Chapter 7 : Revelare Viam
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Harry gasped. He looked from the drink to James' stunned face, then bolted out of the portrait hole. With a look to make sure the coast was clear, he pulled his invisibility cloak out of his robes.
Just as he disappeared, James and Sirius came running out from around the corner.
"Who are your best friends?" James shouted, knowing that Harry would be forced to answer if he was within earshot, and they could find him. They didn't expect anything unusual.
"Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley!" Harry shouted in an equally loud voice as he ran in the opposite direction. He tried to cast a Muffling Charm to block out any future responses, but found he was unable to do so. Then, to his relief, he found a hiding place—the one-eyed witch statue. He tapped the statue with his wand, muttered "Dissendium," and got inside before James and Sirius caught up to him.
Harry contemplated waiting out the potion, but figured it would take too long. If only he had mastered Occlumency…he tried saying a lie to himself. "My name is J—J—Harry…" He stopped. What had Severus taught him in the Occlumency lessons? Clear your mind. But he couldn't, not when he'd just given away his friend's secret.
Harry knew he couldn't stand by when James and Sirius had the information. He couldn't modify their memories without risking permanent damage…but he could body-bind the pair until the potion wore off. He left the tunnel, cloak on, wand at the ready.
"I heard something this way!" James called from down the corridor. He sprinted in Harry's direction.
"Are you really…" James paused, Harry hesitated, which gave James just enough time to continue, "…who you say you are?"
Harry had no choice but to answer. "No. Petrificus Totalus!"
"James? Where'd you go?" Sirius appeared, comically shocked when he spotted James frozen on the ground.
"What the—" Sirius limbs snapped together and he fell to the ground before he could finish.
Despite Harry's relief that the information was contained, that James hadn't asked a more revealing question, Harry was nervous. He flipped them over so they wouldn't see him take off his cloak, then waited for the potion to wear off.
"My name is Ha—" he muttered periodically. Ten minutes later, he felt his jaw relax, allowing him to say, "My name is Jacob Walker."
Harry disarmed Sirius and James, pocketed their wands, then released the two boys. They jumped up, staring at Harry, who kept his wand raised.
"It's impressive that you made Veritaserum."
James glared at Harry, eyes narrowed. The expression only lasted a moment, he looked back at the ground, still processing the news.
"I have to take you to Dumbledore. He'll decide what to do, now that you know." The fact hit Harry hard once more…How would Remus react? What if it was too early for them to find out, and they wouldn't accept Remus?
James looked as though he might resist Harry, but knew he wasn't in a position to do so.
The three made their way through the seventh floor corridor and down the staircase. A few students looked at them, trying to assess if they needed help, but James nor Sirius said anything.
When the reached the third floor, James spoke. "I asked you if you were really who you said you were. You said no."
Harry frowned. There had to be a way out of giving the truth. "I said no because…the question was really vague. I said no because I…interpreted it as if you asked if I felt like I acted like my true self, and wasn't putting on an act. And I feel like I am putting on an act. Everyone sees me as really good at Quidditch, and smart, but they don't really know me. That's a guess, I dunno why, exactly."
Was Harry's response too heartfelt? James might have believed him, but it was hard to tell. It was the last thing anyone said until they reached the entrance on the first floor.
The gargoyle gave way to the Headmaster's office.
When they had barely entered the room, Dumbledore spoke. "You may lower your wand, Mr. Walker."
Harry did so and turned to face Dumbledore, this ghost of his past, who studied the odd trio over steepled fingers.
"Sir, they found out about Remus." Harry's voice was solemn, intense.
Dumbledore nodded slowly. "How, may I ask…?"
"Veritaserum, I think."
Dumbledore studied James and Sirius with his piercing blue eyes. "I expected better from you two. The use of Veritaserum is highly restricted in the wizarding world."
"Remus wouldn't tell us! What were we supposed to do?" James caught himself. "Sorry, sir."
"Surely you could have thought of something other than a truth serum."
Finally, the boys looked ashamed.
"Now," Dumbledore continued, standing, "I doubt it will be a problem, but out of respect for your friend, you must not tell anyone."
"What about Peter?"
"Seeing as he is part of your group, it would be hard to keep it from him. However, outside of you four, and Jacob…" The Headmaster paced before them. "People would feel endangered knowing a werewolf is attending Hogwarts. Not everyone would react the same way as you have to Remus' situation."
Harry wondered, how were James and Sirius reacting to this new discovery? They were a bit shaken, but otherwise he would have to wait and see.
"I recommend speaking with Remus. Tonight would be best. This involves him, he can decide what to do. For now, I bid you good night. Thank you, Jacob."
Harry nodded, unable to speak. He held down his feelings so he wouldn't get choked up, or get teary-eyed. Each meeting with Dumbledore was increasingly painful.
The journey to the Hospital wing was dreadfully awkward. Harry only spoke to give them advice. "What Remus feared most was you'd find out and not want to be friends with him. As long as he knows you'll all still be friends, and will help him, even, he won't want your memories erased."
Remus was asleep when they got there. He seemed to be having a nightmare; his face was scrunched up in discomfort and his hands were clenched before him. Harry cast a Muffling Charm so the couple other patients wouldn't hear.
"Remus?" Harry touched his shoulder.
Remus' eyes opened drowsily. "Jacob?" He rubbed his head and looked at his company. "James, Sirius…what's…?"
"Listen, Remus. They gave me this truth serum and I was forced to tell them you were a werewolf. But—"
Remus was brought abruptly out of his post-sleep daze. "What?" He didn't know how to react other than to look worriedly from James and Sirius to Harry.
"We don't mind that you're a werewolf!" said James quickly.
"Yeah, you'd have to be the King of Gits to give a damn if his best friend were a werewolf."
"So you do give a damn, then, Sirius?" James joked. They both laughed.
"Dumbledore said you get to decide how to deal with this," Harry told Remus, who was staring at his hands, face twisting as different emotions struggled to surface.
"Why did you make Jacob tell you about my…problem?" asked Remus, dumbfounded. He had settled on being confused and upset, brown eyes shining up at the three.
James and Sirius glanced at each other. "We knew you weren't telling the truth, you wouldn't tell us what was really going on—"
"There's a reason I kept it a secret! What if people find out?" Remus' voice rose.
James and Sirius were stunned by his outburst. "Well…they won't find out. Your secret's safe with us."
"You don't understand—" began Remus, but Sirius cut him off.
"No, you don't understand. We honestly don't care that you're a werewolf. You could be a—a vampire, secretly a girl for that matter…"
"Now, being a girl is more likely than a vampire. You do have some feminine qualities, Remus," interjected James, grinning.
"Anyway, it's better if we do know because, well, it's sort of hard to keep from us, and we could find a way to help you!"
Remus no longer looked angry, he was just serious. "Fine. I'm sorry. I—I just was worried. If anyone else found out, well…"
"They won't," James promised him firmly.
"Just know—I'll make their lives miserable if they do," Harry assured Remus.
"Well, we won't," repeated James, though his smile held a hint of his annoyance.
