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A dealer, not a Death Eater

Chapter Text

It's dark in their bedroom when she swings her legs from under the covers and gathers her robe from behind the door. The living room is bathed in the pale glow from the street light outside and the curtains are askew, having been hastily pulled open. She glances at the front door, expecting to see his discarded boots on the mat, but a trail of grit and mud leads her to their tiny kitchen instead.

She finds him peering at a sickly flame, twisting the knob on the stove one way and then the other, both to little effect. After a long moment, he huffs, whips his wand from his sleeve and casts. The gas catches with a low roar, and a blue flame spirals high into the air. He steps back, waiting for it to calm with a small smile of triumph, and levitates the frying pan from the draining board to the hob.

He doesn't spot her in the doorway, and she pulls her dressing gown more firmly around her as she watches him move between the fridge and the cooker. He drops far more lard than necessary into the pan, followed by black pudding and bacon, bread and then eggs. It's at that moment that she notices that he's swaying slightly. The smell is intoxicating – the dainty salmon salad she ate five hours earlier, although exquisitely prepared, has left a gap.

"Have you ever cooked anything that's not deep fried?"

His head jerks up, and a broad smile fills his face. "I thought you were asleep." He scoops the fried food onto a plate, and – with an egg and two slices of bacon left in the pan – he points the spatula towards her. "Hungry?"

She is, and she nods. Another plate is pulled from the cupboard, and he eagerly fills it with a mountain of food – far too much for a midnight feast. He grabs the half eaten loaf of bread – half eaten already? – and takes a fresh slice, whipping it around the pan until the grease is mopped up, and then places it on the side of her plate.

"I haven't set the table," he says, extinguishing the flame with a flick of his hand, and levitating both plates towards the sofa. He sits, and leans over the arm, pulling yesterday's Prophet from the magazine rack. She sits next to him as he pulls the newspaper into two unequal halves, folding each and dropping one on her knee, the other on his. Then, he plucks his plate out of thin air and places it on his now-protected lap. "Well?" he says, between gulping bites. "Dig in."

She follows suit, pulling the warm plate onto her half of the newspaper. The food is hot and greasy, and it's difficult to eat in a dignified manner with the dish balanced on her knees. He looks over, knowingly, spearing another whole slice of bacon onto his fork, bending it over and back again until it's pierced four or five times. Then he opens his mouth wide, taking it all in at once and chewing with gusto. His eyes flash with amusement at her horrified look.

"Must you?"

"Come on," he says, his voice muffled by food. "You're not at Tuney's now."

She stiffens at the mention of her sister, but he doesn't notice. He barrels on, not pausing between mouthfuls to swallow his food properly, and she's convinced that if she stops watching him, he could choke at any second. She finds herself entranced by a thin smear of wet yolk that's escaped from the corner of his lips, appalled and disgusted by his gluttony, and not for the first time, left wondering how she came to be sat here. The contrast between her home and Petunia's home - or, more plainly, her boyfriend and Petunia's husband - couldn't be more stark.

He senses her watching him, and he raises his thumb to his chin. He makes contact with the livid orange smear, and then grins bashfully – apologetically. He balances his cutlery on his plate and licks his fingers, rubbing his stubbly skin. "Sorry," he says, and she can tell he means it. He picks up his cutlery once more and makes quick work of the remains of his food, his knife and fork scraping painfully loudly across the plate. With a quick movement, he's up – still chewing his last mouthful – and coils his fingers in a mime. "Cuppa?"

She nods, and prods her fork at her rapidly congealing food. It's now cool to the touch, and far less appetising than it had been five minutes earlier. She half wonders if he had been right to wolf it down, his fingers gripping the plate with a possessiveness that felt as if he was certain someone was about to whip his meal from him.

And then he's back, a freshly brewed drink levitating before her. He holds out his hand for the plate.

"I've not finished," she protests, but it's half-hearted, and he grins – his forefinger rummaging in his mouth, picking between his teeth. "And Severus, must you?"

"We're not in public," he grumbles, whisking her plate away. "You're meant to be in bed, anyway."

"Leaving you free to indulge in all of your bad habits?" she calls after him, leaning up and arching her back over the sofa. "And don't think I haven't seen you stamping around in your boots." He doesn't answer, and she sits back down, plucking her tea from the air. She warms her hands on the mug, the colour of the drink the perfect shade of tan. She sips, knowing it will be far too hot to enjoy properly, but she's keen to wash away the taste of fried bread – and it's then she registers the cooling charm he's cast on the liquid, just enough to make it instantly drinkable.

He returns, and drops down onto the sofa, sliding his hand into hers. "Sorry about my boots-" he starts, just as she begins to thank him for the tea. "You first," he says, but she simply squeezes his hand. He waits for a moment in case she changes her mind, taking a swig of his own drink, but when she doesn't speak again, he breaks the silence. "So? How was Dunderhead Dursley?"


He snorts. "C'mon Lil, he is a dunderhead."

"Tuney's talking about having a baby."

"Ugh," he groans. "She's not, is she?"

"I just said-"

"No," he interrupts, moving his hand in front of his stomach, in a mime of a pregnancy, "I mean, she's not already, is she?"

Lily shakes her head. "Least, I don't think so. But they're trying."

"They are bloody trying," he mutters.

"He's offered you a job. Again."

"Fuck off."

"Daddy thinks you should consider it."

He sits back, clearly affronted. "And what did you tell Daddy and Dunderhead?"

"I just said you were working hard-"

"Or hardly working, is he?" he retorts, his voice distorting into an eerie mimic of Vernon.

"That's creepy, don't do that."

He grins again. "I'm right though, aren't I?" She doesn't answer, and his smile grows wider. "Bloody hell, he's like a record with a scratch in."

She shifts uncomfortably. "You were late back tonight."

"Thought I wouldn't be missed." She bristles, but he misses it, his head now between his knees as his fingers fight with the tight knots in his thinning laces. "You stayed over last time," he continues, by way of explanation. Again, the tension drops from her shoulders – he's right. The last time she'd attended a dinner party at her sister's, she'd had one too many of Petunia's daiquiris and had spent the night in the Dursleys' spare room, with a hastily transfigured bucket by her bedside. It's at that moment that she suddenly remembers that she didn't transfigure the hideous dog ornament back to its original form, and Petunia's boring non-alcoholic evening suddenly makes a lot more sense.

"She thinks I stole it."

His head jerks up, his eyebrows knitted together in a frown. "Stole what?"

"Last time I was there." Her hand is now raised to her mouth, laughter escaping from behind her fingers. "I transfigured an ornament."

He stops what he's doing, and sits back, forcing his boots off with an angry kick to each heel. He takes her hand from her mouth and kisses it. "Kleptomaniac."

"It was hideous, Sev! A ruddy awful porcelain dog. I reckon his sister gave it to them-"

"Sounds like you did them a favour." He looks up again, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "Remind me to transfigure a whole row of terrible dog ornaments for the fireplace for their next visit."

"You wouldn't." At this, he merely raises an eyebrow. Of course he would, and she knows it. "Sev, really. She'd never come over again."

"In that case, I'll do a whole bookcase of them."

"Speaking of which-"


She stands, and ties her dressing gown a little tighter. "I knew you'd say no."


"But Daddy insisted, so-"


She looks a little abashed, but raises her chin higher, a smattering of colour filling the tops of her cheeks. "He is paying for half of the rent on this place, Sev."

"Your half!" he sputters, angrily. "I pay my own way, thanks very much!"

She glances at his discarded robe, draped carelessly over one of the dining chairs.

"Don't!" And now he's standing, angrily stooping and picking his boots up from the floor. "Don't judge me for how I make ends meet, Lil." He unceremoniously drops his boots by the front door, and casts an anti-Alohomora at the lock. "You've been wined and dined and waited on hand-and-foot at your sister's, and I've been out working all bloody night."

"All night?" The enquiry is mild, but the faint scent of ale and whisky about his person is enough to condemn him.

"I didn't think you were coming back. I only had a drink."


He doesn't answer, and this time she reaches for his robe. He darts in front of her, but his dulled reactions are too slow – she makes contact with the cloth, and his potion vials clink against each other.

"Slow night, I take it?" Her nostrils have flared, and he tucks his greasy hair behind his ears, as if readying himself for a fight.

"I didn't go up the Hog's," he finally admits. "I stayed at the Broomsticks. Had a couple with Ros."

"Worked up an appetite, did you?"

He opens his mouth, but thinks better of it. It's an effort, but he holds his dark sarcasm to his chest, and stalks back to the sofa, angrily transfiguring a cushion into a pillow, signifying his intent not to join her in their bedroom.

"Don't be pathetic."

"You really think I'm shagging Rosmerta, do you?"

"I just don't want you keeping secrets from me," she says, venturing a little closer to him. He's practically vibrating with rage, and she places a warm hand on his cool arm. "You always go up the Hog's if you're working."

He stills, a half transfigured cushion in his grasp. "There was a raid." And now it's her turn to freeze, her hand gripping his forearm more tightly. After a moment, he drops the cushion on the sofa, and places his hand over her own.

"You weren't caught?"

"Would I be here now?" He tosses his head. "They went early," he says, shrugging. "Aurors. Dunderheads, the lot of them. Raided the place at half nine according to Fletcher. He came sidling in the Broomsticks at just gone ten, you know what he's like. Looking for Polyjuice."

She shudders at the thought of Mundungus roaming the streets with a vial of Polyjuice. "You didn't sell it to him?"

"Not under Rosmerta's nose," he says, "do you think I'm daft? She'd skin me alive." He shakes his head. "Told Dung I'd see him tomorrow."

"But we're seeing Mummy and Daddy tomorrow."

"You're seeing Mummy and Daddy tomorrow," he corrects. "I've got a bit of business to make up for." She looks pained, and he raises his hand to caress her soft cheek. "Lil, I'm sorry. This is how it is. If I don't make a profit this weekend, I can't replace the ingredients in the stockroom, and if old Jigger notices when he does his stocktake on Tuesday-"

She takes a shuddering breath. "I think you should stop."

"Stop?" His eyebrows lift towards his hairline.

"It's too risky, brewing illicit potions. If you're caught-"

"I won't get caught. I didn't tonight, did I?" He wraps his arms around her waist. "Got an alibi and everything."

"And what about tomorrow? And next week? And the week after?"

"They don't know anything," he says, firmly. "If they had any intelligence, any dirt on me, they'd have raided after last orders."

"And what about Jigger?"

He wraps his arms around her more tightly, and nestles his nose in her hair. "Leave Jigger to me," he murmurs. "Serves the bastard right, anyway."

"What do you mean?"

"He gets far more out of me than he pays for," he grumbles.

She twists in his arms. "Don't risk your apprenticeship, Sev. If Jigger disowns you-"

"If Jigger disowns me, I'll find a new Master. He's hardly got a monopoly on Potions apprenticeships."

"If Jigger disowns you, you won't have the reputation to find a new Master. Once is a mistake, but twice…"


"I'm just saying, Sluggy won't be able to pull you out of a tight spot again." She kisses him firmly. "Don't go out tomorrow. Mummy and Daddy haven't seen you for ages."

He shakes his head. "I'm brassic. We're brassic. I told you, if I don't sell those potions-"

"I'll get the money."

"We're not taking more off your father." The small frown on his forehead deepens. "And you're not whoring yourself out down Knockturn."


He gives her a knowing look.

"I wasn't-" She pushes him in the chest. "You know that wasn't what was happening."

"I know that if I hadn't come down there, that's what would've happened." She opens her mouth to protest, but he grabs both of her wrists in his larger hand. "You didn't go there for that, but that doesn't mean that you wouldn't have been taken advantage of. You don't know what they're like."

"I know exactly what your old housemates are like, thank you very much." She prods him in the chest again. "I suppose I should be glad you're just a dealer, and not a Death Eater."

Chapter Text

He glances over his shoulder and sidles his way to the edge of the dancefloor. His target is young and slim, and her face is covered in sweat. She spots him and smiles, her hot hands looping around his neck, and her body swaying to the music. "Hi."

"Hi," he says, stiffly. "Fletch sent me."

She looks over his shoulder at the short squat wizard who is leaning against a wall and smoking a pipe. He nods towards her, and she nods back, and then she returns her focus to Severus.

"Well?" he asks, impatiently. "Up or down?"

"What's cheapest?"

He sneers. "Cheap is behind the bar. House spirits should see you through."

She holds onto him tightly as he moves to leave. "Don't be like that."

"Quality costs."

"What are we talking?"

He clucks his tongue impatiently. "Uppers or downers?" She rolls her eyes to the top of her head, and he nods imperceptibly. "A galleon."

"Ten sickles."

At this, he wrests her arms from around his neck. He glances back and forth, his heart beating wildly in his chest. "I know a set up when I see one." With a quick swirl of robes, he Disapparates.

She looks over at Mundungus, who shakes his head and scurries towards her. "What d'yer do that for, eh? Boy's wary enough, without you putting the frighteners on him."

"I was only bartering, Dung. Getting the best deal, like you said."

Mundungus huffs, and pulls on his pipe as he stalks away. "Bartering!"  he grumbles to himself. "It'll be gone two week before we see him in here again…"

"Bloody hell! Evans?"

Potter looks much the same as he did at school – hair sticking up at all angles, and that familiar confident smirk plastered across his face. He covers his surprise with radiance, reminding her of what it was like to walk into the Gryffindor common room whilst he was lounging in one of the prime seats, his wolf-whistle following her all the way to her room. Behind him, Pettigrew's jaw has dropped, Lupin's eyes have widened, and Black is staring at her with what could only be described as pure loathing.

"Boys," she says, her tone wary, cautious of their mixed reaction. She glances at the older Order members on the other side of the long table – Doge, Longbottom, the Prewett brothers, and Dumbledore himself.

"I'm out," announces Black, pushing his chair away and moving to stand.

"Pads," Potter says placatingly, his hand reaching to grab his friend, holding him in his spot. "We're all friends here."

But Black doesn't spare a glance for Potter. Instead, his eyes are boring into Lily's soul. "You still warming his bed then, Evans? Or is this a declaration that you've finally come to your senses?"

Lily unconsciously touches the chain at her neck, the pendant hidden deep below her robes. "Severus and I are still a couple," she confirms, her voice wavering slightly in face of his fury. She's annoyed with herself; she goes through the same each time she sees Petunia – that same look of dismay and betrayal that she has dared to settle below her station. With him.

"And how is Severus?" Lupin asks, his mild tone in stark contrast to Black's open hostility.


"He's not with you, my dear?"

At Dumbledore's question, Black snorts in disdain. "Snape? Here?"

"He's busy, sir."

"Busy pledging his soul to the Dark Lo-" 

"Rather like your brother then," Gideon quips, leaning across the table, "and your father-" 

"-and your mother," adds Fabian.

"-and your cousin-" 

"-and your cousin's husband, and his brother-" 

"-and your other cousin's husband-" 

"All right, knock it off!" 

Lily suppresses a smile as Black settles back in his chair, his arms folded tightly. Potter claps his hand on his shoulder, but Black's scowl doesn't abate, although it's now transferred from Lily to the Prewett brothers.

"You can't repeat anything, Evans," Potter warns. "Not outside of these four walls. Whether he's that way or n-" 

"He isn't!" 

Potter holds his hands up in mock defence. "I'm just saying, is all."

"We swear an allegiance," Hestia Jones says, pulling a seat out next to her and indicating that Lily should take it.

"A wand oath?"

"Not quite that serious," Doge smiles. "As James said, we're all friends here."

It's the cut of his robes that confirms Severus has got the right man. He always did have expensive taste. Severus glances left, and right, and then ducks down the alley behind his quarry. He stays a few steps behind, watching carefully as the man heads left, and left again, then right, and then huddles in a darkened doorway.

He lets out a low whistle – that same whistle the man taught him all those years ago. Instantly, the man's hooded head lifts, and the whistle is returned. Severus steps forward, closing the gap between them, and finds himself crushed into a tight embrace.

"All right, Malf," he laughs, taking a step back, and his cheeks colouring at the warmth of his welcome.

"Severus." His voice is rich. "Tell me, how is Jigger treating you? Better than Borage, I trust?"

"Like a house elf."

Lucius chuckles, and fingers the collar of Severus' robe. "You wear your tea-towel well." He pauses, and then drops his grip. "And your Mudblood?" He cocks his head. "She is well?"

Severus nods, not trusting himself to speak.

"Keeping busy, is she?" Lucius' pale eyes lock onto Severus' dark ones, his gaze penetrating. "Whilst you're out?"

He nods again, but Lucius' gaze doesn't falter. After a long moment, Severus adds a little more. "Working for her parents."


"Papers. Accounts. Correspondence." He waves his hand. "All rather boring."

Lucius purses his lips. "It sounds it. How very Muggle. How disappointing."


"I was led to believe, Severus, that despite her…unfortunate background, she was a talented witch."

"She is!"  His words of defence tumble hotly from his lips, before he can consider the consequences.

"Good. Because I think it is time you expanded." He waves his hand dismissively. "I don't want you brewing party drugs any longer."

Severus twitches. "I have clients."

"No. You have me," Lucius hisses, his breath warm on Severus' face. "And I do not wish for you to brew party drugs. She can brew party drugs. You are to brew-" 

They both jump, as two cats howl at each other, paws lashing as they chase one another down the alley. Lucius is the first to recover, smoothing his robes, and tossing his hair. He points his wand at the younger man. "Not here. I'll owl you. Burn the letter once you've read it."

It's Lupin who corners her. She glances over his shoulder, and she can see Potter and Pettigrew pleading with Black.

"He isn't dark."

"I made no suggestion that he was," Lupin says, softly, "although it's interesting that you feel you need to pre-empt the accusation." At her scowl, he smiles. "And with that look on your face, I'd be tempted to ask if you were he. Polyjuiced, of course." He lowers his voice. "And if anyone had the talent to pull such a feat off-" 

"I'm not Polyjuiced, you idiot," she hisses.

"But he does still brew?"

Her frown returns. "Of course he brews. He's apprenticing."

"Ah yes, under…" Lupin trails off suddenly. "No, no, not Borage – he was rather publicly expelled, wasn't he-" 

"Look, Remus," she says, her voice suddenly cold. "I am not here to discuss Severus, and I am most certainly not Severus. If you have nothing polite to-" 

Lupin takes her hand, and she stops talking. She peers at him as he chews momentarily on his lip, and she can almost see the thoughts echoing around his mind. "Forgive me. I wasn't asking about his apprenticeship progress."



Still, the air hangs heavy between them, and she shakes free of his hand. "Was it his good health you were enquiring about, perhaps?"

"My good health, in fact."

She huffs a soft laugh, suddenly realising the turn their conversation has taken. "No. He wouldn't even consider it."

"I have the money."

"I can't- I won't," she hastily corrects herself, "I won't ask him. He won't do it."

Lupin gives a tight nod of acknowledgement. "So he doesn't know you're here, then?"

"That's not why," she tells him.

He stands for a long moment, as if willing her to change her mind. When she doesn't speak again, he takes a step back. "Forgive me. But I would've always hated myself if I had not dared to ask."

Chapter Text

He's stripped back the carpet in the front room. The sofa has moved to the wall, the sideboard has been shrunk to a fifth of its original size, and the gramophone is sat on its side in the kitchen, leaning precariously against the fridge. The only sound she hears from it now is as it vibrates against the sheet metal whilst the fridge hums and buzzes, all of their carefully curated records long forgotten.

When she gets home, he's kneeling in the grate. He blocked the Floo weeks ago, and now there's a permanent cauldron set up in the centre of the hearth. There's a constant yellow flame burning brightly beneath, and a clever little timing charm to the side of it. She can say that, because it was one of her own – she was fiercely proud of its creation during her NEWT study under Flitwick.

It chimes, and he watches intently as the flame shifts to blue, and the cauldron roars to a boil. Ninety seconds later, the chime rings again, and the flame returns to its almost dormant form – a mild yellow flicker surrounding the bottom edge of the black pot. He flicks his fingers, and there's a clink of glass from the kitchen – and steadily, in a neat line, the vials parade themselves through the small flat and come to rest at his boots. He pulls on his old gloves – and she makes a mental note to buy him a new set for Christmas – and dips each vial in the cauldron in turn. Then they're capped, wiped down, and placed carefully in a rack to his right.

"It's like a factory in here."

"The owner's a slave driver," he mumbles, his head still stuck in the hearth – and then he turns, and his crooked smile causes her breath to catch in her throat. "You don't want to work for him, trust me."

She kneels next to him, picking one of the vials out of the rack and holding it up to the light. The mixture is a pale green, but clear of sediment. She remembers from her own Potions NEWT that he must've strained it thoroughly before adding the dragon's blood. 

"I know what you're thinking," he says, as he stands and heads to the kitchen. She can hear him washing his gloves and then his hands, before he returns and hangs his gloves up by the cauldron, water dripping from the fingers into the sooty hearth.

"It looks like you've strained it," she says, peering at the mixture more closely. "But you didn't start this until I left at midday."


"And that means you didn't have time to bring it to the boil, add the root of aconite, sift in the shrivelfigs, stir the dragon's blood, and strain it." She rolls the vial between her palms. "…but it's completely clear." 

"So what does that tell you?"

"I would guess a time turner," she grins, and then waves to his makeshift potions lab. "Only I don't see another dirty cauldron, and I know that you're lazy, and you only wash your equipment after-"

"-you don't know if you'll need it again!"

"-so you did something else," she says, triumphantly. "I don't know what though. One of Jigger's tricks?"

He nods. "If you add frogspawn at the simmering stage," he says, resting his hands on her shoulders as she examines his potions, "the frogs develop, consume the sediment, and then you don't need to strain the mixture. Saves hours. And a cauldron."

"And what of the frogs?"

He points at a wooden box underneath the window, with three wide holes in the top. "I thought we could release them."

"In Hogsmeade?"

He laughs. "Yeah, why not?" He disappears into the bedroom, and then returns, their Muggle jackets bunched in his hand – and suddenly, she realises it was a joke, and he has another destination in mind.


"There's a river, isn't there?"

"Yes, but-"

"And I didn't see your parents last month, did I?" He's turned away again now, and is talking to the wall rather than her. "Thought you might want to say hello."

"And yours?" 

He pauses at her question, momentarily frozen. She pulls on her jacket, and zips it up, and then pulls at his misshapen collar until it looks presentable. 

"I wasn't intending to."

"We can't visit mine and not yours," she reasons.

He stuffs his fists in his pockets. "S'pose."

"Come on then," she says, linking her arm through his – and the two set off out of the door, and down the steps. A moment later, his boots thud back up the stairs, and he grabs the forgotten box, and the contents croak their protest loudly as he tucks it tightly under his arm.

She's outside in the yard. The wind is blistering, and the rain is sideways. She pulls the pegs off the clothes, and dumps it all – peg bag, pegs, and damp clothes – into the wash basket. He jumps out of the way as she hurls the broken plastic basket into the kitchen, and he can see how the basket was broken in the first place. He peers back around the corner, expecting her to be traipsing back inside, but she's still stood in that tiny paved yard, her fluff lined slippers turning into a soggy mush.


She turns her back on him, plucking a cigarette from behind her ear, and he knows she's fumbling in that tatty frayed apron pocket for a light.

"Here y'are," he says, stepping forward, flicking his wand. The end of the cigarette catches, and she inhales deeply – and then, she holds it out for him to take a drag. "Nah," he says. "I don't smoke."

Her eyes narrow. "Since when?"

He jerks his head towards the living room. "Since, y'know." He doesn't need to say any more. His mother's face hardens, and she wraps her lips back around the cigarette. "Yer not comin' back in?"

"Don't think you have to talk like that because he's here." She practically spits the words. "I know you put on your airs and graces when you're over at-"

"-don't, Mam," he says, quickly.

"You're going there next, aren't you?" At her enquiry, he nods, stiffly, and her eyes gleam with triumph, and her next accusation is sharper still. "Here for a cup of tea, and there for what? Candlelight supper?"


She sniffs, and draws over and over on the cigarette until it's nothing but a filter. She stubs it out against the wall and flicks it into the grate.

"Used to tell me off for doin' that."

"Used to do a lot of things once upon a time."

"We goin' back in?"

"Are you happy, Severus?"

He's already turned to head indoors, and her question catches him off guard. He pauses, and then glances back. "It's different."

"Different." It's not a challenge. She nods. "Cokeworth was…different. To me. Back then."

"I can imagine."

"And now you make the same journey in reverse." She lifts the line prop and rests it by the outhouse, and then ushers him indoors. "I wonder if your child will follow suit, and follow me back?"

She pushes past him then, her narrow hips bumping angrily into his thigh, and whilst he fumbles with the lock at the back door, she's banging the teapot and clinking a spoon in the mugs. When he looks over his shoulder, he can only see two on the worktop – Tobias' and her own.

"We'll be off then, eh, Mam?"

"Say goodbye to your father-"

"Give me chance!" He sticks his head into the living room. Lily is perched on the sofa, pretending to politely listen to the football match that Tobias is engrossed in. He thumps his chair at the commentary, and misses Lily standing up and making her excuses from the room. Severus grabs her hand as she passes, "Say goodbye to Mam," he hisses, pushing her towards the kitchen and then he slides around the living room door. "I'm off now, Da?"

"If yer like."

"Right." He stalls for a long moment, his mouth opening as if to say something more, but Tobias has closed his eyes, entirely focused on the football. He can hear Lily's fake platitudes getting louder, as if she's moving away from the kitchen, so before he can mull it over further, he digs his hand into his back pocket, and pulls out his wallet. He flicks through the notes, counting them quickly, and then stuffs a wad behind the carriage clock on the fireplace before beating a hasty retreat.


He stops, his hands clutching the doorframe, and tips his head back towards his father. "Aye?"

"Good lad."

Chapter Text

It's warmer at the Evans house, and Severus copies Lily in shrugging off his jacket and hanging it over the newel post. He tugs anxiously at his collar; his mother was right – the removal of their outdoor clothing is a declaration that they're staying, and not merely popping in out of polite courtesy. He stands awkwardly in the hall as his girlfriend is smothered in her mother's embrace, flushing slightly when Rose opens her arms to him.

"Errr," he stalls, unmoving.

"Oh, leave the boy be, Rose," David admonishes, clapping a firm hand on Severus' shoulder and steering him towards a chintz covered chair in the living room, whilst both women head towards the kitchen.

"Should I help wi-" he starts to offer.

"Sit," comes the command, and Severus does. "They'll be talking about…" David trails off and shrugs, realising he doesn't actually know what his wife and youngest daughter will be conversing about. "…they'll be happy talking to each other, put it that way."

He nods, his fingers twining anxiously, and when he catches David's quelling gaze, he stuffs them in his trouser pockets.


"I don't."


He hates this. David's known him since he was a runt of a boy, and Severus always seems to revert to type around him – awkward, flushing, nervous. Unworthy. He takes his fingers back out of his pockets and holds them up. "Potions stain," he says, by way of explanation. "It's not nicotine."

David sniffs pointedly.

"And I've just been talking to my mam," he adds. "She was… I mean… She does. Still. Outside, like, not indoors. Not near Lily. And I didn't. …it's not, it's not my smoke."


It's uncomfortable again. David flicks on the television – Songs of Praise, what else? It is Sunday, after all. David rustles a newspaper, idly flipping the pages over, and Severus stares at the television, the lyrics of the hymns going in one ear and out of the other. It reminds him too much of the other side of the river – of weekly church visits, starched collars, copper coins for the collection and-

"She's not got them."

Severus is pulled out of his thoughts at David's statement. The newspaper has been lowered.


"The stains," David says, wriggling his fingers. "Lils. She's not got them." His eyes narrow. "I thought she was doing the same as you?"

This is why he doesn't like visiting Cokeworth. Spinner's End is one thing, with its misery seeping through the walls, but the expectation on this side of the river is stifling in its own way. He can't quite remember the web of lies that Lily's fed to her parents; it doesn't help that he's not always present to witness what she says.

"That's why she left the Ministry, didn't she?" David's not letting it drop.

Severus exhales in a loud huff. "Yeah. Well, she's a bit behind me-" David's eyes narrow again at the perceived slight, and Severus races to continue, "-with the late start and all that. So she's got all the theoretical to catch up on before she can brew."

"It's not a sexism thing, is it? You can brew, and she can't?"


"Does it pay well, then? This Potions malarkey?" 

He shakes his head, and then he catches David's meaning. "I mean, yeah. Eventually. Not apprenticing though. Apprenticing is…"

"Tough, I imagine?"

He scratches his ear self-consciously. "We're all right. I work at the pub as well – the Broomsticks – a few shifts at night. Keeps the wolf from the door."

"And Lily? Does she work in the evenings too? At this…pub?"

"No! I'd never-" he starts, hotly, and then stops, David's fierce glare reminding him of his place. "She doesn't need to. I take care of us. Both of us."

"Good." David reaches for the remote, and turns the television up.

"What did you say to him?" she asks, twirling spaghetti around her fork.


"About my apprenticeship," she presses. "So I can keep the story straight."

"He noticed your fingers." He pushes his plate away, and leans back on the chair. "Mine are stained and scorched, and yours-"

"Good point. I'll have to do some brewing before I visit again." 

"I told him you had to do paperwork before you're allowed to brew." 

"Anything else?"

He shrugs. "He wants to know how much money we're making."

"Oh," she says, resting her fork on the side of her plate, "that reminds me." She digs in her handbag, and pulls out a thick envelope.

"Lil, no."

"Yes," she argues, placing the money on the table between them. "He doesn't want me working in a pub-"

"You don't!" 

"He knows that," she says, her expression cold. "But he didn't think it was fair that you were working all hours, and I wasn't pulling my weight."

"I never said you weren't pulling your weight." His foot taps loudly on the floor in irritation.

"Don't be impossible, Sev," she says, picking his plate up with her own and putting them in the sink. "Ever since the Ministry passed that law-"

"I never said it was your fault! It's just how it is at the moment."

"At the moment?" She stays by the sink but turns back to catch his gaze. "You think it'll change?"

And now he looks guilty, his hands once again shoved deep into his pockets. The silence lies thick and heavy between them.

She sterilises the dining table, and lays out her equipment methodically – silver knife, glass chopping board, stainless steel bowl, granite mortar and pestle. The tall kitchen cupboard used to house their ironing board, but he broke the board down and took it to the tip. "Who irons robes anyway, Lil?" Now, the ceiling to floor cupboard is full of shelves, each lined with neatly labelled glass jars. 

She double checks his tight scrawl, and then collects the ingredients, walking back and forth from cupboard to table. She daren't take more than one a time, lest she drop a jar, its precious contents not easily replaced. Her finger slides down the list once more, triple checking that everything is in its rightful place before she begins; brewing in their flat isn't like brewing in a lab – there's not enough space to make mistakes or start again, or even to go rummaging in cupboards for forgotten ingredients. She rolls her robes up to her elbows, pinning the sleeves in place with a modified sticking charm, casts her wand at the fireplace to set the cauldron to heat up, and sets to work.


She watches as he flips the cork from the top of a vial, and presses his finger across the mouth of the glass. He tips the whole potion over, coating his finger, and then back again. Looking her in the eye, he darts his tongue across the pad of his wet fingertip and then his shoulders relax, and something akin to pleasure flashes in the depths of his eyes. "Bloody brilliant," he says, admiringly.

She looks a little abashed. "It's not that good. I know you can produce these in your sleep."

"You haven't brewed since school," he says, hastily sliding the perfect potions into his robes, "and these are as pure as anything I'd do myself." He leans over and kisses her, and she can taste the wicked salty potion on his tongue.

"Aren't you staying in for tea?"

"Ros wants me in early," he says, sounding genuinely apologetic. He kisses her again. "And then I need to circulate these." He shakes his robe, causing her potions to clink against one another, and then he casts a muffling charm to silence them. "Don't wait up."

Eating alone isn't fun. It's even less fun now that their homely flat has transitioned into an illegal lab, and the pleasure of the afternoon's brewing soon disappears as she sits amongst the bottles and tubes and cauldrons. She washes her single plate, and her single mug, and then – decisively – heads to the bathroom to shower, to wash off the residue of brewing. She dresses, spritzes herself liberally with perfume, and heads into Hogsmeade.

She never liked the Hog's, but she could hardly turn up unannounced at the Broomsticks with her boyfriend sweeping the floors and pulling pints. She orders a firewhisky from the bar; a butterbeer would be laughably out of place, and seats herself in a dark corner. The tang of the liquid is bitter against her tongue, and warm in her throat – and it's gone before she's really paid any attention to the taste.


Table service? she thinks. They don't advertise their relationship, the Dumbledore brothers, but this man towering above her is so clearly related to the great Headmaster of Hogwarts. She fumbles in her pocket for the correct coins, and he waits, his hand outstretched. Then he's at the bar, and back, and the fresh glass he gives her is anything but. Most off-putting of all, it has a smudge of old lipstick on the rim. He looks at her pointedly, as if daring her to comment – but all she can think is that they need a washing up boy, like Severus is for Ros at the Broomsticks. "If it's not good enough for you, miss-"

"I could help." 

His eyebrow quirks.

She powers on before he can dismiss her. "Washing glasses. Sweeping up."

"A bar girl? Got employment papers, have you?" 

Her silence tells him all he needs to know.

"It's not me," he says, quietly but firmly. "I have no such prejudices. But the Ministry…"

"You don't need to tell me about the Ministry." And the drink is gone. Downed. It doesn't touch the sides. "Another."

He places a hand on her wrist. "You've had enough."

"I'm not asking."

At this, he smiles, his lips almost entirely covered by thick beard. "Well, I know you're not demanding," he warns, softly, "because as proprietor of this fine establishment, I have the right to refuse service."

"To Mudbloods?" she spits.

"To anyone!" he hisses, grabbing her arm and pulling her roughly into the corridor leading to the toilets. "And this sort of behaviour will get you noticed."

She bristles, pulling her robes around her. "I already am noticed."

Aberforth clucks his tongue sympathetically. "Purged?"


"Did they tell you why?" He catches her exasperated look, and tuts. "No, I know that," he says. "We both know the real reason. But what did they tell you?"

"Undesirable political allegiances."

He appraises her. "You're in that group of my brother's, aren't you?"

"No." She quails under his firm gaze. "Well, yes. Now," she admits, as he tuts loudly, "but not then. They had nothing on me then."

"Why tonight?" 

His change in topic causes her to pause. 

"Here. Why tonight?" he presses. 

She still doesn't answer, and annoyance flits across his face. 

"Nobody aligned to that group of miscreants associates in my pub," he explains. "This place is full of dark wizards, dangerous creatures, and anyone looking for a way to forget. And that's not you. You belong at Ros' place, with the rest of the kids." He pauses, staring at her thoughtfully. "So? How did you come to darken my door?"

"…my boyfriend works at the Broomsticks."

"Thin lad? Greasy hair? Funny crooked teeth?" He gives her the once over, and exhales impatiently. "I take it he's got hidden attributes?"

His needless attack on her boyfriend stirs her indignation. "I think our conversation, Mr Dumbledore," she starts, angrily, "is over."

"On the contrary, whoever you are, miss, I think we've just started to solve your little mystery."


"Oh yes. You clearly do have undesirable political allegiances."

"I told you, the Order-"

"-not my brother. For once." Aberforth leans in a little closer. "But your very own young man."

Chapter Text

He doesn't answer her straight away. He continues with his task – quill scratching over parchment – but she can see that a dark splotch of ink has pooled higher up the page, matching perfectly with when she asked her question. When he reaches the bottom of the parchment, he rests his quill on the table, steeples his fingers before his lips, and eyes her suspiciously. "What's brought this on?"

She picks up his wallet and opens it, fanning out the notes inside. "There's not enough here."

At this, he sits back. His lips twist in annoyance, and he scratches his eyebrow. "Not all of our money is kept in my wallet."


He shrugs. "Gringotts, sure." He points at the kitchen, and she knows he's motioning towards the tall cupboard. "Ingredients." And then he points at the cauldrons – pewter, iron, brass, copper – stacked in the corner. "Equipment." Finally, he strides to the edge of the room, and jams his wand into the crack between the floorboards.

"You don't need-"

But he's already lifted it, and below, she can see a collection of their potions nestled between the joists, their contents twinkling and flashing in the light. He sits back on his heels, flicking his greasy hair from his eyes. "Stock." He holds his hand out, waiting for her to return his wallet to him – and she slaps it into his palm more forcefully than she intended. In response, he angrily flicks his wand at the floorboard, which slides smoothly back into place, and he stands before her, his head inclined to the side as he appraises her. "Are you hungry?"

Her eyes narrow. She doesn't understand the question. "No."



"In need of shelter, or clothing? Sickening for something?"


"Do I not keep you in a fashion that is acceptable to-"

"I don't want to be kept!" she yells, and her anger at his patronising tone causes the ends of her hair to spark.

"We have no choice!" he yells back, grabbing her fists in his hands. 

She sees it then, that flicker of anguish and concern that he ordinarily keeps so well hidden. She bites back her retort; she wants to scream that they always have a choice – but she knows it isn't true. Not at the moment. Choices are for Purebloods – for the likes of James Potter, or Sirius Black, or Lucius Malfoy. Choices aren't for poor Halfbloods, or middle class Muggleborns. She swallows it all – her anger, her pride, her self-esteem – and she forces her hands to relax under his touch. 

He feels the change – her fists unclenching – and he tangles his fingers in hers. "I didn't mean to shout."

"It's okay," she says, although they both know it isn't. But that's the point, she thinks, as she looks at him – his face gaunt, and his eyelashes long and dark against his pale skin. As long as we both know that this isn't okay. As long as we're still in this together.

"What made you ask?" he says, his voice a little higher than usual. 

It must be bothering him. He's an odd man, her boyfriend – he'll needle and jibe and provoke, and he'll never back down from an argument, but as soon as the matter's closed, he's never one to open it back up. Don't pick a wound, he once told her. If it's scabbing, leave it be. She wonders what's caused his change of heart – wonders if it's obvious that this query isn't going to scab on its own, and will fester if ignored.

"I'm brewing."

He doesn't get it. She can see from the confusion flitting across his face that he hasn't made the connection, and she sighs. He stops her from turning away, and grips her a little too tightly. "No, Lil, tell me."

"Before," she says, "you were brewing."

"What's your point?"

"My point is, you're with Jigger during the day, and you work in the Broomsticks in the evening. At night, you trawl half of Hogsmeade, flogging our illicit potions-"


"And," she says, pointedly, "you used to brew. You were always bringing spare potions home from your day in Jigger's lab." She fixes him with a firm glare. "Now I'm brewing."

"You're hardly doing anything else," he retorts, acidly.

"I can't do anything else, can I? The bloody Ministry won't let me!" Her voice is louder now, and she winces as she sees his face harden. "No, Sev, listen-" She grabs his hands tightly again, squeezing them. "What I'm saying is, you used to do the brewing. Now I'm doing the brewing. So what are you doing with your free time?"

His head jerks oddly. "You think I'm cheating on you?"

"How did you get that from my question?" She drops his hands. "My question was about money, remember?" She can tell from his look of recognition that he's finally followed her train of thought. "I know you, Sev. I know that brewing is in your DNA," she continues over his loud scoff, "so I know you haven't stopped."

He runs his hands over his face. "Lil…"

"Tell me you've stopped, then. Severus?" She pulls at his hands, moving them from his face. "Tell me." He is utterly still, and she knows she's hit a nerve, and she's not about to let the moment escape. "So if you're still brewing, and I'm doing the brewing for your little business…" 

"Our business," he corrects.

"Fine. Our business." She looks him dead in the eyes. "Then what are you brewing?"

The pause is long, but eventually he answers. "Quantity," he says, and she gives him the most sceptical scowl she can muster. "Fine! Look." He marches to the other side of the flat, and taps the wall with the butt of his wand.

As the wall starts to shift, her eyes widen. "You did this?" she says, unable to keep the impressed tone from her voice. "It's like Diagon Al-"

"Really?" he drawls, "You don't say?"

She elbows him firmly in the side. "You're such a git."

"Shhh," he says, looping his arm around her shoulder. The pair watch as the wall shimmers and then reveals an even larger array of potions. The bottles are four or five deep on the shelves, and the shelves stretch from wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

"You weren't joking," she says, reaching her hand out to stroke the glass vials, recognising the same illegal party potions as the ones she brews herself. And now she looks at him with real fear in her eyes. "If we're caught-"

"We're not going to get caught."

"-but this," she says, waving her hand. "The scale of this. I mean…those," and she points at the floor, "we could argue plausible deniability."

"Plausible? Really?"

"Personal use, or something, but this…" She looks back at the wall of potions. "This is industrial."

"I wouldn't call it industrial."

"No? What would you call it then?" 

With a swift wave of his wand, he restores the wall to its usual state, hideous wallpaper and all. "I call it our insurance policy." And then he smiles – it's confident, and smug, and she can see the elation in his eyes. 

She doesn't know who he thinks he's pulled one over on, but she throws her arms around his neck, trusting him to take her with him.

She groans, and stretches beneath the warm duvet. Her muscles feel tight, and she rubs at her neck before squinting across the room. Her eyelids feel heavy, but she doesn't succumb to sleep – instead, she watches as he silently moves around the room, adding layer upon layer of black cloth until nearly all of his pale skin is covered. She squints harder, peering at his face, and she can see that he's clean shaven – and now he's leaning towards the mirror, checking that he hasn't missed a patch. 

"You look fine," comes her murmured reassurance. 

He spins – the layers of black seemingly pausing in the air – and faces her, an embarrassed flush sweeping across his cheeks. "I thought you were sleeping." He takes a step, and then another, and then leans over the bed and kisses her forehead. "Sorry."

Her hand grasps at the front of his robes, and she pulls him down another inch or so, pushing her lips against his own. "Sorry for what?" she asks. "You didn't wake me." They kiss again, over and over, until eventually he pulls back. She touches his face before sliding her hands back under the warmth of the covers. "You're not quite looking your best though."

"Really?" He straightens, and strokes his fingertips through his hair. "I thought-"

"I prefer you with fewer clothes," she teases, and there's a glint in her eyes that makes him flush even harder. "You look even better naked."

He coughs awkwardly, and she knows she's really embarrassed him. "Yeah, right. I think Jigger would have something to say if I turned up starkers."

"Something about taking care near a flame?"

But he ignores her joke. It's as if the mention of his Master causes a Pavlovian response; he glances at the clock, and sets to neatening his sleeves. "Eat something tonight," he says. "Don't wait for me. I've got work, and…" He momentarily trails off whilst he concentrates on the clasp at his cuff, "…I don't know when I'll be back."

"Right," she says, pulling the covers that bit tighter, trying not to let his words bother her. When she speaks, she forces her tone to be lighter than she feels. "I'll be calling Ros out for a duel soon."

His eyebrows lift a fraction, and then he gives a soft laugh, and bends back down to kiss her. "I'm really not worth it, love, believe you me."

"Evans," says Lupin, as she enters the darkened room. There's only one seat free, and it's next to him. He pats it. "Come on, I don't bite."

She looks past him – and she spies Black, who is still scowling at her – but a quick glance around the room shows that there's nowhere else to sit. This room is smaller than the last, and it's darker, and smells a little odd – but she tries not to wrinkle her nose; you never quite know who owns the house, or who rented the room, and she doesn't want to needlessly offend.

"So," Emmeline Vance says, tapping her glass with her quill to silence the room. "As we're all here, shall we call this meeting formally to order?"

"Aye," comes the chorus, and Lily checks the faces of the group – to her surprise Hagrid is in attendance, standing in the corner, as well as Diggle and Bones and Meadowes. The Prewett boys are missing, she notes, and Benjy Fenwick – but there's a weathered face she doesn't know. She meets the stranger's gaze, and he shuffles his way through the pack until he's stood behind her chair.

"Alastor Moody," he mutters, as Emmeline starts giving a rundown of the last meeting. "Auror. You're Lily Evans."

She nods, although his words felt like a statement instead of a query awaiting confirmation. "Pleased to meet you, Mr Moody."

"Young Black says you're sleeping with the enemy."

"I didn't!" Black loudly protests, and the chatter of the room falls silent. "I didn't, Moody."

"You did," chips in Pettigrew, and receives a thump on each arm – one from Potter, and one from Black – for his efforts.

"My boyfriend," she says, loudly and pointedly – and to her delight she notes Potter wincing at her words. Not for the first time, she's disappointed her attendance is a secret from Severus, because she knows he would get a kick out of Potter's obvious dismay at their continued relationship. The room falls quiet, and she continues in the same tone, "is not the enemy." She stares evenly around the room, taking in each of the Order. "He is simply not interested in politics."

"Not interested in politics?" Diggle looks astonished. "In this day and age, with all that's…" He shakes his head and looks towards Dumbledore. "Not interested in politics! And you say he's one of your lot, Dumbledore?"

"Unfortunately," Dumbledore says, stepping forward from the shadows, "Lily's…partner, shall we say, was a member of Slytherin house-" 

The muttering now is louder, whispers and grumbles echoing around the space.

"Ah, ah, ah," Dumbledore says, clapping his hands and waiting for silence to fall once more. "As I was saying, Slytherin house poses a few difficulties-"

"On account of it being full of dark wizards and wannabe Death Eaters," Potter huffs, earning him a round of triumphant applause from Black, and a sharp look to the pair from Dumbledore.

"Mr Potter's account is not quite accurate," Dumbledore cautions. "As you well know, Alastor, Slytherin house is not a lost cause."

"Ninety percent of it is," grumbles Moody. "Why's this girl any different?"

"I'm a Gryffindor!"

Moody gives a half smile at her outburst. "So has become apparent."

"And I'm a Muggleborn. And Severus might've been a Slytherin, but his father…"

Black suddenly peers at her, his eyes narrowed in interest. She swallows hard, knowing that if word gets back to him, Severus is hardly likely to thank her – but the room is staring, waiting for her to speak, and the words tumble out before she can stop them, "...his father is a Muggle."

"Bloody hell," says Pettigrew, looking down. "I thought he was a Purebl-"

"Nah," says Potter, dismissively. "I knew he wasn't Pure."

Black looks surprised. "Yeah, but I thought he was at least Half."

"He is Half," Lupin reasons. He looks at Lily. "You didn't say his mother was a Muggle, did you?"

"I'm the Muggleborn. He's Half. His mother is Pure." She twists her hands. "We grew up in the same town."

"A Pure witch? Married to a Muggle? In a Muggle town?" Pettigrew looks bewildered, but before he can continue his thought, Moody interrupts loudly.

"Good! The boy is a runt!"


"Why didn't you say, Dumbledore? That's exactly the sort of thing I wanted to hear. If he was a Muggle tainted outcast in Slytherin, then he's not going to rat us out, is he?"

"He couldn't even if he wanted," she says, her voice laced with anger at the way his parentage is being spoken of. "I don't tell him anything of these meetings."

"Good girl," Moody says, clapping a hand to her shoulder. "Even better." 

Lily nods tightly, and is relieved when the conversation moves on, a strange thrum of guilt unsettling her stomach. It's not a betrayal, she reasons with herself, but when she catches Potter's half-amused glance, she can't help but feel that it is.

Chapter Text

Following an Order meeting a few weeks later, there's a short wizard waiting in the street. She wraps her robe tightly around her and crosses the road, but he follows her. She crosses back, and so does he – so she slides her wand into her hand, and prepares to defend herself.

"Miss Evans, is it?" comes his oily voice, and she slides her wand back out of view, although still within easy reach.

"It depends who's asking."

"Good answer, miss, good answer," says the wizard, trotting up behind her, and offering her his grubby hand to shake. When she doesn't take it, he looks at it and shrugs. "Fair decision," he admits, sniffing it and then recoiling. "Can't remember when I last gave it a wash. I've been ducking and diving a bit today, you know how it is."

She sneers, as if to suggest that she doesn't. She doesn't really want to have this conversation with this dirty man, but glancing behind her, she can see no trace of the rest of the Order, such is the way that they disband following a gathering.

"Now now," he continues, "there's nothing to be concerned about. I am," and he lowers his voice, "one of your lot, so to speak." 

"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean."

He frowns, and steps back, puffing his chest out and pointing at the building that she just came out of. "One of you-" And then he catches himself, suddenly realising. "Ah, yes, miss, I must apologise – very reckless and silly of me. I'm Mundungus Fletcher," he says, pulling his dirty pipe from his sleeve and starting to pack it with tobacco from his pocket. "Missed a few meetings here and there, but I'm fully paid up, fully committed – you just ask Dumbledore himself!" He glances around, and then pulls on her sleeve, walking her a few steps down the street. "Now, I want to talk to you, but I can see that you might want to verify my identity." 

"It is hardly unreasonable of me. In times such as these."

"Yes, yes." He presses down firmly on the tobacco and then strikes a light with his wand, before puffing away on the pipe to cause the leaves to catch. "During the next meeting, perhaps?" And then he leans in, his breath hot and smoky, "and bring some of your fella's wares with you. He's gone a bit tight on me these last few weeks, and it's a real pity - business should be booming."

Lucius leans back in the oversized chair, tapping his fingers on the arm. "I thought I told you to be careful."

"I am careful."

"Not careful enough," Lucius snaps. "You're being greedy."

"I'm not-"

Lucius fixes him with a quelling look. "You are greedy," he reiterates. "And if you don't pull your production back to a reasonable rate, I won't be able to help you if things get a little…messy."

Severus pulls out a roll of parchment from his robes, and tosses it across the desk. "See for yourself." As Lucius casts his eye over the figures, Severus waits quietly.

"I see." Lucius places the papers to one side. "If your ledger is accurate-"

"-of course it's accurate!"

Lucius continues, as if Severus hasn't spoken, "-then we have a bigger problem." He pauses, and then yanks open his desk drawer. "Competition."

Severus can feel his heart pounding in his chest. "Competition?" The words fade on his lips as Lucius pulls out two vials – both pale blue, both with a rainbow streak threading through the centre. Instantly, Severus can tell the difference; his is on the right – the rainbow a neat and tidy twist – whilst the one on the left has its rainbow in a graceful looping bow.

"Any difference?" Lucius queries, pushing the vials towards Severus. "Apart from the visual, of course." He points to the rainbow threads. "Subtle, and easily missed, but when you peer closely…"

Severus' palms are sweating now, and he casts to suspend both potions in the air. He takes his own and uncorks it, and then sniffs – it smells as fresh as when he first brewed it – like an urban Muggle summer. It's petrol and cut grass and orange juice, mixed with vanilla ice-cream and hot tarmac. It's a joyful attack on the senses, and for Severus, it's like being transported back to Cokeworth in the summer holidays. Then, he uncaps the other, and inhales – and it's exactly the same.


Severus jerks his head. "May I?"

Lucius waves his hands, and two glasses spin across the room and into his palms. He sets them on the desk before Severus. "Be my guest."

He pours a tiny amount from the left potion into the left glass, and the right potion to the right. The rainbows in the vials twist and spin, and his potion's rainbow remains in the tight twist, whilst the other rainbow twirls and spins and then loops itself into a differently angled bow.

"Interesting," says Lucius, leaning forward. "This," he says, pointing at the twisted potion, "I recognise. It is yours, is it not?"

Severus nods tightly. And then he gulps each potion down, one after the other – and the assault on his mind is instantaneous. Lights flash, and his blood pounds, and the feeling of euphoria shoots through his veins. He can't keep his grin from spreading, and a happy laugh erupts before he can stop it. He can see Lucius' unamused look, and yet the more he tries to suppress his glee, the louder the laugh becomes. He grips the edge of the desk, and laughs, and laughs, and laughs, and there's tears running down his cheeks, and then, just as suddenly as it started, he stops.

"Pulled ourselves together, have we?" Lucius tries to sound unimpressed, but Severus knows him – and he knows that behind those pale grey eyes, Lucius found the display far more amusing than he'd ever let on.

"Sorry, Malf."

"And the difference?"

"No difference in the effect," he says.

Lucius tuts loudly. "But it is a different potion, is it not?" He taps the vial containing the imposter. "This is not yours, is it?"

Severus doesn't know what to say. He can't believe that something so ridiculous has caught them out – how did he fail to spot that Lily's rainbow knot was different to his own? The more he stares at it, the more he can see it; feminine, gentle, graceful. 

"Tell me, Severus, did you learn this under Jigger, or under Borage?"

And now the questioning is getting away from him – the longer this goes on; the more that he doesn't answer truthfully, the worse it will be. 


"It's Lily's," he admits, the words feeling as if they're being wrenched from his chest. He sees Lucius' eyebrows lift in amazement, and he sucks in a deep breath. "You told me to get her to brew. She has."

Lucius gives the smallest of smiles, his teeth almost bared. "Indeed I did." He peers at her potion. "It's obvious now that you say," and he taps the vial, "this is far too dainty to be the work of a male brewer."

Severus bristles. "I can do dainty-"

"Hush! I'm thinking…" And he is, his hands tapping on the desk, and then – with a sudden movement – the glasses and the vials are all cast into the fireplace, where they smash loudly, and the remaining contents splash up against the hollow of the chimney. "The problem, Severus, is not that she has brewed, but-"

"You told me!"

"Hush!" Lucius is glaring at him now, his lips thin in tight fury. "The problem, Severus, is that you had not seen this before." He stared at the younger man, his face impassive. "The problem, Severus, is that you are the man who sells these potions. So, Severus, if you have not seen this deviation in the rainbow before tonight, then you are not selling your lady's wares, are you?"


"Get out of my sight!"

"But Malf-"

"Out, Severus, before I have you escorted from the grounds."

Severus leaps up from his chair, grabs his robe and scrunches it in his fist. "I was only going to say…" Lucius has closed his eyes, and Severus pauses, waiting to see if he's going to listen, or if the elves are going to be called – and when the older man doesn't react, he blurts the words out. "She sold some in a Muggle nightclub we used to go to, back when we were kids. We went back for our anniversary, and someone saw us taking them, and we offloaded some…" He trails off, watching Lucius intently for any change in demeanour, and hoping that the lie is convincing. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't think they'd get back to the magical world, and I didn't thi-"

Lucius doesn't open his eyes, but his words are even. "You're right. You didn't think, Severus. It's as simple as that."

"I'm sorry."

"It's a perfectly balanced eco-system," he intones. "Supply and demand, and we control the supply. And now this someone in the Muggle world is flooding the market. They're not consuming them, oh no – they're taking my goods, from my brewers, and selling them in my marketplace." Suddenly, his eyes shoot open. "I don't like this, Severus. I don't like this at all. Something smells." He stands, and he moves with such speed across the room, Severus finds himself taking a step back. "If I get to the bottom of this, and I find you've been lying to me-" 

"I'm not!"

"If you are," he drops his voice to a hiss, "then Merlin help both you and that Mudblood that warms your bed."

Severus can feel the blood pounding in his ears, and he nods. "Yes, Malf."

And then, as quickly as his sour mood first appeared, Lucius claps his hands and smiles. "But, my word, she's an efficient study, isn't she?"


"I sampled the potions." Lucius was gazing at him now, with a curious expression on his face. "Identical," he murmured. "Actually identical. And I've taken a few of those Rain Away potions in my time." At Severus' surprised look, he laughs. "I wasn't always the married stick-in-the-mud that I am now, you understand." 

"I wouldn't say-"

"Don't grovel, Severus, it's beneath a man of your talents." Lucius draws himself up. "As I was saying, I have taken a few in my time, and there's always the maker's mark on the potion – a subtle difference in the aroma. But yours and hers? Identical."

"It's the same summer day."


"Our day," Severus says, softly. "When you brew it, you draw on a memory – and for us, it's the same day."

"Really? How very interesting." Lucius picks at his nails. "I almost wish I hadn't discarded them. Still," he grins, his crocodile smile sending a shiver through Severus, "it seems that there's plenty out there for me to purchase and sample again if the mood so takes me, isn't that right?"

Severus doesn't know what to say to the jibe, and settles for half a nod. "Should I be on my way?"

"Yes, I rather think you've done enough for the time being," Lucius warns. "Although, Severus," he calls, stopping him as he reaches the door, "there is one more thing."

"Yes, Malf?"

"Destroy your stock of this. And her stock. I want all of it gone."

"But it takes three weeks to bre-"

"I control the market, Severus, not you," Lucius warns. "I want you to stocktake, I want you to brew downers only from this day forward – until I instruct differently – and I want every single vial of Rain Away destroyed."

"…but the ingredients, the outlay, I can't afford-"

"When I receive your owl stating that the deed is done, I will deposit some gold in your Gringotts account as recompense. Given the circumstances, you should think yourself fortunate that I am so benevolent. And Severus?"

"Yes, Malf?"

"Do not test me on this. Else your lovely little flat might be getting a visit from the auror department." He smiles again. "And wouldn't that would be a shame? Especially if your little Mudblood was flagrantly ignoring the law and brewing away…"

Chapter Text

She casts their modified unlocking charm at the door, and bumps it open with her hip, her hands full of wand and takeaway. As she expected, the flat is in complete darkness – it's half past ten, and she knows his shift at the Broomsticks doesn't finish for another hour. She strides towards the kitchen, and casts a Lumos before putting her wand between her teeth – terrible habit – to free her hands.

Aware that the boxed food is rapidly cooling, she quickly washes her hands, grabs clean crockery and cutlery, and unceremoniously dumps the noodles from the foil tray onto the plate. She returns her wand to her right hand, picks up the plate with the left, and heads for the table. As she steps through into the living area – if she can even call it that these days, given that every surface is covered with brewing equipment – her Lumos casts light across the sofa and she throws her plate upwards in alarm.

His reaction is swift, so the plate doesn't fall – it's suspended between them, the food frozen at a gravity-defying angle – and she slaps her hand against her chest in horror. 

"Merlin's sake! What are you doing, Severus? Sitting in the dark like that! You're meant to be at-"

"What am I to you?" he interrupts, softly – and that's when she can tell he's been drinking. 

She grabs the plate from the air and he releases the spell when her fingers make contact with the porcelain. The sudden weight of the plate causes it to sag in her hand, and she bangs it on the table, and reaches for the lamp. 


She stops, and instead she takes a step closer to him, her Lumos spell following her. It's just enough to illuminate him, and she gasps at his appearance – he's clearly been drinking heavily, and his eyes are dark, his cheeks are sunken. It has the unfortunate effect of making his nose seem larger than ever, and his lips are thin and pale. She's still a metre or so from him, and she can smell him, the pungent alcohol rolling off him in waves.

"You're drunk."

"And you're a stupid bitch."

She doesn't know what to do. She knows what she wants to do – she wants to scream at him, and shout, and take her jacket and leave. She wants to slam the door, and ring her parents, and she wants to get away from this drunken creature who is inhabiting her boyfriend's body – because this isn't Severus. She has never seen this Severus, but she knows enough of his childhood to know that if this is anyone, this is Tobias.

There's another part of her willing her to stay – to stand her ground in her own flat, because if there's one thing that she knows about her boyfriend, it's that he isn't his father. She stares at him, and she knows her jaw is slack in confusion, and she can't stop her eyes filling with unshed tears. They've argued before – oh, how they've argued. He calls it passion. Faking up, he once said. It's like breaking up, only you don't mean it – but you still get to have great make-up sex after. But it's usually her that instigates their rows, and he's certainly never done anything like this before.

"You've got five minutes," she says, fighting to keep the wobble out of her voice, "to calmly explain to me what's wrong."

He looks impressed, even in his dishevelled state. "You'd make a good auror." He takes another slug of alcohol. "Good cop, bad cop." His voice has an odd sing-song quality to it, and he crosses his legs at the ankles. "You can join them when they visit."

"I don't understand."

"When they pay us a visit." He speaks slowly, more deliberately, as if she struggled with the words he used and not the concept.

"I know-" she snaps, and then she catches herself, digging her nails into her palms and trying to find her composure. "I understand what an auror visit is. I don't understand why you think they're going to come here."

"Because someone," he hisses, sitting up straighter, "has been selling illegal potions that they've brewed in this very flat. And someone – no, not me! –" he sneers, his voice dripping with disdain, "– has found out. And now someone is talking about calling the aurors." He sits back, as if his entire speech has been an effort. "And I will go to Azkaban, and you, my gorgeous, talented, wonderful witch…" He shakes his head, and he bites his lip so hard, she can see pale pink filling with red, "and you – as an illegal citizen – will be Kissed." It's as if saying it aloud has brought the reality of it home, and he slats his glass across the room. "Fuck! Fuck!"

"Severus, I-"

He holds his hand up, squinting at her, and she can see now that his eyes are also full of unshed tears. "Don't, Lil."


"Just don't lie to me, for Merlin's sake, don't lie." His face twitches, as if he's struggling to hold his emotions back. "Because I already know the truth." He gasps a half-laugh, a strangled laugh of disbelief. "What I don't know is why you would do this to us?"

It feels like a production line, albeit in reverse. He's crouched on the floor, pulling the vials from every nook and crevice, and she's by the sink, tipping her carefully brewed potions down the drain – until eventually he slows. She turns and looks, and now he's lying flat on the ground, his face contorted with effort, and she can hear his hand rustling beneath the floor.

"I don't think we pushed any that far in."

He nods in agreement, and slowly raises himself up. She's made him coffee after coffee, but the alcohol is still raging through his system, and his movements are slower – more sluggish – than usual. "I think you're right." He wipes his dirty hands on his trousers, and she beckons him over to the sink. He leans heavily against the edge, and she takes his hands and carefully washes them, rubbing soap between each digit, and caressing the skin. "You don't hav-"

"Shh," she says, and he complies – either too drunk to argue, or her soothing actions making him too relaxed to care.

"You smell better," she says, as he emerges from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, and his long hair still dripping.

"Feel like shit," he grumbles, his hangover feeling ten times worse when faced with the early morning sunlight.

"Least it's Saturday."

He grunts, and heads for their bedroom, and she glances at the disarray in the living room. When he returns, she passes him a mug of coffee and settles next to him on the sofa.

"You don't think," she starts, trying to keep her tone casual, "that the aurors really will come?"

He sighs, and puts his mug on the floor, and pulls her into his arms. "I think it's just a threat," he says. He indicates at the cauldrons, and the glassware that surrounds them. "But even so, we need to get rid of this stuff."

She looks at him critically. "You are an apprentice. Can't you explain this all away?"

"Some, perhaps." He scratches the furrow between his eyebrows, and she's sure it's deepened in the last twelve hours. "But I probably need to rent lab space to make it truly believable. It's one thing to stock a lab, but it's unorthodox to stock a flat." 

"You could say you were saving for when you got a lab?"

"It's illegal to brew at home, so if I haven't got lab space, I've got no business having six cauldrons. One or two perhaps, but not six." He kisses her temple. "I'll have to sell them. Carefully. Without arousing suspicion." He groans. "Easier said than done."

She untangles herself from his arms, and heads to the kitchen. When she returns, she's holding a jar which she passes to him.

"What's this?" He unscrews the lid cautiously, and then his eyes widen as he sees the money. "For the love of-"

"Use it. Get a lab."

He's tipping the jar over, the contents spilling out onto the floor, and she can't tell if he even heard what she said. "Lil, there's a small fortune in here! How did…" And then he trails off, and his shoulders slump. "Oh. Of course."

She twists her fingers in her cardigan. "I was saving. To get us a bigger place. A better place. With a room that we could brew in, instead of this poky flat and taking up the living room and-"

He sits back on his heels, staring at the vast quantity of notes in front of him. "No wonder he was fuming."

She kneels next to him, collecting the money together and pushing it back into the jar. "That's the one thing you didn't tell me," she says, warily. "Who the someone is?" When he doesn't answer, she grabs his hand, holding it fast. "Sev, who found us out?"

"Who found you out, you mean?"

"Yes." She squeezes his hand. "I didn't think it would matter, a few extra potions on the market, all from the same source. How could anyone even tell?"

He glances at her, and then looks away. "…you can't just start selling."


"There's rules. A hierarchy." He taps the glass jar, full of its contents once more. "People have to take their cut." And then he lifts the jar, moving it up and down as if he's weighing it. "From this," and he laughs, "nobody has been taking their cut."

It's not quite true. Mundungus has been taking a cut – a healthy cut, as far as she could tell – but from Severus' words, and what she saw in his wallet, it's clear that Severus was making far less on each transaction than she was. 

"A cut?" She lets the irritation cover her face. "But we do all of the work!" She waves at the cauldrons in the corner. "We take all of the risk!"

"The cut minimises the risks," he says. "My little hellcat," he grins, lifting a piece of her hair and threading it behind her ear. "I felt the same at first, if it appeases you. But…" He looks suddenly uncomfortable.


"Do you remember Arisean Nott?" 

She nods – the girl was a Slytherin prefect a few years ahead of them.

"Well," Severus continues, "she used to do this. Had the market sewn up. Competent brewer, by all accounts. But she tried to side-step the protection, and-"

"-and now she's in Azkaban?"

"Not quite." Severus looks troubled, and pulls on his ear. "She lost both her hands." 

She's glad she's sitting on the floor, because a sudden surge of adrenaline shoots through her legs. If she had been standing, she's not certain she could've stayed upright.

"Accident, of course," he adds, unconvincingly.


"It's fine," he says, pulling her into his embrace. "Don't fret. I talked our way out of it, and all I have to do now is comply." He gives her a watery smile. "We can keep our heads down and comply, right?"

Chapter Text

He pulls the curtains shut, and then taps the wall with the butt of his wand, watching as it transforms. Once the action is complete, he casts once more, causing the glamour on the bottles to fall. In a smooth movement, the rows of hundreds and hundreds of unlabelled party potions shimmer, and then transform into a wide range of different brews – each carefully dated, and every single vial marked with intricate runes. He can feel the tension rising in his chest at his collection being exposed, and he can't help but look over his shoulder before stepping forward and running his fingertips across the glass.

One day, he thinks, I'll have these on display. For now, confident that none are out of place – certain that nobody has tampered with his wares – he kneels, and on the very bottom shelf, in the right hand corner, there's a small stash of his own version of Rain Away. He removes the vials one by one, placing them into an old shoebox. Then he turns, and picks up his parchment, ready to resume his stocktake. He starts to count, marking the page with dots and lines and five-bar-gates, in a system that wouldn't make sense to anyone other than himself. 

He's barely finished with the top shelf when he hears a rapid thud of footsteps on the stairs. He casts quickly, the bottles transforming to their glamoured state before his eyes, and then the wall wobbles, shimmers, and returns to its ordinary appearance. The front door swings open, just as he banishes the old cardboard box to the cupboard under the sink, and he yanks opens the curtains. He turns, and lets out a huge sigh of relief when he sees his girlfriend. 

"Bloody hell, Lil. I thought you wer-"

But instead of speaking, her chest heaves, and she sobs, and he slides his wand up his sleeve as he moves towards her. He throws his arms around her, pulling her body tightly against his own, trying desperately to soothe her anguish. 

"What's wrong? What's happened?" She buries further into his neck, and he strokes her hair before pulling back and trying to look at her face. "Lil, what is it?" She opens her hand, and he sees it – a scrap of paper rolled up between her fingers. He tugs it, and with his other hand still stroking the back of her hair, he reads:

By order of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Ministry of Magic please note that from this date forward, all payments for goods and services must be rendered from a Gringotts account.

He stops reading, and frowns. "You couldn't pay cash? For the shopping?"

She shakes her head, her damp cheeks wetting through his shirt. "No." She sucks in another breath, and sobs again.

"It's ok, Lil, it's ok." He tips her head so she's looking towards him, and rubs the pads of his thumbs across her cheeks, wiping away her fallen tears. "We've got a Gringotts account. We can use that."

"No," she corrects him, firmly. "You've got a Gringotts account."

"Yeah, well," he winces, "it's a technicality."

"A technicality because I am unfit to hold such an account."

He holds her more tightly. "I gave you equal access," he says, reassuringly. "What's mine is yours. You know that. It's ours."

She shakes her head, tears threatening to fall again. "I can't use it."

"What do you mean, you can't use it?" 

"I tried."

He looks stunned now, and grabs his wallet off the table. He flicks it open, takes his Wizarding Bank access card out and taps it with his wand. It flashes, and then a white quill appears, writing in the air. 

Vault 247. Owner: Severus Snape. Access granted: Lily Evans.

He turns back to Lily, and points at the writing. "See."

She looks at him, the challenge evident in her eyes, and she takes her copy of his Wizarding Bank access card out of her pocket. She taps it with her wand, and it flashes. He crosses his arms, a frown appearing on his face, as the quill turns white, and then blood red. 

Vault 247. Owner: Severus Snape, Halfblood. Access privileges denied: Lily Evans, Muggleborn. 

"See?" she says.

He disguises the wobble in his hands by pushing them into his pockets. "It's got to be a mistake." He nods towards his own discarded card. "Try it on mine."

She does as he asks, and this time, the quill turns turquoise. 

Vault 247. Owner: Severus Snape. Access only permitted by wands authorised by Severus Snape. 

"You authorised my wand, remember?"

"Right. Do it with my wand then," he says, sliding it out of his sleeve, a flinty gleam in his eye. He passes it to her, and she casts again.

Vault 247 it says, in green writing. Owner: Severus Snape. Wand access granted, but further identification required. Place finger on card for access.

They both stare in horror at the writing.

"This can't be right," he says, snatching his wand back. He casts again at the card, and this time, it behaves exactly as expected: 

Vault 247. Owner: Severus Snape. Access granted: Lily Evans.

"It's like they didn't want you to know," she says, softly. "As if your access request doesn't matter."

"As if it's being overridden at a higher level," he muses. He picks the leaflet from the Ministry of Magic back up, and peers at it. "Well, looks like I'll be doing the shopping then," he says, forcing joviality into his voice.

"You study and I can't. You work because I'm not allowed. And now I can't even buy a loaf of bread to feed you, or a sponge to clean the bathroom with." She tries not to sound as bitter as she feels but she knows she's failing miserably. "You'll be trading up soon. For a partner who can actually bring something to the relationship-"

"Don't," he says, wrapping his arms back around her. "You're everything to me."

She gladly accepts his embrace, but the thrum of fear spills down her spine; he might think she's everything, but it's obvious that without Severus, she'd be cut off in the magical world.

Severus follows the house elf down the corridor, and they both draw to a halt at the door of the study. 

The elf raps on the wood loudly, and Lucius' bored tone echoes through the door. "Yes, what is it?"

"Master Severus is here to see you, sir," the elf calls back, trembling slightly – and then the door is yanked open. The elf winces and throws his arms defensively into the air, as if fearing a blow that - thankfully - doesn't eventuate.

Lucius sneers in disgust. "Back to the kitchen with you." He doesn't need to repeat the request; in a flash, the elf has disappeared – leaving Lucius' attention entirely on Severus. "And you, Severus…"


"-what brings you here this fine afternoon?" Lucius waves him in to the study, closing the door quietly behind them, and then points at the chair opposite his desk. "Be seated."

"Thank you."


"No, I'm… I've got to work," he says, suddenly uncomfortable under Lucius' steely gaze.

Lucius glances at the grandfather clock in the corner. "Mmm," he agrees. "I must admit, I did not expect my visitor to be yourself." He leans forward, his elbows resting on the desk. "I am, of course, awaiting your owl."

Severus swallows hard. "I know."

"You know?" Lucius raises a single eyebrow. "So you haven't forgotten, and yet…" He opens his hands, expressing that Severus' letter has not been forthcoming.

"I haven't quite finished."

"You haven't…quite…finished?"

"It's a bit full on, Malf. With Jigger, and the Broomsticks, and-" He pauses. "Look, I'll be done tonight."

"Your shift doesn't finish until nearly midnight, no?"

He flushes. "No."

"So what precisely do you have left to do, Severus, that you can achieve in these fleeting moments after your shift at the Three Broomsticks and yet before the midnight hour chimes?"

"I mean, I'll be done by morning. Her stuff's gone already," he says, quickly. "It's just my box of Rain Away. Twenty vials or so. And I need to check the stock figures again, only it's difficult-"

"Indeed. Would you like to borrow an abacus, perhaps?"

Severus gives a slow smile at his old friend's quip. "I've got my fingers, thanks."

"Don't forget your toes."

He rolls his eyes, but he can't help but be amused at Lucius' broad smirk, relieved that the atmosphere in the room has lightened a little. "Yes, witty, Malf. The problem is getting opportunity, if you catch my drift?"

"Oh, I see." Lucius nods. "The Mudblood is in the way-"

"-she's not in the way!"

"Severus, Severus, so touchy," says Lucius, tapping his quill against the desk. "I did not mean anything by it. Although I do not particularly see the problem - send her out."

"I did! I'm not an imbecile."

"Well, not a complete one," Lucius concedes. "And unfortunately she came back, yes? A rather distressing habit these creatures seem to have."

Severus doesn't trust himself to speak, and instead, reaches in his pocket and pulls out the decree, passing it across the desk.

"Oh yes," says Lucius, with a wide smile. "I rather forgot that was coming in this week."

"You knew?"

"But of course," Lucius says, picking up the Prophet and passing it to him. "Do you no longer read?"

"I stopped taking it. Money's been a bit tight," he says, by way of explanation, not wanting to reveal that his real reason for ceasing delivery of the magical newspaper was because Lily was becoming distressed by the rise in anti-Muggleborn rhetoric written within the pages.

Lucius' nostrils flare, and he peers at Severus. "I had gained that impression, yes. I shall reinstate it for you-"

"It's ok-"

"Nonsense," Lucius says, with a flourish and Severus can't help but think that Lucius has seen straight through his claim. "I can't have you being unaware of your surroundings. Consider it done."

"Thanks, Malf." He can't say a lot else.

"And this," Lucius says, picking up the decree once more and wafting it in the air, "is what you've really come to see me about, isn't it?"

"She can't do anything, Malf," he says, earnestly. "Can't shop. Can't spend cash, can't use my Gringotts account."

"Well, of course not, dear boy – that's rather the point."

"But she has access. I gave her access."

Lucius sniffs. "All access privileges have been revoked, depending on blood status. It is explained in the article." He shoots Severus a small smile. "I must say, I had rather forgotten that you'd be caught up in all this." 

"There's nothing to be done? An exception, or-"

"I'm afraid not." Lucius shakes his head solemnly, and then pauses, considering. "Well…"

"Well?" Severus leans forward eagerly. "Well what?"

"There is one solution…"

Chapter Text

She looks at him, aghast. "You don't get it, do you?"

"Lil, of course-"

"Or do you not care? Is that it?"

He looks pained. "I was trying to find a way around it, a way for you to keep your independence, so you can shop and-"

"Do you know who that exception was made for?" She stares at him, and when he tries to look away, she grabs his chin, forcing him to focus on her. "I asked you a question, Severus." She can feel his jaw tightening, but she doesn't let go, her fingers pressing into his skin. "No? Should I tell you?"

His voice is barely more than a whisper. "I know."

"House elves!" And her voice is a scream. "Bloody house elves!"

He wrenches his face out of her grip, her nails catching and tearing the soft skin covering his jaw. "Fuck," he hisses, swiping the blood away with the back of his hand. 

She watches him as he moves to the bathroom. She can hear the tap running as he washes his face, his muttered curses almost – but not quite – drowned out by the water, but she can't bring herself to follow him. She can't ask him how he's feeling, and she most certainly can't apologise.

And then he's in the doorway, two pieces of tissue paper hastily torn and stuck on his face, fixed in place with blood. It's as if he's cut himself shaving. He stares at her, and when she says nothing, he looks as if he's been betrayed. 

Good, she thinks, because that's how she feels too. 

He clatters around the small flat, picking up his wallet, and his wand, and pulling on his boots. He's making a show of it, trying to goad her into speaking, but she's not going to be manipulated. She's the injured party in all of this.

He's at the door, his fingers wrapped tightly around the handle, before he speaks. "You can't blame me for being Half," he says.

She can't answer him. He's right. She can't blame him for being Half, and she doesn't blame him for being Half. She knows that the changes in the law aren't his doing, and that he doesn't agree, and he'd vote against them if he was given opportunity. But knowing that doesn't change the fact that she's having her rights ripped away, whilst his remain intact.

"It's not just you this hurts," he ventures, his voice softer still, "and if I could swap with you-"

"You can't."

"But if I could-"

She gives an incredulous hiss. She just wants him to go – to stop this pointless conversation when all he has to offer are platitudes and sympathy. She stares hard at the window, willing him to stop talking - willing him to leave. 


"Did you even notice?" she asks, her voice trembling. "No?" She turns back, and picks up the scrunched up decree that's on the table, and smooths it out.

"We should throw that away," he says, moving towards her. "You need to stop torturing yourself with it."

"I'll stop when you really read it!" she cries, slapping it forcefully against his chest. "Read it again, Severus!" 

There's a moment, and then - even though he's reading silently in his head - she knows he's finally read the phrase that's stung her, because his eyes harden. 

"Out loud," she says.

His eyes close, and he takes a deep breath, his fingers shaking. She can hear the paper rustling in the air as he tries to regain his composure, and then he stares at the page once more. He starts to say it out loud, but his ordinarily smooth voice keeps catching. "By…by or-order of the Departme, oh fuck."

"Go on." The more that he falters, the colder she becomes. "Read it all."

But now he's crying as much as she is, the tears openly falling down his face. "By order of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures," and then he stops, and screws the offending piece of parchment into a tight ball in his fists, and launches it across the room. "Lil, I never even…"

"They're dehumanising us." She sobs, and she chokes, and she wants him to hold her and she wants him to go away, and she just wants all of this to stop. "That should've come from the Public Information Services, not the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures! Magical Creatures! What am I, a hippogriff? A dung beetle? A flobberworm?"

"Lil, don't-"

"And then you find a way around it! Oh, yes, clever Severus finds a way-"

"Lil, I've said I'm sorry-"

"And it's a loophole! It's ingenious, I'll give you that. Yes, you can register me to your store account. As a servant."

"No. No, Lil, no-"

"As a house elf!" 

He doesn't go to work. He contacts Rosmerta, and he takes off his boots, and he perches on the edge of the sofa. 

She wants to rip those two pieces of tissue off his face, and she wants it to hurt – and then she sees the pain in his eyes, and she wants him to hold her instead. She doesn't tell him any of this. Instead, she stands. "I can't do this," she hears herself say, and she pulls on her shoes.

"Where are you going?"

"I want to be alone."

To her surprise, he shrugs. "You do what you've got to do," he says, and although she knows he doesn't mean a single word of it, he doesn't try to stop her. For a moment, she thinks he's going to – he's at the top of the stairs, and she's at the bottom, and he calls for her to stop. She does, and she checks her robes, wondering what she's forgotten, and then she hears his words, "Be safe, and come back," and she walks away even faster, scared that if she looks back at him, she'll crumble.

The Order doesn't meet on a Tuesday, and there's no point in going to the Broomsticks. He's meant to be there, and even though she's left him in the flat by himself, she doubts he'll change his mind about going into work. Not now, not in the state she left him in – and she doesn't want to have a conversation with Rosmerta about his absence. She can't lie, and she's not sure how sympathetic the older witch will be to their suffering. That's part of the problem – these days, it's impossible to tell who is on your side.

Lily wonders, as she strides quickly past the window of the Broomsticks, if Rosmerta is the type to permit Muggleborns to set up a tab, with the understanding that another witch or wizard will settle it on their behalf. If not, Lily wonders if she'd make an exception for staff – for her and Severus – but she quickly dismisses the thought; it's not too different to the idea he suggested for their shopping, and she doesn't want to think about house elves and creatures again.

She marches through Hogsmeade, and stands for a moment at the front of the Hog's Head, surprised that she's found her way here without intending it.  What would Aberforth do? she wonders. What would he say if I asked him to create a tab which I'm not permitted to pay for? – and then she thinks better of entering and asking, deciding that she really doesn't want to know which way his true allegiance lies, Dumbledore by name or not – but before she can turn and head for home, a warm arm loops through her own.

"Looking lost," grins Potter, although his smile instantly drops as he feels her tense at his contact. "Hey, come on. We're old friends, right?"

"Acquaintances," she concedes coldly. "And I'm not lost, thank you."

"Fancy a drink, then?" he asks. "See if we can change acquaintances into friends?" She pauses, and sensing a victory within his grasp, his disarming smile returns. "First round's on me."

"All rounds are on you," she mutters. "Or haven't you heard?"

His shoulders sag slightly. "Yeah," and he runs his hands awkwardly through his roughened hair. "That's pretty terrible stuff. It's not a done deal, though."

"Could've fooled me."

He glances over his shoulder, checking for eavesdroppers. "Well, I could tell you-" As abruptly as he starts, he stops, and the pair stand in silence as a tall man strolls past them. The man walks into the Hog's Head, pausing and peering at them thoughtfully as he pulls open the door, and then he's gone, the door slamming loudly in his wake. "The street isn't the place for this conversation, Evans."

She raises her eyebrows. "And if that wizard has spooked you, we can hardly continue this inside over a firewhisky, can we, Potter?"

"No," he says, "but you're not going to be sensible and come with me alone, are you?" Again, she pauses for a moment too long, and he tips his head ever so slightly to the side, appraising her intently. "Or are you? Is that reckless Gryffindor lion I know so well just bursting to claw out? Come on, Evans, let loose and be wild!"

That roguish smile is back on his face, and the tip of his nose is reddened in the cold. She can barely feel her fingers, wishing she'd thought to pull her gloves on before marching out of the flat, but she can't decide what would be worse – being seen talking to Potter in the Hog's Head, or Severus hearing on the grapevine that she's been socialising with Potter in private.

"I can't," she says, finally. 


"It's not you."

"No, it's him!"

"Don't, Potter." Her voice is hard – she knows it is – but as angry as she is, all she can see in her mind is the vision of her boyfriend reading and re-reading that rotten pamphlet, and his reaction when the realisation of her predicament finally sunk in. "He's not done anything-"

Potter's lips thin and he presses them together angrily. "Yes, and that's the point! It's about time he realised which side he was on. If this isn't enough to make him-"

She steps away from him. "I'm not discussing my relationship with you, of all people."

He gives her a curious smile. "Of all people?" He takes a step closer to her. "What a weird thing to say."

"What's weird about it?" she snipes, her fury getting the better of her. "You spent years asking me out-"

"-can't blame a bloke-"

"-when you knew I was with Severus! And now you're disparaging him again, and you don't even know him, or anything about him, or what he's-"

Potter's taken a step back now, and he's holding his hands up in defeat. "I didn't mean to offend you, or disrespect Snape, and…" He looks lost for words, and a little unsure of her sudden anger. "I get that this is a stressful time for you both." He glances behind him once more. "I can walk you back, if that's ok with you?"


"Think about Snape," he says, his voice a little cooler. "Would he want you walking back alone? Because if you were my girl, I wouldn't."

She knows Severus wouldn't. She knows he's probably already furious that she's stormed off, and if she walks back through Hogsmeade in the middle of the night by herself, it'll be something else for him to rant and rave about. Or perhaps worse, he won't rant and rave. Perhaps he'll be silently standing by the window, watching down the street like a bird of prey, waiting for her to return to him. And when she does, he won't speak of their hateful evening spent apart – he'll be gentle, and kind, and he'll have changed the sheets, and they'll make love in the darkness with the smell of fabric conditioner surrounding them – and right now, she doesn't want that either.

"Floo then?" Potter asks, breaking her thoughts. "Aberforth would let us-"

"No." There's no point explaining that their fireplace is blocked; it'd give him too many clues as to the dealings in the flat.

"Bloody hell," he says, looking exasperated. "I tell you, I didn't realise Snape was such a saint putting up with you and your drama-"

"Piss off, Potter. I don't need your help, I didn't ask for it, and I certainly don't want it."

"Right," he says, drawing himself up to his full height. "Last offer. Apparate with me," and he holds his hand out. "You can even do the honours, and I'll leave once I've seen you safely inside."

She stares him down, but knows that his offer is sensible. It's late, and it's dark, and now that her anger has dulled to a roar, the rational part of her brain keeps telling her that there's no point in being outside alone. "Fine, but you'll leave as soon as our feet hit the street."

"Deal." He grabs her hand, and she casts with her wand, and they lurch into nothingness.

As they spin through the air, she spies Severus sitting on the pavement with his feet on the road. The kerb is only a couple of inches high, so it causes his knees to be up to his shoulders, and she's struck by how odd he looks – young, and awkward, and scared, all lanky limbs, and long hair. The distraction leads her to land with an almighty crack – when she's emotional, subtlety isn't her strength – and she stumbles forward. 

Potter throws his arms around her to steady her, but she only has eyes for Severus, who looks distraught at her entrance. She immediately pushes Potter away, and runs towards her boyfriend. She's close to him – so close, she can even see the livid red streaks on his jaw from their earlier fight – and her mouth is already half open, ready to explain that it's not what it looks like, when the bulk of Alastor Moody blocks her way. 

Chapter Text

"Evans," Moody says, holding her tightly. "Stay there."

"Sev!" she calls, leaning past Moody's arm. "Severus!" She tries to push the bigger man away, but she can't break out of his firm grasp. "Let me past! I need to-"

"Mr Snape here is answering some of our enquiries," he says, not unkindly. He glances at Crouch, who nods, and Moody then continues. "You can go up to your flat, but you mustn't touch anything."

"I'm not going anywhere without Severus."

Moody huffs, clearly not anticipating such dissent, and looks again at Crouch. Crouch appraises Lily, and then Severus, and eventually nods once more to Moody. "Let them both up, Alastor. But don't let either of them out of your sight."

She steps into the flat first, and he grabs her hand when she flinches. The place is a mess – glass strewn over the floor, cauldrons tipped upside down, books with pages ripped out of them. There's an auror stood in the fireplace, methodically unblocking the Floo, and she can see another in their bathroom, tipping her cosmetics bag over the bath.

"Stop that!" she yells, but Severus' hand holds her firmly in place, preventing her from confronting the wizard.

"Leave them to it, love."

"But why? It's just lipstick and mascara. Nothing else." She looks distraught, and he runs a gentle finger across her brow, as if to erase her upset.

"Let them do what they need," he says. "Trust me, they've already done most of it." He pulls her down onto the sofa, and holds her hand. It's comforting, his presence, and although she desperately wants to embrace him, she knows that he's unlikely to be any more demonstrative with unknown witches and wizards filling their flat.

"Have they said what they're looking for?"

"No. They've had a tip off, apparently." His voice is steady, but he squeezes her fingers tightly, causing her to glance at him. "Probably mistaken identity." His expression is impassive, but she can see that flash in his eyes - that glint she knows so well. 

She squeezes his hand back, their own silent communication – message received, and understood. She's not stupid, Lily, and she knows that in letting them both back into the flat, it's practically a declaration from the aurors that they've not found anything. 


Moody's pacing around them, and she knows only too well that he's the real concern. In letting them sit together, in letting them talk, she knows that Crouch has decided that she's the honey - the bait - and Severus is the unsuspecting insect. It makes her think of primary school, of crawling around in the wood with pooters, clamping the flexible tube over the oblivious creature and sucking it into the collection jar. 

Moody's looking at her now, and she knows she has to say something, has to keep up appearances and pretend to be normal, but her mind is suddenly blank. What's normal anymore? It's just been one terrible situation after another, and in the end, that's what she goes with – if you're going to lie, her mother always said to her, try and stick as close to the truth as you can. 

"Just about sums up my day," she finally jokes. Moody lifts an eyebrow, and Severus grins, and she knows it was the right thing to say.

"And then you had to suffer Potter as well!"

"Terrible, terrible day."

"I'll say." Severus leans back on the sofa, that topic finished for now, although she knows he's going to give her the third degree when the aurors finally depart. "I meant to ask you," he says, his voice steady and calm. "Did you ever finish reading that article that old Sluggy had published in last month's Potions Quarterly?"

"No," she says, grateful for his quick thinking.

"Do you mind if we…" he starts, waving his hand towards Moody, and pointing at the magazine on the floor. 

Moody stoops and picks it up, scanning it quickly, shaking it, and then holding it up to the light. Sensing nothing wrong, he shrugs, and hands it over to Lily. "Knock yourself out."

Severus settles on the sofa, pulling Lily against his chest, and she holds the magazine out in front of them both. "Comfy?" he asks, and she nods – but in this position, she can feel his heartbeat thundering. The knowledge that under his smooth and controlled exterior he's as terrified as she is almost tips her over the edge, and she's glad when he starts to read the article out loud, his silky voice a much needed distraction from her whirring thoughts.

The aurors take another hour – hunting and searching, poking and prodding. She feels violated by their presence, hating how they fiddle with every personal possession, every private belonging. They sweep through the bedroom, prying through their wardrobes, and she can feel her heart pounding in her chest as they linger for a little too long in her underwear drawer.

Not even her old schoolbooks are safe. The chubby auror raises his eyebrows at her marks – "Clever little thing, aren't you?" – but she holds her tongue when Severus squeezes her hand once more. He stares at the clock, and she follows his gaze. Not long now. Least, she thinks that's what he's trying to say to her – and if so, he's right; the aurors have already been there for the best part of the night, and their flat isn't that big.

And then Crouch stamps upstairs from the street below, and beckons Moody to the door. A short moment later, Moody waves his hand, and the aurors file out. The do not cross tape is wound back onto its roll, and the blue lights outside depart. She glances at Severus, and he glances back, and she squeezes his hand – neither daring to speak.

"Mr Snape, a word?"

"Certainly," he says, releasing her hand and standing.

"Just Severus?" she asks, and Crouch's mouth thins. There's something in his look – almost apologetic, but it's fleeting. "Mr Snape is the registered tenant-"

"Whatever you have to say to me," Severus interrupts, firmly, "you can say in front of Lily."

Moody and Crouch exchange a look, and then Moody whispers to Crouch. Crouch straightens. "As you wish, Mr Snape." He pulls a parchment from his pocket. "This is your record of the search today. The only cause for concern is the quantity of brewing equipment-"

"Two cauldrons is not-" Severus starts to argue, but Moody holds up his hand to silence him.

"Indeed, Mr Snape, given your profession," Crouch continues, "two cauldrons is acceptable, and on this occasion, due to the absence of any other suspicious material, I will overlook the quantity of glass vials you have stored. With that in mind, I feel I must remind you that brewing in the home-"

"I haven't-"

"Don't argue back, boy!" snaps Moody. "Impertinence."

Severus glowers, and Lily quickly stands behind him, entwining her fingers in his in a show of silent support.

"As I was saying," Crouch intones, "brewing in the home is prohibited, even by those apprenticing in the trade. There are no exceptions. If you wish to brew outside your Master's lab, you must procure your own official environment. A list of available locations can be requested in writing from the address on this form. If you find a suitable laboratory for your needs, an official application – countersigned by your Master – must be submitted to the same address." He ripped a piece of parchment and handed it to Severus. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"I am also issuing you with a notice," and another piece of parchment is pulled from his robes, "warning about the dangers of blocking Floo access within an apartment." Severus opens his mouth, but Crouch shakes his head. "I have heard your testimony already, and I accept that your actions were due to concerns about unauthorised use and the safety of your chosen partner. Despite this, it is my duty to inform you that such actions are prohibited. However, my aurors have unblocked the Floo this evening, and I am content that no further action is required." He taps the parchment, causing a paragraph to be highlighted. "As explained in this section, you may be required to submit to periodic checks to ensure that the Floo access has not been tampered with without prior authorisation. As you have now been officially warned about this behaviour, please be aware that a reoccurrence will carry a substantial fine, and the possibility of a custodial sentence."

Severus does not dignify the speech with a response, so Crouch waves his wand, the disarray in the flat righting itself. The broken shards of glass on the floor reassemble into full bottles, and torn pages fly back into their books, which - in turn - set themselves squarely on the shelves. 

"Thank you for your co-operation this evening," Crouch says, curtly.

"Who was it?" 

"Lil!" Severus hisses from the corner of his mouth.

"No, Severus. I think we have a right to know," she says, her chin jutting out proudly.

"Regrettably, Evans," Moody quickly answers, before Crouch opens his mouth, "you don't have all that many rights these days." 

She winces, and Moody – for his part – seems somewhat ashamed at voicing such a statement, but she isn't prepared to let the point drop. "And if Severus was asking?"

Crouch sounds almost bored when he intervenes. "The Department is not at liberty to reveal its sources."

"What she means to ask, sir," Severus says, keeping his gaze down and his voice deferential, "is in light of no evident wrongdoing, would it be possible for you to assure us that the query was genuine? Or are we to believe…" He trails off, as if suddenly unsure.

Moody scowls. "You've started now. Spit it out."

Severus draws a shuddering breath, and speaks hurriedly. "Are we to believe that we have been targeted due to my girlfriend's blood status?"

At this, Crouch stands over him, his moustache quivering. "My Department, boy, does not indulge itself in such petty discrimination. You, son, were targeted because you are a disgraced brewer. Oh yes," and he gives a nasty smile. "Are you aware that your little incident with Mr Borage made international headlines?"

An ugly flush rises from Severus' collar, stretching up his neck, but he does not answer.

"And as a consequence, it was not such a stretch to imagine that you in particular would choose to deliberately circumvent the laws of our community. You have a reputation, boy, for making poor choices," and then he glances at Lily – and the slight is not missed by her or Severus, but before either can protest, Crouch continues. "The intelligence we acted upon was from a reputable and reliable source, and given your present circumstances, entirely believable. It is your good fortune that we have not found anything damning within these walls."

To Lily's amazement, Severus doesn't quaver under Crouch's hateful speech. "It is not my good fortune," he spits, defiantly, "that you did not find anything. Your no doubt excellent team of accomplished and talented aurors did not find anything within these walls, for there is nothing illegal to find."

Behind Crouch, Moody looks amused, but he does not speak.

"Be warned, boy," Crouch says, pointing his finger at Severus. "I will be keeping a very close eye on you. A very close eye indeed."

Chapter Text

He stands at the window, the curtain held back in one hand, and watches as Crouch and Moody disappear into the night. Once he's certain they've gone, he moves to the door and rattles the handle, checking that it's secure.


"I need a shower," he says, briskly, and then silently places his forefinger on his lips. She glances around the room, suddenly cautious, and then he holds his hand out in invitation. This time, when he speaks, there's a playful edge to his voice. "Why don't you join me, hey?" 

He pulls her towards the bathroom, shuts the door, and puts the lid down on the toilet. He points for her to sit, and then snaps the shower on, turning the heat up as far as it will go. He kneels before her, taking her face in his hands, and kisses her softly – her cheeks, her eyelids, the patch of sensitive skin just before her ear. 

"Sev," she mumbles – and then he captures her lips.

"Shhhh." He deepens the kiss, rising up on his knees, and threading his fingers through her hair. Her fingers trace the red marks she left on his jaw, and he pulls away, twisting his neck until he's grazing kisses over the fingers that scratched him.

Then he breaks away from her touch completely, and undoes the top few buttons of his shirt, followed by his cuffs, and then slides the garment over his head just like a jumper. He stands, quickly unbuttoning his trousers, and he steps out of them as he reaches for her, helping her to stand and undress in the same efficient manner – and then they're both in the shower, limbs entangled, and the back of her head is pressed against the cool tile.

"It's too hot," she gasps, as the scalding water torrents down onto them, and his hand reaches up and twists the dial.

"Sorry, sorry," he says, moving her so he's stood between her and the showerhead, his body shielding her from the worst of the hot water, and then he grips her wrist to gain her attention. His other hand is back at his mouth again, that same finger on his lips, imploring her silence. The shower screen has misted, and he carefully traces a word in the condensation: 


She freezes.

He kisses her neck, tracing his way up to her ear. "Okay?" comes his careful whisper, and she can feel the vibrations of his murmur in the shell of her ear. 

She nods, and then her finger – quaking slightly – touches the glass. She draws swiftly, and it's the perfect symbol of an eye.

He shakes his head, and crosses it out, and then he attempts to draw an ear. He grimaces at his effort, and rubs it away with his hand, and then he draws a pair of lips with a large X next to it.

She writes: 

in here?

He shrugs, and she tries again:

living room? 

He nods this time. 

other rooms?

At this, he looks pained. She understands his hesitance - she doesn't want to think about the whole flat being bugged either. The living room is bad enough, but their bedroom? 

how sure? 

He waits a long moment, as if he's mulling it over, before finally writing a response:


They're running out of room on the glass, but she's got nearly all of the information she needs. Apart from one thing: 

so what do we do? 

He writes just one word: 


Then he wipes the whole screen clear with his forearm, and she doesn't understand what he means. But he wraps himself around her, and kisses her with a fervency she hasn't felt from him in weeks, and as the water pounds down on them from above, she matches his passion with her own.

She finds herself watching him sleep, his legs twisted awkwardly around more than his fair share of the duvet. She can't sleep – not after the day she's had, and the more she thinks about the last few hours, the more embarrassed she becomes. Not merely embarrassed – horrified, frankly – at the thought of those aurors listening in as Severus gently laid her down on their bed and… 

It makes her breath catch in her chest to even consider it. 

