"Severus. I bring you good news." Albus Dumbledore appeared grave and, unusually enough, sardonic. Severus took the seat across from the headmaster, wondering what this "good news" was. "The Potters were attacked by Lord Voldemort last night."
"Wonderful," Severus said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Are you telling me you can't feel my infectious joy?"
"James and Harry Potter are dead. Lily survived."
Severus was silent for a moment, digesting this news. Lily's alive. His Lily. The Dark Lord had spared her after all.
"You are not pleased?" Dumbledore asked, his half-moon glasses flashing.
"I am," Severus said. "I'm very happy to hear she's well."
"'Well' is not a word I'd use to describe her at the present." Dumbledore stood up and crossed to the front of his desk. Severus trembled slightly; an angry Dumbledore was a powerful presence. "I know what you're thinking, Severus, and your logic still disgusts me. Do not pretend that you asked me to hide the entire Potter family so that James and Harry could have a sporting chance; you asked because it was the only way to give Lily a chance. But if you absolutely must go through with this malarkey, consider that Lily has just suffered the losses of her husband and infant son. Be tactful."
"When I go to meet her, I will be."
Dumbledore started. "You do not want to go to her immediately? How odd, Severus."
Severus nodded. As eager as he'd been for this to happen, for the Dark Lord to spare Lily's life, for him to be the one to comfort her... Somehow, it was a hollow victory. Despite his hatred for the man, Severus had never really wanted James Potter to die. Or Harry, come to think of it; after all, Harry was just a baby.
"Having second thoughts?"
"Not at all. It's just..." He stood up. "I need to figure out exactly what I'm going to say to her. Is there any other news for me?"
"No. You may leave."
Severus nodded and exited the room.
On his way back to the dungeons, he thought about his last conversation with Lily, after he'd uttered the unforgivable word: Mudblood. Even as he'd said it, he had tried desperately to take it back, to swallow the word and never let it pass his lips. But the second the syllables had left his mouth, they were as safe in history as Joan of Arc and Merlin. He would never forget the flashes of hurt and anger that had crossed her face, or the contemptuous way she'd called him the hated name, "Snivellus."
"I'm not interested."
"Save your breath."
How many times had that conversation kept him up at night?
"Listen, I didn't mean-"
"To call me Mudblood? But you call everyone of my birth Mudblood, Severus. Why should I be any different?"
Because you're Lily, he thought, and you are different. Her blood status didn't matter; it never had. But his lack of control had pushed her away. Now he was alone, and she was widowed and her child was dead. If he'd never said the word, never followed the idiot Slytherins he'd hung out with, none of this might have happened.
Severus Snape was only twenty-one years old, but on November 1st, 1981, he felt like a man five times his age.
At the Leaky Cauldron, Lily Potter sat in the backmost, darkest booth in the pub, staring into her mug of tea. James and Harry are dead. It still hadn't sunk in, even though it had all happened in front of her eyes.
"Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off-" James's horrified look is enough warning; Lily doesn't hesitate. She picks up little Harry and flees to the baby's room. The front door flies open behind her, and a moment later, James falls to the floor with a dull thump, dead.
Lily shuts the door to Harry's room behind her, locks it through magic, and lays Harry down in his crib. She turns to the door, hearing Lord Voldemort coming up the stairs. She straightens her back; if Voldemort wants Harry, he'll have to kill her first. As the door opens, she begins to quake in fear, but she stands her ground. She's face-to-face with him.
He lets loose a stream of mad laughter; shaken, Lily begins pleading for her son's life. "Not Harry, please not Harry!" she shrieks.
"Stand aside, you silly girl," he says, drawing his wand. "Now."
"No! Take me- Kill me instead- Have mercy!"
Voldemort regards Lily contemptuously for a second, then flicks his wand at her. She is paralyzed, and under the Full Body-Bind Curse, watches in horror as Lord Voldemort casts a Killing Curse on Harry. He's dead before he can start crying. At this, Voldemort leaves, undoing the hex on Lily.
She stands in the middle of the room, for how long she doesn't know, and sinks to her knees. A horrible sound, like the howling of a wounded animal, reaches her ears; it takes her a second to realize that it's coming from her.
Now, sitting in the wizarding pub and contemplating a mug of cold tea, she waited for the numbness to give way to the pain she knew was coming. Her husband and son were dead; and yet, she just couldn't wrap her mind around it. When would she be able to accept it? Sighing, she began to take a drink…
And noticed the man at the bar. It couldn't be… Not after all this time… Not after what he'd said…
A second later, Severus Snape walked over to her table. He looked almost as she remembered him, though his hair was longer and his face was prematurely lined. Had it been that tense six years ago? When he stopped at the edge of the booth, she noticed that he looked diminished. It had to be an act.
"Severus." She gave him a cold, emotionless nod. "Have a seat."
He did, on the very edge. "Lily… I know you hate me, and I don't blame you. I'm not asking your forgiveness. But, for what it's worth… I'm sorry."
"About what?" She asked, still maintaining her cool detachment. "Calling me names? Threatening to sleep outside my dorm? Or are you hoping I'll fall into your arms now that my family is dead?"
He winced; the sight gave Lily a savage sense of vindication. "I'm sorry about everything. All of it. And I'm not at all happy that James and Harry are dead; they didn't deserve it."
They didn't deserve it. The line threw her off. "But Severus… You hated James."
"I had my reasons." True; even Lily couldn't justify James's treatment of Severus during their Hogwarts years. "But he didn't deserve to die."
"Of course not; he was a baby." Severus stood up. "I'll understand if you can't forgive me." He turned and walked to the door, while Lily looked after him in disbelief.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Transitions are never easy. They're even harder for Lily and Severus.
"'Ere you are then," Tom, owner and bartender of the Leaky Cauldron, showed Lily into a room above the pub. It was small and shabby, but comfortable.
"Thank you," Lily whispered.
Tom bowed. "Stay here as long as you like, Mrs. Potter." And then he left.
Lily sat down on the bed. For a moment, she was perfectly still. Then she flung herself face-down on the pillow and sobbed. James… Harry… The names repeated themselves like a mantra. I'm so sorry. She heard a baby crying down the hall, and cried harder. How many times had she complained, even jokingly, that she hadn't slept since Harry was born? Now she'd never see him again, or hold him, never hear him call her "Mummy", see him off on his first day at Hogwarts… Oh, Harry…
It would be the first in a series of sleepless, weeping nights for Lily.
Severus felt his Dark Mark burn, and immediately Apparated to Lord Voldemort's side. Like everyone else at the meeting, he bowed to kiss the hem of the Dark Lord's robes. Nothing like keeping up appearances, even though he'd come to despise the Death Eaters and everything they stood for. He knew exactly what the Dark Lord was going to announce, and behind his cool, emotionless façade, he simmered.
"My Death Eaters," the cold, high voice sounded, "I bring you the best news. Harry Potter is dead, as is the blood traitor James Potter. The prophecy has been fulfilled."
"Wonderful!" "Magnificent!" The compliments and fawning spilled in from everyone, including Severus. The most sickening one came from Bellatrix Lestrange: "The greatness of my Lord knows no bounds! Surely the Wizarding world is now in your hands."
Lord Voldemort nodded at the compliments, then called for silence. "That was merely the first step. We must still infiltrate the Ministry of Magic and seize control there. And we must still contend with Albus Dumbledore. Snape, my useful spy at Hogwarts-" The Dark Lord turned to Severus "-have you any news?"
Severus employed Occlumency and chose his words carefully. "My Lord, Dumbledore has tightened the security around the school, and he is encouraging the shopkeepers and residents of Hogsmeade to follow suit. It would be impossible to try and take the school now."
Lord Voldemort betrayed no visible disappointment, but Severus could almost feel the physical blast of anger from him. "You know a way around the barriers and enchantments?"
"I am sorry to say that I do not. Dumbledore doesn't fully trust me." Severus paused. "Since he knows I heard the prophecy, he suspects that I had a personal hand in the Potter killings." He felt the Dark Lord boring into his mind; six months ago, he might have come off the worse from it. Now, he lied with the full confidence that he would find no information to the contrary.
Finally, Lord Voldemort nodded. "It is a shame that Dumbledore refuses to trust you. Though I can hardly blame him. I am confident you know how to handle the situation?"
"Excellent." He turned to the rest of his Death Eaters. "In the meantime, we focus on infiltrating the Ministry. The information I have received so far is invaluable, but in order to stage a successful coup, I must have more." He continued; as his orders didn't involve Severus, he allowed part of his mind to wander.
Lily had not been pleased to see him yesterday. He hadn't expected anything different; after all, he was the one who'd jettisoned their friendship. But seeing her so sad and lost… He'd never expected to see her without her wit and fire, the things that, in his mind, made her Lily. He wanted to hold her, let her cry on his shoulder, comfort her... But she wouldn't let him. If only you knew how sorry I am.
"Death Eaters, you are dismissed." Voldemort's voice pierced Severus's thoughts. He deliberately stayed behind, and when he was the only Death Eater left, Severus approached him.
"My Lord, I wanted to thank you. For sparing Lily Potter."
Voldemort smiled at him. "A reward, Severus. Your information has been most useful. As for the Mudblood-" Severus bristled inwardly at the word "-I can understand your desire for her now. She is rather lovely."
"My Lord is gracious," Severus said, bowing deeply. "And I have disappointed you. I shall redouble my efforts to gain Dumbledore's trust from now on."
"Good lad." Voldemort nodded approvingly, like a grandfather to a favored grandson. "I give you permission to leave."
Severus bowed again, and Apparated into Hogsmeade. Walking back to the school, he went over his promise again. Oh yes, he'd see to it that Dumbledore trusted him before the year was out. Severus Snape was a man of his word.
Christmas was approaching, and Hogwarts was decorated in its usual festive manor. Severus took no notice of this; he wasn't a Christmas person anyway, and in any case he was too focused on escaping the confines of the castle to notice them. The few students in the hallways gave him plenty of space, and even Dumbledore didn't seem to have anything to say to him. All to the better; Severus didn't have anything to say to him, either.
Finally, he reached the Astronomy tower and walked outside. Pulling the door shut and leaning his back against one of the turrets, he slid into a sitting position. He reached into a pocket inside his robes and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, shaking one into his open palm. He'd thought life as James Potter's favorite punching bag was stressful, then he'd joined the Death Eaters. Then he'd become Dumbledore's spy. Then he'd become the Potions professor at Hogwarts. If that didn't merit at least one bad, if stress-relieving, habit, he wasn't sure what did. As he closed his eyes and took the first drag, he felt some of the tension leave his shoulders. It had been a long, trying day.
He thought of the last Death Eater meeting. A new person had been there, bragging about giving away the Potters' location. But there's no way… Sirius Black was their Secret-Keeper.
Unless they changed it at the last minute. He took another long drag. Breathing the smoke out through his nose, he considered the figure again. Short, chubby, meek demeanor. Severus couldn't shake the feeling he knew the man. They had probably gone to school together, and common sense told Severus that this wasn't the man's first Death Eater meeting. It was impossible to know for sure who you could and couldn't trust, unfortunately for James and Harry. But which of their friends would betray them?
His eyes snapped open. He had seen the man before. They had gone to school together, they'd been in the same year. And out of all of the Potters' friends, he had the biggest excuse to turn to the Dark Lord for protection.
"Peter?" Lily put her hand over her mouth. Sirius Black had invited her to stay at his apartment in Kensington until she found a place for herself, and he had just told her the news. "But why? Why didn't you and James tell me you'd switched?"
"Because James thought Voldemort was certain to come after me," Sirius said, pouring out a mug of tea for Lily and ignoring her shudder at the name. "Most of my family are Death Eaters; he couldn't resist that. So James and I asked Peter if he would, and he said yes."
"Ahem. Why didn't you or James tell me you'd made Peter our Secret-Keeper?" Lily wasn't feeling entirely charitable towards Sirius. If anything, she felt he'd betrayed her more than Peter had.
"I didn't tell you because I've been hiding for the last six months," Sirius pointed out. "I expected James to tell you. Couldn't tell you why he didn't." He took Lily's hand and squeezed it. "For what it's worth, I'm making it my mission to find the little rat and kill him."
Lily gave him a small, sad smile. "Do you know just how many rats live in London? You'll never find him. Besides, what if it was an accident? What if You-Know-Who tortured him?"
"Always the forgiver."
"Sirius, I know he was wrong, but… Peter's not as talented or as smart as you or James or Remus. He's… I just can't believe he'd betray us on purpose."
Sirius considered this. "Well… Okay, if I find him, I won't kill him right away. I'll ask him why he thought betraying you and James was a good idea. If he can't come up with an answer that doesn't involve the phrase 'I was forced', he dies."
"Good deal." Lily shook her head. She thought of this time last year, when she, James and Harry had spent their first Christmas together as a family. A flash of pain passed through her heart, but for the first time since that awful night, she didn't cry. True, she would never completely get over losing Harry or James, but now was the time to face facts: They were gone. It was time for her to start moving on.
The first step now was finding out why Peter had betrayed them.
Severus quickly scanned the crowd at the next Death Eater meeting. Sure enough, Pettigrew was there, standing off to one side of someone Severus thought was called Yaxley. He made his way over to him. Finally, when he was close enough to talk without being overheard, he inclined his head towards the smaller man.
"Meet me for a drink after the meeting."
Pettigrew looked up at Snape, an unusual fear passing behind his eyes. "F-for what?"
"Not what you're thinking." As if anyone could find you attractive, he thought contemptuously. "Just a talk. You gave the Potters to the Dark Lord; I'm impressed."
Peter relaxed and nodded, and he and Severus stood silently as the Dark Lord prattled on. Severus listened intently; he knew the Dark Lord was planning a takeover of the Ministry in January, shortly after the New Year, and as a part of his plan to get Dumbledore to trust him, Severus had made it his mission to gather all the details of the takeover and form a counter-strike plan.
After the meeting, he and Pettigrew walked out into the night. "Glad to know my work's appreciated," Pettigrew sniveled as they turned into a dark alley. "Now, where did you want to go-" He fell to the ground, Stunned.
Severus tore the mask off Pettigrew's face, then magically bound him with ropes. Double-checking that no one was following them, he Apparated into Hogsmeade with the traitor.
"Meet me at the castle doors, I have someone you'll want to speak to." Severus sent his doe Patronus off to Dumbledore's office with the message, then (making sure Pettigrew was still out) began the trek to the castle. If Dumbledore still didn't trust him after this… But of course he would. He wouldn't have any justified reason not to.
"Who is this?" Dumbledore asked after shutting the castle doors.
"Peter Pettigrew. I have good reason to think he betrayed the Potters whereabouts to the Dark Lord." Severus wondered whether he should un-Stun Pettigrew now, or wait until they were in the Headmaster's office.
Dumbledore answered his unspoken question. "Give Pettigrew to me," he said. "I will confine him in my office and contact the Ministry. In the meantime, Severus, run down to your office and bring me a bottle of Veritaserum."
When Severus had brought the Veritaserum, he brought out his wand and held it on Peter. "Shall I wake him?"
"Not until Barty Crouch gets here," Dumbledore answered.
"Crouch?!" Severus had already had one run-in with Barty Crouch, and had no desire for a second one. The man had never made any secret of his hatred of Death Eaters, and as far as he was concerned Severus was fit for nothing besides feeding a couple of Dementors.
"I do apologize, Severus, but he was the only one at the Ministry when I contacted them." Dumbledore patted the young man's shoulder reassuringly. "I have already vouched for you in front of Barty once, and I am more than prepared to do it again if needs be."
Severus nodded, and almost simultaneously a hiss from the fireplace alerted them to Crouch's arrival.
Crouch looked at Severus with a sneer. "We meet again, Snape."
"Trust me, Crouch, I have no pleasure in meeting you again." Severus pointed to the chair where Pettigrew was sitting. "But if it means putting that piece of garbage in Azkaban where it belongs, I'll endure it."
"Gentlemen," Dumbledore said warningly. "Once again, Barty, I assure you that Severus has no loyalty left to Lord Voldemort, and continues to attend meetings with the Death Eaters on my orders. Now, let's get down to business." He turned to Severus. "Administer the Veritaserum and wake him."
Severus nodded, shaking three drops of potion into Pettigrew's mouth and tapping him with his wand.
Pettigrew awoke, staring blankly ahead.
"Are you Peter Pettigrew?" Crouch demanded.
"Yes," Pettigrew answered, his voice as blank as his gaze.
"Did you betray the whereabouts of James and Lily Potter to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
Severus felt a small thrill of victory at this. But how…? Crouch voiced the question.
"Sirius Black was the Potters' original Secret-Keeper," Pettigrew droned. "On the twenty-fourth of October, he and James Potter came to my house. Sirius said that the Dark Lord was sure to come after him and try to recruit him as a Death Eater. Many members of his family have already joined ranks with them. James understood his concern, and presented me with the opportunity of being his Secret-Keeper. He did not know that I was a Death Eater. I agreed, knowing that it would please the Dark Lord if I handed the Potters to him. They performed the Fidelius Charm on me. Later that day, I relayed my information to the Dark Lord."
A vein was pulsing in Crouch's temple. "Very well." He turned to Dumbledore. "I'll take the scum to Azkaban. Thank you, Dumbledore… Snape." He grabbed Pettigrew and, with a curt nod to the professors, exited through the fireplace.
Dumbledore sighed and sat down at his desk. "Excellent work, Severus."
"Thank you, headmaster." He made to leave, but Dumbledore called him back. Severus sat in one of the chairs across from the older man.
"Severus, what was your purpose in bringing Pettigrew in tonight?"
Severus was taken aback. "Surely that much is obvious? He betrayed Lily."
"Yes, that is the obvious reason. However, I suspect you had an ulterior motive. What was it?"
"To gain your trust." Severus chose his next words with the most extreme caution. "Without your trust, I can't get close enough to the Dark Lord to gather information on him. Speaking of which…" He proceeded to tell Dumbledore the latest on the planned Ministry takeover. Dumbledore nodded as he listened, and Severus could tell that he was pleased.
"Once again, I give you my thanks," Dumbledore said. "You may go. But," he called, and Severus stopped in his tracks, "be careful, Severus. Lord Voldemort still has many opportunities to hunt down and kill Lily Potter, for any reason he can think of. Do not comfort yourself with the idea that she is safe just yet; being in his good graces cannot ensure that."
"I shall keep that in mind." He left the office, and later, in his chambers, resolved to talk to Lily again, before the year was out. This time, he would personally ensure her safety.
Lily and Severus meet one-to-one for the first time since the end of their fifth year. Awkwardness ensues.
I feel I should tell you a few secrets. If you want to hear anything I have to say, meet me at the Three Broomsticks for a drink. Don't consider this a date or anything like that.
Lily re-read the letter and snorted. Like I'd consider a date with you, Severus, she thought bitterly. But she was interested in what he had to say; ever since their meeting at the Leaky Cauldron, she'd wondered why he had seemed so sorry to hear about James's death. Looking back, she realized that was the strangest thing he'd said. Whatever else he might pretend, Severus had hated James with a murderous passion ever since…. Whatever had happened in the Shrieking Shack.
She sighed, then unrolled a fresh piece of parchment. Severus, she wrote, I will meet you for a drink in the Three Broomsticks on 30th December at six p.m. Don't worry; I'm not considering this a date. Just tell me what you want and we'll take it from there. Lily. She rolled it up and tied it to the leg of the Hogwarts barn owl. Lily, what in the name of Merlin have you gotten yourself into?
The Three Broomsticks date arrived. Severus waited outside, looking up and down the high street for Lily. He'd nearly given up hope and was about to enter the pub just so he could get drunk and forget he'd even attempted something this stupid, when he caught sight of Lily's dark-red hair flowing out from under a black stocking cap.
"Lily," he said, struggling to keep his voice formal. She looked amazing; apparently, not considering this a "date" hadn't kept her from dressing up slightly.
"Severus," she said, just as formally. "Shall we get out of this cold?"
"After you," he said, holding the door for her.
Within moments, they had found a table near the back of the pub. Sitting across from each other, him with a firewhisky, she with a gillywater, they sat in uncomfortable silence. Severus tossed back some of his drink, welcoming the burn in his throat, and lit a cigarette to calm himself.
Lily wrinkled her nose. "Since when do you smoke, Severus?"
"Since I became a spy for the Order of the Phoenix." He felt a small flash of smugness at Lily's shocked expression. Proved you wrong, didn't I? "Dumbledore has me keeping tabs on the Death Eaters. Actually, I didn't start then. I started after my first week teaching at Hogwarts. Potions," he said, answering her raised eyebrows.
"I see," she said. "How did you end up teaching, anyway? You don't like kids."
"Dumbledore offered me a job," he said with a shrug. "I was broke at the time." He took a drag. "It's not like I hate kids, either. Although some of these idiots I have to teach…"
Lily laughed in spite of herself. "I'm sure they don't like you, either."
"I don't give a fuck if they do or don't." He tapped off some of the ash. "I teach them, they learn… Sometimes."
"Is that the deep, dark secret you had for me?"
"One of them." He took a drink. "The other was about spying for the Order." And that I've been madly in love with you since I was nine years old, but you don't want to hear it.
"Oh. Well… Why haven't I seen you at Order meetings?" Lily drank the last bit of her gillywater, then ordered another one.
"I'm something of a secret weapon. I report directly to Dumbledore. Probably better that way, as I've got plenty of valuable information about the Order that the Dark Lord has killed for in the past."
"And what about being sorry about James and Harry?"
"I need an ulterior motive to be sorry that you lost your husband and child?"
"Severus, let's not dance around this: You hated James, and there was a time you would have paid someone to kill him if you couldn't."
That stung. "I was a teenager, Lily; I saw things differently then." He paused to take another drag. "If nothing else, believe that a combination of years and seeing true horrors can change a person."
Lily seemed to consider this as she finished her second gillywater and ordered a third. Severus found himself annoyed; was he really so repulsive to her, that she needed to be drunk to stand his presence? "Maybe so," she said, "but do you really expect me to believe you could let go of nearly a decade's hate that easily?"
He sighed, grinding out the cigarette. "Believe what you want to."
"Sev-" He looked up again, surprised by her use of the old nickname. "I want to believe you've changed, I do, but… There's so much between us."
Yes, he realized, there was. Not just calling her "mudblood" or his hatred of James, but his fascination with the Dark Arts, and his choice to become a Death Eater… Well, at the very least he understood why she was getting drunk. He finished his firewhisky, and just as he made to order another one, felt his Mark burn. Wonderful, he thought. "Lily, I have to go." He stood and threw his traveling cloak over his shoulders. "Thank you for meeting me. And maybe you should go up to the castle. Just in case."
"Just in case what?" Lily asked, standing and stumbling a little. He grabbed her arm and steadied her before she fell. "Thanks," she muttered.
"Are you sure you can Apparate right now?"
"…No, I probably can't. Castle it is, then."
He dropped her off in his chambers, and on the return trek to Hogsmeade, he restated his vow to protect her.
Vodka does things to people.
"Sev, this room's really… 'S very you." When he returned to the castle near midnight, Severus found Lily sitting at his desk, a nearly-empty bottle of vodka in hand. She blinked hard at him, trying to focus. "Bare bones suits you."
"How long have you been drinking?" He asked bluntly.
She waved her hand dismissively. "I'm getting an early start. 'S New Year's Eve, after all. I was just thinking… 'Bout James 'n' Harry… N' what we said to each other." She took another drink. "See, thing is I never wanted to stay mad at you. But you called me Mudblood, and I was… It hurt, y'know? N' James never said it to anyone, and he actually got really nice in sixth year…"
Severus walked to the desk and gently pried the bottle out of Lily's grip. "I think you've had too much."
"Give it back!" She pulled out her wand and pointed it directly at his chest.
"No," he said firmly, then threw the bottle away. "Come, Lily, it's been a long day. Let's get you into bed."
She giggled. "Severus Snape, that's entirely inappropriate."
He sighed and gently pulled her out of the chair. "Over here," he said, easing her down onto the bed. "Now get some rest."
"Wha' about you?"
"I can sleep sitting up." He settled down into a chair and had closed his eyes when Lily tapped his arm.
"Come on, Sev. 'S your bed."
He balked at this. On the one hand, he'd always wanted to sleep with her. On the other, she was nearly blinded from drink; if they did anything, she wouldn't remember and would almost certainly never forgive him.
"Please, I haven't slept alone since James and I were married," she wheedled, now tugging on his arm.
"All right. But we stay on our own sides, got it?" He pulled off his shirt and shoes, and crept into the bed. Lily inched toward him until her back was directly against his stomach. Discreetly he edged his hips a safe distance away from her backside, but try as he might, her warmth pressing up against him was too much to bear. Quietly, making sure she was asleep, he slipped out of the bed and went to his cauldron.
Lily awoke a few hours later and bolted out of the bed towards the stone sink, where she threw up what felt like every meal she'd eaten since she was eighteen. Once she was done, she rinsed out her mouth and headed back towards the bed. Severus was waiting there, with a glass of some clear liquid. "What is that?" she asked warily.
"Sobriety potion with extra peppermint," he said. "It'll settle your stomach."
Retching slightly, she nodded and took the drink. Almost immediately she felt better. Then she looked at Severus again. "Have you been up this whole time brewing this?"
"Sev, you could have slept; I would have been okay on a camp bed. Except…" Her eyes widened. "I asked you to sleep with me." He nodded. "We didn't-"
"No, we didn't."
"Oh." She set down the glass and laid back down on the bed. "Uh, well… That's great." After a second, she curled into a tight ball. "Come to bed, Sev. I promise, I won't ask you to… You know."
He hesitated, then climbed into bed, keeping himself as far away from her as possible. "Good night, Lily."
"Good night, Sev."
When he awoke for good later that morning, Severus was alone. Figures, he thought. Of course she wouldn't stay, of course she hadn't not intended to stay angry with him; she'd been drunk when she said those things. Welcome to your life, Severus Snape; it's meant to be devoid of Lily Evans. Sighing, he rolled over… And saw a note stuck on the pillow Lily had used.
Sev- I think we need to talk again soon. Same time, same place. Lily.
For the first time in years, Severus felt a glimmer of hope.
Cue the cautious optimism...
"The coup will take place tomorrow night at eleven-thirty." Severus dropped into the chair opposite Dumbledore's desk and rubbed his forehead; it had been another long day. As a matter of fact, the last four days had been excruciatingly long, between his day job, the meetings with Dumbledore to hammer out the finer points of the Ministry takeover counter-strike, and meetings with the Death Eaters to finalize the coup, he'd had no time to himself and had only slept for about two hours each night. He wasn't sure how much more of this he could take.
"Very well. I shall contact the Order and inform them."
