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The Return

Chapter Text

The Return

 

Table of Contents

Prologue

Part One: Lily Evans Potter

Chapter One: Lily and James

Chapter Two: Kendrah Johnson

Chapter Three: Lily Judith Evans

Chapter Four: Summer of 1975/Summer of 2004

Part Two: Severus and Hermione

Chapter One: Severus Snape

Chapter Two: Hermione Granger

Chapter Three: Severus and Hermione I

Chapter Four: Severus and Hermione II

Part Three: The Return

Chapter One: Kendrah and Severus

Chapter Two: Severus

Chapter Three: Severus and Lily

Chapter Four: Lily and Severus

Chapter Five: Hermione

Chapter Six: Hermione and Severus and Lily and Harry and Ginny and Sirius

Part Four: The Reckoning

Chapter One: Later That Night

Chapter Two: Lily and Severus

Chapter Three: Hermione

Chapter Four: Lily and Hermione and Severus

Chapter Five: The Return

 

 

Prologue

October 30. 1981

The old wizard sat behind his desk, waiting to hear the little family ascend the stairs just outside his door. The desk was ancient and resembled the bow of a ship. On its starboard corner were two phials. Professor Slughorn had brewed an effective polyjuice; the old wizard had tested it on himself. It was active for six hours, and safe for three successive re-dosings. He had not been overly confident in the old Potion Master’s skill, but he had been pleasantly surprised. The potions just needed a hair from each adult to be complete.

He had been over the details with the couple. He had several sets of instructions in sealed envelopes. With the help of Professor Vector, who didn’t know the specifics of the project she was collaborating on with her boss, he had tried to predict every scenario, including a quick resolution to the struggle, in which the couple would be instructed to come home immediately. He was not an optimist, however.

Only the three adults present in the room that day would know the details of his plan. Minerva would probably kill him if she had any idea. The Aurors would be obliviated if they survived. He wished he could obliviate the couple as well, but he had assured them of their reunion with their son as a reward. It wouldn’t do to eliminate their chief motivation.

On his closest shelf, there was a three-volume set of parchment filled with arithmancy tables that had necessitated all of this. The extensive work contained several conclusions:

  1. This was an existential struggle.
  2. The baby would grow to be the person upon whom survival rests.
  3. The baby’s genetics were favorable.
  4. The baby would not accomplish what he needed to being raised in a stable, loving home.
  5. The person the baby grew into must believe that love triumphs over hate and that good triumphs over evil.
  6. This person must be willing to sacrifice his life to save the rest of the society.
  7. An example of this sacrifice would be his core truth.

The old wizard saw clearly that current events were hurtling toward the sacrifice of the baby’s parents. A more ruthless man would have watched it play out, he thought. It was fate, all he had to do was stay out of the way.

He’d had too much affection for the couple, he knew it. SHE had been one of his favorite students from the moment she arrived to be sorted. HE embodied the best of their house. He was effortlessly handsome, charming, intelligent, but not intimidatingly so. He had a well-honed sense of humor. He made everyone around him feel privileged to know him. Most everyone, anyway.

The old wizard had attended their wedding, and he had felt a pang he would deny to his grave and into his life as a portrait. James Potter was as beautiful as any creature had ever been that day. It was impossible to send him to almost certain death.

Instead, he had hand-picked two of the best fighters in the ranks of the Aurors. Lutrell and May were their names, and they were ready for the confrontation that would occur in the next twenty-four hours. There was a new cot in the nursery, charmed to deflect all curses on to the person casting them.

He heard footsteps and the baby, who was fussing as his mother tried to soothe him.

“It’s okay, Darling Boy. Everything is going to be just fine.”

The voice was not at all convincing, nor was the appearance of the little family as they stepped into the room. The parents looked both terrified and devastated. The baby…looked like a baby. It was hard to see this little blob and imagine that the world depended on him.

“James, Lily, Harry,” the old wizard said quietly. “Please come in.”

Chapter Text

Part One

Lily Evans Potter

Chapter One:  Lily and James

 

They only stayed in the flat in wizarding Manhattan for three months. She couldn’t step outside without feeling assaulted by noise, by people, by the constant streaking of buses and cars and taxis.

James felt they should give it six months and then see how they adjusted. She told him she wasn’t sure she would last six months. She spent every lunch hour researching nearby villages at the public library down the street from the agency.

She wanted no part of the wizarding community. She had no choice at work, but away from it, she just wanted to disappear into Muggle—No-Maj—society.

She had loved their home in Godric’s Hollow. James had worked out of London, she had too, before Harry was born, and they had relished leaving the city at night and returning to their little haven. Their neighbors were mostly older, and they had all doted on Harry. She would bring him to the little commons and set him on a blanket when he was a tiny infant, and then again when the weather was warmer just before his first birthday, and he would draw a small crowd of admirers.

She had been happy every day. She knew everyone’s names. In the long, cold winter, they would spend each afternoon at a neighbor’s house or hosting someone in their own home, sipping tea and watching what marvelous new trick Harry could do.

She had been appalled by the flat arranged for them in New York. It was close to the top of the tallest building Lily had ever been in. Two of the walls were glass, making her feel terrifyingly exposed.

James had been understanding and had come home from work the first week, bursting with news of the perfect village for them, a place called New Hope in a state nearby.

“That name, Lils, it has to be a sign.”

He had still been wearing his glamour, which made his dark brown hair much lighter, as light as it could be and not look jarring with his dark eyes, which couldn’t be changed. His features were fuzzy when he was wearing it. His nose was larger and rounder, he no longer had an angled chin, and he was slightly pudgy.

She always rid herself of her own glammour the moment she darkened the front door. Her changed hair was very light, and her face looked disconcertingly like that of her husband’s, as if he were her brother. She couldn’t stand it. She tapped her nose three times to prompt him.

“Oh, yes,” he laughed. “I can’t believe you don’t fancy dough boy,” he laughed. She didn’t. She hadn’t laughed in weeks.

They had visited the village the next Saturday. It was remarkably like Godric’s Hollow, and therefore she didn’t think she could stand it.

“I can’t…with neighbors, James. I can’t make friends right now. I can’t play gobstones at the pub. I just want to disappear.”

“We’re fairly hidden where we are.”

“I want to disappear without being afraid of something bursting through that glass.”

James worked at the Central Ministry in the department of Auror. Back home, he had risen quickly to the top of the ranks. Here, by design, he was a lowly clerk, Edward Frazier, immigrant from the UK, married to Stella, looking for a fresh start after the death of his parents and his wife’s parents.

That bit was true enough. Fleamont and Euphemia Potter had died of the dragon pox just before Harry was born. Her own parents had gone as well: her mother of colon cancer weeks before her seventeenth birthday; her father a year later of heart disease, disappointment, and grief.

Lily as Stella Frazier, worked in an auxiliary building three blocks away in the arithmancy department. She had a vendetta against the art, but it never noticed as she plotted the lines all day long on an increasingly formidable stack of parchment.

So far, her markings hadn’t forced any mothers to give up their babies. She was running options on the price of wool, on the life expectancy of wizards who never marry, on how much the Dragot would fetch against the Galleon in a year, in ten, in a hundred.

She had thought about being a healer once. That’s what she had been working toward before Harry was born. They had been careless with contraception charms. She knew about the potion, and she knew she was supposed to take it, but James didn’t care. He wanted a house full of children and didn’t mind starting early. They cast the charms at her prompting when she thought about it, but she sometimes didn’t, and then Harry was on his way.

She revised her plans to put off her career until the baby and perhaps more babies were at school. Who could have predicted that the situation would become so dire so quickly?

She would have never pictured herself childless, sitting in an office in New York, writing line after line with endless possibilities of life. If she had any sense of humour left, she would have found it amusing.

She had taken one arithmancy class at school, during sixth year, and had made good marks, but she had always made good marks. Professor Vector had asked her in front of the class if she was planning to pursue it at NEWT level, and she had declined with a giggle. Why on earth would she ever need this?

Severus Snape had taken to ignoring her at this point in their association, but her reaction to the professor’s inquiry had drawn his silent ire in the form of a disgusted glare from across the classroom. Well, fuck him anyway. Impressing him was the least of her concerns.

She now found she had a real aptitude for it. She had finished her training program that was supposed to last a month in only a few days and had already been promoted from line writing to basic analysis.

James had been the ambitious one at home. He had become a top Auror soon after training and had been in the front of the fight with the new threat. Here, though, he seemed perfectly content to write reports at his desk.

That had been explicitly in his dossier. He could make friends at work, but he could not advance into the ranks of Auror there. It was too risky that someone might ask how he became so proficient and start asking questions at the London office. He had complied without protest.

Stella Frazier played her part at work, and saved her rebellion for home.

The glamours were trivial. She had reinvented herself before, anyway. After years of being disgusted by James and his band of Marauders—people who felt the need to name their clique, could they be any more insufferable? Sometime during the autumn of sixth year, James had become so much more charming than she had ever given him credit for in the past. Her mother was dying at home, and she had desperately needed a friend. None of her Gryffindor girls had really understood. He shouldn’t have either, but he had come down to the common room one night on his way to sneak into the kitchens, and had found her curled up in front of the fire, crying her eyes out.

Who would have known that the infuriating boy of her earlier years could be so compassionate? It hadn’t been anything he had said; he had just listened. He hadn’t touched her that first night until the end when she had felt ridiculous, suddenly unburdening herself on James Potter, of all people, and had hastily stood up and started to apologize. He had taken her hand, ever so gently.

“Please, Evans, that’s what we’re here for. We’re supposed to be friends.”

She had gone through classes that day, not thinking about anything other than trying to make it through a school day with no sleep. Then at dinner, he had been up the table from her, with his mates, as always, but she had really looked at him in profile, and she noticed how handsome he was. He looked like a man, really, although still boyish in his energy, but not the clown he had been for so many years.

He had caught her looking, and his face had opened into a broad smile. Somehow that had been the start of it. After years of dismissing him disdainfully, she was now afraid she wasn’t good enough for him; that she wasn’t the sort of witch that would be an acceptable partner for James of the lauded Potters.

She wasn’t the poorest of Cokeworth, Severus Snape probably was close, but she might have been the second poorest student at Hogwarts behind him. She had left her Mancunian accent at home and had imitated her peers’ manners sufficiently. No one had ever found her out, but she feared she would now be out of her depth. She had become a master of transfiguration, turning her meager wardrobe into something much nicer.

Nothing was declared, but they sat together at meals, held hands in the corridors, lingered in the common room every night. She cheered Gryffindor quidditch in a way she never had before, with scarf and hat and everything.

Two weeks after he found her crying, and after a particularly heroic snitch grabbing, during a wild bash in the common room, he had pulled her toward him and kissed her sweetly. She’d had three butter beers and a shot of fire whiskey and lost her head, pulling him against her and snogging him like the proper Cokeworth bird she was, until she regained her senses, pushed him away, and covered her mouth in horror.

“Don’t stop, Evans,” he murmured in her ear. “Don’t you ever stop!”

She kissed him again but remembered her manners, it was a lesson she would follow from then on. He never seemed to notice.

Her mum took an awful turn just before the Christmas hols and died during the break. She wanted to owl James, but she was afraid he would show up for the funeral and see her town and her house. She hadn’t spoken to Severus since the Mudblood incident the previous spring. He was there with a bunch of sad looking flowers. She was touched despite it all, but she had retreated to her room after the funeral and holed up in there until he left.

She returned to school, and James grieved with her. They were inseparable the rest of the year. He invited her to come home with him for the summer, but she couldn’t leave her dad alone. They owled every day, though.

They were head girl and boy their seventh year, and it seemed as if their story had been written for them. He asked her to marry him at dinner in the Great Hall after she had finished her last NEWT, and then took her in his arms and swung her around and around when she said yes.

This time, she did go with him to his family house. The second day there, while they were supposed to be on a walk in the village, he took her to the little guest cottage on the estate and carried her to the rather charming bed with musty mattress.

She knew it was his first time. He had been a champion snogger, and perhaps a bit more, though he had been too much of a gentleman to speak of that to her. He had never pressured her in any way; he had never even put his hands on the front of her jumper although she had longed for him to. He thought, of course, it was her first time as well. It was not.

Her first time had been during a summer afternoon between fourth year and fifth year, in the attic bedroom of Severus Snape after a week of escalated kissing, groping, and frottage in his dilapidated house.

His mother was practically comatose at the kitchen table every day, with a cigarette that turned to ash in the tray and drinking something while staring blankly out the kitchen window.

 

If she noticed her son and a girl enter the house and head upstairs every afternoon, she didn't say anything about it.

 

Lily hadn’t seen him around the first week back from school after fourth year. Life was so different at school. A clean break was perhaps best. They weren't kids anymore. She minded the children up the street every morning for a small bit of money to bring home and otherwise she was reading and listening to the radio in her room or watching the telly with her mum and dad after dinner.

 

Tunie dragged her to town one night, though; there was some boy, of course. She didn't want to go alone, and then abandoned her little sister immediately after the bloke draped his arm around her shoulder. Lily saw Severus in the outdoor crowd, smoking and leaning against the wall. As off-putting as his appearance was at school...he was cool here. There was no denying it. He had on a black Pink Floyd t-shirt and ragged jeans that looked effortlessly perfect. He caught her eye as he was taking a loooooong drag. At school, he would have looked away immediately, but now he held her gaze. You comin' over? Cause I don't care either way.

 

Of course she was. She didn't waste time with inner debate. She joined him against the wall. He kept his head front now but wordlessly handed her his fag. She inhaled; she had smoked before, but not for a while; it came right back.

 

By the time she should be getting home, she had drunk three cans of beer and was floating around the commons. 

 

"I have to go," she told him. They had hardly exchanged a word, but they had stuck together all night.

 

"Walk you?"

 

"Thanks, Sev." 

 

She hoped he would take her hand, and he did. It sent a little thrill up her and she did a little shuffle before she could stop herself.

 

It would have been enough, but at the end of her block he spun them into the little alleyway against a wall and put his mouth on hers. She had never kissed anyone, but it was clear he had. He pressed on her teeth with his tongue, and she opened her mouth tentatively; his tongue began dancing with hers. It was mesmerizing and she was lost and quite over her head immediately. 

 

She began to feel a pulling from her core that was soon a full-blown ache. Her knickers were suddenly quite wet. She pressed herself against him, and he grasped her around the waist so tightly. She could feel hardness between them, and instead of repulsing her, which her previous experience with catching hints of the male member had, she suddenly wanted to thrust her hands down his trousers.

 

"I have to go," she broke away from him insistently.

 

"Whatever, Evans," he sighed and leaned back against the wall. He was still there when she groped at her front door, letting herself back in the house.

 

She went to her job promptly the next morning, but she could not escape thoughts of him. When the mum returned home from her morning working the till at the little bakery in town, Lily decided to take a walk into Cokeworth instead of going straight home.

She had just about given up on casually bumping into him somewhere when she saw a group of kids she recognized from town and from the previous night. He was on the periphery and left the group to cross the street in her direction as soon as he saw her.

“Evans,” he said coolly. He was smoking and held it out to her.

“I hate to keep nicking your fags,” she said and instantly was afraid he would take it as commentary of his economic station.

“No worries. I wash glasses at the pub every night At least one drunk git leaves half a pack.”

“I mind children in the morning,” she said and then felt like a fool again.

“That’s cool. Books and such are twice as dear for fifth year.”

“That’s what I heard.”

“You wanna listen to some records? I don’t have to be at the pub until eight.”

“We have dinner at six.”

He squinted at her and smoked his fag.

“I could come over until then.”

“Cool.”

“Are your parents home?” She had only ever seen Mrs. Snape their first year before they boarded the Express for school. Since then, he had always arrived alone.

“My mum is, but she won’t care. My dad isn’t home,” he said, clearly finished with that topic.

“Okay.”

He led the way, not holding her hand in the daylight. She felt nervous and a bit foolish, and at one point considered bolting for the safety of home. She didn’t, though. Last night had been too intriguing.

His room was up a little staircase from the second floor. It was small and under an eve, so most of it had a ceiling too low to comfortably stand. He had an iron framed bed that looked as if he had expanded it from a single—it wasn’t completely symmetrical. She wanted to draw her wand and fix it, but she didn’t want to embarrass him.

He went straight to the corner anyway, where he had a stack of albums and a very old fashioned yet not charming record player.

“What do you like?”

“I like everything.”

He snorted and held up Led Zeppelin III.

Yes,” she said. He put on the album, not terribly loud in deference to his mum, she supposed, and Jimmy Page’s guitar began to wail as he opened a window and lit another cigarette. She wasn’t sure what to do, and it must have reflected on her face because he jerked his head to the side to invite her to sit beside him.

It was the summer of cigarettes and Zeppelin and his room. A week and a half later, she was on her back on his bed with him looming over her. She was familiar enough by then with his cock, but it still seemed impossibly large to be pushing into her. He had sheathed it in a Muggle condom, for which she was grateful, and he had already made her come with his mouth, her fifth orgasm of the week. She was a woman of the world, and she was going to take that cock inside her.

He proceeded ever so slowly. She was still very wet from their earlier activities and it felt rather squishy until he hit resistance from the beginning. He looked up at her.

“You sure, Evans?”

“Yes, Sev, it’s okay. Just do it.”

She saw him breathe and then push in. It was more painful than she had anticipated, and she steadied herself by concentrating on his face. He had shut his eyes and looked blissful. She opened her legs wider and propped herself higher on her elbows so she could kiss him.

“You okay?” he whispered.

“I’m fine, it’s lovely,” she lied just a bit. She was hoping he would get on with it both because it was uncomfortable but also because she was curious as to what would happen next.

He sped up his movements and very soon he was showing signs of coming undone. She had stroked him to completion several times, which had made her felt quite powerful, and she had been brave enough the day before to put her mouth on it. He had pulled out before he came, which had made her both grateful and slightly disappointed.

She could tell when he came because he would moan low and quietly. This time he seemed especially effected and almost wailed. It was quite flattering. He lowered himself and embraced her for a few moments before he pulled out and tied off the condom.

“No contraceptive charm?” she asked.

“Magic in the summer, Evans?”

“You expanded your bed.” Its lopsidedness still bothered her.

“Nobody cares that I made my dodgy bed bigger. Don’t think the Ministry would be too pleased to find Gryffindor Princess being deflowered in this dump.”

“I’m not,” she took a drag from his cigarette, “Gryffindor Princess.”

“You are. It’s okay. I don’t hold it against you.” He chuckled at his own weak wit.

She had spent most afternoons there for the rest of the summer. They didn’t always shag, but they did often enough. They decided mutually that it would be a bad idea to try to carry on at school, so they took a hiatus until the Christmas hols.

Cokeworth was significantly more depressing in the winter. The Snape house was as well with its inadequate heat. That didn’t stop her from sneaking away whenever possible to crawl into his bed with him. She noticed he had fixed it and transfigured his bed clothes softer and more luxurious. Their charms and transfiguration education had become much more rigorous in their fifth year.

The freedom of summer was not there, but she found those afternoons comforting, nonetheless. The last time they were together, his father had come home drunk bellowing BOY up the stairs as he staggered. They were mid act. Sev stopped immediately and rolled off in one motion, he bolted straight for the window, grabbed his wand from the side of the bed and thrust it at the pane, which opened. Naked with a condom falling off him, he quickly transfigured the drain pipe into steps.

She was stunned and motionless. He picked up her clothes for her. She could hear the father stumbling on the steps.

“You must leave; please, Lily!” he was on the verge of panic. She threw her clothes on and her shoes untied as he practically carried her out the window.

“Go!”

It was the last time they were together, really in any sense. It was the last time she’d had sex.

A year and a half later, the man who would soon be her husband was carrying her supposedly pure self to a bed in this cottage. She decided to just let him lead, and she would put herself in an innocent state of mind and just follow. They weren’t wearing robes; she was wearing a casual dress with a cardigan on top, he a cotton shirt and trousers. He drew his wand and hovered over her with it, magically removing her clothes down to her Muggle-esque bra and knickers.

“How does this work, then?” he chuckled, baffled by the wires and clasps of her bra. She reached around and unhooked it, leaving it for him to remove, which he did.

“Oh, Lily,” he said with just the right amount of reverence. She had been too nervous to feel much of anything up to this point, but as he took her breasts in his hands, her body started to respond, to her great relief. She wanted his shirt off and decided it wasn’t too forward to remove it. That increased their pace. He was fumbling with his placket, and she let him, assuming that’s what he would expect. He was wearing traditional wizarding trousers and not Muggle underpants. Snape had always been dressed as a Muggle when they reached this point, so this really was new to her.

He left his trousers on and started tugging at the elastic of her knickers. She lifted her hips and let him remove them, and then he seemed somewhat overwhelmed. She brought his mouth down and kissed him, and that seemed to help. He put a tentative hand between her legs and started exploring with his fingers.

He really hasn’t done this before, she thought, and it made her want to make this as special as possible for him. She moaned encouragingly, and he finally removed his trousers.

“How are your charms, Miss Evans?” he said with a sweet grin.

“Not as charming as your charms, Mr. Potter,” she teased him.

“Cheeky witch,” he said lovingly, and her heart swelled. She reached beside the bed for her wand and performed the female charm on herself. Her insides fluttered as it took effect.

“Do you…?”

“I think I can manage,” he said and whispered the incantation that sounded right to Lily. “Are you okay with this? Are you ready?” he asked her shakily.

She wasn’t sure, and not at all for the reason he thought. She had a flash of him entering her, finding her cavernous and then shouting Impostor! Fraud! As she scrambled for her clothes.

“I’m ready, James,” she whispered.

“I love you, Lils,” he said as he positioned himself.

“I love you, too. It’s okay.”

With her pronouncement, he started to slide in. It was the first time she had felt a cock entering her without a condom, and that was a pleasant discovery. He felt different immediately, and she banished all thoughts but of him from her mind.

She was focused on the foot-board, charmed so that an image of lavender, lilac, and green hydrangeas were embedded in the wood as he entered her completely and then let out a great breath. He moved tentatively inside her with a grimace on his face and then came with a high-pitched wail.

“Oh, gods, Lily, I’m sorry,” he muttered as he collapsed on top of her.

“No, James, don’t be.” She pulled his face up and kissed him.

They had plenty of time to improve; he now wanted to do it all the time, and by the end of the summer, they were becoming quite adept at satisfying each other. She was still careful; she was afraid he would bolt if she suddenly took his dick into her mouth, but they worked their way through their new vocabulary. By the time they were married, she was much less inhibited. It was a happy aspect of a very happy marriage. He never asked her if she’d had previous experience; he clearly assumed she hadn’t.

It was a highly successful ruse in quite a line of them. This current one wouldn’t be more difficult. She wasn’t chatty at work and had no desire to make friends outside it. When she rejected his suggestion of the wizarding village New Hope in Pennsylvania, she took on the task of finding something herself. Through her research, she narrowed it down to two possibilities, both in New Jersey. Chester was more convenient to the city, but Lambertville seemed closer to what she was looking for, and with wizarding travel, negligible distance was not a challenge.

James agreed to go with her on Saturday to visit both. As she suspected Lambertville was the right choice. They found a realtor that day, and started looking at houses. By the end of their second month in the U.S., they had used their generous allowance (blood money it surely was) and purchased a two-bedroom duplex on Delaware Avenue.

Lily was wary about neighbors, but the people who owned the other side ran a busy furniture shop downtown and were hardly there. The was a huge oak tree that separated the property in front, flower beds that lined the front of the house and a large enough patch for a garden in the back, which was divided by a wooden fence. They had a lovely willow tree on their side. James agreed without argument, and Lily felt like smiling for the first time in months. She could practically obliviate Manhattan when they were at home.

She shopped, cooked, and cleaned the house like a Muggle. She had never perfected household charms, anyway. Their house in Godric’s Hollow had been fully magical, and she had made it a goal to learn how to run it the proper wizarding way, but she had left before starting the project. James was the more interested and adventurous cook, and now that she was working full time, she didn’t even feel guilty about letting him do it. This house wasn’t even connected to the floo network although James started making plans immediately to do so.

“Why do we need it? We can apparate by the tree in the back.”

