Whatever he was doing, she didn't care. It wasn't her business any more whether the boy from Spinner's end was doing his potions homework, and she didn't care one way or another whether he mastered the freezing charm that he had been struggling with before... well, before the end of term.
Technically, they didn't need to do any work. Having sat her OWLs, she and the rest of the new sixth years were not yet officially NEWT students and so couldn't really study, not knowing what subjects their grades would allow them to take. Still, it would have been a shock to everyone if Lily Evans, (reluctant) slug club member and rare Gryffindor favourite of the potions teacher, Professor Slughorn, had achieved anything less than an outstanding mark, and the usually cautious Lily allowed herself to buy several advanced potions textbooks that had been recommended to her by a winking Slughorn, chuckling through a slurp of wine at the end of term party. "You might find these interesting for some summer studying, and they would no doubt help if you were to take the NEWT." She didn't like to assume, the books had been expensive, and asking her parents for the money had been difficult, she knew they were saving up to buy her a birthday present, though she told them not to. The basic course books were costly enough and more so when you added in potions ingredients, robes to replace the irretrievably stained ones she had needed to wear on the train home thanks to a hilarious, or, depending on who you asked, idiotic, prank courtesy of her fellow Gryffindors. As it turned out, large quantities of Bowtruckle pus had gone missing while the feast was taking place and Professor Sprout occupied with honey glazed ham, and had turned up over the heads of the first years as they were approaching the train doors to go home. The first years had been hysterical, shrieking with laughter at the bleaching effect the liquid had, giving the impression that the platform of the train station had been the scene of a terrible accident, and was suddenly inhabited by a hundred ghosts. Lily had been shepherding the excitable children into carriages and had been splashed, drawing the deep red out of her hair and freckles from her skin until her colouring was like that of her sister, Petunia, although they could never have been mistaken for one another. Her robes were unsalvageable, so new ones were needed.
Petunia would complain about the expense, but she always did. Lily got more than she did apparently and Petunia hated that their father couldn't always afford to give them both everything they wanted. Lily didn't feel like she was favoured with money, she only stayed at home over Christmas, and summer, and Petunia seemed to have a new wardrobe of dresses every time Lily saw her, she didn't think she cared whether Petunia got more, she wasn't resentful in the same way that her sister was.
In any case, it was the need for new books, to tide her over until the NEWT results and book lists of required reading came in, that led to the first time since the end of term that she had seen Severus, on a trip to Diagon Alley, and to visit the wizarding world that she so missed during the long summer months.
She had asked for some money, and after a trip to Gringott's wizarding bank, she had started down the busy street, passing witches and wizards who were all struggling under the weight of their numerous bags. She had met up with a few of her Hogwarts school friends in Diagon Alley, and they had planned to spend a lazy day in the bookshop, joke shop and more than a little time in Ernest Fortescue's ice cream shop, where the owner's sons served ice creams; the elder charming and flirtatious with every girl who passed by, and the younger brother rarely raising his eyes from a large book, titled 'The Witch Burnings of the Middle Ages in Europe'. Lily had begged them to find a seat in the shade, her pale skin already reddening across the bridge of her nose, and, after the obligatory laugh at her expense, they complied.
She fell down into the chair and tried to resist the temptation to press her face into the strawberry ice cream that was floated across to their table from the counter. She looked across the table to where Jacqueline was comparing the shade of dress robes she had bought to Karen's, ensuring that they were not too similar. The two girls were Gryffindors, like Lily, and were awaiting OWL results, like her. Their feelings about this were markedly different. Jacqueline was completely unfazed, where Karen had begged Lily to send her letters on colourful paper, in bright envelopes so that she could tell from afar that it wasn't a Hogwarts letter. This seemed excessive, but to save herself from an argument, Lily had complied; it had given her a chance to use an expensive correspondence kit that Jac had given her. Jacqueline was from a wizarding family, pure-blooded, though not intolerant of others, but her father put a great deal of pressure on his children to succeed, to be assets to the family name. Almost as a reaction to this, Jac had a determined kind of apathy, where she refused to care about school, grades or her future.
Karen, on the other hand, had a Muggle father, and a witch mother, but her father had only ever made infrequent appearances in his daughter's life, and was unaware of his daughter's abilities or her schooling arrangements. Karen seemed determined to be as immersed in a world that some might say she was only half a part of. Those same people would question Lily' s right to be in that world at all, and they had, vocally and frequently. The three girls discussed the birthday party plans being made for Jac's birthday at the end of August. It was being touted as a last hurrah for summer, and was being held at her house, which her family referred to as the Shed, but which was far grander than that suggested, the guest list was a topic of great importance to Jac. All the Gryffindor sixth years were to be included, of course, which consisted of two other girls, Lynn McLaren and Beth Podmore, and six boys. Adi Parson, a good friend of Lily's and long-term crush of both Lynn and Karen, though neither knew of the others interest and Lily wasn't inclined to tell them, and Nigel Forester, who was very studious, perhaps a bit too fond of rules and their enforcement, a little pompous and who had been bereft when passed over for prefect in favour of the somewhat less rule-abiding Remus Lupin.
