[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have to take a moment and truly thank each and everyone of you for your detailed, encouraging, and incredibly kind reviews! This is the most stunning response I've gotten for a newly posted story EVER and...I'm very, very touched. Thank you, so much!]

CHAPTER IV: Bad Blood Will Out

Severus wasn't sure if he had done something wrong or not.

When he'd struggled to answer her question - a question that he hadn't the slightest idea how to answer, for he'd never thought about it in such a way before - something had gone hard in her startlingly green eyes and Severus had panicked. Before he knew it, Lily was gently but pointedly changing the subject of their conversation, saying that she'd had enough heaviness in her time with her best friends for the day - and now, she simply wanted to have fun and enjoy herself.

She hadn't been pleased that he had no answer. But neither had she truly given him the opportunity to think about what his answer might be, before abruptly ending any further conversation. Severus was anxious, as their talk turned towards what releases they might interested in within the bookstore portion of Biblio's and what other places they might like to visit while still in the village. Lily genuinely looked as if she hadn't a care in the world, despite the intensity and the discomfort of the conversation they'd been having only moments before. Was it sincere or was it an indication that he'd failed a test of some sort, a measurement of how well he was doing to atone for his actions, thus far?

Severus chose to focus on his prawn and cucumber sandwich and crisps, instead of pressing the point, ignoring the anxious twist in his stomach.

If Lily didn't want to talk about it anymore, then he'd respect that and follow her lead. This tenuous peace they had was fragile enough, Severus reflected as he applied himself to his lunch with. He shouldn't do anything to aggravate or upset the even keel they were moving along, especially not when Lily could change her mind at any moment and decide that she needed to come to her senses.

Severus tried not to linger on the hardness that remained in Lily's eyes, as they lunched and continued their date.

"There is one stop I need to make before we head back to the castle - but, we don't have to, if it will make you uncomfortable."

Lily found herself rather taken with how Severus squared his shoulders importantly, raising his chin upwards just fractionally, as if to show that there was no such thing as discomfort or dislike - not when it came to her.

"Where are we headed?" asked Severus, dutifully.

"Madame Pomegranate's Boutique." Lily tried not to giggle, as Severus's eyes widened and he flushed a deep, scandalized red. "As I said, you don't have to. Not if you don't want to."

Madame Pomegranate's Boutique was clothing store for witches, known well and far for their intimate wear and the rather racy catalogues they'd discreetly mail through owl post for ordering. Lily only cared to patronize the shop because they provided the most comfortable bras for a witch with her bustline. The patterns were very pretty, the material made out of durable enough to last her through the school year, and unlike the majority of clothing that was found in the Wizarding World - it didn't look as thought it'd been manufactured in the 1890s or the Middle Ages. Whatever silly or gossiping thoughts that people had about what it meant to patronize Madame Pomegranate's, Lily didn't pay attention to.

She wondered if the deep red flush on Severus's thin face meant that he did.

"I'll only be a few minutes, if you want to wait here for me," offered Lily, as Severus looked around, nervously.

"No, I'll come with. You shouldn't walk all the way over to there alone, especially with it being so late in the afternoon." Severus shuffled his feet, ducking his head down as he asked in a tangle of words: "But would it be alright if I didn't go in?"

"It would be perfectly fine, Sev," said Lily, the slightest bit of a breathy laugh lingering on the end of her words. Severus looked so...adorable, she supposed...when he was all abashed like this. "As I said, I'll only be a few minutes, and they we can head back up to the castle."

The walk over to Perpen Street was rather short, full with a silence that was neither comfortable or uncomfortable. Severus appeared to be unsure of how he was to act as they headed towards the boutique, but perhaps something more was wrong. His shoulders were hunched with preoccupation, his dark eyes sightless as they made to round the corner onto Perpen Street.

Lily was so concerned with what was preoccupying Severus, neither of them were paying much attention as they turned off High Street and onto Perpen Street -

And collided directly with Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew.

Lily half-shrieked as she fell backwards, flailing her arms widely to keep from falling into the muddy road. A broad, quick hand gripped her upper arm rather painfully, pulling a wince from her. However, as she was being put up right without being covered in the muck of Perpen Street - Lily didn't mind the hurtful grip, too much.

Severus did, however.