“What if someone needs to reach us after work hours? I don’t think I’m allowed to live away from the network,” he bluffed.

“Nonsense, James. There are owls, and if some really needed you, they could apparate.”

“Sometimes difficult to a strange place.”

They compromised by establishing a portkey in the backyard. James was doing a lot of compromising. It was March before she could even fall asleep without crying. One day, though, he took off work at noon and made her a fantastic dinner and pudding, and she remembered everything she thought was adorable about the man. He carried her up the stairs and into their bed, and she let him make love to her for the first time since early summer—since arithmancy ruined their lives.

After they had been in their little house a year, he started talking about more children.

“I miss him. Lils, so much. I think we would feel less empty.”

“How could we do it? How could we bring another baby here to this world after what happened?”

She wouldn’t hear of it.

Dumbledore sent them photos of Harry twice a year, at Christmas and just after his birthday. His second Christmas looked terribly joyful. He was wearing a paper crown and clutching a sugar quill in his pudgy hand. Lily kissed that little hand on the photo; how could she not? It made her consumed with thoughts about the family he had now. The image only showed him. She pictured him with older parents and a houseful of siblings—a reason right there not to have more, he would have his fill.

On his second birthday, he was perched on an enchanted winged wooden horse that was hovering inches from the ground. Harry laughed and laughed. She slept with it under her pillow until she was afraid it would disintegrate. No, there was no need for more children. James accepted her edict in the present but brought the subject back up every six months or so.

“Lily, we will see him again. In the meantime, we could have one we could help shape. We could send him to school here, Muggle school, if you wish. We could just be like every other family.”

“We will NEVER be that.”

She had started taking the potion their first month in the U.S., months before she needed it. She set contraceptive charms, too, every time he had that look in his eye.

He stayed a clerk as she advanced through the ranks of the arithmancy department. There wasn’t a Department of Secrets here, at least not one she knew of. As far she was aware, the arithmancy department was the sole home of official conjecture. She calculated the odds of the success of the new Minister, of the new Headmistress at Ilvermorny, about whether to give a financial incentive to wizard couples who had a third child or more. (Probably a flop, could go either way, YES!)

She appreciated the impersonal nature of the craft. She didn’t care if witches had more babies; the lines showed it was a good idea. It was something of a comfort to imagine her old professors just playing out the lines and not purposefully trying to ruin her life.

James joined the amateur quidditch league in New Hope, and she even accompanied him to games on most weekends, especially when he promised her dinner at one of the lovely restaurants there. She found a wand and accessory shop called Sev & Co. that she used every excuse to visit.

She wondered about Severus occasionally. Dumbledore had spoken cryptically of a spy that had provided the information that she and James were in mortal danger, referring to him as “our Slytherin friend,” with a knowing look directed right at Lily. As Professor Slughorn was as unlikely a spy as Mrs. Thatcher was useful ally to the Cokeworth community, Sev was a sure bet. They had such scant news of the UK in the wizarding paper here. She knew that she and James were thought dead. She knew that the dark lord had supposedly been killed although prevailing wisdom when one read between the lines was that he wasn’t all that dead. Surely that’s what Dumbledore believed, and that was why they had to be separated from Harry—he hadn’t yet fulfilled his ultimate mission.

She would wander the aisles of the little shop, holding an amber owl on a silver chain or an apple tree hair clip and wonder about Severus.

She never had bought the Death Eater story. For one, it was hard for her to imagine him a true believer of anything. He had a terrible life at home and one that wasn’t so much better at school. It was hardly surprising that he would fall into the crowd he did. Reveling and terrorizing Muggles, though? It seemed highly unlikely.

She could have forgiven him then and maintained some modicum of friendship, and then she wouldn’t have to think about him now. She had been so afraid that James would find out about her Snape summer…and Christmas. It was so much easier to pretend he no longer existed. Now it stabbed at her sometimes. Was what he said in a moment of abject humiliation so awful as to destroy everything between them? Could she have allowed him to apologize then, or the night he had refused to leave the entrance to Gryffindor Tower until she sent one of her friends down to tell him off, or at least that Thursday night he appeared at the house after her mum had died. She could have forgiven him.

After a typical New Hope quidditch Saturday, she was having dinner with James and his team. Most of the couples both played although there were a few stray spouses here and there. They often retreated to a cozy tavern that had an extensive drink and food menu. A wizarding couple, Max and Iola Bruning were the proprietors. They had seven young children, stair-steps, and Lily suspected Max and Iola would be Stella and Edward’s best friends if Lily was open enough to be real friends with anyone.

James…Edward did this so naturally, it made it easy for her to be his quiet wife on the periphery. She had bought herself a butterfly charm on a silver chain at Sev & Co that day and she was gripping it in one palm, enjoying the little points of pain as the metal stabbed into her hand while she drank her pint and tuned out the post-game analysis. James caught her eye and winked across the table, and she smiled at him. Edward wore big, unfashionable glasses, but his eyes were as they always were.

The New Hope Nifflers had won, and the party went later than usual. James took her under his arm as they prepared to apparate back to their little yard. They had never been caught by their neighbors peering out of windows, but she had an obliviation spell ready to go just in case. He side-apparated her and nuzzled into her neck in the process, pressing his mouth happily into it, announcing his intentions for them when they returned home.

Since she fell out of her stupor, she enjoyed sex with him. It let her mind travel for a few minutes at least. She cupped his arse as they reached their destination by their willow tree. She immediately removed her glamour, and flipped her red hair dramatically to remind him to remove his, too. In an instant, James was back, and desire bubbled forth from her core. She put her arms around him and snogged him before they entered the house. She gripped the back of his head and assaulted him with her tongue.

“Lils,” he sighed happily.

They stumbled up to their bedroom, and she dropped her clothes on the floor, scampering to the bed. She was naked but left the new butterfly charm on. He swept her into his arms and then pressed her to the bed. She was ready for him, and she wasted no time, taking his hardening cock into her hand and lightly squeezing the shaft before dancing his fingers around the head, teasing him and smiling into his mouth.

“All right then, Witch, is that how it is?” He growled and spread her thighs with his hands and impaled her.

“Uhhhh,” she moaned and arched her back. “Yes, like that.” He was thrusting as if he meant to drive her into the bed.

“Flip over,” he commanded, and she almost came right then. He didn’t always play this way with her; he tended to prefer sweet love making to his precious wife, but sometimes he would oblige her the way she had grown to desire it most. “On your knees.”

“Ugggnnnnnnnhhhhhh,” she moaned low again, as he took her from behind. His bollocks were hitting her in just the right place, and she managed to hold off her orgasm for whole minutes before the hard thrusts were too much.

“Yes, FUCK!” she said as she came and then collapsed on the bed. He pulled out and came all over her arse and lower back, the finale she loved the most.

“Thank you!” she said, and kissed him as soon as he joined her on the bed.

“Yes, dear. Thank you,” he said in his typical James endearing tone.

She had flipped over to her back before he could cast a cleansing charm. She liked to feel the sticky evidence for as long as possible.

They had found the bed frame in a little antique shop here in town. It was painted a light green, distressed in a deliberate way. The artist had somehow affixed images of hydrangeas on the headboard, and it made Lily gasp when she saw it in the shop.

“Look,” she had whispered. She shouldn’t call him by his name in public, even Muggle public, but calling him Edward always sounded ridiculous.

“Yeah?”

“Do you remember? The bed in the cottage?”

He still looked confused.

“At the estate. At the Potter…”

“Oh, yes,” he waggled his eyebrows.

“The bed is almost the same; not charmed, of course.”

“Oh, yeah. That was my Auntie Louise’s bed. She was a bit of a wood sprite. BUT,” he wrapped his arm around her waist and brought her right to him. “It was perfect for a deflowering,” he kissed her mouth and laughed heartily at his own joke.

“Charming,” she said, keeping her chuckle inside. “I love it. It’s perfect.”

They explained their lack of transportation to the proprietor, using their familiar cover story. It was fine; the store had a truck. They purchased a mattress and by the next day, they had set up their new bedroom.

Lily sighed and ran her fingers over the flowers.

 It was August, and Harry had just turned nine. They had received their bi-annual photo. Harry had celebrated his birthday at a quidditch match. He had a pair of omnioculars in one hand and a cone of candy floss in the other. He looked more like James every year, and this was the first time they had seen him wearing glasses. Lily mounted the photos in a special book she kept under the mattress and took out several times a week to savour. This would have to keep her until Christmas when the next one would arrive.

James didn’t like to talk about Harry much. It didn’t serve a constructive purpose in his mind and just made him sad. In times like these, though, when he was happy and sated, she could sometimes engage him.

“What did you do for your ninth birthday?” she asked quietly.

“Quite like Harry. Quidditch with my mates, Mum and dad let them all stay the night, and we built a bonfire and slept in the cottage. You?”

Lily’s birthdays had been the same every year while she was at home: she could invite three school friends over for cake. She would spend the week before making decorations. The girls would bring their dolls and exchange doll clothes. Lily’s mother was an excellent seamstress, and sent Lily’s friends home with a new dress for their dolls. It was her favorite day of the year.

The countdown to Hogwarts was now at two years. There was no sign of the return of the Dark Lord, but Lily didn’t doubt it was coming. She didn’t have enough information to run her own arithmancy lines, but she trusted Professor Vector. She looked for deeper meanings in the ones she worked on: patterns of bad weather, school enrollment, the wizard financial markets. Nothing had emerged yet.

Life proceeded. They worked. They maintained their routines at home. She tried to keep her despair in check. Dumbledore had insured money would never be an issue. James had organized holidays to Hawaii, Southern California, Miami, and San Francisco. They had passports but were leery to use them. They stuck with American destinations.

Lily started a new photo album. Stella and Edward with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Stella on the beach with flowers in her hair. In front of Niagara Falls. Edward in Boston wearing a baseball cap.

On work days, Lily explored Manhattan on her lunch hour. She would transfigure her robes into a sundress and denim jacket and little black Mary Jane slippers and smoke a cigarette in the most populated areas of the park. On Fridays, there was often music blaring as people dreamed that the next few hours would pass quickly and the weekend would begin.

The park was dirty and crowded and bursting with life. It was a more fortunate Cokeworth on a gigantic scale. One Friday lunch, a song that almost made Lily drop her bottle of juice brayed from a large radio set on the curb.

 

Don’t start that talking; I could talk all night

My mind was sleepwalking; while I’m putting the world to rights

Call careers information; have you got yourself an occupation?

 

Immediately she was in the house on Spinner’s End in the bed with him, post coital cigarettes hanging from their mouths as they sang along. Elvis Costello was their winter, their Christmas soundtrack. He had the window cracked just a bit against the smoke, and the air was frigid outside, but he had cast a warming charm.

 

And I would rather be anywhere else than here today!

 

He sang it out plaintively in that low voice an octave under Elvis. She had punched him lightly in the arm in protest.

“Anywhere else but here?” she had chided.

“You can come with me,” he conceded.

“Where would you go?”

“Not picky. Johannesburg would be fine, thanks.”

“You’ll be away, back at school, soon enough,” she had said.

“Yes. Without you in my bed,” he had kissed her just then. He wasn’t much for romantic displays. The gesture made her snuggle in closer beside him.

“But summer will be here soon; and in two and a half years you can leave for good. What will you do?”

“So many things.”

“University?”

“Perhaps. Go away, though. From here. You, Lily?”

He almost never called her by her given name. She was always Evans, and he was always Sev.

“London, I think. Healing, perhaps. The Ministry.” She longed to bring order to chaos in some capacity.

“The Ministry,” he had said with a sneer. “Not enough Galleons in the world.”

“So…what?”

“Potions, yeah?”

Sev was best in their year by far although he was only perfunctorily recognized by his head of house.

Then they were out of school, and because of the estrangement, she had no idea what he was doing or if he had gone away. James had started working as an Auror in September after their seventh year and had come home breathless with news for her.

“Snape has taken the mark!”

How do you know?” she was skeptical. Sev had hung around those thugs, but she couldn’t fathom he actually believed any of it,

“Intelligence, Lils,” James had said as if she were a small child. He had slid a photo across the table of Lucius Malfoy with his arm around Sev’s shoulder. Lucius was smirking at the camera and was holding up Sev’s branded left arm. Sev himself had a blank expression. Her heart sank.

“I’m supposed to find out all you know about him; his home, his life; his mum and dad…”

“I don’t know any of that,” she was breathing steadily.

“But you were mates back then…”

“Not really, James. We lived on opposite ends of town.”

“You were always taking up for the git!”

“I wasn’t always. Just when it was an unfair fight…”

“Oh, not this again, Lils. You have to admit we were right.”

“I have to admit nothing,” she had said but with a flirty smile and great relief the crisis had passed.

She realized she was slumped in her seat at the fountain with no idea how long she had been there lost in thought. The radio was now blaring a song she didn’t recognize. She checked her watch and saw she would have to run not to be late back to work.

She couldn’t evict him from her thoughts, though. Where was he now? She hoped he had chucked the spy life and lived far away from the Ministry and from the potential re-emergence of the Dark Lord. She hoped he lived in a happier place than Johannesburg. Geneva, perhaps, or Cairo, or Sydney.

 

Time passed. Stella and Edward worked. They lived in their little duplex in their little village. They traveled in the summers to Seattle and then Anchorage. To Atlanta and Savannah. To Texas, Austin and San Antonio, which Lily fell in love with. She added a picture of Stella and Edward in front of the Alamo and one of them drinking Margaritas on the River Walk.

Harry turned eleven. Dumbledore sent a picture of him with his Hogwarts letter in his hand in front of a massive cake shaped like an owl. Lily began scouring the newspaper more vigilantly than ever. There was no news until the very end of the school year. The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher had died under suspicious circumstances. Of course, there was no mention of Harry.

The summer between his second and third year was the first time something of real interest appeared. The name Sirius Black practically leaped off the page at her. She read the article, her face not betraying the horror in print. She tucked it into her bag and worked the rest of her shift with steady hands and eyes. No one would realize that her world had crashed around her ankles.

She apparated home to the willow; the neighbors were at their cabin in the Finger Lakes. James was always home first; his job had strict hours and ended promptly at five. She often had to stay when she was working on a project. She sometimes lost track of time. She had left hastily that day, but James was already in the kitchen scrutinizing the pantry.

“Paltry choices tonight, Lils. Fancy a takeaway?” he said before he saw her white face. They were both still in glamours, a rarity at home for her at least. “What is it, Lily?”

She handed him the paper, and he read the headline with an agonized gasping wail.

“No. Not possible,” he whispered as he read the story. “Cannot be, Lily. Cannot be.”

She said nothing but collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table.

“He would never, Lily. I don’t know what happened that led to…this,” he placed the newspaper on the counter, “But he would never, and he did not.”

“So, what do you think?”

“I have no idea. How would I know? It could be anything, but it isn’t that.”

“He’s been in prison all this time…”

“But he’s not now. If he can just hold on until…” It was not something they had a good label for. “If he can hold on until we get back, we can find out what happened.”

“It says he killed Peter.”

“He would never, Lils. Wormtail was like our little brother.”

She took her glamour off, and he followed. “I’m not terribly hungry.”

“Nor I, but I feel we should go drink a pint and spit in the face of this lunacy.”

There was a cozy tavern in town that had a wide selection of beer and great sandwiches. Perhaps she was hungrier than she thought. She put her cloak back on.

 That was the last mention of Sirius Black in the American paper. Harry turned twelve. He was clutching a broom—Lily was terrible with identifying makes and models, but James said it was the best one. His hair was just as long as it had been when she had… Since the last time she had seen him in person. He looked content, as always.

They followed the Quidditch world cup in the summer of 1995 closely, trying to catch a glimpse of people they knew, and especially of Harry. They never saw him, but he turned fourteen, and their birthday picture showed him in a Team Ireland jumper. For the first time ever, there were other people in the photo, a red-haired boy, and a girl with wildly curly brown hair. Dumbledore had written on the back Harry with mates.

“That must be Molly and Arthur’s Ronald, yes?” she had asked James breathlessly as she studied the photo.

Baby Ronald had been born months before Harry. Lily had met Molly at a Ministry holiday party when she had to duck into the loo because she was missing her baby and her milk had come down. Molly was already pumping in the special little room, and they had begun to talk. Molly had already been out of school when Lily had started, but only by a few years. She showed pictures of her large brood of adorable red headed boys.

“I think there’s another, as well,” Molly had confided with a hand on her belly. “Hadn’t planned on one so soon, but plans aren’t my strong suit by a mile,” she said with a smile. Lily had shown her a picture of baby Harry and commented that the boys would be in the same class.

They hadn’t seen each other again, but Lily had read of the birth of the daughter just before things had become dire.

“Must be; looks just like Arthur. The girl, though, I can’t place,” James said.

“I like her,” Lily asserted. “I like her face.” The girl had a determined look but also a warm smile that showed a mouth full of prominent teeth.

“They look like happy, normal kids,” James said, and it was true. Whatever was going to happen had clearly not affected her boy yet. As anxious as she was to see him, it was a relief that he would have school years untainted by the coming storm.

The Christmas picture was just of Harry in an obviously handmade jumper featuring a large, golden snitch. It was James’s greatest present since they found out Harry was on the way fifteen years before at Christmas.

“He’s a seeker! He has to be!”

“How could one argue with such irrefutable proof?” Lily teased him.

“It would be a waste of time. And his…caregiver,” Lily knew he had stopped himself from saying mother, “is clearly no slouch at the domestic charms.”

“No,” she whispered and tried to choke back tears that were suddenly right there.

“Lils,” James had said soothingly.

“No, you’re exactly right. He’s so lucky to have had such good care.”

“He would have had the best if not for…” James so rarely questioned their fate. Lily had changed the subject and brought out the Christmas pudding.

She continued to scour the papers, not sure if she wanted to find something or not. In June, a shocking report appeared that a student had been killed in the Triwizard Tournament. The death was presented as a tragic accident. No other students were mentioned in the coverage. It was concerning, though. Lily hadn’t remembered an incidence of student deaths except for Moaning Myrtle years before she was in school. Perhaps they were due? She shuddered.

Harry’s fifteen-year-old birthday picture featured him with his two friends again, this time around a large, wooden table. There was a massive orange cat on the mantel behind the three. They all looked older—perhaps even more than could be explained by a year’s growth and maturity, but Lily brushed aside a little fear that bubbled up.

“That room looks so familiar,” James had commented. He had carried the picture around for a week, not letting her file it in the book with the others. He had it propped at the kitchen sink and would stare at it when they were doing the washing up after dinner. It finally hit him.

“That’s Grimmauld Place! That’s the Black House!”

She grabbed the picture and looked. She had only been to the Black family house once when the parents were out of town and Sirius had thrown a party to the disgust of the portraits and especially the house elf.

“I think you’re right.”

“I am. I would know that mantel anywhere. That’s how I figured it out. I kept looking at that cat…”

“What do you think it means? Why are they in the Black House? What is Dumbledore trying to tell us?”

“Isn’t it obvious? He’s trying to assure us that Sirius is innocent!”

“Maybe so,” Lily said. James finally relinquished the photo so she could file it away.

And then aside from the biannual pictures, none of which included intriguing clues, there was silence.

“It’s good news,” James assured her. “Lots of stories in the paper means things have become bad over there. We’re not ready for that yet.”

She thought of Harry throughout the school year, his fifth. As spring arrived, she couldn’t help speculating about how he would do on his OWLs. She had done well on hers, but she had studied obsessively; James’s had been just short of a disaster. She hoped Harry would be somewhere in the middle.

She couldn’t think of OWLs without recalling the awful incident. She could remember the smallest detail from that day. They had sat for their Defense Against the Dark Arts exam just prior. She had been three rows back and one over from Sev, which had given her a perfect view. He looked unkempt, as if he had been studying all night and into the morning before he arrived. He had quietly written page after page in his linear style; the ink from his quill was a rich dark black, something different from the usual student ink and unique to him—most likely brewed himself.

They were so careful at school; terrified they would be caught breaking a rule and expelled. They would look at each other, though, more frequently as the year waned and summer was closer. She imagined that he thought of their encounters as often as she did. One would catch the other staring in class or in the Great Hall, and they would share a smile and then look away. She was so looking forward to going home and earning more money and spending the rest of the time with him. Her mother hadn’t received her awful news yet; she would in a few weeks, but fifth year Lily was ignorant of this.

She had written her own answers confidently enough on her exam paper and then looked up as time was called. He was writing his last word. She watched him as they turned in their papers and filed out. He headed straight for a tree to sit under, and that was when she saw he had attracted unwanted attention.

She had watched in horror as the events unfolded; as he was humiliated. She waited too long to intervene. He was already suspended when she rushed in, all wrong she knew now. If she had only stopped it before that horrible curse that exposed him, she felt sure she could have prevented the rest.

The image of him in his embarrassingly shabby pants hanging upside down with his equally worn boots flailing in the air, robe covering all but the dark eyes and greasy hair as Sirius and James made sport of him. Her reaction to his epithet had been motivated as much by shame as by hurt. She had always had too quick a temper.

Her mother’s diagnosis had come the second day she was home. The rest of the summer was spent either at work or in hospital waiting rooms and wards. She kept her child-minding job; her family needed every pence.

She saw Sev once that summer, in the town square leaning against a wall observing the scene. She had turned her face away, avoiding an awkward interaction. The next time she saw him was boarding the train that September. He looked at her as she found her group of Gryffindor girls. She had turned her face away again.

 

Having no news and no evidence of Harry’s existence save the photos was agonizing. By the winter of 1997, she was afraid she was going to crawl out of her skin. Work was the same, the village was grey and cold, quidditch season and escapes to New Hope were months away.

They weren’t even half-way done with February, and she was ready to climb the walls.

James had a plan.

“New Orleans, Lily! It’s their festival next week. We could leave tonight and spend the weekend and then through Wednesday. We have loads of holiday time. Just send an owl tonight, and it will be waiting for the poor suckers Monday morning. We won’t even tell them where we’ve gone; we’ll just call it a needed break.”

She was not much for spontaneity, but something about that James Potter charm got her once again.

“What is the weather in New Orleans?”

“Warmer than here,” he had had assured. “We’ll go?” he asked as if he were a little boy pleading with his Dad to take him to the quidditch.

“Why not? I hear the food is something else down there.”

“And the drinks!”

“And of course the drinks.”

They threw some clothes into a bag, looked up port key schedules and fees in a large bound book they used for their travels, and then left from the willow outside to a little office in Philadelphia and then took a portkey to the streets of Wizarding New Orleans. They booked the last hotel room—the little wizard proprietor explained that they let them out to Non-Mag for Mardi Gras, the name of their festival.

Lily would have preferred to stay in the Muggle area, that’s where she planned to spend most of her time, in the neighborhood called the French Quarter, but the Wizarding section was close—just across a large park, and the room was nice enough. She dragged James immediately where the action was. The streets were teeming, and the sights were something to behold. Bright costumes, loud, eclectic music, people of all types carrying on in front of all. She loved it. They bought food from a street vendor and had a full cup all night. Someone dumped a whole cup of red drink on James and he jovially bought a shirt with the name of a local college from a vendor with a cart full of shirts. The good times rolled. The party started to break up in the wee hours of the morning, and they wistfully began their walk back to the hotel.

“Let’s sleep until noon, and then come back out!” she was saying, holding his hand as they crossed Rampart Street.

She heard a noise and turned in time to see a large brown car too fast and too close.

And then there was black.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

Kendrah Johnson

 

Just three minutes before they got the call, Kevin said it.

“Slow night for Mardi Gras, Kendrah.”

She had turned to him in disbelief as he took his next swig of coffee and then realized what he said.

“Oh shit, Kendrah, sorry.”

She just shook her head sadly and waited—not for long.

Hit and run possible multiple fatalities on Rampart and St. Ann.

Kendrah picked up the receiver and acknowledged that she and Detective Connell were responding.

“Kevin,” she shook her head again.

“I know,” he refilled his cup and grabbed the keys. He brushed his scant blond hair in place with his fingers and put his jacket back on as she grabbed her blazer and their work bag. He was the driver, but she was the unofficial boss of the partnership.

