Aim & Ignite


List of Warnings & Content: Crude and adult language, along with adult themes (Snape swears in a lot of his inner dialogue, and some with Dumbledore. It's not rampant, but I do drop the f-bomb quite a few times) Graphic depictions of violence and torture and all the fun that Voldemort/Tom Riddle/Death Eaters come with. Major character deaths and secondary character deaths, as this is a magical war, and people are bound to die.

In canon, Snape's only redeeming quality is his unrequited love for Lily. Harry has a boundless ability to do so. There's very little written in the girl!Harry realm, as well as Snape having a daughter. I've decided to combine the two in order to explore Snape having not only to protect a child that he does not consider to be primarily James', but also his own daughter. The Severitus challenge has always been one of my favorite subgenres in fanfiction - thrusting a character in the role of parent when he's already shit at emotions is interesting to me. If you don't like Snape, then this story probably isn't for you. He's extremely problematic, and will continue to be problematic at times.

This story is not fluff, and I'm attempting to keep everyone in character. There will be some canon divergence, but Snape is a dick in canon, so he will continue to be a dick here. I will, however, be exploring a relationship between him and a daughter shared with Lily, which means that there will be character arcs and growth.

Anything you recognize from canon is property of JK Rowling.

If you could take a moment to review whenever you can, it would be greatly appreciated :)

Part I: The Philosopher's Stone

"Until we have seen someone's darkness, we don't really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone's darkness, we don't really know what love is."

— Marianne Williamson

The face in the mirroring was frowning.

The Girl scowled back, wiggling her eyebrows to add some vibrato. It wasn't anything to be proud of, but it was rather fearsome, if she said so herself. The freckles over the bridge of her nose took away from it though. She liked that particular part about her face. Her mum had freckles in the same exact spot, and her mum had been beautiful. The scowl, however, should definitely work when intimidating the postman.

She hated the quiet of night. There was something about it that rubbed her the wrong way. The Girl didn't know what it was — perhaps it was that she was never really tired, or because she disliked the dark. When she'd been younger, the dark had comforted her, because that meant the Dursleys had gone to bed. The dark had gotten worse though, the older she'd gotten. The dark wasn't comforting at all when you had to walk home from the grocery store by yourself because Aunt Petunia had left you there.

It was cold, the kind that focused on your hands and feet. The rain made a patpatpat sound against the windowpane, and The Girl was pretty sure that it was going to turn to hail soon. It was that sort of summer rain, it settled into the house and then turned into a monsoon within seconds. Lightning cracked across the sky, making her flinch. She had bad dreams sometimes about flashing lights, except in her dreams, they were green. That was one thing (maybe the only thing) she missed about the cupboard — she couldn't see the lightning from in there.

As The Girl padded the length of the floorboards of Dudley's second bedroom — now her bedroom— to the door, her eyes briefly flitted to the stairs. She could've sworn she heard something, but the letters never came at night, and Uncle Vernon had been snoring loudly for quite some time now. She was going to try for one tomorrow — or was it today already? — but no, she was going to do better than try. She was going to get one of those letters, and she was going to find out who was trying to write to her so badly.

Once back inside her bedroom, she reached for the lock on the window, peeking over her shoulder at the door for any signs that she'd alerted her aunt and uncle that she was still awake. It was hard to tell what would set them off sometimes. Usually, the Dursleys were too stupid to figure out the little rules she broke here and there, but she would be lying if she said they didn't take her by surprise sometimes. The window shouldn't be a problem. She knew she could fit through and drop down without making much noise. One time, when she'd been younger, she'd stuck her head out while cleaning, and Dudley had catapulted her right out. She'd had a nasty bruise for days and a sprained ankle that had only been taken care of because the school nurse had called Aunt Petunia, but she was older now, and a whole lot sneakier.

The soft glow that came with nighttime filtered in through the glass as she slowly unhooked the lock, tensing up and readying herself to dive back into bed should she hear footsteps coming down the hall. Thankfully, nothing happened, and she grinned. A soft breeze filtered in, droplets of rain hitting her skin. It felt good — she liked rain (without the lightning) a great deal more than she liked night. There was something soothing about it she couldn't put her finger on. Hopefully the rain would drown out the sound of her escape.

She wondered if her mum had liked summer. She wondered what mum would have said to her… if she'd be able to reassure her that being nervous was ridiculous. She wondered if the sun brought out the freckles on mum's face like they did on her own.

The picture she'd swiped from the attic smiled up at her. Petunia had screamed and screamed when she'd showed it to her. She'd tried to rip it up —

the girl was too fast, Vernon, get that horrid picture and burn it I don't want to SEE HER AGAIN

"I'm gonna get one of those letters." she whispered to no one. "You wait and see."

The Girl sucked in a deep breath, and launched herself out the window.

