Chapter 4 : A New Beginning
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"Hello, Sev. Isn't it a beautiful day?"
His breath caught. She was here, alive, and talking to him. "Lily. What are you-I mean, yes it really is a nice day." He floundered, unsure if he should ask her how she came to be with him or simply make polite conversation. He opted for the latter, for now. "This is a dream, isn't it?"
"Yes and no. Tonight is the night when the gateway between the living and the dead is thrown open, and spirits may roam at will where they wish. But only till midnight. After that the gate closes and shall not reopen till another year has passed. This year, I have finally managed to gain access to your dreams, Sev. All the other years, you shut me out."
She nodded sadly. "Oh, not intentionally. Your guilt smothered my voice and your Occlumency shields prevented me from visiting your dreams. Until now. Now you've finally let down your guard, I can be with you." She turned to hug him and he stepped away from her.
"No, Lily. Don't touch me. I'll taint you. You don't know what I've done!" He turned away, hugging himself.
"Sev, don't be ridiculous! I know about the prophecy . . .and who brought it to Voldemort. Spirits can see both past events and present and sometimes . . .even the future." She came and put her arms about him. "I missed you, Sev. My first best friend. Don't feel guilty over the past. You never meant to hurt me."
"But I did hurt you," he cried in anguish. "I betrayed you and you died for it." Tears trickled down his cheeks.
"No, Sev. Wormtail betrayed us. And I died to save my son. I would do it again, Sev. Nothing you could have done would have prevented it. No bargain you made would have averted it. I had two choices that night, to live and watch my baby be destroyed, or to die and save him. There was only one I could consider making. I don't regret it. You shouldn't either."
"I tried, Lily. I tried to save you-" he began raggedly.
"I know." She held him to her. "But nothing could have saved me, Sev. I chose the path I walked long ago. My only regret is that in doing so I hurt you when I left you behind."
"No, it was I who left you, to follow the road not taken," he argued.
She put a finger to his lips and quoted softly, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by."
"And that has made all the difference," he finished the last line of Robert Frost's famous poem The Road Not Taken. "Truer words were never spoken. Look where it led me."
"You travelled the road a ways, but then you turned from it. You were tricked and seduced. You were never one of them, Severus. Not in your heart and soul."
"How do you know?" he demanded bitterly.
"Because you renounced the dark and came back to the light. You risked your life for us as a spy, what other redemption was needed?" She smiled gently at him and brushed his hair back from his face. "I forgave you your mistakes long ago, Severus. Now you must learn to forgive yourself."
"It's too late."
"It's never too late. Guilt serves no purpose save to chain you to sorrow. Let it go."
"By finding someone else to love as you did me. I was your redemption. But he is your hope, Sev. You pledged to protect him once. But that is not all that he needs. He needs love, Sev. A love that I can no longer give him."
"Lily, I don't know if I can . . .I've lived too long with bitterness and anger . . .I don't know if I can be what he needs . . ."
"You already have, Sev. Don't be afraid. Trust your heart. It won't lead you astray."
"I . . .will try."
"That's all I ask of you." She kissed him then, a bittersweet kiss of passion mingled with regret. "For what might have been. Be happy, Severus."
He broke the kiss eventually, and stood before her, filled with love and longing. "Was that why you came to me tonight?"
"For that and to remind you that you are loved. Always."
He pulled her to him and she wrapped her arms about him and he breathed in the scent of her, spring rain and the delicate lilies that were her namesake. He held her then the way he never could in life, as close as his own heartbeat.
Until she began to fade away.
"Forgive me. But I cannot stay." She said regretfully. "Remember me, Sev."
"Always, my love," he said, at last speaking the words he never had the courage to say when she was alive.
The last sight that met his gaze were her eyes-brilliant emerald orbs shining with love and peace.
Then they were gone and he held only empty air.
He woke with tears upon his cheeks, but he felt strangely at peace. It was a feeling that was totally new to him. He smiled tentatively. Remember me. He would never forget. And he would make sure no one else ever did either. He turned over and drifted back to sleep. And this time the emerald eyes in his dreams were not filled with death, but life.