"Take your hands off of her!" exclaimed Severus, viciously. His wand was drawn and pointing directly between the eyes of the person who was still holding her arm in his grip.

Lily followed his wandpoint to find that Peter Pettigrew seemed rather startled and annoyed to have Severus pointing his wand at him. Black was simply glaring darkly, his unnerving gray eyes staring at Severus as a predator stared at its prey before leaping to attack.

"Take your wand off him, Snivellus." Black demanded, hypocritically drawing his own wand and squaring off with Severus. "He was only making sure that Evans didn't take a spill into the mud. Keep pointing that wand at Peter and I'll push her back down, just as sure as he kept her from falling."

Severus advanced on Black with a snarl. "If you put one of your mangy hands on her, I swear I'll - "

"You'll what, Snape? Try me, if you like - there's no Prewett or Meadows around today to keep me from wiping the floor with your greasy, geeky arse - "


Lily knew that it was likely to be dangerous, but at the same time Pettigrew grabbed Black's wand wrist with two hands, she practically slammed herself against Severus and used her weight to push him back. Her gamble had worked.

Severus stiffened with the same shocked he'd become frozen with earlier, the petite curves of her body melding against him as if they were made for each other and instinctively making him put his wand down where it couldn't harm her.

"Oh, gerroff, Wormtail! Snivellus is asking for it and I'm more than happy to give it to him!"

"Sirius, no - stop - come on, now, let it go - "

Pettigrew and Black were scuffling, it seemed, but Lily didn't pay any attention to them. What mattered in this moment was how Severus breathed deeply, as if to steady himself, wrapping the arm that wasn't holding his wand around her - hesitantly. As if he wasn't sure if moving would make her have a sudden change of heart, as if it would abruptly prompt her to release him from her fierce embrace.

Lily looked up through her lashes at Severus, pleased to see that he was looking down at her as if spellbound - and that was what important.

A scuffle or a duel back on campus would have resulted in a detention and a dressing down. But, down here in Hogsmeade, something of the same order would mean real trouble - trouble with law enforcement and the Ministry. The constables patrolled the street constantly, especially when Hogwarts students had permission to be in the village, en masse. In increasingly unstable times like this, where there were rumors of war on the horizon and troublemakers were assumed to have a deeper, political motive for any disruption of the peace - the constables would not hesitate to take both Black and Severus into custody for underage use of magic. Perhaps herself and Pettigrew, as well.

Black didn't seem to care about this, but Pettigrew kept looking around, nervously. Maybe he was of the same mind, as well, as much as he enjoyed stoking the chaos of anything that either Black or Potter did.

"Alright, FINE - I'm calm, I'm calm." Black shouted. "I quit, Peter!"

Lily glanced over her shoulder, just as Pettigrew gave Black an almighty shove - and, Black allowed himself to be pushed back several steps, away from either Severus or Lily.

"Come on, Pads. Just - be calm." Pettigrew turned to look at them, a breathless and slightly callous smirk on his face. "Next time, I'll just let her fall in the mud. She can't mind a little mud, if she's okay with touching all that grease."

Black cackled maliciously, slapping Pettigrew on the back with vicious approval, as Lily turned around and glared.

"Get bent, Pettigrew."

Black stopped laughing long enough to exchange a look of raised brows with Pettigrew, before both of them began cackling again.

Pettigrew waved his fingers at Lily mockingly. "Oooh, such strong and unforgiving language, Evans."

Severus went to raise his wand again, but Lily grabbed his wrist, preventing him from drawing his wand and risking again letting Black and Pettigrew goad him into doing something stupid. Black noticed this, that same predatory look in his eyes, and Lily couldn't help but be uneasy at the abrupt, charming smile he had on his face.

"Let's leave the grease and the geek to themselves, Pete," said Black suddenly, thoughtfully. "Besides, James and Remus have had enough time and James needs a spot of fresh air - let's go along back to Rosemerta's. Have a wonderful rest of your day, Evans, Snape."

Lily certainly wasn't disappointed to see them go. There was something about the smile Black had that was unwilling to let either him or Pettigrew out of her sight, but there was little choice she had.

Black and Pettigrew were off, dark hair and ashen hair bobbing away as they broke into something of a run - leaving as abruptly as they'd appeared and causing Lily to feel as if perhaps she should forget about the boutique and simply head back to the castle.

