Chapter 1 : Beginnings and Ends
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The first time he noticed her was her eight birthday. It was a chilly day, typical of January. The wind was blowing strong, but that didn’t stop her parents from decorating the house with dozens of balloons. When she got home from school, her entire face lit up. Even then, though, she didn’t throw her school bag down with careless abandon. No, she gently set it down by the gate before dancing through her yard, laughing with joy. He noticed her happiness first, and the way that she cried “Thank you!” as she embraced her parents. This was what a real family was like, he though. This is what happiness looks like. He hated her that first day. Then she clapped her hands in delight, and all the balloons broke free of their strings and floated up into the sky. She just gasped and laughed gleefully, for she was still at that age that muggle children have where they believe in “magic” – in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and pretty pink unicorns and fairy godmothers that could make your every dream come true. He knew better, of course, and he knew what that meant – she had magic in her veins. She was like him.
The first time he spoke to her was over a year later. Looking back, he understood how young she had been then, how naïve. And, even more so, how naïve and immature he had been. Jumping out at her like that, scaring her off, doing it in front of her sister – it was the worst possible time to tell her she was a witch! The day he spoke to her was supposed to be a beginning, the first day of the rest of his life. A life where there was someone to talk to, someone who would listen. A life where there was someone to laugh with, and a reason to laugh. But instead, it went all wrong. He went home that day full of despair, certain that she despised him. But the next day, at school, when some rich boy was beating him up, she defended him. She didn’t speak to him that day, or the next, but from then on she stood up for him when he was being bullied.
The first time she spoke to him was three weeks later. Petunia was home sick that day, so she was walking home from school alone. He, too, was alone, of course. Who would want to walk home with him? He had jumped a mile into the air when she tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around, he did so cautiously, expecting a fist in the face. Instead, she was there, holding out her hand and smiling at him. “I'm sorry,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve ever been actually introduced.” When he didn’t say anything (he was far too shocked) she just waved her hand gently in front of his face and said, “Hello? Is anybody home?” When the silence continued, she still didn’t give up. Instead, she reached for his hand, and holding it tight, just walked with him until their paths separated. Then she smiled at him and said, “We normally come through here at the same time in the morning, right?” He managed to nod his head, and her smile brightened. “Great! I’ll be with my sister, but I’ll walk with you, too.” As she skipped away, he just stood there, watching her. Halfway down the block, she turned and waved. “See you tomorrow, Sev!” she called. And just like that, his heart was hers.
The first time they fought was on the Hogwarts Express. Oh, they had had little tiffs before, mainly over Petunia. But this was the first time that he had ever seen her really mad at him. Whatever Petunia had said to her had upset her, that was for sure. And so he swore that he would make that muggle pay. Which, of course, only led to more fights between the two of them. But even when she was mad at him, she still defended him from the bullies that he seemed to attract like flies to meat. He never doubted that, never doubted her faith in him. She was a constant in his chaotic life, his safety net, always there to help boost him back up and forever ready to get revenge on whoever had made him fall. But he never took her for granted, either. Every moment he spent with her was precious, because, from the first days of their friendship, he knew it wouldn’t work. He sensed something, deep down in his nature, that was at odds with his love for her. But for the years before they went to Hogwarts, he managed to hide that part of himself completely. He did such a good job that even he forgot it existed. But, as Petunia and Vernon Dursley were to find out years later, you can’t squash someone’s nature from them. It will always rise up again, stronger than it would have been had you not kept it hidden.
The first sign of his evil side began to show almost as soon as they arrived at Hogwarts. Perhaps some idiot like Potter would say that the first sign was his being sorted into Slytherin. And perhaps it was. After all, it was his dorm mates that became his new friends, who introduced him to Lucius Malfoy and the Black sisters. And it was all these people who eventually converted him to Voldemort’s cause, who brought out the darkness in his soul. But there was light in that soul, too, a light that nobody looked for. To the Slytherins, the darkness was all that was desirable. To the Marauders and those who followed their lead, it made him an easy target, someone who could be blamed and hated and tormented, because, after all, look at who he was. Look at who he hung out with. Look at what he did. Someone like that has no feelings, they said. It’s okay to hurt someone like that. But it’s not, he tried to protest. I have feelings, too! But those very feelings turned against him as he fell deeper and deeper into the bitterness of his hatred for them. She was his only lifeline, the only one who looked at him and saw a person who was just as good as everyone else, even someone who was better. She saw the light in his soul, and coaxed that light out. Just by believing that he was a good person, she made him that person. When he was with her, nothing else mattered. When he was with her, he was free from the stress of being Death Eater Jr. When he was with her, he was happy.
Later in his life, he looked back, and saw the day that she left him as a turning point. On really bad days he would get mad at her, want to scream at her and curse her for leaving him behind. But most of the time, the person he wanted to destroy was himself. After all, he was the one who drove her away. It was his choices, that he had made, that led him to the horrible life he was living. It was he who had driven her away from him, straight into the arms of his worst enemy. From the day that she died to the day that he did, he hated himself for what he had done to her – to himself.
The last time they fought was just months after they left Hogwarts. He had heard rumors that Dumbledore had started a new force to fight the Dark Lord, and his mind had leapt to her. If such an organization did exist, she was sure to be in the center of it. They were just rumors, though, and he paid little attention to it. The Dark Lord was a demanding master, and being a Death Eater was not easy. Even the simplest of missions could go wrong, as he found out the night the rumors were confirmed. It was supposed to be an easy mission, just go in, slaughter as many muggles as possible, and get out. The Ministry was being distracted – no one should be there. But the Order was there, and that meant she was. He was dueling her before either of them realized who their opponent was. She was just another witch with the Order; he was just another wizard in Death Eater robes. It was her hair that gave her away. One small strand fell in her face, and, even through the darkness of the night, he saw the familiar way she tucked it behind one ear. He gasped and his wand faltered. Her name stuttered on his lips. He saw her eyes flashed as she realized it was him, but her will stayed strong. If anything, her attack grew more ferocious. When another Death Eater hit her with a stunner from behind, Potter was the one there to catch her. It was that night that he knew he had lost her forever.