When Harry entered the Gryffindor common room, he found his Housemates still discussing the troll and stuffing themselves with sweets from the feast.
Ron was eating a chocolate frog when Harry appeared and he nearly choked upon it. "Harry? Where did you come from? Thought you were in bed asleep!"
Harry shook his head. "No. I went to . . .return a book I borrowed from the library and I got trapped in there when the troll came . . ."
Hermione looked horrified. "Harry, that's terrible! How did you get away?"
"I didn't. Snape saved me."
Ron started to cough violently. Hermione smacked him on the back and handed him a glass of pumpkin juice. "Could you . . .uh . . .repeat that again? Because for a minute there I thought I heard you say that Snape saved you."
"I did. The troll was about to crush me to pieces and Snape came and dueled it to death."
"There, you see, Ron? I told you Professor Snape wasn't evil!" Hermione declared.
"He made me redo my potions homework! He gave me detention! How can you say he's not evil?"
"He's going to give us three feet of homework on Monday," Harry remarked, smirking.
Ron almost had a stroke. "Bloody hell! And you think he's not evil? What kind of teacher does that?"
"Homework is important, Ron. It's how you reinforce what you've learned in class," Hermione began loftily.
"Please! I'd rather not even be in Snape's class." Ron groaned. "It's a nightmare! Right, Harry?"
Harry hesitated. Once he would have agreed with Ron quick as blinking. But now . . .now he found he couldn't do so any longer. Not after what had gone on in the library. He had to be honest and hope that his new friends accepted him for who he truly was. "Actually, Ron . . .I kind of like potions."
"You what? Mate, how hard did you hit your head?"
"I didn't. I think potions are interesting. So are books. That's what I was doing in the library, picking out a book. Well, that and trying to remember my mother being happy."
"Your mum?" Ron blinked. "Didn't she die when you were a baby?"
"Yes. This very night. And that's the only memory I have of her." Harry said quietly.
"Oh!" Hermione sniffed, tears in her eyes. "That's so awful! I'm so sorry, Harry!" She started to cry softly.
"Here." Harry handed her Snape's handkerchief. "Dry your eyes before you get saltwater on your paper. It doesn't mix with parchment."
Hermione chuckled and dabbed at her eyes. "Good one, Harry."
"Huh? Did I miss something?" Ron asked.
"Never mind," Harry said.
"All this time, we've been celebrating and you've been . . .missing your parents," Hermione said guiltily. "You must think we're insensitive beasts."
Ron shook his head, understanding finally dawning in his eyes. "Sorry, mate. It's not that I forgot, I mean it's kind of hard to forget when You-Know-Who got destroyed tonight, but I just didn't think about, well, you know . . ."
"It's okay, Ron. Halloween is different for you. But I just needed to be alone, so I went to the library to think."
"And then you nearly got massacred by a troll!" Hermione said dramatically. "Poor you!"
Harry flushed, embarrassed.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Girls! Tell us more about the battle, Harry. What was the troll like?"
"Big, dumb, and smelly."
"What kind of spells did Snape cast? Did he use any . . .dark magic?" Ron asked very softly, his eyes wide.
"I don't know. He cast some kind of spell over me when the troll's club was going to flatten me," Harry recalled, telling as much as he could remember about the spells he had seen the Potions Master use.
"That one sounds like a Shield Charm," Ron said. "I've seen my dad cast that one."
"I'm surprised Professor Snape was able to defeat the troll with just magic," Hermione said. "I've read that they're highly magic resistant."
"Usually it takes three or four wizards to knock one out, much less kill one." Ron said, reluctant awe in his tone. "Snape must be stronger than I thought. No wonder he wants the Defense Against the Dark Arts job so bad. What did you say he cast at the end there?"
Harry tried to remember what incantation Snape had used. "Uh . . .I think he said something like Sectum . . .Spectrum . . .Sempra. But I'm not really sure."