Remus was lovely, Lily had always had something of a soft spot for him, not in a romantic way, but she thought he seemed very kind and he was often a softening force against his friends, the other three Gryffindors, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black and James Potter. Lily dreaded seeing them, all four of them, but especially Potter. She was a bit embarrassed, having shouted at him in a fit of rage and never apologising. She wasn't overly moved to say sorry to James Potter in many situations, but she genuinely had been quite horrible to him, though Jac, usually a defender of Potter, had grumbled that it served him right and that she hadn't said anything that wasn't true. Lily thought that Jac didn't really mean that, she had only said it upon seeing how upset Lily was about Severus, to lessen the number of things she had to obsess over.
She would need to face Potter and his band of friends and supporters who would likely be less than her biggest fans. She had received a few letters from Remus, and had written back, but they had both avoided any mention of the J-word, writing about exams (but not defence against the dark arts, after which the fight had occurred), the weather (sunny, sometimes cloudy, always boring) and a few bits of carefully selected stories of what they had done over summer, Remus wrote about a day at the beach "with friends" and a night where he had flooed to London and took "some people" to listen to some Muggle music. She knew who was there, and so did he, but neither acknowledged the great, festering problem. Remus probably disliked her for it, she supposed, but was too polite to ignore her letters, but too considerate to tell her what he thought of her, that she was an arrogant, hurtful cow and that she was being cruel. She had just been so upset and it was as if she had lost control, not in that shouting, incapable of thinking way but in the "I know exactly what to say to hurt you, and I'm going to say it" sort of way. She regretted it. James was a bully but she had sunk to his level, and she was supposed to be better than that. The fact that it was James Potter, insufferable, arrogant Potter that had got to her irked her, though Severus had helped. The end of a seven year friendship was as raw as it could have been, but still, Potter had got to her, been in the wrong place and had suffered for it.
She had to speak to him, he was always easy to find, just follow the sound of cheering, so she knew any party with James would mean she would see him, no chance of avoiding him. Desperate to avoid either of her friends asking her about Potter, or even hearing his name, as they were currently listing the invitees and would inevitably reach him, she jumped out of her chair and asked them if they wanted to go to Flourish and Blott's. The response was wordless, but unmistakable from their skewed eyebrows and unenthused faces. She would be shopping alone.
"We don't even know what classes we'll be in yet! Do you know your classes? Oh no! Do you know what your results are?" Karen panicked and her gentle amusement turned quickly into fear.
"Of course she doesn't know! She's just willing to waste perfectly good gold on books, instead of being sensible and buying the green dress!" Lily laughed.
"When would I wear a dress like that? It's robes at Hogwarts, and I'm not exactly going to tea at the palace when I'm home." Jacqueline waved the reasoning away but let Lily go. Ducking around a particularly grumpy wizard carrying a large cactus-like plant, she reached Flourish and Blott's, perhaps her favourite shop in the whole world, with the exception of the one beneath her house, where her father sold anything and everything a person might need. Despite the lack of booklists, Lily always found there were at least fifty books on a range of magical topics interesting enough to read for pleasure within the shelves of the magical bookshop. Every time she entered the shop, a few books found their way into her hand and forced her to part with a few sickles from her purse.
She pushed at the heavy, wooden door and felt herself breathe in the dusty, leathery, paper scent of books. Flourish and Blott's was beautiful. The sort of person who read only when required might not have seen it, but to Lily, it was heaven. Great stacks of books cluttered the floor as well as the shelves that covered every wall, and were, though it didn't look like it, organised by subject. She could have spent days in there and would have if it weren't for the whining of her friends when she dragged them in. Though they would all be coming back post-OWLs to buy the books and supplies for the next year, Lily always felt she was rushed for time. Indeed, there wasn't enough time in the day to even decide what books to read out of the plethora around her. She skimmed the charms section as usual, brushing her fingers wistfully against 'T. Evelyn' s Compendium of Charms', the thick, leather-bound tome that Flitwick kept behind his desk and only brought out to allow the most advanced Charms students to see, though touching the pages was forbidden. It was so expensive as to make her feel almost reverent, and she passed by to the Potions section, where she stopped to search through her bag and fished around for the crumpled napkin on which Slughorn had scrawled the names of several books.