"But if you do, just know the consequences." Harry had now turned to James, eyes flaring up.
"Right. I think I already know the consequences." James was more than ready to fight.
"Oh, you do, do you?" Harry pulled out his wand, and James did the same.
"I think you made it very clear when you used that Body-Bind Curse."
"You think Remus should trust you when you forced me to talk?" Harry snapped, his voice rising.
"Oh, shut up, you—" James called Harry something vulgar that was half-masked by a gasp at the other end of the room. Madam Pomfrey shuffled over, took five points from Gryffindor, and made them leave.
"Let him rest, he needs sleep to get better. Shoo." The three trudged back to the Tower, James and Harry arguing, Sirius in tow.
After that night, the Marauders had an unspoken connection to Harry. Unspoken as in, at first, it seemed as though it would not have any effect on the visible relationship between them.
"So, what do you do to help him? Remus, I mean." It was a week later and a few days after the second Quidditch match, which they easily won. It was also the first time one of the Marauders other than Remus himself had talked about his problem.
Harry looked at James. It was like seeing the reflection of his true appearance, his younger self, except for the eyes. He wondered…could they be friends now?
"Er, well, I charm things inside the Shrieking Shack—"
"What's the Shrieking Shack?" James interrupted.
Oh, right. He knew nothing about the process. "It's where Remus goes to transform. There's a tunnel underneath the Whomping Willow that leads to it."
"Why's it called the Shrieking Shack?"
Shit. Harry realized the shack didn't—and probably wouldn't—earn that nickname because of his help. "Er, I don't know why I called it that."
James looked at him strangely, but moved on. "So what do you do?"
"I charm things into mice, or other small animals, so Remus can chase them. But they're also enchanted so he can't catch them." Or at least, he's not supposed to catch them.
James nodded. He seemed to want to leave, but he didn't have a valid excuse.
Remus, Sirius, and Peter joined them.
"We came up with a solution to help Remus," said Sirius, voice low, so the other people who were entering the room wouldn't hear.
"Well, it was Sirius, really, but—"
Peter set down the pile of books he had been carrying with a huff. The top one read Advanced Transfiguration: Long Term Spells, and looked very worn.
"Remus said he doesn't attack animals when he's, you know…so I thought: what if we found a way to become animals? And we read about Animagi."
"I've heard of them before." Harry was surprised they had come up with the solution so fast.
"It's really advanced magic, though." It was Remus who spoke up. "And I thought, well, you're the best in our year, so you could help. I—If you wanted to."
Harry immediately said yes, he'd love to help, but he realized a second too late what the problem was. He did want to help them, make sure nothing went wrong, but his form would be a stag. Like his dad. Would James be suspicious if they had the same form?
Harry couldn't take it back, not when Remus' face lit up how it did.
Sirius glanced upstairs. "Well, we were going to look through the books."
"Right then." James stood up, resenting Remus' compliment to Harry, that he was best in their year. He pushed ahead of Harry and led the other four up the stairs, affirming that he was the leader of the pack.
A week prior to Christmas, Harry had all his gifts figured out. His owl, Enoch, had been gone for a large portion of the year, out on the grounds or in the Owlery. He liked Harry, but hadn't been given anything to do, which Harry could tell frustrated him. Now, Enoch, in his cage, hooted happily at the sight of all the mail.
James received numerous large parcels leading up to the last day before holidays to give to friends, relishing their curiosity. Raven could be seen around the common room with her sketchbook, tucked close to her so no one would see. Sirius' family sent him a mere five galleons, a third of what he asked for. Harry knew this because he spent an entire day muttering and complaining about them all being "…stingy, miserable, and old."
"Are you getting Lily anything for Christmas?" Harry asked Severus, who frowned, annoyed.
His bed was covered in pieces of parchment, various books, and numerous vials. When he was this far into his work, he did not like being bothered. "Yeah, but why do you care? I'm not talking to you about it."
Harry looked back at him just as sourly. "Okay. I'm going to clean up."
"Okay," replied Severus, still invested in the book he was reading. When Harry left, he realized how abrasive he'd been and pounded his head with his fist. "Stupid," he muttered.
Harry washed his face in the sink and studied his reflection. He was now more accustomed to, when he looked in the mirror, seeing the dirty blonde hair, the stark blue eyes, and the place he had decided to put a small, fake birthmark, or sometimes a patch that blended into his skin. His bangs, however, were the easiest way to cover his scar.
Harry ran a hand through his hair and dried off by muttering, "Exaresco." By now, he had memorized the spells to keep his appearance from changing. He waved his wand, acting quickly but carefully, until his no hints of Harry Potter showed through.
James came into the bathroom, looking nervous in the moment before he saw Harry. "Oh. Hi."
"Hello." Harry managed to fit the book into his robes, but James noticed.
"What was that?"
"A book on…dueling." Harry twirled his wand in his fingers in an attempt to intimidate him.
James was not impressed by this explanation. He strode up to Harry and pointed his wand at his chest.
"There is something off about you. And I'm going to figure out what it is." He glared at Harry until he thought he had made enough of an impression, then he lowered his wand and let Harry leave.
Back in the dorm, Harry took his bag out of one of his drawers. I need to make sure he doesn't dig through my stuff. He cast a spell that would only allow access if he said a certain phrase.
"Again?" Harry heard someone behind him say under their breath. James had just entered the dorm.
"I was just leaving," said Harry. His father stared at the drawer, eyes narrowed.
Before James left on the Friday before Christmas, Sirius begged him, "Send an owl, please." Sirius looked back at Harry and Severus and sighed dramatically.
James clapped him on the back. "Of course. See ya, Remus, Peter."
"Bye." The only first years staying behind were Sirius, Severus, and Harry. Raven was invited to stay at Lily's for Christmas. Lily had gotten into an argument with her parents about letting Harry and Severus stay, but her parents said no, with the promise that she could stay at Hogwarts one year and another her other friends could come for the holidays.
Everyone said their farewells, then attended the first holiday dinner. Christmas trees were at every corner of the Hall, bearing an assorted collection of huge ornaments. Dumbledore wore deep green robes and a brilliant smile. The other teachers appeared less stressed and were also getting into a more festive mood.
Sirius was already considerably nicer to Harry, but he ignored Severus, save for the occasional snide remark.
There were a couple fourth years and one sixth year from Gryffindor, with only four additional people from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, so Sirius was stuck with Severus and Harry as company.
"Why didn't you go to your family's place?" Harry asked Sirius, though he knew the answer.
"Because they're a load of evil gits, that's why." After a moment's hesitation, he asked, "And what about you?"
"My parents are Muggles, and they're scared of me." Even his invented life was depressing.
Sirius smiled, then snorted, and soon they were both laughing at their misfortune. It took a moment for Sirius to catch himself and realize they weren't friends, that they didn't like each other, and he went back to poking at his food.
"Have you heard from your parents, Severus?" asked Harry, after losing himself in thought over his and Sirius' exchange. He looked to his right, where Severus slouched in his seat.
