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Chapter 4 : Chapter Four
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From the way Snape had been relentlessly knocking on the door, Lily had assumed he’d had a specific purpose. Maybe something had happened, or he was just bursting to apologize – her memories flashed back to a different scene, that night she’d gone to speak with him outside of the common room. But that Severus Snape and the one standing in front of her were clearly two different people.
Severus looked reluctant, now that Lily was actually with him in Dumbledore’s office. They were alone, and she wasn’t going to strike up anything friendly until he explained himself.
Ignoring his aged face, he looked very similar to how he’d always looked. His black hair, hooked nose, and dark attire.
“I’m giving you five more minutes, Severus. There’s no use for standing around.”
Silently, Snape strode to the fireplace and picked up a small bowl filled with Floo Powder.
“I will not lead you outside of this castle.”
Lily looked at him warily as he held the bowl out to her.
“I am the Potions Master. All you must say is “Potions Dungeon”. It will lead to my office. We can speak there in private.”
He glanced toward the room James was occupying. Lily knew her husband would undoubtedly be angered that she’d trust Snape enough to follow him.
Dumbledore trusts him.
Despite her past with Snape, the fact that Dumbledore would trust a man with a Dark Mark – he had to be absolutely certain of his true loyalty.
Without meeting his eyes, Lily stepped forward and grabbed a handful of the Floo Powder.
When she emerged in his office, she swayed momentarily, adjusting to the mode of transportation she hadn’t used in a while.
Snape’s office was everything she’d expected it to be. Vials of potions and jars of ingredients littered his shelves, but all in an orderly manner. Lily looked around critically; something about Snape’s office was fundamentally different than Slughorn’s had been – but from her memory, even he had kept his potions and ingredients close.
When she heard the Floo network deposit Snape behind her, she turned with a half-smile.
“No pictures of your favorite students? You haven’t created your own club to shower with parties?”
For the briefest moment, he glared at her in contempt – and then, the tiniest smile broke out over his face.
“I have no favorites.”
Lily raised an eyebrow. “Not even among the Slytherins?”
Snape caught on to her small talk, and it seemed he was perfectly happy to oblige. It was better than insults and it broke the tension that had grown between them.
Lily was rather good at comforting people – finding the perfect way to distract them, or calm them, or even make them laugh. But she was having a hard time thinking of anything more to say to Snape. There wasn’t much common ground between them anymore that wouldn’t bring up past afflictions. Even, “How are you doing?” was not an acceptable question in this situation – Lily had just 'risen' from the dead, and Snape seemed to be a spy. Both were touchy subjects.
Snape made his way around his polished desk and bent over to retrieve something from the bottom-most drawer. When he straightened, he held a small potion bottle.
With slight interest, Lily stepped forward and examined the color; it was clear.
“Veritaserum?” She inquired. “Do you plan on tying me down and force feeding me?”
Snape stared at her face, momentarily speechless. Lily imagined it was hard for him – or anyone, really – to grasp she was alive once more. But Snape quickly snapped out of his stupor and placed the bottle of Veritaserum on the desk in front of her.
“It’s not for you. I’m offering to drink it.”
Lily looked at the Veritaserum bemusedly and then back to his serious face.
“Severus, it’s your call. I don’t know what you want to tell me.”
Lily paused and her face softened. “I can’t imagine what you could tell me that we haven’t previously discussed.”
She had been dead for thirteen years – and before that, she hadn’t spoken to Snape since that night outside the Gryffindor common room. She had ended their friendship because their differences could no longer be overlooked; the war was becoming too serious. His preference for the Dark Arts, his choice of friends, his inability to understand why calling anyone that foul word was wrong – it set him in strong opposition to her own beliefs.
Snape looked uncomfortable and ignored her comment. “Potions are my life now, Lily. I put my trust only in them. They are reliable and exact. What I wish to tell you . . . I’m unsure that you’ll believe a word I say. I’m willingly offering to take that potion and prove this isn’t a ploy.”
Lily looked at him humorously. “Severus, I’m not submitting you to the effects of Veritaserum. You wanted to talk – and in order to do that, you have to participate. The moment you drink that potion, you’ll lose all emotion and our conversation will only be my questions and your answers.”