She would never tell him, but she wasn’t completely upset that they had picked this up. They were scheduled to be off in half an hour. It had been a slow, boring night, and she hadn’t been looking forward to returning home to her condo alone in the dark. Her husband Marcus was on tour, and the place was so quiet and empty. This way, she could still sleep all day but in the light after having accomplished something, at least there was hope. And she didn’t believe in the quiet night superstition, anyway. Kevin was fun to poke, though.

They buckled up in their assigned Oldsmobile and headed out. She was listening to the patrol team on the scene over the radio. One victim was DOA, the other seemed not far behind. She hoped they could get there before death or ambulance. Kevin stopped at a yellow light, and her eyes bugged.

“Kevin.”

“Sorry.”

“Drive with a purpose, man.”

“I know, I know.”

She knew one of the reasons for her successful partnership was that Kevin would never use his police lights to speed through an intersection unless there was a true emergency, and she would never expect him to. They arrived in minutes anyway.

The whole block was already taped and lit. The ambulance was still there, and she jumped out of the car to see the live victim before it took off.

There were police personnel all over the scene and four paramedics working on the person wearing a skirt. Kendrah assumed nothing with this first glance although she recognized the skirt as coming from Target. She had looked at it last week but ultimately declined, hoping it would soon go on sale.

She moved around to the head, pulling out her newest toy, a digital camera. She had her old Polaroid model in her bag and would snap a few with that, but the digital was a miracle with its ability to capture detail.

The victim was indeed a woman with blood pouring out of every orifice of her face, This did not look hopeful. Kendrah craned the camera over her head and behind the back of the paramedic and took four shots. She walked the length of the stretcher and took more. She then pulled out the old camera and took some with it, shaking them to develop although she doubted it had any effect.

She heard Kevin being briefed in the background. She wasn’t focusing on the words, but Kevin was as careful a note-taker as he was a driver. She knew he would have a thorough story for her. She saw the other victim under a tarp on the other side of the street, and she loped across to get out of the way of the work being done in front of the ambulance.

She crouched beside the body at the end with the head and peeled back the tarp. It was a man, who initially looked to be in better shape than the female. There was no blood visible on his face, but the back of the head was a different story.

The man had a full face with square, unfashionable glasses—what they called math nerd glasses in junior high—and sandy blond hair. Kendrah took shots of the head from all angles with the digital before switching again to the Polaroid and then removing the rest of the tarp so she could look at the whole body.

He was wearing khaki pants that looked homemade, almost like a costume, and a Tulane t-shirt that appeared to be brand new. She took more shots as Kevin approached.

“Can’t find IDs on either of them. Can’t find anything except cash in the male’s pocket, and both had sticks tucked into slots under their clothes.”

“Sticks? Stick slots?”

“Yeah, sticks. They’re over here.”

Kendrah re-covered the body with the tarp and followed Kevin to a little investigation table the patrolmen on the scene usually set up before the detectives arrived. Sure enough, there were polished sticks, a little less than a foot long lying side by side. Kendrah donned latex gloves immediately and picked one up. It had a bit of weight to it. She tossed it lightly in her hand.

“Ren Faire?” Kevin suggested.

“Very high quality Ren Faire. Expensive props.” Kendrah thought back to the pants on the male victim. Having been in a relationship with an actor for five years had given her some exposure to costumes and props. She had never seen something like this. Both sticks had worn ends that looked like they had been gripped for years. She photographed them, taking her time to cover all angles.

“Wands,” Kevin said aloud.

She stayed quiet. There was always an explanation for these things, and she felt it was a waste of time to speculate at this stage.

“How much cash?”

“Just under seventy-five.”

The ambulance rolled out then with the female victim inside.

“What do they have on the vehicle?”

“Almost nothing. Dark sedan. Only witness is incapacitated.”

Kendrah glanced over to a disheveled man with a police blanket around his shoulders.

“He call it in?” she asked skeptically.

“No, he ran to the Shell,” Kevin pointed to a gas station. “The attendant called it in. The witness has only said ‘dark car.’ They showed him pictures and he identified four makes of sedan from a ’76 Ford to a ’93 Buick.”

“Lovely,” Kendrah muttered. She retrieved her laptop from their cruiser and began to hook the camera to it via a cable. She enlarged the downloaded the images and started looking at the female victim. Underneath the blood, she was a pale blonde. Her eyes were closed. She was wearing a pink V-neck t-shirt with her grey knit skirt that hit at her knees. She was wearing tan, low-heeled strappy sandals that were good for walking but still fashionable.

“They favor each other. No rings?”

“Butterfly charm on a silver chain on her. No other jewelry.”

“They look Mormon,” she said to herself. The LDS church owned the condo next door to Kendrah and Marcus. Their neighbors were a series of Mormon missionaries working in New Orleans. All those boys had a look about them that these two shared.

She approached the body again. She put on a new pair of gloves before she gently raised the t-shit and looked at the closure of the trousers. They had a button fly, but not straight down the front. The buttons were in a sickle shape from the left hip to the crotch. She started unbuttoning and found that not only was he not wearing temple garments, he didn’t have traditional underwear of any kind. There was some kind of underpants situation, but it was attached to the trousers in a style she had never seen before. She buttoned him back up against very dark pubic hair for a blond.

“No IDs, no car keys, no jewelry save a necklace…no hotel key cards?” she called across to Kevin.

“Just the cash.”

Every scene she had been called to in her two years as a detective had come with some oddities. This was odd. She cleared her mind; it wouldn’t help to be frustrated. Follow the procedure. Something will turn up. Something always turns up.

Kevin was dutifully checking in with the patrol. He slapped the officer on the arm collegially and then joined Kendrah at the trunk of the Olds where she was staring at the laptop again.

“Do they need anything from us now?” she asked.

“Nope,” he said. “We only have,” he checked his watch, “forty-five minutes anyway.”

They were close to running up against the maximum number of hours their union allowed them to be on the clock for their shift. The sun was coming up, glistening over the river. They had time to make it back to the station and fill out the most basic paper work before they would have to hand it over to the day shift.

She unhooked the camera and stored the cable so it would be ready for the next time. She did a quick check of the bag to make sure she wasn’t leaving her tools at the scene. They waved to patrolmen and both buckled themselves into the cruiser before Kevin pulled out.

“This is weird, Kendrah.”

“It’s always weird.”

“It’s weirder.”

She smiled but tried to hide it and then sighed with enough force to keep him from expressing more unhelpful thoughts.

She had been the youngest woman ever to pass the detective’s exam—she’d done it at age twenty-three. She had taken the exam the day she was eligible after her mandatory six months on patrol. She never saw her scores as they were confidential. All the candidates knew was whether they passed or failed. She was thrilled when she got the call and arrived ready to go at her new post, only to be met with suspicion from her fellow detectives. She was an African-American woman, a double affirmative action whammy. And she had been foisted on them.

Her lieutenant kept his opinions to himself, thank goodness. He assigned her to Kevin, whose long-time partner had recently retired. She soon found out why the lieutenant had matched them—Kevin was an utter sweetheart, who seemed as happy with her as he would be with any new detective on the job.

She proved herself slowly in the department. She never made trouble. She closed her cases efficiently without being obnoxiously precocious. Soon her colleagues were patting themselves on the back for being so open-minded in accepting her into their unit. They called the Connell and Johnson partnership The Ks. Besides Kevin, she was cordial but not familiar with them.

Kevin, however, wormed his way into her life. He and his dear wife Patty loved musicals, and couldn’t believe their fortune that they now had a connection into the theatre world.

“Marcus Johnson is your boyfriend?” Kevin had practically squealed when Kendrah nee Lewis had put a photo of them on her desk.

“Yeah?”

“Oh, his Javert was the highlight of Les Mis last year!” Kevin had said with awe.

It was true.

When Marcus had proposed the next year, he had conspired with Kevin to infiltrate the cop bar where she rarely hung out. (Kevin had cajoled her for weeks to show up.) With his actor buddies, Marcus had serenaded her with a rendition of Gee, Officer Krupke that ended with Marcus down on his knee. Kevin had cried more than she did.

They arrived back at the station and hurried to their shared work space. Kevin filled out the forms while she transferred the photos from her laptop to the shared file on her computer so her colleagues could access them if they took the time, which she doubted they would. She turned over the Polaroid shots to clip to the packet, and they were at the clock with moments to spare.

“See ya in twelve hours,” Kevin said wearily.

“See ya, Kevin.”

She drove the seven miles to the condo in Metairie listening to music and singing along. She had to put work in its proper box in her brain if she wanted to sleep at all. She would take the box down that evening in the shower. It was amazing how many cases she had solved in her shower after sleeping with the box out of the way.

She dropped her keys on the table and fixed herself a bowl of frosted flakes, the ideal meal before passing out for seven hours. She stripped to her underwear in the living room and tossed her work slacks and blouse through the kitchen into a basket in the adjoining laundry room, cheering her perimeter shot. Three points for Johnson! She walked to her bedroom and put on the navy sweats and Tulane tee waiting for her at the foot of the bed. Looks like the male vic’s. Not identical, she thought and then shoved it into the box. She shuffled that box right back on the shelf and then threaded her bra through her sleeve out of long-time dorm living habit.

She slumped on the bed carefully with her cereal and flipped on the TV. By the end of the Today Show, the bowl was empty and on the bedside table and she was sound asleep.

 

She clocked in precisely at 7:00 P.M. Kevin was already there and listening to a briefing by the day team. They had canvassed the French Quarter and surrounding area all day for anyone who had seen the couple.

“She still alive?” Kendrah interrupted the narrative.

“Yeah, unconscious.” Her colleague continued his story. No sightings by any hotel clerks. That was obviously disappointing. There had been a few positive IDs in the quarter, though. The most promising being the guy who ran the t-shirt stand where the male victim had purchased his Tulane shirt.

Kendrah grabbed that report. The vendor reported that male vic had bought the shirt because he had been hit with a flying drink. He had paid in cash, thrown his own stained shirt in the trash, and donned the new. He had said, Cheers, Mate in a “different” accent and then walked away.

“Different?” Kendrah said trying to keep the frustration out of her voice.

“It was the only way he could describe it. Believe me, I tried.”

“Did you find the shirt in the trash?”

“No, it had been emptied.”

“Did you…”

“Did I go through a mountain of Mardi Gras garbage?”

Kevin diffused the tension while Kendrah tried to focus on the paper work. The other team left before she expressed her opinion about the quality of their work.

“Hospital or morgue first?” Kevin redirected the conversation to a more productive line.

“Hospital,” she sighed.

“Patty made chicken and dumplings for lunch,” he said as they gathered the bag and keys.

“Bless Patty.” Kevin’s wife fed them every shift. Kendrah and Marcus took them to dinner once a month to pay them back although they always tried to pay themselves.

Kendrah looked at the hospital information so they could bolt from the car to the ICU. She called ahead on her cell phone to alert the unit of their arrival. There was a section of parking set aside for police vehicles, and she pictured them on the elevator, striding down the hall. Kevin was quiet in deference to her whirring mind.

They were met outside the door by the attending on call.

“Her injuries are primarily internal, and we were able to repair much of the damage. She did hit her head on impact, but the injuries there don’t look dire. We will know more if she wakes up.”

“If?”

“She should already be awake. We can’t get much of a response.”

“May we see her?”

The young doctor opened the door to the observation room and held it open for them.

The young woman on the bed had her head turned to the left. There were no bandages on the head, just long, red hair.

Kendrah halted in her tracks. She walked over to the side of the bed and crouched down beside the woman’s face. “Can you move her head so it’s facing up?” she called to the doctor. She heard a sigh, but the man complied, brushing Kendrah out of the way. The face was in the bright light.

“This isn’t her,” Kendrah said, placing the investigation bag on the tray table by the bed and pulling out the packet. The Polaroids were still attached.

“I’ll get the laptop,” Kevin said, already halfway out the door.

“The woman at the scene was blond with a wide nose; she has red hair and a narrow nose.” This woman was extremely pretty. The woman at the scene had been unremarkable, even taking into account the injuries. Kendrah held the Polaroid next to the woman’s cheek for comparison and looked at the doctor.

“I don’t know what to tell you. This is the woman I had in surgery for two hours this morning.”

Kendrah noticed for the first time the doctor looked exhausted.

She looked back down at her paperwork for the logging of the effects: pink t-shirt, grey skirt, tan sandals, pink underpants, beige bra, butterfly charm on a silver chain, all currently sitting in the evidence room. Kendrah lay both hands flat on the table and closed her eyes for a moment. She opened them again to look at the fingerprint card. The tech had arrived early that afternoon.

“Are you sure this is the woman you worked on? You remember the red hair? You remember her,” she thrust both hands at the woman’s head, “and not her?” she handed the Polaroid to the doctor.

“I remember the red hair,” he said, annoyance clear in his tone.

Kendrah shook her head and took herself back to the moments she was by the woman’s side. Her memory was consistent with the photo. What else was there? She heard Kevin re-enter with the computer. He wasted no time opening it and logging in. She crossed the room to him and clicked on the photo icon. Immediately thumbnail sized shots filled the screen. She chose a close-up of the head and clicked and then motioned for the doctor to look.

“I don’t know what to tell ya,” he said.

Kendrah chose a wider shot to look at. The clothes matched her memory and the log. She looked at the left hand in the photo and then walked with the computer to the bed again and looked at the hand with the IV needle taped to it. The nails were identical, down to ragged, chipped polish on the left middle finger, probably from impact on the asphalt.

 She stared at the image again, starting from the head and sweeping down the body and then back up. She paused at the elbow. There was a gloved hand tying a latex band around it.

“Was it Laurie at the scene last night?” she asked Kevin though she was already looking through the contacts on her phone for Laurie in forensics.

“It was,” Kevin confirmed.

Kendrah tapped the contact and brought the phone to her ear.

“Forensic Unit, Laurie.”

“Laurie, Detectives Johnson and Connell. We are at Tulane ICU with the Ramparts and St. Ann hit and run. We need you to come here and collect another sample, please. Right now.”

She waited for conformation and then hung up. “You wait for her?” she asked Kevin. “Call Bilodeau and explain we need a rush DNA.”

Kevin nodded. They both knew their lieutenant would approve the test. If this was the wrong person somehow, there would be a huge scandal in the middle of Mardi Gras.

“I’m going to head to the morgue.”

Kevin started to hand over the keys.

“You keep the car. It’s only a few blocks. Join me as soon as you talk to Laurie and get the okay on the DNA rush.”

She left Kevin his copy of the report and took the rest of the bag and laptop. She organized the file in her brain as she strode up the street. It was uphill, and she was not in the best shape of her life, but she made good time. She opened the double glass doors with both hands and waved with one hand and touched the badge on her hip with the other at the receptionist behind the little window, not breaking a stride. She heard a buzz and slammed through the heavy wooden door to the hall that led to the morgue.

After five minutes wasted talking her way to the correct room, she was standing by the metal drawer as the attendant pulled the lever and brought out the tray. The man was naked with dark pubic hair. Instead of a pudgy face and light hair, he was boyishly handsome with a strong chin and stately nose. He had dark brown hair with one lock covering the forehead.

Kendrah sighed deeply and pulled out the cellphone again. Kevin answered immediately.

“Tell Laurie as soon as she is done there to meet me at the morgue.”

 

Two Years Later

 

Kevin had set up their table under the largest oak tree in the expansive lawn of the extended care center in Metairie. They each had a chair. Kevin was finishing a report on an armed robbery in a convenience store they had closed the day before. Kendrah was filing evidence and photos into a program on the laptop. When they returned to the station, she could download it and send it to the central database. It seemed as if there were upgrades every month, but aside from the time she had to spend in training for them, they did help efficiency most of the time.

Julie was seated on her walker. She didn’t really need it to get around, but it was security for her, and Kevin had installed a little tray on a hinge, so when she sat, she had a small desk in front of her. Across her chest, she wore a cloth bag with a long strap that held her pens, her latest journal, and her sunscreen that Kevin used, too, when the shade of the tree shifted.

They worked out here on their lunch hour when the weather was nice. Kendrah would pick up Julie from the day room while Kevin set the table and chairs. The center was nice enough—it certainly could be worse—but it was depressing. Most of the residents were old and in the throes of dementia. The younger residents didn’t have a whole lot to do with Julie because she was nonverbal and tended to walk away in the middle of meals or activities or conversations.

Her face would light up when Kendrah arrived and again when they had made their way to their tree and she spotted Kevin and again when Patty or Marcus or both would show up to share lunch. It was enough to keep them coming back whenever they could.

Julie had been Jane in the hospital, but that was such a reminder of their failure to learn anything in the case, Kendrah had renamed her. She looked a bit like the actress Julianne Moore, with her red hair and intensely beautiful green eyes, and she also looked like someone who would be called Julie. Kevin agreed enthusiastically. They had her name changed from Jane Doe to Julie Doe. The medical professionals followed suit.

DNA tests had confirmed that she and the male were the same victims at the scene. Kendrah had practically hurt her brain trying to formulate every scenario that could explain how their appearances changed from the street that night to the hospital and morgue twelve hours later. She had never found a witness who saw anything. She eventually attributed it to poor lighting and an optical illusion. One of her professor contacts at Tulane showed her examples of photographed items that had appeared to be dramatically different colors in in various light.

Julie had good teeth with no evidence of dentistry or orthodontia. She had been pregnant and had given birth, but not in the past few years. She was between the ages of twenty-eight and forty at the time of the accident, but they thought she was likely around thirty-five, which would put her birth year at 1962.

Based on the male victim’s use of the phrase cheers, mate and that he was uncircumcised led to the theory that they were from elsewhere: the UK and Australia were the top candidates. Kendrah refused to put much credence in it. There were plenty of intact Americans who put on goofy accents. But she widened her missing persons search to the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, though the last one was at Kevin’s insistence and under some duress. She never had any hits.

The staff at the center reported that Julie had an odd effect on the electricity in her vicinity. When she was especially tired, the lights in her room sometimes went out on their own. When she was in a loud space, the volume of the TV or DVD player would lower without anyone touching it. The staff had all sorts of theories. Kendrah dismissed any reports of it, though. It had never happened in her presence, and she had too much real mystery to resort to supernatural nonsense.

The police department had commissioned an artist to draw two sketches of the male, one from looking at the body, which was eventually cremated, and one using Kendrah’s digitals. Julie never reacted in any way to either. Every time she achieved a milestone of alertness or physical progress, Kendrah would bring out the sketches. Julie would look at them for a moment and then glance to Kendrah for a hint of how she was supposed to respond.

Julie also didn’t have any reaction to the stick found tucked into her skirt that first night, or to similar one tucked into the trousers of the male. She would look at the stick and sometimes touch it and then would be lost in her own thoughts again.

She wore the butterfly charm; Kendrah couldn’t justify holding it. Julie hadn’t acted as if she recognized it, but she did have a habit of clutching it in her fist, sometimes so hard it would leave marks.

Kendrah had taken those odd trousers to the costume mistress at the New Orleans Rep, and while she recognized the fine workmanship, she couldn’t give insight to the origin. The sticks, pants, cash, various expert reports, and Julie’s clothes were kept in an evidence box Kendrah and Kevin were given permission to maintain in their station.

About a year after the accident, Julie started writing her lines anytime there was a writing utensil and paper within her reach. Kendrah brought her a black and white covered journal and a box of pencils and felt-tip pens. Julie filled pages and pages of multiple journals with symbols Kendrah had never seen before intermixed with numbers. Kendrah took a crack at decoding it and got exactly nowhere. She took a sample to a linguist at Tulane and then one at Louisiana State University up the road in Baton Rouge, and neither professor could detect a pattern. The woman at LSU recommended a colleague at Columbia who specialized in ancient symbols. Kendrah boxed up the samples and sent it to New York. Six weeks later, she received a two-page letter translating a few of the symbols: tree, sheep, some kind of currency, boy, but she was unable to decode the pattern. She used the phrase manifestation of mental illness. Kendrah had sighed heavily and placed the document in the box.

The case was still open.

 

“Marcus!” Kevin called out across the grounds. Kendrah looked up from the computer to see her husband approaching with a cardboard tray of coffees. A smile spread over her face that matched the one on Marcus’s. He was between shows for another three weeks, and she had enjoyed every minute of his break. She lived for them.

“Hey, y’all!” he called back. Marcus was big and broad, and as he had been told hundreds of times, looked more like a linebacker than singer, actor, and dancer. He had been a football player until his tenth-grade English teacher had persuaded him to audition for the school production of Oklahoma! He had been cast as Judd, and his voice had brought down the house. That had been it for football. He had gone to university on a theatre scholarship instead.

Marcus put the tray down on the table before engaging in the elaborate hand-shake ritual he performed with Kevin every time they saw each other. He moved to Julie, patting her shoulder. Julie reached her hand up to cover his and beamed. Marcus then leaned across the space to meet Kendrah and kiss her mouth. Their sunglasses bumped.

“Where’s Patty?” he asked.

“She’s at the dentist, so I have the sandwiches. She’ll be here in a few minutes with cookies from Antoine’s.”

Marcus rubbed his hands together, and Kevin produced the insulated bag that held lunch for the group. Kendrah moved her chair so she was by Julie, who could feed herself, but tended to get distracted easily. Kendrah suspected she didn’t get that much attention at her meals at the center—she was extremely thin—so she made sure Julie ate as much as possible during their lunches.

She had brought Julie home to Easter dinner that first year. Julie had just been moved from the rehab center to her current residence. Mama had been skeptical of the whole thing.

“She has people, and you are not it,” Mama had said in her usual blunt tone.

“She does have people, but I can’t find them,” Kendrah said, equally blunt and insufferably stubborn. Julie was not interacting much at all then, but she ate a small plate of food and appealed to Mama’s protective nature.

Since then, Julie was expected at all the big family dinners and some Sunday dinners after church as well. Kendrah got used to picking her up, helping her into the car, and spending time with her silent companion. If she couldn’t figure out where Julie belonged, she could at least make her life better.

Patty had made a smorgasbord of sandwiches, quartered so everyone could sample each kind. There were peanut butter and strawberry jam, egg salad, tuna, and salami and provolone. Julie was partial to the egg salad. She was not a fan of peanut butter, so Kendrah didn’t put one on her plate. She liked fruit in bite sizes. She would stare a whole banana, apple, or orange, but if it was cubed, she would eat it. She loved the coffee and sweets the best, and her face lit up again when classic brunette southern belle Patty was spotted walking toward them with her usual huge smile and her white box from Antoine’s.

“Hi, y’all! How are the sandwiches?”

“Masterpiece, Patty,” Marcus said, and helped himself to three more quarters.

Kevin readied Patty’s chair and started fixing her a plate. Patty taught fourth grade, but she had taken the day off for the dentist and bonus lunch with the gang. During school vacation in the summer, she was out here with them every day.

 “Julie, Darlin’ how are you today?” Patty said as she passed her two lemon cookies covered in confectioners’ sugar and wrapped in a pretty, pink napkin from the bakery.

Julie smiled and brought the cookies to her face to inhale them before she put them on her tray and took delicate bites between sips of the black coffee that she favored.

“Marcus, Kevin told me you are starrin’ in Pippin next! I cannot wait! I’ve already purchased tickets for two shows. And it’s tourin’?”

“Yeah. We play three weeks here then on to Biloxi, Mobile, Birmingham, and Atlanta. If it’s successful, they are going to try to book in the Carolinas before we head home.”

Kevin shot a sympathetic glance to Kendrah. She was proud of her husband’s triumphs, but missed him terribly when he was on the road.

Patty started singing and of course Marcus couldn’t resist joining in.

Join us........ Leave your fields to flower

Join us........ Leave your cheese to sour

Join us........ Come and waste an hour or two

Doo-dle-ee-do

 

Kendrah looked at Julie, with a smile and a mild eyeroll, as if to say what are we going to do with them?  But Julie was paying no attention. She was gazing at the tree above them with a smile. She looked thousands of miles away. Kevin and Kendrah, wary of the time, and that it was a workday, AND that their lunch hour had ended ten minutes ago, started cleaning up the refuse and preparing to leave. Their spouses were in denial.