"No." He gave Harry a strange look. Of course he wouldn't have.
"Well, we'll make the best of it. The feasts are excellent. Er, so I've heard."
There was nearly a week of awkward, forced conversations, and increased tension between Sirius and Severus. Comments like "Christ, how long has it been since you've touched a bar of soap, Snivellus!" and, "You were gone a while. Not that I'm complaining. Did you make any potions to make you less of a dirty little—"
"Oh, shut up, Sirius," was Harry's endless refrain.
On Christmas morning, Severus got up first, accidentally waking up Sirius and Harry by tripping over the presents at the foot of his bed. In hindsight, it was understandable because Severus hadn't expected gifts, but at the time Harry was not happy at being woken up at six in the morning.
"Ugh, you dumbass," groaned Sirius when he sat up and rubbed his eyes. With the prospect of presents, they couldn't fall back asleep, so the three laid out the gifts on their beds and began to unwrap them.
Harry noticed Severus delicately set aside Lily's sky blue box, saving it for last. Sirius groaned for the second time after opening the box from his parents. Inside, there was a silver-and-green Slytherin scarf, a new pair of long, white socks, and a few expensive white anti-cheating quills.
A moment later, Sirius said, nonplussed, to no one in particular, "Kreacher gave me something."
Harry almost laughed, but he had to redirect his grin toward the broom-polishing kit Lily gave him. It was the same thing Hermione had gotten him for his birthday.
It turned out Kreacher had given Sirius a neatly folded tissue. "At least he folded—GAH!" A spider fell out of the tissue and onto his lap. When it landed on him, it started to swell. Sirius jumped up and grabbed his wand from his nightstand and half-yelled, "Wingardium Leviosa!"
With a lurch, the spider rose into the air. Unable to resist scaring Severus, he guided the spider toward him.
"Suffosi!" Severus had been ready. The spider dropped onto the ground, started to scuttle away, but it slowed as if moving through tar. Soon, all movement stopped and it crumpled on the ground.
There was a very nasty silence, in which Harry tried to ignore the mad, satisfied glint in Severus' eye.
Sirius finally spoke. "Well…I can always count on Kreacher to make my parents seem like saints."
Harry chuckled, remembering the maggots Kreacher had given him as a gift one Christmas. Sirius smiled slightly at the reaction but said nothing.
Harry looked over at Severus, who had moved on to the gift he'd given him. Severus took what was inside—a silver pocket-watch—from its box, where it had sat on soft, purple lining. Although it was intricate and would be useful, he seemed a bit disappointed after examining it.
"Thank you," said Severus, knowing it had costed more than all his school supplies combined.
"You're welcome. I suppose it's an early birthday present, because of your owl, Luna…Oh—and I almost forgot, this came with the watch…" Harry opened one of his drawers and pulled out a small piece of paper. After Harry handed it to him, Severus read the small print softly to himself: "Revelare Viam."
Harry looked down at what Severus had given him, which had absentmindedly opened. It was a small chocolate broomstick. Severus looked over, a bit anxiously, and said, "I added a Draught of Peace, to help with stress and things…and if you're feeling nervous before matches."
"Thanks, Severus." He wasn't expecting a gift from him. Severus' shoulders dropped with relief that Harry liked the gift.
"Sweet!" exclaimed Sirius, holding the newest Nimbus—the same Harry had. "I need to send James an owl!" His face shone with excitement at the prospect of riding the second best broom in the world, outpaced only by the Firebolt Harry had stowed away in his dresser.
Harry spent the last of his money of gifts, so he would have to go back to his time for more money the next night. To Remus, he had sent a letter detailing the list of supplies they would needed for becoming Animagi and a check by the items he had got…which was almost everything, but they might need more supplies after they spent a few months researching further.
Severus was eying another gift, brow furrowed as he examined the large, black device. Suddenly, he blurted, "Oh!" and stowed it back into its box. At this, Harry gave him an inquiring look, which Severus ignored.
Lily and Raven had sent Harry a thick volume titled An Advanced Player's Guide to Quidditch: How to Make the Journey to Professional Teams. On the inside cover she had scribbled a note to him, saying how she hoped he found it useful and Happy Christmas! Raven had enclosed a sketch of Harry, which gave him a small smile that looked…sad. Is that what I look like to her? Or am I over-thinking it?
As grateful as Harry was to spend Christmas at Hogwarts, he wanted Hermione, Ron, and Ginny to be with him. It wasn't as bad as being on the run, as he had been not to long ago, definitely better than the Dursley's, but there was still something missing.
Sirius' pile of gifts included ones from his admirers, which he tossed aside. He had become, amazingly, annoyed by the girls who fancied him.
"'I hope this is useful,'" Severus read quietly to himself. "'Yours, Lily.'" In his palm rested a small, coin-sized object.
"Can I see it?" Harry held his hand out to Severus. For a moment, Severus looked as though he would say no, gripping it possessively, but after a moment he managed to pass it over.
Harry took the object delicately. It was heavy for its size, translucent, with runes carved on its surface. It was slightly warm, but the heat was coming from within.
"It's a protective charm," said Severus when Harry dropped it back into his outstretched hand. He spent a while after gazing outside the window, the charm clenched in his fist.
Harry put the card he had read from Remus aside and noted Sirius' astounding pile of gifts from friends and admirers. Sirius didn't seem self-conscious or sympathetic next to Harry and Severus' small collection; he acted as if he were the only one in the room.
The Christmas feast was spectacular, as always. The handful of people staying behind sat with the Hogwarts staff at one table. Dumbledore, dressed in lavender robes, welcomed them warmly. Harry thought Dumbledore's eyes lingered a bit longer on his, but he knew he had just imagined it.
There were Wizard Crackers placed along the table, which was new to Severus. He opened one, flinching when a sound like a gunshot went off.
Sirius snickered when Severus got a bar of soap. Severus smirked when Sirius opened a Cracker, yelping as two live mice ran from the Cracker into his lap.
This was background noise to Harry. He sat right across from Albus, and they talked through the whole two hours as if they had known each other for years. He thought of this on the way back Gryffindor Tower, and as he lay in bed that night, unable to stop smiling, or fall asleep. It was as though the Headmaster were alive again, and Harry felt content.
Toward the end of Christmas break, students began to trickle back to Hogwarts. Lily lit up the moment she saw Severus. He expected her from the wrong direction, so she snuck up and flung her arms around him from behind. Severus stumbled forward a bit, his pale face quickly reddening. For a split second, he didn't know who it was, but then recognized the small, gentle hands that rested on his chest.
"Lily." Severus truly relaxed for the first time since she had left.
"I missed you." Lily let go and he turned to face her, meeting her eyes, sincere, but in a different way than she looked at him.
"Evans!" James spotted her as soon as he climbed through the portrait hole. "Did you get what I sent you?"
Lily pretended to think. "Oh…right, that. I thought it would be perfect for my sister. I don't suppose you mind?" Severus' mouth twitched into a smile.