She hated to admit it, but despite her words, the truth potion would have made her feel more comfortable. But something about asking him to take that potion made her feel morally wrong.
Snape was still standing stiffly behind his desk.
Lily sighed. “Do as you wish, Severus. I won’t deny that I’m unsure of Dumbledore’s decision to trust you; Dark Marks don’t lie. And Voldemort isn’t stupid. It would be very difficult to trick either one of them, and yet you are.”
Snape’s flinch at Voldemort’s name did nothing to help his case. Most people, of course, would flinch at the name, but someone who was claiming to infiltrate his inner Death Eater ranks in the name of the Order shouldn’t be afraid of it.
Without hesitation, he snatched the potion off the desk and drank it in one gulp. Lily watched as he sat down tiredly and his eyes glazed over, his face slacking.
“It is better if I don’t show emotion. It’s better if I must tell the truth – I fear I would tell you anything to make you . . . be my friend again.”
He struggled against the potion, the words too sentimental for him, Lily suspected. But they were the truth.
“Tell me then, Severus. What you wish to tell me. I’ve been dead for thirteen years – I haven’t the slightest idea what more you have to say to me, other than what you’ve said in the past. I haven’t talked to you since Hogwarts.”
Snape winced, and Lily felt bad for going too hard on him. Their fight seemed like a few short years ago to her. But to him, it had been over a decade – nearly two decades – and she was beginning to realize he probably had a better perspective on the situation than she did.
“I never meant to call you that name!” His voice was flat from the effects of the potion, but the force behind his statement made her face soften.
She opened her mouth to speak, but Snape shook his head.
“No, don’t. I need to say this. I’ve waited so long to say this to you. I need you to know, I regretted the words as soon as I spoke them. I wasn’t lying that night I came to your common room. And I promise you, Lily, I haven’t called another soul by that name since.”
“You know the problem wasn’t only calling me that name. The issue was your belief in that foul word. You affiliations with those who also believe in that word.”
“I can’t deny I struggled with right and wrong. But after you died, everything changed.”
Snape’s face, as he’d mentioned, couldn’t properly portray emotion under the potion, but Lily could guess his struggle to find the right words was the equivalent of shame.
“You have never known – I wish you didn’t need to know – but I owe you an explanation. I must take responsibility for my actions. I am the Death Eater who relayed the prophecy to Voldemort.”
Lily’s face changed abruptly from confusion and begrudged sympathy to alarm.
Lily’s vision tunneled, and her mind went elsewhere. Dumbledore had told them, when they’d asked all those years ago, how he and Voldemort had learned of this prophecy. Up until that point in time, prophecies hadn’t been a big deal in any of their lives; it wasn’t often anyone heard a prophecy, let alone an important one such as that.
A Death Eater had been there, in the Hog’s Head that night listening at the door. James had wondered why Aberforth would let Death Eaters in. And then, when it had all sank in, the words of the prophecy had mattered more than the details – they had been much more focused on how to survive and what would happen to Harry.
“I didn’t know he’d go after you, Lily! If I had, I never would have told him.”
Lily stared at him in disbelief. This was a replay of the moment he’d called her that name. Why couldn’t he understand? She shouldn’t be an exception. He shouldn’t call anyone that name, he shouldn’t have wanted to – just as he shouldn’t have wanted to relay that information to Voldemort, regardless of which family he decided to murder.
“I couldn’t have known –“ Snape continued in his listless voice.
Lily cut him off. “But you must have heard enough. Born as the seventh month dies. A baby, Severus. You were willing to send him after a baby?”
Snape’s potion would not allow him to silence himself. “Yes,” he replied.
Lily had more questions, of course. If he’d relayed that information to Voldemort, had Voldemort in return told him of his plans? When had Snape discovered which family, or families, was in danger?
“Tell me the rest of your story.”
She was willing to be levelheaded until she heard his complete tale. He had gone to lengths to tell her all of this – he’d taken that potion, knowing he’d say this to her, the mother of the baby he’d put in mortal peril.
“I went directly to Dumbledore after I discovered the Dark Lord’s intentions to go after you. I begged Dumbledore to protect you. And then . . . you died. I was furious, but mostly upset. It was all my fault. If I had never told the Dark Lord of the prophecy, you would not have died.”
