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Sacrificial Magic

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Lily Potter folded her arms and glared at Severus Snape. He was tidying away after a Potions lesson, and at first he didn’t notice her. She was, after all, transparent, and the dungeon was poorly lit. He swooped upon a missed potions vial and turned to place it on his desk, and came to a halt, gaping. The vial dropped to the ground and smashed. Severus took no notice. “You’re dead,” he said, wide-eyed.

“What the hell, Severus. Are you seriously planning on spending the rest of your life in this musty dungeon?”

“I saw your body.”

“And I’ve seen your lessons – really? I know you’re capable of teaching well, Sev, you can do better than terrorising children!

“I held your body!”

“Do you remember when we were talking about our futures back in fourth year, and I said I thought you’d make a good teacher, and you said the idea of forcing stupid children to learn things they weren’t actually interested in sounded like your idea of hell? What happened?”

“Lily,” Severus said, voice growing louder with every word, “what the hell is going on here?”

Lily sighed – not that she actually needed air, but it was the thought that counted – and floated over his desk, crossing her legs so she more-or-less looked like she was sitting on it. “I’m not honestly sure. I always thought ghosts chose to be ghosts, and ended up stuck in one magically-powerful area for the rest of… well, forever, but that’s not what happened to me. I’m just here.”

Severus stared at her. The expression on his face reminded her of the first time she’d called him her friend out loud.

“You were… less well defined when I first saw you,” he said finally.

Lily looked down at her insubstantial legs. “I think it’s Hogwarts. The magic is strengthening me. I wasn’t even really conscious for ages, you know. I just sort of floated around, knowing something had gone horribly wrong, but not what, or how to fix it. I didn’t become me again until I got home again. There’s a lot of residual magic there.”

His face twitched terribly. “I know.”

“Severus, what happened? Why are you here, frightening children, instead of out in the world making a name for yourself? Where are Sirius and Harry? And how long has it been? I mean –” she hesitated – “you don’t look that much older, but I don’t know anything.”

“Are you sure you want to know?” Despite what Lily had said, Severus did look older. Tired. She supposed she would have looked the same, if she’d lived through the war. Right now, he looked worse.

“It can’t possibly be that bad,” she said, trying to smile.

“Well, then,” he said, and told her.

It was.

 

“I refuse to leave him there,” Lily announced, shoving herself off the desk. She reached up to her hair and frowned as she realised that she didn’t need to – in fact, couldn’t – pull it back.

“Lily,” Severus said, “I hate to state the obvious, but you’re a ghost. You can’t take Harry away.”

“I’m not a proper ghost, though.”

“And yet.”

“Well, you’ll have to help me, then,” she said, turning to him.

“What? No.”

“You can do the things that require hands,” she continued, ignoring him, “like feeding Harry and putting him to bed and that sort of thing, and I’ll talk to him and tell him stories and teach him things. Like how to read, and mathematics.”

“I am not raising your child, Lily.”

“Obviously we’ll have to set up in Hogsmeade, so I’m close enough to large amounts of magic to stay stable. I’m sure I can arrange access to the Potter Vault for you so you can buy a house –”

“Lily,” Severus snapped. “I appreciate your desire to look after your child, but I am not going to be involved in this.”

Lily stared at him for a few moments, lips pressed together and arms folded.

“Well, I suppose in that case I only have one option,” she said.

“Oh? And what would that be?”

“Go to Petunia and make sure she’s looking after Harry properly.”

Severus blinked. “Didn’t you say that you needed magic to stay… coherent, for lack of a better word?”

“I didn’t say it was a good option,” Lily said, lips quirked. “She hated magic so much by the end, though, Sev. And that husband of hers was worse. I can’t leave him in that environment. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe she’s capable of ignoring her jealousy to raise him properly – but I have a bad feeling about it. And my bad feeling about you turned out to be pretty much correct.”

Severus spluttered. Lily ignored him and turned for the door.

“I’ll come back when I can’t manage any longer,” she said. “I hope you’ll be doing better by your students then. Goodbye, Severus.”

He stood and watched as she slid through the door. The problem with Lily Evans had always been that she expected the best of people – and, applied to someone who cared enough about her to regret disappointing her, those expectations often bore fruit.