Journey....... Journey to a spot ex-citing, mystic and exotic

Journey........ Through our anecdotic revue

We've got magic to do........ Just for you

We've got miracle plays to play

We've got parts to perform.... Hearts to warm

Kings and things to take by storm

As we go along our way!

 

Julie let out a loud peal of laughter. Kendrah turned, expecting to see her reacting to Marcus’s natural hamminess, but Julie was still paying no attention. Kendrah had heard her laugh before, but never the full, throaty guffaw she was currently displaying.

 

“Well, somethin’ sure tickled her funny bone,” Kevin said sincerely.

 

“Snape!” Julie said. “Severus Snape!”

 

Kendrah whipped her head around. “What’s Snape?”

 

“Julie?” Kevin said. Both partners had dropped their occupations and were crouching on either side of Julie’s walker.

 

“Why do you call me Julie?” she said clearly in what Kendrah recognized as some kind of British accent.

 

“Because we don’t know your real name,” Kendrah said quietly, trying to keep her emotions in check. “Do you know your name?”

 

The woman they called Julie looked at her as if Kendrah was not so bright. “Of course! It’s Lily. Lily Judith Evans.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

Lily Judith Evans

 

Lily’s verbal emergence was the biggest lead they’d had in the case since day one, but it came with a new set of challenges. For one, Lily no longer met the requirements to stay at the long-term care facility. While this was personal progress, it left her with limited options. Lily thought it was 1971, and that she was eleven years old living with her parents, Lawrence and Pamela, and her sister Petunia in Cokeworth, England. She thought she was a few months away from going to a special boarding school for young witches and wizards.

Kendrah, Kevin, Marcus, and Patty were her friends that she had no problem fitting into her schema, but she didn’t share how these Louisianans from thirty years in the future were part of her life. She seemed to just accept it.

The only facility where Lily was eligible to live was the state school in Monroe. Kendrah took Lily there for a visit on her day off. They lasted twenty minutes. Kendrah supposed it was adequate for those without other options, but it was not for Lily.

I will figure something out was her mantra for the four-and-a-half-hour drive home. They stopped at Popeyes for fried chicken and red beans and rice when they were half way home. Lily smiled across the table at her.

“You will figure something out, Kendrah,” she said.

Kendrah wondered how many times she had repeated the phrase out loud.

“You’re right.”

She had already researched every possible connection in Cokeworth. Not only could she not find a Lily Judith Evans born there on January 20, 1960, she could find no trace of anyone in the Evans family. She had asked Lily to sketch a map of Cokeworth from her memory, and Kendrah had seen that it was a near perfect representation of the town circa 1970.

The bakery where Pamela worked had been gone for many years. The pub was gone. The shops were gone. Lily’s primary school was gone. They weren’t just gone from 1997 when Lily had been hit, they had been gone since the mid-eighties.

That made sense—Lily thought it was the early seventies, so it wasn’t surprising that the town aligned with her timeline. What Kendrah couldn’t explain was how this person knew everything about a place that had no record of her ever living there. Lily knew her address, and Kendrah confirmed the house had existed. (It had been razed in 1985.) She also found the record of its owners going back to the 1920s when it was built. No one named Evans was on the list, and it was never a rental property. Nothing about this case was ever easy.

A linguist from Tulane confirmed that Lily had a typical accent for the area. Kendrah formed a phone relationship with the Cokeworth police and the registry office. Both were sympathetic and sounded as if they were intrigued by the case, but neither was terribly helpful beyond confirming that the town existed.

She sent photos of Lily and the sketches of the male victim, and left more contact information for herself than was probably necessary.

A possible solution to their immediate problem sprouted and took hold in Kendrah’s brain when they were an hour out of Metairie. Marcus was still on the road with Pippin, and she was so alone in that condo. They had a second bedroom that they just used for storage. Lily had two more nights she could stay at the center, and Kendrah wasn’t going to mention it to her until she had spoken to Marcus, but she knew he would agree. She breathed deeply for the first time all day.

Lily was chatting about her favorite subject.

“It’s June twenty-second?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“June has thirty days. July and August thirty-one. Sixty-one plus eight. Sixty-nine days, Kendrah!”

“That’s right, Lily.”

Kendrah had no idea what would happen when September first arrived and the Hogwarts Express did not, but she figured they would solve that one when they got there.

For Lily’s part, she and her friend Severus Snape had planned it all out. They would need to make a trip to Diagon Alley (Kevin adored that part. Diagonally! Get it? She is so clever!) for robes and books that the first years needed. They would go to Olivander’s for their wands. This part was obviously interesting. Kendrah didn’t really believe a word of it, but if that trip ever took place in Lily’s mind, you better believe those sticks were getting trotted out again.

Kendrah pulled up to the center, and before she could finish parking Lily was out of the door. She had relied on others for basic care for so long, she had asserted her independence in a big way since she had started speaking in late February.

“Thanks, Kendrah for the ride and for lunch. It was dead sound. Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Yes, Lily.”

Kendrah waited until the woman was safely inside before she punched Marcus’s number into her cell.

 

Everything moved so quickly after that. Kevin and Patty came over that night to help clear out the spare room. Kendrah and Marcus hadn’t collected many things over the years, so it was just a few boxes that dated back to their college days. Her brother Edwin was on the way with her childhood bedroom furniture.

Mama had been predictably appalled by the idea.

“She is not your child.”

“She is my friend.” And she was the closest Kendrah would come to having a child anyway. When she was a sophomore at Tulane, she’d had a hysterectomy after increasingly serious uterine fibroids and endometriosis.

It had been a double tragedy for Mama. Not only was her only daughter going to be unable to have grandbabies, she had also given up her then career goal of being an attorney. While she was laid up in bed after the surgery, Kendrah had become obsessed with Homicide: Life on the Streets. She realized she didn’t want to be D.A. Danvers, she wanted to be Detective Frank Pendleton. She had kept her double-major of history and philosophy, but instead of applying to law school her senior year, two weeks before graduation, she started as a patrolman for the New Orleans Police.

Patty had grabbed the vacuum while Kevin and Kendrah started installing shelves when Edwin arrived. Along with the bed and chest of drawers, Mama had included a box of linens and Kendrah’s quilt that had covered her bed in high school. Kendrah noticed immediately that it was all freshly laundered. Mama talked a good game, but when it came down to it…

Kendrah and Kevin had the night shift the next day, so they had time to pack up Lily at the center and move her. Patty was waiting at the condo with a welcome home breakfast of beignets and black coffee.

“Lily are you ready to see your new room?” Kendrah had said as they packed up her few possessions. Lily’s alternative take on reality meant that they didn’t have to offer too many details. Lily would process information however it fit into her world.

“Yes! Of course, it’s just until September first,” she reminded Kendrah.

“Yes,” Kendrah said. They carried out four boxes, said goodbye to a few staff members and residents and left the center for good in Kevin and Patty’s Ford Explorer.

Patty welcomed Lily in to the condo with a hug.

“Lily, go see your beautiful new room, and then come on out because I have amazing news for you!” Patty said. Her brother had a popular frozen yogurt shop in Metairie, and he had agreed to give Lily a trial part-time job.

Lily dropped the box she was carrying on her bed and went straight for the window, opening the curtains and peering out to the parking lot and the back of a Sonic.

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” she gasped.

“Come in for donuts,” Kendrah said.

“We found a job for you!” Patty exclaimed.

“You did? That’s wonderful!” Lily squealed. “Books and robes and school fees are right dear, and Mum and Dad…they do their best, but the mills aren’t producing what they once did, you know. I don’t know how Severus is going to make it,” she said in a low voice indicating she was saying this in confidence. “His mother…she just isn’t well, and his father drinks too much and almost never has work. Do you have a job for Severus, too?” she asked hopefully.

“We’ll see what we can do,” Patty assured her.

“This is a code of secrecy situation,” Kendrah said seriously. They had warned Lily that she should not speak of Hogwarts or of being a witch at the center. It was all fine, Lily had assured them. Severus had told her all about the code of secrecy with Muggles.

“Oh, of course!” Lily had assured them.

Lily did very well at the job. Patty, Marcus, or Kendrah dropped her off and picked her up when they could, but Lily learned the bus schedule and bought a pass so she could easily get herself to and from the shop that was about two miles from the condo. Kendrah helped her set up a bank account, which was difficult with her lack of documentation, but they had grown accustomed to navigating life being classified a Jane Doe.

Marcus returned home from tour and they settled into their three-member family. They were all nervous as September first approached. Lily had made a gigantic calendar for her room and marked each passing day with a big, red X.

The first was a Wednesday, and they planned a big family dinner. Severus had told Lily what to expect for the menu the first night at school, so Patty was making a roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. She had even come up with an orange concoction she called pumpkin juice, though it tasted more like cantaloupe. 

Kevin and Kendrah had worked day shift that day, and they had no idea what they would be facing. Lily had been nothing but cheerful from the beginning of her awakening, and they were afraid that was about to come to an end.

They shouldn’t have worried.

Lily met them at the door with a huge smile.

“Congratulations, Kendrah! Gryffindor! We will be together and Patty, too!” she couldn’t contain her glee and she swept up Kendrah and Patty in a three woman hug.

Kendrah wasn’t overly fond of physical contact, but she made an exception.

“Gryffindor, nice!” she said.

“Kevin and I are Hufflepuff,” Marcus said, trying to sound as serious as possible.

“Hufflepuff, huh?” Kevin said. “Well, it could have been worse.”

“Oh, just wait,” Patty said.

“Severus is Slytherin,” Lily said, her eyes suddenly filling with deep concern. “Of course that’s what he wanted because of his Mum, but I just knew the hat would put him in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. He’s the smartest bloke I know, and so brave. I met the most awful toe-rags on the train, and of course they are Gryffindor,” she said with a long sigh. “Nothing can ever be easy, can it?”

“Slytherins—they’re very clever, right? Severus will be okay, and it might be nice to have friends in other…” Kendrah tried, but her Hogwarts lingo was failing her.

“Houses, yes.”

“Houses. Lily, have you seen your wand?” Kendrah brought out the sticks for about the twentieth time in their association. The one belonging to the male was in her left hand, and the one that had been found on Lily was in her right. She opened both palms. Lily took one glance and snatched the stick from Kendrah’s right hand.

“Oh, thank you! I couldn’t figure out where it had gone.”

“What will you do with it?” Kevin asked.

“Nothing yet, but tomorrow we start Charms and Potions and Transfiguration,” her eyes became very wide at the pronouncement, “So soon we will be able to do so much! But now,” she looked at all of them in turn with wise eyes and a peaceful smile, “Now, it is time to tuck-in!”

 

Lily kept them updated throughout the year of how their classes were going. How Severus was struggling to fit in at Slytherin, and how awful that Sirius Black and James Potter were.

“UGH! Do they have to ruin every class?” Lily would vent to Kendrah and Patty.

“Boys!” Patty offered.

“Not every boy, though. Kevin and Marcus are so lovely, and Severus does the best he can. It’s just those two, and the way they have Remus and Peter at their beck and call!”

Kendrah had been working on a theory that the male victim was Severus Snape. He didn’t look exactly like what Lily described, but he did have dark hair, and the difference between eleven and mid-thirties could sometimes be vast. She knew she had to bring out the drawings again, but she was dreading it. If it was Severus, Lily would have lost her best friend, and if it wasn’t Severus, Kendrah was afraid that this whole world had been created in Lily’s mind and would get her no closer to finding Lily’s home and people.

She decided to wait for a Saturday afternoon when they were both off work. Kendrah had fixed them a simple lunch and although her heart was beating rapidly, she calmly put the drawings on the table.

“Do either of these men look like anyone you know, Lily?”

She picked up the sketch based on the man from the scene first. “No.” She put it down and picked up the one that depicted the man from the morgue. “Ugh!” she said immediately. “He’s looks like a VERY OLD James Potter!”

“James? Really? Not Severus?”

Lily laughed. “No, silly. Severus has long black hair and a looooooong nose. This looks like the git’s father.”

“Have you seen James Potter’s father?”

“No,” Lily said patiently. “He looks like what I think James’s father would look like, if he favoured his son.”

Kendrah’s mind reeled. What was Lily doing at Mardi Gras twenty-five years from her Hogwarts world with that toe rag James?

 

As the school year progressed, Kendrah had more and more names to add to her search. She was only half convinced that any of these people actually existed, but it was also hard for her to imagine that Lily had made it all up from nothing. The kitten incident was the turning point.

Kendrah returned home from a long day shift. Marcus had a rehearsal in the morning, but he had been home the rest of the day, and Lily had the day off from the yogurt shop. Kendrah walked in the door to their living room and was hit by plaintive kitten mewing from a tiny black and white creature curled up in a ball on the sofa, and Marcus looking at her with huge eyes.

“Welcome to insanity!” he said with careful diction.

“Where’s Lily?” Kendrah asked.

“Oh, Lily?” Marcus called.

“Yes,” Lily said innocently, coming in from her room. “Kendrah! Did you meet Holis?” Lily squealed and went straight to the kitten.

“Holis,” Marcus said in a voice that revealed his deep struggle to maintain composure. “Short for Holstein. Remember our Moo Cow Creamer?”

Lily had picked up Holis and was trying to hand it to Kendrah, who registered her reaction clearly on her face.

“Oh, do you not like kittens?” Lily said, full of concern.

“Not especially.”

“You know, I’m okay with a kitten,” Marcus said. “Lily, if you want a kitten, I will take you to the SPCA, and we will pick you out a kitten. But I don’t think I can live with creepy Moo Cow Creamer Kitty.”

“Would one of you please, tell me what this is…” Kendrah started.

“She MADE kitty. She made him with your favorite creamer and her wand.” Marcus’s eyes had reached full bug-out.

Kendrah breathed in an out while she looked at her husband, her roommate, and the kitten.

“Heavens, Kendrah, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was your favorite. Professor McGonagall was teaching us…where were you, by the way? Why weren’t you in Transfiguration?”

“I had patrol,” Kendrah offered in the short hand with which she communicated about her job to Lily.

“Patrol? Really first-years don’t have patrol, and not during class,” she looked at Kendrah with a baffled expression.

Kendrah tried again. “I wasn’t feeling well so I went to see…you know in the hospital…” She had all this down in a file on her computer, but it was such nonsense and so hard to remember.

“Madam Pomfrey in the hospital wing?”

“Exactly.”

“Are you feeling better?” Lily asked with obvious concern.

“Oh, yes. Transfiguration?”

“Yes! Professor McGonagall passed out the pieces of china, but I had no idea I got your favorite. I will turn it back.” She placed the kitten on the table, focused intently, raised her wand, said some unintelligible words very carefully, and with a puff of smoke, the kitten disappeared and the creamer sat on the table.

“WHOA!” Marcus screamed in a pitch his bass register usually couldn’t reach.

“Oh my god!” Kendrah gasped. “What the…”

“Not bad for our first lesson with live animals, right? Marcus, Hufflepuffs have Transfiguration tomorrow, so you will have your turn.”

“What did we just see?” Kendrah asked.

“That’s some David Copperfield level shit,” Marcus said.

“That’s it, right? It was a trick. There’s a cat around here somewhere.”

“Kitty, kitty, kitty?” Marcus called in a wavering voice.

“Do you want the cat? Because I thought…” Lily looked so confused and a bit hurt.

“No, let’s keep the creamer. So, I missed class, Lily. Catch me up.” Kendrah sat at the table.

“Right. So, let’s find a piece you won’t be sad to see go.” Lily walked into the galley kitchen. “This Pippin shot glass, Marcus? We have ten.”

“That’s fine,” Marcus said, joining the, at the table. Lily brought the glass over.

“So. You have to concentrate. The kitten is obviously a more complicated structure than the glass, right? So you concentrate on the glass, but you already think kitten. Point your wand at the glass. See the kitten.” She stared deeply at the glass. “You move your wand firmly and decisively and utter the incantation confidently.”

She flicked her wand firmly and decisively and said, “Cat poculum!”

There was another small puff of smoke and a white kitten on the table.

“Pippy!” Lily cried with glee and scooped up the kitten.

Marcus was muttering incoherent syllables, almost in tears.

Kendrah had attended St. Augustine Catholic Church her entire life. Every Sunday that she was not on a shift, she was at Mass next to Mama. Mama did not believe in Saturday Mass. Kendrah had sung the songs, listened to the liturgy, and watched the priest transfigure the Eucharist thousands of times in her life. Since she had been fifteen years old, she had not believed that anything was happening to the host and the wine. She was thoroughly and completely agnostic, not just about the rites of the Catholic church, but about every hint of the supernatural.

And yet.

And yet, that shot glass was now a kitten.

“Wow, Lily. That’s amazing,” Kendrah said with a light tone. “Will you restore the glass and then show me what else you can do with your wand?”

“We can’t keep him?” Lily mock pouted and turned the kitten over. “Her?”

“Like Marcus said, we can pick out a cat at the animal shelter, okay? We’ll go tomorrow. Let’s put the glass back.”

Lily complied, and Kendrah placed the shot glass back in the cupboard with shaking hands.

“What else have you learned?”

Lily said a word, flicked her wand, and the light went out. She quickly brought it back. She walked to the counter where Marcus had placed a pair of sunglasses he broke. Lily fixed them with her wand.

“I can do a bit more. Just simple stuff, really. We’ll be learning more and more this year.”

Kendrah walked over to the sofa and beckoned Lily to follow.

“Who wants burgers and slushies?” Marcus said, grabbing his keys. Kendrah could tell he needed to get the hell out of Dodge for at least a few minutes.

“Cherry lime!” Lily said. “And cheeseburger.”

“Coke and same,” Kendrah told him. “Thanks,” she said and tried to convey she meant it for more than just fetching dinner.

“Alright,” Marcus said and shut the front door behind him.

It’s real. It’s real. It’s real. It was clanging in her brain and preventing useful thought. She breathed and held it down.

“Lily, when did you realize you were a witch?” Kendrah chided herself for not asking this sooner, but before this evening, she had thought it was just something in Lily’s head.

“I was at the park, and I was jumping out of the tree—too high, you see, and Tunie was so scared. But I didn’t fall; I just floated to the ground.” She put her arms out and looked to the ceiling with a delighted expression. “Sev was there. He had been watching us, and he told me that I could do that because I was a witch.” She raised her eyebrows and smiled at Kendrah.

“And you did magic at home with Mum and Dad and Tunie? They did magic, too?”

“Noooooo. They’re Muggles.”

“So you are the only witch in your family? What about Severus?”

“His mum is a witch, and his dad is a Muggle. He’s half-blood.”

Since September, Lily’s accent had changed. She sounded less like the working-class girl that she was and that the linguist had confirmed her accent indicated. She now said the word “half” like someone on Masterpiece Theater would.

“And James? Peter? Sirius?”

“They have wizard and witch parents. They are pure blood. That’s the most common.”

“So you are rare?”

“Rare…maybe not. But not as common.”

“Muggle blood?”

“Muggle born,” Lily corrected. “There is an awful word for it, Mudblood,” she whispered the last word. “But that is like calling someone here a…”

“Yeah, okay,” Kendrah interrupted. Her brain was whirring, but it was placing all the information in order. A thought had taken hold. The code of silence that kept Lily quiet at work surely existed. That was why she could find nothing in her searches. “Witches and wizards…they are human, correct?”

“Yes?”

“And they make mistakes?”

“Of course, Kendrah. You know that. I make mistakes all the time.”

Every day, her capacity to research via the Internet was improving. Compared to the time of the accident, it had increased exponentially. Even from last March, when she’d had to send away for her map of Cokeworth, now it was online along with hundreds of tools and leads.

Witches and wizards made mistakes. Someone would eventually. Someone would slip up, maybe just for a minute, and she would find it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

Summer of 1975/Summer of 2004

 

30 June 1975

 

You, dear journal, were the first thing I spotted when I returned to my room last night with my Hogwarts trunk that was heavier from London to Cokeworth than I had ever noticed it being before.

There you were on my desk with your lovely Muggley fountain pen chum beside. A forgotten Christmas prezzie from Nana Gwen. I suppose I didn’t think I would need you at school, but it is so nice to have you here for the summer.

Have you noticed the changes in this house, or were they so gradual they escaped attention, and it is only because I have been away since very early January that I am shocked at the State of Things.

Dad looks years older. The lines of his face are deeper and more pronounced. His hair, already scant, is barely there and so white. It seems a miracle he has a job still at all, but the sackings of so many on his crew has obviously taken a toll.

Mum is a shadow person as well. I’m not surprised she didn’t send a letter declaring her reduction of hours at the bakery. This situation, though, has landed me with a bit of luck. Her co-worker can no longer afford full-time nursery for her two and four-year-old girls on her part-time hours. I am to mind the children every morning this summer. I should be able to afford all my books and kit for fifth year. (My fees are gratis due to our “situation,” as it were.)

I plan to visit the library tomorrow to stock up on reading materials for the afternoon. Tunie is being insufferable already. It is not my fault that I get to be away for the year. (It IS my great fortune; however, I am quite well-aware of that.) I would feel badly for her if she wasn’t such a bloody cow all the time. It would be nice to have sisterly moments of happiness as we used to, but perhaps that is too much to ask. She also has a job working in an office typing and answering the phones. It’s better than what both Mum and Dad have. She shouldn’t be so miserable.

I start my job in the morning, so I should get some rest. I hope this is the beginning of a lovely friendship, dear journal.

 

2 July 1975

Dear, dear journal, I have just come home from the most remarkable night. Tunie has hardly spoken to me since I’ve been home from school, but after tea tonight, she was all over me to come out with her. She met a boy on her lunch hour apparently. He told her everyone would be in the square tonight, and of course she couldn’t go alone, so please, please, Lily, won’t you come?

Between staying home with Mum and Dad and watching “The Good Old Days” on telly or having a potential adventure with Tunie, it wasn’t a terribly hard choice. I am a Gryffindor, after all.

Tunie dropped me approximately thirty seconds after our arrival at the square, but it turned out to be okay because, guess who was there? None other than Severus Snape, looking not at all the sad sack he often does at school. (Forgive me, but it’s true. So dour and superior with his snakey mates.)

He was—dare I say it—cool in his jeans and Pink Floyd t-shirt. If he could pull off that air at school, he was would be swarmed with girls. He saw me and beckoned me over with neither word nor gesture. He handed me a beer and then a smoke, and we held up a wall for a lot of the night. Occasionally, he would brush against me when we were fetching more drinks. (There was an empty tea tin to drop in a quid to pay for the drinks, and I spent the whole of my wages. Although it was a spectacular night, this must stop! I must save. Lily, you MUST.)

When it was late, and I began to fear that Mum and Dad would worry. I finally spoke to him to tell him I must leave. He said, “Walk you?” in that voice that has become ever so deep and lovely, and I felt my knees go a bit wobbly. (It’s TRUE.) I said, “Sure,” or something equally brilliant, and we started off. After we had turned the corner, he took my hand, and we chatted a bit about exams and such until we were half a block away from home when he grabbed me and led me behind a retaining wall, and we started snogging.

I’m sure I don’t the words to describe this. It was like nothing I have ever felt before, and I want to do it again very soon!

Perhaps this will be quite a summer.

I should sleep now and hope for entertaining dreams.

 

6 July, 1975

Oh, journal so much to tell and so much I should never write down, but I must tell someone or I shall burst.

Severus—Sev, as he is to me now—is a fascinating creature beyond my imagination. This boy, whom I see every day at school with his long face and his long nose and his unkempt hair is quite something.

Last summer when I was organizing my sock drawer and playing with my dolls when no one was around, Sev was having a life. He is no innocent, let me tell you. He had a girlfriend—a woman really, a seventeen-year-old, who was quite worldly and introduced him to all sorts of  things. No blushing virgin, our Sev.

I made this discovery in his bed.

Now, just wait a bloody minute! Whilst I imagine, I will have some experience myself before the summer is over, I am still pathetically innocent…well, in most things.

Sev has a job at the pub most nights. That Tunie dragged me to town on his night off must be serendipity, wouldn’t you agree? He washes glasses and helps the drunks home for wages and the occasional tip. He goes in at four-thirty, which only gives us about a three-hour window between my job and his.