Lily listened, all the while adding the pieces up in her head.
“Dumbledore told me the best way to honor you would be to protect your son. He knew the Dark Lord would return and go after him. In the meantime, I obtained this position at the school. I taught Potions and became Head of Slytherin House. When your son arrived four years ago, I was tasked with watching over him.”
They had reached the point of the conversation where Lily knew, had he not taken the truth potion, she would have been doubtful. In fact, she was still doubtful. She had known Severus for most of her life. He had been her best friend, and while she knew he could be compassionate in his own way, watching over Harry didn’t fit into his usual protocol. Especially because Harry was James’s son.
“Watching over him?” asked Lily, skeptical.
“Rather, watching over the individuals who were not friendly with Dumbledore.”
Lily nodded. “Any of Voldemort’s followers who tried to harm Harry?”
Snape nodded. His face was slowly starting to adjust back to normal.
“Thank you, Severus,” she said sincerely. But something still wasn’t adding up in her mind . . .
She looked into his eyes, which had become much sharper as the potion wore off.
“Our friendship was over, Severus,” she said softly. “I hadn’t spoken to you in years. We both chose our paths in life, two very different ones.”
She paused. Did she want to go where this conversation was ultimately heading?
“And yet you still chose to warn Dumbledore? And to help Harry?”
Snape gave one short nod. They looked at each other silently for many moments.
“You . . . um, you did it for –“
She couldn’t complete the sentence. Her throat was closing up and her head was spinning, and suddenly she felt like a horrible person. She had written off her friendship with Snape years ago – she had met James, they had gotten married and had Harry. Of course she’d thought of her childhood friend many times; he’d been the first to tell her exactly why she was different, he’d been the person there to comfort her when she and Tuney’s relationship went downhill. Lily hadn’t ended their friendship lightly – she’d waited and waited to see if he would wake up and realize they were in the middle of war, both of them on opposite ends of the spectrum.
She’d spent a long time in denial. Her friends had warned her about Severus Snape. They’d always told her he would ultimately end up on Voldemort’s side. It was one of the hardest things she’d ever done, finally letting him go – but her anger that day he called her that word had propelled her into action.
Looking at his face now, hearing his story . . . well, it was surreal to believe that maybe he’d finally come around. And as for his reasoning . . .
Lily replayed his words. Dumbledore told me the best way to honor you would be to protect your son.
Snape looked visibly upset. It took her back to her childhood. The Severus Snape she’d seen in Dumbledore’s office, the one who’d led her here to talk – it was clear he was different than the man she’d known. But that look, the desperation in his eyes, it reminded her so much of the boy who’d been her best friend.
The truth potion must have completely worn off, because Snape offered no verbal response to her question. They looked at each other in silence once more, and Lily could tell he was teetering on an edge.
“Everything you’ve just told me . . . how you went to Dumbledore, how you’ve helped Harry, how you’re going to spy for the Order . . . you did that all for me?”
Snape didn’t reply. His face was tense with emotion. With a calculated, quick step forward around his desk, he reached out and hugged her.
Lily tensed in shock.
“I am so, so sorry, Lily. For everything I’ve ever done to you. I should have never called you that name. I should have listened to you, when you warned me of the path I was heading. I’m the reason you died.”
Snape trembled slightly and she cautiously patted his back.
“I’m so sorry,” he continually repeated.
Lily gave a great sigh. “It’s okay, Severus.”
When he pulled back, they looked at each other as friends. But something about his demeanor, about the soft look in his eyes and the grasp of his hand around her arm – it made her uneasy.
He must have felt her tension because within moments he was stepping away.
“I have wished for years that I could tell you that. I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable.”
Lily nodded and accepted his words, but all the while reading between the lines. It had never been a secret that Severus harbored feelings for her years ago. Even if he still did now, it was best left unaddressed. Snape knew she had James and Harry.
“Thank you for making me listen,” Lily said quietly.
Lily could have spent hours talking to Snape. She was sure he wanted to continue their conversation. But she had to admit – no matter how honest he was about his intentions (which he clearly had been, considering the truth potion), it was still difficult to take in everything he was telling her. And James was undoubtedly wondering why she hadn’t returned.