She falls asleep at some point, because she's rudely awakened by the sharp whistle of the kettle, and the even sharper whistle of her boyfriend, and the frying pan banging against the stove. She pulls her dressing gown off the back of the door, and wanders through the flat to find him standing in front of the cooker.

"Frying again?"

"Guilty as charged," he grins, basting the eggs with a spoon, and pointing to the worktop behind him. "Coffee's ready."

She grabs her mug, and inhales the bitter aroma, settling herself at the table. He practically drops a plate in front of her, clatters her cutlery unceremoniously to the side, and before he's fully seated, he starts to shovel his own food into his mouth.

"Honestly, you'll choke one of these days."

"I'm absolutely famished," he says, between mouthfuls – and she can practically hear the laughter in the auror office at his words. "And Jigger wants me in before nine, remember? Need to preserve the grape larva before they start to hatch."

"Sounds delightful," she says, pushing her plate away, and her stomach turning.

"Don't want it?"

She shakes her head, and he picks her plate up, scraping the contents loudly onto his own and shovelling the food into his mouth. "Sev, you're so noisy. It's early."

"It's practically midday."

"It's half eight."

He grins, and wipes his mouth with the back of his wrist, collecting both of their plates and depositing them loudly in the sink. "Meet me in the Broomsticks at six," he says. "There's a few things I want to discuss." And he kisses her – tasting faintly of fried egg and toothpaste – and he's gone.

When she enters the bustling pub, she spots him straight away – leaning on a broom and chatting to Rosmerta. There's a cloth over his shoulder, which she's certain can't be hygienic, and then Rosmerta taps his face with affection, causing him to recoil with a slight grimace. Rosmerta laughs, and then points to a dirty table, and he gives her a mock salute – that mischievous smirk that she loves so much plastered over his face, and she's slightly jealous that he's sharing it with another woman.

He's clearing the table when she walks over. "Just a minute," he says, not glancing up, "I need to wipe it down."


He looks up through his curtain of hair, and beams at the sight of her. He dances around the table and quickly pulls out a chair for her to sit on. "Hello hello. Something non-alcoholic, love?" He looks a little regretful. "I'm on shift, see?"

She nods and sits, and she watches him stride to the bar. He mutters something to Rosmerta, and then he's back, a glass in each hand. He sets them on the table, grabs the seat next to her, and covers her hands with his own before leaning across and kissing her. As he pulls out of the kiss, she hears him faintly murmur, "Remember last night," and then he settles down across from her.

"How was work?"

"Same old, same old," he says, stretching his legs out and yawning. "Bloody knackered though." He shows her his hands, peppered liberally with thin cuts. "Kept missing when I was slicing the flobberworms this afternoon."

"Sev, you need to be more careful." 

"Yeah, well, I learnt my lesson when I was tasked with cutting the lemons for the bar tonight-" 

"Ouch," she says, wincing in sympathy, sucking air in through her teeth.

He nods. "Yeah, that was pretty much my expression." He sips his drink. "How was your day?"

"Dull," she says, his warning about the previous night ringing in her ears. She has so much that she wants to say to him, and she thought this was going to be their opportunity, but he's as cautious and as skittish here as he was at home. 


"I did a bit of cleaning, and some washing - which reminds me, you really need some new socks." As she's speaking, she can see his gaze darting around the room, appraising every witch and wizard sat within earshot of them. "We could go to Diagon Alley this weekend, and get some new ones? And you need a new set of brewing robes as well, because whatever caused that hole in the sleeve, it just won't mend. I've used four different types of stitch on it already."

He gives the slightest of nods. "Yeah, whatever you want. Sounds like a boring day, love, but at least you didn't slice your fingers open." He takes another long sip of his drink. "It was a Snargaluff vine that put paid to my robes. I hadn't properly put into stasis before I sliced into it," he explains. "Sheeeeeeesh," he says, miming it tearing through his sleeve. "You should've seen my robes before I brought them home – the whole arm was shredded."

"What did I just tell you about being more careful?" She shoots him a serious look. "You need to take care of yourself."

"Especially now, hey?" he says, wrapping his hands around hers, and staring at her. That glint is back, and he squeezes her fingers, but she can't work out where he's going with this. "I know it might have happened, love, and it's okay."

She has absolutely no idea what he's talking about, but she can sense the wizard on the next table shifting slightly in his chair. Is he an auror? She forces her voice to be steady. "You know what might happen?"

"Tell me you did the test?" He gives her a cautious smile – a slightly cocky smirk, and slides his hair behind his ear. She doesn't answer – she can't, but he carries on irrespective. "I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions, it's just after you were sick the other day, and then this morning you didn't want to eat, and…" He trails off, as if unsure of himself. "Look, Lil, it doesn't matter if it's a false alarm, but I just wanted you to know that I'm not going anywhere." 

"This…this is what you wanted to discuss?"

He leans over the table and kisses her, and she's not quite sure how to respond, and then she feels his fingers reaching for hers and he squeezes them so tightly, she gasps into his mouth. He rests his forehead against her own, his eyes searching hers. "We can do the test when I get home."

And then he's up, and his drink has gone, and he's back behind the bar. As she stands to leave, she notices that the wizards on the table next to her have disappeared as well.

She skips one Order meeting, but plucks up the courage to go to the next. Moody waves her in, but she takes the empty seat next to Potter instead. The meeting is long – nearly two hours – and although several witches and wizards quickly make their excuses at the end, the duration wasn't enough to dissuade Moody from approaching her at the end of the night.

"Move," he says, but Potter just tilts his head at the older wizard.

"'Move, please' is the phrase, Moody," he corrects, laughing, and then laughs even more loudly as Moody tries to tip him out of the chair. Potter falls to the floor, and then brushes his robes down, and shuffles himself next to Lily's feet. "Floor's quite comfy, actually. Think I might stay."

"Get lost, Potter," Moody says. "I want to talk to Evans."

"Yeah, but does Evans want to talk to you?"

"Potter's fine where he is, Moody," she says, intervening between the two wizards. "If he's got nothing better to do-"

"-I haven't," he quickly quips.

"Up to you, Evans," Moody says, settling in his seat. "Your boyfriend's a clever lad, isn't he?" 

She doesn't answer – doesn't trust herself to speak, especially not with Potter staring up at her from the floor.

Moody isn't deterred by her silence. "A right randy little bugger, mind," he says, giving a sickening smile when she blushes, "but a clever lad all the same."

"Is that your assessment, Moody, or the auror office's assessment?"

"Mine." Moody fixes her with a curious look. "The official auror office assessment is that you're two lustful, licentious youths who can't keep their hands off each other for long enough to vacuum the living room, let alone have the time to brew an array of illicit potions."

She makes the mistake of glancing down, and catches Potter's shocked expression, and Lily can feel her flush growing brighter.

"Did he have to screw you bent over the back of the sofa to prove his point? Take you pressed up against the fridge - it was the fridge, wasn't it? - and fuck you hard on the living room floor? Tell me, how did that disgusting, dirty boy convince a pretty girl like you that your cover story was so necessary, you simply had to kneel before him-"

She lifts her head in a spark of anger, determined not to let his crude phrasing bother her. "So you're telling me that you've been spying on us? What we do in the privacy of our own flat?"

Moody's temper flares, and he roughly grabs her wrist, twisting it painfully in his hand. "You already know," he hisses. "As does your nasty little boyfriend, and that's why you've both been putting on such a show this past fortnight. Did it turn you on, Evans, knowing you had an audience?"

"That's enough," Potter says loudly, standing up and wrenching Lily's hand out of Moody's grasp. "Whatever you think she's done, or more likely, Snape's done, this…this crosses a line." 

At Potter's intervention, he's suddenly flanked – Black and Pettigrew on one side, and Lupin on the other. She can feel her heart beating in her ears, and the shame of the situation is enough to make her want to turn and run – the last thing she wants is to be saved by this gang of boys, who'll laugh and mock her behaviour, and then she's pulled out of her thoughts by the vision of Albus Dumbledore striding towards them.

"What's going on over here? James? Alastor?"

Moody stands, and sniffs. "Nothing, Albus." And then he stoops before her, his eyes dead level with her own. "But I should say congratulations, should I not? Inevitable that he'd knock you up with his bastard child, the way he uses you like a common whore for his sexual gratification all day long."

Her eyes are so full of tears, she doesn't see Potter swing for the older man, or see Black diving in after him – all she can hear are the shouts, and the yells, and the sudden unexpected swirl of side-along, and before she can catch her breath, she finds herself in a quiet room with just Amelia Bones for company.

Chapter Text

Amelia digs through the filing cabinet by hand, her back to Lily. Eventually, she pulls out a file from the top drawer and slams the drawer shut, before opening the bottom drawer and pulling out a bottle of firewhisky and two glasses.

"It's a privilege," she confides as she pushes the drawer closed with her foot and turns to face Lily, a cheeky smile on her face. "The higher up you go in the Ministry, the more they turn a blind-eye to such indiscretions." She places the bottle and the two glasses on the table, takes her seat opposite Lily, and lifts her monocle into position. She blinks, and squints, and she peers at the closed file before her. "Now then," she says, keenly. "Evans!"

"…where are we?"

"Of course," Amelia says, without looking up, "how frightfully rude of me. We are in the Auror Office at the Ministry."

Lily immediately freezes. "I don't want to be here. I want to go. Now."

Amelia looks up and smiles – it's sympathetic, and seems genuine. "You're not in any trouble, Lily."

But the feeling of revulsion is crawling over her – she's in the same part of the Ministry as the people who have spent the best part of three weeks spying on her and Severus, listening to their most intimate moments – and her heart is banging in her chest. "I'm sorry, but if I'm not under arrest, I want to leave."

"I don't want to arrest you," says Amelia, dismissively.

"…but you will if I don't co-operate?"

Amelia smiles again, and this time, the smile feels a little less sympathetic. "I'm pleased that we understand each other." She turns her attention back to the file before her, and starts to read. "Now, first of all, I should apologise for Alastor's behaviour this evening. It was crass, and uncalled for, and not how this department operates."

"It is acceptable to invade people's privacy as long as you don't discuss it in public?"

Amelia laughs. "My, you are a one, aren't you? No wonder Alastor has been so very disappointed with the way things have turned out." She flicks over a page in the file, and gives a huff of delight. "And these results! Yes, you were destined for wonderful career." She peers at Lily. "It's so unfortunate with girls your age, and we see it such a lot. You take up with a boy who cares less for your career than his own-"

"No," interrupts Lily, harshly, not wanting to hear this woman's unfair assumption of her relationship. "Severus didn't make me leave the Ministry."


"The Decree for Unauthorised Magic saw to that."

Amelia winces. "Yes, nasty business that law, but easily circumvented with the appropriate sponsor papers…" She pulls up short, and stares at Lily in horror. "I do take it you had the appropriate sponsor papers?" Lily stays silent, and Amelia quickly flips the next few pages of the file over as if hunting for the missing documents. "Good grief. So if you've been unable to work, what have you been doing with yourself?"

"My boyfriend supports me." She gives a thin smile. "Sorry, I took up with a boy who couldn't care less about my career. We have a transactional relationship, you see. He feeds me, clothes me, keeps a roof over my head and so on, and I repay him with sexual favours. As you'll have heard, it's quite a demanding position."

Amelia sighs loudly, and then pours a hefty slug of firewhisky into each of the glasses on the desk. "Lily, dear, I think if this meeting between us is to be productive, we must start over." She holds her hand out. "As equals. As members of Albus' Order. What do you say?"

"I want those listening devices destroyed," she says, firmly. "And then we'll shake hands."

"Here at last," drawls Lucius, not turning around from his position on the balcony. The fresh evening air rushes in through the open double doors, and Malfoy's blond hair is gleaming under the stars, almost like a precious metal. 

"I came as soon as I could," he says. "Did you require something from me?"

"Stand with me, Severus," he says, beckoning him over. "Enjoy the view over my grounds."

Severus steps through the doors and onto the balcony, taking a space to the right hand side of Lucius. With an almost lazy flick of his hand, Lucius calls, "Nox!" and the lights in the study immediately darken. Severus blinks, his eyes taking a moment to adjust from the harsh glow from inside the manor to the relative darkness of nature. "Give it a moment," Lucius says, and as usual, he's right. Within a few minutes, his eyes have adjusted to the lower light, and Severus can pick out the highlights that surround them – the stars, the glint of the pond, the eyes of a woodland creature. "Beautiful, wouldn't you say?" 

"I guess so, Malf."

"Thank you for your owl."

"I thought perhaps you hadn't received it safely," he says, cautiously. "As you weren't in touch after."

Lucius gives him a wide smile. "I rather thought you required some time and space to recover from your little auror adventure. Tell me, have they left you alone of late, or is it possible that you have been followed tonight?"

"It's possible," he says, a little more quietly. "It's quite challenging working out who might be an auror, and who might just be looking for some gossip."

"Indeed. These are difficult times in which we live." Lucius takes a deep breath. "It is why I like to stand here at nights, and just breathe. To appreciate what surrounds us." He turns, and gives a wry smile. "Whereas I feel that you visit me, Severus, not to appreciate the wonders of nature, but to indulge your palate with the varieties of firewhisky not easily afforded on an apprentice's wage?"

"Malf, I-"

And then the older man laughs – a deep, booming, full laugh, and he claps his hand on Severus' shoulder. "I jest, Severus, I jest. And now that we have appreciated the great outdoors, shall we head back inside, for I have things I wish to discuss with you, and as you say-" and he casts a dramatic glance both left and right, "-you can never quite be sure who is listening?"

Her legs feel weak as they stand in the lift, descending deeply into the bowels of the Ministry. When they reach their destination, Amelia casts a Disillusionment Charm over Lily. She gasps as the spell takes effect, as it feels like cool running water spreading down over her body.

"Yes, it's a rather unusual feeling, isn't it? Put your arm out," she instructs, and Lily does as she says. Amelia smiles, as Lily marvels at how seamlessly she's blending in with the surroundings. "Impressive, yes?"

"I've never seen one cast this perfectly."

"I am an auror, and we do have some talents. Now, keep close to the wall, and move smoothly," she warns. "It's not infallible, not by a long stretch, and aurors are far more suspicious than most witches and wizards. Of course, your greatest strength is being with me – that and the fact that most of our top aurors have already headed for home for the evening."

Together, they step out into the corridor, and Amelia strides purposefully through the department. She's right – it's sparsely populated compared to the number of desks and chairs available, and there's merely a handful of tired looking aurors nursing mugs of coffee and dunking biscuits whilst staring forlornly at stacks of paperwork. 

"Madam Bones," greets one.

"Percival," she replies, not breaking her stride. "Your casefile on the Hopkirk fight was impressive. Do keep it up."

"Yes, Madam Bones," he calls, a little brighter in tone – but if he says anything else, Lily doesn't hear it, as the two witches quickly round the corner. Eventually, they reach a solid wooden door without a handle, and without hesitation, Amelia places her hand in the centre. The door flashes, and swings open, and she ushers Lily in alongside her.

"This is the evidence locker," she murmurs, and Lily's eyes widen as the lights spring on to reveal a gigantic warehouse – easily the size of at least fifty Olympic swimming pools.

"Evidence locker?"

"Yes," Amelia replies, her amusement clear in her voice. "The name doesn't quite do it justice. Now, stay with me." She leads Lily down several aisles, left and forward, and left again, and three rows forward, and eventually – when Lily is quite sure that she'd have no fortune finding the exit if she was left here alone – she reaches the row she's hunting for, and summons a box into her hands.

"The bugs are in a box in a warehouse?" she asks, dubiously.

"Yes," Amelia responds, as she briskly stalks off, and Lily has to jog to catch up. "We use magic, you see."

"Right," Lily says, trying not to roll her eyes. "How silly of me."

"The contents are transferred to record automatically every 4 hours, ready for the aurors on research duty to review." She gives Lily a regretful look. "Existing records are already labelled and filed, I'm afraid. Once catalogued, they're a nightmare to retrieve. Paperwork like you wouldn't believe." She shakes the box. "But at least our intervention tonight will cease future recordings."

"And these bugs won't be missed?"

Amelia gives a twinkling laugh which is completely at odds with her stern demeanour. "Missed? Of course these will be missed." She pauses, deliberating. "Lily, you and your – how does Alastor put it? Ah yes – your reprehensible boyfriend and his sordid deviancy – I think that was his last assessment of the situation, although I have heard him say worse…" She gives Lily a wicked smile. "Oh, you did both upset him so. Much to the amusement of several of our colleagues. He does rather go on, you see, does Alastor."

"Several colleagues?"

"Yes, several. Unfortunately, Lily, good ruses – and this, if I may say so, was a spectacular one – often have unintended consequences. Now," she says, as they prepared to walk back through the main offices, "keep close to me, and for Merlin's sake, keep quiet."

Lucius stokes the fire, and then sits back in his ostentatious leather armchair. Severus is rather more awkward in his, the increasing warmth from the fire making it a little too warm to sit in comfortably.

Is this what hell feels like? he wonders, as he watches the shadows flicker over Lucius' face.

"To our continued fortune," Lucius says, lifting his glass in a toast. 

"Our continued fortune," echoes Severus, copying the action and then taking a sip from his glass. The gifted alcohol is truly glorious – floral and caramel and salt and earth; Lucius wasn't wrong when he identified that his personal firewhisky collection was Severus' favourite aspect of visiting the manor.

"Now, Severus, I wanted to tell you how pleased I was that you followed my previous instructions to the letter." He appraises the younger man over his glass. "And you went above and beyond! Removing four of your cauldrons was a particularly wonderful touch."

Severus pauses, his hand frozen in mid-air. "Sorry, Malf, I didn't quite catch what you-"

"You heard me," he says, more coldly. "I said that removing the cauldrons from your flat was inspired. And was it not beautifully fortunate, given the auror visit just a few short hours after your letter reached my hands? Crouch was incredibly unhappy that the contents of your flat meant that you fell into the realm of plausible apprentice rather than suspicious brewer." His crocodile smile grew once more. "Although we both know that had you not followed my requests to the letter, the evidence around you would've condemned you as an unequivocal criminal."

Severus' mind races with the information that Lucius is providing. Did he call the aurors to verify I'd complied fully with his request? He feels sick – was that my punishment? – and there's a tingling in his wrists – don't think about Arisean, don't think about Arisean. Instead, he forces himself to smile casually, to sip gracefully from his glass, and to present a composed front. "The aurors gave you a report, did they?" he asks, feigning nonchalance. 

"Of a kind." Lucius sniffs. "It's an incredibly leaky place, the auror office, if you know where to stand to catch the drips." There's a long pause, as if he's deciding something, and then – decision apparently made – he abruptly stands. "In fact," he says, "I wanted to congratulate you on this." 

Severus resists the urge to twist in his seat to peer at whatever Lucius is digging out of his desk. The sickening feeling building in the base of his stomach won't abate, but he tries not to think about it. After all, it's not just tonight – it's been building for weeks now. It's been weeks since he was last able to speak freely to Lily, weeks of fearing being followed, and weeks since he could relax in his own home.

There's a sudden hiss of static across the room, and then a recorded voice begins to speak.

"Which do you prefer? Top lip or bottom?"

"I can't see a difference."

His head jerks – the voices are familiar, but a little soft and a tad grainy, and try as he might, he can't quite place them. 

"Can't hear?" calls Lucius. "Not clear enough? Here, let me turn it up."

"You can't see a difference? One shade of lipstick is bright red, and the other's sort of nude."

"Nude? Now we're talking."

"Sev, be serious."

Upon hearing his name, it falls into place, and he jumps out of his seat. "Malf?" His firewhisky spills on his robes as he darts across the room. "Malf, turn it off. Malf!"

"Then come closer, love. Let me look at your pretty mouth. And what colour is on this lip?"

"Cherry Bomb."


"Don't! You're smudging it."

"Malf, seriously, plea-"

"Severus, hush now, you're going to miss all of the best parts." Lucius smirks at him, watching Severus' aghast look as the record spins on the gramophone. 

"Malfoy, don't do this-"

"Don't do what?" he says, feigning innocence. "Ah! You want me to stop it?" 


Lucius offers a laugh of pure pleasure in response. "Really, Severus. You think that if I lift the needle, it's going to be all over? That I can unhear what I've already listened to oh, at least twenty times?"

"And this one? On your bottom lip? What's this?"

"It's called Sweet Nectar. Severus, stop, you're smearing it-"

"-looks better now. I like it more like this. It reminds me of after-"

"I was asking you a genuine question."

Severus stands stiffly, his feet fixed to the spot. All he can do is stare at the record spinning endlessly, round and round and round, and listen as the speaker booms the obscene words – his obscene words – around the room. He grips the back of the chair, steadying himself, and Lucius grins wickedly at the sight of his severe discomfort.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I am taking you seriously."


"But to be scientific about it-"

"You don't need to be that serious. It's just lipstick."

"No, no, we do need to test how they'll hold up to the rigours of the day-"

"Listen now, listen carefully! This, Severus, this is my very favourite part," Lucius says, leaning forward to turn the volume up.

"-so before I'll let you wrap those pretty painted lips-"

"Fuck's sake, Lucius! Turn it off!"

"-you need to beg me for it. Beg me to slide my cock betwe-"

He can't take anymore. Before he can think his actions through, Severus yanks the arm from the record, and a screeching howl rips through the speaker as the needle scrapes across the surface of the black disc. He stares at the still spinning record in horror, his chest heaving and his arms trembling.

"You listened to rather more than I thought you would," Lucius chuckles. "Not as much as I did this afternoon, mind. Do thank your good lady for her excellent performance, for I had the most-"

"Where did you even get that?"

Lucius stops the player, and lifts the record, sliding it back into a paper covering and placing it carefully into his desk. "I knew that like any Slytherin worth his salt, you would be concerned following the auror visit," he says, smoothly. "We both know they have a nasty reputation for bugging the homes of suspected criminals, so I thought I would investigate for you. Help you to allay your fears." His lips quirk into a grin. "I suppose we could say that this was an unexpected fringe benefit." He peers at Severus, who is fully trembling with barely suppressed rage. "I really didn't take you for the vocal sort. Or the Mudblood for that matter – what an utterly filthy mouth she has. Still, it's always the shy ones-"

"I want that record."

"Really? Unfortunately, Severus, it has become a firm favourite in this study in a very short space of time. I can see it being played-"

"I'm not messing around, Malfoy." Severus swallows tightly. "I respect you, and I appreciate everything you've done for me, but that's…different. It's personal."

"Personal? Really? You know, I hear you're quite the talk of the auror department," Lucius says, moving behind his desk, and then yanking the drawer back open. He lifts out the record, spinning it over between his hands. "I really was most impressed. They were hoping for something – anything – on you. A lead. A hint. A clue. A whisper of your associates, or your business dealings. And instead, you gave them eighteen days of wall-to-wall hardcore audio pornography. Better than anything you can get in Knockturn, I dare say. There's a certain je ne sais quoi," he smirks, "when the participants aren't paid or performing to a script." With that, he stalks around the desk, and presses the record into Severus' hands. "Take it. You've earned it."

The words almost stick in his throat, but he daren't fall out of the older man's favour until he's left with the record safely in his possession. "Thank you, Malf. I appreciate it."

"Think nothing of it," he says, dismissively. "Thank you for your quick thinking." He picks up his firewhisky and drains the glass. "I know you're embarrassed now, but this entire act – from start to finish – was inspired. Keeping the ruse going for so long has silenced even your most ardent critics. I am impressed." He smiles. "You'll be pleased to hear that thanks to your performances, the aurors have little justification in continuing their surveillance of your property. I believe the bugs will be removed shortly. Continue your behaviour – for any deviation at this late hour will arouse suspicion – and I shall inform you when normal brewing service can resume."

"Yes, Malf." He glances at the grandfather clock in the corner. "It's late. I should probably be getting back."

"Yes, yes, go," Lucius says, waving his hand and sounding bored. As Severus nears the door, Lucius speaks up once more. "Oh, and Severus?" 

Severus pauses, his hand gripping the handle, and calls over his shoulder. "Yes, Malf?"

"I won't charge you for the recording, but you do owe me a new needle."

Chapter Text

She stares at the small grey devices, astonished that such insignificant looking items were responsible for wreaking such harm across her relationship.

"Impressive, aren't they?"

"It's not quite what I was thinking," she admits, prodding one with the tip of her wand. "So, how do they work?"

"These are the receivers," Amelia explains. "The transmitters are identical in both shape and size, and are located in your flat. When not in use, the two parts snap together," and she picks one up, indicating to a groove. "The ones in your flat have the matching tongue. Only the correct two halves will connect together." She smiles. "Saves mishaps."

Lily turns one of the tiny grey devices over in her hand. It's quite small, but not impossible to see, and she racks her brains to try and work out where they might have been placed. "And where are they? In the flat, I mean."

"I can't tell you," Amelia says. 

"Because the next time you spy on us, we'll know where to look?" When Amelia doesn't answer, Lily looks irritated. "Hardly the basis for a positive working relationship going forward," she presses.

"At the moment," Amelia warns, "we have no working relationship. We have no handshake."

"The devices haven't been destroyed," Lily immediately throws back. "All this proves is that they exist, and as Alastor was at such pains to point out, we'd guessed that already."

"How?" Amelia stares at her evenly, and then sighs. "I think I've shown a significant amount of trust towards you tonight, Lily. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a little in return."

Lily shakes her head. "It's not that I won't tell you," she admits, "it's that I don't know. Severus was convinced, and I-"

"Did exactly what he told you?"

"I trusted him," she says, angrily. "I know you all don't think much of him, but believe me, I've heard it all before - off people I admire far more than you."

Amelia gives her a searching look. "And yet not one of these people you admire far more than me has convinced you that you might be mistaken in your faith?"

"I don't know you, and you certainly don't know him." Lily leans across the desk, a real steel in her eyes. "Do you want me to be frank?"

"I prefer it." She meets Lily's gaze. "There is no point dancing around a topic. We are off the record after all."

"My boyfriend would be better off without me." 

Amelia scoffs. "I find that hard to believe. Going by this," and she taps the file, "you're exceptionally talented, and I can see for myself that you're intelligent. Your dedication to your boyfriend proves how loyal you are. You're magically adept, you're sensible, you're attractive, an-"

"And it counts for nothing in this world!" she practically yells. "My blood is what I am judged on, and thanks to me, his status is constantly questioned. His mentors pity him-"

"-then they're not worth-"

"Of course they are!" Lily glares at her. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't patronise me. I would've assumed an Order member would be more understanding about the realities of being outcast the way that I am."

Amelia looks a little wounded. "Some of the discrimination that you've been facing - we can look into it, get you a sponsor-"

"It's not just me. What about the other Muggleborns who haven't got such an offer? The Ministry knows that I lost my apprenticeship months ago, and that I haven't worked since, because they were the ones that fired me! Aberforth wouldn't even risk hiring me to wash glasses, not least because of the scandal surrounding my departure, and with the Ministry's latest set of wonderful laws, I can't even go to the shops! And Severus' reaction to all of this? He tells me it doesn't matter. That he loves me, and that's all that counts. Some days," and now she's speaking so quickly, so furiously, small flecks of spittle are shooting from her lips, "he's out of the flat for fourteen hours, working every minute he can spare, all so he can afford for us to live together, despite me bringing nothing in. So to answer your question, no, not one of those people has ever managed to convince me! With every day that I spend with him, the more convinced I am that he - and he alone - has my very best interests at heart."

Amelia gives her a curious look. "...and tell me, Lily, what does your supportive partner think of you being a member of the Order?"

It's funny, really, how the smallest of incidents are the ones that end up sticking in your memory whilst grand moments – the moments you spend days and weeks and months building up to – completely fade away.  She'd expected to forget some things. It's not really a surprise that she can't remember much about Herbology classes, or even the full name of the teacher she had for Defence Against the Dark Arts in the second year, but it's disconcerting to realise that she can't remember her seventh birthday party, or the detail of their three week family holiday in the Alps, or what her parents bought her for Christmas when she was fourteen.

But she has lost count of how many times she's recalled a trifling argument that she had with Petunia as a teenager. In itself, it was hardly surprising, as barely a week went by without one of the Evans sisters screaming at the other. Yet, of all of the thousands of arguments she had with her older sister, the Night of the Black Dress – as Lily herself has now dubbed it – was small and relatively insignificant, but it's the one that she'll never forget. 

It wasn't even an argument, really – certainly not a screaming fit, or a shouting match, or the type of disagreement that caused her father to intervene whilst her mother hurriedly closed the windows, and quickly slid a classical record on to mask the sounds of her squabbling teenage daughters. Instead, it was Petunia's speciality – the beautifully timed and perfectly executed snide remark, so easily excused as misconstrued critique. 

No, Mummy, Petunia would say, I wasn't being mean – I was trying to help! 

She wasn't, of course. And Lily can still envisage it now – the three of them stood there, staring at her favourite black dress, each considering Petunia's scathing words – It's hardly black, is it? If anything, it's a faded, washed-out, dingy grey, and I don't know why you would even think of wearing it! – whilst she stamped off to gather evidence to prove her point. When Petunia swanned back into the room holding her brand new black blouse and held it up to compare to Lily's old dress, proving her point that the dress was no longer the deep shade of black that it had been, their mother had been forced to agree with Petunia – albeit with a hint of reluctance. 

At least Daddy had bought her a new dress. But that wasn't the part that Lily remembered. What Lily learnt from the debacle was that everyone saw things very differently, especially when they were seeing something for the first time. Mummy had agreed, and had patiently – between wiping away Lily's gulping sobs and holding her shaking shoulders – explained how she never saw the line of dust on the top of the picture frames in the hallway, but Grandma Evans always pointed it out when she visited. 

I have to take a step back, her mother had said, and pretend as if I'm seeing the room for the first time. That's when I suddenly see what needs cleaning, or vacuuming, or mending, or painting. We all just walk past it otherwise, because we're used to it. It's not out of the ordinary.

It's this memory that springs to mind when Lily opens the front door to their flat and sees Severus curled up on the sofa. If she didn't know better, she'd have assumed he was naked – his black shorts only becoming apparent when he shifts position, straining to see who is standing behind his girlfriend. 

"I thought you were chucking those awful shorts out," she says, trying not to flush with embarrassment at his state of disarray. She glances back at Amelia, and although Amelia's expression isn't betraying her thoughts, Lily has noted her disapproval – she can feel how the older woman has stiffened in stature at the sight of Lily's boyfriend – and at this very moment, she doesn't see her loving boyfriend. Instead, she suddenly sees exactly what Amelia sees. 

The Severus sitting before them isn't impressive at all. He's not the silky voice that the aurors have been listening to, his sultry tones encouraging her into debauchery. He's not the devious and dastardly potions brewer, who has been giving the aurors the runaround whilst he peddles his wares to the unsuspecting magical masses. He's not the brilliant mind or the astute thinker who knew exactly how to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. 

No. He's just a boy. And not a particularly attractive one at that. In the position he's in, all crunched up on the sofa, all she can see are severe angles; porcelain white skin marred with uneven streaks of black body hair, and his pointed joints highlighted by bright red staining – knees and ankles, elbows and knuckles, and the prominent bridge of his nose.

"Da give ‘em me for Christmas," he says, eventually, his accent thicker than ever. It always is when he's blind drunk. It's then that she spies the firewhisky bottle on the mantel, its contents dwindled to below the bottom of the label. He must've drunk half of it at least, if not three-quarters. He sucks in a breath, and then points his almost empty glass towards Amelia. "Friend or foe?" Then he gives a strained, horrible laugh and before anyone can answer, he answers his own question in a loud declaration. "Foe!" 


"Foe!" he says, decisively, his tone brooking no challenge. "Foe. She's a foe." He stands, almost stumbling, and slams the glass on the mantel. "I know she's a foe coz we ain't got any friends left, love."

Lily watches as the older woman connects the two halves of each device together, and then she casts. The tiny grey devices smoulder, burn black and finally thump onto the table.

"May I?" she asks, and when Amelia nods, Lily picks one up. It's warm to the touch, and smells faintly of burning - like a bonfire on November fifth - with a tinge of sulphur. She shakes it, and as if in protest, it crumbles into a fine powder. "Oh!"

"It's okay," Amelia reassures her, waving her hand over the rest, causing them to disintegrate in a similar fashion. "It happens when they're decommissioned." She produces a small container from her robes, and sweeps the remains of the devices into it, waving away Lily's confused look. "Decommissioned or not, they have to be accounted for. If they're not logged and filed, the assumption will be that you found them and disposed of them yourself, and then replacements will be automatically requested."

The two exchange a look, and Lily knows that this woman has the measure of both her and Severus; knows that the pair of them have spent weeks silently searching the flat, their fingers sliding along every surface, and poking into every nook and cranny. Despite their efforts, the search had been fruitless. Lily had assumed that there was some variety of cloaking spell or invisibility charm cast upon them, and neither she nor Severus had dared experiment with any spells to reveal them, lest the wrong spell arouse unwanted attention from the aurors. 

Now that they've been removed, she can't help but gaze around the flat, wondering where the hateful listening devices had been secreted for all of these weeks.

"I'm sorry," Amelia says. Her interruption comes so suddenly, it's as if she's reading Lily's mind. "I can't tell you where they were placed. Our deal was that I would remove them."

"Just…" Lily looks sickened, "…please tell me they weren't in the bathroom?"

"We do have standards." Amelia gives her a sympathetic look. "Well, we do at this early stage of an investigation, put it that way. Next time, perhaps…"

Lily doesn't want to think about next time. "And that's it now?" she asks. "That's the case closed? Because…"


"It wasn't just the devices, was it? We were followed."

Amelia nods. "And are you?" At Lily's confused look, she continues. "I assume you are aware that there was an occasion when the aurors followed you, due to Alastor's mention of your supposed pregnancy? So, are you? Pregnant?"

Lily shakes her head. She wasn't. There was never any chance of it – she takes both Muggle oral contraception and a potion that Severus brews religiously for her. His bizarre choice of conversation that night, she had later realised, was yet another ruse. He was checking whether they'd been followed - checking to see if the aurors were listening in on their plans and acting upon any comments they made in the flat. The aurors' decision to follow them that night had verified that Severus' hunch was correct. Meet me in the Broomsticks at six, Severus had said, there's a few things I want to discuss. And so she had, and they'd had company, so he had pulled a outwardly plausible topic from thin air instead of really talking to her - and they'd continued like that for almost three weeks, with not a genuine conversation passing between their lips.

At the confirmation, Amelia gives a wry smile and glances at the closed bedroom door that Severus had long since retreated through. "He is a clever boy, if a little-"

"He's not normally like this," Lily interrupts. "We've been under a lot of stress with the new Ministry laws, and-"

"Yes, I had gathered that his conduct tonight was…somewhat of an exception." Amelia looks at her critically whilst tidying her own robes, and glancing around the flat. "He was not quite the man that I have heard-" Lily flushes at the insinuation, but Amelia pointedly shakes her head before quickly continuing, "-heard so much about."

"No. I suppose he was not."

She stands, her manner brusque once more. "Now, if this is to be done properly, without arousing unnecessary suspicion, I must return and fill in the required forms before the absence of the devices is noted." She stows her wand, and holds her hand out. "We still have much to discuss, Lily, but I trust that my actions tonight mark the start of a mutually beneficial relationship?"

"Yes," Lily says, shaking Amelia's hand. "Thank you."

Her eyes track back to the bedroom door. "And perhaps I could be properly introduced to your young man at a later date, if he is so amenable?"

Lily nods again, and then gives a slightly watery smile. "If he is so amenable." 

Chapter Text

It's hours later when she finally enters their bedroom, and despite him lying so he's facing away from her - facing the wall - she can tell that he's still awake. She slides into her side of their bed, and when she cuddles up behind him, he's clammy and sweaty - the unmistakable cost of drowning his sorrows earlier that evening - and he shifts uncomfortably at her touch. She pauses momentarily, and when he finally settles, she wraps her arms around him and steadily moves her hands lower until her fingers are toying with the waistband of his shorts. Suddenly, as if he's been burnt, his back clenches and his whole body tightens.


"Don't," he says, trying to wriggle out of her grip. "We don't have to do this. Not tonight."

"I know we don't have to," she says, her fingers halting. He huffs an indignant breath, but doesn't stop her when she moves her hands back up to safer territory. She softly skates the tips of her fingers across his bare chest, reaching down his arms and eventually sliding her fingers between his own. "But we can if we want. And Severus, I very much want."

"I said no."

His words sting. He's never rejected her before. It took him a long time, when they first started dating, to initiate any sort of contact. Even when they were tentatively skirting around each other, their hormones raging and their close friendship on the cusp of becoming more, it was all Lily's doing – it was her hand that snaked into his, her arms that wrapped around his torso, her lips that brushed against his cheek.

His cautious nature was no surprise; he was hounded at school, and belittled at home, and she can remember the way he used to lie on her bed back in Cokeworth, his arms behind his head, pretending that he wasn't staring at her as she moved around her room. She knew he was – she knew he was covertly watching her via the reflection in her dressing table mirror. She knew this, because if she caught the angle just right, she could watch him in her mirror too. And as he would gaze at her, his jaw would slacken, and his lips would slowly – almost reluctantly – quirk upwards, and she knew he was completely entranced. It was a heady feeling – being desired, being wanted.

So then she'd turn, trying to catch him in the act, and he'd look away, pretending he was fascinated – and had been all along – by the skin next to his fingernail. He'd ignore her completely, picking at the skin until it bled. Then she'd lie with him, her ear resting against his chest, and she'd clasp his fingers, stopping him from picking at them. Slowly, gently, she'd wipe away the smear of blood, and then she'd pull his fingertips to her lips, and kiss them with a tenderness that made his heart jackhammer beneath her ear. And then she'd let go, and glance up at him – and he'd be openly looking at her, really looking at her, and it'd always be with the same expression of wonderment, as if he'd been kicking through the undergrowth at the riverbank for hours, and suddenly, he'd unearthed a precious metal.

When they weren't alone, it was as if he was waiting for someone to rebuke him – to tell him to put her down, to stop wasting her time, to let her move on to someone better, someone worthier. As if he was expecting McGonagall to call him up to her study in Gryffindor Tower, or for Dumbledore to summon him to the Headmaster's Office, and quietly – but firmly – explain that the likes of Lily Evans were not for him, and he was to break up with her at once. For years, she'd watch him scanning any room they entered together, his scrawny chest pushed out and his stomach tensed, as if preparing for an inevitable fight.

But the fight never came. She'd chosen him, and he'd chosen her, and although there had been arguments – arguments with his parents, and arguments with her parents, and arguments with Petunia and both Black brothers and Mary and Lucius and Marlene and Narcissa and James and… Well, there had been arguments with almost everyone she could think of, but none of the arguments mattered in the end. If anything, it pushed the two of them closer together; the pair of them against the world. And eventually – finally! – he reached for her hand, and he wrapped his arms around her, and he kissed her lips, and one night, with the sash window cracked open in his bedroom and the curtains still wide open and the stars casting a glow across the ceiling, he'd pulled her down onto his bed, and he'd made the first move from beginning to end, and they'd not looked back since.

So, no. He'd never actively turned her down. Until tonight. They lie in an awkward, uncomfortable silence – she doesn't pull away from him at his unusual refusal, nor does he push her from him, but she doesn't understand his reluctance – and then she suddenly realises that he doesn't know the reason why they had a visitor.

"Sev, it's ok," she says, softly, "Amelia's got rid of them."

"Got rid of what?"

"The listening devices."

He immediately turns to look at her, his body twisting awkwardly. "That witch was an auror?" He drops his head heavily against the pillow. "Bloody hell, you waltzed right in here with her, and I could've been doing anything!"

"You could not have been doing anything," she says, acidly. "Half of the auror department was already effectively in here – as you well know. You wouldn't have been doing anything other than reading a book, or filling in a crossword, or," and now her voice is getting louder, "getting blind bloody drunk on your lonesome because for weeks they've been hanging on to our every word and listening to our every action-"

"All right, all right! I know what they've been doing, you don't have to go on about it-"

"I don't have to go on about it?" She's incredulous now, and she props herself up on an elbow, prodding him angrily in the ribs. "All of this was your idea, remember?"

"I know." He's gritting his teeth, and he looks furious. "You don't need to remind me."

"Yes, well, Severus," she spits, "a little bit of gratitude wouldn't be amiss. You don't have to treat me like I'm some sort of fallen woman, or damaged goods-"

"I'm not!"

She turns away from him, as she continues to speak, "-and if what we did these past few weeks means you no longer find me attractive-"

At her words, his eyes widen and his jaw slackens. "Fucking hell, is that what you really think?" He reaches for her chin and gently tilts it so she's looking at him again. "Lil," and his voice is softer now, "for Merlin's sake, don't say things like that. Of course I find you attractive. You're gorgeous, and brilliant, and you're the best – the best – thing that's ever happened to me."


"Ever," he says, emphatically.

"…so what is it then?" she asks, her voice trembling as she speaks. There's a long pause, but she refuses to let the matter drop, her green eyes staring furiously at him. "Why don't you want me?"

It takes him an age to reply. "I feel guilty, all right?" he says, sharply, dropping his hand from her face and glancing awkwardly away. "Guilty that I didn't protect you properly, guilty that I made you do such-"

"You didn't make me; I agreed. We did this for each other, didn't we?" At his sudden blurted confession, her eyes have softened. "To protect each other?"

"Come here." His voice is gruff as he pulls her into his embrace, and he wraps the covers tightly around them, as if shielding them both from the outside world. He kisses her forehead, just along her hairline, and she sighs as he wraps his long legs around her own, trapping her beneath his warm weight. After a few minutes of settled silence, he speaks. "They've definitely all gone then? The devices?"

"Definitely. I saw them disintegrate. All of them."

"Good," he says, closing his eyes. "Well done, love."

He's tossing and turning, and she rolls away from him – partly to avoid being struck by his flailing limbs, but partly because he feels like a furnace. She pulls at the bed covers, but he holds them fast, even though he's burning up and completely covered in sweat.

"Sev?" She jabs her finger into the skin just below his collarbone. "Sev, wake up."

He grunts as she tenderly runs her hand across his forehead, gauging his rising temperature and then tries again to pull the covers from his torso. Despite the heat coming off his body, she can see the tops of his arms are covered in goose pimples, and he grumbles unintelligibly, grasping for the sheets.

She watches him for a long moment, deciding what to do, and then heads out of the bedroom. She returns a moment later with a glass of water and a murky potion. "Sev?" she says, kneeling down by his side of the bed. "Sev!"

His voice is thick and slurred. "What?"

"Drink this," she orders, tipping the vial towards his lips. "You need it."

He huffs and groans, and he throws his arm over his eyes as she helps him to tip his head back. He grimaces as the thick brew coats his throat, and he grasps blindly at his bedside table, searching for a drink.

"Give it a minute," she says, taking his hand and softly stroking it. "Let it take effect, and then have some water. I've got some here for you."

She wakes again at five when he stumbles out of the bed for the toilet. She doesn't register him leave their bedroom, but she hears him in the bathroom – he clatters against the bath, and the cupboard, and then there's an almighty thump and a muffled groan, and a flurry of hissed obscenities. Then there's a spray of something, and a gush of water, and a repeated clinking, as if he's knocked over all of their toiletries.

"Sorry," he mutters, when he carefully makes his way back into the room. "I whacked my foot against the pedestal of the basin."

She winces in sympathy. "It's okay. How are you feeling, toes aside?"

He gives her a wry smile as he settles back under the duvet. "Lucky."


"Lucky that you thought to give me that antidote," he admits, "else I'd be as sick as a dog now. I really need to devote time to creating a hangover cure – I'd make a fortune out of idiots like me." 

She reaches for him – and to her relief, he's right, her dosing him with a generic poison antidote has worked. His temperature has regulated, and he's no longer sweating profusely, and he happily coils his body around her. 

"I've missed you," he says, nestling his nose into the back of her hair. "I've missed us."

She turns to kiss him, tangling her tongue against his, but she falters when she tastes spearmint. "You've brushed your teeth," she says, pushing away from him slightly, but he holds her tight. "Stop, I've got morning breath."

"Don't care."

"Sev, I must taste horrid," but he ignores her protest, and as she wriggles in his arms, she can smell their soap, and his deodorant, and she realises now what took him so long in the bathroom. "You're clean, and I'm-"

"Perfect as you are," he says, smoothly rolling atop her, his forearms braced against the mattress either side of her shoulders, and the duvet sliding down his back, eventually resting on his hips. "Let me show you," he says, pressing his lips firmly against her jaw, trailing soft kisses down her neck, and caressing his way leisurely down her sternum, "that I'm sorry."

"Sev, you don't ne-"

"Order me to stop then," he challenges, amusement tinging his voice, and his breath hot against her skin, "and I will." 

Her back arches, and she gasps, and he pauses for a brief moment. As she glances down, she can just see his left eyebrow starting to lift, wondering if she's going to make him cease. 

There's a silent momentary standoff, with neither making a sound, and then his lips buzz pleasurably against her stomach. "Mmmmm? Should I stop?"

She falls completely silent at his prompt, fearful that he's going to give up. Her whimper wasn't an objection. In fact, it was anything but; his languid perusal of her body has sparked a coil of excitement to build within her and her feet twist against the mattress, her body arching up again, desperate for his touch, but he doesn't move. His inaction forces her to find her voice.

"Keep going," she urges, and she feels his triumphant smile against her skin.

Emboldened by her request, he hooks his fingers around the thin strip of elastic looped around her hips, and slowly inches the soft cotton down the tops of her thighs. 

Her face burns when she hears his happy sigh, his breath blowing across her and causing her to tremble. It feels like an eternity before he finally ducks his head beneath the covers, and when he does, she tangles her fingers in his hair, holding him firmly in place.

Chapter Text

He isn't permitted to eat in the lab, and if Jigger catches him at it again, he'll be demoted to sweeping the floors and bleaching jars and - if his master is feeling less than benevolent and forgiving – separating toad intestines for the rest of the week. Slicing up toads is tricky and potentially messy work, requiring a keen eye, a sharp knife and a skilled hand. It's a task mostly given to apprentices in their early days, trying to filter out slackers, and those without either the required temperament or talent.

Severus was hardly a slacker, nor lacking in talent and focus, although he often found in his early days of his apprenticeship, his disposition failed him. He was prone to pushing himself too hard too fast, and erupting in fury when a potion didn't go his way – and Borage seemingly revelled in forcing him to repeat those first few weeks of tedium. 

Until you can control yourself, boy, he would intone, you will not be permitted to brew. As this is the fourth time in as many months that you have needlessly screamed at a Bunsen burner, you will spend the rest of this month cleaning this laboratory by hand. I warn you, I do not wish to hear a single spell cross your lips. And did I say you could use gloves, boy? No? Then take them off.

Thankfully, under Jigger, Severus had mostly left those days behind; aside from a stern punishment for being late to work three times in a month, Jigger had been comparatively relaxed – Severus' temper and smart mouth didn't seem to bother him, but eating in the lab was the sort of behaviour that he knew would earn him a severe reprimand. 

Severus glances at the window – dusk is starting to fall, and he promised Malfoy that he'd be at the Manor before sundown. He glares back at his potion – once the colour changes to scarlet, he can add the porcupine quills, stir it rapidly for a minute, and then it's ready to decant – but he's still got to wash and tidy and restore the lab to its usual pristine condition. And he's not even meant to still be in the lab at this hour - let alone eating his tea in here - and he most certainly isn't meant to be brewing prohibited potions.

He watches the potion as it changes from apricot in colour to pumpkin, and he takes another bite of his sandwich just as a loud bang echoes on the other side of the door. He looks at his sandwich – there's barely a mouthful left, and he considers clenching it in his fist and thrusting his hand up his sleeve, but his growling stomach overrides his brain, and he opts for stuffing it into his already full mouth. He chews furiously as heavy footsteps make their way towards the lab, and when the door swings open, Severus ducks behind the bench, desperately trying to swallow the last of his meal, whilst pretending to tie his bootlace.

"Boy? Are you in here?"

He's still trying to gulp the sandwich down, so he doesn't respond – can't respond - and he quickly unknots both of his boots to make his story more plausible.

"No Snape? What's this potion doing unattended, Arsenius?"

"I'm here," Severus finally says, bouncing upwards, and glancing at the potion which – thankfully, has finally bloomed into the deep scarlet he was hoping for. "My boots…" he starts, by way of explanation, pointing at the laces.

Jigger huffs in exasperation, and shoots a spell towards his apprentice's feet, which causes the laces to knot themselves neatly. "That's twice," he says, "don't think I'm not counting."

"Sorry, sir."

"Twice is twice too many," Jigger grumbles loudly, and Snape knows that this bombastic display is all for Slughorn's benefit, who is looking vaguely amused. "I told you last time, if you can't tie your laces properly, I'll remove them."

"Sorry, sir," Severus says again, his ears flushing red. So much for that stalling trick, then. He quickly grabs some flasks, and starts hurriedly scooping the potion into them.

"Sorry's not good enough, boy," he continues, "what if you tripped whilst carrying-"

"Now, now, don't be so harsh on him, Arsenius," interrupts Slughorn, smiling at his ex-student. "Severus here was always…"

Severus' neck strains with the effort of not looking up from his cauldron, of not glaring at Slughorn for whatever he's about to say, but he knows the sensible reaction is to keep on decanting his potion, as neither man is really paying any attention to what he's doing, or what he's brewed – and he's keen to keep it that way. 

C'mon, Sev, you can handle old Sluggy mocking you, he thinks, it's no worse than what you endured at school. Tune the old fool out. He keeps his hand steady, carefully pouring the brew into the glasses, and efficiently capping each one.

"…and more than a little dishevelled," Slughorn finishes. "Although your robes are looking much more splendid these days, Severus."

"Thank you, sir."

Slughorn peers more closely at him. "Malkin's, are they?"

"Twilfitt and Tattings, sir."

Slughorn beams again. "Ah, yes, of course. Young Lucius' recommendation, no doubt?"

"Narcissa's, sir," Severus says.

"Ah, of course, the lovely Narcissa Black," Slughorn says, this time almost bouncing on the balls of his feet. "She always did have fine taste. She visited not too long ago, and she had procured the finest box of fruit jellies that you ever laid your eyes upon. Marvellous young lady."

"She's not Narcissa Black any more, sir. She's Malfoy now," Severus corrects, carrying his cauldron to the sink and starting the tap. He searches around the wash station, and then settles on a grubby looking sponge wedged between the tap and the wall.

Jigger stamps over to a cupboard at the rear of the room, selects a new cloth from a shelf, and throws it towards his apprentice. "Use a clean soft cloth when washing the silver cauldron, boy. You'll only cross-contaminate."

"Sorry, sir."

"You should know better than that by now."

"Yes, sir, sorry, sir."

"I'm putting him off," Slughorn intervenes, kindly. "Severus was always most particular about his equipment when he was at school."

"Yes, well, pity he's not a little more particular with mine," Jigger grumbles, settling himself heavily against a bench, watching keenly as Severus washes the cauldron out. "So, that's who young Lucius married, is it? One of the Black family?"

"Yes, and what a charming young girl she is," Slughorn enthuses.

"Well, her robes might be in fine taste, but she could do better when it comes to her taste in men," Jigger lazily observes.

"Oh, I don't know," laughs Slughorn, "Lucius is a gentleman, of course, and she could've done worse. For instance, I do believe young master Snape here had his eye that way for a while, didn't you, Severus?"

He's glad he's got his back to Slughorn and Jigger, because he can almost feel the nudge between the two men. He knows that both of them will be highly amused at Slughorn's teasing – although Jigger's amusement will be far nastier than Slughorn's, who is just a bumbling fool; well-meaning, and a little eccentric. Jigger, on the other hand… 

Severus ignores the pair, and scrubs the cauldron furiously, pushing the thought of them laughing at him – laughing at the sheer insanity of him desiring a Pureblood like Narcissa Black, laughing at the bare faced impudence of him, a poor Halfblood, daring to think that a woman like Narcissa Black would be remotely interested in him – right to the back of his brain.

And then Jigger's pressed up behind him, his breath acrid on Severus' cheek, and his voice dangerously low. "Professor Slughorn asked you a question, boy. I suggest you answer him."

Severus stops the tap, and sidesteps Jigger, moving swiftly away from the sink. He turns to face the two older men, and bows his head slightly, muttering a drying charm to stop his hands from dripping water onto the floor. "Forgive me, sir, I wasn't concentrating. Professor, I apologise, I was cleaning the cauldron, and I couldn't hear you over the water."

"Ahh," Slughorn says, looking a little uncomfortable at his friend's menacing manner, and the overt display of deference from his old student, "it was something and nothing. Just a little lighthearted jesting-"

"We were talking about the boy's delightful friend, Lucius Malfoy," Jigger chips in, "if that prompts your memory, Horace?"

"Oh yes, that does remind me, Master," Severus hurriedly interrupts, before Slughorn can raise the topic of Narcissa once more, "Lucius has invited me tonight – well, now in fact – and I am expected…"

"Well, by rights, Severus," Slughorn gives a curious look at Jigger, and pointedly pulls out his pocket-watch, "you shouldn't even still be in the workplace at this hour of-"

"Well, then go, boy!" Jigger quickly interjects, banishing the rest of the items from Severus' workstation to the back of the room. "You can clear those tomorrow. First thing."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," he says, grabbing the flasks and pushing them into his satchel, and checking his laces before he leaves.

"And boy!"


"Don't be late again, else you'll be doing nothing but pickling newt livers for the rest of the month."

He doesn't mean to eavesdrop. He loops his satchel over his head and across his shoulders, casting a muffling charm against the clinking bottles, and he's out of the door and down the cobbled street, relieved to be away from the two hateful men – but as he turns a corner, he feels the cold wind whipping round his ears and down his neck, and he realises he's left his cloak in the lab.

He pauses, wondering whether to go back or to leave it until the morning – although he wouldn't put it past Jigger to peevishly throw it out. He glances up at the sky, and he sees that between the thick clouds, it's still just about light – if he runs, there's just enough time to retrieve it and still get to Malfoy's without being shouted at. He sprints back to Jigger's, and with the outside door still on the latch, he pushes his way in and carefully creeps his way over towards the lab, hoping his footsteps don't announce his presence.

When he presses his ear to the door, he doesn't expect to overhear their conversation; he's simply checking to see if they've retired to the comfort of Jigger's sitting room, meaning he can whip in and grab his cloak. But he's out of luck, and instead, he can hear Sluggy wittering away.

"Yes, well, you know what Libatius is like. I've always found the boy quite likeable, myself."

"Unfortunate background notwithstanding, of course."

"Arsenius," Slughorn sounds disappointed, "not you as well. His mother is Pure, remember."

"Yes, but his father's a Muggle, and as for his muddy bit on the side-"


Severus grits his teeth, but presses his ear harder against the wood – he's hardly surprised, at either Jigger's disparaging stance, or Slughorn's open disapproval at his friend's bigotry. He may have presided over Slytherin House whilst its students openly advocated for the complete eradication of Muggles, but for all his faults, Sluggy himself didn't discriminate based on blood. He was far too pragmatic for such distasteful political views. And like all of the professors at Hogwarts, he'd always had a soft spot for Lily.

"She's a lovely and talented girl," Slughorn enthuses. "Vivacious. Cheeky. Charming. Such a delight to teach. She would've done wonderfully well in Slytherin, if only-"

Jigger scoffs. "Horace, really-"

"No, Arsenius, I know these are difficult times for us all, but you mustn't judge without meeting her." And then the tone of his voice changes. "And not that I should really say such things, but incredibly pretty, as well, you understand. Had half the boys in the school falling all over her. Ah, to be fifty years younger-"

Severus grimaces, feeling a little sick – and then realises he's lost track of the conversation. Jigger's voice is unclear, as if he's turned away or is bending down, and Severus pushes his face even harder against the door, desperate to hear his mentor's words, but he only catches the end of a sentence. "…doing with that lanky oik, then?"

"And there is the mystery!" boomed Slughorn, with a chuckle in his throat. "Hidden talents?"

"Well hidden, if you ask me."

"Ah, Arsenius, don't be so hard on the young man. She's certainly stuck by him over the years - and he's quite the quirky personality once you…" and then Slughorn's voice fades. Severus strains, but he can't pick the thread back up again – instead there's a pause, and some mumbling, and then all he can make out are odd words as Slughorn's voice fades in and out, as if he's moving around at the back of the room.

"…times, of…yes, well, and then she'd be the one…and…you'd see…quite the skill…but he's...the black and gold and oh…and a temper…clever charms…yes, yes…blunted knife and then the latest…oh ho, no no, I can't listen to such things…outrageous…where I stand…Dumbledore…the aurors, of course…meetings…fourteen cuckoos…and a cup of tea…well, you wouldn't…and apparently she was there…no, the other Black…yes, a shock to us all…Gryffindor…four of them…nasty business…can't speak of it, really…and you know…did he really ask you…had no idea…perhaps…seventeen…and it was bright blue…Pomfrey knew…no, no, not Severus, just Lily…Ministry…Mundungus Fletcher…you do know him…not as…well yes, and Amelia Bones with the two mischievous…Prewett…yes yes, you do remember…well…what can one say…"

None of it makes any sense to Severus' ears – it's just a jumble of names and words, and then, suddenly, it's as if Slughorn's standing right next to him. "All of that aside, Arsenius, do tell me – how are you finding him?"

Jigger's voice is cool, and Severus has heard that tone before – usually when he's bartering over the price of ingredients. "We had a deal, Horace."

"Oh, that's not why I'm asking! No, no, you'll get your gold, as agreed. Call it…personal interest. He was one of mine, after all."

There's a very long pause, as if Jigger's considering his words. "Your reputation is intact, Horace, have no fear. …the boy is quite skilled. A little sloppy around the edges, and far too emotional for his own good, but he's got an eye for it – and we both know how rare instinct is." There's another pause. "I'm surprised Libatius let him go, frankly."

"Yes, well, with the-"

"I know what he did," Jigger says, loudly. "Nasty business all round. But really, Horace, I don't know what Libatius was thinking. He's a slip of a boy – barely even a wizard where blood counts-"

"-well Arseni-"

"-so there's ways of keeping him quiet. Making him…agreeable. You understand me, I am sure."

Severus feels colder than ever at Jigger's dark words - ways of keeping me quiet? - but he keeps his face pressed against the wood, keener than ever to hear what else the two old friends have to say.

"Be careful, Arsenius," warns Slughorn, his voice a little lower, "he might not have the same connections as a Nott or a Longbottom, but just look at his behaviour tonight."

Jigger gives a snort of derision. "Oh, he was showing off, that's all. Lucius Malfoy inviting him to his Manor? Who'd believe that?"

"On the contrary, Lucius has taken a very close interest in Severus since he started at Hogwarts. The lad used to trail after him from morning 'til night-"

Jigger's words are muffled, but Severus can tell that his tone is derisive.

"You may mock, Arsenius," Slughorn says, coolly, "but I'll warn you that Lucius became very attached to his little fan club. Oh yes, you've heard the boy – yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir – and if there's one thing that young Mr Malfoy appreciates, it's a healthy dose of respect."

"Him and his father both."

"Ah yes, speaking of whom, I'm glad you've mentioned Abraxas-"

"I'm not," mutters Jigger. "He still owes me for…Horace, tell me, can you hear something?"

And Severus doesn’t have the opportunity to find out what Abraxas Malfoy had procured, because he's sprinting out of the door, and down the dark and empty street.

Chapter Text

He sits on the gravel path, his legs crossed, and his satchel in his lap. He'd stood for the first hour, but having been on his feet all day at work, his legs had started to protest, and even though he's finally sat down, there's still a dull ache creeping up the back of his hamstrings. Knowing Malfoy the way he does, Severus is certain he'll purposely keep him here until sun up - all under the guise of teaching him a lesson.

There's a white pheasant which strolls around him, and Severus peers at it closely – as far as he knows, Malfoy isn't an animagus, but it's the sort of weird trick he'd employ; trying to catch him off-guard. Maybe I should strike it, he thinks, and a perverse thrill shoots through his chest at the idea of laying his hands on Malfoy – of catching him in his own trickery, and doling out a well-deserved punishment. I'm sick of being spied on.

He reaches out, rubbing his fingers together and beckoning the pheasant towards him. It stops, warily, cocking its head and its feet scratch uncomfortably at the ground. And then it chirrups at him, and he realises that it's a she – the magic Lucius has used to make his brood white has stripped away the obvious features of male and female. He drops his hand back down in his lap, all thoughts of the creature forgotten, and stares angrily at the Manor.

It's cold without his cloak – in fact, despite the quality of his cloak, he reckons it would still be freezing with it on; it can't be more than five degrees. The pheasant hasn't lost interest in him though, and steps a little closer before quickening into a sudden run. Her wings flap, lifting her just off the ground and then she settles in his lap, with no idea of the danger he'd briefly posed to her.

"What do you want, hey?" he grumbles, holding out a finger and letting her peck at the tip. They didn't cover pheasants in Care of Magical Creatures, and he certainly didn't see any back at home in Cokeworth, so he finds himself wondering if they're meant to be left outside in the cold. 

Is the bird being punished too? His hand absently strokes the crown of her head and he casts a quick Lumos, staring at the vast grounds. He's not quite sure what he's looking for. How do pheasants roost? Trees? On the ground? Does Lucius have some sort of grand coop?

"I leave you alone for twenty minutes-"

It has not been twenty minutes, Severus bitterly thinks.

"-and I find you molesting my pheasants." Lucius' voice is booming, and amused, and his feet crunch loudly on the gravel as he approaches the younger man.

"I wasn't-"

"Let her be," he orders, and Severus stands, shaking the pheasant away – but she circles his feet, unwilling to depart from her new found friend.

"It's not my fault they're tame."

"They're not tame! They're the best hunting pheasants that money can-" and then Lucius seems to catch sight of Severus' alarmed look, and he claps him on the shoulder. "It doesn’t matter," he says, "I'll shoot it at weekend." This comment does nothing to reduce Severus' anxious expression, and Lucius laughs. "Come, Severus, they're only dumb creatures. Mustn't get too attached."

She'd always been popular, Lily. Popular at nursery, and infant school, and junior school. Popular at Hogwarts, despite her unorthodox taste in friends. Popular with the teachers, popular with members of her extended family, popular even when she strolled around Cokeworth during the summer. It came easily to her, in exactly the same way that Severus found it so difficult. Where he was sour, she was sweet, where he was distrustful, she opened her arms, and where he was awkward, she was relaxed.

In a slightly different world, it wouldn't have been any surprise to her that members of the Order soon crowded around her; people always had. But Lily knew that her attraction these days had nothing to do with her scintillating personality, or her kind nature – Lily knew that they were sniffing around her for what she could do for them.

It was a rather unpleasant feeling, and one that Severus had complained about a lot when he was younger – being constantly harassed for help with homework essays, or students from his house wanting him to brew so they didn't have to pay Hogsmeade's apothecary prices when they wanted a potion to help them through the exam period, or being told that he was needed as a lookout whilst some mischief was enacted or whilst an older student made out with their partner – but she'd never experienced such behaviour herself, so although she'd sympathised she'd never quite understood.

There's three of them looking for her tonight – Bones, Fletcher and Potter. Fletcher's the easiest of the three; she knows he wants another batch of Rain Away, although he isn't going to say as much in front of an auror. She's certain that Bones wants to talk about payment – about what's owed for her assistance – and Potter? Potter's an eternal mystery. Following Moody's outburst, Potter seems to have appointed himself as some sort of unwanted protector, and even when he's not stood next to her, he's looking over Black's shoulder – and at those moments, he almost reminds her of Severus; his eyes darting around the room, constantly scanning for trouble.

Fletcher and Bones stand in an uneasy silence, each waiting for the other to depart, and Lily engaging neither in conversation. Potter seems to read her unease, and steps forward. 

"All right, Evans?"


"Madam Bones," he says, deferentially. "I believe Professor Dumbledore was asking if you were still here?"

Amelia scrutinises him for a very long moment, and Lily can almost feel her breath catch. Eventually, seemingly convinced that this interruption is truthful, Amelia nods. "Thank you, James." She turns to Lily. "I would like a word before you leave," and then she disappears into the throng of witches and wizards at the centre of the room.

"So, is Dung here bothering you?" Potter towers over the compact man, and then Black joins him, a youth on either side. Black's face is twisted into sheer contempt; it's as if he's suddenly caught the scent of something putrid – sour milk, or rotten eggs, or raw sewage.

"There's no problem between me and Miss Evans," Mundungus says loftily, drawing himself up to his full height, which impresses none of those stood around him. "I was just wanting a quiet word." He glances at the two young boys, and then back at Lily. "Alone."

"Yeah, I bet you want her alone," Black grins, half looking at Potter, who is unamused. It makes her feel uneasy, this attention that Potter gives her – she knows if she'd been Marlene or Mary or Florence or even Bertha Jorkins, Potter would've joined in the laughter at Black's joke – but there's a small part of her, when she sees him glaring at the small opportunistic wizard, that's glad he's looking out for her.

"I suspect I am not the only one," snipes Mundungus, meeting Potter's angry glare and not backing down. "How is your boyfriend?"

"James hasn't got a boyfriend," Black quips.

"I meant, of course," Mundungus says, smoothly, finally turning to Lily once again, "Miss Evans. I haven't seen him for several weeks now."

"You know Snape?"

Mundungus ignores Potter's question, and takes Lily's hand. "We have unfinished business, you and I, Miss Evans. And myself with your boyfriend, if you could pass that message on. He has been rather difficult to reach of late." He gives an oily smile. "Although I must say, I much preferred your company – much easier on the eye-"

"Dung, I'm warning-"

"Ah, ah, Miss Evans will surely agree with me that her chosen beau-" Mundungus grins as Potter scowls at his phrasing, "-is a sullen and standoffish young man. If you had the pleasure of knowing him, you'd understand." He turns back to Lily. "My dear, you must know that our little enterprise was much more fruitful for all parties. I urge you to think on it. You know where to find me." He lifts his hat, and strides away.

"What was that about?"

"Forget it, Potter."

Black eyes her curiously. "What's Snape involved in?"


"Sounds it."

Lily takes a breath, composing herself, and then moves to push past the pair. "I need to speak with Amelia."

"Going to set up a drug deal with her as well, are you?"

She immediately halts. "Say that again, Black."

Black smirks. "Certainly, I said-"

Potter – ever aware, and having spotted the others in the room becoming interested – grabs his arm. "She heard you all right, mate. We both did."

The two men stare at each other. She wonders what they can see in each other's expression; if it's like when she looks at Severus, and his eyes glint, and his eyebrow raises, and it's almost as if she knows what he's saying without him forming the words, and when he gazes at her, he always seems to come away with the right conclusion. But that's communication between two lovers, she thinks, and as much as Black and Potter are close, she's fairly certain they're not sharing a bed.

"Right. Walk her home, eh, James?" Black says. "There's some right nasty pieces of work out there. We wouldn't want her falling in with the wrong sort now, would we?"

Lucius doesn't invite him into the study, but takes him down to the billiard room on the far side of the Manor. "Do you play?" he mildly enquires, and looks faintly surprised when Severus nods.

"Well, sort of," he concedes. "Pool, not snooker."

Malfoy looks a little impressed. "Good enough," and he points to a smaller table at the far side of the room. "I didn't think you'd have enough space in that hovel your parents call home-"

"Played at the pub."

"Of course you did." He's back to his patronising self, and when Severus takes the proffered pool cue, he looks down. Severus knows that Malfoy will read this as due deference – but he gives a tight smile to himself, allowing a brief daydream about wrapping the cue around Malfoy's neck. "You break," Lucius says, interrupting his thoughts. "Chalk's on the side."

They play game after game, and as a couple of hours slide by, Severus finds himself relaxing – for all that Malfoy orders him about, when he wants to be jovial company, he's more than able. They don't talk about anything serious – a bit of gossip from Bellatrix about the Lestrange brothers, and a story about Avery's mislaid wand in the Ministry – until Lucius calls the final frame.

"This may as well be the decider," he says. "We're on eight apiece."

Severus nods, and places the cue ball in the D, and lines up his shot. His break is smooth, and the balls clatter against the cushions, and two spots drop into the middle pocket.

Lucius bangs his cue enthusiastically on the ground. "Shot, Sev, shot."

He gives a tight smile at the praise, and settles into potting the rest of the colours into the pockets. After so many frames, his eye is good – and aside from the purple ball rattling in the jaws before dropping, he sinks the lot without missing a beat.

"Clear run," Lucius says, admiringly. "You could make money at that." There's an awkward pause, and then Lucius booms another laugh, pointing his cue accusingly at the younger man. "You did."

"Once upon a time." He places the cue on the table and shoves his hands in his pockets.

"Muggles," Lucius sniffs, beckoning Severus to follow him to the bar at the side of the room. He pours them both a drop of firewhisky, and inhales deeply, basking in the aroma. Then he looks at Severus, the glass twisting in his long fingers. "I thought Jigger had spoken to you about your appalling timekeeping?"


"You were late."

Severus looks at his own glass, not daring to speak.

"I don’t appreciate tardiness, Severus." Lucius takes a sip of his drink. "Especially without good reason."

"I forgot my cloak."

At this, Lucius raises his eyebrows. "I can see as much."

"I mean," and Severus speaks quickly now, before he can change his mind, "I forgot my cloak, so I went back for it, and I overheard Jigger talking to old Sluggy."

Lucius' pale grey eyes flicker with sudden interest, and he indicates that Severus should sit with him. He leans forward eagerly. "And tell me, Severus, what did old Jigger have to say for himself?"

"Something about your father," he blurts out. "But that's when they realised someone was there."

Lucius sits back, crossing his legs, his interest lost. "That's it? Something about my father? How long were you there before giving up? Ten seconds?"

Severus flushes at the criticism. "No," he says, defiantly. "Ages, actually. But all Jigger said was that your father owed him for something."

Lucius frowns. "Interesting. Nothing else?"

"No, nothing you'd want to hear." He screws his face up awkwardly. "They were mostly talking about me."

"You?" Lucius smiles. "And why wouldn't I be interested? I'm very invested in you, Severus."

"Yeah well, it was just about what happened with Borage, really. They talked a bit about my background, and my mother, and my friendship with you-"

At this, Lucius suddenly looks wary. "Our friendship?"

Severus nods. "Sluggy was warning Jigger that I had friends in high places. Jigger seems to think he can control me." He looks distressed. "Talked about being able to keep me quiet."

"Did he really?" Lucius sips his whisky, taking the opportunity to pause for a moment, clearly thinking, and then he leans forward once again. "Anything else?"

"A bunch of stuff I couldn't really hear," Severus says, "but there was something about Sluggy paying Jigger for me." He frowns, and looks at Lucius earnestly. "Does that make any sense to you?"

Lucius sips again. "Perfect sense."


"Following your little incident with Borage," he says, disapprovingly, "Slughorn stepped in to grease the wheels." He looks sternly at Severus. "After the investigation-"

Severus' face flickers with fury, "I've told you, I didn't know! I didn't know!"

Lucius holds up a hand, trying not to roll his eyes. "Severus, Severus, Severus, I have heard this a million times before. I am aware." He sniffs. "But the facts as they were…" Severus looks petulant, muttering under his breath, but Lucius continues as if he hasn't spoken, "…meant that no other Potions Master was willing to consider you." He shrugs. "Slughorn didn't just put in a quiet word, you understand."

"No, he bribed Jigger. I heard!"

"Well," Lucius says, slickly, "bribe is an uncouth word. And, of course, Severus, don't go running away with the idea that Slughorn is your saviour."

"No? It sounds like it to m-"

"Sluggy? Really?" Lucius laughs. "Oh, no no no, my little friend. Not at all."


"Who else, Severus?" His crocodile smile returns once more. "I pay Sluggy. Sluggy pays Jigger. And Jigger? He tolerates you." And then Lucius knocks back the remains of his firewhisky. "Now, open that satchel. I wish to inspect the merchandise."

Chapter Text

They stalk out of the meeting, and although she's glad of his presence as a means to sidestep Amelia, once they're outside, she refuses his offer of Apparation.

"I'm not leaving you to walk home alone," he says. He has a loping stride, but even he's moving quickly, such is her speed. "Or run home, as it seems to be." 

She doesn't dignify any of this with a response, and he indulges her silence for several streets, perhaps expecting that she'll burn off some of her anger. 

"We could make this journey a little more pleasant if we spoke?" he ventures as they round yet another corner.

She pulls up short, her finger pointed at his chest. "I'm not searching for pleasant. You don't have to be here," she suddenly snarls. "I am simply walking home."

"Yeah, and I am walking you home."

"Because Black told you to."

Potter looks flustered. "Because I want to," he corrects. She huffs, and turns, and he grabs her elbow. "Because it's the right thing to do." 

Her eyes narrow, but she doesn't pull out of his grip. 

"Sirius is right – anyone could be out here." His eyes roam over hers, debating whether to say it or not – whether it will convince her. In the end, because he's desperate for her not to run off alone, he says it, "And because Snape would want me to."

She doesn't smile. Instead, she laughs – actually laughs – sounding worryingly like the dark Slytherin boy Potter once knew. "Don't be ridiculous!" With two steps, she pushes past him, resuming her breakneck speed down the road.

"Evans." Potter sighs helplessly, and trots after her. "Evans, wait. Wait!" 

They're at the end of the street before he catches up with her, and they're both out of breath. He grips the side of his waist, irritated at the thought that walking – walking! – might have been enough to induce a stitch. "You're a right one, y'know."

"I'm a right one? If I were you, I wouldn't have the audacity to pretend that you're doing anything for Severus' benefit." She glares fiercely at him. "You know who I am talking about, right?"

Potter looks confused. "Yes."

"I was checking, because I used his real name, and you spent seven years acting like you didn't know what it was."

"Evans, look," Potter groans. "I was a stupid kid back then. And Sirius. And Remus and Peter, and well, we all were." 

She doesn’t look impressed at his confession, and starts to walk again, albeit slower this time. 

He wonders if she has a stitch too. "If it – if we – hurt his feelings, then I'm sorry." 

She still doesn't acknowledge him. 

"I'll tell him."

This makes her stop. "What?"

"I'll tell him. I'll apologise. Me and Sirius. I'll even get Remus and Peter too if that's what Severus wants," and he waves his hands a little, "although it wasn't really them to start with. I mean, sure, they carried it on, but only because me and Sirius thought it was funny."

"And was it?"


"Was it funny? Calling him Snivellus for years? Hexing him between classes? Ruining his schoolwork, and crashing his broom during Quidditch? Cornering him in the castle, four wands against one?"

He looks a little awkward, but there's a hint of a wobble to his lips, as if he's trying not to laugh. "Well, look, I'm not proud of it, but… What do you want me to say? Yeah. Yeah! At times, it was kind of funny." 

She really doesn't look impressed, and he runs his hands through his hair. 

"Would you rather I lied? Would you rather I said that I hated every minute of it, and I had no idea why we gave him grief?"

Her tone is begrudging. "I suppose not."

"Exactly! So what? He was some weird greasy kid with a smart mouth," and he holds up his finger to stop her from interrupting, "and it would've been something and nothing if he hadn't set himself up with those Slytherins. You know fully well that after that first term Lucius Malfoy had it in for me. I couldn't walk down a corridor without getting a detention-"

"-because you were hexing anyone and everyone who walked past you-"

"-it was a laugh!"

"No, Potter!" She shakes her head. "It wasn't a laugh. To you, maybe. And to Sirius. And to those other idiots who followed you around, applauding your humour and inflating your head. But not to Severus. And not to me. And not to anyone else who had the misfortune of meeting you."

"I've said I'm sorry."

He does look mildly embarrassed now, she notes. Good, she thinks. "Yes, well. One apology can't erase seven years."

"It's a start though." Potter looks resolute. "If he's willing to listen, I'm willing to say it. I think that's pretty fair." He holds his arm out again. "Now, for the love of Merlin, will you Apparate us – or are we going to sprint the whole six miles back to your flat?"

She watches him through the window as he prepares to Disapparate. It's funny, really, talking to him after all of these years – there's a maturity to him that he didn't possess at school, but his confidence and his intensity makes her a little uneasy, and she already feels guilty at having invited him in to the home she shares with Severus. She absently begins to tidy the sofa, sweeping away their biscuit crumbs and plumping the cushions one by one. She stands back for a moment, appraising the room, and after neatening the recently used coasters on the table, she's content that it looks normal - as if she hadn't invited an Order member - that Order member - into their flat. She starts dusting the shelves, throwing herself into her cleaning – anything to distract the chattering voice in her head.

It wasn't just Potter. Everyone thought it was odd that she was with Severus. Everyone. Half the time, she gets the impression that Severus himself thinks it's odd that she is with him; she catches him sometimes, when he thinks she's reading and not looking, and he stares at her with the sort of expression that you'd normally find on someone viewing an exotic animal in the zoo – a recognition that the poor thing is out of its natural habitat, and somehow simultaneously appreciative that they're able to bask in it being so close to them, but also terrified that a sudden movement will scare it off.

She sorts through his washing basket – robes, more robes, a pair of jeans, a couple of t-shirts, those awful shorts, a handful of boxers, and so many pairs of socks, it was as if he'd turned into a centipede when she wasn't looking. As she loads the washer, her mind tips back to Potter – Potter, of course, was the sort of boy that her parents were expecting that she'd bring home. They'd always been unfailingly polite to Severus, of course – but they rather assumed that he'd be a short-lived thing. As a kid, she had always had a bit of a soft spot for an underdog – so they welcomed him, and fed him, and let him sit next to her whilst they all watched tv. And Lily knew now that her parents had been patiently waiting for puberty to kick in, with the expectation that Severus would become a footnote in history, whilst she attached herself to someone with a chiselled jaw and perfect teeth.

But Severus, the dirty, scrawny boy from across the river just didn't go away. Petunia was horribly jealous. Not of Severus, per se – she wouldn't have wanted a Severus - but she coveted the closeness of their friendship. She desired that sort of partnership - of how they would laugh at unsaid jokes, and finish each other's sentences, and how they never seemed to run out of things to say. It was easy, with Severus, and she knew he felt the same.

Once, when they were about ten – and she had teased him about it terribly ever since – she caught him pinching himself:

"Sev, what are you doing?" she had asked, watching in horror as his dirty fingers gripped the skin of his forearm over and over, leaving tiny little crescent blemishes in their wake.

"Me da says if yer havin' a nightmare," he answered, looking bashful, "yer can wake yersel' up if yer pinch yersel'."

"A nightmare! But we've been having a lovely day," she said, her eyes filling a little. "We went to the park, and then into town, and I bought us some sweets from Woolies, and you managed to sneak us in to the back of that film when the usher wasn't looking." She huffed. "I thought you were happy being my friend, Severus!" 

And then she saw his regretful expression. 

"…you weren't trying to wake yourself up from a bad dream! You thought this couldn't be real."

"I ain't never had a day like this," he whispered, and his lip wobbled just a fraction. "Not ever."

She instantly threw her small arms around his skinny frame. "Well! We can do it again tomorrow, if you like?"

Once they got older, there were a million rules they had to remember – no hugging was the toughest of all; she'd been forever throwing her arms around him when they were small, and he always looked so pleased when she did – but her mum said it was no longer appropriate, not now they were teenagers. Her parents still let Severus go up to her room to talk in private, but all of the doors – bedroom and landing had to remain open, and that meant that they couldn't put their music up very loud, else they'd disturb Petunia, or interrupt her dad watching Z Cars.

Not that they misbehaved in any way, despite her parents' fears. 

Lily succumbed to puberty first, as seemed inevitable – but to her parents' confusion, no other boys appeared on the horizon. Instead, every morning of the summer holidays, with the August sun beating down on his reddened neck – "Honestly," her mother used to huff, "has his family never heard of sun tan lotion?" – he'd be the one – the only one – to rap on the kitchen window. Her parents watched anxiously as puberty caught up with him, and he grew from a tiny, gaunt child who looked as if he'd never make it to five foot, into a lean and lanky teenager who could finally look David Evans squarely in the eye, his voice oscillating wildly between high and low pitches, and his cheeks reddening furiously each time it happened.

Eventually, to Lily's surprise, her parents softened their stance. For all of their early fears about Severus taking advantage – inadvertently or not – by the time fourth year rolled around, they'd relaxed. Petunia was always out of the house with some boy or another, so the doors started to be closed – landing first, then bedroom later – and by Christmas, they even let Lily head over to Spinner's End. Over the river had always been out of bounds, but her parents reasoned that they'd never misbehaved under their roof, so why would they start now? There clearly wasn't anything more to it – they simply were just friends who happened to be of the opposite sex.

Lily reaches into the kitchen cupboard and pulls out his diminished bottle of firewhisky, and pours herself a measure. Even thinking about that night makes her heart race, and seeing Potter now – so reasonable, and so welcoming – and she can't help but wonder that if she hadn't visited Severus that evening, if their lives would've been very different after all.

He was hanging out of his bedroom window, a cigarette between fore and middle finger, and a plume of smoke spiralling from his lips.

"I've caught you," she laughed as she ran across the cobbles, almost tripping in her haste. "Thought your dad told you off for doing that?"

He grinned. "I'm already grounded," he called. "What else is he going to do?"

She knew it was bravado. She knew how his dad could turn funny. She remembered only too well her first meeting with Tobias Snape - back when they were first friends, and they'd both lost track of time down by the river. His dad had marched across the park – and he was a big brute of a man, with thick arms, and thick fingers, and a furious scowl – ranting and yelling about Severus being late, and her new friend had looked at her like he was going to be sick. He'd leapt up, brushing the twigs and grass from his clothes, and his dad had near pulled his arm out of his socket as he dragged him back down the road, berating him all the way.

When she next saw Severus, he'd been odd – not wanting to sit and talk about magic, or lie and look at the river. She'd soon tired of wandering aimlessly around, especially with him being in such a strange mood, and she had eventually taken him back to her house to watch Doctor Who. Instead of being excited, he'd stood awkwardly in the corner, eventually conceding to lean his elbows against the back of her dad's chair and peer over the top. 

Petunia had thought he was scared of the Tardis, or the Daleks, but Lily heard her parents whispering in anxious tones in the kitchen – and anyway, she knew Severus wasn't scared of the television – and then her dad called Severus in to talk to them, and the door had shut behind them, leaving her sat with Petunia.

He looked like he'd been crying when he came back in, and he'd got crumbs on his shirt. Petunia had peered at him curiously – they were never allowed biscuits after meals – and then when he'd left a short while later, her mum had stopped him by the back door and hugged him tightly, and made him promise to come back the next day. She'd never done that before. Once he'd gone, the kitchen door had shut again, and there was more anxious whispering, before her parents came into the living room, both clutching cups of tea and looking pensive.

It hadn't made a lot of sense at the time, but similar incidents happened several more times, and Lily was somewhat innocent – not stupid – so she'd eventually worked it out. Last Christmas, sick of her begging, he'd pulled the bottom of his shirt up, and slid an inch or so of his trousers down, and shown her the edge of the fresh marks from where his dad had beaten him with his belt. Severus had turned fifteen a couple of weeks later, and even though she knew it must hurt – because he wouldn't sit on any walls with her for days, and would wince if he accidentally brushed his backside against anything solid – he was tougher than he'd been at nine. She couldn't really think about those sorts of marks being on him the day her parents had given him the biscuits.

So Lily didn't really like his dad – and she knew for certain he could do a lot worse than keeping Severus locked in his room if they were caught – but she missed her best friend, so the reckless side of her won out. She put her hand on the drainpipe and started to shin up it, just as he'd taught her to do.

"You're a real Gryffindor," he said admiringly, leaning his hand out of the window to help hoist her in to his bedroom.


"Stupid," he laughed, and leant back out of the window. He stubbed the cigarette out on the wall outside, and carefully aimed before flicking the filter into the grid in the yard below. He pulled the window to, and then pointed at his bed. "It's the only place to sit," he said, sounding apologetic. "I'll take the floor."

"You don't have to."

"It's only chivalrous," he grinned. "That's what your lot are into, aren't they?"

She visited him every night for a fortnight, helping him to count down the days until he could step out into the fresh air again. On the fifth night, she took him a new pack of cigarettes that she'd convinced Petunia to buy for her – only by lending her the new Abba record that she hadn't had chance to play herself yet – and he'd looked at her with such gratitude, it had been a deal worth making. She didn't tell him that his funny lopsided smile made her heart skip a little faster in her chest, and she didn't think she could get through the next week without seeing it.

Being there night after night, she soon noticed that there was a different sort of noise down at Spinner's End. On her side of Cokeworth, there were cars and garage doors, turntables and lawnmowers – and in her house at least, there was Petunia, who could make enough noise to drive anyone to distraction. But at Spinner's End, there weren't any cars so there was no need for garages, and there weren't any lawns, so no need for lawnmowers. Severus had a turntable, but his dad had snapped the needle as part of his latest punishment. 

Sat in Severus' room, she could hear the faint hum of the radio from downstairs, and some stray cats fighting in the street, and the odd bark of a dog – but mostly, it was the odd sounds of living; the kettle whistling, mugs clanking, and spoons rattling, doors opening and shutting, and with alarming regularity, the screams and shouts of Tobias and Eileen.

"Here we go," he'd said on the first night, putting another cigarette between his lips and lighting it with his wand, and then pushing the window back open. "Here y'are," and he'd held his hand out, "sit on the ledge, and stick your head out the window, and it doesn't sound quite so bad."

"What are they fighting about?"

He shrugged. "Him. Her. Me. Nothing. Everything. The world, the universe and anyone in it."

"Every night?"

He nodded. "Pretty much."

She looked at him thoughtfully. "When people aren't happy living together, they can get divorced."

He took a long draw on his cigarette, and she wrapped her arm around his neck as he blew the smoke out of the window in a steady stream. Then he tilted his head, and he gazed at her with the oddest expression. "Who says they aren't happy?"

She celebrated her sixteenth birthday at Hogwarts, and then again - several weeks later - in Cokeworth. He hadn't celebrated his in either location, apart from receiving a parcel in the Great Hall that obviously came from Lucius, although he wouldn't tell her what was in it – but he did return to Cokeworth at Easter with her, when she'd planned for her 'home' birthday celebrations, both of them keen not to be parted from the other for any length of time.

A few days after the party, she'd gone over to his to revise for their OWLs. It's quieter, she'd told her father, without Petunia. Her father had merely laughed – there wasn't a lot he could say in argument, so she'd packed up her bag of books, and headed across the river. Neither Eileen nor Tobias were home when she'd arrived, and the two best friends had happily set themselves up to study in his bedroom, books strewn over the floor, and them each passionately discussing Charms theory. She was right, of course, but he wasn't one to back down from an argument.

His parents came home a few hours later, but she was spared seeing them. Severus had caught the apprehensive expression on her face when the front door had slammed loudly, as if she was fearing that an almighty row would break out, so he'd taken the initiative and ducked downstairs to grab some food from the fridge. He'd garbled something to his parents about them both studying and needing some peace, and it seemed that neither Tobias nor Eileen particularly cared, as neither had ventured upstairs to monitor what the pair were up to.

Lily knew it was around half seven, because the melodious strains of Coronation Street's theme tune boomed up the stairs, when she shot him her most mischievous look and pulled out a full bottle of vodka from her bag.

"Is that your dad's?" he gasped.

"Tuney gave it me," she said, with a small laugh, waving it from side to side. "Birthday present!"

"Tuney? Blimey, you want to test it's not poisoned," he said. Lily giggled, but his expression showed that he wasn't joking.

"It's fine," she said, pointing at the seal. "Unopened." She sat back on her heels. "Have you got any glasses?"

He raised a sardonic eyebrow. "Yes, I have a full shelf just behind you – of course I don't, you daft sod!" 

She stands, suddenly filled with confidence. "I'll get us two, shall I? From downstairs? ...your parents don't care I'm here, do they?"

And he swallowed hard, shrugging a little. "No, they don't care. And yeah, if you want. Third cupboard on the left."

She crept down the stairs, not wanting to disturb their television watching – Petunia always screamed blue murder if someone trod too loudly on the stairs whilst she was watching something. There was a new show last week, The Good Life, and she'd behaved as if their mother had set fire to the house the way she went on. Privately, Lily felt that if Petunia had stopped moaning a little sooner, she'd have barely missed any of it – as it was, they'd all missed a good third, which was a shame – Jerry had been really bloody funny.

She glanced into the living room, but although the television was playing, nobody was in there. She braced herself, preparing for a stilted conversation in the kitchen with either Eileen, or Tobias, or perhaps both – and she was silently praying that it wouldn't be Tobias alone – when she heard the oddest sound. She moved forwards a little more, and she could see the washing up bowl full of water, and the dishes on one side, and then she saw his parents – Tobias pressed against Eileen, her neck exposed, and his stubbled face moving down it. Her eyes widened as she saw his hips moving back and forth.

"But Toby," Eileen protested, "I heard the stairs. I think Sever-"

"-an' I've told yer, soft lad'll be upstairs rest of the night," Tobias grunted, "yer know what he's like with 'is books."


"Shhhhhh," he hissed, a little more harshly. "If yer don't shut yer mouth, he will come down, an' then he'll see me fuckin' yer-"

"Toby, don't!"

"What would you say to the little runt, eh?" He speeds up a little, and Lily is memorised by the rapid thrusting of his hips. "Would yer tell him that yer wanted this? That yer like it like this, pressed up against the back door, or would yer pretend that I'm some ogre-"


Lily can't pull her eyes away from the scene. She's never seen two people having sex before, and it's nothing like what they tell you in school, or in church, or even what gets whispered in the common room. It's meant to be in a bed, both people lying down with the covers pulled up high, with lots of declarations of love and…

"Fuckin' dirty bitch-"

…not language like that.

They passed the bottle of vodka between them, swigging from it, and his frown grew deeper. When she wrote the same line on her parchment three times, he grabbed the quill off her and put it on the floor. "Right. What's up?"

"What do you mean, what's up?"

"What do yer mean, what do yer mean, what's up?"

She stared at him, and then snorted. His accent gets so much stronger once he's back home, and it's worse now he's been drinking. "Idiot."

"Could say the same to yer. Yer've been weird all night. Yer went down to get some glasses, and came back a completely different person." He gave her a curious look. "I wouldn't mind, but yer didn't even bring back any glasses. …what was at the bottom of the stairs?"


"Yeah, feels like nothin'." He opened his mouth again, ready to make a joke, but when he looked up, he saw her stricken expression. "Hey! Oh fuck," he said, and grabbed her hands. "What the fuck was downstairs? Did he say summat to you, coz I'll-"

"No, it was nothing."

"Yer sure? Coz ever since yer've been acting like Mulciber did on those weird potions he got from Nott's sister." He peered at the vodka bottle, and then sniffed it. "Where did yer say Tuney got this from? Are yer sure it's not contaminated?"

"…can I trust you?"

"Course yer can trust me. I'm yer best friend, aren't I?"

"Have you ever seen anyone having sex?"

"Fuckin' hell!" The swig of vodka he'd just taken stuck in his throat, and he coughed wildly, banging his chest. "Lily, fuckin' hell…" He looked at her with the most incredulous expression – a cross between shock and pleasure and astonishment and glee, and she blushed furiously.


"No, no," he said, "it's okay. Don't be sorry. You can tell me anything." He crossed his legs and he looked amused, and eager, and the most interested in a conversation that she's ever seen – and she's seen him after Potions, discussing his pet theories with Slughorn. "Talk to me. Like what? Like real people doing it?"


"I'm not a pervert," he said. "Course I ain't. …not real people."

She gave him a twisted smile. "Not real people? Like, who then?"

He looked a bit reticent, and then scratched his ear. "Yer won't say nowt at school?"

"Of course not," she answered quickly, the alcohol making her bold, and desperately keen to hear what he has to say.

He leant behind him and lifted his mattress. He pulled out a ratty magazine, and flipped the pages before handing it to her. "It's magical, like," and he pointed at a couple, "so it's moving. Not quite real, but not quite fake."

Her mouth fell open as she watched the two bodies entwine – and then she flipped the pages, humans of all shapes and sizes doing all sorts of things to each other, and she knew her eyes were widening. She looked up, and he was difficult to read – he looked scared and excited all in one glance, as if he was expecting her to throw it at him, or shout at him, or disown him.

"Well?" he said, cautiously. "What d'yer think?"

"I think I want to have a go," she said.

He stared at her, utterly dumbstruck. "What? At that stuff? …with me?"

"Of course with you. I don't see anyone else here." And when she looked at him, his eyes were the widest she'd ever seen – he looked like it was his birthday celebration – not to mention Christmas, and New Year, and every family holiday that he's never ever had, all rolled into one glorious gift.

He quickly grabbed the magazine. "Yeah? Which one do you think?" He looked so excited, and nervous, and his hands were shaking as she sat next to him, both of them looking at people contorted into all sorts of positions. He laughed nervously as he saw her checking the sudden bulge in his shorts. "You do know that I've not done this before, yeah?"

"Nor me," she said quickly.

"Right. No," he said. "Course not." And then he flipped the pages again. "Lil, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, but I definitely want to do it. With you, I mean."

And she put her hand on his chest, and his heart was thundering, and then – for the very first time – she pressed her lips against his.

Her mum had sat her down one night, a good eighteen months or so earlier – obviously fearful of her teenage daughter being at a school full of hormonal teenagers, and her making the wrong choice.

"The difficulty, Lily," she'd said, "is that once you've let the genie out of the bottle, you can't put it back in." She'd passed the box of Christmas chocolates over to her, and let her take another one. "Once you take that step with a boy, he isn't going to want to go back to holding hands."

"I know," she'd said, flushing. But she hadn't quite understood. If she took that step in the first place, why would she want to go back to holding hands?

She turns the empty glass over and over. Potter had always liked her, she knew that, but she hadn't liked him very much – not back then. The problem, now that Lily thought about it, was that by sleeping with her best friend, she'd shut all of the other doors. She couldn't take a step back from Severus without breaking his heart, and she knew he wouldn't – couldn't, even – have stayed friends with her whilst she dated someone else, and there was no way she was prepared to lose him.

She stands, and pours another measure – his expensive firewhisky now almost gone. Good riddance, she thinks, remembering all of the times she's found him of late, shaking and sweating and on the cusp of throwing up. It reminds her too much of Tobias – of angry, shouting, violent Tobias. Severus looks mostly like his mother, nose aside, but sometimes – especially now he's older, and his chest is starting to broaden a little more – if the light catches him, and his expression hardens, she can see his father. And it gives her the weirdest tremor.

She doesn't like Tobias in the slightest – doesn't like how he treats Eileen, doesn't like how he treats Severus, doesn't like his football or his drinking or his gambling – but there was something in the way he'd behaved that night. Something possessive, or demanding, and it made her feel odd inside. She's found herself looking at Severus, wondering if the same attitude was dormant in him – but he's always been the same old Severus; kind, and thoughtful, and well, grateful. Until this little stint with the aurors, and then there'd been a flash of it – not of anger, or control, but a possessiveness which was at complete odds with the situation they were in. 

Maybe that was it, she thought. He acted possessively because he was having to share me with the aurors listening in. Or maybe he just didn't know any other way to be vocal, and he had to give the aurors something to listen to. Whatever it was, whether a secret desire in him, or just him acting, he's reverted back to type now – his usual considerate self.

She sips at the firewhisky over and over, but now the ugly thought has crept into her head, she can't stop thinking about it – if his father hadn't been fucking his mother in the kitchen, would she have gone back upstairs and propositioned Severus? If she'd not gone over to his house that night – if he'd gone away to Lucius' instead of heading back to Cokeworth with her, or if she'd stayed at home and ignored Petunia and chosen to watch tv with her father, or if they'd both stayed at Hogwarts in single sex dormitories at opposite ends of the castle – would they even be together now? Would they be in this desperate situation together, or would she have been worn down by Potter and his constant proposals? Would Severus have had a better shot at a career if she'd let him go off with his pureblood friends instead of staying loyal to her?

And then she can't take the questions swirling in her head any longer, or the associated guilt, and she pours the remains of the bottle into her glass and downs the lot before banishing both glass and bottle to the sink. She winces as the sudden scorch of the alcohol burns the back of her throat, and the door bangs, and he's stood there, with that silly lopsided grin that she always loved so much.

"All right, love?" he says, taking a step towards her and kissing her lips chastely. "Mmm, you taste good," he murmurs, wrapping his arms around her, and deepening the kiss.

"And you taste of firewhisky," she says, trying not to sound accusatory – but she's irritated all the same. He'd promised after his last bender that he was going to cut down, and he clearly hasn't abstained.

"Yeah, well, so do you," he quickly shoots back, and he moves his hands up to tangle in her hair, and then frames her face with them, kissing her more passionately.