"I won't be accompanying you." Severus was fairly sure he knew the answer, and he was grateful for it.
"No. And Voldemort has not asked you to participate on his end?"
"Excellent. And now, Severus, get some sleep. You look dead on your feet."
Severus nodded and left the office. Back in his quarters, he took a mild sleeping draft, undressed, and climbed under the covers, looking forward to his first restful sleep of the week.
It was anything but. He awoke several hours later, deeply unnerved by his dreams.
In one of them, the Dark Lord had killed Lily, and Dumbledore had informed him that the next plan was for Severus to keep Harry safe. The next had involved his father, Tobias, accusing him, Severus, of killing his little sister, and the last, immediately after that, had prominently featured a little girl, no more than two years old, glaring at him and mouthing "It's your fault" from time to time. Despite the absurdity of the last two dreams -Severus was an only child, and he had never met anyone who fit the description of the girl in his dream- he couldn't shake the feeling that it meant something.
Putting the dreams out of his thoughts, he got dressed and headed to the Great Hall for breakfast. Instead he thought of his lesson plans.
The post arrived, and unusually enough, an owl landed in front of him. Curious, he took the letter and unrolled it.
Three Broomsticks on Saturday?
Why Saturday? He thought. Then he remembered: Saturday was the ninth of January, his twenty-second birthday. Severus had never looked forward to his birthdays; if his father hadn't berated Eileen for celebrating it ("he was a fucking mistake!" stood out as one of Tobias's nicer lines), both of them had been too busy fighting to even remember it. Lily had been the only person who'd remembered each year. Still, it was another chance to see her…
"Did you mean it?"
"Did I mean what?"
"When you were drunk, you said you never meant to stay angry with me." Severus and Lily sat across from each other in the same booth as their last meeting. This time, they had forgone the alcohol in favor of coffee, as it was blisteringly cold outside. Snow and sleet pounded against the window, and the wind howled like a hundred wounded werewolves. Just another early January day in northern Scotland. "I wanted to know if it was true."
Lily sipped her coffee and considered her next words. "You were a big part of my life for six years, Sev; I didn't want to let you go at all, but… It just seemed like you'd stop at nothing to join You-Know-Who."
"That's a maybe." He took out his cigarettes, but noting Lily's nose wrinkling again, put them back in his pocket. If it would make her happy, he could go without for another hour.
"Oh, I don't think I would have stayed angry with you forever," she said. "Especially if you had taught my children. But I don't think we'd have ever been as close again."
No, maybe not. He couldn't blame her; he was an idiot for ever thinking that becoming a Death Eater would have impressed her. It had taken the Dark Lord threatening her to snap him out of it.
"I just never understood why, Sev. I thought we were friends."
"Of course we were," he said, discreetly sitting on his hand to keep it from reaching out to hers.
"Then why did you want to join him?"
It was a question Severus had asked himself, countless times. "I'm not sure. I was an idiot; I wanted some of his power. It seemed like the only way I could ever rise above where I was at the time."
Lily nodded. She knew about Severus's home life: His father was a drunk and seemed incapable of ever shutting his mouth or keeping his fists to himself, and his mother had been so torn down by years of abuse that she couldn't take care of herself, let alone her son. "And when you said you never meant to hurt me… Did you mean that?"
The green eyes found the black, filled with an intensity she'd grown up seeing. "Every word."
"I can't believe you." Sirius looked at Lily incredulously. She'd just told him that she wanted to see more of Severus, after their meeting at the Leaky Cauldron. "For Merlin's sake, he called you 'Mudblood' in front of the entire school!"
"Yes, and he was wrong, but that was six years ago." She was sitting with her knees drawn up to her chin, looking into the fire as though it held an answer. "That's enough time to change a person."
"You don't get it, Lily. My whole family are Dark wizards, I can spot them a mile away. I'm telling you, Snape is a Death Eater."
"Did you know that Peter would betray me and James, Sirius?" Lily asked quietly. "Did you, in your infinite wisdom and sixth sense for catching Death Eaters, ever suspect Peter Pettigrew?"
Sirius was quiet for a moment, sobered by her observation. "You're always a forgiver," he said, and opened a copy of the Evening Prophet.
"I have more reason to forgive Severus than I do Peter."
Sirius sighed. "I'm not going to tell you what to do."
"Good." She stood up. "Glad to see someone's finally treating me like an adult." She stormed off to her room and slammed the door. Sitting down on the bed, she buried her face in her hands.
Lily knew Sirius hated Severus, and that Severus hated Sirius back, but she wasn't asking them to be friends. She just wanted Sirius to see that people could change, and Severus was living proof of that.
But he never said he didn't join the Death Eaters, a small, unbidden voice in her head interrupted. For all you know, Sirius is right about that.
No! He didn't! Why would he? So he'd been an angry and insecure teenager; weren't a lot of people?
Just saying it's a possibility. You trusted Peter, didn't you? And look what it got you.
She brushed a tear off her cheek. Point to her rational side; blind trust had cost her James and Harry. She decided to neither blindly trust Severus nor not trust him at all; in time, he'd show her his true colors.
With Lily back in his life, Severus starts thinking some things over.
"Sev? Mind if I come through?" Lily's head asked from the fireplace. He nodded, and in a moment she was stepping onto the hearth. "Sorry for inviting myself over, but I had to get away from Sirius."
"Understandable," Severus said with a slight smirk. Lily rolled her eyes.
"I'd hate to see you two in a duel," she said, dropping onto a chair. "He's not being awful, he's just… He likes to talk a lot. And he doesn't always think before he opens his mouth."
"What was he on about?"
"His mother died last week. The way he's been talking about it, you'd think it was the greatest thing since self-stirring cauldrons. I know he didn't like her, but why should he be happy she's dead? Oh," she said, taking note of Severus's puzzled expression. "My mum died a year after I graduated from Hogwarts."
"My condolences," Severus said quietly. "I remember she and you were close."
She nodded. "And your mum… I heard a rumor just after we left: She was targeted by Death Eaters?"
"Just a rumor," He said. "My mother is still very much alive."
Lily smiled with a hint of sadness. "And your father?"
"Left just before I turned seventeen; no one's seen hide nor hair of him since." He shrugged contemptuously. "Not that I care what happened to him… My apologies, Lily." Her smile had faltered when she'd seen the look of pure hatred that crossed Severus's face whenever he thought about Tobias. "Both of your parents are-?"
She nodded. "Dad was ill; he had cancer most of my seventh year, and Mum… I know they say it's not possible, but I think she died of a broken heart." She laughed suddenly. "Birds of a feather, they were. I always hoped James and I would turn out the same way…" Her face fell again. "I wake up and think they're still alive sometimes, you know. It's like my brain won't accept they're gone. And how sad is it that I'm a widow at twenty-two?"
Severus was quiet. Lily needed to talk, and needed someone to listen, even if that someone was her former best friend she didn't entirely trust. To his credit, Severus was a good listener; his face was blank whenever she talked about James and Harry. She wasn't entirely happy about this, but she knew him too well to think there was a better alternative.
He raised his hand slightly, as though he wanted to reach for hers, but dropped it. Lily took it gently. She hardly dared to believe it, but maybe she'd been mistaken about him. Maybe the awkward-yet-intriguing boy who'd introduced her to the magical world wasn't gone, after all.
"Thanks for lending an ear, Sev."
As he sat in his office grading the papers he was weeks behind on, Severus re-considered why Dumbledore didn't want him fighting the Death Eaters at the Ministry. After a few nights of good rest (aided by dreamless sleeping potions), he'd started to resent the old man's decision. Did he really think he knew what was right for him, Severus Snape? Did he really think he couldn't make up his own mind? Dumbledore didn't even trust him enough to keep his head down!
The Dark Lord does.
Severus put down his quill and rubbed his chin. True, the Dark Lord trusted him; thanks to Occlumency, he had no reason not to. But Dumbledore, for whom Severus had risked his very life the last year, didn't. Was putting himself in constant mortal peril not enough to earn it? And if not, what was?
And don't forget, the Dark Lord spared Lily.
Yes; why should he have done that? "A reward," he'd said; Severus's reward, for his faithful service. If Lord Voldemort, supposedly the most evil wizard of the last century, could do something as (dare he call it) kind as sparing someone's life at a request… Then why couldn't Dumbledore trust someone who'd risked their life, time and time over, for him?
He picked up the quill again, stared blankly at a test on undetectable poisons for a second, then threw it down. The hell with it. He'd done more than his share for the Order; if Dumbledore refused to trust Severus Snape, he didn't deserve to have him on his side. He'd have to play this close to the vest, though; if Dumbledore grew suspicious, the least Severus would lose was his job (which, he was loath to admit, was actually growing on him). He might not like the old man, but he wasn't foolish enough to think he'd win a duel with him.
With a renewed sense of purpose, he went back to grading the tests. Nothing like keeping up appearances.
Crouch Now Favourite in Minister of Magic Race
Bartemius Crouch, Sr., current Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, has taken over Millicent Bagnold as the favourite to be elected Minister of Magic, according to recent polls.
Crouch, who has long taken an aggressive stance against the Dark Arts, including authorizing the use of Illegal Curses against known Death Eaters and giving Aurors license to kill, recently spearheaded a successful counter-attack to an attempted takeover of the Ministry of Magic by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and it is this, said several repliers to the Daily Prophet's poll, that has boosted the public's confidence in him.
"The Ministry needs a strong leader right now," said a young witch who wished to remain anonymous, "and Crouch is showing a lot of strength. The Death Eaters aren't playing fair, so why should the Ministry?"
By and large, it appears that the rest of Wizarding Britain agrees with her. Ever since the murders of James and Harry Potter last Halloween, the population has approved of using extreme force to bring down He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Bagnold, who remains opposed to Crouch's ideas, has seen a sharp decrease in popularity since then, with the public's main reason being she isn't being hard enough on the Death Eaters.
"Killing is evil, but killing a baby... No one thought You-Know-Who would sink to that," says Rufus Scrimgeour, Assistant Head of the Auror Department. "Crouch has the right idea: It's time to fight fire with fire."
Despite the sudden upswing in popularity, Crouch's critics have made their views known. Among them are Head of the Auror Department Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (who has stated that killing Death Eaters is counter-productive and is known to kill only when he deems it absolutely necessary) and current Headmaster of Hogwarts Albus Dumbledore.
"There is little difference between one who uses the Dark Arts to further a noble cause and one who uses them to further an evil cause," said Dumbledore yesterday, during a Wizengamot meeting. "It is my sincerest hope that Barty Crouch knows when and where to draw the line, and more importantly when crossing that line will make him every bit as monstrous as Voldemort himself."
Lily folded the paper and set it aside. This was an interesting development, indeed. She really had no opinion either way on Crouch (or Bagnold, come to that), but she hoped that Harry and James's deaths wouldn't become their political rallying point. She'd have a very strong opinion about that.
Lord Voldemort looked furiously down at Severus. "The Ministry takeover was a complete fiasco," he said, pointing his wand at him. "The Order of the Phoenix was too well-informed. Snape, you have one minute to explain why Dumbledore's stooges defeated my Death Eaters…"
"My Lord, it is part of my plan to gain Dumbledore's complete trust," Severus said. "The more faith he puts in me, the more secrets I can give you. I had no choice but to detail the plans to him. I cannot properly convey how deeply I regret those actions now." He bowed low. It did nothing to quell Voldemort's anger.
"And what happened to Peter Pettigrew? Yaxley tells me he saw Pettigrew leaving a meeting with you in December, and that no one has seen him since."
"Dumbledore suspected him in the Potter killings. He ordered me to capture Pettigrew so he could be questioned about it."
"And what reason would he have to suspect Pettigrew, Snape? Pettigrew intended to frame Sirius Black for the murders."
"Was that part of his plan contingent on Black coming after him, my Lord? If it was, then no one is to blame; Black never sought him out. In any case, Dumbledore did not believe Black would have betrayed the Potters."
Voldemort held his wand on Severus for another moment, then slowly lowered it. "Very well, Snape. I shall overlook this, as long as your service does not waver again."
"It will not, my Lord." Another deep bow, and Severus was dismissed.
After apparating into Hogsmeade, he allowed himself to tremble. That was too close. Lighting a cigarette to calm himself, he headed back to the castle, mind racing. He wasn't surprised the Dark Lord was angry with him; he'd expected that. Instead, he wondered where he'd gone wrong. Perhaps he'd been a little too obvious? Or the Dark Lord was reading signs no one else could see? That, maybe, but what signs was he seeing? Hadn't he eliminated his greatest threat with Harry Potter? Of course, the battle at the Ministry had shaken the Death Eaters; they'd lost two of their most powerful members, Evan Rosier and Augustus Rookwood. The latter had been a devastating blow in particular; Rookwood had been the Dark Lord's eyes and ears in the Department of Mysteries.
Severus assured himself that the Dark Lord still trusted him, but if he was to continue trusting him, he would have to find some truly worthwhile information about Dumbledore and Hogwarts by the next meeting. That'll be easy, he thought bitterly, throwing the burned-down cigarette on the ground and grinding it out under his heel. For someone who had to believe the best of people, Dumbledore seemed to be looking for any reason not to believe the best of Severus, and Severus was running out of ways to get around this. At times, he wondered if it would be worth it to just disappear into society's underbelly again and never deal with the old man again... But then he'd remember that he and Lily were just now rebuilding their friendship. He'd lost her once, and he refused to lose her again, especially not through his own stupidity.
Back in his quarters, he slipped out of his robes and climbed into the bed, closing his eyes with a sigh. Had he thought this was going to get any easier? What a foolish idea.
Severus pulled himself out of the lake, assisted by the giant squid. And just what was that about? He went over the events leading up to it; quickly, as his robes were beginning to freeze.
He and Lily had met up in Hogsmeade again, and Severus had been called away by Dumbledore. At this, Lily had stiffened; not wanting her to think she was being ditched, he'd asked if she wanted to wait outside the castle until Dumbledore was finished with him. Unfortunately, it had taken longer than he'd thought, and Lily was both cold and furious when he got back.
"You could have come inside," he said evenly.
"I'm going back to London," Lily growled.
"Lily!" Severus ran after her. "I'm sorry, I really am. I didn't think he'd talk as much as he did, but he's the man who signs my paychecks, all right? I can't afford to tell him off!"
"Don't follow me, Severus."
"Just tell me what I did wrong!"
"GET AWAY FROM ME!" With that, Lily had shoved Severus, hard, in the chest; he'd stumbled backwards and lost his footing, ending up in the freezing-cold lake.
Now, teeth chattering, he raced back to his quarters. Once there, he stripped off his wet clothes, started a fire, and climbed into bed, shivering. As an afterthought, he performed a drying charm on his hair. Lily, what the hell? He thought once again. He supposed she couldn't help it -after all, she was still grieving - but he didn't know why she'd thought it was appropriate to nearly give him hypothermia. He closed his eyes as he warmed up, and had almost drifted off when…
He looked at the fireplace. Lily's head was sitting in the flames, looking ashamed.
"What?" he said, more harshly than he'd expected.
She flinched, but said: "I'm sorry about… About earlier. I don't know what came over me."
"Don't worry about it," he muttered, sitting up slightly.
"Sev, stop that. It wasn't your fault."
"I didn't say it was."
She sighed. "Look, just accept my apology, all right?" When he didn't respond, she asked, "Can I come through?"
He considered for a second, then nodded. A moment later, she was standing next to the bed, brushing soot off her clothes. "Can I sit down?"
"Stop being so polite; I'm starting to feel uncivilized."
She sighed. "I'm a wreck, Sev. I'm on top of the world one minute, then the next I'm sure everyone hates me. I can't stop thinking about Harry or James. Every time we argued, every time I complained about either of them, knowing I can't see them and say I'm sorry…" She sat down in the armchair and cradled her head in her hands. "I hate this. I really hate it, but I can't stop it."
Severus climbed out of the bed and pulled on clean, dry robes. He walked over to the chair and put his arm on her shoulder; she didn't move. "You're grieving, Lily."
"That's not an excuse. It's just like after you called me Mudblood and I made fun of you for being poor. I was a bitch. I am a bitch."
"No you're not," he said firmly. "You were hurt."
At this, she broke down completely. "Stop making excuses! I hurt you, Sev, and I did it on purpose."
He let her carry on for a while, then looked through his stores for a Calming Draft. "Drink this," he said, pouring out a measure in a teacup and handing it to her. After she drank it, he conjured another chair for himself, across from her, and sat.
"Lily, listen to me: I was hurt. But I forgave you a long time ago."
"Why?" She sniffled miserably.
"I had my reasons." He ached to tell her the truth, but now wasn't the time. Looking at the clock on his wall, he realized that it was nearly suppertime. "Would you like to stay here for supper?"
She shook her head. "I'm not feeling real social right now."
"Not in the Great Hall," he said. "If you'd like, I'll bring something back here."
Again, she shook her head. Severus decided to stay in his quarters with her, but gave her plenty of space. He was grading the fifth-years' essays an hour later when she spoke again.
"Sev… Can I stay with you for a while? At least until I find my own place?"
He stopped part-way through some tripe about Chinese Chomping Cabbages and turned slowly to her. "I thought you were staying with Sirius Black?"
"I am… I mean, I was. He's been acting really odd lately, ever since I told him about our last meeting."
"Okay, Professor." It was a lame attempt at good-natured ribbing, but Severus smiled all the same; she was at least trying. "He's been acting like I'm not smart enough to make my own decisions. Like I'm some weak little girl. He keeps asking me about 'what would James say' and questioning every decision I make. It's really getting on my nerves. I'm pretty sure James told him to look after me if anything happened to him, but he's taking it too far. Especially so soon… It's only been four months…" A look of dawning realization came over her.
Severus stood up suddenly. "Perhaps you and I should pay Black a little visit, Lily."
"Sev, I really don't think that's a good idea…"
"I'm not going to hurt him, don't worry." He grabbed his cloak and fastened it under his chin. "Just a chat between old friends, is all."
"Did you just tell me not to worry? Because I'm worried!"
"Snape! What the hell are you doing here?" Sirius snarled.
"Sirius, be civil," Lily warned. "And let me in; I want to go to my room."
He stood aside to let her in, then turned back to Severus. "Well? What can I do for you, Snivellus?"
"Nice to see you too, Black, and to get straight to the point, I'm here to talk to you about Lily." Severus leaned casually against the door frame, arms folded over his chest and wand held steady in his left hand. "She told me you've been acting a little oddly lately."
"What's it to you?"
"Well, if she's telling other people about it, I think it's safe to assume you're making her uncomfortable." Severus smirked, shaking his head. "Really, Black, this is an entirely new low for you."
Sirius's face was white with fury. "Snape, you have exactly ten seconds to tell me what the fuck you're saying before I turn you into an ant and step on you."
"You're sniffing around your best friend's widow." Sirius looked like he'd been slapped. Severus went on. "I wouldn't have believed it if she hadn't told me. I knew you had flexible morals, but to try and seduce her so soon after Potter's death?"
Sirius pulled out his wand and aimed it directly at Severus's chest; Severus did likewise. "You have no idea what you're talking about," Sirius snapped. "James told me to protect her if anything happened to him-"
"Oh yes, he wanted you to protect her, but I seriously doubt he wanted you to, ah, comfort her, if you get my meaning. Or treat her like she's too stupid to make up her own mind."
"Sev?" Lily reappeared from her room and stopped, looking from Sirius to Severus and back again. "Oh for God's sake, you two! Severus, I told you not to-"
"He pulled his wand on me first," Severus said simply, but lowered his wand all the same. "Nice talking to you, Black. Lily, I'll meet you there." He nodded to Sirius and stepped into a dark alley to Apparate to Spinner's End.
"What did he mean, 'I'll meet you there'?" Sirius closed the door and rounded on Lily.
"I asked Severus if I could stay with him for a while, and he very kindly agreed."
"And why, pray tell, do you think he agreed so easily? You think I'm hitting on you, what do you think he'll spend his time doing?"
"Well, seeing as he's got a job, probably that." Lily sighed and headed back to her room, Sirius on her heels. "Look, Sirius, it was very kind of you to let me stay here, and I appreciate you looking after me, but I don't think it's going to work out."
"Whatever Snape thinks to the contrary, Lily, I am not in love with you."
"If you're not in love with me, then why are you so threatened by him?"
"Because I don't trust him, as I have told you numerous times before!"
"Well I do trust him, and so does Dumbledore! If we can't trust Dumbledore's judgment, we can't trust anyone." Lily picked up a suitcase and opened it on the bed. "I'm not going to fight with you about this. I'll trust who I choose, and you trust who you choose."
"Lily, don't do this-"
"Just shut up, Sirius."
"All I said was I don't like him."
"And accused him of being a Death Eater, and of only wanting to get in my pants, and of being some horrid monster. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam." Lily threw the last of her shirts in the suitcase. "I don't care if you don't like Severus, and when did I ever ask you to, I want to know. I just asked you to quit badmouthing him at every turn."
"And I'm sure he never says anything against me when you go out with him," Sirius sneered, leaning against the door jamb.
"No, as a matter of fact he doesn't." She placed her last pictures of James and Harry on top of the clothes, then closed the suitcase. "We tend to talk about me, or his job, or what's happened since we left Hogwarts."
"You and I don't talk about you?"
"You talk at me, Sirius. I haven't been allowed to make my own choices without getting to hear about it from you for the last two months. I like talking to someone who doesn't shove his esteemed opinion down my throat."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that I'd like to make a decision about something without being treated to 'why Sirius Black thinks it's a terrible, terrible decision'." She picked up the suitcase. "Having someone listen to me is kind of sexy, I have to admit."
"Oh." Sirius smirked. "I see. So it's not that he wants in your pants; it's that you want in his."
Lily recoiled as if he'd slapped her, and tears filled her eyes. "Don't try to figure out what's in my head, Sirius," she said quietly, her voice choked with anger. "And unless you want to be turned into a spider, get out of my way."
Sirius stood aside still smirking. "Well, have fun with your new toy, Lily. I'm sure he'll enjoy it. It's not like anyone else would do it for him."
Lily stopped just before the door and turned back to Sirius, her eyes cold with hatred. "You know, last time Severus hurt me, it was an accident. You, Sirius… You aim for the open wounds. I'm sure James would be thrilled that his best friend is calling his wife a slut."
It was Sirius's turn to look shocked, but before he could reply Lily had slammed the door behind her and Disapparated back to her old Manchester neighborhood.
Lily moves in with Severus. But more importantly, Remus shows up to give Sirius a clue.
"What did he say to you?" Severus's eyes widened as he ushered Lily into the kitchen and handed her a clean dish rag (the closest thing he had to a handkerchief).
"N-nothing." She wiped her eyes. "I don't want to talk about it right now," she added, noting his raised eyebrow.
He nodded and, for the second time that night, put his hand on her shoulder. "This house is always open for you," he said. To his surprise, Lily took his hand and squeezed it gently.
"You're too good, Sev. I'm sorry I ever doubted you." Severus felt like a knife was twisting in his chest. "Anyway, I thought you said your mum was still alive?"
"She is," Severus said. "She moved out a bit after my father left, to Dublin; she's got family there. He's been declared legally dead, so now I own the house." He looked toward the sink, and several unbidden images of Tobias yelling and swinging his fist at a cowering Eileen flashed across his mind. "I don't have to pay to live here, so that's worth it."
Lily nodded. "Sev, I don't mean to be rude, but-"
"Upstairs and to the right," he said. "Go on. You've had a long day."
"I have to get back to the castle." Noting her crestfallen look, he added, "If you'd like, you could come back with me for a bit. Until you're tired, but I can't let you stay in my quarters there."
"Against the rules?"
"That, and I've actually cleaned the guest bedroom for the first time in four years; I don't want all that effort to go to waste."
Lily smiled. "All right, then. Well, good night, Sev. I'm sure the guest bedroom is lovely."
That would be stretching it, he thought as she disappeared up the stairs. Even when he'd had the room it was barren except for his bed and a desk. But he'd cleaned it thoroughly and made sure it was comfortable for her. Stifling a yawn, he returned to the castle, feeling happier than he had in years.
"I think it's both of you." Remus Lupin sat across from Sirius, frowning at him over a cup of tea. "Really, Sirius, 'have fun with your new toy'? Did you think she'd take that well?"
"I don't see why she took it so badly," Sirius said defiantly. "What does she see in him, anyway?"
"Well, they're old friends, aren't they? And really, Severus has been acting differently lately; more mature than when we were in school." When Sirius continued to look bitter, Remus said, "If you can't possibly trust Severus, then trust that Dumbledore trusts him. I don't believe for one second he'll let Lily come to any harm."
"Everyone trusts him!" Sirius burst out. "Forget about his fascination with the Dark Arts. Forget that he called Lily a 'mudblood' in front of the entire school. Forget that he never missed an opportunity to hex James! Just forget all that, because Dumbledore said so!"
"And what about your past transgressions, Sirius?" Remus asked quietly, gripping the mug so hard his knuckles turned white.
"What about them?" He barked.
"Well, I seem to recall waking up one morning after the full moon, during our fifth year, and hearing that you had tried to lure Severus into the Shrieking Shack." There was danger in his voice. "James told me about that while you were in Dumbledore's office. He said you'd thought it would be funny."
"Well, if he was so interested in finding out where you went every month-"
"Did you ever stop to think if I would have found it funny? That I could see a fellow student either dead or turned by my doing and laugh about it?"
"Moony, it's Snape we're talking about."
At this, Remus slammed the cup down, causing tea to slosh out of it. "I don't care who it is we're talking about. Has it never occurred to you that murder is murder, and had you succeeded in using me to murder Severus you would have made yourself every bit as evil as you claim he is?"
Sirius looked across the table at Remus, his eyes cold. "You too, Remus?"
"I trust Dumbledore," he said simply, though his voice still had an edge. "I choose to see beyond my own feelings and favor his judgment. If you have a brain in your head, you'll do the same. I don't like Severus any more than you do, but again I assure you: Lily is safe with him."
Sirius was quiet a moment. "I'm worried about her, Remus. I knew she wasn't going to be right, not after James and Harry…" He paused, then picked up again. "But it's like she's latched on to Snape, forgiven him carte blanche, and she'd follow him anywhere."
"Not anywhere. If he starts going in a direction she doesn't like, she'll get away from him." Remus took a draft of tea. "Let her go, Sirius. If she's meant to be with you, she'll come back. If not, find someone else."
Severus learns to fly.
"Leaving?" Lily asked, yawning as she entered the small kitchen. Severus had spent the night at Spinner's End, and his movement downstairs had roused her.
