Chapter 1 : dead-weight
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”Severus Snape is seeing someone. I’m positive.”
The lithe blonde girl dumps her bag violently in a rush onto the desk. The redheaded girl seated at the desk barely glances up from the essay she’s working on. People are flocking the classroom, a tight buzz.
They’re blocking the doorway.
It’s Monday and it’s raining, the middle of the year. It’s a crappy morning, the depressing slumber of winter easing into the daily lives of the Seventh Year students as mirrors turn to foes and silences surrender to screams.
“Well, good morning to you, too, darling.” Her gaze follows the movements, but she sees nothing, nothing moving, nothing near, only the exit that's blocked by strangers.
“I’m serious, Lily.” The girl leans across the desk, her eyes wide, lips parted like Lily's open book. So full of knowledge, yet so empty of thought. “He’s got a hickey, on the left side of his neck.”
She glances across the room, and sure enough. There is a little purple bruise staining the skin underneath Snape’s left ear. Her eyes keep to the stillness of his pose, the awkward tilt of his neck, counting seconds before she meets her eyes.
“Gee, the wonders of Severus Snape’s life. Gossip must be running low, huh, Mary?”
Mary just stares at her. Lily shifts in her seat, resuming reading her book once more before the silence becomes too much and she glances up again, with effort.
“Why is this interesting again?”
“Because,” Mary hisses, “It’s Severus Snape. How can he be getting some loving when I’m still not getting any, and haven’t been getting any for months? How?”
Mary stares at her, wide-mouthed and she knows she should say something right about now. She imagines, over the span of seconds, that Mary will return to her. Her beam stuttering into view, and surely, surely there'd be truth, too?
But the silence washes over her, like the breeze from the window, cold and uncompromising in this winter. Mary remains silent, uncomprehending and clumsy as she reaches for her.
And Lily has nothing to say, nothing to share.
She forces a small smile, turning attention to Slughorn as she settles for this:
“Like seriously? Seriously? Seriously –“
“Yes, Mary. Severus has a love life, too. Let’s congratulate him.” Lily hikes her backpack higher as they exit the classroom an hour later, sighing exasperatedly. “Big frickin’ deal.”
She supposes it's the kind of conversation they should be having. Funny, how words like ought to and should have gained significance in her world all of a sudden. It seems to constitute a norm, how she's meant to act, what she's meant to think and who she's meant to be.
“It’s a huge deal, who does that? Like seriously. Seriously –“
Mary's smile is still familiar, but her presence is like the ghosts wandering amongst them, hazy in the daylight and slipping into shadows like lies twisting in and around the shades of grey.
Lily shakes her head at her friend, laughing, rare for seconds, such hollow breath spreading out across the (endless) void between them. “Can we not talk about this? Snape and snogging in the same sentence creeps me out.”
They spend the rest of the walk to the Great Hall in silence; both caught up in their own thoughts. They pass familiar faces on the way, but Lily keeps her head down, too tired and wired up to face a chatty morning, pressing onwards, always onwards like a headless wanderer lost at sea.
There’s a sense of something missing between the two of them, though, and it’s not until they enter the Great Hall that she realizes what it is. That it is not something immaterial. Not something undefinable. The shame of forgetting is brief, much like everything else, a flicker of emotion in her numbness. She glances back at the door, as if ensuring that at least this has remained.
“Where is everyone?”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.”
Even after all these years, (Six of them, Lily), it's still the same expression on Mary's face, still the same alienation and air of foreign-hood that rests between them.
“The last of the Muggleborns went home last night. Because of the situation and all that.” Mary explains quietly.
Lily nods silently, the hairs on her neck rising. The situation. Yes, she knows what situation Mary means. As in Muggleborns are being killed on a daily basis. As in the Headmaster told them it was best to return home, not so subtly, only two days ago, his expression sombre. You’re no longer safe, had been his exact words and she has yet to shake the unease off her back.
She does not appreciate the fear, her fingers trembling as they take a seat by the near-vacant table. The air is tense, filled with fear and horror, yet she’s sure it’s nothing compared to out there. Maybe her imagination really is getting the better of her. Maybe not. She takes a sip of her orange juice, glancing up at Mary. Jealousy is running rampant here. What she’d do to share another name, to be someone else.
If she's being honest, it might not be Mary who's changed at all. It might just be her. Mary's not the one to draw a line between the two of them, categorizing them differently. She might have done this. Running ridges between the pair, hostility inching its way into her mind.
“That’s horrible,” Lily offers then, weakly, her eyes straying his in the crowd. Mary nods and reaches for a battered version of the Daily Prophet, flickering through the newspaper with hunched eyebrows, a tight frown as if this will shield her from the horrible news inside the papers.