It began with Severus' least favorite thing — children.

While saying such things out loud would probably have created an uproar amongst the staff, he spent each waking moment hating them. The Sorting was, admittedly, the most tolerable of the nights, but it only reminded Severus that very soon, he'd have a brand new batch of dunderheads to keep from killing one another, and themselves. Dumbledore belittled him every summer, just before the start of term, to update his syllabus, to find something worth teaching in the little cretins, but Severus couldn't understand why he bothered. He hated them all, each and every one. There were far too many of them, in his opinion, to which Dumbledore would reply that enrollment had actually dwindled throughout the years due to the war. That little fun fact was enough to shut the both of them up.

They both knew why he was really here, and it wasn't to teach children. Those little monsters turned the castle into a demon-sent-hellspawn wasteland — Hogwarts was so different when it wasn't spilling over with those… things. Severus could almost enjoy the long days of summer, the way the wind moved through the grass and the only voices were its whispers in the empty halls.

The rest of the staff had busied themselves away with things that seemed silly and inconsequential to Severus. Minerva had been flustered by the letters back and forth from parents, Sprout was rearranging the layout of the greenhouse, and Flitwick had been transfiguring his desk back and forth between designs for several hours now. Severus only knew of these activities because of Dumbledore — he'd found him in the dungeons this morning, using his genuine interest in their activities to segway into another, more repulsive, subject. Severus was getting ahead of himself, though, term had not even started yet. It was far too early for character assassinations.

Severus watched the last rays of summer filter in through the castle windows, wishing he could fade away alongside them. Beside him, Dumbledore watched the sunset with an annoyingly pensive look on his face. "Have you given any thought to what we were discussing this morning?"

Severus barely turned his head to acknowledge him. "No."

Despite his cold reply, Dumbledore chuckled. "Humor an old man, my boy."

He was, of course, referring to something Severus did not want to talk about, and if Severus did not want to, he would, under any circumstances, not. Dumbledore had found him here for this precise reason. To his relief, Dumbeldore gave a great sigh, his mustache twitching in a knowing smile. There came a familiar crackling sound soon after. As Severus glanced sideways at the old man, he found him unwrapping one of those Muggle sweets — a lemon-drop.

Dumbledore caught him staring and stopped just as he was about to pop one into his mouth. "I'm sorry, my boy, did you…?"

"No," Severus said, looking back toward the sunset, which had hidden itself behind the treeline.

Dumbledore twinkled at him. "You did enjoy the toffee flavored ones, I believe."

He gave a sound that was passable enough for agreement. While Dumbledore waited patiently beside him, Severus forced himself to continue ignoring him, hoping he would simply drop the subject and leave him to sulk by himself. Dumbledore, however, was an annoying and meddlesome old man, and no matter how many times Severus pointed out this fact, it never deterred him.

"You must stop worrying about the world ending today." said Dumbledore. "It's already tomorrow in Australia."

Severus stifled the urge to roll his eyes. "How unfortunate."

You're sulking, Conscience told him, is rather pathetic.

"My boy," Dumbledore gave him an understanding look. "I know where your trepidation comes from, but I would be remiss if I did not inquire as to the state of your mind these past few days. I can only imagine…"

He trailed off, following Severus' gaze to the sunset, which was completely enveloped by the trees, now. The sky was a brilliant red, the clouds purple tufts of smoke decorating the tree-landen horizon. Off in the distance, he could hear whatever creatures Hagrid had brought in for the night calling to one another, or perhaps Hagrid for a feeding. They sounded like hippogriffs, but they were distant, and the sound distorted.

"I've decided to send Hagrid." Dumbledore said, motioning to the smoke that drifted across their field of vision, most likely coming from Hagrid's hut. "He insisted, seeing as he brought her to Lily's sister. We haven't received notice from her yet, but there's still time. Hagrid suggested he go on her birthday. What do you think, my boy?"

Severus tensed. He would not answer. Would not would not would NOT —

"I wonder," said Dumbledore, when Severus did not respond yet again. "if Tom realizes."

Severus felt like a bucket of ice water had been dumped over his head. He hadn't mentioned the Dark Lord directly this morning — he'd danced around it with pleasantries and such — but this was the first time in years he'd said his name. It still unnerved him that Dumbledore used the Dark Lord's birth name, as if the being with the red eyes and cruel, high voice could be reduced to such a common, Muggle name. The Dark Lord was something you could not comprehend a beginning to, like a human creator. Wizards and Muggles alike could fathom something living forever, but not something having always existed. It was an unreachable place in the mind.

"It feels as though it is another start to term." Severus finally said, making sure his voice was devoid of any emotion. "New students joining the general population is inconsequential to my current state of mind. I'm sure the Dark Lord feels the same, if he's truly still out there."

