years of performing this particular aspect of her duty as deputy headmistress, Minerva McGonagall could get through the stacks of unsigned letters on her desk in just under three days. Approximately eighty-five percent of the acceptances would come back as students planning to attend in the fall. Ten percent of the denials were Muggle-borns who saw Hogwarts as a strange joke, and the other five percent were purebloods who felt their children would be better served at foreign wizarding schools. Most all half-bloods accepted.
When the letters were all sealed and addressed (another daunting task for the house elves), it was time to get them mailed. The first year it was open for students, Hogwarts had sixteen owls in its possession; now, it boasted a supply of fifty-eight. It usually took them each two trips, bringing one letter at a time, to deliver the highly important message to most of the potential new first years. A small percentage, the ones intended for Muggle-born students, were delivered by hand.
On this fateful morning, two owls separated from the thinning pack and dipped below the clouds, searching their surroundings to confirm that they were heading in the right direction. They flew together for several more miles, clutching the letters in their beaks, and then one turned toward Mill Town, leaving its companion to traverse alone the last half-mile to Spinner’s End.
It was quiet upstairs in the small house at the beginning of the row. Though he could hear his mother and father conversing mutedly through the wooden floor of his bedroom, eleven-year-old Severus Snape took his time in waking up and leaving his soft sheets and warm pillows. He propped himself up on his elbows, moving his thick, dark hair out of his deep black eyes as he lazily flipped the pages of the book beneath him. He did not understand much of Advanced Potion-Making just yet, but he was fascinated by the precise nature of the magic contained within it, and he hoped that one day he would be able to produce some of the solutions detailed in the worn pages.
He heard his mother, Eileen, calling from downstairs, and as he got out of bed and opened his door, the warm smell of buttermilk pancakes hit him delightfully hard. His mother had developed a bit of a gift for potions while studying at Hogwarts, and she liked to show off every Saturday morning with her homemade syrup and collection of specially brewed fruit and vegetable juices. She mixed extra ingredients into the raw materials, adding cheerfulness to orange juice or increased concentration to carrot juice, and she had recently begun selling her concoctions from a street side booth in Diagon Alley as a way of helping to supplement his father’s meager income. She often used her elaborate weekend breakfasts to test her latest brews on her family, but fortunately for Severus and his father, they usually turned out to be quite good.
“There you are.” His mother greeted him with a soft smile as he appeared at the bottom of the stairs, and his father, Tobias, nodded a hello as he took his seat at the kitchen table.
“How’s the headache?” He asked the older man, who was absorbed in his Muggle paper.
“Better.” Tobias commented. He had mentioned suffering from a migraine when he returned from work last night, and Eileen had promptly offered him a glass of apple juice that had been infused with a semi-powerful pain potion. Thankfully, this combination worked just as well as all of the others she had previously invented. It appeared that Eileen Snape could do no wrong.
Severus nodded, looking up just as his mother slid a plate stacked with pancakes onto the table in front of him. She winked at him covertly, enamored with the way her husband only begrudgingly trusted her. As a proper Muggle, he was never fully convinced about the truth or safety of magic.
“I tried cinnamon in the syrup today. I think you’ll like—” Eileen began, but she was interrupted by a peck at the window. She set the bottle down in front of him, turning to open the window and let the owl in. The bird perched on the back of the empty chair across from Severus, dropping the letter matter-of-factly in front of him, though the owl was careful not to let it touch his breakfast.
Eileen’s eyes widened as she noted the gleaming red seal that decorated the back of the envelope. She hardly resisted the urge to squeal joyfully. “Go on, open it!”
Severus picked it up carefully, sliding his thumb under the wax and withdrawing the folded letter from the envelope. He read it slowly, and then once more for good measure, giving the supply list tucked in with it the once-over as well. Finally, he looked up at them and smiled.
“It says I’ve been accepted to Hogwarts.”
Tobias smiled at his son, secretly grateful that Severus had inherited his mother’s unique talents and would not be confined to a life of mundane Muggle happenings as he was. “Congratulations.” He patted Severus lightly on the back.
“Ooh, it’s so exciting!” Eileen grinned, practically clapping her hands as she fed the owl a treat and sent it back on its way. “Why don’t we go to Diagon Alley and pick up your supplies tomorrow?”
Nothing could have sounded better to Severus.
Lily loved sitting alone outside, especially when they were fighting.
The slender redhead often occupied the small bench in the immaculate garden, her dark green eyes carefully studying the emerald leaves and colorful blossoms for signs of decay. She had contemplated stealing her mother’s wand and coming out here to tend to them, her way of passing the time, but she knew better than to risk attempting underage magic. Instead, she plucked off the dead bits by hand whenever she caught them, nipping away until the plant was in perfect condition once more. The Evanses could not afford to keep a house elf, and so Lily supposed her mother appreciated her efforts somewhere deep down, somewhere hidden.
As the sun began to set, she started working on a rosebush, being careful not to prick her pale fingers on the thorns that dotted the stems of the plant. Suddenly, a voice called her name.
“Hey, Evans! You and your parents going to have that séance anytime soon?”
She glanced up, but she already knew it was James Potter, the boy from down the lane. She frowned, standing up and facing him hesitantly. It seemed like he invented a new way to make fun of her family’s use of magic nearly every day. Nevertheless, she was proud of her parents’ abilities, and it was no secret that she hoped to inherit them. As her mother and father constantly reminded her, the pure blood that ran in her veins put all the Muggles around them to shame.
“Shove off, Potter.” The eleven-year-old called back, but she turned and entered the house like a coward all the same. She couldn’t deal with him, not when they were screaming at each other.
“I know I saw you staring at Mrs. Adams! Her and her filthy Mudblood husband—” Her mother was still laying into her father, staring venom at him across the kitchen table.
“That is a disgusting thought!” Her father roared, striding past her into the living room.
Lily moved quietly around the corner, knowing never to interrupt her parents in the midst of an argument. As she passed their battered couch, she noticed an official-looking piece of mail on top of the stack of bills and catalogs that had been sitting there for the past few nights. It was addressed to her, which was somewhat unusual. She picked it up, taking it upstairs to her room.
She crawled onto her bed, moving aside old issues of Witch Weekly that she’d stolen from her mother’s closet and entertained herself with on the last rainy day they’d had. When she turned the letter over, she noticed the Hogwarts seal on the back. Merlin, it was finally her turn.
She read through the letter, though she already had some idea of what it said, but she was more interested in the supply list that accompanied it, being a girl of practical leanings. As she looked through the items that she would need, her thoughts returned to her mother’s closet. She had seen a small bag of Galleons hidden behind the stack of magazines.
That must be the money they saved for this, she thought. I should ask Mum.
Downstairs, her mother hurled another insult about Mr. Evans and the Muggle woman.
On second thought, maybe I should just go and do it myself tomorrow.
Lily had never seen so many people in Diagon Alley at once, not in her whole life.
As she weaved through the crowd, her tiny frame and short stature easily getting lost in the constant shuffle of bodies and bags, she realized that this must be the reason her mother never went into town during the last week before the school year began, not if she could help it. She bit her lip, steeling herself against the pulsating crowd and gently shoving her way toward Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
She heard a soft tinkle as the aged wooden door closed behind her, and the faint sound of the bells echoed through the store, climbing up hundreds of shelves lined with wand boxes. She stepped forward slowly, causing the sound of a creaking floorboard to chase the ringing of the bells, and she had almost decided that Ollivander was out for lunch when he came out at last.
“Ah, yes, first year? Looking for a wand?” The fifty-year-old wizard was beginning to show his age, light grey streaks appearing in his hair and the light beginning to fade slightly from his silvery grey eyes. Still, everyone knew that Ollivander was the only wandmaker worth seeing.
“Yes, please.” Lily said quietly, looking up at all the boxes suspiciously. It seemed like she’d be here for hours, trying out one wand after another. She frowned slightly, knowing she couldn’t stay away from the house forever. She still had half of her list left to fetch after she got the wand.
“Why don’t you try this one? I just got it in today, and I think it might suit you.” He pulled a long, thin box from behind his desk, removing the lid and pushing the open box slightly closer to Lily. Inside, she could see a wand that appeared to be a little less than eleven inches long. She picked it up, finding that it was quite supple, and then she looked at Ollivander expectantly.
“Go ahead, try it.” He looked at her, thinking that she might need some direction. “Have you observed any simple spells at home that you could test out now?” He moved over to the door, pointing his own ancient wand at an object up in the rafters. With a start, Lily realized that he had activated a miniature version of the Hogwarts Express, which was now trundling along on a crude wooden track he’d set up above the main area of the shop.
She pointed the wand carefully at the train, concentrating. “Flipendo!” She finally said.
The train stopped quite suddenly, providing an excellent display of Lily’s ability to aim. It wobbled back and forth on the thin track, finally toppling off the edge. Ollivander caught it deftly, saving it from a fate of shattering to pieces on the hardwood floor below.
“Well done.” He took the wand from her, looking at it more closely. “Willow… and a unicorn tail hair in the center.” He put the wand back in the box. “Yes, I think this one will do. Lucky you, not many get the right one on their first try.” He glanced at her. “Assuming you like it...?”
Lily nodded. “Yeah, it’s… flexible.”
“Indeed. Very good for Charms, you’ll see.” He handed her the box. “Twenty-five Sickles, please.”
