Chapter 1 : Behind the Tapestry
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It had been a year ago today that Severus Snape had insulted the love of his life in the worst way. He couldn't remember feeling lower than he did at that moment. In his attempts to apologize, he'd been rejected by her, beaten up by bloody Potter, then by Black. Then later in the evening, he was ridiculed by Mulciber and Avery for not hexing her for all that he was worth.
Still, after everything, he wasn't able to let it go. Someone had to watch out for her. It was dangerous being who and what she was. He couldn't bear to think of her being hurt. He was determined to protect her.
So now he was reduced to stalking. She didn't want anything to do with him. She wouldn't talk to him, look at him, except for the glares. Her friends wouldn't let him get anywhere near her so he followed her in the halls between classes, being careful not to be seen. He snuck out when she had her rounds and made sure she stayed safe, and had even intercepted Avery and his gang last week. A lump formed in his throat at the thought of her being touched by them. More than a few black eyes and broken bones later, he was a mess and she remained unharmed, but for how long?
He knew many of the alcoves in the castle, having used them to keep out of her sight. He sat in one now, behind a large hanging tapestry in the corridor after another foiled attack.
Potter had yet to step up and intervene on her behalf. If he was half the man she deserved... at least Severus could absolve himself of that. Of course, Potter didn't have the inside information that Severus did. It wasn't his responsibility to turn Potter into who Lily deserved. He would never... never entertain the notion of helping Potter, no matter how in love with him she appeared to be. She probably hadn't realised it herself. But when she looked at him with those eyes, and when she touched him lightly on the arm and laughed her perfect laugh, Severus knew what that was.
He blew out a breath on frustration. He'd just taken another hex for her, though she'd been completely oblivious. He'd brought it upon himself, having stepped in to save her behind her back and without her knowing. His face stung with boils. His body ached with bruises.
Why can't I stop loving her, he thought madly, slamming his fists into the castle floor. It was dark, the thickness of the wall hanging blocking out most of the light from the hall. In the dimness he could still make out the back of the weavings on the tapestry and the tiny knots that kept the whole thing from unraveling. It was an ugly mass of crossed strands that ran into each other with seemingly no pattern at all, a stark contrast to the work of art on the other side. Severus reached out and fingered one of the tiny knots, wondering how much of the picture would unravel if he let this one loose.
He would have some explaining to do tonight in the Common Room for sure. The boys weren't going to let this one go easily. Perhaps he could hide away until the halls cleared and then he could visit Pomfrey. Maybe no one in his House would find out this time. That was a laugh. Of course they'd know. They always did.
It was a game with them. A stupid, dangerous game that some of them were taking much too seriously. The students who didn't meet the Dark Lord's criteria were on the list... which didn't leave many people off the list of targets. Anyone who was not of pure Wizarding blood, sympathetic to the other side, or outspoken against the Cause was on that list. Anyone who could cause those people harm or make their life more difficult was ranked on a separate list. When it was clear that she no longer favoured him and he couldn't get close enough to her to make them back off, she had risen quickly to the top of the target list. He was at the bottom of the other one.
He knew that because of what she was, she'd be on that list no matter what. But he couldn't help feeling guilty about it. If things were different, if he hadn't that first time...
A sudden commotion beyond the tapestry caught his attention. Severus moved the corner of the wall hanging aside to catch the show.
Dorcas Meadowes and her so-called boyfriend in a love-tiff. What an excellent way to raise his spirits. Usually someone else's discomfort cheered him, but this was just ugly.
She was red-faced and angry, not a very attractive color on her. It made her increasingly blotchy and pale. She'd been screaming at him. Again.
The whole school knew by now that Edgar Bones was cheating and here was Dorcas, making yet another scene about it. Obviously, if it was important to her, or she wouldn't stay with the idiot. Perhaps Edgar was more of an emotional exhibitionist and this little display, ugly as it was, boosted his twisted ego. Perhaps there was a bet involved.
Severus let the tapestry fall back in place and tried to let his mind drift as far away from the present as possible. He was in an impossible situation. Eventually he'd slip up and unless bloody Potter started picking up the slack, Lily would get seriously hurt. It wasn't supposed to be his problem. He should let it go and bugger off. It was what she and Potter wanted, after all. Was he capable of backing off and letting fate take care of itself when he was the only one that knew exactly how much danger Lily was in? It would be what the rest of his House would do in a heartbeat, even if they weren't involved in the game. She was not his to save.
And Meadowes was still screaming. Severus wished that she'd shut up and go away. The last time he'd looked, Edgar hadn't seemed too upset. In fact, was that a smirk hidden behind his fake apology?
The hall was suddenly quiet. There were whispers and then retreating footsteps. If the corridor wasn't so empty, he would have missed the sharp intake of breath and the quiet sob that came after.