It would have been hard for Lily to guess how long she spent there, plucking books from the high shelves and comparing their titles to the professor's notes (Slughorn hadn't been overly precise, the result, no doubt, of several bottles of whiskey and wine that had been given as end-of-term gifts) and holding those she planned to buy in the crook of her arm. Between the search, occasional distraction in the form of a book she hadn't heard of, and the constant checking of the total cost of her books, to make sure she didn't overspend, she didn't notice that she was not alone in the Potions section. She had found the final book, a thin, insignificant looking book called The Waters of Life and Death' that promised an in depth look at state-altering draughts, the potions that could make a person wake or sleep, healed or poisoned. Having completed the list, she turned to go and pay triumphantly and spotted immediately the pale boy, whose dark hair was to his shoulders and whose equally black eyes were fixed on her. The attention and interest that she had once found so comforting and genuine now seemed sinister and unsettling. Nothing had changed in him, he still cared about her, he still was grateful for her friendship, all that was as it had been before, but he had brought to life all the dark thoughts she had hid from for years, in one word, and had altered her viewpoint irreparably. She knew that they couldn't be friends, his love of the dark arts had, in her mind, won out over any love for her. The truth of the situation was hard to see from her very involved position but she knew that one of them would be hurt if they stayed friends, she had known it for a long time and in the end, it had been her.
That wasn't to say that he hadn't been suffering. He had always been pale, but now he was grey, always thin, and now gaunt. His dark eyes were more soulless than deep. Smiles had never been common, but now they seemed to be totally foreign, his mouth was set determinedly down. Could she speak to him? Speaking to him would be dangerous, he might think that there was a chance of recovery if she ignored the incident at the lake, but mentioning it was impossible. Silence seemed to absolve him too, as if she was simply settling back into their easy way of walking around, no words passing between them. There really was no right answer here, at least not one that Lily could see.
"A little bit premature to be buying NEWT books, isn't it?" He questioned, and she could see all the hope and desperation behind the casual tone. When she replied, her voice was ice, she didn't mean to but found herself picturing Petunia and how she might respond, that was sure to drive him away.
"I was told by Professor Slughorn to buy these, actually. I think he might have told me if I didn't need them." He hadn't been expecting her to be so combative, she knew. His eyes widened and she could almost see the dread, this was exactly how he had feared it might go.
"I didn't mean that. I'm sure you'll pass. Of course you'll pass!" He seemed to be chiding himself for the mistake.
"Yes, of course I will." She said, surprising herself with her confidence. Throwing her hair over her shoulder she stomped past, making it very clear that the conversation was over.
"Lily, please..." he was begging now, all the pride that he cloaked himself in was abandoned. Her heart broke, but she held her resolve and spoke over whatever he might have been about to say.
"As far as I remember, the dark arts stuff is over there, Severus." Calling him Sev, like she used to, was out of the question but neither could she bring herself to use the cruel nickname she had used by the lake, Snivellus. Stopping pointedly to pick up a book from the Defence against the dark arts section, barely glancing the title, she paid and left, in too much of a hurry to chat to the shop owner at the counter, who usually recommended a few titles to her, recognising a fellow book lover. She hoped, as the reunited with Jacqueline and Karen, that he wouldn't try again and that the painful memory of their friendship might be allowed to fade.
"I am not, under any circumstances, bringing him to this house! We have to go to a restaurant, have to, or I'll just die!"
Petunia had made no secret of her feelings towards the family home. The Evans family weren't rich, but they were only quite poor in a very poor area, so they tended to seem financially comfortable. The house was really a flat, they lived above the shop that provided their only source of income, save for what Petunia had left after using her meagre salary from the office she deigned to work in to keep her dresses new and make up fresh. The shop, a sort of everything shop, was most frequently visited by children to spend their pocket money on the great jars of sweets, a thousand colours and sizes that were stacks on one wall. Petunia often admonished Lily for the extra sweets she gave to the kids she knew to be from poor families, but her father always smiled at that, and more often than not, he could be seen refusing money from the children, and even their parents on occasion. They were for this reason never short of cooked meals, often the bell would ring and there would be a child standing on the door with a dish of stew, or pot of soup and refusing that was not an option. The family were not unaware of suffering, shortly after Lily's second year, her mother had died, a short illness that left a long trail of devastation. Lily felt bad that when summer ended, she had returned to Hogwarts and Petunia had been left to deal with a father who, while not uninterested, was greatly weakened by the pain of his wife's death. Petunia had never mentioned it but the letters, which her mother had enforced and which had always been lengthy if dispassionate, had stopped abruptly. She had sensed that the love, the painful but present love that had forced the sisters to keep communicating, had shrivelled up, leaving resentment thinly veiled by politeness. Lily wasn't the sort to think of anything as a lost cause, but her relationship with Petunia was as close as Lily had ever got.
Now, she mostly tried to maintain the uneasy peace that was settled between them. The distance ensured they could coexist but also made certain that the two sisters would never again be as close as they had once been. It was very difficult for Lily to keep herself silent when Petunia was being so openly dismissive of her own family. Their father, and mother while she was around, had often went without to provide their daughters with everything they wanted. Petunia's new boyfriend was the source of the issue this time, being that his family were of a higher class, in Petunia's mind at least, and that he might judge her for the fact that her family lived above a shop.
