He stared at the letter, his hand trembled as he saw the elegant hand he knew so well. Albus had handed him the envelope just before leaving his office, leaving Severus more or less alone in the room. Lily. The woman he loved...whose gentle hand had penned his name to the parchment he held...was dead.
His body was overcome with pain and guilt. His eyes were red and his cheeks stained with tears. Knots still held his stomach hostage, threatening to make him ill. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw her lifeless form on the floor of the nursery, her fiery hair splayed out around her. He ran his hand through his hair, grasping his throbbing head. His chest ached from the pain and his throat felt as if he'd swallowed an ice pick.
He backed up to the wall, sliding down as if his body had suddenly been unable to hold the guilt any longer. Lifting his eyes to the transfigured cradle across the room, the sleeping baby hadn't made a peep since being brought to Hogwarts.
It was devastating to see Lily's body and he'd blocked out the world in those moments as he held her. Harry's cries had startled him from his own and he'd looked up to see Lily's eyes staring at him, brimmed with tears, over the side of the crib. To his surprise, he noticed another soft, stirring cry.
Severus stood on weak legs, holding the wall as he left the nursery. Down the hall, in what seemed to be Lily and Potter's room, there was another crib. Feeling the wards flicker across him as he entered the room, he wondered if the Dark Lord even knew of this other child. He crossed the room and looked down at the child. A girl. She couldn't have been a week old at most. Her soft pink gown extended past her feet, the sleeves rolled up a bit to accommodate her small frame. Thick black hair covered her head. The newborn squirmed as she began to wake fully.
"Severus," spoke a gentle voice behind him. He startled and turned, wand in hand, only to see old wizard standing there, his hands clasped in front of him, saddened blue eyes staring into his. "We should take her to Hogwarts for the moment. No one except Poppy and I knew of her and you are the only other person to pass through my wards. We cannot risk anyone else finding her."
"What about the boy?" he asked shakily.
"Hagrid is on his way to get him. I will meet him in Little Whinging tonight where Harry will stay with his Aunt and Uncle. He'll be safe there."
"You plan to separate them. You're leaving him with that Muggle-"
"Severus, I must ask you to take her back to Hogwarts. I am removing all signs of her from the house and resetting wards. Once I settle Harry back to sleep, I will meet you there." When the young Potions Master started to argue, he cut in, "Please, Severus. Her children should be safe and calmed first."
Hesitant, he turned back to the crib. He picked her up gently, cradling the tiny child in his arms. Albus handed him a white knit blanket to shield her from the chilly October air. Severus walked past the nursery, unable to look, he forced himself to move forward. Once outside, he apparated with a 'crack.'
Inside Dumbledore's office, he found a black wooden box he transfigured into a cradle. As he moved to lay the child down, a house-elf appeared in the room.
"Professor Snape, Sir," the house-elf squeaked, attempting to be quiet, "Head Master Dumbledore told Etsie to bring warm milk for Sweet Baby, Sir," she continued, ears flopping as she nodded with nearly every word. Severus took the glass bottle from the thin outstretched hand.
Dammit, Albus, he thought as she disappeared. Deciding to focus on his task rather than thinking about anything else, he glanced down at the baby. Her face scrunched up in a fuss and she turned her head, mouth searching for food. Feeling that the glass was only just warm, he put the bottle to her mouth and she instantly settled, sucking steadily.
At least she doesn't look like Potter, he said to himself. Then again, the boy had dark hair, too. He silently hoped that would be the only similarity the girl would inherit. Curious, though, she didn't look too much like Lily either...he supposed her nose and mouth, but perhaps that was how it was for all newborns. They all seemed to look the same to him.
It was a short while before Albus came in quietly. Severus had already put the girl into the cradle; she was content after being fed. The headmaster looked in on her as Severus continued pacing the floor. Albus's eyes twinkled in the usual way as he gazed up at the anxious wizard. With a wave, a small starry mobile appeared, hovering and rotating above the cradle.
"Severus," he began, "there are things we should discuss." He cast a muffling charm to dampen their voices so they wouldn't disturb the baby.
"What is there to discuss?!" he hissed finally, once the charm was cast. "She's gone," his voice cracked, unable to hold his pain. "You said you would keep her safe..."
"Lily and James put their faith in the wrong person, Severus...rather like you." Albus stepped towards him and gave him an imploring look. "The children survive. The boy survives-"
Severus could already guess what he wanted. "He doesn't need protection; the Dark Lord is gone!"
"The Dark Lord will return...and when he does, the boy will be in terrible danger." He watched at the younger man's face twisted in grief. "He has her eyes...," Albus said knowingly. "If you truly loved her-"
Severus returned his gaze. "No one can know."
"There is one more thing I must ask of you," he said, turning to his desk. He opened a drawer, removing a letter. "I'm afraid that she can explain it better than I." He held the letter out to him, his name scrawled on the front.
As soon as the wizard had left the office, he found himself desperately trying to hold himself up. He cracked the seal and removed the letter as he slid down to the floor, unable to keep himself standing any longer.
