As children, they were selected, or so Severus Snape had heard.
Albus Dumbledore could have confirmed the truth of this statement; the Headmaster had not been the hand that had plucked the young boy and girl from the flock, but his voice had guided it, given it direction.
The hand had belonged to a woman who had once been very beautiful, and of all people would be most adept at selecting candidates. And it was a very appropriate job for her, given her history.
Severus Snape did not know the name of this woman, nor was he particularly keen on finding out.
Albus Dumbledore, however, could have quite easily named her as Minerva McGonagall, had he been asked.
As a young woman, she had been very beautiful. This meant nothing thirty years later, when she sat nervously by Albus Dumbledore at that first sorting ceremony, the final choices written in her neat script, on a piece of paper now balled up in her hand.
But at seventeen, her dark eyes had been large and innocent; her wavy black hair had never been bound back from her face into a stern, forbidding bun. She had been a Gryffindor, brave and courageous and brilliant; he had been a Slytherin, cunning and clever and brilliant; they had been Head Boy and Head Girl.
The difference of houses and ambitions had not mattered. Then.
No one ever thought anything of them pairing off together at functions, or otherwise, because those were the sorts of things that Head Boy and Girl did.
And she had been so desperate to believe in him. He had loved her - of this she was sure.
But, thirty years later, she thought: it was not enough.
And in that, she was right. He had used her, betrayed her, loved her so.
Unconsciously, she rubbed the ring finger of her left hand, where an engagement ring had once rested. She recalled the look of incomprehension in his eyes when she had thrown the emerald in his face.
The paper crunched in her right hand read: One Slytherin-destined pureblood boy of Gryffindor heritage into Gryffindor. One Slytherin-destined muggle-born girl into Gryffindor.
The Sorting Hat had always so loved conspiracies.
Severus had, as a boy, hated them. It was not as if they had been the better of him in everything; but at the least they were his equals, and for that he had despised them utterly.
Lily Evans: bright, charming, and beneath the ingenuous facade, calculatingly shrewd. She of the bewitching green eyes, long legs, and wickedly innovative talent for Charms - especially the more painful hexes.
James Potter: arrogant, witty, and possessed of a fondness for cruelty nurtured lovingly by his girlfriend. He'd befriended a werewolf, a rat, and the school's most promiscuous lady's man; how ironically appropriate.
The woman who had chosen them had thought that the best way to fight the newly risen Dark Lord was with two completely loyal Dark-Lords-In-Training.
Fire with fire, he decided, had always been an accurate description.
She took them aside after that first transfiguration class.
"I've heard good things about the both of you from your professors, and Headmaster Dumbledore thought you might like a bit of an Advanced Study course that I teach."
The boy frowned. "But she - she's just a muggle-born! How can she know anything?"
The girl scowled, and she as the adult attempted to ameliorate the situation. "Mr. Potter, at Hogwarts, we try to work with what we are given. Ignoring Ms. Evans's heritage, she has shown competency at the tasks set before her thus far and shown great potential for learning more. As have you."
The boy considered that for a moment. "Will this mean more homework?"
"Oh no, of course not - it will be in lieu of your Defense Against The Dark Arts class."
"We shall be ahead of our classmates, then," said the girl, tilting her head to the side a bit in thought. "Keen."
"Very well then," the boy concurred.
"Be here Monday night at eight," she instructed them.
She did not see Lily and James for many years, merely two children whose minds she had to mold.
It was still one of his worst memories.
Severus had walked in on them. He had not meant to. He had been to the secluded room in the North tower that housed a small but choice selection of Dark Arts texts many times previously, and never seen a single soul about.
But there they were, on the floor, and it clearly was not a new routine for them. Lily Evans's face as she cast the Cruciatus on him briefly, but still with complete and utter competence, had haunted his nightmares for years. She had leaned over him, still naked, as he lay quivering and curled into a fetal position.
"Give your Master a kiss from me, okay?"
He had gotten the Mark less than a week before school started, and told no one.
A few short days after, there was the incident with the werewolf, but not even that could blur the memory of that room, that night, in his mind.
"You almost killed him." Her voice was sharp and precise, how it had always been when she was angry. How like Tom the boy was, except that his brown eyes did not hold the same mad genius. Yet.
"It would have been inconvenient to have the body be discovered on school grounds, and Remy would have been most put out at the sight of it."
"I am sorry, James," she apologized, and in the spirit of the moment spoke the boy's first name for the first time. "I had not meant to question your competency. It is just - Severus Snape."
"He has the Dark Mark," commented the girl from the back of the classroom, where she was thumbing through a Seventeen magazine. "Don't forget that. And he walked in on us while we were fucking - don't we owe him a little retribution for that?"
"Should I ask what your part in this was?"
"None, Professor. I gave him a little message to take back to his Master, that's all."
"You will be the death of me, someday." She turned away from her students, suddenly feeling old and foolish and far too Gryffindor. Dumbledore should have asked this of someone more suited. Not me.
"Professor-" The boy, this time. "Don't blame yourself. We are people - you must remember that. We are James and Lily, and we are not always perfect."
"But we are close," added the girl - Lily. "Very, very close. We can give Tom Riddle a run for his money."
She spun around to face them again. "I know that. I have trained you."
"Oh, don't act so - condescending, Professor. We know what he was to you. We understand."
"Perhaps not," said James thoughtfully, looking over at Lily. "After all, we have always had each other."
It was a luxury that Minerva McGonagall was prepared to give them.
They had died, in the end, though; the experiment had failed. Severus never forgot that.
But, perhaps - a Dark spell had been used to seal Voldemort's powers away inside their son, and Lily certainly couldn't have done that alone. And Dumbledore was so positive that the boy was the end all and be all of solutions. Even if he himself couldn't stand the little son of a bitch - what an accurate term that was.
He did wonder who had taught them, though he never thought of asking; he wondered just where she had gotten her qualifications. And occasionally wondered if she would be interested in a pupil.
But the experiment had failed. And that was the end of it.
"Your parents... were two of my favorite students," she says, many, many years later, when her beauty is nothing more than an occasional, fleeting memory of happy times. "I wish you could have known them."
The boy nods. She reminds herself: this is where their story ends.
But she cannot help remembering the two boys before him; James, who had loved Lily, Tom, who had loved her.
It was a long time ago that she was beautiful, with her large, dark, and innocent eyes.