"I have a meeting with Dumbledore," he said, and flicked his wand at an old percolator on the stove. It started bubbling, forcing small jets of coffee into the bulb, and he waited a moment before pouring out cups for himself and Lily.
"Going after Death Eaters again?"
He nodded. "They've been a little more active lately, trying to recoup after failing to take the Ministry. Dumbledore wants me to check it out." He looked at his watch. "I have to be off."
She nodded and walked over to him. "Well, be careful today, all right?" She stood on her toes and kissed his cheek.
"Right," he said, setting the cup down and exiting the house. "I'll see you in a few hours."
Once he was safely outside and had disappeared down an abandoned alley near the old mill, Severus reached up and touched the patch of skin Lily's lips had brushed against. A pleasant shiver ran down his spine. If only she knew what that meant to him…
Focus, he told himself strictly. The Dark Lord had told him to report to Cornwall for special instruction today. Not only would he need all his wits about him for that, but apparating from Manchester to the southernmost tip of the country was hard enough without splinching himself along the way. Clearing his mind of everything but his destination, he turned on the spot. A sound of waves crashing against rocks told him he'd reached his destination. He opened his eyes and looked down… And immediately regretted it, backing away from the bank several paces. Why Land's End?
"Severus. Excellent." Lord Voldemort's voice came from behind him. Grateful for any reason to look away from the drop, Severus turned to it and bowed.
"You are wondering, perhaps, why I have brought you here." He indicated the thousand-foot cliffs with a sweep of his hand.
"Yes, my Lord." The words were barely out of his mouth when the Dark Lord ran for the cliff and, before Severus could move or make a sound, had jumped… And taken flight. Severus watched in awe as he made a circuit around the cliff face and came in for a smooth, graceful landing. "That was astounding, My Lord," Severus said. It truly was.
"It is a useful skill to learn, Severus," the Dark Lord said. "It takes great discipline, powers of concentration, and intelligence… All of which you have." Again he bestowed that look on Severus, the one that made him feel like a favored son.
"How is it done?"
As the Dark Lord described the process, Severus listened raptly. Flying, as it turned out, was an issue of mind over matter: One only had to imagine themselves light enough to fly, and they would. But was it that simple?
"Do you wish to try it?" Voldemort asked.
Severus made his way back to his house much later that day, stiff and sore all over. Flying wasn't as hard as the Dark Lord had said it would be. It was infinitely harder, and Severus had spent hours running flat out and taking a vertical leap, trying to convince himself that he was light enough to catch the wind, only to crash down onto the ground, at one point chipping a tooth. Oh, he hurt now; tomorrow he'd be lucky if he could get out of bed without assistance.
Wearily he tapped the door with his wand, heard the lock click, and entered, his nostrils greeted by the delicious smell of beef stew. Lily was sitting in the living room, absorbed in a book. He made his way past her into the kitchen and towards a pot on the stove, and ladled some of the stew onto a plate. He took a bite. It tasted as good as it smelled.
After about fifteen minutes, Lily walked into the kitchen, jumping a bit when she saw him. "Sev! I didn't hear you come in. How do you like it?" She nodded towards the plate.
"It's delicious," he said.
Lily smiled. "I'm glad you like it. It's one of the few things I make that's actually edible." She sat down across the table from him. "How was your day?"
"Long and tiring." He noticed that Lily was gazing at his hair, which hung in its usual greasy curtains.
"Sev, you really have lovely hair. You should take better care of it."
He blushed slightly. She thought his hair was lovely? Or was she trying to be nice about telling him to wash it? Well, whatever; if it made her happy, he'd wash it tonight.
Severus groaned as he pushed himself up from the ground. Over a week since the Dark Lord had offered to teach him how to fly, Severus had still not achieved it. The Dark Lord must surely regret his offer to teach me, Severus thought, but when he looked at him, he seemed as indifferent as ever.
"Try again," The Dark Lord said simply.
"My Lord, perhaps I am not suited to this," Severus said, wincing as he felt the freshest bruise on his ribcage.
"You are well-suited for this, Severus," The Dark Lord said. "You must be patient. You nearly achieved flight on your last attempt."
"I did?" He thought back; yes, he had felt as though he would fly for a second.
"Yes. Try once more." The Dark Lord stood back and watched patiently.
Once more. Right. Severus willed himself to stop feeling the pain, took a deep breath, and started running. I will fly this time. Mind over matter. He closed his eyes and leapt, felt the brief sensation of being lighter than air… But any moment now he would crash.
Except he didn't. He opened one eye to a squint, just to confirm it- Yes! He was flying! And what a sensation it was; he had never imagined feeling this free before. After a moment he willed himself down for a gentle landing, coming to a jerky halt barely a hundred feet from where he'd taken off.
"Excellent," The Dark Lord said. "Try once more, just to get the feel of it, and then you are free to go."
Once again Severus took off, remembering the feeling of being lighter than air, and soared around the area once more before landing (much more smoothly than last time) and, with the Dark Lord's approval, apparating back to Spinner's End.
Approaching the house, he suddenly shivered. He unlocked the door, keeping his wand at the ready, and slowly entered the house. Albus Dumbledore sat in the sitting-room, looking grave.
"Severus," he said when he heard the door close, standing and looking into Severus's black eyes in that piercing way.
"What are you doing here? And where's Lily?" A hundred horrible scenarios crossed his mind, all of them ending with Lily dead.
"She is safe," He said. "I set up a quiet meeting with her and Remus Lupin. I wish to speak to you alone."
Severus discovers a secret the Dark Lord has been keeping from him.
Dumbledore threw a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace before stepping in. "Headmaster's office!" He said, and with a soft whooshing sound he disappeared. Severus followed reluctantly; what on Earth could Dumbledore want to talk with him about?
He landed in the grate of the beautiful office, siphoning soot off his robes as he sat down across from the desk. Dumbledore looked with interest at one of his many instruments, then spoke.
"Lily has taken up residence with you."
"Yes." Why was Dumbledore stating the obvious?
"And is she happy, living with you?"
"For all intents and purposes," Severus said. "She hasn't complained about the situation thus far."
"She feels safe, then?"
"What are you really asking me, Dumbledore?" Severus said wearily. He was tired of the old man's mind games; at least the Dark Lord was straightforward in his requests.
"Do you believe that she is any safer living with you than she was with Sirius Black?"
"Yes, Dumbledore, I do," Severus said, flaring up. "And she's the one who made the decision, not me."
"What gives you that confidence?"
"The Dark Lord trusts me." It was good enough for him, Severus; it should be good enough for Dumbledore.
"Voldemort trusts you." Dumbledore looked over his half-moon glasses, the lenses flashing ominously. "And you do not believe that his trust in you is conditional?"
"No more than yours."
"No more than mine." Dumbledore nodded. "Severus, while it may seem as though your efforts are unappreciated on this side, please do not assume that I underestimate the danger in which you put yourself."
"'Unappreciated'?" Severus felt his temper rising. "I suppose it's only a small sacrifice, then, not to have your trust, not to be privy to the enchantments protecting this school, to have to suffer the Dark Lord's wrath whenever I must admit that I have no new information for him? Not only do you not appreciate my efforts, Dumbledore, you ignore them completely!"
"If I ignored your efforts, I would not have brought you here tonight." Dumbledore stood and began pacing. "I fear that Lily is still in danger, and I fear that you may not be protecting her as well as you think."
"Killing Harry did not make him immortal as he thought it would," Dumbledore said. "He misinterpreted the prophecy because he did not hear it in its entirety. Evidence you have been giving me, as sparse as it is, suggests that Voldemort believes the prophecy now applies to any children Lily might have."
"Well then," Severus said, unable to keep some amusement out of his voice. "It should please you to know that she and I sleep in separate bedrooms."
"That is none of my business, Severus, nor is it Voldemort's." His tone was stern, but Severus could have sworn his lips twitched upward for a second. "You are now misunderstanding me. If the prophecy applies to any children Lily may have, that makes Lily the threat."
Severus could almost hear the illusion of safety crashing around him. He stood up, shaking slightly. "Thank you, Dumbledore." He headed towards the fireplace.
"I don't disbelieve you," he said. "I just want to hear it from the Dark Lord." He grabbed a handful of Floo powder and threw it into the fireplace.
"Be careful, Severus."
At this, he turned back to Dumbledore. It was the closest thing to an approving statement he'd received in the last year and a half. "I will."
"I had a great time tonight, Remus," Lily said, giving him a hug. "Thank you so much."
"It was my pleasure," Remus said, returning the hug. Then he walked away down the street, and when Lily looked back, he had Disapparated. Still smiling, Lily turned down Spinner's End and headed for Severus's house.
"Sev?" She called as she entered. "You home?"
"In here," he called from the sitting room.
When Lily entered the room, she found Severus sitting in his favorite armchair, whey-faced and staring at his hands, which were clasped between his knees. "What's wrong?" She asked, taking a seat on the sofa.
"I spoke with Dumbledore today," he said hoarsely. "He thinks the Dark Lord isn't satisfied with… With killing Harry."
"What do you mean?"
Severus looked at her. "He wants you dead."
Me… Dead… You-Know-Who… "Sev, is… Does Dumbledore really think so?"
He nodded. Lily sat back, thoughts buzzing through her head. It wasn't enough that You-Know-Who had taken her family; now he wanted the set. Why? What could he possibly gain by killing her? Did he just like it by now?
"So what happens now?" She asked after a moment.
He sighed. "I don't know."
She saw, for the first time, how frightened he was. He'd never been unflappable, but he'd never really worn his heart on his sleeve, either, and seeing him unable to hide his feelings, being as naked as she'd ever seen him, was a shock. "Should we hide?"
"I have protection on this house," Severus said. "I haven't incurred his wrath yet. But if Dumbledore wants to hide you..." His voice trailed off.
"We'll go together," she said firmly, taking his hand and squeezing it.
There she is again; the little black-haired girl. Only this time she walks towards Severus, instead of staying on the sidelines. She moves slowly, in obvious pain. He pulls his wand out of his robes and tries to heal her (from the way she's moving, he can tell her ribs are broken), but she is jerked away from him by a man's hand, which grips her tiny shoulder.
"Look at her, you little fuck-up!" Tobias Snape's voice echoes around Severus. "Killed her, you did. Wouldn't even get up to protect her."
She nods, glaring at Severus. You killed me, she mouths.
"I didn't!" He says, trying to move toward her again, but his legs won't obey.
"Baby-killer," Tobias's voice sneers.
"I didn't… I swear I didn't…" Who is this girl, and why does his father insist that he killed her?
Tobias begins laughing, the cruel laugh that preceded a beating, and swung at his son, who can't duck in time.
"Stop!" Why is he still doing this? Severus wonders desperately; he's twenty-two, he hasn't lived with either of his parents for four years, why is this happening? He keeps clawing at the ground, pleading with his legs to move, trying to dodge and duck…
"Sev? Sev, wake up!"
"I didn't do it!" He yelped.
Severus started as Lily shook him awake. Confused, he looked at her; why was she in his bed? Then he remembered: She'd woken from her own nightmare just a few hours ago and begged to let her sleep with him ("I feel safer when I'm not sleeping alone," she'd insisted).
"Well, no, not on purpose," Lily said, rubbing the top of her head. "But you flop around like a fish out of water when you sleep."
"Oh," he said, waking up a little. "Sorry about that. Until this morning, I didn't know I did, either."
"Lily, do I really look like someone who's used to sharing a bed?" Especially with a stunning redhead, he thought with a touch of bitterness.
She smiled. "Come off it, Sev; I've seen worse." She stretched and got up. "You were talking, by the way."
"What was I saying?"
"Um… You were pleading, it sounded like. Mostly you said 'stop'."
Severus glared down at his hands. "It was a nightmare," he said. How much should he tell her? "It involved my father. And that girl I told you about, the black-haired one."
Lily turned back to him. "And you still don't know how she's significant to you?"
He shook his head. "I get the feeling I know her from somewhere, but…" He stopped and thought for a while. "Maybe she used to live in the neighborhood…"
"Could she be related to you? You have cousins, right?"
"Possibly," Severus said, getting up and pulling on some Muggle clothes Lily had talked him into buying. Wearing them was a strange sensation, but since these actually fit him and didn't have the smell of stale drink his father's old clothes did, he would tolerate it. "My mother's family disowned her for marrying a Muggle; I only ever saw them at Hogwarts. None of them looked like her, though."
They went downstairs and enjoyed a quiet breakfast together, interrupted only by an owl bringing the paper. "Bugger off," Severus snapped at it (Lily smirked into her coffee). The bird ruffled its feathers indignantly and flew away, leaving him to read the Prophet in peace.
Crouch Runaway Favourite as Election Draws Near, the headline blared. Severus snorted as he read the article, which was nothing more than a rehash of Crouch's successes as head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement (which would not have happened if not for "my sort", he thought scathingly as he read a denouncement of Death Eaters) and Bagnold's failures, hoping to garner more support for Crouch by next week's election. Politics had never interested Severus; instead, he was scanning the paper for clues as to the Dark Lord's next move.
Last week, the Dark Lord had pulled Severus aside and asked him if he knew Lily's whereabouts. He'd denied it using Occlumency, and he would do it again without a second thought, but it had cost him. Certainly the Dark Lord was not confiding in him, but clues he'd picked up from Death Eater meetings indicated that he wasn't the only one out of the loop. This worried him; if the Dark Lord was becoming paranoid, he suspected someone of betraying him, and he, Severus, was the most likely candidate.
On the other hand, he now fully realized what allegiance to the Dark Lord meant. How stupid could he have been, to think Lily would be spared forever? The Dark Lord hated Muggle-borns; Severus saw now that sparing Lily in the first place had been nothing more than a gambit to keep him loyal. He simmered silently as he read through the smaller articles, coming across nothing of importance.
With a pop, Lily appeared just behind the Leaky Cauldron. Marked woman or not, she couldn't stay cooped up in the tiny house, and besides which it was empty today (Severus had gone to Dublin to visit his mother). She tapped the brick and waited as the archway appeared. All right… Apothecary, Flourish and Blotts, Gringotts…
She made short work of the wizarding bank and the apothecary, and was looking for a certain potions book when she heard a familiar voice calling her name. She looked towards it. "Sirius!" She said. "Small world."
He approached her cautiously. "Hey. So... How have things been with you and Sniv- er, Snape lately?"
"Fine," Lily said coolly. "He hasn't ravaged me yet."
Sirius's face flushed. "Look, Lily... I'm really sorry about that. I just feel so horrible about it, you know, the fact that I suggested Peter should be your Secret-Keeper. And when you chose Snape, it... It was like rubbing salt in an open wound."
It was Lily's turn to look ashamed. "I would never punish you for that. How were you to know Peter would betray us?"
The tension seemed to ease a bit, but Sirius still looked as though he had a secret he was bursting to tell her. Noting this, she suggested that they head for the pub and talk over drinks. As they sipped (tea for her, a firewhisky for him), he began filling her in on Order goings-on.
"You remember Dumbledore asked me to join the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?" He said, and when she nodded, he went on. "Well, one of the things he wants me to do is keep tabs on suspected and known Death Eaters. And, Lily, you're not going to like hearing this, but-"
"Severus Snape is not a Death Eater!" She snapped. "Honestly, Sirius, haven't you beaten that horse to death? Let it go, already!"
"That's the problem," he said. "He is a Death Eater."
He pulled a slip of parchment from an inside pocket of his robes. Lily took it, her brilliant green eyes widening in shock as she read it.
Snape, Severus. Apprehended 19 August 1980. Dark Mark clear upon left forearm. Vouched for by Dumbledore; Dumbledore insists that Snape has turned spy for his Order of the Phoenix.
"But... It says that Dumbledore vouched for him." She lowered the parchment slowly. "Sirius, if that's true, then Severus isn't a Death Eater anymore..."
"Oh, stop it," she said. "Isn't your 'once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater' theory just a little to black-and-white?"
"My brother was a Death Eater, and he died a Death Eater."
"That's a bit different. From what I've heard, Regulus was never the sharpest spade."
"Aside from that. But what would it hurt to ask him?"
The idea had never occurred to Lily. Then again, she'd never taken Sirius's speculations about him seriously. "If it was important, he would have told me."
"It is important, and if he's not anymore, then what does it cost him to be honest with you?"
"Well... Nothing, but-"
"If he likes you half as much as he thinks, he'll come clean." He checked his watch. "I have to get back to the Ministry. It was nice talking to you, Lily. Stay safe, and if you have any problems with Snape, you're always welcome in my house."
She nodded and stared after Sirius's retreating figure, thinking the whole time. What would it cost Severus to admit to her that he'd been a Death Eater? Especially if he had convinced Dumbledore that he'd changed? On the other hand, why hadn't he told her himself? He's probably afraid I'd shut him out again, she thought. Oh, she'd warned him; she'd told him that his fascination with the Dark Arts worried her, pleaded with him to stop going down that path, and watched helplessly as he'd ignored her, and (she couldn't deny it any longer) joined You-Know-Who's army. But people changed; she wasn't the same Lily she'd been at sixteen, and surely he wasn't the same Severus.
Finally she decided to just, damn it, ask him. Sirius was right: If he'd really renounced the Death Eaters, then he didn't have anything to hide. And this time, she'd keep an open mind.
That was a waste, Severus thought sourly as he walked down the cobblestoned streets of Spinner's End. He'd gone to visit his mother, and while he'd enjoyed the time with her, he'd hoped for a possible answer about the little girl who kept invading his dreams.
"You might have seen her 'round the neighborhood when you were a lad," Eileen had said when he described her.
"But she keeps saying that I killed her. What does that mean?" He'd asked.
"Stress," she'd answered, a little too quickly. She seemed to know this, for she'd added, "When your father was at his worst, I used to have terrible dreams that I'd lost you, or you'd been killed. Put it out of your mind, Severus; she's of no importance." There was a finality in her voice, and Severus knew it would be unwise to press her further. Eileen might have been a better parent than Tobias, but she wasn't a woman to cross.
Now he kicked viciously at a stone. Stress could only account for so much; his nigh-insurmountable nicotine addiction, his irritability, and maybe some of his more troubling dreams, but it couldn't account for feeling as though he knew the girl. If only I could find an answer!
As he entered his house, he sensed that his troubles were just beginning. Lily was sitting on the very edge of the sofa, her entire body tense as though she expected him to hit her. As if I would.
"Sev, we need to talk." Her voice was as tense as her posture. "I have a lot of questions, and I need you to be completely honest with me, no matter what it costs you."
Severus comes clean with Lily about his past.
Severus sat down in the armchair. What could Lily possibly want to ask him? And what would he tell her? "Be completely honest with me, no matter what it costs you," she'd said. She didn't know just how much complete honesty could cost both of them.
Lily was shifting in her seat, probably trying to word her question in just the right way. She could be incredibly tactful when she wanted to be. "Were you ever a Death Eater?" Or perhaps being blunt was the best way right now.
"Yes." An unnamable dread had formed in him, but he reminded himself that Lily was asking the questions; it was safe to assume that all she wanted were answers.
Her face tautened, but her voice was even as she asked the inevitable: "Why?"
It was a question he'd asked himself, many times. Why had he been so eager to join up? The promise of power, more knowledge, perhaps a bit of respect… The chance to revenge himself on anyone who'd crossed him in the past. If he had all that, he'd thought Lily would be impressed. He told her all of this. "It was a stupid thing," he said. "After I called you… That… It didn't seem worth it to not follow through. He still offered power and knowledge that no other wizard could give, and what did you care if I joined him anyway? You told me you didn't want anything to do with me anymore."
She shrank back a bit. "I was hurt, Sev."
"So was I." In a gentler tone, he went on: "Why are you asking me this? Why now?"
"I met Sirius in Diagon Alley today. Part of his duties for the Order are keeping tabs on known Death Eaters, and he came across your name. He thought I should know." She swallowed. "So… What did you do as a Death Eater?"
Severus looked down at his shoes. Complete honesty. Oh God, she is going to kill me for this. "I was a spy," he said, turning his gaze back to her eyes. "Specifically, he had me spying on Dumbledore. That's why I applied for a job at Hogwarts; I originally wanted the Defense Against the Dark Arts position." He paused, trying to figure out how to pose the next part of his answer. Lily, please forgive me. "I overheard a prophecy one night just before my interview."
Lily started. "Prophecy? What about?"
Please, please forgive me. "A boy who might have the power to defeat the Dark Lord."
"You… You heard that?" Her voice was hoarse. "And you told him?"
He nodded. "It was the kind of information one could use to gain favor with him."
For a moment she sat, letting this news register. Then her face contorted with rage and she stood, walking over to him.
Severus stood as well. "Lily-"
"You scum!" She yelled, slapping him as hard as she could across the face. "You murdering snake!" She brought her arm around again, but this time he caught her wrist and held it firmly. "Let me go, Severus!"
"Lily, listen! You have every right to be angry with me, but there's more to that story!"
"Let me go!"
He did, and moved behind the armchair. "The prophecy didn't name Harry, specifically," he said, dodging a fresh attack. "There could have been a dozen boys born at the end of July; the Dark Lord just decided on yours."
"And if you hadn't given him that information in the first place, he couldn't have used it-"
"I know!" He said. "And stop trying to hit me." He knew why she was doing it, and he really couldn't blame her. Unfortunately (and she should know this, he thought, it's not like I never told her) being swung at tended to bring up some extremely unpleasant memories and the feeling of being cornered, thanks to his father.
"Well excuse me, Mister Half-Blood Prince," she sneered. "That's what your Death Eater friends called you at school, right? But I'm just a little disturbed to find out that I've been sharing a house with the reason my boy is dead!"
"And also the reason the Dark Lord couldn't find you until Pettigrew sold you out!"
"What?" She paused, staring daggers at him.
"As soon as the Dark Lord marked Harry, I begged him to spare you-"
"Just me?" She scoffed. "Severus, if you think I find that heroic, you are sorely mistaken."
"-And when his reassurance was inadequate, I sought Dumbledore's protection for you."
"Me. Why did you only care about me, Severus? Did you think that once my husband and son were dead I'd fall into your arms?" She smacked him again. "You sick fuck."
Now, after having been hit and yelled at, Severus was angry. "You asked me to be completely honest with you. What did you expect to hear, Lily? That I've been as pure as the driven snow?"
"No, but I also didn't expect to find out you gave You-Know-Who most of the tools that lead to my family's death."
He took a deep breath. "I consider it to be the greatest mistake of my life."
"As well you should." She shook her head. "I should never have let you back into my life. I should have known this was too good to be true. I can't even look at you anymore, d'you realize that?" She turned and went upstairs; he followed to the landing. A moment later she returned, carrying her hastily-packed suitcase.
"Where are you going?" He asked.
"Wouldn't you like to know," she snapped, pushing roughly past him.
"Lily, wait!" He made to grab her upper arm, but she shrugged him off. "The Dark Lord wants you dead, and Dumbledore told me to protect you. I know you're furious with me, and you have every right. But please, for your own sake stay here."
"I'll take my chances." She reached for the doorknob. "Thanks for the shelter, and have a great life."
But she was gone. After a moment, he went back to the sitting room and sank into the armchair.
It was over. All of it. Lily hated him, Lily was gone. He grew numb as the truth sank in. She was gone, and this time she would never come back.
Sirius pounded the table with his fist. "I knew it!" He said triumphantly. "I knew there was a reason he hadn't told you!"
"And he had the audacity to tell me to stay with him!" Lily said, quivering with fury. She'd arrived at Sirius's flat just fifteen minutes previously, and had filled him and Remus (who was staying the night) in on her and Severus's conversation. "How dare he? Knowing full well he killed James and Harry!"
Remus, fresh from another full moon and looking worse than he had in weeks, frowned. "Don't take this the wrong way, Lily, but… Maybe you still haven't got the whole story?"
"You think she should go back?" Sirius looked as though Remus had suggested they all take a naked swim in the lovely Thames.
"Not in the slightest," he said, and turned to Lily. "Dumbledore trusts Severus. I'm not saying that excuses what he did," he raised his voice slightly, for she'd started to interrupt him, "but Dumbledore never trusts anyone without a reason. Maybe you should ask what it is."
"Remus, that's insane! Snape killed James and Harry-"
"Didn't you listen to anything she just said? Severus told her he overheard the prophecy! He couldn't have known it was about Harry when he did."
"That's his version of things. For all we know, that prophecy did refer to Harry by name."
"And for all we know, it didn't."
"For God's sake, Remus-"
"Well, have you ever heard it?"
"No, but enough with semantics!"
"It's not semantics, Sirius, it's-"
"Oh shut it, both of you," Lily growled. "Remus, maybe you're right. I'll talk with Dumbledore, just not when I feel like murdering Snape, all right?"
"That would be a very wise choice," he said, nodding. "And maybe you should get some sleep. You've had a rough night." Sirius opened his mouth to speak, but Remus shook his head. After Lily left, he turned back.
"I can't believe you stood up for him, Moony."
"I didn't," Remus said mildly. "I think they're both in over their heads: He expects too much by asking her to forgive him right away, and she doesn't have the whole story. All I'm worried about his how he'll handle this."
"Meaning?" Sirius sat down in the seat Lily had just vacated.
"We know what Severus is like when he's desperate."
"Yeah, well. If I catch him threatening to sleep on the stoop, he's dead and to hell with what Dumbledore says about it. Why can't he just leave her alone?"
"She sought him out, don't forget. To be honest, I think once she gets the whole story her perspective is going to change."
"You think he's really sorry about it?"
Remus shrugged. "I've never known him to be a liar. And, Sirius," he turned towards him, suddenly strict. "Leave her be until she talks with Dumbledore, all right? She doesn't need to be inundated with your 'once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater' rhetoric."
"I wasn't going to," Sirius shot back. "Why do you always assume the worst of me?"
"Experience is a great teacher," Remus said dryly. He stood and stretched. "I'm going to bed. Coming?"
"In a while," Sirius said. "Good night, Moony."
In the last week, Severus had barely moved from the armchair. The truth seemed to be binding him there: Lily's gone. He had given up hope that she'd come back about twenty minutes after she'd left; why on earth would she stay with the person who'd started the hunt for her son? But if she could only look into his mind and see how deep his remorse went.
Forgive me. Please, Lily, forgive me. It repeated itself in his head, a desperate mantra. I'm so sorry. Please forgive.
He didn't care when they came in. He didn't care when they told him why they were there. He didn't care when they knocked him senseless. He just didn't care anymore; it wasn't worth it.
Lily sat across from Dumbledore. "He wasn't lying."
He shook his head. "It truly is his deepest regret."
"But Professor… He never said he wanted to hide James or Harry. He just wanted me safe."