“Oh, Severus, you looked so handsome in those robes.” Eileen gushed, squeezing her son’s shoulders as she helped maneuver him through the thick crowd of people in Diagon Alley. The two of them had already been to Flourish and Blotts for his books, all of which were purchased in used condition to save money, and they had just left Madam Malkin’s, where the seamstress had tailored his mother’s old school cloak to fit him and helped him choose inexpensive uniform pieces for himself. “But I’m so very excited for this next part. I haven’t been in to see Slug and Jiggers in so long!”
“Who?” Severus asked, glancing up at his mother.
“The Apothecary owners, of course.” Eileen said dismissively. “I used to stop in and see them all the time when I was a student at Hogwarts, just to chat about Potions. Sometimes they even gave me little samples of newly shipped ingredients for free. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?”
Severus tried not to laugh. His mother was a bit of a Potions nerd. He couldn’t burst her bubble. “Yeah, mum. It’s quite cool.” He answered, opening the door to the Apothecary for her.
“Eileen Prince!” A large man with a full belly stepped out from behind the counter, accidentally shoving Severus out of the way as he enveloped Mrs. Snape in a choking hug. “I haven’t seen you in ages, love! Where’ve you been? Must be a full-fledged Potions Master by now!”
“Not a Prince anymore, I’m afraid, Mr. Slug.” Eileen said once she’d freed herself. “And no, I’ve been a bit busy with my family, that’s why I haven’t come to visit.” She gently pushed her son forward. “This is Severus. He’ll be starting at Hogwarts on the first.”
“Oh, lovely!” Slug turned his attention on the boy. “Can he make anything yet?”
“Nothing much, of course, he’s only eleven.” A smile played at the corner of her lips. “I’ve noticed him nicking my old textbook off to his bedroom to read once or twice, though.”
“Well, the avid interest is where it begins.” He turned back to the storeroom. “Another first year!” He called back into the darkness. “Let’s see, you’ll need a clean set of phials…”
“You’re lucky, we just got a new shipment of cauldrons in.” A thin, stern-looking man emerged from the back room, hefting a pewter cauldron over the counter. “Oh, hello, Eileen.” Severus assumed that this man must be Jiggers, the other owner of the shop.
“What else?” Slug continued to talk to himself. “Oh, right, scales… sorry, you’re the first ones in today, got to remember what’s on the list…” The small set of bells on the door rang. “Be with you momentarily!” He called out to no one, bustling over to a box of brass scales in the corner.
Severus turned, watching as a small red-haired girl entered the store. She was alone, clad in an all-black set of robes, and in possession of dark but very beautiful green eyes. He suddenly felt quite out of place in his Muggle clothing, wishing he’d worn proper robes like his mother had.
“Here you go, then.” Slug spoke again, pushing the cauldron, which was now full of the other potions-related wares on his list, into Severus’s thin arms. He struggled to get a good grip on it, but he eventually shifted it into a semi-comfortable position, moving toward the door.
“Bye, you two!” Eileen called, paying Jiggers and following her son with the other bags in hand.
“Excuse me.” Severus murmured quietly to the redhead, but when he looked up, she had already edged out of his way. She now stood awkwardly to the side, watching him with faint interest.
His eyes met hers momentarily, and then his mother nudged him gently along, and the door closed with a tinkle behind them. Severus paused for a second, looking through the glass to see what the girl was now doing.
“Come on, sweetheart, we’ve got to get you a wand!” Eileen said, and suddenly Severus was being dragged off into the throbbing crowd and out of sight of the redhead once more.
Several people have commented in the reviews that they’re a little confused about the switched-up aspects of the story, so I’m going to attempt to clarify that here. I originally wrote this for a role reversal challenge, but it got closed, and I wanted to use all of my hard work for something, so I entered it in a switched personalities challenge. So you will see some elements of role reversal, some of switched personalities, some from canon, and some that are entirely AU, which I have added in just for kicks or because they’re important to the plot later on.
Anyway, I hope the story makes a bit more sense to you all now. How am I doing with all this, anyway? Did you like the way I swapped out the families of Lily and Severus? It’s my first time trying to write a story like this, and I would love to see some comments in the review thread for this chapter :)
Severus didn’t get a wink of sleep the night before the train ride to Hogwarts.
He leapt out of bed at the sound of his mother calling him for breakfast, nearly knocking over his trunk, which had been packed for a week but checked and double-checked multiple times over the past twelve hours. His clothes for the day, a faded white t-shirt and an aged pair of jeans that he was pretty sure were a size too big for him, were laid out on his dresser, folded tenderly by his mother in a last act of comfort before his departure for Hogwarts. He didn’t want to seem too eager, however, so he left them for the time being, heading downstairs in his pajamas.
“Morning, sweetie.” His mother smiled, putting a plate of French toast in front of him.
“But we had our big breakfast yesterday.” He pointed out.
“Well, today is a special day.” Mrs. Snape countered softly, opening the refrigerator. “Would you like grape juice or pineapple?”
“Which one is better for the nerves?” Severus began cutting into his meal.
“Hmm… the pineapple. It’s infused with the Draught of Peace.” She poured him a glass. “Do you remember what that potion does?”
“It calms you down, of course.” Severus poured some maple syrup onto his toast, taking a bite. It was delicious, but he worried that maybe his stomach was too unsettled to finish the full helping.
“Well done.” Eileen smiled, putting the rest of the pineapple juice away and placing the glass before her son. She took a sip of the grape juice in her own glass.
“That one’s easy, Mum, it’s in the name.” Severus smiled despite himself.
“Morning, you two.” Tobias came down the stairs, wearing his work uniform. He poured a glass of pineapple juice, not caring what the secret ingredient was, merely interested in getting it down.
“What are you doing dressed?” Eileen asked, confused.
“I told Herman I’d come in today, help pick up some of the slack, get some overtime.” He explained. “It’ll help us out at Christmastime.”
“Can’t you wait to go in until after Severus leaves?” His wife pleaded gently.
“No, I’m sorry, I told him I’d be in at 8:30, and it’s already ten after.” He glanced at his son. “Besides, Severus is a big boy. He doesn’t need me to help him find his way, do you?”
“No, I suppose not.” Severus said, resigned. After a moment of thought, however, he started to think it was for the best. Tobias, a Muggle, would hate being surrounded by babbling wizards.
“Oh, all right.” Eileen picked up a clean plate. “I’ll put some of this away for you. We can’t eat it all, not with just the two of us.”
“Sounds lovely. Thank you.” Tobias kissed his wife on the cheek, patting Severus lightly on the back. “Have a good term, son.” With that, he turned and exited through the front door.
“Well, are you ready to go?”
Violet Evans hadn’t really wanted a child at all. She and her husband were struggling to make ends meet as it was, and having to save up for Lily’s Hogwarts education had stretched their budget uncomfortably. Still, at least Lily didn’t ask for anything extra, preferring to keep mostly to her room or sit out alone in the garden. This gave Violet plenty of time to fight with Robert, her husband. He was currently passed out in their master bedroom, sleeping off what was sure to be a record hangover, and this turn of events left Violet to escort Lily to the train by herself.
She looked impatiently down at the girl and her trunk.
“Yes, Mum, all packed.” Lily bit her lip, speaking quietly but respectfully.
“Good.” Violet checked her watch. It was a quarter after ten, time to leave.
As they got further from Mill Town and closer to Kings Cross, Lily began to see other witches and wizards in full magical dress. She smirked to herself, wondering what the Muggles thought, and she and her mother joined their ranks as everyone headed to Platforms Nine and Ten. Pulling her trunk close behind her, she watched as a boy with brown hair rushed straight at the barrier, passing through it cleanly. She did not glance up at her mother for confirmation before trying it out herself. She got to the other side, turning around to find herself alone.
It was now ten-forty. Lily made certain that her bags were received and put away, and then she climbed aboard the train, finding an empty compartment without much trouble. She sat down, pulling on her sleeves with her fingertips and wishing she had brought a book, at least something to drink. She had no idea how long the ride to the castle would take.
Suddenly, her compartment door opened. A familiar-looking boy with sleek black hair and dark eyes stood there, looking just as clueless as she felt. “Are you sitting with anyone?” He asked.
“No.” Lily said cautiously, but she had nothing to say that would keep anyone else out.
The boy took the seat across from her, remembering suddenly that he’d left the door open. He got up to shut it, pausing and looking at her. He’d been a bit rude. “You don’t mind me—”
“Yes, you can take it.” Lily said, trying not to snap impatiently.
“Okay.” He said, taking his seat again and waving at a dark-haired woman who was blowing him kisses from the other side of the window. The two of them sat there in silence until eleven, and when the train began to move, the boy leaned forward slightly, clearly intending to speak.
“I’m Severus Snape.” He offered.
“Lily.” She muttered, looking up at him. At least he was friendly. “Evans.”
“Oh, okay.” He fell quiet once more.
“Are you a pureblood?” She asked rudely.
“No.” He admitted. “I’m a half-blood.”
“Oh.” She looked down. “Better than nothing, I suppose.” She murmured under her breath.
“Haven’t I seen you before?” He interjected, clearly oblivious to her last comment.
“Yeah, I think I saw you in the Apothecary.” She replied.
“Oh, yeah, right.” He cracked his knuckles idly. “You like Potions?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know much about it, really.” She glanced up into his eyes, finding an odd sort of comfort residing there. They were the kindest she’d ever seen. “Ollivander said my wand’s good for charm work, though.”
“That’s cool.” He brightened a bit.
By the time they reached the castle, Severus and Lily’s conversation had covered a variety of topics, the latest being House preferences. Severus wanted to be in Gryffindor, having heard nothing but positive things about it, while Lily preferred Slytherin, like her mum and dad. Both of them were beginning to soften toward one another, having found kinship in the fact that they were both only children from an impoverished section of Muggle London.