James faltered. "Er, no, but I—"
"Anyway, Severus, I really liked what you sent me." Lily reached into her pocket and pulled out a gray, perfectly round stone. Or what seemed to be—there was writing on it, cursive and small: "Lily."
"Oh—you did like it?" Relief flooded his features. "Er, I think I put it in the note, but every Christmas…a new word is added."
Lily's green eyes met his dark ones. "I love it."
James looked livid. The tension was, thankfully, broken by Sirius, who greeted James, beaming.
"Thank you for the book," said Harry to Raven and Lily, who smiled in return. Harry meant it, though he could only have been sincere since after the end of the Second Wizarding War; now he valued sitting down and quietly reading much more.
Harry nodded when they thanked him, but his attention wandered to the Marauders, who were deep in discussion.
"Jacob?" repeated Lily.
"Huh? Er, right…" He tried to remember what she just said. "Ah! Yeah, I'd love to." She had asked if he wanted to stay at her house next year over the holidays.
"And, you as well, of course," added Lily to Severus. "Raven managed to convince my parents."
"Brilliant, thanks." Harry grinned at Raven, who looked down and said something about it being no big deal.
"Hey, Sirius!" A girl in their year, Aluria Vane, waved to Sirius from the table she was sharing with her two friends. Romilda, from Harry's time, had inherited qualities from her mother in both appearance and personality: same dramatic voice, same confidence, and the same black, curly hair.
Sirius didn't verbally respond, but his curt wave was enough to send the group into a fit of giggles.
"They're really getting on my nerves," muttered Sirius to James. "Oh, no, here they come—"
"Happy New Year's," said Aluria, deliberately sounding out of breath. Cheresse Podmore and Florence Tyler came up on either side of her.
"Hello," said Sirius, not looking up. Aluria was surprised by his lack of enthusiasm, but it did not curb her determination.
"I was wondering if you'd all…" she frowned slightly at Peter, who she was less happy about including, and continued, "…like to join us on a walk after breakfast?"
"No, thank you."
"What he means is, we have a ton of homework that we put off," said James hastily.
"Oh, good, so do we!" Both groups were lying. The Marauders had no choice but to follow them to their table with varying attitudes; Harry smirked at the miserable slouch of James and Sirius.
"When did Remus say he was coming back?" Lily asked Harry, pulling him back to their conversation.
"Late tonight. His family wanted him home for New Year's."
The Marauders and the other four stayed up to wait. By one in the morning, Lily, Raven, and Severus had gone to bed, so it was just Sirius, James, Peter, and Harry. Just when Harry was going to leave Remus' welcoming committee, so he could sleep and spare himself the awkwardness, Remus came in through the portrait hole.
"Hello," said Remus, looking as though he would drop from exhaustion at any second. "You didn't have to stay up for me." He yawned widely, and the others followed suit.
Harry was the first to notice new scratches that crept up on Remus' neck and arms, but James was the first to say something. "What happened to your arm? Did you do that?"
Remus pulled down his sleeve. "Yeah…Madam Pomfrey had to mend everything before I could come up here, that's why I'm so late."
"We need to hurry and figure out this Animagus project," said James, looking meaningfully at everyone but Harry.
"Did Jacob tell you what he got me for Christmas?" Remus dug through his pockets and pulled out the piece of parchment. He showed them the piece of parchment with the list of gifts, all needed ingredients for becoming Animagi.
"We should all read the book on becoming an Ani…you-know-what. I'm guessing it'd take at least until…mid third year," Harry told them, a bit disheartened by Sirius and James' obvious effort to be cold to him.
"Whatever, it's too late to worry about it, let's go to bed…" James yawned. None of them noticed the figure listening in from the top of the staircase of the girls' dormitories.
After Christmas, time started to snowball, rushing more quickly to the end of the year. Severus and Lily's birthdays passed, and soon enough, it was February 14—Valentine's Day.
"…a load of rubbish, really," Severus was saying to Lily, frowning at the pink decorations that had been put up overnight in the common room. He looked at a stuffed, heart-shaped toy that was sitting on the table nearby as if it were a dead animal lying by the road.
"Mm," agreed Lily absentmindedly, pretending to listen. She was observing a couple sitting close to each other at a table, working on homework, who paused to kiss. Suddenly, her attention was caught by something—someone—beyond Severus.
"Oh no, not James, c'mon, let's go to breakfast." The two of them snuck out of the room.
James spotted Harry as he crossed the room after Severus and Lily, who had just slipped through the portrait hole. "Jacob! Have you seen Lily?" He held a piece of parchment in one hand, and his hair was even messier than usual. Peter and Remus were at his side, still yawning.
"No, I haven't, sorry. Is that for her?" Harry's eyes flicked to the parchment.
"Yeah. But it's none of your business!" James seemed to find that snapping at people helped with his nerves. He went off to ask someone else, growing impatient.
Harry made it to the Great Hall without seeing anyone he knew. One thing that was familiar, however, was the extravagantly decorated Hall with pink and red ribbons and a steady sprinkle of little hearts from above.
As Harry neared the Gryffindor table, he saw that some of the professors wore heart pins, the others more along the lines of Severus' thinking, who studied the room with slight disapproval.
There were two diapered, singing dwarves already, on opposite sides of the room. Their voices grew steadily louder as they competed with each other, until everyone close to them pressed their hands over their ears, some yelling at them to give it a rest.
Over the din, Lily shouted, "Jacob! Good morning!" Lily slid one of the rose pins on the table into her dark red hair, the other hand clamped over her ear. Her face suddenly tightened in annoyance—Harry thought for a moment it was because of him, but when he turned around he realized the reason.
James strode up to were Lily sat, still holding on to the piece of parchment. He waited for the noise to die down before he spoke.
"Good Morning, Lily, and Happy Valentine's Day." Lily sighed and looked up at him as he continued, "I wrote a poem for you."
"Get on with it then." Lily rested her head on her hand and sighed.
James cleared his throat and read,
You have put me under a spell
With your hair like embers
Picked up by the summer's wind,
And your eyes like a grassy meadow
Where you dance beneath the clouds.
Your laugh is like the rush of a river,
The bubbling of a brook.
You are brighter than the sun
That lights up my day
With one look.
I cannot imagine life without
My dearest Lily."
Lily lifted her head. "Are you serious? That was the worst poem I've ever heard."
Remus blushed and sunk in his seat as James shot a scathing look at him.
"But it's bad in a good way?" James asked hopefully.
"No. Bad in a bad way." She looked at him in amazement.
Somehow, James appeared to relish this defiance. Perhaps he appreciated Lily's spirit. He grinned widely at her, produced a bouquet of roses from his wand tip, and before she could refuse, he handed them to her.
"Happy Valentine's Day!" called James as he strode away, Sirius beside him. They each grabbed a slice of toast from the table on their way out, laughing.
Lily exhaled in exasperation, holding the flowers away from her as if they were poisoned. "Here, he's your friend, so…" She gave the flowers to Remus, who looked down to hide his reddening face.
"It wasn't a truly horrible poem, just mushy, but I couldn't say it to his face. I bet he paid one of his older friends to write it."