We have taken to spending it in his attic room on his bed. We smoke and talk and listen to music. We start on opposite sides of his rather uneven bed, but as the afternoon wanes, we draw closer and closer. We stop talking. We gaze at each other. And then we snog. Yesterday, he brushed his hand under my shirt and rested it on the side between the waistband of my shorts and my bra. He didn’t try to move it up though I would have let him.

Today, I asked him if he had ever done this with another girl. He hesitated and then told me about last summer and Joy. (That’s her name; how perfect.) He spoke low and didn’t look at me, as if he were confessing something although, my journal, I must admit that it was thrilling to hear. He didn’t share graphic details, but even so, when we arrived at the snogging part of the afternoon, I was quite taken away with those thoughts.

This time, when he slipped a hand under my shirt, I pressed my body against his, rather awkwardly as we sat side-by-side on the bed, but he received the message and moved his hand lower, almost touching my bum and pulling me closer. Going on nothing but instinct, I brazenly swung my outside leg across him and before I could stop and think, I was straddling him.

He moaned so low, it made me bump myself against him and that amazing bulge at his center that I can’t stop thinking about. He gripped me tightly at both hips, his hands under my shirt again, and crossing my arms in front on me, I removed my shirt with one swoop.

His eyes grew huge, and he said, “Lily,” not Evans, which made me smile, and he put his arms around my back where my bra hooks and brought me so close into him there was no space between us. I moaned this time because there was that aching that has been plaguing me lately, not just between my legs, where it starts, but all the way up to my belly. I ground myself against him, trying to find some relief.

“Lily, stop. EVANS, stop. You’re going to make me…I’m going to come in my pants if you don’t stop.”

That I had this kind of power made me want to grind myself harder against him, but I didn’t. I eased off so I was sitting more on his lap, still straddling. He breathed in and out and raised his hands behind me, fumbling with the bra strap. He got a look of deep concentration on his face as he pulled it in and successfully released the hooks.

As an afterthought, he looked at me and said, “Okay?” I nodded and he let the two sides go and then brought the straps down my arms.

Journal, I find my breasts to be odd looking. They grew rather significantly in the last year and although they’re still not terribly big, they are awkward and saggy, and not the least bit alluring. Sev looked at them as if they were a fine reward. He took one in each hand and buried his face in them before taking one in turn and kissing and then sucking…journal, I had NO idea. There is a direct connection between them and…other parts.

I took off his shirt as well, only fair, and then there was this appealing little trail that led straight to his belt buckle. How could I resist?

Within moments we were both naked on the bed, and I had no idea what to do next, so Sev took over. We lay facing each other and started snogging again. Without thinking about it, I draped my leg over his hip. He put his hand down and with his fingers explored and touched me everywhere I was aching. While he did that, he started rutting into my hip. I put my own hand down and gripped his length, warm and SO large—you have no idea. He moved in my hand; I really didn’t have to do anything. He touched me in the same rhythm as he was moving, and he continued faster and faster, and I felt something approaching that I had never felt before, but I knew instantly what it was and then my nerves exploded around his hand, my whole body lit up bright white, and I cried out, and then HE cried out and spilled himself over my hip and hand.

He collapsed into my mouth, and we snogged slowly as we were trying to breathe again. The record ran out, and I sat up and reached for my clothes. We both dressed again, and then he lit two cigarettes, and we smoked them until it was time for him to leave for work.

Journal, I want to spend the rest of the summer in that attic with that boy.

On a different, rather confusing note, I saw my bank statement today. I have so much money! I should transfer some to Mum and Dad because, Holy Merlin, I am rich. How have I accumulated so much through two weeks of childcare? I spent the first three days’ wages on beer! I am afraid I will be responsible for my school fees after all. There are aspects of my life that don’t always make sense. I suppose that is the nature of the magical world.

 

2004

 

School was finally dismissed. It was always a relief when they could suspend the Hogwarts game for two months. Lily still had her job at the yogurt place, and she also worked at the library as a shelving clerk three mornings a week. She was the master of Jefferson Transit.

Kendrah and Kevin had drawn a string of murder cases, unrelated, but the victims were all African-American young men in the city. They had closed each one, but there wasn’t a sense of accomplishment—just more depressing statistics and more incarcerations. Taking killers off the street wasn’t even rewarding as there were always more, and the conditions that were accelerating the killings never got better.

Marcus was gone for the summer in a rather triumphant tour of Show Boat. There were whispers it might be picked up for revival in New York. This would be the culmination of a dream for Marcus. Kendrah would be thrilled for him, but she also would be miserable without him for months and months.

Lily was keeping a journal now, and it led to more confusion and inner unrest for Kendrah. Lily was perfectly capable of holding down her jobs and surviving life under the code of secrecy. But her journal revealed her to be totally ensconced in her 1975 life. There were only hints of her reality in the pages of her journal.

Kendrah felt bad about reading it in the first place. It had started in the middle of an arithmancy notebook. Suddenly, Lily’s lines had turned into a narrative. Kendrah should have put it down immediately, but she was drawn into Lily’s world.

They had been exploring arithmancy together since the beginning of the school year. Lily had stopped writing those endless lines after her awakening, but suddenly at the beginning of her fourth year at Hogwarts, they were back. She would sit at the kitchen table for hours hunching over the notebooks again.

Kendrah had been shocked to see it. She still had Lily’s books from four years ago when the linguist at Columbia had suggested they were evidence of mental illness.

“What is that, Lily?”

“Our Arithmancy homework, of course!” What’s the matter with you was implied.

“Oh, yes. I’m so confused about it. Could you help me?” Lily was endlessly helpful. Kendrah wondered if she had been a teacher at some point or perhaps a doting mother. Those thoughts always came with a sharp pang. I will find them.

The summer before, Google had introduced the alert feature. Kendrah had immediately set alerts for myriad people: Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, Petunia Evans, Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore, and about a hundred more. Every time she opened her email at work, she had a tiny bubble of hope that this would be the day. It hadn’t been so far.

“It’s a silly assignment—quidditch odds. Vector is trying to engage the students I suppose. Rather insulting, really.”

Kendrah was not certain exactly what quidditch was besides a sport played on brooms that Lily found a colossal waste of time.

“You use the symbols for the four houses, see?” She pointed out four symbols on her page. Kendrah could pick out the lion, snake, eagle, and badger in pictograph form. “You add the numbers and symbols of the better players for each.” Lily brushed her finger along the line so Kendrah could follow. She couldn’t, of course, it looked like a series of random letters, numbers, and symbols. She nodded her head as though she could.

“And then you just let the lines play out.”

Letting the lines play out involved several more pages of letters, numbers and symbols. At the very end was a number and the snake symbol.

“So…Slytherin has the best odds of winning the cup, as you can see. Won’t Severus be pleased?” She smiled and rolled her eyes.

“The purpose is to calculate probability?”

“The probability of varied future outcomes based on known quantities. I thought Vector was fairly clear Wednesday?” Lily gave Kendrah a puzzled look.

“I’m sure she was. I must have day dreamed that one away.” Kendrah had never day dreamed a moment in her academic life. “Do you remember much from when you lived at the center?”

“M-hmm,” Lily said suddenly very absorbed in her journal. She never talked about her life before she moved in the condo.

“You used to write arithmancy lines then,” Kendrah said quietly. “May I show them to you?” Her heart was beating fast. If this really was a predictive tool, there is no telling what the lines would reveal.

“Okay,” Lily said, not looking up.

Kendrah went to her bedroom closet to retrieve a box. She brought it down and removed three notebooks from it. She carried them back to the kitchen table and opened one beside Lily, who glanced over and then took the book in front of her. She made a face.

“None of this makes sense. Are you sure I did this? I didn’t know about Arithmancy until this week.”

“Maybe it was someone else. You don’t recognize any of it?”

Lily made another face. “Not really. Some of the symbols, sure, but I don’t know the pattern of the numbers and letters. This is very complex. We just started.”

“Of course. I’ll put them up.”

Lily went back to her homework.

Arithmancy became the focus of Lily’s non-working life. The lines became more intricate as the year progressed. Kendrah was skeptical of it as a predictive tool, but she was keeping an open mind. The test came in January.

Marcus had to decide between staying in New Orleans and working on the Rep’s production of Smokey Joe’s Café, or taking a job in a touring company of Show Boat. The director of the touring show was one he loved to work with, but Kendrah was looking forward to having him home for the summer. Arithmancy to the rescue.

Lily filled up five journal pages before she presented her report.

“Marcus, you will have a fine summer here with Smokey Joes’s, but Show Boat will advance your career…and these lines,” she pointed out a piece of dense arithmancy on half a page, “indicate that it will advance your career like nothing since your first Les Mis tour.”

Kendrah grumbled, but Marcus had been leaning that way already. She prepared herself to be a theatre widow for months.

Then there was the Grand Master Cluck case.

The chicken restaurant had been robbed, and the manager murdered. There was a fuzzy video of the crime, but no good suspects, and no tips that had paid off. Kendrah and Kevin had a theory that one of the employees was responsible, if not the actual shooter, the one who had coordinated the event.

The shooter had angled his body perfectly so his face was totally hidden from the camera that was inside a ceiling panel. They had investigated several former employees and had come up with nothing, but there were two current employees that raised questions.

As an act of desperation, Kendrah and Kevin had brought the evidence box to the condo with a bakery bag and bitter coffee for Lily. Kendrah had written a dossier of every fact they knew about the case. Lily spent an entire Saturday and most of a journal writing line after line. She had a suspect by three-thirty.

Kevin and Kendrah honed in on the man. They couldn’t take Lily’s work to a judge, of course, but after a week of intense scrutiny, they got a confession. They took Lily to dinner at Coquette to thank her. Kendrah’s mind reeled with the possibilities of arithmancy as an investigative tool.

By the summer, they hadn’t landed another overly tricky case. Lily still practiced her lines, though. She considered the popularity of new yogurt flavors and flavor and topping combinations. She reorganized the library so the space was used more efficiently. (The library manager told her thanks, but no thanks.) When she wasn’t writing those lines, she was chronicling her sexual awakening with Severus Snape in his attic bedroom, or sneaking a cigarette in the back of the Sonic across the parking lot. Lily tried to play off her smelly clothes as the fault of smoking coworkers, but Kendrah was on to her.

Kendrah read the entries guiltily—Lily tended to leave them lying out when she left for work. Kendrah reacted with equal parts amazement and horror. She had been nowhere near a boy’s bed at fifteen. She hadn’t been in one until she met Marcus, two years into her career. She hadn’t kissed a boy until college.

 

12 July 1975

 

Journal, how can I be expected to complete such mundane tasks that my current life requires when so much has changed, especially how much I have changed. My mind can’t put these events into neat, ordered boxes as has been my practice my whole life.

There was not one bit of magic that we practiced in that room this afternoon, but it was the most magical experience of my life. [beside this line was a series of peace symbols, hearts, and daisies.]

It has been a week since we were first naked on his bed. I have been bolder and bolder, and even after everything, I still blush a little, journal. Do people really do these things? Do Mum and Dad, Professor McGonagall, Flitwick, the Headmaster, Professor Slughorn (Oh, surely NOT!) engage in such wanton behaviors?

If you had told me, dear journal, only months ago, that I would have someone’s manhood in my hand…in my mouth, I would have thought you quite mad, and yet I have, and today even more. Today he filled me so completely…I didn’t think it was possible, really. To look at it stretched from his body… how could it begin to?

But it did.

The act itself…if I am being perfectly candid, I didn’t find it as rapturous as when he put his mouth and tongue on me. (He did. I couldn’t believe it. I had heard some whispers, but never, NEVER did I think a boy, a man, would consider doing something so…I mean… But he did, and even though he had elicited the same response with his fingers before, it had been nothing like that tongue on the spot that I don’t have a name for. (Not true. Sev told me what it was called, but I haven’t heard of the word before, so I am going to wait to research it at the library before I commit it to journal.)

As an aside, I am at the library for hours. I think I must be losing track of time, which is disconcerting. I work in the morning, I spend the afternoons with Sev, and yet I have these hours at the library with a book cart. I know what to do with it, but it makes me wonder how many hours are in a day? I fill cups with ice cream, which they call yoghurt, I mind the Jennings girls, I spend time at the library, I lie in Sev’s bed, I sleep in my room at Mum and Dad’s and Kendrah and Marcus’s. I sit at Kendrah’s table and work on arithmancy. I wake up and am filled with profound sadness…loss, and I can’t catch a glimpse at what I am sad about, only that it is there and so real, and I know I have dreamed about it, but the details are gone when I wake up. And all of this takes place in a twenty-four-hour day. It must be some magical time element that I will learn, perhaps next year.

But I digress, my journal. All of this led to today. I knew it would be when I woke this morning. While I fixed the porridge for the girls and then cleaned out the soft-serve machine, all I could think was what would happen in the attic.

I am so lucky that Sev was with me. He thought of everything. He had condoms—I had only ever seen used ones in the fields before today. I know the contraception charms, and he does too, but he was afraid our activities would be traced. He had just made me come with his mouth, and I was in that hazy space wherein nothing or no one could bother me, and it was room for just us. He entered me very slowly. It was a bit painful, but I must admit, I was preoccupied in amazement that he could do this—that he could fit. It didn’t last long, which I think embarrassed him, but to be perfectly candid, I was ready for it to be over; not because I didn’t like it, but it felt odd, and I wasn’t sure how to react.

Severus said that it gets better with practice. It is already so lovely, but I look forward to my return tomorrow and then again and again.

I’ve brought music home from the library: Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones. I listen to it while I write and as I fall asleep. Sometimes I fall asleep in my bed at Kendrah’s, and then as soon as I close my eyes, I am in his bed, and Brown Sugar is playing or Since I’ve Been Loving You, which is our song. Severus put the needle down on it as he retrieved the box of condoms from his trunk, and it played as he took me.

Enough for now, dear journal, but I will return soon.

 

1 August 1975

 

I had my monthly this week, so instead of our typical afternoon activities, Sev and I spent most of time next to each other in bed smoking, listening to music, and chronicling the injustices of our world.

And an undeniable injustice is embodied in his pitiful house. Setting aside the sad, silent mum, I have never been in a structure quite like this one on Spinner’s End. It’s sturdy enough with its stone casings, but it feels as if we could have been transported back a hundred years with no change in form or function. Sev is clearly mortified by the lack of lavatory facilities and always insists I use the loo before I arrive, as if I would collapse and die if I had to use his outdoor privy. (While I have no desire to test this, I am certain I would not.) The kitchen is little more than an ancient cooker and cooling cupboard. A single light bulb hangs from a string in the center of the room.

Both sets of stairs are rickety, but my feet are lighter on the second one because the destination is near. At the top of the miserable structure is my favorite space in the world. He has made it thus: his poorly transfigured bed, a small rug made of rags, his set of shelves with his books, records, and record player, the little china plate he nicked from the Great Hall, and that we stub out our smokes on, the ancient, wavy window he covered with a shabby pillowcase that dances in the breeze all afternoon. That is where my best hours are. And that is where we take on the problems of our worlds.

We both agree the house system at school is bollocks. Why should a hat determine who one’s friends are? One’s destiny? Make no mistake; it does. The ambitions of students are heavily influenced by where they were sorted.

We’ve been sharing house secrets, too, and it is so delicious to hear what happens in the dungeons. As annoying as I find some of my fellow Gryffindors, the Slytherins seem down-right diabolical. Severus feels on edge all the time. No wonder he adopts such a closed-off persona at school.

He is not that, dear journal. He is lovely and warm and so, so funny. He has held me in his arms all week and never put other activities on the table. We get to snogging, though, and I become so heated that I take him in my mouth and explore him thoroughly with my hands. He often finishes on my hand or close to my mouth—he has pulled away most times although I would be fine with him finishing…coming in my mouth. (I confess: I enjoy it when it spills on me. He wipes my arm or hip or chest or lips thoroughly with his shirt, but the smell lingers until my next shower and the feelings last even longer.)

We both read the Muggle papers. Dad leaves ours on the table after breakfast, and I take it with me to the Jennings, and Sev takes one home with him each night from the pub. We talk about the strikes and rumours of strikes. About our ineffectual government—our two worlds collide here. We talk about international events. The war in Vietnam is finally ending. America’s politics make ours seem almost quaint. Surely they or the Soviets or both will end the world soon anyway.

And none of this seems insurmountable when I am lying against him in his bed. Yes, dear journal, our love will thwart nuclear holocaust. Ha! Ha! What silliness. It’s so easy to slip into that kind of magical thinking when I am with him in that room.

School is closer every day, and while it is a relief in some ways to escape the real Cokeworth misery, nothing will be the same. We’ve already discussed that we won’t be able to carry on at school. Neither of us can risk expulsion that such a rule infraction could impose. We have decided to work on legilimency this year so we can communicate with no one finding out.

But there are four weeks left, and I am done with this monthly business for the remainder, and I plan to waste not a moment.

 

2004

 

Kendrah hadn’t seen Marcus since June. She was planning a trip to Chicago in two weeks to visit him; Lily would stay with Kevin and Patty. She was perfectly capable of staying by herself, but Kendrah hated to think of her being lonely. Lily loved the Connells.

Kendrah blamed her marital absence on continuing to read the journal. She felt like a pervert, but she felt something.

August fifteenth was such a typical, miserable New Orleans summer night. It was humid and boiling, and Kendrah had given up the hair game, securing it in a bun at the back of her head with all tendrils gelled flat. She had already sweated through one outfit at Mass next to Mama for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Kendrah’s faith had been reignited after the night of the shot glass kitten and the proof that there is magic. If there were magic in that context, then perhaps… She wasn’t there yet, but she had a mustard seed’s worth.

She sweated through her sensible blouse on the walk from the parking lot to her desk. She usually hoped they would land a case because it made the time go faster, but tonight she would be perfectly happy to spend the hours at her desk, with an air-conditioning vent directly above her head working on paper-work all night.

Kevin was already there with a massive Sonic cup of sweet tea and one with extra ice for her as well.

“Kevin, I adore you.”

“Feelin’s mutual, Darlin’” he said, already engrossed in reports from last night’s shift.

Kendrah took a long pull from the tea as she started the computer. Her NOPD email account showed four new, and she clicked with an eye on the lunch basket that smelled very much like Patty’s famous spaghetti. She glanced at the screen and almost dropped her tea.

Google alert: a house purchased, 331 Greenings Court, on 30 July 2004, by Severus Snape and Hermione Granger.

“Kevin!” she gasped.

Chapter Text

Part Two

Severus and Hermione

 

Chapter One

 Severus Snape

 

 

Professor Snape had doggedly tried to avoid attending this fundraiser.

“I must account for the inventory of the Potions materials.”

“You have all summer,” the Headmistress said.

“Poppy’s stores are depleted.”

“You have all summer.”

“I must see to the house.”

“You have all summer; you can leave from the venue.”

“I am trying to cut down on my alcohol consumption.”

“Nonsense. And you don’t have to drink.”

“Red meat.”

“The salad bar is the best part. Gird yourself, Severus. You must attend.”

I don’t have to like it.

It was a ludicrous event. For the last three years, an old wizarding restaurant popular in the 1970s recreated their dining room and menu for one night to benefit the school. It had started only a few months after the last battle when the castle was still in ruins and funds were tight. He had missed the first one—he had still been convalescing—but McGonagall had insisted he attend the subsequent events.

The place was called Saladin’s and it was thoroughly doused in Middle Eastern Crusades era kitsch. The walls were painted as if patrons were sitting on the banks of the Sea of Marmara. Turkish music was piped in. The menu—far from authentic; Snape had traveled the area extensively—included kebabs and rice, sickeningly sweet sweets and a ridiculously anachronistic salad bar featuring baby prawns—PRAWNS!

The patrons sat on cushions on the floor with gauzy drapes surrounding the parties. The wait-staff wore enormous trousers gathered at the ankles with flowy blouses and giant cummerbunds like genies.

The whole scene was ridiculous and the food mediocre. Snape had no nostalgia for the place; his family couldn’t afford to eat there in the 70s, and even if they could have, surely they would have been more discerning. He would have been, anyway.

The faculty were supposed to dress in theme, but that, he flat out refused. Let Filius look like a Sultan, let Sybil look like she belonged in a harem. He was there under duress in his typical work black wool trousers, white oxford cloth button-down, and his weekend black robe.

One hour. That was the length of time he would allow himself to be press-ganged into this by Minerva McGonagall. He would not sit; he would not eat. He would drink. Surely she hadn’t bought his story about cutting back. He sat next to her at meals in the Great Hall; it had been the weakest of his excuses.

He had a glass of fire whiskey and then one of disappointingly timid red wine.

He had put in his time and was preparing to make his exit when he saw Hermione Granger in her healer’s robes come in late from the rainy night. There was a long hallway from front door to dining room in in the converted space, and Snape angled himself so he could see her without being seen.

She was wearing her full St. Mungo’s treatment kit. She had been a healer since about six months after the war ended. She had thrown herself into training, spending most of her time in the wards with the most damaged patients and specializing in trauma.

He had not run into her during his brief stay as a patient, thank Merlin. It was humiliating enough that she had sat in the shack with him holding his hand and his throat until help arrived. He had taken precautions for months as he sensed the war was reaching its inevitable conclusion. The Dark Lord had grown so attached to his snake that Snape had suspected it was his intended end. Weeks of dosing himself with anti-venom and blood coagulant had chiefly saved his life, but he supposed Granger had played her part, too. He was happy she had never coaxed him into having a conversation about any of these events.

She drew her wand and transfigured her healing garb to a “robe” that looked more like a cocktail dress, a dark-pink sheath that ended at her knees. Her sturdy shoes became matching pink heels. She shook out her hair, pinned to her head, and then took a compact out of her small, beaded bag and checked her reflection. She grimaced and pinned the top section of hair back and applied lipstick before depositing it and her wand back in the bag. She raised her shoulders with a visible breath as if she were giving herself an internal pep-talk and then proceeded down the hall.

Snape waited a second too long to move to avoid detection.

“Oh, Professor, thank Merlin. I was hoping there would be someone to talk to at this thing. Do you have a…tent yet?”

They had become kindred spirits on the war-hero cocktail and lecture circuit over the last three years. Weasley soaked up every bit of praise and every moment of attention. Potter had been famous his whole life, even if he didn’t realize it until he entered school. He’d had enough years of the treatment, though, for it to become just another part of his day. Snape and Granger didn’t enjoy it by any measure.

They were expected to be at events at least once a quarter, and he and Granger had settled into a pattern of doing the absolute minimum of hand-shaking before they retreated to the corner with a drink.

She was out-going and friendly enough, but she was no fan of the Ministry and hated to appear supportive of the current regime. He just hated people.

She had changed since her student days to the extent that he sometimes forgot that bit of their past. She was cynical about most things magic and Ministry though not bitter, and never toward anything having to do with her profession. She was witty and quick and the perfect companion at these insufferable events although he suspected she was unaware of his opinion about this.

She was standing there at the end of the hall with one hand lightly on his arm, looking at him with those lovely amber eyes hopefully. The correct answer to her question was of course, No, I was just leaving. His brain sent the message to his mouth.

“No, I just arrived. I was steeling myself.” Oh, for the love of Agatha the Aggrieved.

“Ugh, me, too. I haaaaaaaaate this one. So…icky with the Middle Eastern…appropriation.”

He snorted. “You are meeting the Weasleys in their…caravan?”

“No,” she said without explanation.

That was interesting. As far as Snape knew, She and Weasley were an item and had been since the end of the war. At those events, Weasley would work the room all evening and then come around to fetch Granger at the end of the night. They would always leave together. She referred to herself and Weasley using first person plural pronouns. They seemed a couple.

They had reached the edge of the dining room with all the gauzy tents.

Granger sighed, “Could we please find something out of the way?”

He started walking the perimeter of the room, as close to the wall as possible, He heard her heels clicking behind him.

“Abutting the wall so we don’t have to sit up?”

He had already considered that. The tents in the back were occupied, but there was a family with very young children who were gathering their possessions, preparing to leave.

“That’s perfect…we can leave their plates there and people looking for a tent will think it’s fully occupied.”

He was impressed with her scheming mind. They waited until the family had left the tent and then scooted in and settled on cushions against the wall.