He wouldn't bring up the girl — he would not. He rarely thought of her, rarely remembered that her arrival at Hogwarts drew closer at the end of every school term. Severus could not acknowledge both the continued existence (whatever quality it may be, at this point, anyways) of the Dark Lord and Lily's daughter. The Dark Lord was petrifying enough, but to admit Lily and Potter's child was someone real, his greatest fear come to pass…

Severus didn't know what scared him more, the Dark Lord, or that girl.

Dumbledore was quiet for another long moment. "Well, I applaud you for treating the situation as such. I'm sure she will have enough people paying her unwanted attention… having someone treat her no differently than the others is reassuring. I know Minerva is anxious to have the girl join us… but she admits openly that Lily was one of her favorite pupils. It's different, I suppose."

The old man stared at him intently over half-moon spectacles, trying to draw out some sort of reaction. Severus had forbidden it, and Dumbledore had respected that, but as the days drew nearer to Lily's daughter beginning her education at Hogwarts, the memory of That Night had begun to crack itself open amongst the staff. They whispered about it excitedly amongst themselves, with looks of both somber remembrance and bright anticipation. Severus, however, had taken the memory of Godric's Hollow and the Dark Lord's last spell and locked it in an untouchable, unbreakable box. At it's mention, though, the memory began to thump against its box and rattle the chains that had kept it buried all this time.

He was thankful, however, that Dumbledore had not said her name. It provoked the same reaction the Dark Lord's did — if he did not acknowledge both until he had to, he could do this, for Lily.

"The girl is of no matter to me." said Severus, not liking that he was being forced to admit her existence out loud. "You know I will do what I need to, if it is required. I sense that is what you're after, really."

"She'll need that protection, Severus." Dumbledore faced him fully now, his face full of something like expectation, but also a graveness that Severus hadn't seen in several years. "Tom will return, and when he does, she will need us all. There is no easy way to say that. Her tenure here is not something to be gawked at… it's to be a marker. I fear for her going forward, I do, but I have faith that she will be safe here…" Dumbledore trailed off, returning his gaze to the sunset. It wasn't like him to speak of such things, and this unnerved Severus.

"Has something happened?" he asked sharply.

Dumbledore blinked at him in surprise. "No, no, my dear boy. I apologize, I was simply —"

He froze, suddenly, like he'd had a nasty shock. Severus turned towards him finally, fully, letting down his wary guard. As intentionally mysterious as the old man could be, this was not usual behavior for Dumbledore, even when he was trying to get his way. No, he used matters of the heart for that.

"The Blood Wards." Dumbledore said. "They've fallen."

It took Severus a moment to grasp what he was saying, but even if he hadn't, the look on Dumbledore's face would have been jarring enough. He would never forget that look — he'd never seen the Headmaster look alarmed, let alone afraid, but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared.

"What do you —" before Severus could even finish, Dumbledore was offering him his arm.

"We must move, quickly." he said, in a voice like lightning. There was no arguing with it, or refusing it. The aftermath, the thunder, was inevitable.

Severus took his arm.

The postman had not been the one delivering the letters, she'd found out. The Girl knew this because she'd hidden behind the hedges all morning, waiting, and when he did come waltzing down the road, the only thing he'd dropped off was the newspaper. Now her leg had a cramp, and she was covered in dirt and smelt like mulch. The backpack she'd been carrying was serving as a pillow, for now, since he hadn't dared move all day.

Uncle Vernon had shouted for what sounded like an eternity once the sun had risen

these BLOODY LETTERS I'll see them FIRED I'll see them PENNILESS with these RUDDY UNWANTED LETTERS

and then, he'd REALLY started when Dudley had shouted from upstairs that she was gone, that the window was open, and then Petunia was shrieking

VERNON, Vernon the MOLDING around the window has been RUINED, that LITTLE —

They'd all gone very, very quiet after that. She didn't even hear the telly for Dudley's morning program turn on. She'd wondered, from behind her bush, if they were calling the police, or maybe they were deciding what to do amongst themselves. She'd briefly considered running in and grabbing one of the letters from the front door (it sounded like there were dozens of them again, based on how loud Uncle Vernon had been yelling) but she couldn't hear where they were in the house. She wasn't sure what she was going to do… she just needed one of those LETTERS.

There had been so many of them, and she felt like a numpty for not managing to grab at least one this past week. Uncle Vernon was mean and stupid, yes, but he was also about twenty times bigger than her. She could remember the first time she'd tried diving for one, and how his arm had swung and she'd gone flying back. He hadn't even realized he'd done it, he was just so desperate to keep her from finding out who was writing. The Girl would never forgive Dudley for that first one, for shouting it out when her aunt and uncle had happily ignored her every morning before that, and ruining the only real chance she'd had then. It had felt like a dream you could remember feeling, but not what it was about. There was something special in that envelope, The Girl knew it.