"Spectrum Sempra?" Hermione repeated. "I've never heard of that one. I don't think it's in the Standard Book of Spells Level One."
"Fancy that!" Ron teased. "A spell the know-it-all doesn't know."
"Ron!" the witch kicked him in the ankle. "I am not a know-it-all!"
"Sure you are," Harry said. "You know more than he does, so to him you know it all."
"Oh! I never thought about it like that before!" Hermione exclaimed, smiling brightly.
Ron shot Harry a dirty look. "Thanks ever so much, mate."
"What? You ought to be glad Hermione and I like to study so much. That way when you need help with your homework, all you have to do is ask us. We can explain where you went wrong and you don't have to look stupid in front of the teachers." Harry pointed out. "Otherwise you'd be in danger of failing . . . especially in potions, because Snape loves to give long homework assignments. And just think, you might even get better grades than Percy someday."
Ron was quiet for a moment. "Hmmm. You know, I never thought about it like that before. I would love to make Percy eat his words. He's always saying I got the leftover brains in the family. I guess it's good to have friends who are smarter than your average wizard."
"Of course it is," Hermione said loftily. "Don't you know anything, Ron?"
"Not as much as you do, smartypants."
All three of them laughed at that.
"Promise me something though, Harry," Ron said suddenly.
Harry cocked an eyebrow at him, imitating Snape had he only known. "Like what?"
"Promise me that you won't turn into one of those kids who does nothing but study all day and night and who lives and breathes books. Please."
Harry chuckled. "Not a problem, Ron. I like books and potions, but I'm not a total brain box. I still love Quidditch and Wizard Chess and stuff like that."
Ron breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Merlin! For a minute there I was afraid Snape had turned you into a dungeon crawler for life."
Hermione sniffed. "Well, I, for one, am very glad that Professor Snape saved Harry tonight. And that Harry enjoys potions too. The professor must be happy to have found a kindred spirit."
Ron rolled his eyes. "If you say so, Hermione."
"Oh, and one more thing," Harry added. "Snape awarded points to Gryffindor."
Ron goggled, his eyes growing to the size of saucers. "No bloody way! Snape's never-that I know of-given Gryffindor points."
"Well, he did tonight." Harry informed him. "But first he took points away."
"Typical. What for?"
"For me risking my life. He took fifteen and then he gave me thirty for courage and saving his life. See, he's not all bad, Ron. Ron?" Harry stared at the other Gryffindor, who appeared to have fainted.
"Oh, dear," said Hermione. "I guess the shock was too much for him."
Harry laughed. He bent and shook the other's shoulder. "Wake up, Ron. Before I tell Snape you fainted over him."
Ron's eyes popped open. "Harry, don't you dare!" He yelped and sat up. "Are you sure he gave points to you? You didn't hear wrong?"
"Nope. Just check the hourglasses in the Entrance Hall. You'll see."
"I wonder what the homework will be on Monday?" Hermione murmured.
"You'll have to wait and see." Harry told her. "The professor wouldn't tell me."
"Oh, I do hope it's interesting."
"I hope one of you will help me with it." Ron groaned.
"If you ask me nicely," Hermione said.
Ron made a face at her, which made Harry laugh.
Then Harry yawned and said he was heading to bed, which prompted his friends to think about going to sleep also. He pocketed some sweets as he passed the overflowing bowl left in the middle of the common room table for everyone to share. He reached his room and changed into his pajamas, then sat crosslegged upon his bed and ate a few chocolates and pumpkin caramels. Then he recalled the professor's admonishment and said guiltily, "Oops, I forgot." But he ate another strawberry cream and said, "Here's to you, Mum. And Dad too. Happy Halloween." He saluted the air with the sweet then popped it in his mouth.
He fell asleep with the sugary taste still on his tongue.
He dreamed he was running very fast across a green lawn, but he was not frightened, for ahead of him was a familiar red-haired woman with brilliant green eyes. Harry ran right into her arms.