"That is also true, and he and I have had words about it." Dumbledore closed his eyes. "Severus is not a flawless man, Lily; his greatest failing is his jealousy. However, his greatest strength is his ability to change. I believe that, while he didn't care about James or Harry, he was being honest when he said he never wished them dead."
"And he cares about me."
"Yes." Dumbledore stood and put his arm around her shoulders. "For what it's worth, I believe he understands your fury at him completely."
Lily was silent. So many things had happened in the last week, and if she was honest with herself, she could have forgiven Severus if he'd only been a Death Eater. She had heard from Dumbledore that Severus had renounced the Death Eaters for good, and had asked for her and her family to be hidden, but… God, Severus, must you be so enigmatic all the time?
A tapping noise caused Lily and Dumbledore to look at the window. An owl was standing there; Dumbledore opened the window and it held out its leg to him. As soon as he undid the scroll, the bird flew off, leaving Dumbledore to read the letter and grow paler by the minute. When he was done, he looked up at Lily.
"My apologies, but we must cut this meeting short," he said. He pointed to the letter. "Barty Crouch has just arrested Severus and taken him to Azkaban. He's being charged with the murders of James and Harry."
Severus becomes Barty Crouch's villain du jour. Meanwhile, Lily tries to sort through her feelings about Severus, in light of her new knowledge.
Severus groaned as he opened his eyes. He felt like someone had tried to break his skull open (and judging by the knot on the side of his head, they'd nearly succeeded). He barely had time to wonder just how many people were going to take shots at his head when he saw a pair of legs, clad in expertly-tailored trousers, in front of him and looked up at their owner.
"Severus Snape," Bartemius Crouch bellowed-
"You don't have to shout, I can hear you perfectly well," Severus said, looking around for anything that could clue him in to his location.
"Hold your tongue, boy," Crouch yelled. "As I was saying: Severus Snape, you are being charged with the murders of James and Harry Potter, and consorting with Death Eaters. For this, you will be held in Azkaban prison pending trial."
"I thought you could hear me," Crouch sneered. "We have received information that you relayed knowledge to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named that led him to the Potter house on the thirty-first of October, nineteen eighty-one."
"Who told you that?" Severus was sure he knew… Peter Pettigrew surely had it out for him.
"Let's just call it a reliable source. Now, Snape, did you or did you not relay information pertinent to the location of James Potter and his family to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
Severus was silent; any answer he could have given would have made him guilty in Crouch's eyes.
Crouch looked down his nose at the young man. "Hmph. If that's the way you'll have it, then so be it. A few weeks with the dementors should loosen your tongue." He beckoned a large, muscle-bound Auror over. "Put this in a private cell, and station dementors outside of it twenty-four seven."
The Auror nodded, grabbed Severus's upper arm, and pushed him roughly into the prison itself. All around, Severus heard the howling and ranting of half-insane prisoners, and already he felt his worst memories creeping to the edges of his mind. He barely noticed as he was checked in, his wand was taken away, and he was given old, too-large, gray robes to wear. An hour later he was tossed unceremoniously into a small, cramped cell, and as Crouch had ordered, two dementors were taking their places outside. He shivered, trying to force down the memory of calling Lily a Mudblood.
As she and Sirius made supper that evening, Lily filled him in on her conversation with Dumbledore. "He also told me that Severus caught Peter and turned him over to the Ministry."
"Well, bully for him," Sirius said, and Lily was shocked to find that he wasn't being sarcastic. "At least someone put that rat where he belongs."
"It's just... Weird, you know? I have no clue what I should be feeling about, well, anything. Him, what happened, why Dumbledore trusts him…"
Sirius waved his wand at the table, which began setting itself. Over the clattering of plates and forks, he said, "Even still, I'm not sure he deserves Azkaban." He caught Lily staring at him as though he were a stranger. "What?"
"Who are you, and what have you done with Sirius Black?"
He laughed. "Well, put it this way: Snape and I are never going to be bosom friends, there's just too much shit between us. But now that I know why Dumbledore trusts him, I'm not ready to kill him on sight."
Lily took out a loaf of bread and began slicing it, letting her mind wander. In all their years together Severus had never stopped surprising her, whether for good or bad reasons, and now she knew that he had tried to hide James -the person he'd hated more than anyone else he'd met- from Lord Voldemort's wrath. What had he to gain by making sure James and his son were safe? And was it possible that Severus… Loved her? As more than a friend? Wasn't that what Dumbledore had implied?
"Lily? Honey, you're about to slice your fingertips off," Sirius said, bringing her back from la-la land.
"Oh, right. Sirius?"
"Do you think Severus liked me when we were at school? Maybe wanted to be my boyfriend?"
At this, Sirius began laughing so hard he had to grab the counter to steady himself.
"What's so funny?" Lily asked, nonplussed.
Sirius took a few deep breaths, but couldn't keep a broad grin off his face when he answered. "I just can't believe you had to ask. Did you pay attention to him back then? Did you ever see the way he looked at you?"
"It was that obvious?"
"You were his world. He thought the sun rose in the morning because you told it to. You were the girl that made his worm wiggle. Yes, Lily, he was in love with you." He put a pitcher of ice water on the table. "Why else do you think he hated James so much?"
Dazed, Lily finished setting the table. Had she been too focused on James to consider how Severus might have felt? Did she miss it because James was better-looking? Or because Severus was too good at hiding his feelings?
They sat down and ate, not speaking, for several minutes. Then Lily said, "Do you think it's possible he still feels that way?"
Sirius shrugged. "If he does, he needs to get out more." Noting Lily's expression, he added, "Look, it's sweet that he never stopped loving you, but really, why couldn't he have just gotten around more?"
Lily stared at her plate, playing with her food. It was just one more thing she didn't know how she should feel about.
"Oh, Sna-ape!" Sirius Black's singsong voice grates on Severus's ears.
"What?" He says, drawing his wand and eyeing Black warily.
"No need for all that," Sirius said, nodding at Severus's wand. "I'm calling a truce."
"I don't believe it," Severus says flatly.
"You will when you take a chance to listen to me. It's got to do with where Lupin goes every month."
Severus lowers his wand; he's been curious about that for years.
"Right," Sirius says. "You know the Whomping Willow?"
"Yes, and no one can get close to it without getting hit."
"Not unless they know a secret." He looks around and beckons Severus closer. "There's a knot on the front of the tree, kind of low to the ground, which you have to prod. That'll freeze the branches, and you can get to a little tunnel under it. Go tonight; it's full moon out."
Severus hesitates, then nods. Whomping Willow. Prod the knot. Finally, he'd find out the truth about Remus Lupin.
At eleven-thirty that night, he casts a Disillusionment Charm on himself and sneaks out of the Slytherin common room towards the Whomping Willow, taking the charm off himself and picking up a branch-
He looked up, the Shrieking Shack remaining on the edge of his mind. Dumbledore was standing outside the cell, looking concerned.
"Headmaster." Severus nodded at him and stood. "Pettigrew's behind this, I'm sure of it."
"Yes, he is," Dumbledore said, a blazing look crossing his face for a split-second. "He was trying to plea-bargain his way out of a life sentence. But that is unimportant." He looked hard at Severus again. "Listen to me: Do not deny Crouch's accusation. If he performs Legilimency on you, do not resist him, and do not employ Occlumency if he uses Veritaserum. Nothing you can say can incriminate you."
"Watch it do just that," Severus said dryly. "Crouch is going to twist anything I say into a murder confession."
"He is certainly trying," Dumbledore admitted, "but he's grasping at straws and he knows it. Just do as I've told you, and you'll be let off."
"And how long must I wait for that?"
"Barty has told me July sixteenth, provided you, as he says, 'will quit being so stubborn'."
Severus groaned, sitting back down on the bunk and cradling his forehead in his hands.
"I am sorry, Severus," Dumbledore said quietly, with an air that suggested he would have liked very much to break the cell open and leave Azkaban with Severus in tow. "I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you."
"Which part?" Severus growled. "Not sleeping? Having to revisit every horrid time in my life? Or being watched round the clock?"
"All of it," Dumbledore said, still in a calm tone. "This is only a temporary loss of control-" (Once again, Severus half-marveled at and half-resented Dumbledore's comprehensive knowledge of his mind) "-and once it's over, you'll have immunity against this charge for the rest of your life." He turned away from the cell. "I will return next week. Keep your chin up."
After Dumbledore was out of earshot, Severus snarled again and slammed his fist into his pillow. Another month in this place and he would be fit for nothing, especially not a trial in front of the entire Wizengamot. All part of Crouch's plan, he was sure. In the meantime, he laid down and turned his back towards the dementors. Whether or not it lessened their effect on him, and he knew full well it didn't, he was tired of looking at them.
Crouch isn't getting the answer he wants. For this, Severus will pay.
The door to Severus's cell opened and he looked up, hoping it wasn't some new attempt to get more information out of him. In the last week they'd tried Legilimency, Veritaserum, and other legal methods of extraction; per Dumbledore's orders, he hadn't resisted. The next step, he knew, was torture, and while it didn't scare him, he just wasn't in the mood, not after another day of non-stop interrogation.
To his relief, it was one of the dementors bringing food. He stood and looked down at his plate, his lip curling in disgust. Though the taste of the stuff had nearly made him sick in the past, it was better than nothing. If he could have managed it, he would have performed wandless magic to try and make it semi-palatable, but it required more energy than he currently had. Being surrounded by dementors wasn't helping matters, though he knew that was the point. Steeling himself, he gulped down whatever it was they'd brought him, trying not to chew more than was absolutely necessary. When he was finished, he lay back down on the bunk and closed his eyes. He was craving a cigarette, but they had been taken off him along with his wand. It would have tasted better than the garbage he'd just eaten, in any case.
His stomach clenches as he passes Lily on the way to Hogsmeade, determinedly not looking at her. They haven't spoken since that awful day in fifth year, and he can't bear to see the look of disgust cross her face one more time.
On his way to Scrivenshaft's, he passes Madam Puddifoot's and notices that James Potter is standing outside it, waiting for someone. Hmph. He resists the urge to curse the stupid smile off Potter's face and steps into the stationery shop, emerging ten minutes later with a new quill and some rolls of parchment. As he heads back to the school, he glances briefly at Madam Puddifoot's. Potter is sitting at a table clearly visible from the window, across from… Lily?
Severus pauses for a second, watching as Lily laughs and throws her ponytail over her shoulder, taking no notice of him. Potter reaches across the table and takes her hand in his; then, noticing Severus watching them, leans over the table to kiss her.
Severus turns away from Potter and Lily and races back to the castle. He's lost her forever.
"Snape!" Someone bellowed just outside his cell. Severus looked up again. Crouch, of course. Did the man have no idea how loud he was?
"What do you want?" Severus asked flatly.
Crouch stiffened. "If I were you, boy, I'd show a little more respect. Bear in mind that I have the authority to keep you here for the rest of your life."
"About three more months, if the stories are true," Severus said, "so what do you want?"
"The Aurors tell me you have been completely resistant to their interrogations."
Severus sighed. "I have told them everything I know." He sat up. "If I say please, can I have the cigarettes I brought in with me?"
"We'll see," Crouch said. "Tell me what you told the Aurors."
"I overheard a prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney to Albus Dumbledore, regarding a boy born at the end of July the following year who would 'have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord', at which point the barkeep at the Hog's Head ejected me from the building. I told the Dark Lord everything I'd heard; Trelawney's prophecy did not name any specific boy. The Dark Lord decided for himself that the prophecy referred to Harry Potter. When he announced this, I beseeched Dumbledore to hide the Potters." Crouch looked expectant. "That's it. That's everything I told the Aurors."
Crouch sniffed. "You're a stubborn boy, Snape. I don't understand why Dumbledore trusts you." He turned away from the door. "We shall continue the interrogations tomorrow, and this time, they will not end until I have heard what I want to hear." Before he left, he threw the nearly-empty pack of cigarettes at Severus, who caught it right-handed.
Severus smirked to himself and lit up. Crouch wouldn't be satisfied with anything he had to say, so he might as well enjoy this last opportunity to damage his lungs.
"Let up," Crouch instructed the Auror, who obliged. Severus lay on the cold concrete floor of an interrogation room, shaking from an extended Cruciatus Curse. Crouch circled around him. "The prophecy referred to the son of James and Lily Potter."
"I've already told you, I didn't know that when I heard it!" Severus pushed himself semi-upright, only to be kicked in the chest. Gasping, he went on. "If I'd had any prior knowledge, if there had been even the smallest clue that it was about the Potters' son, I would never have told the Dark Lord."
"Why did you tell him in the first place?"
"I was spying on Dumbledore for him. I applied for a teaching post at Hogwarts on the Dark Lord's orders. The prophecy was exactly the kind of information one could use to curry favor with him." Another Cruciatus hit him in the back, causing him to recoil back onto the floor.
"And it was on his orders that you asked for the Potters to be hidden."
"What kind of an idiot are you?" Severus growled, looking up at Crouch. "When the Dark Lord is intent on killing someone he doesn't order them to be hidden, he just wants them dead. He's not in it for the hunt."
Crouch ignored the insult. "What other motive could you have possibly had for protecting them, then?"
"A change of heart."
"Hex him again," Crouch commanded.
Severus's body thrashed around, but he made no noise. He would not give Crouch the real answer; he would not tell him he was in love with Lily. It wasn't what Crouch wanted to hear, anyway. He wanted to hear that Severus was working with the Death Eaters and that he had led Voldemort to the Potters. The Auror held this Cruciatus longer than the last one, and just as Severus felt his resolve not to make a sound break, the curse was lifted. He lay still, every nerve screaming inside him, his head feeling like it might explode.
Crouch kneeled down beside him, grabbing his chin and staring into his eyes, sizing him up intently. "I've never seen anyone hold out this long under this method," he said. "Remarkable. Perhaps you need something… Stronger." He stood and whispered something to the Auror, who blanched.
"DO NOT DEFY ME!" Crouch's eyes bulged. "Go get one this instant or I shall charge you with treason!"
The Auror scurried away, and Crouch turned back to Severus. "You're quite arrogant, boy. You've spent the last week fighting me tooth and nail; had you just admitted that you were working for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, you would be free right now." The door opened again, and Severus heard something draw a long, rattling breath. He's not serious-
"Perform the Kiss," Crouch instructed the dementor. The creature swooped down on Severus, who backed away as far as he could, keeping his mouth covered the whole time. Suddenly, a memory began to take shape… One he couldn't remember ever having before…
"Freak!" Tobias Snape bellows, swinging his fist at a little black-haired girl. It makes contact with a sickening crack, causing her to squeal in pain. "Shut up, you little bitch!" He hits her again and again, trying to make her stop crying.
"Stop! Father, please!" Six-year-old Severus pleads from a corner. He tries to move, but his leg, broken after his father threw him against the wall, can't support his weight. "She didn't mean to!"
Tobias seems not to hear his son, but instead continues his merciless beating of the girl. She's no more than two years old, and her screams torment her brother. He tries to inch himself to her on his arms. Severus doesn't know what his sister did, but whatever it was, it has caused Tobias to go completely round the hat rack. If he can reach her, he can save her; he's sure of it.
Eileen Snape returns from the store and, before Severus can say anything, blasts Tobias off his feet with a silent spell, screaming all manner of horrid names at him. She picks up her daughter, who lies still in her arms, and walks over to Severus and points her wand at his leg. "Episkey," she mutters, and it heals. She retreats upstairs with the girl, but returns without her ten minutes later, silent and white from shock, and Severus knows his sister is dead.
She's dead, and it's his fault.
"It was a terrible accident, Dumbledore, nothing more!" Crouch panted, trying to keep up with the furiously-striding Dumbledore.
"What on earth made you think it was a good idea to use a dementor to extract more information from him?" Dumbledore demanded, not slowing his pace one bit. "And why do you insist that I cannot take him someplace where he can recover?"
Crouch ignored the first question. "He's completely insane!" They rounded a corner at top speed. "All he can say is 'I killed her,' over and over again."
"Then it is my job to find out who he believes he killed." They reached the infirmary, and Crouch tried one last-ditch attempt to stop Dumbledore.
"Albus, listen: There's no hope for him. Even if you took him out of here, he's a danger to himself. We've brought in the top Healers from St. Mungo's, it's their opinion that he's gone."
"I will be the judge of that," Dumbledore answered roughly, and pushed the infirmary door open.
A horrible sight met his eyes. Severus was tied to a stretcher, his hands bound behind his back, his eyes staring, unseeing, at the ceiling. He was trembling hard enough to make the bed rattle, obviously distressed, and a stream of nonsense was pouring out of his mouth.
Dumbledore wasted no time; in a moment, he had placed an immobilizing charm on Severus, untied him, and eased him into a standing position. "Come, my boy; I'm taking you away from here," he said gently.
"What?!" Crouch yelped. "Dumbledore, stop this at once! Take him? That's mad!"
"Keeping him here to die is mad," Dumbledore said coldly. "You have nearly destroyed one of the most brilliant minds of our time and the source of all your invaluable information on the Death Eaters. If there is anything at all I can do to save him, I will, and I will do it away from here."
"You'll go against the law? The Ministry? For this Death Eater scum?"
"Yes." There was no threat in his voice, no anger, yet Crouch scuttled away as though he'd been stung. Dumbledore walked past him and out of Azkaban, and at the right spot, Apparated to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
Lily gets news of Severus. Also, meet Eileen Prince.
"Ridiculous. None of our Healers were sent to Azkaban in the last week," a young Healer, Jameson, said.
"I had my suspicions," Dumbledore said.
"Not that it might have helped if they did," He continued. "He's pretty far gone."
"But there is hope?"
"A bit. The question is, is it worth it?" Jameson turned to look at Dumbledore. "There's no way of telling what kind of long-term damage has been done. He might never be the same again, or he might end up permanently addled."
"I shall tell you the same thing I told Crouch," Dumbledore said, his eyes blazing. "If there is anything, anything at all that can be done to save him, I will do it."
The Healer nodded. "Best to start on him straightaway, then." He tapped Severus's arm with his wand, then stood back, Dumbledore following.
Immediately Severus woke, and began trembling and yelling again, only this time it was accompanied by a blast of uncontrolled magic. As they conjured Shield Charms, Dumbledore and Jameson exchanged a look.
"I'm thinking it's a broken Memory Charm," He said, raising his voice over the commotion. "In which case, he's luckier than I thought. Do you know anyone who might have a reason to have modified his memory?"
"Just one," Dumbledore replied. "And perhaps he's gone on long enough?" He added, motioning towards Severus.
Jameson nodded again and, with difficulty, poured a strong Calming Draught down Severus's throat. In a moment he'd settled, though he was still trembling slightly.
"This person who modified his memory," He said, turning back to Dumbledore. "Do you know where they are?"
"I do. I shall contact her immediately."
"Let me go, Remus!" Lily shrieked, tears streaking down her face. "I don't care what Dumbledore says, I have to see him!"
"No you don't," Remus said, not relinquishing his hold on Lily's shoulders. He had just told her all about Severus's condition and his removal to St. Mungo's from Azkaban. "Listen to me: Severus is dangerous right now. He can't control himself or his magic, and besides which Dumbledore didn't have a say in the no-visitors rule; that was the Healers' decision."
"Lily, Remus is right," Sirius said, leaning against the mantle. "Seeing someone who's gone round the bend isn't a pretty sight. Not that Snape was ever a pretty sight to begin with-"
"Sirius Black, for one time in your life, shut your mouth!" Lily screamed, picking up a glass paperweight and throwing it at him. Fortunately for Sirius, she had poor aim and even less throwing strength.
"Oi!" He yelped, jumping out of the way. "I didn't say it was right; I just said he was ugly!"
"Sirius!" Remus barked. "Enough. If you can't say anything pleasant or constructive, don't say anything." Sirius flung himself into a wing-backed chair, scowling, and Remus turned back to Lily, offering her a handkerchief. "I understand you're upset," he said gently. "But you have to get a hold of yourself. Severus will be allowed visitors in due time, but not until he's sufficiently in control of himself. That may take a while, and all to the better."
"Better?" Lily sniffled, dabbing at her eyes.
"You'll have more time to figure out what to say to him." There was no accusation in Remus's voice, but Lily felt stung all the same. "I have to get going," Remus continued. "It's a full moon tonight; you don't need to deal with that on top of everything else. Lily, Sirius." He hugged Lily, nodded to her and Sirius, then left. The click of the shutting door seemed to echo around the flat.
Lily turned and looked at the paperweight on the floor. "Sorry," she said, her voice hoarse from yelling.
Sirius shook his head. "Don't worry about it." There was a definite coolness in his voice, and this time Lily didn't wonder why. She retreated to her room and closed the door, almost glad Sirius was upset with her; she didn't want to be bothered tonight.
She still didn't know how to feel about Severus. She still didn't know if she trusted him. But she wouldn't wish a dementor attack on her worst enemy, and receiving the news of Severus's condition had broken all of her resolves to stay angry with him. Stupid, stupid thing, she thought, storming out of his house that night. "The Dark Lord wants you dead, and Dumbledore told me to protect you. I know you're furious with me, and you have every right. But please, for your own sake stay here." Why hadn't she? Oh yes, she'd been angry; who wouldn't, after having that bomb dropped on them? But he'd changed, asking Dumbledore to hide her, James, and Harry. If she had stayed... Told them all of that, that he'd changed, called Dumbledore and asked him to vouch for Severus...
But would it have made any difference? If nothing else, the dementor attack proved that Crouch was ruthless and vicious; if she'd stayed, would he have taken her to Azkaban as well? For what? Conspiring with a Death Eater? She wouldn't have put it past him.
Severus, you have no idea how badly I want to talk with you right now, she thought.
But he can't understand you, not in his current state, the rational part of her mind chimed in.
Gee, I didn't seem to understand that part at all when Remus said it; why else am I still here and NOT at St. Mungo's?
Remus also suggested using this as an opportunity to think. Think about what you really want to say to Severus. Sort through your feelings. What could it possibly hurt?
…Nothing. It couldn't hurt anything. She turned off the lamp and pulled the covers up to her chin, not really expecting to fall asleep anytime soon. Someone's radio, turned all the way up, couldn't have done a better job keeping her awake that night than her own thoughts would.
"He's right through here, ma'am. Third door on the right," the Healer said, pointing Eileen Prince-Snape through the double doors of the Janus Thickey ward at St. Mungo's. She nodded, white-faced, mouth set in a thin line, and entered the ward. At the third door on the right she paused for a second, steeling herself, then knocked.
It opened to reveal Dumbledore standing on the other side. "Eileen," he said, ushering her into the room.
"Headmaster," she said, looking at her son, who was asleep.
Noting this, Dumbledore said, "He is fine for the moment. What I and the Healers need to know is did you modify his memory, and why."
"I did," she responded without hesitation, finally turning away from the bed to face Dumbledore. "When he was six years old, he witnessed his father beating his sister to death."
Whether the words drew him out of his sleep, or he'd been roused by the tormenting images behind his own eyes, Severus awoke and began moaning. Eileen went to his side, gently lifting his head and stroking his hair back. "Hush, my lad," she crooned. "You're safe. Hush now." She continued until he settled down, then she turned back to Dumbledore, whose expression was horrified.
"The staff had their suspicions," he said quietly.
"He was a hard man, my husband," Eileen agreed. "I won't lie; it was a relief to see him go."
"You modified Severus's memory to keep him from torturing himself."
She nodded. "He didn't need to remember it. I had to remove her from pictures, get rid of all her toys, make it as though she'd never existed. All in vain, I see." The last part she spat out bitterly. "How did it break?"
"Crouch is, shall we say, over-enthusiastic." Dumbledore's tone matched Eileen's for bitterness. "Severus was nearly Kissed."
"That monster," she whispered venomously.
They looked up as the door opened and a young, nervous-looking Healer entered the room, clearing his throat. "Professor, um… I don't really know how to say this…" He shifted his weight and glanced at Severus.
"I always find that the best way to say something is to just say it," Dumbledore said kindly.
"Well…" The Healer took a deep breath, then blurted out, "You-have-to-take-him-we're-not-allowed-to-treat-Death-Eaters-or-suspects-from-now-on."
"What? Who said that?" Eileen demanded.
"The M-Minister, ma'am." He swallowed nervously. "It just came down from Crouch's office; St. Mungo's is under his control now."
"But there's nowhere for him to go!" She pleaded. "He needs treatment; there's no other place in the country that could help him."
"I'm sorry," the Healer said, looking as though he might burst into tears. "I wish… If it was up to me, ma'am, he could stay. He would stay. I-"
"You have no control over the Ministry's rulings," Dumbledore said. "If Crouch has decreed that Severus must leave, then he must leave. Eileen, if you will please take him back to Spinner's End."
Eileen nodded, a sour look on her face, and pulled Severus to his feet. In an instant they had gone, and Dumbledore rubbed his eyes wearily.
"Professor, if you need outside help with him… I'm sure there's going to be plenty of staff disagreement with Crouch. He only said we couldn't treat them here, so maybe he wouldn't care about us going off the grounds…"
"Thank you," said Dumbledore. "I am sure your assistance will be much needed."
"Where is that place you've taken him? Spinner's End? If anyone's interested in treating him, I'll pass it along."
Dumbledore gave him the address, then with another thank-you and good-bye, headed went there himself. Eileen couldn't be expected to deal with Severus alone, not in his current state.
Dumbledore's lost; that's got to be a first. Meanwhile, Lily wants to use what might be her last chance to let Severus know she's forgiven him, but you know what they say about messing with a mama bear's cub...
A week after Severus left St. Mungo's, Dumbledore returned to his office at Hogwarts. Sitting down at his desk, he buried his head in his hands. His grand scheme had gone every sort of wrong. The death of Harry had unraveled it, and now his backup plan was in danger of collapsing as well. Voldemort was stronger than ever, Barty Crouch had become mad in his quest for power, and Severus, his great source of information, was in danger of never regaining his sanity.
So what happens now? Everyone was asking that question, and it was one of a handful of times in his life when Dumbledore had no answer. Even as he sat in the middle of the office, his instruments whirring and clicking merrily away, he was scrambling to form another plan. Lily could not be sacrificed –so much of the original plan had banked on Lily's death casting a protective charm on Harry- and the Longbottom's boy was safe so long as Voldemort continued to believe that the prophecy had applied to Harry. And if Severus did recover, he could not be used as a spy any longer; he would be forced to swear his allegiance to the Order in front of the Wizengamot and whatever number of the magical community showed up for the trial.
"Headmaster?" Poppy Pomfrey's voice came from the fireplace.
"You may come through, Poppy," he replied, looking up.
