Author's Note: Don't know why, but Bella-muse was feeling productive, so have an update! Love you guys!
P.S. I own nothing, anything recognizable belongs to the lovely Ms. Rowling.
As soon as the door shut behind him, Remus leant against it and slid to the floor, blinking rapidly. Soon, he promised himself. Soon.
Chapter 5: Not Horrible, I Suppose
"No, Sev, I will not!" Lily exclaimed, stamping her foot in frustration. She'd lost count of how many times they'd had this exact argument.
"You're being ridiculous about this, Lily!" Severus Snape returned. "Dr. Riddle is offering you a great opportunity!"
"No, he isn't!" she insisted. "He's trying to make it look like a great opportunity so he can try again to get me to test his new drugs on my patients. He's lucky I didn't go to the Health Board about it!"
"So, you're not even going to talk to him?!"
Severus was quiet for a long moment. "He's offered me a job," he said quietly. "I'm taking it."
"Oh, Sev, no!"
He gave her a pleading look. "It's everything I want. A research position, left to my own devices, I can work on whatever I want as long as I get his research done… It's the best offer I'll ever get, I have to take it."
Lily stared at him. "This is a mistake, Severus," she said quietly. "Tom Riddle is not a good man, and he's not a good doctor. I don't care what anyone says and I don't care how many letters he has after his name." She took a deep breath and tears sparkled in her eyes. "And I also don't want to know about it."
"Lily - "
"No! I mean it, Sev. What he does is unethical and harmful and I honestly have no idea how he's been getting away with it. If you're so damn set on being his new research assistant, then I don't want to know anything about it. Because if I know about it, I will take it to the Board, and that will get you in trouble as well. I don't want that."
Severus looked stricken, black eyes wide and skin even paler than usual. "Lily… please," he entreated.
She shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. "When do you start?"
Swallowing hard, Severus looked away from her. "I signed the papers last week," he admitted.
Lily took in a sharp breath. "Well," she said in a clipped tone, "I… wish you success. I hope you… find the answers you're looking for."
Grabbing her bag, she spun, tossing her hair over her shoulder and strode purposefully out of the laboratory. She ignored Severus' shout of 'No! Lily, please wait!' and flew down flights of stairs and through the maze of corridors until she finally found the exit. Running out of the teaching hospital, she only slowed down when she reached the grassy common.
Stumbling towards the first bench she saw, Lily fell onto it, dropped her head into her hands and burst into tears. She just didn't understand! Severus was so intelligent, how could he not see what Riddle was doing? Why did he think this was a good position? She'd tried to warn him, tried to reason with him, but he'd stayed convinced that he'd be a fool to turn away anyone willing to consider him.
She just hoped it didn't ruin his career.
The sudden voice caught her off guard, and she gasped, her head snapping up, and she found herself all of a sudden looking into the worried hazel eyes of James Potter.
"Oh, God," she moaned, "you're all I need!"
"What's happened? What's wrong? Are you hurt?" James asked, ignoring her displeasure at his presence.
"What are you doing here?" Lily whined. "You haven't been following me, have you?" she demanded sharply.
"No!" James protested, indignant. "I was visiting my Mum."
This made Lily pause. "You - your mother? She's in hospital?"
He nodded. "Been in and out the last couple of years. Started out as ovarian cancer, but it… spread. Not much they can do but manage the pain. Every once in awhile she has to come and spend the night, and I try to visit when that happens. Have lunch with her or do a crossword or something, you know?"
Lily flushed, mortified. Here she was yelling at him for simply asking if she was alright, and his mother was dying just a few feet away. "Oh, I… I'm sorry," she apologized sheepishly. "I didn't know."
James shrugged and gave her a crooked grin. "No reason you should have. It's alright. You've obviously had a shit day as well. D'you - " he stopped and winced.
"Well, I was going to ask if you wanted to get a cup of tea?" he asked, shifting nervously. "I'm not asking you out! Promise! Just… you look like you could use a cuppa, and I know I could, and… well, I'm not keen on being alone right now, and Sirius is at work, and… sorry." He blew out a breath. "I won't talk to you if you don't want me to. We can just have a tea and go our separate ways after."
When asked later, Lily couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was that made her do it. It could have been the way he was shuffling from foot to foot like a schoolboy caught in naughtiness, or the way he'd managed to flatten all of his hair except for one insanely stubborn lock right at the back of his head that insisted on sticking straight up as though pointing due north. Or, it could have simply been that she didn't really want to be alone at the moment, either, and he was there.
Whatever the reason, she took a deep breath and said, "Alright."
James froze. "R-really?"
Lily sniffed and jerked her head in what could have been considered a nod. "Yeah," she said. "No talking?"
His mouth dropped open, then snapped shut and he made a show of pressing his lips together and shaking his head. Lily sniffed again and gathered up her bag, but when she went to stand, she came face-to-face with a bit of white fabric. She blinked, then realized she was looking at a handkerchief. James Potter was offering her a handkerchief. A clean one. Lily Evans was about to allow herself to be comforted by James sodding Potter.
The unreality overwhelmed her and choked out a laugh as she reached for the hankie. "Thank you," she mumbled, and he gave a slight bow. "Alright," she said, standing, "let's go. I'll choose the place?"