After a moment, he pulls back slightly, and she gasps. "Severus, you're absolutely freezing! Your hands!"

"Better take me to bed and warm me up then," he chuckles, and holds her against him. "Up for the job, love?"

And she stares into his dark eyes, and she can see his adoration and his vulnerability in equal measure. Cold or not – and his fingers are practically blue – she can't reject him. "Yes," she says, and he beams, and takes her hand, and leads her through to the bedroom. 

He lays her down carefully, and starts to remove her clothing, but she's completely numb to his considerate actions and his thoughtful movements. All she can think about, as his hands gently roam her body, is that by spending the evening thinking about their past and his father and Potter and what could've been, she's somehow betrayed him, and that he deserves better than that – better than her.

Chapter Text

He tries – oh, how he tries. When her body doesn't react in the way that he's come to expect, he doesn't give up. Instead, he doubles his efforts – he's attentive, doting, assiduous, and she can almost hear his brain whirring, desperately scouring his memory for what else might work when everything he's tried so far has failed. At one point, he lifts his lips from her skin, and longingly peruses her body – and the heat in his gaze and the sheer concentration on his face almost takes her breath away.

She expects him to capitulate – to be angry, to roll over and wrap the sheets around him, cocooning himself against her lack of reaction and presumed rejection – but he doesn't. He just seems more and more puzzled. It's as if he's a small child playing with his favourite hi-tech toy, but finds that it just won't respond, even when he's following all of the instructions and pressing every button in the correct sequence.

If I was a toy, she thinks, he'd find my failure to respond easier to solve. He could tip her upside down and shake her, or slide open the power compartment and change the dead and corroded batteries which are hidden deep inside for new. Or maybe he could throw her in the back of the cupboard, forget about her, and ask for a replacement – the new and latest model – for Christmas. But she's not, so he can't, and it's such a silly thought, because he doesn't seem angry or frustrated when his efforts are for naught, nor ready to cast her away and seek a new and shiny replacement.

Instead, when he's finally forced to admit defeat, he simply looks completely baffled. He props himself up on his elbow and gazes intently at her, and after a long moment, he moves his hand gently towards her head. His fingertips trace along her cheek, and he carefully slides a few stray strands of her hair behind her ear. Now, so long after he arrived home, his fingers are warm to the touch.

"What's wrong, hey?"

She doesn’t answer – can't answer, but he doesn't look away. He nestles her soft cheek in his palm, his touch incredibly gentle.

"Am I…? Is it…?" He looks so unsure of himself as he speaks. "…do you need me to do something different? Something new?"

She doesn't blame him for being distressed. Ever since their first night with that smutty magazine guiding their way and feeding their fantasies, they'd always been compatible. In the privacy of their bedroom and with a rapt audience of one, he was so beautifully expressive, so easy for her to read, and oh so willing to demonstrate exactly how she could please him. In return, he'd been a diligent study of her pleasure, and found no gasped request too arduous - least, if he did, he never let on. He seemed to relish every moment with her, his dark eyes watching keenly at how she reacted to his experimental touch, and whenever she moaned, his face would fill with joy, as if he was the one being caressed – not her. She wonders if that's what's bothering him now – that if he doesn't keep her content, she'll look elsewhere and find someone new, someone more capable, someone with more skill.

"Whatever it is, tell me," he begs. "I promise I can do better."

She doesn't answer, but turns her head until the tip of her nose rubs against his warm palm, and then she kisses his hand softly.

"I won’t judge. Whatever you need, I can do it." His face is full of longing. "Please tell me."

He's not like this normally. This is the alcohol coursing through his veins, revealing the overly eager little kid that still lives inside him. It makes her smile to think that he's still that same boy that she so fell in love with. He's a little more restrained now that he's reached adulthood, more guarded with his emotions - far colder, more distant - but he's always been the same where she's concerned; kind, thoughtful, and – the thought makes her wince a little – so incredibly grateful, as if he can't believe his luck that she chose him. But there's something else in his expression tonight – something a little harder in his eyes, just that hint of an edge. It's then that she realises. He's scared.

Suddenly, she's scared too. Scared that if she doesn't speak, if she doesn't respond to his overtures, if she doesn't reach out to him and make amends, she'll wake to find that he's back to digging crescent shapes into his forearm.

"It's probably just hormones," she says, eventually.

"Oh!" He seems surprised, and moves higher up on the mattress. He presses his lips against hers in an unspoken apology, and then settles his head on the pillow next to her. His relief at her explanation seems to pour from him. "Are you hurting?"

She shakes her head, unable to further the lie, but accepts his warm hand when he holds it out for her to hold. She swallows hard as he squeezes her fingers and then tangles his long digits with her own in the way that they both find so comforting.

He stares at the ceiling instead of her when he speaks again. "I'm sorry. I just didn't think. I didn't realise…I mean, you weren't," and he's stumbling over his tongue now, a hint of a flush on his cheeks, "you're not…down there, you've not…"

She slips her small hand beneath his chin and turns his head, her lips seeking his out once more. She does this partly to put him out of his misery, and partly to shut him up - and although her actions start chastely, within minutes she’s coaxing his lips to part, and he gives a muffled groan. 

He twists his hands in her hair and pulls her closer, her body pressing against his - but a minute later, just as a tingle of pleasure thrums through her, he stops his ministrations and shifts awkwardly, creating a small - but significant - distance between them. Surprised by his action, she shuffles herself back up against him, hip against waist, her legs twining with his. She slides even closer, clumsily brushing her thigh against his groin, and she suddenly realises why he pulled away so dramatically.

"It's okay," he says, quickly. "I don’t need…I mean, I don't expect...if you're not feeling…"

"I don't mind. I could-"

"No." He closes his eyes. "It'll go away. If I think about something incredibly tedious, such as listing the nineteen primary methods for chopping basic potions ingredients, or thinking about emptying the fridge item by item and cleaning it, or-"

"-sweeping the floors and dusting the bookcases?"

He gives a soft chuckle. "You're not helping."

"You get turned on by dusting?" She can hear her own amusement in her voice. "I didn't realise. I'll let you clean the flat more often if you enjoy it so much."

"No, dusting most certainly does not do it for me," he says, opening his eyes again, and giving her a weary glance. "But I'm trying to pretend that I'm being shouted at by crusty old Jigger instead of lying next to the most beautiful woman on earth. If she will insist on chattering away to me, it rather breaks the illusion."

"Oh. Right. Sorry."

He closes his eyes once more. His face is calm – serene, in fact – and she wonders what he's really thinking about.  Was Jigger such a tyrant that a memory of the old man yelling would do the trick? Or was he thinking about Jigger making him do something boring, like cleaning spilled potions off benches? Or slicing up beetle eyes? Or stirring a cauldron one hundred and sixty three times anti-clockwise, with just one clockwise turn at rotation seventy four? She's never been in Jigger's laboratory, so she can't even imagine what Severus is picturing – whether the lab is dark or light, or warm or cold. If there's a window for a day and an oil lamp for night, or if it's all magical – a clever line of Lumos charms, perhaps? That's if he's picturing Jigger's rooms at all. Maybe his imagination wasn't strong enough to dampen his arousal, and he was still lying next to her whilst thinking about the most beautiful woman on earth?

She knows he fancies her, desires her, wants her – but he's not usually one to express his feelings so bluntly. He's the epitome of show not tell – of touch and taste and action. Over the years, she's learnt that he's not one to shout his most closely guarded emotions, so hearing him say how he sees her has made her heart race, and now she can't help but slide her hand across his smooth skin. 

He tenses, his stomach rippling as her fingers follow the thickening line of hair down from his stomach to his pelvis, and it's at that moment that his eyes jolt open dramatically. He quickly regains his composure, and snakes his hand out, gripping her wrist and halting her in her tracks. "I'm afraid that fondling me falls into the same category as chattering," he drawls.

"Oh dear. I'd better find another solution for your problem then."

"I'll warn you, Lil, if you get up now and grab a duster, I am not going to be responsible for my reaction."

"If you can’t be responsible," she says, "then I’d best take control." She almost giggles with delight when his Adam’s apple bobs wildly at her unexpected threat. He eyes her warily, and his shoulders tense, and his expression seems to be fuelled by lust and fear in equal measure.


"I'll stop if you make a noise," she warns, her voice a lilting sing-song. "Put your hands behind your head," she orders, and his compliance is so swift, she has to bite back a laugh. She lifts herself over him, straddling his thighs and running her fingernails down his chest. He breathes in loudly, as if he's being pushed to his limit, and a moment later she encircles him with her hands, and it clearly takes all of his strength to suppress a loud groan. She watches him carefully, gratified when he screws his eyes tightly shut – because this time it's not in frustration, but from complete and utter pleasure.

She's wrestling in a swirl of bedding, her hands clawing at the duvet, and her dreams filled with ever-growing heat - a stroll down Diagon Alley in the sunshine, cooking in their tiny kitchen on a hot day, a beach holiday overseas when she was small, watching over a boiling potion in Sluggy's NEWT class, and bizarrely, standing on the edge of an erupting volcano and on the cusp of diving in - and that's when she suddenly opens her eyes.

There is something hot. She reaches down under the covers, and pulls out a charmed hot water bottle - it's boiling to the touch - and she puts it to one side.  It isn't cold outside, she thinks. I can't remember making that last night. And when she turns to take a much-needed gulp of water from her glass on her bedside table and she sees his note.

The bottle is for the pain, if you wake up with any.
The bar is for your happiness. It always lifts my mood when I need it.
See you later.

And then she sees what the note was resting on - a thick slab of Honeyduke's most expensive chocolate.

Not having friends doesn't seem to bother him. I've got you, he says, when she asks. She hadn't thought anything of it when they were at school - what were his choices? Reggie Black? Avery? She gives a shudder. Mulciber? In a childish way, she'd always thought it was better for him to do without entirely, if he had to pick from that list.

He wasn't completely alone, though. He had that weird almost brotherly relationship with Malfoy, and he spent a couple of years hanging around with Malfoy's group of Slytherins - and more than a couple of years mooning about over the beauty of Narcissa Black - but she couldn't really remember much about how those friendships all started. She couldn't remember why Malfoy took a shine to Severus, or why Malfoy let him hang about with his friends, or why Severus wasn't closer to his housemates of his own age.

It wasn't that they'd lost touch, but those early days at Hogwarts had been full of new people and places, and her days were taken up with exciting new experiences. She always took the time to meet with Severus, but they had both been a little wary of the reactions of their respective housemates, preferring to keep their interactions out of sight of everyone else. Consequently, that meant she hadn't spent her first weeks hand-in-hand with her best friend, as she'd expected she would when they'd lazed by the river and dreamt of their days at Hogwarts. Instead, she was quickly drawn into the whirl of life in Gryffindor - midnight feasts, learning the rules of wizarding games, daring each other to run down the corridors after dark, and the ever present quest for the house cup.

The only time she'd really had opportunity to spend time with Severus within lessons was in Potions. It was one of the only subjects where Gryffindor and Slytherin had their classes together, and their desks were arranged like a parted sea: red and gold on one side, green and silver on the other. She knew he was looking at her as longingly as she was him, but they contained their interactions to simply exchanging knowing glances across the room when other students answered questions incorrectly. She'd always privately applaud in her head when Slughorn cited Severus' work as an example, and she was certain he did the same for her.

That arrangement continued until third year, when Slughorn swept in and announced that he was going to assign seating places. He'd blustered about developing inter-house cooperation, which was met with a not insignificant amount of grumbling, but he stressed to them that it was his job to encourage all of his students to work to the best of their ability. It was at this point that most of the kids in the classroom had stopped listening to their professor.

Whilst others in the classroom were mourning the end of their working friendship with the person next to them, she had been focused on what was coming next. She glanced around the classroom, surveying her likely options, wondering if she'd be sat next to a boy or a girl, a Gryffindor or a Slytherin, even whether they'd be bright - and Slughorn's plan was for them to bounce intelligent ideas off each other - or if they'd be as dense as the trunk of the Whomping Willow, and she'd be expected to foster a love of the subject into a disinterested student. 

She was so lost in her ruminations, it took a moment for her to spot that Severus was trying to catch her attention - and when he did, he winked. Surely they wouldn't be that lucky? She sat in silent anticipation until Slughorn called her name and, to her utter joy, pointed at the desk where Severus sat.

"I don't think so," came a disdainful voice. "I'm not having a Mudblood sat next to me."

There was a momentary hush, and she paused mid-step, and the whole class waited for Slughorn’s reaction. Mulciber was grinning at Severus, the smug boy entirely relaxed in his casual bigotry, uncaring at the reaction it caused - whilst Severus' face was impassive; not laughing at or agreeing with Mulciber's comment, but not challenging the statement either.

"The good news, Mr Mulciber," Slughorn said, loudly, "is that you're sitting up here in the front row, as close to me as possible. I suspect you will find the blood status at this part of the room to your liking."

Mulciber's amusement quickly switched to sullenness. "A professor and a blood traitor."

"I don't want to be sat next to a purist," shouted Black, leaning back on his chair. "It goes against my-"

"You go against-"

"Enough!" roared Slughorn. "You, Black, sit properly. You, Mulciber, take the seat next to him. And you," and then his voice softened, a friendly smile back on his face, "Lily, do take a seat next to Snape here." He paused. "You have no such objections do you, Snape?"

"It's your classroom, sir," Severus said, carefully. "If this is how you want us to sit…"

"Yeah, well, if you end up sharing your equipment, make sure you wash your hands before you come back to the dorms," Mulciber hissed as he collected his bag and stood. "I'll know if you haven't."

"Now, Mulciber," barked Slughorn.

Mulciber glared at Lily as he passed her, watching her as she took his old seat. "Dirty blood."

"Hi Sev-"

"Shh," Severus hissed, staring at his desk. "Mulc's watching me. Don't be too friendly just yet."


"Only for a bit," he muttered, still not looking up. "Good though, eh? I asked Sluggy if he could arrange for us to sit together."

She glanced around the room, watching all of the students bickering and groaning as they switched places. "He did all this for you?"

"And you," Severus whispered. "He likes you even more than me. I told him you were the best in this class, and we could learn a lot from each other." He shot her a quick sideways smile. "And you know Slughorn - I think he's got his eye on that Potions Apprenticeship fund."

She looked stunned. "He thinks one of us…"

"Probably you," Severus said, pushing his quill awkwardly around the desk. "But yeah. One of us."

And it's only now, all these years on, now that she's trapped in their flat - unable to work, unable to brew, unable to shop, and seeing almost nobody other than Severus that she's really stopped to wonder about what he was up to during those times they were apart. And she realises that she has absolutely no idea.

She doesn't mean for it to become a regular thing with Potter, but they fall into a routine which makes no sense to break. She tried, at first, telling him she'd got places to go - but he'd never let her leave a meeting alone, insisting on travelling with her to her next appointment. Her heart catches in her chest when she thinks about Severus finding out about her growing friendship with Potter, and in a twisted way, it makes more sense to invite Potter back to the flat for a cup of tea whilst Severus is working at the Broomsticks, than it does to roam around Hogsmeade where any witch or wizard may spot them together - or even, Merlin forbid, Severus himself.

"Thanks," Potter says, as she puts a mug of tea for each of them on the table and takes a seat next to him. "What did you think?"

"I think the Prewett boys are taking unnecessary risks."

He cocks an eyebrow. "I think they're daring."

"You would," she huffs. "They need to use a little more brainpower."

"And a little less brawn? Ah, the Gryffindor affliction." Potter smiles. "You sound like him, you know."

She doesn't dignify his comment with a response. He doesn't quite dig at Severus; even Potter must be aware that she wouldn't stand for such disloyalty whilst he's drinking from Severus' mugs and sitting in Severus' seat - but he doesn't let their relationship lie for too long. He always worries at it, picking and poking and prodding, in subtle and inventive ways.


"I didn't say it was a bad thing," Potter says. "I was simply making an observation."

They sit in silence, sipping at their hot drinks, until Potter glances over once more.


"This thing with Madam Bones-"

"-she's just trying to arrange a sponsorship for me," Lily says, quickly. 

Potter's eyes narrow - her response was too quick, it seems. "A sponsorship?"

"So I can work."

"I know what one is," Potter looks puzzled. "But why hasn't Snape signed your exemption?"

Her blood runs a little cold. "Severus? He's a Half."

"He's got Pure lineage."

"It doesn't work like tha-"

"It does." Potter sits forward, and grabs a quill from the table. He scribbles a family tree on a scrap of parchment. "Him, Muggle dad, you said? And his mother - Pure."

"Surely that's still Half?"

"But it goes by grandparents," Potter says, sketching up higher. "Now yes, his dad is Muggle through and through." Muggle, Muggle, he writes. "But for her to be Pure..." and then his quill scribbles: Pure, Pure.

"Three of each. Still half."

Potter looks at her as if she's vaguely simple. "That's true, if parentage is mixed - if his mother was Half, and there were other Halves in the bloodline. But Severus' magical heritage is Pure, Lily. They add a weighting to Purebloods."

"So instead of three-three," she says, astonished, "it's more like six-three?"

"Well," Potter concedes. "Not quite six-three, as that would bend the rules a little too far, but four and a half is probably reasonable." 

"So he could exempt me?" 

"If he wanted." He sits back with a flourish. "You should probably be asking yourself why he hasn't bothered."

She's breathing harder now, and excuses herself to the bathroom. It takes a good three minutes to stop crying, and another five before she's washed her face and added a little make-up to cover her now-blotchy complexion. 

"You okay?" he asks, and he's shifted on the sofa, his long arm stretched out along the back. He fills the space differently to Severus, who is all long limbs and sharp-cornered bones; Potter is muscle and meat - not fat, but brawny. Severus' legs are slim, but Potter's thighs are thick - too many hours clenching a broomstick, she thinks. He's not exactly handsome; he's no Sirius Black - but he's attractive in his own way. He's tidy and neat and clean, with his pressed robes and his expensive glasses, although just like their school days, his hair is still untamed. Despite this, it's as if he's grown into himself, in exactly the way that Severus hasn't - Potter is full of confidence, whilst Severus is still flailing around in his body like a newborn fawn.

"I'm fine."

"Good," he says, and finishes his tea. "Then, can you answer my question honestly? What does Madam Bones want from you?"

She wouldn't have told him. Not until his revelation about the sponsorship. It was her task, and her task alone - but now that she knows that Severus could've made her life easier, she can't stop that little rush of anger from raging in her chest.  Does he want to keep me in here? Locked away from society, so only he can have me? A jealous, selfish boy who wants to keep me for himself?

"She wants me to find out who Severus is working for."

Potter's face fills with greedy excitement. "And I am guessing that the answer she is looking for is neither Jigger or Borage?"

She nods.

"That Sirius' accusation of dealing potions is correct?" Potter is eager, but this time, she doesn't nod - she can't quite bring herself to betray Severus in such bold terms. Potter waits, but when no answer comes, he tries a different angle. "And do you know? Who he's working for?"

"Not yet. Not for sure." And she tilts her chin. "But I shall find out."

Chapter Text

He's monitoring the flame beneath the cauldron. It takes precision, this step – too cold, and the dragon's eye won't split open and spill its precious contents into the liquid, but too hot, and the eye will burst under pressure, and the ensuing explosion will erupt messily out of the cauldron. The mixture has to be on the edge of a rolling boil, and then as the eye bobs up and down in the liquid, right at the moment that the old blood vessels darken and the iris blooms, that's when the heat has to dramatically drop. As Jigger has explained several times, this is when the eyeball is on the cusp of explosion, and pulling it from the heat leaves it without propellant - and that's why a correctly prepared eyeball will ooze into a potion, whilst a silly mistake will ruin half a day's work.

Severus knows this. He understands the theory, despite Jigger's assertions to the contrary. It's not a difficult concept to grasp, and he's not some thick-skulled dunderhead, but performing it flawlessly is another matter entirely. After reaching this stage repeatedly, he's utterly sick of the early steps of the potion, which are tedious and routine; he could brew the first few hours in his sleep - and he's tired of Jigger treating him with utter disdain. It is tricky, he thinks to himself. There's nothing wrong with making a mistake on your first few tries. He's certain that the miserable old man struggled with it himself as an apprentice, even if he's now pretending that he's brewed it successfully since birth. 

Severus takes the cauldron off the heat, and practises his spell. He twists his wand in the air, watching as the flame rises and falls at his command. Inardesco. Defervesco. Inardesco. Defervesco. Inardesco. Defervesco. He breathes deeply and composes himself - you can do this, Severus - and then replaces the cauldron, and repeats the spell. He watches gratifyingly as the mixture simmers and boils and cools, and he knows that this time, albeit for the fifth time of trying – "How many dragons must be blinded for you to master a simple method?" – he's going to succeed. Least, he is until the door bangs open, just as the dragon's eye is cast into the potion and he raises the heat.



And he looks up, and his concentration is broken. Too late, he points his wand back at the burner, the spell forming on his lips, but the temperature is already far too high and the eyeball explodes across the room.

"Cool," nods Avery, approvingly. He slides his hand out of his robe, and reaches to touch a slither of eye slime that's slipping down the wall.

"Merlin's sake," Severus shouts, rushing over to him and pulling him away, "don't touch it."

"What is it? A dragon's eye? It looks awesome."

"It looks like I'm about to get yelled at. Again."

Avery raises his eyebrows. "He's a taskmaster then? Didn't think old Jigger would have it in him." He watches, not offering to assist, whilst Severus quickly washes down the surfaces, trying to eliminate evidence of his error. "You should've stayed with Borage."

"Didn't have much of a choice."

"Oh yeah," Avery says. "Mulc said that if you asked him, you were lucky not to get thrown in Azkaban."

"And if you ask me, Mulciber needs his head read."

Avery smirks. "You can tell him yourself."

At this, Severus stops his cleaning, and throws the rag he's using at the sink. "He's here as well, is he?" He rubs his hands on his robes. "And to what do I owe the pleasure?"

"He's not here, but he's there."

Severus' eyes nearly rolled in the back of his head at Avery's inanity. "He's not here, but he's there. Yes, indeed. How wonderfully insightful you are."

Avery grins. "Still a sanctimonious prick then, Snape?"

"I've worked hard at it all these years," Severus mutters, hefting the contents of the heavy cauldron down the sink and rinsing it under a fierce spray of hot water. "Why give up now?" They both fall silent, and he scrubs the cauldron and wipes it dry before putting it in the cupboard. He cleans his knives, and chopping board, and mortar and pestle, and then he washes the cloths he'd used, pegging them up to dry on a line at the back of the room. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"This is clearly not a social call, Ave," Severus says, his face screwed up as he inspects his fingers. He frowns at one particularly deep laceration, and then pulls a leaf and a stem from a dittany plant on the windowsill. "If you wanted me to head down Knockturn with you, you'd have been talking about randy witches by now. If you wanted a bit of trouble, you'd be grumbling about Muggles, and suggesting that we Apparate to some union march or riot or some such, and start a few fights." He cuts the plant with his wand, and rubs the sap from within across his hands, hissing slightly as the natural salve makes contact with the open wound. "And if you wanted some advice about your career at the Ministry, then you wouldn't have come to me in the first place."


"So? What can I do for you?"

"Nothing for me."

"Ave, I am losing what little patience I had at the beginning of this visit," Severus warns, his jaw tensing. "Why are you here?"

"Malfoy wants you."

"Malfoy normally sends an owl."

"Yeah, well, this time he sent an Avery."

Severus barely holds back a grin; Avery's attempt at humour is relatively decent - and entirely uncharacteristic. Someone else must've said it to him first, he thinks. "Give me some credit. You can do better than that. What do you really want? Hallucinogens? Sleeping aids? Something to impress your latest lady friend?"

"Ha, if only. I'm serious. Malfoy wants to see you. Now."

It's at this moment that Jigger appears, his bulky frame casting a shadow from the doorway. "Unfortunately for you, and unfortunately for young Mr Malfoy," Jigger says, "the boy is on my time, and he isn't going anywhere."

"He's finished here," Avery argues.

Jigger glances at the pristine laboratory, desperate to pick fault. "All clean, boy?"


"Sterilised the knives? Washed the cauldron?" He casts his eyes to the line of rags at the back of the room. "I see you've finally remembered to disinfect the cloths after tidying."


"Perhaps my instructions do not all go straight into one ear and out through the other as I so feared," Jigger says, with a dangerous smile. "Well then, if all is as seems, leave the potion on my desk, and you may go."

Severus tries not to sigh. He knows that Jigger knows that he's failed. Jigger knows there's no potion. Jigger knows there's nothing for him to inspect. Jigger knows that for the fifth time, Severus Snape is a disappointment, and a disgrace to the profession. Only this time, it wasn't strictly Severus' fault. It was Avery's. Severus composes himself – What does Lily say? Count to ten? – least, he tries, but he's only reached four when Jigger coughs impatiently.

"Sorry, sir," he says. "I greeted Avery and took my eye off the flame, and the potion overheated."

Jigger leans in close to him. "Then the lesson is not to let your friends into your laboratory when you're brewing, isn't it?"


"This is an apprenticeship, boy, not a youth club."


Jigger steps back, seemingly aware that Avery is watching the scene unfold with a look of wonderment. "Yes, well. At least you tidied up after yourself. I trust you found all of the excretions?"

"Yes, sir. I think so, sir."

"There is no 'think so', boy. There is, 'Yes, I have, sir', or 'No, I have not, sir'."

"Sorry, sir. Yes, I have, sir."

"Think carefully, boy, because if I find any trace of dragon's eye around this lab-"

"You won't, sir."

"-then I can promise you that you will be very miserable for the next few weeks." He pauses, and Avery is watching with his mouth slightly gaped as Jigger stands over Severus, somehow managing to loom over him, despite Severus' recent growth spurt. "Well? Still sure, boy?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you may go." Jigger waves his hand. "But from now on, I will be deducting the cost of the ingredients for this potion from your wages."

Severus' heart sinks. Dragon eyeballs are rare – and expensive. Bloody Avery. "But sir," he starts, desperate for his Master to reconsider, "I didn't-"

"And you can cease your continual interruptions of me, boy. When I am talking, you are not. Understand me?"


"Your continued failure at this potion suggests you are lacking in either talent or temperament. Given the general standard of your brewing, I suspect the latter is the cause. Perhaps being financially responsible for your silly mistakes will ensure that you concentrate properly on the matter at hand, and will help you to develop your focus." He drew himself up to his full height. "Now get out of my sight."

"Sir," he says, pulling on his cloak and then indicating to Avery that they should leave. 

"Bloody hell, what a git." Avery looks at Severus admiringly, as the two stalk from Jigger's and down the road. "How do you put up with that?"

"With great difficulty," Severus spits. "I'm telling you, Ave, whatever Malf wants, this had better be good. Do you know how much dragon's eyes cost?"

"I dunno what he wants," Avery says, shrugging. "You know what Malfoy's like. Could be anything." He appraises Severus. "But I reckon it might something big. After all, he didn't send a letter, did he? Or a house elf."

"Yes, he sent you," Severus muses, softly – almost to himself. Then they round the corner and before Severus can pull out his wand, Avery grips his arm and the twist of Apparation spirals them both through the ether.

"Ugh," grunts Avery as his feet hit the ground.

"Fuck's sake!" Severus yells, as he stumbles forward on landing, grabbing at Avery's arm. "What did you do that for? I can Apparate, you bloody idiot."

"Not to here, you can't," Mulciber says, stepping forward. "Good job, Ave."

Severus looks at Mulciber in alarm, and then back to Avery. He's not here, but there, he thinks, and a cool shudder runs down his spine. "I thought Malf wanted me?"

"He does."

" why am I here?"

"We are going together."

Severus throws his hands up, his irritation getting the better of him. "Look, Mulc. Ave. It's great to see you both, but I've had a hard day, right? I just want to-"

Mulciber draws his dark cloak around him, lifting the hood, and taking a mask from his pocket. "As I was saying, we are all going to see Malfoy. This is, shall we say, a precaution."

"A precaution?" Severus looks alarmed, especially when he sees Avery also pulling a mask from his pocket. "A precaution for what?"

Avery slides his mask in place, and if Severus didn't know for certain that the two young men before him were his old roommates, he'd have been terrified; the masks and cloaks reveal none of the person beneath - there's no indication as to whether the figures are friends or foes, or how well equipped they are for a fight. It's only Mulc and Ave, he thinks, trying to calm his rising blood pressure. He slides his wand into his hand, ready to brandish it if required, and then Mulciber throws a cloak towards him, and he catches it with his non-preferred hand.

"Put it on," Mulciber orders.

Severus scrabbles with the material, dragging it over him and lifting the hood over his hair. He fumbles in the pockets. "Is there a mask as well?"

"Eager?" asks Avery, barely keeping the joy out of his voice. "Told you, Mul-"

"Not yet," Mulciber says, although it's not clear which man he's speaking to. Mulciber grabs Severus roughly by the arm. "Ready?"

"Wait, no. No! Not at all. You haven't said where we're going-" Severus protests.

"We both have," Mulciber says, sternly. "Ave told you that he'd come to get you to see Malfoy. And I've told you that we're all going to see Malfoy." His head moves slightly, but with the mask covering his features, Severus can't ascertain his reaction. "Have those potions fumes addled your brains? You need to be sharper than this, Snape. Trust me."

Trust him? Severus has never trusted anyone less. And then, for the second time in minutes, he's dragged through the swirl of another's Apparation - and when his stomach drops, Severus can't tell if the cause is Mulciber's rough magic, or the fear that's been steadily building in his chest. 

When they land, it's in a dark room - if he didn't know better, he'd have said it was the ballroom of the Manor, but despite Mulciber and Avery insisting that they were on their way to see Lucius, Severus didn't believe a word of it. It's far too cold to be Malfoy Manor - too sparse, too grey, and as he picks himself up off the floor, he notes that the mosaic tiling is too plain to be commissioned by any of the Malfoys.

As he stands and brushes grit from his palms, and sweeps dust from his newly acquired robe, he quickly takes the opportunity to survey the room - there's a tall figure sat on a large chair at the top of the room, flanked either side by two rather more deferential figures. He glances over his shoulder and there's a throng of people, all wearing the same robes and masks - and this shared uniform strips them all of all other characteristics. If it wasn't so terrifying, he'd have laughed - he could've been stood in a room with all of his old classmates, or the aurors from the Ministry, or the faculty of Hogwarts, or even random Muggles plucked from the street. It was impossible to tell if these were men, or women, or old, or young, or-

A loud crack of Apparation tugs him out of his thoughts, and he glances to his left as a body hits the ground heavily. Mirroring Severus' actions from a moment earlier, the person shakily dusts themselves off, and stands, and Severus catches a gleam of white blond hair peeking from beneath the hood of the cloak. Please be Malf, he thinks. Please be Malf. 

And then the figure turns to glance at him, and Severus' knees almost give way - for it is Lucius Malfoy - but his lip has been split, and there's a thin line of blood trailing from his eyebrow and down the side of his face.

Severus can't help the gasp that he makes. "Malf-"

"Silence!" roars one of the masked people standing to the side of the seated figure.

Lucius shoots him a look that Severus can't quite read, but it's enough to quell him.

"Stay there, Lucius," comes the command from the seated figure. "You," he says, pointing his wand towards Severus, "come closer." 

Severus starts to obey, and then the pull of magic surrounds him, and he's dragged several yards across the floor until he's sprawled on the ground before the seated figure. He starts to pick himself up, but glancing at the figures before him, he's not quite sure what's expected of him, and stalls his movement, leaving him on his knees.

"This one knows his place," the seated figure laughs, and as if on command, the rest of the figures laugh along too, their mirth echoing around the cavernous room. "I like you already." Then his wand flashes, and both Severus and the seated figure are standing, staring one another in the eye. The mask is removed from the commanding man with a lazy flick of his wand. The revealed face is extremely handsome, and looks very pleased, whilst Severus is still fighting the rising bile in his throat at being moved forcibly and unexpectedly once more.

Merlin's sake, he thinks, don't throw up. 

"No, don't do that."

And Severus freezes. Did he just read my fucking mind? He glances at the man, who has now turned to confer with the two masked figures to his side. He was probably just talking to them, he reasons, trying to compose himself. Get a grip, Sev, he thinks - and then one of them levitates a table towards him, whilst another carries a briefcase. The table is set down just inches from where he's standing, and the case is laid on top - and the handsome wizard flicks his wand, opening the latch, and lifting the lid.

"You are an apprentice brewer, aren't you?"

Severus can't speak - the words are trapped in his throat - and it's all he can do to nod.

"Do forgive me for abducting you in such an uncouth manner," the man says, tapping his wand against each filled flask, and sounding anything but apologetic, "but I have a small problem, and I was hopeful that you might be able to assist."

Again, mutely, dumbly, Severus nods.

"For the benefit of all of those gathered," the man says, tapping his wand against each flask again, resulting in a sharp tinkle that echoes throughout the room, "could you take one of these potions from the case, and tell the room what it contains?"

Severus nods again, and his hand reaches for the nearest flask. He unclips it from the case, and lifts it to the light and inspects it closely, before uncorking it. He places it under his nose, and gently inhales - just as both Jigger and Borage taught him to do. "There's no point taking great gulping breaths, boy!" Borage had berated him in his first few days as an apprentice, "What if it was a poison?" But this isn't a poison, Severus is sure, and he inhales carefully again - although it isn't necessary, because he already recognises his own handiwork.

"Ready?" The handsome man leans a little closer. "Then speak loudly."

"It's Unicorn's Fright," Severus says, trying to keep the shiver from his voice.

"Unicorn's Fright," repeats the man. "Unicorn's Fright. How interesting." He stands straighter, his arms outstretched, addressing the room. "Have any of my friends here heard of Unicorn's Fright? Had any use for such a potion?" There's a mumbling of dissent, and Severus can feel his heart thundering in his ears. The man leans back in. "Is it a common potion?"

Severus shakes his head. "The more," and he stumbles over his words, "the more common potion is Unicorn's Delight. You use it to entice a Unicorn, and-"

"I know what Unicorn's Delight does!" screams the wizard, all composure lost - and then, as quickly as his anger came, it disappears. "Tell me, how do the two potions differ?" As Severus open his mouth to answer, the man loudly continues, "and I do not mean how the creature reacts, as that is evident from the name alone. As you are an apprentice potioneer, I wish for you to tell me the difference in how they're brewed."

"...porcupine quills," Severus says, eventually, his voice desperately shaking now. "At the end of the brew, you add porcupine quills and stir rapidly. That's how you make Unicorn's Delight. And if you don't, you make-"

"This," says the man, waving his hand over the briefcase full of potions. 

Severus nods, still not daring to speak directly to the man unless bidden.

"Is it a common request? Unicorn's Fright?"

Severus shakes his head.

And then the wizard leans in to him more closely, his wand twirling dangerously between his fingers. "And do you recall Lucius here requesting that you make Unicorn's Fright?" There's an almighty pause, and then the man smiles. "Or were you supposed to brew Unicorn's Delight?"

Then the man's wand is in the air, and there's a spell, and then there's an intruder deep in his head. Severus falls to his knees and screams loudly as the man rips through his memories. It feels as if his brain is being pushed through a sieve, and desperate for it to cease, desperate to keep this terrifying wizard from discovering any trace of what's truly important to him - his girlfriend, his family, his embryonic business - Severus guesses what the man is searching for, and deliberately brings the brewing session to the forefront of his mind. He thinks over and over about all of the precise steps he'd followed, and Jigger and Slughorn interrupting him at the end, him decanting the potion, and then he starts it over again - it's then that the man finally latches on to the vision, and the evening's brewing feels as if it's being ripped from his hands, and examined against his will. After several minutes, the man withdraws, and Severus slumps onto the floor, panting heavily.

"It was perhaps unfortunate that you were interrupted at the stage you were," the wizard says, generously. 

Severus nods, his face flushing. As soon as he identified the potion in the case, his heart had sunk into his feet, knowing exactly what the problem was. 

"However, unfortunate circumstances do not restore the inconvenience that I have suffered," he continues. "I would anticipate that a brewer of skill would remain aware of their surrounds, and would not make such errors." 

It's like listening to Jigger, he thinks.

"And cannot go unpunished."

Still like listening to Jigger.

"The question is, do I punish you - the idiot brewer - or the man who dared to deliver such goods?" And now the wizard is staring at Lucius. "The man who trusted what he was given. The man who chose his brewer poorly. The man who should know better." There is a long silence, until eventually, the man turns to Severus once more. "You feel my power?"

"Yes, sir."

The wizard makes an irritated noise. "My Lord," he corrects. "Sir is for your Master, or perhaps even Lucius here." There's a ripple of laughter around the room, and then the man's deep in his memories again, pulling out scraps of brief interactions of the pair at Malfoy Manor. "Or not." He looks surprised, and a little interested as he looks at Lucius. "Malf. How familiar you permit the boy to be, Lucius."

There's another ripple of laughter from the assembled crowd, and Severus can see Lucius staring impassively ahead, as if nothing has been said, but the wizard's attention is back upon him, already bored of Lucius.

"And are you familiar with the Cruciatus?" 

Severus swallows hard. Familiar with the Cruciatus? Who can consider themselves familiar with such a curse? He remembers it from school - the lesson on the three Unforgivables, and the warnings of the horrific pain that one could be subjected to if it was wielded by a wizard with skill, and Severus is in no doubt that this is a wizard with skill. "I am aware of the curse, my Lord."

"Tell me," he says, almost amicably. "Tell me who I should punish. The man who brokered this deal? The man who knew who he was purchasing for? The man who should know better? Or you? The boy who made an innocent mistake?" 

They stand in silence for long minutes, and Severus is dumbstruck, with no idea what to say. 

The wizard then gives an almost imperceptible shrug, and again, it's as if he's read his mind. "There are no wrong answers. It is of no consequence to me."

Severus doesn't dare glance at Lucius. This lunatic is going to Crucio one of us. For making a simple mistake. And then the guilt settles in his stomach - Malf, who had always stood by him, would be Crucio'd for trusting him. And it was his own mistake - wasn't Jigger always screaming at him that his work was sloppy, that he didn't take enough care? Wasn't this whole scenario illustrative of that very complaint? Thank Merlin Jigger just wants to garnish my wages and doesn't think to curse me with Unforgivables for making errors.

"Me, my Lord," he says, his voice quaking, "it was my mistake, not Lucius'. I have never made a mistake for him before whilst brewing," and his breath catches in his chest when he says it - for all of his rushed work, it was always his apprenticeship that suffered; he always took extra care when it came to brewing his illicit potions, "so I understand why he trusted me, and I do not wish for that trust to be broken. I am the one who deserves your ire, my Lord."

He can almost sense Lucius sagging with relief, and the wizard looks momentarily impressed. "Very well," he says. "The rest of you may go." 

Severus hears the crowd behind him departing, footsteps heavy on the ground, and voices grumbling about missing out on some much desired entertainment. 

"Not you, Malf," the wizard says, with a dark chuckle, and beckoning him back. "I think that you should stay. When I have finished, your boy might need some assistance."

And now, Severus really does think he might throw up. He glances at Lucius, who looks equally terrified, and then back at the floor. Severus can hear the handsome man seating himself, and when all others have departed and the room is silent, Severus finally peers up from under his hood. The man nods, as if he was waiting for such a movement, and beckons both youngsters towards him. As they step closer to him, the powerful wizard holds his hand in the air, and there's an almighty pressure on his shoulders, forcing him to kneel. A quick glance to his left shows that Lucius is submitting in the same manner. 

"But I am nothing if not benevolent," the man says, his wand twirling between his fingers once more. "Your lesson in this, Lucius, shall be that I reward bravery. And I think we can both agree that your ever so loyal little pet here has been brave."

"Yes, my Lord."

And then his attention is back on Severus. "So, if you please me, young man, I will refrain from using the Cruciatus upon you."

He isn't sure whether to weep with relief, or to shake with fear - because this man, this terrifyingly powerful wizard, wants something from him; wants Severus to please him.

He follows Lucius' lead. "Yes, my Lord."

"Very good. Now, I wish for you to select your own punishment."

Severus doesn't dare breathe. I don't understand, he thinks. 

And now the handsome man is smiling - no, not smiling, leering. "During your life," he elaborates, "you have been punished for misbehaviour, have you not?"

He's fairly sure this wizard saw something when he was peeling through his memories, although he can't quite be sure what as it all happened so fast - perhaps the time his mam backhanded him for drinking the last of the milk, leaving his da without any for his tea at breakfast, or maybe the time the teacher at his Muggle school sharply rapped his left hand four times with the cane, and he'd gone back to his desk with his palms pressed firmly between his thighs, blood starting to ooze onto his thin shorts. 

Or maybe he didn't see anything. One or two students at Hogwarts had heard whisper of Severus' miserable Muggle background, and he had no idea who was stood in the room watching tonight - or even Lucius himself might've let something slip. Lucius did like to deride Severus' parents' marriage as being a waste of a decent witch, Severus' own failings blamed on his father's useless blood tainting him. Unfortunate. That was the word he heard the most to describe the Snape family. His father was unfortunate. His mother's choices were unfortunate. Severus' faults were unfortunate.

The wizard snaps him out of his thoughts. "If you understand my power," he intones, "and you understand your costly mistake, then I wish for you to choose - to show me one of your previous punishments, and that is what you shall receive tonight in lieu of the Cruciatus." He pauses. "But be warned, if I find your choice insufficient, I will search your memories until I find a punishment which is appropriate for the infraction, and you will submit to that instead."

Severus knows that this wizard would delight in exploring his head, examining his hopes and fears and dreams and memories, and he wants nothing more than to keep this creature out of his brain. So, his heart heavy, he drags his most hated memory to the front of his mind, and nods, indicating that the wizard should commence. The wizard raises his wand, and casts, and as the awful images flicker across Severus' brain, the wizard seemingly delights in what he's witnessing. He watches the scene repeatedly, forcing Severus to relive every shout and scream, and every howl and whimper, as if this moment itself is a warm up to the main event.

Eventually, the wizard stops and leans back, his wand dangling from his fingers. "Oh my," he says, and he seems utterly gleeful. "Yes, this will do nicely."

Chapter Text

It doesn't matter how cold it gets, he always sleeps in his underwear; pants only, no vest. She comes from a family where flannel button down pyjamas are de rigueur in the winter, replaced by lightweight cotton in the warmer months - so although she didn't expect him to look as if he'd stepped out of page 472 of the Littlewoods catalogue, she also hadn't anticipated that he'd slide into bed wearing the same y-fronts that he'd worn all day.


"They're not exactly sexy, are they?"

"And striped brushed flannel is sexy, is it?" He gives her an incredulous look. "I bet Dursley wears striped brushed flannel to bed."

"You're freezing. I bet Vernon isn't."

He gives her that smug raised eyebrow that he only seemed to acquire after they became a couple. "Why would I need brushed flannel when I've got you?"

"Get the fuck up!"

She doesn't press it as an issue; it's not that big a deal - although she does eventually convince him to take a shower and switch into clean underwear before heading to bed. It's a compromise, she reasons, although when he curls up against her, his torso freezing, she wishes he'd reconsider. Even a t-shirt would help. She doesn't complain too strongly, though - after all, curling up next to her loving boyfriend in their own private flat is much more agreeable than staying in Cokeworth with her parents and sleeping in her childhood bed. Still, it would be nice on cold nights to be embraced by someone who wasn't impersonating an icicle.

"Now! Yer little fuckin' shit!"

His large fist grips the material of his son's shirt, scrunching and clenching the fabric until the tightened neck is choking the flailing teen. The teenager's arms are windmilling as he's hoisted from his slumber, but his father's hold is firm.


"Don't fuckin' what me, you little fuckin' psycho!" 

And then he's thrown against the bedroom wall. He quickly swipes at his eyes, trying to remove the sleep from them before he's hit again.

"Go on, get on wi' yer!"

There's a hefty kick to his side, thudding into his waist and just glancing the bottom of his ribcage. He gasps, and he's roughly grabbed by the scruff of his neck, and shoved unceremoniously through the doorway. 

Finding somewhere to live had been arduous, despite both of them being in full-time employment; apprentice wages were far lower than an ordinary wage, and she refused to look at anywhere outside of Hogsmeade. She would've admitted that it was an odd request, until he refused to consider anywhere with stairs.

"You are joking, right?"

"Who needs stairs?"

"...people who want more than a flat. A house, for instance."

"Why do we need two floors? There's only us. We just need somewhere to eat, somewhere to wash, and somewhere to sleep. What's that?" He ticks his points off on his fingers as he counts the rooms. "Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom?"


"Let's be honest, just a bedroom would do us."


He grasps for the woodwork, desperately trying to hold onto something - anything: doorframe, bannister, even the skirting board - but the boy's weak grip is nothing compared to his father's fury. 

"Don't fuckin' mess me about! Get down them stairs!"

He's shoved in the back, and he stumbles down the stairs, slapping his hands on the paintwork to steady himself and barely keeping himself upright, the heavy footsteps of his father pounding down the steps behind him.

In the end, they'd found a flat which had stairs on the outside, and after testing the lock on the front door, rattling the handle and banging his hip hard against the wood, he'd reluctantly agreed it was suitable.

"The rest of it's fine," she says to the estate agent, "but it's a shame it doesn't have a garden."

Severus looks at her like she's grown another head. "What do you want a garden for?"

"So you can grow your potions ingredients."

"I can get discounted ingredients through Master Borage. Why would I want to grow them?"

"I thought you liked Herbology? You were always in those greenhouses at school. Sprout recko-"

"Because I couldn't afford top quality, that's all. I had to grow my own. I hated it."

"But, Sev-"

"I just said, didn't I? I hate Herbology, and I don't want a garden. Or a yard. Or anything outdoors."

"Gerroff," he yells, as he's thrown out into the frigid yard. There's the bitter tang of blood in his mouth - although he's unsure whether he's bitten his cheek in the tussle, or if his lip was forced around his teeth when his head was thumped against the pointed edge of the oven. "Get the fuck off me!"

"Don't even think about it, Lil."

"But why? They're so cute with their tiny paws, and when their tails-"


"Sev, please - just come with me and look? I'll walk it-"

"I said no."

"But if just held one, you'd fall in love-"

"I'm serious. Bring one of those into my home, and it's the last you'll ever see of me."

"I always knew yer'd do summat like this!"

"Like what?" he screams. "Like fucking what?"

"Yer a fuckin' freak, an' yer gonna break yer mam's heart carryin' on like y'are!"

Severus looks helplessly towards the house, willing his mother to step out of the shadows and intervene, but Tobias' large hand grips Severus' chin firmly, his fingers digging painfully into his sunken cheeks. 

"No point lookin' through kitchen window, yer little fuckin' monster, she ain't gonna fuckin' help yer this time."

"I wasn-"

"She wants to know why," he spits, and pushes his son's head back against the wall of the house, Severus' skull meeting brick with a sickening crack. "But I don't fuckin' care why. Yer can explain yersel' to her tomorrow. If yer got the bollocks-"

"I ain't a fucking coward!"

"I bet your mum was pleased."


"With your mid term report."


"Professor McGonagall wrote ever such nice things about me, but Mummy and Daddy don't really understand what Transfiguration is, or Arithmancy, and I nearly died when Petunia asked if Astronomy meant I could read her star sign!"


"I tried to show them what Transfiguration was last summer, do you remember?"


"And I got a letter from the Ministry. The Ministry! I guess your dad is the same as mine, but at least with your mum, she's been to Hogwarts, so she understands what it all means."


"Is that all you have to say, Sev? Mmm?  Are you even listening to me?"




"Oh honestly, Sev! What did your mum say about your report?"

"Oh. Nowt."

"Didn't Sluggy write anything nice?"


"Didn't she read it?"


Tobias shoves him against the wall again, and then grabs at his worn t-shirt, his thick fingers tearing the thin cotton as he shakes him. "Why d'yer do it? That's what them fuckin' psychopaths do, them what yer see on telly and read int paper. What were yer thinkin'? Leavin' fuckin' bloody clothes all round our house, and yer din't even bury the poor fucker properly! Six inches of dirt ain't gonna do it, yer lazy little fuck - if yer gonna bury summat, yer gotta go deep." Tobias shakes his head in disgust. "I ain't like yer mam. I never thought yer'd come good. I knew yer was a little weirdo - yer always were, but she thought with yer goin' that school and hangin' around wi' that posh girl, yer would get on straight and narrow. An' just fuckin' look at yer."

"I ain't done nowt!"

"That's why yer fancy headmaster writ to yer mam, is it? Coz yer ain't done nowt there either? Yer lyin' little shite! Yer a disgrace at school-"

"I'm not!"

"-an' I ain't fuckin' surprised. No wonder they don't want yer back." 

Severus recoils like he's been slapped, but Tobias carries on, as if the boy hasn't reacted. 

"An' I don't wan' yer back 'ere 'an all, behavin' like this. Bringin' shame on this fuckin' family. How'm I gonna walk in the pub again, eh? How'm I gonna look John Davies in the eye, eh? Aye, all right Johnny lad - how's yer missus? And yer kids? I'm sorry to hear about yer dog-"


"-sorry my boy came home fer the weekend an' fuckin' murdered it!"


"No hard feelins' eh? Yeah, that's gonna go down real well, son. Real fuckin' well." Tobias jabs his finger towards Severus. "Whatever is goin' on in yer head, I'm tellin' yer, yer not bringin' this shit to my door."

She taps his open book, interrupting his reading. "Sev! Slughorn's absolutely furious you missed Potions. Have you been here all afternoon? Did you lose track of time or-"

"Just didn't fancy it."

She gives him a funny look. "Yeah, right. Severus Snape didn't fancy Potions class, and next week, pigs are going to fly from the Astronomy Tower."

"Knock it off, Lil."

She drops her bag next to him, and sits herself on the grass. "I just can't imagine you deliberately skipping Potions, that's all." 

"I didn't get much sleep," he shrugs. "You've got to be careful when you brew. I'd only end up burning my eyebrows off or something."

"There's loads of people like that at the moment."

"What, with no eyebrows?" 

"No, idiot," she laughs. "People who can't sleep. I wondered if it was the owls or ghosts or something-" He gives a derisive sniff, and she punches his arm. "All right, no need for the sarcasm - it was just a theory."

"Ghosts don't keep me awake, Lil. Upcoming OWL exams are what's keeping people awake."

This time, it's Lily who scoffs. "Sev, they're months off yet. Nobody - apart from you - has even thought about them."

"No? I reckon you should."

"Yeah, well, Lupin looked shattered today, and I know he's not been studying." 

Severus falls silent, but Lily's fiddling with her shoelace, and misses his wary look. 

"But it's definitely not ghosts with him either," she adds. She drops her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Slughorn sent him up to Pomfrey, and then that third year Hufflepuff - you know, the one with the freckles-"


"Yeah, Wallace. Pomfrey sent him down with a message, and it turns out that Lupin's mum's sick."


"Yeah. They're sending him home for a few weeks."


"It must've been bad, because Sluggy even excused Potter to go and see Lupin before he left. I've never seen Potions so empty."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Lupin, Potter, you-"

He scoffs derisively. "It's not as if anyone would miss me."

"Slughorn did."

"Professors don't count."

"I missed you," she says, and jabs him in the ribs when he rolls his eyes, "and don't say that I don't count!"

"You're my lab partner, of course you missed me. But-"

"Anyway, it wasn't just me. ...Black was very interested in where you were." She looks slightly confused. "In fact, it was after Slughorn was asking where you were that Lupin felt sick-"

"-right, I'd best go and see Slughorn," he interrupts loudly, suddenly standing and looking over his shoulder in each direction. "Better explain myself to him."

"I'll come wi-"

"I can fight my own battles, Lil. I'll catch you later, all right?"

"Yer mam says beatin' it out of yer ain't gonna work," Tobias muses, fumbling with his belt, "but I ain't got any other answers."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Da, I'm sorry, I-"

"Yeah, yer sorry yer got fuckin' caught. That's what yer sorry about. What's next, lad? Some bloke yer get in a fight with, an' yer decide to dice him up? Some bird who turns yer down at the disco, so yer slit her throat behind the bins? Lose yer temper wi' that lass yer follow around like she's got all the answers to the universe, and yer give her a quick slash wi' that knife-"

"I wouldn't do anything like that! I'm not crazy!"

"Yeah, an' I'm tellin' yer that sane people don't go round killin' animals for no reason, yer sick fuck." He brandishes his belt, the buckle gleaming in the moonlight. "Face the wall."

"Da, please."

"Put yer hands against it, an' bend over."

"Da, I'm begging you. Don't do this. Not out here where the neighbours can see."

"The neighbours are gonna be the last thing yer'll need ter worry about if yer don't get yer hands against the wall right fuckin' now." He snaps the belt in the air with a thundering crack, and Severus quickly complies, his legs trembling with fear. "An' yer can just be thankful I ain't gonna make yer count."

There's a flurry of activity - of voices, of dark laughter, of retreating footsteps - and he's vaguely aware of Lucius throwing a robe over him. He assumes it's an attempt to protect his modesty, but the material hurts so much when it makes contact with the wounds on his back, he immediately shakes it off. He considers attempting to stand, but the idea of it makes him feel queasy, and even though he's been left alone, he isn't entirely sure he's actually been dismissed - the last thing he wants is for this to have all been pointless, and to end up being held under Cruciatus because of yet another stupid mistake.

The floor is deliciously cool against his hot face, and he whimpers against the tile. He isn't sure how long he lies there - it might've been sixty seconds, or sixty minutes - but then there's a tight grip around his bicep, and someone trying to pull him upright. He grunts in protest - he doesn't really want to stay here, half-naked and bleeding on this strange floor in this unknown location, but the thought of moving his aching body is equally distressing.

"Come on," says Lucius, urgently. He bundles up Severus' clothing, and holds it underneath his left arm, and hoists the younger man until he's standing, one arm looped pathetically over Lucius' own shoulder. He jabs Severus' wand into his hand. "I'll Apparate us-"

"No," Severus says, thickly. "Home."

Lucius lowers his voice. "You know I can't Apparate us to yours-"


"The Manor is blocked, and I thought you'd taken the same precaution?"

"Aurors." Severus' eyes flutter closed.

Lucius looks a little guilty as the meaning of Severus' words sinks in. "I'll find us a fireplace," he says. "And then I'll get that blocked up again."


"They won't put you in Azkaban for having a blocked Floo," Lucius says, his voice oddly soft.

"Said they will." And as if using more than one word in a sentence was the final blow, Severus' eyes close completely, leaving Lucius to drag his dead weight to the nearest fireplace.

"It wasn't for no reason!" he sobs between blows. "It wasn't for no fucking reason, I swear!"

He lies on their bed, his stomach pressed against the mattress, whilst Lucius stalks around in a circle.

"When will she be home?"

"I don't know. Didn't even know she was going out." He winces. "She probably got tired of waiting for me to show up for tea. I said I'd be back by five."

Lucius tuts, and checks his watch. "It's half seven."

"Yeah, and telling me the time still doesn't help me know where she is."

"I don't want to leave you on your own."

Severus groans. "I'm fine. Really."


"Well, you're making me feel seasick with your pacing."

"I meant your-"

"I know what you meant, but you'll wear a hole in my carpet if you keep that up."

Lucius doesn't apologise, but he ceases his pacing, and sits on a corner of the bed, the mattress sagging slightly with his added weight. "Does it still hurt?"

"Of course it still hurts. Wouldn't be much of a punishment if it didn't hurt, would it?"

"I suppose not."

Severus sighs. "You can go, Malf. I don't need a carer."

"I'll wait until she gets back."

She rattles the spoon in the mug, stirring his drink furiously, and then she presses the teabag against the rim, squeezing out the last drops of tea.

"Thanks," he says, taking the mug from her, holding the sides instead of the handle. The china is so hot, it scalds his hands, but instead of adjusting his hold or putting it down, he grips it more tightly, as if he's relishing the pain.

She watches him curiously, taking a small sip from her own hot mug, her fingers curled around the cooler handle. "Is that why?"

"Why what?"

She taps his hot mug. "Masochism, they call it."

"You think I wanted him to beat me?" His voice is higher, incredulous. "Fuck me-"

"Don't swear!"

"-you're the one who keeps letting him hit you! You're the one who wouldn't leave him. Wouldn't stand up to him. I never asked for any of that." He jerks his shoulder, indicating to his torn back. "Or this."

"No?" Her enquiry is mild - a soft, taunting smile playing on her lips.

"Bloody hell, Mam," he says, looking stunned. "You're as crazy as he is."

"And you're as crazy as we both are," she says. "Killer."

He looks wounded. "Yeah well," he shoots back, hotly. "If I'm messed in the head, it's because of you pair. You've made me like this!"

"Us? I doubt it." She stares at him now, her expression serious. "If it had been a cat you'd skinned, I'd have said it was a Manticore-" 

He jolts at her unnerving insight but doesn't respond.

She doesn't need him to - his reaction is enough, and she smiles broadly before continuing. "Well done, Eileen. You can take the witch out of the wizarding world…" She pauses for a moment. "So? If it wasn't a Manticore, what was it?"

He shakes his head, and sips his tea, but Eileen isn't letting the issue go. 

"I see. He told you not to tell anyone, didn't he? Made you swear it." She purses her lips. "A wizard's oath, perhaps?" 

Her eyes narrow when he shakes his head again.

"Or just a young boy's honour?" she guesses.

He gives a stiff nod.

She huffs a cold laugh. "I should come back with you. Give him what for."

"You can't. He'll think I told you."

"And then he'll throw you out." She exhales heavily. "You need to finish school to keep your wand."

"I know."

" is it out of your system now?"

He stares at the half-filled mug, and runs a long finger around the rim. "...I don't know."

"Your father won't let you back here in the holidays if you're going to slaughter the whole neighbourhood's pets."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"Are you?"

"How long?"

"Weeks," he says, bitterly. "This'll be weeks." He inhales unsteadily. "Some punishments were worse than others. Sometimes it'd heal pretty fast, and you'd only really be in blistering pain for the first couple of days. But this? This was the worst I ever had," he says, "and believe me, it was weeks."

Lucius looks aghast that Severus is able to make such comparisons between punishments, unable to tear his gaze from Severus' damaged back. "He did it often, then?"

"Often enough."

"I can't do anything to help," Lucius says, sounding exasperated. "Dittany's not working - it's as if he's cursed the marks. Is there anything…" He trails off, and looks as if the words are being pulled from him with force. "Could you… the Muggle world… What did you do? He won't have thought of prohibiting a Muggle remedy, so-"


"Nothing? Nothing at all?" Lucius looks horrified. "But-"

"There was this one time," Severus says, and with his light tone, it sounds as if he's reminiscing about a particularly joyful family holiday, "when I was pretty small, and Lily's parents saw, and they rang the social."

"The social?"

"Social Services. It's this Muggle thing. The authorities. They make sure that everyone's looking after their kids properly - not starving them, or abusing them, or-"

"-beating them?"


"And what happened? They stopped it?"

"Did they fuck," Severus says, softly. "What happened, Malf, is that my da came home and hit the roof. He beat seven shades of shit out of my mam for letting them in through the door in the first place, and I remember her screaming as he banned me from ever seeing Lily or her family again. Then, when I thought he'd finished, he turned to me and beat seven shades-"

Lucius holds up his hand to stop him from speaking. "I can guess the rest."


"You know, Severus, you really do tell the most charming stories."

They stare at each other for a long time, before she snakes her weathered hand out to hold his. "I won't repeat a word you say. Not to him, not to the school, not to anyone."

Once more he shakes his head, and she grips his hand more tightly, trying to force him to speak. 

"You enjoyed it, didn't you, Severus?"

He's frozen to the spot, one hand being held by his mother, the other still gripping his lukewarm tea. "...I…"


"...I enjoyed it." He screws his eyes up tightly. "I enjoyed killing it, Mam." And then his chest heaves. "Da's right, isn't he? That makes me a psychopath or-"

"Shhhh," she says, squeezing his hand more tightly still. "Were you thinking of him when you did it? The boy? The wolf?"


"Then I wouldn't say that makes you a psychopath," she says. "Your father doesn't understand what it is to be in genuine fear of your life. But you weren't torturing an animal for fun - you were getting revenge, weren't you?"


"A demonstration of your power? A test?"


"And you're not going to do it again, are you?" And her voice hardens now. "Promise me, Severus."


"I don't care," she says, her voice low, "how good it felt. That's your true punishment. Not the beating."

"...I don't understand."

"You opened Pandora's box, Severus - and now you have to live with the knowledge that you're not just capable of killing, but that you like it. That you enjoy it. But that-"

"-I can never ever do it again."

"Yes. Now promise me."

"I promise, Mam."

"Good boy."

Chapter Text

She doesn't go to every Order meeting. Not through lack of desire, but Dumbledore and his fellow leaders are canny - the collection of witches and wizards are rightly wary, and Lily's not stupid; she quickly realises they're deliberately spreading information through different groups of people, trying to establish if there's any sort of leak. Given her bed partner and his apparent refusal to sit amongst them, she knows she's viewed with more suspicion than most, so she's gratified when Diggle contacts her for the third time in a week - is this acceptance?

Lily sits, and Potter immediately sits next to her, with Black and Pettigrew next to him.


"Hi yourself," she says, and nods curtly to the other two boys, who barely raise a hand in greeting. "Fourth musketeer got better things to do? Or not invited?"

"He's channelling Hank," quips Black, leaning back on his chair, and clocking the entrants. "Here comes Bones."

"She's missed at least a fortnight," Pettigrew notes. "Didn't Moody say she'd gone on holiday?"

Potter flashes a grin at Lily, and whispers under his breath. "The Ministry believed she'd gone on holiday. We know she went undercover. I think Gideon said she'd been tracking remote creatures."

"How does Gideon know that, and not Moody?"

He gives her a strange look. "Moody knew."


"Moody is selective with the truth," Potter says, but before he can continue, Black bangs on the table.

"Hey hey, Vance is here! It's been so long, I thought she'd gone dark."

"More chance of you doing that than her," Pettigrew laughs, and then groans as Black thumps his arm far harder than was strictly necessary.

"Where's Remus?" she tries again. "Channelling Hank?" 

Potter and Black chuckle, and she's embarrassed that they understand, and she's as confused as Pettigrew appears to be. She fleetingly wonders how he copes with being the only one of the group not to grasp every observation, or joke, or wry comment made by the rest of his friends - but then she realises that Pettigrew's not listening to their conversation; his attention has been diverted by Alice and Frank who have taken the seats on his left side - and she feels a little ashamed that she'd judged his intellect so sharply.

"Thought you'd know him," Black says loudly, pulling her back from her thoughts, "with your background."

"He's a Muggle singer," Potter explains. He drums his fingers on the table, and starts to sing. "You got me chasin' rabbits, walkin' on my hands, and howlin' at the moon."

"Owwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww," Black leans over and harmonises.

"...I've heard that somewhere before," she says, a crease appearing between her eyebrows.

"Yeah, I reckon," Black says, with a sneer. "Your man used to sing it in the corridors between classes."

"Without the howl," Potter quickly adds. "He was a bit sharper than that."

She shifts uncomfortably. She can't remember Severus behaving in such a way, but then she didn't follow him down every corridor in their schooldays. 

"So we adopted it," Potter adds.

"Private joke and all that." Black shrugs. "Not that this time of the month is very funny for him."

She doesn't know what to say in response, and she's relieved when the door slams shut, and Dumbledore calls for the meeting to start. 

Lucius glances over at Severus, who is becoming whiter as the minutes tick by. "Is it getting worse?"


"You're deathly pale." Lucius appraises the wounds on Severus' back, checking for any obvious blood loss. "Are you still bleeding?"

"No." He sighs loudly. "I appreciate your help, Malf, but you should get back to Cissy."

"I'm not leaving you on your own," Lucius says, firmly, and he looks again at his pocket watch. "Twenty past nine." There's a horrible silence, punctuated only by the sounds of the street drifting up from outside. "'re worried about her, aren't you?"

"You should get back to Narcissa."

"And leave you to go hunting for your Mu-" He stops himself from using a slur, but gives Severus a look of disdain. "You're not in a fit state to go anywhere."

"Yeah? ...and what if she's hurt, Malf? What use am I to her just lying here?"

"You're the one who's hurt!" Lucius yells, furiously.

The meeting is long and miserable, and the only bright moment is her realisation that Moody has stopped actively glaring at her from over the table. The reports of Ministry infiltration are difficult to listen to, and everyone's expressions are grave throughout. When Dearborn pipes up - and it's the first time she's ever heard him speak - and informs the young members that they're all to take exceptional care, both Pettigrew and Potter look troubled, and even the ever-cocky Black exhales loudly.

When the meeting is finally called to a close, Amelia Bones beckons her over, and Lily finds herself standing between her and Emmeline Vance - two of the most magically powerful women in the group - both sipping coffee. Neither of them offers her a cup, but she tries not to read anything into their actions.

"Given your silence until now, I expect you have nothing for me?"

"Not really, Amelia" she admits, feeling ashamed - and useless. "I know you only gave me one task, but-"

"We would rather you do it properly," Vance says, curtly.

"What Emmeline means," Amelia interjects swiftly, "is that flawed information is of no use to us."

"No," Vance argues, "what I mean is that flawed information is downright dangerous. It's worse than useless - if we believe it to be true, it can lead us to commit resources to the wrong target." She leans a little closer, and Lily can smell the coffee on her breath. "It's not just that we're wasting time and effort on the wrong person, but it's the distraction. It's the fact that whilst we're looking to the left, the real culprit is scot free on the right. Do you understand?"


"So, I don't want quick information; I want correct information." Vance leans back, her gaze fixed on Lily's face, scrutinising her. " are a surprise."


Vance waves her hand distractedly. "You're very pretty. It's not usually the pretty ones."

"I don't… I'm not sure what you're saying?"

"There's usually something wrong," Vance says, briskly. "Too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, not very bright, bad hair, crooked teeth-"

"Wrong blood?"

"Good answer," mutters Amelia.

"My point is," Vance says, as if neither of the two women had spoken, "what is a nice girl like you doing with him?"

Her fists ball by her sides. "I am becoming rather tired of that question."

Amelia's lips quirk in amusement. "Now now, Emmeline - a girl can't help who she falls for."

Vance doesn't look impressed. "Really? There's plenty of eligible chaps in this group. Plenty of eligible chaps who aren't Death Eat-"

"He's not a Death Eater!" She realises too late that her voice is a little loud, and the room falls silent, all attention suddenly on their small group of three.

Lucius is pacing again. Severus can't watch - he's still lying face down, his face now nestled in his forearms - but he can hear the thud of his friend's boots as he stamps around in circles. 

"She'll tell me off."

"She'll tell you off?"

"For your boots," he explains, his voice muffled. "She'll think it's me. She's always telling me off about wearing my boots indoors." Then there's some shuffling, and gentle thudding, and when Severus looks up, Lucius is stood before him in his socks. "I didn't mean for you to take them off."

Lucius shrugs. "I can't have you getting in more trouble tonight, can I?"

"...I'm going to lose my job."

"I'll sort out Jigger."

"Not Jigger," he says, "although Merlin, yes, if you could step in with him-"

"Consider it done." Lucius stands in front of him. "The bar job then?"

Severus gives a slight nod. "I've been missing loads of shifts lately," he says. "Ros'll think I'm unreliable, and Malf, I need the money."

"I'll go and see her. Talk to her."

He tips his head up. "If you go down there now to explain, she'll pass you a cloth, you know. Get you to stand in."

Lucius laughs lightly. "I can clean a glass."

"Without magic? Without elves? I'll believe it when I see it." 

"Anyway, I've told you - I'm not going anywhere and leaving you alone."

"So what are you going to say to her?"

"I'll explain the circumstances."

Severus looks stricken. "You can't tell her what happened! You can't tell anyone-"

Lucius waves his hand, and strides over to the window, peering out again - as if willing Lily to return and take hold of the conversation. "I'm not going to give her any details. I'll just…"


"Convince her."

Severus exhales loudly. "There's no need for that. Ros is all right, Malf."

"Merlin, Severus, I'm not going to hurt her."


"...I'll just persuade her." He shrugs, and turns back to his friend, a smile dancing on his lips. "And I can be very persuasive."

"Hey," he says, grabbing her elbow as she makes for the door. "Where are you slinking off to so soon?"

"I thought you'd want to go with Black and see Lupin?" she says. She looks behind her, seeing Black talking animatedly to Pettigrew, showing him something from his pocket.

Potter nods. "Sure I do, but I can go later." At her look of surprise, he quickly adds, "I always walk you back. I've got time for us to do that before I go and visit Remus."

She doesn't look convinced, and he appraises her, mistaking her unsure look for concern. 

"He's okay," he says, giving a half-laugh. "Blimey, I didn't know you cared so much."

And then she really does look confused, and he immediately mirrors her expression. "Wait," she says, "who do you think I'm worried about?"

"It's fine, you can come with us, I'm sure he won't mind-"

"No," she says, quickly. "I don't want to see Remus. I mean, I hope he's ok but-"

"-you weren't worrying about him," Potter realises.

"I was debating going down the Broomsticks," she admits, pulling her robe around her a little more tightly. 

"Oh. I see. Not Remus. Snape."

She rolls her eyes. "Severus," she corrects, with equal feeling. "...something's not right."

"You're fretting over nothing," Potter says, slinging his arm over her shoulder, and giving her a half-hearted hug. "Sniv-Severus," he quickly catches himself at her dark look, "was always the same at school - too involved in his brewing. He's just lost track of time at Jigger's and made himself late for work. He'll come in tonight after his shift like nothing even happened."

"Yeah." She sounds unconvinced.

"...we can go and check. ...if you like?"

She untangles herself from his hold, and gives him an incredulous look. "I'm not walking in the Three Broomsticks with you - if Severus is there-"

"Which he will be."

"-then he'd have a heart attack on the spot!"

"So what then?" he retorts. "You can't go alone - not with the restricted purchasing laws. Someone will challenge you if they see you freely out and about, hanging around in a bar with intent." 

Her expression is defiant. "I'll peer through the window."

"You won't," he says, sternly. "I'm taking you home, and then I'll go back and check."

"...I don't want to-"

"Nobody will think twice about me being there - I'm just another pureblood wizard out for a drink."

"But Severus-"

"I'm not going to stay," he says. "I'll walk in, spy him behind the bar, make some excuse and walk straight back out. Easy."

Lucius is staring out of the window, peering at the people who pass - and then he turns, decisively. "Got an owl?"

"Yeah, I've got six out the back," Severus drawls, not lifting his head from the mattress. "Take your pick."


"I thought so."

There's a long moment, and then Lucius pushes open the window, and as the cool evening air rushes in, he casts - calling an owl from Malfoy Manor.


"I'm going to ask a friend, that's all," he says. 

Severus drops his head back onto his crossed forearms, not wanting to look at his friend. "Arrests?"

Lucius winces. "I was thinking admissions to Mungo's."


"...but you're right," Lucius says, softly. "If she's been wandering out alone at this time of night, I'll have to check the Auror office as well. They do a sweep of Knockturn around this time."

At that, Severus makes a weird noise - a mixture between a cough and a sob, and Lucius is back by his side. When Severus doesn't move, Lucius gently reaches forward, and rests his fingertips on Severus' scalp. It's semi-comforting, which Severus realises is the intention, and doesn't pull away. "It's my fault," he eventually croaks. "She'll have been looking for me, and now she's-"

"We don't know-"

"I know! I bloody well know!"

"You don't know." 

"I do know, Malf, because she's always here, and now she's not." He looks up, his eyes filling with tears. "And I can't do it again, Malf. I can't get her out of whatever mess she's in this time."

"But I can," Lucius says, firmly. "And I will."

Her crack of Apparition is quieter this time, and as they land, Potter stares up at her flat. 

"Hey, I think he's there," he says, pointing at a shadow that quickly disappears.


"...I saw someone in the window," he says.

She looks up, anxiously, but there's no movement. "It's probably just a shadow from an owl or something." She pulls her robe tight, and walks towards the flat, turning and frowning when Potter follows her. "I thought you were going to the Broomsticks?"

"I'm not letting you go up there alone."


"I'm serious," he says. "Either that's him, and I don't need to go to the pub, or it's…" He trails off, looking concerned. "I won't take no for an answer."

"Did you hear that?"

"I didn't just hear it; I saw it." Lucius' face is drawn.

"Was it her?"

He nods, and Severus bounces up from his position on the bed. Lucius raises a calming hand.

"What?" His elation quickly disappears at his friend's reaction. "What is it? Is she hurt?"

"Put something on," Lucius says, grabbing a t-shirt from the top of the wash bin. Severus sniffs it, and looks at it dubiously. "I know it might sting, but you don't want your wounds to be the first thing she sees, do you?" They both pause, as Severus thinks it over, and then Lucius presses. "You need to find out where she's been - if she sees this, she's going to question you, and not the other way around."

He's right - so Severus carefully slides the fabric over his head, wincing as the cotton brushes his back - and just as he straightens it, he hears the front door open.

"I told you - he's not here."

"Where's that window look out from?" a male voice booms, and Severus' stomach flips over.

"The bedroom," Lily answers.

"Then we don't know he's not here until we've checked. I definitely saw someone in the window."

"You did indeed," says Lucius smoothly, yanking the bedroom door open. "You saw me."

Chapter Text

Potter's breath catches in his throat, making his voice slightly strained when he speaks, but his incredulous tone says more than his choice of words. "Is that..?" And he takes another step forwards, as if he doesn't trust his eyesight. "Lucius Malfoy?"

"Indeed," says Lucius. The silence that follows is palpable - Lucius stands in the doorway, his frame seemingly filling the space, and Potter stands next to Lily, his hand by his side, but his wand firmly clenched in it. Lily's eyes dart left and right, as if silently checking the flat and its contents, and then she suddenly notices Lucius' socked feet.

"He's here," she says, simply - correctly guessing that Lucius wouldn't have taken his boots off of his own accord.

Lucius gives a stiff nod.

"But why are you?" Potter blurts out, unable to keep his silence.

"I could ask you the very same question," Lucius says smoothly. "I suspect your answer will be that someone who lives here invited you in?" He shrugs. "I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions."

Lily takes a step forwards towards the bedroom, but Lucius blocks her way. "Move," she says.

"I think not." 

"Move now," and her voice is suddenly low and fierce. "I want to see him. I need to see him."

"Well, he does not need to see you," Lucius says, dismissively. He reaches behind him, grabs the door handle and pulls it behind him so it almost shuts. He deliberately leaves a gap, ensuring that Severus can listen clearly through the opening, but his message to Lily and Potter is clear; they're to talk to him - not Severus.

"It's my house. It's my bedroom! You can't stop me."

"I can, and I will," Lucius says firmly. "Severus is asleep. He took ill at work - an allergic reaction to some ingredients, I believe - and when you could not be contacted, it was requested that I look after him. I took him to the Manor to recuperate for a few hours, and when he worsened, he was asking for you - so I brought him home." A slow smile creeps across his face, but there's no sincerity in his eyes. "Imagine my surprise to find his flat completely empty, and his girlfriend nowhere to be found - not a note, not an owl…" He lets the words hang in the air for a moment before continuing, "and without his lovely girlfriend to aid him, I found the task of nursing him fell to myself." His pale eyes seem to pierce her own. "Of course, Severus assures me that something urgent must've occurred for you to be absent, although-" and he checks his watch, "-due to the hour, he had started to fret that some terrible ill had befallen you. It took all of my strength to wrestle him back to his bed, such was his distress."

She flushes at the implied comparison between his care for her, and her for him. "I was worried-"

"She was helping me," Potter blurts out, desperately trying to cover for her.

"Oh! Oh, of course. She was...helping you," Lucius says, deliberately, elongating the words. "My, why didn't you both say so in the first place?" He shoots them both another cold smile. "Now that we know the truth, I am quite sure that Severus will understand."

"I need to talk to him-" Lily starts, but as she moves forward, Lucius blocks her way again.


"You should let her see him," Potter argues, leading the three of them to square off by the bedroom door. "He'll want to see her."

Lucius puts his arms out to the side, holding the door frame on either side, making the barricade clear, and with Lily's way blocked, he turns his attention to Potter. "You said she was helping," he says, softly. "Helping you to do what, precisely?"

Potter draws himself up to his full height, and meets Lucius' eye. "None of your business."

"Of course," Lucius says, smiling once more. "How terribly rude of me. Now, do remind me of your name, what is it? Porter? Cotter? Rotter?"

"Potter," he hisses.

"Potter. Yes, how forgetful of me."

"No matter what happened tonight," Lily says, stepping between the pair, and attempting to break the building tension between the two men, "I'm home now. So, thank you for bringing him back, Lucius, and I'm sure that Severus appreciates your help, but I think we should both be alone now."

"You should both be alone? Tell me, is that you and Severus?" Lucius inquires, mildly. "Or yourself and your young man here?"

Both Lily and Potter talk over each other as they try to refute the idea.

"He's not my-"

"I was just seeing if she-"

At their hasty denials, Lucius raises an eyebrow. "Ah, now do forgive me. It was simply that as you entered, it sounded as if you wished to be alone together? It sounded as if you believed that Severus would be at work, leaving you both free to-"

"No," Lily interrupts firmly, "I was worried about Severus. James was going to help."

"Oh I see!" And now Lucius' grin is so broad, it does reach his eyes. "James was always such a good friend of Severus', wasn't he? I see why you would run to him. And tell me, where have you searched for your boyfriend? Jigger's laboratory, where Severus studies during the day? Or did you call on Rosmerta in the Three Broomsticks, where Severus is employed of an evening? Or his friends, perhaps? Unfortunately, I was not at home to take a social visit, but I am certain that my lovely wife would've directed you to me had that been the case. Or did you decide to start here, at his home," and he checks his watch again, "at ten to eleven at night?" He chuckles. "By now, of course, Severus has only been missing for what is it? 4 hours? 6 hours?" He laughs again, almost revelling in Lily's discomfort. "Well, what's a few hours between friends and lovers?"

Lily draws a deep breath, composing herself, and then stands up to Lucius. "I think you should leave."

He leans down, his long hair glancing her shoulder as he hisses in her ear. "Gladly." He pushes the bedroom door open, and - still blocking the way - summons his boots. He steps into them swiftly, and then he stands, back straight, and tosses his hair. "Good evening, Evans," he says, in a formal goodbye. "And to you too, Trotter."

Potter's jaw is set as Lucius leaves, the older wizard's steps heavy on the outside stairs. "He's such a git."

"He is, but he's also right," Lily says, eyeing the half-open bedroom door. "You shouldn't be here."

"I want to make sure you're all right-"

"I'm fine," she snaps. "And I want to see Severus is okay."

"Severus is fine," comes a dark silky voice from behind the door, causing both Lily and Potter to stiffen, and then Severus steps into the light. "But he thinks it's time you left, Potter."



"I was just-"


Potter looks towards Lily, who is fiddling with her bracelet and staring at the floor. "Are you okay? You can come with me. You don't have to stay here with him-"

"I am not going to ask you again," Severus says, coolly, stepping forward, his wand gripped tightly and pointing straight between Potter's eyes. "Get the fuck out of my house."

She sits on the sofa, twisting her hands together. "Sev, please? We need to talk about this, and if you're not feeling well, you shouldn't be..." She swallows hard, not wanting to think about what he's doing behind her. "You should be in bed. Resting. Getting well, not getting yourself all wound up with nonsense and things that don't matter." 

He doesn't answer, and carries on opening drawers and cupboards, tossing anything of hers to one side as he rummages. 

"Sev, come on," she implores. "Come to bed with me."

At this, he makes an odd pained sound, and then he throws the ornament he's holding at the wall, and it smashes into several pieces. Immediately, she jumps up, her mouth gaping. "Severus! Don't-"

"Don't what?" His thin face is filled with anger, and his narrowed eyes have an odd gleam to them. "It's just an ornament. Just some painted plaster or china or terracotta or whatever the hell it is. It doesn't mean anything. Not really."

"It does to me."

"Does it? Does it mean something to you, Lily?"

"Yes. It's sentimental."

"Sentimental?" He laughs, and it's a horrible stark laugh that echoes around the flat. "You want to talk to me about feelings?" He sweeps his hand across the top of the table in a fit of rage, brushing everything - mugs, plates, newspapers, coasters, quills, parchment - all onto the floor, the items clattering around them. "Well, Lily, I don't give a fuck about your feelings."


"And the only fucking reason you haven't followed your lover-"

"He's not my lover!"

"-through that door-"

"-is because I know too much?" she challenges, stepping in front of him, and pushing his chest lightly. "That's why, isn't it? Because I know all about your scummy dealings, and your dark associates, and-"

He looks astonished, and his voice is shrill. "Know too much? Know too much?" He shakes his head, and grabs the back of her neck, pulling her forehead hard against his own. "No, Lily, it's not because you know too much."

She swallows hard, and tries to look away from his dark eyes. "No?"

"No," and he tightens his grip, "because you know fuck all."

She winces. "Don't, Sev, you're hurting-"

"Good. Because you need to understand this: this has nothing to do with anyone else. This is me and you." He stares deep into her eyes, and she finds it unnerving - those same dark eyes which have followed her movements for years, those same eyes that held such love and such promise, and now they're hard - as if they, and he, are completely closed off to her. He gives a choked laugh. "In fact, this isn't me and you. This is you. This is all you. You've done this."

"I haven't-"

He carries on as if she hasn't spoken. "It'd be easy if you simply knew too much. Lucius will be the first to tell you, there's ways of silencing people who know too much. Temporarily." He shrugs casually. "Permanently. It's no difference. They're all just obstacles. Easy to get over."

"What are you saying? I'm an obstacle?"

"No, but I fucking hope you're easy to get over," he spits, pulling away suddenly.

"Sev, no! No, don't do this, not like this-" She grabs at his sleeve, but misses and lightly catches his back, causing him to yelp in pain. "Sev?" she asks, surprised at his disproportionate reaction. "Are you-"

"The problem," he shouts loudly, ignoring her question and shutting his bag with a flourish, "isn't that you know too much! No. No, it'd be a lot easier that way." He pauses for a long moment, grabbing his robes from the back of the chair and screwing them into a ball, and then, his face twisted in anguish and wringing the dark cloth between his long fingers, he whispers, "...the problem is that I love you." 

She takes a step towards him again, but this time, he holds his arms outstretched before him, as if fending her away, creating a barrier between the two of them. "That's not a problem, Sev. I lov-"

"No," he interrupts, "no, you don't. You can't."

"I do-"

"You don't, because you wouldn't have done…" And then he stops, his expression filled with anguish. "Lily, I love you more than anything…anything that's ever been in my life..." He draws to a halt, as if he can't speak.

"And I love you, Sev," she says desperately, tears falling down her face, her arms reaching for him. "Please. Let's talk about it. Don't do this. Don't do this to us."

He shakes his head. "I might love you, Lily, but right now, I can't even fucking look at you."

And then, with a bang of the door, and the clatter of his feet on the stairs, he's gone.

Chapter Text

She's never slept in this bed without him. They'd both had occasions when one had stayed awake longer than the other, and both had turned in without their lover lying next to them. They might be partners, but they aren't joined at the hip. It isn't unusual for one to stay up reading, or listening to the radio, or to go out with friends and stumble in - worse for wear - several hours after the other had long fallen asleep, but this is different. She's never ever gone to their bed knowing that he wasn't going to join her at some point over the next few hours. Until this night, she's never closed her eyes in this bed, knowing that when she next opens them, she'll still be alone and he won't be lying next to her.

By the time dawn breaks, she still hasn't slept without him. Instead of sleeping, she pulls his pillow to her face, breathing in his scent and watching the door desperately. Every time the flat creaks, or there's the smallest noise outside, she hopes that he'll swing the door open, and pull his clothes off, dropping them haphazardly onto the floor - for her to pick up in the morning - and then he'll slide under the covers, pressing his ice cold body against her own, using her body heat to warm himself.

He doesn't.

By the fourth night, she finally sleeps, but not because she's any less miserable - merely through exhaustion. At the end of the week, she knows the bedding is long overdue a change, and although fresh laundry is stacked ready in the cupboard, she can't bring herself to strip the sheets and rid her bed of his scent.

She doesn't know where he's gone - she visits the lab, and Jigger seems to think he's at some Potions Conference with Slughorn that cropped up at short notice. She quickly chases Slughorn, but he doesn't answer her calls - but then, if he really was at a Potions Conference, he couldn't answer anyway, could he? The only other person she could think of trying was Lucius, but he's consistently unavailable - at a Potions Conference too, she thinks, spitefully - and despite his cowed house elves desperately insisting that they were conveying her messages to their master, he simply doesn't answer. She doesn't dare venture into Rosmerta's - and if Severus isn't at Jigger's, she reasons he can't be working in the Broomsticks either; even old Jigger would notice if Severus was too busy to attend the lab during the day, but managing to sweep up a bar in Hogsmeade of an evening.

She goes back to Cokeworth on more than one occasion, but Spinner's End seems to get darker each time she visits. The Snape house is starting to look increasingly like the others on the block - no signs of life at all, as if it was derelict. It can't be derelict. Where would they go?  She stands outside and frowns; she can't recall Severus saying his parents were going away - she can't even remember a single time that Tobias or Eileen had ever been on holiday. 

It's on her third visit, when she's almost given up, that she finally sees Tobias and Eileen walking down the street together. She runs up to them, but the couple barely acknowledge her, an entirely unsuitable response to her enthusiastic greeting. They quickly make their excuses to depart, evidently not wanting to engage her in more than a quiet hello, but even as she plays the meeting over and over in her head, she has to acknowledge that there's nothing untoward; Severus himself would be the first to attest that neither of his parents were particularly warm or welcoming, and he was their own flesh and blood. 

He can't be here, she reasons. They'd have said something.

So then she walks back over the river, her head down and the wind whipping bitterly around her face and through her hair. When she rings the bell, and her mother answers, her resolve finally crumbles. Instead of a hello, she greets her mother with a heaving, wracking sob - and she cries so hard, it takes twenty minutes to convince Rose that somebody hasn't died.

"Right, young lady, you're staying with us," her mother says, plumping the pillows and smoothing down the sheets in Lily's old bedroom. "You're all set up here. No reason to go back there."

"But what if he turns up and I'm not in the flat? What if he leaves again and-"

"And if he's ready to talk, he'll find you. You're at our house, Lily, not an unmapped catacomb. He's a clever lad, he'll work it out."

"I suppose."

Rose stands, her hands on her hips. "Lily, love, whatever's happened between you, he's not going to throw away your relationship-"

"I think I already did that for us."

Rose sighs, pulling her youngest daughter into a tight embrace. "If it's meant to be, it can be fixed. I'm a firm believer in that." She lightly brushed her fingers through Lily's hair. "Do you think you and Severus are meant to be?"

Lily gives a half sob. "I thought so."

"I thought so too," Rose says, softly. "I didn't at first-"

Lily pulls back, as if she's been stung. "You don't-"

"When you were little," her mother continues, ignoring the interruption, "I thought he'd just be a friend, and then when you started seeing each other…"


Rose gives her a small smile. "You're the best thing that ever happened to him, Lily. The surprise to me and your father wasn't that Severus was keen on you."


"No. It was that you returned his attention." She kisses her daughter on her forehead. "And if you love him, I don't see wild horses keeping him away from you. He knows you're the best thing that's ever happened to him." She pats the bed. "Get some sleep. He'll come for you, I'm sure."

But he doesn't.

"What's with her?" The door doesn't quite shut as she storms up the stairs, and Lily hears Petunia questioning her father.

"You've heard of GMT and BST?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"Well, we're working on AS time," her father says, carefully.

"AS time?" booms Vernon's loud voice. "And what's that then?"

"After Severus." There's a pause, as if her father's thinking. "And if my calculations are correct, we're only in the 275th hour."

"She's counting their break up in hours?"

"We're all counting it in hours," she hears her mother saying, and then Lily slams her bedroom door shut so she doesn't have to hear them talking about her any longer.

"I need to go back," she explains, promising her mother that she'll be in touch every day. "I'll never forgive myself if he's there without me, waiting for me."

When she opens the door to the flat, it's strangely cold, and a little eerie. There's still mess strewn over the floor, and cupboard doors left open where he'd been gathering his belongings. There's a funny smell in the fridge, and a mark on the wall where he broke the ornament. The air in the bedroom seems stale, and their bedding a little musty, and it almost breaks her heart to crack open the window - and before she can think better of it, she forces herself to change the bedding. As she bundles the sheets up, she presses her nose to them, desperate to smell him - and then she retrieves his used pillow case, and throws it back on the bed. I need something of him.

She stays there, barely eating, hardly living. Each day, she prays there'll be something - anything - from the post owl, but there isn't. There's nothing from Lucius, or Jigger, or Slughorn, or Rosmerta. It's as if Severus has vanished - as if he never existed in the first place. When a letter finally does arrive, her heart tightens and her chest clenches, and her fingers shake as she tears the envelope open - but when she realises it's from Potter, she drops it to the ground without reading anything further than the salutation.

"I'm not home," she yells through the window when she sees Black and Potter stood outside in the street.

"Evidently." Black tosses his hair. "C'mon, Evans, we just want to talk to you."

"I don't…" She groans. "I can't… What if he comes home?"

Black mutters something to Potter, and he says something back, and although she can't be certain, she's sure they're debating the odds of Severus returning home in the next ten minutes, given that he's been missing for over a fortnight.

"If he comes home, we can Floo out," Black calls up. "But if we keep shouting at you from here-"

"-then we'll be the first thing he sees if he does return," Potter finishes.

She stands there for a long moment, unmoving, and just as Black is about to turn on his heel and Disapparate, she nods.

It's an uncomfortable meeting - both young men standing with their hands braced on the back of the sofa, them not sitting and her not offering them any hospitality. She can see Black looking around at their furnishings, judging how they live, how their relationship was. She can almost see him imagining Severus sprawled on the sofa, and eating at the table.


"What do you think?"

She looks furious. "I don't have time for riddles, Potter," she spits. "Just tell me-"

"He means, what do you think about his proposal, Evans," Black snarls. "You don't have to be so angry with us, we've not-"

"All right," Potter mutters in Black's ear, grabbing his arm to control him as Lily glares at them both furiously. "She's having a rough time, and I've already been thrown out of here once. Let her off, eh?" He steps away from Black and nods. "He's sorry. We mean, what did you think of my letter?"

She hasn't read it, even though it arrived days earlier. She plucks it from the table, and quickly scans it.

"She hasn't even read it," Black mutters, angrily. "Waste of time."


She looks confused. "I heard about the Order of Merlin," she says, folding the letter over and then burning it in the grate by casting at it with her wand. "But Belby's patented it. You have to register to be part of the trial. I'm sure he could-"

"He's not registering," Black says, firmly. "You know how the Ministry is being infiltrated-"

"-yeah, you heard Vance and Bones and Moody," Potter presses, and she flinches at the names of the Order members. "That place is full of holes, and word'll get out."

Black looks serious. "But Vance got us this," and pulls a piece of parchment from out of his robes.

Her jaw nearly drops as she scans the looping script. "Is this..?" The methodology is difficult, but not impossible, and not for the first time, she wishes Severus was there - wishes he could see what was in her hands.

"Nobody is licensed to brew it," says Potter.

She looks at them both quizzically. "I thought Borage had the-"

Black sniffs. "He brews under agreement, but it's not a licence. It's not the same."

"I understand the difference," she argues, hotly, and attempts to pass him the parchment back. She's surprised when he steps back and shakes his head.

"It's yours."

"I can't."

"You can," says Potter, eagerly. "I know he's good, Lily." He glances at Black. "But so were you. I remember Slughorn saying that you were going to be his protégé. If it wasn't for these lousy laws…"

"The same lousy laws that will see Remus killed," Black adds darkly. "This will help him."

"It's not a cure, and his condition isn't a death sentence."

"No?" says Potter, lightly. "Then you should've taken us up on our offer to visit him last month." He appraises her. "I can get the ingredients."

Black glances around the flat. "And if he's taken his stuff, I can get you the equipment."

Potter claps his hand on her shoulder. "But we need you."

"I don't know…"

"Not for us," Black says. "For Remus. From one person suffering under these stupid laws to another person suffering under them as well." 

When she looks conflicted, the men exchange a small smile. 

"This will change his life," Black presses.

"Well?" Potter asks. "What do you say? Are you in?"

Chapter Text

He stands in the small kitchen, watching as the rain beats down on the window. He loses track of time, spending hours watching the droplets merge into each other and sliding down the glass. Eileen comes and goes, making porridge and cups of tea, passing him a biscuit, and cutting up sandwiches. He doesn't move, and she works around him - sometimes humming, sometimes whistling, but never speaking. Not until gone two, when she wipes down the worktop and then taps his slender forearm.

"Either wash up, or get out."

When he still doesn't move, she rolls her eyes and passes him a tea towel, which he silently accepts. She shrugs her sleeves up to her elbows, and runs the tap, and after a meagre squirt of washing up liquid, the bubbles build in the sink.

"That's a charm," he says. "There's no way that tiny squirt made all those bubbles."

She smiles. "What your father doesn't know won't hurt him." She taps the washing up liquid bottle. "Do you know how much Fairy Liquid costs?"


She sniffs. "Don't you wash up, then? S'pose there's a charm for it these days, is there?"

He wipes a glass, then another, and then puts them in the cupboard. "She does it."

"Really, Severus," she admonishes. "I brought you up better than that."

He shakes his head defensively. "I work. A lot." 

"And she doesn't?"

There's a long pause as he dries three mugs, carefully wiping the suds from the insides. "They've brought some laws in."

Eileen freezes, her hands no longer moving in the water. "Blood laws?"


"Are you looking after her?"

There's another long pause, and Severus is relieved when his mother finally passes him a plate. "I was," he says, carefully. And then he bends over to put the clean plate in the cupboard, and his t-shirt drifts up his back. He quickly pulls at it, and she looks at the sink. He stands and turns, tucking the material into his jeans so it won't lift again, and he glances at her, checking her expression. When she doesn't seem to react, he releases a breath and grabs the cutlery. Cutlery's safe, he thinks. No need to bend over to put these in the drawer.

"Will she take you back?"

"I dropped her," he says, stiffly. "It's me who needs to take her back."

"Severus…these laws. It's not safe for her..."

His jaw juts out, and he puts the tea towel on the table, signalling that the conversation is over, and then he taps her cigarette packet in an unspoken question.

"Help yourself," she says, picking up the tea towel to wipe the last two plates that he's left on the draining board. She watches him wander out into the yard, lighting the cigarette with a smooth flick of his wand, and she pulls the plug on the sink.

"You rang?"

Severus looks over at his father, suddenly pulled from his thoughts. "What?"

"Lurch," Tobias explains. "Yer look like Lurch."

Severus glances at Eileen, who is peering at her knitting. "It's on the telly, love," she says. "He's the butler."

Severus rolls his eyes. "Makes sense, as per usual."

"Makes sense as per usual," Tobias mutters. "Yer ain't even seen it. Yer'd get it if yer saw it."


"Sarcastic little shit, y'are."

"You're the one talking nonsense!"

"There's no need to 'ave an argument about every little comment," Tobias huffs, flicking through his newspaper.


"Yer don't need ter be sorry. I'm jus' tellin' yer to sit yersel' down, soft lad. It's unnerving having yer stood int doorway."

Eileen drops a stitch, and her needles still. "Leave him be, Toby," she says. "He's not harming anyone if he wants to stand."

"Yeah, I like standing," he says, defensively.

"Then you stay stood there, Severus," she says, kindly, and her son watches her suspiciously, his fingers unconsciously tugging at the hem of his t-shirt. "It's just nice to have him home."

"Well," Tobias sniffs loudly, "wouldn't quite go that far."

He's in the kitchen again. There's no rain today, but he's mesmerised by the sunlight glinting across the yard.

"Washing, or drying?"

"I'll wash," he says, and he squirts a tiny amount of washing up liquid in the sink. Bullesco, he murmurs, and then grins when the bubbles multiply, glancing excitedly at his mother. She gives him a pinched smile in return, and he immediately tempers his reaction, causing her to reach for his hand.

"Good," she says - and his smile returns at her praise.

"Wasn't difficult to work out." He starts scrubbing at the pan that had porridge in it. "Did you glue this on?" he complains.

"Your father likes it thick."

"Thick? It's like concrete!" He attacks the pan again.

"...we saw her today," Eileen ventures, cautiously.

He stops, his back straight, his hands not moving but still submerged in the soapy water. "She knows I'm here?"


"What did you say?"


"That it?" He glances at his mother. "And him? What did he say?"


"...and her? She ask about me?"


Hurt flickers across his expression, and then he composes himself. "Right then."

"She was looking for you, love."

"Not hard enough," he snaps.

