Lily had managed to get herself into yet another embarrassing and difficult situation. No surprise there. Of course it had been on her mind for a while that there were no Horcruxes in the orphanage—and probably none in the town either. The more she thought about it, the more this made sense. Voldemort, who had a bit of a dramatic flair according to Dumbledore, wouldn’t put a piece of his soul in the ruins of an orphanage in a small, Muggle town. But after making a big scene with Sirius last night, she was far too proud to admit she was wrong. She vowed to not lose her head next time someone questioned her authority.
And what authority was this? Who had made her the leader of the hunt? She had promoted herself to the position, unofficially, and was no more qualified than anyone else. In fact, the other two had been far more helpful… actually finding a Horcrux, and discovering how to destroy them.
“I think we’ve already searched the orphanage pretty well,” Severus said tentatively.
Lily smiled. He was so the opposite of Sirius, who seemed to thrive to irritate her at times. “There’re no Horcruxes in the orphanage,” she mumbled.
“So… do you want to go into the town?”
She nodded hesitantly. “It couldn’t hurt.”
“There might be something there,” Severus pointed out.
“I don’t think there will be,” Lily admitted.
He tilted his head to one side. “Are you saying Sirius was right?”
She bit her lip. “No in so many words…”
Severus chuckled. “Do you want to go into town anyway? It’s Christmas Eve.”
“I suppose. Could be… fun.”
“For lack of a better word?” Severus suggested.
She nodded and yawned widely. “You know, I might pull a Sirius and sleep for another two… ten hours.”
He laughed again. “Go right ahead. You could use some rest.”
Wondering whether or not she should feel offended, Lily curled up in her sleeping bag and drifted off easily. When she woke awhile later, she had the contented feeling of not knowing how long she had slept, and not caring. Severus had evidently left the tent, so it must have been fairly long. She could see the darkness falling around the hilltop, but the sun set so early in these short days. Feeling both refreshed and nearly faint from hunger, she crawled toward the flap-doors of the tent.
Suddenly, a blast of freezing air hit her in the face. Severus ducked inside.
“Ah, you’re awake,” he said. “Do you want to walk down to the village? See what we can find?”
“I don’t really want to look for Horcruxes…” she admitted with a guilty smile. “I know, I’m a hypocrite.”
“It’s fine, Lily,” Severus said. “It’s too cold for that kind of thing anyway.” He grinned crookedly.
“My thoughts exactly.” They bundled up in their worn winter clothes and left the tent. The hill was steep and slippery in the snow, and they maneuvered slowly, clinging to each other for support.
The tiny, rustic Muggle village was bustling and festive. It seemed like all its residents were milling around, laughing and singing carols. Each door was adorned with a wreath, and smoke billowed from every chimney.
“Probably going to church,” Lily noted, as they walked against the traffic flow. They were attracting curious looks; they were strangers in a town where everybody knew everyone else.
“Should we go?” Severus asked.
She gave it a moment of consideration. “No. I’m hungry.”
They ducked into a café that smelled of coffee and spices. The Muggle girl behind the counter didn’t look pleased to see customers and didn’t try to hide it. “I was just closing up,” she said sourly.
“Can we get something really quick?” Severus asked hopefully.
She sighed impatiently. “Fine. What do you want?”
They ordered two hot cocoas and most of the desserts left in the display case. They took a booth by the window to eat. The Muggle girl tapped her nails on the counter and jingled her keys in an obvious attempt to get them to hurry up. Regardless, they took their time, sampling the cakes, cookies and crème brulee.
“I wish this was butterbeer,” Lily said of her hot cocoa. Severus looked over to the Muggle girl, who was currently facing the other way, wiping the counters for the third time. Quickly, Severus took his wand and pointed it at Lily’s hot cocoa then stowed it and glanced around the make sure no one had seen.
“There,” he said. “It’s butterbeer now.”
Lily took a sip and felt the instantly warming effect. “Thanks, Sev.”
They finished up and were ushered out the door. The town’s residents were leaving the church now and meandering through the downtown area, lit by streetlamps and glow from windows. Lily and Severus were again going against the current of the crowd, back toward the orphanage on top of the hills. The starlight grew brighter the farther away from the village they got—unadulterated by the streetlamps and houselights.
The moon was the tiniest sliver in the inky sky; it would be gone completely by the next night, and then start the process of waxing again. Lily thought of Remus, as she always did when looking at the moon. How he hated the new moon… She wondered what he had been up to for the past month or so of the hunt. Surely he would want to help. She should’ve asked him. By now, Sirius had probably recruited him for his own hunt. She was sure the two of them would be able to find the rest of the Horcruxes with little trouble. Hopefully they’d save one for her…
The warmth of the butterbeer starting to wear off, Lily and Severus entered the tent. It offered limited protection from the elements and always took a while to heat up to a comfortable temperature. Severus sat down, propped up on a pillow. He rubbed his hands together. Lily could still see his breath and her own. Slowly, she moved beside him and rested her head on his shoulder. He was very still—no longer rubbing his hands, or breathing. Then his arm wrapped around her, tentatively.
She smiled. “You’re wonderful.”
“And modest…” Her head slipped down onto his chest. Even when the air inside the tent had warmed up she didn’t move, for by then she had fallen asleep.
* * *
Severus didn’t manage to get much sleep that night. He was overly alert of the rate of Lily’s breathing and every time she fidgeted and shifted in her sleep. His heart was heavy in his chest; breathing was difficult, supporting his theory that one could literally drown in guilt.
But above all, he could not get over the tickle of her hair against his arms, or how warm and soft she was… how her eyes moved behind the lids in a dream. He kissed the top of her head again and again, pretending that she knew what he was doing, but was so accustomed to it that she didn’t react.