Granger sighed heavily as she sat. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m coming off three straight day shifts.”

He wasn’t sure what to say about that, but he was saved by a waiter in full Arabian gear and make-up.

“Tarib!” he said in an appalling accent. Snape rolled his eyes. “Let me clear all of this…”

“I think they’re coming back,” Hermione said quickly.

“Ah,” he said. “You will need to buy raffle tickets before you visit the salad bar,” he said.

Extortion. Snape reached into his lapel for a galleon, and Granger was rooting through the beaded bag with a similar expression on her face.

They turned over their money, and the waiter handed each a line of tickets. “Drinks,” he pointed to a corner. “Salad bar,” he continued the routine. “Cake,” he sighed. “And I will bring your main in twenty minutes or so. Enjoy your salads,” he made a hasty exit.

“Brown face is a new and impressively appalling touch,” Granger said as she started hauling herself back up.

He snorted. “Must we?”

“The salad bar is by far the best part…and drinks.” She offered a hand, and he looked at it for a moment before he rose without assistance.

“I’m not that old,” he said.

“I wasn’t…” she looked at him, seemingly a bit mortified but then laughed when she realized he wasn’t really offended. “Fine. You can help me up next time.”

She led the way to the salad bar. It consisted of anemic lettuce, pink tomato wedges, baby prawns and a gelatinous cream and bleu cheese concoction to dump on top. He shuddered.

“Oh, get over it,” she handed him a plate, and filled hers. He put a little bit of lettuce and tomato, and then she put a big scoop of prawns and cream on his.

“I BEG your…”

“Trust me on this one.”

They took more than their share of the round bread at the end of the table and then carried their salad plates by the wine table and picked up glasses of the generically bland, disconcertingly light red wine and then back to the gauzy tent.

“Ugh, the logistics of this make NO sense,” Granger said as she attempted to sit on her cushion with her hands full. She finally just put her plate and glass on the floor. He followed her method.

“And the first raffle winner is…” A booming voice sounded from the front of the room.

She grabbed her line of tickets and his and squinted at the numbers. “Anything from 4126 to 4142, and we win.”

“4128!” the voice called out.

“That’s me!” she squealed and had to scramble up from the cushion yet again. “Hope it’s something good!”

The curtains prohibited him from seeing to the front of the room where there was a line of raffle prizes, most of which were bottles of fire whiskey. While she was gone, he took a tentative bite of his salad. Instead of revolting, the bleu cheese and prawn combination was rather delicious, certainly better than what he remembered of the main course last year. He had finished his salad, was wishing he had filled his plate more completely; was even contemplating licking the remaining bleu cheese on his plate, AND giving her salad the eye when she pulled the curtains open dramatically. She had a triumphant look on her face, and a bottle of much better wine and two glasses in her hands.

“Réserve Clvfis, 1991!” 

It was a shockingly high-end choice for this event, but he wasn’t complaining. “Oh, well done!” he declared.

She drew her wand showily, circled her wrist tightly around the neck of the bottle three times clockwise, one counter-clockwise and was rewarded by a deep pop. They both moaned quietly. She handed him the bottle so he could do the pouring honours.

“They tried to give me apple flavoured Old Ogdens, but I told them I was the first winner, so I got to choose my prize.”

“Good point!” he said. They touched glasses and he smelled the wine before he took a long drink. “Oh, Merlin.”

“Hermione is fine,” she laughed after she took own long drink.

“Oh, Hermione, then. Thank you.”

“Of course. I’m just glad I have someone to share it with who would appreciate it.”

He wondered again what had happened with Weasley. He hadn’t seen the whole group here tonight, just the stray one at the drink table or salad bar, but he could hear them in their large, raucous tent, and he knew that Hermione could, too.

“You liked the salad,” she said wryly, looking at his plate.

“The prawns ARE ridiculous, especially in this context.”

“Granted,” she said and took a big bite of her own salad. She rolled her eyes back in pleasure. “Plans for the summer?” she said in between bites.

“I have to restock the hospital stores. There are other projects.” He needed to do something about his hovel of a house. He had added a lav upstairs and down the first summer it was in his possession, but he had done little else to the wreck over the years.

“Other mysterious projects?”

“My house needs attention.”

“You’re in Salford?”

“Cokeworth.”

“Oooooh, prices on the rise there. Will you sell?”

He snorted. “What on earth do you know about…”

“I like to read the real estate pages. I love it when someone sells an old house and makes a bundle. That’s a hot area.”

“I don’t think any property within a hearty stone’s throw of my house could ever be described as ‘hot.’ My house is on Spinner’s End, which is the least desirable address on the island, I would guess. AND, even if it were a commodity, I wouldn’t sell it to the soulless few that would want to turn it into a gym or a coffee chain. I plan to work on the structural…challenges.”

“You will stay there…for the whole summer?”

“Where else would I go?”

“Anywhere.”

“I usually travel in late July,” he said feeling pleasantly loose for the first time in months. His glass was waning, and she poured some more wine for them both, leaving the bottle by him as an unspoken invitation to drink as much as he liked.

The waiter interrupted them with heaping plates of rather grey looking kebabs on a bed of an unidentified grain product that looked less edible than last year’s rice.

Hermione thanked him and then shuddered when he left. “That dark make-up is really…offensive. I wonder if we should put a bug in Professor…Headmistress McGonagall’s ear. And would it kill them to include a veg or two on this?”

“And the next winner is…4139!” The announcer had called about six others while they had chatted.

“That’s you! Pick something good!” she encouraged him.

He crawled to his feet, wary that they were now asleep and finding that they were tingly but still okay. He walked to the front. There were two choices left: Ogden’s Fire Ball, which was a revolting cinnamon concoction, and a metal lamp base looking structure with tubes coming out of the top.

“I’ll take the hookah,” he said.

“Good choice, professor,” the caller said and handed him the contraption and two cans of tobacco. He returned to the tent and repeated her routine with the reveal.

“YES!” she cried. “Do you know how it works?” She took their untouched dinner plates and stacked them in the corner.

“Don’t think it’s terribly complicated.” He hoped not, anyway. He found the slot in the base for the tobacco. He lit the coals with his wand. “Water?”

Hermione handed him a pitcher the departing family had left. He poured it slowly into the bowl and the hookah began to smoke. He cast a cleaning spell on the mouth pieces, just to be safe, and handed her one. She inhaled tentatively and then blew the smoke out and smiled.

“I feel like the Chesh…” she shook her head dismissively.

“Cheshire Cat.”

She smiled appropriately wide. “Yes. You know the reference.”

“Of course.”

“That’s so lovely, I can’t even tell you.” She sipped her wine and took another drag from the hookah, and he did, too. They ate some of the bread off the salad plates in lieu of the revolting dinner. It was terribly pleasant.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if a coffee chain wanted your house, would it? Do you feel protective of it?”

He scoffed. “No. It’s a hovel, and if someone wanted to tear it down, the world would be better. But as it is my residence for about a quarter of every year…”

“Why is it? Your residence. You could live wherever you wanted, right?”

She was leaned against the back wall, alternating sipping from her wine glass, nibbling on the bread, and pulling smoke from her mouth piece. He kept looking at her pretty little mouth. He would finally have a decent wank tonight when he returned home. He sighed in anticipation.

“The whole area has a larger meaning than my dodgy house. The town is this country’s shame whether they cover it coffee bars and discount shops or not. To sell it to that fate would be to erase its history.” And he would no longer own his only relic of the time in his life when for a few weeks, he was happy.

His miserable parents were long since gone, but he had never moved into their larger bedroom. He looked forward all school year to returning to Spinner’s End and sleeping in that attic room in the same bed he had shared with her.

“Tell me about it,” Hermione said, and he had to keep himself from sputtering. She can’t read your thoughts.

“You couldn’t imagine.”

“Try.”

He sighed, pushing aside his brief reverie and returning to the subject at hand. “We were thrown away the first moment we were no longer needed and immediately forgotten by the government and by society. By everyone. Hopeless. Useless. Worthless.”

“That’s truly shameful, and I agree with you completely, but today…Prime Minister Blair is…”

“Blair is no different and no better…”

“That is simply not true,” she said flatly, but she was grinning. She is enjoying this.

“Kowtowing to the queen and the palace corgis,” he said with disgust.

“He is not like that! He puts up a fight!”

“Bollocks he does. He probably walks them for her.”

“He does not!” She was trying valiantly to keep an air of indignation and not laugh. She reached across him for the wine bottle, and he caught her arm and pulled it toward him. The rest of her followed, and the next moment she was sitting on his lap.

She brushed a lock of hair that had fallen forward on his face, and he kissed her mouth, fully expecting her to recoil but unable to stop himself.

She didn’t recoil. She ran her fingers lightly all over his face and kissed him back, and then she stopped and looked at the flap of the tent. “We should take this elsewhere,” she breathed quietly against his mouth.

“You’re not otherwise engaged?” he asked quietly.

“Would I be sitting on you and snogging you if I were?” She broke away from his mouth—he had made a serious tactical error here. She sounded slightly insulted.

“Of course not, sorry. I just thought you and Weasley…”

“We were; we have been. We’re not anymore.”

He drew her back to him and resumed where they had left off, and she joined him again.

“Where should we go?” he asked with his forehead against hers.

“We could go to mine. I’m not connected to floo, so we would have to…”

He stood and offered her a hand, which she took without hesitation, He snagged the hookah and put it under his arm so he could grab her wine bottle as well; they had only drunk about half of it. “Should we sneak out the back?” he asked.

“I don’t care who sees us, do you?”

“Not a bit.”

She hooked her hand under his arm, and they walked quickly to the exit. As soon as they had cleared the building, she gathered him up as much as she could with their size difference and side-apparated them away.

They landed in an alley in what he guessed was North London, near the hospital, but on the Muggle side. She took his free hand and led him to the street.

“It’s just down the street from here.”

It was a fashionable area with older homes. “You own one of these?”

“No,” she laughed. “I rent an upstairs studio in one.”

She led him around the side of one of the houses, through a wooden gate and to the back of the house where there was a concrete block of stairs to the top of the house.

“Such an eyesore, but convenient to have my own entrance,” she said and started climbing the stairs. At the top, she glanced around and then took out her wand and muttered at the door. It fell open with a click, and her enormous, orange cat—or whatever it was—stuck its head out.

“Hello, Crooks, we have company,” she said as she guided the beast back into the door with her foot and then beckoned Snape to follow her in. The cat trotted into the kitchen area with a haughty air.

“Let me feed him really quickly, and then he’ll leave us alone.” She placed her bag on the table and followed her beast.

He clicked on a lamp and glanced around the space. Her bed, a four-poster with soft, inviting linens filled a good portion of it. The walls were lined with bookshelves and filled to the top. She had a few framed photographs in front of the books; one was of herself as a young teenager with two adults that must be her parents. She looked like both. There was one of Hermione and Luna Lovegood. They were wearing formal robes and had flowers in their hair. It looked like a shot from Potter’s wedding, which had been covered extensively in the Prophet.

There was one of her with Frank, Alice, and Neville Longbottom. Hermione had pioneered a treatment for magical folk with brain injuries. She had discovered that it wasn’t the curses that had kept Frank and Alice in the altered state, but that the curses had overloaded their magical cores. Once the cores were reset, the witch or wizard recovered. The Longbottoms had left the hospital healed two years ago.

There was also a picture of Hermione and Sirius Black, whom she had similarly healed from the coma he had been in since the night of the battle at the Ministry. The photo had been taken recently, and the two of them looked cozy with the sides of their heads pressed together, and although it didn’t show in the picture, they must have had their arms around each other. Snape suddenly felt very foolish and turned around to pick up his hookah from the table and head home.

She was right there will a glass of wine for him in a small jam jar. She clinked her glass with his and then kissed him lightly on the mouth and smiled.

“It’s tiny, but it’s home.”

“Do you have photos of all your patients?” he tried to keep the venom level low.

“Just the ones who are friends?” she said with an up-tick and a confused tone. Her eyes swept around the room and lit on the picture of herself and Black. She started to giggle. “My lovah, Sirrrrrius Blaaaaaack,” she said in an affected voice as if she were reading an epic ballad. “You silly man,” she said and put her arms around his neck and kissed him with a huge smile on her face. He would have been offended and left except her voice was filled with affection, and she was so lovely kissing him. So instead, he reached around and started to unzip her dress.

She growled and downed her small glass of wine and smacked it down on the lamp table. He did the same and then started to ease the straps of her sleeveless dress down her arms. It fell to the floor to reveal a flesh coloured bra and white cotton knickers.

She stepped out of the dress and her shoes and then crossed her arms in front of herself in a bit of a panic. “I transfigured the dress from my work clothes right before I entered the party.”

He didn’t reveal that he had watched her.

“I didn’t transfigure these,” she said, and he realized she was talking about her underwear, as if he would be put-off by the sexiest vision he’d had in…years.

He swept her up in his arms and smothered her mouth to stop her from continuing the explanation. He placed his hands under her arse and drew her up so she wrapped her legs around his waist. He kept one hand supporting her and the other, he caressed her curls. He walked them to her bed and sank down as she started removing layers of his clothes. His robe hit the floor, and she stated furiously on the buttons of his shirt. He whispered an incantation, and they fell open. She whisked it away from his body, and left him with just a white vest tucked in to his trousers.

Then she was unbuckling him, and he was divesting her of her knickers, and they were kissing in the interim; all of it miraculously unselfconsciously, which was so far from his typical experience. He unhooked her bra and then stood up so his trousers fell, and she put her hand into his pants as he shucked the bra to the floor.

“Damn, Severus!” she exclaimed as she gripped his cock, which had been on alert since about fifteen minutes before he kissed her in the tent and was now straining almost painfully. “Aren’t I the lucky one?” she said as she pushed his boxers down and then straddled him on the bed. “Is this alright?” she said, as she rose slightly so her center was pressed against his cock.

“Just…wait a moment.” He caught his breath and eased her back on his lap where he could put his hand on her. She was hot and already slick. That was a good sign. “Contraception?” he said.

“Potion,” she gasped as he moved his fingers around, feeling for her clitoris. He found it, and she pitched her head back.

“Do you brew it yourself?”

“St. Mungo’s. Used it for years without issue. Severus, fuck!” she moaned as he moved his finger from the opening of her cunt, and then brought it forward again. He didn’t trust potions brewed by others, but he trusted her. He added brewing some for her to his mental to-do list before she rose again and sank down on his cock.

“Merlin, Granger…Hermione,” he moaned, as his world turned to hot liquid. He gripped her arse and started guiding her up and down on him. Her tits were small and perfect little peaches in his face, and he took one of them in his mouth, immediately causing its nipple to harden against his tongue.

This was lovely, and he could have done it for hours because she wasn’t hitting places that would make him lose control. They stayed like that for a while, kissing and exploring with their hands until he couldn’t stand it and quickly flipped her to her back and fucked her hard with five quick thrusts before he realized his mistake.

He pulled out before he exploded and ruined the whole thing. He hadn’t been with a woman for almost a year, and he hadn’t even properly wanked in at least a week. He silently cursed every student and the whole Hogwarts faculty for being so demanding on his time and patience at the end of the school year. Then he sent a silent thank you to Minerva for insisting he attend the event before he sunk down between her knees and spread her thighs with his hand.

He kissed down her belly, through her pretty, trimmed pubic hair and arrived at his destination by laying his tongue so it covered her to the top.

“Yes, Severus,” she said with a tone of absolute delight. “Yes, please!”

Not a problem. He explored her with his mouth and fingers She tasted complex and delicious, very much like the wine they had drunk. She was very responsive and seemed to quite enjoy it when he added an extra finger inside her but kept his tongue stationed above. Her moans became louder and louder as he found the right places inside and out.

“I’m going to come, Severus,” she said with that delightful laugh that had quickly become his favorite sound. “Oh! My! God!” she cried out as her muscles went slack around him. Her orgasm silenced her for a few seconds, and then she pulled him up.

“That was amazing, thank you,” she said, and he responded by kissing her and getting ready to finish himself, which he knew was imminent. He positioned himself and then thrust once, twice, three times, and that was all he had left as he plunged as deeply into her as he could and came long and hard with a week’s worth of pent up tension. He groaned throughout and then collapsed beside her on the bed.

She immediately covered him comfortingly with her body. He drew his want to clean her up because he was embarrassed at the volume he had left in her.

“You don’t need to do that,” she said. “I like it.” She reached for her knickers and slid them back on and settled in bed against him.

He put his wand away and wrapped his arms around her more tightly. She seemed completely relaxed, and it was difficult for him not to lose himself here, too. Her breathing became very even, and he felt her drift off on his chest. As gently as he could, he repositioned them so that she was on her side, and he was behind her. He started reaching for his clothes on his side of the bed.

This was his typical routine. In the summer, he would hit the pubs, trying to find a Muggle woman who wanted a summer fling with no commitment. Some years he was luckier than others, but if he found one that wanted more, he moved on immediately.

“Oh, stay,” she said sleepily and then turned around to face him. The bed clothes were gathered at her waist, and she looked gorgeous in the low light with her curls draped over her breasts. “There is a fantastic breakfast place down the street, and I was looking forward to not having to go alone in the morning.”

This was not to be the typical summer fling.

He dropped his boxers again and settled back into the bed. She reached for his right arm and pulled it around her settling it atop her breasts. She snuggled back against him. “Thank you,” she whispered, and he could feel her drifting off again.

This he hadn’t done in so many years, and never for a whole night. Two or three times he and Lily had drifted off in the late afternoon, and then they would wake with a start and throw on clothes so she wouldn’t be late for dinner at her house and he for his shift at the pub.

He settled in to find sleep. For his whole adult life he had fallen asleep the same way: imagining scenarios in which Lily and he had found a life together.

During that Dumbledore encounter when the old man had realized the depths of Snape’s feelings for Lily Evans, he had said something that had altered the scenarios and had given Snape the most agonizing atom of hope.

“Severus, after all this time?”

“Always.”

Dumbledore had looked at him as if he had never really known Snape, and Snape had looked back at him defiantly.

“Perhaps, Severus…”

“Perhaps what, Dumbledore?” He could suddenly feel his blood coursing through his veins though he didn’t know why.

The old wizard just shook his head dismissively, but Snape had never been able to let it go. Perhaps what?

Scenarios he had never allowed himself began to form. What if she had survived? It was both ridiculous and impossible, but that didn’t stop him. What if she was in Australia or Russia or South Africa or Brazil? What if something had happened. He now had at least ten possible scenes, fleshed out in his mind that would end in not only their reunion but her realization that she had always loved him and still did.

He thought about this every night as he tried to sleep, both in his quarters in the dungeon and his attic bedroom on Spinner’s End.

That night, though, he drifted off with thoughts only of the witch in his arms.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

Hermione Granger

 

Hermione awoke to light streaming in from her large window and kisses against her neck.

“Mmmmmmm,” she smiled and stretched herself back against him. “Don’t stop.”

“Wasn’t planning to,” he murmured, and his voice again went right to her core and she felt herself pool hot liquid.

Oh, yes. She turned in the bed and pressed herself against him, his cock already hard on her lower belly. She took it in her hand for a moment before he rolled on top of her and reached down to pull off her knickers. She lifted her hips to help his effort. He dropped her underwear to the floor and felt her before he slid back in.

“Good morning,” she said with the smile she’d had since she had spotted him last night. She had hoped to see him, but she’d had a feeling that he would do anything to get out of that horror show.

This had all worked out so perfectly, she was half convinced she would wake from a dream alone in her bed. It felt real, though, as kissed her and stroked her hair all the while moving in her languidly as fit Sunday morning. She sighed happily and started running her hands down his back to his lovely, firm arse and back up. She could feel his scars, badges of honour that they were. She felt herself falling quickly into a state that she suspected was inappropriately intimate for their hours long attachment.

She reached around his leg to cup his bollocks, which he responded to with a low moan and then slipped out of her and made his way down her body with his mouth.

She relaxed her head on the pillow and spread her legs for him as he went back to work. She had somehow landed a man who was a pussy eating enthusiast. It’s not that she had never experienced cunnilingus, but she had rarely done so without a clear air of ambivalence by the giver. She again wondered if she were dreaming. Please let me never wake up. His tongue remembered exactly the spot, and in moments she was trying to control herself from coming immediately. It felt too good, and she wanted to enjoy it for a few more moments.

He wound his fingers inside her, though, and that was it. She tried to relax completely and to feel every nerve. It was even better than last night.

“Oh, you darling man!” she laughed, and he started kissing his way back up her body. “I’m not sure what I did to deserve…” he had reached her mouth and covered it with his. She tasted her own richness, and she let her tongue roam all around his mouth.

“Hush, woman,” he said and then entered her again, filling her completely. Last night, she had been stunned and just let him achieve his own orgasm. This morning, she realized she was good for another and put her hand down.

He raised his upper body and placed one of her legs on his shoulder. “Show me,” he said, and that voice was almost enough by itself. She rubbed circles on and around her clitoris the way she did when she was alone, and he placed his hand on top of hers, learning her routine.

“Yes,” she moaned. “Fuck me hard!”

“Are you close?” he gasped.”

“Yes!”

He drove in about four times before she came on his hand and cock. She felt him join her, and he moaned deep and low and then rolled off her and covered his face with his arm as he had done last night. She followed him again, wrapping herself around him, waiting for a sign he didn’t like it, but he wrapped his arm around her again. They were silent except for the sound of her kissing his chest gently as she continued to come down.

“Time?” she yawned.

He stretched to the side and his wand. “8:45.”

“That’s nice.” She snuggled back in.

“What are your plans for the day? Beyond breakfast.”

She wondered if he was trying to make an escape again, but she tried to keep that out of her voice. “Nothing, really. I start my night shift schedule at 6:00. You?”

“Home. I will be back at school in the morning.”

“Stores?” She yawned again.

“I would like to finish this week and leave Scotland until late August if possible.”

She nodded. His stomach growled. “Shower and then breakfast? I don’t think either of us ate much last night.”

He sat up in bed and reached for his clothes and wand, and she heard him cast a cleansing charm. She rose and stretched and then walked to her small linen closet in the corner of the room to find them both towels.

“I need the loo first,” he said, and she opened the bathroom door for him. She walked into the kitchen with the towel wrapped around her to feed Crooks, who looked at her with mild disgust.

“Hey, boy,” she said, ignoring his disdain. She opened a can of food, quickly cleaned his dry food bowl and water bowl, and left Crooks as happy as he was capable of being.

Severus had emerged from the bathroom and had wrapped a towel around his waist so she could use the facilities before their shower. She did so quickly, and then began to regulate the water before she opened the door.

She hadn’t planned on washing her hair, but it reeked of kebab and hookah, so she started on that while he used the soap, so the conditioner would have time to set. She had her eyes closed against the suds running into them which saved her the embarrassment of where to look. She wanted to inspect him thoroughly—she was already quite enamoured with the parts she had seen. She worked the shampoo into her thick hair and then rinsed it out under the spray and moved so he wouldn’t be cold. At least her time with Ron had left her some experience in shared shower etiquette.

She worked the conditioner into her hair standing at the back of the large tub that also served as the shower. He had his back to her, and she could see the scars she had felt before. They were faded, but still obvious. Her own scars were on the front of her body—she hardly ever thought of them anymore, but being with a new person made her slightly self-conscious. They hadn’t established what kind of shower it was to be, but she couldn’t resist touching his shoulders and kissing him between his shoulder blades.

He turned and handed her the soap. He picked up the shampoo bottle. “May I?”

“Of course.” She washed herself with the soap and watched him work the shampoo into his hair and then stand under the spray to rinse it. She had noticed immediately after the war that he had become fastidious about his appearance, which had often been neglected during her student days. His hair was slightly shorter although still hit at his shoulders, but it was no longer greasy and unkempt.

She knew through deduction that he was forty-one. He was thin and fit compared to the average man his age, in her experience as a healer. He had scant body hair, save a dark thatch of pubic hair, and a line that rose to his belly. His cock was large using any measure, and she couldn’t resist taking it into her hand and cupping his bollocks with the other as the water streamed down her body and the suds pooled on the floor of the tub. He finished rinsing himself, and then in one continuous motion, removed her hands, walked her to the back wall. He placed her hands behind her, braced against the wall, and lowered himself. He propped one of her legs on the ledge of the tub before settling his mouth back on her cunt.

