“Shit.” Sirius whispered, his face stricken with panic. “Shit...shit...”
Lily’s eyes grew wide above the hand that Sirius had clamped over her mouth, and she wrenched it away.
“What do we do?”
“Oh, Merlin -”
The sound of James’s footsteps was growing louder, each step echoing off the stone walls.
“Padfoot mate, are you up there?”
“Jesus.” Sirius put his hand to his face, squeezing his forehead between his fingers. Lily thought faster. She knew there was a pretty wide ledge beneath the owlery window, and if she was careful... With a sudden burst of recklessness, Lily swung her legs out of the window and lowered herself down onto the ledge below.
“What are you -” Sirius began, incredulous, but she was already out of sight. As soon as her feet touched the ridge, she knew she had made a mistake. She found herself balanced precariously on a thin beam of stone, much thinner than she had anticipated, and was forced to grab hold of the ivy which grew around the window to steady herself. ‘I should climb back up’, she thought. ‘This is dangerous, and it’s not like me and Sirius are actually doing anything wrong’. Looking up she saw Sirius’s face, pale and terrified on her behalf, yet there was barely a moment for them to exchange glances before Sirius’s head disappeared again. The sound of a deep male voice told her the reason – James had entered the room. Lily held her breath as she waited for James to speak. She saw the balance of light shift above her as Sirius moved surreptitiously in front of the window, preventing his friend from looking out.
“There you are!” she heard James say. “How come you disappeared? Got too used to being on your own?”
Lily imagined that he grinned as he said this.
“Just came to see Godric.” Sirius replied.
“Feeding your owl before yourself? That’s very unselfish of you!”
Sirius laughed, as James had obviously meant him too, but Lily wondered that James could not be suspicious. To her it seemed as if Sirius was acting decidedly guilty – that laugh had been painful to listen to. There was a moment’s silence, then-
“Padfoot,” James began. “Seriously, what’s wrong? Did you already hear -”
“Right.” said James. “I suppose you didn’t then. Well, this is what I came to tell you.”
Sirius’s voice suddenly dropped the tone of awkwardness, as he replied, now anxious for knowledge.
“Right.” He said. “Want to tell me as we walk down though Prongs? I’m finished here.”
Lily began to panic – she wasn’t sure whether she would be able to climb back up on her own, and if Sirius left with James she might be stuck. Her balance was already wavering.
“I better tell you here, mate.” James answered, compassion in his voice. “We don’t want the whole world knowing, although – well, to be honest half of Hogwarts already does.”
“ ’fraid so.”
There was a brief pause, then Sirius answered.
“You better spit it out then Prongs, what’s the damage?”
Without warning, Lily’s foot slid a couple of inches from the stone, and she lost her balance. She prevented herself from crying out as clinging to the ivy in desperation she tried to regain her footing and failed, first one foot, then the other glancing off the ledge. With a sudden jerk, she lost all sense of security and before she knew what was happening she found herself clinging to the stone by her fingertips. It was too late to cry out now, as she couldn’t raise enough breath to manage more than a wimper – so tight was her chest with the fear of imminent death. She could still hear the hum of voices above her, yet the words no longer registered. Her own plight was all that mattered now. With a paralysing fear that surpassed anything she had ever felt, Lily realised that her fingers were sliding slowly backwards from the sill. She gripped it with all the strength she had, but she had never been physically strong and so she lasted maybe three seconds.
Letting go of the ledge, Lily dropped like a stone. As she fell she squeezed her eyes tight shut, furious that she was about to die, and for such a stupid reason. The air rushed passed her as she plummeted downwards, until suddenly... something was different. It was as if she was falling in slow motion, something was supporting her, lowering her gently downwards and finally setting her on the grass as if she had been laid there by some mysterious giant. Weak with relief, she closed her eyes in a dead faint.
It was only a minute or two later when Lily came to her senses. She could feel the spell that must have saved her life still hung around her, creating a feeling of disorientation, so she opened her eyes again, determined to see things clearly.
“What were you thinking??!”
The familiar, hook-nosed face that looked down at her blazed with anger, yet despite the furrowed eyebrows and the expression of the black eyes, the voice was concerned.
“You idiotic, stupid girl.” He continued. “I saw you – you climbed out that window, you didn’t just fall!” What the devil possessed you?”
“I...I...” Lily stuttered, trying to think of a reasonable explanation.
“If you had died” he continued angrily, “think how that would have affected people – people who love you. If you’d just had your wand out ready you could have saved yourself, but you never...”
“You did the charm that saved me?”
“Of course I did.” He almost sneered. “Did you think it was some trick of gravity?”
She began to get to her feet and he extended a hand, pulling her roughly upwards. He didn’t let the hand drop as she gained her balance, but instead gripped it tighter, looking her earnestly in the face.
“Really, Lily. Why?”
As always, she noticed the softening in her voice as he spoke her name. She had no answer that could reassure him – unless...
“I wanted to avoid someone.” she said, omitting the vital detail of why. “I heard Potter coming up the stairs, and I wasn’t in the mood to speak to him.” That was true wasn’t it?
Lily thought that she detected a glint of pleasure in Severus’s eyes, as his mouth turned upwards slightly.
“That as may be.” He answered. “It was still a stupid, reckless thing to do.”
Lily looked embarrassed, as Severus crossed his arms over his chest.
“Nothing you do ever surprises me.” he said, making Lily smile. It reminded her of the old Severus, the boy she had used to respect and look up to, as having superior knowledge of the wizarding world. Unexpectedly, Severus smiled back. Lily put a hand on his folded arms.