A soft whoosh later, the Hogwarts nurse was standing in front of his desk. She'd been one of those who'd volunteered to try and bring about Severus's recovery, and her kindly, careworn face wore a look of deepest concern. "He isn't speaking at all now," she said in a hushed voice. "Just staring. And he hasn't eaten for days. I'm afraid he's…" She paused, blinking hard. "He can't go on like this much longer."
"Perhaps this is a good sign," Dumbledore said bitterly. "If he's acting like that, maybe he's regained his self-awareness and is hoping to die with some dignity."
"He knew what he was getting into, Albus. You warned him of the dangers-"
"I warned him that he would face the most danger from Voldemort, Poppy, not our side." He stood and began pacing. "I never prepared him for this. I never thought I would have to."
Madam Pomfrey was quiet for a moment. "Perhaps it's not Healing he needs." Dumbledore looked up, eyebrows raised. "There's only so much our potions can do. We've sedated him, we've healed the injuries Crouch gave him –the physical ones, in any case. We've done all we can for him, and yet he's not well."
"What do you suggest, then?"
"That's the rub," the nurse said wearily. "I don't know. None of us does."
Dumbledore nodded. "Very well. Thank you, Poppy, for everything."
"I hope I'm wrong, Albus." She turned and left the office. As the door clicked shut, Dumbledore sat back down, wringing his brain for fresh ideas.
Lily walked on tiptoe to the door, barely breathing, ears hyper-tuned for the smallest sound. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a floorboard creaked under her; she stopped as though frozen and listened, but Sirius merely snored on. Calm down, she told herself, forcing her foot to take the next step.
She'd had it with sitting on the sidelines and letting the boys tell her what to do. Remus had told her, after much coaxing and cajoling, that Severus hadn't improved; that he might be getting worse. He'd advised her once again to stay with Sirius until Dumbledore gave them the all-clear, and Lily had agreed only to wipe the concern off his face.
She shut the door with the utmost care. Truth be told, she wasn't afraid of Sirius's reaction; she just wasn't in the mood to deal with him tonight. She'd left him a note explaining what she was doing and why, and if it wasn't good enough for him, he'd just have to deal with it. Then she hurried into the dark alleyway and apparated to Spinner's End.
She hesitated for a minute outside the door, thinking about what she was going to tell him. Severus, I know you were wrong- No… Severus, I wish you hadn't heard the prophecy—Oh, that's horrid. I mean, I wish he hadn't; Harry and James would still be alive, but... Oh, just do it. She squared her shoulders and marched up to the door, knocking firmly on it.
When it opened, Lily found herself face-to-face with Severus's mother, and if the look on her face was any indication, she was as welcome in the house as a termite colony. "Hello, Mrs. Snape," she said, her voice wavering slightly under Eileen's cold gaze. "Could I possibly see Severus? I want to tell him-"
"What could you possibly want to say to him?" Eileen cut her off. "You broke his heart years ago; did you just come back to finish the job?"
Lily reeled. "Mrs. Snape, that was six years ago; he called me a Mudblood."
"Well you are, aren't you?"
"That's beside the point," Lily growled. "The point is that Severus and I have gotten over it. I still don't like that he did, but I'm ready to forgive him for it." Eileen's glare was as hard as ever. "Mrs. Snape, please believe me when I say I have no intention of hurting Severus, and I never did."
Eileen snorted. "Spent all of his time locked in his room that summer," she said. "Didn't come down but once when his father threatened to thrash him to within an inch of his life. He didn't have to tell me it was a girl, and I can see now it could only have been you. Leave this place, Lily Potter. You are not welcome."
"Severus owns this house! He's got the wards set to allow me!" Lily said indignantly.
"And he's incapacitated now, no thanks to you. While he's indisposed, I decide who comes in this house and who doesn't." She turned into the walkway. "You've got about three seconds, I believe." She slammed the door in Lily's face.
"Three seconds before what?" She called, but no sooner had the words left her and she was flung backwards from the stoop as though by a giant spring, landing on her backside in the middle of the road. Fortunately for her, Spinner's End didn't see much traffic, and the worst injury she had was a sore behind. She stood and glared at the door for a few seconds, before the hot tears started making their way down her face. She sat down on the curb and pulled her knees up to her chest, wallowing in her misery. He'll die, she thought. He'll die and he'll never know… Oh Sev, I wish there was some way I could tell you.
Dumbledore! Her head snapped up. Of course. Eileen would listen to Dumbledore; she'd have to, even if she didn't like it. She wiped her eyes and found another alleyway to disappear down. I hope this works.
"I have no power over Eileen, Lily. I am sorry." Dumbledore looked at her from across his desk, his eyes saying how much he regretted his lack of power. A handsome silver teapot on the desk whistled suddenly; Dumbledore tapped it with his wand and it fell silent.
Lily slumped in the seat. "Professor, I have to talk to him. The way Remus was talking, it sounded like Severus is… That he's not doing as well as he should by now." She couldn't bring herself to say 'dying'.
"The outlook is not optimistic," Dumbledore conceded. "He is very weak, and I believe today will be the fourth since he stopped eating." He poured two cups of tea and passed one to her. "I do not agree with Eileen's decision to keep you from Severus, nor do I agree with her particular method of forcing you off his property, but she is within her rights. As she said, as long as Severus is indisposed she controls the house."
She bit her lip and blinked hard. "Professor, I want to tell him… That I forgive him. And I feel like I have to tell him myself."
"He is not giving any signs of recognizing anyone or understanding what is being said to him," Dumbledore said gently.
Lily nodded. A second later she was sobbing uncontrollably. "He's going to die, and he'll never know I forgave him for- for hearing the prophecy and turning it over to You-Know-Who and… Professor, please. I can't stand that. I lost James and Harry; isn't that enough? Please, please tell Eileen I only want to tell him that. Even if he can't understand, I have to say it."
Dumbledore set his cup down and walked to the front of his desk. Placing a hand on Lily's shoulder, he said, "I can talk to her. I cannot promise that she will listen."
She sniffled. "Thank you," she said. "That's all I want." She stayed put as Dumbledore threw Floo powder in the fireplace and disappeared, and waited. Waited.
How long would it take to convince Eileen that she should see Severus and talk to him? Could she be convinced? The clock was ticking on Severus's life, and Lily found herself growing impatient. How much longer could she wait? Could she wait until Dumbledore came back, or would she throw caution to the wind and simply go through the fireplace without his and Eileen's consent?
After what seemed an eternity, Dumbledore returned. "She has consented to let you visit him, but for ten minutes only."
Lily leapt up from the seat and threw herself at Dumbledore, hugging him in what she would later consider to be a thoroughly undignified way. "Oh, Professor, thank you so much. I only need ten minutes."
"Well, best to start them now," he said, briefly returning the hug before gently prying her off him and guiding her to the fireplace.
"Ten minutes, you ungrateful bint," Eileen snapped when Lily came through the fireplace. "And mind you don't get soot on the carpet."
Lily beamed at her; knowing that she could finally talk to Severus, her old friend, the boy who'd introduced her to this world she really belonged to, had bolstered her mood higher than it had been for days, and she could tolerate Eileen's less-than-warm attitude. "Thank you, Mrs. Snape," she said, taking pleasure in the shock that flitted across her harsh features.
Severus's room was dark; the curtains were drawn, and the little light that penetrated made it seem like it was the middle of winter outside, rather than the first day of July. But it was the figure on the bed that punctured the happy balloon that had swelled in Lily's chest since Dumbledore's return. She now understood why Remus believed Severus was dying: He was thinner than she'd ever seen him (and that's saying a lot, considering, she thought dryly), his skin more yellowed, and if she hadn't seen the miniscule rising and falling motion of the bit of blanket covering his chest she might have thought he was a corpse. She took a deep, fortifying breath. The clock's ticking, Lily; just say it.
"Sev…" She picked up his hand and gently stroked it. "I'm still not happy about the path you took after school, but I know you were being honest when you told me you were sorry. I know you've changed. If you get through this-" A lump formed in her throat, and she swallowed hard. "I forgive you, Sev. I just wanted you to know that."
The door opened, revealing Eileen wearing an expression that erased any questions Lily might have had about where Severus got his expressions. "I've given you your time," she said in a low, dangerous voice. "And I'll give you just enough to get out of here."
Lily nodded stiffly, and placed Severus's hand on his chest. "Again, I thank you." She stiffened her shoulders and headed for the fireplace, looking neither right nor left until she returned to Dumbledore's office.
I killed her… Dead… My fault… This isn't my bunk. No, it's… This is my bed. My mattress. What's going on? Why am I on my bed and not in Azkaban? Am I dead? Oh God, I hope I am. Why do I care if I'm alive; she doesn't care, and how can I blame her…
Mother. Is she dead as well? Can I open my eyes? I think I could…
His sight was fuzzy; he blinked, and his mother's form became clearer. "Severus, my lad," she said. "Tell me you can see me."
He blinked again, and Eileen's face came into focus. "Mother…" he croaked. Oh Merlin, what's happened to my voice?
Eileen's hand shook as she stroked his hair back from his face. "Oh, Severus… My boy, my strong boy…"
"Hush," she said, smoothing his blankets.
"She'll not hurt you again, lad, I promise."
"Lily… Was here…"
"Yes. Why are you smiling, son?"
"Lily forgave me." Too much. I'm going back to sleep. Things make sense when I'm asleep.
Now that Severus is on the mend, he must stand trial. With Barty Crouch as the judge and prosecution.
"You are mad, Bartemius." Dumbledore stood in front of Crouch's desk, standing ramrod-straight and radiating waves of cold fury. "He has only just recovered; sending him back to Azkaban will kill him."
"Losing one Death Eater scum does not bother me," Crouch returned, just as coldly. "He goes back to Azkaban tomorrow."
"You fool," Dumbledore said quietly. "If you want to bring Severus Snape to justice, you need him alive long enough to stand trial."
"Then you agree with me that Snape killed James Potter."
"I agree that he gave Lord Voldemort information that, unfortunately, he used to kill James and Harry. As I have told you, as Severus has told you, he only relayed an incomplete prophecy. He has been fighting our fight for over a year, and I trust him completely."
Crouch and Dumbledore glared at each other for several seconds. "If he will die in Azkaban, where else can he be held?"
"I will detain him at Hogwarts," Dumbledore said. "I can place wards that will make it impossible for him to leave the castle until his trial is over."
Crouch nodded curtly, his expression sour. "Very well. Take him there tonight. Allow no visitors."
Dumbledore nodded, then stepped through the fireplace to his office. He didn't like Crouch's demands, but if it would keep Severus out of Azkaban, it was worth the price. Resignedly, he set about placing the wards. I am sorry, Severus.
"Wonderful," Severus groused when Dumbledore told him the news. "Sprung from one fortress only to be imprisoned in another." It had been a week since his recovery; he was still gaunt and easily exhausted, but he'd seen a vast improvement since he'd started eating again. Eileen hovered behind him, and opened her mouth to speak. "Not now, Mother," he growled.
"But this is ridiculous!" Eileen protested. "What is the difference between him staying here or going back to Hogwarts? He's no safer or worse off at either place."
"It is not an ideal situation," Dumbledore conceded. "But the alternative, as I said, is Severus returning to Azkaban and meeting his death, with no opportunity to profess his innocence." He stood and turned to Severus. "Come to my office in an hour; I agreed to move you tonight."
After he left, Eileen rounded on Severus. "You don't have to go," she said softly.
"Yes I do," he said wearily. "Crouch wants his way; the best Dumbledore and I can do is humor him."
"After what he did to you?"
"He's the Minister of Magic," he returned, wincing as he reached for his traveling cloak. For some reason he hadn't been able to figure out, his shoulders hurt any time he reached for something. "What do I have to gain by defying him?"
Eileen's mouth set into a thin line, and she said nothing else as Severus readied himself for his return to Hogwarts. Just before he left, he gave her a small smile. "Don't worry about me, Mother. I've been in worse places."
Severus stepped out of the fireplace in Dumbledore's office and dropped into the seat across from the headmaster. "What happens now?" he asked.
"You continue to recover," Dumbledore said. "Your condition has improved greatly in the last week, but you are still too weak to face the dementors again."
Severus blanched. "Again?" A wave of nausea swept over him as the memory of his last dementor encounter rose, unbidden, to the front of his mind.
Dumbledore nodded, looking as though he'd swallowed a lemon. "Crouch will not relent on it; he insists that the creatures escort you in and out of the courtroom." He looked up sharply. "I want you to start practicing Occlumency again; it may help in fighting the effects the dementors have on you."
Severus nodded. "And what of the trial?"
"Leave that to me. All you need to do is repeat what you have already told Crouch." He leaned forward. "Between us, I believe his methods of torture have turned more people against him than he wants to acknowledge. Wishful thinking, perhaps," he said with a smile. "But keep your chin up, Severus."
Two weeks later, Severus waited for the door to the small chamber off the courtroom to open. In a few minutes, his fate would be decided by the Wizengamot; if he were religious, he supposed he would have spent the time praying. But since he wasn't, he spent his time blocking out all thought except what he would say in his own defense… Provided Crouch would let him speak. There was some question about that.
The door creaked open, and he stood, repressing a shudder as two dementors flanked him. Keep on your feet, he thought; easier said than done, as the creatures' mere presence was causing him to feel nauseous.
Overwhelming silence from the audience, cold and condemning, pressed on his ears as he entered the courtroom. A brief look around gave him the impression of hundreds of bloated heads with the features oddly distorted, looking as though they might all float to the top of the chamber. He nearly chuckled at this thought, until the action gave him a taste of bile. He swallowed and allowed the dementors to lead him to the chair. He sat, and chains snaked their way around him, binding him to the chair. He sat still, looking at no one except Crouch, who looked down from the raised platform at Severus as though someone had brought in a rotting carcass.
Crouch nodded to a court scribe and began. "Severus Snape. You have been brought before the Wizengamot on charges of murder and espionage. Case in point: You are accused of the murders of James and Harry Potter and passing information of the Potters' whereabouts to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Do you understand these charges?"
"I do," Severus said, keeping his face and tone impassive.
"On the night of twenty-eight October, nineteen seventy-nine, you were apprehended by Aberforth Dumbledore as you listened outside a room in his inn, The Hog's Head. Is this correct?"
"You overheard a prophecy that was made concerning the eventual fate of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, is that correct?"
"This prophecy referred to the son of James and Lily Potter, did it not?"
"It did not."
A murmur went through the courtroom; again all of the heads had the look of balloons ready to float away. Flitting expressions of disbelief crossed many of them, and the members of the Wizengamot shifted in their seats. Mad-Eye Moody leaned forward and looked hard at Severus.
"The Wizengamot recognizes Alastor Moody," Crouch said.
"If the prophecy didn't refer to the Potter boy, who did it name?" Moody wore an odd expression; Severus wondered if Moody was one of those who believed him innocent.
"It did not refer to anyone by name," Severus said. Again the disbelieving murmur. "The exact wording of the prophecy was, 'the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies'."
At this, Dumbledore sat forward. "There were two boys born at the end of July in nineteen-eighty, Bartemius," he said.
"Who was the other?" Crouch barked.
This time pandemonium erupted in the courtroom. Oddly, the chaos seemed to give Severus his clarity of sight back; the heads of the spectators returned to their normal proportions, and he could make out some familiar faces. Of course the Order was here; he spotted Lupin and Black, as well as some others he knew by sight. Death Eaters? He didn't immediately recognize any, but he knew it was foolish to think they weren't there, most likely Polyjuiced or somehow transfigured from their usual appearance. A woman towards the middle of a row just to the side of the judges' table wore a sneer that closely resembled Bellatrix Lestrange's.
"Absurd," Crouch said. "It referred to Harry Potter; it's on the record!"
"The prophecy referred to Harry Potter because Lord Voldemort decided it referred to him," Dumbledore said. "You have heard this prophecy, Bartemius; it was brought out of the Hall of Prophecies for the purpose of this trial. The actual wording of the prophecy excluded a name."
A blonde witch with an acid-green quill stood up. "So the Ministry confirms the existence of the Hall of Prophecies?"
"Hold your questions until this session concludes!" Crouch snapped. The witch sat down, but the quill began writing furiously of its own accord. Severus watched it with mild interest until Crouch cleared his throat. "So. The prophecy allegedly does not name anyone," he said. "If this is true, Snape, then why did you seek out Dumbledore to hide the Potters?"
"Because the Dark Lord announced his plans to murder the boy to his Death Eaters," Severus replied.
"You count yourself among them?"
"How do you mean?" Severus was biding his time; the possibly-Polyjuiced Bellatrix was watching him with great interest, as were many members of the audience.
"The Death Eaters trust you and believe you loyal to their cause?"
"And He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Does he trust you, Snape?"
Severus considered his answer. "I must assume that the Dark Lord trusts me, as he has given me no reason to believe otherwise."
"You are evading the question!"
"I have given you an honest answer." Severus's voice remained quiet and even, but he could feel his temper rising. "I joined forces with Dumbledore when he announced his plan to murder the Potter boy."
"And why, Snape, when your rivalry with James Potter was well-documented?"
"A schoolboy rivalry cannot be presented as evidence, Bartemius," Dumbledore said. "We are not here to figure out why Severus switched sides; we are here to determine that he did and that he was not working for Lord Voldemort when Harry and James Potter were murdered."
"I beg to differ," Crouch said, his face reddening. "Why should Snape have passed the prophecy to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the first place? We need a motive."
A witch from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Amelia Bones, sat forward. After being recognized by Crouch, she said, "I don't doubt there may have been some rivalry between Snape and Potter, Barty, but as Dumbledore said it's irrelevant. It could have been just a simple House rivalry…" She turned to Severus. "You were in Slytherin, correct?"
"Yes," Severus said.
"There's your motive, Barty," Miss Bones said. "Slytherins and Gryffindors have been at odds for years. Snape and Potter were no different. And I believe we have the person who sold the Potters to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Azkaban as we speak. There is no way Snape could have known where the Potters were if Pettigrew was their secret-keeper."
If his hands hadn't been bound to the chair, Severus would have rubbed his forehead in frustration. Waste of time, he thought bitterly; of all the things he could be doing right now, didn't it just have to be being badgered by the Minister of Magic. He looked around; surprisingly, the audience members seemed to share his frustration. Many were shifting in their seats, while others were glaring at Crouch. Clearly, they wanted this kangaroo court over as much as he did.
"And now we've got that out of the way. Can we get back to the issue at hand?" Moody growled. "Snape, just answer these two questions: One, have you really switched sides, and two, if you did, why did you?"
In the pressing silence that followed, Severus found a face he hadn't seen before. Lily was sitting next to Lupin, something clutched in her hands, looking directly at him. He thought he saw her nod imperceptibly at him; imagined or not, the gesture emboldened him.
"I have switched sides. I have not been a true Death Eater for over a year." The audience seemed to draw breath to a man, and the maybe-Bellatrix's expression changed to one of shock. The blonde witch's acid-green quill flashed back and forth. "As to why I switched sides…" He glanced over at Lily. "I had a change of heart. I saw what the Dark Lord intended to do, and I could not be a part of it any longer."
Pandemonium erupted in the courtroom; as Crouch desperately tried to regain order, Severus caught Dumbledore's eye. Dumbledore smiled. Why are you smiling? Severus thought. This isn't over yet.
After several moments, and a couple of firecrackers set off from Crouch's wand, the courtroom settled down again. Moody leaned forward, glaring at Crouch. "So now we know he's switched sides," he said. "Let's examine what happened when he was in Azkaban."
"What do you mean?" Crouch attempted to swell indignantly, but there was fear in his eyes.
"The Aurors report directly to me, Barty, did you forget that? I have it on good authority from Fabian Prewett that you starved Snape, employed the Cruciatus Curse on him for more than an hour, and finally used a dementor to extract more information from him." A gasp escaped from a few spectators. "That last act, of course, caused a break in Snape's sanity and nearly resulted in his death. Do you have any defense for that, Crouch?"
Crouch swallowed nervously. "I treated the boy as I saw fit," he said. "He was uncooperative with legal methods of interrogation and left me with no other options."
"Was he truly uncooperative, or did he not tell you what you wanted to hear in favor of telling you what you needed to hear?" Dumbledore asked. The murmurs from the audience began again, and Crouch, much to Severus's surprise, seemed to have nothing to say in return.
"As Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, it is my ruling that Severus Snape was unethically and illegally detained in Azkaban Prison, was illegally tortured, and has now been the subject of less of a trial and more of a public attempt at humiliation and a further attack on his physical and mental well-being. I have already vouched for this young man in front of the entire Wizengamot, and I stand by it. If there is another person in this courtroom willing to vouch for him before the Wizengamot makes its decision, please speak now."
Severus closed his eyes. He was a dead man. Dumbledore might vouch for him, but it would be insanity to think that anyone else-
His eyes snapped open. He was hallucinating. He had to be. He looked up… And saw Lily standing, facing Crouch with her jaw set in a way he knew to be an indication of her mind being made up.
"Mrs. Potter?" Crouch looked as shocked as Severus felt. "But surely-"
"Minister, I don't disagree that Severus has made terrible decisions in his life." Lily's voice was steady, her green eyes blazing. "In fact, I know he did; he and I grew up in the same neighborhood, we were friends until we were teenagers and he… Chose the Death Eaters over our friendship. But I've also seen people change and make a complete turnaround in their life. Severus has, and I fully believe he has turned against You-Know-Who. Whatever his reason, I stand by him."
His heart leapt to this throat. First Lily had forgiven him for the hell he'd put her through, and now she was standing up for him against Crouch? Severus Snape, you never knew what a good thing you had with her. For the love of Merlin, DO NOT FUCK YOURSELF AGAIN.
"Anyone else?" Crouch asked the courtroom at large, his face now purple with suppressed rage. To Severus's surprise, Lupin stood up, and (after a moment's hesitation and a glare from Lupin) so did Black. As he looked up at the Wizengamot, Severus thought he heard Crouch's teeth grinding. "Very well. Put it to a vote." He turned to the other judges, while Severus closed his eyes again. This couldn't end well. "Those in favor of finding Severus Snape guilty on the charges of murder and conspiracy, raise your hands." Absolute silence. "Those in favor of acquittal?"
He allowed himself to look. Dumbledore, Moody, Amelia Bones… All of the Wizengamot, besides Crouch, in favor of his acquittal?! It's not possible. Wake up, Severus; this is a dream. In fact, this is your dying dream. You're dying right now; you've just imagined that Lily stood up to Crouch-
"Cleared," Crouch said, sounding as though something were choking him. "Cleared of all charges." He banged his gavel and rose, stalking away with an air that suggested immediate arrest for anyone who tried to talk to him.
"Right then," Dumbledore said, also rising. "I believe the day's business is over. Everyone go on your merry way! Pip pip!" He looked back to the chair where Severus sat again, and shouted, "Expecto Patronum!" A beautiful silver phoenix erupted from his wand and swooped around Severus, causing the dementors to fall back and exit the courtroom.
The chains fell off, and as the courtroom cleared, Severus stood, his heart lighter than it had been in years, his mind clear and unburdened by dark thoughts. For the first time in years, he was a free man. He stepped out of the courtroom to look for Lily.
Back in the courtroom, a woman stood in the shadows as her features, haughty and aristocratic, showed through the last of the Polyjuice Potion wore off.
Being a Death Eater means serving Lord Voldemort for the rest of your life; you don't just walk away from it.
"Se-ev," Lily trilled at Severus. "Look what I brought."
He looked up and saw Lily standing in the doorway of his office, holding a bottle of Madam Rosmerta's mulled mead. "What's the occasion?" He asked, rising to get goblets.
"Two things," she said, drawing the outline of a chair for herself in midair and seating herself in front of his desk. "One, your trial. Sev, can you believe you made a complete arse out of Bartemius Crouch in front of the entire Wizengamot? And that they've already started talking about sacking him?"
"Yes," he said sarcastically. "I suppose my not being allowed to talk and having Dumbledore and Moody speak for me was rather impressive." The memory of the trial failed to give him any sense of accomplishment.
"Oh, stop it; you were wonderful." She poured out two gobletsful of mead and handed one to him. "The second thing is, I've finally found a house."
"Excellent," Severus said. "Where is it?"
"In Hogsmeade." Lily's face split into a grin. "I'm moving in next week."
"Just out of curiosity: Why Hogsmeade?"
"Well..." She put down her goblet. "This might sound silly, but... I think, now I know You-Know-Who's after me, I just want to be as close to Dumbledore as possible. I mean, what are the chances of Hogsmeade being attacked, with Hogwarts and Dumbledore so near it?"
Severus nodded; certainly anywhere Dumbledore was, was the safest place to be. "Congratulations," he said, raising his goblet to her and taking a drink...
"Sev!" He heard Lily's cry, but it seemed to come from far away. He couldn't answer her, not with his throat closing... Poison, he thought, before he lost consciousness.
Lily raced to the cupboard. He had to have at least one, she thought desperately; no potioneer worth their salt didn't... Finally she found a box labeled bezoars, and nearly tore it grabbing one. She raced back to the desk, where Severus was twitching on the stone floor. Kneeling next to him, she lifted his head and wrenched his mouth open. "Swallow it," she muttered, massaging his throat. "Come on, Sev, swallow..."
Finally he stopped twitching. Trembling, Lily walked over to the fireplace, grabbed a handful of Floo powder from a box on the mantlepiece, and threw it into the grate. "Professor McGonagall," she called. "Could you come here for a moment?"
In a moment, Minerva McGonagall had stepped out of the fireplace. "What happened to him?" She asked when she saw Severus lying on the floor, still as a corpse.
"I brought mead from the Three Broomsticks," Lily said, pointing to the almost-full bottle on his desk. "He took one drink and... It was poisoned, Professor. Help me get him to the hospital wing?"
McGonagall nodded, conjuring a stretcher and helping Lily lift him onto it. Almost as an afterthought, Lily grabbed the mead from the desk. Neither woman spoke until they reached the hospital wing, where Madam Pomfrey immediately set up a bed and began treating Severus.
An hour later, Professor Dumbledore appeared in the wing. "Minerva," he said. "The entire school is convinced that Severus has been killed. What really happened?"
"Ask her," McGonagall said, gesturing to Lily, who was sitting in a chair next to the bed. "But you may tell the school that our beloved Potions Master is alive, though briefly incapacitated."
"Indeed," he said, looking at the figure on the bed. "I'm sure the Slytherins will be relieved, at any rate."
Lily repeated her story to Dumbledore, who, when she was finished, nodded, his brow furrowed. "I thought something like this might happen."
"Professor?" Lily said. McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey, as well, had turned their full attention to Dumbledore.
"I knew Lord Voldemort would want to get back at Severus, possibly even kill him personally, but this..."
"You think this was You-Know-Who's doing?" Madam Pomfrey said.