Remus breathed in the bouquet's scent. "Actually, Lily," he began, before freezing in place. His pupils dilated and his face relaxed. He stood up abruptly, fixed on something in the distance.
"Are you okay, Remus?" Harry asked, looking up at him.
"Mm, I'm wonderful," he replied dreamily, and walked away in a daze.
"What's up with him?" Lily blinked, eyebrows turned up in worry.
"A Love Potion." Severus soured at her concern. "They added it to the flowers so if you smelled them…" He shrugged his slight shoulders and looked meaningfully at Remus, who slipped into the corridor outside the Great Hall.
"Ugh! James is such an—an…idiot!"
"…arse?" Severus suggested at the same time.
Lily's frustration broke a bit and she smiled. "Yeah, that. I can't believe he'd try to use a Love Potion on me!"
"I can," said Raven and Severus darkly at the same time.
Harry stood up. "We should help Remus, before he does something embarrassing. Someone should get Slughorn."
"I will," said Lily, and hurried off toward the staff table. Severus' lips briefly tightened in annoyance, but the expression disappeared as they left.
Remus must have ran—not walked—to the common room, because by the time they got there, there was already a small group of people gathered around the scene unfolding between him and James.
"But you must believe me!" Remus took James' shoulders, holding him so it was difficult to avoid his watery, sincere eyes.
"Remus, I gave you a Love Potion, that's why you're acting this way! It was meant for Li—someone else!" James tried to wriggle out of his grip, but Remus held on firmly.
"No, I've always had feelings for you!" declared Remus loudly, very far from his normal self. He took James' hand at held it up so everyone can see. "If anyone has a problem with this, with us, then they don't know what true love is!"
James looked positively mortified.
The roars of laughter were now attracting more people to the scene, and the crowd grew to about twenty. Harry felt bad for Remus, though he knew after this was all over James would never give Lily a Love Potion again…if she was lucky.
"Hey, James, when do the effects wear off?" asked a third-year, trying to hold back his laughter long enough to speak.
"In eleven hours…" James groaned, looking queasy as Remus whispered (sweet nothings, no doubt) into his ear.
"Oi, Remus!" Raven broke through the lopsided ring that had formed around the two lovebirds and put a hand on his shoulder.
Remus turned around, surprised. "Excuse me, I—"
Raven Body-Bound him and he fell forward into her arms. Her tiny frame struggled with the weight, but she managed to place him carefully on the ground, face red with the effort.
There was a moment of silence, then the crowd dispersed, murmuring in disappointment.
"Someone had to do something," said Raven to Harry after a second year muttered loudly to her friend as they passed about her being a spoilsport.
"Thanks, er, Ravenclaw." James rolled his shoulders and there was a few loud cracks. "Never knew he was that strong. Animal-like strength, it seems." He grinned at his own joke. "Oh, Professor Slughorn!" Horace Slughorn, dressed in a familiar green-striped waistcoat and sporting his usual walrus mustache. James cleared his throat. "I know this seems bad—"
"Detention, James, and ten—no, five points from Gryffindor." Slughorn seemed reluctant even with that amount, as he was fond of James. "Where's the boy?"
"Over here." Slughorn strode over to where Remus lay on the ground, though, for him, it was more of a waddle. He produced a corked vial of a clear liquid before lifting the Body-Binding Curse from Remus.
James ducked behind the others before Remus saw him. "Where's James? I still have to give him a Valentine's Day gift. Can someone check my breath?" He smoothed his light hair out of his eyes as he looked around.
"He's getting ready. Here, take this, it will make your breath irresistible." Slughorn uncorked the bottle and handed it to Remus, who downed it in one gulp. "Ah, I feel weird. And it didn't taste very good…oh." His eyes widened in shock as the memory of everything that had just happened hit him and he covered his face with his hands.
"Sorry, my boy. It was all in the spirit of Valentine's Day, I suppose." The Professor patted Remus on the back and just barely squeezed out through the portrait hole.
James popped back up. "You're quite the romantic, Remus," he teased, smirking.
"You idiot, why would you try to give Lily a Love Potion?" Remus rubbed his temple.
James shrugged. "It was an experiment. And the results are promising." He grinned at Lily, whose eyes flared.
"C'mon, guys." With that, Lily stalked off, nose in the air.
The rest of the day was filled with tearful love confessions, happy couples, and more pink. The first years, being the youngest, were least involved in the romantic adventures of the older students. That wasn't to say Sirius didn't get a cauldron-full of Valentines over the course of the day. Harry expected James to be jealous, but he just laughed about it and cruelly rated each girl who had plucked up the courage to give him a gift.
They spent most of the day outside to get away from everything, but gathered in the common room with everyone else after dinner.
"'You have put me under a spell…'" said Lily to herself, her eyes drifting beyond her book. It was nearly eight, and there was only a bit more homework to get done. Raven was sitting across from Lily; Severus and Harry sat beside her, and Remus sat at a chair they pulled up at the side of a table.
Remus looked took a breath and said quietly, "James asked me to write it for him. The poem, I mean."
Lily snapped out of her daze and looked at him in surprise. "What?" She thought she had been quiet when she recited the line.
"Well, he told me what he liked about you, and I, er…" he rubbed his neck and avoided her gaze. "…just put it together for him."
For a moment, Lily processed this, then she realized what she had said and earlier. "Oh, no, Remus, I said it was awful, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it, I thought the poem itself was really sweet, but I couldn't say that to James."
"It's okay," said Remus quickly, and his cheeks turned scarlet.
"I swear, if his fat head gets any bigger, he might explode."
Severus, who had been sulking moments before, clearly jealous over Lily's reaction to the poem, smirked. "In that case, you should've told him how sweet he was."
One morning in March, an deep bellow rang in the first year boys' dorm.
Harry thought he felt his skull vibrate. He realized, after checking his watch, that it only seemed that loud because it was three in the morning. And, his watch informed him, about 215 days since he first traveled to this time.
"Not now…sleep." James' words were muffled in the pillow.
"This is the exact time you came out of your mother, when you moved through—"
James cut him off. "Give me my first birthday present: Let me sleep."
"Okay, ickle baby James. Sleep tight." Sirius tried to move his face to give him a goodnight kiss on the forehead, but James buried his face in his pillow.
A brief three hours later, Harry dragged himself out of bed to get ready for the day. He had the faint curiosity of what Sirius, Remus, and Peter would give James for his birthday.
He got part of an answer that morning at breakfast. It was all in whispers, but he managed to get the gist of one of the gifts. Remus had made him some sort of potion, per his request, so James could save it for later use. It seemed that Sirius and Peter didn't get him a wrapped gift. Harry could only guess that what they planned to give had to do with Lily.
It was right before dinner, and Sirius was bent over homework at the table in the far corner of the common room. "Hey, Jacob, Lily, Raven, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"We'll meet you down there," Lily told Severus, who nodded.
"I needed help on this homework. And well, Snivellus hates me, so…" Sirius showed them the assignment he was working on.
Harry looked at the parchment, where Sirius had scribbled with obviously no idea what he was doing.