"Harry!" She cried, kissing his cheek and hugging him so hard he almost couldn't breathe. "Let me look at you. You've grown so much since I last saw you. And you look very like your father."
"But I have your eyes, Mum. Everyone says so."
Lily laughed, and the sound was like music. "So you do, Harry. I've missed you so very much." She hugged him again. "I'm so sorry that I couldn't be with you, but . . ."
"I know. I'm sorry, Mum."
"For what, love?"
"For . . .for making you sacrifice yourself. If it weren't for me you might still be alive."
"Harry . . .oh, child . . .never think that!" Lily cried, her eyes filled with sorrow and regret. "You're my son, and I would have protected you no matter what. You're not to blame for the actions of a mad sorcerer. You were a little baby. My little baby. You were the most important thing in the world to me. I would have done anything to save you. Anything."
"You did," he reminded her, sniffling.
Lily held him and rocked him, humming soothingly. "It's what mothers do for sons. You have no need to feel guilty, Harry."
"That's what Professor Snape said."
"You should listen to him. He was my best friend and I loved him very much." She sighed. "The two of you are very much alike, you know. Both of you feel guilty over things that cannot be changed, choices that were not yours to make. I always knew that someday I might have to give my life to save you. I did so willingly, never doubt that."
Harry stared into Lily's eyes, so like his own, and saw that she meant what she said. "I wish it never had to happen."
"I know. But it did happen and you must accept it and go on. You have a whole lifetime ahead of you, Harry, a whole new world to explore and I want you to live well and be happy. Don't dwell on the past. What's done is done. I'm sorry that I can't be with you, but there is someone else who will be there in my stead."
"Who? Have I met this person?"
"You have. You have much in common." She bent and kissed him upon the forehead. "I must go, Harry. My time here is limited. Don't be fooled by appearances. Trust your heart. And always remember, I love you. Love is the one thing you take with you. And the one thing you leave behind."
"I'll remember. I love you, Mum. Tell Dad I love him too."
"He knows, Harry."
"Where is he?" Harry asked, looking around.
"At heaven's gate, waiting for me. I had unfinished business here, that's why I was allowed to cross over. Forgive me, Harry, but I must go." She hugged him one last time and then faded away into mist.
"Goodbye, Mum," Harry whispered. "Rest in peace." And somehow, he knew she would.
What a strange dream, Harry thought upon awakening the next morning. Rubbing his eyes, he looked about his dormitory. His Housemates were still asleep, he was the only one awake. Smiling, he got out of bed and headed to the bathroom. He wondered if the professor was awake yet, and if he would remember that he had promised to show Harry some pictures of Lily and tell him some stories about her. Perhaps Harry could even tell Snape about his dream. He hoped the Potions Master did not think he was crazy. Maybe he should just keep the dream to himself. That way he would avoid making a fool out of himself.
He was still mulling the idea over in his head when he arrived at the Hospital Wing. He had his hand upon the doorknob and was about to open it when he caught the sound of voices from within. One was silky and sharp with disapproval and the other was deeper and clearly trying to soothe and placate the first voice. With a start, Harry recognized Snape ‘s voice and Dumbledore's. He put his ear to the keyhole and listened hard. He simply had to know what they were discussing, even though it was bad manners to eavesdrop and Lily was probably frowning down at him from heaven.
" . . .can you not have realized how it must have seemed to the boy, to see the whole school celebrating a holiday when it was the anniversary of his parents' deaths? Did you know, Albus, that Potter remembers that night? That he remembers seeing his mother die in front of him?" Snape's voice was razor sharp, cutting straight to the heart of the matter.
"Severus, he was a baby . . .are you certain?"
"I wouldn't have said so unless I was, Albus. This isn't a bedtime story I'm telling here." Snape now sounded very annoyed. "He told me so himself, when I asked him why he was hiding in the library instead of at the feast with the others."
"Alas! I confess, I had not thought about the impact the feast would have upon him. I naturally assumed he wouldn't remember anything about that night, considering how he was hurt and how young he was. I should have known better. Harry is a remarkable child."