“Thank you.” she said. “For saving my life.”
He seemed startled at her touch, and for a second Lily thought he looked completely vunerable.
“It’s alright.” he answered. They turned, and began to walk back to the castle together, yet for a while they were silent. Neither could think of a word to say to each other. Eventually Lily, remembering their previous conversation, began –
“So, erm, last time we spoke, it was about your friend – Regulus.”
“I suppose you’ve heard. Don’t blame yourself Lily. Regulus just knows his own mind, that’s all.”
“You haven’t heard? Then no matter. But I suppose I should tell you that there is no need to convince Black to return home, anymore.”
Lily stopped in her tracks.
“Sev, - Sev you can’t mean that Regulus...”
“He has... resolved his problems. You don’t need to know the extent of them. Forget it.”
“So he’s moved out?”
Severus quirked an eyebrow.
“No. Well, he gave in to pressure in the end. Did what his parents wanted.”
“What!” Lily’s jaw dropped in horror. Severus stilled appeared quizzical – he had no idea that Lily knew exactly what kind of pressure Regulus had been under.
“He’s joined up?” Lily choked.
“The death-eaters, he’s joined them?”
Severus’s face assumed a slightly surprised expression.
“How do you know about that?” he questioned. “A guess? The rumours?”
“Regulus told me.”
Snape rolled his eyes.
“Stupid.” He muttered.
“Yes.” Lily admitted mournfully. “Stupid kid. What does he think he’s going to achieve by joining the...”
“That’s not why he’s stupid.” Snape interrupted her. Lily stared at him. “He’s stupid for going around telling people his plans. He’ll have the ministry down on him before you can say - ”
“So you don’t think joining Voldemort is a bad idea?”
Lily had stopped walking, and turned to face her companion, incredulity etched across her face.
“In Regulus’s case, yes.” Snape answered calmly. “He’s too young, too eager. With no common sense and no especial magical ability, he can be of no use to the dark lord.”
“Severus! You sound as if... as if...”
“As if I’m not averse to the death-eaters in general? Well, you’d be right in supposing that.”
“That- that’s disgusting!”
“Disgusting?” Severus gave a harsh laugh. “I already knew you found me disgusting. You’ve always known my views Lily, don’t pretend otherwise.”
“I have not always known your views. Not if your views include the murder and torture of innocent people being acceptable!”
“No-one is wholly innocent Lily, even you’re not naive enough to believe that. Everyone likes to cause their enemies pain, the death-eaters are no different. They’re just more open about it than most of the hypocrites. The ministry for example - ”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.”
“Don’t tell me that the ministry doesn’t torture and kill many wizards – look at Azkaban! The dementors - ”
“That’s different.” Lily protested. “I don’t agree with the dementors but the people in Azkaban have done terrible - ”
“I however, happen to agree with the dementors.” Snape continued. “The ministry keep them to inflict pain on their enemies, the death-eaters do the same to them. I see no evil in it.”
“But who are the enemies of the death-eaters?” Lily answered. “Muggles? Muggleborns?”
“Muggles, yes.” Said Snape. “Muggles are the natural enemies of Wizards. If they knew of our existence do you think they’d hesitate to try and exterminate us all?”
“Where are you getting this crap?”
“Muggles are no more innocent than the death-eaters are. They’re constantly waging war on each other, murdering, fighting – my father was a muggle, and the scum of the earth.”
“My parents are muggles too!” Lily yelled at him. “ And nice people. You get good and bad muggles, just like you get good and bad wizards.”
“You are entitled to your opinion.” Snape stated coldly.
“And what about muggleborns?” the death-eaters hate people like me too, don’t they? Go-on then, think up some bullshit reason for that.”
“I’m not going to argue with you when you’re being like this.”
“No Severus, you don’t get out of it that easily. Answer me.”
“Calm down, Lily.” Snape answered. “You don’t know anything about the beliefs of the death-eaters.”
“Whereas you seem very well informed! When did you join up then? Or are you waiting until you finish school, like Avery?”
“If I had joined the dark lord, I think I would have the common sense not to go around telling everyone. Unlike Regulus, apparently.”
“Have you joined up?”
“Did you listen to what I just said?”
“Severus, tell me you haven’t.”
Snape’s nostrils flared, angrily.
“I’ll tell you to stay out of my business. You haven’t wanted anything to do with me for months, and now that I’ve suddenly become interesting you want to know my entire life story.”
“I already know most of it – we were kids together remember? But even after all you’ve been through, I thought you’d have the sense to not - ”
“After all I’ve been through? You pretend to understand - ”
Lily was reminded suddenly, strikingly of Sirius, and said as much.
“You sound just like Sirius Black.”
Severus’s eyes flashed and he fell deathly silent. Lily shivered.
“Honestly Severus....” she began again. Snape shook his head, slowly.
“The death-eaters are growing stronger by the day.” he said. “And, returning to our original conversation, Regulus Black has added to their number. I personally see this as no great asset to them, but I’m sure Regulus is happy with his choice. You were not able to dissuade him, and you obviously think yourself so influential, that if you couldn’t change his mind, no-one else would have had a chance.” His lip curled, mockingly, at this last. “Regulus must know what he wants. He knows his own views and opinions – as do I.”
With this, Snape turned from Lily, and disappeared around a corner, his black, Hogwarts robes swinging with each purposeful stride. Lily looked after him in astonishment, wondering how anyone could be so blinded.
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