“You have to understand though, Severus, that everything between us – our troubles at Hogwarts, the war – it’s all as though it just happened to me. I’m going to need time to adjust to everything you’ve said. To this new life in general. But thank you, for everything.”
Snape raised his eyebrows and sat down at his desk for the first time since they’d entered the room. He had a stack of papers, which Lily assumed must need graded.
“Is that your way of telling me to give you space?”
Lily stepped backwards toward the fireplace with a sheepish expression on her face.
“Maybe . . . we can be good friends again, Severus. Eventually. I just need time to get my life back together. And then there’s –“
Lily nodded. “James.”
James hadn’t been a part of her life (well, romantically) when Severus had been her friend. It would be very difficult for the two of them to get along at all, even though Snape really was telling the truth about working for Dumbledore and helping Harry. Lily doubted they’d ever truly see eye-to-eye. And even though she might want to eventually be good friends with Severus again, James was more important to her.
Lily grabbed a handful of Floo Powder. With a kind expression, she turned back to look at him.
“Be safe, Sev.”
She left him behind, sitting at his desk and watching the fireplace with an unfathomable expression on his face.
Padfoot’s legs were shaking and his ears were twitching. His nose sniffed the air aggressively.
“Sirius?” James repeated. He was still sitting on the floor, having not got up after Sirius barreled into him.
Padfoot stood on all fours and continued to sniff the air. James rolled his eyes.
“Come on, Padfoot. Change back.”
Padfoot halted his air inspection and stared at James silently. He cautiously pawed forward until they were almost nose-to-nose.
“It’s really me, mate,” said James quietly, “I promise.”
Without warning, Padfoot leaped at him. Expecting to be overwhelmed with a gross face-licking tackle, James covered his face. Instead, when their bodies collided, Sirius had changed back into a man.
James had one fleeting moment to look at his best friend – his matted hair, baggy clothes, and weathered appearance – before his glasses were abruptly pulled off his face.
“What the –“
“They look the same,” Sirius muttered. James squinted at his blurry face.
“Of all things to check, you’re worried about my glasses?”
James heard his glasses hit the floor with a plunk. In the next second, Sirius slapped his hand roughly to James’s cheek and pulled apart one of his eyelids with his fingers.
James’s eye twitched as Sirius moved so close to his face, he could see without his glasses. One of Sirius’s grey eyes peered at him suspiciously.
“The eyes are the right color,” Sirius continued.
“This is a bit personal.”
Ignoring him, Sirius moved onto his hair and pulled.
“It’s real hair . . .”
James shoved at Sirius’s chest. “Cut it out,” he complained. But his attempts to deter his best friend fell short. Sirius was awfully skinny . . .
“Can’t be Polyjuice,” Sirius muttered. “James died years ago.”
“I’m alive, you prat! Get off of me!”
Reluctantly, Sirius put the glasses haphazardly back on James face. He looked at him with caution.
“Dumbledore said you turned into Prongs.”
Sirius stood up and backed away from James. James, who had been feeling extremely exasperated and not entirely convinced the whole thing wasn’t a joke, now looked at Sirius sincerely. His best friend still looked as distressed as Padfoot had been.
Of course he wouldn’t take this lightly. Would James really believe Sirius was back, had he been dead for thirteen years? No. Probably not.
James stood to his feet, and with a pop, transformed into Prongs. It made him feel extremely claustrophobic; indoor transformations always did. His body and his antlers were meant for outdoors.
The look on Sirius’s face was completely worth the small discomfort. Eyes wide and dare he say – teary – Sirius stepped forward once more and examined the stag.
“I can’t believe you’re real,” Sirius mumbled shakingly as he brought a hand up to touch the black markings around James’s eyes that indicated his glasses.
James nudged him lightly to let him know he was turning back. Sirius took one last look at Prongs before nodding in acceptance.
Man to man once more, they stood feet apart and stared silently. James was hit with the realization that, had Sirius not entered the room as Padfoot, he also would have wanted proof of identity. Sirius looked absolutely nothing like the man he’d known.
James hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but as soon as he’d realized just why Sirius looked so . . . worn, it had flown uncontrolled from his mouth.