"I'm going to so enjoy when we leave Hogwarts in a couple of years." Severus hissed, in a dark and low voice. "Black and Pettigrew - Potter and Lupin and the rest of their sycophantic gang, too! - won't have the slightest idea what will hit them..."

A shiver ran through Lily, in the absence of anything that should have made her cold.

"What does that mean?" asked Lily. Concernedly, she looked up at him and found herself as unsettled as Black had made her, but for a different reason. "You know that Black and Pettigrew and Potter - and, yes, even Remus - aren't worth you doing anything that will get you in trouble, right?"

Severus scoffed. "Of course I know that. I don't intend to see my future derailed by that lot of miscreants."

"Then, what does that mean?" Lily wasn't sure why it was so important for him to make his intent clear, to leave no room for her imagination or her fears to run amok. But, it was.

She had to hear him say he did not mean what she feared he meant.

Severus seemed to know this. "I mean that Hogwarts is but a small part of the Wizarding World and we won't be here, much longer. All of their rot that gets them praise and laughs and popularity...that won't work in the real world. It won't work, outside of this small pond they've been so used to being the big fish of."

A knot in her chest loosened at this.

With a smile that was born from relief just as much as it was from agreement, Lily reached for Severus and threaded her fingers through his.

Severus was changing, even if it wasn't all at once or overnight.

No matter what was being said or what doubts were cast upon his sincerity, this was proof that he was changing - and years of friendship was was allowed Lily to know this proof was genuine. If he would have said something like that at any time before this, Lily knew Severus would have meant it. Where most people vented their frustration or humiliation or pain with wild and outlandish fantasies of revenge or comeuppance, Severus didn't seem to have the same ability to make-believe. Instead, his outbursts sounded more like goals or aspirations, than imagination, and Lily had spent much of the past couple of years being uncomfortable with what Severus thought was justice and how much vengeance he thought was enough.

Severus had scared her, more than once, with the darkness and the bitterness of his thoughts and what he'd ever do if he got the chance to unilaterally get revenge against all those who'd wrong him or made him suffer.

Revenge had seemed to be a goal, instead of a concept to soothe his wronged sensibilities. Now, that had changed.

"They'll all get their wake up calls once we're in the real world," said Lily, as they began walking again. "I can't imagine that Potter's arrogance or Black's charm or Pettigrew's brown-nosing will get them far with witches that don't want to be with them or wizards who don't to be like them."

Severus smirked. "I can only imagine that between the two of them, they only earned two OWLs - and that's because Lupin earned them all."

Lily snickered, not minding the backhanded compliment to Remus, for once. Out of all the Marauders, Remus was the one she could consider something of a friend, especially after all the time they'd spent on rounds this year as fifth-year prefects for Gryffindor House. Without the obnoxious and overbearing presence of his awful friends overshadowing him, Lily found Remus to be kind, intelligent, and wickedly witty, with a sense of humor that was mischievous but never offensive.

Just as sure as Lily was that Remus laughed at the things that his friends said about her and especially about Severus, she could let this one time pass where she had a laugh at his expense.

As far as she was concerned, a Severus who raised his wand but didn't use it and only made a backhanded joke about the Marauders was preferable to one that fantasized about harming and perhaps killing them.

Lily had nearly forgotten about the awful feeling Black had given her, before he and Pettigrew abruptly scurried off, as she and Severus arrived at the Parisian-inspired Madame Pomegranate's Boutique.

She should have known better.

She should have known that nothing like a peaceable encounter between the Marauders and Severus could come up - without something terribly, terribly damaging coming back down.

He hadn't risen to the bait, for the first time - and, somehow, this felt like success instead of failure.

Severus watched with satisfaction as Black and Pettigrew retreated.

Yesterday, they had ganged up on him, making a spectacle out of him and humiliating him more thoroughly than he'd thought possible. Just as Potter began pulling off his underpants, Prewett had angrily slammed Potter with the full force of an Impedimenta Jinx, and Potter had collided with Black and Pettigrew - their magical hold on him breaking, leaving him to crumple to the ground. He would never as long as he lived forget the stark terror and shame he'd felt as he felt his underwear starting to slide from his body. As he'd furiously pulled up his trousers and pulled down his robe, he'd been shaken and felt violated - and, as Severus realized that in one fell swoop, the Marauders had instigated the loss of Lily.