I find this letter the most difficult to write as it means that I am no longer alive to tell you this in person. We haven't spoken in so long. It breaks my heart that things have turned out the way they have. I still hope that, one day, I will wake and it will have all been a nightmare...that we will still be children, blissfully unaware of the darkness that lay ahead.
After hearing of the danger to our son, James and I went into hiding. Albus assures us that he is taking every measure to keep us all safe. However, we should prepare ourselves. If one or both of us die in this war and Harry live, he should be kept safe. It is for the child that kicks within my belly, now, that I need to be sure is taken care of. What I must tell you, I am unsure if it will make you angry or if it will pain you. You can hide it all you want, but I have known you far too long to believe you feel nothing as others say you do.
Do you remember when I came to you in January with Harry? James and I had fought so much during those first few months after Harry was born. I had no where to go, but I knew I could always trust you. Even after you made your choices and I mine, I trusted you at least to not turn me away. I realize how dangerous it was to have come to your door. After what happened, I'm sure you think I regret coming at all. I don't.
A desperate knocking had woken him, pulling him from his bed in the dark. Pulling on a pair of black pants and a white shirt, buttoning it just enough to be decent, he ran downstairs and jerked open the door. Her face stood out under the dark hood of the cloak and he was momentarily petrified.
"Sev, please," she whispered shakily, pulling him from his shock. He stepped aside, allowing her inside. He took a minute to gaze around the street, listening and looking for any sign she was seen on his doorstep. Once he was satisfied, he closed the door, turning the lock back into place.
"Do you have any idea how dangerous it is for you to be here?" he asked her calmly, eyes focused on the door. Realizing she wouldn't have come without reason, he looked at her. "Are you alright? Has something happened?"
Knowing that he assumed the worst, she explained, "It's just...James and I had a fight and I didn't know where else to go that he wouldn't immediately come looking."
"If Potter laid a single finger on-"
"No," she shook her head, "he didn't hurt me, not physically. I just couldn't stay there." It was then that Severus noticed the bundle she clutched to her chest.
He took a breath to calm himself. "You need somewhere to stay," he said, more to himself than anything.
"Come with me," he said, voice cold as ever. He moved past her, leading her upstairs towards the guest bedroom. She removed her hood as she followed him into the room, her red hair catching his eye. Dropping a bag onto the bed, she pulled an object from the side pocket, a miniaturized crib. Setting it on the floor, she drew her wand and easily enlarged it before gently laying the boy inside. He fussed a bit, but she caressed his back until he settled again. "I'll get some tea," he whispered as he turned to leave the room.
Downstairs, he made their tea; his heart pounded in his chest as he heard the creaking at the stairs. He took their tea to the sitting room where he found her staring into the fireplace. Setting the cup on the small table in front of her, he waited for her to speak. Severus knew her well enough to know she needed to organize her thoughts first before she would tell him what had transpired.
A silent tear drifted down her cheek. "Did I make a mistake, Sev?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
"You know my opinion, Lily. You know what I will say," he said simply.
"I kept telling myself that things would change once Harry was born. Sirius changed, you know, since becoming a godfather," she scoffed. "Why can't James understand that he needs to do that, too?" She paused to take a sip of her tea. "Things were fine until we found out about Harry. I let him go off and have his fun because we are young and he was about to have a huge responsibility becoming a father.
"The fights started when I needed help getting the nursery put together. With the Order, the only time he had was after meetings or missions, but even then he always had other plans. I ended up doing it all myself.
"I thought that, once he saw Harry...held him...he would want to do more, be better. Christmas was bad and New Year's was even worse. It was one thing, going out with the boys so often, getting drunk, and leaving me alone to care for Harry. But it was another thing to come home so drunk he could hardly stand. I'd have to take care of him, too.
"And then, I'd have to hope that he didn't wake Harry up in the process of it all!" Lily shoved her fingers into her hair and sighed. "This time, Sirius dropped him off. He was being loud, banging around the house. I went downstairs to tell him to be a bit more quiet since Harry was asleep. We started arguing. I just...I'd had enough. I snapped. I went through every single little things that I'd been holding in for months! I told him that if he didn't grow up and start being a father and a husband, then I was leaving." Tears began to flow freely. "He got angry and told me that I had no right to give him an ultimatum, to make him choose. I don't...I don't know what to do, Sev."
Severus wanted to say so much, but he remained quiet. It wouldn't be anything she would want to hear or anything that she needed to hear in that moment. Instead, he just pulled her close, letting her sob into his chest.
He was furious. He wanted nothing more than to hunt Potter down and hex him into oblivion for hurting her...his Lily. Severus wasn't naive, though; he knew she would be back with the idiot in a couple days and he would be just as alone as he was before. Even still, he couldn't turn her away. He never could.
Once her tears had ran dry, he shifted. "You should try to rest. Do you need a calming draught?"
She sniffed and wiped at her face. "No...I should be fine. I just needed to get it all out," she took a few calming breaths. "Thank you, Severus."