When the train stopped, they got off and retrieved their things, crossing the lake in tiny rowboats with the rest of the first years. Professor McGonagall was waiting at the top of the stairs in the castle’s foyer to greet them. She instructed them about the sorting, which was old news to everyone but the Muggle-borns, and then she led them through double doors into the Great Hall.
Lily took in her new environment while she waited for her name to be called, looking around at the professors, the brightly candlelit room with its starry ceiling, and the hordes of older students. In front of her, “Black, Sirius” grinned as he was accepted into Slytherin. A moment later, it was her turn, and she stepped up and sat on the stool before slipping the hat onto her head.
Hmm… what to do with you… The hat spoke audibly, but everyone stared at her instead.
“Slytherin.” Lily whispered firmly.
No offense, my dear, but I don’t see a whole lot of cunning in here. Not a great deal of bravery, either, I’m afraid… that only leaves two choices. I’m sure Filius would love to have someone with a potential for charms in his house, but I sense a talent and patience for gardening here, and I think you’ll be highly valued by Pomona.
Lily glanced out at Severus, who was watching her intently.
Is that loyalty for a friend I see? The hat purred. Yes, that confirms it. “HUFFLEPUFF!”
Lily practically tossed the hat to the next student, moving past a few snickers from students in Gryffindor and Slytherin as she made her way to the Hufflepuff table. A couple of students clapped for her, and others greeted her with a warm smile and light clap on the back.
Hufflepuff? Are you kidding me? Mum and Dad will disown me… Lily sighed, turning her attention back to the sorting and hoping that her new friend would wind up there with her.
“Lupin, Remus”, who looked a bit ill, was sorted into Gryffindor. She saw the boy with the brown hair she’d followed onto the platform step up, and he was sorted into Ravenclaw. A small boy named Peter Pettigrew found his home in Gryffindor, and a pair of red-haired twins were placed in Ravenclaw. Perhaps Hufflepuff is even less popular than I thought, Lily said to herself.
Finally, after a few more students had come and gone, emerging from under the hat with new homes, it was Severus’s turn.
He situated himself on the chair, bracing himself for the outcome.
Ah, yes, the object of the redhead’s affections.
Severus looked at Lily, blushing visibly. A few of the other first years smirked at him.
Well, well, look at you, my boy. Slytherin would be quite lucky to have you, but I see a different kind of intelligence here, a drive to learn for the sake of learning. I’ll say… “RAVENCLAW!”
Severus hopped off the stool, smiling at the Ravenclaw students as they welcomed him into their fold. He waved at Lily, but she didn’t move, finally offering him a fake smile at the last minute.
Down the table, a girl with light blonde hair was staring at him, watching without his knowledge.
Well, here goes nothing.
Lily stood before the mirror in her dormitory, running her fingers through her thin red hair. She had never liked it much, what with the brownish tint and tendency for frizz in poor weather. She straightened her uniform, checking her makeup one last time. Although she felt that her hair was beyond help, she had worked diligently on her face, painting thick lines about her eyes in a hue called “smoky kohl” and dusting her nose and cheeks with a powdered foundation that was only a shade or two paler than her natural skin. She stared at herself in the mirror, chewing on a nail nervously. Another tug down on her skirt, and she seemed satisfied with her appearance.
Truthfully, she looked as dismal as she felt.
She filed down the stairs with the rest of her housemates, taking her time in getting to breakfast. She was too nervous to eat, too worried that she would find a Howler waiting for her from her parents. She hadn’t yet broken the news of her sorting to them, but what if another student had carelessly slipped the details into their own letter home? Beyond that was the matter of classes, which would surely be a painful exercise in social graces. The other girls in her room had gotten along quite well, staying up late into the night and speaking of their likes and dislikes to one another. They became friends so quickly, in fact, that they had chosen to ignore Lily entirely.
She was picking at a piece of toast and considering this when the parchment fell upon her plate.
It wasn’t a Howler. It hadn’t even come from an owl. Lily glanced up, and Professor Sprout, her new head of house, smiled at her as she dropped another piece of paper onto the table in front of a boy sitting a few feet from her. “Schedules.” She said, explaining herself to the Hufflepuffs.
Lily returned the smile briefly. At least she could count on one teacher liking her, or so it seemed. She finished the piece of toast, wiping the raspberry jam from her fingers before she opened the piece of parchment delicately. She had Charms first, and then Potions, followed by History of Magic and lunch. After the meal, she would go to flying class, Transfiguration and Herbology. She suddenly noticed a small asterisk next to Potions, causing her to glance down at the bottom of the page for some clue as to its meaning.
*Denotes a double period for Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
Lily’s smile broadened a bit. Perhaps she would get to see her new friend again after all. She looked at her schedule again, noticing now that Charms was a double period with Slytherin, and History of Magic was shared with the Gryffindors. It was an interesting, positive turn of events.
Thirty minutes later, the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins filed into the small Charms classroom, taking their seats on the long benches that stood up against either of the side walls. Lily saw a rather short wizard who appeared to be part Goblin come in behind the crowd, taking his place on top of a box at the front of the room. From his pocket he withdrew a wand that appeared to have been well-used. It occurred to her that this man might be the ‘Filius’ the hat mentioned.
He set them to task working on levitation spells, something Lily had seen performed countless times at home, mostly when her father didn’t feel like manually fulfilling his wife’s request to set the table for dinner. She pulled her wand from her bag, focusing her mind on the innocent white feather in front of her. “Wingardium Leviosa.” She said softly, flicking her wand.
The feather rose several inches into the air, hovering in front of her nose.
“There, look, Miss Evans has done it! Ten points to Hufflepuff, well done!”
The other members of her house looked at her encouragingly. Lily blushed slightly.
After a few more attempts, the other students in the class appeared to get the hang of the spell, except for a couple of the Slytherins, who looked quite hopeless. One of them managed to set the feather aflame, and the other got it up in the air but then lost control of it, allowing it to drift unhindered into the rafters above.
Lily returned her feather to Flitwick with the others and began to make her way toward Potions, eager to see the attractive boy from the train once more. She only got a few steps into the corridor, however, before she felt a hand gently gripping her arm.
“Nice work.” The boy stepped out of the shadows, and the Slytherin badge on his robes caught her eye. “You’re awfully good at Charms, for a first year, anyway.”
“My wand is probably the one to blame.” Lily said dismissively, pulling away slightly. She looked up at the boy, unable to help admiring his dark curls and mischievous eyes.
“Your heritage, more likely.” He smirked at her. “I was hoping to find others of my kind.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Lily said quite honestly.
“Purebloods, of course. Are you daft?” Another smirk. “It’s a shame, you’re quite pretty.”
Lily successfully pulled away, heading down the hall and trying to cover the blush in her cheeks.
“See you in Charms!” The boy called, barking out a laugh.
As she got closer to the Potions dungeon, Lily forgot momentarily about the rude Slytherin boy. She caught sight of Severus, pleased to find him alone, and she approached him, hoping for a chance at a conversation. The red-haired twins from the sorting were close on his heels, however, and the brown-haired boy wasn’t far behind. They blocked her attempt to get closer to him, and she resigned herself to entering the dungeon ahead of the other students, hoping she could secure a place next to an empty seat and encourage him to take the unclaimed chair at her side.
Unfortunately for her, Professor Slughorn segregated the seating by house.
The Slytherin boy was wrong about her natural talent, she was sure of it. Her performance in Potions paled in comparison to her charms work. She was too eager to finish the concoction, always stirring a few moments too soon or adding in a new ingredient before its time. She missed the instant gratification of her levitation spell, or perhaps the adoring glances of her classmates.
She glanced over at Severus, who had his own crowd of devoted Ravenclaws to cheer him on. He was working with his ingredients like he had known them for years, almost as if he had already memorized the potion in his mind and was now simply going through the motions to transform it into tangible being. He made it look so beautiful, whereas hers was a sloppy, sludgy disgrace. She cleared it away with her wand, starting anew, determined not to give up.
She was still brewing when Slughorn called for samples, and she was the only student not to hand one in. She hid behind the bodies of the other students as they left, ignoring Severus’s sympathetic glance, hoping she could finish up the last couple of steps before Slughorn noticed her. When she bottled her finished solution, she found him watching her from his desk.
He took it from her, swirling the liquid in the vial slightly. “Yes, see? It’s supposed to turn a lighter green than this.” He remarked pitifully. “It’s not a bad first effort, Miss Evans, but it took you the entire period to brew, and we can’t have that.” He filed her failed attempt with the other students’ vials anyway. “I’ll give you credit, of course, but I suggest you speak with some of the other students. I’m sure someone would be willing to help guide you.”
Lily nodded, trying not to cry. “Of course, sir.” She scampered quickly out of the classroom.
It was the first of many bad days to come.
What do you think of my House selections for Severus, Lily, and Sirius? I look forward to reading your comments on that and other features in the review thread :)
Lily wondered if Severus knew how often she just sat and watched him.
She often found herself staring; it was hard not to, considering how attractive he was. His thick black hair was not too long and not too short, and it framed his strong jaw and dark eyes handsomely. He was fascinating beyond this, however, since he was always in a good mood. Lily wondered what it felt like to be satisfied with one’s life, to not feel perpetually like there was something wrong or missing, some vital thing that everyone seemed to have except you.