"I think you need to start over." Lily definitely disliked Sirius, but it seemed she wanted to stall to avoid James.
"Where do I start, exactly?" asked Sirius, scratching the back of neck.
"Have you even read the chapter?"
There were hushed murmurs as everyone headed to dinner.
"I may have skimmed it."
"Read it first, then we'll—" They started to turn around.
"No! Er, I think I remember reading it now. Can you explain how this works?" He flipped through the book and found a part in his potions book that had, in fact, challenged most of the students in their class.
Lily and Raven looked at Harry expectantly. "Oh, okay, I'll help." It took about five minutes because Sirius kept interrupting. He was smart, but he never asked for help, he never studied outside of what he absolutely had to study. At least, that's what Harry thought.
Sirius thanked them for the help, but there was something mischievous in his smile.
"I think he may've been up to something…" Harry led them quickly down to the Great Hall. On their way, they noticed people whispering and laughing. Harry didn't bother stopping to ask them what had happened, he just ran the rest of the way to the Great Hall.
He got there and saw Severus sitting down, to him nothing seemed wrong.
But to everyone else in the hall who had turned to look, Severus had forgotten something very important.
Lily and Raven caught up with Harry, breathing heavily.
"What…what's wrong?" managed Lily.
Harry didn't reply, he was already moving toward Severus. Both of the girls stared at him, dumbstruck; Raven giggled in spite of herself.
It wasn't a lot to be thankful for, but at least Severus was still wearing his pants.
They ran up to him, trying to shield him by standing side-by-side. "Severus, put this on," said Harry, taking off his cloak.
"Why? Is everything okay?"
"Oh, Sev, just do it, please." Lily shrank under the increasing number of stares in their direction, the whispers they could now understand. She laid a hand on his pale, thin shoulder, trying not to look below his waist. If she hadn't been so awkward about seeing him like this, she could have counted his ribs.
"Oh, all right." But his eye twitched and he shook his head vigorously. Harry looked around and saw James, Sirius, and Peter, located strategically around the Hall, wands out. It seemed as though they had cast the Confundus Charm, and that this was James' birthday present from Peter and Sirius.
"Severus, fight the spell. Er, let's see, you're supposed to clear your mind," said Harry, hands up as Severus confusedly pointed his wand to defend himself from their attempts. He twitched again, closed his eyes, and was free.
Severus blinked, then looked down. His eyes widened in horror, and he grabbed Harry's robes, swearing. He ran out of the hall, laughter following him out.
James came up to meet them as they hastened after Severus. He was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes.
"What'd you thi—"
"Come one step closer and I'll hex you before you can say, 'I'm a prat,'" said Raven, not Harry.
"Happy Birthday, James," said Lily, and pushed past him, leaving him staring after them, dumbfounded.
Sirius knew about the charm Lily had given Severus for Christmas, and had nicked it right before they had pranked him. From then on, Severus always patted his pocket before leaving the dorms to make sure it was there.
Severus checked out five books on Occlumency from the library after the incident. He had Harry practice on him and was able to master it in three days. Harry had actually improved as well; he could withstand the Confundus Charm and other basic spells of the like. He wouldn't let Severus perform Legilimency on him, because of the risks involved. However, Severus let Harry try more advanced spells, which he conquered in the end.
After studying Occlumency, Harry could tell a part of Severus had been tucked away, pieces of his expression that could only be brought out by Lily.
Soon enough, the end of the year was upon Harry. Of the Gryffindor first-years, only Raven and Peter were still eleven. Exams were coming up quickly, and the professors were increasing the homework load. Severus and Raven continued to lead half-lives of Slytherin and Gryffindor, which Lily chose to ignore.
Harry had been avoiding various curses and hexes for weeks. The Slytherins, in second place for the Quidditch Cup, were determined to take him out before Gryffindor's final match against Ravenclaw. It was only until their practice rights were threatened that they left him alone.
The Ravenclaws and Gryffindors wore their house colors proudly, so the stands were full of crimson and blue.
Violetta went over a few quick points with the team, but it was clear she was counting primarily on Harry to catch the Snitch. They assembled on the field, and both teams nodded to each other as they got ready to take off.
Once the whistle blew, Harry shot in the other direction, eyes raking the field for the Snitch, when suddenly, he felt his broom lurch beneath him. He hung on, gritting his teeth, hands tightened around the handle. He spun, over and over, the world blurring around him, trying not to vomit or lose his grip.
Then there was a moment of calm, and Harry saw, in his still-spinning vision, that the crowd had stood up, and was looking around for the person who was messing with Harry's broom. Some of the spectators were pointing their wands threateningly at the Slytherin end, shouting and swearing. They all knew about Slytherin's attempts to sabotage the Gryffindor Seeker.
Harry used the distraction to quickly speed away, up and up, hoping that if he moved around enough, he'd avoid the curse.
It turned out there was no need, the Gryffindors had called time-out. Harry was flying down to them when his broom shot out beneath from him when he was nearly a hundred feet in the air. He hardly had time to scream as he plummeted down, the ground rushing to meet him… Just before he landed, he felt a tug around his navel and he stopped, a foot from the grass beneath him, before falling with a dull thump.
"Never in my years of coaching…" Madam Hooch helped Harry to his feet. There were angry cries from the crowd, especially from the Gryffindor end. Harry joined his team, who looked shaken.
"Someone's out to get you, Jacob. I'm not sure if we can do anything about it." Violetta's expression was determined, grim.
"I know. Just try to score as many points as you can…they might come after our team, too, and then the game will be called off. I'll try to catch the Snitch quickly."
The team glanced at each other, hesitant. Ignoring their worry, Violetta told Madam Hooch they were ready, and soon they were in the air again.
Harry thought back to the Quidditch book he had received for Christmas as he rose high above the field, trying to remember anything that might help him. He glanced at the Ravenclaw Seeker, who was across the pitch. She's smart, he thought. She knows she can't outfly me, so the only chance she'll have is if she sees the Snitch far away from where I am.
He moved quickly, darting around in the hopes that it would be more difficult to curse him. And then he saw it. The Snitch, twenty feet away. Harry spun in its direction, and it sped up. The chase was on. Everyone in the stands except the Slytherins were on their feet, cheering him on.
The Snitch flitted straight down, but it couldn't shake Harry off. With a final burst of speed, his fingers closed around it.
Students poured onto the pitch, yelling. The Ravenclaws were in various states of disappointment; the Seeker, crying, was comforted by her teammates. But Harry had no time to take this in. Violetta ran to him, beaming, hair windswept. She bent down and kissed him on the cheek, then the mouth; he was too full of adrenaline to be surprised, and then his team lifted him into the air. They were shouting louder than those who had been watching. Harry, grinning at their enthusiasm, couldn't resist pumping his fists in the air.
The Gryffindors crowded into the common room, which was decorated with gold and crimson, with banners hanging to congratulate the team. Harry tried to get back to his friends for a moment of peace and quiet, but was constantly pulled into the center of attention. It was the first time he'd had anywhere close to the amount of attention he got back home.