"Certainly not," Dumbledore said, walking over to the bed to examine Severus himself. "Far too crude, too many opportunities for failure. No, this is the work of a rank amateur. Lord Voldemort has not executed a plan this riddled with holes for many years." He straightened up and turned to Lily. "I trust you can identify the poison used?"
"I... Yes, of course I can," she said. "When do you need it?"
"As soon as you've got it. In the meantime, I will take over Potions lessons until Severus is well enough to return to his post." He left the ward, looking more deeply troubled than Lily had ever seen him.
Later that night, Lily poured the contents of the mead bottle into her old cauldron. "Revelio," she muttered, waving her wand over the basin. Immediately the liquid began separating. "Aha," she said as a black liquid separated from the rest. She scooped it into a vial, corked it, and began the trek up to Dumbledore's office.
"Strychnine," she said, handing the vial over to the headmaster. "There was enough in that bottle to kill every person in this school."
"Well done," Dumbledore said, holding the vial up. The black liquid swirled within it. He sighed suddenly. "Perhaps Hogwarts is no longer as safe as everyone believes."
"What do you mean?"
"One of our staff has been poisoned. Not accidentally, as might be expected to happen in Severus's post, but deliberately, with the intent to kill. I could not have prevented this."
"Are you suggesting he should leave?"
"I'm not sure." Dumbledore looked into the vial again, as though it might give him an answer. "There are many Death Eaters who want to see Severus dead, or to bring him to Lord Voldemort, and it's not a secret that he teaches here."
Lily squared her shoulders. "If he goes into hiding, I'll go with him."
"Beg pardon?" Dumbledore sat up and looked intently at her.
"You-Know-Who wants both of us dead," she pointed out. "Me, because he thinks the prophecy he used to kill Harry applies to me, and Severus for betraying him. Why shouldn't we go into hiding together, and be each others' Secret-Keeper?"
Dumbledore considered this. "It might work," he said finally. "Will you speak with him about this idea tomorrow?"
"Yes." She turned and headed back to the dungeons. Now that she had a plan, she felt more in control than she had for years.
"No." Severus folded his arms across his chest. "Absolutely not." He sat on the edge of the narrow bed in the hospital wing, waiting for the all-clear from Madam Pomfrey.
"But Sev, it's a perfect plan," Lily said eagerly. "We're probably his two most wanted; why shouldn't we hide and hide each other?"
"If I have to go into hiding, I can hide myself well enough. If I had to hide you..." He paused, thinking about his next words. "Make Black your Secret-Keeper; you know he won't betray you."
"I thought he was," Lily said quietly. "And to think: If we'd all died that night, not just James and Harry, Sirius might have gone to Azkaban and Peter would have gotten away with it. But that's neither here nor there," she said, her voice stronger. "I'm asking you to be my Secret-Keeper, Sev."
"And why should you have to be dragged down wherever I go?"
"Dragged down?" Lily's eyes flashed dangerously. "Dragged down? If you choose to go to prison it's not a punishment!"
He backed up. "All I'm saying is, once the Dark Lord finds me, I'm done. Once he finds you, you're done. Why should we make it easier for him to find and kill both of us?"
"If you were my Secret-Keeper, would you betray me?"
"What- No! No, of course not! I just don't..."
"You don't what, Severus?" She asked in clipped tones.
Oh, Christ. "I don't want to put you in his path again," he said quietly.
Lily sighed, but patiently rather than angrily. "Severus Snape, you were always on about how Gryffindors have no subtlety, but did you ever check your own radar?"
"I'm asking you to be my Secret-Keeper. I'm trusting you with my life, the only thing in this world I still have. Severus, I'm choosing you." She stood and smoothed her skirt. "I'll be in your office when you have an answer."
As she turned to leave, Severus thought it over. Lily was trusting him with her life? "Lily," he called. She stopped and turned. "If I don't agree, who will you ask next?"
"Dumbledore," she said. "And I'd rather not; what with running this school and trying to keep Order members safe, I think he's got enough on his plate." She left, and Severus returned to his thoughts.
Twenty minutes later, he entered his office. Lily was sitting on the desk, and when she heard the door open, she looked up at him eagerly.
"Can we hide in Hogsmeade?"
Lily threw herself into his arms.
For the first time, possibly ever, Severus Snape has everything he could ask for. So why is it impossible for him to be happy?
"Here it is," Lily said, pointing up to the house she'd bought. It was close to the middle of Hogsmeade, but off the main road, a fact which put Severus at ease. He figured the farther off the beaten path they were, the harder it would be to track them. They walked in together, and as Severus looked around, he had to admire Lily's decorating sense. It was better than his, but he supposed if he thought the house on Spinner's End was anything like a home he'd have been more mindful of its looks, too.
"Would you like your own room for now?" She asked.
"I think that would be best," Severus agreed, looking into a small bedroom. "This one is fine."
Lily nodded. "Meet me for tea in ten?"
"Sev, you never said anything about your time in Azkaban," Lily said ten minutes later, pouring out two cups of tea and setting one on the table in front of Severus.
"So your morbid fascination with that place hasn't lessened," he answered, the ghost of a smile playing around his mouth.
"I just wanted to get a better idea of what happened to you," she said, sitting across from him. She reached across the table for his hand. "You had everyone terrified for a while, and Dumbledore never told me anything about it. I had to pry the truth out of Remus, and by that time you were almost dead."
Instantly he felt ashamed. Did he really have to be so guarded with everyone? And especially with Lily, when she had done nothing to him? He sighed. "You know about Crouch and the dementor," he said.
"Yes, but what happened to you? Why did you..." She trailed off, apparently to upset by the memory to say the words.
"I remembered what happened the day my sister died," he said quietly.
"Yes." He caught Lily's confused expression. "I didn't know I'd had one, either, until a few weeks ago."
"My father beat her. I'm sure she did something, but I can't remember what. Could have been anything, really; he barely needed a reason." He took a gulp of tea, more to do something with his shaking hands than anything. "She was tiny and he didn't stop. I tried to pull him off her, but he threw me against a wall. Broke my leg." He couldn't go on. Already he felt his control slipping away.
"Sev..." Lily whispered. She had let go of his hand, and her knuckles stood out white against the table. "I'm so sorry."
He nodded, unable to say anything. Then he got up from the table and retreated to his bedroom, across the hall from Lily's, where he fell onto the bed and stayed there, not moving.
Hollowness and spells of unbearable sadness had been a part of Severus's life since his teen years, coming with no warning, leaving him contemplating how pointless and worthless his life was, how everything would be better if he'd never been born, and how easy it would be to fix that mistake with a swallow of poison or his own spell, sectumsempra, turned on him. And then they would recede; never really disappearing, but allowing him to at least pretend he could pick up a knife without wanting to slit his wrists. No one had ever known about it, though he suspected that some of his colleagues at Hogwarts had their own suspicions.
Ever since the trial, he'd felt more hollow than usual. Yes, Lily loved him; yes, she'd asked him to hide with her. He should have been happier than ever before, but instead he was miserable. And the worst part was, there was no one else who could understand. Lily was ecstatic, and Dumbledore couldn't care less about him now that he wasn't useful as a spy. He thought again of all the pain and heartache he'd caused for Lily. She's better off without me. The thought had been crossing his mind, unbidden, ever since Lily had asked him to be her Secret-Keeper.
Did she know, he wondered. Could she tell that he was slipping even now? He thought she could; there had been a certain understanding behind her eyes. If she didn't know, he didn't want her to find out. It would pass; it always did. She had enough to worry about now, and there was enough to keep him occupied until it went away.
Severus sighed and closed his eyes. He didn't want to think anymore.
Lily sat at the table, digesting the horrible story Severus had just told her. How could he have lived through that and come out okay?
He didn't, she realized suddenly. He's not okay. She looked up in the direction of his bedroom, her blood suddenly chilled. What if he was up there even now, planning to- She bolted upstairs before she could finish that thought. "Sev?" She called, pounding on his closed bedroom door.
"What?" He called, and Lily almost collapsed with relief. He was still there.
"Can I come in?"
"If you want. It's your house."
She opened the door and found him laying on his side, facing away from the door. "It's our house, Sev." She sat down next to him on the bed. "Are you... Have you been feeling okay lately?" Stupid! Of course he hasn't.
"I'm fine," he said. "Why?"
"That story you told me, about your sister... Sev, are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes," he said firmly.
He wants to believe it worse than I do, she thought sadly, brushing some hair off his forehead. But maybe she was overreacting. After all, he'd only just remembered what happened; he needed time to process it with his facilities intact. She kissed him on the cheek, then stood up and headed to the door. "If you need to talk, you know where I am," she offered, then went to her bedroom.
The next few weeks dragged by. Severus helped Lily move into the house, and when he thought he could risk it, he snuck into his house and brought what few possessions he could carry, and as many books as possible. All through this his misery increased, but whenever Lily asked him, he excused it as something else.
"New mattress," he said when she asked why he looked so tired.
"Picked something up wrong," he said when she saw him with a painkilling draft.
"I'm not hungry," he said when she noticed him not eating.
"I'm fine, Lily, just back off!" He snapped from the kitchen table one afternoon when she approached him again.
"Why are you getting so defensive?" She asked, her eyes narrowing.
"Because you've been on my case all week. I can't sneeze without you asking if I'm all right. I am, now just let it go."
"I'm worried, Sev-"
"Well, stop worrying," he growled. "There's nothing wrong with me."
She glared at him for a moment, then turned and bolted upstairs, slamming her bedroom door to emphasize her anger.
Severus was instantly ashamed. Why was he starting in on her? Especially now, when they were getting on so well? Just another thing I can't do worth a damn... He stood and went upstairs.
"Lily?" He called softly.
"What do you want?" She said, trying to be cold.
"I'm sorry," he said.
She opened the door, and he saw that her eyes were red-rimmed. "Sev, I'm not trying to be on your back all the time, but you really are scaring me. You walk around here like a zombie sometimes-"
"A zombie. They're like Inferi, but they... It doesn't matter. It's like you're just going through the motions."
He sighed. "I'm fine, Lily, I promise."
She nodded. "Well. Good night, Sev." She closed the door, and Severus went to his room and lay down on the bed, folding his hands behind his head and staring at the ceiling for the rest of the night.
Everything will be better once I do this. Severus stared at the tiny bottle of poison clenched between his fingers. Arsenic. The effects would be nearly instantaneous; quick and easy, no choking, no mess... Just do it. He began to pour the contents down his throat-
"Sev?" Lily's voice called out, and the front door shut. Damn it all, he thought angrily, pocketing the bottle. I had an hour. If I wasn't such a coward...
"Sev, are you here?"
"Upstairs," he called back. With one last disgusted look at his reflection, he left the bathroom and shut the door.
"Oh, there you are," Lily said, glancing up from the sacks of groceries. "What's wrong?" She said, turning her gaze back to him.
"Why does something always have to be wrong?" He said bitterly. "Can't I ever get a normal greeting?"
"It doesn't have to be wrong. And by the way, there's no arsenic in that bottle. Just food coloring."
"I don't know what you're talking-"
"I found it in the bathroom this morning and hid it," she said. Her voice was ragged from trying not to cry. "Why didn't you tell me it was that bad? I knew you were hurting, but..." She wiped at a tear that was falling down her cheek.
Severus dropped into one of the chairs. She'd known. She'd known he wanted to die, and she'd stopped him. Why? She settled into the seat next to him, a tea towel clutched in her hand.
"I love you, Sev. And I hate that you're going through this. Please, just let me help you. I'll do whatever it takes; anything, I promise."
Don't you understand? He thought. Nothing can help this. It's pointless.
"For you?" He asked in barely more than a whisper.
"No. For you."
Finally, he nodded.
"There's nothing shameful about it," Lily said. "You have a problem, and don't try to make me believe you can deal with it on your own."
"I didn't say it was shameful," Severus shot back. "I said I don't need a doctor."
"Then how about a priest? You think an exorcism might do it?"
"Well, you're shit out of other options," Lily said.
She had a point, Severus admitted to himself. But the moment Lily had said "doctor" he'd thought of sterile white rooms, needles, and faces hidden behind cloth masks. He repressed a shudder with some difficulty. Never in his life had Severus seen a Muggle doctor, and he'd hoped to keep it that way. He especially didn't like the idea of this "psychiatrist" that Lily had suggested. "Head-shrinkers," Tobias had called them, usually before picking up a bottle and draining it. On the other hand, he had no desire to be like his father, now or ever. "Fine," he said. "One appointment. You can set it up."
She nodded. "Sev?" He turned to her; she was wearing a small smile. "This might be one of the bravest things you've ever done."
Two days later, Lily waved a small slip of paper in front of his face. "Thursday morning, ten-fifteen, with Doctor Sheila Hearn in London." she said. "And even better? She's a witch!"
Severus looked up at Lily. She was overjoyed, he could tell. "How do you know?"
"She recognized your name from the Prophet," Lily said. "She's really very honored that you're coming to see her. Says she's wanted the magical community to embrace psychiatry for years, ever since You-Know-Who started gaining power."
Brilliant, he thought dully. What kind of experiments would she perform on him?
Sheila Hearn was a handsome woman, early fifties, Severus guessed, with large hands and iron-gray hair that she wore parted in the exact center of her head. She greeted him and Lily warmly, and after writing down Severus's diagnostics -height, weight, age, and blood pressure (the taking of which he never wanted to go through again)- in a file, she led them down the hall and opened the last door on the left. "My office," she said. "Make yourselves at home."
Her office was again different from what he'd expected: Painted an inviting shade of pale blue, with thick white carpet covering the floor. Several pretty glass paperweights stood in the large windows, creating colorful light patterns on the carpet, and an overstuffed sofa faced the desk. Severus sat down on the very edge of it, glancing nervously over at Lily. She smiled and squeezed his hand gently.
Dr. Hearn sat down behind her desk and turned to a fresh page on her legal pad. "Tell me about the last few weeks," she said, looking first at Severus and then Lily.
They took turns telling her about his time in Azkaban, the trial, Lily's offer to hide with him, Lily stepped in to tell the doctor about finding the bottle of arsenic in the medicine chest and replacing it with food coloring. As she talked, Severus felt his face growing warm and stared down at the carpet. It really was very nice...
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Dr. Hearn said. "You've been through a lot in a very short amount of time. You can't expect to come through all of that unscathed."
He didn't respond.
"Lily, if you could step out into the waiting room." Dr. Hearn stood and opened the door. "I'd like to speak to Severus alone for a moment."
"Of course," Lily said, standing and walking out of the room. She brushed his shoulder lightly before she left. Dr. Hearn closed the door and returned to her desk.
"Severus, what was your childhood like?"
"How do you mean?"
"Just tell me about it," she said, the tip of her pen resting on the paper. "What were your parents like?"
"My mother is a witch and my father was a Muggle."
"How did they get along?"
"No; he ran off when I was seventeen."
"Was your father cruel?"
"Did he hit you?"
"Tell me about it."
Severus looked up.
Dr. Hearn seemed to hear his thoughts. "There's a fine line between acceptable physical discipline and abuse, Severus. You tell me what he did, and I'll tell you which one it was."
"He used to beat me until I couldn't feel it," he said. "I already know what it was."
"It happened often?"
He nodded. Was his time nearly up? He was sick of talking, sick of having his life pried into-
"We're almost done." She stood up and crossed to the front of the desk, leaning against it in front of him. "This is never an easy process," she said. "It's painful and difficult; you're going to go through the wringer in this office. But, if you choose to see it through, you're going to be a healthier person, not just mentally but physically."
Severus nodded, unable to think of anything to say. Instead he buried his face in his hands and pressed his fingers against his forehead.
"I think we'll leave it here for today." She opened the door. "I do hope I'll see you next week, Severus."
"Well?" Lily asked as they left the building. "What do you think?"
"Don't ask me to think," Severus said wearily.
She took his hand. "I know it's hard," she said. "But I'd like you to see this through." No response. "I know you can't like feeling like this all the time," she pressed on. Still no response. "Please, Sev? Just one more appointment?"
"Lily, I appreciate your concern, but I really don't want to talk right now."
She turned her head to retort, but stopped when she saw his face. He was drained; she realized he'd probably done more talking in the last hour than he had in the last week. She nodded. "Sorry," she whispered.
He squeezed her hand gently, and they didn't talk again until much later in the evening. Severus had retreated to the back garden to have a cigarette, and after a few minutes Lily had followed him. For a moment, they simply sat together without speaking. Then Severus said, "I'm still not sure about this."
"I know it was difficult, but you really did well today," Lily said.
He closed his eyes, took another drag and slowly breathed the smoke out through his nose.
"One more?" She wheedled.
"How long do I have to decide?"
He felt Lily slump beside him. "Give it two days," she said, standing and heading back inside.
"All right." He knew she was disappointed, but on balance she hadn't had her past pried into for an hour today. Maybe it was all right for her, he thought; he knew Mr. and Mrs. Evans had doted on their girls, and he couldn't begrudge Lily the happy childhood she'd had. But if she could see some of the memories he had, she wouldn't wonder why he didn't like to talk about it.
She's not trying to hurt you, a rational part of his mind piped up. Give it a shot. What could it hurt?
On the other hand, he thought, grinding out the cigarette, what could it help?
LEMONS AHOY!!! Expanded from the FF.Net version, because we all know FF.Net tends to frown upon lemony goodness.
Lily twiddled the knob on the radio, smiling as it tuned into a Muggle rock station and the opening notes of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" floated into the kitchen. Severus sat at the table, reading the Daily Prophet and intermittently sipping black coffee.
"Look at us, Sev," Lily laughed suddenly. "We're like a Norman Rockwell painting."
Severus sighed. "I suppose. But I don't think the background music in those paintings is Led Zeppelin."
Lily sat down to his right. "You miss it, don't you? Spying?"
"Spying I don't miss," he said. "It's having something to do. Being of some use to someone."
Of course, Lily thought. Severus was intelligent, not the kind to take well to a life of boring routine. She thought he might even miss teaching, whatever he said to the contrary. It was, after all, doing something. "Have you asked Dumbledore if you can keep doing some Order things?"
"Even if I did, what use could I be? I used to spy on the Death Eaters, and I can't do that anymore; they'd kill me on sight. Or," he added, almost as an afterthought, "they'll have orders to hand me over to the Dark Lord directly."
They sat without speaking for a minute. "Have you made up your mind about seeing Dr. Hearn again?" Lily asked gently.
Severus sighed again and put down the paper. "I don't know," he said. "What's the point in talking about anything?"
"I know it can't be pleasant, but neither can you being sad all the time."
He didn't respond, but turned his head toward the radio. "The Immigrant Song" had faded, and The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" had taken over.
Lily thought she saw an opening. "'No colors anymore'. That's kind of what it's like, isn't it?" He turned back to her. "What you're going through. Muggles have a name for it, Sev; it's called depression."
"Everyone gets depressed at some point, Lily. What's the point in seeing a doctor for it?"
"Because it's more than just being depressed, if what I've heard is right. It's like they never stop being depressed, and they can't pull themselves out of it." She paused for a scant second. "Sometimes the best way to treat it is through medication."
Severus looked at Lily as though she'd just asked him to fly to the moon without assistance. "Lily, I've never taken Muggle medicine in my life. Not even aspirin."
"But that's just one way they treat it," she pressed on. "There are other ways, but I don't know much about any of them. Dr. Hearn will, and I don't think she'll push medicine on you if she thinks there's a better way. But you have to see her again."
He looked at her another moment, then nodded.
"She was right," Dr. Hearn said two days later, when Severus had finished telling her about his and Lily's conversation. She was sitting behind the desk, her notepad and pen at the ready. "But as I haven't diagnosed you with anything, not even depression, I'm not about to prescribe you medication for it."
"But today is the day I will make a diagnosis, and you're going to have to talk for me to make it." She caught the look on his face. "I know you don't like to talk about the shitty things; no one does. But I can't do my job without having the proper information, and you're the one providing that information. I hate to say this, but if you want to get better and not be suicidal, you're just going to have to suck it up and talk." She picked up the pen.
Severus hesitated for a moment. Then he told her about everything that had happened over the past year: About him begging Voldemort to spare Lily's life and then asking Dumbledore to hide the Potters, finding out that Lily had been spared while James and Harry had been killed, Lily finding out that he, Severus, had been responsible for her family's death, and his imprisonment and torture in Azkaban. And finally, he told her about his Memory Charm breaking, leaving him with the memory of watching his sister die, and before that, of the recurring nightmares in which his sister had accused him of killing her.
Dr. Hearn looked up. Severus's face was white, and he was gripping the arms of the chair tightly. "Go outside and smoke," she said kindly. "You look like you need it."
When he returned fifteen minutes -and three cigarettes- later, she was writing more notes on her legal pad. "Well, Lily was right. You are dealing with depression. It's not uncommon in people who had abusive childhoods, or who've been in prison."
Severus nodded. The diagnosis explained some things, but he didn't feel as though anything had really changed. "So what happens now?"
Dr. Hearn sighed. "I hate to say this, but I think you would do well on medication. I understand your objections," she said, raising her voice slightly as he began to interrupt. "But you've already had suicidal thoughts and tried to act on them. That's never a good sign; a healthy person doesn't try to end their own life." She stood up and crossed to the front of her desk. "I'll start you off on a low dosage, as low as I can get away with for you, and we'll take it from there."
"As low as you can get away with for me?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
"As low as I can prescribe a man who's six feet tall and a hundred and seventy pounds," she amended, scribbling on a smaller pad of paper and tearing off the top sheet. "There's a chemist across the street; go and get it filled there."
He nodded. "Thanks for your time," he said, and rose to leave.
"Well?" Lily said as they walked out of the office.
He handed her the prescription sheet.
"Prozac?" She said, squinting at Dr. Hearn's writing. "If she thinks it'll help..."
Severus didn't say anything. Once again, he felt drained and had no desire to revisit what he'd said during the appointment.
After two weeks on Prozac, Lily barely recognized Severus. If he wasn't asleep, he walked around the house like he was in a haze. Sometimes she thought he had trouble recognizing her; he'd acted like she was a stranger too many times for it to be a coincidence. And the worst part, she thought, was that he seemed more depressed than before.
"He's just dead behind the eyes," Lily told Dr. Hearn on the next visit, while Severus was outside. "I hated seeing him so sad before, but I hate seeing him like this, too."
"He's been difficult to treat," Dr. Hearn said, nodding. "He doesn't want to talk, and medication was tricky since he'd never taken any before." She shook her head sadly. "It was the least worst scenario."
"What do you mean?" Lily asked.
Dr. Hearn closed her eyes. "I think he'd benefit the most from residential treatment."
"Being committed, you mean."
Dr. Hearn nodded, opening her eyes. "Most cases of attempted suicide go straight to inpatient therapy. I put it off with Severus because I wanted to see how he'd respond to outpatient and medication, and I thought inpatient would bring back too many memories of what just happened to him in Azkaban, and if that brought about a relapse there'd be too much explaining to do."
"There has to be a provision for that in the International Statute of Secrecy."
"There isn't. I looked." Dr. Hearn shook her head again. "The magical community isn't willing to do much for witches and wizards with mental health issues, and Severus is living proof of that. I've been trying to change that for years, but trying to talk with a representative from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is like talking to a brick wall that talks back."
"Is there anything at all I can do?" Lily said.
"No," Dr. Hearn said gently. "His adjustment period is almost over. If he's still acting like this, or worse, at the end of the month, I'll take him off the Prozac and come up with another plan." Severus came back at that point, and Dr. Hearn, much to Lily's surprise, cut the appointment short.
Later, as they made their way through Hogsmeade, Severus stopped and looked over the village toward Hogwarts, and after gazing at it for a minute let out a sad sigh. Before Lily could ask, he said, "I never thought it would end up like this."
She understood. Hogwarts, to her and Severus, had been a place where dreams would come true. And it had been that way for her; for him, she realized, it had been the only real home he'd ever known. Surely he felt like he'd been kicked out. "It doesn't have to keep being like this," she said softly, laying her head on his shoulder. "You're using a new shampoo."
"Didn't like the last one," he said, resting his chin on top of her head. "And I really hate this Prozac."
"Dr. Hearn wants you to give it another two weeks."
"Do I have to?"
"Who do you think I am, your mother?" Lily asked in mock-indignance. In a more serious tone, she said, "It's up to you, but if it were me, I'd probably just give it the extra two weeks."
Lily brushed her hair with extra care that night. She had finally made up her mind, and she had no guilty feelings about it.
She had come to terms with the fact that she would always love James, but James was gone, and he wouldn't have wanted her to keep wallowing in her grief for him. He would have wanted her to move on. To Severus Snape? Unlikely, even she had to admit, but James wouldn't know everything that Severus had done for the both of them. Even Sirius had backed off after the trial.
Now Severus was in her life again, and she had no problem admitting that he made her happy. He had changed for her; all he'd needed, she realized, was enough time to grow up and a taste of his life without her. It wasn't going to be easy, they both knew, but Lily was a firm believer that nothing in life worth having came easy. She set the brush down at last and walked down the hall toward his room.
"Sev?" Lily called softly, knocking on the door.
"Come in," he answered.
She opened the door and walked to the side of his bed. "Mind if I join you?" This close to him, Lily could see that Severus wore a look that was both curious and slightly amused, and had a touch of longing. He nodded and moved over to make more room for her. "Sev, I've thought about this for a while, and... Well, we're getting serious lately, aren't we? So I wondered if you wanted to... To commit," she finished lamely. Oh, Lily, what was that?
"If it will make you happy-" He began.
"That came out wrong, Sev, I'm sorry. I don't think you're a second choice, really I don't, it's just that James is gone and look at all you and I have been through, and now we're in hiding together and living together and-"
"Lily." Severus had propped himself up on his elbows, the amusement in his face more pronounced. "You don't need to explain. I've been waiting for you to ask."
Lily smiled as a wave of relief washed over her. "Then I suppose you know what comes next," she said, returning his smile with a mischievous one of her own and pulling down the straps of her nightdress.
"Keep it on a bit longer," he whispered. Lily made an impatient noise, and he pulled her gently down onto the pillow next to him. "All in good time," he said, smiling, but he'd been unable to keep a tremble out of his voice.
"Sev, have you ever done this before?" Lily asked. Quickly, she added, "I mean, not that it matters, but-"
"Once," Severus said. "With a hooker. It was a seventeenth birthday gift from Lucius Malfoy." He paused a second before adding, "Not a wonderful experience."
Lily knew she'd have to take charge. "Let me show you how a woman loves, not just how she fucks." She put her hands firmly on his shoulders and gave him a long, slow kiss, laying her chest on his. He ran his hands gently through her hair as she slipped her hands under his shirt. He was skinny, still regaining the weight he lost after Azkaban, but she could feel how toned his muscles were.