They had begun as mere acquaintances, but nearly six full years of interaction had rendered her hopelessly in love with him. In a rare moment of courage, she had requested his help in Potions one day, and they had started meeting to work together on assignments on a weekly basis. She mentioned her interest in charms, and a month later they became dueling opponents, spending much of their spare time in the evenings meeting down in an open dungeon and practicing their spells on one another.
At first, they were rather innocent, merely causing one another to dance uncontrollably or hiccup for hours without a speck of relief. Once Lily tired of these spells, however, she began to push for them to try ever more complicated and dangerous magic. When Severus was chosen as a Ravenclaw prefect, she begged him to sneak into the Restricted Section and nick books full of dark magic for her to read in her spare time. She could still remember the look of mingled surprise and disdain that darkened his face when he refused. Afraid she would lose her friend, she didn’t schedule any more dueling sessions with him following the incident.
Unfortunately, the relationship had already been tainted. Severus ran with a gang of other Ravenclaws, all of whom were just as popular as he was. Frank Longbottom, the head of the group, was often seen chatting with Professor Flitwick in the corridor, having quite the natural talent for Charms. The twins, Gideon and Fabian Prewett, were both Chasers on the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team, and they liked to make a game out of tricking the girls they were dating by impersonating one another. Severus, meanwhile, had garnered some fame for his Potions skills.
Under the influence of his peers, Severus gradually began to see less and less of Lily, preferring to meet with her only under the cover of night. He didn’t speak to her in classes or at mealtimes, though she did catch him smiling at her once in a while, as if he were checking up on his friend.
Nearly every day, Lily sat under the same tree in the courtyard and watched Severus study and socialize with his friends. Sometimes she felt that it would be easy enough to gather up the courage to walk over and confess her love to him. Unfortunately, someone else was in her way.
Narcissa Black was quite pretty, at least for the spawn of a blood traitor. She had wavy blonde hair that seemed to catch the sun’s rays and hold them for ransom, the price being the affection of many of the young men at Hogwarts. She had blue eyes that betrayed her every emotion, filling readily with tears whenever she was in distress and ensnaring concerned suitors easily. Worst of all, she had more money than Lily could dream of, and she spent it on flashy outfits and expensive cosmetics that played up her delicate features. Lily had assumed that Severus was above such tricks of the eye, but even he seemed to brighten a bit when he was in her presence.
The object of Lily’s hateful jealousy approached him even now, brushing off the Prewetts and placing her hand tenderly on his arm. He said something, and she laughed a little too hard, clearly fawning over her prey. Severus looked down at something in one of his textbooks, and Narcissa caught Lily’s eye, smirking at her coldly. She whispered something in Frank Longbottom’s ear, and both of them turned and looked at their victim.
“Evans, you enjoying the view?” Frank said, cracking himself up.
“If she stares any harder at poor Sevvie, she’s going to burn a hole in him.” Narcissa added.
Severus glanced up, looking at Lily, and the latter looked down at the ground, flushing. Sevvie? The nickname made her stomach churn, though whether it was with disgust or envy she did not know.
“Leave her be, you two.” Severus said softly, offering Lily an apologetic smile. She pretended to be very interested in a branch behind him, refusing to risk meeting his eyes and seeing pity there.
“What a bitch.” A boy wearing Slytherin robes and an untidy haircut flopped down next to her.
Lily wasn’t entirely sure how she had become friends with Sirius Black, if that was even what they were. At first, his continual compliments in Charms had grated her nerves. Eventually, however, her classmates had stopped admiring her and started treating her like a show-off, replacing those hopeful smiles with looks of impatient jealousy. Soon, her camaraderie with the fellow pureblood had become the only consistently positive relationship she had at Hogwarts. He often used her openly for her assistance in class, but once in a while, he showed up with fresh flowers or candy stolen from the kitchens at a particularly opportune moment, usually when she was pining over Severus. It wasn’t a totally functional arrangement, but he was nice to her, at least most of the time. It was better treatment than she got from the rest of the student body.
“That’s cold of you. She’s your cousin.” Lily countered, looking over at him.
“She’s no blood to me, as far as I’m concerned. Not after her mum married that Mudblood.” Narcissa’s father had been a Muggle-born, and upon his death, her mother had run off with a Muggle insurance salesman with a full bank account. It comforted her, oddly enough, to think that Narcissa throwing herself at Severus was just her way of working out her inner demons. “Never mind her, anyway. Her brains are all in her chest, Evans.”
Lily smirked. “And yours?”
“They’re in the right place.” He moved a little closer to her, lowering his voice. “Have you heard of this fellow Voldemort? He’s all the rage in Slytherin. He wants to put people like her in their proper place, if you know what I mean.”
“Voldemort?” Lily considered it for a moment. “He’s got a stupid name, whoever he is.”
“You shouldn’t say that.” Sirius frowned slightly. “He’s a really powerful wizard. He’s probably better than you at Charms, and I’m certain he’s better than that one at Potions.” He gestured dismissively in Severus’s direction. “He’s good at just about everything.”
“No one’s good at everything.” Lily said pointedly.
“He’s a different sort, I think.” Sirius replied. “I mean, haven’t you ever wondered if there’s magic they aren’t teaching us here? Really powerful spells and whatnot?”
“I—I guess so.” Lily answered. She wasn’t sure if she liked where this was going. She looked over at Severus, who was laughing at something Frank had said. Narcissa was laying in the grass, resting her head in his lap. Lily felt overcome with the desire to know a deadly spell.
“Well, he’s mastered all that. He can teach us, if we help him out.” Sirius said. “My parents have already signed on, and they told me I can when I turn seventeen. I can’t wait.”
“Right.” Lily said absently.
“Well, you should think on it, Evans. You’ve got a lot of talent. We could use you.” Sirius stood up. “Besides, trust me when I say that you’ll want to be on his side when he goes public.”
Lily was still glaring at Narcissa. When she finally looked up, Sirius was already gone.
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 :)
She didn’t think it would still hurt this badly after three years.
Every time he wanted her, the soft skin on her left forearm burned deeply, the black tattoo searing her flesh anew, bringing her back to the moment when it had been etched there. The snake and skull were ugly, hideous just as she was. And yet he wanted her so often.
The Dark Lord had been immediately taken with Lily, though she suspected it was just because she had such a natural talent for charms work. In fact, that’s how Sirius had introduced her, now that she recalled it. He seemed to interact more effectively with women, priding himself more on his intellect and social charisma than brute strength, the latter of which was the purpose of so many of the young men who leapt at the chance to join him. While he mostly barked orders at the others, he took time to have conversations with Lily, discussing trivial matters like the weather and political happenings with her before meetings were formally convened. Despite the jealous glances she received from the handful of other female Death Eaters, Lily did not consider their interaction to resemble a relationship in the slightest. She never accepted his casual invitations to share a meal or a midnight walk, and he never made sexual advances toward her. In fact, none of the men did, save for Sirius. Most of them simply ignored her, which she preferred.
She walked up to the aged house they used for meetings, the password coming immediately to the forefront of her mind. Sirius had donated his family’s home to be used for Voldemort’s purposes shortly after his father had succumbed to the ill health effects that accompanied his extreme alcoholism, with his mother happily obliging. She still haunted the home, prostrating herself at the Dark Lord’s feet with her annoying offers of dinner parties and the assistance of the family’s elves. It was distasteful, the way she had gone from serving one selfish man to another.
Ever paranoid, Voldemort had instilled two phases of security for those who wished to gain entry to the house. Lily waited patiently for the wall to open up, revealing the wizarding home as it sprang from its hiding place between two ordinary Muggle dwellings. She glanced up, briefly watching as a Muggle family in one unit crowded around the television with their dinner. The sight caused her to grimace somewhat involuntarily.
Recalling her purpose, she stepped up onto the stoop, looking carefully for the faint copy of the tattoo that had been etched into the black wood. Finding it at last, she pressed her arm to it, matching her flesh up with the image on the door perfectly. Both marks were set ablaze, and she heard one of the locks open from the other side of the door. Removing her arm and rubbing it slightly, she leaned in close to the doorknob, whispering the password. “Serpensortia.”
The second lock clicked, and the door swung open. Sirius was standing in the corridor, speaking with his mother, likely attempting to convince her not to offer Voldemort one of her freshly-baked pumpkin pasties. Lily could vaguely smell something baking in the oven. Another grimace.
“There you are.” A wicked smile spread across Sirius’s handsome face, and Mrs. Black turned, biting her tongue. She could not understand what her son saw in the girl. The Death Eaters were no place for a woman. It was unladylike; most men would see it as an attempt to grasp control.
“I come when I’m called.” Lily said shortly. “Is he here?”
“Not yet.” Sirius frowned. “Not impatient, are you?”
“No.” She replied, though she could think of several other things she’d rather be doing tonight.
“Good.” Sirius said, placing a hand softly on her lower back and gesturing to the dining room table with his other arm. “Pumpkin pasty?”
“They’re not done yet.” His mother said sharply from the kitchen.
By the time the pasties had been fully baked and laid out on the kitchen counter, filling the house with the rather unfitting odor of a loving Muggle abode, everyone who intended to answer the call had arrived, and the Dark Lord had taken his place at the table.
“I see Longbottom is missing.” He said quietly, looking over at Sirius, who sat at his left hand, with Lily occupying the space to his right. “I suppose you were unsuccessful in recruiting him?”
“Indeed, my Lord, my apologies.” Sirius said, a tinge of redness appearing just above his collar.
“I see.” Voldemort folded his hands on the table. “Pity, waste of a good wizard. I imagine you would have enjoyed his company, Lily, seeing as he was also quite proficient in charms.”
Lily had never had soft feelings for Frank, but hearing the word was troubled her somewhat.