He led her upstairs and bid her goodnight at the door to the extra bedroom before closing it softly. His own bedroom was just down the hall. Leaving the door open halfway, allowing him to hear the sounds of the house much easier, he sat on his bed, mind spinning with the night's turn of events. It wasn't likely he would get much sleep and he didn't dare take any measure of sedative that would leave him foggy, just in case one of his brethren came knocking or if he was summoned.
The day wasn't any major affair. Severus didn't dare allow himself to be caught up in the change. However, he would be lying if it didn't tempt him, the sight of her with a babe in her arms, smiling and laughing, playing in the floor of his home. Instead, he busied himself with his potions, brewing and researching, writing and testing.
Severus was engrossed in his book in the sitting room while Lily put her child to sleep. He started when she set a cup of tea next to him, drawing his attentions. "Today has been nice." He could hear the tiredness in her voice. "Just being away from everything and not having to worry about it has been relaxing." They drank their tea in silence for a few moments. "I am very thankful for you letting us stay here; I hope you know that. I know it's very dangerous for you, us being here."
"You know I will always do whatever I can to help you, Lily," he stated solemnly, staring into his cup.
"I know we haven't been as close as we once were. We both said things that-"
"I never meant what I said," he interrupted. Severus turned and held her gaze, "It was said in anger and I-"
"I know." Lily's eyes teared with understanding. She really did know he hadn't meant her harm. "It still hurt, but I do know that you would never have done it intentionally. We all make mistakes, Sev," she said, taking his hand into hers, squeezing it tenderly. He turned away, hiding himself. She knew his ways and she set her cup on the table, taking his from his hand to do the same.
Taking his face between her hands, she forced him to turn towards her. His eyes were closed tight, not wanting to reveal what he was feeling. "Lily," he whispered, a quiet plea to leave him to his misery. She took a breath, holding back her own emotions. Tucking a strand of his hair behind his ear, she studied him.
"Severus, will you look at me?" she asked kindly. He slowly obliged, his black eyes catching her emerald ones. They spoke volumes of the unspoken pain he held so deep within himself. It broke her heart. She knew that he loved her. She knew he hated himself. She knew that he always felt so alone, hated, and trapped. Lily wondered why the world had to be so cruel, why fate had deemed things just so for them. Things would've been wonderful if there was no Dark Lord, no war, no blood prejudice, and if she were strong enough to get him to see the good in himself. "I could never, ever hate you, Severus. You were my only friend as a child when I so desperately needed it." Her tears welled up again as she spoke. "I will always forgive you, no matter if you feel you deserve it or not. I see the good in you, even when you do not see it yourself. You will always have a true friend in me, even when you feel you have none."
He blamed his weakness for what happened next. It was as if his body knew his mind could not properly vocalize his feelings for her. So, when his lips captured hers, his heart jumped into his throat. He pulled away, feeling her hesitation. "Forgive me," he rasped, "I-"
Lily slowly pressed her lips against his, giving herself over to the moment. She felt nothing, but the overwhelming need to comfort him and to allow him to comfort her. They shared a bond that no one else had; she knew that much.
After you fell asleep, I was overrun with guilt. I couldn't stay. I am so sorry for everything. I wish I had done things differently, but I was scared. I couldn't face you knowing that I would only hurt you...that I had already.
I took Harry and went back to James. He had been looking for me with Sirius and Remus, too. They both had also sat with him and talked everything through. He realized what he needed to do. I also told him everything. He was so angry with me for a little while, but he saw my remorse and knew that I must have been hurting so very badly to have done such a thing. We forgave each other.
Some weeks later, I found out that I was pregnant. The timing didn't add up. James knew. He said that it just didn't feel the same as it did with Harry. He knew, but he still stayed by my side. I was at war with myself on whether to reach out to you or not. James and I spoke a lot about the dangers we were all facing, how it would put the child in danger as well.
We made the decision to keep it secret. If the war ended, if we all survived, I was to tell you everything and we all would make it work for the child's sake. James has even chosen to reconcile with you for all our sake. I am unsure how you feel about that, but it would make me happy to see you civil towards each other. I do miss you, Severus. You are my best friend. Not having you around has made everything so difficult.
If, however, we do not make it through this war, I wanted you to know her. I want her to know you, Severus. I know she will be beautiful...and so very smart. You may not agree with me, but I know you would make an amazing father.
I already mourn for what may possibly happen. I mourn for their loss, to live without one or both parents, to grow up with that missing piece. It is my greatest wish that at least one of my children grow to know at least one of their parents. I know that it will be dangerous, but, just as I know Sirius would protect Harry with everything he has, I know you will protect her in every possible way.
Her name is Olivia; her middle name I will leave to you. It will be hard. I can't imagine what kind of hardships will lay ahead, but I know you. I trust you. She will need you...her father. Severus, please, take care of her. Tell her Mommy loves her.
Severus glanced at the cradle again. The girl...she hadn't looked like Potter because she wasn't Potter's child. The girl...her black hair...she was his. His and Lily's. Their daughter. Olivia.
Olivia Persephone Snape.