When the commotion died down, he escaped to his dorm, which had only one occupant: Severus.
"So the Quidditch hero returns."
Harry looked at him, joy running cold. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Severus didn't look up or reply.
"I didn't ask for everyone to act like that."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Right." He looked Harry over, his frown deepening. "Sometimes you're like him, in that way."
Harry marched to Severus' bed. "I'm not like James. I don't bully people for fun. I don't beg for attention. You know, you shouldn't talk about what's right and wrong. Your Slytherin friends were the ones messing with my broom, and you did nothing." Harry scoffed. "I wouldn't "e surprised if you were one of the ones cursing it."
"Stop," said Severus quietly.
"You have no idea how ironic it would be if it really was you, cursing the broom," said Harry to himself, shaking his head. In his timeline, Severus had cast a counter-curse to protect him.
Severus slammed the book he was reading on the bed. "Shut up, okay? I don't need you to treat me like a—like a child. You say we're friends, but that's not true and you know it!"
Harry took a step back in surprise. "Look, you're the one who hardly talks to me anymore. I've always been there, if you needed me." He glanced looked at the book Severus was reading, confirming what he already knew, that it was on the Dark Arts. "If anyone's lost sight of who they are, who their true friends are…it's you."
With Harry's efforts, Gryffindor won the House Cup. After the celebration of the end of the school year, a somber feeling drifted over Harry's compartment.
Harry gazed out the window. He was still unsure of whether he should attend Hogwarts next year. He had written a pros and cons list over the past couple weeks, but each list had the same number of points. He pulled out the slip of parchment and read it over again.
Pros to staying:
Severus is getting back into the Dark Arts and still needs help. I still need to become friends with James and Sirius. I get to go back to Hogwarts for at least another year.
- I can see people who died, like Dumbledore, and Remus, and Lily.
- I can help with the Animagi project.
Cons to staying:
- Maybe it's better if I let history run its course. (Severus seems destined to study the Dark Arts)
- I may never become friends with James and Sirius.
I miss everyone back home. The longer I stay, the harder it will be to say goodbye.
- Someone might find out who I really am.
He felt the lists were balanced, but in his heart, he wanted to stay. Looking around the compartment, he realized how little time he'd had with these people. He hadn't seen them grow up, they were still kids. He wrote down one more pro.
I'll find out if everything was meant to be. And that means peace.
Or at least acceptance. After making up his mind, Harry fell asleep. Hours later, he was nudged awake by Raven. Everyone exited the train, slouching or smiling, sad to leave their friends or excited to see their families.
"I'll see you two at the end of August."
"I'll miss you, Jacob," Lily whispered, hugging him.
Severus nodded at Harry, and, after debating what to do, held out his hand, which Harry shook. "Goodbye, Jacob."
Harry stood out of the way of the bustling people, soaking in the familiar sounds of the station. He saw James welcomed by this mother and father, who ruffled his hair, expressions bright. Sirius looked moody and bitter as he left James' side and meandered over to his mother. She eyed him and snapped at him to stand up straight. Lily's family welcomed her with wide arms and smiles. Even Petunia's stern expression softened a bit. Severus stood several meters away, watching with something like envy.
"Where's Jacob?" Petunia asked, face pink. She looked around and spotted him, waving. Of course, he felt uncomfortable that his aunt fancied him, but it was tolerable from a distance.
Lily motioned for him to come over. He should have expected that his discomfort would increase.
"Hello, Jacob." Mrs. Evans shook his hand, then put her arm around Lily. The top of Lily's head was already level with her mother's nose.
"Nice to see you again, ma'am." He made eye contact with Petunia briefly, who had been staring at him. She blushed and looked at her shiny black shoes. Harry realized she'd made an effort to look nice, probably for him.
"We would be happy to have you for dinner sometime this summer," said Mr. Evans, businesslike.
Harry hesitated. "I'd love to, but my family is going to be away all this summer."
Petunia's face fell a bit, and she stopped fiddling with her hair.
"Well, you're welcome any time. I understand you're staying over the holidays?" Harry nodded, but Mr. Evans was looking beyond Harry to Severus, who wandered away, looking for his mother. "Seems like they get all kinds at Hogwarts," Mr. Evans said, frowning.
Lily followed his gaze and found who he was looking at. "Oh, Dad, that's Severus! He's the other person you said I could invite to stay with us for Christmas. And what do you mean, all kinds?"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you, honey." Still, Mr. Evans seemed to regret agreeing to having him stay over.
Lily and her family waved goodbye to Harry, who went to look for Severus. He saw Remus' mother pull him into her arms, crying a little. The clothes Mr. and Mrs. Lupin wore were old and a bit dusty, but their eyes were bright and kind as they walked with Remus to the exit.
Severus had found his mother, whose face was cast in shadow from the hat she wore. He looked back and saw Harry. They exchanged a tight smile before their view was blocked by the crowd.
Harry weaved his way through the throng of people and out of the station. His owl was drawing attention to himself, and he wanted to find somewhere deserted. He managed to find an alley a block away. No one was there to see a strange boy with dirty blonde hair disappear on the spot, a mysterious device around his neck.
By early August, Severus and Lily had seen each other often, as they had every summer, and it was as though a bridge had formed over the rift that'd grown between them.
Lily waited until her parents had left for dinner with Petunia and her friends ("She won't go, we can celebrate tomorrow, but she won't ruin it for me!") before venturing outside. Severus saw her from his hiding place and started toward her, hands shaking. His face was frozen with fear and a large bruise colored his left eye. The wounds on his arms still burned, and the smell of alcohol lingered on his clothing. He carried a small bag with everything he had managed to grab before his father had thundered up the stairs, cursing over his mother's crying…One change of clothing and his most prized possessions, mostly gifts that Lily had given him. One was the small present she had given him for Christmas their first year of school, which did nothing to protect himself from non-magical harm.
Lily made him pasta as he took a shower. She felt strong, determined. As she ranted angrily about his "awful, absolutely evil" father, Severus ate the pasta, along with the carrots she'd washed and a candy bar she'd saved for him.
After only ten minutes he was crouched over the toilet in the bathroom, puking until his throat was sore.
Lily made more pasta and ran the water so she wouldn't hear the sound of him vomiting.
She gave him a new toothbrush and let him only eat the small amount of pasta she made, some crackers, and water. Afterwards he fell asleep on the couch, and she let him sleep there for about an hour before lightly shaking him awake.
He had never been in Lily's room before. It was clean and soft-colored, with photos of her family and landscapes pasted into a collage on one wall. She had moved everything out from under her bed and had made it comfortable for him to sleep there. He slipped underneath, murmured, "Goodnight," and fell asleep again.
That night Lily lay awake after everyone else had gone to bed. She couldn't fall asleep; she was deep in thought. "Sev?"
A thud, then a moment's pause. "Ow—yeah?"
"Are you okay?" Lily got out of bed and lifted the sheet that hung over the mattress to see him.
"I'm fine," he replied. "I just hit my head."