“Ah, well, it’s best that we move on to bigger and better things.” He looked down, collecting his thoughts, and then glanced at Sirius again. “What of your brother, Regulus?”
“He’s very eager, my Lord.” Sirius brightened slightly. “He plans to begin attending meetings with me as soon as he finishes his Auror training.”
Everyone at the table looked at him in surprise.
“It was his intention to join the Department of Magical Law Enforcement before he completed his time at Hogwarts, but now he sees his career as a unique asset to your plans, my Lord.” Sirius added in explanation. “He can let us know which of us are being investigated, you see.”
“Interesting.” The Dark Lord nodded. “Yes, I look forward to meeting him.” He smirked slightly. “It’s too bad that you never amounted to such a noble position, Sirius.”
The redness spread into Sirius’s cheeks, and some of the others chuckled softly.
“What about Malfoy?” Voldemort spoke now to a dark-haired wizard with a slight hunch in his back, a former Slytherin Lily recognized as Creigan Mulciber.
“He has expressed interest, my Lord.” Lily noticed that he spoke slowly, weaving a web with his words and successfully capturing the attention and respect of most others around the table. “I offered to bring him to a future meeting, but he insisted that you speak with him privately.”
“Nonsense, he can come to the meeting like everyone else.” Voldemort said coldly. He motioned Sirius’s mother over, demanding a glass of water. The woman could hardly move fast enough. “What of Snape?” He said suddenly, as if he had just remembered. “Severus Snape. Any news?”
Lily looked up, trying to hide the pain in her expression. Never mind the fact that Severus would never fit in among these people; he would never agree to it to begin with. And so he would die.
“No one has been able to locate him in recent months, my Lord.” Mulciber said.
“Well, try harder.” Voldemort glanced at Sirius. “You and your brother—”
“I will.” The words left Lily’s mouth before they had fully formed in her mind.
The others, including Sirius’s mother, who had returned with the glass of water, stared at her in shock. The Dark Lord did not tolerate disrespect, especially being interrupted. She swallowed heavily, sitting up in her chair, unsure where her eyes should go.
“You’ll what?” Voldemort spoke quietly, his voice containing some irritation that was muddied by hints of fascination.
Lily faced him tentatively. “I’ll go and look for him.” She said softly.
Voldemort and the others watched her silently for a moment, needing a moment to process her audacity. The females among them had helped out with group missions in the past, but never had a woman volunteered to take on a job by herself. At last, the Dark Lord handed down his verdict.
“I see. You wish to practice your skills in the event that he refuses, am I correct?”
Lily swallowed again. “Yes, my Lord.” She uttered, lying so boldly she nearly believed it.
“Well, make sure not to get too creative.” He laughed, freeing up the chuckle that the others around the table restrained in the absence of his permission. “So be it. Lily will find Snape.”
Sirius was still gaping at her. What was that on his face? Pride? Jealousy? Doubt, perhaps?
She folded her hands in her lap, tuning out the Dark Lord’s voice as he moved on to his next victim. She had to find Severus, and she had to do it fast.
It was curious that the Headmaster’s office was so well concealed at Hogwarts, considering that it was as large as most of the classrooms in the castle. It was rumored that the previous Headmaster, Professor Dippet, had coveted his privacy, believing that students at the school would go to the teachers for assistance and leave him alone if his office was too difficult to find. However, once an inquiring mind had the password, all he or she had to do was approach the large eagle statue down the otherwise abandoned hallway and whisper the phrase of choice.
This year, it was ‘peppermint toffee’, a reference to the holiday treat that sat in a dish on Dumbledore’s desk. He loved seasonal candy, though he did not believe in enjoying it merely once a year. The remainder of his office, however, did not betray the approach of Christmas. The dark stone walls let in none of the daylight from outside, though they also kept out the chilly night and freezing stars that currently threatened to seep through the crevices between the bricks. Five banners hung on the back wall, one for each of the school houses and a large purple one with the Hogwarts crest on it, marking the place for Dumbledore’s inherited throne. The remainder of the wall space was taken up with portraits of every size and shape, each of them inhabited by a slumbering former patriarch of the institution.
It was a mark of Lily’s training as a Death Eater that her silent footsteps did not wake any of the soporific men in the paintings as she invaded the office, tiptoeing from one rich imported carpet to another in her journey to the Headmaster’s desk. She pulled her coat more tightly around her, wondering if the Slytherin students in the bowels of the castle had turned to ice sculptures yet, and tucked her untamed red hair behind her ears. Green eyes searched the room but found no one there, leaving her to stand awkwardly before her former Headmaster’s desk and await his return.
The statue creaked a bit as it spun back around, folding the spiral staircase upon itself as the one who had just traversed the steps came into the office. Albus Dumbledore didn’t look a day older than eighty, causing her to wonder if he had simply stopped aging once he reached a certain zenith. He wore thin flannel robes of powder blue, though his expression was anything but soft.
“Good evening, Headmaster.” She choked out, feeling like a sinner standing before the altar.
“I’m surprised to see you here, especially looking as you do.” Dumbledore took his seat behind his desk, glancing briefly at her left sleeve but then allowing his eyes to return to her face. “It’s barely been three years, and yet the lines around your eyes resemble those of an old woman.”
Lily wasn’t sure how to reply to his audacious statement. Truthfully, she was a bit shocked that he even remembered her. She could not recall having much contact with him as a student.
“Are you putting your charms prowess to good use these days?” He questioned.
Ah, so that was what made her so distinct in his mind. Again, she didn’t have an answer.
“How is Mr. Black?” Dumbledore continued, and Lily realized that he was taunting her, in a way. Dumbledore had always had an uncanny way of knowing things that weren’t his business, and her recent exploits under the guidance of Tom Riddle were clearly no exception to the rule.
“I wouldn’t know.” She lied, knowing her words were transparent. She didn’t care. After all, she hadn’t knocked on Professor Sprout’s door at one in the morning to ask for the password to Dumbledore’s office so that she could stand there with him and make small talk about Sirius. “Professor, I truly apologize for disturbing you at this hour, but I didn’t know who else I could trust.” She paused. “I need to know that I can speak with you about a rather sensitive matter.”
“No disturbance at all.” Dumbledore said casually. “I couldn’t sleep, and I had intended to stay up and read over star essays that I retained from my days teaching Transfiguration. Too many toffees before bed, I assume… nevertheless, I imagine you will make for better entertainment.”
Lily blinked. She supposed that was his way of spurring her along. “I need to know where I can find Severus Snape. He was a Ravenclaw in my year—”
“I know of Severus.” Dumbledore interrupted. “For what purpose do you need to contact him?” He paused. “Don’t you have his address? I thought you and he were close friends as students.”
“We were. It’s a long story.” Lily said hurriedly, her desperate voice a sharp contrast to his vaguely curious tone. “I believe he may be in danger.”
“You’re speaking of Voldemort.” Dumbledore’s voice took a turn for the grave, but he still did not act as if the information were overly frightening or novel to his ears. “What does he seek?”
“He means to recruit him.” Lily said breathlessly, feeling herself begin to flush.
“Well, Severus will certainly refuse.” Dumbledore said, glancing down at his desk. “And, of course, when Voldemort is met with a response he does not like…”
“He’ll kill him.” Lily finished for him. “Or, rather, I will.”
Dumbledore’s eyes shot back up to hers. “He set you to the task.”
“I set myself.” Lily explained. “I requested it. But I don’t want to hurt him.”
“You want to save him.” A faint smile creased the Headmaster’s aged face. “Why?”
Lily swallowed, looking at him. “I need the address.” She said, dodging the question.
“Well, surely Filius has retained it in his alumni files.” Dumbledore said slowly, standing up.
“Good.” Lily’s tone became rather desperate once again. “I’ll go to Ravenclaw Tower—”
“Lily, wait.” The cold distrust that laced Dumbledore’s words stopped her in her tracks. “I will be happy to go and wake Filius, and I’m sure he will not mind the early hour when I tell him of the danger confronting his former student.” He walked over to where she stood, his additional four inches of height suddenly very threatening to her. “But it troubles my conscience to allow a Death Eater access to a man who has worked so tirelessly to further my cause, the side of good.” His searching blue eyes met hers. “I will give you the information if you do something for me.”
Lily nodded. It didn’t matter what the task was. She would do anything to help her old friend.
“I’m certain that Severus is not the only promising young wizard that Voldemort seeks to add to his repertoire.” Dumbledore said. “I need the names of the others on his list.”
She nodded again. “Regulus Black will likely join, and Lucius Malfoy is also being sought out.”
“Not now.” Dumbledore almost laughed at how easy she’d acquiesced. “You can give them out in front of the others at the next meeting of the Order of the Phoenix. We’ll be wanting the names of your fellows in Voldemort’s service as well, just to keep an eye on them.”
Lily had certainly heard of the Order, but she treated it more like a mythical beast, an enemy that the Death Eaters attempted to evade using their flattering tongues and quick feet. The idea of standing before these so-called enemies turned allies was more than a little daunting to her. However, Severus soon floated back to the forefront of her thoughts. “Of course, sir.”
“Excellent.” Dumbledore brightened just slightly. “Wait here, and I’ll go and wake Filius.”
Lily nodded again, watching him walk over to the door, feeling like she should be grateful but unsure how to thank him. As he opened it, another concern suddenly passed through her mind.
“What should I tell the Dark Lord?” She asked hesitantly.
Dumbledore paused. “Stall him.” He said finally. “Tell him you are still working on Snape, growing ever closer to sealing the deal. Do not let anyone else take over your task, Lily.”