The scariest part is that half of the bad things aren't even in there.
There’s a new kind of silence between them now. It’s loaded with something she has yet to discern from hostility. She doesn’t know when it’s sneaked in, perhaps with the war. Perhaps it’s always been there and it’s only now that she’s looking for it that she sees it.
“Bernie owled me. Said she’s doing alright at her parents'.”
Mary’s voice is timid, slow in that way she does when there’s something she doesn’t want to say. “Said it’s boring, though. She misses us.”
Lily nods, her throat tight. She shifts her gaze down the hall, hiding her eyes. She feels Mary glance at her again, concern flickering across her face for mere seconds, like a channel flickering in and out of focus. Kind hardship lies here, surely.
“You gonna go home?”
Lily meets her eyes briefly. There are words here that she could say. She could commit to the fear, embrace her blood. Mary expects her to. Everyone’s been eyeing her for weeks, expecting her to cave.
That’s the thing about Gryffindors. They don’t ever cave.
“Nah,” she answers a beat later. “Haven’t really thought about it.”
That’s a lie.
Nobody in their right minds wouldn’t have thought about it. Her eyes move across the crowd, idly. Nobody in their right mind wouldn’t have noticed the things stirring outside these walls; things that have finally stirred a riot in here as well. She sees the stares, feels the tight snap of eyes following her.
That same sigh again, she feels Mary’s heavy gaze on her, weighing her down. Her voice is tight, but calm.
“I haven’t thought about it at all, actually.”
And then there’s this.
“My, my, you get even more and more inventive.” She presses on, into the crowd, forcing her chest up higher, highest. The crowd closes in on her, and she eyes her exits, always exits. Fear inkles its way up her spine.
“What did you say?”
“She said bugger off, are you deaf?”
You’ve got to hand it to him. Sirius Black has style. He might just have said ‘Fuck off’ and the impact would have been the same.
The crowd disperses before her and leaves her in an empty hallway with Sirius Black, the drumming of her heart the only constant soundtrack to her life. Of all people, he was probably the last person she expected to be her knight in shining armour.
“Sirius Black.” She cannot supress a smile when she says it. There’s a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, his shaggy black hair slightly too long with his tie forever missing.
He leans his head back against the wall, smirking. “Miss Lily Evans.”
It's a mutual agreement of sorts; to not mention it. Like turning the other cheek. They're both stuck in the same sticky situation. She, a Muggleborn. He, a blood-traitor.
She knows this won't last, but as she meets his eyes, one brief moment of acknowledgement, she knows this is their agreement: to not mention this and push it out, away. Save the grief that will tear them apart for another day. She knows her kin, raises her glass.
She nods then, silently, and continues off to class. And Sirius continues standing there, watching his school unravel, the fag illuminating his face for seconds only, smoke rising like halos.
Mary catches up with her at dinnertime. “You still got the Heads meeting later?”
Lily nods, pulling on the cords of her hoodie. “Yeah. Potter will be ready at eight.”
She whistles lowly, “I wouldn’t mind some time with Potter. He’s grown into a fine specimen.”
She rolls her eyes, “Be my guest.”
"What is it with you and boys? I swear, you must be asexual or something, always all work and no fun." Mary wrinkles her nose.
Lily just stares at her. There’s something profoundly sad about her inability to talk about serious stuff. Lily wonders if that’s why all they get are half-truths from her. Because if everyone knew everything, they’d see her clearly, for once.
“You up for doing something afterwards?” Mary asks, toying with a stray tendril of hair.
There are moments when she feels time-warped, wrapped up in old emotions and rerunning old days. They’re rare, but they do happen. Mary looks at her with an old sort of contentment. She didn’t even know it was possible to be content in these days. Didn't know it was possible to look at her and be content.
Her eyes meet Mary's in a brief moment of regret before she looks away again, busying herself with food. Regret that they'll no longer share this. That this war has come between them. The ghost of Bernadette seems to wander endlessly between the two of them, like a missing piece to the grand puzzle. She keeps on glancing over her shoulder for her, searching out her dark curls in the crowd to no avail.
“Can’t. I’ve got to go to the library and study for the potions-essay.” Her mouth moves, lips stretch to form the words, smiling with her teeth now.
“You’re no fun.”
Mary pouts but it’s light, lighter than anything Lily will ever master. Like steam rising above the meadow, her own butterfly flickering away in the sunlight, hiding away as winter creeps in. She's always felt like dead-weight, tugging Mary downwards, tying her to the ground when all Mary wanted was to fly.