If Potter had never come over and began harassing him, if Black hadn't joined in to provide a tag team effort, if Pettigrew hadn't drawn a crowd with his crowing and jeering and taunting, if Lupin hadn't have been spineless and let his prefect's badge go ignored...

If the Marauders hadn't have bothered him, today would have never dawned as it had and the chasm between himself and Lily might never had grown as wide as it was now.

Severus would have thought that laying eyes on them today would have summoned bloodshed and wrath in him, after the concentrated and particularly focused hell they'd been putting him through, all year.

Instead, he'd lowered his wand and emerged from the encounter as the victor.

All because of Lily.

When Lily had stepped between himself and Black and pulled him into a fierce embrace, Severus had been stuck with the beauty and the warmth of the witch who loved him - and how everything that mattered in the world centered on Lily.

His world mattered because of Lily.

Black wasn't worth it. Pettigrew wasn't worth it. Neither were Potter or Lupin, who were strangely absent from this conflict as they had never been so far, this year. None of those boys or the cruelty of their taunts or how they'd terrorized him worth ever be worth the risk of hurting Lily.

Not as he had done yesterday, not as he could have done today, if she'd stepped towards him a second later than she had.

While Black and Pettigrew were probably crowing their perceived victory to Potter and Lupin, wherever they were that wasn't here - Severus knew better, he knew the truth.

He had won from the second he'd chosen Lily and choosing Lily was a better victory than any score he could settle against the Marauders.

This much was clear, as Severus opened the door for Lily and a pleasant chime echoed throughout the light and airy shop. Victory was once revenge and power and the driving thought that if there was a score to be settled, there was always a reason to look forward to another day. Now, as a rather tall male shopkeeper came over to them and bowed to the pair of them gracefully, Severus was made to realize what victory truly was.

"Good evening, sir, ma'am. What can I do for the gentleman and his lady?" The shopkeeper looked between them, pleasantly.

Lily smiled winningly at the shopkeeper, looping her arms around his own arm, and declared: "I'm interested in the brassiere collection - the plus-size selections, if you have them in stock, but my gentleman will only be parted with his Galleons today. He's not here to browse."

The shopkeeper nodded briskly. "Very good, ma'am. Sir, if it pleases you, there is a waiting area beside the register and I shall be but a few moments, with your lady."

"Be right back, Sev," said Lily, sweetly. She squeezed his arm, lovingly, before following behind the shopkeeper.

The chair that Severus seated himself in was standard and comfortable, but felt like a throne as he claimed the one closest to the register and waited patiently for the witch who was singularly responsible for making him feel like a king.

"Clothes on, bits covered, and don't ask, don't tell back in affect in t-minus ten seconds!"

"One! Two! Threee..."

James scoffed indignantly at the ridiculous warning that Sirius shouted through the door, with Peter cheerfully counting for effect.

From where he'd lay curled on his side on the bed, Remus snickered tiredly, never opening his eyes once. James grimaced. The New Moon was only a handful of days from now. While the Full Moon pulled a bloodthirsty wolf from his human body through force and might, the New Moon seemed to weaken Remus with the full force of his humanity - and, one of the two low points in the Lunar Cycle were the Full Moon and the New Moon.

The walk down to Hogsmeade had taken all of Remus's energy, not allowing him to do much more than get to The Three Broomsticks. Rosmerta hadn't blinked twice when they'd asked if she had a room where Remus could have a lie-down and James hadn't wanted to leave Remus, not for once second, despite the plans they'd had for Hogsmeade.

While Sirius and Peter had been in and out of the room all day, bringing sweets and reporting on everything going on up and down the busyness of High Street, James had been right here at Remus's bedside, loyally and dutifully. Remus had insisted that he could join Sirius and Peter whenever he wanted, but James had discouraged him just as stubbornly, insisting that there was nowhere he'd rather be than here.

With Remus.

Sirius and Peter shared that annoying smile as they came back into the room after the allotted ten seconds. Peter waggled his eyebrows suggestively as they both noticed James and Remus and their intertwined hands, Sirius making simpering noise that made James want to hex him.