He moves out of his room, and across the landing, one foot poised to head down the stairs when he hears his father's grumble from the kitchen.

"I'm not sayin' that-"

"It sounds like it," Eileen snaps. "I'm glad he feels he can come here."

"Two and a half weeks, it's been." Tobias' voice gets a little louder. "Eatin' us out of 'ouse and 'ome."

"Hardly," she scoffs. 

Severus sits on the stairs, listening intently to their discussion. 

"He's had a nasty shock," Eileen continues.

Tobias huffs. "She wasn't gonna stay with 'im, was she? Blind Freddy could see that. She's pretty and clever-"

"He's clever!"

"Yeah, but he ain't pretty."

"-he broke up with her, actually," Eileen interrupts.

There's a break, and Severus strains to hear - his father sounds incredulous. 

"Got ideas above his station, 'as he? Forgot to look in the mirror? He needs 'is fuckin' 'ead read. Who else is gonna take up with a lanky streak of piss like 'im, eh?"

"It's not all about looks," Eileen says, briskly.

"I didn't say it were, did I! She's a nice girl!"

"If he's not happy, then-"

"If yer ask me, he just thinks grass is greener. That's all. Collared one, so he reckons he can find another just as easy. He'll find out he can't."

"The wizarding world is complicated," Eileen murmurs, and he can't pick up on her next sentences. "...some kind of trouble."

"I'll speak to him."

And at his father's decisive sentence, Severus stands, and turns, and heads back into his bedroom.

That night, there's a fumbling at the door, which gives Severus just enough time to pull his t-shirt back on. Then, the door swings open, and his dad stands in the doorway, his hands stuffed in his pockets. 

"All right, lad?"

"All right." Severus doesn't look up from his position on the bed, lying on his front and flicking through an old textbook that's resting on his pillow.

"What yer readin'?"

Severus turns back to the front cover. "1001 Bases," he reads aloud. When his dad looks none the wiser, he elaborates. "Every potion has a base. Think of it like cooking gravy or something - you always put in water and flour, but-"

"Yer mam does all the cookin'," Tobias interrupts, a little awkwardly. 


"Yer like it though? This magical brewin'?"


"Yer mam said yer had some trouble."


"Wi' yer brewin' man?"

Oh. "Master Borage?" Severus nods. "Yeah, I left him. Working for another wizard now, Master Jigger."

"Right. Is he better, then?"

Severus screws his nose up. "In some ways. He's a bit more laidback."

"Laidback enough that he don't mind yer takin' three weeks off to scrike over a girl?"

There's a very long silence, and then eventually, Severus speaks. "Come up here for something, did you?"

"...yer mam thinks-"

"I'm not in any trouble."

"Right," says Tobias, looking unconvinced. "I ain't bothered 'bout yer bein' 'ere, lad…" There's another long pause. "But yer flat, like?"

"What about the flat?"

"If yer not workin'-"

"I'm on holiday!"

" she payin' the rent man, then? Don't want yer losin' yer little place coz of an argument y'see." 

He freezes. The rent. "There's no man," he says, quietly. "It comes out of an account."

"An' yer got enough, 'ave yer? In this account?"

Severus gives a stiff nod. 

"Good. Just checkin'."

He knows it'll work, Muggle post. He remembers Petunia's letter to Dumbledore, and he's not ready to go back. He doesn't want to be seen by anyone else, doesn't want to have the conversation with any of them - not Jigger, not Avery, and most certainly not Lily. He uses a chained pen in the Post Office, and scrawls Malfoy's address - URGENT - he writes, across the top of the envelope, and then he licks the back, and affixes the stamp, and shoves it in the bright red box.

It's been three weeks now, and he still doesn't know if he's going back - but there's things in that flat; his books, and his clothes, and his hidden wall of potions. Not to mention Lily. He knows his mam's right about the blood laws - if she can't get access to his account to top it up, and the rent isn't paid, she'll have nowhere else to go. 

He wonders how she'll top up the account to pay the rent. Potter. And then he wonders where she'll go if she was evicted. Potter's. So then he stuffs his fists in his jacket and stalks across the playing fields, kicking clods of grass up from the football pitch. The only time he looks up is when a ball lands near his feet.

"Kick it back, eh?" comes the yell, and he taps it with the outside of his foot, positioning it, and then strikes it hard with his instep, sending it sailing over to the group of kids playing on the far side of the field. 

"Cheers mate!" one calls, as they resume their frantic game. 

He watches for a moment, seeing them run around. It all seemed easy back then.

It's almost a routine now, washing up after lunch. 



"How do you know?"

She doesn't answer; it's not really a question, and he's been so skittish since his unexpected return, the wrong word could send him stomping back up the stairs, not to be seen for a day or three. 

"...if it's worth fighting for?" He breathes in unsteadily. "How do you know that someone's with you for the right reasons?"

She hesitates, carefully wiping over the worktop whilst she thinks. "And what would you consider the right reasons?"

"What if she's only with me because of the laws?"

Eileen gives him a curious look. "There's better catches than you."

"Thanks, Mam."

She dips her hand into the water, and entwines her fingers with her son's. "I meant blood. If she's with you because of blood, why choose a Halfblood with a Muggle father?"

"I guess." 

"...or are you telling me that all of the Purebloods are suddenly sight impaired?"


"Well then." She taps his hand, and pulls hers out, drying it on the tea towel. "She must see something else in you, or she'd be with one of those. A Black or an Avery or-"

A Potter, he thinks. "Right," he says, and turns his attention back to the pan, scrubbing furiously at the congealed oats.

It's not a small town, Cokeworth. It's not the sort of place where everyone knows everyone else, but there are spots of it - the same locals in the same pub, the same locals in the same betting shop, the same locals buying their eggs at the indoor market, so it's no real surprise when word gets around. 

Danny Slater tells his brother Trevor, and he tells their mother over tea, who leans over the fence when bringing in the washing and mentions it to Mildred Jones. Mildred always goes to the library on a Thursday, so she whispers it to Edie Grant - and Edie always was ever so fond of the skinny lad, with his nose forever stuck in a book, and his vivacious friend, both of them so clever, the pair doing so well to get those scholarships to that Scottish school - so when Rose goes in to pick up a new paperback, Edie asks her when Lily and Severus moved back to Cokeworth. 

With a promise ringing in her ears that she'll get the kids to drop in and say hello before the week is out, Rose makes her excuses and flees for the Post Office, mirroring Severus' own actions a day or two before. He's here, Lily, she writes. In Cokeworth.

It's awkward. It's early, granted - barely past 7 when she knocks at the door because she came as soon as she got her mother's letter - but it's awkward all the same. Tobias answers, stubbly and bleary-eyed, and when he leads her through to the kitchen and she sees Eileen's look of surprise, she's glad that he was the one who answered - because she suddenly isn't convinced that Eileen would've invited her in. 

One firm glance from Eileen across the table, and Lily suddenly knows why the house looked so empty when she passed by all those weeks ago - he was here all along - although she isn't sure if the charm was Severus' own, or one of Eileen's. Doesn't he want to see me? Or has Eileen been protecting her son?

There's a mug placed before her, filled with too strong tea, and Eileen makes the dreaded offer of a cigarette. She politely declines, and watches as the older witch makes porridge, tipping out a bowl for both herself and Tobias.

"Sev not hungry?"

Tobias chews his first mouthful, and then points his spoon at the ceiling. "He ain't gonna be seen afore ten, lazy little shite."

"Toby!" Eileen hisses. She gives Lily a short smile. "He's tired."

"I'm fuckin' tired," Tobias grumbles. "Ain't see me in bed-"

"He works very long hours, you know," Lily interrupts, slightly defensively. "With his apprenticeship, and he's got a job at a bar at night."

Tobias eyes her. "Paid the rent, 'ave yer?"


"Wi' soft lad bein' 'ere," he says, now pointing his spoon at her. "Yer paid the rent?"


"Good." He stands, abruptly, and puts his empty bowl in the sink. "I'll go and see Arnold," he says, kissing his wife on her forehead, and then he's gone.

She sits silently, watching as Eileen bustles around the living room, neatening cushions and tidying the newspapers. She's always felt out of place on this side of the river, and she wonders if they felt the same when they came to visit her parents all those years ago. She watches as Eileen checks the coal bucket, and straightens the poker, and wonders how naturally these Muggle things come to a Pureblood witch; try as she might, she can't imagine any of the Purebloods she met at school settling in Spinner's End, content to tidy around after a husband, drinking dark tea and smoking bitter cigarettes. 

She wants to ask Eileen if she felt pushed out of the Muggle world in the same way she feels pushed out of wizarding society. She wants to ask if the prejudice has always been the same, and if it goes both ways, and what made her leave in the first place. But they've never had that sort of relationship, not in all the years that Lily has been coming over. A brew and the offer - always declined - of a cigarette, that was the extent of their communication. If Severus could be a man of few words, Eileen was an Olympic Champion.

"He's put a charm on the door," Eileen finally says, breaking the silence. She mimes opening a door, suggesting the handle moving from one side to the other.


"If you're going up?"

"I'd like to."

"The charm gives him a minute before his dad bursts in on him. He's not big on privacy, Toby. But Severus won't mind you."

She isn't quite sure that's true, not at the moment, but she heads upstairs all the same. When she reaches his bedroom door, she casts, and Eileen's right - there's a tremor of magic floating around the handle, and she wonders how Eileen knew. She wonders if Eileen could feel it, as if she's in tune with her son's magic, or if it's something Severus did a lot as a teenager, or if she fell for it the first time - just like Tobias.

With the charm gone, she opens the door smoothly, and he doesn't have time to cover himself, and she's horrified as she realises why Eileen tipped her off. Severus glares at her, his face filled with conflicting emotions - angry, and embarrassed, and shamed, and frustrated - and his hands grab at the sheets, but before he can speak, she's on the bed with him, her arms around his neck and holding him tightly against her. She feels his chest heave, as if he's crying - or, more likely, trying not to.

"Oh, Sev," and she holds him even more tightly, whispering her words into his ear. "Who has done this to you, love?"

Chapter Text

He doesn't speak - he slowly unwinds her arms from around his neck, and then frames her face with his hands, his thumbs slowly stroking across her skin. He stares at her, and his black eyes are warmer now - they're not the fierce cold that she kept playing over and over in her mind - and his gaze darts over her face, as if he's mapping it and committing it to his memory. Hesitantly, cautiously, he moves forward, his lips softly touching hers, and she instantly responds - a happy sigh escaping her mouth - and she can feel his lips twisting into a smile at her reaction.

Her response spurs him on, and his hands still framing her face, he kisses her more and more firmly, his lips pushing and pressing against hers, and then his tongue swipes across the seam of her lips. She immediately parts them, and then meets his passion with equal heat. He slides his hands down, and then tips her beneath him on his bed, straddling her waist and trapping her below him.

She smiles at him as he bends back down, his lips meeting hers once more, and she strokes his front softly, her fingers tracing his skin and sliding gently through his sparse chest hair. It's only been a few weeks since she last touched him this way, but it feels as if more has grown in her absence - and she's aware that even now, despite them both being classed as adults, his body is still changing as he transforms from a scrawny teenager into a man. His breath catches as she toys with his nipples, and he grabs her wrists, pinning them above her head, and then - wrists still held firmly away from his body - he kisses her again. She can feel his cock hardening as he shifts position, and she grinds up against him, encouraging him to continue. With her wrists still held in one hand, he starts to unbutton her blouse, and then kisses his way down her body, caressing her skin as it's exposed to him.

"Sev," she groans, as his lips trail across her stomach. He releases her wrists, and helps her to remove her top, followed by her bra, and then he continues his quest to kiss every inch of her body. His movements are leisurely, and she's careful with her hands as she touches him in response, desperate not to hurt him. Her hands reach his pants, and he grabs her wrists again, moving them away. Instead, he undoes her jeans, and she lifts her hips, helping him to slide them off her and they land with a soft thud when he throws them across the room. He gazes at her, his eyes tracing a heated path back up to her face, and then kisses her again. 

She tangles her left leg around his, and he braces his arms on either side of her. Not wanting to reach around him, she places her hands on his biceps, and then rests them on his collarbone, conscious of the terrible marks on his back. When she reaches up to taste him again, he's the one who groans, and he grinds his pelvis firmly against her, and then she moans with him.

"For Chrissakes," Tobias complains, slatting his newspaper on the ground. He gets up, stamps across the room and twists the dial on the television firmly until the presenter is practically screaming the news into their living room. Eileen looks at him uncomfortably, as if she's waiting for him to head up the stairs and throw a fit at their son, but Tobias simply looks agitated. He picks the newspaper back up and shakes it, and talks to her from behind it. "Three fuckin' hours they've been at it, an' the only reason I'm puttin' up wi' this," he says, huffily, "is because there's a high chance he'll fuck off back 'ome after."

Eileen smiles tightly, pleased that he's not going to disrupt his son's chances of reconciliation - but then there's yet another loud thud, followed by another, and a squeal, and just as Tobias is about to throw his paper down in another fit, a rhythmic whine fills the room, as if Severus' old bed is protesting the actions of its occupants.

"Arrogant little fucker," Tobias spits, standing up. "C'mon, Leen. I'm not listenin' to Romeo upstairs all afternoon."


"Get yer coat. We're goin' out."

He lies on his side, careful not to tip over onto his back, and she nestles into his front, their bodies warm together. He pulls the covers over her, and he closes his eyes, his cheek resting against the top of her head.

"I've missed you so much," she says, breathing his scent in deeply. 


" was like the world was a little bit darker without you," she says, softly, and he wraps his arms more tightly around her, his fingers stroking up and down her arms.

"Like someone turned the lights out."

"Yeah." She pauses. "You too?"


"We probably need to talk," she says, cautiously, holding him tightly to her, lest he try and bolt. 


"I know you're not a big talker…"


"Sev," she laughs, tipping her head up to kiss him, before pulling back again. "I'm serious."

"I know." And then he strokes her hair, and breathes in deeply. "But let's just lie here for a while, and forget the world, hey?"

"Thanks," he says, standing in the doorway, with his bag clutched by his side.

"The door is always open," Eileen says. "You remember that."

He nods. "I will." And then he puts his arm around the living room door. "See you, Da."

"Bye, lad," Tobias shouts, not putting his newspaper down.

Lily watches from the front step; the lack of affection in the house is in such contrast to her own family, and she wonders if she smothers him when she constantly embraces him, or whether he's so desperate to be touched, he craves it. But before she can mull on it further, Eileen's called him back, and she can just hear the end of their hushed conversation.

"-whatever's going on right now, things will change. They always change." Eileen steps towards him, and squeezes his wrist. "You look after her, Severus."

"I will, Mam." And then he turns and strides towards Lily. "Shall we head back then?"

He looks anxious as he stands at the front door, appraising the flat. She wonders if he's remembering it from the night when he left, with their belongings scattered all over the floor. She's tidied up since - finally - and even used magic to remove the dent from the wall where he broke the ornament. The ornament itself is long past repair - least, she felt it was, and she decided that even if it could've been mended, she would only have looked at it and remembered their break up, so she put it in the bin. She didn't want a reminder.

He puts his bag down, and moves slowly through the flat, his fingers tapping against surfaces, and then he draws a long breath before entering their bedroom. He stands at the doorway, not entering, and in the end, she goes to stand next to him, slipping her small hand into his.

"You okay?"


"Glad to be back?"


She looks at him curiously, and his black eyes are darting around the room. "What is it?"

He doesn't answer immediately, but then he pulls the door shut, and moves them back to the living room. "You hungry?"

"A little."

"Right," he says, decisively. "We'll get some food, and after…" He looks so pained, she's terrified at what he's going to blurt out, but all he says is, "...we'd better have that talk, hadn't we?"

In the end, neither of them eat much - there's boxes of takeaway strewn across the table, but he's probably only eaten a few mouthfuls of rice, and a single swirl of noodles around his fork. There's a stone in the depths of his stomach, and he walks into the kitchen, hunting in the cupboard for his firewhisky. He finds a fresh bottle, and two glasses, and carries them back into the front room.

"I don't want-"

"I do," he says, firmly. He ignores her surprised look, and pours a slim measure, which he quickly knocks back. "I… I don't think I can do this without a bit of extra courage," he explains, and pours a proper measure into the glass to sip from. He then pours a second, and passes the glass to her, capping the bottle and putting it on the table. "You don't have to drink it," he says, his voice even. "It just you with the honesty."

"You don't trust me to be honest?"

He laughs - actually laughs - and sips from the glass, rolling the taste on his tongue. "This is why we get in such a mess, isn't it?" He waves his hand. "It's fine when we're being…"


"I was going to say affectionate, but yeah. Then as soon as we start talking…"

"It all goes wrong?"

"Yeah. I say something, and you snap at me, and you say something, and I snap at you…" He looks at her sadly. "When did we stop understanding each other?"

"I don't know."

"You were always the person who understood me," he says, looking fixedly at the floor ahead of him. "Nobody else even wanted to get to know me-"

"Malfoy did."

"Malf's… Lucius Malfoy is a law to himself," Severus finally says. "He's the exception that proves the rule." He gives a small smile. "I remember you at school. Everyone loved you. I think that's why people forgave me, you know?"

"Forgave you for what?"

He points at himself. "Look at me, Lily." And he turns to her, his face thin, all angular lines, and dark eyes. "Greasy weird poor boy. Nobody in their right mind would give me the time of day-"

"Severus, don't talk like-"

"I thought we were being honest with each other?" he says, hotly. "Well, I'm being honest! I didn't get a hard time then, because everyone loved you, and if Severus Snape fell in love with you too, well, it was no surprise. Why would I be immune to your charms, when all of the lads felt the same? It wasn't my fault." He toys with his glass. "But nobody expected you to love me back. I never stopped loving you, and…"

"I've always loved you too," she admits, softly.

At this, his face pales slightly, and he looks at her - confusion etched on his face - and then back at the floor, and then back at her again. "...if I ask you something, will you be completely honest with me?"


"Will you swear it?" She nods and takes out her wand, and he quickly shakes his head, grabbing her hands. "Your word is enough," he says.

"Yes then."

"...did it feel different?"

She looks at him, this time she's the one who's confused. "I don't understand."

He bites his lip, and then tries again, although the topic is clearly upsetting him. "When we had sex, this afternoon."

"Different? Different in what way?" She tilts her head, trying to catch his eye, but he's steadfastly looking away from her.

"Different since you slept with Potter."

"Severus," she says, firmly, grabbing his hands, and pulling them until he finally looks up at her - his eyes miserable, and his expression a little fearful. "Since we started dating, I have never even kissed another person. I certainly haven't had sex with anyone else," and she reaches out now, her hand holding his face, her thumb gently swiping at the tear that's sitting at the edge of his eye, "and I wouldn't dream of letting Potter touch me that way." Her lip wobbles slightly, as she sees the relief in his face. "I can't believe you thought…" She swallows hard, "...and yet you took me back today, thinking that I'd…"

"You were the one who said it - the world was dark without you, Lil," he mutters, pulling her into his arms. "I thought… I thought if this thing with Potter was over, I could…" She can feel him shaking his head above her, his long hair grazing her skin, "...but when we were…" He trails off, pauses - collecting himself - and then tries again. "All I could think about was him touching you, imagining you making the same noises with him - or worse, making different noises with him, better noises because-"

"I've only ever slept with you," she says, firmly.

"...and I thought it was goodbye," he says, finally. "I thought this might've been goodbye." She looks stricken at his confession. "And that's why I had to ask," he says, "before we talked about anything else. Because I thought I could get past it - get over it, if you'd got him out of your system." And then he looks at her, and his expression makes her breath catch in her throat. "But I couldn't, Lily. I couldn't get past it. The thought of anyone else touching you...the thought of Potter -"

"Stop it now," she says, firmly, twisting in his embrace to kiss him, "because it didn't happen." She kisses him tenderly, and he kisses her back, and then she tells him outright, so there can be no misunderstanding between them. "Only you, Sev. There's only ever been you."

Chapter Text

"Do you think this is part of the problem?" she asks, breathlessly, as she picks her clothes up off the floor. 

"Leave them off," he says, playfully, gently knocking them out of her hand.

"I'm serious," she says, but she stops what she's doing, and permits him to pull her back down onto the sofa, letting him stroke his fingers through her hair. "We never tell each other anything because we're too busy having sex."

"As hobbies go, I prefer sex to talking."

"I had noticed." She kisses the tip of his nose. "But we should try and straighten some of this out, shouldn't we?"

"Yeah," he sighs, reluctance written all over his face. "So, what do you think we need to talk about?"

She thinks for a long moment. "I'll ask you something, and you tell me the truth - and then you ask me something, and I'll tell you the truth." She nods decisively. "I think that's the best way."

"Okay. Shoot."

"Who hurt you?"

"Don't know," he says - and at her look of disbelief, he laughs. "I'm serious, Lil! I know it sounds fucking stupid-"

"You're right, you do sound fucking stupid," she says, her voice a little cold. "I thought we just agreed-"

"I swear on my life, I've never seen him before."

"And yet you let him slice up your back?" She pulls at his shoulder, getting him to roll off his side and onto his front so she can inspect the damage. "...can I?"

"Be gentle," he says, gruffly, and her fingers lightly trace the welts on his back.

"It looks like-"

"-when my da used to beat shit out of me?"


"It's because it is," he says, his voice muffled slightly by the cushions of the sofa.

"I've got something," she says, and she's gone for a long minute - there's a rustling in the bathroom, and then she's back, cosmetic bag in hand.

"You're not putting make-up on me," he protests, but she's straddled the back of his thighs, and she holds him down. 

"Just some Vaseline," she says. "Tell me if it hurts."

He tenses, and she expects him to yell out, but her touch is feather light and he whimpers in relief as the cool gel makes contact with his raw skin. 



She gently massages the jelly into his back, and then, her voice calm, she asks again. "So what happened?"

"It was a punishment," he says - and she wants to interject. They're forever finishing each other's sentences, and she forces herself to keep quiet - again, reasoning that it's half of their problem; he's too quick to assume what she's going to say, and she's too quick to jump to the wrong conclusions - so she bites her lip, and keeps stroking his skin in soothing circles. "I've been brewing some...bespoke potions. For a friend of a friend of a friend," he says. "And I made a mistake." He clucks his tongue against his teeth. "A really stupid mistake. And the friend of a friend of a friend...well, he got hold of me."

"...and beat you? What sort of a person - what sort of a friend - would do such a thing?"

The only thing that stops her from changing the subject is the feeling of his breathing beneath her - it's shallow and unsteady, and she knows he's wrangling with something, and if she leaves the question hanging, eventually he'll answer.

"I think… I think he might've been You-Know-Who."

Her hands still. "You've been brewing for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"

"No," he says, firmly. "I was brewing for a friend who was passing them to a friend, who was-"

"-but the chain ended with-"

"-I don't know for certain," he interrupts, "but he was powerful, and he controlled everyone, and he wanted to be called... Lord."

"You were brewing for the Dark Lord." Lily moves off Severus, and grabs a tissue, wiping her hands clean of Vaseline.

He rolls to one side, propping himself on his elbow to watch her, concerned that she's left his side following his revelation. "Lil, I really didn't know."

She gives him a tight smile, and points at his back. "He was friendly then?"

He looks grateful at her weak attempt at humour. "Fucking horrifying, Lil."

"And that was you being taken sick, was it?" 


She scrunches the tissue and puts it in the bin, before returning to sit with him on the sofa. "I thought the rumour was he favoured Unforgivables?"

"You'd rather I'd been AK'd?" he asks, cheekily. "Or do you think I've been Imperio'd?"

"You know what I mean."


"'s weird," she says. "That the marks look like when your dad-"

"It's not weird," he interrupts, quickly. "It's deliberate. He minds, or something."

She looks staggered. "I've never heard of that."

"Me neither."

" he recreated-"


She exhales loudly, and holds her boyfriend tightly in her arms. "You need to keep away from all of that."

"It's probably not that easy," he says, bluntly, reaching for his glass of firewhisky which had been long forgotten on the table. "Anyway. Enough of that. My turn, surely?"

She nods. "Do your worst."


"What about him?"

"Well," he starts, his hands flailing a little, "everything, really! The last I remember you having any real contact with Potter is around the time you hexed him by the lake back in fifth year-" 

She smiles broadly at the memory, and he has to bite back a laugh. 

"Exactly," he says. "So how did we get from him being on the wrong end of your wand to him being in our flat like he's some long lost friend?"

"You're not going to like this," she warns.

"On a scale of one to ten," he says, "with 'working for the Dark Lord without realising it' being a ten, how much am I not going to like it?"

"It's probably an eleven."

His easy smile drops. "Fuck's sake, Lily, I was-"

"-I've been working for Dumbledore's Order."

"Well," he says, putting his hands over his eyes, "that is definitely not what I expected you to say."

"That's how I met Potter."

"And that auror you brought here?"

She nods. "Amelia Bones."

"That was Madam Bones?" He looks astonished. "Amelia, of course, fucking hell - it's so obvious now."

"It's obvious now," she says, "because you were absolutely smashed out of your mind when she visited-"

"-I know." He looks a little abashed. "Made a good show of myself to her, eh?" He gives her a curious look. "...the listening devices…"

She stills, guessing where his question is going. "Yes?"

"You know," he said, softly, "I had a contact in the auror office."


"Friend of a friend."

"I didn't know You-Know-Who was moonlighting for the aurors-"

"-funny," he says, not without humour. "Point is, we'd arranged for them to be disposed of. ...but you got Bones here, and she did it instead."


He leans back, the puzzlement still across his features. "What did you have to give her to get them removed?"

"I promised I'd help her get some information."

He nods. "And? Did you?"

"Not yet." 

His eyelids flutter slightly. "Great, so you owe her, and I owe the Dark Lord."

"What a pair we are," she says.

"You're telling me," he laughs. "This honesty lark has been ridiculous. One question each, and we've found out that you're in deep with Dumbledore's vigilante gang, and I'm being dragged into You-Know-Who's regime." He gives her an amused look. "It's your turn, but I'm not sure my heart can take a second question."

"There's one more thing," she says, quickly. "I think we have more to talk about still, but…"

He looks at her curiously, and she can almost see the words written on his face - not Potter not Potter not Potter. She takes a deep breath. "It's about the rent on this place."

"Oh! Don't worry about that. I sorted it," he says, that crooked smile crossing his features. "I made sure there was enough money in the account before it was due-"

"Yes, but when I checked the balance a few days before," she says, quietly, "we were short. And I couldn't make a deposit."

He jumps up and grabs his wallet from the side, pulling out his access card, casting at it. The balance flashes up, and he pales at the high figure - and then he casts again, the recent transactions showing up before him.

"Lucius Malfoy? That's how you sorted it?" Her eyes narrow. "I should've guessed before," she says, "when he brought you here when you were hurt. That's your contact, isn't it? Who you brewed the Dark Lord's potions for?"

"Astutely reasoned," he says, nodding stiffly, "but Lily, I'm afraid I don't quite understand. I accept that you're part of the Order. I accept that James Potter has somewhat befriended you," he says, although the words sound as if they're trapped in his throat, "and I accept that you've had dealings with Amelia Bones. ...but how on earth did you convince Sirius Black to transfer this amount of galleons to my account?"

"No Evans?" Moody asks, pointing at the empty chair. "Not invited?"

Diggle looks up. "She's invited, but I couldn't get a response from her."

Potter looks alert. "Been to the flat?"

"Yes," Diggle says, dismissively. "But these things happen. We're all busy adults."

Black leans over, whispering in Potter's ear. "She's not, though. A Muggleborn practically locked indoors - where's she gone?"

"Snape," Potter whispers back. "That's where she'll have gone."

"I thought she'd deliver the potion tonight?" Black glances at Lupin, who is chatting to the Prewett boys, "I thought if he took it earlier…" He looks back at Potter. "If Snivellus is back on the scene, do you think she'll even brew it - or do you think she's taken our money and run?"

"...I don't know," Potter says. "If it was just her, then yes, but if Snape's back-" and then he suddenly quietens, as Moody calls the meeting to order. 

His hands shake as he stares at the parchment. "Belby's Wolfsbane? Lil, do you know how much money you could make if-"

"You saw how much money Sirius Black was willing to give me," she says, simply.

"It's not even the start," he says. "There's entire packs of them. You could do anything with this on the black market-"

"Help them keep their humanity," she says.

"Yeah, well, there's that," he says, "but there are other groups, who'd use this to control them…" He gapes, his finger trailing over the method. "Bloody hell, that's brilliant. Belby's an absolute genius." He looks back at Lily. "So, where were you going to brew it?" And then, at her abashed look, the truth dawns on him, and he grips her shoulders. "Lily? Where have you brewed it?"

At the end of the meeting, Pettigrew and Lupin step over to them, but Potter makes his excuses, and heads for Bones and Vance. 

"He's got no chance with either of them," Pettigrew laughs.

"I don't think he's asking them for a date," Lupin says, rolling his eyes. "Don't you think about anything else?"

"I don't," drawls Black, trying to watch Potter's conversation unfold, and then giving it up as a bad job. "Here, Wormtail, go and listen in, will you?"

"Do you really think he's asking them out?" Pettigrew asks, eagerly. "Amelia, or Emmeline?"

"I don't know, that's why I've told you to go and find out," Black says, waving him away. As Pettigrew moves awkwardly across the room, Black turns to Lupin. "And how are you, Moons?"

"Yeah, pretty good," he says, with a smile, and then he lowers his voice. "I can't thank you and Prongs enough. Tastes bloody awful, but-"

Black sits up dramatically. "She got it to you?" he hisses.

"Yeah. She met with me a few days ago in Muggle London." He grins. "I've never looked forward to a transformation, but I'm quite excited…" - but Black has stopped listening, his attention now on Potter who is being hurried to a corner by the two older women, far away from the eavesdropping ears of Pettigrew.

"Well fuck," he says, glancing at his girlfriend.


"Yeah, I'm not sure sorry covers it, Lil," he laughs. "This is absolutely insane." He shakes his head. "We're living in this crazy society, where you've got fewer rights than a bumblebee-"

"-wow, thanks-"

"-and yet you've brewed one of the most complicated potions ever created, in complete secrecy, and you've not done it in a lab - you've done it in your childhood bedroom out in the Muggle world." He laughs out loud.

"I don't know it works yet."

"I bet it does," he says. "You're meticulous; you'll have followed this to the letter," and he waves the parchment. "When's full moon?"

"Next week."

"We'll find out then, won't we?" He looks at her. "Will Black report back, or-"

"-I don't know," she says. "I don't know much past the initial request." She looks at him seriously. "I wasn't going to do it, you know - after the dealing fiasco. But when I thought we'd lose the flat, and I didn't know where you were…" She swallows hard. "And I'm guessing you've heard about the owl laws?"

He looks wary. "No," he says, "but I feel that I don't particularly want to know."

"I'd have used an owl to track you down," she says, "but now Muggleborns can't use them to send messages. They have to be-"

"-countersigned by someone of a higher blood status?"


He shakes his head. "What a mess, Lil. And you're a finer witch than most of the Purebloods," he tells her, giving her an admiring look.

"You're biased."

"Not just me. You know, Borage, Jigger and old Sluggy would have a fit if they knew. Well, Borage and Jigger would have a grumble about blood status and improper brewing conditions, but Sluggy would be dead proud - and he'd be right to be."

"You think?" 

"Yes! And I'm dead fucking proud too."

She gives him a huge grin. "Really?"

"Yes! Really!" He puts his arms around her and kisses her forehead. "I mean, you're going to get us both fucking killed, but I am super impressed at your brewing."

"Sev! I'm being serious."

"So am I, love," he says, holding her tightly. "So am I."

When the aurors descend on Malfoy Manor, the young occupant isn't in the least bit surprised, and he welcomes them in - his manners impeccable - to his study. They take his wand, and place it on the desk before him.

"Am I under arrest?" he asks, mildly.

"Not arrest," Emmeline Vance says, coolly. "Not yet."

"But there's always time," Amelia Bones adds.

His eyebrows quirk. "Wonderful." He places his hands on the desk. "Would you mind enlightening me as to the enquiry you feel I am able to assist with?"

"I have reason to believe that you're dealing in banned potions," Vance says.

"No rights?"

Bones glances at Vance. "You're only read your rights if you're arrested."

"Interesting." Lucius taps his mouth with his fingertip. "And if I choose not to speak now? Am I immediately classed as unhelpful, and then I shall be arrested? And if I do speak, will my words be used in a future case against me?"

Vance looks at Bones, and Bones looks back at Vance - and Lucius leans back in his chair, watching the two carefully. 

"Or, perhaps we could arrange some sort of a deal?" he ventures. "An off the record deal," he says, with a smile, "you understand."

"What are you offering?"

"...I want to offer you the name of my brewer."

"We know who your brewer is, thank you. We're looking up the chain, not down."

And Lucius smiles broadly. "And I am fairly certain that you're wrong." He watches, amused, as the two women look at each other. "And if you're wrong about the lower rungs of the chain, then perhaps you're looking in the wrong places upwards as well?"

"Excuse us for a moment," Bones says, pulling Vance to a corner of the room.

Lucius can hear them muttering between themselves, but he can't quite hear what they're saying - and quickly tiring of the wait, he raises his voice. "Tell you what," he says, beckoning them back, "I suggest you write the name of who you think my brewer is on a slip of parchment."

Vance looks at him curiously. "And what will that prove?"

"I shall do the same," he says. "Only I shall provide the name of the person who has genuinely brewed my wares. And then we can compare the two names."

Bones and Vance stare at each other again, and then Bones nods. "Very well. Do you have a quill?"

"But of course," says Lucius, passing a golden feather to her. "Only the best for the finest aurors in the land."

They both turn, and Vance writes on the parchment before folding it sharply, running her fingers along the crease over and over. He mirrors her actions, and then the two place the pages on the desk.

"Thank you," he says. "Would you like to do the honours?"

Bones casts, flicking the parchments open, and Lucius smiles broadly when their page opens: Severus Snape.

"I see" he says, with relish, "but it's a swing and a miss, I'm afraid." 

But his words seem to be lost on the pair, as Vance and Bones are both staring at Lucius' handwriting in horror: Lily Evans.

Chapter Text

Vance stares evenly at Bones from across her office. "Amelia, I'm afraid to say we're at a stalemate."

"I can't stand by and watch you arrest her on the word of Lucius Malfoy," Bones says simply. "I think this is a ruse."

"And I think you're blinded by compassion," Vance warns. "You got too close to her, and fell for her sob story."

"I fell for her sob story? It's not a sob story!" Bones looks astonished. "Our society has pushed her kind-"

"Nonsense. Our society is full of loopholes," Vance interrupts, dismissively, "and she's in a position to have taken full advantage of each and every one. She's hooked up with a Halfblood-"

"-not an informed one!"

"No? Is he not?" The disdain drips from Vance's voice.

Bones shakes her head. "He'd have sponsored her if he knew."

"Snape is an associate of Lucius Malfoy's-"

"-we don't really know that-"

"-I do know that!" Vance quickly counters. "I've had an auror trailing Horace Slughorn-"

"Emmeline!" Bones hisses, her hand slamming against her desk. "There are laws about surveillance without-"

"And we both know that laws don't get results! What do you suggest we do, hmm?" Vance stalks angrily around the room, her ruby robes flowing behind her. "Wait and see if Lucius Malfoy politely invites us for dinner with his closest business associates?" When Bones doesn't answer, Vance nods with an air of triumph. "And Snape is a slippery eel - mark my words, Amelia."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Vance stops pacing, leaning heavily against the back of a chair. "I believe Malfoy's testimony - that Lily Evans is his brewer." She points her finger towards Bones. "You don't believe Malfoy's testimony - you stand by our original assertion that Severus Snape is his brewer. Correct?" 

Bones nods, and Vance smiles. 

"Then he's hardly an innocent lamb, is he - by your very own admission?"

"I'm not suggesting that he is," Bones argues. "But I don't see how this fits together for you to agree that Lily Evans is Lucius Malfoy's brewer. It's a ruse!"

Vance pinches the bridge of her nose, and takes a deep breath, as if she's about to explain a simple arithmancy equation to a NEWT student. "Lily Evans was working for the Ministry. A law was passed meaning that Muggleborns could not continue to work unless they were sponsored. Lily Evans claims that she has no such sponsor, despite being in a committed relationship with a Halfblood with Pure heritage-"

"-a Halfblood who didn't understand the law!"

"A Halfblood who is a close associate of one of the wealthiest and most influential Pureblood families in the land," Vance loudly corrects. "This is a simple case of us looking left whilst the real culprit-"

"You're saying that I'm distracted by Snape?" Bones interrupts, her brow still furrowed. "I'm focused on following him, when she's the real brewer?"

"He's perfect as a decoy. He's a potions apprentice," Vance explains, "and a disgraced one at that. He's known to us as a small time dealer-"

"-Mundungus Fletcher's statement is hardly admissible evidence, Emmeline, as you well know."

"I'm not looking to build a concrete case against Snape," Vance argues. "I couldn't care less about Snape. I'm trying to build the picture, and Dung's statement is part of that. Snape is a small time crook, dealing in simple party potions to simple people."

"And what does that prove, in this grand picture that you're painting?"

Vance flicks her wand at the wall, clearing space and the casts a summary of her points as she speaks. "Snape apprentices with Master Arsenius Jigger. We know from the bug reports that he rises between half 7 and 8, and he's at work before 9."

"But we know they knew about the bugs - his routine could vary wildly from what we witnessed."

"Yes, yes, but we're talking about a youth who is barely out of his teens. Do you really think he's waking in the early hours?" Vance says, dismissing the point. "It's easy to verify when he starts work, and I doubt he'd usually get up earlier, even if the rest of his routine deviated from what we witnessed." She waves her wand. "But you're right - the rest of the information gathered in that exercise is dubious at best, but we know from other reports-"

"-other inadmissible reports-"

"-that he works in the Three Broomsticks," says Vance, giving Bones a pointed look, "which is easily verified."

"You were going to say he deals in the Hog's Head," Bones says, huffily, "which is inadmissible."

"Yes. But it still paints a picture, does it not? A young man who studies all day, works all evening, and deals into the night?"

"...I still don't follow where you're going with this."

"If he's spending all hours working, then he's not Malfoy's brewer." Vance smiles broadly. "But which other highly regarded magical person has suddenly found themselves without employment?" She looks triumphantly at Bones. "The clincher for me, was Potter's comment a few weeks back. Don't you recall the not so hushed conversation his group of miscreants were having at the meeting? You remember," she prompts when Bones looks blank, "when we were in that upstairs room of the Leaky?"

Bones shakes her head. "I barely listen to those boys. Arrogant and impertinent and-"

"-and useful," Vance smiles. "For they were in class with our two suspects, and whilst Snape's talent has been alluded to by many more than just Fletcher, I was completely unaware that Professor Horace Slughorn - or should I say, Master Horace Slughorn - held Miss Evans in equal esteem."

"I've seen her student record," Bones says, quietly. "Her Potions NEWT was virtually flawless. Slughorn holds no blood prejudices, so he wouldn't penalise her." She appraises Vance. "But Malfoy? He just wouldn't hire a Muggleborn, he's a purist."

"Yes, but he's also an opportunist. Snape was probably his intended brewer," she says, triumphantly, the details suddenly falling into place, "but the change in the laws meant that as a couple, they didn't have enough money, so Snape had to undertake paid labour. That left him no time to brew, so she became Malfoy's only option."

"This still doesn't make sense," Bones challenges. "Why wouldn't Snape sponsor Lily, permit her to work, and then brew himself?"

"...because Lucius Malfoy is playing a long game," Vance says, thoughtfully. "And a Muggleborn as collateral damage early on is neither here nor there. Losing Snape at this stage would be far more dangerous, so perhaps you're right - Lucius Malfoy didn't inform Snape of his rights about sponsorship. Perhaps he was out of the loop all along."

Bones shakes her head. "I don't buy this. It's too convoluted to be comfortable." She fiddles with the edge of her robe. "And I wouldn't be misled by the way they behaved during the bugging of their flat," she says. "I don't know much of him, but from the way she reacted…there's a genuine affection between them. I don't think she'd hang him out to dry," and she meets Vance's gaze, "and I don't see him having a Muggleborn girlfriend all of these years with the sole intention to sell her out. She said herself that their relationship has made him an outcast."

Vance eyes her curiously. "Something else is bothering you. Tell me."

"...I can't make head nor tail of the sponsorship," Bones admits. "I can't see Evans being Malfoy's preferred brewer, even if Slughorn did think she was brilliant in her schooldays - why would he go to the trouble of recruiting a bonafide potions apprentice, and then not utilising him?"

Vance looks nonplussed. "Who knows?"

"No," Bones argues, "you were happy to use this information to paint a picture. You can't just throw away the parts of the palette that you don't like." She looks fierce. "Either Snape and Malfoy have a purely transactional relationship, and Snape gains his information about the wizarding world from elsewhere-"

"Like who?"

"His old Head of House?"

"Come on, Amelia. You said it yourself, Horace Slughorn holds no such prejudices, and if he's as fond as either of them as you're suggesting, then he wouldn't mislead them in such a manner."

"Then Master Jigger, perhaps?"

Vance shakes her head. "And why would Arsenius Jigger feed Snape incorrect information?"

" keep him out of trouble by ensuring he needed to work in a bar of an evening? To keep him busy? To prevent a similar situation from-"

"-happening as unfolded under Master Borage," Vance finishes, looking thoughtful once more. 


"But if the goods were for Malfoy, why wouldn't he intervene?"

"Perhaps he was going to," Bones says. "Perhaps you're right - perhaps Malfoy did conclude that Evans would be no loss if it all came tumbling out. What's a few years in Azkaban for a Muggleborn he doesn't care about? Surely that's a far better solution than potentially losing the young man who is going to be a fully qualified Potions Master in a few short years." 

The two women stare at the wall, entranced by their brainstorming of the situation.

Bones glances across at Vance. "Do you think we're on the right track?"

"I think there's only one way to find out."

Moody escorts her down to the interview room, her wrists tightly bound behind her. She stumbles as they turn down yet another bland corridor, but his reactions are sharp, grasping the back of her robes and helping her to keep her feet. "One foot in front of the other, Evans," he snarls.

"I know how to walk!"

"Then do it," he says, pushing open a set of doors and waving her through.

"You are a hateful man," she snaps, standing in the doorway and blocking him from passing her. "You oscillate between treating me as if I'm a Madonna or a whore." She's too angry to delight in his shocked expression, although he composes himself quickly.

"You could've been someone," Moody finally says, looking at her in disgust. "I saw your file. Ogden and Thicknesse wanted you transferred to us, such was your aptitude and prowess, and yet-"

"-yet what?" Her face is full of fury. "I had no choice in any of this."

"No choice?" He sounds incredulous. "You were the one who didn't bother to get sponsored."

"Didn't bother?" She breathes heavily, her hands quivering behind her back in rage. "Didn't bother? Even if I had someone willing to sign, I couldn't have transferred to your beloved department. I couldn't stay in the employment of the Ministry."

Moody looks momentarily thrown as he pieces it together. "You were purged?"

"Yes," she spits. "Purged."


She shrugs. "Your guess is as good as mine."

He roughly pushes past her, shoving open a door to a nearby room and pulling her in. He kicks a chair, and nods to it, and she tentatively sits - her balance slightly off due to how her wrists are immobilised. "They gave you a reason. They give everyone a reason."

"Undesirable political allegiances," she mutters.

He stands for a long moment, considering her words. "That's all?"

"That's all." She glances at him. "I don't know who they meant."

"Your man?"

"Aberforth thought so," she admits. "But I don't see how. You all said yourselves at the meeting - the Ministry is being infiltrated-"

Moody quickly reaches over and slams the door shut. "Bloody hell, Evans, you pick your moments!"

"-I just meant-"

"I understood what you meant," he says, taking the seat opposite her. "Under Death Eater rule, undesirable political allegiances wouldn't be your fence-sitting boyfriend." He grimaces. "Perhaps it was a push for him to finally declare some?"

She shrugs. "Maybe."

"And has he?"

She shrugs again. "We don't discuss politics."

He clucks his tongue in frustration and leans heavily on the desk. "I've brought you here, as Madam Vance is due to interview you."

"I am aware."

"This," and he indicates to himself and the room, "isn't the interview."

She raises an eyebrow at this, glancing at the interview room, and their respective seating positions. "No?"

"No," Moody says, "but I would like to speak with you further. Off the record."

"And what's in it for me?"

Moody smiles, sitting back in his seat. "I could suggest that's a very Slytherin observation to make." He pauses, waiting for her to rise to his bait, but she doesn't. "You protested that you were a Gryffindor when I met you."

"I was."

"And now?" He leans forward again. "If you were to be sorted now?" He peers at her intently. "What's stronger within you, Evans? Courage or cunning? Daring or shrewdness?" 

She doesn't answer, and he smiles triumphantly. 

"Want to know something, Evans?" he asks, although he doesn't wait for the answer. "I said to Albus that your snake of a boyfriend-" and he continues loudly when she opens her mouth to protest, "-was rubbing off on you. Can you imagine what he said?"

"No," she says, inviting his reply, although she isn't convinced she wants to know what Albus Dumbledore's appraisal of her was.

"He said that Horace Slughorn had long lamented that you were not housed in Slytherin. That if your bloodline had been different, you'd have been sat amongst his snakes."

"Sluggy's always said that. It's hardly a secret."

Moody nodded. "But most people told you he was wrong, didn't they? They saw how morally upstanding you were," and he lingers over the words, rolling them over his tongue, "and couldn't see a hint of ambition within you. And how right you proved them," he continues, "setting up home with a no-name wizard, and seemingly quitting your role at the Ministry, content to idle your days away at home."

Now, she doesn't dare react at all - he's hitting all of the points that have long haunted her; that in a world where a Muggleborn could be ambitious - and be justly rewarded for being so - she would've been a Slytherin. That Severus' early assessment of her when they were children was uncannily accurate, and wasn't just his childish desire to want his best friend sat next to him, in the house he felt he'd always been destined for. 

She'd tried to embody the traits of Gryffindor - of chivalry and nerve, of standing up and saying the right thing at the right time - but she knew that she'd done so wrapped up in the skin of Slytherin shrewdness. She took calculated risks, and she knew that those who observed her closely - the Severuses and the Slughorns of the world - had noticed the duality within her.

"It's not uncommon to share traits across houses. Most people have an element of a hatstall within them," she said, firmly.

"Yes," Moody agreed, leaning even more closely to them. "Your boyfriend concurred with you, didn't he? You've said as much to him, haven't you? The pair of you whispering about how - if these blood laws weren't so prevalent, if purism wasn't a movement - you'd have been in the same house? Sharing classes? A common room?" He arches his eyebrow, knowing his comments have hit the spot.


"And," Moody continues triumphantly, "did he ever tell you which other house the hat considered for him?"

He hadn't. She assumed it was Ravenclaw, as for all of his loyalty to her and his dedication to his work, he was hardly a Hufflepuff - whereas his sharp mind and his enthusiasm for learning was clear to see. "No."

"Young Black is interesting, don't you think?"

She frowns, not quite following the shift in conversation. "Because he should've been a Slytherin?"

"Because he should've been a Slytherin," Moody agrees softly. "And because his little gang of friends were so at odds with your boy, weren't they?"

She gives a stiff nod. If Moody is an old friend of Albus - and they've clearly discussed the background of Severus, and his failure to join the Order - then there's no point in pretending otherwise, or feigning lack of knowledge. "Yes."

Moody gives a twisted little grin. "Did your boy ever tell you that if mixed relations weren't so frowned upon by society and if upholding family heritage wasn't so important to him, you'd have been in the same house? Sharing classes? A common room?"

And this time, although she isn't quite sure she's followed his logic the whole way through, she is stunned at his apparent conclusion. "Severus could've been a Gryffindor?"

"It was, I believe, Minerva McGonagall's greatest lament - that she and Horace and Albus were to spend so much time patching up battles between her young lions, and your snake of a boyfriend. That if the hat had talked you into Slytherin, or Severus into Gryffindor-"

"-none of that antagonism would've happened." She looks at him, astonished. It makes sense when she thinks about it - Severus is quick, and lives on his wits - he talked them out of trouble when she'd been dealing, and devised the method to evade the aurors - but there's a streak of determination in him; he might not choose to fight as his first means of dealing with a situation, but thanks to Potter and Black's unrelenting pursuing of him around the grounds of Hogwarts, Severus was a first class dueller and not one to back down. Courage, she thinks. 

And then she thinks about his whipped back, and his meeting with the Dark Lord - of what it must've taken for Severus, given that he hated talking about his feelings, to permit another to invade his mind, to dredge up such a hateful memory, and then to re-enact it. To stand there and take such a beating - presumably with Lucius Malfoy watching - knowing that this powerful wizard has you outclassed, and there's no other way out.  Is that Slytherin self-preservation, she wonders, or Gryffindor nerve? 

She can't help but wonder how close they both were to switching houses. She can remember the hat's whispered paradox even now:

Slytherin would be difficult, I shall not lie. 
Gryffindor's path is far easier to tread.
And as for me? 
I cannot advise you which you should take.
All I can suggest is:
The Slytherin decision would be to choose Gryffindor.
Whilst the Gryffindor decision would be to choose Slytherin. 

She idly wonders if the hat had the same discussion with Severus, and whether he'd made the Slytherin choice, or the Gryffindor one.

"I am not like the hat," Moody says, breaking her train of thought. "I am not whimsical, or prone to fits of rhyme," and she can't help but smile at his comment. "Nor am I full of riddles."

"No? You sound it tonight."

"And there's the Gryffindor within you," he nods. "Perhaps the hat did not get it so wrong after all."

"Is there a reason for this reminiscence?" she asks, pointedly.

Moody stands, and moves around the table, and she can smell the musk of his robes behind her. "I am straightforward," he says, leaning over next to her, his hard face pressed next to her own soft cheek. "White is white, black is black, the sky is blue, the grass is green."

"...I don't understand."

"I am a fighter, Evans," he warns. "I'm not a politician. I'm not an orchestrator of plans. I do not infiltrate the enemy."

At this, she jolts. "They want me to spy?"

"And I want you to consider your options very carefully," he says, pulling away. "There will be a proposal - there always is-"

"There are already spies?"

"I have been to many funerals of late." He twitches at her astonished gasp. "Do you understand now why I suggested you revisit the blasted hat's paradoxical prattling?" 

And then they both hear clicking footsteps, and he steps smoothly away from her, reaching for the door handle - but then he turns back to face her. 

"You think I can't decide whether you're a Madonna or a whore, but my real question is whether you are a Gryffindor or a Slytherin. You should think carefully, Evans," he warns. And then, before she can speak, he yanks the door open.

Lily hears a murmuring outside - of male and female voices mixing - and then she hears Moody's heavy footsteps clunking down the hall and becoming progressively fainter.

"Hello Lily," and a smiling Vance steps into the interview room, the door slamming heavily behind her.

Chapter Text

The interview room is cold, and her wrists ache - and the silence is eating away at her. She isn't sure if this is a psychological game, or whether she's supposed to be speaking first, or whether Vance is genuinely reading the papers on the desk before her. Lily's coughed twice and sighed once, and neither has inspired any sort of reaction from Vance. Instead, Vance shuffles the papers, turns them over, and occasionally dips a quill in a pot of ink and scrawls something unintelligible on the papers - and Lily knows that it's code or scribble, because she has always been able to read upside down. She sighs again, trying to count how many pages are in the stack, wondering how long this will go on for.

The study is overly warm and stuffy - the fire roaring in the grate is overkill for the time of year, as whilst the British weather remains as unpredictable as ever, the heat from the fire is entirely at odds with the clement weather outdoors. Despite this, the three men sit in contemplative silence around the grate, before Fudge loudly claps his hands against his knees and stands. 

"And you're quite sure, Alastor?"

"In times such as these, nobody can be quite sure," Dumbledore interrupts before Moody can answer. "For me, Alastor's word is enough." He peers intently at the Minister for Magic. "And forgive me, but I would've thought that the word of one of your star aurors-"

"Well," starts Fudge, looking uncomfortable, and shooting Moody an uneasy smile, "I think Alastor himself would be the first to concede that his methods are often unorthodox."

"Unorthodox but effective," Moody clarifies. "Dumbledore, how many have we lost this year?"

"Six," Dumbledore says, quickly. 

Fudge looks horrified. "Six? We've lost six spies?"

Dumbledore grimaces. "It is perhaps a kindness to refer to them all in such a manner." He stares evenly at Fudge. "The truth is, barely any of these managed to infiltrate the Death Eater network - the shutters are down."

Moody frowns. "The shutters are down?"

"Muggle parlance," Fudge explains without explaining anything at all. 

She's thirsty, and hungry, and now her wrists not only ache, but her fingers are numb - and yet, Vance still keeps flipping the pages over, scratching ink on every third paragraph. Finally, Vance reaches the very last page, and then sniffs, places it on top of the rest of the pages and straightens them loudly, banging them on the table edge. She turns the entire stack over, and Lily's jaw clenches - surely she's not going to start the whole charade again from the top?

She isn't.

Instead, Vance caps her ink and settles her quill on the table. Lily shifts slightly in her chair, desperately flicking her fingers behind her back and trying to bring some feeling back in them.



Vance nods. "Would you like me to undo the fastenings?"

"I would like you to," Lily says, warily, "but am I to assume it is going to cost me?"

And Vance beams at her broadly. She moves quickly, and with a quick slash of her wand, the cuffs are broken. Lily groans as she brings her arms to her front, holding them against her chest - she wants to rub her wrists, but her fingers have so little feeling, they're leaden and useless, and unresponsive to her wishes.

"You did well."

Lily eyes her as she moves back across the room. "This was a test? You were testing me?"

"Of sorts," Vance says, an odd expression on her face. "For your own ends, rather than mine."

Lily ponders this, as Vance doesn't offer further explanation. " wanted me to know that I could withstand this?"

"Amelia and Alastor have gone to great lengths to assure me of your intellect," she says. "I am pleased that they are not mistaken." She leans forward, and takes Lily's hands, rubbing her wrists gently - and Lily swallows uncomfortably; Vance's hands are warm and her skin is dry, and her movements are not soothing, but instead feel like sandpaper scraping across her sensitive skin.

"And you, Alastor," he says, moving back behind his desk, and hunting through parchment, "you think that this idea of yours is the credible way in?"


Fudge sniffs, and waves his quill around. "It must go through your boss."

"With all due respect, Cornelius," Dumbledore interjects, "effectively you are his boss."

"No, with all due respect, Dumbledore," Fudge argues, stressing the Headmaster's surname, "I delegate for a reason."

"I explained," Moody snarls, "why I did not take this to my boss."

"No," Fudge says, patiently, "you presented me with conjecture and supposition."

"What else is there? The Ministry is riddled with Death Eaters," Moody argues, "and you should not be relying upon the testimony of-"

"-but I should rely on yours?" Fudge shoots him a dark look. "No, no, Dumbledore, I'm afraid that this just won't do."

"Cornelius," Dumbledore says, pointedly continuing to use his old friend's first name, "I implore you-"

"Through the proper channels, Moody," he says, dismissing the pair with a wave of his hand. "Due process."


Fudge raises a hand, and then glances at the portraits on the wall meaningfully, and then glances back at Dumbledore. "Due process," he repeats. "That is how these things are pursued." And then he smiles. "If, indeed, they are to be pursued at all."

Vance pulls out a bottle, and a piece of folded parchment. "And you recognise these, I assume?"

The neat looping bow of rainbow colours shimmers under the artificial light, and Lily points at it. "This, yes."

"And, to satisfy my belief that we're on the same page, would you be prepared to elaborate?"

"'s Rain Away."

"Just Rain Away?" Vance presses. Lily doesn't answer, and Vance leans forward. "Who brewed this vial of Rain Away? ...your boyfriend, perhaps?"


"Then who?"

Lily's heart hammers a little faster, as she prepares to condemn herself. "...I did."

"In a laboratory?" Vance raises her eyebrows, and flicks the stack of parchment sitting next to her. "I ask, because I have checked, and I cannot find registration of-"

"No." Lily's heart is banging faster now, her mind racing, wondering what answer to give if she's pressed further - but to her relief, Vance has turned her attention to the parchment instead. She unfolds it carefully and passes it to Lily, and she recognises it straight away. "This is Belby's work," Lily immediately acknowledges.

"Yes, it is," Vance agrees. "How interesting that an unsponsored Muggleborn would instantly recognise such a-"

"It's not interesting," Lily hotly argues, her anger erupting from her, "least, not to you. You gave it to Sirius Black."

Vance sits back now, a triumphant smirk on her face. "Yes. Yes, I did." And then she rubs her hands together. "And you brewed it, didn't you? But where?"

"Unless you are planning to charge for me for brewing illegal potions," she says, narrowing her eyes, "then I don't see what the relevance is." Lily folds her arms over her chest. "And if you're going to charge me for brewing illegally, then…"


"...I might be inclined to reveal the source of the parchment."

Vance shrugs. "Yes, and I imagine that a grand total of four people would believe you: Sirius Black, James Potter, Remus Lupin and your beloved boyfriend, Severus Snape." She smiles nastily. "You might understand that the rest of the wizarding world wouldn't be so willing to take the word of a disgruntled Muggleborn."

Lily's heart is hammering again, but she merely inclines her head, remembering Severus' cool response when the aurors trapped them in the flat: You might be terrified, she thinks, but Vance doesn't have to know you're scared, Lily. Keep calm. Do what Severus did.

"Oh, how silly of me," Vance says, suddenly standing and pacing back and forth. "Five people!"

Lily stares at the pacing woman - is she about to suggest Pettigrew, the fourth in Potter's sorry band of delinquents? Or Moody? Or-

"Lucius Malfoy," she says with a flourish, interrupting Lily's internal monologue.

"Lucius Malfoy?"

And then Vance is back at the table, slamming her palms on the wood and leaning in closer. "Yes, Lucius Malfoy. Your broker. The middleman. The intermediary. Your go-between."

"That went well," Dumbledore beams, clapping Moody on the back.

Moody looks at him, horrified. "Did we both just attend a different meeting?"

"The walls have ears, Alastor," Dumbledore says, smoothly. "Even in the Minister's office."

Moody's horrified look doesn't abate at his placating. "Then why did you let me speak so frankly? The whole point of me raising the idea of her being an infiltrator-"

"-now now, Alastor. Let's see what comes back, shall we? That is the point of the meeting."

Alastor looks at Dumbledore, unable to comprehend what he's hearing. "No, Albus, the point of the meeting was to stop her before she did any more damage."

"You heard my statement," Dumbledore says, softly. "We have lost six."

"Because of the likes of her."

"If it is her," Dumbledore says, quickly. "Perhaps it is not. That's what this was about." He puts his hand on Moody's shoulder. "I appreciate, Alastor-"

"-no, you don't." He flinches, knocking Dumbledore's hand away. "This isn't a game, Albus. People are dying. Good people are dying."

At this, Dumbledore's eyebrows raise. "And did you spare such a thought for the boy?" He smiles at Moody's lack of response. "Of course not. He's merely collateral damage. Skirted a little too close to the railway line, perhaps? Deserves what he gets?" Dumbledore shrugs. "And who could disagree with you? But still, what a shame for him - and what of his lovely girlfriend?"

"His lovely girlfriend is laying down on the tracks as we speak."

Vance takes Lily's silence as confirmation that she's on the right track, and sits back down, her expression a curious combination of pleased and proud, and altogether too self-congratulatory for Lily's liking - especially as she was completely off the mark. Then Vance is at the door, conversing with a house elf, and a few moments later, she's back and there's a large jug of water on the table and a plate of biscuits.

Vance waves at them, and indicates that Lily should help herself, and although Lily is wary as to the content of the water, she's so thirsty, she can't help but gulp it down - although she attempts to allay her fears by subtly sniffing it first, remembering Severus' instruction, relayed to her following his own lessons in his apprenticeship:  Sev, you're being ridiculous. When will I ever need to know this? - and although he'd smiled and pulled her into his arms, he'd carried on his explanation irrespective - We're on the brink of war. The world is ridiculous - now listen up, love. I'd never forgive myself if I didn't show you… As it is, Vance doesn't seem to notice her pressing her nose into her glass and inhaling before imbibing.

"As we're being honest with each other," Vance says, sipping from her own glass, and casting a charm to warm the room, "I feel I should explain that this has come as a surprise to some aurors." She smiles again. "But not me."


"No, I thought the idea of Snape being Malfoy's brewer was all too obvious," she says, jabbing the air with her half-eaten biscuit. "But, of course, he's not involved at all, is he?" She pauses, and when Lily doesn't answer, she nods. "No, Snape isn't involved in your little enterprise, so I am sure you're worrying about what his reaction will be?" 

And then she pauses again, and this time, Lily is the one to nod. 

"I wouldn't," Vance answers. "Your real concern is the fact that Malfoy thinks so little of you, he has sold you down the river."

Her face pales now - Malfoy has given my name? - and in a twisted way, she's silently pleased that her reaction doesn't go unnoticed - this is surely how I'd react if Malfoy was my broker, surely how Severus would react if he was sitting here, knowing that his old friend had ratted him out. 

"It was a test that was expected to go one of two ways," Vance explains. "The Wolfsbane was either supposed to lure your boyfriend into the Order - a way of ensuring that he pledged himself to those within the group-"

"Or a way of proving that he was brewing outside of Jigger's laboratory, therefore declaring himself to Malfoy and the Death Eaters?" Lily guesses.

Vance lifted her glass and took another slow sip before speaking. "Yes. Of course, we already know Snape brews here and there." 

Lily tries her hardest to keep her face impassive, and not to reveal anything, and it seems to work, as Vance continues quite happily. 

"We've seen him dealing in small time potions, but given his supposed prowess, there's no reason for us to believe that he couldn't do so during his apprenticeship hours. A few cauldrons of Rain Away or Sundown or Night Rhythm would barely be noticed - and certainly wouldn't be commented on by the likes of either Borage or Jigger, would they? But Wolfsbane... Wolfsbane is a different matter entirely."

Lily ignores the question, determined not to fall into any traps. "But Severus didn't brew the Wolfsbane."

"No," grins Vance. "No, he did not. And there was the big surprise. His sudden departure was a concern to me, as I had already set the trap with Black and Potter-"

"They were in on it?"

Vance shakes her head. "They merely facilitated the deal. I had something they wanted, and they didn't think to question it." She smiles. "My good fortune was in not realising that they wouldn't wait for Snape when he disappeared - instead, they found the real brewer for me." She sits back triumphantly. "Which is good news for me. And perhaps also for your lover, else he'd be sat opposite me now instead - and I suspect I would be a little less gracious towards him." 

Lily shuffles awkwardly in her seat. "Less gracious than keeping someone bound for hours on end?"

Vance gave a small laugh. "Now now, that was barely anything. I would be less gracious because we both know that his story writes itself - he's a little darker than he should be, and at best, he doesn't care too much where his money comes from." She sniffs. "And at worst? At worst, he's a fully paid up Death Eater." 

Lily daren't argue with this damning assessment of her boyfriend - daren't even breathe, but fortunately, Vance doesn't seem to require her further participation in the conversation. 

Instead, Vance taps her fingernails against her empty glass. "But you, Lily Evans, you're much more interesting. Why would a Muggleborn be working for a purist? And why would that Muggleborn working for a purist decide to join the Order of the Phoenix?"

Lucius places his hand on Severus' shoulder, and pushes him onto the sofa. "Honestly, Severus, this is helping nobody." He points at his friend's boots. "And you said it yourself, she'll be furious if she sees you've tramped mud across the-"

"I don't care about the bloody mud!" he yells. 

"No, but you care about the muddy-"

"If you don't fuck off, right now, Malf-"

Lucius raises his eyebrow. "As you're upset, I shall overlook this, Severus." He pulls out a chair from under the table and sits in it, opposite his friend. "You need to calm down."

"I can't fucking calm down, Malf. She's missing. Again. And this time she's not with fucking Potter, so this time, this time, Malf, she just might be in trouble!"

Lucius smiles. "I'm sure not, Severus. I'm sure not."

"I was looking for a way out," Lily says, desperately. "That's why I joined the Order." She glances at the older woman, and hopes that her skin stays pale, and an unwanted flush doesn't creep up onto her face. "You're right that Severus introduced me to Malfoy, but he has no idea of our true relationship." She looks at her hands. "You know Severus works at the Three Broomsticks?"


"He's always been adamant that we earn our money in an above board manner-" 

Vance snorts in derision. "When did he decide this? Before the deaths, was it?"

Lily stiffens. "That was an accident."

"So the record states," Vance says, dismissively. "Although your point is valid - I can see why he would choose to keep his head down." She stares at Lily. "So how did Malfoy approach you? How did he convince you?"

"...does it matter?" Lily stares at Vance, willing her not to ask her any further questions - desperate not to commit herself to a web of lies that may be easily contradicted by the malevolent Malfoy.


"I asked him to sponsor me," she blurts out.

"You, a Muggleborn, asked Lucius Malfoy to sponsor you?" Vance's eyes narrow suspiciously.

"Severus isn't pure enough," she says. "His father is a Muggle, so his blood is equal. It's not enough."

Vance gives her a pitying look. "It's unfortunate that you believe that," she says.

"It's true!" she argues, knowing that it isn't, but knowing this is the safest argument. "Severus and I asked-"

"Don't tell me," laughed Vance gleefully, "you asked Lucius Malfoy, didn't you?" She shakes her head. "He must've seen the pair of you coming."

Lily sits a little straighter, as if pretending not to be hurt by the slight. "And Malfoy said he couldn't sponsor me, as it would affect his name - but a few days later, he proposed an arrangement where I would brew for him." She shrugs. "We needed the money. I couldn't work. It was an easy decision. ...but I got cold feet, and I wanted out - so I joined the Order, hoping that we could overthrow the likes of Malfoy."

"And Snape? Does he know of this arrangement?"

"No," she says, quickly. "My father has been paying for my half of the flat for months. Severus thinks that the money is still coming from him."

"Good," Vance says. "Keep it that way."

" want me to continue?"

"I want you to continue," Vance affirms. "Business as usual."

"But you said that Malfoy gave you my name," she argues. "How can I possibly continue?"

"He did," Vance says. "But then, he doesn't know you're here now, does he?" She smiles broadly. "So let us both pretend that this little meeting didn't occur. Keep in touch with Malfoy through your usual channels, and wait for my instruction."


"Oh yes," Vance says, her expression hard. "Because unless you want to go to Azkaban for the next decade or five, you will do exactly as I say."

Chapter Text

He beats himself up about it, even now. Stupid stupid boy. He remembers reading about those killers in the paper when he was a teen - the ones without any remorse; the ones who treat murder like a cheap alternative to a Saturday night in the pub - and he knows that if anyone was to ever scribble down his story, if anyone ever had cause to ruminate on his life and his behaviour, that moment in the tunnel was the turning point. 

And it was just a moment - a handful of seconds where he felt the blood beating in his ears, and smelled the sweat and the piss and the blood, and heard the terrible howl of anguished transformation which was so unlike anything he'd ever witnessed in McGonagall's classroom. 

His knees had wobbled, his limbs had suddenly felt loose in their sockets, and he'd caught sight of the bloodied jaws and the furred snout, and then there'd been a warm hand around his neck and Potter screaming - and it wasn't like his usual yawping down the corridor, or his boorish yelling during the middle of a Quidditch match - his eyes were bulging, and his face was red from exertion, and his chest was heaving and he was screaming at the top of his voice, "Get out get out get out now get out now now get out now!"

It was futile. Severus couldn't move; he was fixed to the spot - and that oft-cited fight or flight response had deserted him, because he couldn't flee and yet, staring at the horrific monster before him, he knew he couldn't fight. He was nothing. He was nobody. He was prey.

And then Potter had grabbed him again, pulling him and pushing him, shoving him, manhandling him, and somehow - even though Severus' body was conspiring against them both - had dragged him away. Potter's hand remained firm on his collar, and Severus had stumbled over and over, his legs and feet ignoring his brain's terrified commands, and when they emerged at the base of the Willow, he was scuffed and dirty, bruised and bloodied. He instinctively put his palm to his mouth, ignoring the grit that was mixed with thick scarlet, and sucked at the deepest wound.

"Don't do that," Potter warned, gulping in great breaths of air, leaning heavily against the thick trunk of the now stilled tree.

Severus paused, unsure. Don't do that? Don't do that?  Was that all? Was this his grand rebuke for sneaking down the tunnel and discovering that the weird sickly Lupin kid was a werewolf? Don't do that? 

And then, seeing Severus' confusion, Potter pointed at his damaged hand, and then back at the tunnel. "It's not dirt that you're sucking out of that scrape," he said, through ripples of laughter, "it's probably rat shit."

Sometimes, when he's stirring a cauldron during a particularly boring part of a brew, his mind will wander and he'll mull on whether it's as obvious to everyone else - or whether he's only able to isolate the moment because he knew he felt something snap.

He wasn't prepared to be prey.

It was obvious to his mother, and to his father - but he wonders if that was purely because they saw the blood on his hands, and the proof of his newfound deviancy. Perhaps it wasn't obvious, isn't obvious - perhaps if he keeps his secrets tightly pressed to his chest, nobody else will ever work it out.

He has a lot of these secrets. He's good at keeping secrets. He's had a lot of practice at keeping his mouth shut. But sometimes, secrets slip out - sometimes other people work out the truth. Sometimes they send the social around. Sometimes they realise you've murdered a dog. And that means that one day, he thinks, as he stirs the cauldron more vigorously, someone might realise that you're on the brink of doing something terrible.

He's never understood women. Not really. It's a trite statement to make, and it's the sort of disparaging comment that he associates more with his father than himself - he prides himself on being an intellectual, and far less dismissive of a little over half of the population of the planet. Still, it's a phrase that rings true with him, even if he has to acknowledge the source as being Tobias; he'd heard his father mutter it on more than one occasion.

Sometimes he'd say it directly to Severus, despite it being wholly inappropriate to whine about his wife to his son, but more often than not, it'd be the sort of sentiment he'd keep for the ears of his work colleagues. Occasionally, Tobias would dare to use it when Eileen herself was in earshot, and on those days, Severus knew that it was deliberate - a goad.

It's not a nice phrase, he knew that even as a child, but it's not filled with real malice - and Severus knew only too well that if a man wanted to damage his woman, there are fists and boots and belts to do that; words are nasty and spiteful and mean, but they don't leave black eyes or reddened scars. 

No, it doesn't do real damage. It's simply the language of the mill, of the pit, of the building site. It's the tone of the pub and the bookies and the working men's club, but Severus has never been sure whether it's the genuinely held belief of the men that Tobias associates with, or Tobias' own belief, or whether it's just words - a stock phrase that's uttered without thought behind it, like the endless commentary on the weather, or the proper way to queue for a bus. Although Severus couldn't blame Tobias if he did truly believe it; Eileen was hardly the sort of woman who lent herself to being understood, even if she didn't admit to it.

She never explained herself to Severus. Instead, she had always tilted his focus away from her, and back to his father - forcing him to acknowledge his father's worst faults, seemingly in an effort to stop him from following in Tobias' footsteps. Eileen had starkly warned him against spouting such nonsense, and she had clipped him so hard around the back of the head when he'd dared voice such words himself, his vision had briefly shimmered - like the haze on the road on a summer's day.

"Fuck, Mam, that hurt!" he'd exclaimed, gripping the back of his head - and for his language, she'd belted him as hard again across his other ear.

"I'll tell you now, Severus Snape, you'll never find yourself a good woman," she had warned, "behaving like him."

She hadn't needed to explain who he was. Severus never bothered to answer her when she rebuked him for behaving like Tobias. It's not my fault if the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, he used to think. You chose him. 

When he was a kid, he used to hope that it wasn't a done deal - that Tobias' genetics weren't his genetics, and that his da wasn't his da. Instead, his real father was an enigmatic and dangerous wizard, and that one day, he'd waltz down the street and claim his child and rescue his downtrodden wife, and whisk them out of the misery that they were living in. He'd be on the run, this wizard - naturally. An enemy of the state, with expensive flowing robes, and a patch over one eye, and a scar down his chin - but he'd be talented and powerful and magical, and he was simply waiting for the political tide to turn. Then, he'd no longer be an outlaw, but a respected member of wizarding society, and his wife and child would be welcomed - no, exalted - and they'd live in a big house together, and they'd never go hungry, and nobody would shout or slam doors or swipe the ornaments off the mantelpiece or order him to lower his trousers and force him to listen for the whistle of a belt.

Oh yes, he knew all about fantasies, did Severus Snape. He clutched onto the daydream for far longer than he should've - for far longer than was sensible. 

As a child, it was easy to convince himself it was possible that Tobias wasn't his father as Severus himself was the spitting image of Eileen. Although his father was clearly the better looking of the married couple, Severus couldn't bring himself to wish that he looked like the man who shared his mother's bed. Instead, he desperately wanted to look like anyone other than Tobias - to rid himself of the Muggle blood running through his veins, and to just be magical instead. But as the years passed by, he found that his newly maturing body mimicked his father's more and more - the hints of his da were suddenly not just mere shadows or tricks of the light, but at times, it was as if Tobias were the one peering into the mirror and not Severus. It wasn't just the shape of his ears and nose - oh, that nose - but it was the jut of his jaw, the widening of his shoulders, the way his wiry biceps and triceps were thickening with all that cauldron carrying, the rope of vein that stuck out along his forearms, and the ever-spreading body hair. To his shame, he was long - too long - into his Hogwarts career before he finally accepted that his fantasy was nothing more than childish nonsense. He wasn't just a Snape by name; he was a Snape by blood.

But if his dreams were nonsense, so was Tobias' and Eileen's marriage. For the life of him, Severus couldn't understand why they stuck it out - and each anniversary seemed to pass with a tight smile and a grim nod instead of an enthusiastic celebration of their monogamous devotion. It wasn't a happy moment, but some sort of twisted penance of their own devising - not a chain of Hail Marys and Our Fathers, or each of them chalking another line in their five-bar-gate on a cell wall: 5 years, 10 years, 15 years - "It's a life sentence. Yer'd get less for murder. I'd be out by now if I'd wrung someone's neck, an' I'll tell yer, there's been some days when I've come close..." - but some sort of acceptance. This was their lot, and they were content to struggle through, even if there was no promised pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. From where he was sat on the sidelines, Severus wasn't even convinced there was a rainbow.

He could remember when he'd finally realised that all wasn't what it seemed on the surface; that there was more to the marriage than he'd been able to comprehend as a child. Everyone is quick, even now, to cite the glorious summer of 1976, but Severus could remember the summer back in August of '75, when the horribly cold start to the holidays suddenly gave way to a furious heatwave - and that's partly why this memory was burnt so clearly into his brain; the feel of the sun beating down on his back is enough to drag him back to the stifling heat of that summer in Spinner's End. He could remember the house feeling like an oven, the air so thick, it was difficult to breathe.

His parents had battled with him about leaving his bedroom door open. 

"It creates a breeze if yer keep yer door open," his da had explained, with more than a hint of impatience. 

"If you keep your window open, and we keep our window open, and we have all of the doors open," Eileen had elaborated, "it helps the house to cool down." 

He could hardly argue with them, least, not effectively - it was simple physics. Their house was impossibly hot, especially upstairs, so even the smallest improvement was welcomed and the slight breeze created by the open windows and doors did make a difference. So, he'd swallowed his pride and acquiesced - but open doors were difficult; he was 15 after all. He'd done his best to abstain, to keep his hands up by his head, and he could remember the horrible feeling of sweat trickling down his body as he lay naked on the mattress, his sheets bundled into a ball and placed strategically over his groin to preserve his modesty, lest either of his parents glance across at his room as they walked across the landing.

He'd been at home for less than a fortnight when his da collared him. His mam was hanging out the washing, and Tobias had stalked over to him, and slammed his fist down on the table so fiercely, the tea in his cup bounced.  "I know it's hard, son," and Severus had flushed crimson, certain by the twisted smile that Tobias was shooting towards him that his father's choice of words was deliberate, "but a bit of respect wouldn't go amiss."

It was ironic, really - because they were complaining about him daring to give in to his hormone fuelled urges under the cover of darkness, as if he didn't have to listen to the tell-tale grunts and groans emerging from their own room, and as if those noises didn't cause his stomach to twist in a way that he found incredibly unnerving.

It bothered him. Not in the way that other people talked about their parents having sex - he'd always been pragmatic, and accepted that if people in relationships had sex, it would be bizarre if his parents didn't also have sex. No, it was more than that. When he was a kid, what had bothered him was that his mother had chosen to stay with Tobias. When he was old enough to leave home for the relative sanctuary of Hogwarts, he'd shrugged the thought off - if she was stupid enough to stay with some violent Muggle drunk, then it was none of his business; in a few short years, he wouldn't have to put up with either of them any longer.

But what he overheard that summer - what he inadvertently witnessed - it really bothered him. It bothered him on a visceral level that he couldn't explain away as simply knowing that his parents were having sex. It bothered him, because he was certain that his father was hurting her, and as he had eyed them both curiously over tea whilst he stirred his vegetables into a soggy mush, he'd realised that Tobias was doing it on purpose.  He couldn't quite fathom why, and he spent the nights as an unwilling voyeur ruminating on Tobias' motives - Is he drunk? Or stupid? Does he not realise? Or is he trying to prove something to me? 

As the weeks wore on, his focus moved to his mother's lack of reaction at being used in such a way when her son was just a few feet away across the landing - Why doesn't she kill him? ...I'd kill him. And then, one night, as he'd shoved his head under his pillow in a futile attempt to block them out, it'd occurred to him that maybe she didn't kill him because she found it just as arousing as Tobias did - that she was getting off on the pain and the exhibitionism and the humiliation. As the thought dawned, he'd pulled the pillow off his head and stared in horror at the ceiling, his eyes tracing the silken path of a spider who was making the long journey from the window to his lightshade, and the noises seemed to grow louder and louder and louder.

He didn't tell anyone. Ever. He was good at keeping secrets. Not even Lily, even when she asked him outright.  "I'm not a pervert," he'd said. And he wasn't. Least, he didn't think he was. He hadn't sought them out, and he couldn't help if he'd reacted to what he'd heard. It was natural.  "You can get a hard on for all sorts of reasons," Lucius had told him, and he knew it was true - when he was doing his homework, when he was sat in the Great Hall, once most inconveniently when he was traversing the stairs to the Astronomy Tower. It's not as if he had a thing for the moon, was it?

No. It was them, not him. Both of them. Not just Tobias, but Eileen as well. At least Tobias he could sort of understand, on a base level. That urge. But his mother? He didn't understand her at all. So, just like his father, he would repeat the mantra for years to come: I don't understand women, I really don't. Never have. Never will.  It's funny, really, how - for all his mother's efforts - he turned out just like Tobias in the end.

So, when Lily had finally returned home, her eyes tired and her face drawn, and she'd briefly explained her version of the evening's events, he had chosen not to press the issue. Don't pick the scab, son. He didn't force her to tell the truth. He didn't pick up on the inconsistencies in her tale. He simply raised his eyebrows, and shrugged at all of the right moments, and made sure he looked outraged or shocked or dismayed as her story unfolded.  There was a moment, right at the end of the conversation, when he'd started to ask her a question, but she'd quickly changed the subject - and as the new topic led to her rapidly removing first her clothes, and then his, he wasn't particularly motivated to change the subject back.

Lucius presses the issue with him more than he himself had done with Lily. He feels somewhat shamed that it catches him off-guard, and that he doesn't have his answers prepared and memorised, ready for the intense bout of questions that were clearly going to be flung his way.

"She was caught without papers, Malf," he snarls. "Like an idiot."

"They pulled her in for that?"

The story sounds pathetic to his own ears, but this time he can't weave a deft web of lies, because he simply doesn't know enough about Lily's skirmish with the aurors to make it believable - least, not to someone who has their own hotline to the department and can verify every word he utters. All he can do is parrot the same trite answers she gave to him, and they sound as hollow when he repeats them to Lucius as they'd done when she'd told him her story. The only difference was, she'd stopped him from asking further questions by sinking to her knees and sucking his cock until his knees had buckled. Remembering it causes Severus to give a wry smile to himself. It might stop Malf asking further questions, but I'm not doing that ...

"You've found the funny side of the situation, I see. Care to share?"

Severus quickly adjusts his expression. "It's just the sheer ridiculousness of it. They let her stew for hours. She was only walking down the street."

Lucius shrugs. "The announcement was all over the press. The Ministry did warn that carrying papers was to be made mandatory." Despite his unsympathetic words, he looks surprised. "Mind, I didn't expect them to react quite so harshly this early on."

Severus' voice is incredulous. "You didn't expect them to react harshly to a..." 

" can say it."

Severus gives his friend a dark look. "I am not saying it. I know the Ministry wants to control how we think, but they can't force me to use the words."

Lucius looks uncomfortable. "Promise me that if they pull you in, you won't make this the hill you die on."


"It's a very noble cause," Lucius says, "and I'm sure she appreciates it." He rolls his wand between his fingers, and then slides it back into his cane.


"If people realise you're deliberately abstaining-"

"It's hardly abstinence! It's just a word that I choose not to use."

"Exactly. It's just a word." Lucius shoots him a dark look. "People will use anything to rile you, Severus. And if calling your witch a Mudblo-"


"This is what I'm talking about!" Lucius thumps his cane against the ground, punctuating each thought with a dull thud. "That is the Ministry approved term.  That is what she is. That is what her papers say."

"...I'm not saying it."

He leans over his cane. "Like it or not, Severus, your favoured terminology has been removed. There are Purebloods, and Halfbloods, and Mudbloods. There is no such thing as a Muggleborn. She is a Mudblood."

Sickeningly, he knows Lucius is right and he thinks back to when he was a kid, and when he'd have to listen to Tobias going on and on about women being seen and not heard, and how men couldn't understand them. He thinks about how he knew back then that words couldn't hurt, or that - at the very least - they didn't hurt in the same way that beatings did.

And then he thinks about Lily's face when she'd opened her new papers. He thinks about his own magical documents, emblazoned with his photograph and the proud proclamation that he was Severus Snape, wizard. The photographs were taken just after they'd officially graduated from Hogwarts and had become full members of the magical community. His grin was broad and full of crooked uneven teeth, and the tip of his wand twirled into the moving picture as he flicked it happily into the air. He'd been full of joy, and hope, and promise - and so had she.

But now, her happy picture had been replaced. He'd been at work the day she'd been taken down to the local auror office, and her photo had been snapped in the custody suite. She'd told him, through tears, that the only thing to distinguish her from the criminals was that she wasn't holding a prisoner number - but instead, the piece of wood she was holding was emblazoned with a single word: Mudblood.

He'd stared at her new papers for ages that night, marked with the awful new terminology, comparing them with his own. His nose was large and his hair was greasy, and he could see a horrible and painful patch of impetigo around the corner of his mouth - but it hadn't been enough to dampen his excitement of receiving his papers; his licence to live in the magical world.

They'd always been an odd pairing, with her beauty and his sour features, but he'd taught himself to be grateful, and not to question her choice. Yet even he couldn't reconcile the two of them together when he compared the pictures, albeit for opposite reasons - he was every inch the exuberant youth, with his whole life to look forward to, whereas it seemed that a few short years had drained the life from Lily; her lips were grey and her eyes were reddened, and her skin was blotchy. She looked miserable, like a woman with nothing left to live for, and he couldn't imagine the cheerful teen in his photograph stopping to buy her a drink at the bar. Not for the first time, he found himself reconsidering whether words could do damage after all.

She's still seeing Potter. Letting him walk her home. He hasn't told her to stop. He doesn't think he can - not after he sees that photograph; if he takes this from her, she'll have nothing. He doesn't want her affiliated to the Order - it's far too risky - but then, if she knew just how deeply his relationship with Lucius Malfoy ran, she'd probably argue the same - and that's an argument he can't have; he simply can't choose between her and Lucius. Not because he doesn't love her, but because Lucius holds all of the threads of his life - the flat, the job, the dealing, and he's certain that the threat of Azkaban would be floated his way once more.

She's happy that he hasn't raised Potter as an issue again, he thinks. She can't see it, he's certain - she can't see that Potter looks at her like a starving man who has spied a thick-sliced sandwich. But he can see it, and Potter knows he can see it - and they both know that his and Lily's relationship is walking a tightrope; all Potter has to do is stand at the bottom with a net, ready to catch the spoils. Severus can't stop Lily from straying - he can only trust that she won't. Voicing any suspicion risks accidentally pushing her away; the grumpier he becomes, or the more possessive he becomes, the more he bolsters Potter's chances.

Don't pick the scab, son. Worse still, he can't go over the top - he can't smother her, can't overwhelm her. Doing too much would have the same result as doing too little. It's a game - like Chicken or Coward - and all he has to do is steel himself and wait until the last possible moment before he makes a move. Too soon, and he'll lose face, too late, and he'll get hit by the train. It's simple, when he thinks about it logically - and he's good at logic. Most Purebloods aren't; it's a Muggle thing, logic - puzzles and crosswords and conundrums. But the problem is, when it comes to Lily, he doesn't think logically.

When he sees her, it causes a rush of primal thrill, and he strains to keep it hidden. He feels like he does when he remembers those nights at Spinner's End, with his parents in the next room - an uncomfortable surge of power and desire, of wanting to dominate and humiliate. He feels like he does when he remembers the dog, its innards spilled on the dark ground and the knife gleaming in his bloodied hand, he the master of its life. He let a little of his mask slip when the aurors were spying on them, listening in - testing how far he could go before she pulled away in disgust, and when she did nothing but trust him, opening herself to him, he found it harder than ever to put that dark side of himself back into its box. 

Maybe she won't run, he thinks, in those darker moments. Maybe she wants this too. But once he's satisfied himself, and showered, and pulled on clean robes, he shakes the thought from his mind. Of course she doesn't want this. She's a good girl. A nice girl. So he pulls himself together, and he strains to be the boy he should've been - the boy he could've been if it wasn't for that blasted wolf, or his damned parents. You were doing so well, he thinks, put these thoughts back in the shadows where they belong. Be the boy next door. Be her best friend. Be the man she deserves.

Potter has caused this, he thinks, as he heaps his fork with baked beans and shovels them into his mouth, his dark eyes watching as she moves through the flat, her hair wild from sleep and her dressing robe untied, revealing her smooth skin. His eyes trace a heated trail from her breasts to her navel, and not for the first time, he fantasises about her carrying his child.

It's yet another nonsense fantasy, he knows that. They can't afford a child; they're not ready for a child. He's not ready to be a father - not patient enough, not kind enough - and she's at risk with the everchanging laws. It'd be their luck that she'd conceive and their relationship would be outlawed, their child excommunicated from the magical world, or taken from them, or…

He lets the thought go - a baby is not logical, after all - but the primal thrum still resonates around his body. Logic doesn't stop him from wanting her ripe with his seed; a declaration to the world that she's chosen him.

"What?" she says, a little self-consciously, pulling her robe tight and knotting it.

"Nothing," he mumbles, his mouth full of beans, and he scrapes the plate loudly with his fork.

"You were staring."

"I just fancy you," he deflects, a pink flush appearing on his cheeks, "it's not a crime, is it?"

She looks pleased at his proclamation. "Not yet," she says, kissing him, and tangling her fingers in his hair, and even though it'll make him late for work, he pulls her over to the sofa and forces himself to forget that he witnessed her taking her Muggle oral contraception an hour or so earlier, desperate to play out the fantasy of her growing his child within her womb.

Don't hurt her, he thinks, she's chosen you - and although the primal scream yells through his brain, begging him to unleash, her love for him is enough to dampen the shriek. He braces his hands either side of her head, forcing himself not to grab her wrists, not to pin her down, not to claim her as his own. Gentle, he thinks. He ignores the voice that begs him to push further, harder, faster and he falls into their comfortable rhythm of gentle lovemaking.

I am not my father.

Chapter Text

When he gets home from work, he notices that she's quieter than usual, and he figures that this latest arrest has finally knocked the fight from her; it's certainly knocked him for six. The evening edition of the Prophet is a miserable read for anyone affiliated with...he still can't bring himself to say the hated word, although he knows Lucius is right - his one wizard crusade to retain Muggleborn is on a hiding to nothing, and most likely, will simply out him as one of those wizards who can't be trusted. The last thing that either of them need - him or her - is unwarranted focus from the aurors. He needs to practice saying it in a mirror so he doesn't flinch when the slur leaves his lips. Mudblood.

He doesn't push her to talk - it seems facile to talk about the weather or the radio when the papers are full of witches and wizards who are being stripped of their wands.

"It's bad, isn't it?" she ventures, as his frown deepens whilst he's reading.

He can't lie to her. There's no point. "It's not great, love."

"Do you think…" - and then she falters, and he doesn't miss the water at the edge of her eye, " you think we'll be next?"

"They're traitors," he says, folding the paper over and tucking it under his arm. He doesn't want her to read it - he can't see the point in her dwelling on the hateful words.

"They're not!"

"I know they're not," he snaps, "but that's what they're saying. They're traitors, and we're not. So we've got nothing to worry about." And then a horrible thought crosses his mind and he glances at his girlfriend. "Unless you've got something you need to share?"

"Of course not."

"You said that," he says, with a tight smirk to show that he's not as annoyed as his accusation sounds, "as if you hadn't joined Albus Dumbledore's vigilante group."

"Says ye, the Dark Lord's brewer."

"Maybe I'll get a Ministry commission," he grins, pulling his boots on. "By order to the Dark Lord."

She laughs, but it's more hollow sounding than normal, and he knows she's not quite over the shock of his potions having landed in the lap of the Death Eaters. It bothers him too - he'd never really thought about it before; he loves brewing, and he does whatever Lucius Malfoy wants, and somehow, he hadn't really thought the whole process through.

He shakes the thought from his head - it's not helpful; he's a dealer - he brews, he sells, and if his buyer sells his goods on, then what's it to him? He has to tell himself that, else he wouldn't sleep at night - not with the sheer number of vials of Polyjuice that he's been brewing. It simply doesn't bear thinking about.

"What do you reckon they had on them?" she asks, as he stands to leave. "What made them stand out as traitors?"

He chews his lip, and pulls the paper back out again, casting his finger across the list of names. "They're all…" - and he still can't say the word, so he coughs, " know, like you." There's nothing else obvious, so he flicks a few pages over until he reaches the gossip column, because although he holds no love for Skeeter, she hasn't let the change in Prophet personnel stop her from spreading her usual brand of rumour and innuendo. He quickly reads it, and then turns the page to Lily, pointing out a paragraph halfway down: The Ministry must surely be rejoicing at its good fortune, for each of the condemned traitors were coincidentally due to stand trial later this year for their part in the protest last month. Keen readers will recall our questions about how much the trial of forty-seven witches and wizards would cost, and it seems that the Ministry has neatly sidestepped such expenditures.

"They're all part of the Fearless Fifty," she gasps.

"Mmm," Severus agrees, taking the paper back from her and folding it over again - he has no intention of letting her dwell on the dark news.

"Then it's a fix!"

"Of course it's a fix," he says. "It's all a fix, Lil. Which is why I keep saying to you - keep your head down, and your mouth shut, and let's hope that I've got enough magical blood for the both of us." And then he kisses her, trying to show her how much she means to him - and he knows the message has reached her, because she wraps her arms around his shoulders, and kisses him like it's their very first night together, and he's so surprised at her heated reaction, he drops the newspaper on the floor.

It makes him late for his meeting. He laughs to himself - if anyone in his sorry life would forgive him for being late because he'd spent the last hour with Lily Evans wrapped around him, it was Horace Slughorn, but even Severus wasn't cheeky enough to tell his old Housemaster the truth. Instead, he makes up some lame excuse about his cauldron boiling over.

"Ah yes," says Slughorn, welcoming him into the school laboratory. "I can imagine that such a young, vibrant cauldron bubbles over fairly often?" And Severus freezes at being caught out, but Slughorn merely laughs heartily, clapping him on the shoulder. "Come now, Severus," he says, jovially, welcoming him past the line of benches and cauldrons and into the Slytherin Housemaster's private study, "we're all men together." He pours a generous measure of firewhisky into a glass, and hands it to his young protégé.

"Are you not partaking, sir?"

"I have rounds," Slughorn says, seating himself heavily in an armchair, and motions for Severus to join him in the seat opposite, "but my favourite part of visiting my old schoolmaster was always sampling his finest wares. An apprentice wage does not stretch far, after all." He gives Severus a knowing wink. "I see no reason to break with tradition."

"Thank you, sir," Severus says, before sipping, and allowing the alcohol to bloom in his mouth.

"And how is Arsenius?"

"He's his usual happy self, sir."

Slughorn grins at his old student. "And you, Severus, are you keeping your head down this time?"

"Yes, sir. I've learnt my lesson, sir."

"Not too well," Slughorn says, sharply, "I hope."


"...Libatius sold you down the river," Slughorn says, softly, glancing around the room. "Arsenius knows it, and I know it." He peers at the young man before him. "And I know you know it."


"He's been rather stupid," Slughorn suddenly says, his voice hardening. "Letting a boy of your calibre out from under him." He pauses then, considering, and then he tips his head. "I would've taken you, Severus."

"At Hogwarts?" He can't keep the incredulous note from his voice. "To teach?"

Slughorn waves his hand. "Teaching is nothing. You'd cope."

And he thinks about the kids he went to school with - the students who didn't study, who didn't pick up a book. He thinks about the ones who blew up a cauldron as soon as look at it, and the fights in the corridors, and the pressures of being a Housemaster, of the responsibility of being the man that so many would look up to. "I don't think I have the skill set, sir."

"Nonsense," Slughorn dismisses his concerns with a flick of his moustache. "A fully kitted out laboratory, a large budget for ingredients, and the most precious thing of all, Severus - time ."

And he opens his mouth to protest, but then he realises it's true - he thinks of the occasional visit he'd made to Sluggy's lair, and how his Housemaster was always brewing or preparing ingredients - and now that he's spent so many hours under Jigger's watch, he knows how convenient it is to be able to brew all hours of the day, or to leave a potion simmering for its full duration, instead of using time turners or charms.

"But alas," he continues, "I could not convince Albus that I required an apprentice in this cycle."

"And you'd have chosen me, sir?"

And then it's Slughorn's turn to colour slightly, and cough. "Well, certainly, Severus. You or the delightful Miss Evans, of course."

"She can't work, sir."

"No, so I have heard." And then he peers at Severus, his eyes hard. "I have heard that you didn't sign her exemption papers."

"I couldn't, sir."

"I've heard that too." Slughorn looks disappointed. "I thought better of you, Severus - such lies will catch up with you."

Severus looks confused now. Lies? "I thought you understood what happened with Master Borage, sir?"

Slughorn leans forward, his pudgy elbows resting on his knees. "I do, but I do not see the relevancy of that sorry incident, and you misleading your young lady."

"I didn't mean to," he argues hotly, his manners suddenly forgotten, "I signed her exemption form, but it was rejected!"

"Rejected?" Slughorn's frown deepens. "But your mother is Pure - I taught her myself!"

"It wasn't a problem with my heritage," Severus says, softly. "The problem was the deal I signed with Borage when he released me from my apprenticeship." At Slughorn's blank look, he elaborates. "The admission of guilt."

Slughorn gives a derisive snort. "Admission of guilt," he scoffs. "You and I both know that you had nothing to do with those deaths. Borage was out of his depth, cut a few corners with his remedies, and you - the unknown apprentice brewer - took the fall."

"I'm glad someone believes me, sir."

"But you signed a form to say otherwise, I take it?"

"I had no choice. It was the deal, or to take my chances in front of a full jury. With Master Borage's testimony against me, I'd have gone to Azkaban for sure, and then what would've happened to Lily?" Severus looks astonished at Slughorn's surprise. "I'm sorry, sir. I thought you knew, sir."

"If only I did," Slughorn says, thoughtfully. "If only I did."

"And you can only apply for an exemption once a year. I should've explained it to her properly, but I didn't see the point in raising her hopes, only to have to tell her that I'd ruined it by rushing ahead and not thinking." He looks abashed. "I thought it was better she didn't know at all. I should've come to you first, sir. I just didn't think that they'd reject the application. I didn't think they'd be so strict."

Slughorn looks wary. "I don't think anyone of us truly understands the rules, Severus. I suspect that on a different day, with your papers reaching a different official, your story could've been very different." He shrugs. "Happens all of the time. It's like having an essay marked at school - if your teacher's in a good mood, you might get a few marks here, a few marks there. If your teacher is not so benevolent…"

"I understand, sir." And he did - but the analogy felt poor; this wasn't an essay or an exam - this was Lily's livelihood, and their life together. If she could've carried on working, he wouldn't have been forced to take extra hours at the Broomsticks, and she wouldn't have joined the Order, and she wouldn't have made friends with Potter, and she wouldn't have brewed the Wolfsbane and… He looks up sharply, realising his thoughts have run away with him, and Slughorn is staring at him with a curious expression. "Sir?"