He assumed they'd patched it up again. She shouldn't be crying now… unless she knew. If she knew what Edgar had done and still went along with it, let him use her like that. It wasn’t right.
Dorcas took a breath, wiped away her tears and tried to regain some of her composure.
Somehow, after all the yelling she felt worse than before she'd started. Edgar had taken his leave, looking non-plussed as ever and that made her more furious. She should have broken it off right then, but she didn't. In fact, she hadn't even threatened to. It happened just like last time.
Edgar had probably counted on it too. She felt utterly defeated. It wasn't right what he was doing. It wasn't right what she was putting up with either. Why was he still with her if he didn't want to be?
Why was she allowing it?
All she wanted to do was hide away for an hour or so, or until her face returned to its natural color. This was one of those times that being fair skinned was a definite disadvantage. Remember to get more sun in the spring, she mentally put on her long list of things to do. Oh, and break it off with Edgar. As soon as possible.
The thought made her sulk wearily over to the nearest tapestry. It used to be one of her favorites in the castle, an idyllic scene of a knight and his lady looking lovingly into each other’s eyes. If it were only that simple, she thought. All the romance with none of the heartache. As she stared at the beautiful image, she caught the knight shift his eyes warily to the side and then back to his lady. Dorcas watched as the lady put on a small frown, but then regained her smile as the knight returned his attention to her.
Dorcas huffed at the picture. Even the art was mocking her.
She whipped aside the tapestry and almost jumped back in surprise to discover that someone was already making use of the hidden alcove. As she peered into the darkness, her eyes adjusted and the dim light revealed the drawn face of someone else clearly in need of their own privacy. At least it was a singular someone and not a hormone-crazed couple.
The pox faced boy didn't raise his head at her, just sat there loosely like an abandoned rag doll. She sighed heavily and decided that today she needed to hide more than absolute privacy.
She hoped he didn't mind sharing.
She dropped her bag on the floor and slid down the wall, dropping the edge of the tapestry to seclude them both from prying eyes.
This corridor was better known for couples who needed a place to suck face before running off to class. It was clear that they both sucked, so that was something.
Dorcas looked over at the boil-covered face. Even after her embarrassing outburst, she found something that amused her about the situation. Everyone knew his story. He was the lovesick sidekick that had ultimately been kicked out.
Slimy Slytherin, once the best friend of the ever-popular Lily Evans. Now, just a Slytherin alone... sometimes covered in boils, like now, for instance. Lily and he weren't even on speaking terms. She knew that he still followed Lily around like a puppy who had been kicked one too many times. And to make matters more awkward, the girl was dating his worst enemy.
Not many people noticed him anymore. He sulked through the halls with his head down and slid into the passageways between the corridors, the ones that most people didn’t know about. But she did. She noticed when things were out of place, like the tapestry slightly off center when someone was behind it (except for today, she thought angrily), or the smell of lilacs… a light-colored hair on a dark colored shirt…
Edgar would get what he had coming to him, she decided. As soon as she figured out what that was supposed to be. He loved her, or he said he did. Things could get better if she gave him enough time. But the mess next to her was hopeless. He didn’t have a chance, and everyone knew it.
The senselessness of his situation was overwhelmingly pathetic. He was bringing it upon himself. Who could subject themselves to that much misery, when they had the power to walk away? Dorcas hated people who weren't sensible and pragmatic and let their emotions take over their actions. Seriously, someone should tell him how much of a fool he was being. Someone should say something. He was being ridiculous.
Suddenly, Dorcas felt like picking another fight. What the hell. It was something to do.
"Nice one, Snape. She'll really be head over heels for you now." Dorcas hugged her knees closer, looking askance at the boils. They looked painful.
"Shut it." It was barely a mumble, but it was something.
"Have you tried sending her a dozen long stem black roses or something? You might get better results. I'm sure that will turn things right around for you."
"I said shut it," he said, this time stronger.
"It's hopeless. You really should just forget her and move on."
"And you are obviously making better progress. He's more likely to swallow a toad than look at you again. It's entirely possible that if you don't end it with him today, he will save you the trouble tomorrow." He sneered, the Slytherin in him finally making an appearance. "I'd like to see you follow your own advice, if it's that simple. Just forgetting and walking away."
There was a long pause.
"I thought so. It's not so simple after all, is it then?"
She scowled. "Shut it!"
Finally, Severus smiled, though the boils made the expression painful. But this was worth it. He was finally able to torment someone else who was as hopelessly stuck as he was. Of course, she would think it horrifying, having him assume that her situation was anything like his. Severus smiled wider. He almost laughed; it was the best insult he'd thought up in weeks and he wasn't going to miss the opportunity to use it.
"Looks as if we have some common ground, Meadowes."
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