Mary will be alright. She'll find Josephine and they’ll gossip and pretend the world is pink and ruffled; a different one to hers. Sometimes, she thinks it actually is a different world to hers, that it's not just her imagination coming across here.
"Maybe later," she offers, a weak tribute to their friendship, the one lying like a carnage on the battlefield, slowly decomposing.
Mary just smiles.
The Heads meeting seems to drag on for hours before they finish.
“Bernie was missing today, wasn’t she? She sick?” James asks as they clean up.
Her hands pause midway, for the beat of a second. It’s the first time they’ve talked about anything other than Heads stuff. Sure, they’ll speak of the weather, but there’s never been this personal aspect to it. Until now.
“Yeah. She’s back in Southampton. With her parents.”
"Oh." James is silent for some time and she allows the silence to set, her head buzzing. She could say more, possibly, but there is still resentment left here, in the cleft between them. Sometimes she's having trouble discarding her eleven year old self from her feelings. Sometimes, she'll catch herself thinking of herself as the timid, be-speckled nerd in the corner whom James Potter was much too cool to talk to.
“They’re all leaving, aren’t they?” His voice is too soft, nearly catching in the wall. She wonders if he means her, too. She wonders if he ever considers her into the equation of all of this.
She could lie.
She glances up at him and finds him staring adamantly at his shoes, his hands wrought together. She could very well lie to that soft frown. She laughs then, her laugh shaded deep from sadness or perhaps from despair. It's the first thing uncalculated from her today, and she's surprised James Potter is the one to break through her shell.
“We’ve always been few, but now it’s just a standing joke. Me and what? Two others are all who are left.”
He is quiet for a moment, uncharacteristic of him, really.
“Are you scared?”
Sometimes she forgets. Just how young they are. There is something wide-eyed and innocent about the way he stares at her. Her hands still around the vase for an extra moment there. There's sincerity here, a clear moment of genuine worry. She recognizes it with an ancient familiarity.
“In my own way.”
“Is that a yes or a no?”
“What do you bloody well think it is?”
There comes a slight pause in her shuffling and he takes the chance with a, “I’m so sorry about this.”
This. Not him, not her, but this. This situation.
The silence settles, stiff and uncompromising as he stares at her. He catches her then, in a moment of weakness. Later, she’ll brush it off as fatigue. Later, she’ll jump over this, press it out and away of her memory. Later, it won’t ever pass her mind again.
She sinks, toeing the edge of the rug. “Well. Not your fault, now is it?”
He blinks. “No. I know, but… Idontknow.”
His eyes meet her own and she can see the sincerity and all those things he’s leaving unsaid. She appreciates this kindness. Not a lot of people do kindnesses to her these days, so rarely, in fact, that she has trouble remembering how to accept it. Her body reacts slowly, as if memorizing how it's supposed to react to tender looks and soft touches; hugs. Come to think of it, she cannot remember the last time anybody hugged her, just for comfort.
They both hold the gaze until she whispers, “I… need to go. Potion-essay to finish in the library.”
There’s an awkward beat there, his face falling as he nods slowly. “Oh. Okay.”
“Okay.” She smiles and is gone, turning the corner, leaving him with an empty room and much unsaid.
She passes the large wooden painting on her way out, her steps quick and hurried. It’s the late dusk where the sun peaks before it crests, orange hazes and a warm cocoon embracing her face.
There are dangers here. Not just the ones outside, but also closer to her, sneaking into shadows and corners she’ll never see coming. She glances over her shoulder, once, twice, only seeing paintings moving and nodding at her. There are cracked mirrors and webs of fear tugging into corners of a school that's much too much of a home.
For now, though, there is a library.
“You’re late.” His fingers brush over her chin, then sweep across her jaw.
“Sorry. Heads meetings take the fun out of life.”
He laughs then, grabbing her hand, “Fucking idiots.”
Her boy's murmur is soft against her neck as he pulls her into a shadowed alcove of the library. The sun sets, leaving the red burnt tendrils of Lily Evans's hair as they press into the corners of time here, easing into the shadows between dusty books and fairy-tales.
They'll have their own fairytale, surely.
“Lily, Lily, Lily,”
He says her name like a prayer in this darkness. He nips at her lips until she opens to him, eyes dropping closed as her heart thunders in her throat. It’s almost too beautiful, the darkness pressing in, cocooning her. Her boy is tender-soft sweetness dripping into her ears.
And she’ll murmur his, a light caress of summer as winter arrives, the flower blooming out of snow.
A/N: This will follow canon.