"Obviously, Headmaster. Sing Potter's praises later." The potions professor said impatiently. "In any case, with a memory like that, it's no wonder he didn't feel he belonged at the feast. He also mentioned something about no one else remembering that his mother had died that night."
"Severus, that's not so! Everyone remembers Lily's heroic death." Dumbledore protested.
"Do they? It hardly seemed so last night. Nothing was mentioned at the start of the feast. You didn't even allow for a moment of silence to honor the fallen, Headmaster. You didn't bother to remind the students that Halloween is more than just a holiday where you gorge yourself sick on sweets and tell spooky stories and dare your rival to set foot in the Shrieking Shack. You didn't remind them of the sacrifices that were made that night, of the cost required to bring down He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named! It's something that should not have been omitted!"
"Yes, you're right, Severus. But I thought that it would be better to give the students a party, after all they've been studying hard, and I didn't want to be a wet blanket and ruin their fun by mentioning Voldemort."
"They could have fun afterwards. It's important that the students remember, Albus, a victory without acknowledging the sacrifices made is hollow. Nothing comes without a price and the sooner they learn that lesson the better."
"What do you suggest I do to make up for my oversight?" inquired the elder wizard.
Harry inched open the door a crack, wanting to see as well as hear his two teachers. He saw Dumbledore sitting in a comfy chair beside Snape's bedside. The professor was sitting upright, propped by pillows.
Snape stared hard at the Headmaster, wondering if the old man were humoring him. He did not appreciate being patronized. Then again, if that was the only way to get what he wanted . . . "I think there should be a memorial put up with the names of those who sacrificed themselves to defeat You-Know-Who. A plaque of some sort, very noticeable, that the students could see every time they entered the hall. In that way we shall honor their memory best."
Dumbledore thought it over for a few minutes. "Yes. I think that is a lovely idea, Severus. Perhaps you would like to assist me with it?"
Slowly, Snape nodded. "Yes. When shall we start?"
"When you are given a clean bill of health by Poppy, my boy." Dumbledore replied. "Care for a lemon drop?"
"Maybe later, thank you," said the Potions Master politely.
Dumbledore gave him a sympathetic glance. "I know that last night was difficult for you, Severus. And I'm not only speaking about the troll."
Snape shrugged. "I'm alive, Albus. That is one thing you can be grateful for."
"I shall always be grateful for that. Get some rest, Severus. You need it." Then the Headmaster rose and prepared to depart.
Harry quickly stepped away from the door and retreated several feet down the corridor, trying to act as if he had only just arrived when the Headmaster came out of the infirmary.
"Ah, good morning, Harry!" Dumbledore greeted. "What brings you to the Hospital Wing? Not feeling poorly after eating too many sweets are you?"
"Uh, no, sir. I'm here to . . .err . . .visit someone."
"Capital, my boy! Nothing like a visitor to cheer up a sick person," Dumbledore said cheerily. "Go right ahead, Harry." Then he winked at the Gryffindor.
Harry pushed open the door to the infirmary and went inside. He found Madam Pomfrey running her wand over Professor Snape and talking to him in a low tone. Then she handed the professor a glass with something green and smoking in it. Severus made a face, but drank the potion down without protest.
The look on the professor's face afterwards reminded Harry of the times when Aunt Petunia had made him drink some awful cold remedy because she couldn't stand hearing him cough continually. But he had a feeling that whatever potion Snape had taken worked a hell of a lot better than Petunia's cold remedy did.
Harry waited until Poppy had left before going over to Snape's beside. "Hello, sir."
Severus looked up and saw Lily's son standing there, looking rather awkward and uneasy, his hands shoved in the pockets of his robe, his messy hair sticking up all over. The hair reminded him of James, but Harry's demeanor was pure Lily. "Good morning, Mr. Potter. Did you sleep well?"
"Uh . . .yes, I did. Except for the dream I had."