Sirius gave a bitter smile. “Twelve years of it.”
James looked at his long, matted hair, his sunken eyes – he remembered how skinny Sirius had felt when he’d tried to shove him off. Suddenly, guilt pressed on his chest and he blinked away tears.
“I’m so sorry,” James breathed, “Oh god, Sirius. If only I hadn’t been too proud – I should have told Dumbledore – I should been Secret Keeper myself – I never should have trusted Peter. Twelve years!”
Sirius took a single, long step towards James and heartily pulled him into a brotherly hug.
“It’s not your fault. I suggested Peter. If – If I hadn’t, you wouldn’t have died –“
“Don’t be thick, it was ultimately my decision –“
“No, I suggested it. If only I had stayed Secret Keeper, you never would have died.”
James patted Sirius’s back and shook his head. “Then you would have died. It’s okay, Sirius. It all worked out.”
They pulled back and James gave him a bittersweet smile.
“After all – Look at us. You’re an escaped convict and I’m technically dead. It makes our lives interesting, yeah?”
Sirius gave a small smile at his pathetic attempt at humor, and James felt like maybe things wouldn’t be awkward between them anymore. It was difficult to look at his best friend and see the face of a much older man. James didn’t like how haunted he looked, or why he looked so haunted, or that he hadn’t been around to help Sirius. Just as much as he wished he could have been there to watch Harry grow up, he wished he could have been there for Sirius. The past thirteen years had clearly been hard on him.
Sirius smiled tiredly. “There hasn’t been a single day gone by that I haven’t missed you, James.”
James smiled back sadly. “Don’t . . . don’t tell Lily, but this is very hard, Sirius. Being alive again, that is. I have to stay strong for her, but everything’s such a damn mess. I’ve missed thirteen years!”
James stopped his flow of speech, thinking once more of just everything he’d missed. All his fears piled up – How could he help Harry if he didn’t know enough about this new world? Would Harry even be able to accept them wholeheartedly, or would he feel resentment? How would Lily deal with all of this? Then there was Voldemort, and all the problems he seemed to be causing – this prophecy – the Death Eaters – the list of odds against went on and on. James felt, as the man of the family, it all rested on his shoulders.
Sirius interrupted his inner musings by putting a hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t think for one second that I’m not going to be here for you. I was in Azkaban for twelve years – I understand what you mean about feeling disconnected from the world. We’ll figure it out together.”
Sirius paused and raised an eyebrow.
“I will not let anything happen to you again, James. Or Lily. Harry deserves so much more than what he’s had in the past. You all deserve so much more.”
James was glad to see that the old Sirius was still inside that weathered body.
“So do you, Padfoot.”
There were many words both men wanted to say; James was sure Sirius still felt guilty, as James was feeling guilty also.
“I know it’s hard to accept . . . hell, I’m having a difficult time even saying it – but maybe it wasn’t our fault. We couldn’t have known Peter . . . Peter would . . .”
James closed his eyes. He just kept picturing his pudgy tag along friend. That Peter would have never betrayed them. And yet, he had. It didn’t make any sense. James didn’t understand how one of his best friends could betray them.
Sirius’s face twisted and a hard glint appeared in his eyes.
“Don’t feel any remorse for that rat, James. He’s even worse than you can imagine, believe me. You should have seen him last year, begging Harry for his life in your name, no less –“
Sirius paused. Both men listened closely. There it was again – a slight pitter-patter of footsteps.
“Sirius?” A hesitant voice murmured from the door.
James turned and his heart melted. Harry stood at the doorframe, his hair a complete mess and his eyes wide. Lily had been right; Harry was much skinner and shorter than he had been at that age. But it gave James hope that maybe they hadn’t missed all of his childhood.
Harry glanced at James briefly before looking to Sirius.
Sirius, in turn, also glanced at James before he turned to Harry with a smile.
“Harry! You’re looking well! How’s the ankle? Um – I’m assuming that you’ve –“ Sirius looked to James and motioned between them. “Met?”
Harry nodded. “This morning.”
James smiled at him. “Have you escaped?”
With chagrin, Harry shrugged. “No. Madam Pomfrey let me go. Dumbledore told me that whenever I’m ready, to come up here and . . . you’d be waiting.”
