Lily had never been a person to run, as in literally running... as a sport. She blamed the weak knees her mother had passed on to her. Still, Lily had found herself running out of James’ bar and through a nearby park, running past people without taking in there appearances... running from her life, from herself.
That’s when she had realised she needed to find a place where she could be alone, and pretend that all the bad stuff wasn’t really happening. She needed a place that was completely void of life, as if the world stood still for a moment, so she, Lily Evans, for once in her life could stop... She needed a place where she could stop being, just for a little while.
Home, that’s where she wanted to be. But with Sirius at her apartment and the Order at her parents’ house, neither of those places felt like a real home to her right then. Those two places would only remind her of what her life was like now. They represented the harsh reality and Lily wanted the childhood fantasy.
That’s how she ended up at Hogwarts.
She was sitting next to Sam’s tombstone, which was hiding behind a slightly overgrown bush not far from the Lake. Her knees were pressed against her chest as she stared at the beautiful outline of the castle. The night was pitch-dark, and the main light was coming from inside the castle, where carefree teenagers were having a nice, warm dinner.
How Lily wished she was still one of them. Things had been so much easier in there. Had life changed that much in a year and a half? You-Know-Who’s tyranny had slowly taken over everything and before anyone really realised what was happening it had caused chaos and pain in almost every wizarding family.
But this had not only changed the safety level after 8pm, it had most of all changed people’s behaviour. Families were moving out of the country, children were dropping out of school,... People were both afraid and eager to live their lives and start a family in this world, they were making rash decisions, wrong decisions.
How ironic it was that inside a safe environment such as Hogwarts, people would always do the right thing. Once responsible for their own actions, their poor judgement showed. Odd, how that works.
After tracing Sam’s engraved name with her index finger and whispering a sad goodbye, Lily got up from the dewy grass. She was getting cold, but more importantly, now that she had calmed down she was getting scared. It was really not safe to be out in the dark alone these days.
Lily started walking toward the castle, not sure where she was going. She wanted to go inside, feel the warmth, but she wouldn’t. Dumbledore and McGonagall would ask why she had come, and after refusing the last six invites to the Slug Club, she did not want to face Slughorn.
She reached the path that lead back to Hogsmeade right when someone exited the castle through the main doors. Lily froze. She could only see a dark silhouette approaching her but it was definitely a boy. It could’ve been a student for all she knew, but Lily was feeling edgy and so she sped away toward the village.
“Lily?”An out of breath voice said from behind her. She had heard the running footsteps behind her but had been too scared to look back. Now that she’d heard his voice, she stopped.
“Snape?” Lily replied automatically. She had gotten used to Sirius calling him by his last name. He had said her name friendly enough, though. “I mean, Severus?”
“What are you doing here?” He asked, looking quite happily surprised. Lily’s eyebrows shot up. She did not feel like explaining how her life had gotten so royally messed up over the last couple of weeks. She didn’t even know if she could explain...
“What are you doing here?” Lily asked right back. Severus smiled.
“I asked first,” he teased. Lily narrowed her eyes. There was something weird about him. Was it because the shadow obscured his eyes? His skin still looked as pale as a sheet, and none of his other features seemed to have changed since Hogwarts, yet there was a different glow about him.
He seemed... confident, and it didn’t suit him. It was too eerie and strange to Lily.
“I came to visit Sam’s grave,” Lily whispered. Severus seemed untouched by this information as he kept smiling at her.
“And you?” Lily asked reluctantly. She wished he would stop staring at her.
“I just had a job interview with Dumbledore,” he said carelessly.
“I didn’t know you wanted to be a teacher,” Lily said nervously. Severus shrugged. “What subject?”
“Dark arts,” he replied instantly. Lily’s eyebrows shot even higher. She could not imagine Dumbledore giving Severus the job, and yet he looked so confident. She had to ask.
“And... did you, you know, get it?” She asked reluctantly. He shook his head, finally casting his eyes down.
“Dumbledore said I was too young,” he explained. Lily was glad he did not see her expression after this. She was pretty sure that age was not the real problem here. Just like her, Dumbledore must have wondered whether Severus wouldn’t just be Voldemort’s pawn inside Hogwarts. “No worries, I’ll try again some time.”