Several floors up, a solitary figure stood at the window of his laboratory, watching the scene below. He hadn't realized until that moment just how much signing the Riddle contract would change things. In one fell swoop, he'd signed away at least three years of his life, alienated his only true friend and possibly pushed her into the arms of his second-most hated rival.
Severus braced a hand on the glass as his world came crashing down around him. He didn't hear his new boss' voice calling his name, and he didn't notice, until he felt a hand on his shoulder, that he was no longer alone in the room. Startled, he swiveled around.
"Everything alright, Severus?" Dr. Riddle asked, his voice cold like usual. "Ah, there goes Nurse Evans," he noted, looking past his assistant. "Who is she with?"
Severus' lip curled. "James Potter," he spat.
One eyebrow crept up and the corner of Riddle's mouth curled. "No friend of yours, then?"
Riddle hummed. "I assume she hasn't reconsidered my offer?" he asked.
Severus shook his head. "No, sir."
"Did you explain to her how… rewarding being my assistant could be?"
"Yes, sir, but…"
"She wasn't interested in making a change right now, sir."
Riddle hummed again and Severus could tell the other man knew he was lying to him. But he just couldn't tell Riddle that Lily wouldn't work for him because she disliked him. No, dislike wasn't strong enough. She hated him.
"Well," Riddle began, "that's a shame. However, she's not the only talented nurse in the country, is she?"
"I'm confident we'll find someone who's a better fit for our little team. Aren't you?"
"Good." Riddle nodded approvingly. "Now, how about you show me what you've been working on today?"
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Sirius asked after finally getting the most annoying customer in the world out of the shop. It hadn't helped that James had blown in halfway through the sale and, upon seeing Sirius occupied, had proceeded to pace back and forth behind the counter, clearly agitated.
"It's… it's Lily," James said breathlessly, running a hand through his hair.
"Oh, fuck's sake."
"No, Pads! It's real this time! We… we went out!"
"What?" Sirius turned to look at him. "What d'you mean, 'out'?
"I mean 'out'! I bought her a cup of tea. We had tea. Together. Out."
Sirius stared. "She let you buy her tea? In public? Are you sure? I mean, you didn't kidnap her, did you? James, tell me you didn't kidnap her!"
"I didn't bloody kidnap her! Arsehole!"
"Alright! Alright!" Sirius held his hands up and looked around the record store to make sure there were no customers to witness his mate's meltdown. "Look, why don't you start from the beginning? I thought you were going to visit Mum today?"
James nodded tersely. "I did. She says hi, by the way," he told Sirius. "So, I took Mum a curry and we sat and talked for awhile, and then I left, but as I was leaving I saw this redhead run across the common. It looked like Lily, so I went over, and she was crying!"
"Saw you coming, did she?" Sirius joked. James glared at him.
"Fuck you, Sirius!"
He snorted. "Sorry. Anyway, she was crying?"
"Yeah. Seems she's had it out with old Snivellus finally - "
"'Bout bloody time."
" - and she yelled at me at first. Thought I'd been following her."
"Anyway, I asked if I could buy her a cup of tea because she was upset and she said yes!" James finished, as though his explanation made all the sense in the world.
Unfortunately, Sirius was still confused. "So… she said yes, just like that?"
"Yeah! Well, no," James amended. "I told her about Mum, and I think she felt a little bad for yelling at me. And she made me promise not to talk to her - "
Sirius burst out laughing. "What?! What sort of date is that?"
"I don't know, but it worked!"
"So you didn't talk? At all?" Sirius asked, still laughing.
James shook his head. "I didn't, no. She did, though. Fair bit, actually. Guess she needed to get it out. Something about some doctor she doesn't like named Riddle and how Snivelly is working for him even though she told him not to… I don't know. And I don't care! I'm still counting it as a first date!"
By now, Sirius was holding onto the counter to avoid falling over, he was laughing so hard. "Ah, mate," he said, wiping at his eyes.
"Believe me, I know," James said. He stared off into space for a minute. "It ended well, though."
"Yeah." He grinned. "She said, and I quote 'You're not horrible, I suppose'."
This time Sirius did fall on the floor, and James shrugged helplessly as a customer cautiously approached the counter with a stack of records to purchase.
Remus was leaning against the wall of the restaurant facing the alley, staring up at the night sky as he took a fifteen minute break. Cigarette smoke wafted towards him and he coughed slightly and turned his body away from it. His phone buzzed.
'Moony! Call me when your shift's over! You won't believe what's happened! (Nothing bad, don't worry)'
Later, when he'd had a shower to get the smell of the restaurant off him, he dialed Sirius' number. The other man answered on the first ring and Remus was barely able to get a word in edgewise as Sirius recalled James' tale.
Once Sirius had finally hung up, Remus texted Lily, chuckling to himself and imagining how red she would be once she realized everyone now knew she had given in to James Potter.
' 'Not horrible, I suppose'? Are you sure about that, Lily? LOL'
A reply came almost immediately. 'Oh, God, has he told everyone?!'
'No. He told Sirius and Sirius told me.'
"Bloody gossips, the lot of you.'
Remus laughed. 'Does this mean you like him, then?'
'No! It just means that… that he's not horrible, I suppose. Nothing more! Good night!'
'Okay. Whatever you say. Good night.'
With the vision of her scowl to amuse him, Remus turned off his light.