"Prongs, let Moony take a nap and come with us. You need a little fresh air." Sirius announced, briskly.

James frowned. "No."

"James, really..." Remus protested at once, only for his words to die off in a wince. His breathing was deeper than usual, a clear sign that he was trying to breathe through whatever pain he was in, but he kept talking, determined. "Padfoot is right. I'm about ready to take a nap and you've been in here with me all day. Shoo, snidget - don't bother me."

Peter snickered, as Sirius raised his chin importantly.

"You see, Moony says." Sirius motioned impatiently for James to stand up. "Come on, now. I promise, we're just going to take a brief spin around the village and I'll return you to your bedside vigil, quicker than you realize."

For someone who was weakened and in pain, Remus had a certain strength to him. He pushed on James's shoulder insistently and made him scoot forward on the floor. Gently, Remus disentangled their hands and pushed again, this time assisted by Peter pulling James up by his hand.

"Remus, are you sure you're alright to be by yourself?" James asked anxiously. Sirius and Peter were steering him towards the door, as Remus waved, willowy and tired. "Whatever these idiots want to pull me into, I don't have to - "

Sirius spun him away from Remus and gripped his shoulders, tightly; James found himself being shaken with affectionate roughness, as Peter opened the door pointedly.

"James, Remus will be fine for thirty minutes and I promise, you won't want to miss this. Just come with me, take a couple of breaths of fresh air, and Peter and I will leave you alone for the rest the evening with Moony."

"Yeah, Prongs - you really, really don't want to miss this."

James looked back, once more. Remus was already asleep, his thin chest rising far too swiftly for his liking, but something like peace on his face as he rested. Warm sunlight came through the open window, making his toffee-brown hair glow like a halo, and with one final sigh, James relented.

"Alright, alright. Let's go and see what's so important." James said, as Peter hissed in happiness at his agreement, and Sirius hustled him out of the room. "This better be good, you gits..."

Sirius and Peter shared a dark and gleeful look, as they thundered down the stairwell and pressed James to walk faster, as they darted out of The Three Broomsticks onto High Street. James narrowed his eyes, wondering what could inspire such a look and what he missed out on - but, he didn't have to ask.

Peter seemed unable to stand still with manic energy, almost bouncing on his feet as he shared meaningfully: "Evans and Snape are on a date and Snape took her to Madame Pommie's."

James felt a cold rush of shocked anger blister down his spine. "Evans is on a what with Snape?"

"A date." Sirius said with poisonous relish. "We bumped into them coming from Perpen Street and she was all over him." Darkly, Sirius bared his teeth in a gesture that could have been a smile - but, only on Padfoot, only when he was the hulking and frightening Grim that he'd been turning into since before they'd left for the Easter Holiday. "Snivellus calls her the M-word and the day after she's hanging all over him, slavering all over him like he was Merlin. I thought Evans was smarter than that, but..."

James couldn't believe what he was hearing, a prickling and righteous anger spurring his steps with an edge he couldn't explain. The rotating street post that indicated that Perpen Street was only a left turn away and James walked quicker, Sirius and Peter sharing an excited look as they bounced and raced right alongside him.

"Clearly, Evans is suffering from the trauma of yesterday and her brains have been addled." James said, as they turned onto Perpen Street and Madame Pomegranate's pale lavender sign came into view. "I think we should go see what's wrong with her and make sure she's alright. What do you say, boys?"

The same spark of dark glee that Sirius and Peter had been radiating with as they burst into the room a few minutes ago was now coursing through him.

Sirius had been right. Remus would be alright, for a few minutes. Just a few minutes and then he'd been back in the room with Remus, where he belonged.

Evans on a date with Snape after what had happened down by the Black Lake -

This was something that he had to see.

Severus wondered if this was the contended, comforting warmth that made people crave the togetherness of a relationship, as he and Lily concluded her visit at the boutique.

With the pocket money he had left, Severus paid for the purchases Lily chose before she could touch her own coin purse. The shopkeeper gave Severus a wink of approval that warmed him instead of annoyed him as it might have in any other circumstances and feeling bolstered under the glow of Lily and the beatific smile she had for him, Severus didn't think there was anything that could bring him down and ruin this moment.

He should have known that his fortune wasn't that easy nor had been reversed this soon.