Lily thought again of how everyone made rash decisions in these dark times, and how this did not seem to affect Severus Snape at all. Then again, he and You-Know-Who were on the winning side, weren’t they? Lily had the uncanny feeling that Severus was thinking the exact same thing. How she missed her young friend, who wanted nothing but attend Hogwarts and be good at magic.
“Why do you want to be a teacher?” Lily asked after a long silence. She tried to image Severus as a professor... it was rather disturbing.
“To bully Gryffindors, of course,” he answered evenly, and then he chuckled. Lily frowned. James Potter was out of Lily Evans’ reach instead of the other way around and Severus Snape was cracking jokes... What had become of the world? Next thing you know, Sirius will be proclaiming he’s a homosexual. Again, disturbing. “No. I don’t really know why, but yeah, I think I’d like teaching. You know Hogwarts is my real home.”
That was true. Severus had always been the only one who really understood what Hogwarts meant to Lily, because it meant just as much, or even more, to him.
“Dark Arts,” Lily whispered meaningfully.
“Defence against the Dark Arts,” he corrected, catching on to Lily disapproving tone.
“Like that’ll last. In two years time, the only thing taught here at Hogwarts will be the Dark Arts, which won’t be a problem because only Slytherin students will still be attending, who all have the same belief as you and your precious idol, whose name we must not say out loud!” Lily ranted bitterly.
“Don’t be judgemental, Lily,” Severus said dismissively. Lily was starting to feel fed up with his carefree behaviour.
“I’m not! It’s the reality we’re facing. Don’t you see? These are not good times, people rushing into things they don’t know or understand...” marriage “because they are uncertain of their future! Voldemort has taken away our freedom!”
“Ssh! Don’t say his name, Lily,” Severus whispered, looking around as if someone could have heard them. Lily could feel all her frustration of the past days flow through her veins, ready to charge at Severus.
“What else should I call him? My Lord? He’s no god, Severus, he’s a monster, a fiend. If people called him that, they might not be so ignorant to what he really is doing.”
“Do you really believe he’s that much different from... I don’t know our present government officials for example? They’re just as much tempted by power and status as everyone who has joined the Dark Lord. He just as much wants to create a better world, a better society for honourable wizards and witches...”Severus started defending himself. It was clear he had already thought about those things. Lily was dumbfounded for a moment by what was coming out of his mouth.
“Do you even hear what you’re saying, Severus? He doesn’t create things, he ruins them! He plants so much chaos and fear in people’s minds that you don’t see right from wrong anymore; you rush into things, ride off into... with the local bimbo... He ruined my life.”
“I don’t think I know what exactly you’re talking about.”
“Well, you don’t exactly know me anymore, do you? And you chose that path all on your, by joining Him.” Just like James chose to leave her to be with Cindy. The tears stung her eyes. How could everything have gone so wrong?
They had reached the village, and Lily sped forward, trying to hide her face from Severus. He understood that the conversation was over.
But before she could apparate far away from here, she heard a pop, and in front of her appeared James Potter, the only person in the world she wanted to face even less than Severus Snape at that moment.
“Lily,” he said, letting out a relieved sigh. Lily wiped at her face quickly, but James took her hand, noticing the big, wet tears that fell from her eyes. “Are you okay?”
As he looked over Lily’s head at Severus, his body tensed up.
“Snivellus,” he hissed. “What are you doing here?”
“That’s...” Severus started to say, but he was cut off by another pop. It was Sirius this time, appearing right next to James. Lily had to twist her arm out of James’ firm grip to get to Sirius. She flung her arms around him and buried her face in his neck, still trying to hide the embarrassing tears from the other two men.
“Well, I see things have changed more than I expected,” Severus continued. “Not that I care.”
“Lily,” James pleaded again, touching her shoulder, but Lily didn’t let go of Sirius.
“Take me home, please,” she whispered into Sirius’ neck. She felt him rub her back, and she knew he would take care of her.
As they apparated back to her apartment, Lily noticed for the first time how extremely exhausted she was. Half awake, she walked to her bedroom and crawled underneath the covers with her clothes on, curling up in a crying, little ball.