"Tell me, Severus," he says, not unkindly, "for whilst your company is not unwelcome, the hour is late, and my rounds are due - what caused you to seek my companionship this evening?"

When the house elf flings the doors open, he stands, his blond hair gleaming in the light cast from the fire - and when he sees the woman before him, he smiles.

"Do you have a moment?"

"Of course," Lucius says, dismissing the elf with a flick of his hand, and ushering the witch into his study. "For you, Miss Evans," he says smoothly, "I have all of the time in the world." 

"Do you remember, sir," he says, willing his face not to flush, "when I was having some trouble, back in my OWL year?"

Slughorn looks thoughtful, and Severus is hit with the sudden realisation that although his problems felt overwhelming, they were but a minor footnote to those around him - a brief meeting here, or a mentoring session there. "Ahhh..."

"With the nightm...dreams, sir," he presses. "About the-"

And then Slughorn clearly does remember - who could forget a boy transforming into a werewolf - and he shuffles awkwardly, straightening his jacket. "I hope this isn't about Belby, Severus." He gives the young man a hard stare. "That potion isn't for amateurs."

"I'm not-" he starts, and then catches himself, remembering his place. "No, sir. It's not that. It's just…" He takes a deep breath. "When I came to you, sir, and I said I was having trouble sleeping - that I had some memories that were bothering me." He looks Slughorn square in the eye. "You taught me how to put it in a box, sir, do you remember?"


"I was wondering, sir, if there was a limit?"

"A limit?"

"To how many things you could put in the box," he says, "because I think things are starting to leak out."

Slughorn sits back in his chair, a frown creeping across his face. "It was a long shot when we tried it," he admits. "It's an old technique, and I don't fully understand it myself."

"Is there anything I could read, sir?"

"You say the memories are leaking out of the box?" He gives Severus another hard stare. "Just how many memories are in the box?"

Too many. The wolf. The dog. The punishment. The incident by the lake. The encounter in Hogsmeade. His parents having sex - more than once. The Dark Lord. It was the Dark Lord that started all this off, he realises - that dragging his father's punishment out of the box had somehow prised off the lid, and left all of his other carefully hidden secrets spilling over the floor, and try as he might, he couldn't jam the lid back on.

"I'm not sure, sir," he lies. "But one came loose, and the rest just...tumbled."

At this Slughorn stands. "Interesting, interesting," and he runs his finger along a line of books before plucking one off the shelf and flicking through it. "This is the technique," he says, passing over the tome, "although I claim to be no expert. I use it sparingly - only for keeping stressful thoughts at bay. Stress dreams are a..."

Slughorn suddenly tails off, as if realising the stark implication of the conversation; that he uses the technique occasionally and successfully, whilst the young boy before him is cramming half of his life into a hidden container, pressing so much in, it bulges at the edges and then buckles.

Severus stares at the chapter title in front of him. "I've never even heard of this. It's not taught at Hogwarts, is it, sir?"

"No. Never, to my knowledge. I'd wager that only a few pureblood families even know what it is," Slughorn says, almost dismissively. "The arts of the mind fell out of favour many decades ago."

"Can I borrow this, sir?"

"Of course, Severus. That's why I gave it to you," Slughorn says, checking his watch. "And now, I must away to rounds. Do return it in person when you've finished - I look forward to hearing about how you've mastered the lost art of Occlumency."

Chapter Text

He props the book up against his mug of tea, and carefully dips the tip of his quill into his ink pot. With a flourish, he swipes the quill across the blank parchment, line after line, until a perfect three dimensional cube sits on the page. He remembers this part from last time.

"What does the box look like, Severus?"

"I don't know, sir."

"You must know! Close your eyes," Slughorn commanded, "and think of a box. Is it made of paper or card? Or is it wooden? Are the corners reinforced with tape, or metal? Is there a lock? Can it fit beneath your bed, or do you hide it in the wardrobe?"

He hadn't really taken it seriously at the time. A box is a box. But now, with his box leaking his precious memories, he realises the importance of a carefully crafted image, and with a final glance at the instructions in the book, he draws another cube on the page. Then another, and another, and another, his quill slashing broad strokes across the parchment - and he doesn't stop until the page is full of scribbled boxes; some neatly drawn, and others with broad lines that don't quite meet at the edges. Some have clasps, and some bear key locks, whilst others have combination locks fixing them shut. Some are big and some are small, and then he sees the one that he wants, and he turns the page and transfers it to a brand new sheet, drawing the edges with bold definition.

For all of his numerous faults, Lucius is nothing but a gracious host. He stokes the fire, and offers his best chair, and when she declines his offer of expensive alcohol, he commands a house elf to bring an array of refreshing fruit drinks - rosehip cordial, lemon and lime tonic, raspberry tea and something she can't make out by smell alone - elderflower and rhubarb and...ginger? She wrinkles her nose, and puts the glass down; she hasn't visited the manor to sample Malfoy's delights.

He doesn't push her to speak. Instead, he sits in the chair next to hers, one foot on the floor and his other resting on his knee, his manner almost casual - as if she were an old friend - and waits. 

"I believe you've been telling tales about me," she says.

"I could suggest the same."

She scoffs. "Hardly."

"No?" His eyebrows raise, and a slow smirk spreads across his face. "The last I heard, you were confessing to being my loyal illegal brewer." She doesn't respond, and he puts his foot to the floor, leaning more eagerly towards her. "No? No longer? Have you since relinquished your claim to such a role?"

"You sold me down the river."

He shrugs. "I do not recall holding a wand to your head, and forcing you to agree to my accusation." He watches as her hands grip the arms of the chair, and he has to fight not to reveal his triumph at her discomfort. "Surely," he continues, unable to resist provoking her, "you could have put the record straight? Corrected the mistaken aurors? Proven to them that you'd never been here, never corresponded with me, never spoken to me?"

"You were protecting Severus." Her accusation is swift, and almost catches him off guard.

"I was protecting myself."

"By protecting Severus." She stares at him evenly, her jaw tilted slightly upwards in defiance.


"Then I was doing the same." 

At this, he smiles.

He sips his tea, and reads the passage over and over, determined not to rush - not to miss a step. He knows now why his original box failed - on reading the chapters fully, it's clear that Slughorn had helped him to contain one memory, but by cramming the same weakly defined box with thoughts and feelings he didn't want to experience, he'd exhausted the limits of his magic.

The revelation had surprised him - it wasn't another box that was required, as he had assumed - he simply needed to package his thoughts carefully and neatly into the space.

He hadn't done that previously - he'd simply grabbed onto his thoughts, just as Slughorn had taught him, and yanked the lid off the box before thrusting the memories in, and thumping the lid tightly on again. When the Dark Lord had forced him to reveal that memory, he'd yanked the box open and tugged at the thread, but all of the other memories were tangled amongst it, and they'd spilled free.

Concentrate on each thought, from start to finish. Relive every moment - every sight, every smell, every sound. Remember how the experience feels, how the emotion builds inside of you, and then play it over and over and over. When you have successfully isolated the memory - when you think of it and your brain does not drift to other thoughts - then imagine placing your wand to your temple, and drawing the memory from your brain. It will spill from your mind like a colourful gas, pulsating and living, and then imagine holding a vial and twisting your wand until the memory spirals into the glass container. Cap it, label it, and place it carefully in your newly created box. You can now rest, safe in the knowledge that this memory is under your control. It is now only accessible to you, and as it is neatly labelled, you will not wonder at its contents and open it by mistake.

He winces to think of his previous box, with its mixed slurry of memories, all fighting against each other - the box rattling and thumping in his mind, as if the thoughts wanted to return to their rightful place in his memory - and then he closes his eyes, and imagines his brand new box, empty and ready to be filled.

"Why me?"

Lucius shrugs. "Whyever not?"

"A Muggleborn brewing for a Pureblood?" 

She waits for him to correct her terminology, but he simply waves his hand. 

"Well?" she presses. "You don't think that's unconvincing?"

"The aurors evidently didn't. A skilled-" and the admission seems almost torn from him, "-Mudblood with no other options but to brew for a rich Pureblood seemed rather more believable than an untalented Pureblood brewing for me. Who would you have preferred I said? Rosier? Nott? Mulciber? Avery?" He tosses his hair. "Ridiculous. No, no, you were far more convenient."

"Then why not Severus?" Her eyes narrow. "Why not let him take the fall? He's far more believable than I am - a poor Halfblood, and a disgraced apprentice brewer. He has pure heritage, and he's an old housemate." She stares at him. " realised his record would condemn him, didn't you? I would escape unscathed from such an accusation, whilst he would be sent to Azkaban?"

"And have you?" he enquires mildly. "Escaped unscathed?"

"Not exactly."

"Well then," he says, with a look of derision, "it seems to me that I made the right choice."

He groans, and drags himself to the shower, forcing himself under the cold spray. The book is much more thorough in its teachings than Slughorn ever was - previously, it was enough to simply recollect the key points of the event, and then to jam them into the box, but tonight's method is far more involved and much more distressing, and he's not got nearly as far as he had hoped.

He runs shampoo through his hair, and then grabs the soap, rubbing it across his prickling skin as if scrubbing his body raw will be enough to block his emotions. He can see now that his earlier efforts weren't enough. Now that he's gone through the process properly, it's no wonder that he could wrench the previously locked away memory to the tip of his mind with such ease - it was as if he'd simply kicked it into the corner and thrown a moth-eaten blanket over it. He thrusts his hair under the spray, scrubbing painfully at his scalp, trying to rinse the unease from his brain. It's no wonder that he still feels blistering hatred for Potter each time he claps eyes on him, no wonder that he's sent spiralling back to those hidden muddled sexual desires each time the sun beats down, no wonder that he's terrified of wolves and dogs and anything else with bared teeth and drooling lips.

One. For all his efforts, that's all he's managed. One lousy memory, capped and labelled and secured in the box. One foul werewolf safely restrained.

"If you did not escape unscathed, and yet you are sat here…" He eyes her curiously. "They offered you a deal, didn't they?"


He clucks his tongue against his teeth. "And that's why you're here?"

"I need your help."

"You don't need me," he argues. "Make it up. Tell them whatever they want to hear."

She shakes her head. "They'll know."

"And then what?" He shrugs, his palms tipped upwards. "They'll condemn you? Revoke your papers? Strip you of your magic and send you back to the Muggle world?" He looks unconcerned. "It is of no consequence to me."

"It is of consequence to Severus."

"Tell me," he hisses, "is it of consequence to Severus, or is it of consequence to James Potter?" He sits back triumphantly. "Because Potter's whore is of no consequence to either of us."

When the elf answers and leads him through the hallways, he's surprised to be deposited in the drawing room instead of in Malfoy's study. Narcissa looks up, and gives him a genuine smile before gently touching his clean hair and his tailored robes. "Ermine lined?"

"Fake," he admits, but he's gratified at her approving nod.

"I'm pleased that my recommendation of Twilfitt and Tattings did not go unheeded."

He pulls at the sleeves, a little uncomfortable under her unflinching gaze. "I always appreciate your recommendations, Cissy."

"I take it by your surprised expression, you were seeking Lucius?"

"Not exactly," he says, shaking his head when she wordlessly invites him to join her and be seated. "No, I'm not staying."


There's a long pause - he likes Narcissa, perhaps a little too much, and he knows she knows it - and he has to force himself to glance up at the chandelier so his gaze doesn't linger too long on her pale skinned beauty. 

"So, Severus," she says, "if you are not looking for Lucius, and yet you are not staying, how may I be of assistance to you?"

Severus had told him repeatedly that her anger was legendary, but Lucius had no reason to believe it - not until she flicked her wand, and the jug full of lemon and lime tonic was hurled into his face, the charmed icecubes clattering on the polished floor. He shook his hair angrily, casting in quick succession - binding her arms to her side, clearing the mess from the floor, and finally summoning a damp towel to wash away the sticky liquid from his skin.

"You're a little hellcat, aren't you?" he murmurs, twisting his wand in his hand and forcing her to kneel.


"Don't what?" he spits, towering above her.

She glares at him, her arms pinned, and her nostrils flared. "Let me go."

"Don't let you go?" He smiles now, his eyes glinting at her distress. "Why, who'd have thought-"

"You think you're clever, Malfoy-"

"It's a clever diversionary tactic," he interrupts, slowly circling her, "throwing things in a temper, but it hasn't gone unnoticed that you haven't denied my accusation. Potter's whore," he enunciates.

"I haven't done anything with Potter," she says, quickly.

"Really?" He brushes her hair to one side with his wand, and leans down, his breath hot on her now exposed neck. "I don't believe you."

"Severus believes me."

Lucius stands back up, a little straighter, and sniffs dismissively. "Severus is not a worldly man. He is...still a boy." He circles her again. "I know what you want. I know what you crave." And this time, he pauses before her. "Severus can't give it to you, and neither can Potter. Silencio!" 

He casts, and her voice disappears, and he suddenly tosses his wand to the floor behind him. He takes a step closer to her, and runs both of his hands through her hair, his touch certain and powerful - and if the fingertips caressing her scalp were the potion stained digits of her lover, her heart would be hammering in exactly the same manner, but for very different reasons. 

"But I am a worldly man," Lucius drawls, moving even closer, "and I assure you that I can."

Severus laughs as he strolls down the corridor, three thick tomes from the private Malfoy library tucked under his arm, and nods his gratitude once more to Narcissa. "I do appreciate all that you do for me," he says.

"Nonsense," she answers, waving him through the double doors. "You're always welcome here, Severus. I know Lucius sees you as practically family and-" - and she gives him that smile, the one which he first noticed at the end of his second year, and still makes his stomach flip over - "-you know how fond of you I am," she finishes, gripping his bicep through his robes.

He smiles tightly in response, and then points awkwardly to the top of the corridor. "Did you say he was with Avery?"

Narcissa shrugs lightly. "Dobby merely said he had a visitor, and I didn't care to enquire further." She rolls her eyes. "It'll be one of those terribly dull boys you roomed with. Yes, Avery or-" 


"No, it'll be Rabastan," she says, all of a sudden. "Bella did say he'd be coming over."

"Bast?" Severus looks eager. "Right, I'll just nip in and say hello. Be friendly."

Narcissa smiles that same smile. "Yes, be my guest. It's always wonderful to see you being friendly, Severus."

Severus knocks, but it's barely even a courtesy, because he immediately pushes open the heavy study door without waiting to be invited. He grins broadly, expecting to be greeted by the sight of Lucius and Rabastan and Lucius' best bottle of firewhisky - but instead, he falters, and his hand grips the door handle more tightly as he takes in the scene before him; of his best friend's hands tangled in the hair of a woman kneeling before him - a woman who isn't Narcissa.


And at the mention of his name, the stilled woman pulls her head away from Lucius' hands, and turns. Her movements are awkward, as if her body is bound, and then her eyes meet his, and he freezes.

"Oh," he says. His voice betrays no emotion, but he slams the door loudly, causing the paintings on the wall to quiver, and then he turns his back and dumps his carefully collected books onto Lucius' desk.

"Severus-" Lucius tries again, but Severus shakes his head and straightens his robes and lets out a loud exhale before he turns to face his friend.

"Tell me, is this a private party, Malf?" he says coolly, stalking quickly across the wooden floor. He stands shoulder to shoulder with Lucius, and reaches down, twisting Lily's hair in his right hand, his dark eyes meeting her green ones. "Or can anyone join in?"

"Be my guest," Lucius says softly.

And then Severus clenches his fingers together and pulls at Lily's gripped locks in a manner that he knows will be painful, and he's gratified when her eyes fill with tears.

Chapter Text

He's angry. He's angrier still when her tears fall faster, the translucent liquid silently streaming down her cheeks and leaving trails of dark mascara in their wake, and he shows no mercy, twisting his fingers even more tightly in her hair, and yanking her to her feet.

"We both thank you for your hospitality, Malf, but I think we'll be going," he murmurs softly, his eyes hard and not leaving her gaze - and then she gasps loudly, as if she's emerged from being underwater, and then, her breathing still laboured, her arms suddenly flail wildly at her sides. At her abrupt change in actions, Severus finally relinquishes his hold on her hair, and turns to look back at Lucius, who is rolling his cane between his hands.

"Of course, Severus. Miss Evans. Do call again."

She shivers involuntarily, but Severus' hand is quick to rest on his girlfriend's shoulder.

"Come," he says, bustling her from the room, summoning the previously discarded books as he leaves.

"Owl me, Severus," Lucius calls as the door opens and then bangs shut, but Severus doesn't answer, and the older man is uncertain as to whether his words were even heard.


"I know what you're going to say," he interrupts, propelling her down the richly decorated corridor, "and I'm not interested."

"Severus, please-" 

"Keep your mouth shut," he hisses, "although if this evening's anything to go by, I imagine that might be a little difficult for you."

"Fuck!" he yells, when they're finally both in the safety of their flat. "Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!"

"I swear, it wasn't what it looked like, I didn't say-"

"I know exactly what that was," he shouts, angrily ripping his boots off and tossing them across the flat at the now locked door. They meet the wood with such force, they bounce back into the room, only barely missing her. "Fucking Malfoy!"

She looks slightly shaken as she realises his anger is directed at someone other than her, and she grips the back of the sofa, not trusting her knees not to slump in relief. "Sev, I didn't-"

"He forced you to the floor, didn't he?" 

She doesn't answer him, but sobs in earnest, her whole body shaking, and he thumps his fist against the table and then swipes across it, sending the parchment on it flying. 

"I'll fucking kill him. I will. I'll kill the bastard."

"I thought..." she trails off between sobs. "What you said. In the corridor."

"I didn't mean it," he spits. "That Manor has walls with blasted ears - magical portraits and elves and who knows what else!" 

"He took me by surprise-"

"He's dangerous," Severus says, his fists clenched by his sides. "You should never have been alone with him. Narcissa didn't even know you were there. What were you thinking?"

"I thought-"

"-you didn't," Severus snaps. "You didn't think at all."

"I did!" she screams, and her eyes are swollen and bloodshot, and her hands are still shaking. "I went there because of you." He just stares at her, uncomprehending, so she elaborates, her voice wavering. "They arrested me for being his brewer! I went there to talk - to find out what he knew, to see if I could strike a deal!"

When she emerges from the bathroom, her face is blotchy and her eyes are red-rimmed, and he's sitting on the edge of the bed, his leg bouncing up and down.

He doesn't look at her; his gaze fixed on the floor. "You okay?" he asks, his voice oddly soft.

"Yes," she says, but she's obviously not, and the wobble in her voice betrays her true feelings.

"Right," he says, and abruptly stands - still not looking in her direction - and summons his pillow from their bed. "I'll only be out there. Just shout if-"

Immediately, she reaches out and wraps her fingers around his wrist. "Don't."

He looks confused, his neck jerking oddly, and he finally meets her eyes. "Don't? Don't what?"

"Don't leave me."

"I was only going to sleep on the sofa," he says, quietly. "I thought you'd want to be alone. I thought you'd have had enough of men-"

"I want you to hold me," she says, tears forming again at the edge of her vision, and he wraps his arms around her, pulling her to his slender chest. "You're not him, Sev. You're nothing like him."

He convinces her to take some Dreamless Sleep - one of his more potent versions, one of the ones he keeps for the nights when he's plagued by his memories - and although he closes his eyes and goes through the charade of their nighttime ritual, he doesn't succumb to slumber. He doesn't tell her, but has no intention of sleeping; he needs to keep watch - he needs to protect her.

So when her breathing becomes steady, and her hold on him is somewhat loosened, he rolls over and sits up, and summons one of his newly acquired books. He swishes his wand, moderating his Lumos so it's a weak light - enough to read by, but not so bright that it'll wake Lily - and he quietly reads through the night.

He looks shattered when she wakes from her potion-induced slumber, and she reaches for his hand. 

"You stayed up all night?"

He grunts, flipping a page over in the book that he's reading - and then it's as if he remembers the events of the evening before, and he tilts his head towards her, his gaze a little softer. "Any plans for today?"


"I think we should visit your parents," he says.

"You look exhausted. I think you should stay in bed, rather than being awkwardly polite to my mum and dad." She shoots him a wary look. "And it's Saturday - you know Petunia visits on a Saturday."

He grunts again. "I don't have to stay. I could just drop you off."

She sits up, suddenly concerned. "Don't go to Malfoy's."

He sniffs. "I have to."

"Not today, Sev. Give it some time. We need to talk."

"I want you out of the way," he says, ignoring her argument and throwing back the covers. He stands, and glances at himself in the mirror, and then recoils, scratching his stubbly face. "I'd better shave if we're going to Cokeworth."

"I'm not going-"

"You are," he says, sternly, calling to her as he strides into the bathroom. "And I think you should pack a bag for a few days. Lay low."

She shakes her head stubbornly, and then realises he can't see her reaction through walls. "No, Sev. I'm not staying there without you."

"You are, love," he says, moving back into the doorway, shaving cream lathered on his cheeks and chin. "Because I can't protect you whilst I'm at work."

Her argument that she didn't need protecting fell on deaf ears, but in the end, she convinces him not to leave her straight away - and the two join her parents on a morning tour of endless DIY shops. He yawns loudly, repeatedly, and her mother apologises profusely for dragging them from one side of town to the other. At the third garden centre, Severus sits on a bench by a water fountain, and briefly closes his eyes.

"Is he sickening for something?" Rose whispers. "He looks awfully pale, Lily."

"No," she says. "He's just overworked."

This seems to satisfy her mother, who marches over to David, and although Lily can't hear the words as she stays seated next to Severus, she can see her mother's arms waving, and her father's shoulders slumping, and a few minutes later, they're all back in the car and heading for her parents' home.

Petunia arrives at 1pm, punctual as ever, and although Severus makes it through a polite light lunch without yawning too often, when Vernon starts making pointed comments about Severus' occupation and his lack of promotion, Lily takes her boyfriend firmly by his hand. 

"Do excuse us," she says, pulling Severus towards the stairs, and calling over her shoulder, "lovely to see you both!" 

"It's bloody not," Severus grumbles, and she gently slaps his arm in rebuke, her eyes full of mirth, but happy to be leaving Vernon's disparaging and condescending comments echoing behind them. She leads Severus across her small bedroom, smiles as he carefully removes his boots, and they lie together in her single bed. He sighs deeply as he pulls her to him, their arms and legs entwined, and she gently strokes his hair as he finally succumbs to sleep. 

There's a soft knock, and the door opens a slither, and then she can see her father's face poking around the door. "Lils?"

"Come in," she whispers, beckoning her father in, "but keep quiet. Sev's asleep."

"Your mother says he's not unwell," David whispers, appraising the sleeping figure of Severus, "but he looks-"

"He's just tired. ...I got into some trouble. He stayed up all night to look after me."

David is suddenly attentive, glancing at the magical equipment stashed in the corners of the room. "Trouble?"

"Nothing that will follow us here."

"I don't care about that," he huffs. "I care about my little girl." And then he sniffs, and nods towards the sleeping young man that she's cradling in her arms. "And that daft young lad she's fallen for."

When he wakes, she's asleep, and it's dark outside. He glances at the flashing digital clock - it's just past midnight, and he untangles himself from her leaden limbs. He shuffles awkwardly through the dark house, desperately trying not to wake anyone, and uses the loo, and washes his face, and when he returns to the bedroom, she's sitting upright.

"Sorry," he says. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"You're leaving." It's not a question; she's already seen his boots on his feet, and he nods. 

"I need to have it out with him. I thought he'd stopped doing this sort of shit."

"...what do you mean?"

"He gets a kick out of Imperiusing people. He used to do it all of the time in the common room - he'd force the lower years to do his bidding." He winces at her horrified look. "It wasn't so bad. Nothing horrific. Just...power games, that's all."

"The lower years. He used it on you?" she guesses.

He gives a stiff nod. "He wouldn't now," he says, sliding his wand up and down his sleeve. "He knows I can throw it off." He pauses, thinking. "I should show you."

"He didn't use it on me."

He looks at her oddly. "He did!"

"Not Imperius," she says, and she looks drawn at the realisation that if Severus hadn't walked in, Lucius could've done worse if he'd chosen. "It was a sticking spell - he held my arms to my sides, and then he quietened me. Nothing illegal."

"And he lifted the spell when I grabbed you," he murmurs. "I knew he'd done something, because I was trying to hurt you." 

She looks stricken, and he reaches for her. 

"Not to punish you," he says, quickly. "I knew you wouldn't sit there in silence - and you moved oddly when you realised I'd walked in. I figured something was amiss, so I did something awful to try and get a reaction from you - and when you were screaming but you weren't making a noise...that forced him to lift it."

"You think?"

"Yes. He must've known I wasn't far from working it out." He pauses, thinking. "I wonder if he thinks he's got away with it. ...he might think I was angry at you, and not him. For cheating on me-"

"I didn't cheat-"

"I know," he says, sounding annoyed. "I'm thinking through what he might say to me."

"Sev, don't go to him," she begs. "He's not worth it."

"I want you to promise me that you'll stay here," he says, kneeling by the bed, and holding her hands. "I need you to be safe."

"Stay with me. Tonight, Sev, stay with me."

"I can't," he says, simply, and he kisses her fingertips. "It'll look odd if I'm away from the flat and he goes over - and even odder if I don't contact him. He'll know that I've sided with you if I don't get in touch." He swallows hard. "And as angry as I am, I need him," he mutters. "He's got me strung up, Lil."

She gives him a tight smile. "He'll explain his way out of it, I expect."

"Oh, I am sure. But that doesn't mean I'll forgive him." And this time, he brushes his lips against hers, before standing and heading to the door.

"Sev," she calls, and he stills.

"Yes, love?"

"Nothing happened," she says. 

At this he turns. "What do you mean?"

"He was toying with me… I think - like a game. But he hadn't, when you walked in, he'd not... It was just the spells."

"Good," he says. "But I still might kill him." 

And then he's gone.

"I know you said to owl," Severus says, apologetically, "but…"

Lucius opens the door to his study widely, and welcomes him in. "No explanation necessary." He strides to the cabinet, and pours a hefty slug of firewhisky into two glasses, and passes one to Severus. "I'm glad you came...I owe you an apology."

Severus takes the glass, and glances at Lucius, careful not to look him directly into the eye - not now he's studied his books so carefully. "Oh?"

"I got a little carried away," he says, and to Severus' surprise, he looks sheepish.

"That's what you call 'a little carried away'?"

At this, Lucius smiles grimly. "I am not going to pretend to be a saint, Severus." He rolls his glass between his hands, taking a deep inhale of the smoky liquid. "I thought it was over. Between the two of you."

Severus scoffs. "Really?"

"She's shagging Potter, isn't she?" Lucius sips from his glass. "I couldn't imagine you wanting to bury yourself where he'd already been."

The spark of anger rises up in Severus' chest, but he manages to hold it in, and he eyeballs his old friend. "No, she hasn't. Not with Potter. Not with anyone else. There's only ever been me."

At this, Lucius raises an amused eyebrow. "Ah, now that does explain a lot."

I am actually going to fucking kill him, Severus thinks, his temper flaring in his chest - and to his horror, Lucius laughs loudly.

"No no, Severus, you are not," he grins, and then he claps a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Don't look so shocked; we both know why you've borrowed those books of mine." 

Severus looks away, and Lucius laughs at his reaction. 

"Yes, it's a useful tool, Legilimency, Severus. Rather a shame that it's such a lost art."

"You've got a fucking cheek," Severus spits, staring at the floor. "After what you've done-"

"Enough!" Lucius' cold tones reverberate around the room. "I understand you're upset," he says, a little more softly, "but I won't accept impertinence from you in my own house." 

"You assaulted my girlfriend in your own house."

"Nothing happened."

"But it would've," Severus argues hotly, now staring at the wall over Lucius' head, desperate to keep his gaze away from the older man. 

"Yes! Yes, it would've," Lucius snaps, "but only because we both wanted it."

"No, she-"

"I suspect that you and I will utilise Legilimency for very different purposes," Lucius says, darkly. "I am a cad, Severus. A bounder. I am not loyal to Narcissa, nor she to me," and he grabs Severus' chin, forcing him to look him in the eye, "as I suspect you well know. ...yes," he drawls, triumphantly. "Miss Evans has only ever been with you, but it's not quite true the other way around, is it?"

"I haven't fucked Narcissa."

He smirks. "I didn't say you had." He gives Severus an appraising look. "My wife's an excellent kisser though, isn't she?" He leans in, the firewhisky pungent on his breath. "She was ever so disappointed that it didn't go further."

"Look, Malf-"

He sighs loudly. "Come, Severus, my point is, we're all grown ups here. I'm not a complete beast. I thought Miss Evans was fair game now that she's shagging Potter-"

"She's not shagging Potter!"

"How was I to know? Certainly looked that way to me when they both came to your flat hand-in-hand."

"They weren't hand-in-hand!"

Lucius shrugs. "I merely thought she'd got a taste for better blood, for purebred stallions, I thought I was in with a cha-"

"Fuck you, Malf!" 

This time, Severus' fury spills over, and he flings his tumbler of firewhisky across the room, and it shatters into pieces when it meets the wall, causing Lucius to flinch. 

Then Lucius roughly grabs Severus' robes, and stares deeply into his eyes. "Do you want to know the truth, hmm?" he hisses, spittle flicking from his teeth. "I used Legilimency on her, Severus. She wanted that domination. I thought I was giving her what she desired." He stands up to his full height, and straightens his friend's now dishevelled robes. "...apparently, I was wrong."

"You were!"

"Yes, I fucked up. And I'm sorry." He takes a deep breath. "And if you bring her to me, I'll tell her it myself." He stares at his old friend, his chest heaving. "I realised I'd fucked up just as you walked in."

"Yeah, convenient that!"

"I didn't have any idea how naive she was!" he hisses. "How naive you both are! I thought she was playing along - I thought she'd played these games with you, and with Potter, and I thought she was getting off on it! And then," and now he looks horribly guilty, "I looked into her eyes again and I realised that she didn't want me at all, but if it had been you, she'd have carried on."

Severus looks stunned. "She's never-"

"Never behaved like that with you?" Lucius looks surprised. "I swear to you on the Malfoy name, as soon as I realised, I was going to stop. But don't take my word for it - you've got my books, Severus. Have a look in her pretty little head. I think you'll be surprised." 

Chapter Text

There's sweat beading on his brow, and he desperately wants to brush it away, but neither of his hands are free and his wand is already engaged, pointing at the flame and carefully controlling the heat: high, medium, high, medium, high, low, medium, low, high, low, high, low, medium. He has repeated the same cycle eleven times so far, all whilst his other hand keeps stirring the contents of the cauldron to a steady beat of twenty clockwise swirls, followed by three anti-clockwise, eleven clockwise, two anti-clockwise, three clockwise, and one anti-clockwise - before starting the whole process over and over again.

He's been following the same set of commands for almost three and a half hours, and he's starting to wish he hadn't had that last cup of tea before he started. His upper arms are burning from exertion, and the awkward stooping position he's found himself in is causing his lower back to ache - and just as he's about to raise the heat again for another run through, Jigger suddenly moves across the room and claps his hands firmly on both of Severus' shoulders, disrupting his rhythm.

"Master, I-"

"I've seen enough."

Severus watches helplessly as his Master casts the cauldron to the side, tipping its contents into the sink. "I'm sorry, sir."

"You've done well, boy," Jigger says, his voice a little less sharper than usual, evidently realising his apprentice's distress. "Both your concentration and composure of late have been far more in keeping with the standards expected."

"Thank you, sir."

"I stopped you because I'd seen enough." He snaps his fingers, and a piece of parchment flies through the air. "I wish for you to consider this, boy."

Severus wipes his hands on his robe, and lifts the parchment suspended before him. "Seconded?" He looks surprised. "You're sending me to another Master?" He stares at the parchment, unable to comprehend the situation - Has Sluggy stopped passing Malfoy's money to Jigger? Or has Malfoy stopped paying Sluggy altogether?

"It is not a commentary on your work," Jigger drawls, leaning heavily against the bench. "On the contrary, I rather feel that you will learn a lot under the tutelage of another."

"I appreciate the offer, sir," he says, quietly, trying not to let disappointment cross his face, "but I have already been disgraced once. If I work under another Master-"

"-with my agreement," Jigger interrupts loudly.

"...even so, sir, I fear that some will believe you have sent me away for poor behaviour."

"Nonsense. You'd still be my apprentice." At this, Severus gives a tight smile. He's going to keep taking Malfoy's money then. Jigger gives him a curious look, oddly pleased at Severus' smiling reaction, and incorrectly assuming that Severus was proud to remain his apprentice. When Jigger speaks, his tone is the kindest that Severus has ever heard. "Boy, do you not know what seconded means?"

"Not really, sir."

"It means that you would be sent to work alongside other eminent potioneers - to learn your craft from them, as well as me." He eyes him carefully. "I dare say you learnt different techniques from me to Borage?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you see the worth of working under another?"

"Yes, sir." Severus glances at his feet. "It's just, sir, I…"

"Spit it out, boy."

"...Borage didn't treat me well, sir. Not like you, sir. And if I upset another, sir, then-"

"Slughorn would be my first choice."

"Sorry, sir?"

"I'll send you to work beneath Slughorn. At Hogwarts." Jigger gives a slight smile. "He's already asked."

"But Dumbledore-"

Jigger scoffs. "Dumbledore only has the power to appoint his own staff. The Ministry decides who can be taken as an apprentice, and whom by." He shrugs. "If I decide that working under Slughorn is what is required for your education, then the Ministry can sign off on the papers." He pulls another piece of parchment out of the air. "In fact, you should find that they already have."

He knew Slughorn wanted him, but seeing it in black and white - or inky blue and a pale tan - makes his knees weaken slightly. "But Dumbledore-"

Jigger stares at him evenly. "Forget Dumbledore. You should be thinking about Belby."


"Are you deaf, boy? I may not have the connections to get you in with Belby, but Slughorn does. That is the goal. Impress Slughorn, and you'll be seconded from Slughorn to Belby."

Severus' mouth gapes. "Belby, sir? ...but he never takes an apprentice."

"Which is why you would be a fool to turn down such an offer."

"Don't - not whilst I'm brewing!" 

"Mmm? Not even this?" 

She groans when his arms wrap around her torso, and his lips burn a hot trail up her neck to behind her ear.

"Sev! You'd go mad if I did this whilst you were working!" She grabs his hands and removes them from her waist, holding them out to the sides. "Sit on the bed and behave, like you promised."

"I promised no such thing," he retorts, but he relinquishes his hold on her, and sits back on the bed. His long legs stretch out on the mattress, and he crosses them at his ankles. "Anyway, you haven't even started yet."

"And I wouldn't get started at all if it was up to you."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

Lily moves over him, her hands braced on the wall, and kisses him, pressing her tongue against his lips until he parts them and permits her entry. He arches upwards as she deepens the kiss, his left hand reaching to cradle the back of her head, and then she pulls away.

"Lil…Lil...come back..."

"That's just a taste of the celebration we can have when I've finished," she says with a cheeky grin, and he can't help but laugh at how pleased she looks.

"You're a menace." He eyes the cauldron on the floor and the magical fire that she's starting, "and a criminal."

Her eyes flicker with amusement as she sets out the ingredients on the dresser. "So the Ministry believes. And I figure I might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb."

His voice is slightly petulant when he responds. "I'd rather you weren't hung at all."

There's a long pause, and she carefully wipes her silver knife before setting it next to her glass beakers, and then she walks back over to him and runs her fingers down his face. "It's just a saying."

" shouldn't joke about it." He groans. "You shouldn't be doing this at all. And I shouldn't be bloody letting you!"

"Letting me?"

"You know what I mean."

"Yes," she says, coldly. "I do. But I haven't quite been reduced to the status of your household pet just yet, thank you, Severus. I am capable of making my own decisions."

"I didn't mean-"

She leans down and picks up an armful of records, and unceremoniously dumps them onto his stomach, causing him to groan loudly. 

"Make yourself useful, at least," she says, "and put something decent on the player." She flashes him a cheeky smile. "That way I don't have to put up with your griping."

"I don't gripe!"

"You do. Don't hold the knife like that. Don't stir the cauldron with your left hand. Don't pause when you're tipping bluebottle eyes into the mixt-"

"All right, I'll keep schtum."

"I've heard that before," she laughs. "Just play something loud enough so nobody else can hear you moaning."

He raises an eyebrow and gives her a lewd smirk, and she shakes her head. "What?" he says, feigning innocence. "If they hear your record player going loudly, that's what they're going to think." Then he shoots her a wicked smile. "And if I get my way, it's what we are going to be doing whilst that first stage is simmering."

"Sev! My parents-"

"Are grown adults," he says, loftily. "They must know we miss each other."

"Let me come home then." 

He doesn't answer, and she pauses, her breath catching in her chest, wondering if he'll relent. 

"...I miss you," she presses.

"I miss you too." 

"Then let me come home. I don't have to do this."

"What about the wild wolf, eh?" He waves his hand. "You can't brew this at ours. It's too risky."

"Since when have you cared about the wolf?"

He gives her a thin smile. "We don't need any more enemies, Lil. I don't much fancy waking up to find Black and Potter breaking in and holding me at wand point to wreak revenge."

She nods stiffly, but she can see in his eyes that it's not the idea of Black or Potter making their way into their flat in the dead of night that's bothering him.

As she stirs the potion, she watches him out of the corner of her eye. Now that the interesting stages of the brew are over, his attention has waned and he's engrossed in one of Malfoy's books that he'd brought over the previous week. 

"I thought you'd already read them," she says.

"I have."

"Then why are you reading it again so avidly?"

He smiles. "Checking that I've taken it all in," he says, tapping the side of his head. "Not that it really matters - these ones are for you."

"Don't fancy yourself as a mindreader, then?"

"No." He keeps the book open, and rests it on his chest, pages down. "But it's important that you can do it."


He just grins, and picks the book up again - and for a moment, she wonders if Malfoy has told him about the spying, and if he's trying to help. 

He can't have - Severus was carrying these books when he burst in on us. Maybe that's how he can throw off Imperius and that's why she needs to learn it? No, it can't be - he said he hadn't heard of Legilimency when he thought He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had used it on him. 

She stirs the potion with deliberate movements and she eyes him curiously, watching his face for a clue of what he might mean, but his expression is completely blank. 

Severus waits patiently in the entrance hall of Hogwarts, nodding curtly as the Baron passes by and then ducking dramatically as Peeves rushes towards his head and then bursts into fits of laughter.

"Peeves!" Professor McGonagall strides across the stone floor, dismissing the ghosts with a strong flick of her wand. "Severus Snape."


"I believe you are to study beneath Horace?"

"Yes, professor."

"Then Minerva would be more suitable, Severus."

"Yes...Minerva." The name feels odd on his tongue, and he glances at the floor, suddenly feeling embarrassed at the litany of names that had poured from his mouth about Lily's old Head of House whilst he was a student - none of which were complimentary.

She gives him a pinched smile, as if she can guess at his thoughts. "He's currently teaching," she explains, waving him towards the steps down to the dungeons, "and I imagine his class has run over."

"Yes, pr- Minerva." He walks a little faster to catch his old professor. "I know the way to Professor Slughorn's classroom, I can-"

"-but still, you shall experience none of the delights of the classroom," she continues, not breaking stride and acting as if he hasn't spoken. "It's been a long while since Hogwarts has had an apprentice who was not also an apprentice teacher."


They reach the door, and she stops, that same pinched smile on her face. "Fancy Severus Snape being the first since 1758." Her hand rests on the door handle, and until she moves - either to open the door and let him enter the classroom, or to sweep away - he can't move either. "Do you recall the name of such a previous apprentice, Severus?"

"No, Minerva."

"She was a goblin," she says.

He stiffens. Is she slighting my Muggle father? He quickly racks his brain - Minerva McGonagall presides over Gryffindor House, but what was her actual blood status?  She was always kind to Lily, but she wouldn't be the first to appear unprejudiced on the surface and then- 

"Between the rebellions," she explains further. "Dilys Derwent has always been held in very high esteem by Albus." And then without further ceremony, she pushes the door open and propels him in, and Severus finds himself standing in front of thirty sniggering teenagers.

"Bloody hell, it's Snivellus Snape!"

"Apprentice Snape, to you, Westenberg," Professor McGonagall quickly rebukes.

"Yeah, they've sent him back to school after he killed all those people with his crappy potions," one boy in the back row shouts.

"Detention, Lockhart!" Professor McGonagall snaps, and the laughter stops instantly. "Anyone else have anything to say? No?" Nobody speaks, and Professor McGonagall nods in approval before pointing her wand at a spotty wizard in the second row. "You, Jones, where is Professor Slughorn?"

"He went to his office thirty minutes ago," Jones starts, and Professor McGonagall's look of disapproval grows.

"Thirty minutes?" She tuts loudly. "You're dismissed, class. Do wait here, Severus, I shall find Professor Slughorn."

He nods, mutely, and forces himself to ignore the hissed commentary from the teenagers as they file past him and out of the dungeon - but as soon as they were through the door, the students' whispers erupt into unmistakable shouts.

"Did he really kill a bunch of people?"

"Yeah, course he did! Look at him!"

"My dad reckoned he should've got Azkaban for it."

"He looks like the sort of guy who'd deliberately put poison in your drink when you get up to dance."

"If you ask me, he looks like the sort of guy who'd slit your throat if you stared at him funny. Like he tried to do to Black that time."

"I'd forgotten about that! By the lake?"

"No, that was when Potter stripped him naked an-"

"Oh, that was so funny!"

"When did he slash up Black then?"

"Hogsmeade, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, don't you remember that they stopped all visits to Hogsmeade for weeks?"

"Look out, look out - he's peering round the door...he's staring right at you, Lockhart!"

"Shut up, Westenberg."

"No, seriously, I'd check your goblet in the Great Hall tonight! You're for it, Locks."

"Don't worry, Locks. I'll write to your mother and make sure she gives you a nice send-off."

"Yeah, what song do you want playing when they bring your coffin in?"

He feels sick to his stomach, and is tempted to spin on his heel and head right back out of the front doors when he hears a loud crash, and Professor McGonagall's voice booming down the corridor. 


And then, before he can make the decision to bolt back to the flat or even to Lily in Cokeworth, Professor McGonagall steps back around the door to the virtually empty classroom. "Do go through to Horace's office, Severus," she says, kindly. "And ignore those ridiculous boys. I shall be having a strong word with them all."

He takes a deep breath, straightens his robes, and then - grateful that the corridor has now emptied - heads to Professor Slughorn's office. 

He pushes the door gently open. "Master Slughorn," he starts, his head slightly bowed.

"Ah, Severus! We were waiting for you!"


"Come in now," Slughorn continues, "take a seat!"

Severus glances cautiously around the room, but he can only see Slughorn. He shuts the door and sits, and then just as he opens his mouth to speak, another very familiar voice fills the room and a tall blond man steps out from the shadows.

Chapter Text

Lucius nods in appreciation as Slughorn pours out a measure of firewhisky into his still-quite-full glass, and then pours a fresh one for Severus. "Thank you, Horace."

"You're quite welcome, Lucius. In fact," and he pauses, staring at the small print on bottle, "I do believe this is one of your own?" 

Lucius gives a smug nod.

"So, Severus," Slughorn says, with a broad smile, "it seems we are indebted to Lucius here."

"Aren't we always?" mutters Severus, his voice barely above a whisper. 

Slughorn gives no sign of having heard his remark, but Lucius frowns deeply.

"Here we are," Slughorn says, passing a glass into Severus' hands.

"Thank you, Master."

"Ah, now," Slughorn says, settling himself in front of the fire. "None of that, thank you, Severus. No need to stand on parade in this study - after all, we've all known each other long enough."

Severus shoots a confused glance at Lucius, and clears his throat. "But, the protocol, Master - the etiquette that-"

"What Horace means to say, Severus," Lucius swiftly interrupts, "is that he is not to be your new Master."

Severus stills, his fingers clenching his glass. "But, Master Jigger said… My apprenticeship, I'm...I'm not close to being signed off - I need the papers and I need-"

"Severus, Severus," Lucius says, in his most patronising tone. "Tell me, when have I ever let you down?"

"Do you want it in date order or alphabeti-"

"Oh ho!" laughs Slughorn loudly, completely unaware of Lucius' dark expression at Severus' biting retort. "He is a one, Lucius! Now, Severus, what Lucius means to say-"

"You're lucky I don't hex your bollocks off," Lucius hisses in Severus' ear as he moves past him, "pull your bloody head in."

"-is that you won't be seconded under me. No no, you have spent far too many years in my classroom already," and then he shoots an amused look towards the younger man, "blowing up my equipment and wasting my precious ingredients in the name of research and experimentation. You've already completed eighteen months of full study, is it?"


Slughorn gives him a pointed look. "Horace, Severus."

"Yes. Eighteen months, Horace."

"And how many cauldrons have you blown up in that period?" 

Severus flushes. "A few."

"A few?"

He flushes harder. "Well...quite a few."

"I cannot recall the last time I blew up a cauldron," says Slughorn and Severus' shoulders stiffen, the insult piercing his core - but unlike Lucius' often pointed barbs, Slughorn doesn't seem to be seeking for a reaction. Instead, Slughorn's watching the fire as he continues, "...I am not that sort of potioneer, as I am sure you have noticed. ...but Belby! Now, he's very much like yourself, Severus." 

Not everything is an insult, Severus, you berk, Severus thinks as he realises now what Slughorn had meant. This is why Lucius encourages you to hold your tongue.

Slughorn takes a sip from his glass. "Now, Belby is inventive. Experimental. Likes to push boundaries. He's quite a rarity in the field; I'm afraid the rest of us are stuck in our old-fashioned ways." He nods. "Yes, Belby. He'd be good for you."

"But Master Jigger has seconded me to you, si…  Horace. He will suspect if-"

"Yes, yes, it's important to keep up appearances, even if it is merely Arsenius, the boffs in the Ministry, whoever," Slughorn waves his hand dismissively. "So, I have prepared a few weeks of brewing for you. Nothing that a wizard of your calibre will find particularly taxing. The potions need brewing properly and with care - but otherwise, do treat it as a holiday. Then, after a sufficient period of time has elapsed, you shall be seconded to Master Belby." He takes another sip from his glass. "Of course, whilst I am happy for you to be rather familiar with me between these walls, please do remember your place when you move across to Belby."

"Yes, Horace."

There's a long pause as the three men sip at their expensive drinks, and Severus glances from Lucius to Slughorn, back to Lucius again, and then stares at the floor. Finally, he lifts his head.

"Whatever it is you want to ask, Severus," Lucius drawls, "do so. You are acting like you are at Wimbledon." He mimics Severus looking left and right and left and right. "I am close to summoning a house elf to bring us strawberries."

Severus pointedly ignores him and looks straight at Slughorn. "Why? Why bother bringing me here? Why didn't you arrange for me to be seconded straight out to Belby?" He shoots a confused look at Slughorn. "I understand the desire for a few weeks off from brewing for the hospital wing," he says, with a slight smile, "but surely a keen NEWT student could brew a Pepper Up potion if you could not spare the time?"

Slughorn laughs. "I don't want you to brew for the hospital wing," he says, and then he looks thoughtful. "Although it is a damn fine idea - I bet you've got amendments for all sorts of potions, haven't you?"

Severus groans. "I don't want to brew Pepp-"

"You won't make a convincing apprentice to Belby with an attitude like that, Severus," Lucius smoothly admonishes. "My, you've been in here twenty minutes, and you have already forgotten your place."

"Sorry, Horace," Severus says quickly, looking abashed. "I'll brew whatever you require-"

"Of course, you won't have time to brew Pepper Up if you're going to brew for me," Lucius finishes.

"For you? Here? At Hogwarts?" Severus turns to look at Lucius, his mouth slightly agape. "Under Albus Dumbledore's nose?"

Lucius grins. "A rather fine idea, if you ask me. It's the last place that anyone would think to look. I can't see Moody putting his grubby paws all over the castle - not on old Dumbledore's watch." 

Slughorn stands, suddenly looking uncomfortable. "If that's settled, I'll show you to your laboratory and rooms."


"You can't stay in Hogsmeade and travel in," Slughorn says, as they make their way out of the study and down the corridor. "It's not expected of any of the other members of staff."

Lucius nods in agreement. "It'd look awfully odd. Besides, that horrible poky little flat-"

"I like that flat!" Severus immediately argues. "Lily likes that flat."

"-has been compromised by the aurors. You've had Moody in there. Alastor Moody, Severus! Crouch! Bones! Not to mention Potter and his ilk. No, you're not staying there. I want you well away from the lot of them."

They fall silent as they venture down a stone staircase that Severus has never seen before, despite his extensive exploration of the castle as a teenager. Slughorn murmurs at a painting and the occupant nods and strides away. Then with a wave of his wand, the frame expands, and transforms into a grand doorway. Slughorn leans forward, throws the wooden door open and beams at the two younger wizards. "After you, boys."

Lucius nods to Severus, indicating that he should step in first, and when Severus enters the room, his jaw nearly drops. The large laboratory is big enough for several to work in - just like the classrooms in the dungeons - and as finely stocked as Borage's was, with gleaming cauldrons and glinting utensils and beautifully conditioned benches. 

Lucius stands behind him, and claps a firm hand on his shoulder. "Do you like it?"

He steps forward and trails a finger across one of the benches. "...yes. I do. It's amazing, Malf. Horace."

"Good!" Lucius beams, and with a wave of his wand at another portrait, and a mumbled password that Severus can't quite make out, he leads him through to what will be his private rooms. There's an office with a large desk and an even larger bookcase, and a separate sitting room with a settee and a single comfortable chair by the fire, and a wooden dining table and chairs in the corner. He strolls through to the bedroom, and he's instantly transported back to his student days - the room is the same size as his teenage dormitory, but there's one much larger four poster bed in the room instead of five individual ones. The green canopy with silver lining makes him smile, and he fingers the edge of the four poster bed's curtains.

"These'll have to be Transfigured," he says, lightly, "if we're moving in."


"The canopy. Green and silver? She'll have a fit - she doesn't even like it when I wear green socks," Severus grins.

"Oh yes," Lucius says, "I had almost forgotten to mention it."

"Mention what?"

"You need to break up with your girlfriend."

Severus turns to him, his expression horrified. "You want me to what?"

"You heard," Lucius says, sounding almost bored. "Drop her, dump her, bin her." He shrugs. "And Severus? Do make it convincing. Something public should do the trick." He grins, and leans in to Severus' ear, speaking with a stage whisper. "Tell her you fucked Cissy."

"For the last time, I haven't fucked Narcissa!"

"Details, details," Lucius says, his leering smile growing again. "Of course, we could make it happen, if it would-"


"...she's feisty, as we both know - if you told her that, I'm sure she's obliging enough to hex you in the face."

"Hex me in the face?"

"Yes, yes. A fight in public should do it. A shop, or that dreadful bar you work in, or...oh, I've got it! The Ministry atrium-"


"I beg your pardon?"

"I said, no. I'm not breaking up with her." Severus pulls himself up to his full height, and stares furiously at his old friend, his voice growing louder. "And I'm certainly not telling her that I've shagged your wife! I like the lab and the rooms, and I'm really very grateful to you and Sluggy - but I don't want any part of it."

"It is interesting to me that you have ceased to trust your old friend," Lucius drawls. "Severus, whatever have I done to cause you to treat me with such disloyalty?" 

"It's not about me not trusting you - it's about the price being too high! I'm not prepared to lose Lily."

Lucius looks annoyed. "I have moved the earth for you here, Severus!"

"I didn't ask you to!" Severus looks furious. "And if you'd bothered to ask me, I could've saved you the hassle!"

Then, he feels an gentle brush across his mind - he's felt it before in Lucius' presence. It's subtle, and not particularly powerful, but now that he knows exactly what it is, he immediately closes his eyes and grimaces as he imagines metal shutters - just like the ones that litter the town centre in Cokeworth of an evening - sliding down behind his eyes, blocking his brain from prying eyes. Severus opens his eyes again, and this time when the brush comes, he can almost hear it thudding gently against the steel.

"Oh," Lucius whispers with a look of elation, "well done, Severus!" 

At this, Slughorn puts his head around the door. "Ah Lucius, have you stopped teasing the boy and put him out of his misery?" Slughorn smiles broadly, but now that Severus is concentrating hard on blocking Lucius, he can't force his face to respond in a natural way. If Slughorn notices this, he doesn't comment, and carries on with enthusiasm. "Now now, nobody expects you to break up with the lovely Lily, Severus."

Severus shoots a sceptical look at Lucius. "No?"

"Perhaps I should've told you that your first task is to brew Polyjuice," Lucius smirks, "by the bucketful - just as you already do for that filthy brute Fletcher." And he smiles, lifting a piece of Severus' hair with his cane. "You are to be seconded to Belby. But I rather think another Severus will be studying here at the same time. Under Horace. A Severus who perhaps presents a little more cauldron control, shall we say?"

"Lily? Here? Apprenticing?"

Slughorn grins broadly, his moustache almost quivering with excitement. "It's a jolly good ruse, isn't it? If she's broken up with you, nobody will suspect that she's at Hogwarts as well." 

Lucius leans in. "Like I said, break up with her, and make it good. Make it convincing. Make the world think that there's no way you'd ever consider getting back together."

Severus pauses, thinking hard. "...I understand. But won't someone realise that I'm in two places at once?"

"With all due respect, Severus, I don't think anyone will be paying you sufficient attention," Slughorn says.

Severus looks incredulous. "Lucius, you know I've been stalked by half of the auror department for the past few weeks, and Horace, you're well aware that I've spent most of my life avoiding being harrassed by Albus Dumbledore's band of Gryffindors. Now I'm going to be living and working in his castle - only half of the time it's not actually going to be me - all whilst I'm sneaking out to work for the most famous potioneer of the moment?" He stares from one man to the other, and then speaks very slowly and deliberately. "And you both don't think anyone is going to notice?"

"We're not saying that you don't need to take care. It's imperative that you aren't seen to be in two places at once, but Belby is a recluse," Slughorn says, dismissively. "I shall keep Lily in these hidden rooms, and if you travel quickly and with caution, nobody will be any the wiser."

"Besides, you'll be rather more anonymous once you denounce your Mudblood," Lucius adds, ignoring Slughorn's wince at the term. "Potter and Black will soon lose interest in you then."

"Me, perhaps," Severus agrees, "but Potter will be sniffing around Lily-"

"Not possible. Miss Lily Evans is going to disappear from the wizarding world entirely."

"Malf, honestly! Why on earth would she disappear? Why wouldn't she keep the flat, and-"

"Miss Lily Evans can't keep the flat, because Miss Lily Evans is a nobody," Lucius says, firmly. "I did not think I would need to explain this to you - I thought you of all people were well versed in the laws."

"I am."

"Good. Besides, Miss Lily Evans is going on the run because I do believe the aurors have gained the impression that she's dealing in illegal potions."

Severus stares at him dumbly, and when he speaks, his voice is an octave higher than usual. "The aurors have gained the impression that she's dealing in illegal potions? How do you know..." Severus gives him a sudden dark look as the realisation dawns on him. "You told them that she was your brewer, didn't you? Instead of me!"

Lucius laughs loudly. "Don't put this all on me, Severus. She corroborated the story!"

Severus' face flushes with fury. "I don't bel-"

"Now now, boys," Slughorn says, ushering them out and walking ahead as he makes his way back towards his office. "Never mind all of that. All's well that ends, well, yes?"

"How is it going to end well if the aurors have testimony that Lily is brewing illegal potions? They'll hunt her down and arrest her and send her to Azkaban, or break her wand, or...or..." 

"Or ask her to spy for them-"

"Yes, Malf, exactly! They'll ask her to spy for… Oh fuck!" A deep chill runs down his chest, and he grasps for the wall. "Fuck off, Malf. You can't be serious."

"Calm down, Severus. Really, such language - and in front of Horace here."

"But she can't, Malf! She can't! You can't let her be exposed to-"

"They've only asked her to spy on me," he says, calmly, "and I have no intention of letting Lily Evans spy on me for the aurors."

Severus stops and crouches down, exhaling loudly and his hands shaking. Lucius glances at the departing figure of Slughorn who hasn't noticed that the pair have stopped. Smoothly, Lucius pulls Severus to his feet and throws his arm around his shoulders. "You however, Severus, are a very different matter entirely."

"Well, that's ridiculous! The aurors aren't going to believe a word I say!"

"No. You're quite right," Lucius nods, and propels them both towards the stone staircase.

"So what then?"

Lucius bounds up three steps and then turns, and taps his cane loudly on the wall. "You're a clever boy, Severus. Use your brain." And he grins. "Else I might just have to throw you over in favour of your delightful young lady after all."

Chapter Text

It's boring, Cokeworth - even on the nicer side of town. He's told her to lay low, which is ridiculous; Death Eaters are hardly likely to spring an attack on a dull old industrial area that nobody's ever heard of - not when there's London or Manchester or Birmingham to focus on - and as her dad has mumbled more than once whilst watching the news, "Can't do much worse than what's already been done." 

If Sev was here, he'd laugh at that. Laugh at the griping of a man who took early retirement, presented with his gold plated pension and a carriage clock and a firm warm handshake. 

He's still sprightly, her father - there's only a smattering of grey hairs around his temples, and his back doesn't ache, and his shoulders aren't stiff, and his knees don't creak when he gets out of the chair. Working in an office for years means he's a little soft around the middle, but there's none of the erosion of his bones that comes from decades of manual labour.

Lily realises that since retirement, her parents are shorter on money than previously, but it's all relative. After all, there's nothing on tick, the house is paid for, and the car is new, and both the kids have grown up and left home - even if her dad has been lining his youngest daughter's pockets to help out with her portion of the rent.

There's nothing to do when you're retired, she thinks, as she watches her parents drift aimlessly around their comfortable home - and feels a small pang that the only thing to keep them going might be an introduction to the next generation. Her mother's keen to see grandchildren, she knows, and that brute Dursley is always yawping about a dynasty, but Sev's been very quiet on the topic - not that she's surprised, not given his own upbringing.

She leans on the windowsill, and props her chin on her fists and imagines two toddlers waddling around the garden, squatting to peer at the grass and squealing at the ladybirds in delight. They'd be opposites, of course; a rotund Dursley with his blotchy ruddy face and tiny piggy eyes, and a Snape with Sev's thin raven features - irises as black as his pupils and lank unmanageable hair.

She almost smiles. Any of their offspring would be better served with the Evans genetics; Tuney's blonde locks - even if she's assisted by the bottle of late - and her own auburn hair, and the piercing aquamarine eyes that both of her parents passed down - her mother's sharp blue for Tuney, and her father's bright green for Lily.

Lily lifts her gaze from her parents' neatly shaped and well-tended garden - another bonus from retirement - and her imagined family and peers into the distance. She can't see Sev's parents' house from her window, but she can see the filthy derelict chimney which looms large over the dilapidated rows of old two-up-two-down Victorian terraces.

She glances behind her at the bubbling cauldron, checking the clock once more. It's almost ready, the Wolfsbane - and this time, she's even more confident. She knows she's brewed it perfectly, despite Severus' amorous interruptions, and she can't deny that there's a little thrill of excitement bubbling inside her at pulling one over on wizarding society - at a Muggleborn brewing a potion that most others lacked sufficient talent to even attempt.

When they were youths, Sev used to shout about rebelliousness and sticking two fingers up to the man - although he rarely elaborated on exactly who the man was, and she privately reckoned it changed from week to week - and she'd always rolled her eyes at his passion; rallying against nothing was a fruitless exercise, but now she understood. It isn't rallying against nothing - it's rallying against those who hold you back, who keep you in your place, who close off doors before you've even had chance to knock on them.

Somehow, on this nicer side of town, the words on Sev's lips, the words forged in the misery of Spinner's End had never quite struck a chord with her, but now, as someone oppressed within their chosen world, she can't help but stare at the intimidatory tower in the distance - the one which blocks the direct sunlight to Sev's bedroom window, and casts the house in a cold shadow - and she wonders at how many doors were shut to hateful Tobias whilst her father David waltzed right through.

He flings his old bedroom window open, and hoists himself out onto the ledge, his long thin legs dangling outside in the air. He flicks his wand, and lights his cigarette, and then stashes his wand behind his ear. He leans his head against the window frame and lifts the cigarette to his lips, drawing on it deeply and exhaling loudly.

"Thought she had got you to stop that filthy habit."

"Fuck's sake, Mam," he says, gripping the frame of the window with his free hand. "Nearly fucking fell out!"

"Shouldn't sit in the window then, should you," she snipes back, but there's no heat in her voice. She moves to stand behind him, her thin face resting on his shoulder, peering out across the rows of houses. He draws again, the acrid taste filling his mouth, and then he silently passes her the cigarette - mother and son exhaling plumes of smoke into the crisp evening air, looking at the rows of dark houses.

"Do I want to know?"

"No," he says quickly.

"You didn't even ask what I-"

"-whatever you're going to say, Mam, you don't want to know," he says, his voice low. "It's dangerous."

"They're nice people."

He frowns and twists slightly, trying to see his mother's expression. Nice people?  "Who do you mean?"

"Her parents."

He barks a laugh. "You do not think they're nice people." He nods downwards. "And neither does he."

"Saw her the other day."




"They're not like us," she warns, "that's what I mean." She takes a long draw on the cigarette. "They'll be devastated if anything happens to her."

"Nothing's going to happen to her! I'm looking after her!"

"Good." And with that, Eileen passes him the stub of his cigarette and steps away, her footsteps loud as she retreats out of the room and down the stairs.

He scowls, and grips the inch of the cigarette that's left, his dirty fingernails pressed tight to his lips as he desperately sucks on the filter, letting the bitter taste of home fill his senses. 

"Who's joining us?" she asks, as her mother sets the dining table for four. 

Rose looks up sharply at her daughter. "Isn't he upstairs?"

"Who? Sev?" Lily frowns. "No, he'll be at work. You know he comes by on Sundays. ...what made you think he was upstairs?"

Rose pauses, holding the fourth fork in midair, as if trying to decide whether to set the place or not. "Your father saw him this afternoon."

"Sev? This afternoon? In Cokeworth?" She's trying to be calm, but she knows her voice has an odd tone to it - a pitch higher than normal.

Her reaction seals Rose's decision, and she whips away the fork, and the mat, and bundles them back into the kitchen. "He must've been mistaken," she calls over her shoulder, "you know how your father gets."

Lily follows her through. "Daddy won't have been mistaken. How many lads around here look like Sev? They're all skinheads."

"Oh, Lily, they are not."

"They are! Name one who isn't," she challenges.

"Well, there's Alice Barrett's son for a start."

"Matthew Barrett is twelve, Mummy!" Lily shoots Rose a hard glare. "If Daddy saw Sev, then he's here."

"Perhaps he went to see his parents," Rose says, conceding the point without explicit acknowledgement, and turning her attention back to the stove. She starts to dish up the meal, but there's too much food now, and Lily watches as her mother's hand hovers, uncertain whether to overface the three of them, or to scrape the remains into a tupperware box.

"He hates going to see his parents."

"They're still his parents," Rose admonishes softly. "I know he finds it...difficult-"

Lily shakes her head angrily. "Difficult! It's not difficult! They fucked him up and-"

"Lily Evans!" Rose interrupts sharply, and shakes her wooden spoon in the air, wagging it in front of Lily's face. "I will not tolerate such language in this house." The spoon clatters down on the worktop, and there's a long pause.

In the silence, Rose wipes the edge of one of the plates with a tea towel, removing a smear of gravy that has dripped down the side, and then speaks again more quietly, "Severus' parents did the best they could with what they had."

"He beat him. For years!" Lily's words come hotly, and she can see the spirals of steam from their plates dissipating, her mother's afternoon of hard work rapidly cooling and congealing on the plates, but now that they've started, she can't put the discussion to rest. "Tobias. His dad!"

"We know, love."

"He scarred him. Permanently."

At this, Rose winces. They'd always known, her and David - and they'd always felt so helpless when the odd boy had swung his leg over the fence - Severus, must you jump over the fence and race over the back garden and rap loudly on the dining room window? Could you not find it in yourself to walk up the front path and knock politely on the door? - with fresh telltale signs of abuse; it was rare that the cuts and bruises and reddened marks would be on show, but he often carried himself oddly, as if compensating for a limb that was sore, and he reacted weirdly, flinching and ducking and occasionally even trembling if David got annoyed and shouted a little too loudly at the television.

"On his back," Lily continues, pointing to the small of her back and then smoothing her hand around her waist, "and his hip, and more a bit further down."

"I know you don't like him, but Tobias is still his father, Lily. Families can be complicated."

"It's not just me! I have to force Sev to go," she argues. "Whenever we come here, I make him go there first, Mummy, and it's always horrible! Eileen never says anything and just smokes those horrible cigarettes, and Tobias listens to the radio, and Sev's always putting his hand in his pocket to find them money-"

"He went there when you broke up," her mother reminds her, gently. "He obviously gets something from his relationship with them, and Eileen thinks-"

"Something's wrong," Lily interrupts. "He went back to them when we'd split up, but it was only because he had no-one else to turn to… If he's gone there now…" Lily turns to grab her shoes, and as if reading her mind, her mother grabs her wrist, holding her firm.


"But he needs me-"

"If he needed you," Rose says, her tone brooking no argument, "he'd have come here." She looks her daughter squarely in the eye. "Do you trust him?"


"You're certain?"


"-then let him come to you," Rose says. She points at the plates. "Now, you can either explain to your father why his dinner's cold, or you could whip up one of those warming charms you're so proud of…"

The knock is rhythmic, and loud, and obnoxious.  Tat-a-tat-tat-tat-a-tat-tat.  At this time of night, there's only David who ordinarily answers the door, but before he can reach it, Lily's flown down the stairs and has rudely pushed past her father, her fingers scrabbling at the Yale lock. David opens his mouth to protest, but when he sees the lanky young man at the front step, he simply shakes his head - and then, as Lily throws her arms around her boyfriend, kissing him soundly, David coughs awkwardly and steps back into the living room.

"Who is it, dear?"

"Severus," he says, and his tone isn't disapproving, but he glances at the clock - it's gone ten. "Who else?"

Lily scoffs loudly, and shakes her head. "No, absolutely not. I've spent days on this!"

"It's not safe for you to meet him," he hisses. "Give me the potion and I'll get it to him."

"You're willing to meet with the wolf?" she says, scornfully. "Yeah, right."

Severus shakes his head. There's no point in lying. "No."

"Your best friend Potter, then? I'm sure you can't wait to see him!" 

"Lil, I'll get it to Lupin." He stares at her. "I'm serious, Lil."

"So am I, Sev," she argues. "You're going to pass it through a network, aren't you? Who? Malfoy? Fletcher?" She shakes her head firmly. "Adding more people to the mix adds to the risk. I'll meet with Remus, like I did last time, and-"

"They'll be watching you," he says, his voice low. 

"...they know I'm here?"

His shrug is slight. "I'm worried, that's all."

"I'm safe here," she says. "You said so yourself. They're more likely to be watching you, if they're following anyone!"

"And they've ruled me out as the brewer," he says, hotly, "so there's no risk if I take it, is there?"

"I haven't got time for this. Remus is expecting me," she says.

"'re not going alone," he says, finally, and she smiles, pleased to have won a victory - even if it's small. "Well?" he says, more briskly, unwilling to dwell on the fact that he's relented. "Where are we going, then?"

"Waterloo," she says. "I Apparated under the bridge nearest to the station, on the South Bank. He'll be waiting at the entrance to platform 10."


"Close as we could get to 9 and ¾," she laughs.

"You'd both be useless as spies," he mutters. "Come here, love," he says, and she's gratified when he pulls her into his arms instead of arguing further.

She drags him through the air, the spiral of Apparation squeezing them both, but he lands gracefully, steadying himself against the wet brickwork which forms the tunnel.

"Stay here, love," he says, kissing her quickly, and wrapping his coat more tightly around him.

"No, he's expecting me, not you!"

"Stay," he hisses. "It's not like he doesn't know who I am. He'll work it out."

She doesn't. He's barely five feet away when she starts to follow in his shadow. She keeps close to the wall, and deliberately strives to keep her footsteps light, but after twenty yards - just as he's jogged up the steps to the concourse - he turns unexpectedly and grabs her wrist. He twists her against the wall, her head just brushing the frame of an old advertising poster as he pushes her hard against the bricks, his body pressed tightly to hers, and his breath hot and smelling of old smoke.


He doesn't answer, just pins her warm body beneath his, and then his lips meet the soft skin where her jaw meets her neck. "Why don't you listen, love?" he murmurs, covering her neck with firm kisses. "Why can't you see I want to keep you safe?"

"You can't lock me in a box," she warns, twisting her face so her lips meet his, and she draws him into a lingering kiss - and when he loosens his grip on her, she wraps her arms around his neck, her fingers twisting to cradle the back of his head, and pulling him down closer.

"I would," he whispers, "if it'd keep you safe."

"Stay with me tonight," she gasps as his fingers meet warm skin, "let me come back with you." Her bright eyes meet his dark ones, and she captures his bottom lip with her teeth, gently pulling him towards her and causing him to groan. "Please, Sev."

"...yes," he says, his voice husky, and he frames her face with his hands as they kiss more deeply, ignorant of their surroundings, and until she pulls away from him, he's almost forgotten why they headed to London in the first place.

"What time is it?" she asks, breathlessly, trying to view the station clock over his shoulder.

"Don't know," he answers, pulling her back into a deep kiss, "and I don't care." They're both lost to the sounds around them until he feels a sharp prod on his shoulder. The two immediately break apart, and he's about to argue with the intruder - station staff, policeman, beggar, whoever - when he realises that it's the wolf.

"Oh, it's you."

"Remus," she says, brushing her clothes down, and meeting the man with a far nicer tone than her boyfriend had managed.

"I didn't think you were bringing company, Lily," Lupin says lightly.

Severus pulls himself up to his full height, standing between Lupin and Lily. "Got a problem with it?"

"Don't, Sev," she says, slipping her hand inside Severus' jacket and pulling out the glass vial, glancing to each side of them as she does. "And don't you get caught with this, Remus."

"I think I can manage to remain inconspicuous," he laughs. "Unlike you two."

"Just two lovers who can't bear to be separated," she says, lightly. "Normal for a train station."

"Right. As you were then." And Lupin taps his forehead with his finger, in a semi-salute of thanks, and then strolls away across the concourse.

"Good riddance," Severus says, wrapping her arm tightly around his, "and now that errand is done…"


"Tell me more about these two lovers who can't bear to be separated," he says, walking her briskly in the opposite direction.

"Well, he's this intelligent and secretive man-"

"...go on..."

"And she's the femme fatale."

"Of course."

"And she wants him very very much."

"Oh good," he says, pulling her into a dark alley, readying them to Apparate, "because he wants her, and-"

Then the familiar spiral of his spell pulls them both through the air, and she can't quite hear the end of his sentence, although she's fairly certain she hears him say his. They land in the street before their flat, and he holds her tightly in his arms. 

"What did you say, Sev?"

"I said, welcome home, love."

Chapter Text

She's glad, afterwards, that he brought her back for one last night. There's nothing of either of their personalities left in their flat - there's the kettle, some chipped crockery, and the bent forks that they'd tried to make cups of tea with and laughed at on their first night - but that's it; the touches that made the flat their own have been removed, and it's bizarre seeing it reduced to bare floorboards and buzzing white goods and ugly furniture that they don't own.

The next morning, she stands in the stark living room. It feels cavernous without their belongings, and she's struggling to imagine how it was just a few short weeks ago - full of books and cauldrons and magazines and the warm rug and her dainty ornaments. 

She's naked under his travelling cloak - using it as a makeshift dressing gown because their clean clothes are long packed and vanished - and she's nursing a mug of tea when he comes up behind her, wrapping his arms around her warm body.

"It doesn't feel like home. I wasn't sure you'd want to see it like this," he says. 

"No," she agrees. "I probably wouldn't have. But I'm glad."

She is, and she isn't - but the thought of never coming back, of never getting to say goodbye to the walls where they made their first home is far worse. At least this way, he's been honest with her - told her of Malfoy's ploy and Slughorn's plotting, and although the thought of fighting with Severus in public is making the muscles in her back tense, she's relieved that he's had the sense to tell her.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, he'd have kept it to himself - deciding that it would all come out in the wash, fearing that her reaction to such a fight wouldn't be realistic if he tipped her off beforehand - but following those hateful weeks apart, even Severus isn't quite so cold as to think she'd forgive him for such a betrayal.

"Started practicing those tears?" he says, and his tone is forced - he's trying to be lighthearted, but she knows him so well, she can tell the whole idea bothers him too.

"What are you going to say?"

"Does it matter?"

It doesn't. Not really. But she thinks it's going to sting. She knows it has to be good - has to sound real, so what else can he say but things based in truth, and deeply hidden truths always hurt.

She's almost outside when he suddenly lunges for her, and pulls her back towards him, his other hand reaching over the top of her head and banging the front door firmly shut. 

"Sev, what-"

But she can't say anything else, because his mouth is over hers, and as she clings to his shoulders, he slides his right foot between her feet, gently knocking her stance wider until he can press his thigh between her legs, pushing his bodyweight firmly against her, and giving a satisfied groan when she understands his intent and grinds against him.

In ordinary circumstances, she would've been annoyed and pushed him off, unhappy that he'd let her dress - albeit in yesterday's clothes - and perfect her hair and make-up before ruining all of her hard work. But today isn't an ordinary day, and the stay of execution appeals to her. She's desperate to hear the silky timbre of his voice ushering soft declarations of love into the shell of her ear instead of spewing the torrent of resentment and hatred that she knew stepping out of the door would bring.

"I spent ages layering this mascara," she whispers in his ear, "so it'd run when you shouted at me."

"Yeah, but will it run when I fuck you hard against the door?" he murmurs back, and she gives a small gasp at his sudden crudeness, squealing with delight as he hoists her leg around his hip and drives himself into her.

He's sprawled on the floor and watching her with interest as she dresses.

"You make me feel like I'm in a zoo," she protests, but he just laughs and doesn't avert his gaze.

"I'm not sorry," he elaborates, giving her a smug smile. "I like looking at you." And then he gives an even wider grin. "I especially like looking at you when you're all dishevelled - when you look like you've been ravished."

"I have been ravished," she laughs, brushing at the marks across her pale chest, faint purple blooming around the red where he'd sucked and bitten her skin. "I don't know what got into you," she says, and as her eyes meet his and she sees the feral glint in his eye, she suddenly realises he did it on purpose. "Tagging me, were you?"

He shrugs, nonchalantly, and then stands, pulling his own clothes back on. "Wanted to make sure you didn't forget me."

She freezes, as if the veins to her heart had stopped pumping warm blood and had been switched with icy slush. "Forget you?"

He sees the panic in her eyes, and he quickly envelopes her in his embrace. "I just… You're coming with me," he says, "that's the plan. It is the plan. It's just…"

"Just what? Tell me."

She can feel his heart beating unevenly in his chest, not too fast, not too slow, but a little out of time - thadunk-dink-thadunk-dink-tha-thadink-dunk - and then he exhales loudly through his nose. 

"I don't know what's going to happen," he says. "I don't know who's going to be there, or what I'm going to say. I don't know if someone's going to be your knight in shining armour, and I'm going to have to duel my way out, or if-"

"-if I'm going to be chased out, like the hated Mudblood-"


" you gave me something to remember you by," she says, with a tight smile. "As if I haven't been living apart from you for weeks already. As if you're easy to forget."

"Yeah, well," he says, stepping back, and pulling his boots on. And then, as if he's thought of something, he steps forward with a wicked grin, and kisses her. "Don't wash me away," he whispers in her ear.


"I mean it," he says, and his voice is hard, but his smile is playful. "Don't wash. Not until we're together again. You're mine. Remember that." 

And then he pulls the door open, and jogs down the steps, and she wonders if the show of semi-Neanderthal possessiveness is a one-off, a reaction to their extreme circumstances, or whether it's been hidden under a swirl of black robes all of this time.

It was awful. It wasn't a surprise; she knew it was going to be - but hearing the venom in his voice and the disgust that adorned his face made it impossible for her to reconcile the person in front of her with her lover, with the man who had spent most of the night making reverential love to her in their bed, with the man who'd spent a hurried half hour staking a final furious claim to her body before they'd stepped out into Diagon Alley.

She knew he was acting, but it was hard to believe when he was so convincing, and she hadn't been able to help herself - she'd looked, at one point, right into his eyes - brushing him with her embryonic efforts at Legilimency, but her non-verbal spell was weak, and there was something steely in his gaze. If she hadn't known better, if she wasn't still aching and sore from his earlier attentions, she'd have thought that he truly hated her.

The wizards and witches in Flourish and Blotts most certainly did.

"You're a leech," he'd spat, "a selfish, greedy, blood-sucking stain on my name and my property and my success."

Unbelievably, it had been Peter Pettigrew who had come to her aid, his wand clenched in his fist. He was nervous, no doubt about it, but he'd stepped into the crowd - maintaining what he clearly assumed to be a safe distance from Severus - and made his challenge. "Leave her alone, Snivellus!"

"Oh, and here comes Pathetic Peter. Where's the rest of the tribe?"

Pettigrew had flinched, and she didn't need Legilimency to see that he was weighing up his options - debating whether to lie and convince Severus he was outnumbered, or to tell the truth and hold his own - but as he mulled over the decision, another wizard started to move from the back of the room. Pettigrew didn't see him, but Severus did.

"If you want my cast-offs, you can have them!" Severus had quickly snarled, unwilling to let the spat spiral into something he couldn't cleanly handle. Breaking up was one thing, but a genuine all out fight in Diagon Alley and a subsequent interrogation from a heavy handed auror was something else entirely. 

When Severus was satisfied that the other wizard had stopped in his tracks, he'd moved forwards and loomed over her, his head tilted and a leering sneer fixed across his face. "We all know that filthy Mudbloods are only good for one thing. Pity she's no good at it, even though I gave her plenty of practice." And then he'd stepped back, and laughed, and saluted at Peter. "You'll still be visiting your favourite whores down Knockturn, believe me."

He'd been right in his fears. Neither of them could anticipate what would come next - which was why she found herself in the Order's safehouse instead of in her boyfriend's arms in the depths of Hogwarts. 

Pettigrew keeps looking at her with an uncomfortable mixture of pride and concern and what she fears is a hint of lust, whilst Black and Lupin play chess in one corner. Potter paces around the room, tapping his wand angrily against his palm, and Bones holds her as she sobs. Well, she has appearances to keep up, after all.

"He's not worth it, Evans," Potter barks when she reaches for yet another tissue.

"We'll fuck him up when we see him next," Black says, his tone lazy. "I owe him anyway."

Lily shakes her head, panicked, and Bones glares at the group of men. 

"Enough, boys," Bones says, "retaliation won't help. It won't make Lily feel any better, and it'll only draw that group's attention to us - it'll make them realise that we're protecting her."

"Might not make Evans feel better, but it might give me some satisfaction," mutters Black. "My right arm's never been right since he cast that shitty spell at me."

She knows the spell. She knows the fight - but she's never heard Black speak of it before. Even when it happened, even when the rumours were in full flight around the school, neither Black nor Severus had openly talked about what had gone on. And then he's standing before her, Black, shrugging off his outer robes, and revealing a t-shirt beneath. He tugs it off, and spins around, and then she sees the livid scars criss-crossing the top of his back, creeping over his shoulders, and the thick gouges in his upper arms.

Severus did that, she thinks, and although she knows that the boys were enemies, somehow seeing the deep wounds makes it rather more real. "Do they hurt?" she asks, finally.

He shrugs. "Sting a bit sometimes," he admits, picking his shirt back up, and tugging it over his head.


And he does, and she untangles herself from Bones' loose embrace, tracing the single thin laceration that has escaped from the cluster on his shoulder. The uneven line tracks across his collarbone and just up into his neck.

"He only stopped because I came over," Potter says, darkly. "His wand was right there."

"I reckon he'd have done it," Black says, pulling the shirt on, and smoothing it down. "He's unpredictable. Like today. There's something weird inside him, something that makes him snap."

Something that makes him snap? Like feeding him to a fucking wolf, she wants to shout, but she doesn't - and the more that she looks at Black, the more uneasy she feels. Would he have done? If Potter hadn't come over, would Severus have drawn his wand across Black's neck? Bled him out? Decapitated him? Killed him? 

And then she sobs again, and this time, she's not quite sure who or what she's sobbing for.

They assemble with relative ease, given the short notice. There's offers from a few quarters - a meal to take, a bed to stay, a shoulder to cry - and there's a few who look genuinely pleased at the news; Potter, obviously, but Moody as well. Dumbledore's as placid as ever, giving nothing away, whilst Vance eyes her suspiciously across the table.

When the group breaks for refreshments, she corners her. "Convenient."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Convenient," Vance says, a little more venomously. "I ask you to spy, and you immediately find yourself expelled from your little group of darkness. How long were you dating him? Four years, was it? Five?" Her eyes narrow. "And now it's over? And now what? You'll shack up with Potter and align with the Order and believe that all is forgiven? Because that's not how this works, Lily."

"No," she says, hotly, her mouth running away with her before her brain can catch up. "As you're so well informed, I'm amazed you didn't hear. Sev dumped me because he found out I'd been fucking Malfoy."

As soon as she says it, she wonders if she'll regret it - but the stunned look on Vance's face makes the lie worthwhile. 

"Lucius Malfoy?"

"Yes, Lucius Malfoy. And why not?" Lily gives her a tight smile. "I'm hardly marriage material, not for a Pureblood, but he runs a nice line in pretty jewels." And then she deliberately fingers the bracelet on her wrist - the Prince heirloom that Severus gave to her all those years ago. "You'll get your information, don't you worry - but I am sure you'd agree that it will look awfully odd if I don't at least give the appearance of mourning my relationship." She gives a tight smile. "Now if you don't mind, I have a bed to arrange with some kind soul."

Vance's retort is waspish. "Lucius Malfoy's benevolence doesn't run that far, I see?"

"It does, but I fear Mrs Malfoy might notice something is awry if I turned up alone at this late hour. Now, please, do excuse me."

Chapter Text

It's a funny little house, The Burrow - a hotchpotch of bricks and wood, and of rooms stacked precariously upon each other. As they near the house, she spies several bright haired young wizards careering around on broomsticks.

"Boys, inside!" Arthur calls, as he ushers Lily through the door. "I'll take her from here, Gideon, thank you."

Gideon flashes her a grin, and pumps Arthur's hand. "Right you are, Arthur," he says, cheerfully. "I won't come in - Molly will chew my ear off, and I'm meant to be meeting Fabes at six." He drops a careful kiss on Lily's cheek. "You'll be fine here," - and before she can say anything, he's disappeared in a quick flash.

"Dad, was that Uncle Gideon?"

"Inside, Charlie! How many times?" Arthur says, pushing his sons into the crooked house. 

"Are you sure you don't mind?" she asks nervously, watching as Arthur looks pointedly outside - in both directions - before slamming the door shut behind him. "I don't like to be any bother, and-"

"A friend of Alastor Moody's is a friend of mine," he interrupts, heartily, placing his hat on the kitchen table.

"Of both of ours," Molly adds, bustling past with a large steaming pan of stew. "Bill, dear, stop winding your brothers up-"

"I wasn't!"

"-if you wake the twins, then-"

An immediate hush fills the room, and Lily looks at Arthur in surprise. "You've got more? Twins?"

"They're little babies," Charlie helpfully chips in.

"They're little horrors," Arthur laughs, settling into the chair at the top of the table. "Better off asleep, if you ask me."

They're welcoming, the Weasleys - but they make an odd group; one mother, one father and five small boys. Of the boys, Bill talks to her the most, but Charlie couldn't be less interested - he's always climbing a tree, or trying to coax a pigeon out of a bush. Percy's very quiet - shy, she'd have guessed - and spends his time equally split between trailing after his older brothers, and sitting proudly next to the twins, as if he was their protector.

"Split personality, that one," Molly says, when she spots her watching Percy from across the room. He's sat next to the twins, a reading book carefully placed on his lap, and at every other page, he steals a glance at his younger brothers. "Can't decide if he wants to be the smallest of the bigger ones, or the biggest of the smaller ones."

It's then that Lily notices the start of a bulge around Molly's midriff. Surely not another? So soon? But it's rude to stare, and ruder still to ask - it could just be baby weight.

Lily glances at the mess - not mess, chaos is a fairer assessment - and she wonders for a brief moment what such a house would look like with her and Severus at the helm, with dark haired and green eyed children sprinting between the rooms instead of ginger haired boys with faces full of freckles.

"Fabian said it was a nasty scene," Molly adds, as if catching her sorrowful gaze. Her knitting needles clatter loudly against each other. "You didn't see it coming, then?"

She's grateful that Arthur appears from work at that very moment, his eyes tired but his arms full of an overfilled cardboard box, which is bulging at the seams in the same way that The Burrow itself seems to be with its many occupants.

"Ah, Lily! You're a Muggleborn! Come here and take a look at these for me," he calls, with an excited smile.

"Arthur, please, not on the table - Bill and Charlie haven't finished eating."

Arthur ignores his wife, rummaging in the box and spilling its contents across the table. "What do you think of this?" he asks, thumping down a bundle of wires onto the table.

"What do I think of it?"

"Yes, what is it?" he presses.

"Well, it's an extension cable."

"Ingenious!" he says, excitedly, turning it over in its hands.

"Useful, I suppose," she admits, not quite seeing her host's excitement. 

"Dad's always like this with plugs," Bill says, scooping another forkful of peas into his mouth.

"It's not a plug," Arthur rebukes. "Lily just said it is an exten…"

"Extension cable," she fills in, quickly.

Charlie waved at it with his spoon, pointing at the plug at the end. "Can't be. That's a plug."

"You put the plug in the socket in the house," Lily patiently explains, pointing at the cables, "and then you can take this out of the house and still have electricity. It extends the supply."

"An extension cable," Arthur adds, pleased with his new knowledge.

"Yes, we have one for mowing the lawn."

"How exciting!" Arthur says, hunting through the box. "Lily, tell me more."

She isn't sure how much more there is to tell, but she gives Molly a smile and sits, happy to indulge Arthur's enthusiasm, as long as it keeps her from having to answer any questions about Severus.

Lily stands in the window, looking out across the countryside, and she's at a loss as to how she's going to manoeuvre her way to Hogwarts. It's been three long days since Gideon had Apparated her across the country, and then trekked her through fields to get to his sister's house. 

"Lovely people," he'd said. "My brother-in-law's a bit… Well, you'll see." And then he'd grinned, and clapped his hand around her shoulder. "But you'll be safe, and that's the main thing."

But she didn't want to be safe out here, imposing on this unknown young family, and with no way of getting to Severus, or to her parents, or to Vance or Malfoy or anyone else. She was out on her own, with a young family who had twins who screamed through the night, and small boys who yelled through the day. 

She needed to have something of worth for Vance for their next meeting, and she needed to tell Severus about her lie about Malfoy, and… She twists her robes in her hand. She didn't really want to think about Malfoy finding out what she'd said; didn't want him getting the wrong impression. She isn't sure now why she said it - it seemed like a terribly good idea at the time, but now she wonders what Vance will ask of her next. Maybe she'll want a way into the Manor, or something from Malfoy's private possessions - his bedroom, even - and she'll have no way of doing that, and then she'll be exposed. 

Severus, she thinks, that's who I need.

He's not in the best of moods when he's summoned to the Headmaster's office. It's been days since their fight in Diagon Alley, and nobody has seen any trace of Lily. Malf has assured him that he's been looking, and has told him to keep his head down and his mind focused on his newfound role at Hogwarts, but Severus can't settle - and he certainly can't sleep. At least during the day he can lose himself in his brewing, but once the night rolls around, he pulls what will be her pillow close to his chest, and wonders if she's thinking about him in the same way that he's thinking about her. 

Severus can't put the meeting off any longer - Slughorn poked his head through to the laboratory half an hour earlier, and reminded him that Professor Dumbledore had requested his presence, and then Slughorn had barged his way in twenty minutes later, his tone impressing upon Severus that the meeting was less a request, and more of a demand. 

Severus had washed his equipment quickly, and he'd started the lonely trudge up the long staircases. It's not an unfamiliar route to him; he'd been called up there more than once in his own Hogwarts career - far more than once - and it had never been a pleasant experience. 

He raps lightly on the door, hoping that Dumbledore won't hear and he can descend back to the dungeons in peace, but to his dismay, the door swings open immediately.

"Severus," Dumbledore says, welcoming him into the warm office. "Thank you for joining me. Please, do take a seat."

"Thank you, Professor," he says, perching on the barest edge of the offered chair. "Professor Slughorn said that you wished to speak with me."

"I do," Dumbledore says, taking his own seat opposite Severus in a swirl of brightly coloured robes. "I have been informed that you have been drawing some attention to yourself-"


"-and I wished to impress upon you that this is an inclusive school," Dumbledore says, firmly. "I had rather hoped that your committed relationship with Miss Evans meant that you did not see things in the same way as some of your old housemates," and at this, he peers over his spectacles, his bright blue eyes catching Severus' own. 

Immediately, without thinking his actions through, Severus pulls down his imaginary metal shutter, instantly shielding his thoughts from the Headmaster's prying eyes.

"...interesting, Severus."

"I don't know what you mean, sir."

Dumbledore leans back in his seat. "Now, Severus, let us not play with each other." He twirls his wand absently in his left hand, and the movement of the wood is almost hypnotic. "You caused quite a stir in this school a few short years back."

Severus bristles, not quite sure which moment Dumbledore is referring to - his school career was hardly uneventful. "On which occasion, sir?"

And at this, Dumbledore gives a soft chuckle. "Indeed, Severus. ...I am, of course, referring to the moment that you and young Miss Evans rather publicly declared your... interest in each other."

He knows why the older man emphasises the word in such a way - it wasn't him bending on one knee to ask Lily to a ball, or them being caught passing notes in class. No, their declaration of interest was Potter and Black goading him, as per usual, and Lily finally seeing red, and storming over, her temper flaring:

"What did you just say, Black?"

Potter jabbed Black in the ribs. "Here she is. You're for it now, Pads."

She glared from one boy to the other, her hands firmly on her hips. "No, go on," she spat. "I want to hear you say it again."

"Lil," he'd weakly protested. She might want to hear it so she can rebuke Black properly, but Severus didn't wish for it to be repeated - and now that the whole of the Great Hall was listening in, and not just the small group around his end of the Slytherin table, his embarrassment would be magnified. "Leave it, will you?"

"Yeah, Evans, listen to the greaseball and forget-"

"Shut up, Potter!" Her wand was pointing at the pair of them, moving between the two smirking Gryffindors. "Now, Black. Say it!"

Black held his hands up in mock surrender, his eyes glinting as he stared at Severus. "You heard the lady, Sniv, I've got no choice."

Severus' own wand had fallen into his hand at this point, sliding down the sleeve of his robes. He tried again, desperate to halt the scene. "Lil-"

But Black wasn't about to let the opportunity slide, not now he had a large audience hanging off his every word. "I said, until he took his clothes off-"

"I didn't take my clothes off! You sick idiots stripped me!"

Potter sniggered. "As if we'd want to take your clothes off, it's bad enough looking at you as it is." 

And then, before Severus could retort, Black continued more loudly, "I said, Evans, I thought Malfoy had made this greasy little virgin into his pet eunuch-"

"Hit him, Snape!"

"Don't have that, Snape!"

"Black, he's got his wand out!"

"Yeah, go on, Snape, hex him!"

"Do him, Potter, before he hits you!"

"Get him, Black!"

"Potter, smack him!"

"Quick! Now, Snape!"

"No! Don't!" Lily had stepped between him and Black, and Potter had pulled the laughing Black in the other direction, preventing him from firing a shot off.

"-and then he stood there in all his glory, and it turns out Malfoy hasn't," Black laughed maliciously. "Still, Sniv, if you show Malfoy that pathetic excuse for a body over the summer, he still might. There's hardly anything worth saving."

There was a sudden commotion at the teachers' table, but due to the braying laughter echoing around him, Severus couldn't wait until an adult intervened - he couldn't help himself. With a flash of anger, his wand was raised and the curse was on his lips, but before he could strike, Lily had grabbed him around the neck and clamped her mouth over his own, her lips pressed firmly against him, and her tongue searching for his.

"No way!"

"Merlin!" Potter sounded broken. " she getting off with Snivellus?"

"Bloody hell, Prongs. I didn't think-"

"Is she actually getting off with Snivellus?" Potter's voice became louder behind them. "Is this some sort of hex? Has he jinxed you, Evans? Is this a potion?"

And then Potter grabbed his shoulder, and tried to pull him away, but Lily held him even more tightly, refusing to break the kiss.

Severus pulled back the smallest amount, just enough so he could whisper under his breath to his girlfriend. "Fucking hell, Lil," he murmured, as they continued to kiss each other, horribly aware of the entire student body watching their every movement. "What are you doing?"

"What I should've done ages ago," she murmured back, and then - her arms still wrapped around Severus' neck - she turned to Black. "What are you looking at, Black?"


"No? You think you're looking at nothing?"

"Lil, leave it."

"No, I'll tell you what you're looking at - whilst you've been trying unsuccessfully to get off with half of the girls in Gryffindor," she smirked, "Severus has been shagging me for months."

And then there really was a hushed silence across the Great Hall. 

"Yes, well," came Slughorn's booming voice across the hall, quickly making his way down from the top table and stepping between the student tables. "Enough now. Back to your own meals, all of you."

Severus watched as Lily, Black and Potter moved back towards the Gryffindor table, and then he felt Slughorn's warm hand on his shoulder, steering him back to his own seat, where Avery, Mulciber and the younger Black were all staring at him, with expressions of horror, disgust and glee in equal measure. 

"And you, Mr Snape, ten points from Slytherin."

"Ten points! But-"

"For that overt display," Slughorn said, disapprovingly. "No cavorting in the halls. You know the rules."

"Should be from Gyffindor, sir! That Mudblood grabbed him," Mulciber spat angrily, "it's not like he wanted her disgusting tongue down his throat. You should give Snape ten points for not hexing her-"

"And ten more points from you, Mr Mulciber." Slughorn glanced at his students. "Does anyone else have anything to say? Are we to fall behind Hufflepuff in the House Cup again, because none of you have the sense to keep quiet?"

The table fell silent once more, and when Slughorn trotted back up to his place on the stage, Mulciber jabbed his fork into the back of Severus' hand.

"Fuck!" Severus hissed, yanking his hand away and sucking on the bleeding wound. "What was that for?"

"Is it true?"

There was a long silence.

"I asked you a question, Snape. Are you doing that Mudblood?"

Severus nodded, stiffly. There was no point continuing to deny it, as he had been doing up until this moment - not now, not after that display. 

"And you're just using her? For practice?" he asked, his eyes narrowed. "Until you get someone better?"

Severus glanced over his shoulder, and he could see that Lily was now alone at the Gryffindor table - all of her friends had shuffled over, giving her a wide berth, but her back was straight, their lack of support unable to knock the pride from her. If she can do it, he thought. 

And then Severus looked back at Mulciber, and took a long swig from his goblet. "Nah," he said, standing, "she's good enough for me." He collected his books, and shrugged them under his arm, leaning back over the table. "And what's more, Mulc, I've had her in your bed." He grinned broadly as he stalked off towards the dungeons, calling loudly behind him, "Nice pillowcases!"

It had been hell. Absolute hell. He'd raced back to the dungeons to throw his belongings into his trunk - and he'd been right to do so. Mulciber had thrown him unceremoniously out of the dorm, and he'd been forced to sleep in the common room - which often wasn't vacant before 2am, and he was always rudely awakened by the elves at 4am when they came through to clean.

In the end, Haughty - one of the oldest elves - had taken up his cause and led him to a private room deep in the castle; he'd later found out that it was under the instruction of Slughorn, and in their final year, Lily had joined him more often than not. It hadn't been quite so bad for her in Gryffindor, but she was no longer enjoying Hogwarts in the way she had previously; she walked to lessons alone unless he was with her, and she didn't have that gaggle of girls hanging around her as she'd always done in her younger years. 

He hadn't been certain that it was Slughorn's intention that the two of them would turn his new private room into a sanctuary for both of them, nor that Dumbledore or McGonagall approved of what they were doing in there of an evening - but if they felt strongly about it, none of them commented. It was indisputable that the pair worked hard as they both continued to gain high grades, and with them locked in their own room deep in the castle, Severus wasn't fighting Potter or Black, or even Mulciber and Avery, and Lily wasn't being cold-shouldered by the entirety of Gryffindor Tower. 