Around the darkest part of the night, the snow began to fall—he watched the top of the tent droop as it was weighted down with snow. It continued through the sunrise. He watched all the different colors of the sky through the slit in the flap-doors. He had never realized how many colors were involved in a simple sunrise, though he couldn’t remember ever watching one.
Although the day was bright, it was colder than ever. The wind howled around the hilltop with a vengeance, slipping in through the seams of the tent. A chill ran up his spine, and he held Lily closer.
She mumbled something in her sleep. His breath caught in his throat. Did she say what he thought she said? He waited… and she said it again, louder and clearer.
His stomach clenched. Finally, her eyes fluttered open. She twisted her head around to look up at Severus. Then she smiled. The knot in Severus’s stomach tightened. Why did she have to keep doing that? Smiling like that?
“Happy Christmas,” she said sleepily.
He gave her an uneasy smile in return, all too aware of her weight, heavy on his chest; almost as heavy as his guilt.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, concern crossing her brilliantly green eyes. She wrapped her arms around him, and pressed her ear against his chest. She giggled. “Your heart is pounding…”
Embarrassed, Severus took her by the wrists and gently but firmly guided her away from him, so they were face to face. “I have to tell you something.”
She smiled again and he noticed how the action lit up her emerald eyes as though they’d been turned on by a light switch. “Okay, tell me.”
He took in a deep breath. “You’ll hate me.”
“How could I ever hate you?”
Severus remembered a time when she did, but he didn’t mention it. That could never compare to how she would feel about him once he told her. “You’d be surprised how easily.”
She rolled her eyes. “I promise I won’t hate you.”
He closed his eyes tightly. “It’s my fault.” When he risked a peek, Lily looked confused.
“What’s your fault?”
She waited for him to explain, the smile rapidly fading from her face… her eyes were darkening… hardening…
“Do you know why the Dark Lord targeted your family and Harry in particular?”
Lily shifted uncomfortably, clearly troubled. “Where is this going, Sev?”
Somewhere I don’t want to go, but know I have to… “Do you know why?” he persisted, watching her face carefully, waiting for the moment of comprehension with great dread.
She nodded bleakly. “There was a prophecy.” Her voice was flat. She ran her hands through her hair. “Listen, I don’t want to talk about this…”
“I have to tell you!” he blurted. “I can’t stand it anymore.” Why couldn’t she understand? Why couldn’t she see what he’d done? Did he have to spell it out for her? “I overheard the prophecy,” he said slowly and heavily.
Lily appeared even more confused. “I… don’t understand.”
He sighed quietly and tried again, forcing himself to look her in the eyes. It was a hard enough thing to do when he wasn’t about to ruin her world—again. “I was still a Death Eater at the time. I didn’t know what the prophecy meant, so… I repeated everything I heard to the… to him. To Voldemort.”
He could see something change in her face, and rushed on, anxious to take advantage of her delayed reaction to explain himself.
“When he decided that it meant you, or your son, I tried to talk him out of it, I swear I did—I went to Dumbledore for help, to get you protection—I did everything I could—”
“But it wasn’t enough, was it?”
Severus flinched at the razor-sharp bite of Lily’s words. Her expression of shock had changed to horror and then to disgust and fury in a matter of seconds. It had sunk in. There was nothing he could do, but see how she would take it. He decided he deserved whatever she did or said to him.
“Lily, I’m sorry. Really, I—”
“I don’t want to hear it!” she shrieked. Angry tears began to stream down her blotchy cheeks, and she was regarding him with the utmost loathing. “You killed them! Is that why you’re here, then, trying to redeem yourself? You really haven’t changed—I thought you might’ve, I thought you were different now. You’re just the same as you always were…”
“Always…?” he echoed helplessly. He watched in devastation as she dashed around the tent, haphazardly throwing everything into her bag. All the while, she choked out insults, screamed them if she had the energy.
Lily left the tent and began tearing it down manually with Severus still inside. He scrambled out and looked on. Snow was still falling heavily in large flurries, swirling about in the heavy wind. He’d lost all sensation in his extremities almost immediately. Lily, who was in stocking feet and a short-sleeved shirt, didn’t even seem to notice the cold. She was violently stuffing the tent into the bag, letting out a frustrated scream every now and then.
Timidly, Severus stepped forward. “You have to believe me that I never wanted this to happen. I didn’t do this on purpose and I did everything I could… I convinced the Dark Lord to spare you—”
She whirled around, her eyes afire. “What, you want me to thank you or something?”
“No, no, I—”
“Well, thanks a million, Snivellus, where would I be without you?”
“You’d be dead,” he muttered.
She paused, and narrowed her gaze to an impossibly piercing pinpoint. “Exactly. I’d be so much better off if I’d never met you, d’you know that? I wish I never had… but the best I can do is hope I’ll never see you again. Will you grant me that one wish? Promise you’ll never try to find me?”
Her words, tone and glare combined were too much to bear. He nodded despairingly—he didn’t want to know what would come out if he opened his mouth. He would probably fall to his knees in the snow and beg her not to go. Seemingly satisfied, Lily turned on her heel.
“Have a nice life, Snivelly,” she said. “Thanks for ruining mine.”
The crack of her Disapparation was the worst sound Severus had ever heard. He crossed his arms over his chest and hung his head. Alone and shivering on the hilltop, the tears froze as soon as they left his eyes.
A/N: … :( Do you feel bad for Sev? Do you emphasize with Lily? Please leave a review with your thoughts, predictions, questions, criticisms… whatever you wish. –Jenni
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