The last time she saw him was the night before her wedding. It was a bad night, right in the middle of the worst of time. Voldemort’s star was on the rise, but the Ministry and Order were determined to go down fighting. It was a bloody time, full of chaos and death on both sides. He had forgotten, almost, what it was like to smile, to laugh, to have fun. For some reason that he never could explain, he found himself walking through his old neighborhood that night. Eventually, he wandered out of Spinner’s End and into the more affluent part of town. Soon, he found himself staring at her house. A door opened on the second floor, and he retreated hastily into the shadows. She walked out onto her balcony and rested her arms on the rail. In the light of the moon, her red hair seemed to shimmer. She was wearing light blue footie pajamas with cats on them, like the ones little kids wear, and his heart skipped a beat, for this was not the competent young witch she was now. No, this was the young girl that he had first fallen in love with. Perhaps it was that which led him to come out of the shadows, to call her name. She straightened instantly, and he saw her wand out of her hair, where she had been using it to keep her hair up in a bun. She pointed it straight at him, and didn’t relax when she recognized him. “What do you want?” she demanded breathlessly, her mind thrown into turmoil at the sight of him.
“To talk to you.”
“You had your chance. Get out of here before I'm forced to hex you.”
“No.” Before he knew what he was doing, he had levitated himself up to her balcony and swung his legs over the rail. “Please,” he said. “Can’t we just be ourselves for one last night?”
She sighed. “You’re too late.”
“What do you mean?”
“There was a time when this might have worked, when we might have worked, but that time was a long time ago.”
“You can’t believe that!”
“What else am I supposed to believe?” It occurred to him, as he really looked at her, that she was tired. Tired of fighting, tired of not knowing if she would live to see the dawn, tired of missing her ex-best friend, tired of hating him. He moved to put an arm around her, but she backed away. “Stop it.”
“I love you.” There, it was out. The words he should have said earlier, when he had a chance.
“No, you don’t.” She spoke with absolute conviction, but there was a touch of pity in her voice as well. “If you loved me, you wouldn’t have become my enemy.”
“You were the one who gave me that title.”
She heaved a great sigh, like she couldn’t believe how stupid he was. “No, it wasn’t. I gave you every chance to prove that you weren’t one of them, but I'm not blind or deaf, you know. I saw what your friends did to muggle-borns. I heard all; the stories, the true and the false. And there came a point when there just was not point anymore. You had become someone else, gone beyond my reach.”
“I'm sorry for calling you that word,” he offered.
She threw him an ironic glance. “Please,” she said, and for a moment, he could believe that they were still on summer vacation, about to go back to their third or fourth year at Hogwarts. “That’s not why I stopped being friends with you. That was just the last on a long list of reasons why I started hating you. Give me credits for a few brain cells.”
“You’re the smartest person I know.”
She couldn’t help but smile at that, for someone else had just told her that. “You and James have more in common than you realize,” she said without thinking.
“Me and Potter?” he said. “Ew.”
She laughed. He couldn’t remember the last time he had made her laugh. “Even Black’s not that bad when you get to know him.”
“And I suppose you’ve forgiven him for nearly killing me?”
Her eyes narrowed, and he knew at once he had made a mistake. “And I suppose that I'm supposed to have forgiven you for nearly killing all of us multiple times and slaughtering dozens of muggles?”
“I'm sorry,” he said, interrupting her. “I'm sorry.”
“Good,” she said, but there was no bitterness. “I'm sorry, too, but…well, it was your choice, and it would never have worked between the two of us.”
“If things had been different,” he started, then decided it was a bad idea.
“What?” she asked. When he didn’t reply, she just said warningly, “Severus…” just as she had done so often, so many years ago.
So he capitulated. “Could you have ever loved me?”
She paused, pondering the question. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “I think…I think I could have. But it was always going to be James for me, right from the beginning it was meant to be me and James. You were like a brother to me, my very best friend on the planet. If James wasn’t in the equation, then I guess I might have fallen in love with you.”
“Do you love him?”
“James? Yes. With all my heart. We’re getting married tomorrow.”
“James and I are getting married tomorrow,” she repeated.
“No. You can’t.”
He grabbed her arms. “Lily, please! You can’t marry him. I won’t let you!”
“I'm sorry,” she said again, so softly he could barely hear her. “I truly am sorry, Sev.”
For one last moment, he stared at the face of the woman he loved. Then, slowly, he jumped back over the rail and floated gracefully down to the ground. The instant he landed, he turned on his heel and disapperated. She stood there a moment, watching him go, knowing that his departure was necessary, knowing that in the morning she could go back to hating him in peace (when had he and James switched places?) but also wishing that things didn’t have to be like this, for she had loved him, with all of her heart. But that love had been the sisterly love of an innocent young girl, and she was no longer innocent or a girl. So she turned and walked into her room, and moved onto the next phase of her life, never dwelling on him again.
But not so for him. There was no last time he spoke to her, no last time he saw her, no last time he thought of her. From that first moment, on January 30, 1968, he knew she was special. He had loved her since they were just little kids, playing and laughing innocently together. Even after she left him for Potter, even after she had left this entire world behind, he loved her. Every day, every moment of his life, she was there, just as she had been in those first golden days of their friendship, in his mind and in his heart, laughing and teasing him, encouraging him, believing in him. Loving him.