“James, don’t,” she heard Sirius say right outside her door.
“I want to talk to her,” he replied.
“Not tonight. Just go tell Ian she’s okay. He’s worried sick about her.”
Those last sentences kept haunting Lily throughout the entire night. She dreamed of how James was going to propose to her, but how he kept running into Cindy, so he had to go buy a new ring every time. After countless tries, he finally reached Lily and her father, whereupon James asks Ian for Lily’s hand. Her father’s answer was the last thing she could remember of her dreams, and it had crushed Lily, for he had said:
“No, James. It turns out that Cindy is my illegitimate daughter, and I would much rather have you marry her.”
Lily wanted to turn over in her sleep, but something was stopping her. There was someone beside her. Her thoughts went straight to James. How pathetic was she?
Squinting because of the bright sunlight, she looked to her left to find Sirius sprawled across that side of her bed. His breath smelled of Firewhiskey and his clothes had twisted uncomfortably around his body. It looked like he had landed on her bed accidentally and had fallen asleep immediately, which was probably what had happened. He even had his shoes still on.
Lily stretched and got up carefully, not waking Sirius. She tiptoed out of her room and into the kitchen, where she downed a glass of orange juice and took a glass of milk back with her for Sirius.
“Hey,” she whispered, when Sirius’ eyes fluttered open as the bed shifted under Lily’s weight.
Sirius grunted in return, but sat up when he saw the glass of milk.
“I’m sorry. I hadn’t planned on falling asleep here. I was just checking up on you,” he explained before emptying his glass.
“It’s okay. I don’t mind. It’s not like anyone cares anymore if there’s someone...,” Lily started to say sullenly, but Sirius cut her off.
“Don’t run away from me ever again, please?” Sirius said softly, not looking at Lily. He was obviously hurt by the fact that she hadn’t come to him yesterday.
“I’m sorry, Sirius, but this is James we’re talking about, your best friend, and you two...,” again he cut her off.
“You’re my best friend, too. And friendships change; we’re not two boys joined at the hip anymore, Lil. If you haven’t noticed, I’m in a position where I can see both sides of this story pretty good. And I know that you don’t want to hear it but James’ side of things is quite understandable, too.”
Lily frowned at him. This was exactly why she didn’t want to talk to Sirius about it. He would always defend James.
“I’m not saying he didn’t make mistakes!” Sirius added quickly as he saw Lily’s expression. “He still made the humongous mistake of letting you go in the first place, and well, he’s never been able to drop the rebound girls when they’re... you know, not needed anymore. Remember Hannah? He’s just too nice. And that’s because he has been raised to be so nice.”
Lily’s frown stayed. She had no idea what Sirius was on about, but she continued to listen.
“That’s James’ biggest problem, you know. His parents were super conservative, and I know it's completely irrational, but ever since they died he's even more set on honouring their beliefs and morals; he has to do everything the way his parents would’ve wanted him to do. And if he got a girl pregnant, the obvious next step for him would be to marry her. To him, it’s the only right thing to do,” Sirius explained. It was clear that he didn’t agree with James’ worldview at all.
“It’s the honourable thing to do,” Lily whispered. Sirius nodded. “Well, thank you, Sirius! Cause that makes it all better, doesn’t it? It’s not his fault, it’s his freaking honour?!”
Sirius didn’t respond. Lily wished she had been able to meet the Potters before they had died. Despite the fact that their beliefs had destroyed Lily’s chance at happiness with their son, she still believed she would’ve liked them.
“I know he wished it was you,” Sirius whispered. Lily felt the tears burn, but she didn’t know whether it was because of what Sirius said, or because of how angry it made her feel.
“Well, it isn’t me, is it? He didn’t stay with me, but with Cindy. He didn’t sleep with me, but with Cindy. He’s not having a baby with me, but with Cindy!” She was yelling at this point, getting up from the bed. “And finally, I have nothing to do with them and their nice, little family anymore!”
Walking out of her bedroom and into the bathroom, she realised for the first time that finally, the chapter of her life that involved James was over. It hurt, but she could get on with a new chapter now.