James nodded. “Yes! Yes, your mother and I are confined here until the Headmaster finds us a suitable place to stay. You’re more than welcome to stay here also, although it’s a bit crowded. An expansion charm, though, perhaps would help. Or maybe Hogwarts is different than normal houses, I’m not sure – But Dumbledore will figure something out and –“
“Come in, Harry. You don’t have to just stand there,” Sirius interrupted James’s rant and gave him an amused look.
Harry stepped slowly into the room. The three of them stood awkwardly staring at one another.
“Well . . . if you’re up for talking, I’m up for listening, Harry,” James started, “Really, it doesn’t matter what. I’ve heard some stories from Dumbledore. Or, you know, you could just tell me anything at all – or I can talk, or Lily can when she returns, she’s just gone – well, she’s gone to speak with an old friend, but if she knew you were here, I know she’d return.”
James paused and glanced towards Dumbledore’s office. “Perhaps I should get her?”
Sirius winced and looked at Harry. “James doesn’t shut up when he’s nervous. Don’t mind him.”
Harry gave one of his small, shy smiles that James found endearing and shrugged.
“I don’t mind. I think it’s brilliant.”
Sirius gave a laugh and walked forward to grab Harry around the shoulders.
“Now don’t go encouraging him, Harry.”
James was eternally grateful for Sirius. Although their discussions hadn’t been sunshine and daises, he’d easily switched back into his relaxed self and took control of the situation.
After Sirius had set Harry down on the edge of the bed, he led James to a nearby chair.
“Haven’t I always told you how you resemble your father? It’s uncanny, isn’t it?” Sirius continued.
Harry nodded awkwardly.
“Sounds like he’s jealous, doesn’t it?” James whispered conspicuously to Harry.
Ignoring him, Sirius redirected the conversation. “Speaking of jealous, maybe we should wait for Lily to come back to talk about Harry. I’m positive she’d want to be here.”
James nodded. “Oh, yes. She’d throw a fit if she missed something.”
He glanced at Harry. “Not that she’s mean or anything, she’s just . . . temperamental. Well, no, not exactly temperamental – passionate? Your mother’s –“
“Coming right now,” Sirius interrupted and jetted to the door.
Although his back was to the room, both James and Harry could hear the warmth in his voice.
“Padfoot!” She exclaimed. James saw her red hair fly forward as she jumped up to give Sirius a bear hug.
“Oh, you look wonderful!” She breathed. James shot an involuntary alarmed look to Harry, who also looked embarrassingly unsure of Lily’s comment.
Sirius laughed and pulled back. “A right out lie if I’ve ever heard one. But thank you for trying.”
Lily placed her hands on his cheeks and shook her head. Her green eyes sparkled up at him.
“No, Sirius. Dumbledore’s told us – Twelve years in Azkaban! Most people go insane within a year. And yet, here you are. You do look wonderful.”
Sirius was smiling as he turned to face the room once more.
“Enough about me, for now. Harry’s just arrived.”
Lily’s face lit up and she bounded forward to sit next to him on the bed.
“You look like you’re feeling much better, sweetheart,” she murmured as she ran her hand through his hair and felt his forehead. “Much less flustered."
Harry didn’t reply, but his face showed the quiet wonderment it’d held in the hospital wing.
James knew exactly how he was feeling. Looking at the parents he’d never met was much the same as looking at the son they’d never really known.
“We were just discussing having a proper conversation,” said Sirius. “About Harry.”
Harry looked distinctly uncomfortable.
“We can talk about whatever you wish,” Lily whispered to him, “But know that we are more interested in you than anything else. We love you.”
Harry’s eyes darted away from her quickly, and James could tell he was trying to hold back tears.
“I can help, Harry,” Sirius offered. “I don’t know everything, but I do know some things. Don’t be shy. We’re your family.”
The word hung between them for many moments. All of the hesitance, the guilt, and the worries melted away.
“Family,” Harry repeated. He finally looked up and met both James and Lily’s eyes – and his smile spoke louder than a thousand words.
“Yes, Harry. Family,” James echoed, and his meaning was clear – they weren’t going anywhere.
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