They walked around the castle hand-in-hand, neither keen - when they could help it - to leave the other one to the mercy of those they ran into in the corridors.

"I remember, sir," he says, flushing a little. 

And then those piercing eyes are staring at him again. "I admired you then, Severus."


"It takes great courage to stand up to bullies," he says, "and it takes even greater courage to stand up to your friends. I right in thinking, Severus, that until that moment it had been your intention to join He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?" 

Severus doesn't answer immediately. He can't. The shame weighs heavily on him, because it was true - horribly true - but back then, he'd thought that the world was a little different. He'd been so angry at his parents, at his Muggle father, at his bullies - at the world. He wanted power, and at the time, Malf had been whispering in his ear about him being someone - about how he'd be elevated amongst his peers, and he'd be the one ordering Avery and Mulciber around, and… 

"...I am glad I didn't, sir."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

And Severus swallows hard, knowing that surprise is etched across his own features. "But, sir, you-"

Dumbledore raises his hand, stopping him from continuing. "I am sorry to hear that, because I do not believe a word of your tantrum in Diagon Alley."

"Sir, I-"

"Shh now, Severus. Your old friends, now yes, they will be very happy to hear of your change of heart. When prejudices run so deeply, some find it only too easy to accept someone's words when their beliefs mirror their own."


"Indeed," Dumbledore says, ignoring the younger wizard, "I suspect that with your little outburst, you will find a sudden flock of owls coming your way, and I am certain that with careful wording, you will be able to convince your old contemporaries that you were briefly led astray by the natural urges of a young man."

Severus' mouth gapes. "But-"

Dumbledore continues, as if Severus hadn't spoken. "Yes. A young girl was willing to offer herself to you, and you weren't thinking rationally." He then reaches over with one long finger, and gently taps the side of Severus' temple. "You weren't thinking with this. is understandable. Believable." There's a momentary pause, and then his finger taps against Severus' temple again. "And this," he says, with feeling, "this is more skilful than previously, isn't it?" 

Severus nods, dumbly, the old man's thin finger cold against his face. He knew I was using Occlumency before? "I'm still learning, sir."

"Yes. I think you could be rather useful to me, Severus."

Chapter Text

They've only been sat in the kitchen for twenty minutes, and this is the third time that they've been interrupted by a small boy in pyjamas. Lily watches as Percy climbs into his mother's outstretched arms, and Molly then whispers comforting words into his ear. A few minutes later, after Percy has taken a sip of milky tea from her mug, the small boy is passed to Arthur, who carries him from the room - and from the creak of the stairs, back up to Percy's own bed.

Having seen a variation on this same scene played out repeatedly over the week, Lily couldn't help but wonder if Molly ever got to consume a hot drink in peace without a small mucky face clamping itself to her cup and slurping loudly. 

If it wasn't great gulps of tea being taken by the children, then it was the constant taste of biscuit that Molly was left with. When Lily collected the mugs for cleaning, there always seemed to be a thick silt which lined the bottom of Molly's mug, comprising of sunken crumbs that had been lost into the liquid as tiny fingers carelessly dunked their biscuits.

"You don't mind," she says, as if realising what Lily's thinking. "I thought I would, but when they're your own…" She smiles kindly. "But if the twins take after the other three, I might need to invest in a bigger mug."

Lily laughs, and when Arthur strides back into the room, she can't help but imagine Severus in the same role - the strong and caring father, carrying his dozing child up to his bed. She can remember her father doing similar for her, especially after that flurry of nightmares she experienced when she first started Muggle school - and then she feels an odd pang when she thinks about Severus, wondering if Tobias had ever done the same for his small boy.

If he hadn't, she finds herself wondering how Severus would cope if he found himself thrust into that position. Would it come naturally, with him knowing instinctively how a father should really behave, or would she have to nudge and cajole him every step of the way? Before she can mull on it further, there's a gentle knock at the door which breaks her from her thoughts.

"At last," says Arthur, cheerfully, and after peering through the window to verify the wizard's identity, he pulls the door open.

Lily's jaw drops. "Moody!"

"I knocked gently. I hope I didn't wake the tribe," he says, knowingly. He claps Arthur on the back in greeting, and kisses Molly's hand, and then he appraises Lily, who stands awkwardly before him. "Sit down, Evans, no need to stand on parade."

They all sit down at the table, the wooden chair legs scraping on the tile - Molly to her left, Arthur to her right, and Moody straight opposite - and Arthur looks eagerly at his old friend. 

"So? Any news from your side of the Ministry?"

"We're circling around an infiltrator," Moody gruffly says, his tone making clear his sincere disapproval.

Molly closes her eyes, as if the news physically pains her. "Not another?"

"Not another."

"But they only just caught Damien," she protests.

"Moody doesn't think old Vector was an infiltrator," Arthur says, his voice low, throwing a cautious glance at Lily.

"Not an infiltrator? Arthur, he went to Azkaban!"

"...without trial," Moody adds.

Molly looks troubled. "I thought you said you were in court with him."

"A kangaroo court is a court all the same," he says. "There's little point making a distinction these days, not with his lot crawling through the ranks."

There's a brief silence, as they consider his words, and then Molly looks up sharply. "What does Fabian think? He did his work experience with Damien."

"I haven't told him my fears," Moody says. "I don't think it's good for morale."

"Better that he thinks Damien's a traitor to our cause? Better that he suspects all those around him?"

Moody reaches for Molly's hand. "Better that as few people know as possible. I don't want to let out that I'm onto them."

And at this, Molly shoots a sideways glance at Lily - it's fleeting, but all understand its meaning; why are her brothers kept in the dark, whilst this slip of a girl is told the truth?

Lily takes a deep breath, and stands. "I think I'll retire for the night, Molly, Arthur. Thank you again for-"

"Sit down, Evans," barks Moody.


"As much as I enjoy the company of Arthur and Molly here, it would be disingenuous of me to claim that the reason for my visit was to enjoy their hospitality." 


"No, Evans." And then he flashes a dark grin towards her. "I came here tonight because I wish to talk about Lucius Malfoy."

The kind hospitality that she had become accustomed to dramatically cooled, as if she'd opened the freezer door at her parents' house and stood before it. 

Molly let out a small gasp, and Arthur eyed her warily, his eyes flitting between the smiling Moody and the unsmiling Lily. "You're a friend of Lucius Malfoy?"

"...not exactly."

Moody barks a laugh. "Not exactly. Beautifully put, Evans. Evasion is a undervalued skill." Then he grins at Arthur. "If you believe Emmeline Vance, this pretty little thing here is fu-" - and then he glances at Molly who looks furious, and he modifies his language. "Evans here is sleeping with Malfoy."

Arthur's usually jovial expression has hardened, but a confused look crosses Molly's face. 

"This is the same Lucius Malfoy who has openly advocated for the Muggle and magical worlds to be separated?"


Arthur catches his wife's train of thought, and quickly leaps onto it. "And you think he's sleeping with a..." He trails off, still unhappy about using the Ministry approved slur. 

"Nonsense, isn't it?" Moody says, happily, and jabbing a finger in the air towards Lily. "And yet Emmeline Vance believes every word of it."

"And you don't?" Lily challenges, her chin tilting upwards. "You think that Lucius Malfoy isn't the sort of man to take advantage?"

"I think Lucius Malfoy is exactly the sort of man to take advantage," Moody says, softly, "but you forget that I know you, Evans. I had to listen to every sickening grunt and groan that passed between you and that wretched drug dealer you fastened yourself to."

Molly's eyes widen at the claim, but Lily shakes her head, refusing to be cowed. "You said yourself that we were putting on an act."

"Nobody is that good," Moody says. "Not for weeks. I might find it revolting and impossible to understand, but there's something genuine between you. So imagine my surprise when I hear that he's disowned you in the middle of Diagon Alley. Not an argument at home, not a fight over the dishes or over who ate the last chocolate frog - but he hoards up all of his venom for a bitter, spiteful, angry attack on your blood status in the middle of the wizarding shopping district. It's funny." 

"It's not funny."

"It's odd," he clarifies. "I've been doing some digging on the pair of you - on him, mostly, but you as well, Evans. And do you know what I found?" He bares his teeth as he lowers his voice to a whisper. "He's dangerous. Got himself in some trouble with the Muggle authorities back in your hometown, didn't he?"

"He's not dangerous."

"No? He's hardly unblemished in our world either, is he? By all accounts he was well on the way to being welcomed in the Death Eater ranks-" and at this, Molly gasps loudly, and Arthur reaches for his wife's hands, squeezing them firmly in reassurance.

Lily shakes her head firmly. "He has never-"

"No! No," Moody agrees, "he hasn't. And why hasn't he? Why didn't he follow the rest of the wretched snakes into the clutches of You-Know-Who?" He glances at the Weasleys. "Any ideas, Arthur? Molly?" 

Both shake their heads, and although Moody stares at her for a long moment, Lily refuses to answer. 

"It's because he very publicly attached himself to a..." and Moody pauses too, a look of distaste crossing his face as he says the word, "Mudblood."

She can feel Molly and Arthur's confusion, can sense them staring at her in surprise, and she gives a tight nod. 

"We started dating at Hogwarts."

"A wannabe Death Eater and a Mudblood. And yet you've been together ever since."

"...we've had a wobble or two." She risks a glance at Molly. "What couple hasn't?"

Moody gives her a stern look. "And is that what you'd call this latest incident? A wobble?" 

When she doesn't respond, he continues forcefully. 

"Your little spat has gone down beautifully with the others - the rest of the Order is baying for his blood, and that was the plan, wasn't it? But here's the curious thing, Evans - nobody has seen him. The ever elusive Mundungus Fletcher has turned up to both of the emergency meetings we've called this week, pacing near the door and awaiting a replenishment of his supplies, but with the two of you out of action-"

"You deal in potions?" Molly looks even more horrified at the thought of who she has let into her family home.

Moody glances at Molly. "The boyfriend does. She doesn't. Well…" And then he gives another twisted grin. "Unless you believe her claim that she brews for, guess who?"

"Lucius Malfoy," Arthur breathlessly finishes. He puts his head in his hands, rubbing his fingers over his face in despair.

"She's sleeping with Lucius Malfoy, she's brewing illegal potions for Lucius Malfoy, and you bring her here," Molly says, her chins wobbling, "to our home!"

Lily looks guilty. "Molly, I'm sorry-"

"Evans, shut up," Moody barks. "Molly, Molly," he says, placatingly, placing his large palms over her quivering hands. "Evans isn't a brewer for Malfoy, and I would bet my left arm that she's not sleeping with him-" Moody exchanges a knowing glance with Arthur. "-although not through Malfoy's lack of trying, am I right, Evans?"

Lily daren't speak, the memory of the night in Malfoy's study burning too brightly in her memory. 

"Now isn't the time for silence, Evans."

"He tried," she admits.

"And what does your nasty little boyfriend think of that, eh?" Moody exchanges a quick smile with Lily, the triumph written all over his face. "I knew it." He leans a little closer. "Malfoy's taken him off the streets, hasn't he?"


"For his own protection, I suppose?"

Arthur snorts. "For Malfoy's own protection more like. I'd kill any man who dared touch my Molly."

"And your controlling boyfriend is the jealous type, isn't he?" Moody prods. "He's a lustful, dark, covetous, selfish little boy." He gives her that chilling smile again. "Did he hex him? Or did he channel that Muggle blood inside him and use his fists instead?"

Lily shakes her head, refusing to give him anything further - but she doesn't miss the quick look of glee that Arthur gives to Moody at the idea of Malfoy meeting his comeuppance. "With all due respect, Moody, this is between me, Severus, Lucius and Emmeline," she says, desperately trying to gain the higher ground.

"Snape has gone missing, and the only thing you can be certain of when Malfoy opens his mouth is that he's lying," Moody says, a little more loudly - and then he stares Lily right in the eyes, "and you, my dear, are merely a pawn in Vance's game."

"A pawn?"

"A piece to be taken advantage of, and then to be tossed aside when it's no longer needed."

"Alastor," Arthur says, softly, looking horrified at Lily's hurt expression. "She's just a kid."

A rush of anger flares in Lily, and she interrupts angrily. "And what about you, Moody? What does that make you?"

"Well, I," he says, with a wide smile, "am a very clever man."

Lily scoffs. "Really?"

"Yes," he says, with a confident smile, "because you're about to be upgraded from a disposable pawn in Vance's game to a valuable decoy in mine."

There's a long and heavy silence - the room is so quiet, they can hear the gentle breeze rushing past the kitchen window, and the occasional leaf being blown along the path.

Eventually, she speaks. "Who are you after?"

"That's why I wanted you in the first place," Moody says, begrudging respect in his voice. "I thought for a moment you had lost the ability to think three steps ahead. Telling Vance that you were sleeping with Malfoy was the height of stupidity." He gives her a strange look. "I would say it was fortunate that she believed you, but there is now the very real risk that you might have to follow through on your statement." He eyes her thoughtfully. "I'm sure Malfoy won't say no, but I'm not sure your possessive boyfriend will be quite so accepting - even if it's for a worthy cause."

"You didn't answer my question."

Moody stands, his heavy cloak flapping. "Vance."

This doesn't make any sense. 

"Vance is your boss."

He gives a firm nod. "Get me Vance," he says, "and I'll make sure your man walks free."

"Severus?" She wants to hear him say it.

"Snape," he agrees, and then he stops, and gives her a twisted smirk. "Unless you find yourself gaining a taste for Malfoy along the way. I'm flexible, Evans. Just like you."

He closes the door slowly, taking care not to wake the slumbering children, and Lily looks awkwardly between Molly and Arthur, who are now eyeing her with strange suspicion - not outright hostility, but there's a troubling vibe between them all; there's a history with this family and the Malfoys, that much is obvious, and she can't work out how this is going to play out - if they're going to sympathise with her, seeing that she's being taken advantage of in a power game that's far beyond her control, or whether they're already thinking ill of her. 

She doesn't know the Weasley family at all, and the Prewetts only from the Order - both lines of this family had long left Hogwarts by the time she started - although she now has the clear impression that Arthur and Molly and Lucius had crossed paths at some point. 

But just as she was an unknown to them - a young woman in need of shelter - so is Severus. They don't know him by name, or by sight, and perhaps not even by reputation. All that her hosts have to go on is the tale of Severus' hateful actions in Diagon Alley, and Moody's disparaging commentary on his personality. She wonders if either Molly or Arthur picked up on Moody's throwaway remark about Severus channelling his Muggle blood or being in trouble with the Muggle authorities. 

She wonders now if they're viewing her with pity - viewing her as a young woman who has been dragged into something awful, and with no opportunity to escape - or whether they believe that she's as twisted as those she associates with, those mired in dark magic, and if she's on the cusp of it herself.

With five young boys in the house, she can't imagine that they'll want to harbour a criminal - whether they deem her the brewer flooding the market with illegal and addictive potions, or merely the silent partner, merely the lover of the man happy to line his own pockets by the misery and misfortune of others. And then she thinks about the outcry following the incident with Borage, and she wonders that if they're given long enough, the Weasleys will suddenly remember where they've heard the name Severus Snape before - suddenly remembering the names of the victims that were solemnly listed in the Daily Prophet. 

It wasn't like that! It isn't like that! she wants to scream, even though neither of them has said a word - and before either of them can speak, she's up and off, the door yanked open and she's sprinting after Moody - and when he doesn't immediately turn, she's yelling his name, all care about the sleeping children completely forgotten. The relief she feels when he halts and turns floods through her, as if someone's thrown her into a cold swimming pool.

"I'll call for you," he says, briskly, resuming his walk through the fields. "Stay here."

"Get me to Hogwarts."

At this, he stops. "Dumbledore?" There's a long pause between them as she weighs up her options, and then he laughs. "Does he know?"

"Does he know what?"

Moody's eyes narrow. "Does Albus know that your boy is holed up at his precious school?"

"I didn't say-"

"-you didn't have to," he says, pulling her into a sudden swirl of Apparation.

Chapter Text

Moody pulls her roughly through the grounds, and as his stride is much longer than hers, it causes her to move far more quickly than she finds comfortable. When her feet slip on the dewy grass for the fifth time, she tugs her arm away from his grip, and stands firm. 

It takes him a moment to realise that she's not following. He halts, a metre or two ahead, and sighs. "Come on, Evans. I don't have time for this."

"I can make my own way from here."

His cloak billows as the wind snaps around them, and he looks troubled. "I brought you here," he said, gesturing towards the gates. "I used Dumbledore's trust in me; a trust he shares with no other auror."

"And I thank you for it, Moody."

"I don't want your thanks," he growls. "I want you to understand that this isn't a game, Evans. That people in your position get hurt."

"In my position as a pawn, or in my position as a decoy?"

He recoils at her words, almost as if she's slapped him. "I'm not trying to put you in harm's way," he hisses. "I want to see you…"

"See me what?"

He glances away, as if the words lay heavy on him. "By rights," he says, "you should've been someone. That thrill of talent you have," he says, waving his hand, "it comes off you in waves."

"You can feel it?"

He shrugs. "Some wield it like a weapon."


"No," he says.

"Death Eaters?"

"Yes. But others as well. Aurors. Some in the Ministry." He eyes her curiously. "Your boy has it too, you know."

She didn't need him to tell her about Severus; as soon as he'd brought her attention to her supposed pulse of magic, her mind had flitted straight to her boyfriend. She's always felt that steady thrum of magic erupting from him, but she'd always thought it was only him who had it - a side-effect of him being unable to control his emotions, perhaps - and hadn't realised she was the same. 

She wonders now if that's why Tobias eyes her so curiously when she descends on their house, as she's certain that half of Severus' physical punishments stemmed from Tobias' determination to beat that invisible force out of his son. It's then, as she thinks harder, that she realises she hasn't felt it off Eileen, and although Black and Potter and Malfoy have been in close proximity of her of late, she can't say she noticed it from them either. That can't be right. She flexes her wand arm experimentally. 


"Talent," Moody pointedly corrects. "Power is something else entirely." He looks at her curiously. "They should've taught you this up there."

"I think there's a lot we should've learnt and didn't," she says, quietly.

"Don't let someone take advantage," he warns, and he holds his hand out before her, a few inches from her chest. "Can you feel that?"

"Yes." And she can - she's felt it from Severus enough times, an invisible pulsating wave.

"That's you," he says, pulling his hand away. "Raw, untapped magical talent."

"How did you know Severus had it as well?"

"It was noted in his file when he was arrested."

"It's unusual?"

He nods stiffly. "There's a little in everyone, but by the time you come to Hogwarts, it's usually under control." He gives her a curious look. "But of course, you're a... ...and he's a Muggle mongrel." He gives a soft laugh. "Quite an oversight by everyone."

"How do we stop it?" she asks.

He gives her a curious look. "You can't just put the brakes on. It's natural; it's within you. It's an expression of talent that wants to be shaped, controlled, cowed," he says, earnestly. "Once it's sated, it'll stop. You'll still be powerful, but within parameters." He waves his hand. "Not this raw pulsing energy that you're currently emitting to all and sundry."

"That's what I mean - how do we contain it?"

"And I've already told you - you don't."

She looks exasperated. "You told me once that you don't speak in riddles, Moody, but right now…" She glances towards the castle. "There's hundreds of students in there. How do they-"

"To have it like this... It's unusual," he says, his hand casting before her again, as if hypnotised by her. "It's not just rare, but it's exceptionally rare, and it's a coveted attribute by anyone taking an apprentice."

"But what does it mean? How do we sate it?"

"The more you learn - the more you're taught - the more knowledge that the magic absorbs, the more controlled it becomes."

"...which is why it's desirable in an apprentice."

"Yes. No wonder Malfoy is interested in you both, and no wonder your boy wasn't slung out of magical society entirely after that debacle with Borage," he muses. "Jigger could see it in him as well, I wager."

Slughorn, she thinks. He must be able to sense it - in her, and in Severus. He'd always wanted them - one of them, at least - at his side.

"And you," Moody continues. "I think we've just got to the bottom of why you were purged." He gives a tight smile. "They would've expected you to have contained it within your first few weeks of work, and when you didn't..."

"...they deemed me to be dangerous?"

"Dark magic," he says, softly.

"I've never cast a dark spell."

He holds his hand out again, and his eyes briefly close, as if he's basking in the wave of magic floating over him. "I didn't say you had, Evans. But that thirst for's a dangerous beast. It takes you to wicked places when it can't be satisfied by what it's already been given. Sinful places that once you've visited, you wish you'd never heard of them in the first place." And then he looks at her again. "He's dark, isn't he?" 

She can feel it now, that chilling edge she knows Moody has - that desire to entrap his prey. 

"You can trust me, Evans," Moody says, softly. "Your boy has done things you'd never imagined possible, hasn't he? He's...different, isn't he?"

She won't be tricked that easily. "Take me to Slughorn," she begs, quietly. "Not Dumbledore."

"Evans… Tell me. Has he killed?"

"Please, Moody," she begs. "If you trust me to go undercover for you, then trust me in this."

"I don't-"

"A week!" she interrupts, loudly. "It was meant to be a few hours, or a day or something, and we've been apart a week! A week, and I don't even know if he made it here, and as I've been hiding in some ramshackle house in the wilds of the country, he doesn't know where I am, or if I'm hurt or dead and you're standing out here, accusing him of being a murderer, and all I want is to see if he's safe!"

He steps back from her then, as if the spell between them has been broken, and a shadow casts across his face as he glances over his shoulder towards the castle. "You're loyal to him."

"He's loyal to me," she shoots back, hotly. "And I love him."

"I knew from the moment I heard about it this was a ruse."

"He loves me," she says, confidently, pleased to utter the words once more after spending a week pretending that her lover couldn't stand the sight of her.

Moody says nothing, but resumes their walk, pulling her once more towards the castle, but this time aiming at a side entrance instead of the main gates. 

"Thank you," she says, when she realises what he's doing, but he simply scowls.

"He'll be the death of you, Lily Evans," he warns, coolly.

"He won't," she immediately counters. "He'd never harm me."

"I didn't say that," Moody argues.

"And he'll lay down his life to save me before he lays down mine to save his."

And then Moody smiles - and although his words bother her, his smile isn't unkind. "Oh yes," he says. "I'm most certain he will."

The meeting with Slughorn is quick, perfunctory - least, her part of it is. She's quickly excused by her old professor, and she finds herself not caring what discussion is ensuing between Moody and Sluggy - although she knows that Severus will later suggest that she should've secreted herself behind the closed door and listened intently in case they discovered anything useful. 

Least, he would in ordinary circumstances, but the look on his face when she pushes open the door to his - their - chambers tells a very different story and she's pleased she didn't dawdle, and didn't deny him their reunion a moment longer. His mouth opens, and glee covers his face, and he scrambles to his feet, pulling her into his warm embrace.

"Lily, Lily, Lily," he murmurs into her hair, and she wraps her arms around his body, pulling him close to her.

"Are you ok?" she asks, and when he pulls back to answer, his eyes shine and his grin is broad.

"Right now? Never better. You?"


And then he doesn't give her chance to speak again - to tell him where she's been, or what she's done, or to query what he's been doing - because he's pushed her up against the wall, his lips seemingly determined to map every part of her exposed skin.

His fingers make light work of her robes, pulling them open, and tugging them off her body - and his digits graze over the old bruises he'd left scattered across her chest, staking his claim to her. He lowers his head, and kisses them reverentially - softly at first, and then when she makes the slightest groan, he retraces his steps, catching the damaged skin between his teeth and causing blood to rush back to the surface.

"Sev," she gasps, grabbing his hair.

"You love it," he mutters in response, and when she doesn't disagree, he flashes a wicked smile. Then he pulls free of her grip, standing upright once more and towering over her. She rests her head against his chest as his hands delve lower, and as his fingers skate over her navel and below, his voice is rich and warm in her ear. "Am I… Did you-"

"No," she says, quickly, before he can fully form the question. "I'm sorry, Sev. It's been a week. I couldn't not shower for a whole week-"

He silences her by kissing her, his fingers steadily caressing her between her legs. When he pulls away from their kiss, he stares into her bright eyes. 

"How long before you did?"

"Almost two days," she says, and she's surprised at the sparkle of triumph in his expression.

"For two days," he murmurs into her ear, his fingers keeping a steady pace, which makes her squirm on the spot, "you spoke to other people, yes?"



"The Order," she says, and for this, she's rewarded with a slight quickening of his hand - and she grabs onto his shoulder to steady herself.

"Who in the Order?"

"Pettigrew," she says, starting with the wizard who supposedly saved her. "Bones. Lupin. Moody. Vance. Gideon. Fabian. Frankie Longbottom."

"And?" His voice is thick and low.

"Alice. Marlene. Diggle. Meadowes. Fenwick."

"Who else?" he hisses, and his hand briefly slows, and she knows what names he wants to hear.

"Black," and then she gasps as he speeds back up, this time applying more pressure. "He showed me the scars you gave him."

"Did he?" he whispers, pressing her hard against the wall, gripping her wrist in his free hand, and then biting her where her neck met her shoulder.


"Did he show you the mark here?" he asks, laving her bitten skin with his tongue, and she remembers the thin angry line that sits in almost exactly the same place on Black's neck.


"I could've killed him," he hisses, and then his hand quickens once more, as if he's fearful she'll come to her senses and spiral out of the dark spell that he's weaving if he doesn't push her to the very edge of her control. "And who else?"

And this time she knows for certain the name he seeks, his fingers teasing her to the brink of completion. "Potter," she gasps.

"Yes, Potter," he says silkily, and she groans loudly as his fingers dart across her sensitive skin. "You casually chatted to Potter whilst my spunk dried on your thighs, didn't you?"

She blushes crimson at his claim - not quite knowing what's worse; the filthy words he's murmuring in her ear, or the fact that on this occasion, it's undeniably true. As his fingers push her over the edge of orgasm, her head tips back against the wall, the acknowledgement of his sinful words on her lips - but before she can come back to her senses, his hand is at her mouth, his fingers teasing her lips, encouraging them to part. She can see from the gleam in his eyes what he's seeking for, and she captures his long digits in her mouth. He smiles triumphantly, and then he positions his cock between her legs with his free hand, filling her with a deep groan.

"My good girl," he says, watching her with interest for several long minutes as she tastes herself on his fingers, and then he pulls his hand free, and kisses her deeply. "Mine, mine, mine," he murmurs, gaining a steady rhythm, and then he braces himself against the wall and takes her in their new rooms in precisely the same manner that he did when they left their old flat.

She doesn't know what's causing this primal rush of possession in him - they've been apart for longer periods before - but when she walks back into their bedroom and sees him lying confidently across their bed, his body tangled in the sheets, she knows she's drawn to it. She wonders sometimes if the darkness inside him has always been a siren call to her - he'd always been a little off when they were kids, sometimes his responses to situations were a little skewed, or his reasoning a touch unusual. 

Her eyes gaze over his lean body, purposely perusing him the way he does to her so often. He catches her eye, and then he smirks - not looking remotely concerned or abashed by the way she's greedily viewing his body; if anything, he looks defiant and proud - and then he throws off the sheets, his body's excitement at her actions clear, and he holds out his hand towards her. She takes it, and he pulls her across him, seating her atop his thighs and sighing when she adjusts herself, sliding him deeply within her.

"You're incorrigible."

"What did I do?" he says, his voice joyful.

"Insatiable, that's your problem."

"I'll have you know, I was asleep."

"You were not," she says, pushing his chest playfully.

"No, I wasn't," he admits, "but you could've got into bed like a lady, and not straddled me like I'm some sort of hired gigolo-"

At this, her eyebrows raise - and he knows he's pushing it - but thankfully, her smile doesn't disappear. "Oh yes," she says, moving to lift herself from him. "I was going to sleep-"

Immediately, he spins them over so she's trapped beneath him, keeping himself inside her, and pinning her body into the soft mattress. "I've got a better idea. Sleep's overrated, witch."

"So it is," she agrees, wrapping her arms around his neck and reaching up to pepper his face with kisses, until he finally lowers his torso, and she welcomes him into her embrace with a soulful kiss that sends tremors through the pair.

"Fuck me," he murmurs when she releases his mouth.

And then she gives him that same sinful grin that had him lost all those years ago. "Gladly."

"Sounds like bullshit to me," he says, wolfing down the last of his cereal and reaching for a piece of thickly buttered toast.


"What?" he says, speaking with his mouth full, and then swallowing abashedly when he realises that the way he's eating is the source of her complaint. "Sorry. I'm starving."

"You're always starving," she says, dropping a light kiss on his forehead. "I don't know where you put it; there's nothing of you."

"Burnt all the calories off last night," he laughs, and she can't help but laugh along as she spies the genuine mirth on his face. "I'm so glad you're home, love," he says, quietly as she walks away. His voice is so quiet, she almost misses it, and when she turns to acknowledge his comment, his expression is blank - as if he'd never uttered a word. "Anyway," he says, taking another piece of toast, "that's just what Moody told you."

"He sounded serious, Sev." She glances at him. "I feel it off you."

"Yeah, and?" He shrugs. "I feel it off you too." He waves his butter covered knife in the air. "I think it's just a compatibility thing. It means we're right together."

"But then why can Moody feel it from me?"

He looks a little uncomfortable. "I dunno, all right, Lil? Maybe he's got the hots for you."

"Sev, be serious!"

"All I'm saying is that I don't feel it with anyone else, not even when I'm in close proximity to them. Not Malfoy, not…" and he momentarily falters, before continuing, "…not Jigger, not old Sluggy. Just us. When we're together."

She gives him an odd look. "You were going to say someone else then."


"You were, Sev." And now she's back over to the table, towering above him. "When you said Jigger. You were going to say someone else."


"Not Borage." And then she dances her Legilimency over him, and he slams down his Occlumency shields so quickly, she's pushed backwards by his thrum of magic, causing her to stumble. "Sev!"

"...I didn't mean that," he says, standing and watching her intently as she stands. "You ok?"

She doesn't answer, but she stares at him suspiciously. "Who did you cheat on me with?"

"I've never cheated on you." His rebuttal is swift. Almost rehearsed, even if never used until this moment.

"Fine, you've never cheated on me." 

He looks relieved at her acceptance, and she can't believe that such an innocuous conversation has taken such a dark twist, but now that she's pulling at the thread, she can't stop herself. 

"...but it's obvious that at one point when we've been apart, you've been with someone else, haven't you, Severus?"

There's a long and empty silence, and she stands in the corner, her chest tight, and it's as if she's forgotten how to breathe.

He sits back down at the table, his eyes practically boring a hole in his empty plate. "I…" And then he glances at her, and she's looking at him with such hope. "I…"

"After that guilt trip you gave me when you thought I'd slept with Potter!" She gives a pained sob. "Don't tell me, Severus, it was years ago, and it meant nothing, is that right?" 

He doesn't answer. He can't seem to form the right words, and the more he looks at her with a sorrowful gaze on his face, the angrier she becomes. 

"You know what? You're pathetic! You are such a stereotype."


"You've always made such a big deal about how you're different to everyone else - how we're different to everyone else, but when it comes down to it, Severus, you're just the same as the rest of them!"

"Lil, don't-" He pushes his chair back, and he reaches out for her, but before he can make contact with her, the door has slammed loudly and she's gone.

Chapter Text

Slughorn looks ill-at-ease, and somewhat confused when Lily appears at the door to his private chambers. They hold an awkward, stilted conversation, where the rotund teacher points out that she is supposed to be disguised as Severus before she takes to roaming the halls of Hogwarts. 

Lily quickly spins a chain of lies about how Severus is feeling unwell, and how she doesn't want to disturb him. Slughorn doesn't seem entirely convinced by her tale - not least because he'd furnished the young couple with a full set of private rooms, and if Severus is unwell and confined to their bed, Lily should be free to lounge in their sitting room instead of searching for somewhere else in the castle to while the day away.

Still, Slughorn doesn't press the issue; he's always liked Lily, and as he casts against the door to his private study, preventing anyone from stumbling in without him and discovering the hidden witch, he gives a contented smile at the sight of her kneeling on his comfiest armchair, a large stack of books from his private collection flanking her on either side.

"Something in particular caught your attention?" he asks, briskly moving across the room and rifling through the top few titles that she's selected. "A broad range of subjects, Lily," he says, a flicker of confusion crossing his brow. "If I might be so bold, I would suggest choosing a specific area and then focusing on it exclusively; flitting from one topic to another means that you won't cover any in sufficient depth, and you'll find all topics somewhat lacking."

She nods, but tips her head to one side. "What if I'm trying to find the topic that excites me, sir, before committing to a course of study? So much time has been wasted already, sir, and I don't want this opportunity to-"

"Horace," Slughorn quickly corrects her at her use of his old salutation, but he gives a quick nod and a smile. "Then I would say that I am in keen anticipation of hearing which topic you settle upon," he says. He steps away, and then back, as if he's deciding on whether to speak.

Lily notes his action, and puts her finger between the pages she's on, and closes the book, trying to coax him non-verbally to say what's on his mind.

"...I am aware that this arrangement suits you and Severus," he says, eventually, "but I also feel quite fortunate."


"I always wanted you as my apprentice, Lily Evans," he says, teasing his moustache as he speaks. "And before these dratted laws, I thought it was a given."

"I thought you might have had your eye on Severus, sir."

"Horace," he says, again, and he sighs. "I am not disparaging the boy. You both have potential." 

And she wonders then if he means that thrill of magic that Moody was so enraptured by, but before she can ask him, Slughorn checks his watch.

"I must away to class," he says. "Don't wander out of here until I return," he warns, "it's imperative that nobody spies you."

"Yes, Horace." 

She wasn't going to move anyway; she had no desire to explore the castle and accidentally run into Dumbledore, and she certainly didn't want to head back to see Severus - and leaving Hogwarts entirely would be a fool's errand in this climate. As furious as she was with Severus, it had taken her a week to get into the castle, and she's aware that the next time, she might not be quite so fortunate.

"Have fun," he calls, as he closes the door and locks it behind him, and she curls up on the chair, a large book levitating before her.

Slughorn wakes her a few hours later, and her neck is aching from being twisted into an awkward position. She thinks he might be displeased, but to her surprise, Slughorn has a knowing smile on his face, and he merely chortles at the sight of her.

"Sorry, Horace," she says, stretching into a yawn.

"I suspect that your boyfriend is also ailing from exhaustion, as opposed to needing the hospital wing? Don't trust yourselves to be in the same room together?" He gives another knowing laugh.

She doesn't mind the insinuation, after all, he's almost right - she is exhausted because she was up for most of the night with her boyfriend - but she suddenly feels uncomfortable; Slughorn has started to shuffle around the room, and his deliberate actions are clearly an unsubtle method of making her aware that his hospitality has come to an end. She knows it's rude, but she isn't sure she wants to return to Severus - so despite it being socially impolite and increasingly awkward, she remains seated, eyes fixed on her book.

"I am terribly sorry, Lily," he says, reluctantly, when she doesn't make to move of her volition, "but I have a Slug Club meeting and you really cannot be down here when the students-"

"Sorry, Horace," she says, closing the book and standing quickly. "I didn't mean to impose. I am very grateful for you permitting me to be here today."

"You're welcome," he says, watching as she tidies behind her before leaving. "Now, Lily, I don't intend for us to start your independent study until the end of the month," he says, as she reaches the door. "That's when Severus will be called to go to Belby. I've already explained to Severus that he should take this time to relax, and I recommend you do the same - don't burn yourself out trying to get ahead. Enjoy your little holiday together," he adds, with an unsubtle wink. "I won't disturb either of you unless absolutely necessary."

A holiday. It should've been blissful, she thinks, as her hand encircles the doorknob, and she twists it firmly. It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust as the room is shrouded in darkness, and she fumbles her way through the rather sparse office. She would ordinarily cast Lumos to guide her, but there's part of her that doesn't want to signal her return - silly, she thinks, he's probably already heard you. 

She isn't sure what she wants to happen next - isn't sure if she wants him to beg for forgiveness, or to pretend it didn't happen - and she finds herself holding onto the next closed door for rather too long as she mulls over what she wants to happen next.

She listens carefully, trying to hear that telltale clink of glass on glass, but to her surprise, it doesn't come. He's always been a drinker, and there's part of her that worries that when she opens the door, that's how she's going to find him - drunk and bitter, anger and alcohol coursing through his body in equal measure - but when she moves into the sitting room, she's surprised to see it's dark as well. He's in bed?

And then, she pushes the bedroom door open, and with the rest of the rooms empty, it's no real surprise to find him there. He hasn't lit the wall torches, and there's just the glow from the fire lighting the room, which shines an odd flickering amber glow across the furniture. He's sitting on the floor, his knees pulled up to his chin, and the fire casting an odd shadow against him.

As she blinks rapidly, the low light not giving her much opportunity to view her surrounds, she notices that he's changed the sheets on the bed, and it's neatly made - unrumpled, uncreased; he's clearly not been in it without her, nor even sat on it.

"I didn't know if you were coming back," he says, gruffly.

"I fell asleep in Sluggy's office," she says, just as stiffly, her hand unconsciously reaching to her sore neck, and rubbing the aching spot.

"Come here," he says, spreading his legs, and tapping the floor between them.

She hesitates, and after a long pause she acquiesces to his wish, settling her body between his legs, and she hears his steady exhale of relief behind her. She feels his hands on her neck and shoulders, and he carefully collects her hair into a bunch, and then places it over her left shoulder.

"Tell me if it's too hard," he says, and then his hands start kneading and pressing the muscles in the top of her back, and across the base of her neck. He's patient and tender, and he massages her for a long time before she groans, indicating that he's finally hit the right spot, the trapped nerve finally releasing under his careful ministrations.

"Thank you," she says, softly, and he slowly draws his hands away, as if he's reluctant to lose his excuse to touch her.

"Did you just sleep?" he asks. His voice is deliberately gentle, and without seeing his expression, she can't make out his motive. "At Sluggy's?" he prompts, when she doesn't immediately answer.

"...I started to read," she says. "But I was tired."

"Anything inter-"

"No, Sev," she says, quickly, turning to face him. "I can't do this."

He looks injured at her comment, and he glances away, staring at the blank wall over his shoulder. "I was only-"

"I can't sit here and make small talk with you," she says, the words spilling from her. "I can't sit here between your legs, with you touching me like that, and you murmuring in my ear, because I know how it'll end up."

"I only asked what you were reading."

"And one question will lead to another, and then before we both know it, you'll end up fucking me on the floor," she says, simply.

He smirks at that. "And is that so bad?"

"No," she says, pushing his knee. "But we do this every time, and it doesn't solve anything."

"Well," he says, standing up and brushing himself down, "I'm glad you came back, because whilst you were snoozing, I came up with the answer to our problem."

It's her turn to shoot an incredulous look in his direction. "...oh?"

He reaches down, and she takes his hand and allows him to pull her upright - and when she's standing, he frames her face with his hands and then he very gently strokes her temples with his forefingers. "I want you to break into my mind and examine my memories."

"Sev, no…"

"Shhh," he says, leaning forward to rest his forehead against her own. "You said it yourself, we've been here before, and Lil, I know we said we were going to talk more honest…"

She can hear his boot scuffing awkwardly against the ground.

"...I can't, Lil. I'm not that sort of a guy."

"I can't just march into your mind and take whatever I want."

"You can," he says, "if you're going to stay with me," and then he looks as if he's been hit by a wave of nausea at the idea she might leave. "You need to know the truth. It's easier if you just see it."

"But your memories are what makes you… Giving someone else that power over you..." She looks solemn. "That book warned against the overuse of Legilimency; it warned about the dangers of rifling through someone's brain without being skilled-"

"You're brilliant," he says, quickly. "The most brilliant witch I've ever met, and I trust you. I trust you to do it properly, and I trust you not to abuse the offer - to know your limits, and to know mine too."

"It's too much," she argues. "What if I get it wrong? If I slip, and if I see something you wanted to keep private-"

"You won't," he says, and then he flashes her a quick grin. "Most of it you already know," he says, "and the rest is pretty boring."

She knows that isn't true - she knows what it's taken for him to make such an offer. His usually impassive dark eyes are expressive, his face imploring, and eventually, she nods her agreement. "We can try."

"Good," he says, his eyes briefly closing, and he reaches for her hand, giving it a tight squeeze. "You know I'm a bit fucked up, right?" He swallows hard, and when he opens his eyes again, she can see unshed tears lining his eyes.

"I wouldn't have you any other way," she says, pulling his head to hers.

"That's a relief," he says, with a tight smile. "Else you might see something and pack your bags anyway."

" it that bad? You...and this woman?" She almost spits the word, her chest tightening again at the thought of him being with another.

He shoots her a sad smile. "I don't think what you're going to see is anywhere near what you've imagined." And then he looks downcast. "But…there's a lot of stuff that..." He trails off, and then he shakes himself and gives her a tight smile. "This is why we're doing this, right? So I don't have to put it into words." He jumps on the bed then, a sudden spring in his step. "Come on, love, get your wand and do your worst."

She slides her wand out of her sleeve, and she sees the slight tremor in his hand as he sits cross-legged on the bed. You've got two choices, Lil, she thinks. You either hope that this is nothing - like you and Potter - and you can carry on as you were before, or you need to decide that whatever happened is long in the past, and a man who is willing to let you rummage in his head to keep hold of you…

"Before I get too scared, love," he says, breaking her concentration. He gives her a weak smile and pats the bed before him. "I thought we'd sit somewhere soft in case I accidentally pull my shields down without meaning." He looks a little ashamed. "Like earlier. I didn't mean to-"

"Stop apologising," she says, moving to sit in front of him. She sits there for a moment, her wand twirling between her hands, and she can see that he's becoming increasingly tense. Without thinking, she reaches up and kisses him.

He's hesitant to respond, but as she kisses him more insistently, he reacts, his arms cradling her to him. She smiles when she pulls away, satisfied that he's calmed, and then, one hand braced against his chest, she holds her wand up in front of his eyes, and whispers the spell. "Legilimens!"

She's never actively hunted for a memory before; her efforts until now have been focused on trying to glimpse a thought at the forefront of someone's mind, and although she's read the chapters on Occlumency that Severus is studying as well as her own chapters on Legilimency, neither of them prepare her for the cavern of swirling thoughts that she finds herself wrapped in. There's wisps of smoke, of various colours, all swirling and pulsing through the air - some solidify into full lines, and some are loosely entwined with others, and many of them are knotted tightly together.

She takes a deep breath and remembers the breathing exercise that's listed in the front of the book, and tries to stop overthinking the process. She focuses on the fact that Severus wants her to understand him, so he'll be pushing key memories to the fore, and when she looks back at the confusing swirl, she can see one that's blinking and flashing and practically screaming for her attention. She reaches for it, and as she grabs at it, it wraps around her, cocooning her, and she almost gasps when she's pulled into a firm vision.

"You've got it, love," she hears him whisper, as the images flit across their minds together.

"What's Malfoy doing sending you a parcel so soon after Christmas, Snape?" Avery asks, his expression clouded. "Are you sure you're not bending over for him?"

"Get fucked, Ave," he spits.

The venom takes her by surprise; she didn't expect his emotions to be carried over, but when she pauses and thinks, it makes sense - what are memories, but a flurry of colour and sound and emotion?

"That's what he's saying," Rosier lazily chips in from the corner of the common room. "You know the rumours about Malfoy. Why else would he be sending you expensive parcels-"

"It's my birthday, you dunderheads."

"What are you? Fifth year? Sixteen?"

"Yes," he says.

"Happy Birthday, Snape," Rosier drawls.


But he's quickly distracted, and she can feel his surprise - and then his horror - as the parcel is taken from him.

"Come on, lads," he protests.

"Jazz mag, jazz mag, jazz mag," Avery says, pulling the contents of the box apart. "Snape, do you do anything but wank?"

"Ave, for fuck's sake-"

"Hey," says Mulciber, leaning in and pulling out a calling card, and then showing it to Avery. "This is for Discrete Knights."

"What's that then?"

"The knocking shop down Knockturn," Rosier says, with a laugh. "Looks like he's sick of sending you jazz mags, Snape."

"Let me see," Avery says, grabbing the card and twisting it over in his hands, his mouth gaping when he reads the back. "He's put money on an account, Sev."

"Sev is it now?" he says, bitterly.

"You've got enough money here for two whores," he says, excitedly. "I could go with you. What do you think?"

"Sounds like a bloody marvellous idea to me," Mulciber says. "I'm sick of the pair of you playing with yourselves behind your curtains every night. I've told you before, curtains are not walls."

Both boys look embarrassed, and Rosier's laugh across the common room is loud. "Poor Mulc, shacked up with two horny dogs without a bitch in sight. Keep your own curtains closed, eh? Just in case the ever enigmatic Malfoy has turned this one here."

And she feels it then - the swirl of shame and anger, all set against a rumbling background of desire.

The memory pulses, and fades, and then she's stood with the two youths by the entrance to Discrete Knights. It's innocuous - there's no sign, and the windows and doors are all painted in a shade of dark purple, and covered with thin metal grills. Now that she's viewing it in Severus' memory, she can remember going past it herself, but she hadn't given it a second glance, and would never have guessed what sort of establishment it was.

"Go on then," Avery says, pushing him forward. "It's your name on the account."

The next flashes of memory move faster, as if affected by time, or if he's tried desperately to block them - and there's a woman, and a thick ledger, and her nails are long and brightly painted, and she licks her fingers as she turns the pages, and then she makes marks with her quill, and she sends both of the boys through a beaded curtain.

Avery looks excited, and disappears through one door, and then she sees Severus turn to the line of girls, and he looks awkward and terrified as he points one out, and as they move into the room, she's almost overwhelmed by the desire to be sick. To her surprise, she realises it isn't her urge; it's his. 

The memory jolts again, and he's crouched in the corner of a room, bent over a bin and throwing up.

"If you see Mary," the woman is saying to him, "she'll refund you."

"I don't want to come back," he says, and then he winces as she looks offended. "It's not you. You're very...nice."

She laughs. "It's no skin off my nose," she tells him. "Easiest galleons I've made all day." She eyes him curiously. "Birthday?" 

When he nods, she laughs again.

"Hogwarts students," she says, knowingly. "Slytherin?"

He nods.

If she can guess the house, how often does this happen?

"You Purebloods are all the same," she sniffs. "It's not a badge of shame, virginity. It's not something you need to get rid of the moment you turn sixteen."

And then it swirls. There's a flash of him and Lily, a flash of them holding hands awkwardly whilst watching Quidditch - and she remembers this herself. He isn't to know, but she'd intended to slide her hand into the pocket of her robes, but she'd missed, and slipped her hand into his, and to her shock, he'd accepted it and hadn't pulled away.

They'd sat there for over an hour, with neither of them daring to move - not daring to pull their hands apart to clap, reluctant even to let go when the match was over, but never mentioned by either of them afterwards. It's as odd seeing it from his perspective, and bizarre to feel him as confused by the situation as she was - but there's something else mixed in with his uncertainty; cautious happiness.

And then he's back at Discrete Knights, in a different small room, with a different woman - and she's peering at him in surprise.

"You one of those talkers then?"

"A talker?"

"Some people get off on that," she says, matter-of-factly. She passes him a card. "It's cheaper to Floo if you don't want to be touched and you just want to talk dirty."

And there's that flicker of shame again.

"I'm just waiting for my mate," he says, awkwardly.

"'s even cheaper to wait outside." And then she gives him a knowing smile. "You don't want him to know you're not shagging as well, is that it?"

He nods, looking as if he wants to be anywhere but in this tiny room.

"Well, you could at least make some noises," she says, putting her knee on the bed and bouncing it until the springs squeak. "Doesn't do any good for my reputation out there if it doesn't sound like you're having a good time."

The scene pulses again, and this time, the memory is a fleeting swirl - they're in the Slytherin dormitories, and Avery is leaning into Severus' four poster bed.

"Ave, give it a rest, will you?"

"I'm just saying you could ask."

"Isn't twice enough?"

Avery gives him a weird look. "Twice in an afternoon, maybe. ...I could go every week. Every day!"

"Do us all a favour, and ask Malfoy, Snape," Mulciber shouts across the room. "He won't do it for Ave here, but he'll do it for you. He can afford it."

"Enough," he suddenly shouts, and she retreats. He lies back on the bed, and there's sweat on his brow, and he's panting heavily.


"I'm ok," he says, resting his forearm across his head, and looking the complete opposite. "I just… It's intense." He gives her a curious look. "Well?"

She isn't quite sure what the meaning of all these scenes are, and she's terrified that when she breaks back into his mind, she's going to see him finally hooking up with a prostitute - worse, choosing to pay for sex whilst he's meant to be seeing her - but she trusts that he must have reason for showing her these oddly embarrassing moments.

"Well," she carefully ventures, "I know now why you wouldn't show me what Lucius Malfoy sent you for your birthday."

He gives a lopsided smile. "I did!"

She frowns, and then it dawns on her. "...that magazine under your mattress at your mum and dad's."

"Yeah, it was in the box," he says. "That was the best one - my favourite."

"I could tell."

He laughs again, and reaches for her hand. "Let me have a glass of water, and we'll go again, yeah?"

The next memory moves faster, and is choppier - he's quite a bit older, and he's at Malfoy Manor, that much she can determine, but there's so many faces, and the memory is messy; all loud music, strobing lights, and people shouting. He's drinking too much, and she can feel his actions becoming looser as the alcohol takes effect.

And then the scene jumps, and he's no longer at the main party, but in one of the bedrooms.

"I was surprised you stayed behind," Narcissa says, sitting herself on the bed next to him, and using his shoulder to steady herself whilst she tugged her high heels off. "These shoes, honestly."

"They looked good," he says, and she can hear the inebriation in his voice.

"Well," Narcissa says, a radiant smile covering her face, "if you think I looked good, that makes the pinched toes and the sore heels worth it."

"Let me see," he says, patting his knee and she obediently puts her feet in his lap, and groans as he starts to slowly massage them.

"You've got clever hands," she says. And then her eyes narrow slightly, and she puts her hand under his chin. "You weren't interested tonight, then?"


She can feel his desire - she can feel how beautiful he finds Narcissa, there's a thundering of attraction, of excitement.

And then Narcissa touches his lips with her thumb.

She can feel the urge he has to kiss the digit pressing at his mouth.

"The boys," Narcissa explains. "They've all gone to Knockturn. Apart from you."

And then he freezes; she can feel it, as if he's been plunged into ice, and from the look on Narcissa's face, she feels it too.

"Not your thing?" she whispers, and then she kisses him. It's the barest of touches - her lips grazing Severus'. The ice is fighting with heat, with a flame that's burning from the soles of his feet, and up his legs, and churning in his chest.


"Your account is well used."

He ducks his head, and lets go of her feet, straightening himself. "I might head home-"

"No," she says, stopping him from standing. "You're not using it, we know. Who is? ...Mulciber? Avery? Rosier?"

He gives the tightest of nods. "Ave. do you know?"

"The girls told Madam Mary that two Hogwarts students keep visiting, and one of them is...enthusiastic. The other, apparently, just sits quietly and waits until the clock ticks down. Madam Mary spoke to Lucius because she was concerned that he would find out, and believe that she was complicit - taking advantage of his financial generosity. My fiancé is a valued contributor to her establishment, shall we say."

Lily can feel the unease that's swirling in him, and the relief that his secret is out.

"Is he mad with me?"

And Narcissa laughs - it's a high, tinkling, genuine laugh - and she cradles his thin face in her hand. "No, not at all," she says. "It was meant to be a source of joy for you; not a chore. You must've been frightfully bored."


There's such a swirl of mixed emotions that she can't untangle them all - there's guilt and awkwardness, and blessed relief that Narcissa's touching him like this.

"But I want to know why," she says, touching her lips to his again. "Lucius asked if you were gay, because there's other establishments that cater for-"

"I'm not gay," he mumbles - and again, there's a swirl of emotions.

They'd whispered in hushed tones about fancying men and women when they were best friends instead of lovers, so the topic isn't new to her - but she's taken by surprise at the strength of the swirl of confusion and anger that envelopes him. That's not how she remembers him reacting to their discussions.

"They all think I'm gay," he spits, bitterly. "They all think… Lucius. They think that's why he favours me."

"He favours you because he likes you. Because I like you. Because you're a talented and powerful wizard who is going to be wonderfully important in our world."

He blushes under her praise. "...thanks."

"Now, who says you're gay?"

"Ave. Mulc. Rosier. Black-"

"Which Black?"

"Both of them! And Potter, Lupin, Macnair, Pettigrew, Crouch." The names tumble from him, until she presses her finger against his lips. "The Quidditch changing room is hell," he says, mumbling against her finger, "they saw, they saw when…"

"They're stupid boys," she interrupts, harshly, kissing him again. "Any woman can see that you're not gay," she says, running her tongue against his. "You wouldn't be so into me doing this, if you were."

As if there's a point to prove, he turns, and captures her in a long kiss, taking more of the initiative as he explores the taste of her. "I am into this. I fancy women."

"But you draw the line at the pretty painted whores in Knockturn?"

He breaks off the kiss then, his ears flushing, and he scratches the back of his neck. "It's pathetic. I'm pathetic."

She raises an eyebrow. "I am sure you're not."

"'ll laugh."

"I promise I won't."

"...I wanted my first time to be with someone who cared about me. Someone who actually wanted to be with me and not just because they were getting paid." He almost whispers it, and he looks ashamed, as if the admission somehow weakens him - but Narcissa's face fills with delight.

She starts to slide her dress from her shoulders, and straddles his lap whilst her fingers make light work of discarding her bra.


She takes his hands, and places them on her now exposed breasts, and he leans his head back, as if he's drowning in bliss. Lily can feel his excitement and pleasure thundering through the memory.

"I care about you, Severus." They sit together like this for a while, his hands and lips exploring her naked skin, and then she reaches down to touch him, and he stills. "It's okay," she whispers, running her fingers up and down his torso, pulling at the buttons on his shirt, and then returning her attention once more to his tented trousers. "Trust me."


"I promise to make it special for you," she says, kissing him again, but he jerks out of reach.

"I'm not..." he starts, and he encircles her wrists with his hands to stop her, holding her just out of reach. 

Narcissa's gaze hardens, instantly switching from heat to irritation, and he sighs. 

"I'm not a virgin. ...I've already done it."

"And you don't want to do it again?" She eyes him curiously, the pieces falling into place. "Severus...are you still with this witch?"

"...I think so."

She looks dubious. "You think so?"

"We're not exactly dating."

"But you're having sex?"

"It's complicated," he says.

There's the first real pulse of guilt now, and she can feel him trying to shake it away.

He looks troubled. "I don't think I should be doing this."

"Not if you have a girlfriend," she agrees. "You should find out. Ask her."

He scowls, and then she taps his lips with her finger.

"Learn to communicate, Severus."

The guilt is growing inside of him.

He shakes his head. "It's not just me, is it! What about you? What about Malf?"

"Lucius would be delighted," she says, giving him a tight smile. "He knows I want you. And I know you know that. And knowing Lucius the way I do, he'll want to watch."

He knows his voice has an odd pitch to it when he speaks. "Malf wants to watch?"

"It's the power," she says, "being in control." At his confusion, she pauses for a moment, as if considering something. "He gets off on it. He likes to instruct. I might be having sex with someone else, but it's Lucius who is making it happen. It's Lucius who decides what happens next."

Then there's another swirl - a pulse of anxiety, of awkwardness, of desire and of shame - and there's the briefest flash of something she's never seen before; as if he's outside and... but before she can follow that thread, it's yanked away.

"Don't look like that," Narcissa laughs, kissing him on his lips and straightening her dress. "Sex isn't so serious. It's meant to be fun." She kisses him again. "We'll put this on pause," she says, "and if things change in the future, you know where to find me." And then she gives him a wicked smile. "And Lucius too, if you get over being shy."

"Narcissa Malfoy."

He nods. "Black back then."

"I thought…" She runs her hand through his hair, pulling his forehead to rest on her shoulder. "I thought you'd slept with someone."

"I still shouldn't have done it," he says, his fingers awkwardly twisting together. "I was drunk, and we - I mean, us - we were-"

"We were dodging around each other, not sure if we were friends or lovers-"

"-and trying to be both, but it felt like we were neither," he finishes. He reaches for her hand, tangling his fingers with hers, in the way that he knows they both find so reassuring. "I could never work out what you wanted from me." He looks almost shy when he admits it. "When you'd knock at the door, I didn't know how the day was going to go. Whether you'd just want to talk about music or school or whatever Tuney had been up to, or whether you wanted me to kiss you or touch you or…"

"I wanted you," she says, "I kept waiting for you to do something, but you never initiated anything. I thought you weren't interested - I thought that you only slept with me because I kept pestering… Merlin, Severus, I was practically begging you."

He looks stunned. "I was always interested! I thought you…" He trails off. "I never knew," he says, "never knew that you wanted me at all until that day in the Great Hall."

She pulls him away from her shoulder, looking him in the eye, surprise etched across her features. "How could you not know? We'd been sleeping together for months by then."

He gives an awkward shrug. "I thought I was just safe practice," he mumbles. "Getting off with your ugly friend when you were horny so you knew what to do when a real boyfriend came along."

"Sev, how could you think that?"

"I have this really cool thing," he says, a hint of mischief in his voice. "I don't know if you've ever heard of it, but it's called a mirror."

"You are an absolute idiot," she says, pressing her lips to his. "It's a pity you didn't take Narcissa's advice."

"What? Fuck her in front of Lucius?"

"No, idiot," she says, kissing him again. "Learnt to communicate."

"I thought that was what we were doing now," he says, rolling her over on the bed.

It takes him by surprise when she asks - she brings him to the brink first, her small hand gripping his cock tightly, and then she whispers in his ear. "Would you now?"

"Right now I'd do anything," he groans, his hands helplessly twisting in the sheets, and his hips pushing upwards.

"That's not what I asked. Would you fuck Narcissa with Lucius watching?" she repeats, her hand twisting around him, causing him to writhe beneath her. "Be honest."

"I'd fuck Narcissa," he admits, groaning loudly when she rewards his honesty with a slide of her hand, "but I don't want another bloke there."

"Not even Lucius? You used to say-"

He wraps his hand around hers, and forces her to move faster. "I know what I used to say," he gasps, "but I was just a stupid kid back then."

His grip is bruising over hers, and she watches him as he tenses, feet first and then the rest of his body, and then he reaches for his wand, casts a vanishing spell and he lies back, sated, his eyes closed and a contented smirk on his face.

She's staring at him when he wakes, and he gives an embarrassed laugh.


"I'm used to you falling asleep after," she says, dropping a kiss on his lips, and then letting herself be pulled over his warm body, settling into his embrace.

"I'm not that bad. I was just a bit worn out from last night, that's all," he says, defensively. "Not all of us curled up for a snooze in Sluggy's study." He gives her a curious look.


"He fancies you, you know."


"He does," he says, his hand stroking down her back. "He said it to Jigger. He said if he was fifty years younger…" Severus sniffs. "I mean, it's only Sluggy, and I think he's pretty decent, but-"

"-you wouldn't go falling asleep in his study."

"Mmm. I don't want you being taken advantage of." He cups her cheek with his hand, and then kisses her firmly, surprised when she doesn't respond in kind when his tongue brushes against her lips, causing him to pull away. "What's wrong?'re not still thinking about Narcissa, are you?"

"Can I see more?"

"More of what?"

"Your memories."

"That's all I've done with someone else when we were together. Sort of together," he clarifies, briskly.

"You've done something with Lucius," she guesses, and she feels him tense beneath her. " said, 'they saw'. I want to know what they saw."

She can feel his heart thundering in his chest, and he swallows several times, as if he's lost the ability to speak. "It's irrelevant."

"It means something."

"It doesn't."

"I remember you saying that you didn't fancy blokes, but you'd make an exception for Malfoy. And now you're not interested at all, not even to shag Narcissa?" She eyes him critically. "I know how you feel about her. I could feel it too, Sev, in that memory."

"I… She's just kind to me, that's all. Not many people are."

"So's Lucius."

"It doesn't mean… I was just a confused kid when I said that stuff, like what you said about Alice. It meant nothing."

"Well," she says, mischievously, "I still would. Alice is beautiful."

"I thought doing this would answer your questions, not create more."

"Please, Sev," she urges. "I want to understand."

He looks a little sickened as he sits upright. "It was before me and you did anything. Weeks before we got together."


"I went to a party at his. Late January, or February or something, it was. ...but there's not just that, there's more to it..." He looks away, and then back at her. "I don't know."

"Please, Sev."

"It'll change how you see me-"

"It won't. I love you, Severus. I've loved you for years," she says, kissing him. They lie like that for an age, kissing and caressing and stroking, and she can see that he's mulling it all over. Finally, he pulls away from her touch, and briskly nods his consent. Before he can change his mind, she points her wand directly at him.

She's not surprised when Malfoy Manor spirals into view, but this time, Severus is a little younger, and far more inebriated. The edges of the memory are hazy, as if she's looking through a kaleidoscope, but there's plenty of witches and wizards shaking his hand, and kissing his cheek and clapping him on the back - and the party seems to be in recognition of something that he's done, or is going to do.

She can hear a faint murmuring behind Severus; Lucius' voice, she realises, pointing out each and every influential person, and then Lucius' hand keeps reaching out and replenishing the rapidly disappearing alcohol in Severus' glass.

"Severus!" Narcissa bounds over, and throws her arms around his neck.

There's a thrill running through him at Narcissa's appearance, and Lily can feel him gazing at her body appreciatively. Lily almost gasps aloud when she feels a surge of mischief build in him.

Narcissa kisses him on the cheek, but he cheekily twists his face so their lips meet instead.

"Really, Cissy," drawls Lucius, but his voice doesn't sound disapproving, and he seems to be watching on as Narcissa and Severus kiss, which goes on for far longer than is respectable in polite company.

Lily can feel Severus' excitement and pleasure, and she can feel him warring with himself about where to place his hands, whether to dare to slide them up to the underside of Narcissa's breasts or down to the top of her bum, or whether to leave them on her waist.

And then she can feel Lucius pressing tightly behind Severus as Severus kisses Narcissa, and Lucius is warm and hot and hard and the mixture of the two people is confusing to him.

"Such debauchery in public." Lucius gives a throaty laugh. "You could at least wait until the after party, when the plebs have departed."

The memory swirls, and now, it's even more blurry - even more confusing, and difficult to follow Severus' heightened thoughts; he's excited and drunk and ridiculously happy.

"Still standing?" Lucius laughs, resting his hand on Severus' shoulder as they look out over the grounds. It's dark out here, and the rest of the party is still continuing inside, and the dull throb of the music thumps in the background.

"Feel a bit weird," he admits. It's an understatement; his vision is flickering at the edges.

"You didn't take any of Nott's potions, did you?" Lucius sounds disapproving. "He gets them from his sister, and she can't brew like you. Merlin knows what she puts in them."


"Just alcohol?"


"You're not going to make it to the end of the night," Lucius observes, a hint of disapproval in his tone.

"I'm okay."

He's not. Lily can tell he's not.

"Good," Lucius says, and then he twists him in his arms, and he brushes his lips. He's not like Narcissa - not soft and gentle, but firm and demanding, and his tongue wrestles against Severus', his light stubble scraping across Severus' chin.

She can feel his knees weaken, and his mind is a haze of emotions, but they're all weirdly blunted by the alcohol, all the doubts and insecurities overridden by the excitement and desire thundering through him.

"Malf," he says, weakly, pressing his hand against Lucius' firm chest.

"I wanted to give you a birthday present."

"You already gave me a present."

"Are you enjoying it?"

He doesn't answer; he doesn't want to tell Malfoy that Avery is the one who has been enjoying the attentions of the witches that Lucius has been paying for - but he's also unsure as to whether Lucius is even talking about that, or if he's talking about the way he's touching him now, the way Lucius' fingers are drawing down the zip on Severus' trousers.

"Not enjoying it? Want me to stop?" Lucius asks, just as he slips his hand through the gap, sliding beneath the cloth of Severus' underwear, and wrapping his large hand around Severus' rapidly hardening cock.


It's difficult to make sense of the rest of it - the alcohol interferes with the edge of the memories, and she can't untangle his excitement and pleasure and arousal from his fear and shame.

"Ohhh, fuck!" Severus makes the same cry again a few minutes later, and Lucius laughs, and withdraws his hand.

"So quick, so eager," he says, kissing Severus, and then zipping Severus' trousers back up and patting the younger man right on his crotch, his hand lingering there as he kisses him.

The shame is stronger now, an odd mixture of both contentment and regret, and she notes that Severus hasn't opened his eyes at any point, and then she feels his blood start to throb as his excitement starts to build once more.

"Good boy," Lucius says, as Severus starts to harden again beneath the older man's gentle ministrations. "I think you're going to be a valuable asset. You just need a bit more stamina." He bites at Severus' earlobe, and then whispers. "Cissy wants to fuck you."

Lily feels Severus becoming even more excited at this prospect.

Severus' hips thrust against Malfoy's hand. "I'd be no good," he whispers. "Not compared to you."

"You're a quick study at everything else," Lucius murmurs. "If those whores you're fucking aren't helping, I can show you-"

But before Lucius can finish his statement, there's a voice, and Lucius rapidly spins away from Severus, peering out over the flowerbed as if he didn't know Severus was also outside, leaving Severus fumbling awkwardly, trying to cover his obvious erection.

"We're off now, Malfoy," Rosier says, flanked by Avery and Mulciber. "You coming, Snape?"

And then there's a loud snigger from Mulciber.

The emotion this time is loud, screaming, pulsating over the alcohol: they saw they saw they saw they saw they saw they saw they saw they saw they saw.

Chapter Text

She sits back, surprise etched on her face, and he grabs the hand that's holding her wand.

"Again," he urges.

"Sev, I-"

"If you've seen this much, you need to see it all," he says, and he forces her wand back into position. "Do it!"

She looks at his distraught expression, and then, hating herself for asking this of him in the first place, she casts. "Legilimens!"

He's lying on his bed in the Slytherin dormitory, and the door's open, allowing him to hear the snatches of conversation floating up from the common room.

"Yeah, I know that, Ave, but does he actually fuck any of them?"

"How would I know? He goes in one room and I go in the other; we're not doing it together."

There's a muffled response, and then a laugh, and then Avery speaks again. "Seriously, leave off him, hey?"

She can feel a hint of hope in Severus - that he's being defended by his friend.

"...if you piss him off too much, he'll stop taking me."

She can't hear anymore, as Severus rolls onto his back, pulls his pillow over his head and yells into it in frustration.

The memory shifts, but she doesn't recognise the room at first - but the Slytherin banners and scarves make it clear that it's the changing room that he'd complained about to Narcissa in a later memory. He's in a shower cubicle, naked, and his towel is slung over the curtain rail.

"Leave off," he shouts, as he sees his towel being grabbed out of his reach. Chasing after it would leave him to walk through the changing rooms naked, but to her surprise, he's got his wand tied up in his hair instead of in the locker with his other belongings.

She feels his sudden sense of despair - a feeling of having been through this before.

He pulls his wand out of his hair, and casts, summoning the towel back to him. He's obviously learnt from a previous occasion.

"No magic in the changing room, Snape," Mulciber shouts. "You know the rules."

"Get fucked, Mulc," he snaps, wrapping the towel around him, snatching the shower curtain open, and stalking over to his locker.

"Heard that's what you did at Malfoy's," Mulciber immediately retorts.

"We all heard it!" laughs Rosier.

She can feel the rage burning inside him - it's more intense than any anger she's ever felt in herself - as if there's a prickling surging up and down his skin, as if he's on the verge of doing something he'll regret.

And then he grabs his clothes from the locker, and storms back towards the showers, intent on changing in peace.

It shifts again; on more familiar ground this time - the library. Sirius Black sits down on the opposite side of the table in what Lily recognises as the quietest - and consequently Severus' favourite - corner, and carefully takes his books out of his bag.

"What do you want?" Severus hisses, glancing over at Pince who is patrolling between the desks, hunting for miscreants to throw out. "There's a whole library for you to sit at."

"It's not a crime for me to sit here, Snivellus," he says, making a great show of uncapping his ink and selecting a quill.

She can feel the concentration slipping away from Severus; he'd been engrossed in the book before him, but now he's reading the same sentence over and over.

"Heard some good stories about you."

"Sod off, Black."

"Don't you want to hear them? I thought libraries were good places for stories."

"They're good places for being silent," Severus hisses, glancing again at the ever omniscient Pince - terrified that she'll come over and throw them both out.

Black leans across the table. "I can whisper them."

"I'm not interested in your stories."

"...heard you sucked Malfoy off."

That same flush of anger roars in his chest, and she can almost feel the blood thundering around his head.

His voice is even when he eventually answers. "Heard wrong then, didn't you?"

"Did I?"

There's a prolonged silence, and when Severus glances up, he wishes he hadn't - Black looks smug, and amused, and confident, his arm stretched across the back of his chair. Black glances over at Pince, and as her back is turned, he mimes the act of giving oral sex, his fist pumping in the air and his tongue thrusting obscenely against the inside of his cheek.

"Just fuck off, Black."

"You need your filthy mouth washing out," Black suddenly hisses, leaning menacingly across the table. "Dirty little boy, pathetic cocksucking-"

Severus grabs his books, his cheeks burning, and stalks out of the library, Black's laughter loud and hearty behind him.

The memory shifts again - and the next scenes move rapidly. She tries to linger, but it's as if he's forcing her through them, pushing her past these moments, and not permitting her to dawdle. It doesn't matter - she's already got a version of them in her brain, but she was keen to see how he reacted to the experiences she remembers of their Easter break in Cokeworth - of her propositioning him, of sharing that magazine, of him exploring her body, and her exploring his - and for the first time, she feels a peace sliding across him; no anger, no shame, no confusion - just acceptance and pleasure and happiness - and she's disappointed when the memories jolt back to Hogwarts.

She recognises this one too - after OWL exams, and by the lake. He's minding his own business when Potter and Black set on him, and again, she finds his rage and his anger oddly compelling, even though the end result of his blinding fury is that his spells are ineffectual and poorly timed.

She gasps at how his feelings surge - and at the point that she sees herself walking over, he's livid but powerless. She watches herself arguing with Potter, and then she feels it - shame, embarrassment, disgust.

"Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you," Potter says, and then she sees her own fury from Severus' perspective; sees her unleash the spell with such vitriol, it knocks Potter backwards into Black, and three birds flutter out of a nearby tree. Both boys scramble for their wands - but her actions have changed something in Severus. Hope.

"Eyes up," Lupin says, intervening quickly. "McGonagall's on her way."

Potter mutters the countercurse to release Severus, and she feels the crunch in his bones as he falls to the ground, just as Professor McGonagall rounds the corner.

"What's going on here?"

"Nothing, professor," the large group choruses, and the older witch eyes them all with deep suspicion.

"Then there's no reason to be out here," she determines, pointing back towards the castle. "All of you, inside."

Most of the students obediently file back to the castle, but Severus takes his time, still collecting himself after his dramatic fall to earth. Black and Potter eye him with dislike as he rubs his sore elbow.

"What are you looking at?" Severus hisses, when he glances up and sees them peering at him.

Potter is at his side immediately, and kicks Severus hard in the ribs, causing him to drop back to the floor. "Evans might've saved you this time, but you'll keep," mutters Potter.

"You and your smart mouth," Black adds.

"You are a student at this school, are you not, Mr Black? Then why are you standing around making light conversation, and not making your way up to the castle? And that includes you as well, Mr Potter," McGonagall snaps, turning a fraction too late to have seen the blow. "And Mr Snape, stop laying around on the floor - you've scattered papers everywhere."

She feels it again then, that surge of righteous anger.

He kneels without comment and gathers the papers that blew out of his satchel when he was violently flung upside down. He looks up, and she follows his gaze - and she can see herself walking into the castle with her friends, and then she disappears through the door.

She'd heard about this moment from the others in the common room, but she didn't really know the truth of what had happened, as Severus would never speak of it. She watches as Severus glances down the path, his eyes landing on McGonagall and then, only a few feet away from him, he sees Potter and Pettigrew whispering to each other, and then he sees Black standing back over him.

"Say what you want about Snivellus, but he knows his proper place when there's Purebloods about," Black mocks. "On his knees."

"Inside, Mr Black!" McGonagall shouts from further up the path, watching the pair from a distance. "And you, Mr Snape - back to the dungeons. I'm waiting."

But she wasn't. Pettigrew had run up to her, and was gesticulating wildly, and McGonagall's attention was drawn to the window of the Astronomy Tower - and Potter was back.

"You got lucky," Potter mutters, his wand trained on Severus. "Two damsels have saved you," he laughs. "Evans and McGonagall. Big macho man, aren't you? Saved by girls."

"Female solidarity with Sniv here," Black laughs. "Sisters in it together."

"Fuck off, Black!"

"Hit a nerve, Pads," Potter says, with a leering grin. "Let's have a look and see if you're right, shall we?"

"Fuck your mother, Potter."

She can feel the grim satisfaction as the words leave his mouth. It's fleeting, as what little pleasure he gained from his comment is almost immediately doused by Potter's actions. 

Potter swings his wand, and before Severus can block the spell, all of the fastenings on his clothes slide open, and the seams split. He forlornly reaches to grab a piece of material - any material - but then Black vanishes the lot, and Severus desperately cups his manhood. His anger is incandescent, but fear and mortification and shame have him locked to the spot. 

She can feel his unease that he's holding his wand in his hand, and his hands are covering his privates - it's entirely too close for comfort, and he hasn't forgotten those horror stories that were shared in the Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons in third year.

Potter and Black have moved backwards a few steps, as if disassociating themselves from being the perpetrators of the attack. Black's laughter is loud, but something in Potter's expression has changed as he takes in the scars on Severus' body. Black elbows him, and Potter belatedly joins in the laughter - although she notes that it's not as hearty as usual, but it's enough for a group of students who are entering the castle to turn back and stare, and then the laughter starts in earnest.

Severus awkwardly manoeuvres himself over to his satchel, and loops it over his shoulder, resting the largest part of the bag over his crotch.

She can feel his relief that his satchel had remained untouched, and then the sickening feeling in his stomach as he realises that he has a wide audience.

He glances down, and starts to shuffle his way towards the castle, intent on keeping his eyes focused on the path, determined not to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing how much this has bothered him - and then he makes the mistake of looking up as he reaches Potter, who can't disguise the horror in his expression at the livid scars that litter Severus' skin.

The shame rages in Severus - it burns in his chest, and he draws himself to his full height. "I don't need your pity, Potter," he spits, and then he lifts his head, and marches towards the castle, his chin in the air.

She can feel his rage getting hotter as he marches through the castle, his resentment building as his bare feet slap loudly against cool stone as he hurries into the dungeons.

Then, the scenes flash as quickly again as they had before - memories of that summer in Cokeworth, of warm ale and stolen cigarettes, and them learning even more about each other's bodies and lying on the grass by the river, and him grappling with Tobias - screaming and shouting and ripped collars and flailing limbs.

There's other mixed feelings tangled up; weird dreams and daydreams and wet dreams about Narcissa and Lucius and Death Eaters, and confusing emotions of power and anger and fear. There's something about a howling animal - Lupin, she assumes - and there's a scrambled vision about a dying dog - but he doesn't pause to let her understand it properly; she can see his bloodied hands on the animal, but she can't see if he's tending to it, or slaughtering it, and it doesn't feel like a linear memory, but an old one, or perhaps a dream. 

She's semi-relieved that he's somehow pulling her past it, her Legilimency not strong enough to remain where he doesn't wish her to linger.

And then the memories jolt violently; it's not the summer holidays, it's long past autumn - long past Christmas, even. Going by his older appearance, it's past his encounter with Narcissa, and past Lily's declaration of their relationship in the Great Hall. The memory is fragmented and there's an odd quality to it. It's as if he's been drinking, that weird wobble is back at the edges, but he's a student roaming around Hogsmeade, so he can't have been inebriated - not to the extent that he was at Malfoy Manor - and then she wonders if the memory is somehow damaged by him examining it retrospectively.

"Stop," he gasps, before she can explore the scene further, and he rolls away from her on the bed. "It's Black in that, when I…"

"Sev, I don't mind-"

"You already know I slashed him up," he says, bitterly. "Black showed you his scars. Showed you what I left him with."

"Yes, but-"

"Then go past it," he mutters. "You don't need to see it."

And she's confused at his sudden censorship after everything else that he's shared. She's simultaneously disappointed and a little scared - there's an odd relief running through her; a relief that she won't have to witness Black being injured at the wand of her lover, a relief that she won't have to feel the surge of guilt inside her if she can't muster up the appropriate horror and sympathy she knows that the outside world would expect of her on witnessing such a scene - but it's unsettled by a burning curiosity in the back of her mind; of wanting to see Severus in control, of wanting to see the teenage boy that Black was so fond of emasculating and humiliating gaining the upper hand and enacting his sickening revenge.

"Go past it, love," he urges. "Trust me."

She obediently holds her wand back out again. "Legilimens."

He's in a boys' bathroom; she doesn't recognise it, but it's not difficult to determine - it's almost the same in size and shape as the ones she'd used for years - and he's twisted the taps to fill a pool sized bath.

He's elated - exhilarated; excited.

He's quick to strip off his bloodied clothes, and he shoves them into a canvas bag that she's never seen before. He paces for a moment, watching as the water reaches the right level.

And then she feels it - the panic rising in him, keeping pace with the bubbling water.

At that moment, just as it threatens to become overwhelming, he dives into the pool, parting the bubbles in a smooth entry - lean, and graceful, and serene - and then he emerges at the other end, gasping for breath and smoothing his wet hair out of his eyes. There's a thin trail of scarlet in his wake; the blood of Black contaminating the fresh water.

Time jerks slightly - now he's washed and fresh and calm, and he sits on the edge of the pool, a towel wrapped around his waist and his feet dangling in the water. He lifts his wand, drawing the canvas bag to him, and he turns it over in his hands for a minute.

Then, decision made, he throws it in the air and casts again, suspending its descent and holding it fast in mid-air. He whips his wand, and a flame shoots from the end, catching the bag on fire. It - and its incriminating contents - burns quickly, the flames climbing through the air, and he can feel the heat emanating from it. When he's convinced that there's nothing left to tie him to the attack, he lifts the suspension on the burning bag, and gravity draws the ball of fire underwater where it's immediately doused. He lifts his feet out of the large bath and pulls the plug, and watches as every trace of his deviance swirls away.

All is calm.

Then the memory jolts again, and he's in Dumbledore's office - Dumbledore, and Severus, and McGonagall - and McGonagall's pacing, holding a letter aloft. She looks pale, and drawn, and as if she hasn't slept in days.

"The aim would be to resolve this within these walls," Dumbledore says, quietly. "This has been brewing for a while, I fear."

"I too wish it were possible, but you simply cannot sweep this aside, Dumbledore."

"I have spoken to Mr Black, and he is of the opinion that this was merely the latest regretful incident in a war between the houses. He has suggested that if Slytherin and Gryffindor were separated more thoroughly-"

McGonagall sighs. "Black might say as much, but Potter is the real problem. The account he gave to his parents was…" She glances over at Severus, who is fixedly staring at the floor, his slender fingers spinning his wand over in his hands.

"You can't expel me," he says, his voice barely above a whisper.

"I am very sorry, Mr Snape," she says, in her clipped accent, "but something must be seen to be done. Potter's parents - they intend to pursue it through the Ministry at the highest level, they-"

"No," he interrupts, his voice a little louder. "You misunderstand. You can't expel me."

At this, Dumbledore sits straighter, and he and McGonagall exchange a look.

"I will tell Lucius Malfoy," Severus continues, "how Black lured me to my death. What would've been my death if Potter hadn't got cold feet." He looks up then, glaring fiercely at Dumbledore. "Either Black should've gone then," he argues, "or this is just tit-for-tat. My life one week, his life the next - the latest disagreement in a silly schoolyard battle. ...that's what you said it was back then, wasn't it?"

"Severus, we've discussed this. You agreed that you would not speak about what happened in the Shrieking Shack-"

"I said I wouldn't tell anyone." And then he stands. "But I should inform you that I have already sent Lucius a letter. ...I realise that Potter's parents have influence in the Ministry, but so does Lucius Malfoy." He swallows hard. "You fought me for my silence. Now you should fight Black for his."

The memory jolts again. Lucius is stalking around Severus' private room at Hogwarts - the room she so often shared with him - but it's evident that despite Severus' threat to Dumbledore, Lucius knows nothing of Black's preferred method of murder; he's entirely focused on discussing Severus' reintegration back into Slytherin House.

"You have been making waves," he says, smoothly. He pats the bed. "Setting up home with a Mudblood-"


"Shhhh," he says, looking annoyed at the interruption. "And now slicing up a Pureblood in Hogsmeade. What are you thinking?"

And then she can feel it - the brush of Legilimency.

There's a pause, and then Lucius nods. "I'm going to reinstate your funds at Discrete Knights-"


"-and you're going to find Avery," he continues loudly, "and make it up with him. Tell him whatever you want about this thing you have going - tell him she's not enough, tell him she's a crap shag, tell him you just wanted to spite Potter - tell him anything. But you ingratiate yourself back in with your house."

"And what do I tell Lily?"

Lucius looks nonplussed. "That is not my concern."

"This all started because of that night at yours," he spits, bitterly. "They saw!"


"Mulciber! Rosier! And they spread it around half the school - told everyone I sucked you off, or that I take it up the arse, and people said I was gay, or that I'm a girl and then Black-"

"Enough." Lucius' voice is quelling, and he brushes non-existent lint from his front, and straightens his outer robe. "I am pleased you brought this to my attention. I have enough time this evening to pay a visit to my old friends."

Then he peers at Severus. "And that's what this is, is it? This is a demonstration of your sincere heterosexuality, blood be damned? Has your Muggle breeding affected you so strongly, that you are unaware that is worse to lie with those with dirty blood as opposed to those of the same sex? Your name is to be sullied as your mother was before you? Is it in your genes, Severus - sleeping with Muggles, cavorting with those without magic?"

"She has magic! Malf, she's so powerful, I can feel it. You just have to meet her, she's-"

"I don't want to hear your half-baked excuses." He sneers at him. "It's worse than that, isn't it? You actually believe what you're saying, don't you? That she's worthy of being in our world?"

Severus doesn't answer - challenging Lucius once was enough.

She can feel the confusion and shame and defiance building in him.

"Your housemates are stupid. They are jealous, can't you see that? They are sexually frustrated teenage boys," Lucius hisses, "and you are even more stupid than they are. They would sell their grandmother to have your place at my side and here you are, paying attention to their childish envy and ruining your future in the process."

He waves his arm, indicating to the room, but clearly referring to Severus' relationship with Lily. "This is incredibly reckless, and what for? All for the sake of shouting to the world - a world that does not care! - that you're not sexually deviant." Lucius looks furious. "You are drawing attention from all of the wrong quarters, and you are making all of the wrong choices! There are consequences to these actions, doors which are being closed-"

"I can make my own way!"

"You cannot!" Lucius argues. "The world doesn't work in the manner which you may hope." Then his voice softens. " innocent boy." He places his cane against Severus' cheek, and it's cool to the touch. "Tell me, are you still brewing?"


"Still top of the class?"


"An apprenticeship," he says. "That's your goal, now."

"But I thought you wished for me to take-"

Lucius shakes his head. "No longer. You have earned the distrust of your comrades." He gently rakes his cane across Severus' cheek. "But who needs those imbeciles when you've got me instead?" He snaps his cane away. "Get the grades, get an apprenticeship, and I'll set you up with whatever you need. Somewhere to live, startup capital-"

"Startup capital? If I'm an apprentice…" As he speaks, it dawns on him. "What do you want from me in return?"

Lucius smirks then. "Clever boy." And then he beams. "I have a vacancy for a talented brewer.'ve heard about Nott's sister, haven't you? Terrible terrible tragedy."

"He manipulated you," she says, her voice low.

"Malf's good to me."

"He isn't, Sev!"

He looks annoyed now. "I knew you wouldn't understand. We'd be destitute if it wasn't for him - he got the flat, he got us in here, he-"

"-and whatever he gives to us, he holds it over you," she says. "I know you know this. You've said as much to me before."

They sit in silence - she wants to say it's a minute, or five, or ten - but it's longer. Or it feels it. Finally, he looks at her, his eyes dark.

"...he gets me though, Lil. He gets me. The real me."

"And I don't?"

"I've never shown you the real me." The words are out before he can think about the consequences - but she doesn't recoil, and he can feel a pulse of excited magic emanating from her, which sends a dark thrill rippling inside him.

"Then show me."

" want me to show you who I really am? You want to watch when I sliced up Black? When I created the spell to gut him like a fish?"

"Stop it."

He's defensive now, his eyes flashing. "Stop what? You asked, and that's what I'm saying to you, Lil, that's what I am!"

"Who says that's the real you?" There's a fizz of anger in her chest. She's never experienced anything like it before; it's not as sharp as the anger in Severus' memories, but it's alive and growing and she can feel it bubbling in her. "After what he did to you by the lake, after how he spoke to you in the library, I'm tempted to gut him myself. He deserved it."

Severus doesn't move, but something flashes in his eyes. "Yeah? You think?"


He snaps his head away from her. "I'm influencing you. The darkness, the sickness inside me - I'm making you just like me," he says, miserably. "Sick and twisted and dark."

"You're not sick and twisted and dark." She lies next to him, sliding her hand into his, and stroking his fingers. "You're the same boy I made love to last night."

He gives a half-gasp, as if he's in pain. "I don't mean to be evil," he blurts out. "He… I didn't… I couldn't help myself…"

"I know you're not evil."

He's utterly silent, and then he rolls over her, positioning her wand back at his head. "Look," he commands.

"I don't need to see. I understand-"

"You do," he says. "You can only understand me properly if you see it." He takes a deep breath. "I only stopped you before because I had to retrieve it properly. It's why it seemed fuzzy."

"You use Occlumency to bury it?"

He nods. "I bury a lot of things, but this… This is one of the deepest. ...I'm ready now."

She was curious a minute ago, but now she's scared again; scared that he isn't all talk, scared that this isn't machismo, scared of what can be in the memory if he forces it so deep within him.

"Sev, if you keep it hidden, I don't want you to unearth it and cause-"

"Go on, witch," he urges. "You want to see. I want you to see. Do it, do it now."


This time, there's no wobble to the memory; it's as clear as his others, and it's obvious he's not under the influence of alcohol. She wonders, at first, if it's accidental that he's walking into the same shops as Black, and strolling the same pathways and pavements - but then she notices the way he presses himself to the walls, and shrouds himself in shadows. 

She watches breathlessly as he stalks Black around Hogsmeade - his footsteps are light, and Black is none-the-wiser; he shares a laugh with Potter and Pettigrew, and he and Lupin indulge in some light shoving outside Honeydukes - something and nothing over their place in the queue, and who is buying for who - and then Black's whistling at some girls, and then he's racing up towards the Shack.

Something burns. She can feel it, it's a monstrous desire that's building in Severus, and she feels him tossing caution aside.

Severus sneaks across the main street, checking that Potter's still in Scrivenshaft's, and Pettigrew's with Lupin outside Honeydukes, and then he breaks into a sprint, chasing Black as hard as he can. He can run, Severus. He's thin, like a greyhound - his da would say like a whippet, but whippets are fast too - and his stride is long. He chases Black up the dirt path with ease.

Get him get him get him get him get him.

It's unnerving, the chase - the desire in her boyfriend is building, burning, growing, and the dark inside him is yelling, as if it's hanging off Severus' arm - as if it wants to whoop and cheer and scream with delight as he charges after his quarry.

And then Black slows, and Severus doesn't, and then he's on him. Black's tough, but the monster in Severus is angry, and his wand is high, and he screams - he screams with the fury of a man who's been bullied and taunted and maligned for years.


"What the-" Black yells, and instinctively throws his hand up to his shoulder to shield his body from the slicing action of Severus' wand, but the cuts come fast - slicing him, dicing him, and his shirt shreds, and his blood spills onto the dirt path below, and the monster inside Severus is elated.

Get him get him get him cut him cut him cut him do him do him do him.

It's intoxicating, the mantra repeats over and over in his brain, and blood is thundering in his ears, and Black is screaming and yelling, and both of Severus' knees sink into Black's chest, pinning him to the dirt.

"ON MY KNEES," he screams, spittle flying from his mouth. "That's what you wanted to see, isn't it?" and then he lifts and drops his right knee heavily onto Black's chest, winding him, and then his wand slices again.

Severus is lost to the darkness now, utterly lost. She can feel it.

Finish it finish it finish it.

The call has changed, and the blood that's spilled on the ground, the staining on his shirt, the gouges in Black's arms - it's all feeding the monster that lives inside Severus, and the monster can feel that satisfaction is near, if it can just pull its host over the line.


And he obeys the monster's call, his wand poised above Black, and with the terrified boy pinned below him, he traces a line with his wand, up and across his shoulder, and then slides towards his neck. Blood is pouring from the newly created gash, seeping across Black's pale skin and staining the dirt track below.

Severus' eyes almost shutter closed in ecstasy, the glee almost overwhelming him - he's in control, and he holds a life in his hands, nudging it along the tightrope of death, and one stumble... He - Severus Snape - is finally someone. Someone to be admired. Someone to be feared. Judge, jury and executioner. He's a god. And he's hard with the thrill of it all, and he briefly wonders if Black can see his excitement, wonders if-

"Don't, Snape, don't!" Black begs, his eyes wide, and real terror in his eyes. 

He's hurting, and the voice is laughing loudly in Severus' head. 


But there's something else now, something whispering in his ear.

They'll expel you. You'll go to Azkaban.

It's not enough to make him hesitate, his wand continues on its slow trail, tearing into the delicate skin, and then he hears his solemn words to his mother so long ago.

I can never ever do it again. I promise.

And then he halts, his wand burning at the base of Black's neck, and Black is whimpering - but Black's fear is just background noise to the screaming of the darkness in Severus' head.

Now now now now now don't stop don't stop don't stop don't stop don't stop yes yes yes yes yes.


And then Severus' wand flies through the air, spinning over and over, and skittering across the ground. The monster in him howls in anguish. 

It's over.

Now disarmed, Severus lifts himself up slowly, his hands raised in surrender, and he smirks at Potter who has his own wand outstretched and pointed right at Severus.

"He's all yours," Severus says, cautiously making his way over to his wand, and stooping to pick it up, his eyes not leaving Potter.

"I should kill you."

"Do it. I hear Azkaban's nice this time of year."

"You should be glad, because there's a cell with your name on it after this," Potter warns, his wand still focused on Severus.

"Prongs, please." 

And then Potter's attention is drawn back to his best friend. Black is still bleeding heavily, a bright red halo surrounding his shoulders, and Potter crouches next to him, trying to stem the flow from the wounds.

Severus - his own wand now outstretched, and trained on Potter as he retreats from the scene - takes the opportunity to race back down the hill and towards Hogsmeade. His mind should be full of thoughts about Hogwarts, and Slughorn, and Dumbledore, and the aurors, and detention, and expulsion, and what the Black parents - no, not the Blacks, he's living with the Potters now - what the Potter parents will say and do, but it's not - the darkness is back on his shoulder and it's howling with glee.

Nearly nearly nearly nearly nearly next time next time next time next time next time you can do it you can do it you can do it you can do it you can do it.

He knows he should feel terrible. He knows he should feel guilty. He knows he should feel remorseful.

But he doesn't.

There's blood running down his fingers - Black's spilled blood - and he doesn't care at all.

He sits back from her, and he's panting heavily - as if he's just run the path back to Hogsmeade, as if it wasn't just a memory. She stares at him, her wand held loose in her hands, and he tilts his head, his eyes narrowing.

"I'm sorry." And he is. Not for Black, and not for Potter, and not for anything near to the right reasons. He's not sorry that he created the spell, and not sorry he enjoyed slicing a man to shreds, not sorry that he showed Black the door of death and almost shoved him through it, but he's sorry that she's going to pack her bags and leave him, and that his decision to be honest - brutally honest - is going to push her away. "I'm not like you," he rasps, and his heart won't slow - the memory of the blood and the fear and the revenge is coursing through him.

"But that's exactly why I'm drawn to you," she says, and then she reaches for him.

The scream of darkness is back - it's been dormant for so long, and it's gleeful, and it's cheering him on, and he can't help himself. He springs forward, and grabs her, rolling her over on the mattress - and then he roughly pins her under him.

"I'm dangerous," he hisses in her ear. "You don't understand. I keep this side of me locked away."

"Let him out," she whispers. "Bring him out to play with me."

The words are wicked - they're everything he's ever dreamt of; acceptance, and understanding, and the sick leer on his face grows wider. "I'm going to make you beg," he promises in a low murmur, his voice rough and gravelly in her ear. "I'm going to make your body sing, and your pretty mouth scream, and I'm going to fuck you so hard, you'll never forget that you're mine."

She wriggles her hand free from his punishing grip, and grabs his head, roughly turning it so she can tangle her tongue against his - it's furious and messy and without finesse - and as he's grinding himself against her, she twists her face away and bites the pulse point in his neck, and sucks as hard as she can, causing him to straighten and hiss with pleasure.

"I'm yours," she agrees, "but you, Severus Snape, you are mine." Her voice is triumphant and exuberant as he slides himself inside her, his hips snapping hard against her as he fucks her as fast and as powerfully as he can. "You're not Malfoy's boy, or Narcissa's next conquest," she pants, breathlessly, trying to keep rhythm with his frantic pace. "You're all mine, Severus."

His heart is screaming with acceptance as he spirals towards completion.

She understands, she wants you, she wants this, she wants you, she's not afraid, she wants you.

"Mine," he roars, and then his arms wobble, and he collapses to the side of her. He reaches across, pulling her face towards his, and dips to capture her lips. "I love you," he whispers, his breathing unsteady, and his heart banging, and then he kisses her again. "I thought…" And then he stops - the darkness is looming again, screaming in his brain.

Don't fuck this up, she wants the dark, don't fuck this up, she wants your darkness, don't fuck this up, take her, dominate her, make her yours.

"You thought what?"

"Get up," he says, firmly. "Get on top." 

She gives him a cautious look, glancing at his spent cock, but dutifully slings her leg over his torso. 

"Not there," he chuckles darkly, "up here." And then he leans down and drags her roughly up his body, bringing her to his face, causing her to squeal with surprise.

She steadies herself against the headboard as he tugs her firmly into position, and she squirms uneasily. "Sev, I need to wash, you've just-"

"Hush," he says, darkly, running his fingers along her swollen sex. "I warned you - I intend to make your body sing. Only make a noise when you're close and-"

She pushes her hand through his hair and scrapes her nails across his scalp as he speaks. "Ohh," she moans, immediately disobeying his command when he smoothly slides two fingers inside her. 

"-don't you dare come without asking my permission first." And then he roughly pushes her legs further apart and buries his mouth between them.

Chapter Text

She knew that jealousy and envy were powerful emotions. Moody had been accurate when he had described her lover as covetous and selfish, but Severus was curiously particular - he was covetous and selfish, but only really when it came to her. She realised over the years that he desired very little - but the few things that he wanted, he yearned for with an almost unhealthy desperation, in an almost lustful manner.

Yet, his desire for her aside, it wasn't entirely obvious to others. He wasn't routinely jealous or envious, and he didn't sit around stewing about how Lucius Malfoy or Regulus Black or Evan Rosier were richer, or more handsome, or had better social connections. Instead, Severus seemingly revelled in standing in the wake of those who had the power he sought to achieve, as if by tagging along behind, he might be lifted into the slipstream of their success.

No, in Lily's life, envy and jealousy were the domain of Petunia Dursley. Envy and jealousy had forged a deep separation between the two sisters, their tight childhood bond ripped into a gaping schism as teenagers, worsened now as adults, with Petunia embracing her role as a social climber, desperate to outflank her perfect sister in society. Whenever Lily visited Petunia and Vernon's precisely maintained house in leafy suburbia, an almost carbon copy - albeit with a larger lawn, a conservatory, and an extension over the garage - of the house they'd grown up in with their parents, she was always struck by Petunia's expression. 

Although Petunia's pride in her achievements was clear, she never appeared to be satisfied. When she walked Lily through the seemingly never ending tour of each freshly decorated bedroom and bathroom, and when she pointed out each tree and bush and plant and flower in both the front garden and the back, she didn't appear to be showing Lily her home out of happiness - she didn't appear to be requesting that Lily share in her joy. Instead, it was as if she was begging for Lily's judgement - as if she were in a courtroom, doling out her evidence of a life well-lived, of achievements hard fought for.

"Look at me, Lily!" she seemed to be screaming, craving her younger sister's acknowledgement that she, Petunia - the distinctly unmagical child, the girl who was not special - she was the sister who had scaled great heights. She was the child that their parents could be proud of. She had followed in their footsteps, and had followed all of the rules, and had been justly rewarded with a perfect life in a perfect neighbourhood.