She leaned back against the wall and watched his head move up and down. He spread her out with his fingers and let his tongue explore her everywhere. She was on the edge very fast, and she wanted to come as quickly as possible in deference to his knees although he seemed content. She put one hand down to guide him slightly to the left, and then came as soon as he moved his tongue there.

“Oh, fuck, Severus!” she cried out, and put her hands gently on the side of his face to bring him back up and kissed him hungrily. “My turn,” she said, preparing to kneel, but he stopped her.

“Later,” he whispered and guided her head under the spray to wash out the conditioner. “If I don’t get that breakfast you promised soon, I will likely pass out.”

She laughed and finished her hair quickly. He stepped out and wrapped the towel around his waist again. She turned off the water and did a quick dry of her hair. She would have to wear it up as she didn’t want to have to take the time to go through the drying, straightening, and styling routine, but it was a small sacrifice. She wound it in a knot at the back of her head and left the bathroom to dress.

He was already in his trousers and white shirt. She found some clean underwear and a black and white striped cotton sheath dress that she pulled on. She added an unbuttoned white shirt and red canvas shoes with thick soles.

“Ready?” she said cheerily.

It was a beautiful July day, sunny and almost warm. She took his hand as they walked silently. They reached the little café at the end of two blocks. It was crowded with a short wait, but the hostess served them coffee immediately.

“Not tea?” she said, blowing on the steaming cup.

“I wouldn’t turn it down, but I drink it all school year. I like coffee in the summer, You?”

“I started drinking it for night-shifts and realized I preferred it.”

They both took it black. Before the end of their first cups, a waitress was shuffling them to a table in the corner.

“Know what you want?”

“Full-English, bangers,” he said.

She ordered American style pancakes and rashers; Sunday was the day she ate what she wanted.

The waitress refilled their coffee cups and hurried off.

They stared at each other. Hermione wondered who would start. She had so many questions. She had one ready to go when he spoke up.

“You have no photos of the Weasleys in your flat.”

“I have some, but they’re put away for now. I am persona non grata at the moment. Harry and I are fine. Charlie and George probably don’t care, but none of the rest of them are currently really speaking to me.

“Because?”

“I suppose I ruined the plan to marry Ronald and have children at school at the same time as the potential cousins.”

“Were you planning to marry?”

“Not formally.”

It had certainly been understood though. She had broken up with Ron in May, right after Remembrance Day. She had realized after she had spent the evening with Snape at the Ministry bar while Ron worked the entire Grand Foyer that it was a bad sign she hadn’t enjoyed an evening as much since the last time she was with Snape at one of these things.

She had begun to feel as if this were the ultimate trade off: if she wanted to be a part of the family—and realistically it was currently her only option for one—she was only accepted under specific conditions. Her parents were oblivious and would remain so at least in the immediate future. She could agree to the plan, or she could be totally alone.

She would be permitted to work, but she must value her role as wife and mother above it. She must be willing to start a family by her mid-twenties. She would be acknowledged as smart and ambitious, but those weren’t qualities that were highly valued for women. In return, she would have love and security. She would be part of an established tribe who would always look after her.

If she had been completely besotted with Ron, she suspected she should have accepted the conditions. But she looked forward every quarter to drinking good wine in a corner with Professor Snape while they bantered about everything in and out of the room. He had brushed her arm while asking if she wanted another drink while he fetched his own, and she had felt an electric current shoot through her. She had broken up with Ron by the end of the week.

“I work three days on, three nights on, and then three days off. I have a full week off every three months. I was starting to dread my time off because I would have to spend time with my boyfriend. That…doesn’t bode well.” That was true as well, though certainly not the immediate catalyst for the break up. She was quite sure that her breakfast companion was not ready to hear that she had altered the course of her life because he had touched her arm.

“Hmmmm,” he said without offering an opinion.

“What about you?” she asked as an opening question.

“I don’t have a boyfriend.”

She smirked at him, and just then, the waitress was there with the food. They dove in silently for a few moments.

“Maybe not a boyfriend, but you are clearly no novice.” She thought back to his face pressed between her legs and was immediately aroused again.

“Did you think I would be?” he said, sounding slightly offended.

“I had no idea. I suspected not,” She answered honestly. “So, no girlfriend, either?”

“No.”

“But someone…someones?”

“Not in a while.”

“Have you ever been in love?”

He looked up from his food. He brought the coffee cup to his lips and took a sip before replacing it carefully. “Have you?” he asked, and she thought about pressing him but was certain it would be a waste of time.

“I don’t think so. I loved Ron, but…not enough.”

“Is he the only?”

“He’s the only other man I’ve ever been with. Have you been with anyone long-term?”

“No.”

“Short term?”

He shrugged noncommittally.

“Anyone I know?”

“No.”

“You are very good, Severus. I want to finish my pancakes and rip your clothes off again,” she laughed at her own silliness. He tended to cause her say more than was prudent while revealing little himself. It was both frustrating and exciting.

“That sounds pleasant enough,” he said neutrally as he dipped his toast into his egg and scraped his plate with it.

“Pleasant, yes. So veddy pleasant,” she said in her queenie voice, which made him grin.

“You have a lovely smile, Severus.”

“Bollocks. My teeth are awful.”

“I’m not an idol flatterer.” She had eaten all her breakfast that she could. After a final scrape, his plate was empty. “Trade?”

“Are you sure?”

She switched their plates, and he quickly finished hers as well. The waitress laid their ticket on the table, and he reached for it against her protest. He pulled some quid from his pocket, and she wondered if he carried it regularly or if he had transfigured it silently.

They started the walk home and passed a small some of everything shop.

“Can we duck in here?” he asked.

“Sure.”

She suspected he was going to pick up condoms, as he seemed dubious about her hospital brewed potion, but he went straight for the cigarette counter and bought a red box from America. He pocketed them and then took her hand as they exited the shop.

“You may not smoke those in my flat,” she said.

“What? Are you serious?”

“Completely. I will not have my books, clothes, and hair smell like a pub, thank you very much.”

“I’m to be relegated to the steps?”

“Mid-way down at least. Don’t try me, Severus. I will chuck you straight out.”

“Yes, yes,” he sighed and followed her up the steps.

“Aren’t you going to smoke?”

“Not yet,” he said, and enveloped her from behind as she opened the door with her wand. Crooks was waiting once again.

“Hello, boy. You are not going to want to follow us.” The creature’s tail stood on end as he walked back into the kitchen.

She walked them to the bed and then flipped them around so she could push him down lightly onto the mattress. She straddled his body, and started slowly unbuttoning his shirt, kissing his chest and nipples as she went. She removed the shirt and then started on his belt and the fastenings of his trousers. His cock was already mostly hard, and she put down his bottom layers before she took it in her mouth, so she could feel him grow even harder. Ron had tended to give a running commentary during moments like these and offer enthusiastic suggestions. She appreciated the quiet, but she missed the feedback. She looked up at him after she took his bollocks into her hand and started massaging them. His head was pitched back. She took his whole length into her mouth and let her throat relax so she could accommodate him. He gave a loud groan.

“Hermione,” he gasped. “Come up here; I want to see you.” She released him and crawled up. He reached under her skirt, so she let the over-shirt fall off and then pulled her dress over her head. They took a moment to remove their shoes and her knickers, and then he brought her back on top of him, so she was straddling him again, and she lowered herself onto his cock.

“Yes,” he hissed. “Ride me.”

She did, starting slowly. He brought her down close to him and unhooked her bra and took it off and then kept one hand on her hips and another on one breast and then the other. They looked at each other in the eyes throughout. She felt so at home, as if she had reached the end of a journey and struggle, and that everything was now going to be fine.

Hermione had worked nonstop since the end of the war. She had immediately volunteered at St. Mungo’s with all the injured, and had been accepted by September into the healer training program. She had been allowed to skip her NEWT year, which made her try even harder to prove she belonged there. She had earned full healer credentials by October 1998.

She had worked fifteen hour days, learning all aspects of the profession, and had been drawn to the serious cases on the ward with the Longbottoms, Professor Lockhart, and Sirius Black. She had requested to be assigned that ward as soon as her training was complete, and began spending every moment she could researching possible treatments for them. Through study and observation, she began to suspect that it wasn’t the initial event that had caused them to reach the altered state, but something interfering with their magical cores. By the summer of 1999, she began experimental treatment on Professor Lockhart, who was the least damaged. By mid-July, she had restored him to his former state.

It took a few weeks, but he regained the memories of not just his life before that day in the Chamber of Secrets, but also his time in the hospital. He could recall details that only he could and was his old, obnoxious self by the time he left at the end of July.

By the end of August, she had used the treatments on all the patients in the ward. Frank and Alice went home to Neville and Augusta, and Sirius moved back in to Grimmauld Place with Harry and Ron.

Ginny had moved in after she finished school; the wedding was that summer. People moved in and out of the Black house all the time. Luna stayed there when she was in town, Seamus and Dean were there off and on. Neville stayed frequently as the joy of having three concerned and extremely involved parents began to wear thin.

Hermione became the chief healer for the most difficult cases. She studied Muggle medical text books and read every magical case-study and historical literature she could find. Healing was her life. She stayed at Grimmauld Place for eighteen months, but she couldn’t stand the constant activity. She found the attic studio and moved just before Christmas 1999. Ron though she was being ridiculous and a killjoy, but she and Crooks were greatly relieved.

Ron became an Auror and played semi-professional quidditch and put up with her career, assuming that in a few years she would take a sabbatical and start a family with him. Harry and Ginny were certainly headed down that path.

Hermione was challenged at work and looked forward to swiping her wand at the entrance panel every day. It was enough, she had decided. She could be happy doing this her whole life. She realized she was marking her ridiculous war hero commitments down on her date book, not because she had any love for the Ministry and the responsibilities her status brought, but that her friend Professor Snape made her laugh more in two hours than she did in the interim months.

So here he was in her bed this July Sunday, his face portraying deep, satisfying pleasure as she rose and fell with his hands on her hips and breasts. She realized that this is what she wanted for good. That he would make her happy in and out of her bed. That this relationship of fourteen hours was what she had wanted since she had any understanding of such things.

She lowered her body so it was pressed against his below and wrapped her arms around him and kissed him tenderly on the side of his face. “Please, Severus, please,” she whispered in his ear.

“Anything,” he said back.

Love me. It rang freely in her head and she practically had to seal her mouth shut to prevent it from escaping.

“This! All of this!” She gasped.

He raised his head to look at her, and she silently pleaded with him to feel the same way. He put his arms around her middle back and rolled them forcefully so he was on top, and then dove in to kiss her mouth and then the side of her face and neck. He gripped her hand and made love to her, which was different than anything she had experienced before.

He murmured her name again and again as they moved. Hermione, Hermione, Hermione, and as they both reached the top of the climb, he put his hand down and sent her over, following right with her. She had tears that had been welling up and they spilled over as he collapsed on top of her instead of sliding immediately off. He continued to kiss her and whisper her name in her ear before he finally disentangled, rolled over, and sat up in bed.

“You’re sure I can’t smoke in here?” he said, which made her laugh, relieved that he had not sneaked into her head.

“Absolutely not! To the stairs with you, and you had better dress first, as the neighbors are likely working in the garden.”

He grumbled loudly as he dressed, but his face betrayed him as more relaxed and content than she had ever seen him. She put her underwear and dress back on and switched on the coffee pot while he visited the loo.

She followed him out the door with their coffee mugs, and he settled on a step half-way down the staircase before he beat the box of cigarettes against the heal of his hand. Crooks had come out with them, and he was walking up and down the stairs rubbing him massive tail against them each time he passed.  Severus removed the plastic from the box before he took out a cigarette, checked for on-lookers, and lit it in his mouth with his wand. He inhaled deeply and offered it to her.

“No thanks.”

He drank from the mug. “Good coffee.”

“Thanks. The secret is measuring.”

“For many things.”

They sat quietly with their sides pressed against each other, knees up with their feet resting on the next step. He finished his smoke and crushed it, placing the butt beside him.

“Three night shifts?”

“Yes.”

“Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night,” he recited.

“Yes.”

“Will you sleep all day Wednesday?”

“I try not to. It’s easier to get back on day schedule if I don’t.”

“You go back to days..?”

“Sunday.”

“I’ll be back Wednesday,” he said.

“Yes?”

“Yes. Every dwelling needs a convenient and comfortable outdoor space. We’ll expand the landing…” he indicated the top of the cement staircase, “add a table and chairs, three or four strings of lights. Some plants. Maybe a chaise lounge. It would be nice to finish out here occasionally, so I could smoke without having to dress.”

“You are going to be naked on my new porch?”

“What better use for concealment charms? I assume your landlord wouldn’t approve of any of it.”

“No. Are you moving in?”

“No, woman. I have a house. I’ll be here on days off.”

“I have a week off in nine days.”

“I leave for Spain on the sixteenth.”

“That sounds like heaven.”

“You could join me.” He didn’t look at her as he spoke. He was smoking and staring into the next yard. She pressed against his side.

“Yes, I think I would like to.” She took his mug in for a refill, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw him run his hand down Crooks from head to tail as the creature descended the stairs again.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

Severus and Hermione I

 

Severus

 

They returned from Galicia and settled into a routine. At first, they stayed apart while Hermione was working. Then Severus started to stay at her flat after day shifts, leaving for home when she left for work at five-thirty in the morning. By mid-August, Severus was only sleeping at his house during the three night-shift days.

He had completed the porch project during the days off at the very beginning, and they spent most of their time in the little concealed space. She had appalling taste in music—a sacrilege in his opinion—so he was slowly introducing her to the canon, starting slowly with accessible choices before he moved on to the more complex.

She had good food instincts though not much practical experience as a cook, so they were working through that, too, preparing meals together and learning each other’s tastes.

They had rented a tiny cottage in Spain. They had walked everywhere and had shopped for fresh ingredients every day to prepare in the little outdoors kitchen which featured an open-fire cooker. They adapted to the Spanish schedule easily, spending all afternoon in bed, reading and not reading, and then walking to town in the evenings to see the people and sites.

The bed in the cottage was small, not quite standard-sized. They had each brought a library with them, but she kept nicking from his stack.

“Oooooooh, I’ve wanted to read this.” She pulled an old treatise on Goblin Rebellion on 1247. “It’s out of print and un-lendable, and I haven’t had the time to sit at the library.”

“Be careful with it,” he admonished her halfheartedly.

“Of course!” She pecked his mouth with hers and settled in to the bottom corner of the bed, against the wall. He took the top with the headboard for back support, and they read for hours. Every twenty pages or so, she would stop to express her thoughts on whatever she was reading. She tended to chatter more than he ever thought would be agreeable to him in a companion, but he shocked himself by finding it rather comforting.

The first night they had met, he had been three drinks in before she had arrived at the event, and it had loosened his tongue beyond what he thought was appropriate behaviour. Somehow she had not found it off-putting, nor did she seem to mind his more reserved true self. So she would read and chat, and he would read and listen, and perhaps offer a syllable or two in response or perhaps he would tune her out and continue reading his own book. She would figure this out eventually, and she would laugh and settle back into her own reading.

After a while, she would start caressing his foot, tucked in at her hip or resting at her upper arm. She would rub slow circles on his ankle or calf, working her hand gradually to his knee and then beyond. Or perhaps he would be more direct and take the book from her hands before he settled his face between her legs.

It had been the best seven consecutive days in his life—at least in the last twenty-five years. He was fearful that just like that summer, this one would end and never be repeated.

He thought of his summer with Lily more than ever as he worked on the house in Cokeworth. Spinner’s End had been a blight twenty years before, but it was emerging from the ashes. It was a narrow, brick-paved lane, with hovels piled against each other. The Snape residence had been the very worst on the block, shabbier and darker. The neighbors used to sneer over the walls that separated the gardens. Young Severus had been baffled by this. They had outdoor privies, too, and often drunken patriarchs, as well. The downstairs held a tiny, dark sitting room, and a slightly larger kitchen with the first floor’s only window. Upstairs there was his parents’ bedroom and a rickety staircase that led to his little attic room.

He started his renovations there, keeping the spirit of the original and just updating and improving. He replaced the mattress and chose higher-quality bedding. He refinished the wood and repainted the walls. He added real curtains and replaced the rug but found one similarly rustic in style. He would not bring Hermione here. Her flat was their space, not this, but he was almost as happy here alone that summer on nights she worked than he had been when he lay there with Lily. He would smoke and listen to his old records and ruminate on his life.

He was still incredulous that Lily was ever there at all. That night on the commons when he spotted her with her sister, he had almost gone home, afraid she would snub him and ruin his rare night off from the pub. Instead, she had pleaded with him via glance to rescue her from being alone in the crowd.

He had hardly spoken to her since the summer before, and even that had been rather perfunctory. They had no longer played at the park at age fourteen, and he had been taken under the wing—to his great shock—of a group of older kids. He had spent summer nights at Joy’s house while her mum was at working the night shift in the hospital laundry. He failed miserably at being anything other than a fourteen-year-old sexual naïf. She had been patient, though, instructing him how to pleasure her, and not ridiculing him for coming as soon as he entered her the first few times they tried intercourse.

He had been chuffed to return to school. His fellow Slytherins as a group were so privileged. They had traveled, had eaten the best meals, wore the finest robes, but no one in his class had experienced what he had that summer, and he doubted if any of them could survive in Cokeworth with his parents and his house. He didn’t brag about his conquest, but having had it had allowed him to sail through the year a head above the rest.

He saw Lily frequently during their fourth year; they had several classes together. She always acknowledged him, but it had become cursory, and he suspected it would end soon. Their lives in both homes were different. Gryffindor seemed like it was much less cut-throat than Slytherin, and while her family was far from wealthy, she had a mother who prepared food every day for the family, and a father who didn’t spend more time at the pub than he did at home.

Therefore, it was nothing short of miraculous that she stood next to him all night, drinking and smoking with him. He was shocked when she walked with him and held his hand. It had emboldened him to attempt to kiss her, convinced she would politely decline but equally convinced he would hate himself if he didn’t at least try.

She had kissed him, though, thoroughly and passionately. She had ground herself against his embarrassingly obvious cock. She had seemed as aroused as he did although he doubted that was possible.

And the next day, she had willingly…eagerly gone home with him, past his poor, silent mum, up the stairs to his attic. He had tried so hard to appear calm. He had put on the Led Zeppelin record and smoked on the bed, but he was quite visibly shaking. If she hadn’t been so self-possessed, they would have never done anything.

And just talking to her would have been enough. Discovering that she felt she had to hide her intelligence to fully be accepted into Gryffindor culture. She told him how insecure she was coming from their town. He didn’t have it easy in the dungeon, but the Gryffindor Tower sounded so much worse.

But they didn’t just talk. They became champion level snoggers. She let him remove their clothes. She let him see and touch her everywhere. She had the same basic equipment that Joy had, of course, but there were so many differences as well. He knew this with blokes in the communal showers at school, but he could fully explore her in daylight. 

She seemed to love his hands and mouth on her, and wanted to examine him as well. He wouldn’t have believed it possible if someone had told him at the end of fourth year what his summer would entail. It had made him hope, though, and that was truly crushing. He had finished that summer thinking that his whole life could be that wonderful—ridiculous, deluded fool that he was.

Instead it had been nearly twenty-five years of never ending misery. The last time he was with Lily, his father had come home drunk while they were in the act. Snape just managed to get Lily out of there before Toby burst through the door and beat him senseless. He had a broken nose, two black eyes, and broken ribs when he returned to school a few hours early, going straight to Madam Pomfrey for healing before the rest of the school arrived and witnessed his humiliation.

He had bided his time for the second two terms, wishing every day summer would arrive, and he could try to resume with Lily. They still didn’t speak or even think of risking meeting during school, but they looked at each other across the Great Hall and in class.

He studied harder those terms than he ever had. If he were going to be worthy enough to spend his life with her, he would have to have an honorable career. OWLS were looming, and he was determined to run the table with marks of Outstanding.

He almost made it. He had mostly ignored the idiotic Gryffindors that tried to bother him, but he had seen James Potter staring at him several times in the last few weeks when Severus and Lily were had exchanged smiles in Potions or at meals. Black had started in on him as soon as Severus had written the last word of his Defense OWL.

He had stayed up most of the night reading his notes and writing practice responses. He had planned to stay awake until the exam and then collapse afterward, but at some point, he had fallen asleep on his book. He awoke way too late with no time to shower, and in one of the most idiotic acts of his life, he had thrown his robe on over just his underwear, his shabbiest pair at that.

And then the inevitable humiliation came because it just had to, and he could not have reacted worse, and he ruined the only good aspect of his life.

He earned all Os on his OWLs except for Divination, and who the hell cared about that anyway? But he was miserable then and for the last two years of school. He made poor choice after bad decision, which had culminated in Lily’s death and Snape being stuck in a job he hated and a life he despised.

He was determined to live through the war and fulfill his mission. His inner life, in which he was somewhere in the world working happily with Lily by his side and in his bed—he had multiple story lines fully fleshed out in his head he could access in a second—prevented him from taking his life several times, but especially that last awful year.

After the defeat of the Dark Lord, he had been determined to live the rest of his life on his own terms, and then he found himself still stuck in the Hogwarts rut during the year and trying to piece together a life in this hovel, augmented with travel and strange women in the summer. It was so pathetic he tried not to think of it. It made him realize he probably would have never had that life with Lily under any circumstances anyway. He was neither worthy nor capable. And then…

The record ended on the turntable, and he smoked the end of the cigarette, tamped it out on his mother’s ubiquitous ashtray, and rolled off the bed with a smile that had become immutable on his face. This was the last night of Hermione’s three-night swing. Tomorrow morning, he was going to meet her for breakfast, and then they were headed southwest for a two-day last hurrah at the shore before he had to report back to school.

 

It was clear by mid-September that their plan to see each other only when their days off aligned would not work. He had spent too many years alone; he was finished with that. It made his whole existence happier when they ate meals together and slept in the same bed. They resumed their summer schedule of only being apart on night-shifts, but instead of living in Hermione’s flat, they spent most nights in Severus’s quarters in the dungeon.

He would sit at the high table for meals but wait and eat with her later. Hermione seemed to find it a pleasant enough place to spend her days off, especially when the weather was terrible outside. She could research in his quarters or office, and access to lab space was ideal.

He was teaching fourth year potions one afternoon in October when Crooks sauntered into the classroom from Snape’s office door that he had left open just a crack. Snape had been in the middle of chastising a whole table for improper stirring cadence when the beast leaped to his desk and rubbed against Snape’s torso with his nose in the air. He then swished his tail insistently in front of Snape’s face.

The professor took his hand and ran it from rump to tip of the tail. Satisfied, Crooks jumped down from the table and made rounds up and down the stairs inspecting each aisle before returning to the office haughtily.

The students looked at their professor with mouths agape, but he just continued with the lesson. They seemed to be waiting for him to lose his temper with the cat or with them. They were correct that he was trying to keep under control; he was using all his power not to break out in a wide grin.

Hermione didn’t make a show of herself when she was at school, and every one of his colleagues asked what had happened to him over the summer. Was he wearing a glamour? Had he perfected a youth potion? HAD HE MET SOMEONE?

He answered honestly. No, he hadn’t met anyone. Minerva finally called him into her office.

“You cannot possibly be reprimanding me for being too happy,” he said and tried to resurrect his old, faithful, dour expression but failed.

“I’m not reprimanding you, I want to know who it is, so I can thank her…or him.”

Dumbledore’s portrait had snorted at that.

“It is not a secret, Minerva, but I will not sit here and listen to a lecture on why I am not good enough for her.”

“Silly boy, if anything she isn’t good enough for you. Now, tell me who it is.”

He let out a sigh of the truly put upon. “Hermione Granger.”

Minerva’s eyes had become wide for a fraction for a second before she retained her former expression.

“Oh, Severus, what joyous news,” the old wizard behind her head said from his frame.