"What's this, Snivellus? I didn't think you had the Galleons to buy a witch off and get her to forget what a repugnant grease stain you are."

James Potter was striding towards them, flanked with a malicious enthusiasm by Black and Pettigrew. His expression was cold and angry, a sneer curling his mouth that made him seem nothing like the Gryffindor prince the whole of the school seemed to think he was. The twisted and vicious expression that Potter had on his face was the true face of James Potter, Severus knew -

And perhaps, this time, Lily would see it and understand it.

See that Potter loathed his existence and made it a sport to seek him out and provoke him, understand that anything he did in response was defending himself from the fact that Potter thought the world and everyone in it were her personal playthings.

"Get out of here, Potter." Severus said, in a low voice, pleased at how Lily clutched his arm tighter. The feel of her leaning against him solidly, assuredly, gave him the same feeling of victory that he'd had earlier - and he was determined to keep in the same stride. "I'm not in the mood to have it out with you."

Lily was right here beside him, not standing opposite from him with Potter and his lackies, and that was all that Severus needed to stay steady in the face of this deliberate harassment.

Potter raised his dark eyebrows, as if surprised that Severus would say such a thing.

"What, did I hit a nerve?" asked Potter, smirking. "Perhaps it wasn't you who spent the Galleons? Maybe it was Evans, treating her girlfriend to an evening on the town."

Black and Pettigrew, predictably, found this to be far funnier than what it was, and as usual, their jeering and cajoling made Lily angry.

"I hope you know that I'm reporting the whole lot of you to McGonagall when I get back to the castle. This behavior is sickening, childish, and I'm completely fed up with it!" Lily glared at her fellow Gryffindors. "Just go away and leave us alone!"

"Oooh, leave us alone, is it, Evans?" Black said, simperingly. "How precious is that. Yesterday it was leave him alone, but today, it's leave us alone?"

Peter snickered, cruelly. "Perhaps Bones was right. Perhaps all it does take is a few Galleons and Evans is yours for the taking."

Severus felt his vision darken around the edges, as all three of the boys laughed at this insult. Beside him, Lily hissed furiously, her cream-and-ivory complexion paling terribly at Pettigrew's mean words.

"No, I think Snivellus is for the taking in this equation," Potter declared, coldly. Before either of them could so much as move, between one blink and the next, Potter had his wand drawn, adding: "Let's see what Evans brought her girlfriend for their night out on the town, eh?"

Potter was too quick with his wand, as Severus knew all too well. The elegant pearl-and-lavender bag that the shopkeeper had given Lily sailed from her hand as she gave an indignant shriek and with the reflexes of a Chaser - Potter leapt up and neatly plucked it from the air.

"POTTER!" Lily screamed in outrage, letting go of Severus and advancing on the much taller group of wizards. "You give that back to me! Right now! You aren't even supposed to be using magic in Hogsmeade and I will definitely be reporting you to McGonagall now."

"None of that, now. Remember- get bent, Evans!" Peter jumped in front of her and stopped her advance, making her collide with him once more, but this time, with purpose. "Back off and just relax. James just wants to see what's in the bag!"

Severus tried to keep his calm as Lily stumbled back a step or two from running into the solid girth of Pettigrew, who was only a head taller than her as opposed to Black and Potter being two heads taller than her. Lily was right. The use of Magic in Hogsmeade was an offense he could get suspended and arrested for - and, unlike Potter, he was neither wealthy enough nor pure enough to get off from such a consequence with a slap on the wrist.

If they laid a wand on Lily, directly, and Severus wouldn't hesitate to defend her with all of his might. Until then, however, words were only words, as cruel and provoking as they were.

"Quelle surprise!" Black exclaimed in flawless, mocking French, as Potter tore apart the shopping bag that contained all of Lily's personal undergarments. "What do we have here?"

"Well, clearly these are for your oversized tits, Evans. Snape is far too scrawny and could never fill out these lovelies." Potter tossed the brassieres to Pettigrew, who caught them with surprising agility. "Sweet Merlin, these could fit Hagrid, honestly!"

Lily was shaking with humiliation now. "Potter. I swear, Potter, if you don't stop and stop right this second - "

Severus was shaking himself, but with suppressed rage. He felt so helpless. Helpless and inadequate and beneath the petty, cruel machinations of boys who were only like this because nobody thought anything was wrong with it. He had thought that yesterday was bad, as he'd been hung upside down and terrified that he'd be exposed in the worse way and waited to be violated in a way that he couldn't take back.

