This World or Any Other: Book III

Youth

Summary: "Whatever this life brings us, my youth will have always been yours." Amidst the rise of an imminent threat, some people fall together as others fall apart. Love, power, Marauders, and everything in between. Year 7 with opening Snily and eventual Jily. Prequel to "Clean" and "Marked," book III in "This World or Any Other" series.

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and claim no profit from this work. Credit where credit is due, Joanne Rowling.

a/n: No, you're not imagining things, this story definitely was originally posted in July 2016, and was subsequently removed when I used pieces of it in a manuscript for an original novel. However, since that novel has been vastly reworked, it no longer contains any vestiges of this story, and I'm now opting to repost it on the interwebs. It is complete, so you won't have long to wait if you're following along, but it will be edited and posted in frequent installments (depending on the pace of my edits). Please note the pairings in the summary; one of my primary angsts when the story was originally being written was how many readers were (loudly) unwilling to read about one pairing or the other, so please do be aware what is in store for you here. Youth is a prequel to the Dramione works Clean and Marked, but it can stand alone in the trilogy. It is largely accurate to canon.

Thank you for joining me here—whether you are a new or returning victim—and as always, I hope you enjoy the story.


Prelude: The Letter


July 1, 1978

Dear Severus,

While I can scarcely presume to know how you feel, know that it hurts me at least as much to write this as it does for you to hear it. I'm not perfect, you know, and perhaps I'm being selfish, but I can't imagine a world where I don't say these words to you. So forgive me, Sev, in advance.

I know you don't understand the choices I've made, and in the interest of not dragging us through any more suffering, I won't try to explain them to you. I could easily say the same for yours, you know, but I won't. Not now. I want us to end where we started—

With love.

I know that my choosing James must feel like a betrayal to you, and I hate to say I understand, though I can assure you that he's changed. I can see your face as I write that and I don't know whether to laugh or cry, knowing I'll probably never see you that way again, your dark hair falling into your eyes while you give me that moody stare of yours—but I'll get to that. I'll get there.

It's important to me that you know that what I have with James will never diminish anything I shared with you. You're my first love, Severus, and while that may not be good enough, it will still always be good. It will always have been consuming and raw and a defining piece of me, and a light with which to look back on everything that's happened. I prefer to preserve you that way, in the stolen moments before everything got so horribly contorted in the midst of all this. This war.

We can't come back from what's happened, nor would I want to. We aren't who we were, and I like to think that's because there's something out there for who we're going to be. Both of us, Sev. For both of us.

I'm rambling, I know. I know you hate that. You love a concise point, and I've always had too much whimsy for you, haven't I? I'll make my point now. You would want me to. I can see your face, like always; I can hear my name on your lips. Just say it, Lily.

Alright, Severus. I will.

It comes to this, in the end: my future belongs to James. I have grown up, and I've made my choice, as you've made yours. But I beg you, Severus, to look back on us with fondness, because whatever this life brings us, my youth will have always been yours.

There. I've said it, and now maybe my heart will let me rest. Be safe, Severus, and be happy; for everything that's passed between us, I sincerely hope you find what you're looking for.

Always,

Lily


Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
September 1, 1977


God, who wants to be remembered as unfailingly kind?

Nobody, that's who. Least of all Lily Evans, though it seemed that would be her lot in life.

"This way," she called patiently, tossing her dark red hair over her shoulders as she motioned to the Prefects who, in turn, were leading their house members like ducklings into the Great Hall. She winced at an uncomfortable poke to her ribs and frowned at the realization that her bra was twisted, the hooks of it now digging relentlessly into her back.

She supposed that was her own fault. Anticipation, among other things, obviously chipped away at her typically fastidious nature.

Still, it was almost comforting to know she had a secret. She could be more than just unfailingly kind, couldn't she? More than just the smile that was always so artfully plastered on her face. She was Lily Evans, Head Girl; she contained multitudes. She could have secrets, and as she felt Severus brush past her without a word, she bit back a triumphant smile at the thought that she not only could, but she did.

"Something entertaining, Evans?" James Potter asked obnoxiously, materializing at her side. His untidy raven hair, consistently a source of a well-deserved eye roll, was even more unruly than usual.

"Yes," Lily replied sweetly. "It never fails to be laughable that you're Head Boy."

"Well, funny what one can accomplish when blessed with my intellect and charisma," James assured her, clipping her with his shoulder as he abruptly bisected her path, grinning. "Try not to fall in love with me, would you? Enclosed spaces and all that."

"What do you mean enclosed spaces?" Lily echoed skeptically, glaring at him as he strutted forward to join the rest of his motley crew.

Infuriatingly, he winked. He winked, shamelessly, like the arrogant monster he was. "Tell you when you get to the Head dorms, Evans."

Head dorms?

Lily let her head loll back, trying not to groan aloud. She knew Severus had seen the interaction; he always did. He was likely catching the aftermath of it now, and so she forced a bolder, brighter smile, hoping he wouldn't note her discomfort from across the room—though he probably would, she lamented, and then his irksome rivalry with Potter would only fester.

Head dorms?

She took a deep breath and launched herself forward, determined not to bend to her misgivings.

Head dorms?

With James Potter?

Well, determination could only do so much.

She settled herself beside him at the Gryffindor house table, catching Severus' eye and coquettishly ducking her head even as she ducked Potter's incessant wild gestures. He was caught up in a story—as he always was, with a smirking Sirius Black at his side—but instead of listening (or returning any covert glances), Lily merely let her eyes travel over the Hall. Around the room, she felt countless familiar sets of eyes falling on hers; some of them awed, some of them envious, some of them spiteful. She couldn't blame them for their attention, really. She might have once been nothing more than Lily Evans, try-hard muggleborn, but now she was Lily Evans, Head Girl. Talk about vindication, and that was barely the half of it.

After all, she was also Lily Evans, Head Girl—with a secret. She tried not to watch Severus' lips where they brushed against his goblet.

That, plus one small caveat. Lily Evans, Head Girl—with the earth's biggest prat for company. She could only imagine the outcome of forced coexistence with James Potter's hair products and his uninhibited penchant for nonsense.

Lily Evans, Head Girl.

She sighed. Whatever the school year might hold in store for her, good or bad, it certainly couldn't fail to be interesting.