But it didn't appear to be enough, because these things were not a just reward in of themselves - Petunia seemed to need Lily to nod sadly and sigh and admit that whilst Petunia had made a success of her life, she had failed. She, Lily Evans, the bright eyed, vivacious, intelligent, talented, attractive and charming girl had floundered. She, Lily Evans, had run off to some dingy poky flat with her ugly dirty boyfriend, never speaking of a job or a social life, and having no achievements to display. 

So each time Lily visited and had Petunia's apparent success pushed in her face, each time she saw the smirk on Vernon's lips when he enquired after Severus' career path, each time she saw the twee ornaments on display and the lace doileys on the dining table, she could feel her annoyance growing stronger - but she still wasn't jealous. Or envious. Lily could tell that her lack of emotion drove Petunia to distraction, and that next time, the stakes would be higher - the evening meal would be lit by candelabra, the food would be sourced from a luxury shop, and the wine would be of rare stock, impossible for most people to have opportunity to purchase, never mind afford.

Sadly, Petunia seemed unable to comprehend that this wouldn't be enough. Even these actions would not cause the response from her sister that she so desperately craved, because despite their shared genetics, Lily Evans wasn't like Petunia Dursley. Whilst Lily had had moments of doubt and of concern, moments of worry that the magical world was isolating her and that she should've stuck to the Muggle world, or that she'd attached herself to Severus without either of them considering how such a relationship would be received amongst their peers and whether it was the right thing for either of them going forwards in life, Lily Evans had never felt envy or jealousy of the type that Petunia wished for her to display. Lily Evans had always been fortunate, and had always been competent and clever, had always been well-liked and highly-regarded. Lily Evans had charmed parents and teachers and friends - and she'd always been content in herself to feel genuine joy for others when their lives were brushed with happiness or success.

It had been Severus who'd pointed it out to her, all those years ago.

"She's jealous, int she," he'd said, in the days when he could barely reach into the overhead kitchen cupboards, and his voice was an octave or two higher.

"Sev, don't be mean."

"I ain't bein' mean," he'd said, huffily. "Just tellin' the truth. Yer can do summat that she can't, and she don't like it." His eyes had narrowed then. "How would yer feel if she could do it and yer couldn't?"

"I suppose I'd be sad that I couldn't do it too, but… I'd be happy for her."

"Bingo." He'd smiled broadly, showing his crooked teeth. "Whereas if yer gave Tuney a wish, she'd take yer magic off yer - not grant it for herself."


"It's true. Coz it's still unknown, so she can't compete wi' yer. She might 'ave magic, but she might be bad at it. So it's safer to bring yer back to her level."

It was a year or so later when she'd asked him outright.

"Do you remember?"

"Remember what?"

"When you said Petunia was jealous?"

He'd nodded, a small frown creeping across his brow, as if he was fearful of what the next question would be. "Yeah."

"I've never been jealous."

"I know."

It was her turn to look surprised. "You know? How do you know?"

"You ain't got nowt to be jealous about." And then he'd grinned. 

"But… My life isn't perfect…"

"It ain't about bein' perfect."

They fell silent for a moment, and then she'd tentatively brushed his greasy hair behind one of his ears, enabling her to see him clearly. "Do you get jealous, Sev?"

"Me? Nah."

"Never? Not even of someone like Sirius Black?"

"Definitely not," he'd said, his voice sharper. "There's things I want, y'see," he'd elaborated, when she looked as if she didn't understand, "but I'm gonna get them eventually. So ain't no need to feel jealous of someone else." 

"But if they're happy..."

He planted his hand over his heart. "Ain't got to be happy to be content in 'ere."  And then his hand had moved quickly to her sternum, taking her by surprise, and she'd glanced anxiously towards her house, hoping her mother and father - or worse, Petunia herself - hadn't spotted her friend touching her chest, innocently or not. He didn't seem to notice. "Yer content in 'ere," he'd said, a little gruffly. "Just like me."

He did this, sometimes - this show of self-assurance, and it had always confused her. He was oddly impressive, even when they were kids, even with his mismatched clothes and his unkempt appearance. 

She remembered going around to his one year, in the quiet days between Christmas and New Year, and their house was as unrelentingly miserable as it was the other fifty weeks of the year. She could tell that there'd been an argument and some sort of a fight - that much was clear by the ripped paper streamers, and the skewed picture hanging on the wall with a newly splintered frame, and the upturned Christmas tree that lay in the yard with smashed baubles still clinging limply to the branches. 

She'd stood in breathless silence in the front room, neither Tobias or Eileen acknowledging her or doing anything to alleviate the awkwardness that she felt. The tick of the clock was almost deafening, only interrupted by a loud swish of the newspaper as Tobias angrily flicked over another page, or the gentle huff of Eileen exhaling yet another stream of blue-tinged smoke.

When he'd finally clattered down the stairs, Severus had been as cheerful as ever, as if he hadn't noticed the atmosphere in the house, and he'd excitedly shared a Fry's Five Centres chocolate bar with her as they'd walked down the slippery cobbled streets, looking thrilled as she listed the copious presents she'd received a day or so earlier. She'd only paused for breath when their feet crunched across the frozen grass as they crossed over the deserted park.

"And what did you get?"

"Chocolate," he'd said, fingering the empty wrapper that was in his pocket, and she'd had a sudden horrible feeling that the bar he'd shared with her had not been one of many. "This and that, y'know."  As if hit by inspiration, he'd hoisted his trouser leg, showing her his sock. "New socks. D'yer like 'em?" 

She'd never been envious, but she was embarrassed then - embarrassed that her life was so different to his - and confused that he didn't react in the same way that Petunia did; that if Petunia was jealous of her magic, then surely Severus would be jealous of her life - of her parents, and her house, and her Christmas presents. But if he noticed a change in her demeanour, he didn't say anything - he just leapt onto a swing, and leant back, thrusting his legs through the cold winter air, pushing harder and harder until his momentum built and he climbed higher and higher. His hair streamed out behind him, his cheeks pink from the chill, and his hands gripping the chains were bright white - and then, at the height of the movement, he flung himself into the sky, his arms pinned behind him as if he was emulating a jumper on Ski Sunday, a roar of pure joy and exhilaration accompanying his leap.

And then she'd realised; Severus didn't need to be jealous - he just saw what he wanted, and worked to get it himself. He'd seen her attempting to fly a few years before, and he'd copied her diligently until he could do it too. It was a good method, she'd thought, and adopted it herself - so even when the Ministry laws were handed down, even when her career dissolved and his continued, even when she couldn't function as a full being in the magical world, she remembered how he'd behaved - don't be jealous of what others have got, but strive to achieve it for yourself instead. 

Which was why it was so odd when she'd added the willingly given strand of his hair to his carefully brewed potion, and had swallowed it in one - because until that moment, she'd never thought of being Severus. She'd never thought of what it would be like to stand in his frame, to walk in his shoes, to speak with his voice. She'd never wanted to be anyone else, and now, she found herself stood in their chambers, her visage no longer that of Lily Evans, but of pure Severus Snape.

He doesn't like it - she knows that much. He didn't say anything, but he'd swallowed hard when she first transformed, and didn't say much else for the rest of the night. She thought that as the days went on, he'd become used to it, but if anything his scowl deepened, and seeing his dismay upon being confronted with himself, she took care to try and ensure that she smuggled herself back into their rooms with his cloak covering her transformed face, and only emerging from the bedroom to speak with him once she was back to her usual appearance.

But as much as Severus didn't like seeing her in his skin, she could see the benefits - he was taller, which made selecting ingredients from the store cupboards far easier and allowed her to see over students in the corridors, and he was stronger, so she could add more pressure when slicing ingredients, ensuring that her cuts were smooth and accurate. She'd complimented him before on his dexterous fingers, and they were useful in the lab too - although his hair was increasingly annoying, constantly falling in front of her - his - face, and utterly impossible to do anything with. Being Severus was fun, really - although she had to take care to sour her expression, and not to be too enthusiastic when she ran into Professor Flitwick or Professor McGonagall or even Professor Dumbledore.

Thankfully, Professor Dumbledore's appearances in the dungeons were few and far between, although Professor McGonagall and Professor Slughorn shared far more of an acquaintance than she'd anticipated. It was unfortunate, for although she'd become rather attached to Professor Flitwick during her NEWT studies, she held a deep seated admiration for Professor McGonagall - something she'd always assumed had been reciprocated - which made it far harder when Professor McGonagall was curt or dismissive towards her. Or, rather, towards Severus.

Her head snaps up from over the bubbling cauldron when she hears Slughorn's heavy footsteps in the corridor.

"He is doing rather well, I must say." Slughorn's voice is loud and his enunciation excessive, sounding rather more as he does in the classroom than the tone he would ordinarily use around friends and contemporaries. She quickly guesses that he's doing it on purpose, and then she hears confirmation - Jigger's booming voice filling the corridor. 

"No explosions from the boy?"

Remembering Severus' stern words about Jigger's desire for cleanliness, she quickly tidies her bench, rubbing the workspace down with a cloth.

"None at all," Slughorn replies, his voice even louder.

"Typical. He spends months destroying my equipment, and after a few weeks with you, he seems to find his competency-"

"Ah now, I'm sure-"

"-what did you do to cause such a change in his behaviour? Beat him soundly?"


"You can - it's in his contract. He was foolish enough to sign it."

To his credit, Slughorn genuinely sounds scandalised. "Don't tell me that you-"

"Fret not, Horace, that's more Libatius' style than mine." There's a pause. "Although I must admit to being sorely tempted at times. Do you know how many dragon eyes the boy tore through in a month?"

It's a shock of information - the idea that apprentices can be treated in such a way and that even if Jigger hadn't raised his arm to Severus, Borage may have done - but before she can fully process it, the door bangs open and she finds Severus' mentor peering at her.

"This," he says, briskly, pointing to the cauldron. "What's next, boy?"

"Shredded foxgloves," she says, wincing as she hears Severus' voice crack, making him sound like he's a third year Hogwarts student once more. Jigger waits and then frowns, and her eyes widen, realising her mistake. "Sir."

At this, Jigger gives a thin, nasty smile and glances at Slughorn. "I thought you'd forgotten your place for a moment there, boy."

"No, sir, sorry, sir. You took me by surprise, sir."

Jigger sniffs. "By surprise? You might be studying under Professor Slughorn, but I thought you were clear on this - you are still my apprentice, and you shall conduct yourself in the presence of other Masters with the decorum that I have always demanded of you."

"Yes, sir."

He peers at the cauldron, and then appraises her - and she almost wilts under his fierce gaze. She can't work out if he's sensed something amiss, or whether he always behaves like this, and then as she reaches to stir the cauldron, she spots a tiny mole on the inside of her wrist. She almost ignores it, as she's so used to the sight, but then alarm builds inside her: the mole is not Severus', but her own.

"Professor Slughorn," she starts, her eyes darting towards the storeroom where the vials of Polyjuice are hidden - her meaning clear.

"Master Slughorn, boy," Jigger interrupts, his exasperation clear. "As your schoolteacher, he was your professor, as your-"

"Severus, go and get a glass of water. Now!"

At Slughorn's barked command, she darts towards the storeroom where the vials of Polyjuice are secreted, and she can hear Jigger's argument with Slughorn raging behind her.

"You are far too soft with him, Horace! You will make him weak, sloppy, a-"

"Nonsense, Arsenius - the boy looked as if he was about to pass out. A glass of water when required has never ruined an apprenticeship."

She drops one of Severus' gifted hairs into one of the prepared potions and gulps it down. As she puts her hand on the handle to return, she pauses - remembering Severus' words about listening in when the opportunity arises.

"Tsk! And now you're putting the foxgloves in for him-"

"-there is no point in wasting a potion because-"

"-it isn't a waste, it's a learning process. He needs to be aware of his surroundings. He needs to be aware that it is his sloppiness that's caused this failure, and that he can't simply stop brewing because-"

"-the boy is sick, Arsenius!"

"Sick? Well, that's a new name for it, I must say."

"A name for what?"

"Oh come, Horace," Jigger tuts, "you and I both know that the boy is a drunkard."

There is a deathly silence. Even the air seems still, and her heart - his heart - is banging. 


"Don't tell me you haven't noticed, hmm? That tremor in his hands? His bloodshot eyes?" His voice drops even lower. "The overpowering stench of firewhisky in the lab when his freshening charm wears down over the course of the morning?"

The silence can only have been for a few seconds, but it feels like an eternity, as Slughorn fumbles to find an answer. Of course, he doesn't have an answer, for he's not been tutoring Severus Snape - he's been tutoring the always delightful, and ever-so-sober Lily Evans. 

"Ridiculous," Jigger says, abruptly. "I thought…"


"I thought sending him to you… But if you haven't noticed, then it has rather answered my question." 

"Which is?"

There's another long pause. "He brews. When he thinks I'm not looking."

"Brews what?" Slughorn's voice is tinged with impatience - but also somewhat cautious. She knows that Slughorn is aware that Severus brews for Lucius Malfoy, and that anything seemingly damning could be straight for sale rather than consumption by its creator.

"Some sort of antidote. He's been working on it for a while. Evidently it's working." There's a pause, and then a clap of hands and a chuckle. "Come now, Horace, there is no need to look so uncomfortable. I am not complaining about his little side brews - we both know that he is not the only brewer in the country in the employment of a Malfoy-"

"Speaking of Abraxas-"

"No, Horace," Jigger says, his voice stern, "I am not so green to as fall for that. We are discussing the boy." There's another pause. "He's brewing something to counter the effects of inebriation."

"I will speak with him."

"Then I shall wish you luck, for my words on the subject fell upon deaf ears. We both know that brewers have tried and failed-"

Slughorn's tone is jovial, but sounds forced. "You sounded as if you believed the boy had been successful, but now-"

"Does it matter if he has?" In contrast, Jigger sounds less than amused. "He's either dabbling in brews that he should not be touching - brews that would send the sanest of men to the asylum, brews that may blind, brews that can dissolve your organs-"

"Arsenius, really-"

"-really, Horace! Else, he's been successful. Successful enough to fool you, at the very least. And he'll be filthy rich."

Slughorn chuckles. "And now you're talking our language, Arsenius. As his Master, of course, you'd be in for a healthy cut-"

To her surprise, Jigger makes a disparaging noise. "He'll be dead before he's patented it."

"...I am aware that you do not agree with the Malfoy style of business, but-"

"I am not fearful of Abraxas or his loathsome son muscling in on my territory," Jigger spits. "If the boy has been successful, then he is not experimenting-"

"-which is your complaint-"

"-no, my complaint, Horace," Jigger says, sounding out Slughorn's name as if he was a recalcitrant child, "is that the boy is brewing whatever this potion is with regularity. To my knowledge, it has not appeared on the market."

Slughorn's voice is now oddly soft. "No, nor to mine."

"And such a profitable potion-"

"-would not be sat upon by Lucius Malfoy."

Jigger gave a triumphant noise. "Indeed. And if you have not noticed the signs of inebriation that were becoming young Snape's trademark, then there is only one possible conclusion: he's drinking to excess, and hiding it by consuming vast quantities of whatever it is he's created."

Slughorn tuts. "There are two conclusions."

Jigger pauses for a moment, considering Slughorn's words. " think he's stopped drinking?"

"He's back here, at Hogwarts," Slughorn says. "I do believe the boy regarded it as a home-from-home, as some might say. There's an element of protection here. He has no concerns about paying rent, or other bills-"

"His girlfriend left him. Hardly the circumstances to cease drinking."

"He left her, by all accounts," Slughorn corrects. "I suspect there was some pressure upon him from his acquaintances."

"Lucius Malfoy."

"Perhaps." Slughorn sighs. "Severus is of mixed stock himself, as you are well aware. I fear that the pressure of his relationship, the pressure of his friends, the pressure of expectations from his parents... It's a lot for a young man to cope with."

"Lucius Malfoy I can understand, but you're suggesting that his parents wanted his relationship to fail?"

Slughorn gave a small noise of dissent. "On the contrary, I believe they wanted it to succeed. It is proof, is it not, that his mother made the right choice all those years ago when she rejected our world outright?"

"Yet he and his girlfriend did not make the same easy decision?" Jigger makes a disparaging noise. "Especially in this climate. They could've set up outside of our world, had-"

"Ah. I believe he was in some sort of trouble."

At this, Jigger sounds intrigued. "With the Muggles? With-"

Lily pushes the door open, stepping back into the room, her arms filled with ingredients - not granting Slughorn any opportunity to spill more of Severus' secrets. "I apologise, Master. I apologise, sir."

"Now, Severus-"

"I thought your Master sent you for water, not for-"

But before either wizard can continue, Lily quickly collects the items on her workstation, and banishes them to the sink.

"Boy?" Jigger is watching her curiously, his eyebrows raised as she discards the almost perfect potion, and lays fresh ingredients out before her.

"I left the potion for too long at a vital stage of the brew, sir," she says, trying to keep her tone steady. "I appreciate Master Slughorn's efforts to assist, but my brewing is my responsibility and-"

"Put your hands out. In front of you. Like this," Jigger barks, holding his own aloft. She copies him, her hands - Severus' hands - completely still and steady. Jigger nods, firmly, and then steps closer, staring deep into her eyes. She wonders if he can use Legilimency, but she doesn't feel any brush of contact, so she decides against attempting the basic Occlumency techniques she'd read in Severus' books, lest she provoke the older wizard's curiosity. He nods then, and steps away. "I'll bid you good day, Horace."

"Always a pleasure, Arsenius."

"And as for you, boy..."


"Behave yourself for Master Slughorn here." He points his wand at the clean cauldron. "This… Make no mistake, boy, I am not impressed with your ill-health." He pauses, and she's sure it's a taunt - it takes all of her effort not to argue back, not to interrupt, and he looks as if he knows it - and appears vaguely amused when she doesn't rise to his bait and speak. "...but I am impressed," he finally continues, "with your acknowledgement of your mistake, and your efforts to rectify the situation. Do see it continues, boy."

"Yes, sir." 

"I feel I should inform you that no matter what Master Slughorn arranges on your behalf, I will not release you to Master Belby unless I am satisfied with your brewing and your behaviour."

"Yes, sir."

"On which note, I am sorry to hear of your relationship breaking down, boy."

"I am not, sir," she quickly counters, her voice waspish.

He raises an eyebrow. "And this of the boy who begged me on bended knee for not just one but two anniversaries to be granted as paid holiday. My, how fickle young love is." Her heart skips at the information, and then Jigger gently tilts his hand, in a symbolic gesture of a drink. "Despite your earlier mishap, I hope your improved appearance today is testament to you ceasing this."

"I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean, sir."

He gives a soft laugh. "And with your actions today, I thought we had made progress with your honesty. Perhaps next time, boy. Think on it."

Chapter Text

She stays to complete the potion, but Slughorn doesn't return - doesn't give her opportunity to comment on Jigger's accusations. As the minutes pass by, she realises this is by design - she'd always liked Slughorn, but there had always been an element of cowardice to his character. She continues to brew, Jigger's commentary on Severus rolling over and over in her head as she follows each step. She's seen Severus drinking - seen him drinking to excess, even - but she'd never thought it was something quite so bothersome, not imagined his drinking was something his employer would notice.

But then, if he's taking a potion to minimise the effects, how would you know? And when you gave him that antidote, he talked about trying to brew a hangover cure - he said he'd make a fortune, she remembers. 

She's relieved when the potion finally shimmers and can be decanted, giving her something else to focus on other than the words echoing in her head. She makes quick work of tidying up after herself and heads up to Slughorn's study. As she rather expected, he's nowhere to be seen, so she leaves the potion for him to inspect, and heads back to the rooms she shares with Severus, taking care to pull on his thick outer cloak and raise the hood as she enters.

"How long?" he asks, not looking up from the desk when she enters. His head is bowed, his dark hair skirting the edge of the page he's writing on, and she's semi-gratified that his hair is as troublesome to him as it is to her. She can see that there's two or three open books intermingled with parchment and ink before him. She doesn't intend to, but she can't help but glance at the bottle of expensive firewhisky on the bookcase - a housewarming gift from Lucius; his manners were impeccable, of course - and she lets out a sigh she didn't know she was holding when she sees that it's still sealed, and there's no sign of a crystal glass on the desk. Despite having ample opportunity whilst she has spent the day working with Slughorn, it's evident that Severus is sober and hasn't imbibed in her absence.

Perhaps Jigger's wrong. 

"I had to take more," she says. "A while. I'll go and sit in the bedroom until it wears off."

To her surprise, he turns, and indicates that she should pull the hood down. "You don't have to. ...I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I know it unnerves you," she says, holding the hood with each hand, not quite ready to reveal his face, uncertain as to what's caused his change of mind and how permanent it may be. "It must be weird, seeing yourself. Like an enchanted mirror, or-"

"It's not that," he says, quickly, standing up and putting his hands over hers - his. It's strange, normally his larger hands cover hers entirely, but with identical hands, they fit together instead, and her - his - hands twitch under his own, experimenting with the feel of the matching skin.

"What is it then?"

He closes his eyes, and leans forward, and she meets him with a tentative kiss. It's almost, but not quite, the same for her - he tastes the same, and his lips feel the same, but even she can feel the difference in how her - his - nose brushes his cheek, where hers wouldn't touch his skin at that angle. She's surprised he continues, kissing her more insistently, and skimming his tongue across her - his - lips, but he does - and she wonders what's happened in her absence; what's made him crave affection to the point that he's not willing to wait for her to revert to her usual appearance.

He helps her to take the hood down, and then he assists as she takes off the cloak altogether, and hangs it on the back of the door. His fingers fumble awkwardly as he tries to undress his own body in reverse, but he finds the buttons and clasps difficult to undo in the opposite direction, his brain being quickly confused by the mirrored image of his usual actions.

"You don't have to do this," she says, as he kisses her again. "If any of this makes you feel uncomfortable."

"It makes me feel sad," he says, not stopping, "because I bed the most beautiful woman on earth, and you…"

"I'm hardly the most beautiful woman on earth," she argues, and he laughs, interrupting her, and stopping her from continuing her thought. It's a gentle laugh, and self-deprecating, and his breath is warm against her shoulder. "I'm serious, Sev-"

"And so am I. You deserve better than," and he vaguely waves his hand towards himself, "this." He places a long finger over her - his - lips, a flicker of a frown as he feels the roughened texture of his skin where his stubble is already starting to grow despite him shaving earlier that day. "If I was Lucius," he says, "then this would just be narcissistic. He's probably already done this," he laughs, "I can almost imagine it."

"Me too."

"Poor Cissy." And then he laughs again, his fingers tracing over her - his - skin.

"It's no different," she says, quickly. "For Narcissa, I mean. Or me. I look at you all of the time. It's you who sees the difference."

"And that's what my problem is, my wonderful witch," he says, capturing her in a kiss once more. "You deserve so much more. At least Lucius looks at himself, and Cissy looks at him, and they both see someone handsome."

"I see someone handsome."

He scoffs, kissing her again. "Liars get punished."

"Wizards with low self esteem don't get laid," she says, kissing him more insistently, trying to show him with her actions what he means to her. "I've told you, there's no difference."

"No?" he murmurs, turning her around so he's stood behind her, his warm body pressed up against her. His hands pull at the belt she's wearing and it clinks as he deftly unbuckles it before moving to unbutton the trousers. It's clearly easier for him like this; just like undressing himself. He lowers the zip, pushing the material lower and lower, and he's gratified when she gasps as his hand wraps around her - his - sensitive skin. "No difference?" He grips harder then - harder than she would've done to him, and she can feel blood pulsing against his firm hold. "How about now?"

"Merlin!" Her hand reaches behind her, holding onto his hip to steady herself. "Sev, I-"

"How long do you have left like this? In my body?"

"I, ohhh." She pauses, her eyes briefly closing as he starts to steadily move his hand, and then collects herself. "Twenty five, no, that's when I left..." she corrects, glancing at the clock on the desk, "eighteen minutes."

"We'd best hurry this along then," he says, a wicked smile spreading over his face, and his hand moving a little faster.

"Thank you," she whispers afterwards, when she's sitting in his lap on the settee. Her auburn hair spills across his shoulder as she kisses him just below the ear, his neck being the only part of his torso exposed, his body still fully clothed despite her nakedness.

"Shhh," he says, and she knows as he strokes her bare arm with his fingertips that he doesn't want to dwell on her pretending to be him.

"How did you know?"

He taps the edge of her forehead. "I've reached a point where I need to understand Legilimency to progress further with Occlumency. So I've been looking into it a bit," he says. "Not that I really needed to use it," he laughs, before she can become indignant at him breaking into her mind without asking. "Every time you were in the bathroom and wearing my skin, every time you had reason to touch my body whilst you were inhabiting it, I could almost hear your thoughts screaming through the walls."


"Mmm." He simply smiles, and she can't decide if he's serious or not. "That and the fact that most people feel the same," he finally admits. "I think everyone would be curious." He grins then, and kisses her. "Most people would've just done it without asking."

"I'm not most people."

"I know," he says, his fingers still stroking her skin. 

"I'd have felt like I was taking advantage."

"You would've been," he says, quietly. "I'm grateful that you didn't."

"It'd have felt wrong doing it behind your back. Invasive."


"You can too," she says, leaning back to look at him, and pulling on her hair, making her meaning clear, offering him her own hair for the potion. "If you want."


"You've never wondered what it feels like?"

The look in his eyes is odd. "I don't much fancy being a woman." 

And then she quietens, suddenly recalling the taunting from Potter and Black, remembering how they stripped him to humiliate him, accusing him of being a girl. She's aware of her nakedness then, sat in his lap whilst he's still fully clothed, and she wonders if this is why he resisted her attempts to undress him - wonders if his unease at her being a man, even when the man's body was his own, was due to the way that Lucius had touched him and shamed him. The thoughts swirl in her mind, and she doesn't know what to do. She wants to show him how much she loves him, but she feels suddenly unsure - fearful of undressing him whilst those thoughts rage through his mind, even though she's now transformed back to her usual self.

"Come on, love," he says, giving her a gentle tap on her bottom and easing her from his arms. "Fun's over. I'd best finish what I was working on."

She's relieved that he could tell what she was thinking, and took the lead so she didn't make a misstep and hurt his feelings. "I'd best get dressed."

And then he smiles that wicked smile that always makes her tingle with excitement. "You don't have to on my account. In fact, I'm rather in favour of you not."

She casts against the door, over and over, and he watches her efforts without lifting a finger to help, a semi-amused look on his face. 

"I think you've got it, love."

"What?" she says, defensively, turning to place her hands on her hips and rebuke him - but he simply smiles more broadly, and she realises that the effect of her temper is rather dampened when she's standing before him without her clothes.

"Nobody's going to get through there," he reasons, slapping the wood with his hand. "I doubt even a house elf would manage, or Dumbledore himself."

She pales at the thought of Dumbledore bursting in on them, seeing her completely naked - it's not the same as Severus being naked with her; there's something comparatively sinful about her parading around without clothes whilst he's fully dressed.

"For my amusement," he mutters darkly, and she looks at him in shock. "That's why you're ashamed. You're naked for a reason - it's not because you're warm, it's not because you've showered, it's not because you've just woken up. You're naked because I want to look at you." His words strike an odd chord within her, and he seems to sense it, as before she can speak, he pulls her towards him, running his hands down her sides. "Are you okay?"


"It's turning you on? Being naked for me?"


"Good girl," he murmurs. Then he lifts her and carries her over to the desk. With a wave of his hand, he clears a space, and gently places her down, standing between her legs and kissing her deeply, his hands twisting in her hair.

When he releases her, she's breathless, and she wonders what he's going to do next - but to her surprise, he settles himself down next to her and picks up his quill. She watches him as he starts to copy text from a book, huffing and tutting regularly. She's amused when it seems to get too much for him, and he pulls out a jar of red ink, and starts to impatiently make amendments against his freshly made notes, almost as if he's correcting the textbook's statements.

After a few minutes of watching him work, she slides off the desk. He doesn't say anything, but his quill stills and as she walks across the room, she can feel his eyes on her, raking over her body as she peruses the bookcase. She selects a slim book - one about brewing techniques that she can recall Severus reading during his first weeks with Borage - and then returns to her place at his side.

He doesn't speak when she sits back on the desk, but he slides his free hand up her inner thigh - and as she sits and reads whilst he touches her, she isn't entirely sure if this is reward for her acquiescing to his desires, or a means of restraining her so she doesn't move again without his prior permission.

He's been calm and happy all evening, which is a welcome change to the stress of the previous few months. She's content in his presence, sat in comfortable silence - and as the candle on the desk starts to flicker, the yellow flame touching the pool of liquid wax instead of solely the wick - he closes his books and sits back. He doesn't speak, but she can tell that there's an elation and a playfulness to him that's been missing for so long - she can feel his excitement prickling the air, his magic almost tangible as it pulses and surges around them. He moves methodically through their rooms, dousing the lights, and urging her to walk two paces ahead, affording him a wonderful view of her naked body.

When they reach the bedroom, he shuts the door, and then he stands behind her, his voice silken in her ear. "Did you enjoy that as much as I did, love?"

She doesn't answer, and he presses himself against her, making sure she feels his erection through his clothes.

"Too embarrassed to admit it?" he guesses. "Only one way to find out," - and her breath hitches, her hands reaching around him as his long fingers delve once more between her legs. "Oh yes. I think you liked being on display for me very much."

She squirms on his hand, her feelings racing - she's both oddly turned on and yet somehow a little unsure of the game that they've been playing. 

"Yes," he says, twisting his fingers as she moves, rewarding her gasping dance with more and more pleasure. "Tell me, love, tell me and I'll give you everything you want."


"Everything. For as long as you can stand it. Until you beg me to stop."

Her voice is barely a whisper. "...yes."

"I can't hear you, love," he says, his voice teasing, and his fingers unrelenting.

"...yes, I enjoyed it."

"And what is it precisely?" His voice sounds huskier than normal, as if he's aroused by making her vocalise her pleasure and it's clear that he's going to make her say it if she wants him to fulfil his promise - which sends another odd excited tremble through her, magnified by his delicate touch.

"...I enjoyed being on display for your pleasure."

"Yessss," he hisses, and he picks her up and carries her to the bed where he lays her down, intent on finishing what his new game and his experienced hands have already started.

She stirs in their bed, her hand fumbling for him in her slumber, and when she can't locate him lying next to her, her eyes snap open. "Sev?"

"Mornin'," he says, cheerfully, his accent briefly slipping back to their days in Cokeworth. He looks relaxed and comfortable, his shoulder bearing his weight against the door frame. "Well, aft'noon."

She moves then, panicked at it being so late - but he's quickly by her side, his fingertips gently touching her cheek. She finally takes in his appearance and realises that he's not dressed for the day either - well, he's wearing those awful shorts, but that hardly counts as sensible clothing.

"I'm sorry."

There's the slightest movement of his eyebrows, an almost frown skirting across his brow. "What are you sorry about?"

"For sleeping in."

"I wore you out," he says, with a wicked grin. "Besides, it's Saturday - who cares what time we get up?" He kisses her, his fingers not moving from her cheek, and as she sighs happily, he pulls back.

"I need a shower," she says, lifting the covers, signalling her intention to get out of bed.

"Thought we could take it easy. Today. Do some reading," he says. "Got my notes out for you."

"Your notes?"

"From Borage, when I started studying under him." He scratches the back of his neck. "I've got the original books too, if you'd rather read the source material, but-"

"I know how you feel about textbooks. I saw last night!" She laughs at his defensive scowl.

"You can have the books."

"I'd rather read your notes. ...thank you."

He nods then, her compliment soothing the perceived slight. "I'll make you a drink whilst you shower."

If he's surprised when she sweeps into the room fully clothed, he doesn't say anything - but he makes no move to change from his own minimal attire. There's a cup of tea for her on the side, as he'd promised, and he silently breaks several chunks off a large slab of chocolate and hands them over, before tossing a piece in the air and catching it in his mouth, a triumphant - and somewhat childish - smile adorning his face.

She flicks through the notes he left for her, and he resumes his reading. His notes are detailed and his writing is cramped, and although the topic intrigues her, she finds her eyes drifting from the page to study him instead of the words on the page. He's compelling even now, even as he's utterly engrossed in his book, his forefinger toying with his bottom lip as he considers the theories raised by the author.

She wonders then, if his choice of wearing his shorts is deliberate - a way of showing her that last night was a one-off; that it wasn't something he expected her to do all of the time. She idly flips another piece of parchment, and then wonders if it's the opposite - if he's wearing little as a way of cajoling her into doing the same - but then she figures that it doesn't make sense. Half of the thrill of the night before had stemmed from him being entirely opposite to her, fully clothed whilst she-

"Just ask, love," he says, firmly, but with an amused tinge to his voice.

She can't help feeling defensive as he catches her staring at him. "Ask what?"

"Your thoughts are practically screaming at me; I'm surprised one of the house elves hasn't responded."

"Really? So what am I thinking?" she challenges, her eyes narrowing at his continued amusement.

He puts his book down. "We need to talk about yesterday."

"Why did you ask me to do it?"

"Why did you do it?" he immediately counters.

"I asked first."

He laughs, offering her the bar of chocolate, and then sitting back on the settee, his eyes not leaving her. "You did it because it turned you on," he says. "You did it because it felt wrong. You did it because it went against everything you believe in - being objectified, your sole purpose being my pleasure. It's humiliating."

She colours then. "That isn't what I asked."

"It is. Because I am your equal and your opposite. I asked you to do it because it turns me on."

"You enjoy humiliating people?"

" I enjoy seeing the most powerful woman I know - the most attractive, the most talented, the most intelligent woman I know - doing something that unnerves her because she knows it will bring me pleasure." He reaches forward, cradling her face in his hand. "I like that power. Lucius… He forces people. He Imperiuses them, he binds them, he removes their voices so they can't dissent. ...I don't think that's power. Not true power." He gives her a dark look. "Power isn't removing someone's agency. True power is giving them a choice and-"

"Them agreeing?"

"I wouldn't say agreeing. Power is me suggesting it and you actively choosing. You chose to prioritise my desire and pleasure and-"

"-but I enjoyed it too."

"I know you did." He gives her a lazy smile. "You prioritised my pleasure over your discomfort, over your sense of unease. You didn't prioritise my pleasure over your own. And I wouldn't ask you to." He leans in closer then, and touches his lips to hers. "I want you to get as much enjoyment from this as I do. I rewarded your bravery richly last night, did I not?"

There's a surge of heat in her chest at the memory of the night before, and she leans her head forward, her forehead settling against his, her voice just a whisper. "How long have you wanted to play like this?"

"Almost as long as you've wanted me to."

"Years," she breathes, wanting him to say it.

His agreement is quick, and eager. "Yes."

"Then why didn't you? Why now?"

He doesn't want to bring Lucius into it again; he doesn't want to tell her that he'd clued him in to her desires - doesn't want to tell her that he'd always wondered, always hoped, but had always talked himself out of it, doesn't want to acknowledge that Lucius' terrible methods had rewarded them both. 

He breathes in deeply, and settles on the truth - the other truth. "Because of the world we live in. Because you were being told by our society that you weren't a witch - that you were less than a person. You were told that you weren't worthy to be my partner. My equal. You lost your job, and your status, and your ability to move away from me. I know what it feels like when someone takes your choices from you. I know what it's like when someone hurts you, or humiliates you. I know what it is to be shamed, and mocked." He gently presses his lips to hers. "I have no wish to submit to another," he says, softly, "and I know what it's like to be powerless. ...this needed to be a choice. Your choice. You're safe here - you're not alone with me. If you said no, and you feared my reaction, you could call on the inhabitants of the castle to intervene. And you needed to know that it was about excitement and pleasure, for both of us. This isn't me agreeing with the twisted version of our world that the Ministry is conjuring up - me asking this of you isn't me agreeing with them. You're the same feisty, powerful, talented witch that I met all those years ago - and that's what makes this all the more exciting for me."

She kisses him so hard then, trying to show him that he's right - that she wants this as much as he does, and he reacts instantly, meeting her every movement. He happily lets her take the lead, but he matches every touch of her mouth - every kiss, every bite, every slip of her tongue - with one of his own.

"Sev, can I ask you something?"

"Anything," he hisses, as she bites the lobe of his ear.

"Not about this."

He pauses then, his expression darkening. "...what about?"

"Did you cut down on your drinking?"

"You said I should."

She gives a wry smile at his deflection. "And did you?"


"Jigger thinks you're a drunk."

He gives a soft laugh. "Jigger visited, did he?"

"Yes. He was pleased that I - you - seemed sober."

"He's got a cheek," he grumbles. "Do you think I look like a drunk? You live with me. You put up with my drunken behaviour of a night, and my hangovers in the morning." He doesn't let her answer then, he presses his mouth against hers in a bruising kiss, his tongue sliding between her lips, leaving her breathless when he pulls away.


"Well then," he says, triumphantly. "Bloody Jigger."

"But he thinks you've created a potion." She looks into his eyes, but he doesn't answer instantly this time, and now that she senses something is amiss, she can't help but pull the thread. "To counter the effects. So you could be a drunk, but you're covering it."

His eyes briefly close, and there's a thin smile playing on his lips. "Clever."

"It is clever," she agrees, "but if it's true, you'll kill yourself before too long. Potion intoxication and alcohol abuse aren't laughing matters even in isolation, but the two together could be lethal."

"I've never pretended to you, love. I like a drink. You've always known that."

He's right. She has always known it. She might've been the one to turn up at his house when they were teenagers with a smuggled bottle of vodka, but their underage drinking was usually driven by him, right from an age when she hadn't really understood the appeal - when all of his smuggled and stolen alcohol tasted sour, or sharp, or like something that her dad kept in the garage for cleaning the bumper of the car. She'd eventually gained a taste for it - for certain alcohols - but Severus was far less picky, happy to swig anything and everything, as long as the end goal of inebriation remained guaranteed.

Her voice is cautious when she responds, not wanting to offend him, or start a fight over a subject he's previously been touchy about. "Sev, there's a difference between liking a drink and the things Jigger was saying - turning up to work with tremors and bloodshot eyes and-"

"Yeah, well, I struggle when things are strained between us. I probably did overdo it at times. Jigger argued with me a lot - said I was throwing my talent away."

"He's right."

"No, he's not. I should've told him the truth. That although I was drowning my sorrows and my fears and occasionally my boredom - and I won't lie to you and pretend any different - I was experimenting as well," he admits, softly, "because he's right. There is a potion, love...but it isn't for me." Then he kisses her hard, trying to remove the touch of doubt he can sense in her. "Next time I deliver it, you can come with me. See for yourself."

She relaxes into his arms then, her trust somewhat restored. "I'm...relieved. I was scared. I can't lose you."

"I told you," he says, earnestly. "Anything you want to know, ask. Don't fret and let it grow into some big thing that we can't deal with. Ask. I might not find the words easy to say, but if I can't, I'll always show you."

"...there is something else." She can feel his chest moving beneath her as he laughs. "What? You just said-"

"I know, I know," he chuckles. "I just didn't expect it to be instantaneous."

"This stuff we did…"

He sits up a little, his curiosity piqued. "Yes?"

"...earlier last night. ...I know why you don't want to be me. After what happened with-"

"Yes," he interrupts quickly, not wanting to think about it all, not wanting to think about the men in the Order, or his oldest male friend, preferring to focus on the warm and willing witch in his arms instead.

"But I can't go back to the Order because I'm meant to be spying on Lucius, and even if you tell him, I don't really want to be in his company, not alone and-"

He laughs, touching his finger to her lips again to silence her. "It amuses me that both you and Malf have had the same thought. He started this, after all. And as much as it disturbs me, I fear the only way out of this mess is for me to don your skin."

"Sev, you don't need to do that."

"I don't see any way around it. I'm certainly not letting you be alone with him, but it's too risky to have you disappear completely, no matter what he thinks. If you're going to pass information back, you have to be seen in his company."

"Or I could just not go back to the Order."

There's a long silence, and then he shakes his head. "Not whilst we live in Dumbledore's castle, love."

"But he doesn't know-"

He gives her an uneasy look. "We think he doesn't know, but…" He shrugs. "I wouldn't be surprised if he finds out. Or if he knows already. Moody's an old friend of his, after all." And then he kisses her again. "I don't want him to think your loyalty has been shaken, or that you are truly aligned with Malf. You need to be amongst them. You never know when you might need their assistance once more."

Chapter Text

She stands in the stuffy corridor and desperately tries to muster up the courage to twist the ornate door handle and enter the Order meeting. Severus was right - she has to remain aligned with the Order and their cause, and moreover, she wants to. These are the people that she wants to stand with, the magical men and women who are broadly fighting for her freedom, no matter their individual differences.

That's why her stomach is pulsing anxiously. From the very first time she'd sat in with the Order, she'd placed her trust with them - especially in those early days, when Severus didn't know where she was going. It wasn't truly a betrayal of Severus, as he felt the same when it came to blood status, of that she was certain. His beliefs on Muggles were confusing and complicated, and he contradicted himself more often than not - but his stance on Muggleborns had always been clear: they were magical, and just as magical as he was as a Half, or his Slytherin peers were as Pures.

Occasionally, she found herself wondering if Severus had not met her when he did - not befriended her at such an early point of his life, and formed his opinion without the negative influence of wider wizarding society - if his opinion would've been less certain. She can't imagine him being a purist, but she wonders if his now determined stance would've been weak enough to be affected by the whispering of Malfoy or Rosier, of Avery or Mulciber, of the two beautiful Black sisters and their youngest male cousin - all of whom would rather have been seen dead than fighting for the Muggleborn cause.

It was of no surprise to her that despite his private beliefs, Severus did not join the Order's ranks, and she didn't blame him for his supposed inaction - to do so would've been social suicide for him, and he'd already committed the gravest of sins amongst his housemates by standing by their unusual relationship.

Despite this, she couldn't help but feel a note of admiration for the people who counted themselves amongst the Order's most loyal members; not least those of Pureblood heritage, who had nothing to gain and everything to lose by standing up for their beliefs.

So the thought of spinning another chain of lies to the people who had accepted her history, accepted her blood status, accepted her life - well, not quite her life as they barely accepted Severus - but now, thanks to their carefully crafted web of deception, even he was no longer a fly in the ointment, or a barrier to her complete acceptance. No, these people accepted Lily Evans, and the thought of adding another layer to the deception was making her feel a little sick.

After all, she, Lily Evans, was now one of them - a young maligned witch who was on the run from the Ministry, her name perhaps somewhat blackened by vague association with Lucius Malfoy - although even she isn't sure who amongst the group truly believes that aspect of her curious tale.

Moody being the notable exception. And unless Severus' assumption was correct, and Dumbledore was also privy to the truth, Moody would be the only person in the room who knows for certain that she is still Severus' partner. She isn't quite sure how she feels about the most sceptical auror in the Ministry knowing the most about her, but it isn't for that reason that her heart hammers in her chest as she reaches for the handle. She isn't frightened of Moody, but she is terrified at how the Prewett twins and Potter and his band of miscreants will react to her reappearance.


She needn't have worried. Potter's cheer is gleeful, and hearing his exuberant yell of delight calms the nerves twisting in her stomach. Relief floods over her when she realises that she hadn't been excommunicated in her absence - they don't hate you - and she quickly moves to sit between Potter and Black.

"Hey," Lupin says, leaning over and squeezing her knee. "Thanks. For… You know."

"Not here," she whispers, her eyes darting over towards the aurors seated on the other side of the room: Bones, Vance and Moody - all deep in an animated discussion with Dumbledore.

"They all know," Black mutters, almost under his breath. "Vance got us the recipe, remember?"

Potter gives a slight nod. "And Moody knows everything."

"Bones too?"

"Thick as thieves with Vance," Pettigrew says, quietly. "I followed them-"

"You followed-"

"Shhhhh!" Black reacts quickly, elbowing her hard in the ribs - and the group all stare at the aurors, relieved to see that they remained engrossed in conversation. "Merlin, Evans, I thought you were meant to be a spy of some sort?"


"That's why you're involved with Malfoy, isn't it? Brewing for him-"

"Mmm, I thought Peter was saying something important?" she quickly deflects, hoping that Vance has shared nothing further of her supposed involvement with Lucius Malfoy.

Pettigrew gives her a grateful smile, his chest inflating at her apparent praise. "Yes, thank you." He glances across at the aurors, and then continues, "I followed them, and Bones and Vance are deep. Moody, not so much - but it's harder to keep trace of him. You know what he's like."

"Paranoid," Potter chips in.

"He's not one of them," Pettigrew says. "I might not be able to keep tabs on him, but I can keep tabs on the two women - and he's not as close to them as he might suggest."

Lily squirms a little uneasily in her seat, thinking of Moody's declaration: Get me Vance, and I'll make sure your man walks free.

"Why do you think he's on the outer?" she asks.

Black scoffs. "He's not on the outer. Bones worships the ground he walks on, even if she is his superior." 

"I thought Vance was Moody's boss?"

"She is," Lupin says. "Bones and Vance are equals-"

"-but Moody now works in Vance's department," Pettigrew finishes.


"She was in the field," Potter says, his eyes not leaving Dumbledore, keenly watching for an indication that their conversation should be brought to a halt.

Lily's eyes widen. "Undercover?"

"And old Moody doesn't like that one bit," Pettigrew mutters. "I learnt that much." He gives a sniff. "He reckons that to be able to pass undercover, you've got to have a bit of-" He pauses, struggling to find the word.

"Sympathy," Black snaps. "Empathy. Whatever you want to call it." 

"To be convincing to the other side, you've got to lean a little that way yourself," Potter adds.

"Exactly." Black leans back on his chair, almost triumphantly. "I'd be rubbish at it. What you see is what you get with me."

Pettigrew smiles. "Nor me. I'd be too worried that I'd say the wrong thing to the wrong person."

"I'm like a bludger to the face," Potter laughs. "What about you, Moons?"

Lupin's voice is oddly contemplative when he speaks. "I don't know. ...not now." When Potter gives him a blank look, he sighs. "Before this… Before what Evans has done… The monster in me, he was never in me, do you understand? It was like snapping off a light, or closing a door. One minute I'm here, the next minute, the wolf is in my place."

"But now it's not?" she asks eagerly, leaning over Black to focus on Lupin, her academic interest now aflame. "With the…" and she drops her voice to barely a whisper, "...potion?"

"Yes." He looks torn, and runs his hand through his hair. "It's brilliant; life-changing. But...there was a line before, and now there isn't. Now, I look down and it's me. I am the monster."

"You're not, Moony," Potter says, quickly. "You're not a monster."

Lupin doesn't answer, but looks away - and before anyone can say anything else, Diggle slams the door shut and announces the start of the meeting.

Many miles away, Jigger strides up to the doors of the Leaky Cauldron and steps in, marching straight over to the table at the very back of the bar. "Horace."

"Ah, about time," Slughorn says, although his tone is far softer than his rebuke. "I was starting to think you'd stood me up. Drink?"

"On me," Jigger says, and points at the three empty glasses on the table. "I see you've got a taste for it. Same again?"

She's never seen Mundungus Fletcher take centre stage at a meeting before, but the rest of the Order are hanging on his every word, his hands twisting against each other as he talks loudly. "It's a fluctuating market."

"A fluctuating market?" Vance shoots him a sceptical look. "You make it sound like your trade is honorable."

To his credit, Mundungus doesn't falter. "We are all well aware that in happier times, I would be a much higher priority to your esteemed department-"

"-don't flatter yourself."

At this, Mundungus straightens his jacket. "I am an entrepreneur."

"A drug dealer," Potter stage whispers to Black.

"I am a mover and shaker," Mundungus says, loudly.

"Yeah, he shakes parcels to see if they clink with illegal potion vials," Lupin quips.

"And then moves them so they change into coins in his pocket," Pettigrew finishes with a grin. 

Still, Mundungus ignores them all - and although she has little time for the oily man, she can't help but admire how steadfastly he ignores their provocation. "In all businesses, there's supply and demand. I ensure that the two continue to meet."

Potter snorts. "Yeah, and ensure your pockets are filled-"

"Get to the point, Fletcher," Bones interrupts, shooting a stern look over at Potter.

Mundungus whips a vial out of his jacket and plants it on the table. "This is the point."

Bones is quick, but Vance is faster, and her small hand grips the bottle. "It's unlabelled."


"So what is it?" Moody says, stamping over to stand behind the two women, his curiosity suddenly aroused.

"Try it."

There's a long silence, and Moody shoots Mundungus a withering glare. "Fool."

"No, don't be hasty," Vance says, with a thin smile. She stands, and uncaps the potion, and then she hands it to Mundungus. "Go on then."

Mundungus glances around the room, his eyes widening. "I'm… No."

"If you do not, then how are we to know if this is anything other than water?" She peers at the liquid again, tipping the vial slightly so it moves - but the liquid looks innocuous, and gives away no clues as to its contents.

"It was a joke," Mundungus says, hastily, looking increasingly unnerved. "It's Imperatum."

There's another silence as the horrified group digests the information.

Bones' voice is low. "And you say Hogsmeade is flooded with this?"

"All of the public houses."

"Who? Why?"

"I wish I could help," Mundungus says, softly. "It's terrible for business if my clients do not know their own minds, but it's..." He shrugs apologetically.


"I'm afraid it's the first I had heard of this," Dumbledore says, softly. "It is most concerning." He fixes Mundungus with a hard stare. "When did this start, Mundungus?"

"I've only been able to procure a vial in the last day or so, but I believe contaminated products have been flooding the usual locations - the Leaky, the Broomsticks and the Hog's - for the last few weeks."

She notices that Dumbledore looks uncomfortable, but the room is soon distracted as Moody gives a soft laugh. "And with your patrons no longer knowing their own minds, they've lost interest in your line of increasingly expensive party drugs, is that right, Mundungus? That's how you stumbled across this, yes?"

Mundungus shoots a glance at Lily, and she suddenly feels uncomfortable, knowing that the recent rise in expense of Mundungus' products is because of her and Severus' relative unavailability. "It is of no matter," Mundungus huffs. "I'm not into that any longer."

And now Moody guffaws. "Not into dealing, Mundungus? Since when?"

"Not dealing, brokering!"

"...and why the career change?"

"No reason."

It's a standoff at this point, and it's obvious that Mundungus will be pushed no further. She watches as Bones and Vance discuss the potion in hushed tones, and whilst the concerned glance between Dumbledore and Moody doesn't bypass her, all she can think is that she wants to get her hands on that vial so she can see Imperatum for herself.

"Tell me," Jigger says, leaning back in his seat. "How long has it been?"

Slughorn gives him a surprised look. "Since we last met, or since we last did this?"

"This! Been out and about like ordinary wizards." He lowers his voice. "Like it was before the last round of purges-"

"They're not giving a reason now," Slughorn murmurs. "Before they told everyone the same thing-"

"Undesirable political allegiances," Jigger quickly finishes. "I know, I've heard it enough times."

"-but now they're just burning their papers, and banishing them."

"Burning their papers? Banishing them?" Jigger looks astounded, and Slughorn loudly hushes him.

"Unless you wish to be next," Slughorn says, looking nervously around the pair, "I suggest you lower your volume."


They sit for a moment, Slughorn sipping at his drink whilst Jigger toys with his glass - and then, Slughorn suddenly looks up and smiles. "I say, it's been a long time since I heard this."

"I should think so," Jigger says, "it came out before you were able to grow a moustache."

"Now now, I don't think it's anywhere near that old," Slughorn laughs, but then a frown replaces his joy. "...when did the Leaky start piping music through the bar?"

Jigger gives a tight smile. "Oh, I believe it's a recent development."

"I think this topic has been covered," Vance says, her tone weary. "Now, is there anything else to report from you boys?"

"All I'm saying is that there's no chance of any of us lot getting close to him now. Not now he's being protected by Slughorn." Black looks apologetically at Lily, his comment clearly pointed towards Dumbledore, who is pretending not to hear - least, she thinks the great wizard is pretending; Black's hardly subtle, and as far as she knows, Dumbledore's hearing isn't failing, despite his advanced age. "I thought we'd get him for you sooner than this, Evans," Black adds, darkly, "but there's still time. Snape can only hide at Hogwarts for so long."

Black seems to miss the glance that Gideon and Fabian share, but Lily easily spots it. Moody's words have clearly spilled back to them - and she wonders just how much Molly has told them. She can hear Vance wrapping up the meeting, but she's lost in her thoughts - do the Prewett boys know everything? Nothing? Do they know that she's still in love with Severus, and he with her? Or do they think that Black's angry behaviour is unwarranted? Without knowing their history, Black's blinkered focus on just one wizard is a little unusual given that their world is full of anti-Muggleborn and Death Eater sympathisers, all of whom would be far more deserving of Black's ire than a politically insignificant low-level drug dealer.

She glances around the group, and it feels as if her brain's spinning with the possibilities; instead of a room of friends, it's as if the room has been populated with potential enemies, all of whom believe different tales about her. She knows Vance thinks she's fucking Malfoy, whilst Moody knows she isn't, and she suspects Dumbledore knows she's holed up at Hogwarts with Severus, but she can't prove it. Instead, she has to pretend that she's sleeping in spare rooms and on sofas, running and hiding from the darker forces within the Ministry - only whilst taking care not to sound too distressed, lest another kind-hearted soul offers their hospitality.

"You should join the department, young Black," Moody mutters, clapping his hand on Black's shoulder. "We could do with a few terriers like you."

"Within the laws, Alastor," Bones calls over, her right eyebrow slightly raised.

"I didn't say outside of the laws," he grumbles, gripping Black's shoulder even more tightly. "I like this boy's approach. Like a dog with a bone."

"You've got that right," Potter grins, and it clearly takes all of Pettigrew's effort not to laugh. 

Moody scowls, and just as she thinks he's going to rebuke the group, he indicates that she should rise. "Time for us to leave, Evans," he says.

Potter immediately stands. "I walk her home-"

"Sit down, Potter," Moody barks, and Black's eyes widen when Potter obeys the older man. "You don't know where she's going."

"And you do?"

Moody doesn't dignify the question with a response, and she shoots the group of friends an apologetic look as Moody sweeps her out of the room.

"I reckon he's taking her for a drink," Pettigrew laughs, elbowing Lupin - but his joke that Moody would try and lace Lily with Imperatum falls flat, and Potter looks at him with disgust. Pettigrew's blushes are saved when it's clear that the rest of the Order aren't paying them any attention, still mumbling in their small groups. Seemingly embarrassed by his failed quip, Pettigrew looks at Potter, Black and Lupin thoughtfully. "Want me to follow them? I know I said that Moody's difficult, but I can probably tag Evans easily-"

Lupin gives a subtle shake of his head, and positions himself so his back is to Dumbledore, who has suddenly taken an interest in the group. "Dumbledore," he mouths, and the four boys start a sudden and loud conversation about the merits of the latest line of Cleansweep broomsticks.

"Really, there's no need-"

"You've had Merlin knows how many of those drinks," Jigger says, his arm firmly clamped around Slughorn's waist, "I won't take no for an answer."

Slughorn sighs loudly. "If you insist."

Jigger shoots Slughorn a strange look. "I meant to ask you - the Snape boy and his girl, I forget her name…"

"Evans? Lily Evans?"

"Yes. What did you think of her?"

Slughorn gives a derisory snort. "Mudblood, of course. Acceptable to look at, but suitable for little other than satisfying the most base of a wizard's urges. Still, what more can you expect from that stock?"

They're at the foot of the grounds when they land, and as soon as Lily catches her breath, she stares at Moody in wonder. "Imperatum?"

"Not you or your filthy fellow then?" 



"Who else do you suspect?"

"There's only a few skilled enough to brew it. Slughorn, Jigger, Borage or Belby. From what I've seen, your boy is talented enough, but you say it's not his handiwork." Moody appraises her. "And if the rumours are true, yourself."

"You shouldn't listen to rumours."

"And you shouldn't be brewing unlicensed potions."

She tosses her hair. "I'm not dignifying that with a response."

"Be careful, Evans," he hisses. "This is new and different."

"Borage," she says, firmly. "After what he did with Severus, I wouldn't…" She draws to a sudden halt.

"I see you've caught up," he says, stiffly. "If it is Borage - and there's no saying it is, as those other Masters are skilled enough in their own right - then your boy had best be on his guard, lest he find himself taking the fall again." He gives her a strange look. "Tell me it isn't you behind this."

"It isn't."

"Swear it," Moody hisses.

"I swear!"

He gives her another searching look, and then he places his hand out before her. "You're different," and although it's an accusation, his tone is mild - and before she can argue, she can feel that he's right; the pulse of magic reflecting back at her is stronger and more insistent than before. "Bored?"


"It's supposed to be contained," he says. "It's not supposed to be building."

"What does it mean?"

"Snape's is the same?"

She shakes her head - Severus has still got that thrill of magic surrounding him; she could feel it coming from him in waves in their quarters earlier, but it's at the same intensity it's always been. Her eyes flutter as she basks in the rebounding flurry of waves.

"Addictive, isn't it?" Moody says, his voice darkening. "Has he done this to you?"

She opens her eyes to stare at him. "Done what?"

"Is that why neither of you have contained your magic?" he asks, and she can hear the pondering in his voice - as if this thought hasn't occurred to him previously. "Are you somehow feeding off one another? Being excited by each other?"

"This," she says, angrily, "is not Severus' fault. He hasn't done anything." She flushes when she thinks of their most recent games, and pulls her robes more tightly to her. 

Don't be daft, Lily, she thinks. It can't be that.

She steps out of Moody's vicinity, breaking the pulse of magic that was flooding over her. "I am rather tired of him being the victim of nonsensical accusations."

He doesn't apologise, and she isn't expecting him to, but he does start to walk up to the castle instead of immediately Disapparating, which she takes as an apology of sorts.

"Does Dumbledore know I'm here?"


I knew it. 

She moves a little faster, her shorter legs making Moody's fast pace difficult to maintain. "Why hasn't he said anything?"

"He doesn't want you or Severus to know that he knows," Moody says.

"Why not?"

Moody halts again, and this time, he looks pained. "...he wants you to be safe."

"That's not what you were going to say."

He shakes his head but doesn't elaborate, and she stops walking. "Come on, Evans," he says, tiredly. "I want to go home."

She throws her arms down by her sides in fury. "And I want you to tell me the truth! I'm tired of being lied to and misled!"

"Get me Vance," he hisses. "The rest will take care of itself."

They walk in unhappy silence for a couple of minutes before the thought finally crosses her mind. "...he wants Severus, doesn't he?"

Moody doesn't break stride, but his back stiffens and she hops along excitedly next to him. 

"No!," she exclaims. "Dumbledore doesn't want Severus - he's already got Severus. Severus thinks he's here because of Lucius Malfoy, but it's not Malfoy who arranged this, it's Dumbledore, isn't it?"

"Get inside," Moody says, roughly propelling her towards the castle which is now looming over them, and before she can protest or add to her theory, he's gone.

Slughorn is pacing back and forth across his office, his meaty hand over his mouth. "I wouldn't, I can't-"

"It happened, Horace," Jigger says, darkly, pointing once more at the borrowed pensieve. "How much more proof do you require?"

"But I don't hold such views!" Slughorn shouts, his voice so loud, the hangings on the wall flutter.

"...I know you don't," Jigger says. "You were merely repeating what you'd heard."

"I do not share such company, I do not surround myself with those with such views, I-"

Jigger gives him a pointed look. "Could you not hear the wizarding wireless?"

"Of course I could," Slughorn says, his cheeks still flush with fury. "I commented to you about the song - the Celestina Warbeck one-"

"-but not of the discussion between the songs?"

"There was no discussion between the songs."

"No? You heard nothing?" 

Slughorn looks frustrated. "It was seamless music as far as I noticed."

"You missed the subtle comments between the songs, then?" Jigger reaches into his pocket and pulls out a vial, and Slughorn's face falls.

"Imperatum? You gave me Imperatum?"

"Tom gave you Imperatum."

Slughorn looks disgusted. "Tom wouldn't give me Imperatum. Tom wouldn't even know how to get hold of Imperatum. The only way Tom would give me Imperatum-"

"-was if someone was lacing his alcohol supply with it."

Slughorn sits down heavily, as if his legs are suddenly too weak to hold his weight. " make them susceptible to the propaganda being piped through the wireless." He looks at Jigger, his expression aghast. "That's why the Leaky suddenly has a wireless. That's why I said those things."

"Because in that moment, you believed them." Jigger pulls another vial from his pocket and shakes it. "Lucky I gave you that antidote in your final drink, isn't it? Else Merlin knows what you'd have said over breakfast tomorrow in the Great Hall."

"But who would brew such a thing?" Slughorn shakes his head. "Especially knowing what it would be used for, and-"

"Well, that's just it, Horace. ...I didn't know."

Chapter Text

Slughorn looks furious, and there's a speckle of spit on his lip as he thunders, "But we are talking about Imperatum, Arsenius!" 

"And I told you, Horace," Jigger shouts back, instantly on the defensive, "I have had this arrangement for years without incident! I didn't expect-"

"-you've had this arrangement for years?" Slughorn looks horrified. "Brewing Imperatum? Who on earth for?"

Jigger looks Slughorn squarely in the eye. "I fear you have just discovered the true nature of my longstanding business relationship with Abraxas Malfoy."

"Abraxas Malfoy?" Slughorn's voice reveals his astonishment. "I was aware that you interacted on occasion, and that you'd recently had a sale or two, but I thought you barely had any dealings with him, I thought-"

"-he preferred for me not to advertise our connection," Jigger interrupts, softly. "I know his acquaintance with you is rather more tenuous these days, but back when this started, he believed that having a number of brewers in his pocket could be looked on rather unfavourably by the Ministry if rumours ever took hold."

"But I've never brewed for him."

Jigger gives him a fleeting look of triumph. "Exactly. Any accusation of brewing would be lain at your door, and you had ample proof that you were not his brewer. He ensured that my relationship with him was kept in the shadows." He draws in a breath. "No grand meals at Malfoy Manor for me," and his lips quirk, "not like my young apprentice."

"You don't think Severus-"

"No." Jigger's quick to shake his head. "The boy's not involved. He has no idea. You're quite right, of course, he's full of starry eyes about the younger Malfoy, but I refuse to indulge such topics of conversation within the laboratory. He is entirely ignorant of my involvement in that family's dealings." He gives Slughorn a searching look. "It's why I was not best pleased to discover their connection - it brings the wolf a little too close to my door."

"Indeed." Slughorn runs his large hands over his face, and then teases his moustache back into shape. "And how did Abraxas make the suggestion to you?"

Jigger laughs, a dark and deep laugh. "How does Abraxas make a suggestion to anyone? He's insanely powerful - he was instrumental in the appointment of Cornelius Fudge, you do realise?"

Slughorn's sudden twitch betrays him, revealing he knew no such thing. "...I was not aware that Cornelius was so affiliated."

Jigger gives a tight lipped smile. "Everyone believes he's Dumbledore's man, but that's the beauty of him - the only reason Fudge leans on Dumbledore so heavily is because he was pushed into post far too soon."

"I don't think-" 

"No? There were numerous candidates far more suitable for the position - not just Dumbledore, but the likes of Crouch or Scrimgeour - but that's what makes Fudge so appealing to the likes of Abraxas."

"Incompetency?" Slughorn looks sceptical. "I can't see Abraxas being impressed by incompetence."

"But Fudge's incompetency is a byproduct of fear. He's frozen with indecision, led by inept ministers who are not loyal to him, and being plotted against by those who feel he usurped their place in the hierarchy. He's spineless, weak and therefore easily manipulated. He feels that as long as the Ministry operates on the surface - as if all appears well, no matter how blackened the core and how nasty and insidious the rot within has become - he won't speak up. He has no cause, no real political affiliation, and he most certainly won't dare to speak out against the likes of the Malfoys - not with the funding they push the Ministry's way."

Slughorn appraises his old friend. "And it is this funding that so convinced you, I assume?"

Jigger holds his hands out in mock surrender. "I make a living, Horace. We all do."

Slughorn shakes his head. "I cannot reconcile this in my mind, Arsenius. Abraxas! I am not ignorant of his family's beliefs, and their unusual methods of manipulation, but what are you suggesting? Years, you said! What was he doing with it?"

"Controlling his house elves," Jigger says, softly. "Least, that's what he always told me."

Slughorn gives a scornful laugh. "House elves? And you believed that?"

Jigger looks uncomfortable. "Perhaps, in the beginning. But I have long suspected that his wife and son were the primary recipients of the potion." 

Slughorn's breath hitches, and Jigger can see him reevaluating the family with his new knowledge. "But why?"

"The only conclusion I was able to draw was that he came to me and made his request after the rather public revelation of her affair."

Slughorn was pacing the room now. "Yes, I remember - Ignatius Prewett, of all people! I spoke to Abraxas a few times back then. I thought he would divorce her in those first few weeks, but then he suddenly said that was all behind them," and he waved his hand, "it was a moment of madness, and she was back to her usual self again." He looks troubled. "I remember the dinner party where we discussed it. We - the three of us - retired to his study, and I was surprised he even raised the topic in her presence."

"And what did she say?"

"That's just it - she sat in the corner of the room as Abraxas talked, and she was smiling absently at the fire. I remember being surprised that she was silent - you know how feisty she was - but I thought that was her concession given the circumstances. She'd brought shame upon him, and now she was to remain silent whilst he cleared up the mess."

Jigger nods. "Indeed. He may have said it was behind them, but he never forgave her - not for the scandal she brought to their name. He said on many an occasion that he could no longer trust her to remain true to him. Once I realised, I could see that the dates made sense - but what was I do to do, Horace? Stop? Imagine the fall out if he was lacing her in such a way!"

Slughorn takes a deep breath, looking horrified at the idea. "And you believe Lucius was a victim as well?"

"I think he didn't want the boy getting any ideas about aiding his mother. Until that moment, they had been rather close - far closer than father and son."

"I'm afraid I do not recall," Slughorn says, shaking his head. "I simply remember young Lucius following his father around the manor, keen to emulate him whenever opportunity arose."

"And hasn't he just," Jigger muses. "...I've heard rumours that the boy has twisted ideas on consent."

"That and power," Slughorn confirms, swallowing hard. "It was somewhat of a problem in Slytherin House when he was a student; he was forever forcing the younger students to bend to his will. He always protested it was a joke, but…" Slughorn looks ashamed. "I thought I'd put a stop to it, and that he'd grown out of it. I had no idea..." He pauses. "So, what are you suggesting? That this isn't Abraxas making use of your potion?"

"I do not believe it is Abraxas," Jigger says, softly. "I was brewing for Abraxas, but as you long heard me complain, his payment schedule had become somewhat erratic."

"So you've let Lucius take the reins?"

And once more, Jigger looks uncomfortable. "Not young Lucius - although he seems the obvious choice, doesn't he? No, I was approached by an interested third party. Someone who felt that the potion was worth more, and with Abraxas being reluctant to pay his bills, I was just incredibly grateful that someone saw fit to line my pockets appropriately, especially as the brews were already completed." He pulls out a scrap of parchment and passes it over, and Slughorn's eyes widen as he reads the name at the foot of the page.

"Arsenius, please tell me that you didn't do business with Rodolphus Lestrange?"

Severus wanders through their shared quarters, his long lean arms stretching over his head as he yawns loudly. He pushes Lily's half-eaten breakfast to one side of the table and focuses on the unopened post, rifling through the letters, all addressed to him. Obviously. He rips open a stained envelope first; it's wax-sealed, although there's no crest - but from the state of the outside, he knows it's from Mundungus Fletcher. He reads and nods, and then burns the letter - and then he rips open its polar opposite; a pristine envelope containing luxurious bond paper in an eggshell tone. Malfoy didn't need to stamp the familiar crest on the back for Severus to recognise the sender. His lips move silently as he reads, reaching absently for Lily's half-eaten cold toast.

The only positive thing Aberforth can say about his older brother is that at least he has the good sense to descend upon his bar in the morning, before the Hog's Head is open for the day - it doesn't do for business for the self-confessed dregs of society to run unexpectedly into the upstanding and righteous Headmaster of Hogwarts.

"Aberforth, it would be easier for us to converse if you were to turn around," Albus prompts gently, and Aberforth's body tenses at the apparent rebuke.

"View's fine this way."

"I am in no doubt that is the case," Albus chuckles lightly. "...I am unhappy that you did not bring this latest development to my attention."

Aberforth runs his cloth across the bar, scrubbing angrily at the wood, and refusing to turn and face Albus. "And if I had, what would you have done? Leapt upon your pack of Thestrals and headed to the Ministry, demanding to be seen by your best friend?"

"Cornelius Fudge is not my best friend."



With a last grand swipe at the pristine bar - it's now the best it's ever looked, weeks of stains and dirt finally washed away - Aberforth retreats to rinse his cloth before heading out into the main area to wash down each table. Albus frowns as he watches him, confident that Aberforth has never previously made such an effort to clean his establishment, but makes no move to leave the building. As Aberforth wipes down the last table, he glances over his shoulder. "That it, then? Got what you came for?"

"It's not just the subliminal messaging," Albus says softly, his hand reaching out to touch one of the beer pumps on the bar. "It's the drink."

"I'm no fool."

"I didn't say you were. I can understand you failing to notice that it is laced..."

Aberforth finally turns, his cloth forgotten and his arms folded across his chest. "I am as much a wizard as you. I did not fail to notice."


"What should I have done, Albus? The stocks were dry. I bargained and bartered with various breweries for weeks - Tom and Ros did the same - but each and every agreement fell through. Nobody could help, and when it looked as if we were all going to have to shut up shop permanently, the Ministry came forward with a deal," and he holds his hand up to stop his brother from interrupting, "and no, they did not explain that Imperatum was an integral ingredient." He shrugs. "Ros and Tom did the same - signed on the dotted line - and we're not the only ones."

"Nobody protested?"

"...old woman Scrivenshaft," Aberforth says, eventually. "Not the Imperatum - you can't sell that in a quill shop, but the wireless. Said it interfered with the customers shopping. Distracted them."

"I was under the impression that Marta had recently retired? Just last week, or-"

Aberforth gives a tight smile. "Oh yes, she has. Her son, Henrich has taken over the day-to-day running of the establishment. He stood by his mother at first, but he has different views on the wireless these days."

Albus' blood runs cool. "And of Marta? She is...happily retired?"

"It is said that she no longer rises from her seat before the fire in their parlour."

Albus bows his head. "I am to assume that she is no longer capable?"

Aberforth swallows tightly. "I'm a busy man, Albus."

"Aberforth, this is unconscionable. If only you'd swallowed your pride and had come to me, if-"

At this, Aberforth spins, his fists clenching by his sides. "You can lecture me when you've lectured the rest of the owners down these wizarding streets, and not a moment before!" He takes a step forward, his body large and looming, despite Albus' own height. "And I wouldn't put it past you to do so, but I can tell you that you'd be best speaking to your beloved Minister, because he was the one who signed this decree." Aberforth looks disgusted. "And as far as I remember, you helped him into his position - so don't look at me like I'm the wizard with blood on his hands." He steps back, and his chest is rising and falling as a rush of adrenaline surges through his body. "You know where the door is. You can see yourself out."

It was weird enough being Severus, and she's not entirely sure this is his greatest plan - but he was so earnest at wanting her to see that Jigger's accusations of alcoholism were incorrect, she found herself being swept away with his enthusiasm and she knocked back the Polyjuice with the mysterious hair contained within. 

That's her explanation for shivering in a darkened nook from the side of Knockturn Alley, despite the afternoon sun lashing Diagon Alley. The buildings here are cramped together, and imposing, and she can tell from the moss growing between the cobbles that this part of wizarding Britain is mostly untouched by sunlight. It's clearly why Mundungus Fletcher has chosen it, and his eyebrows quirk when he sees her, even in her new unfamiliar form.


"Good afternoon, Snape. Mr Avery. I wasn't aware this was a social gathering."

"Where is he?" Severus says, sharply.

"I didn't realise you had better things to do with your time," Mundungus sniffs, giving Lily a sideways glance. "I wanted a private word with you-"

"-if you've given me the wrong time because you want to bend my ear-"

"I didn't realise you'd have company!" Mundungus shouts. At Severus' furious look, he collects himself, breathing deeply before speaking again in a low whisper. "It's about these potions-"

"I'm not brewing," Severus says, glancing anxiously around them following Mundungus' outburst.

Mundungus gives him a sceptical look. "Apart from what's in your robes now."

"This is different. Pre-arranged."

"I thought we had an understanding," Mundungus starts, giving Lily a suspicious glance. "And I don't understand why you've brought this great lummock along with you."

"Oi," she chips in, feeling certain that Avery wouldn't let such a remark slide.

"Shut up, Ave," Severus says, before rounding on Mundungus. "When's Bast getting here?"

Rabastan Lestrange?

"Just something, Snape. That's all I'm asking. Fair's fair, I stood by you."

Severus gives him a disdainful sneer. "Stood by me when?"

"When those accusations were flying around. I trusted you to keep supplying, believed in your abilities."

Severus shakes his head. "I can't. Not under Dumbledore's nose."

"He'll never know! I just need something to keep business ticking over."

"Let's go, Snape," she says, daring to speak, certain that this conversation isn't going to end the way either man wants. "We've got better things to do."

"Things?" Mundungus scoffs. "That's what you call those whores down Knockturn, is it?" He laughs. "No wonder you brought him with you when I gave you this location."

Severus' back tightens, and he whips the potion from his robes. "Get this to Bast," he says, his voice low, "and get me my galleons by the end of the week. I am a busy man, and I do not have time for your nonsense-"

"Snape, come on-"

"-and if you fuck me on this," he hisses, his wand in his hand and pointing threateningly at Mundungus, "I swear, I will-"

"I won't," Mundungus answers quickly, sudden fear evident in his eyes. He takes a step back from the younger man, and composes himself. "I'll get your money to you."

"I should charge you for wasting my time," Severus snaps, pulling his robes tightly around him. "You're not the only broker in town, and you'd do well to remember it."

"I'm the only broker you trust," Mundungus says, making sure he stays several steps away from Severus, and glancing nervously at Avery. He gives a slight nod as he backs away from them. "Mr Snape. Mr Avery." And then just as he rounds the corner, a safe distance from them, Mundungus gives a nasty smile. "Have a good afternoon, gentlemen. Enjoy your paid company."

"Rabastan Lestrange?" she breathes, as they settle back into their rooms. "He's an alcoholic?"

"Not Bast," Severus says, shrugging off his cloak. He glances at her, seeing her hair starting to turn back to its usual colour. "That was close. I thought we weren't going to make it back."

She can feel the change starting to take place, and Avery's thicker features slowly melt away as she returns to her own appearance. "When you started arguing with Mundungus, I thought we were through," she calls, heading towards the bedroom to change into her usual clothes.

"You and me both," he says, sitting on the sofa and untying his boots. "Merlin knows what time Bast was due to turn up."

"Who is he giving it to if he's not using it himself? Bast, I mean."

"A relative," he says. "I'm not sure who - I lose track of who is drunk, and who is just fervent in their ridiculous purist beliefs." He flashes her a grin as she sits down next to him. "It's hard to tell the difference."

"You've been a guest at the Lestranges? You know them?"

"Three times, I think," he says, his eyes narrowing as he tries to recall. "Four, maybe? I was last there a few weeks back, but I wouldn't say I know them. They tolerate me because of Narcissa."

"Not Lucius?"

He laughs. "Malf is not their favourite person. They approve of Narcissa because Bellatrix married Dolph, do you remember?"

She digs him in the ribs. "How could anyone forget? It was in the Prophet for weeks on end - wedding of the year."

"Yes, Malf was most annoyed that his coupling with Cissy didn't get quite the same reception." He settles back, and pulls her into his embrace. "I don't think all of the elders realised my background when I was introduced," he says. "I can't say I'd be keen to go back in a hurry - not these days."

"They didn't know we were together, I'm guessing?"

"I'm insignificant," he laughs. "The elders had no idea, and the younger ones assumed their parents and grandparents were tolerating me for reasons unknown to themselves. It's a risk I'd rather not take."


"Although maybe I have recently redeemed myself," he says, ghosting a kiss down her neck. "I was rather keen to hear what Bast had to say on the topic. Bloody Mundungus."

She leans into his touch. "I thought you broke up with me so people would understand why you'd moved back to Hogwarts."

"I did."

"But you're really hoping to get back in with your old friends?" She tries to keep her tone light, but she isn't sure how successful she's been when she's greeted with silence.

"...I've been asked to do so," he says, eventually, but he doesn't elaborate as to who, and when he kisses her more insistently, it's obvious he's not prepared to say more.

Lily peers at herself in the mirror, opening her mouth widely whilst she gently traces lipstick across her lips. She presses her lips together, ensuring even application of the colour, and then opens her mouth again to check the bright stain, intending to correct any missed patches - and it's at that moment that she catches Severus' dark eyes in the reflection, watching her from their bed. She pauses, her eyes meeting his in the mirror, letting him know that he's been caught and then she hears him chuckle.

"Got me red handed."

"Haven't you got better things to do other than watch me dress?"

"Most definitely not. This is in my top three favourite things to do."

She laughs. "You're an idiot. What about you getting ready - you were the one who said we needed to get there early."

"I am ready."

At this, she turns and gives him a sceptical look. "You're naked, and sprawled over our bed."

He laughs again. "I can't help where you left me." Before she can argue, he points at his already selected robes hanging on the outside of the wardrobe. "I only need to throw those on. Bit of aftershave, maybe. Half a minute, tops." He settles back on the bed, his arms behind his head, and then a small frown crosses his face. "I'm not bothering you, am I?"

"I don't mind. I just don't understand what's so fascinating about watching me get ready."

He doesn't answer - and when it becomes obvious he's not going to explain, she gives a small shake of her head and continues to apply her makeup, knowing his eyes are roaming over her with her every move.

Severus pulls her into a swirl of Apparation, and the two land gently outside the wrought iron gates of Malfoy Manor. He holds her hand, and they walk down the path, the gates swinging open, as if they were sentient and aware of who had approached them. 

She notices him glancing around, and she grips his hand a little more tightly.

"Okay?" he asks.

"Yes," she says, but as the Manor looms into view, she can't help but tense slightly. 

To her surprise, he stops - as if he's sensed her discomfort - and he kisses her cheek. "I don't want to mess up your lipstick," he says, before she can comment on his chasteness. "There's nothing to worry about, love. Malf doesn't send polite invitations via owl post if he's intending to start a brawl."

"He wants you for something. Or me."

"In our finery?" Severus glances at her beautiful robes - funded by her parents when she'd told them that she'd be expected to attend a Ministry gala during her apprenticeship; an invitation that never came - and then down at his own, Malfoy-funded attire. "This isn't business. This is a celebration."

"And he wants me in attendance?"

Severus shrugs nonchalantly, but she can tell from how his fingers grip hers that the thought has already crossed his own mind, and he doesn't have an answer. 

As it turns out, there was nobody else joining them; Severus and Lucius, Lily and Narcissa - all in their finest of robes, all eating the most exquisite of meals in the ornate dining room. She sits opposite Severus, and next to Lucius, and although they make eye contact at several points throughout the meal, she misses the comforting hand of her boyfriend nestled within hers - and when she glances at Lucius with his wide crocodile smile, she's certain the seating arrangements are deliberate.

An hour passes, and then another, and she's still no closer to understanding why they've been invited - and Severus looks equally blank. When she opens her mouth to enquire, he shoots her a dark gaze - how could he tell I was going to ask? - and she swerves into a compliment about the raspberry coulis instead.

Narcissa smiles. "Regrettably, it's the only part of the meal I made myself."

"Not the elves?"

"For reasons unknown to the rest of us," Lucius mutters, "Cissy has always been keen to take the lead in the kitchen."

"Desserts only," Narcissa corrects, smiling fondly at Lucius, who reaches over the table to take her hand, their wedding rings sparkling in the light.

"And here I thought you enjoyed scrubbing pots and pans filled with congealed sauces," Severus drawls, with a smirk. "I was about to invite you around to my parents' house."

To Lily's surprise, Narcissa laughs. "I know, it's terribly Muggle of me-" and then she falters, her eyes meeting Lily's, and all of the participants in the polite dinner suddenly freeze. 

Severus' eyes dart from one Malfoy to the other, and Narcissa glances up at the grand chandelier - and then Lily sees Severus reaching for his champagne flute, his eyes communicating that she should do the same. In unison, they sip from their glasses, and thankfully - to the relief of the entire party - one of the house elves appears at Lucius' side, murmuring in his ear.

"I do apologise," Lucius says, pushing his chair back abruptly and dropping his napkin on the table. "I have some family business to take care of." He waves a hand towards the table and speaks directly at the house elf. "Dobby, clear this away and aid Cissy with preparing the room for dancing-"

"-I'll do that," Severus interjects.

"Nonsense, we are your hosts, Severus-"

"I believe Lily hasn't been fully acquainted with the Manor. Perhaps it would be more befitting of a hostess to accompany her on a tour?" Severus suggests.

Lucius pauses, and then gives a stiff nod. "Of course. Dobby can take care of the particulars in here. Severus, do take the lead and order him if his changes are not to your liking. I'll return shortly."

When she was a child, her parents would take her and Petunia on guided tours of grand stately homes, and this felt no different - only instead of the servitude being historical, she was only too aware that this was living and breathing; that the Malfoy family had money and status far beyond her own dreams, let alone those of Severus.

She nods politely as Narcissa whisks her from floor to floor, opening doors and pointing out paintings - and she feels herself warming to the witch in a way she hadn't previously, despite the unspoken of issue of blood status hanging over them like the sword of Damocles. She idly wonders if Narcissa would understand the reference - glancing around the rooms, she can see the influence of Muggle art and literature, and she wonders if the Malfoys realise it, or if their purism is so deep, they're entirely ignorant of how their worlds must once have collided.

"Our peers believe he's disowned you," Narcissa says, as they reach the top corridor, "but Lucius insisted that you were to be his date tonight."

She almost daren't breath - this very real discussion is so different to the polite murmurs of small talk they've shared over the evening, and she desperately doesn't want to damage Severus in any form. "Severus is keen to do as Lucius wishes."

Narcissa laughs politely. "Oh, isn't he just. And yet you agreed to accompany him, despite his behaviour towards you?" And then she reaches forward and takes Lily's hand. "You've been together a long time."

Lily lets the words hang, and doesn't respond - choosing instead to stare out of the window and across the vast grounds.

"I know he loves you," Narcissa tries again, and this time, Lily's breath hitches. "He doesn't believe in the cause in quite the way Lucius and I do, does he?"

It's obvious that Narcissa is not going to drop the subject, and Lily turns back to face her. "I think you should ask Severus himself."

"Lucius can get you papers," Narcissa says, suddenly. 

"I'm sorry?"

"The trees," she says. "You've not missed the decree that all wizarding families must display their family tree and magical heritage in their entrance halls, have you?"

She has. The decrees are coming thick and fast these days - it makes her head spin to keep up with the new and inventive ways that the Ministry are concocting to subjugate those who share her blood. "We were unaware."

"You saw ours on the way in?"

"Yes." She had - but she'd assumed it was usual, and not newly acquired. She wonders how Hogwarts is exempt from the decree, and hopes that it doesn't find itself caught up in a rehash of the legislation.

Narcissa gives a tight nod. "He can help. Not a Malfoy or Black heritage, you understand - but a Prewett line seems likely. A distant cousin. Newly discovered."

"And they'll accept that? The Ministry?"

"They do if the right number of galleons cross their palms," she says, tightly. "And it would be enough for Severus to be protected."

And then she understands. This isn't about her - it's about Severus, and his destiny, and their joint investment into him. Lily's voice is a little colder when she speaks. "He is protected already. We have separated."

"Yes, I can see that," Narcissa says, drolly. "You should think about it. Talk it through with him."

"I shall," Lily affirms, but Narcissa sighs loudly, as if she can tell that she won't.

"If something should happen to him," Narcissa warns, "you will require all of the help you can get." She pauses. "We may be willing, but if you remain at your current blood status, it might be impossible for us to do so." Then she straightens her back, and ushers Lily to the door. "Now, finally, I must show you the nursery. It is where Lucius himself grew up."

The lights are dimmed, and the records are loud, and she watches fondly as Severus waltzes Narcissa carefully around the grand room. Not too long ago, she'd have been jealous or concerned, but she knows Severus - and after tonight, she knows that Narcissa understands how he feels about their relationship. Instead, she happily watches as her man glides the willing witch around the floor with ease, his steps matching hers in perfect synchronicity.

Lily doesn't take Lucius' hand to dance, and he doesn't offer it again. He seems more an edge than on previous occasions, and although he has not commented as to the variety of family emergency disturbed him, it's clearly unnerved him. He composes himself enough to clap Severus on the shoulder when the song ends, and takes his place with his wife, quickly moving her across the dance floor. 

Severus drops down onto the seat next to Lily, a gleam of sweat on his brow. "Don't want to dance?"

"Not with him."

He gives a low chuckle. "Keep that thought to yourself, love." 

She watches as the married couple move around the room, and Lily can see Lucius' influence on her boyfriend - it's just like watching Severus, and she quickly realises that the Malfoys likely taught him how to dance. "They're good."

"I'll show you," he says, raising his hand a little in offering, but she doesn't take it.

"I'll embarrass you."

He leans behind her, reaching for their drinking glasses, and passes one to her. "Impossible."

She takes a sip and points at Narcissa's feet. "Look at how gracefully she moves. I'd trample you."

"People always think that leading is harder," he muses. "The men move, and the women follow - but wherever I place my foot, there will be no other. Men have no such fear." He sips his drink. "Lucius taught me before unleashing me on Narcissa. He made sure I knew how to control my movements. If you can follow, you can easily lead."

"He danced as the lead? And you as-"

He's up then, joining his friends, and she can hear a low laugh - Lucius? - as he mumbles something to them. Then Narcissa casts at the record player, and the music abruptly changes into something faster and more upbeat. Lily watches in surprise as Lucius pulls Severus into his embrace and the two move jauntily together, keeping perfect time with their steps.

"Shall we?" asks Narcissa, who has swept across the floor to invite her to join her, and this time, Lily feels as if she cannot refuse. She follows the older woman to the floor, and she catches Severus' eye as he moves past at a pace, a broad grin on his face.

Severus looks anxious as Lucius makes his excuses once more, and departs from the room. "That's the third time. Should I go with him, Cissy?"

Narcissa shakes her head immediately. "It's his father."

At this, Severus straightens in his seat. "Mr Malfoy has returned from overseas?" He puts his glass down. "I can assist, if-"

"No, Severus." Narcissa's slender hand touches the back of his own. "Lucius has it under control."

"Is that what this is in honour of?" Lily asks, daringly - ignoring Severus' furious glare. "This...celebration?"

Narcissa gives a soft laugh. "Abraxas Malfoy looming large over Lucius once more? No, that is nothing to celebrate, my dear." She shoots them both a curious look. "I thought one of you may have noticed whilst we were dancing, but perhaps we were not close enough for you to sense it." She reaches for Lily's hand, and gently places it near to her stomach.

Lily's mouth opens a little wider, and Severus blinks rapidly, as the implication dawns on them both. "The fresh paint upstairs," Lily comments, entranced by the faint swirl of magic she can feel around her hand. 

"A child?" Severus asks, gruffly.

"Feel," Narcissa says, reaching for him to join Lily, but he pulls away.

"There's no need," he says, with a tight smile. "Congratulations to you both." He stands, and Lily looks at him oddly, but he darts a kiss onto her forehead. "I know he's busy, but I feel I should speak with Lucius directly."

And before Narcissa can protest, he's gone.

Chapter Text

It's been years since he's been in this part of the Manor, and Severus doesn't know what to expect when he sprints down the corridor and into Abraxas' large study. Whatever he'd imagined he'd find, he didn't anticipate that the two Malfoy men would be at wand point. Severus quickly slides his own wand into his hand and points it between each of them, not quite having decided who his target should be.

"Good evening, young Severus," says Abraxas smoothly. "It has been a long while."

"Mr Malfoy." Severus glances at his friend. "You all right, Malf?"

"Go back to Cissy, Severus," Lucius says, his wand not moving from his father. "Father and I have some things to discuss."

Severus doesn't move his feet, but his wand continues to track between the two men. "Oh yes? Things you didn't manage to discuss on your previous visits here this evening?"

Abraxas chuckles. "The boy has your measure, son."

At that, Lucius flicks his wand, and before Severus can react, Abraxas has been disarmed. Lucius' pockets his father's wand, and then quickly binds his wrists.

"Malf, come on-"

"Yes, come on. Listen to your sensible friend, Lucius. Stop being so hot-headed-"

"Silencio!" Lucius casts quickly, and then drops his father's wand on the desk. "I apologise for my lack of decorum, Severus. Father has rather been trying my patience of late."

"I didn't even realise he was back." 

At this, Abraxas shakes his head strongly, and Severus frowns. 

" didn't ever go away?"

Abraxas nods, and Severus looks at Lucius with barely disguised horror.

"Enough," Lucius says, sounding weary. He summons a bottle of brandy from the other side of the room, and pours a generous measure into one glass. "Let us celebrate the return of old friends." He swirls the generous measure of liquid in the glass, and then holds it out before his father, pressing it firmly against his closed lips. "Drink up, Father."

Abraxas stares at him, his eyes narrowing, and as Lucius tips the liquid insistently against his face, he shakes his head firmly.

"Malf, I-" 

"You are making a mess," Lucius scolds, as if Severus hasn't spoken. Lucius reaches over, and firmly pinches his father's nostrils closed. Severus can barely continue to watch as Abraxas struggles to breathe without opening his mouth, his cheeks filling with dark scarlet. 

Lucius gazes at his father impassively, unaffected, before Abraxas' jaw finally drops open, the battle lost. His body silently gasps for air in great gulps, and Lucius takes his opportunity, forcing the alcohol into Abraxas' mouth. The alcohol dribbles down the stubbled chin of the older man, falling onto his fine robes, and finally spattering onto the floor.

"Malf, I really don't think-"

"Keep out of this, Severus," Lucius mutters, banging the empty glass down onto the desk. "This is between myself and Father."

Severus doesn't comment again - daren't comment again - and watches dumbly as Lucius stands next to his father, muttering something in his ear. He stands in silence as Lucius reverentially unbinds Abraxas' hands, and places Abraxas' wand back into his grasp. Lucius runs a gentle finger down the side of Abraxas' cheek and smiles at him fondly, before helping him out of his chair and bodily moving him across the room. 

Then, as if he's remembered he has company, he looks over at Severus. "Either you can stare at me disapprovingly as I drag him back to his room, or you can assist."

It's not a question. Severus quickly hoists Abraxas' other arm over his shoulder and the two shuffle the older man out of the study and up to his bedroom.

"Are we going to talk about it?" he asks quietly, anxiously passing the tumbler of whisky between one hand the other.

"You can drink that," Lucius says, not answering the question. "There's nothing wrong with it. Watch." He throws his head back, dramatically downing his own drink, and then pours another. "Drink, Severus."

With a hint of reluctance, Severus brings his glass to his mouth and takes a sip. It tastes normal. "Thank you."

Lucius stares at him for a long moment, and then sips his drink. "We should get back to the girls. They'll wonder where we are."

"Can we talk about it with them? Does Cissy know?"

"Know what? That Father's in the Manor? Of course she knows. She lives here."

"And she knows that you're drugging him, does she?"

Lucius gives a sharp shake of his head. "She thinks he's sick." He pauses. "It's not far from the truth, of course."

Severus looks pained. "You don't have to do this. There are places you could send him - places where people could look after-"

"I am looking after him," Lucius snaps. "I look after him, and I look after Cissy, and I look after the Malfoy name." He shakes his head angrily. "He was ruining us, Severus!"

"...ruining you?"

"It was my father bankrolling the Dark Lord," Lucius says, his voice hard. "Those anti-Muggleborn campaigns when we were at Hogwarts? All Malfoy money."

It's as if Severus' heart has stilled. "Your father ?"

"I do not care to repeat myself." Lucius pours another measure and hands the bottle to Severus.

"And does he still?"

There's a long silence. "A little," he admits. "I would rather not, but I am aware that pulling away entirely would be suicide for us all."

Severus nods, remembering only too well his own encounter with the Dark Lord. "And the Dark Lord has forgiven you for the dramatic drop in his income?"

Lucius swallows hard. "He was not pleased, but the Dark Lord appreciates that I cannot be held responsible for my father's decisions. All of the money that leaves this estate bears his name."

Severus stares evenly at his friend, piecing the puzzle together. "Your father signs the cheques, and you choose where they go."


"The Ministry included?"

"...I do not select their vendettas," he says, stiffly, "if that's what you're asking."

"You can't do something about these ridiculous laws?"

"I put Fudge in post," Lucius says. "For now, that is enough."

"You count Fudge as an achievement?" Severus looks astonished.

Lucius stares at his friend evenly. "It is."

"And what does your father think of his name being attached to such a...weak Minister? He doesn't complain?"

Lucius laughs darkly. "He has no choice." He pauses. "He has little knowledge. A quill mark here and there. He has no need to know the recipient."

Severus looks a little green. "And if he does find out? If he does-"

"What can he do? You saw what happened tonight, and that's the furthest he's ever got. It shall not be happening again." Lucius says. "I need to control the dosage a little more firmly, that is all."

"Imperatum doesn't work like that." Severus sips his drink, and then places it to one side, his intellectual curiosity piqued. "Imperatum is a compliance potion. You should know yourself that taking it day-on-day, week-on-week, or even year-on-year doesn't cause tolerance or immunity."

Lucius' eyelids shut as the fact dawns on him. ""

"Compliance is compliance." There's a long pause as Lucius takes this in, and Severus can practically see the thought swirling around his friend's mind. "Unless you're giving him Imperatum by pipette instead of by glass?"

Lucius shakes his head.

Severus continues, "Then it's impossible for the dosage to be weak enough for him to break out like he did tonight."

"If it's not the dose, what could it be?"

"This has come on all of a sudden? No warning signs?"

"No warning signs."

Severus sniffs. "It's something he's consuming."

"His diet is the same as it ever was," Lucius says, mulling it over. "I cannot think what it could be. One of the elves interfering, perhaps? I could threaten them with clothes, see if that stops it?" He looks pained. "Perhaps it would be easier for all concerned if my father were to…" He doesn't finish the thought. He doesn't need to.

The silence is almost overwhelming, and then Severus leans forward. "And when the time comes," Severus whispers, "when you can no longer hide behind your father's name when ink meets cheque, what will you do then?"

"I do not know. It all depends on which way the wind blows." Lucius gives him a strained smile. "...I think we understand each other."

They sit in quiet companionship, sipping from their glasses, until Severus looks up once more. "Do you feel anything?"

"Such as?"


Lucius takes a shuddering breath. "No." And then his gaze meets Severus' own. "I never knew he was doing it until you pointed it out that day."

Severus knows the day that Lucius is referring to - he can remember being offered a drink in Abraxas' study, and sensing the liquid had been tampered with. He can remember Lucius' manner shifting ever so subtly after imbibing. He can remember sitting down and writing the letter to Lucius which contained his suspicions. He knew that letter had caused a rift in the Malfoy family - Abraxas had suggested to the wizarding world that he had business overseas, but Severus had known at the time that his departure was for other reasons. And now, tonight, it turns out that he didn't leave at all. Tonight, it turns out that the rift between father and son hadn't healed, and his friend had been exacting his revenge in the only way he knew how. Severus feels pained, as if he was somehow partially responsible.

"Give him no mercy, Severus," Lucius hisses, as if realising the root of his silence. "After all these years of him controlling me and my mother, it felt fitting to turn the tables against him."

There's something in Lucius' hard look that bothers him, and Severus downs his drink, keen to return to Lily. "We should head back."

"No," Lucius says. "Why were you looking for me? I thought I instructed you to stay with Cissy."

"I thought we should celebrate," he says, the words almost sticking in his throat after what he's just seen, "your impending fatherhood."

"With our experiences of fathers, I do not think it is worthy of celebration."

Severus gives him a tight smile. "You're not Abraxas. You're Lucius. You'll be just fine."

"I appreciate the sentiment, Severus, but the fact remains, it is not much of a celebration if you cannot be sure that your wife's child is your own."

Severus laughs loudly, expecting it to be a dark thread of humour - but when he catches Lucius' furious look, he stills. "Malf? You can't be serious?"


"Cissy? She's devoted to you. Of course it's your child!"

"Women. They're all whores."

" are serious. Malf, you can't think that of Cissy, she-"

"-she what, Severus? She'd have fucked you if you'd have had her!" Lucius snaps. He exhales loudly - angrily, and it's as if the stress of the night has taken its toll on him. "All this! Look around you, Severus - all of this, and yet she'd have fucked you."