"Dream?" The Potions Master quirked an eyebrow.
"Uh huh. It was really strange. I dreamed about my mother."
"A nightmare? You should have asked Madam Pomfrey to dispense you some Dreamless Sleep."
"Oh, I didn't need that, sir. It was a good dream. I can even remember most of it and usually I never remember my dreams. Mum visited me in it and she told me that I shouldn't feel guilty anymore about her dying and . . .I felt better after that."
Severus felt as if he had been hit on the head with the troll's club and knocked for a loop. Lily had come to Harry as well as himself last night. He had no doubt that the boy was telling the truth, that his dream had been a visitation by Lily in spirit form. "I see. It would seem she was busy last night," he murmured to himself, not thinking Harry could hear him.
But Harry had excellent hearing, after so many years of being locked in a cupboard in near total darkness. "Why do you say that, sir? Did she come to you too?"
Severus was quiet for several moments, and Harry feared he had offended the professor by his probing question.
"Sorry, sir. It's none of my business."
Snape stared at the boy before him, his last link to the woman he had loved with all of his heart and soul. Lily's last wish had been for him to love her son as he had loved her. He was not certain he would be very good at it, but he could not deny her this last wish. He would try. So instead of snapping at the boy to quit prying into his personal affairs, he said, "I normally don't discuss dreams or anything so private with a student, but . . .this once I shall make an exception. Last night, your mother, or rather her spirit, came to me in a dream also."
"Really? How did it make you feel?" Harry blurted.
"What is this, morning sessions with the world's youngest pint-sized psychologist?" asked Snape tartly.
"Sorry, sir. I'm being rude again, aren't I?"
Severus sighed. "What you're being, boy, is nosy. You should already know the answer to that question."
Harry nodded. Snape was in a good mood this morning, he had not taken points away from Harry yet or shouted at him. "Oh. I guess I do. Would you mind if I sat down?"
"By all means, Potter, pull up a chair. Your hovering is giving me a crick in my neck."
Harry quickly sat down. "Are you feeling any better this morning, sir?"
"Adequate," answered Severus. "What brings you here at this hour, Potter? Most children your age would still be snoozing away on a Saturday." Snape said, though he knew perfectly well why Harry was there.
Harry studied his shoes for a moment, trying to decide if he should remind Snape of his promise to discuss Lily with him. He bit his lip and worried it back and forth. He didn't want to irritate the Potions Master and risk getting Snape riled enough to order him out of the infirmary for being a pest.
"Well? Are you going to talk or shall I just stare at the wall and try and divine the answer by deductive reasoning?"
Cautiously, Harry looked up. Was that a hint of a smile upon the stern face? A softening in the obsidian gaze? He took a breath and decided to chance it. The worst Snape could do to him would be to take points and send him away, right?
"Uh . . .do you remember last night, sir?"
"What? Of course I do! I am not suffering from memory loss, Potter." Severus snapped. Cheeky brat!
"Well . . .err . . .do you remember promising me that you would tell me something about my mum?" Harry asked, wistful longing flashing across his face. "Because I'd really like that. Unless you're too tired? I heard Madam Pomfrey say you ought to rest."
"Humph! She tells that to all her patients, Potter. Sleep is the physician of pain. I am not on my deathbed yet, so do not put me there ahead of time," grumbled the convalescent. "Perhaps you would like to hear about the first time your mother and I met?"
Harry nodded eagerly.
"Lily and I grew up in the same town in Yorkshire and lived very near each other, on a street called Spinner's End. It got its name from all the weavers who used to work in the factory downtown, spinning thread and making cloth. Nearby the factory, which had closed down by the time I was born, was a small park, and it was there I met Lily . . ."