She felt a lump growing in her throat, feeling very small next to so much responsibility.
“And call him Voldemort.” Dumbledore said shortly. “He’s done nothing to deserve fancy titles.” With that, he pulled the door open and headed to the tower, leaving her alone once more.
So, how did I do with my characterization of Dumbledore? It’s my first time writing him.
I hope you’ll leave me some of your thoughts in the review section :)
Lily was a little surprised when she saw the address written on the piece of parchment.
She wrapped her arms tightly around herself as she walked along the badly paved road that led to Spinner’s End, tugging at the sleeves of her thin sweater as she felt a brisk wind come swooping by. She couldn’t tell whether the shivers that played up and down her spine were a result of the October chill or her apprehension about journeying so close to her former house. Maybe both causes were contributing jointly to her present discomfort.
Her auburn locks flew gently out of her face as she approached the familiar fork in the road. This time, however, she continued moving forward, passing the left-hand sign that marked the turn down to Mill Town, where her parents still lived. Most daughters would be pleased at the chance to visit their mothers and fathers, but Lily had no interest in interacting with her parents, now or ever. She wondered if her mother still suspected that her father dallied with the Muggle women.
As she approached the little house, a tiny smile lit up her normally gloomy features. It was small and squat, just as Severus had described during their initial journey on the Hogwarts Express. One of the windows was missing a shutter, and a few of the shingles had fallen off of the aging roof into the dirt in the front garden below. The bright pansies planted there caused Lily’s smile to grow a little wider. Whoever tended to these plants showed an admirable amount of devotion to the job, and such efforts helped to make up for the deterioration of the rest of the house.
She took a deep breath, biting her lip and knocking gently on the door. A few moments passed, punctuated only by the cool autumn breeze that billowed around her. She backed up a little, glancing up at the windows upstairs to see if she could spot anyone, but the shades were drawn. Lily sighed, trying her knock again. She wondered if he could see her, hiding out somewhere so that she didn’t notice him watching. Maybe he was just ignoring her. Finally, she gave up, tucking her hair behind her ear and stepping away from the house. Maybe she would try again later. She couldn’t just allow him to remain ignorant of the immense danger he was in.
Lily was only a few yards down the path, heading back to the fork, when the door opened at last.
“Lily?” His voice was painfully familiar; it brought back years of feelings she’d tried to repress.
She turned very slowly, trying to give herself time to think about her phrasing. She should have planned it out better, perhaps, but there really was no nice way to say what she needed to say.
“Hi.” She started softly, finally allowing her eyes to meet his.
He looked awful. It was shocking for her to see that his hair had become more ragged, gaining an inch or two in length as well. Even at a distance, she could see that his eyes had become colder and more unfeeling. She was afraid that he would turn away at any moment and shut her out of his life once more, but she couldn’t resist moving closer, approaching a little at a time in her search for the kindness and warmth that had once inhabited those charcoal irises. She got right up close to him, able to smell his skin, and she saw that there was nothing left. He was a shell.
“What do you want?” This time when he spoke, there was no curiosity, only exhaustion.
She paused for a moment, collecting herself, and then she replied. “I came to make sure you were all right.” She said slowly, planning out each and every word. “I suspect you may be in danger.”
His expression faltered interestingly. It wasn’t a look of total surprise, causing her to suspect that Dumbledore may have mentioned something to him, or perhaps someone else. But no, he had looked genuinely taken aback to see her standing there in Spinner’s End. The tiredness still shone through his features, but it revealed a deeper ache now, the cliff from which one leaps off into despair. Her words were not news to him, not really. It was curious to observe this.
He still had not responded to her. She cleared her throat. “May I come in?”
He jolted back to consciousness, nodding briefly and opening the door for her.
“Tea?” He asked customarily, and she nodded, thinking that the warm drink would do wonders for the chill beginning to settle into her bones. He set the kettle on the stove, tapping it lightly with his wand, and returned to the living room, where he leaned against the door frame. “So, what have you come to warn me about?”
“The Dark Lord has taken an interest in your skills as a potioneer.” Lily said, pulling her sweater a little more tightly around her. Apparently the house really was just as drafty as it looked from the outside. “He seeks to recruit you to join the Death Eaters. He won’t appreciate a refusal.”
“You’d think he’d have gotten the point the first time.” Severus murmured, moving into the kitchen to pour the tea as the kettle began to whistle loudly.
Lily stood up, following him. “What do you mean, the first time?”
He shoved the cup gently into her hand, and she felt a rush of gratitude for magic, which had ensured that the water boiled more quickly than normal so that she might be warmed up sooner. His next words, however, drove an icicle into her heart. “He sent them here three years ago.”
She stared at him breathlessly, wondering how she’d remained ignorant of this fact.
“It was a few months after the wedding. We were just starting to settle into married life.” He said, and with a jolt Lily remembered the haughty blonde who should be there in the house with her old friend, the one he had been so excited about settling down with after graduation. No wonder it was so quiet; no one was there to insult her. “They came by one evening when I was out with friends, and they found her here home alone. She told them I would never agree to it, and she wasn’t interested in joining up either. She’d been dead for four hours when I got home.”
Lily realized her mouth had been hanging open slightly, and she closed it shamefully. “I’m so sorry, Sev—Severus.” She corrected herself at the last minute.
“You don’t have to be.” Severus, who had been staring sadly into his cooling tea, glanced back up at Lily. “She was awful to you at school. You’ve got no reason to miss her.”
“I still wish it hadn’t happened to you.” She said, a tinge of regret tainting her voice.
“Well, thank you.” He replied with a gentle frankness, taking a sip from his cup at last.
The silence hung between them like a wall for a few moments, and Lily wished for a split second that she hadn’t come. It would have been so easy to just keep her mouth shut and let Sirius and Regulus come out here to do Voldemort’s dirty work. But she cared about him too much for that.
“I’m sorry about what I said.” She admitted at last, finishing her tea. Not a day had gone by that she hadn’t regretted her foolish words. In fact, her remorse had grown to dominate her life. It infected her steps as she went from one Death Eater meeting to another, stealing her concentration even as the Dark Lord dealt out missions to Sirius and the others. It was the last part of her that resembled anything good. If that fragile thread was ever torn away, she knew she would become the perfect Death Eater, impeccable in her cruelty, free of human emotions like regret. The irony of it all was sickening.
“It’s all right.” He whispered, and she knew it pained him to say it. “You said something stupid. That’s all. I’ve never held it against you.”
“Never?” She asked, remembering how he had ignored her, even as their names were called at graduation.
“Not for a long time.” He corrected himself. “I just wish you hadn’t waited so long to apologize.”
She looked down, unable to stare into those eyes right now. If it was true, then fate was more unkind than she could have ever imagined. If she had sought him out years ago, maybe even right after the incident, would he have forgiven her even then? Could she have been saved?
Her stomach turned uncomfortably, and he took the cup gently from her hands. “Thank you for the warning, Lily.” He said, setting the cup down on the counter. “I appreciate you coming by.”
She realized that he meant for her to leave. She couldn’t, not like this. Surely it was no coincidence that Narcissa was gone, that the Dark Lord had brought his case up once more. But she didn’t know how to convince him to let her stay, not without revealing the full depth of her feelings. Then again, a handsome man with so many talents wouldn’t think twice about a girl like her. Any romantic confession would likely have him chasing her out the door at double speed.
He seemed to have noticed the fact that she was still standing there. “Did you want some more tea?” He questioned, looking a bit awkward. “Or perhaps you could stay for dinner? Catch up?”
Lily took care not to relax too visibly. “Yes, that would be lovely.” The man was impossibly perceptive.
Severus nodded, turning to pour the tea. The tiniest of smiles emerged from behind his black eyes.
Everyone turned and looked at her. It was the second time it had happened that day.
“Are there any new names to add to our watch list?” Dumbledore said evenly, his tone revealing nothing of the grave nature of his statement and said list. He didn’t need to say it, really. Everyone was aware that Voldemort and his followers were actively seeking out Order members. They tried to convert those they perceived to be weak, but no one had yet fallen prey to their promises and threats. Thus, they had resorted to Imperiusing the most useful individuals and slaughtering the rest. The number of people in the room had dwindled little by little over the past few months. Of course, her fellows would reserve special treatment for her if she were caught.
She glanced down at Severus, who was sitting with an emotionless expression at her side, and stood up, clearing her throat as she mentally divided the truth from the lies. Her greatest fear was that she would one day get them confused, a mistake that would be the death of her, the man she loved, and who knows how many other victims. Across the room, she noticed Lupin and Pettigrew watching her very carefully, as if they were afraid that she would cut and run at the last minute. An unnecessary fear; she had already survived enough meetings to suppress that urge.
“Arthur Weasley.” She said carefully, feeling her knees buckle slightly as a frown creased the older man’s face. “They have spoken of trying to use him to infiltrate the Ministry. No one would suspect someone so firmly on the side of good.” Arthur’s wife, Molly, squeezed her husband’s arm, refusing to meet Lily’s eyes. Lily took a slow breath in and out and found the courage to speak once more. “Andromeda Black, as well. Sirius mentioned her name.”
The woman in question sat across from Lily, watching her as well but with a face that remained unstained by distress. She had been approached by the Death Eaters at least as many times as Severus. Andromeda was a pureblood, a truly rare breed in the present day and age. However, she had defected from her family and chosen to live her life among half-bloods and Muggle-borns long before her father had died and her mother had taken to trying on new husbands like they were the latest fashions. Unlike her wilder younger sister, she was reserved and quiet, showing little interest in men or even socializing at all, though her soft black hair and brown eyes were undeniably beautiful and she could likely have her choice of husbands. Lily respected her.