"Because you wanted her to," Severus argues, his jaw set. "She throws herself at men because she thinks that's what you want her to do. No, don't look like that - she told me as much!" He grabs his friend's arm, pulling him to meet his gaze. "Want to tell me that I'm wrong? No? That's because you can't!"

"You don't know what you're talking about."

"I do! She told me! Told me that you get off on the control - on the power you hold over both her and whoever she's shagging."

Lucius stares at him fiercely. "I didn't ask her to behave like that."

"Malf, are you..." Severus shakes his head, struggling to believe what he's hearing. "You've encouraged her all along!"

"She needed little encouragement from me."

"You're hardly loyal yourself!"

"What's the point in being loyal to someone who's sleeping with half of-"

"-no, no, you forget that I was there when this all started," Severus spits, his fury building. "In my fourth year! You think I've forgotten?"

Lucius shakes his head repeatedly, getting up and pacing around the room. "It's not the same."

"You forced her that night!"

"I did not!" Lucius squares up to him then, and Severus stands, both men with their hands balled by their sides. "I didn't make her do anything. She wasn't under a potion, she wasn't under a spell-"

"But her boyfriend," Severus grinds out, his chest heaving with anger, "ordered her to suck Bast off, didn't he?"

"It's not the same. Her will was her own. It was a stupid drunken game, and I only said it to see if she would. To see what she was really like."

"Fuck me, Malf, how are you this stupid? She did it because she thought you'd dump her if she didn't. She did it because you told her you wanted her to - that it was turning you on, and if she loved you, she'd do it! I heard what you said - I was there!"

"She didn't do it to please me. She did it because she's as much of a whore as the rest of them!"

"I always thought you loved her," Severus says, quietly, sitting back down and holding his head in his hands. "I thought you were devoted to her."

"...I am."

"Then how can you speak that way about her? If you think so little of her, why did you go ahead and marry her?"

And Lucius looks up, his eyes haunted. "Because if they're all the same - if they're all destined to sleep around behind your back, then at least she was willing to keep up appearances. To obey me. To let me control the situation, so the Prophet doesn't run riot with tales of debauchery." Lucius shakes his head at Severus, when he opens his mouth to speak. "You don't even know the half of it. I let her do as she pleases, and she permits me the same freedom - and then we both put on the public face that you know so well." He gives a twisted laugh. "How can I do that if the child is born and it is not of Malfoy stock?"

"I thought my old man was bad enough," Severus says, aghast, "but your twisted father really did a number on you, didn't he?"

They finally head back to the women, but the evening is over - Narcissa is tired, and Lucius looks drained. As they walk down the corridor to the entrance hall, Lily glances between the two men, but their forced joviality betrays nothing of what had transpired over the previous hour. She stands outside the house with Narcissa, politely watching as Narcissa absently pets one of the peacocks, and Lily pretends not to witness Severus and Lucius embrace. She can just about see Severus' hand threading through Lucius' hair as he murmurs into his ear. 

"Don't do anything you'll regret," he says, softly. "There are ways of finding out parentage."

"After it's arrived."

"Before," Severus says. "Long before. I'll find a way." And then he pulls back, his hand resting on the back of Lucius' neck. "Look after her. She'll need you more than ever." He wants to say more, but Narcissa steps back towards them, and the look in Lucius' eyes is odd. "Thank you for the hospitality, Malf." There's a moment, and then Severus blurts it out, no longer caring if he's speaking out of turn. "Don't let history repeat."

Lucius gives a tight smile, and places his arm around his wife's waist. "What can I say? We are our fathers' sons."

Severus shakes his head. "No, Malf. We are so much more."

And with that, he takes Lily's hand and they march back up the path to the wrought iron gates.

He's silent once they arrive back at Hogwarts. She wants to ask him what happened - wants to ask him what his and Lucius' riddles about their fathers were all about, but she can tell from the steely look on his face, it wouldn't be a welcome discussion. She doesn't know Lucius' father, but she knows Severus' only too well - and it's somewhat of a relief to hear Severus acknowledging that his path doesn't have to be the same as his father's. It was something her parents quietly fretted about, she was aware of that much. And here Severus was, keen to point out that he was not prepared to stand in his father's shadow.

It makes her want to hold him - makes her want to find out what had brought such a sentiment on, but he's quiet. Too quiet. She gives him some space, and goes for a shower, and when she returns with a large towel wrapped around her and using a flannel to rub water from her ear, she sees him sitting cross-legged before the bookcase, engrossed in a thick book.


"Mmm," he grunts, flicking another page.

"That was a nice evening."


"The dancing was enjoyable."


"And the food was lovely."


She narrows her eyes, certain he's not listening. "Cissy offered me papers."

"Mmm...she what?"

"Papers," she says, and now he's standing, the book dropped on the floor and long forgotten.

"Cissy can get you papers?" he asks, keenly.

"Lucius can," she corrects, "but they're one and the same."

He doesn't answer that, but he inhales slowly. "What sort of papers?"

"Halfblood ones."

"And the cost?"

She shakes her head. "I think you've already paid."

He scoffs. "No such thing. Not where Malf is concerned." He stares at her, his mind racing. "I don't understand why. I know they were kind to you tonight, but-"

"-you don't have to remind me that they're purists, Severus."

"Exactly. What reason did she give to you?"

"That it's to protect you. Why else would they bother?" She smiles thinly. "They're certainly not interested in my scintillating personality."

"No," he says, taking her hand as he snaps the lights off with his wand, "but then I rather suggest that is their loss."

He lets her take the lead. It's as if she can tell that he's emotionally exhausted, because she doesn't ask anything of him - she undresses him reverentially, and kisses him gently, and when she suggests that he lie back on the pillows and rest, her fingertips dancing across his skin, he finds himself drifting off to sleep.

"Sorry," he says, his voice a little thick as he jolts back awake. "I didn't mean-"

"-it's fine," she laughs, kissing his collarbone.

"It's not fine," he says, petulance in his tone. "I wanted you. This evening, when you were getting ready."

"When you were watching me?"

"All I could think about was what I would do to you when I got you home," he mutters, "and now I'm here, I've fallen asleep." 

"You're insatiable," she teases. "You'd only just that moment had me." She gives him a strange look. "Ready to tell me what that was all about?"

He shakes his head, his smile playful. "You want me to tell you all of my secrets."

"No, just the ones that concern me." 

He grins, and she can't continue the thought because he pulls her closer, his warm mouth meeting hers. They lie entwined together, their bodies pressed against each other, and then as he finally positions himself between her legs, he murmurs, "I don't want to keep any secrets from you."

A small groan escapes her as he moves inside her, and she slides her hands around his neck - suddenly reminding her of the possessive hold Severus had had on Lucius before they returned home. "...he's going to be a father."

The comment causes him to falter in his rhythm, and he gives a soft laugh before gently nipping at her neck. "Thinking about Malf, are you?"

"They're going to be parents."


"Lucius and Narcissa."


"She'll make a good mum, I think."


"And it might be just the thing for Lucius to-"

"-Merlin, Lil," he groans, snapping his hips harder against her, "can you whisper something sexy to me instead of talking about bloody Malf? Or are you trying to tell me something?"

"I am trying to tell you something," she says, and this time he stops completely - as if he's been slapped, or frozen, and his jaw tightens, and his eyebrows raise.

Are Lucius and Abraxas right? Are all women the same? If she's thinking about him when - and then she grabs his left hand and presses it against her stomach, and his heart almost stops. He pulls out of her, his mouth gaping, and his hand fixed in place. "Lil…that's..."

"It's not my magic," she whispers. 

"Oh fuck."

"You can feel it?"

"Yes," he says, hoarsely - and he knows she's right; the swirl is different, and he can't believe he hasn't noticed until this moment. His fingers dance over the same patch of skin, almost basking in the gleeful spiral of magic emanating from her. "When did you know?"

"Not until tonight. I didn't know it manifested like this. Not until I touched Narcissa, and then it fell into place. Moody said something to me the other day, and it-"

"Moody knows?" He looks terrified.

She shakes her head. "No, don't worry. Moody just commented on my magic pulsing more strongly. He didn't determine it was different. He's got no idea."

"I don't want him to find out."

"He won't," she says. "I won't let him get close enough to work it out." She pauses, and then kisses him. "He thought you'd done something to me."

He gives a soft laugh. "Well, I have, haven't I?" And then he drops his head to where his hand still lies, and kisses across her soft stomach. "Merlin's beard, love. What the hell are we going to do?"

Chapter Text

He hadn't always been a skulker. As a kid, he'd been the opposite - he'd had presence, and he was quick, and his reflexes were fast. He'd been cautious and quiet when he first started hanging around at the park - he'd watched Lily for weeks, and when he'd realised she had magic, he desperately didn't want to scare her away. However, once they were friends, he was back to his usual energetic self - prone to charging around with his hands windmilling through the air, leaping off play equipment or out of trees or scrabbling over railings, yelling and whooping, and letting off steam in exactly the way his parents disapproved of when he was in the house.

The change came when he reached Hogwarts. It might have been in the first year, or maybe the second. And it might have been the onset of puberty which wrenched him out of his childish exuberance, causing him to become self-conscious. His demeanour shifted, betraying his lack of confidence - an act which coincided with the unrelenting onslaught of misery bestowed upon him by his bullies. He learnt to duck and dodge, evade and run, and their group taught him that retaliation was best served from the shadows, crouched in darkness, instead of in an open duel pitted one wand against four. Either way, he was haunted, the long school corridors were full of enemies - some wearing red, others wearing green - and his body grew far too quickly for him to remain agile. Instead, his limbs were suddenly oversized and awkward, giving him an elongated, lanky appearance, and causing him to appear clumsy, his previously smooth actions replaced by gawkish fumbling. 

It wouldn't have been fair to have said he was universally reviled at Hogwarts - there was Malf and Narcissa, Reggie Black and Avery, Mulciber and Evan Rosier, and best of all, there was Lily. But more often than not, the shouts of his name in the corridor weren't accompanied by a cheerful clap on the shoulder and an high-spirited greeting, but instead were sneering condemnation - if his real name was used at all.


Even now, he can hardly bear to think about the hated name; it makes his skin crawl, and his gut clench.

"Oi, Snivellus!"

Finding his body awkward in those middle years, he'd started to slink and skulk, desperate not to be noticed, and striving to blend into the background. He stuck to the castle's shadows and became an expert in avoiding pools of illumination. He learnt to press his body against the cool brickwork as he traversed the castle, his features obscured by his cloak and the relative darkness. Nobody else walked in the shadows, so he made it his domain - and without anyone to talk to, he simply listened to the bustle of conversation around him, overhearing fragments of conversation as other students passed him - and if he was sufficiently intrigued, he'd silently follow them, often resulting in him ending up on the wrong side of the castle to wherever his next lesson was meant to be.

"Late again, Mr Snape? That's the second time this week and it's only Wednesday. Detention with Mr Filch tonight."

Still, he learnt a lot that way. 

Then in sixth year, he grew again - becoming taller and stronger, and adding lean muscle to his frame. He was still underweight and he'd never attain the sort of athletic body that could be found on the inner pages of League Quidditch Monthly - he was far too interested in reading to start hanging off broomsticks like Potter and Black, with their thicker, muscular bodies - but he was starting to see the benefits of his extra height, and his longer limbs. One spring holiday, he followed a cat around Hogwarts, studying how it leapt and crept, and then spent the rest of the week emulating it.

Oh, to be an Animagus.

His practice paid off, but although he may have become nimble on his feet, in daily life, Severus Snape remained a skulker. His new height gave him a long, quick stride, and he was more than capable of breaking into a fast sprint when required - but he didn't power down the corridors of Hogwarts with a commanding presence. He didn't saunter like Black, or strut like Potter, and he didn't fill the space as the four Gryffindor friends did, bantering and jostling for position, refusing to give way to anyone walking in the opposite direction. 

No, Severus Snape skulked. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets, hunched his shoulders, and rounded his back. He kicked at invisible scuffs on the floors, creating marks where the stone had previously been unblemished, earning him Filch's ire. He followed, and he watched, and he may have been increasingly quick to raise his wand when he sensed danger - but most of all, he skulked.

Which is why it was a surprise to the teaching staff of old to see Severus Snape moving down the dungeon corridor with a smirk on his face, and a bounce in his step.

A dad.

He's always been rational - far more so than Lily, who has always been prone to flights of fancy, or following her heart no matter the consequences - and deep down, he knows this is a terrible idea. He ticks off the problems as he scales the stairs of the castle, adrenaline pumping through him - starting with the war, and the Dark Lord, and Dumbledore. He thinks about Slughorn and Jigger, Belby and Borage, his apprenticeship and hers - and living at Hogwarts. Can a baby even live at the school? He thinks about Malf and Cissy and their impending child, and Petunia and Dunderhead Dursley and whether they've managed to conceive since they saw them last - or whether he and Lily winning the race will be a sore point within the wider family for decades to come. 

And then he thinks about his mam and his da and what they'll say - if anything at all. His da might just keep listening to the football and reading the paper, and his mam drinking her tea and smoking her ciggies. Maybe she'll ask him if they are going to bring the baby up in the magical world, or do what she did and retreat back to Cokeworth and - oh fuck - they'll have to tell her parents, which will be a million times worse. 

He doesn't really care what his parents will or won't do - he doesn't care if they'll approve, doesn't care if they shout at him, or throw things, or scream at him that he's ruined his life, or Lily's life, or both of their lives. He doesn't care if they shake his hand, or congratulate him. He knows Tobias and Eileen - he knows that they'll come around eventually, and that their hearts are generally in the right place, even if they say the wrong thing to begin with. He knows that at some point, he'll take a kid - his kid - to the door, wrapped in a bundle of blankets, and clutching a teddy bear, and his mam will spend the afternoon doting on the baby, whilst his da stands around with his hands in his pockets and his chest puffed out, talking nonsense about responsibilities that the Lord himself knows that Tobias never kept. All whilst keeping a safe distance from the youngster - Tobias was once bitten twice shy when it came to babies and accidental magic. Severus caused more than a few upsets with his father before he could even babble coherently. He's not sure if Tobias has even really forgiven him now, two decades on.

No, Severus doesn't care at all about his parents - they'll come around, or they won't - but there is a cold twist of trepidation within him at the idea of the two Muggles he's come to view with something nearing affection, the ones Lily still calls Mummy and Daddy, being displeased. Being displeased at the baby, being displeased with him, being displeased with her. And if they are displeased, he'll have to sit there with his head bowed, not like a respected father-to-be, but as a fumbling awkward boy who needs to be berated by David. Or maybe David won't merely berate him. Maybe it will be even worse - maybe David will refuse to acknowledge the news, or he'll try and change the subject, or maybe he'll cough disapprovingly, with his eyebrows raised. Severus had been on the receiving end of one of those coughs before. This time, the implication will be that they should get rid of the child - that Lily shouldn't shackle himself to Severus. Maybe Rose will cry, and if she does, how will he know if they are tears of joy? Maybe she won't be thinking about babygrows and baby clothes, and cots and blankets and booties and cardigans. Or if she is, maybe she'll be propelled back in her memories to the days when her girls were swaddled, and how he - the undeserving waif who had stumbled across their youngest child in a perverse twist of fate - has not only stolen her from their world, and dragged her into his world of magic, but now he's stolen both her innocence, and her opportunities. 

And when he thinks about it like that, it's enough to make him feel a bit ill. 

Maybe this isn't a happy occasion. Maybe his exhilarated reaction is silly - after all, Lily was so quiet when they were whispering to each other as he held her in his arms in the darkness - maybe she doesn't feel the same. Maybe she thinks that he's ruined her life. Maybe, instead of talking about the baby, he should've been talking about marriage. He should've married her already. Should've married her when this blood status nonsense started - if she'd have had him.

Blood status.

He grimaces, thinking about blood - thinking about the new legislation about family trees, which he had been completely unaware of. He wonders which of their Muggle names would be best to bestow on a child in a world where magic is the only thing of importance. There aren't any magical Snapes, him aside, he knows that much - but are there any Evanses? Maybe Malf could get them some papers. Maybe they could delve into his mother's family tree, and find a Prince - a male Prince. For years, he'd looked more like his mam; maybe he could find an old portrait or a moving photograph where he looks like a long lost uncle or second cousin, and maybe it will be enough for them to build a credible story around. Anything to give their child the opportunities that his parents hadn't had. Anything to spare the kid the ignominy of having a tainted name. After all, this child wouldn't be a Muggle or a Muggleborn, or even a Halfblood child who grew up ensconced in the Muggle world. 

Their child would be a Half, just like Severus - but unlike Severus, their child would have everything. They'd be a true Half. A Half living in the magical world, with all the benefits that would bring. He or she - and he couldn't bring himself to think about the differences just yet - would be loved and cherished and adored, and he'd be the sort of dad who'd spend time with their kid - teaching them to read and to brandish a wand. Oh! What a witch or wizard their child would be, with his and Lily's magic melding together, all that talent and energy poured into one single human. After all, Slughorn always knew Severus had potential - still has it, even - and Severus can still literally feel Lily's magic thrumming around her. He knows Slughorn had felt it from the pair of them from the moment he met them, and he had been keen to harness both of their abilities, so how much more powerful would their offspring be with all of their powers combined? 

The idea of a baby is still unnerving, but Lily could do all the stuff he found so difficult - the declarations of love and the bodily contact that small humans apparently craved. Maybe he could even do that himself when it came to it. He managed to do it with Lily - showing her how he felt, tangling his fingers with hers or pulling her into his arms, kissing her on the forehead and remembering to be affectionate when he woke up in the morning, or departed for his day at work. He could do that with his kid, couldn't he? It would be no different. He just needed to forget how his parents acted - do the opposite, in fact! - that's all he did with Lily; thought about how Eileen and Tobias behaved, and disregarded it entirely. He could do all of those things he'd secretly craved as a kid - all the things he'd desperately hoped his parents would do, like being read to at bedtime. If he'd wanted that to happen, then his own child would be no different, surely? But either way, he's been able to show Lily how he feels, and so the child would know - the child would know that Lily loves Severus, and Severus loves Lily, and they both want and adore their child.

That idea - the idea of a loving partner and a child who hero-worships their father - is enough to keep a wide smile on his face, even though deep down, he knows this is definitely a bad idea. It's illogical. He's too impatient to be gentle with a baby, and they're both too poor, and the world around them is at war. He knows that babies make a mess, and a noise, and they ruin your sleep. He knows they cost a fortune, and he knows that he and Lily have got few galleons saved.

Despite all of that, he can't bear to think about the alternative. He can't bear to think about a future where they actively did something to change it. He can't think about potions or charms, he can't think about hospitals and healers. A week ago, the thought of a child would've terrified him, and if he'd been offered, he'd have said no. But now that the child exists, all he can think about is his baby growing inside his girlfriend. He wants to see her rounded with his offspring, a declaration that she's chosen him - above all others - to be her best friend and boyfriend and partner and mate forever and ever and ever. 

Mine mine mine mine mine.

He should've married her. He feels oddly guilty about it - ashamed, even. She should have a ring, and a declaration of his love and his sincerity to stand beside her, providing for her and their family. Yet somehow, this is deeper than marriage. Their DNA mixing together to create a new life means that their relationship will live on, long past his death or hers. 

And that possessive primal howl bellows inside him, his grin growing ever wider.


His excitement dumbfounds her. 

She doesn't know what to expect when she blurts the news out; she wasn't intending on saying anything. The revelation that there is a small life growing inside of her is fresh in her own mind, and she had spent the final hour at Malfoy Manor in quiet contemplation, although she hadn't permitted Narcissa to refill her glass with alcohol. 

Narcissa shot her a curious look. "You don't have to abstain on my account. I don't mind."

"Us girls have got to stick together," Lily said, with a tight smile, and she raised her empty glass - which, with a snap of Narcissa's fingers, was quickly filled with fresh orange juice by an obliging house elf.

When Severus and Lucius returned, their mood was sombre, and Severus was drawn and quiet when they reached Hogwarts. From his parting words to Lucius, it was evident that fatherhood had been addressed, but she was unsure whether it was Lucius' father, or Lucius' impending fatherhood that had been the centre of their discussion - but his quiet mood was hardly conducive to dropping the bombshell that he, Severus, would be joining his best friend in such a life-changing event.

She excuses herself to use the bathroom, telling him that she was planning on a long shower, and he quietly nods, happy to settle himself before the bookcase. They had a Muggle pregnancy test in the bathroom cupboard, and once she's cast against the door to stop him from bursting in unexpectedly, she digs it out. Her mother had given it to her when she'd first moved in with Severus, despite her protestations that it was unnecessary.

"Mummy, we're safe-"

Rose gave a slight shake of the head. "If I had a pound for all of the teenagers in Britain who've said the same-"

"Severus has a potion! And I take the pill, and-"

"No method is one hundred percent," Rose said, pulling her daughter close to her, and squeezing her in a warm hug. "I know you're both sensible, but there will come a time when something happens - when you're sick and you throw up a potion, or when you don't make it to the pharmacy to refill your prescription, or-"

"We won't!"

"-and," Rose continued, as if Lily hadn't spoken, "there will be a night when something doesn't feel quite right, and you will want to check." She waved the package, and then pushed it into Lily's hands. "This is for that night."

And now, all those months on, this was that night. 

It is a strange contraption, all things considered, and it looks as if it would be more at home on the shelves in Slughorn's laboratory instead of being sold in a Muggle shop. Worst of all, the packaging advises that it will take two hours for the results to show.

She casts a timing charm by the sink, and carefully places the used test inside the cabinet. She forces herself to take her time - to slowly and deliberately clean her teeth, and remove her makeup, and file her nails - and once she can't stall any longer, she heads for the shower. She stands under the spray, and groans, trying to relax under the torrents of water. After washing her hair - twice - and adding ample conditioner, she can't help but roam her hands around her body, checking for any signs of change - any signs of a new life settling inside her. To her dismay, everything looks and feels exactly as it had a month ago, and the month before that, and the month before that.

She hasn't experienced sickness or pain, as Narcissa had complained so heartily of, and she wasn't tender, or sore, or excessively tired. In fact, if it hadn't been for that tell-tale swirl of magic around her navel, she wouldn't have ever guessed. She idly wonders how long she'd have remained ignorant - a week? Two? Would she have skipped a period and started to worry, or without any signs, would she have assumed that it was a hormonal blip? Would it have taken two months, or three? Would she have started to show before she guessed - or would Severus have been the one to work it out? She waves her hand back over her stomach, and she feels the soft pulse of magic, growing stronger as her hand glides over her skin.

"You're definitely in there, aren't you?" she asks, softly - and she finds herself wondering if she wants there to be life within her, or not. 

Perhaps it's not a baby. Perhaps it's something else.

She snaps off the shower, half wondering if Severus will start calling for her to hurry up and join him in bed - but he is utterly silent. She presses her ear against the door, and she can't hear anything, which suggests he has either tired of waiting for her and has headed for bed - which seems unlikely - or he is still reading, which is rather more in line with Severus' usual behaviour.

When she finally emerges from the bathroom, her towel wrapped around her, he's still sitting before the bookcase, his nose stuck between the pages of a thick book. He hasn't even made it to a chair, so it's of no surprise when he doesn't comment on how long she has taken - she doubts he's even noticed.

The positive result of the test is burning on the tip of her tongue, but he is distracted - barely responding to her, so she deliberately avoids the subject. Instead, she raises the issue of Narcissa and the offer of papers, because the issue of blood status is screaming in her mind; if they were to have a child it would be better if he or she could be registered as the offspring of two Halfbloods, instead of being tainted by the touch of a Muggleborn. 

As she expects, the mention of papers catches his attention, and then they end up in bed, and she really didn't mean to say anything at that point. She meant to touch him, to love him, to reassure him that whatever had gone on between himself and Lucius, she adored him. She doesn't want him dwelling on Tobias, or whatever else he and Lucius had been discussing - especially not now. She could pick the topic up again tomorrow, after breakfast, when they were both fed and sober - or maybe even after their evening meal, when work was done, and they could both relax by the fire, certain they wouldn't be disturbed. That seems like the best idea, and she's ready to put the thought to the back of her mind, to focus on his body touching hers in exactly the way that got them into this mess in the first place - but then he mutters the words that make her heart skip: I don't want to keep any secrets from you. 

And then, with skin touching skin, she can't bring herself to keep any from him either.

She really doesn't know what to expect when she blurts it out, but his reaction is of pure elation - it's almost overwhelming to see how proud and pleased he is, particularly given that such a development was unplanned. She braces herself, expecting that he'll ask her about the potion, or her Muggle contraception, confused about why they'd both failed when they'd been so careful - but he doesn't. It's as if he doesn't care. Instead, for the first time that she could recall, he appears to have little interest in the practicalities; he is happy.

His enthusiasm would've been been intoxicating, but her own excitement is tempered when she gets up the next morning and walks in on him locking away the vials of Polyjuice, and telling her that he will be taking her place with Slughorn whilst she must remain indoors.


"Because we don't know what Polyjuice might do to the kid-"

"I've been taking it up until now! I took it all last week, and the week before, and-"

"-and you were drinking alcohol last night as well, but you're not going to now, are you?"

There's a long and bitter silence, and then he kisses her.

She tries again, striving to be calmer in her tone, desperate to convince him. "Sev, one more day won't hurt."

"It's not just the Polyjuice. What about when you're brewing? The heavy cauldrons? The hot flames? What if something explodes or-"

"-it won't! I'm not like you, I don't go around routinely exploding cauldrons just because I want to see what happens if I put two incompatible ingredients together!"

"No, love," he says, firmly. "Look, I've got to go, else Sluggy will shout about me - you - being late."

She scowls at him as he departs, and then sinks heavily onto the sofa, her thoughts swirling around her mind. She wants to be excited - she wants to share the glee and joy that Severus does - but the practicalities are looming large in her mind. The Muggle and magical worlds are not quite aligned; in some ways, the magical world is more progressive - the balance of workers in the Ministry was an almost even split between men and women, and such things could not be said for the Muggle world - but at other times, its conservatism shines through. Pregnancy out of wedlock would scarcely be accepted back in Cokeworth, and although she can't say for sure that it would be frowned upon in the wizarding world, she cannot recall a student from school who came from an unmarried household. There were a few kids where one of their parents had died, but she couldn't think of any parents who, for want of a better phrase, lived in sin. 

She wonders if there's a way to conceal the pregnancy, to stop anyone from finding out - but then quickly realises that it would bring its own problems - if nobody knew she was pregnant, then what would they say when they found her and Severus strolling around with a babe-in-arms? The purists were already obsessed with talking about Muggleborns obtaining magic illegally - if she were to be accused of stealing a magical baby, she'd definitely be hauled up in front of the Ministry, or thrown in Azkaban, or likely - knowing the way that the world was turning - she and the child, and perhaps even Severus as well, would suffer at the hands of a band of vigilantes. What was she meant to do? Stay hidden and below stairs, like some domestic servant defiled by her master, with their child destined to be farmed out to an elderly couple who couldn't conceive?

The thought vexes her, and she grabs a cushion, pulling it against her and squeezing her frustration onto it. As if those thoughts weren't bad enough, from his behaviour this morning, it seemed as if continuing her apprenticeship would be a non-starter as far as Severus was concerned. She was going to be bored stiff - locked up for months and months on end, with her body changing and nobody to talk to. And if keeping her pregnancy hidden was a priority, then Severus wouldn't be able to Polyjuice into her - which would mean that her alibi and agreement with Vance was off, and she would be back to being a wanted woman.

It was almost overwhelming. What she would give for the wise words of her mother or her father in this moment. For the very first time since she'd arrived at Hogwarts and stepped foot in these specially designed chambers - a place where she'd finally felt safe, loved and at home - Lily can't help but feel completely and utterly trapped. 

Chapter Text

He pushes the door open, and when he finds their quarters in complete darkness, his chest clenches. He would've been a liar if he had claimed that he was completely blindsided by the development, but he had hoped that his fear that she'd be scared, or overwhelmed at their news had been unfounded. 

Last night, when she'd told him about their baby, he hadn't brushed her mind with Legilimency. He hadn't intruded, so he'd had no way of knowing exactly what she was thinking when she hugged him tightly, with him whispering words of love and joy in her ear in the darkness. He wasn't sure how she'd wanted him to respond, so he'd opted for enthusiasm - and he was enthusiastic - hoping his support would be enough to allay any fears that she held but hadn't yet shared. 

When she'd been so angry in the morning, it had left him carrying a nagging doubt in the back of his head all day long. It had been there whilst he brewed potion after potion, but he hadn't downed tools and run back to their quarters because if Severus knew anything about his girlfriend, it was that she was prone to flying off the handle. Given a few hours of solitude, she might've calmed down, or resolved the problem, or at the very least, she'd have had enough time to create a knitted effigy of her reckless boyfriend so she could start punishing it. He'd had a bout of pins and needles in his left thigh at about half past three, and he had idly wondered if that was the option she'd gone for - but glancing around the room now, he couldn't see any trace of such a doll. 

That prickling feeling wasn't voodoo, Sev. That's guilt.

Now that he's had more than five minutes to think about it, he realises what a schoolboy error he's made. He should've gone to Slughorn and told him that she was sick, and he should've holed up in their rooms with her, wrapping themselves in their blankets and spending the day discussing their future. Instead, he'd been an idiot, far too focused on covering their tracks and keeping up the ruse.

All in all, it had been an odd day - he hadn't just been Severus Snape in Slughorn's rooms, but Severus-pretending-to-be-Lily-pretending-to-be-Severus, and he wasn't entirely sure that he'd done a fantastic job at it. For one thing, Slughorn had seemed unconvinced by his behaviour; he'd caught the older man looking at him curiously from the corner of his eye - but then, that might've been because Severus couldn't keep that daft smile off his face. Severus Snape did not smile. He certainly didn't grin inanely. And Severus wouldn't normally have plastered such an expression across his features, nor - he was sure - would Lily when she was pretending to be him. On top of that, he had a burning desire to share his news. He wanted to tell someone - anyone! - that he was going to be a father, but Hogwarts was hardly comprised of people who he could trust, so he'd wrapped up his elation and kept it hidden deep within. That silly smile being the exception, of course.

So he'd quietly looked forward to tonight as he'd prised snails from their shells, and sliced flobberworms, and strained doxy blood. He had daydreamed about walking in, pulling Lily into his arms and murmuring about their future - but the further he goes into their rooms, the more that reality hits home and his happiness drains from him. At first, he fervently hopes that she is simply curled up in their bed, exhausted with the weight of emotion, or suffering from a sudden onslaught of pregnancy nausea - but as he casts at the wall lamps and finds each and every room empty, he realises it's beyond foolish to hope to find her coiled form in their bed.

"Lil? You in here, love?"

He's foolish. What can he say?

When the bedroom door swings open, he is greeted with naught but darkness and silence. His hope has disappeared entirely, and the realisation that she's walked away catches him like a bludger to the throat. He pauses before casting at the bedroom wall lamp, and when he does, his spell is weak. The lamp emits a dim glow, as if he's done it deliberately - and he has done so many times before, whenever he was planning to be seductive. Seduction. That's what's got them into this state, and the very thought makes his stomach roll. He drops to his knees, his palms covering his face, and his elbows digging in to the mattress. His breathing is awkward and loud, stuttering and uneven, and when he finally composes himself, and pulls his hands away, he presses his palms together and touches his forefingers to his brow.

Severus had spent his childhood being troubled by his father's Muggle values. Tobias' obsession for correct posture during prayer was no exception, but with Lily gone, it somehow seems like the only appropriate response. He's obviously read the situation incorrectly, and if he's messed it up so badly that she felt it necessary to walk out of the door to get away from him, he feels that he needs nothing short of a miracle to get her back.

The sky is grey in Cokeworth, and by the time he's walked over to her parents' house, the rain has left his face damp and his hair clinging to his cheeks. At first, it had been the sort of rain that you don't prepare for - it's just a spot of drizzle - the sort of rain that doesn't require an umbrella, and you don't think to raise your hood until it's too late and you're already soaked. Not that he has a hood on this cheap jacket; an Ethel Austin's reject rack special, which has always had a hole under the arm where the left sleeve meets the body - a fair return for a few pence off. Or so his mother would've thought when she bought it for a Christmas present a few years back. He shrugs uncomfortably as he walks up the path, the nylon sticking to his arms.

He wouldn't have been completely soaked if he hadn't wandered over to the park first. He didn't really expect her to be there, but he found it grounded him in some way, going back to where they'd first met. He'd sat on the wooden swing - her wooden swing - the wet wood damp against the seat of his jeans, and he'd pushed his feet against the ground. His effort was lacklustre and the resulting swing was shallow, the toes of his boots dragging across the dirt below - nothing like the way the pair of them used to sail to the highest peak, flinging themselves through the air without care for any of the bones in their body. 

It was as he sat on the play equipment that the rain grew harder, more relentless, almost painful as it pummelled his skin. The pack of cigarettes in his top pocket pressed against his chest, begging him to open them - although he'd be hard pressed to convince one to catch light in this weather - but he stood, resolute; he couldn't avoid it any longer - and turning up at her parents' house as the father-to-be was one thing, turning up as a father-to-be who was soaked the skin and stinking of habit that he'd sworn he'd forsaken was another.

The lights were on downstairs, and he rapped sharply on the door before immediately thrusting his hands back into his pockets, his fingers twisting anxiously against the thin lining as he waited. David pulled the door open - and he suddenly seemed rather terrifying; greying and serious, older and taller - although that was because he was stood on the step, whilst Severus stood on the ground - and far more sure of himself. Severus took in a halting breath, his words sticking on his tongue now that he was confronted with the reality of Lily's father.

You've knocked up his daughter.

He wanted to say that he was going to look after her - that he realised he'd messed up, and he wasn't going to make another mistake because he was going to put all of this right - but he suddenly he felt infinitesimally small, and incredibly weak, and he was too aware of his hair plastered against his face, and his horrible jacket clinging to his skin. Who was he kidding? He wasn't going to make a father. David was a father. David, with his good job, and his sensible shoes, and his terrible jokes. David was a father. A great father. Severus isn't a father; Severus is just a stupid kid playing make-believe.

"I'm..." And he falters, and then stops completely. He wants to apologise - wants to say that he's sorry and that he didn't mean to hurt her. He wants to say that he's going to come inside and put his arms around her, and he's going to tell her that he loves her, and then she's going to want to come home with him, and he's going to put it right, but as he's standing outside, the rain seeping through his jacket, and the relative success of her parents staring him in the face - with their nice house, and their neat garden, and their brand new car - he realises that she might not want that. She might not want him.

After all, she's not answered the door to him, and she's probably sitting inside the warm, dry house with her mother, the two of them hoping that he'll go away, sending her father out as her protector. He feels sick as he realises that she's probably come to her senses after all of these years - this news being a sharp shock - a painful slap that's pulled her out of her silly world, where she's been playing along with his daft dreams and desires - and now that it's all become too real, she's going to withdraw, and start a new game with someone else. Someone better. Someone worthier.

You should just leave, he thinks. Don't embarrass her by making her say the words. Don't beg. Just walk away with as much dignity intact as you can muster. 

It's hard to muster dignity when you can barely see through the rain, and your socks are wet through, and there's water running down the back of your neck and sliding beneath your t-shirt, but just as he straightens his back and makes to turn away, David surprises him. 

"Severus." The older man steps out of the house in just his socked feet, and onto the puddle covered path, walking towards him until they're uncomfortably close.

Oh. He's going to beat shit out of me.

"Come here, son," David says, roughly pulling him into an embrace, the likes of which they'd never previously shared.

David doesn't take him through to the living room. He waits with last week's newspaper whilst Severus unknots his boots in the hallway, but his wet fingers conspire against him, and it seems to take forever for the laces to slide free. When he finally kicks the scuffed boots off, David passes him several scrunched up pages.

"Put these in the them to dry them off," he says, and then he leads him upstairs.

"Is she up here?"

"No," David says, leaning into the airing cupboard and passing out a large fluffy towel. "She's with her mother in the kitchen."

Severus swallows, not sure where this is going. "Can I speak with her?"

David gives him a small smile. "You're soaking wet. You need a warm shower, some dry clothes, and a cup of sweet tea."

"I don't take sugar."

"You do tonight," David says, firmly. "Get in the bathroom, pass me your clothes from behind the door so we can dry them, and get in the shower."

He does. He'd be reluctant, but David's tone brooked no argument, and seeing as ten minutes ago, he thought he'd be tramping his way back to Hogwarts alone, he's not keen to rock the boat. He steps into the bathroom, peels his wet clothes off his skinny body and shoves them through the door.

"What should I do when I'm out of the shower?"

"I'll be out here."

It's not reassuring. Not for Severus, who isn't used to this level of attention. Whenever his father behaved like this - well, never quite like this - it wouldn't end well. It wasn't in Tobias' nature to be nurturing, and Severus didn't know how to react to the sudden shift in his behaviour. He'd try to be good and appreciative, but he'd always make a mistake - he'd say the wrong thing, or he'd spill something - and Tobias would snap. On those nights, something would usually break - a cup or a plate or an ornament - and when his mother saw whatever was smashed, she'd always sigh loudly and start to clear up, her expression tinged with a strained look of sadness.

"Why can't you just behave for your father? Why do you always have to play him up?"

"I wasn't! I dint mean to play 'im up!"

"Yer bloody was! And now yer talkin' back to yer mam, yer little shite."

Severus shakes his head. There's no need for this, Sev, he tells himself. David isn't Tobias.

He pulls the shower curtain across the avocado coloured bath and twists the chrome controls on the wall. The shower head bursts into life, and he tangles awkwardly with the hose as he tries to position it correctly. He hadn't exactly planned to leap into the shower upon arrival - he wanted to speak to Lily - but now that the water is warming his rain-chilled body, he is grateful for David's intervention. He soaps himself quickly, and pours a liberal amount of shampoo from the bottle of Vosene on the side of the bath onto his hair, scrubbing his scalp harder than necessary and then dunking his head under the spray, washing the shampoo out - and then a stream of it bleeds into one of his eyes. Severus hisses and recoils, splashing clear water against his face, but he's already crying, and now that he's started, it's as if the floodgates have opened. He finds he can't do anything but put one hand against the wet tile and wait for his own strangled sobbing to stop.

It's odd, sitting in the front room and wearing David's formal clothes. He sips his overly sweet tea - now he does look like a father, with the borrowed pressed khakis and stripey shirt, and the blue woollen jumper which is making the back of his neck itch.

"A little warmer now?"

He nods stiffly. "Thank you."

"Your jeans and t-shirt are in the dryer," David says. "Not sure how long it'll take. More Rose's thing than mine, but I'll ask her to keep an eye on it. Jacket's in the airing cupboard."

"Oh!" Severus stands, abruptly, but before he can explain, David puts a hand on his shoulder and pushes him back down. "No, David-"

"It's here," David says, pressing it into his hand, and clapping him on the back. "Now, finish your tea, and then you can go up to Lily. She went to bed whilst you were drying off."

It's the second door he's knocked on tonight, but he looks a little more presentable - if not like his usual self - when Rose opens Lily's bedroom door.

"Hello, Severus," she says, hugging him before he can even say hello. He flushes when he sees Lily's amused look from her position on the bed, and he knows that beneath his hair, even the tips of his ears have turned pink.


"Stay tonight, Severus," she says, moving past him. "Plenty of room at the inn." Rose shuts the door quietly behind her, leaving Severus standing on the opposite side of the room to Lily, who is nestled in her duvet.

It must be ok, the voice in his head screams. David wants you to stay. Rose wants you to stay. Lily...

"Hello you," she says.

"Hello yourself."

"Nice threads. The middle aged look suits you."

He glances down and gives a soft laugh. "Got a bit soaked coming here. An unexpected trip, really."

"Sorry about that."

He moves swiftly, sitting at the foot of the bed and reaching for her hand. "Bit overwhelmed?"

She nods, and she swallows, and then tears form at the edge of her eyes. "...I'm sorry."

"Hey," he says, quickly, shuffling up the bed and pulling her into his arms. "Shhhh. It's ok. It's ok, love."

They sit there for a long while, holding each other closely. He smells unusual, having used her mother's shampoo and wearing her father's clothes, but his body is warm, and his grip is firm and she finds herself relaxing into his familiar hold.

"I'm glad you came," she says, finally.

"Yeah?" He looks relieved, and gently moves some of her hair behind her ear so he can see her face clearly. "...what happened? I thought we'd got better at this talking thing?"

"We have."

"Then why are you here and not at home?"

"I wanted Mummy and Daddy. I was scared," she says, quietly.

"Scared? Scared of what? I'll look after you."

"You can't, Sev! It's not that easy." She looks down. "Besides, it's not just the baby.'s you."

He stiffens, as if he's been insulted. "You're scared of me?"

"No!" She shakes her head, exhaling loudly. "No, not you, but..."

"But what?"

"The way you reacted," she says, her fingers toying with the duvet. "You were so excited, and you didn't stop to think any of it through. They want to banish my kind from the wizarding world, Sev, and you want to bring a baby into that!"

He runs his free hand over his face, and when he lifts it again, he looks as if he's aged five years in as many minutes. "...I was trying to be supportive." He stares at her, imploringly, and then he pulls out the box that David had retrieved for him out of his sodden jacket.

"What's that?"

"What do you think it is?" And then he slides off the bed, and Lily shakes her head, closing her hands over his, stopping him from opening it. 

"No, Sev."

His voice is suddenly colder, tighter. "No?"

"You don't have to do that."

"It's not because I have to, it's because I want to."

She shakes her head, and pulls at his hands, pulling him back towards the bed. 

He capitulates, but he roughly shoves the ring back in his pocket, his ego clearly bruised. "You want to get rid of it, don't you?"


"It's ok," he says, in a tone of voice that suggests that it isn't. "I don't want you trapped in a relationship you don't want to be in."

"Oh, Sev," she says, and this time she throws her arms around him, squeezing him so tightly, it's almost painful. "This isn't about us. Or you."

"I was trying to do the right thing. I didn't want you to think I blamed you for what happened."

Her voice is small. "...but it was me. I didn't take anything when I was staying with the Weasley family. I didn't have it with me - the tablets or your potion, and I just didn't think."

He closes his eyes, the realisation dawning. "It wasn't all you. I barely let you get your foot in the door that night," he says.

She takes his hand, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I wanted you as much as you wanted me."

"But you don't want our baby?"

There's another long silence, and eventually, she takes a deep breath. "What sort of life would our child have?"

"We'd be good parents."

She smiles at that, her fingers stroking down his cheek. "We would. But I don't think our world is going to let us try. Think of baby Malfoy and the sort of life he or she is going to have, and then think of our baby."

"Things might change."

"Things might get worse."

He puts his head in his hands. "I thought I was coming here tonight and I was going to walk away with a wife and a kid, and…"

"I didn't say I didn't want to be your wife."

"Lil, you sort of did."

"No, I said I didn't want you to propose now. I don't want you proposing like this, because you feel you have to."

"I don't feel I have to!"

"No?" Her voice is getting louder, and more shrill. "Then why didn't you ask me last week? Or the week before? Or the week before that?"

"...I've had the ring for a while."

"But not like this," she says, trying again, her voice softer. "You had it planned out, didn't you?"

He doesn't speak, and she squeezes his fingers. 



"Then I can wait. Until that moment that you'd dreamed of."

"The moment doesn't matter."

She kisses him - her lips are soft and gentle - and before he can respond, she pulls away. "It does. When we're old, and we're telling our grandchildren about how we got engaged, I want you to be able to tell them. I want you to tell them about our perfect day, and our perfect date, and our perfect meal in the perfect restaurant where a talented violinist plays Boccherini whilst we eat, and there's a beautiful red rose in the vase on the table-"


"-no, I'm on a roll-"

"I can see that," he interrupts again, drolly, "but it's a lily. Not a rose. In the vase, on the table."

And then she kisses him again, harder this time, and his hands come up to touch her cheeks as she deepens the kiss. "I want that," she says, a little breathlessly. "I want that memory. I want that moment that you've dreamed of."

"And you still want me?"

"I still want you."

His lips meet hers, and she drags off the jumper, and unbuttons the shirt, and when he's dressed only in his own underpants, she lifts the duvet and invites him into her bed. He presses kisses down the back of her neck, his arms wrapping around her as they shift to make a single bed comfortable enough for two - three - and she places her hands on top of his own. As he shifts, trying to get in the right position to sleep, his hand skitters over her stomach, and a swirl of magic pulses around the pair of them.

"...did you feel that?" she whispers.

He swallows hard. "Yes."

They lie like that, their hands wrapped in their child's magic, until she lets out a soft sob. "I don't think I can do it, Sev."

"It's ok," he says, his voice steady, but his heart quietly flipping over at the thought of not ever meeting his child.

"No, I mean, it sounds logical when I talk it through," she says, "but when I can feel our baby…"

"What did your mum say?" he says, softly, desperately hoping that Rose said something useful.

"She said she'd help in any way she could."

He strokes his fingers across her body, the baby's magic entwining with his digits. "And do you think that could be enough for us to find a way through this?"

"If I have the baby, you will stand by me, won't you, Sev? You weren't just saying it?"

"Forever, love. I'll stand by you forever."

Chapter Text

The four of them eat breakfast in near silence, and despite her parents' warm words last night, she feels uneasy, fairly certain that in the cold light of the next day, both her mother and father are now less than pleased at the situation. She saw her father's pointed look at her bare ring finger as she sat down, and her mother's pointed look at Severus, but neither of them have actually asked.

When Lily was curled up against Severus last night, he whispered in her ear that David had spotted the ring box in his sodden jacket, and she's positive that when the two of them descended the stairs that morning, her parents were poised to congratulate them on their upcoming betrothal, assuming it would've gone ahead, and assuming that she'd have said yes - but the fact remains that neither of them have asked, and as far as Lily's concerned, if they can't bring themselves to ask her, she's not going to explain. 

Besides, she doesn't need to marry Severus to prove a point or to get him to stay. He's here, isn't he? She smiles to herself as she looks at him. He seems entirely oblivious to the mood of the room, sitting happily between her parents, shovelling cornflakes and milk into his mouth, and gulping his tea - in short, behaving as he always does at mealtimes, as if someone's going to whisk his food away at any moment and it's a race to consume as much as humanly possible in a short timeframe. She remembers him being sick more than a few times in their early days at Hogwarts, his small body unable to cope with him gorging on the copious amounts of food before him, and his brain seeming unable to switch off the feast-or-famine concept that had clearly been drilled into him at a young age. Got to make hay whilst the sun shines, Lil, he'd say, stuffing cakes and bread rolls into the pockets of his robes.

Before anyone else has come close to finishing their cereal, he's loudly scraping the bowl clean, and then he leans over and grabs greedily from the toast rack. She notes the look that passes between her mother and her father, all three of them watching as Severus carefully smears a thick layer of blackcurrant jam on one of the pieces of toast, and then pauses, placing the spoon on the table and leaving a dark smudge where the juice of the jam meets the pristine white cloth. Thank Merlin Petunia isn't here to see this. Severus then picks up the jar of lemon curd in one hand and the jar of strawberry jam in the other, and he twists the jam in his hand, scrutinising the contents, before eventually discarding the lemon curd untouched and committing the red preserve onto the next slice. Her parents glance at each other again, and she isn't sure quite what that look means - likely amusement or displeasure at his lack of table manners - but before she can comment in his defence, he swiftly cuts the two slices of toast in half, and places a piece of each variety on a plate, and passes it over to her.


"S'alright, love," he says, practically inhaling his own toast, and then rubbing his sticky fingers on his jeans. "No bits in the strawberry. I checked."

She smiles. "No, Mummy and Daddy know I don't like seeds."

"Yeah, course," he says, looking a little abashed, as if it was stupid of him to forget that her parents know her as well as he does - or even better. He drains his tea, and claps his hands against his thighs, non-verbally announcing his intention to depart, and then stands, pushing his chair back under the table, and moving towards her so he can kiss her forehead. "Best get back to Sluggy. Make sure you eat something." And then he straightens, suddenly more formal, as if he's remembered his surroundings. "...thank you, both. For last night. ...and this."

"It's only breakfast," Rose says, kindly, as Severus heads towards the door, but Lily knows what he means - she isn't convinced that this would be the reception they'd have received on the other side of the river if he'd run to his parents instead of she to hers. 

David stands, quickly joining Severus. "I'll see you out."

"And come back tonight. I'll make dinner," Rose calls - and although Severus is almost through the door, David in tow, he pauses.

Lily glances down at her uneaten food, wishing her mother hadn't said anything - she doesn't want this argument, not this early in the morning. Her mother's being generous and welcoming, reminding Severus that he's part of the family, but Lily knows that it's the wrong thing to say. He's not intending to come back tonight, because he doesn't want me here at all. She wonders for a moment if he'll say anything; years ago, he'd have just nodded his head and held in his feelings, going along with whatever everyone else wanted, but he's a little tougher now. After these last few months, they both are.

"...I thought Lil would come home with me."

"Right now? She's not finished eating."

"This evening, probably." He looks defensive. "When I've worked out a way."

"She needs rest, and that castle-"

"-the castle is the safest place for her. For us both."

David places a hand on Severus' shoulder. "Come back tonight, and we can talk more about it."


She glances from her mother to father to boyfriend, all looking at her expectantly. Her mother's hand reaches out and strokes the back of hers in a soothing manner, and the longer she's silent, the stonier Severus' expression becomes.

"I can't, Sev."

It's like she's hit him. He almost recoils, his left eyebrow momentarily arching before it falls back into place. "Right. As you were then."

"No, Sev," she says, quickly, getting up and moving to put her arms around him. He's tense when she hugs him around his waist, and although he puts his hands on her hips, she can feel his reluctance. It's not an embrace. "I want to come back with you-"

He looks surprised, and she knows that behind her back, it's her parents who now look stunned. Don't look, she thinks. It's harder if you know for certain.

"Lily, you said that the magical world was unsafe," her mother ventures from her seat at the table.

"Severus will look after me," she says, with a certainty she isn't sure she feels on the inside. "And our baby."

He smiles, his hands now holding her more tightly. "Yes, love."

"But I can't get back into the castle without Polyjuice." She gives him a pointed look, and the smile drops from his face.


"Just once!"

"I said, no!"

"I've been doing it up until now! Before we knew! Once more isn't going to hurt!"

Their embrace has quickly morphed into a standoff, with both of them stood back a little from the other. He breaks eye contact first, shaking his head. "Moody."

David steps forwards, putting his hand protectively on Lily's arm. "I'm sure there are lots of emotions running high at the moment, Severus, but there's no need to diminish the way Lily's feeling because you don't agree with her decision."

To his surprise, Lily lets out a snort of laughter. "Daddy, no. Moody is a ...policeman. A magical one. He's on our side."

"Your side," Severus corrects.

"Our side. And you're right, he can get me back in to Hogwarts." Lily nods tightly. "But to get to Moody, I need to get into an Order meeting first."

"You can't face Vance again."

"I can, but only if I have something."

" need some dirt on Malf."

She looks guiltily at him. "...are you going to-"

"I don't know," he interrupts, roughly, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"Because you don't want to be a-"

"-because we don't know whether it'll have any effects the other way around!" He looks irritated - more irritated than she expects, even though she knows this is a touchy subject with him. "What if I'm…" He can't even bring himself to say the words. "...and what if I get hurt, and it somehow carries back to you?"

"Polyjuice doesn't work like that."

"Expert on it now, are you?" he snaps, running a hand through his hair. 

"No, but Sluggy probably is. Ask him."

He doesn't answer, but kisses her on her lips - more chastely than usual, but then, her parents are watching them both keenly. "I'm late." And then he's gone, through the door and up the path.

"...I didn't understand at least 80% of that."

Lily ignores her father's comment and runs up the stairs, and back into her bedroom. She lifts the net curtain and presses herself against the window, watching as Severus walks down the street and eventually, turns into a speck on the horizon.

She can hear plates and cutlery clinking together as her parents tidy the breakfast things away, and her heart twinges a little when she thinks that she didn't eat the toast her boyfriend had so thoughtfully prepared for her. She looks behind her at the dishevelled bedclothes, where he'd held her throughout the night, and although he had been in her arms a few moments earlier, when she looks around the empty Muggle room, it feels as if a wizard had never been there at all.

Severus places the vial of Polyjuice on the bench, and carries on brewing. He keeps trying to remember where he faltered when he was genuinely brewing for the first time; he doesn't want Slughorn thinking that Lily is some sort of prodigy - regular genius will suffice - and if he brews with the experience he has behind him already, Slughorn will draw the wrong conclusion. 

Luckily, when Slughorn enters the room, he is rather more distracted by the vial sat openly on the table. "Ah, now, Severus," he says, pointedly, whipping it into his grasp, "a little more care with your belongings, please."

"It's there for a reason. I wanted to ask you about it."

"Oh? Well, fire away!"

Severus casts at his cauldron, pausing the brew he's working on, and wipes his hands with a cloth. He doesn't know how to approach this. He doesn't know Slughorn that well, not really, not considering that he was his housemaster for seven years. They got on well enough, and Slughorn was always fairly amiable towards him - not like McGonagall, who had mastered the skill of looking down her nose whenever he raised his hand in her classroom - but he didn't have the sort of relationship with him that Lily had. Lily could've asked him. Lily would've thought of the right way to raise the topic so that Slughorn didn't blink, or miss a beat.

But of course, stood here, he was Lily. Or Lily-as-Severus. In Slughorn's eyes, anyway. He just needed to think of the right way to approach it - he could hardly blurt out that she, or he, or she-as-he, or... Well. He can't tell Slughorn that Lily is pregnant. He can't let anyone know. So he needs a different way to approach it. A logical way. Come on, think. What would Slughorn think was feasible? Get him talking about Polyjuice before he smells a rat!

"It's such a chore drinking it all day long. It's an awful mixture."

"I sympathise greatly, but I am afraid not much can be done about the taste." Slughorn settles himself against the bench. "Many have tried to modify the potion, but all with limited success. My dear, I would suggest that if you were looking for a topic to study, there are other areas with greater untapped potential."

"You do not think it is worthy of any experimentation? If not the taste, then longevity, so I would only need to drink it once?"

Slughorn sighs. "If it's a topic you're truly interested in-"

"-it is, Professor," he says, trying forlornly to remember what Lily-as-Severus would call Slughorn. His days with Borage and Jigger mean that 'sir' isn't far from his lips, but he's certain that would immediately expose him as an imposter. Ask her tonight, you idiot. "Severus will be bald at this rate, Professor."

Slughorn suppresses a smile. "I think he has plenty to tide him over. ...Lily, you should bear in mind that such a potion would have limited appeal. Few wish to transform for extended periods of time. There are laws," he says, absently scratching his ear.

"Yes, the Ministry Act of Imitation 1359."

"Very good!" Slughorn looks impressed. "It prevents most from wishing to transform for more than an hour - the risk of prosecution outweighs the benefits, not least because it's trivial to hold a witch or wizard in custody-"

"-the Ministry Act of Deceitful Conduct 1386."

"Two in a row. I see Professor Binns managed to impart a little of his knowledge."

"So you do not think it's possible?"

"I believe it's possible." He smiles tightly. "I simply do not see the use-case scenario."

"I almost cannot say it, Professor." Severus tries to blush, but although his cheeks redden at the most inopportune times, his body fails to respond at will.

Slughorn looks amused. "I shall not betray a confidence."

"...Severus has a friend. I have a friend." Severus glances away, hoping to pique Slughorn's curiosity. 

"Go on."

"They like to play, Professor, if you understand my meaning."


"So it would be useful for the Polyjuice to last a little longer. In those circumstances. Privately."

Slughorn looks a little embarrassed. "I suppose it would, although I imagine the penalty in the Ministry for holding such a potion would be no less. As it stands, with the potion as it is, they could likely argue personal use - but a potion which lasts for an increased duration? It's a dangerous area. Really, who needs to be transformed for more than an hour?"

Severus has to stifle a laugh. Old Sluggy's a ten minute man, is he?  He quickly changes the subject. "I also wanted to know, Professor - can it affect the source?"

"The source?"

"If I were to burn myself," he says, quickly, "would Severus be hurt?"

Slughorn looks amused. "Now, this is why it has been such a joy to teach you both - you are so very different in nature."

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Professor."

"Your boyfriend," Slughorn whispers, leaning in conspiratorially, "would simply have burnt himself. As a test."

It makes his stomach twist to think how well Slughorn knows him. It's the obvious solution, but he doesn't dare test the theory, lest Lily or the baby be harmed in any form. "I don't think Severus would hurt me deliberately."

"Not deliberately. But perhaps in the name of investigation. A little nick of the knife here, or a scald there." He clamps a hot hand over Severus' own. "Lily, my dear, there is no need to be concerned. If you become as reckless a brewer as your worse half, then you won't hurt him," and he gives a bellow of laughter, "so I hereby give you permission to channel his curiosity and blow up that cauldron!"

"...could a child be hurt, Professor?"

This makes the smile abruptly drop from Slughorn's face. "My dear, a student-"

"-not a student. An unborn child." The words fall from his lips before he can stop them; he wouldn't forgive himself if he didn't explicitly check.

Slughorn appraises him, and the silence is almost oppressive. "...your friends, I assume?" Slughorn eventually asks, quietly. "They are with child?"

"I believe so, Professor."

"Am I correct in thinking that this is a new addition to the Malfoy family tree?"

He stills, but he's certain his frozen demeanour has given Slughorn all of the information he needs. "I cannot say, Professor. I must not break a confidence."

Slughorn smiles broadly. "Indeed, but you do not have to. As much as I like your boyfriend, I am almost certain that he only has one friend who would confide such things to him. ...he hardly invites the sharing of secrets, does he?" His eyes narrow. "But Severus is a brewer, so Lucius would have good reason to confide in him." He grins, triumphantly, as the pieces fall into place. "The rather narcissistic Lucius is concerned that his deviant behaviour will have an impact upon his unborn child? And he would well be worried, with the history of the Malfoy lineage - of the children that were lost in the womb." Slughorn leans a little closer, his breath warm on Severus' skin. "Tell Lucius, or Narcissa - if what you're saying is truthful and you now count her as your friend, Lily - that there is nothing to be concerned about. Lucius may partake in such potions, but Narcissa must not." And then Slughorn grins broadly. "Although, from what you've said, I imagine that might just put a little dampener on his escapades. I somehow can't imagine Lucius as..." He trails off, and gives a little shake of his head. "On the other hand, I would rather not imagine any of this at all."

"And brewing, Professor?"

Slughorn looks thrown, and Severus has to swallow his amusement. How is he more surprised at the idea of them brewing, instead of indulging in sordid sexual games? 

"Did you say brewing?"

"Is it safe to do so? When pregnant?"

"I wasn't aware that Narcissa had such an interest."

Shit. "I merely mean that if Lucius brews around her, if she walks in on him brewing then-"

"Lucius is going to brew this modified potion, is he? Not yourself or Severus?" Slughorn's expression is a mixture of surprise and amusement. "Well, young Lucius was a promising brewer in his day. I was rather disappointed that he dropped the subject instead of carrying on through his NEWT."

It isn't surprising. Abraxas forced him to quit, fearful that his son would discover that he was being dosed with Imperatum. But Severus keeps the thought to himself, and nods. "I think he might wish to try. So that the potion doesn't need to be transported between locations."

"Thus reducing the opportunity to be caught in the act?" Slughorn nods, looking slightly impressed. "Clever. He does rather think of everything, doesn't he, Lucius?"

"It is a trait I am quickly becoming accustomed to."

"Yes, well, don't fall for one of his others - the ability to get something for nothing," he says. "Lucius will attempt to sweet talk you into almost anything, but don't you go giving away any discoveries you may make. He has a purse full of galleons, a vault full of gold, and a mansion full of treasures - make sure he rewards you handsomely for your creations." He moves towards the exit then, the conversation clearly over, but as he nears the door, he turns. "Oh, and Lily?"


"I always told you all when you were at school to patent any such inventions. If you do manage to extend the effects of the potion…" He raps his knuckles on the door. "Well. I'd recommend that you leave this one off your curriculum vitae."

Severus swings the door to their quarters open, and he immediately grabs his wand from his sleeve when he spies a figure in the shadows by the bookcase. "Lumos!"

"My deepest apologies, Severus," comes the gentle voice of Albus Dumbledore, who - now that the room is lit, Severus can see - is trailing a long, thin finger across the spines of Severus and Lily's books. "I did not mean to startle you."

Severus moves out of his defensive stance and shrugs uncomfortably, wanting to snap about switching a light on instead of standing around in the darkness - how was he even reading the titles of the books without any light? - but as he's very aware that he's living in the castle as a favour, he doesn't want to start an argument with the Headmaster.

"You are right, of course," Dumbledore says, smiling, "I should've put on a light. I had quite forgotten how dark it gets down in these dungeons, even when the sun is still shining brightly over the grounds above. When one lives in a tower, it is easy to forget such things."

"I didn't say anything about putting a light on."

"You didn't need to." Dumbledore sweeps his robes and moves out of the study and into the cosy living area, where he sits, uninvited, on the sofa. "I thought you'd been practising?"

Severus follows, casting at the wall lamps to cause them to ignite. "I haven't had time."

Dumbledore looks at his fingers, and then up at Severus. "Please, be seated, Severus."

He acquiesces with irritation. Be seated. Be seated! It's my bloody room. Well... it's his bloody castle, I suppose - and then he catches sight of the clock in the corner. Don't drag this out. Lily's expecting you. He glances quickly down, not wanting Dumbledore to read his mind again. "Was there something I could help you with, Headmaster?"

"I am pleased to hear that following our discussion you have been reconnecting with old acquaintances," Dumbledore says, airily.

His eye twitches as he realises.  Mundungus saw me with Avery.  Bloody Fletcher. "As you suggested I should do, sir."

"Tell me, how is Avery?"

"Good, sir."


Severus nods. "Seems happy enough."

"Seems...happy...enough." Dumbledore drags the sentence out, as if he's mulling it over. "Any reason for such happiness, Severus?"

Well, whenever I'm with him, he's getting his end away down Knockturn so… "No, I don't think so, sir."

"Well, I'm very pleased to hear that he's doing so well." Dumbledore flicks a piece of lint from his robes. "What of Lucius Malfoy, Severus? How is he?"

"Fine, sir."

"And his lovely wife, Narcissa?"

"Also fine, sir."

Dumbledore gives a soft hum. "Lucius is keeping himself busy, I trust?"

"I don't know, sir."

"You don't know?"

"No, sir." Severus scrabbles frantically through his mind for something - anything - to give to Dumbledore, but he can't think of anything damning. "The last time I saw him, it was a social occasion."

Dumbledore looks interested. "Oh yes? And who was at this gathering, Severus?"

"Just me."

"Just you?" Dumbledore sighs. "Young Mulciber?"

"...I haven't seen him for a while."

"Evan Rosier?"

Severus shakes his head. "No. Sorry, sir."

Dumbledore leans forward, his hand absently stroking through his beard. "Would you find collecting information for me easier if I gave you a specific task, Severus?"

His heart is suddenly thundering in his chest. "I… I don't know, sir. I'm very busy at the moment-"

Dumbledore stands, and heads to the wooden dining table in the corner of the room. In the middle, there's a bouquet of freshly picked flowers, and he runs his hand across one of the flower heads, his fingers gliding down the style to the stigma, a small collection of orange pollen collecting on his skin. 

"I like your flowers, Severus. It's a homely touch. Rather feminine." Then he smiles. "And I believe that Professor Slughorn has been most pleased with your progress under him. Naturally, I was rather surprised to hear that you were covering topics that I was certain would've been dealt with under Master Jigger, or indeed, Master Borage…"

"Sir." The implication of Dumbledore's words is not lost upon him. I was right. He knows she's living here with me. 

"If you are...revisiting such areas of study, would I be forgiven for thinking that you currently have a little more free time than you did when you were working under Master Jigger? Revision is always easier than learning a topic for the first time. Am I not correct, Severus? Or have my years as an educator been wasted?"

"...yes, sir. I mean, no sir." He flounders slightly, and Dumbledore's gaze narrows further. "The revision is easier, sir," he clarifies, trying not to stumble over his words, "than learning a topic for the first time."

"I pride myself on my role as Headmaster, Severus. I take great interest in the whereabouts of all of my students and ex-students," Dumbledore's voice is kind and soft, but his blue eyes are piercing. "I was most impressed with your conduct and work ethic upon leaving Hogwarts."

"Thank you, sir."

"Not only were you working under Master Borage and then Master Jigger, but I seem to recall mention of your face appearing behind the bar at the Three Broomsticks?"


"And Mundungus Fletcher, he always has such positive things to say about you." Dumbledore smiles. "I believe your paths may have crossed on occasion?"


"My brother, on the other hand, is a little more-"

"I understand, sir," Severus interrupts, not wanting Dumbledore to list any further extracurricular activities that he's been involved in. Has he got eyes everywhere?

"Good!" Dumbledore claps his hands together and looks pleased. "Now that your schedule is a little more open, shall we discuss how we can make best use of your time?"

Chapter Text

He sits on the back step, his elbows resting on bent knees, and watches a group of moths dancing near the looming streetlamp, ducking and diving to chase the elusive light within.  He doesn't even know what he's doing here - doesn't know what possessed him to visit in the first place. A sense of honour, perhaps? Or rather, guilt. Guilt that her parents knew and his parents didn't. It seemed like a good idea - like the right thing to do, but as always when it comes to Spinner's End, whatever he thinks is best always turns out to be the wrong decision.

He doesn't know whether just to up and leave, whether to just slink out of the back gate like he'd never visited in the first place, or whether to storm through the house as he'd been prone to doing at fifteen, limbs swinging wildly, yelling and slamming doors, and making the sort of scene that made the neighbours come to the windows.  Another evening showdown at the Snape house. Roll up, roll up, if you missed the matinee, the show's about to start again! Tickets are free, but be sure to duck, because the scars are permanent!

"She don't mean owt by it, lad."


"Shove up, eh?" 

Severus does, sliding along the step to his left, and leaning his long legs outwards, the toes of his boots pointing up at the sky. There's a grunt as Tobias heaves his weight onto the kitchen floor, and squashes into the too small gap. He pushes his own legs out, his battered boots almost aligning perfectly with his son's. 

"She sent yer out 'ere, has she?"

"Yer've grown again. Legs as long as mine now, lad."

"So people keep tellin' me." He glances at his da. "Mam disowned me then?"

"Gone corner shop. For some fags." Tobias leans in his pocket and pulls out his battered rolling pouch, offering it to Severus with a smile. 

Severus nods in gratitude, and takes a paper, and a filter, and a clump of light brown tobacco. His fingers tremble slightly as he tries to roll the cigarette cleanly, and before he's even straightened the inner contents, Tobias is licking his own paper and sticking it down. 

"Here y'are, soft lad," and with an elbow to his ribs, Tobias has gifted him the rolled cigarette and taken Severus' loose pieces for himself. "Yer makin' a right state of it."

"Don't 'ave much call to make rollies." He flicks his wand and lights his thin cigarette.

"S'pose not," Tobias says, and accepts Severus' proffered flame to light his own. They sit like this, dusk falling around them, until the cigarettes are nearly to their ends. They haven't spoken - just sat together, father and son partaking in the constant huff and pull of smoke.

It's eerily silent and sombre at this time of night - the only sounds are their deep exhalations and a stray cat screeching down the back alley - but it's not a relaxing quiet. It feels as if there's an underlying tension, and a fight is going to surge from somewhere. Worse still, the yard smells of sewage and overripe bins, although the tobacco at least goes some way to covering it - from where they're sitting, at least.

"Thought yer'd given up smokin'."

"So yer mam thinks an' all," Tobias says, tapping his pocket. "But a man's gotta 'ave 'is secrets. You'll know that, lad, now yer grown."

"Not really. Lily doesn't like secrets."

"Is that why yer told us?"

"Shouldn't 'ave bothered."

"She'll come round."

Severus gives a soft laugh. "I don't reckon so. Not this time."

"Aye, she will. I know yer mam right and proper."

"She hates Lily," Severus mutters.

"Hate's a strong word."

"It's the right fuckin' word!"

Tobias lifts his hand, and clips Severus around the ear. He winces, but it's not painful - his da's fingers have barely connected. He shoots a glance towards Tobias, wondering if more is coming, but Tobias has settled back against the doorframe, plucking his pack of tobacco out of his pocket again. "Me mam never liked yer mam either, y'know?"

He didn't know. 


"I need another fuckin' ciggy."

"Me an' all, Da."

"Thought yer'd given 'em up, now yer shacked up wi' that bird o' yers?"

"Only 'ave 'em when I'm here."

Tobias laughs then - and to Severus' surprise, it's a rich, gruff laugh, building in Tobias' chest and sitting in his throat. "Aye, when yerse can cadge off yer old man, I get it."

"I don't cadge off yer! I din't even know yer still fuckin' smoked 'til tonight."

"Cadge off yer mam though, aye?" He passes Severus another tightly rolled cigarette. "An' who gives her money?"


"Fuck off wi' yer government bollocks."

"I'm just sayin', yer dole ain't work, is it?"

"Government stole me fuckin' job," Tobias mutters, sniffing loudly. "Least they could fuckin' do is see me an' me missus right."

"Not yer son an' all?"

"Son's got enough brass bollocks of his own."

The silence falls around them again. It's even darker now, and the orange lights at the ends of the cigarettes are stark. "Thought yer was gonna tell me about me gran?"

"D'yer talk like me… When yer round me, I mean, to..." Tobias waves his hand. "Yer know."

He does. 

"To appease you?"




"Yer mam don't like it."

"I know."

"Is that why yer do it?"



Tobias appraises him, his eyes disappearing under his thick eyebrows as he squints. "Why then, lad? Yer talk proper when yer over the river, when yer chattin' to 'er mam and da, don't ya? An' at that school, an' them fancy fellas yer mam's always goin' on about yer knowin'. Lord Malfing and Professor Slugson."

"Yer think that's me, d'yer? Rolling 'r's and unflattening me 'a's? Stickin' me little finger out when I drink from a cup?"

"I dunno, lad. That's why I'm askin' yer."

"...I dunno. I dunno who I am, Da." Severus looks pained. "Everyone wants summat different from me."

"That's jus' growin' up, lad. These new responsibilities messin' wi' yer head, that's all."

I knew he'd bang on about responsibilities. 

"It ain't just that," he mutters.

But Tobias is on a roll, and it's as if he hasn't heard his son speak. "Yer wouldn't think I was made out to be a da if yer'd seen me when I was yer age."

Too fuckin' right I wouldn't! You were a fucking shit da, Severus wants to scream, but he ducks his head, and looks at the ground. "Right."

"It's…" Tobias pulls on his cigarette, and then flicks the end into the yard, and claps Severus on the shoulder. "Just don't be thinkin' we got room for a little 'un here, if owt's gonna 'appen-"

"Fuckin' 'ell!" 

"All right, calm yersel'. It's just, yer mam's always talkin' about some war or summat that's gonna happen. I'm just sayin'-"

"I'm not gonna do that." Severus spits angrily on the ground. 

As if I'd leave my flesh and blood here with you. And her! Serve her right if I never bring the kid round - never show either of this pair what my kid looks like. Do the kid good, I reckon, he thinks, sourly, not to be tainted by these two.

"Good. Coz yer forget, see, what it's like 'round 'ere."

I don't forget. How could I forget? 


"Ain't no good for a kid. Not round 'ere."

"I know."

Tobias tilts his head. "Yer know much about the war then?"

Severus sighs. "There isn't a war, Da. It's just Mam witterin' on again about nowt."

"There's always wars. There's wars now. What d'yer think's happening over the Irish Sea, eh?"

"How I'm s'posed to fuckin' know what the bloody Muggles are up to?" Severus snaps. "I've got my own stuff goin' on, Da, if yer ain't noticed!"

"Muggles." Tobias gives a harsh laugh. "Yer mam used to say that, once upon a time. Yer great Muggle. Insult, innit?"

Severus looks uncomfortable. "Not really. Just a word for yer. Non-magics, like."

"Just a word." Tobias looks thoughtful. "Them and us, is it?"

"Summat like that."

"Got a word for that girl o' yers, 'ave they?"


"An' yersel'? Muggleish?"

Severus looks at his boots. "Half. Coz me mam's Pure, and me da's-"

"-a Muggle," Tobias finishes.


"Yer thought any worse of, are yer? Coz o' me?"

"They don't know," Severus mumbles. "I mean, some of 'em have figured it out, I reckon. Unusual surname, see? But Mam's Pure-"

"I don't get it."

Severus smiles, picking at the lace of his boot. "She ain't never told yer, has she? Yer wanna see her books up in the attic. Full of it in there."

"I know she was runnin' from summat, that's all. Pure?"

"Magic an' magic an' magic all through yer family if yer Pure," Severus explains. "So I reckon even though I'm half Muggle-"

"-the lowest of the low?"

"Yeah," Severus laughs, cheekily, "I'll be all right, coz I'm half Pure."

"An' yer girl?"

He gives a slight shake of his head. "I'll look after 'er."

"I din't ask yer that."

"Muggleborn. Might as well say Muggle for some." He looks at his father earnestly. "They're wrong though. She's magic all the way through an' all."

"What about this kid then?"

"Be Half."

"Yer don't sound sure."

He doesn't sound sure because he isn't sure; the laws change faster than he can keep up with, and although the child will be his - the son or daughter of a Half - Severus can't deny that his lineage isn't Half and Pure, or Half and Half, or even Half and Muggleborn. His child will have three Muggle grandparents, and a witch who turned her back on the magical world.

"It'll be all right."

Tobias shifts his weight and stamps his foot. "Leg's gone dead sittin' 'ere," he grumbles. "Yer wanna watch it if there's a war, y'know, lad."

"There ain't a war, Da!"

"Yer grandad died in the war. An' yer uncles."

"Muggle one?"

"Yeah." Tobias briefly looks at the sky, and crosses himself.


"Yeah." He looks at Severus sternly. "Don't fight, lad. If yer can help it. That's how yer get yersel' killed."

"I ain't a coward."

"Yer sayin' I am?"

Severus shakes his head quickly. "Din't say that."

"I ain't sayin' shirk yer duty. I din't shirk me duty! I'm sayin', don't go stickin' yer hand up, that's all. Not wi' a kid on the way. Don't go volunteerin'. If there's a bullet wi' yer name on-"

"-we don't use bullets," Severus interrupts. "We've got wands."

There's a pause. "Yeah, well. Same's same. An' as for yer mam…" Tobias sniffs. "She wanted better for yer, that's all."

Severus stands then, his back aching from having sat on the step for too long, and he kicks his feet in the air, trying to get blood to rush back to his toes. "What d'yer mean?"

Tobias has quickly moved into the vacant space on the step, his larger frame filling where the door ordinarily sits. "Yer a kid, lad. Yer ain't even got t'key t'door."

It's a stupid phrase. Key to the door. A Muggle phrase. As if being 21 makes any difference. 

"Wizarding majority is 17, Da."

"Aye, an' she was a kid, an' all, when she met me. Wizarding majority," Tobias snorts. "Means nowt, lad." It's his turn to look at the ground. "I reckon in that world of yers… She coulda been someone, yer mam," he eventually says, quietly. "I never knew she was special, see?"

"Yer mean yer din't know she was a witch."

"Not 'til we had some nightmare of a kid who started settin' fire to the fuckin' curtains."

"I was a baby! I din't mean to do it!"

"Aye, I'll believe yer an' thousands wouldn't, yer little shit. But me mam..."

"She guessed? An' that's why she din't like Mam? ...Da, yer mam, did she like me?"

But before Tobias can answer, there's a loud slam of the front door, and Tobias stands, abruptly. "Yer stayin' or goin', lad?"

"What happened to me gran, Da?"

"She died when yer was a babe."

"I know that, I'm not right thick, yer know." Severus waits, expectantly, but Tobias doesn't say anything else - and he can hear internal doors being slammed, and cups being thumped against the worktop, so Severus puts his finger to his brow, and then points it at his father in a mock-salute. "I'm off. Thanks for sharin' yer stash, Da." He retreats out of the gate, and as he pulls it to, he sees his father waving him back. "What?"

"Boy or a girl?"

"Dunno yet."

"Rather one than the other?"


"It's not too late to scarper. If what yer mam's sayin' is right, 'bout this war?" Tobias shrugs. "Men desert women all the time. She'll just be one o' them statistics, an' her family are posh enough. Government will see 'er right. If yer scairt to get tied down too early?"

"I ain't scared."

"Gonna stand by her then?"


Tobias nods stiffly. "Good lad, Russ."

Chapter Text

It's after ten when Severus shows up at the Evans house, and although David shakes his newspaper in quiet disapproval when he enters, Lily runs over and embraces Severus tightly.

"Oh, Sev, you stink!" Before he can duck his head to kiss her, she pulls her face away, and wrinkles her nose in displeasure. "No, don't you dare kiss me, you'll taste horrid."

"Sorry." He rummages in his pockets, looking for an elusive stick of chewing gum - and then he finds one; a warm, thin slice of Juicy Fruit, still in its silver paper wrapping. "It's not mint," he says, apologetically, folding it into his mouth, and screwing the paper up into his pocket.

"You'll ruin your dinner," David admonishes, watching him chew.

"Sorry," he says, again. Can't do right for doing wrong, he thinks - but Lily squeezes his fingers and gives him a tight smile, and he feels on solid ground with her at least.

"How did they take it then?" she asks. "The news of their grandchild?"

He tilts his head, surprise etched on his face. "How did you know that's where I'd been?"

"I already told you," she laughs, moving away from him, but keeping her hand in his, "you stink of cigarettes. You only ever smoke when you're with your mum and dad."

David rustles the paper again, disapprovingly.

"I don't always smoke," he says, awkwardly, looking over at David's chair warily. "Just the odd one. Now and again. If they offer."

"That's good then, isn't it? If your mum offered, she must be-"

"Mam went out," he says, abruptly. He bends down to untie his laces, breaking contact with Lily as he does so. "Spoke to Da."

Lily exchanges a look with her parents, the meaning of this not lost upon them.

"Severus, lovey," Rose quickly interjects, "there's a meal in the oven for you. I've left it on the lowest setting."

"That chop'll be tough," David says, loudly. "Dinner was four hours ago."

"I'll put some gravy on it. Won't take a minute." Rose disappears into the kitchen before Severus can protest, and he can hear saucepans and spoons clanging against the stove.

"I don't mean to be a bother," Severus says, quietly, and although David gives a loud sniff of displeasure, he doesn't speak, and carries on reading his newspaper. Severus looks helplessly at Lily.

"It's okay," she murmurs, toying with his fingers again. "What did your dad say?"

"Rattled on about the war. You know what he's like for being inappropriate. What else would you say when your kid tells you you're going to be a grandparent?" He adjusts his voice into a gruff mimic of Tobias. "Well, son, that's great an' all but 'ave I told you 'bout the time the Tommys climbed out of a trench and blew up the Jerrys? Kaboom!"

David lowers his newspaper a fraction, a frown etched on his brow. "Which war was he talking about, Severus? Do you know?"

"Muggle one. Some Irish one."

"The Troubles?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Got trenches in Ireland, have they?

Severus shrugs. "Look, I dunno. You know my da, he's all over the shop. I lose track. Some big war or something. Can't have been that long ago because he said his brothers died in it. And I know he's old, but he's not that old."

Lily looks surprised. "I didn't know that. About your uncles."

"Nor me," says Severus. "And my grandad Snape, apparently."

"Bloody hell."

"Lily, language!" David looks over at them. "Most families lost someone in the war - like your mother's Auntie Mary and-"

"-Great Uncle Joseph, and little Billy," Lily choruses, as if she's heard it a hundred times.

"Didn't think your mum was that old?"

David shakes his head. "She's not, you cheeky so-and-so," but although his words are stern, there's amusement playing around his lips. "Rose's father's side of the family. They were bombed, and her cousin Billy was only a nipper." He looks at Severus pointedly. "Like Rose was herself." He pauses. "Perhaps your news made your father think about his own childhood, Severus?"

"I asked him once, when I was little, and he said he didn't have any brothers or sisters-"

"-if they were dead by then, I suppose he didn't," Lily says, logically.

"It's not the spirit of the question though, is it, love? He could've just answered me like a normal person," Severus mutters, bitterly. "It's probably not true. He's probably just telling me stupid stories again."

David looks over. "The war affected a lot of people, Severus. Everyone copes differently."

Severus doesn't look convinced. "You're managing to talk about it, aren't you?"

"How old is your dad, Severus?"

Severus shrugs. "Fifty something. He had that party at the club a few years ago."

"Yeah, I remember that," Lily says. "I wore your Slytherin tie and you wore my Gryffindor one." She grins at him, remembering what Eileen caught the pair of them doing when the last song was playing - and by the look of sudden cheer on Severus' face, she doesn't need to remind him.

"So he'd have fought," David quickly reasons. "It's different for him, especially if he lost his brothers. The war was over when I was still in school. Younger than you both were at that party, if my maths is correct."

"You don't know what he's like, all right?" Severus shoves his hands awkwardly into his pockets. "It doesn't mean he has to put a dampener on our good news, does it? Talking about war when I'm telling him I'm having a kid."

Lily shoots her father a dark look, imploring him to let the topic of war drop. She slides her hand into Severus' pocket, reaching for his hand, and smiling at him when he slides his fingers between hers. "So? What did he say, Sev? About the baby?"

Severus shrugs again. "Seems fine with it. As long as we don't inconvenience him."

Lily smothers a giggle. "How would we inconvenience him?"

"He was afraid that I'd leave the kid with him." He looks vaguely amused. "As if! I wouldn't leave a half eaten stick of rock with him, great useless bastard he is."

This time, Lily doesn't smother her giggle. "Oh Sev, I'm sorry. I'd have come with you if you'd said. For support."

"Best you didn't."

"We'll have to make sure we invite them out."

Severus gives her a puzzled look. "Invite them where?"

"So they don't think we're going to impose on them when we take the baby round."

"I don't think Severus means that, Lil," David interjects, peering over his paper again. "I think Severus' father was worried he'd end up raising your child."

Her eyes widen in horror. "He thinks I'd give him my baby?"

"Told you," Severus says, with a grin. "He's tapped in the head. So yes, best you weren't there. Besides, I wasn't there that long."

Lily looks pointedly at the clock. "No?"

"I didn't get there until nearly nine," Severus grumbles. "Bloody Dumbledore took up most of my evening."


At Lily's exclamation, David lowers his newspaper, clearly still following the conversation intently. "Are you in trouble again, Severus?" he asks, sternly.


Lily grips his hand more tightly. "So what did Dumbledore want with you?"

"Just wants me to do something for him, that's all," he says, rubbing his free hand over his eyes.

David's gaze is unrelenting. "That's hardly an answer. What would that something be?"

"Severus!" Rose calls from the kitchen.

Saved by the cook.

"I'd best go," he says, moving towards the kitchen and looking apologetically at David, although his sincerity is lacking, "Rose wants me. You heard." 

"Really, Daddy!" Lily hisses once the door has closed behind him. "He's already had an earful tonight, by the sounds of it. Both ears!"

"Lils," David says, patting the arm of the chair and inviting her to sit next to him, "what do you think of Severus' father?"



She perches on the arm, and lowers her voice. "I think he's a bully."

"Just a bully?"

Lily glances towards the closed kitchen door, as if it bothers her speaking of Severus' family when he might suddenly burst back into the room. "He's violent."

David nods. "Anything else?"

"He shouts a lot. He doesn't make Sev very happy."

"And his mother?"

"From what Sev says, he treats his mum the same too."

David smiles tightly. "No, I meant, what do you think of his mother? Separately."

"She's odd," Lily says, picking at the skin on her finger. "Quiet. Sometimes she's ok. Sev likes her more than he likes his dad, but that's not saying much." She pauses. "I don't know what tonight means, though, if he spoke to his dad and not his mum."

"Do you think they're stupid people, his parents?"

She picks harder at the skin on her finger, and David reaches out and clamps her hands, stopping her from tearing the skin from the nailbed. When she desists, he loosens his grip. 


"Don't hurt yourself."

She swallows hard. "No, I don't think they're stupid. I think they're… Unhappy. No, not unhappy! I think… I think they're unkind, but…"


"...I don't think they mean to be." Lily looks distressed. "That's what's so awful about it all. I don't understand them. I don't understand why they treat Sev so badly, and I don't understand why he keeps going back when they keep hurting him."

"Because they're his parents. You come back to us when you need help."

"But you treat me well!"

David looks at Lily and gives her a gentle smile. "Does Severus know that?"

"Yes," she says, quickly, indicating to the room around them. "He can see for himself!"

"That's not what I mean. You said to us when you were kids that he didn't have many other friends-"

"-he still doesn't."

"So, do you think that Severus believes his parents aren't that bad because he hasn't got other relationships to compare them to?"

She thinks about Lucius and Abraxas, and whatever strange dynamic had been going on at Malfoy Manor the other night - and she thinks about the way Lucius treated her with his power plays, and the way Severus mutters disparagingly about Avery, and the way that Borage and Jigger treated him, and the way McGonagall looks at her when she thinks Lily is Severus, and the way he'd told her about Narcissa being nice to him, and Lily's heart tightens. 

"Nobody's ever treated him well. Not really."

David nods. "So if he believes that his parents care for him," and before Lily can interrupt, he raises a finger, "no, Lily, let me finish. I think they do care for him. In their own way. It's not a way that you or I or your mother understands, but he is their son. And tonight, he tells them that their family line will continue, which is cause for celebration for most-"

"-you didn't exactly celebrate."

"We didn't walk out either, did we?"


"But his mother did. His mother, who is the only one of us who is magical, walked out. And she leaves his father to ramble on about war, and death, and warning him not to leave their grandchild with them..." He opens his hands. "Well."

"He told them something that made them think he was going to die."

David picks his newspaper back up. "When he's had something to eat, I think you need to talk with Severus about whatever Professor Dumbledore wanted from him."

It's not that easy. Asking Severus. She wants to take her father's advice, and as soon as they're in the privacy of her bedroom, she wants to take his hand and ask him what he told his own parents to make them react to their happy news in such a way - but as he steps into her bedroom, he looks drawn, and scared, and tired, and he sighs so happily when she holds him in her arms, she can't bring herself to question him. 

There's always tomorrow.

But she doesn't ask him tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the day after that. Because he left the next morning - long before the milkman had delivered the morning's round - and he still hasn't returned. Her father keeps glancing at her, and she knows he wants to be kept informed about what's going on, but she doesn't know. So she doesn't venture, and he doesn't ask - so they dance around each other, all politeness and light, as if they're partaking in some odd performance art. She stays in the Muggle house in Muggle Britain with her Muggle parents, and neither of them ask when he's coming back, or what's happened to his assertion that she'd be safest at the magical castle in magical Britain with him, her magical boyfriend.

She knows they're concerned. They don't have to say the words for her to know. They like him, she's certain of that after all of these years, but she knows they're scared. Scared of his background, scared of whatever he's wrapped himself up in, scared of whatever his parents are saying to him, and scared that - for all his talk - he's feckless. They're worried that he was saying the right things, and doing the right things, but as soon as the realisation of what's truly ahead has dawned upon him, he's run for the hills. 

She has no such concerns. She knows Severus, and she knows he'll come back for her. He's just working out a way. She's sure of it. So when he turns up, a week or so later, clutching a battered duffle bag which she can tell - just from the shape of it - he's enlarged magically, she runs out of the house and throws herself at him, long before he's reached the front door. He puts the bag down, and as she leaps into his arms, the beaming smiles on both of their faces tells her parents - who are watching from behind the living room window - all they needed to know.

He perches on the edge of her bed and finishes his second cup of tea whilst Lily sits on the floor and looks at the wide array of brewing equipment strewn around them. She recognises some of it as having been in their rooms previously - but other pieces that they've unpacked together are new, such as the copper cauldron, and the pewter measuring scales.

"I take it from this that you've decided I'm not coming back to Hogwarts then?"

He shakes his head. "I don't trust Moody."

She sits back on her haunches, holding two glass beakers aloft and comparing them. "No?"


"I don't see the difference."

He takes the beakers from her and holds them up to the light from the window. "This one," he says, shaking his left hand, "has been purified with distilled water." He tosses them gently back to her, one at a time. "See it now?"

"Yeah," she says, "but I think you mixed them up when you threw them at me."

"Lil, let me have them back," he huffs, reaching for them, but she laughs and moves them out of his way.

"I'm only joking," she says, bouncing up and putting them on separate shelves in her wardrobe. "I meant Moody."

"What about him?"

"I don't see any difference in him before I got pregnant, and now. I don't think he's anything to worry about."

"Maybe not, but I think Dumbledore is," Severus says, his tone a little softer, "and Moody is tight with him." He shrugs. "I don't want you owing him any favours, and I don't want him spending more time with you than necessary. Not after what he said about," he waves his hand towards her midriff, "you know."

"I can't ignore him though, can I? If I go to an Order meeting, I need to get back to you somehow. I need him. Or Dumbledore, I suppose."

"But you should be able to get back with Polyjuice!"

Lily furiously digs into the duffle bag, grabbing a handful of measuring spoons from it and putting them on the floor. "You are such a pain, Severus. You just told me what Slughorn told you, that I can't keep taking Polyjuice, and now you're standing there-"

Severus puts his hands out to stop her from grabbing more things from the bag in a temper. "Lil, just stop a second," he says, "you'll mess up the equipment-"

"-is that what really matters in this? This stuff?"

"No, but there's knives in there! …and I'm saying it all wrong," he sighs, and he looks so weary and defeated, she stops, her temper quickly waning.

"Go on then," she says, trying to keep the petulance out of her voice, and giving him a tight smile. She hands him the bag. "Get the knives, and try and say it right."

"I know you can't take Polyjuice. You know you can't take Polyjuice," he snaps, pulling the knives out by their handles and placing them on the top of her dresser. "But Dumbledore doesn't know that, and Moody doesn't know that, and they both know you're living in the castle, and from what Dumbledore said to me, he knows you've been brewing with Sluggy."

Lily nods, suddenly understanding. "I'm with you. It was okay when Moody helped me previously, because he didn't know I had a way of getting back. But if I don't take it with me this time, and I ask Moody-"

"-they'll smell a rat," he finishes. "He's as paranoid as they come, old Moody, and he's already suspected something's amiss about..." He trails off, and moves behind her, placing his hand on her stomach. 

Although she's anxious at first, knowing that his quiet touch is the precious subject of what Moody would be suspicious of, she can't help but smile up at him as the little thrum of magic within her seems to beat harder at his touch. "Feel that?" she whispers.

He smiles broadly back, his grin spreading across his face. "Yeah. you think it knows?"

"That you're Dad?" She nods. "I think so. But you need to stop calling our child 'it', Sev."

He shrugs. "We don't know if it's a he or a she though."

"What did I just say?"

"Well, what do you want to call…" He pauses and rubs his hand across her stomach again, "'Thing'?" He grins at her, but his glee is shortlived she prods him just below his ribs. "Ow! That hurt, you demon."

"You deserved that," she laughs. "'Thing'! What is wrong with you? I'm not calling our child 'Thing'." She leans back into his touch, playing with his hand that's still caressing her stomach, and then twists her neck to look at him. "'Pea'?"

His look is incredulous. "No child of mine is being called 'Pea'."

"I didn't mean permanently. Just...a name for now. Better than 'it', anyway. I can think of 'Pea' growing inside me. Besides, 'Pea' probably is as small as a pea. Seems apt."

He scowls. "I hate peas."

"Doesn't have to be the food. Could be like those flowers in the garden - sweet peas."

"It's getting worse," he warns, with a smile. "Anyway, 'Pea' reminds me of a urinal."

"Sev!" She bats his arm with her hand. "'Pea' not pee! You're disgusting."

"Hey, I didn't call our kid an awful name."

"You come up with something then, if you're so smart."

He pauses for a moment, his long fingers stroking over her stomach. "'Bean'."

"'Bean'? That's no better than 'Pea'!"

"Yeah, it is," he says, with a smile. "Still small enough to grow inside you. And they have magic."

"Beans have magic?"

"Yeah!" He's laughing now, seemingly fuelled by the look of disdain on her face. He grabs her hand, and squeezes it. "Come on, Lil, like in that Muggle fairytale. You've got it somewhere," he says, breaking away from her and scouring her bookcases.

"Magic beans?" She finds herself chuckling at his keenness. "You're not even joking, are you?"


"Sev, honestly-"

"This one!" He pulls the large picture book triumphantly off the shelf, and settles on the bed. "Come on then," he says, reaching for her, and pulling her to sit between his legs on the mattress. "Time for a story."

She laughs as she leans back against him, her head on his chest, and her arms resting on his thighs. "Sev, you are ridiculous. You're not really going to a read a fairytale to me, are you?"

"Not to you. You already know it. But Bean doesn't." He grins, wickedly. "What did your mother say? It's not too soon for the baby - sorry, for Bean - to start learning." He puts his hand back on her stomach, and she can't help but laugh even harder at his infectious enthusiasm. "Hush, Mummy," he chastises gently, holding the book with one hand. "You're being very noisy, and Bean needs to listen carefully. Now, once upon a time..."

Chapter Text

London Waterloo is an assault on the senses, even at this late hour, with trains noisily pulling in and out of the platforms, flanges squealing, adults shouting to one another, high-heels and brogues both clattering across the floor, and an overbearing smell of diesel fumes mixing with cigarette smoke, the smell of old chips, broken toilets, and fresh newspaper print. 

I'd hate to be here at rush hour. Severus watches as groups of Muggles move across the concourse, from station to train, from train to station. There's barely any commuters now - most of the Muggles seem to be shift workers travelling in to London, or brightly painted partygoers heading for the next venue.

He pulls at his jacket awkwardly; compared to most wizards, he's relatively successful at merging into a Muggle crowd - he's lived too long in Cokeworth not to have an eye for what's acceptable to the Muggle eye - but London is a different beast altogether. London feels five years ahead, or fifteen years behind - he's sure he's seen Tobias in a shirt like the one the lad across the platform is wearing - or perhaps both, simultaneously, with London resurrecting the fashions of yesteryear for a new generation. If it's going to be the next in thing, I might nick it from Da's wardrobe, he thinks. He never much liked it anyway. 

He flicks the platform ticket between his fingers, and leans over the arm of the bench to watch the 9.55 draw in. On time. Five minutes and counting.

"She's a good one, the old Crompton. Go on, son, get a good look at her. Fine specimen of British engineering."

Severus looks over at the man who's spoken, and tries not to seem alarmed at the interruption. To speak, or not to speak? What will draw more attention? But the man looks at him expectantly, so he gives a slight nod in return. "...yes."

"The Class 33s are a cut above the 26s and 27s, although," and the man gives a low whistle, "were you there for the launch of the 253s? I don't think - I never forget a face, you see - I don't think I saw you there. Were you there?"


"Oh, you missed a fine day! But I knew it! I told you, I never forget a face! Like I never forget a train either. I still make a note, but I don't need to." He taps his head with his finger. "All in here, you see."


"You're not from round here, are you?"

Thought I'd hidden my Cokeworth accent well enough. Obviously not. ""

"Well, I can tell you, the 253s are something else. Have you seen one yet? Not here, mind, you'll need to get over to Kings Cross, and I know what you're thinking! How can I get there? Well, I can tell you the way, you'll-"

"-yeah, I've seen one," he says, desperately trying to stop the man from talking.

"Of course you have. I bet you went there first, didn't you? Before coming here? Fine train. Fine, fine train! She set the world record for diesel traction a few years back, but - oh, listen to me, telling you things you'll already know - you knew that already didn't you?"

"Yeah." Severus glances at the man, and the station clock just behind his head. Two minutes and counting. How have only three minutes passed? It feels like twenty listening to this bore. Severus slowly slides his platform ticket back in his pocket, trying to work out the best way to extricate himself from the conversation. "Now I've seen the, er, Crompton, I'll-"

"Go round the corner! Across that part of the concourse there, and down to platform 3, and you'll see a beauty." The man pauses, his finger aloft, and then breaks into a wondrous smile. "A Class 20."

Severus looks blankly at the man. "A...20?"

The man grins even more broadly, mistaking Severus' confusion for wonder. "Yes, you heard me right the first time! A Chopper! It's your lucky day, son. Go on now, or you'll miss it. Round that corner there, like I said!"

Bloody Muggles.

Severus slopes off platform 10, and - with one eye on the irritating man who is now waving at him like he's some long lost relative, and pointing wildly in the direction of the furthest part of the station - he dodges behind a stall, and then a bench, and roughly pushes himself into a throng of people heading to