"I thought that, you can come up here…if you want. With me."
"Oh." There was a longer pause this time. "Are—are you sure?"
"Of course." She stood up, arms crossed over her chest self-consciously.
Severus slid out from beneath the bed and stood, staring at the ground, uncomfortable by the situation and her thin shirt.
"You can take the side by the wall."
He climbed in, moved as far right as he could so his shoulder brushed the wall. Lily got in after him and pulled the covers over them. They faced the walls opposite each other, heads resting on separate pillows.
Severus couldn't think of anything to say, but his heart raced.
"Sleep tight," murmured Lily.
After a few moments Severus could tell she had fallen asleep. He was unable to do the same, so he turned on his back and stared at the ceiling, too heart-wrenchingly aware of the warmth radiating from her side of the bed.
Minutes passed. Lily rolled over and stretched; she was used to having the bed all to herself. Her hand landed on his chest. Severus winced at her touch and memories of what he ran away from rushed back to him.
Lily stirred. "Sorry," she said in a slightly slurred voice. She moved in closer and rested her head on his chest, right over his heart.
"You okay?" He could feel her lips move against his shirt.
Severus pushed away the thoughts of his father. He was safe now.
"'Fine.'" Lily smiled a bit; it was the second time he had said that. "Are you cold?"
She draped her arm over him, her hand resting beside his waist. His heart pounded against his chest as a wave of something heated rushed over him.
"I can hear your heart," she said, slowly drifting back asleep.
Severus took a deep breath and sighed, trying to be calm. He reached behind Lily so his arm held her to closer to him, hand on her middle. The top of Lily's head came to his chin, so he could pick up the faint scent of apple in her hair.
"Lily?" said Severus, voice skimming a whisper.
"I—I like you."
Her head nuzzled on him, and she exhaled slowly. "Me too."
Severus knew Lily hadn't gotten the message. He realized he didn't want to explain, he didn't want to ruin the moment, their friendship. He could never imagine telling her how much he loved her.
Later that night, Severus awoke, confused, at first, as to what had stirred him. He realized, with a pang, that it had been Lily's soft crying. Her fingers clutched his shirt, trembling.
Lily didn't realize he hadn't been sleeping, otherwise she wouldn't have let herself cry.
Lily had to be strong, for him…
Harry had traveled to the end of the summer. He figured Severus would be fine on his own, without him there, since had Lily. The two needed to bond so they could stay friends.
He went to their usual meeting place, hoping to see them before he went to his temporary house to get his school supplies list. As he neared the clearing, he saw Severus lying down in the shade. At first Severus seemed normal, just resting, but as Harry got closer, he realized something was wrong.
Harry panicked. He's dead, he's dead and I couldn't help him, I just made everything worse…Before dread consumed him, Severus moved his head slowly in Harry's direction, his cheekbones shadowed so he looked like a skeleton. Severus extended a hand toward Harry and seemed unable to speak.
"Severus, what's wrong? What happened?"
Severus couldn't answer. His hollow black eyes stared up at Harry.
Harry quickly reached into his bag and searched for the few packages of candy he had collected from over the last school year. He handed them to Severus, who tried to unwrap them but was too weak, fingers fumbling with the wrapping. Harry took the packages back and opened the first for Severus. His guilt prevented him from speaking.
Severus took a while to eat the Chocolate Frog, eyes closed with satisfaction.
After he had licked his fingers clean, he took one look at Harry's concerned expression and burst into tears.
Harry sat down next to Severus and watched as the boy buried his face in his arms, weeping.
It took a while for Severus to recover. When he did, his face was red and streaked with tears, which he didn't bother to wipe away.
"What happened?" Harry prepared himself for the worst.
Severus looked at Harry, then pulled up his sleeve. Bruises and angry red scrapes lined his arms, harsh against his pale skin.
"Your father. Did Lily help? Where is she?"
Severus' eyes welled up again and he blinked. "Not here. She left last week to go on vacation. I said I'd go back home and face my father, that I'd be fine…" His voice was shaky and raspy.
"Severus…you can tell me anything, right?"
Even though he hadn't told Harry everything, he was hiding his crush on Lily, Severus nodded.
"Then can you tell me everything that happened when I was gone. Everything that has to do with your dad. Okay? I'm your friend, and I need to know."
Severus looked into the distance. "My father…" His breath stopped, then returned in short gasps. He crossed his arms over his stomach and squeezed his eyes shut to hold back his pain.
"Does he…abuse you and your mother?"
Severus managed to nod. "But he doesn't just—just hurt us, he also…"
"He also what?" Harry put his hand urgently on Severus' shoulder, who flinched at his touch.
Severus turned away, eyes squeezed shut.
Harry froze. He realized that the abuse had gone beyond hitting and shouting, and a horrible guilt overcame him. "Oh no…I'm sorry, if I'd have known—"
"I don't want to talk about it anymore," said Severus, and looked away.
Harry didn't say anything for a few minutes so Severus could recover.
"Does Lily know everything that he did?"
"No. I ran away from home last month, and she let me stay in her room, but Petunia found out the day before they left and said she'd tell on me."
"You stayed in her room?"
"Only at night."
"And you couldn't have gotten food from her?"
"I didn't think to…I haven't gone near the house since she found us." Severus said "she" with an intense loathing. "Her sister ruins everything."
It had been cloudy that day. If Lily had heard the forecast, the night's events could have been prevented.
Severus woke up to a crack of thunder. Lily sighed after he stirred. They were now so accustomed to sharing a bed that any movement either of them made woke the other.
"Go back to sleep," said Severus. The thunderstorms bothered him, so saying it to her helped.
Lily adjusted herself so her face was even with Severus'.
Severus looked at her closed eyes, then down to her slightly parted lips. He felt an overwhelming desire to kiss her.
The room flashed with lightening, illuminating her features. Suddenly, there was a burst of thunder and his lips met Lily's forehead. She had moved her head at the sound.
And just as she woke up, not at the sound, but at his touch, there was a loud succession of footsteps out in the hallway.
Severus dove farther under the covers and Lily threw her largest stuffed animal on top of him.
The door opened and a scared-looking Petunia entered, flinching at another rumble of thunder.
Lily leapt out of bed and went to comfort her, but Petunia was staring at Lily's bed. She ran past Lily, pulling back the cover.
Lily clamped a hand over Petunia's mouth.
"MMPH!" Petunia struggled under her hand, eyes wide at her discovery. Severus rolled off the bed, just as shocked as Petunia.
Lily kept her voice low. "Severus, get out of here."
Severus nodded and hurried out, not knowing what he should do, or where he was supposed to go.
The present Severus had left out some details, but enough for Harry to get the gist. "I've seen Lily once since then. She said Petunia would tell their parents if she saw Lily with me again. The only thing thing that kept her quiet was saying that you were my friend, and you wouldn't talk to her again if she told." His face changed from despairing to furious, then back again. "I can't wait to get the hell out of here."
Harry closed his eyes, braced against a wave of grief. "It's just one more day. Tomorrow, we go back to Hogwarts."
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