Severus groaned softly and shifted underneath her; she could feel his erection against her leg. She kissed him once more on the mouth before moving slowly down his neck, and peeling his shirt off. "This is coming off, too," she muttered, pulling off her nightdress.
"Already?" He said lightly, but sat up and buried his face between her breasts, tracing their outline with the tip of his tongue. They said nothing for a long while after, simply exploring each other's bodies. She guided his hand down toward her sex, pushing it gently the way she liked to be touched. After a second Severus picked it up, and with a nod from Lily, traced a line of kisses down her stomach until he reached her sex, where pulled off her knickers and began licking and sucking her clit, pumping his fingers in and out of her all the while. Lily drew a loud breath. "Oh God..." This couldn't be just his second time...
At her breath, Severus stopped and looked up. "Don't stop," she said. Okay, she thought, it really was; tossing her head back, she reflected on how many women might have rejected him in the past based on his looks. Too bad for them, she thought as she tilted her hips up and worked her fingers through his hair. They'd had no idea what they were missing. It wasn't long before she came, harder than she ever had before and moaning his name in ecstasy she'd had no idea existed before now.
From the look on his face, she could tell he wanted nothing more than to be inside her. She smiled and gently pushed him onto his back, noticing for the first time that he'd kept his boxers on. She pulled them off gently, her eyes widening as she saw his member.
"Something wrong?" He said anxiously, noting her expression.
"No," she said. "You're... Bigger than James. A lot bigger." She straddled his hips, not quite sure what to expect. Plenty of her girlfriends had told her that bigger was better in bed, but if she was honest, it seemed like it would hurt. Well, no point in waiting; she wanted him as badly as he wanted her. She lowered herself onto him slowly, and as she did she felt her expression change to one of surprised delight.
He groaned softly under her, and after a bit Lily felt him start thrusting into her. For a man of his size, Lily thought he was surprisingly gentle. She'd never felt so full before, and so satisfied. "Sev," she moaned. She rocked her hips faster; he sped up accordingly. In minutes, she came again, crying out his name and falling forward onto his chest.
He put his hands on her midsection and gently rolled her onto her back. Lily was quietly grateful; her legs felt like water. He slid into her, and from this position she felt fuller. She closed her legs; he groaned happily and began a series of short, shallow thrusts that sent her over the edge once more, taking him along this time.
Severus pushed himself off her; Lily saw his rapturous expression. She laid her head down on his chest and sighed happily.
After a moment, Severus said, "I love you. I should have told you years ago."
Lily smiled and kissed his forehead. "I love you too."
They drifted off to sleep in each other's arms, both happier than they'd been in years.
Severus's therapy isn't going as well as anyone had hoped.
Get up. Severus looked blearily at the clock on his bedside table. Two o'clock. Why am I still in bed? ...Oh, who knows. Who cares, really. Just get up, you pointless lump. Slowly he willed himself out from under the covers. Now take a shower. Then, get dressed. Go downstairs. He hesitated at the counter, looking at the small, opaque tube with barely-concealed disgust. His dosage had been increased three weeks ago. Take one. He stared at it a moment longer. Just do it, he sighed at himself. Slowly, as if his hand were moving through water, he picked up the bottle, unscrewed the cap, and shook a single green-and-white capsule into the palm of his hand. He hesitated, then still moving almost painfully slowly, raised his hand to his mouth and set the pill on his tongue. A second later he swallowed.
"Sev. Sev," Lily's voice sounded somewhere above Severus's head.
He opened his eyes and saw her kneeling next to him, and he wondered why his back was so sore. "What happened?" He muttered thickly.
"From what I can tell, you wandered up to your room and decided to sleep on the floor."
"That explains one thing," he said. "Why did I choose the floor?"
"You're asking me?" Lily raised her eyebrows. "Come on." She stood and held her arms out. He took them and pulled himself up, steadying himself against the wall. "You know, I think you might need to talk to Dr. Hearn about this. It's the second time I've found you asleep somewhere beside the bed or the couch."
"I'll do that," he said wearily, laying down on the bed and stretching his back.
In truth, Severus neither knew nor cared why Lily was finding him asleep in odd places. He didn't care about anything much. He even found it hard to care about her, though he had a vague feeling she wanted to tell him something important and was waiting for him to care. But this was better, he decided. He didn't care, and if he didn't care he couldn't be hurt.
"That's not why you're here," Dr. Hearn said two days later. "You can't keep running from your feelings, Severus; you have to confront them."
"But it's such wonderful exercise," he said drily.
"And sarcasm won't get you anywhere." She pulled off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I can't make you take this seriously and I can't make you want to get better."
"What if I can't?" He asked in barely more than a whisper.
"You can," Dr. Hearn said in a softer voice. "But unless you try, you're not going to."
"And what about me falling asleep all over the place?" Severus said roughly, rubbing his forehead. "I sleep into the afternoon, take my Prozac, and decide the floor is a perfectly good place for a kip and wait for Lily to find me. Next week she'll probably have to pull me out of the shower to keep me from drowning. The only good thing is that I'm not smoking as much, probably because I'm too busy trying to find a nice freeway to sleep on."
"That is a problem," Dr. Hearn admitted. "But it's not the problem. Severus, you have to try. You have to stop avoiding the hard questions. I can only do so much, then you have to pick up your end." She sighed and sat down behind the desk. "Your progress has already plateaued; that's not a good thing, not right now and not with you still in this advanced state. I don't know," she said, looking up. "We're out of time for today. And just so you know, the next appointment is going to decide the next step in your treatment. If we should keep it at this level, or if we should go to inpatient therapy."
"I'll keep that in mind," he said, standing up. "But if I'm just wasting your time, why should I keep coming back?"
"It's not my time you're wasting," Dr. Hearn said. "Lily's paying me to see you. You're the only one wasting time here, if that's how you see it."
He nodded and left. Lily hadn't come with him today, as she wasn't feeling well. As he walked slowly down the road and into the alley he'd Disapparate from, he contemplated what Dr. Hearn had said. The next appointment was going to determine the next step in his treatment. Hospitalization. He shuddered at the idea. Again he thought of sterile rooms and doctors hiding behind paper masks. Dr. Hearn had nearly begged him to not make her resort to that; why would she do that? Because he was a wizard, naturally, and how would he explain that to another doctor? That this was the reason his father hated him and had been so cruel to him. What would happen to him after someone else heard that? He had a sudden vision of himself strapped down to a bed, tubes in his arms, chemicals to keep him calm and sedated pumping through his veins.
"How was it?" Lily asked from the couch, sitting up as he walked through the door. "Oh, Sev..."
"I'm fine," he said in a rushed voice that was higher than usual. "Completely fine. Nothing's wrong. You're feeling better?" He walked into the kitchen and pulled down a glass from the cuboard.
Lily stood up, wobbling slightly and pressing her fingers to her lips for a moment, then followed him. "Sev, you look like you've seen a ghost. What happened?"
"Nothing, I told you. I'm fine." He pulled a quart of firewhisky from under the sink, poured some into the glass, and tossed it back in one swallow.
"Nothing happened, Lily. Just leave me alone, all right?" He poured out another measure of firewhisky and began to drink it.
"Don't give me that. I know when you're upset; I just want to know why."
"Fine. You want to know why?" He turned to her, his drink clutched tightly in his hand. "Because I've hit the wall. I can't make any progress with my treatment, so I'm going to be locked away in an institution somewhere, probably in a straightjacket, for the rest of my life. Am I allowed to be upset over that?"
Lily's arms were folded over her chest, and her eyebrows were raised as high as they could go. "Severus, you are not going to be sent away and Dr. Hearn did not tell you that. You're winding yourself up."
"Am I?" He snapped, taking a step toward her. Lily didn't budge. "Then why did she tell me that my next appointment is going to decide if that's where I'm headed?"
"Because you needed to know," she said firmly. "Severus, just calm down."
"And why are you calling me Severus, anyway? You never do that unless you're angry."
"Because you're well out of it. Just calm down, Sev, that's all I'm asking."
"I am calm!" He slammed the glass down on the counter.
He snarled and turned away from her. "Just leave me be, like I asked you earlier." He took another drink and lit himself a cigarette, opening the window above the sink and leaning toward it so the smoke drifted out. He only barely noted that she didn't say anything about him smoking in the house; it was usually one of her sticking points.
Lily sighed. "I don't know what to do for you anymore," she said quietly, and he heard her sit down at the table.
"I already told you."
"Well tough, I'm not leaving you alone," she said. "Not when you're like this."
"'Not when I'm like this'?" He turned back to her. "What, crazy? Insane? I've been both off and on for six months; what's so different about today?"
"I'm scared for you, Sev. I don't know what you're going to do next. I've never seen you like this before."
"Then hide the knives and make sure my belts are well out of sight."
"That's not funny."
"I wasn't trying to be funny."
Suddenly Lily buried her face in her arms, her shoulders shaking. Severus put his drink down, threw the half-ashed cigarette out the window, and sat down next to her, putting his arm around her shoulders. "I'm sorry," he said softly, and he meant it.
"Sev, I can't stand this anymore." She raised her head slightly and wiped her eyes. "I wanted to wait until you were in a better state to tell you, but I'm running out of time. I'm pregnant."
"I'm pregnant. But I don't want it. I can't do that again; have a baby when I know You-Know-Who's after us- Sev?"
Severus had stood up, laughing hysterically. He didn't think this was the least bit funny.
"Severus, stop that." Lily looked terrified of him. "I mean it, stop. You're scaring me."
Still laughing like a lunatic, he grabbed his cloak off a hanger and headed to the front door. "I can't do this anymore." He ran out into the lane and Disapparated.
"Severus! Severus!" Lily shouted, racing through the kitchen after his disappearing back. "Severus, get back in the house- Severus!" She skidded to a halt in the middle of the road. He was gone.
Shaking, Lily conjured her Patronus and sent it off to Dumbledore. In a few minutes, he had Apparated by her side, followed just seconds later by Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.
"Let's go inside," she said. "I'll tell you everything there."
Once in the sitting room, she told Dumbledore, Remus, and Sirius what had happened after Severus returned from his appointment. "I haven't got a clue where he is, and I don't trust he won't do something to hurt himself. I want to find him and get him back here as soon as possible."
When she was done, Dumbledore nodded and said, "Very well. Sirius, you and I will go to London and search for him there. Remus, you and Lily go to Spinner's End. Lily, you are absolutely right: Time is of the essence. If you find him, let us know in the usual way."
Lily nodded, and with Remus following her, she went back outside and Apparated to Spinner's End. With a pop, Remus appeared beside her. "When were you going to tell Sirius and I about you being pregnant?" He asked lightly, with no trace of judgment in his voice.
"I wasn't going to," Lily said. "I only told Severus because I want him to brew me a potion that will make me miscarry."
"And what does he want?"
"I don't know. He ran out right after I told him." Lily sighed. "I didn't want to tell him like this, but I'm running out of time. Most of those abortifacients only work when the baby's a certain age... I just can't go through that again, Remus. I did it with Harry, and it was the worst thing I ever did. He's dead because of it. If James and I had just waited-"
"Lily, you were already eight months along when you and James went into hiding," Remus said gently. "There was nothing you could have done."
"I know," she said. "But this time I know in advance, and I'm not putting another one of my children in You-Know-Who's path."
"I understand," Remus said, and Lily knew he did, completely. "Judging from his reaction, I'd say he's just been given too much to think about. Between the two of us..." He looked around, then lowered his voice and leaned in closer to her. "I think he's going to be committed after tonight."
"I think you're right," Lily said. "And that's why I want to find him before the Muggle police do. It's too much to explain if he loses it again."
They had arrived at the top of Spinner's End. They looked at each other and, with the slightest of nods, began looking for Severus.
At that moment, Severus was in his house at Spinner's End with a half-empty bottle of firewhisky in his hand. It was his once again; his mother had gone back to Dublin after he'd told her he and Lily would be moving in together. "On your own head be it," she'd said. "She's a Mudblood and not worth half of you, and you know it, too."
Well, Severus thought as he lifted the bottle to his lips again, she was right about one thing. It had been on his own head. Well, one of them, at any rate. Lily's pregnant. He didn't know what to make of that news. He didn't know why she'd told him today. He just knew that she was. He reached for his pack of cigarettes, only to find that it was empty. Fuck. He stood up slowly and stumbled out of the house, with no set destination in mind and only half a clue that he was actually doing it.
"You all right, kid?" Someone asked to his left. How far had he gone? Couldn't be that far; then again, his house wasn't exactly far from the shithole part of town, either. Who am I kidding, my house is in a shithole.
"S'matter of fact, no," Severus slurred. "I'm fucked up in every way imaginable."
"Just making sure." The stranger rustled around in his pockets for something. "Try these."
Severus looked at the array of pills in the stranger's hands, then looked up and blinked, trying to focus on his face."What are they?"
"They'll pull you up, kid, that's all you need to know."
Severus looked at the pills again, waiting for... What was he waiting for, anyway? He was miserable. If something in his brain was supposed to kick in and scream at him not to do this, it was just as broken as anything else. And what were his so-called antidepressants doing for him, again?
He reached out his hand, and the stranger dumped the pills into it. "Free of charge this time, kid. Here's my card if you need any more." He set a slip of paper on top of the pills and moved off.
Severus pocketed the slip of paper and took one last look at the pills before swallowing all of them. What do you know, he thought a few minutes later as he collapsed onto something that felt like a chair. They work.
"Lily, hold up." Remus pointed to something on a park bench. "I think I see him."
Lily looked at him doubtfully. "This is an addict's park, Remus. I don't think he'd come here-"
"Let's check it out anyway." He headed toward the bench. Reluctantly, Lily followed.
It became apparent as they approached that Remus was right: Severus was laying on the bench, staring up into the sky with a glazed look on his face. "Oh, this is bad," Remus muttered. "This is very bad."
"Lupin." Severus blinked and, with difficulty, brought Remus into focus. "Dumbledore send you after me?"
"Severus, what did you take?" Remus asked sternly.
"Fuck if I know. Never felt better. Hullo, Lily," Severus said as she looked over Remus's shoulder. He grinned at her. "You said we're having a baby?"
"I said I'm pregnant-" she started, but Remus held up his hand.
"He's gone," he muttered. "He hasn't got a clue what he's saying." In a louder voice, he addressed Severus. "We're taking you to the hospital. Stand up."
"Why do you think I'm lying down?" Severus said, giggling. "I can't stand up, Lupin. I'll just stay here, thanks."
"Nothing doing," Remus said pleasantly. He grabbed Severus's arm. "Try not to vomit on me, if you could." He hoisted Severus onto his shoulder. "Easy now. Lily, grab his other arm."
"I told you, Lupin, I'm fine. I haven't felt this good since... Hell, I can't remember ever feeling this good."
"That's the drugs talking," Lily grunted, putting Severus's other arm over her shoulders. "Now start moving. Or, wait a second..." Lily looked over toward the street. "Better idea, Remus. There's a cab over there."
"You sure about that?" Remus looked suspiciously at it. "Looks a little sketchy, if you want the truth."
"Cabbies don't ask many questions," Lily said. "And I've got Muggle money. Come on, Sev," she said, digging her elbow into his side.
Lily sighed. "Let's go, Remus."
They dragged Severus into the cab, where he leaned against Lily for the entire ride to the nearest hospital, losing consciousness on the way. Once there, Severus was taken into the emergency room and Lily and Remus were relegated to the waiting room.
"I'm going to tell Dumbledore we found him," Remus said after two hours.
"Remus, go on home," Lily said. "I can wait for him. Go home and get some sleep."
Remus smiled sadly. "Let me know if you need anything." He left the lobby and Lily shifted on the hard plastic chair, trying to make it dig into her back less.
Finally, toward sunrise, a nurse came out and shook her out of the light sleep she'd fallen into.
"He's resting," the nurse said as they walked down a corridor. "He woke up partway through the stomach pump and panicked, but he's fine."
"What did he take?"
"A cocktail. Enough chemicals to make a scientist jealous."
"And when he wakes up?"
"He'll be disoriented and in a bit of pain. And, Mrs. Potter, he's being treated as an attempted suicide. He has to stay here for three days while we observe him and his behavior. Has he been seeing a doctor recently?" They stopped outside a room Lily supposed was Severus's.
"Yes," Lily said, and gave the nurse Dr. Hearn's contact information. The nurse then let her into the room, where she sat beside the bed and wondered what would happen next.
Severus coughed and groaned as he woke up. His throat felt raw and sore, and the bright light seemed to press on his eyes.
"Sev?" Lily's voice floated down to him, and he assumed the warm spot on top of his hand came from her hand on top of it. But why was it so itchy?
"What happened?" He blinked and found her face looking down at him. Her face was pale and puffy, as though she'd been up all night. "Where am I?" He coughed again. "And why does my throat feel like this?"
"You don't remember anything, do you?" Lily said.
Lily sighed sadly. "Sev, you ran out yesterday after I told you that I'm pregnant. Remus and I found you on a park bench, completely out of your gourd on only God knows what." She paused. "You're in a Muggle hospital. You had your stomach pumped. Dr. Hearn's going to be coming up here in a bit. This is really bad, Sev."
Severus groaned again and rubbed his hands against his forehead. It turned out that Lily hadn't been holding his hand at all; there was a tube in the top of it.
"Severus." This time it was Sheila Hearn's voice floating to him. Severus found that he couldn't look at her. "Congratulations. You've officially hit rock-bottom."
Severus couldn't look Lily or Dr. Hearn in the face. How could he have been so stupid? Taking drugs from a total stranger? What am I, a teenager? He was mortified at his own behavior, and even more so at knowing that he'd brought the parade of doctors and different analyses on himself.
"Should stay here a week for further analysis."
"It's like they think no one ever goes off the deep end at least once in their life," Lily said on the third, and final, day of Severus's suicide watch and after the last doctor left the room.
"Most don't," Severus pointed out. "At least, not the way I did. Thanks for bringing the clothes."
He looked down at his long-sleeved black tee shirt, pretending to pick some lint off it. Bringing him street clothes so he wouldn't have to wear that ridiculous paper gown was no problem, Lily said, and at this point it was the only thing having to do with him that wasn't.
Dr. Hearn entered the room. "Well, Severus, I think I might have saved you from two weeks on a Thorazine drip. Feel free to thank me whenever the urge strikes you."
"Severus, darling. If you thank me any more enthusiastically I might think you're being sincere. Wouldn't want that, now, would we?" When he didn't reply, she poked her head out into the hallway quickly and closed the door behind her. "Listen closely, both of you. I have a treatment idea that I've been developing with St. Mungo's for the last ten years."
"Why didn't you tell us about it before?" Lily asked, her green eyes flashing.
"Because it's strictly a last-resort, desperate-times treatment," Dr. Hearn said. "It will require Severus to allow himself to be put under for two days, through a combination of potions and spells." She turned her attention to him. "During this time, you'll have to face every one of the issues that have been troubling you. They might have come up during the therapy sessions in the last few months, they might not. In any case, you're not going to have a choice; the only way to get through this is to deal with them. You'll be in a stage between wakefulness and sleep; a twilight zone, if you will. And if you choose to go through with this, understand that this is the only time you will be able to choose this treatment option. Should your depression relapse, you'll have to go through therapy again."
Severus blinked. "Run that by me again?"
"Basically, you take this potion -which is still in the experimental stage, you understand- which will put you in something of a twilight sleep. While you're in this state, you'll confront your demons, literally. Myself and a Healer will be with you at all times. You'll be able to communicate with us, if you should feel the need to, giving you advice or encouragement. However, you can't be brought out of this state for forty-eight hours after it starts. If all goes according to plan, you shouldn't have another depressive episode again for the rest of your life."
"How much success have you had using it in the past?" Lily asked.
"And if I don't choose this option?" Severus was sure he knew the answer.
"You go into residential treatment." Dr. Hearn looked confident that her idea was best.
Severus met Lily's eyes. Behind them, he saw doubt and unease, as well as a spark of hope.
"I think we should go home and discuss it," Lily said.
"I agree," Dr. Hearn nodded. "I'm going to sign the discharge slip. You should be okay to leave in an hour or so. Let me know by the end of the week."
"It sounds dangerous, Sev." Lily sat down next to him and stretched her legs out in front of her. They had just finished supper and were sitting in the back yard, watching the sun set.
"It does, but it's not like I have any other options," he said, pulling out a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket.
"Not while I'm pregnant!" Lily hissed. "It's bad for the baby!"
"I thought you didn't want to keep it," Severus said, but he put the pack away unopened.
"If you want the truth... I'm not sure." She looked down at the grass. "Sometimes I think I do, others I can't stand the idea. I just want what's best for all of us, you know?"
"We've got a bit of time left to decide that," Severus said gently.
"Just in case," Lily looked back up at him, smiling slightly. "What do you think, Sev?"
"I think you're seriously over-estimating my paternal instincts. About as much as my mother did my sorry excuse for a father."
Lily spread her arms to the night. "So self-congratulatory, Sev. How can a girl deal with such a massive ego?" She dropped her arms and said, in a more serious tone, "You'll be a much better dad than yours, I know it. You just need some time to get used to the idea."
"You didn't see him at his worst," Severus said quietly.
"No," Lily agreed. "But I heard him a couple of times, when I'd come up the street. I can only imagine what it looked like. But Sev, give yourself some credit. When did your father ever admit that he needed help? And when did he make the effort you have?"
She had him there. Tobias would never have lowered himself to seeing a "head-shrinker", and Severus knew it better than Lily. "And he wouldn't have accepted this treatment, either."
Lily bit her lip. "Look, Sev, I know therapy isn't pleasant or easy, but she said this treatment was in development. Who knows what could go wrong? And what if it's just Azkaban all over?" She moved closer to him and laid her head on his shoulder. "I lost you once; don't ask me to accept that I might have to lose you again."
He sighed. "I know you don't want a repeat of Azkaban. I don't, either. But on the other hand, we can't keep living like this. I can't keep living with it." He looked around at her. "If you want what's best for all three of us-" he nodded at her abdomen "-then consider what I have to do to make it possible. And she said 'residential treatment', remember? Not going back to therapy sessions with her."
"Not immediately. But residential couldn't be that bad-"
"Lily, how am I going to explain any of this to a Muggle doctor?" He stood and began pacing. "How am I going to tell them that I was tortured with the Cruciatus Curse, a creature nearly sucked out my soul, I used to serve the most evil wizard of all time, I turned spy for one of the greatest, and a prophecy I was stupid enough to tell the Dark Lord led to your husband and son being killed? That's why she doesn't want me in residential treatment. I know you don't like Dr. Hearn's idea, and I'm not asking you to. I'm just asking you to understand, if I'm going to get over this, I have to take this chance." He paused. "If I don't want to turn out like my father. If it's too late and you have the baby."
Silence. Then Lily said, "You're right, Sev. I still don't like the sound of this treatment. But if you think it's the best option, I'm standing by you for all of it."
Severus smiled. "So that's settled. Now, about the baby..."
They discussed the matter for two days, right after Severus had told Dr. Hearn that he wanted to go through with the treatment. Lily's main concern was the fact that she was once again hiding from Lord Voldemort and didn't want to put another one of her children in his path; for Severus, it was his assurance that he was not only too young, at twenty-two, to be a father, but also wouldn't be able to not turn out like Tobias.
"Sev, you are not going to turn out like him!" Lily said in exasperation on the second day. "And if you're worried you will, why not keep seeing Dr. Hearn after the treatment, just to make sure you've got those issues worked through?"
"Provided we decide to keep it," he countered.
"If we do," Lily amended. "But I'd like to see you do it, just so you don't worry yourself into a frenzy."
"All right," he said. "If we keep it, I will."
The other pressing worry on Severus's mind, and he didn't dare say it out loud, was that having children had never been a part of his plan, even before he'd joined the Death Eaters. Though he had to admit, having children with Lily made the idea more appealing. But that had its own problem: He couldn't stand the idea of her in pain, even briefly. Lucius Malfoy had told him all about when his son, Draco, was born, and what Narcissa had gone through. Severus shuddered at the memory.
Finally, Lily decided that she didn't want to bring another child into the world as long as it would be in Voldemort's path, and Severus snuck, heavily disguised, into Knockturn Alley to buy the book he knew had the potion they needed.
"So it needs to brew for five days," he said after looking at the instructions. "I can start it tonight, and then you can keep an eye on it while I'm gone."
"Five days?" Lily bit her lip. "I don't know if I have that much time... But it's our best plan, so full steam ahead."
Finally, the day of the treatment came. Severus and Lily performed a Side-Along Apparation to the medical office where Dr. Hearn and Healer Jason Pyle would be monitoring him for the next two days.
Lily looked at the building, then back to Severus. His face was tense and slightly paler than usual. "Are you sure you don't want me to stay with you?"
"Yes," he said firmly. "I need to do this by myself. Besides, someone needs to watch that potion, remember?"
Lily nodded, then stood on her toes to kiss him and walked away quickly. She knew he hated drawn-out farewells, and in this case it would have made it harder on him.
Severus straightened his back and walked into the building, looking neither left nor right. Dr. Hearn and Healer Pyle were waiting for him in the lobby, and as they rode up the elevator to the room, Dr. Hearn briefed Severus on all of the safety procedures.
"There are going to be straps on the bed, just in case you need to be restrained. Normally, when you're asleep your body is semi-paralyzed; not so with this potion. You won't be able to get up and walk around, but you'll be able to kick and hit." She paused as the elevator doors opened and the three of them walked to a room at the end of a long, narrow corridor.
"The Presidential suite," Pyle said grimly as he opened a door.
Severus could see what he meant: The room was more spartan than his old quarters at Hogwarts, boasting only a bed, two chairs, and an IV stand.
"Put the IV in his right hand, please, Jason," Dr. Hearn said. "Severus, I need you to sign these forms..." She held a clipboard out to him, and Severus, wincing slightly as Pyle inserted the IV, read through and signed the papers.
"Excellent," Dr. Hearn said. "Lie down and get ready for the most hellish two days you've ever had."
As Severus begins his treatment, Lily feels like she's falling apart at the seams.
After he’d drunk the last of the potions and the last spell had been muttered, Severus Snape closed his eyes. This was it; in a moment, he’d be facing his demons in the most literal sense possible. He heaved a deep sigh and closed his eyes…
Severus looks around: This place looks familiar; in fact, he knows it well: It’s his house on Spinner’s End, but everything seems just a little… Off. He can’t explain how, but if he keeps looking around-
Then he sees himself in a mirror, but not him exactly. He looks at the face. It’s younger than the one he usually sees, a lot younger. In the corner of the reflection, he sees a black-haired little girl, no more than two years old…
“No,” he muttered thickly. “Not this. Not yet.”