Harry listened, rapt, as Severus related that long ago meeting, how he had revealed to Lily and Petunia that Lily was a witch, and told Lily that he was also a wizard. "Your aunt sneered and mocked me for being different, she didn't believe me and called me a liar, but Lily knew I was telling the truth. I told her all about the wizarding world and Hogwarts, showed her newspapers and books, I even took her to meet my mother . . .We became best friends . . .I trusted her the way I did no one else. I even let her give me a nickname. She called me Sev . . .We had much in common. We both loved books and potions, and we could often be found in the library together, studying or making up new potions. As a matter of fact, the spot where you were sitting was the same one that Lily and I used to sit at . . ."
As Snape talked, he felt the knot of grief that had lodged in his chest for so many years loosen and fade. By the time he had finished telling Harry a few stories about Lily and himself as children, it was almost gone. It was strange, but he had never shared so much about Lily and himself with anyone. Yet the words just flowed out of him naturally around Harry.Trust your heart. It won't lead you astray. He could tell that the boy truly appreciated the memories and wasn't just listening out of politeness, even though Snape knew he was no storyteller.
Abruptly, the professor recalled the fact that Harry had no picture of Lily before she died. Harry deserved at least one glimpse of the vibrant beautiful person she had been, who had stolen Severus' heart long ago. Snape had an album of pictures of her, but wished to save that for another time. For now, he would give Harry something else to remember her by.
He lifted his wand and cast a silent Summoning Charm.
Five seconds later, something bright and shiny zoomed into Snape's hand.
Severus caught the object deftly and closed his hand over it. Then he cleared his throat. "Last night you told me that you have no memories of Lily save one, correct?"
Harry nodded, mystified.
"Perhaps you would like this to remember her by," said Severus and he opened his hand and gave Harry a silver and brass pocket watch. The cover had the crest of Hogwarts upon it.
Harry fumbled a bit until he figured out how to open the watch, which also had a chain attached to it. Inside was a large oval portrait of Lily as she had been at fifteen, looking up at Snape and laughing, her green eyes sparkling with joy.
"Just so she looked at me, one afternoon down by the lake." Severus murmured. "I took her picture and put it inside this watch, so I could look at her whenever I had time."
Harry snickered, recognizing Snape's odd sense of humor. "Good one, sir." He traced Lily's face, loving how happy she looked. He stared at the photo intently, as if trying to burn the memory into his brain. "She looks like she was happy."
"She was. That was the day we had won Slughorn's Best New Potion Award. She and I created a Memory Enhancer." Severus recalled fondly.
"That's really wicked!" Harry exclaimed. "How hard was it to make? How did you know what to do? What ingredients did you use?"
Severus held up a hand. "Hold it, Potter! I can only answer one question at a time." He sounded a bit annoyed, but in reality he was pleased to have found a kindred spirit in Lily's son. After explaining how he had invented the draft, he found himself growing tired. He yawned and half-reclined on his pillows. "Potter, why don't you go and eat breakfast and come by later this evening? By then I shall be more alert ."
"Okay, sir. Thank you for the stories. I really enjoyed them." He studied the watch again, then reluctantly closed the lid and offered it to the professor. "Here's your watch back."
To his utter shock, Snape pushed his hand away and then reached out and closed his fingers over the watch. "Keep it."
Harry's jaw hung open. "Do you . . .mean it, sir? I can have it?"
"I just said so, didn't I? Something wrong with your hearing?"
"No, but . . .it's your special watch." Harry could tell how much the timepiece meant to Snape.
"I have another. Take it. Perhaps having it will make you be on time for my class." Severus said gruffly, pretending not to see the shimmer of tears in the green eyes.
"Thank you, sir! " Harry said, but it just didn't seem enough to say thanks. Before he could stop and think, he had reached out and hugged a startled Severus.
For one instant, Snape froze. He could not ever remember a student daring to hug him before. But Harry clung to him and Severus cautiously put his arms about the boy, drawing him close. He knew he should have felt terribly awkward and embarrassed, but he did not. Instead he felt just like a father would holding his son. He found himself gently rubbing Harry's back and murmuring, "There now, Potter . . .it's just an old pocket watch, it belonged to my grandfather Prince . . .no need to act like it was the crown jewels."