“Yes. Indeed it is.” There appeared to be a tear collecting in the Headmistress’s left eye. “That is truly wonderful, Professor Snape. Please let Ms. Granger know she is welcome here any time.”

“I thought I saw her kneazle the other day,” Dumbledore said.

“Crookshanks is here? I must pay a call,” Minerva said.

Severus gave her a halfhearted withering look. He returned to his quarters after a third of a glass of wine and enough time put in at dinner in the Great Hall. He hoped the snakes would save their crises for night-shift evenings and practically bounded down to the dungeon.

She was waiting there for him with their dinners under metal covers and a bottle of red wine she had picked up in town.

“Crooks, your friend Minerva requested a meeting,” Severus said as he grasped Hermione by the waist and brought her close to him. She was wearing her work robes and looked weary, but kissed him enthusiastically.

He wasn’t as hungry for dinner as he had been just a few minutes ago.

The old cat sauntered out, and Severus hit a stasis charm on the dinner before leading Hermione to the couch in the sitting room and removing her outer robe.

She wore cotton medical trousers and a matching top that could be laundered or thrown away if she was bled on or worse, but they were clean that evening—not that it would have stopped him. He left the top on for now and pulled off her bottom layers, trousers and knickers in one go. He settled her on the couch, so she was reclined on the side with her back supported. She gazed at him with a huge smile, and let him sink to the floor before her without comment.

He placed one of her legs draping over the couch, leaving her open to him and dove in. She moaned appreciatively. She never seemed to grasp that this was one of his favorite activities and not a chore.

She was wet after just a few passes with his tongue and fingers, and he decided to make this a spectacle rather than a warm-up. He swirled his tongue around her little clitoris and then started kissing her lightly all around as he followed up with his fingers. She guessed his intentions and relaxed her whole body, caressing his head when she could reach it, and sighing happily throughout.

It had become his favorite piece of geography, and he explored the whole area thoroughly letting his tongue linger outside and then probing deeper, avoiding places that would send her over too quickly. Her sighs turned to moans, so he began to play to the crescendo, each moment going a bit closer to reaching his goal. When he was nearing the final act, he heard soft feet behind him, and turned his head a quarter to see Crooks looking utterly disgusted and his cat companion Minerva as horrified as a cat face can portray. Minnie turned immediately and bolted back out, but Crooks raised the cat equivalent of an eyebrow, and sauntered away slowly.

“Severus?” Hermione panted, seemingly unware of their momentary visitors.

“Sorry,” he said and conducted the closing movement with gusto. Her whole lower half shook and she practically screamed as she came on his mouth and fingers. He planted soft kisses om her thighs while she recovered. After a few moments, she pulled him up and ravished him with kisses.

“Please tell me Crooks was alone.,” she whispered.

“Uh…”

“Don’t tell me; don’t tell me,” she said as she was digging through his robes to release his insistent cock.

“I won’t say a word.”

She had found it and was flipping them around so she could sit on him and impale herself on his lap. She sank down on him, and his world went warm and fuzzy and safe. She moved up and down while nuzzling her face into his neck whispering thank you, thank you, thank you.

He had been fairly for gone before the feline interruption, and he found himself right back there. After a few minutes of her riding him, he flipped her over and drove in. She seemed satisfied from her orgasm and concentrated on his, so he allowed himself to just pursue his own climax. They had not been together in three days, and he had tried to hold off on wanking so this would be something spectacular. He felt himself hurtling toward it and settled into it, wanting to enjoy every cell in his body as he filled her with his release.

“Oh fuck, Hermione, Witch, oh, fuck me.” He whispered incoherently, and he heard that delightful giggle.

 

Hermione

 

Every mid-December since the war there had been a reception and dinner honoring the Order of the Phoenix at the Ministry. It was always the worst night of the worst week, when she was ready for a break from work. Professor Snape and the other Hogwarts faculty were in the middle of exams, and almost no one wanted another commitment.

She had just finished a night-shift stretch and had forced herself to stay awake all day, looking forward to returning to the dungeon and sleeping until at least lunch the next day, feeling a bit sorry for Severus and his eight o’clock breakfast in the Great Hall, but not that sorry.

She had worked steadily at the hospital on witches and wizards whose injuries and conditions had affected their magic. There had been a steady stream of cases, both from those who had been injured recently and years in the past. She was just starting to study the treatment of squibs, and had been working with some newborns with the condition recently.

The day of the Order party, she showered at her flat and then put on deep olive robes she hadn’t chosen specifically in honour of her Slytherin boyfriend, but she would be happy to go with it. The robes were long enough that she wore her worn-in Converse instead of dress shoes. Her hair looked better than she could have hoped, long, thick, and curly, but not frizzy. She spent and extra moment with her makeup and was satisfied with the results.

Harry had flooed her at the hospital the day before asking if she would like to meet him for a drink before the dinner began. Ginny was out of town with her quidditch team, so Hermione could avoid that bit of awkwardness though she was sure there would be Weasleys aplenty.

She apparated from the bottom of her staircase to the point at the Ministry, and entered the foyer, spotting Harry right off. Sirius was at his side. Oh lovely.

Severus and Sirius had managed to be civil in each other’s presence at these things, largely by ignoring the other. She could only imagine the reaction, though, when Severus arrived with the rest of the Hogwarts’ faculty to find her cozying up to Sirius Black.

Harry and Sirius waved her over to the bar and greeted her with embraces.

“Hermione, you look ravishing,” Sirius said and signaled the bartender over.

“Oh, thanks,” she said, a bit embarrassed by his gaze.

“What will you have?” the little elf behind the bar squeaked.

“I’ll take a glass of red,” she said. The wine selection at the Ministry bar tended to be perfunctory.

The Grand Foyer was still mostly filled with people leaving from work.

“Did you come straight from the office?” she asked Harry, who worked as an Auror in the building.

“Yeah. They let me out early for this, but I just stayed.”

“As a wizard of leisure, my schedule was open,” Sirius added.

Before his recovery, Sirius was considered terminal. Harry had been appointed his executor and had been awarded legal rights to his house and property. Ginny had moved in full-time after their wedding, which was about a month before Hermione had restored Sirius.

Sirius had kept the house in Harry’s name and spent his time finding causes in which to invest his family’s money. His top investment priority were organizations that his parents would find appalling. He seemed happy to share his house with Harry, Ginny, Ron, and whoever else needed a place to stay.

Hermione had always liked Sirius although he had exasperated her before his injury. He brought out the absolute worst judgement in Harry and Ron and made her job as protector of the common sense significantly more difficult. But she had realized that being imprisoned all those years had left him not much older than they were emotionally. She’d had a bit of a crush on him when she was fifteen and starting to realise what the fuss was about. She’d had her first sexual dream that summer at Grimmauld Place. Sirius had seduced her in the library, of course, and then had stolen her away to his room where he had taken her passionately in his bed.

She had woken panting and aching, and she had put a tentative hand in her knickers as Ginny slept in the next bed, thankfully with her back to Hermione. It had only taken a few swirls around a spot she was only vaguely aware of until that morning before she had given herself an object lesson of exactly what the fuss was about. She had skulked quietly red-faced to the shower and stood under the spray before she let her face settle into a wide smile. Well, that answers some questions.

Those feelings of fancy had bubbled up a little bit after she had helped restore Sirius. He was still very good looking, better every day after his recovery, and he was as charming and flirtatious as he had been when she was a teenager. She had already found a companion, though, in Severus at these ghastly parties, and Sirius was not a rival there. He did look quite handsome that night in his more casual than was appropriate robes.

The elf brought Hermione her wine, and she clinked glasses with the men before she took a sustaining drink.

“So…” Harry started. “Tell us about your boyfriend.”

Sirius gave him a withering look.

“Oy, I am tired of listening to the gossip; I want to hear it from her.”

“What have you heard?” Hermione asked.

“That you’re practically living in the dungeon with Snape.”

“I practically live at the hospital, you know that.”

“So you’re not…”

She sighed. “He can’t leave during the week. We spend our weekends off here at my flat. Is that what you want to know?”

“How…how did you…how are you in a relationship with Snape?”

“Harry isn’t very observant,” Sirius commented.

“Yeah, I saw you standing with him at these things. I thought you were doing one for the team and keeping him occupied.”

“Oh, Harry, really!” she chided him.

“You were with Ron all that time.”

“Is that what this chiefly concerns? That I am not with Ron any longer? And let me assure you there was no overlap, Harry Potter, you can just…” Hermione felt the colour rise in her cheeks.

“No, Hermione, of course not.” Harry sighed. “And it’s not about you breaking up with Ron. Not for me. I knew that you two probably wouldn’t last. I can’t speak for Molly and Ginny, but that’s not what it is for me. I admire the man, but…”

“If you took the time to really get to know him, you might understand better.”

“I say if Hermione is happy with Snape, who are we to question it?” Sirius spoke up. “That being said if the git ever hurts you…”

She saw Severus enter the foyer with the Headmistress. Hermione blushed immediately. She was still unable to look Professor McGonagall in the eye since the cat incident. “There he is. If you want to speak to him later, please find us. I don’t want to ambush him right now.” She took her drink and gave Harry and Sirius a parting look. Don’t try me, gentlemen.

Severus’s eyes were narrow as she approached, but she ignored it and brushed his mouth with a kiss. “I didn’t know Sirius would be here. I thought I was just meeting Harry.”

“How was it?” he said levelly. The waiter elves had begun to bring drinks around on trays and Severus grabbed a glass of fire whiskey. The Grand Foyer looked ridiculous as every bough of holly, red ribbon and sprig of mistletoe in the country had apparently been commissioned to jolly the place up.

“It was fine. Sirius was surprisingly mature.”

Severus snorted.

“I’m not suggesting that you will be best mates,” she assured him. “Civility is sufficient.”

“You look beautiful,” he said. “Is that civil enough?”

“Quite.”

Sirius and Severus avoided each other for the rest of the evening, but Harry shook his hand on the way out and wished him a happy Christmas.

Severus had only two more days of classes before his holidays began, so he was in a light enough mood to be reasonably cordial.

Hermione was on a work stint until Christmas Day when she would be off for a week. He split his time between Cokeworth and her London flat as they had in summer. When she returned from her last night-shift at six on Christmas morning, she could see the lights as soon as she entered the gate. She started up the stairs, still physically tired but with a lighter spirit.

Severus had decorated the porch with Christmas lights and had placed a small, lit tree in the corner. The table was steaming with coffee and breakfast, and the whole space was warmed to be comfortable. Severus looked sleepy but happy in a tight black jumper, denims and worn black Converse low-tops.

“Happy Christmas,” he said and kissed her mouth lightly.

“Happy Christmas, Severus.” She took a cup of coffee from him and sunk into one of the chairs. It was her first Christmas not spent at the Burrow since the year in Godric’s Hollow. She wasn’t missing the crowd, but being without her parents was hard. She wrapped her colourful scarf around her neck. It had been a quiet night at the hospital. She was treating a newborn whose magic output was registering at squib levels. She had been working with a treatment for it for months, and the baby, a sweet girl named Camille, was showing signs of progress. Her family was taking her home for the week to resume treatment when Hermione returned to work.

She was still in her hospital gear; the comfortable cotton trousers had become her favorite apparel anyway. Her hair was in two plaits tied with plaid Christmas ribbon. Severus took one of the plaits in his fingers and tugged lightly. “Are you hungry?”

“Starving. This looks delicious.”

He let her sink back into the chair with the coffee while he dished up her plate.

“It’s awfully early, Severus. When did you wake up?”

“I never slept. We can stay in bed all day.”

She smiled at him over her mug. Breakfast, bath, bed, sounded like the best Christmas in years. She reached into her worn bag that she toted back and forth to work and pulled out his prezzies she had wrapped during the quiet hours that usually accompanied the night-shift.

The first was a better bottle of red wine than they had ever drunk together. She had paid way too much for it, but he had everything he needed, really, and she wanted to indulge him. She had also bought a bottle of way too expensive whiskey she had saved for his birthday in a couple weeks.

The wine was wrapped in festive paper, and the shape gave its contents away. “Oooh, I hope it’s a new cauldron,” he said eagerly, making her giggle. He unwrapped the bottle and his eyes popped a little before he maintained his studied composure. “That’s rather a treat, Miss Granger.”

“Bought with the assumption that you will share,” she said and handed him the next box, a set of appealingly bohemian wine glasses. They used the school issued goblets in the dungeon, and she thought he could use some of his own. He liked those as well.

“The last is rather silly, but I couldn’t resist,” she said, and handed him a small bundle.

He unwrapped it carefully and held it out. It was a vintage Led Zepelin concert t-shirt from their 1975 tour. It had a quote on the back she had read and made her think of her time with him in the last few months:

And so today,

My world it smiles,

Your hand in mine,

We walk the miles.

Thanks to you,

It will be done,

For you to me

Are the only one.

 His eyes changed again, but this time she couldn’t read the thoughts behind them as she had with the wine.

“You don’t have to…” she started apologizing for the gift. His face indicated that she had made a misstep.

“No.” His face shifted and he smile. “Thank you, Hermione,” he said. He placed it on the table in front of him and ran his fingers over it. “I would have committed unspeakable acts to have had it when I was fifteen,” he said and she smiled broadly. He reached under the tree for a parcel he had concealed. It was unwrapped and she gasped as he handed it over.

The fine leather of the messenger bag was as soft as kitten’s fur on her fingers. “Oh, Severus.”

“You certainly needed a new one. Look inside.”

She opened the bag. There was an artisan quality coffee mug in deep rust. She took it out and beamed at him. There was a small cloth at the bottom of the bag. She held it in her hand and slowly unwrapped the object inside. It was a single, delicate pearl on a platinum chain. It was the most elegant and beautiful piece of jewelry she had ever owned. She bounded towards him, embracing him and then kissing his mouth.

“Thank you, Severus, for all of it! Put the necklace on me?”

He reached around and secured the clasp. “Thank you. Now, let’s eat and then retire.”

She could think of no better plan.

 

Severus

 

The end of the school year in late June 2002 also marked a year he had been together with Hermione. They scheduled a two-week holiday to Spain, and he experienced the most decadent fortnight of his life.

He returned to the reality of the house in Cokeworth that still only had his attic room in any sort of presentable stage. He vowed to be more productive this summer. This was aided by Hermione working extra shifts at the hospital to make up for her time off.

She had urged him to let her assist him in his renovations to the place, but he had refused. She was not a part of his Cokeworth world. She had taken possession of the rest of his life, but not that.

He had packed away his Lily memories, both real and fantasy. Cokeworth was the only place he took them out now, and he was unwilling to give them up entirely. He decided to tackle the sitting room and kitchen that summer. The door to his parents’ bedroom had been closed for twenty years now, and he had no desire to open it yet.

He purchased new Muggle appliances for the kitchen, hoping they would provide some inspiration, and that seemed to do the trick. He replaced the floor and counter-tops, painted the cupboards, woodwork, and walls, and had curtains made. It gave him the motivation to update the sitting room.

By the time Hermione was finished with her work marathon in early August, Severus had put in enough time to assuage a year’s worth of guilt. He camped out on her porch for the whole afternoon of her last day shift, listening to music, nursing a scotch, and smoking Marlboro reds. He had the makings for a simple dinner in the kitchen and then planned to be in bed with her for about twelve hours.

He heard the gate open about fifteen minutes after he expected her and saw the top of her head as she started trudging up the stairs. She had pinned her braids to her head, as it was one of the hottest days of the year. She looked up to smile at him, and he saw immediately that her face was extensively bruised.

“What happened to you?” he jumped from the chair and met her half-way down the stairs.

“I’m fine.” She was slightly slumped with her bag slung across one shoulder. She was always tired after a long stint of work.

“You are NOT fine.” He removed her bag and placed it at the top of the stairs and sat her down immediately on the concrete steps to examine her face. Her nose was swollen, and she had two black eyes with a cut above her left eyebrow.

“Who did this to you?”

“An eight-year-old.” She sighed. “He fell off a broom three days ago. His parents should have never let him…but they feel terrible. Anyway, he was unconscious for the first two days as we treated his head injury, and of course his core is damaged and needs to be reset, but he’s been difficult to control since he regained consciousness. Physically, he’s fine. They’re going to take him home while I’m off, and then I will try again when I return in three days. I hope his parents survive until then. I got on the wrong side of his elbow.”

That was clearly an understatement. He was examining the swollen, discoloured flesh around her eye sockets while she spoke. The gash above her eyebrow was closed, but the bruising around her left eye extended all the way up.

“Why didn’t they heal you at the hospital?” he said with incredulity mixed with anger.

“They did, Severus. You should have seen me before.”

“They used healing salve on you?”

“Yes. It was completely black and blue before.”

He grabbed her bag and then took her hand and led her into the flat and to the kitchen. She had two tall stools on the opposite side of the counter, and he had her sit on one while he poured her a short scotch over ice.

“Drink this and when you are not drinking, rest it on your left eye. I will be right back.”

He went for a box he kept under her bed that had his stash of household potions. He had put it there the same weekend he had brought a spare toothbrush for the bathroom and several changes of underwear, socks, and t-shirts for his assigned drawer. He brought the box back to the kitchen area and laid it on the counter.

“How much pain are you in?”

“A little. Not much.”

He brought a phial out and put two drops in her drink. He dug in the bottom for his bruise treatment.

“Take a few more sips before I begin. It shouldn’t hurt much, but it looks terribly tender.”

She obliged with the scotch and looked more exhausted than ever.

“I worked in the garden today. The squash and tomatoes are finally ready to eat, and I bought a chicken breast to split. If you are especially good, there is a berry tart as well,” he chatted at her, hoping to keep her mind off the pain.

She leaned over in her stool and kissed his mouth gently. “Thank you, Severus.”

“Don’t mention it. I plan to heal you, put you in the bath, and then take you to bed for the foreseeable future.

“That sounds terribly nice.”

“Good. One more sip,” he said as he walked to the sink and scrubbed his hands.

She drained her drink, and he returned to his stool and leaned in again to gently examine the area around her eyes with his hands. He put his wand up gently and whispered an incantation that helped with inflammation. He rubbed some salve on the ends of his fingers until it was smooth and ready to apply and then started spreading it on her skin as gently as possible, She flinched when he touched the area above her eyebrow, so he backed off a bit and barely touched her as he slowly spread the salve.

“I should be able to do this,” she chastised herself.

“Of course you could, but I can see it better.”

The swelling began to dissipate immediately, and the colour started fading as well. The wound above her eye sealed into a small white line. “There we go,” he said with deep satisfaction. “Now, let me get you into the bath, and you can soak while I fix the dinner. Refill your scotch.”

He could hear her trudge along behind him. He reached the bathroom and started filling the tub. He found the tea and rose bath oil she liked to use in the summer and added it to the water. She was still fully dressed in her work clothes and examining her face closely in the mirror.

“Severus, what did you do? This is completely healed!”

“I don’t know what they are using…”

“Nothing like this! You know, people talk all the time about the potions Madam Pomfrey gave them at school and complain that nothing works as well.”

Hermione had started taking only potions he brewed over the months of their relationship. She now took his contraceptive potion every month and stocked his headache and cold remedies, too. 

“You brew them all?” she said.

“I do.”

He watched her breathe in and out and then squint her newly healed eyes at him,

“Hmmmmm,” she said and brought her top over her head leaving her in a lacy, pink bra that was not even trying to hide her little rosebud nipples. She took off her elastic waistband trousers and striped cotton knickers, stepping out of the whole business along with her shoes. She unhooked her bra, clearly deep in thought, and completely unaware of the effect that her actions were having on him. She sunk into the tub and closed her eyes, exhaling deeply. “Severus, you mentioned dinner.”

“Yes.” He reluctantly returned to the kitchen.

 

Hermione

 

She had taken the whole week of Christmas off as she wanted it to be perfect. He had to remain at school until Christmas Eve this year because more Slytherins were staying over for the holiday than students from any other house. She had prepared a traditional Christmas dinner that night; they could eat leftovers and just loaf on the actual day. They had both been busier than ever that term and hadn’t had sufficient time to spend together.

She had bought a small tree that she decorated with strings of lights and ornaments she had saved from the home where she grew up. These items had lived in a box she had not opened since she sold the family home after her parents were safely oblivious in Australia, and the war was over. She had anticipated that it would be difficult to see the old decorations, but opening that box and holding them in her hand had brought forth joyful memories of the Christmases of her childhood.

She had put a festive cloth on the table and lit candles. The dinner smelled delicious, and she had a favorite bottle of wine for them. She checked her reflection in the mirror one last time before she heard his feet on the stairs. She was wearing a new, black velvet robe that was cut low in the front and hugged her curves. Her hair was down, straightened and put in tame curls. The effort symbolized how important the night was for her, and she hoped he would see that and accept her gifts.

She finally heard the door open, and she walked quickly to the table where he was taking off his snowy boots.

“Happy Christmas, Severus!” she said and pressed herself against him.

“Happy Christmas, Hermione. What’s all this?”

“I thought we could celebrate tonight and relax tomorrow.”

“That sounds fine,” he deadpanned, but she could tell he was happy with the plan. She uncorked the wine and poured glasses for each. “Should I put on some Christmas music?”

“Please don’t.”

“All right. Let me bring out the food.”

They took their time and enjoyed all the traditional dishes, including pudding that contained four quid and two galleons, which she let him pocket. He had reached that stuffed, satisfied state that usually called for one more drink and a cigarette on the porch. She sprang into action before he could retire that way.

She quickly sent the dessert dishes into the kitchen to pile in the sink with their dinner counterparts, and reached under the tree, producing a large stack of documents with a package on top. She plopped down the whole thing in front of him.

“What’s…?” He started reading. “Johns Hopkins, 1999, Smoking and Cancers Unrelated to the Lungs…”

“That one is from America.”

“Really?” he said with an obvious edge. “NHS 2001, recent one, Smokers Lung, Tumors and Treatment. Healer Granger, this is so subtle, whatever is your point?”

“Open the package.”

He unwrapped the cardboard box and stared at it. “Nicotine gum.”

“There are two studies in the pile that show just how effective it can be.” She leaned over the table to thumb through the stack.

“Granger,” he said, obviously to get her to stop.

“Yes?”

“Thank you. I will try.”

“It’s just because I care about you and want you to…”

“I know. Thank you.”

She breathed. If he thought that would be his challenge of the evening…

She brought up a medium-sized velvet bag, the type in which whiskey is sometimes encased. He reached in and pulled out a stack of paper galleons; large bills in the amount of fifteen thousand, to be exact.

He had been brewing constantly since the summer, usually late at night after he had completed his school responsibilities. She had convinced him to give samples of a few of his potions to the hospital director of clinical practices after he had healed her injuries. The director had agreed enthusiastically to try his healing potions and salves, as soon as he could produce enough for the stores. He had tried to hire Snape outright, the response to which from her boyfriend was an emphatic, “NO.”

His products had been an unqualified success, and the hospital wanted to try the rest of his potions that he produced for the Hogwarts’s hospital wing each year. It was becoming too much work for him. Hermione was spending every day off helping him brew and package the potions. He had hired two former students to come to the school on the weekends and help. He had hardly left the dungeon in months.

“This is not a gift. It’s an investment.”

They had designed the packages together; black phials and canisters with silver labels: SNAPE boldly on the front and the dosing instructions on the back. They were packed into brown, cardboard crates, shrunk, and shipped to St. Mungo’s every Sunday night.

“Where…?”

“I invested some money after I sold my family’s house. My parents have enough now; their practice there is thriving. We make enough with as much as we work…this leaves us a decent travel and wine fund.”

“Hermione, I can’t…”

“You CAN, Severus. With as much as the hospital is paying you, this is enough to buy a space in London and hang up your teacher’s robe at the end of the terms. Unless you want to stay in the…”

“You know I don’t, but…”

“It can be OUR business. I want it to be. I still have work to do at the hospital; you can hire a big enough staff that we don’t have to work all the time. We can expand into apothecaries. Stop me when you hear something you don’t like.”

He looked overwhelmed, but he said nothing.

“Perhaps I can cut back to part-time eventually and brew beside you.”

He left the money on the table and grabbed her into his arms. I love you. He didn’t say it, but that’s what she heard.