She had been listening to her sister's dramatics for too long and to save herself from the threat of expulsion should she have used the silencing charm that she was contemplating, she stood up, and was halfway down the dark, thin staircase that lead to the street below when her sister's whines became inaudible.
She hadn't brought any money, nor did she have much, so after stuffing a handful of boiled sweets into her pocket, she wandered aimlessly through the streets, avoiding the shops and instead strolling past houses. She let her mind drift away from Petunia and began to look forward to the party at Jac's house, only a few weeks away now. She only had a few close friends, less one Slytherin, but she was a friendly girl and well-liked among the students. She knew that the party would be fun, but then, a dinner date with an acromantula would be fun compared to weeks spent between Petunia and Severus. To be honest, if Hagrid, the school's groundskeeper with a passion for any creature that the general population might consider dangerous, was to be believed, it would be fun anyway.
She couldn't wait to get back to Hogwarts, the classes would be harder but interesting and the people were always amusing, the world of wizards seemed to hold a pull over her and she hadn't lost the wide-eyed admiration and awe that everything magical inspired in her. Thoughts of the things she missed, the food, the ghosts, the teachers, even the antics of James Potter and Sirius Black would have been almost welcome to break up the monotony of this painfully slow summer. She laughed out loud at herself, the fact that she was missing Potter showed just how desperate she was. Deciding that she really ought to write to Jac and arrange to meet up, she made to turn back when she realised where she was. The park was decidedly unremarkable. A lonely swing with its flaking paint sat alone, and a threatening steel fence ringed the sparse grass. It was a pitiful scene, but the plainness of the setting seemed wrong to her. This was where she had been that day with Petunia when flying off the swing had seemed fun, not illegal.
The park had grown into something of a backdrop for the relationship between her and Severus, the swing had stood resolute, creaking out a soundtrack to the chattering of two young children. Really, she was the chatterer, Severus had only contributed answers at first, direct and perfunctory, but as they had grown, he had trusted more and began to, if not chatter, then at least speak more freely.
That was all over now, there was no chance of recovery, but it felt almost natural when she looked out, to see the dark figure under a tree, shaded from the sun. She turned away, but didn't leave, though she couldn't have said why. Clutching the hard metal of the chains, warmed by the sun, she sank onto the plastic seat and swung gently, kicking the toes of her shoes, actually Petunia's shoes now that she looked at them, and dragging them forcefully across the ground as she swung forward. He had stood up at the sight of her, but he hovered now, he didn't know if she had seen him and he seemed scared to move in case she saw him and bolted. She wasn't really sure what she would do if he approached, she felt flustered and skittish, but she stayed, her head down, red hair falling to shield her face and obscure her vision.
She pushed her legs against the ground, forcing herself back and forward with more force, reaching greater heights and feeling the air push her hair back. Fixing her eyes on the blue expanse of sky above, she tried to sort through the strange mixture of emotions, anger, hurt, frustration fought against pity, affection and guilt. Whether she was thinking about Severus or Petunia didn't really matter, the feelings were surprisingly similar considering they were so opposed to one another. They were more alike than either would ever admit. They both wished that Lily was different. Petunia wanted her to be 'normal', to give up magic like it was a bad hairstyle and just be ordinary. Severus wished that she wasn't Muggleborn or that, at the very least, she would be ashamed of her heritage and try to hide it. They both had hated that Lily tried or even wanted to have other friends, Petunia had hated Severus's intrusion on their life, and Severus had never encouraged Lily to be friends with anyone else, often making mean comments about the Gryffindors that had been the cause of a few arguments between them. Both Petunia and Severus cared about her, but when it came down to it, she was second to something else. Petunia cared more about seeming normal, appropriate and proper, and Severus cared more about seeming to be a good Slytherin. Musing on the similarities of the two people who she had been so sure would be in her life forever, she realised they were both embarrassed by her, she wasn't enough for either of them, no matter what she did, or how much she sacrificed, there would always be something, a huge part of who she was, that they would demand be forgotten or ignored.
Standing up, she left the swing, seeing even from the distance that Severus was disappointed, and started back home, popping a lemon sweet in her mouth and trying not to think about the fact that she had three weeks more of this purgatory before she could see her friends, her real friends, who didn't care about what she was, but who.
Summer had never seemed such a burden.
She quickened her pace; already composing a letter to Jac about her horrible life and how likely it was that she would be completely insane by the time the party arrived. She thought about mentioning the fact that she was missing James Potter, to drive home her desperation, but decided against it. Some parts of your brain were best contained, and Lily had learned that in her case, anything Potter-related ought to go unmentioned.