“I can’t help you, Severus,” Dr. Hearn said. “You have to deal with it, whatever it is.”
There’s an all-too-familiar sound of heavy, uneven footfalls. Father’s home, and well past inebriated.
“I can’t,” he said. “Please-“
“What is it? Talk to me.”
Tobias Snape throws open the door and stumbles in. The smell of bourbon fills Severus’s nose; he’s learned that smell means someone’s getting it tonight, and he heads for the stairs. His sister, on the other hand, smiles and runs to Tobias. She gets treated better than Severus does; Severus doesn’t know why, but he suspects it’s because she hasn’t shown her magic around him.
Unfortunately, that is all about to change. Out of the corner of his eye, Severus sees green sparks. He turns just in time to see Tobias’s face change from an expression of drunken delight to one of pure rage. He throws the little girl to the ground and advances on her.
“Stop it!” Severus has run across the living room to shield his sister. He throws his body across hers.
“He’s going to kill her…”
“Severus, listen to me: It wasn’t your fault.”
“Stay with me, Severus…”
“Ge’ the fuck off her!” Tobias snarls at his son.
“No! Just leave her alone!” His sister is crying under him, and as long as he has strength in his body, Severus will not let his father beat her the way he gets it.
In a second, he’s flung across the room and his leg collapses under him, while nausea sweeps over him.
“I should have stayed with her.”
“He threw you off her, Severus; there was nothing you could do. You were a little boy.”
The girl is now screaming in terror, and another burst of magic escapes her.
"Freak!" Tobias bellows, swinging his fist at her ribcage. It makes contact with a sickening crack, causing her to squeal in pain. "Shut up, you little bitch!" He hits her again and again, trying to make her stop crying.
"Stop! Father, please!" Severus pleads from the corner. He tries to move, but his leg, broken after his father threw him against the wall, can't support his weight. "She didn't mean to!"
“Make it stop! Please!”
“Severus, listen very carefully to me: There was nothing you could have done. It’s not your fault your sister died. It’s his fault. Your father’s. You were six years old; there’s no way you could have stopped him.”
“Yes. His. He’s a grown man; grown men know better than to mercilessly beat a two-year-old. You don’t blame yourself for all the times he beat you, do you?”
“No buts, Severus. The only one to blame in this situation is your father.”
Tobias seems not to hear his son, but instead continues his merciless beating of the girl. She's no more than two years old, and her screams torment her brother. He tries to inch himself to her on his arms. If he can reach her, he can save her; he's sure of it.
Eileen Snape returns from the store and, before Severus can say anything, blasts Tobias off his feet with a silent spell, screaming all manner of horrid names at him. She picks up her daughter, who lies still in her arms, and walks over to Severus and points her wand at his leg. "Episkey," she mutters, and it heals. She retreats upstairs with the girl, but returns without her ten minutes later, silent and white from shock, and Severus knows his sister is dead.
“Severus? Talk to me. Are you all right?”
“…Yeah. Yeah, I think I am. It was his fault.”
Dr. Hearn smiled and wiped off Severus’s face with a cool, damp rag. “You’re on your way.”
There was a knock at the door. Lily got up to answer it. “Who is it?” she asked when she reached the door.
“Remus Lupin, werewolf, member of the Order of the Phoenix,” said Remus’s voice.
She smiled and opened the door. Sure enough, Remus was standing there with a smile of his own. “It’s good to see you again, Remus.”
“And you,” he said, opening his arms for a hug, which Lily was only too happy to give him. “How are things with you and Severus lately?”
She led him into the kitchen and put on the kettle, filling him in on everything that had happened since that night in the park. “He found a potion that will cause a miscarriage, and I’m tending to it while he’s getting his treatment.”
“Sounds like you’re both doing well,” Remus said, pouring some milk into his tea.
“I hope so,” Lily sighed. When Remus looked up at her, she went on. “He’s desperate, Remus, and he’s acting like it. I just think this whole treatment is going to be Azkaban all over again, and if that happens, I don’t think he’ll…” She trailed off.
Remus set down his mug and stood up, placing his arm around her. “Have you been to see him since he left?”
“No. He didn’t want me to. Said he had to face this by himself. Typical Severus,” she said, chuckling shakily. “He never takes help until he’s in over his head.” She laid her head on his shoulder. “I just can’t stand the idea that I’ll lose him again. Twice is enough.”
Remus said nothing.
“Be honest with me, Remus: If Sirius was in that position-”
“I’d support him,” Remus said. “Just like you’re supporting Severus. I’d have my fears and doubts, sure, but ultimately I’d just want Sirius to be well, and if he had to take an unorthodox treatment to get well, then he has to do what he has to do.” He looked down to her. “Or are you afraid he’s just punishing himself?”
“Yes,” Lily said. “He always acts like he has no right to be happy. And I don’t know how to get through to him that he does.”
“He has to learn that on his own. Don’t try to force it on him.” He paused for a moment. “I can’t say I don’t understand how he feels.”
Lily looked up. “What do you mean?”
Remus raised his eyebrows, smiling faintly. “I have this condition, Lily, you might have heard of it: Lycanthropy?”
Lily laughed. “My bad. Continue.”
“I could bite someone, or kill someone, and no matter what anyone could tell me, it’s still my fault. I’m the werewolf. I know what the full moon does to me.” He paused briefly. “It’s not a good feeling to live with. If I could have a cure, I’d take it, whatever the risks and potential consequences.”
“You know,” Remus said. “If Severus is mostly unconscious, you could go and see for yourself what his treatment is.”
“Maybe,” Lily said doubtfully. “But this potion is awfully finicky; it needs tending every hour.” She looked at him, her eyebrows raised and a faint smile on her lips. “Unless I know someone who wouldn’t mind watching it and giving it a counterclockwise half-stir every hour on the hour?”
“Ask and ye shall receive,” Remus grinned.
“Thank you, Remus,” she said. “I shouldn’t be long.”
“Lily!” Dr. Hearn said in surprise when she saw her at the receptionist’s desk. “I didn’t expect you to come until tomorrow.”
“I needed to see how he’s doing,” Lily said, in a smaller voice than usual.
“He’s doing very well,” Dr. Hearn said, turning to the elevator and beckoning Lily to follow. “We’ve been through quite a few issues already, mostly with his parents, and he’s starting to let them go.”
“What is it going to look like when I get up there?” She had a horrible vision of Severus neither tied to a bed (as Remus had told her he was after Dumbledore took him to St. Mungo’s) or throwing himself against the wall, but sitting in a corner, staring at nothing with blank eyes.
“Like he’s asleep,” Dr. Hearn said gently. “He starts talking when he has an issue to work through, and that’s to tell one of us what it is.”
“So he’s just dreaming all of this?” They got into the elevator and began going up.
“Yes and no. What he’s dealing with are real memories, not abstract representations of them. But he’s in a sort of dream state when they come to him.”
“’When they come to him’? So there’s no pattern to these memories.”
“No. He deals with them as they come up.”
They stopped talking for a moment while they exited the elevator, then Lily asked the question that had been pressing hardest on her mind: “What would happen if the worse came to worst? If he… You know.”
“Began to have another psychotic breakdown? Pull him out of the enchantments and spells he’s under. We can, but it’s difficult and could cause permanent damage. So far, he’s done well. He’s been through the memory of his sister dying already, and if there’s any memory that would have triggered another breakdown, that was it.”
“And how did he respond to it?”
“Initially, he didn’t want to deal with it. I admit, there was a scary moment toward the end, but he pulled through.” She smiled and paused with her hand on the doorknob. “He’s tough. He’ll be okay.”
Lily nodded, and Dr. Hearn turned the knob. Lily steeled herself and went inside.
Severus looked as though he were asleep, just as Dr. Hearn said he would. A Healer was busy adjusting the IV in the top of his hand; aside from the four of them, the bed, and a chair, the room was bare. Lily stood next to the bed and brushed a bit of his hair back. He looked almost peaceful, and Lily began to think she was wasting her time coming up her. After all, she’d never really thought that Dr. Hearn would ever let Severus hurt himself or that he wasn’t in good hands…
Then his expression tensed and his body stiffened. Lily stood back slightly.
“He’s coming up with something,” Dr. Hearn said quietly. “Stick around; I think you should see how this works.”
Severus let out a small, pained sound. “I didn’t mean it…” He spoke in a monotone; Lily was sure it was a side effect of the treatment.
“What didn’t you mean?” Dr. Hearn asked. “Tell me what’s happening.”
“I just finished that test… Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. I was sitting under a tree by the lake…”
Lily stiffened as well. She knew what this was, and now was the time to tell him.
“Sev, can you hear me?”
“I’m sorry, Lily. I didn’t mean it.”
“I know you didn’t. I forgave you for it. Let it go, Sev; you’ve changed since then.” He took his hand in hers and began stroking it gently.
“What happened?” Dr. Hearn asked Severus. Lily understood this was his treatment, and didn’t feel slighted.
“Potter and Black ganged up on me. They hexed me. I ended up hanging upside-down in a tree. Lily came to my defense.” He let out that pained groan again. Lily was sure he was reliving that single, horrid moment again, and knew that he would have given anything for a chance to go back and stop himself from ever saying that word. “I called her… No… Don’t make me…”
“You have to tell me, Severus. This isn’t going to work if you don’t.”
He hesitated again, and seemed to pull away from both Lily and Dr. Hearn. Finally, he said, “I called her Mudblood.”
Dr. Hearn looked up at Lily, her face blank. Lily felt herself blushing: How did this look, with her being Muggleborn too? “He was out of it,” Lily said. “James Potter and Sirius Black used to torment him at school, and this time was one of the worst.”
“You stayed with him?”
“No,” Lily said. “I cut him out of my life after that. I knew he was going down You-Know-Who’s path, and I couldn’t watch him do that to himself.”
Dr. Hearn nodded. “Best thing you ever did. For both of you.” She turned back to Severus. “Severus, listen: Lily’s forgiven you for it. You need to forgive yourself now.”
“I can’t. I never should have said it.”
“Of course you shouldn’t have,” Dr. Hearn said. “But you did, so what can you do about it now? Didn’t you turn against You-Know-Who? Didn’t you prove to Lily you’d change? And didn’t she forgive you for all of that? You need to let it go, Severus. You know you won’t let it happen again.”
Lily stood by quietly, thinking, just let it go, Sev. Please. It’s over…
Severus didn’t say anything, but as Lily watched, she saw his face slacken, though not as if he were relaxing. Then a single tear made its way out from beneath his closed eyelid and slid slowly, almost lazily, down into his hair. She felt as though something inside her was being slowly deflated. He was too far gone even for this treatment.
Dr. Hearn seemed to pick up on this. “Come with me,” she said, motioning outside the room.
“He’s not too far gone,” Dr. Hearn said. “He’s just not that good at forgiving himself. He hasn’t had many opportunities to. I think you’re the first person who ever really forgave him for anything,” she added, slightly bitterly.
“So you’re saying he’s never not going to be depressed.”
“Not at all. Well, put it this way: I don’t think he’ll ever be Mister Sunshine and Rainbows,” Dr. Hearn corrected herself. “But he’s not going to have to just be depressed again. He’s made some incredible strides in just the last few hours. What this treatment is, basically, is intensive cognitive behavioral therapy: Teaching him to recognize the behaviors that led him into depression and deal with them in healthy ways, instead of the self-destructive ways he was. One of which, of course, is forgiving yourself.”
“And if he can’t?” Lily’s faith in the treatment was slipping by the minute.
“He will. Some things he’ll be able to let go of easier than others. Have faith, Lily. I’m not going to lose him.”
Lily nodded, unable to tell Dr. Hearn that she wasn’t afraid of the doctor losing Severus. She was afraid of Severus losing himself.
“Oh, Lily…” Remus said softly as he opened the door.
“I’m fine, Remus,” Lily said in a shaky voice, pulling off her jacket and scarf and hanging them haphazardly on the coat rack.
“No you’re not,” Remus said, shutting the door behind her. “Come on, tell me.”
Lily opened her mouth, ready to tell Remus once again that she was fine. For a second, no sound came out. Then she found herself on the floor, on her knees, her body convulsing with loud, ugly-sounding sobs. It’s over, she thought. He’s always going to be like this. I can’t watch him keep going through this. It’s just over between us-
Remus knelt down and took her hand. “I thought so,” he said softly. “Come on,” he said, pulling her gently to her feet. “Go to bed and get some rest. I’ll stay here and tend that potion.”
“Th-thank you, Remus,” Lily choked out, wiping her eyes.
Neither of them said anything else as they walked up the stairs toward Lily’s bedroom. Once there, she fell on the bed without undressing.
“Yell if you need me,” Remus said, shutting the door quietly.
Lily sat on her bed, knees drawn up to her chest, and watched the last weak rays of sunlight sink beneath the horizon. She remembered, with an unpleasant jolt, that one week from now would mark the first anniversary of James’s and Harry’s deaths. A soft, pained moan escaped her, and silent tears poured down her face as she considered this.
James and Harry, gone. Mum and Dad, gone. Petunia? Might as well be gone, for as much as she thinks of me. Severus? Who knows. And our baby? No way I can keep it. She sighed again. She felt like a bad-luck amulet: Just being near her caused people to die or go away.
Hours later, Remus came back to check on her. “I brought some tea,” he said, pointing his wand at the bedside table. Lily’s chipped china teapot appeared, along with two rose-patterned teacups.
“I don’t want any,” she said softly. “But thank you for the thought.”
Remus poured some tea for himself and sat in a small chintz armchair in the corner. “Is there anything you’d like to talk about?”
“Once,” Lily said angrily, wiping her face with her sleeve. “Just once, I’d like to love someone without having to watch them die or self-destruct. Why is that so much for me to ask? Am I that horrible of a person, that I don’t deserve to have people to love in my life?!” Her voice had scaled up, and with it had come an increase in tears. She was quite frankly surprised she hadn’t shriveled up yet.
Remus set the teacup down and moved over to sit next to Lily on the bed. He put his arm around her shoulder. “Lily, you’re one of the best people I’ve ever met-”
“Don’t patronize me, Remus.”
“I’m not patronizing you,” he said evenly. “You’re kind, Lily. You give people chances. You’ve loved people everyone else would have given up on. And I’ve never met anyone as willing to forgive as you. You deserve to be happy. You know you do. And Severus knows it, too.”
Lily told Remus about her visit to the hospital. The whole time she talked, he was silent. When she had talked herself hoarse, he put his other arm around her.
“If I had to pick one memory I thought he’d have a hard time with, honestly, that was it,” he said.
“But he won’t forgive himself. I have, why can’t he?”
“Probably for the same reason I couldn’t.”
Lily looked up at him. “You didn’t go after him-”
“No,” Remus sighed. “But I didn’t stop James and Sirius either, did I? I wanted to –to this day, I wish I had. But I was so afraid of losing James and Sirius as friends; I didn’t have the courage to say anything to them. Some Gryffindor I am,” he added sarcastically. “So I let them torment Severus. Look what it did to him. Look what it did to you.”
“Bad day for everyone, then, I suppose,” Lily said quietly. She’d never really thought about how that day had affected Remus.
“You could say that,” Remus said, smiling at her. Then he added, softly, “You don’t just deserve to have someone to love, Lily. You deserve to have people love you. And we do. Severus, Sirius, and I.”
Lily smiled. “Thanks, Remus.”
Severus finally leaves treatment, and Lily tries to look on the bright side.
Severus found himself in the space between his memories and wakefulness for what seemed like the hundredth time. He was exhausted and wished nothing more than to fall asleep, really asleep, and get a reprieve from his mind. Soon, he reminded himself. In maybe a few hours (he didn’t know, and for the most part he didn’t care) this treatment would be done, and he’d be back at home with Lily. She would take that potion, and…
I’m going to be just like him.
“What do you mean?” He heard Dr. Hearn’s voice, as though she were shouting at him from across a large field. “You’re going to be just like who?”
Him. My father. Severus had the suspicion that when he was in this state, he was quite literally thinking out loud. If that potion doesn’t work, she’ll have the baby. I’m going to be just like my father.
“Why do you think so?”
I don’t like children. I never wanted any.
“Don’t you think you’ve changed over the last year or so? Made an effort to be the exact type of man your father is not?”
Had he? He’d taken this treatment, and he’d at least given therapy a try. I could have done better.
“That you could have,” Dr. Hearn admitted. “But the point is that you are trying.”
What is trying? Is it enough for me to try not to strike my child? Or Lily?
“Would you ever raise a hand in violence toward Lily?”
“Well, there it is, then.”
And the child?
“Severus, could you, just for a moment, remember how you felt when your father would lay into you? Remembering, of course, the way a child does: He’s a giant and you’re the size of an ant. What are you feeling?”
A rush of pure fear and adrenaline shot through Severus as a brief memory of Tobias slamming his seven-year-old self against a wall and screaming at him shot across his mind. Terror.
“Do you think you could use the memory of that terror to not do the same thing to any children you and Lily might have?”
I… I don’t know…
“Of course you could. You’re not stupid; you learn from your mistakes. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here right now.”
I’m not convinced.
“Then I think Lily’s right; we should have some one-to-one sessions to work out these fears.”
Just what I wanted.
“Severus, it’s a good sign that you’re afraid of making your father’s mistakes, a very good sign. Do you realize how many men in your situation wouldn’t be? And how many of the ones who wouldn’t go on to continue the cycle of abuse?”
He supposed that made sense.
“When this is over, if you and Lily decide to keep the baby after all, I’ll schedule you some sessions, all right? And I’ll see if I can’t get you into a parenting class.”
If it works, then it works.
“That’s the spirit.”
Lily woke and stretched, and as she did she looked at the alarm clock. It was nearly eight-thirty in the morning, and as she sat up, she thought about this time tomorrow, when she would be apparating to London once again, this time bringing Severus back. She felt a slight twinge of shame for her behavior yesterday; how must she have looked to Remus? Speaking of which… She stumbled into the bathroom and brushed her teeth. I really owe him. I’m not sure what he’d like, though.
When she arrived in the kitchen ten minutes later, she found fresh coffee percolating on the stove and a tray of scones sitting in the middle of the table. Propped up against the scones was a note, in Remus’s handwriting:
Lily- Take today and treat yourself. You deserve a break. I’ll take care of the potion. If you need anything, just ask me.
Lily smiled, touched by Remus’s thoughtfulness, though she doubted that she remembered how to treat herself; it had been so long since she’d last had an opportunity.
After coffee, a scone, and the Daily Prophet, she ran a bath. Severus had given her some scented oils when she’d invited him to move in with her (she suspected he’d made them himself), and she’d found one of her favorite books in a box she hadn’t unpacked yet. She poured some vanilla-and-lavender oil in the hot water, piled her hair into a messy bun on top of her head, and sank into the hot water with a sigh. In spite of all her worries, she smiled. Somehow or another, everything would turn out.
Cold and shivering, Severus awoke with the thought that he was alone and incapable of independent movement. He meant to call out for Dr. Hearn, but the shout came out as a weak, thin noise in his throat.
“It’s all right, Severus,” a man’s voice –it must have been the Healer, Pyle- said from somewhere above him. “I’m here. Nothing’s going to happen…”
The Healer might have said more, but Severus felt himself sink into sleep again. For how long, he didn’t know, but he awoke once more, slowly, but fully. He was warmer this time; why, he couldn’t say. And nauseous. Groggily he looked around; the blurred shape on his right looked like Dr. Hearn.
“How are you feeling, Severus?” The shape asked him.
“Sick,” he mumbled. The word was barely out of his mouth before he heaved and, leaning over the side of the bed, brought up what felt like everything he’d ever eaten in his life. On the bright side - if there’s a bright side, he thought with a groan- he could see again.
“Feeling better?” Dr. Hearn asked. She had conjured a bucket just in time, and nonchalantly vanished its contents.
“Fan-bloody-tastic,” he muttered, wiping his mouth with the rag she offered. “Now I’m ill, exhausted, and in pain.”
She shook her head. “Still the same old Severus,” she said. “Nausea and vomiting is a perfectly normal response to coming out of a medically-induced sleep. You should feel back to normal in a day or two.”
As the doctor took his vital signs, Severus took a mental inventory. He was aching all over, his stomach still sour, and his mind was too foggy for him to tell if he wasn’t still depressed. He felt sluggish and stupid; responding to even the simplest answers seemed to take forever, and he couldn’t tell if his answers made sense. The one thought that comforted him was that, soon, Lily would take him from this place and back to her house, where he could sleep in a proper bed and not be troubled by his past…
“Sev. Sev, wake up.” Lily’s voice said softly. Her fingers stroked his face with the lightest touch, and when he opened his eyes, Severus thought she looked like an angel: The harsh light in the room filtered through her dark red hair, seeming to give her a celestial glow. “Time to go home.”
His face stretching into a smile, Severus stood, slowly and supporting himself with the edge of the bed. His body felt heavier than normal; he supposed this was another side effect. Unfortunately the movement triggered another wave of nausea, and he pushed Lily away as he dry-heaved.
“Oh, Sev,” Lily said, still in that soft voice. “Come on, love. We’ll get you home and into bed.”
Home. Bed. Severus just smiled again. If this was just a dream as well, he’d take it.
“Make sure he gets plenty of fluids,” Dr. Hearn instructed Lily, pushing open the door for her and Severus at the front of the building. “When he gets hungry, start him with small portions of bland foods –plain toast and the like- and see if he can keep it down. He should be running full-tilt again in a day or two. If you have any problems at all, let me know.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Lily said, and performed Side-Along Apparation directly into her and Severus’s bedroom in Hogsmeade. There, she laid him gently on the bed and covered him with the blanket.
“Lily,” he mumbled sleepily.
“Why are you with me?”
“Because I love you, silly man,” Lily said, stroking a lock of hair off his face. She felt her heart begin to break, but reminded herself that he was still under the effects of the potions and probably had no idea what he was talking about.
“Why do you love me?”
“You’ll need to be properly awake before I can answer that. Just know that I do love you, all right?” She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “Now get some sleep. You’ve been through a lot the last two days.”
Severus closed his eyes and rolled over. In a moment, Lily heard his breathing grow slower and deeper. “Can you hear me?” She whispered. When he didn’t respond, she went on. “Why do I love you, Sev? Because I do. You’ve changed in so many ways; you’ve done everything you can to be a better man for me. And I’m proud of you.” She straightened up and headed for the door, looking back at the bed one last time before she left.
A few hours later Lily checked on him, this time bringing up a pitcher of cold water and a glass. She panicked for a moment when she found the bed empty, but the sound of a flushing toilet made her relax. Of course he won’t go anywhere, she scolded herself.
Severus came out of the bathroom and made a beeline for the water. After finishing two glasses in quick succession, he sat back down on the bed.
“Do you need anything else?” Lily said.
Severus was quiet for a moment. Then he said, almost shyly, “Could you stay here for a bit?”
“Of course,” she said with a smile, and sat down next to him. “How are you feeling?”
“Better. A little stiff.” He put an arm around her shoulders.
“And how about… Mentally?”
He was quiet a moment. Then he said slowly, “I’m not sure.”
Lily felt herself go cold. “Sev, you don’t think it didn’t work?”
“No, I think it did,” he said. “I’m just not used to it yet.”
She nodded. “I guess that would take some getting used to,” she said. “Well,” she went on, in a brighter tone, “you’ll know for sure when all of those potions are out of your system.”
“Anything else I can get you?”
“No, thanks.” He stretched and lay on his back. “I’ll be down if I need something.”
Lily smiled. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”
“I think it’s nearly ready,” Remus said the next morning, looking from the potions book to the contents of the cauldron. “It looks like the book says it should, at any rate. It needs to stew for a day before it’s drunk.” He turned to Lily. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“No, Remus, I don’t want to do this,” Lily said. “I have to. For everyone’s sake.”
“No offense, Lily,” Remus said. “But have you ever thought about what you want?”
Lily opened her mouth, ready to read him the riot act, when she saw the concerned expression on his face. She sighed. “In any other situation? We’d have the baby. I don’t know that we can get much safer, but…”
“But what?” He asked gently.
“If I have this baby, I’ll need a midwife, and she’ll have to have our address. There’s no guarantee that she wouldn’t be caught out by Death Eaters and that they wouldn’t find out where we live. The Fidelius Charm doesn’t work all that well if your hiding place is written down where anyone could see it. And that might happen anyway; I might be too far along for this potion to do anything.” She paused for a moment. "And Severus isn't ready. He's terrified of kids, you know."
Remus nodded, but didn't say anything else. As Lily climbed the stairs up from the basement, she heard movement in the kitchen. Opening the door, she saw Severus sitting at the table with a glass of water in front of him. He still looked sleepy and slightly disoriented, but if he was feeling well enough to make his way downstairs, Lily wasn’t going to complain.
“Morning, Severus,” Remus said cordially.
Severus looked up at him. “What are you doing here?”
“He was helping me out around the house while you were gone, Sev,” Lily said, annoyed that he was so cold to Remus. To his credit, Severus had the decency to look slightly abashed.
“Never mind,” Remus said to Lily in an undertone. In a stronger voice, he asked Severus: “You’re feeling better?”
Lily turned to the toaster and put in a few slices of bread, more to do something than to keep looking at Severus and wondering if he really was better. “Would you like some toast?”
“Yes, thank you.”
After a quick and mostly silent breakfast, Severus seemed to be feeling a bit more alive, and maybe even friendly… Or, Lily thought, not as rude to Remus as he normally was.
“So who was watching that potion?”
“I was,” Remus said. When he caught Severus raising an eyebrow at him, he chuckled. “Lousy at brewing potions as I am, Severus, I promise you that following directions as simple as ‘stir this often in this direction’ is something I can do.”
Severus chuckled in return. Lily’s head flew up at this. After all, he hated Remus; maybe not as much as he hated James and Sirius, but even still… She smiled in spite of herself.
“Lily, I should get going back to London,” Remus said. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call.”
“Thanks for staying with her,” Severus said.
“It was my pleasure.” He nodded to both of them and left.
After Lily was sure Remus was gone, she leaned closer to Severus and took his hand in hers. He smiled and squeezed it. “I think it’s going to be all right.”
“How can you tell?”
He considered his answer for a moment. “My head feels clearer,” he said slowly. “Like there’s nothing cluttering it anymore and I can think without… Being yelled at, I guess, it’s the best way to put it. Like I don’t have to punish myself for everything I do and think.” He looked at her with a worried expression. “Do you know what I mean?”
“No,” Lily said. “I don’t. But I believe you.” She smiled and laid her head on his shoulder.