“And any new Death Eaters?” Dumbledore continued.
“No.” Lily replied, tearing her gaze from Andromeda and looking back to the older man. “None were added this week.”
“Excellent.” Dumbledore smiled dryly, turning to the others so he could conclude the meeting. “Keep an eye on any Ministry workers in your circle of friends.” He instructed, as if it needed to be said. “Just because they cannot convince Arthur does not mean they will not try elsewhere.”
Lily stood up, picking up her coat from the back of her chair and draping it around herself. She looked back at Severus, but he was gone, having moved over to speak with the Prewett twins. She tried not to look interested, but she could still hear small snippets of their conversation.
“You want us to come home with you? Just have a cup of tea?” Fabian said, shooting a furtive glance at Lily.
“No, it’s fine, really.” Severus answered, putting on his own jacket.
Gideon spoke now, lowering his voice. Lily caught Frank’s name but little else. Severus shook his head, glancing over at her, and then turned his back on his friends with a tense smile. He gently took her arm, leading her through the thinning crowd and out the front door.
As they walked in silence, the light snowfall from earlier in the evening crunching under their boots, Lily thought about the other meeting she’d attended in the early hours of that morning. She had taken to looking at other Death Eaters when she lied about how Severus was nowhere to be found, about how she was still working very hard to track him down. She did this to avoid the prying eye of the Dark Lord, who had an uncanny ability to detect the untruths of his servants. However, it was getting more and more difficult to brush Sirius off lightly. He was insufferable.
“You want a cup of tea?” Severus asked, and she looked forward to realize that they had somehow arrived at his home after what seemed like a very short trek. Lily never Apparated, mostly because the idea of getting Splinched scared her to death but also because she usually used the time on her feet to sort through her very complicated thoughts and feelings. He had not suggested that they Apparate, and it pleased her to think that he preferred to walk as well.
“Please.” She answered, knocking the snow off the soles of her shoes and stepping into the drafty house. As he went to the kitchen, she started a fire with her wand. This was normal for them now, to divide common tasks such as washing dirty dishes or folding the blankets Lily used when she went to sleep on the sofa at night. As the fire began to burn contentedly, the kettle whistled, and when she turned to go fetch a cup she accidentally knocked a picture off of the hearth.
She picked it up, fixing the broken glass with her wand, and realized that she was looking at a couple she didn’t recognize. The man was tall and slender, like Severus, and he also had dark hair and black eyes. He had his arm draped tenderly around the woman, who smiled broadly with her dark green eyes, her brown hair twisting around her shoulders in waves. They both looked to be in their mid twenties, and Lily realized with a start that they were standing in front of the house in which she currently found herself staying. She smiled, looking at them wistfully.
“Tea.” His voice came from behind her, and he glanced at the photo over her shoulder.
“Are these your parents?” She asked softly, taking the cup and turning to him.
“Yes.” He said, sitting down on the couch. “Why, can you see the resemblance?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Lily smiled a little, setting the frame down again carefully. “Was this their house?”
Severus nodded. “Mum gave it to me after Dad died.”
Lily looked at him sadly, and he set his cup down, looking down into the brown liquid. She opened her mouth to ask how, but he answered before she could speak. “There was a riot at the factory where he worked. Something to do with the workers’ union. He got trampled underfoot.”
Lily put a hand to her mouth. “That’s horrific.” She gazed at him. “I’m so sorry.”
“S’all right, it’s been years.” He said quietly, looking down into his cup. “Mum was having trouble managing the bills then, since he didn’t have a lot to leave behind. One day she got an offer from America, someone wanting her to come sell her juices there, so she left. She offered Narcissa and I the house as a wedding present.”
Lily felt a pain in her chest at the mention of his former wife, but she pressed on. “Juices?”
“Oh, right, you never knew her, did you?” He smirked a little, meeting her eyes now. “She would get anyone she could to try them, including my friends and associates. She was great at Potions, and she liked trying to mix them into Muggle fruit and vegetable juices. You know, a little Cheering Concoction in your morning orange juice. Just makes the day that much better.”
Lily smiled. It was a brilliant idea; no wonder someone overseas had expressed interest. “That must be why you were so great at Potions back at Hogwarts. It’s an inherited talent.”
“I like to think so. But I don’t know if I’m really as good as her.” Severus smiled a little now.
“I wish I was as talented as you.” Lily said, sipping her tea before it got too cold.
“What about your Charms work?” Severus countered, glancing at her.
“I mean, I’m all right. I really think it’s the wand.” She replied softly.
“Nonsense. The wand chooses the—err, witch, remember?” He said. “It must have seen some prowess for the subject in you. That’s why you got it.”
“I suppose.” She said, considering this as she recalled her feats that day in Ollivander’s shop.
“Besides, you don’t even need to be good at magic to impress people.” He added quietly.
Lily smirked, looking over at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”
He smirked back, and she shoved him playfully, and in the space of an instant they went from being cautious acquaintances, barely reunited, to old friends just picking up where they’d left off in seventh year. Then he put his hand on her back, and she touched his arm, and they were kissing. Their lips moved slowly and perfectly, executing as good a first kiss as anyone could ever hope for. Lily’s tumultuous thoughts shut down for the first time in months, even years.
Lily closed her eyes, feeling the half-full cup tumble from her lap and onto the floor. The liquid spread across the wood, soaking into the edge of the carpet among the shattered remnants of the china. Severus’s tea toppled over onto the sofa before falling down to break beside its mate.
Even with time, the pieces would still be there, waiting as long as it took to be picked up.
The two acquaintances turned friends take the next step at last! I hope you are as thrilled as I to finally see Severus and Lily travel down the “what if” road we know from canon. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this chapter (and all others, of course) in the review section :)
Lily felt the first tentative breaths of spring before she saw a single open flower.
She could hardly believe how much her life had changed in the past year. She felt as if she were reborn from the ashes of her former self, an existence that she would have happily burned long ago had she known about the possibility of warm days and carefree hours spent with Severus. Each morning, they woke in unison with the blooming daylight and set about their chores, leaving the house every few days to run one errand or another. At night, they would finish a full pot of tea while recalling memories of their former days, the relationship they had between Lily’s unfortunate slip of the tongue and the day she’d shown up on his doorstep all but forgotten. The wee hours were still interrupted by one meeting or another sometimes, but the war had hit a bit of a lull, and she hadn’t been forced to commune with Voldemort and his followers in a month.
He held her hand softly now as cobblestone gave way to dirt beneath their feet and they carried their groceries back to the small house in Spinner’s End. Lily was smiling and laughing, reminiscing with him about her initial failures in Potions class. Just as he had then, Severus was saving her now, little by little. She had never known what it felt like to look forward to tomorrow before.
The first thing she noticed when they turned the corner were the ruined pansies.
A frown creased her face, and the familiar lines in her forehead that had vanished for a season or two now returned to their old ways. She set the bag of vegetables down on the unceremonious doormat, lightly touching the broken leaves of the purple flowers she’d helped him repot just days ago. The blooms themselves were shredded, as if a shoe had ground them viciously into the dirt. She stood up, frowning a bit more deeply. Who would waste their anger on a simple garden?
“Lily.” Severus’s voice sounded choked, and she turned around, but he was staring behind her.
She turned back just in time to see Sirius Black snake around the side of the house.
“Evans!” He grinned, and she narrowed her eyes at his yellowing teeth. It reminded her of the ugliness she’d once possessed, although Severus did not seem to see her that way. Perhaps she was like these flowers. Perhaps she also needed sunlight and warmth in order to live properly.
It occurred to her that the damage inflicted upon the pansies might have been meant for her.
“We’ve been looking for you, love.” Sirius said. “The Dark Lord was getting a bit worried about how quickly you took off after our meetings. I thought you looked a little nervous, too, you know. So I went by your flat, thinking the Order had been coming after you or something.” He folded his arms across his chest, and several other Death Eaters came out from behind the house, led by Regulus Black. “The thing is, it doesn’t look like you’re still living there.”
“Leave her alone.” Severus said, gritting his teeth, and Lily backed up closer to him.
“I was really hoping I wouldn’t find you here, Evans.” Sirius said, pulling his wand out of his pocket. Behind him, the others drew theirs as well. “I can’t stomach the idea of my girl shacking up with a half-blood.”
“I’m not your girl.” Lily said coldly. “Never have been.”
The hint of a frown crossed Sirius’s lips, and for a moment he seemed lost for words. Lily felt her heart strike another beat against her ribcage, and then he spoke, the sinking corners of his lips defying the casual tone of his voice even as they amplified the spite hidden behind his speech.
“Good.” He said slowly. “That’ll make this a bit easier, then.”
Regulus raised his wand just as Severus did. They shot simultaneous reductor curses, and Severus was the first to find his feet once again. Regulus aimed and missed from the ground, sending a jet of especially red light just past Severus’s shoulder and turning Lily’s blood to ice.
Though her concerned eyes were on her friend, her ears did not miss Sirius’s next spell.
She ducked too rapidly and fell to the ground, watching as he bore down on her, still smirking a little bit. “Imperio!” He spat again, but she rolled out of the way, finding her feet once more and pointing her wand at him just as Severus shot a leg-locker curse at an advancing Lucius Malfoy.
Lily’s hands shook, but her voice remained quite solid. “Sirius, you can’t have me.”