"It's the best gift anyone has ever given to me," Harry managed to say through the lump in his throat. "Thank you, Professor Snape."
Severus coughed and pretended to blink away some dust that had gotten in his eyes, making them water. "You are most welcome . . .Harry."
Harry smiled, then he pulled away, not wanting to embarrass himself or Snape any further by bawling like some silly girl. Clutching the pocket watch, he turned and left the infirmary, calling over his shoulder, "I'll see you later, Professor!"
It was not until he had gotten halfway down the corridor, and paused to open the watch and peer again at Lily's picture, that he realized Snape had addressed him by his first name. He felt a warm glow spread through him. He recalled Lily telling him that there was someone else who would love him in her stead. And now he thought he knew who it was.
He tucked the watch gently into his pocket. He would always treasure it. Then he made his way to the Great Hall for breakfast. For the first time he could remember, he was actually hungry on the morning after Halloween.
Three weeks later, there was a large granite and cherry wood plaque in the Entrance Hall, commemorating all the former students of Hogwarts who had given their lives in the fight against Voldemort. Lily and James Potter's names were first upon it. Dumbledore called all the students out after breakfast to show it to them and explain how it was made to honor the fallen, so their sacrifice might never be forgotten. He also asked them all to bow their heads for a moment of silence. The inscription on the top of the plaque read, "For All Those Who Have Given the Ultimate Sacrifice-We Honor You".
Several of the girls started to tear up when they read that, including Hermione.
Harry himself had to take one of Snape's handkerchiefs, which he always carried in a pocket now, and quickly pretend to blow his nose. It was a fine memorial. Lily would be proud. He turned and looked in the back of the Entrance Hall. In the far corner stood a familiar black-robed figure, observing quietly, his eyes bright with satisfaction. Harry knew quite well who had done the most work in creating that memorial. He silently thanked Severus for his tribute to the fallen. They would never be forgotten again.
After a few moments, the crowd of students broke up and began heading to class.
Harry lingered in the Entrance Hall a few minutes longer, gazing up at the plaque and then back down at his watch.
Suddenly, a hand descended upon his shoulder. "If you don't hurry, Harry, you shall be late for my class." Severus murmured softly.
Harry looked up at his tall professor, whom he had come to regard as a surrogate parent over the past weeks. "I'll run really fast, don't worry."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Don't get cheeky, boy. Just because you now have an open invitation to visit my quarters doesn't mean I won't take points."
Harry merely grinned. "The memorial is awesome, Professor Snape. Mum would love it."
Severus put an arm about the boy he was gradually coming to regard as a son and said quietly, "She would indeed, Harry." Then he ruffled Harry's hair affectionately. "Get to class, brat! Before I give you detention for not being able to tell time despite the perfectly good watch you have in your pocket."
Harry smirked, hearing the affection behind the sternness. He slipped out of the other's embrace and darted away, calling over his shoulder, "Okay . . .Sev!"
Snape scowled. "Twenty points from Gryffindor, Potter, for daring to address a professor so informally."
Harry sighed. He hadn't thought Snape would mind him using the nickname his mother had given her best friend when they were alone. Just when he thought he had gotten around Severus' touchy pride . . .
"And fifty points for being just like your mother," Severus added quietly, as he watched his wayward child scamper down the stairs to the dungeons.
Harry grinned as he ran towards the potions lab. Fifty points! He gave me fifty points! You were right, Mum. He really does love me. I think.
Severus immediately wondered what in hell was wrong with him. He had given Gryffindor fifty points! Well, thirty if he wanted get technical, he amended. Still . . .it had to be Lily's influence. There was no other rational explanation. Was there?
Love is the one thing you take with you. And the one thing you leave behind.
Shaking his head, Severus headed to the dungeons for his class, which he now looked forward to teaching due to a green-eyed wizard who had inherited his mother's gift for potions . . .and her best friend as his guardian.
Have a brilliant and happy Halloween all!
Here's some virtual candy from Honeydukes!
Anyone care to make a banner for this one?