He'd been wrong.

"Oh, but here is the prize!" Potter declared loudly, unfolding several pairs of delicately wrapped panties and his eyes widened mockingly. "Looks like today is Snivellus's lucky day."

"Evans is such a good boyfriend, making sure her little lady has what he needs to get through the summer holiday," sneered Pettigrew, callously amused.

"Oh, the colors! They'll bring out the grease on his pubes, so well," Black added. His barking laughter joined Pettigrew's nasally cackling and together, they began tossing the brassieres between each other, making mocking and simpering sounds that grated like nails on a chalkboard.

Potter wasn't laughing, however. There was something righteously angry in his eyes, as if he was taken something about this deeply personally, although Severus couldn't imagine what it was.

"You're despicable, Potter." Lily bit out, furious tears welling in her eyes.

Potter sneered. "No more despicable than you. What's rotten in your brain that you're out and about with Snape, after yesterday? He called you the M-word, Evans - the M-word."

Severus swallowed thickly, as Lily stiffened.

"Mind your business, Potter, and leave us alone. This has nothing to do with you!"

"You shouldn't have anything to do with him!" Potter retorted. "I can't believe you, Evans! I never understood anything about your little - freakish friendship with Snivellus. He is worthless, doesn't deserve to exist, and the world would be better off without him. But, after yesterday? I didn't think even you'd still have a hard time understanding that, as smart as you are. What's your problem?"

Black and Pettigrew made noises of shock and indignation as Lily shrieked and shoved at Potter quite deliberately, the sheer surprise of this making Potter stumble over his long legs and nearly fall.

"You have five seconds to get out of here or I swear, I'll turn myself in to the Constable after I hex you six ways from Sunday and back!"

Potter seemed rather embarrassed to have been knocked off his stance by someone twice as short and three times smaller than him - a witch, no less. "Don't put your hands on me, Evans. You should be putting your hands on Snivellus for how he treats you, but maybe you don't care. Maybe as long as he buys you things and is willing to lower himself to be seen with you in public, you don't care that he thinks you're a Mudblood and made sure the whole world knew it, too!"

"Shut up! Shut up about things you know nothing about!" shrieked Lily, the tears finally falling, as even Black and Pettigrew became quiet. "Yesterday was ALL YOUR FAULT! You are the worthless, horrible waste of existence that the world would be better off without - so, how about you just do us all a favor and make that happen!"

Perpen Street was deathly silent as Lily's words hung in the air, a surge of cool, crisp wind indicating another stormfront was coming through.

Black and Pettigrew looked equal measures of stunned and angry and uncertain, the brassieres dropping to the mucky ground, as they came closer to Potter, their jeering and horseplay forgotten.

Severus didn't know what to do. He didn't know what was right to do. He swore that unless Potter or one of his goons drew his wand against Lily, there was no need to strike first and get the whole lot of them in trouble they didn't need, with so few days left before the end of the term. A part of him was relieved that so far, neither Potter nor Black nor Pettigrew seemed interested in him.

He wouldn't examine the silence that he'd held this entire time, not speaking up once on behalf of Lily.

Potter was the one to advance on Lily this time. There was something about the set of his strong, broad jaw that unnerved Severus, though he couldn't remember ever being afraid of Potter, for all that he feared what his unchecked cruelty could do.

This look made him uneasy. This look was one that Severus had never seen before and didn't like - nor did he like the full force of it leveled upon Lily.

"I'm not the one whose worthless and should kill himself." Potter said, in a low and frigid voice. "But, that's something that both you and Snivellus should look into." Potter scoffed, poisonously, adding cruelly: "I thought you were better than Snape, Evans - but, I guess not. I guess you really are the worthless, loose, and easily brought M-word that everyone has been saying you are, if you're letting even Snape get a taste of what everyone else has."

Pettigrew let out a brief, shocked laugh, but Black looked deeply uncomfortable, as Lily flinched as if Potter had struck her twice.

"Come on, you guys. I've seen enough of this - and I want to get back to Remus." Potter sneered at Lily, who was staring down at her feet.