“Evans…” He shoved Lucius out of the way to get closer to her, his wand faltering just slightly.
“My name is Lily.” She said, and when she met his eyes, she saw something new in them.
“Lily.” He corrected, and she immediately regretted saying it. It sounded like poison on his lips.
“Don’t.” She shot back, trying to resist the urge to run like a coward. She could have fainted.
He raised his wand again now, and his lips had barely formed the words when he fell.
She felt her knees turn briefly to jelly as she watched his eyes cloud over as his body toppled to the ground before her, the green remnants of the spell still visible in the air. Behind him, another wand was outstretched by a man still gritting his teeth. At last, Severus looked her in the eyes.
Lily didn’t recognize the two Death Eaters who were still standing. They looked like they were barely old enough to have graduated from Hogwarts. It frightened her to think that they might still be students. Still, she could see their hands shaking even from where she stood. With their most powerful men down, the remaining pair Disapparated quickly, leaving Lucius locked into immobility and Regulus unconscious in the dirt a few feet from his deceased older brother.
“I said, are you all right?” His voice, tinged with an unusual frost, brought her back to reality.
“Yes.” Lily said gratefully. “Sev—” She noticed a bleeding cut on his arm.
“Did you tell them that I still lived here?” He asked roughly, jerking his arm out of her reach and turning to the spilled fruit and vegetables, picking them up and putting them back in the bags.
“No!” Lily cried, feeling hot tears pooling in her eyes. “I came to protect you!” She looked down at Sirius’s corpse, still amazed by how different a dead body looked from a living one. “I—he must have followed me back here after a meeting, or some other time when I was alone.” She glanced back at Severus, her voice gathering momentum. “I would never try to hurt you.”
“Hanging around these people, who knows what you’d do?” He set his jaw, frowning at her. “Besides, I didn’t see you doing a lot of protecting just now. I did more of that, if you ask me.”
“We were ambushed.” Lily said weakly. “I—I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t expect them.”
“You’re some Death Eater.” Severus remarked bluntly, putting his wand back into his pocket.
“Severus, please…” Lily said, picking up a stray apple and offering it to him as an olive branch. She glanced at Lucius and Regulus. “Come on, let’s tie them up and take them to the Ministry.”
“I just don’t know what to think, Lily.” He said, taking it deftly from her fingers after a moment’s hesitation but ignoring her suggestion. “It’s been so strange watching you go from Order meetings to Death Eater meetings over this past year. I want to believe you, I really do...”
Lily felt the first of the tears begin to drip sloppily down her cheek.
“…But Dumbledore’s the only other person who thinks you’re worth trusting.” He sighed.
Lily bit her lip. “Please, Sev, you have to forgive me.” She said quietly. “I—I love you.”
He frowned slightly, but it wasn’t cruel like the one Sirius had worn. “Please don’t call me that.”
“No, don’t…” Lily said quietly, looking desperate. “I just… I just wanted you to love me.” Her voice shook slightly as she admitted it. “I just wanted to protect you… be your friend again…” She tried to shut out the sound of Lucius’s yelling behind her. “You don’t feel anything for me?”
Severus put his hand on the doorknob, glancing down at the ruined pansies. He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but evidently nothing came to mind, because he closed it and opened the door. Then, he stepped into the house, leaving Lily to stand among the wreckage.
September was a perfectly pleasurable month. The relentless heat of August was beginning to fade, and it was replaced a little more each day with the first cool autumn breezes of the year. Without the sun blazing down on the tall reeds and grasses in the expansive field below, the plants returned to a greener shade, losing the crispness they adopted when they perished. The tolerable temperatures betrayed none of the winter freeze that would descend in mere months.
Lily was gradually beginning to think of September as one of her favorites.
She stretched out her legs, digging her toes into the soft plaid blanket beneath her, a shield to ward off crawling insects and dirt from touching her body. The light wind picked up strands of her dark red hair, and she closed her eyes as she felt it hit her gently in the face, moving backward to pick up more of her locks and draw them along with it. The breeze had scarcely faded and her hair barely settled back around her shoulders when she felt something light upon her bare calf, moving down toward her naked feet. She sat up carefully, supporting herself with one hand and lifting the other from her distended belly in order to shoo the offending fly away.
Pregnancy, three months of it. She could barely believe it, but there it was, becoming more and more apparent to her and every onlooker as the days went by. Though she had never shown a great deal of care for herself, she treated the baby like glass, eating as healthfully as possible and keeping the house immaculately clean just in case the little one decided to show up early. The child didn’t yet have a name, or even a gender. The two of them would find out at the birth.
She didn’t know precisely how their reconciliation had happened. Perhaps it was that she truly had nowhere to go and no other home in which to hide with Sirius Black’s blood on her hands. It could have been the result of her sheer determination not to let him walk away a second time. For several weeks after the attack, she moved about the home like a ghost, side-stepping him and returning to her former bed on the couch, quietly drinking tea and nursing her shattered heart. Then, one day, he asked her what she’d like to have for dinner. After that, it was whether she’d like to join him on a walk when neither of them could sleep. It seemed like an eternity had passed when he finally looked her in the eyes on the way home from a meeting and said it to her.
Three words. He kissed her, and her pulse restarted from its pause on that spring morning.
The breeze picked up again, and she looked up, noticing something different this time.
She had to look twice to make sure it wasn’t a real animal, considering its proximity to the woods that would make for a suitable natural habitat. But the delicate-looking doe, a creature comprised of wispy silver swirls and iridescent fog, had not come from the cluster of trees by which it now chose to pause. She was small, and she looked like she might dissipate in an instant if someone penetrated her shimmering torso with a knife, a wand, perhaps even a mere finger. At the same time, though, she was indisputably animated, pawing at the ground and moving her ears just like a living deer. They were both, in a way, a study in paradoxes.
Lily and the fragile doe stared at one another for a long moment, seeming to forget that life had continued to exist around them. Finally, the doe gave in, nodding at Lily briefly and then walking slowly into the clearing, closer to where Lily sat with her blanket. The animal paused again, looking intensely at Lily once more. Finally, the woman made the connection in her mind.
She pulled her wand out of the small bag she’d brought, and though she aimed it directly at the doe, the creature did not flinch. Lily closed her eyes, rummaging through the small collection of happy memories she’d amassed in recent months. At last, she settled on one of her favorites.
A teacup shattered as it struck a hardwood floor, the sound echoing. “Expecto patronum.”
As her whispered words slipped between her lips, a small burst of smoke issued simultaneously from the end of her wand, circling the doe as it transformed into a being that matched it exactly. The initial doe, finding a new burst of energy, took off running across the field, and Lily’s newly formed doe hurried after it, the pair of them eventually blending together, almost becoming one.
“Nicely done.” She grinned, turning her head to glance at the man who was now taking the empty place next to her. Severus stretched his lanky arms and crossed his ankles as he laid on his back, staring up at the afternoon sky. “You’re getting much better with it.” He added, allowing his own patronus to fade, leaving hers to prance carelessly about the open grass. It had been difficult for her at first, having few happy memories upon which to draw her strength, but the doe had begun to materialize fully in the past few months, her magic shining in its full glory.
Finally, Lily put down her wand, watching as the doe disappeared gradually before her eyes. The baby inside her turned over, and the motion combined with her hunger created an uncomfortable sensation in her gut. No longer distracted by the deer, she reached for the picnic basket Severus had brought with him, withdrawing a small bunch of grapes and a bit of cheese. Meanwhile, her companion took out two slices of bread, creating a turkey sandwich for his own nourishment.
“We got an owl.” He said, taking a bite of the sandwich and chewing thoughtfully. “He sent it on down the line to confuse them. I don’t know who it belongs to, but it definitely looks tired.”
Lily nodded, wondering how a small creature like that could journey across the Atlantic without getting too exhausted. Then again, she thought, it must have taken a while for someone to teach them how to carry letters in their beaks. The image amused her, and she smiled just slightly. Still, it faded away once she recalled why Dumbledore had sent an owl across the ocean. He likely just wanted to check and see if they had arrived in their new home, which was located in a remote part of upstate New York. At least she hoped it was something like that, a benign matter.
“Don’t worry.” Severus said, taking note of her discontent. “He’s an excellent secret-keeper. The best there is, I’d wager. Dumbledore would never let anything happen to us, I promise you that.”
Lily nodded, nibbling at her cheese and taking a drink of water to chase it down. “I just wish we could tell someone. Like your mother. It seems such a shame to live so close and never be able to visit.”
“Oh, I’ve already told her, though she’s sworn to secrecy as well.” Severus said. “She got so excited about the new addition that she immediately invited us to dinner. I told her we could come at the end of the week, once we’ve finished settling in. I hope that’s all right with you.”
Lily smiled. “Sure, that’d be lovely. Besides, I want to try some of those famous juices.”
Severus laughed softly. “Oh, I doubt she’ll have any objection to that.” Now, though, it was his turn to adopt a sadder expression. He sat up, fiddling with his wand and staring off in front of him, looking at the spot where his patronus had stood not so long ago. At last, he spoke again.
“Do you think things will ever be all right?” He asked her. “You know… normal?”
Lily gazed out at the bountiful field before them, watching as the breeze rippled through the tall grasses that grew all around their blanket. She glanced over at Severus, who sat pensively by her side. Her eyes fell next to the lonely grape still left in her hand, and finally to her puffy stomach.
“Yes.” She said finally. “I think anything is possible.”
I hope you guys have enjoyed At Great Personal Risk! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ending and anything else that you loved or didn’t love about the story in the review thread.
Thanks for all of your reads and reviews! :)