Black and Pettigrew seemed to need no further prompting, turning to follow Potter, who'd brushed past them, angrily.

Abruptly, Potter remembered the panties he held in his hand and turned, looking at Severus for the first time since he and Black and Pettigrew had accosted them coming out of Madame Pomegranate's. Again, far too quick with his hands, Potter had thrown the panties up in the air as if they were confetti -

And sent them hurtling towards Severus.

"I suppose no matter how hard she sucked - I mean, no matter how hard she tried - Evans couldn't get all the grease out of your pants, Snape!" Pettigrew crowed, as multicolored lace slammed into Severus with the force of the Hogwarts Express and began to attack him.

Severus roared in anger as the panties flew around him like Bludgers, stinging and making small cuts wherever they touched. Pettigrew exchanged a high-five with Black, who met him halfway, half-heartedly.

Potter was deliberately cruel, as he shouted loudly enough for his voice to carry through the entire lane:

"I see why she had to buy you new panties, entirely - anyone would get tired of having to remind you to wash your pants, Snivellus!"

Severus didn't know what was worse.

The sharp stinging pain of the attacking panties, the merciless and vicious laughter of the Marauders as they walked away, or Lily standing forlornly in the middle of the street -

Her own words echoing nastily in both of their ears, as they were left alone with the disaster that Potter had knowingly and willfully left behind.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Quite the loaded chapter and finally - or, perhaps, unfortunately - we get to meet the Marauders. A note I want to make clear about the Marauders: all four will be complex, human characters and as of this point, they are all friends. Yes, even Peter. Since I was a kid, I have despised that because of his canon character arc, Peter is treated as the traitor that Harry and Sirius and their friends know him to be even back in his school days, because guess what? NOBODY knew that Peter was a traitor. That was the point! In canon, Sirius was never exonerated and as far as the Wizarding World is concerned - Peter Pettigrew was a hero who bravely met his end against the true traitor, Sirius Black, and was memorialized with an Order of Merlin, after his death. Peter Pettigrew was a masterful traitor because he got away with it up until his death and only a handful of people who couldn't do anything about it knew. Thus, Peter will be treated as a Marauder and I will make it clear why he is considered a Marauder, which makes his betrayal more impactful because it was a choice - and a cowardly one, at that.

Of course I have not read every SS/LE-what if story there is, but in the majority of the ones I have read where Snape and Lily reconcile and are shipped - James continues to hate Snape, but becomes an annoyance to Lily, at most. There is no sense of how badly James would have taken it, if Lily actively chose Snape over him and thus, this is the root of the arc that James presents, here in Part I. James is not used to losing or not getting what he wants and I cannot see the character he is described as in canon being anything like gracious about it to either Lily or Snape. Another major point I feel readers and fanwriters alike overlook about the JP/LE ship is: the positive interactions between James and Lily that led to their love in canon ONLY happened AFTER Snape was out of the picture as Lily's friend, for good. Would this same positive interaction be there, if Snape was still in the picture and had been chosen over James himself? Would James be mature and respect Lily's decision, while moving on with his life? Would he still respect Lily as a person, after seeing her forgive what he sees as the unforgiveable - which was Snape calling her a Mudblood?

I believe the answer is a resounding no and I want to explore why the answer would be a resounding no. As well, in case anyone is wondering - James is NOT bisexual or straight in this story, but perhaps isn't ready to make this known. With this assertion, I'm going to explore the line of reasoning that suggests that his loud and tacky (and frankly, harrassing) pursuit of Lily was a cover and a distraction from anyone guessing who he was really devoted to. So - beware, slash ahead!

With this chapter, we start to get to the crux of why both Lily and Snape made their friendship toxic and what needs to be done to heal and get it past it, to have a true fresh start. We are made to forget in canon that Lily called Snape a cruel and hurtful name, every much as Snape called her one, though he did so first. I also don't get the feel that Lily understands what Snape goes through, being bullied and tormented, because she is a beautiful, popular, vivacious girl who every seemed to universally love. Now that she's made a different choice in than she did in canon, Lily is about to walk a mile in Snape's shoes - and this is what brings us to and through the necessary rough patch that's coming.

Reviews are welcomed and appreciated! The stellar response is what is motivating to write so quickly and get new chapters posted!]