And so here she'd sat, all day, behind the hedges beside the front door. Every now and again, she'd hear shuffling from inside the house, but no more yelling, or screaming, or threats. No one even came outside. At some point, she heard someone close the window to Dudley's second bedroom, but that was it. She didn't dare come out, she might've truly gone and driven them completely mental, and even then, once she got one of those letters, she wasn't going back.

Around dinnertime, she could say she had not one, but two bee stings from hiding and a very empty stomach, but zero letters. She rubbed at her arm, trying to make the swelling go down, and was quite thankful she wasn't allergic to bees. That was all she needed, to have an allergic reaction and die right there — and the Dursleys would probably get off scot-free too. They would have loved that.

She nearly leaped out of her skin when she finally heard the front door open. Dudley came barrelling out, dressed to the nines in a suit that was far too small for him. She remembered when Aunt Petunia bought him that, only a few months ago, and it had been pretty tight even then. Now it made Dudley look like an oversized beach ball. She was reminded of the day they'd tried to fit one of those in the trunk of the car, and it had looked like it was going to explode any minute.

Aunt Petunia was right behind him, fussing over his hair, which lay flat against his head. She was wearing heels that made a clackclackclack sound against the pavement, reminding The Girl of the rain from last night, pounding against her window. Aunt Petunia was wearing a fancy dress — white, just like the rest of the house.

"Diddykins, slow down!" she pleaded. "I need to finish combing the front —"

"MUUUM, I'm hungry. Let's go!" Dudley whined, slamming the car door behind him as he climbed in eagerly. He crossed his arms in a mocking pout that wasn't real for one second, but conveyed his impatience to Aunt Petunia, who began apologizing profusely for making him wait.

A chuckle came from the front door — Uncle Vernon, who sounded… happy? That couldn't be right, he'd been ranting and raving about the letters for a week now. He'd developed that weird twitch and was constantly looking out the windows, over his shoulder, as if whoever was sending them would appear out of thin air and attack.

"A fine night for a celebration, don't you think Petunia dear?" Uncle Vernon smiled up at the sky, almost as if he was admiring the sunset.

The Girl had been admiring the sunset too, up until that point. Now, the purple and red in the sky reminded her of Uncle Vernon's face when he was mad, which was quite an awful lot. He looked like a deranged, mutant pig when he was angry, especially when he got in her face. Now, he seemed… calmer than he had in months. He was wearing a tuxedo too, like Dudley, the kind he wore to those fancy company dinners at Smeltings.

"We can finally take that vacation to Monet's garden in Giverny…" Uncle Vernon said to Aunt Petunia, who was climbing into the passenger seat.

"Oh Vernon, that sounds wonderful." Petunia said, shooting a concerned look to Dudley, who had begun pounding on the car window. "We can discuss it more over dinner, we're already late because of —"

They both looked at Dudley, whose face was now smashed up against the glass.

Aunt Petunia slammed the car door shut as Dudley began wailing again. Uncle Vernon gave another hearty laugh, like he'd heard an old joke, his keys clinking together as he locked the front door.

The Girl's eyes widened in horror — no no NO — how was she to get inside now?

Uncle Vernon stepped past the car and into the street, looking down the road as if he were waiting for a cab. After a long moment, with a satisfied smile, he made his way toward the car.

"Good riddance," he said to no one.

The Girl could feel her heartbeat in her throat as they drove away. It was then that she realized — really and truly realized — that she wasn't going back to the Dursleys after this. They wouldn't have her back anyway — she'd done it now. They'd constantly told her (pleaded, really) that if she ran away, she'd never be allowed back again, and that was without leaving her stranded places. Even if she hadn't left on her own, ruining that window with water damage from the rain last night was enough to do her in.

That was okay, though, because The Girl hated the Dursleys, and they hated her.

She wiped at her face with her sleeve, sniffling softly to herself. Crying over the Dursleys wasn't part of the plan, but then again, was she really crying over them? Something told her she wasn't. The Girl was nothing remarkable, after all. The only remotely interesting thing about her was her lightning-shaped scar on her forehead.

The Girl threw her backpack out of the hedges, wincing as she straightened her legs for the first time all day. She rolled out from behind them, fighting back a sob building in her throat. She had nothing to go on now, nothing that would tell her who'd been wanting to talk to her so badly. They'd definitely destroyed this morning's batch of letters. They were the last remnants of her, proof she'd ever been there. They'd scrub that place clean until her existence was erased forever.

The Girl scrubbed at her eyes. Maybe the letters would keep coming? Should she stay behind the hedges? She wanted to scream, to hit something, or someone. How could her plan have gone so far south? How had the letters gotten inside without the postman? None of this made sense — none of it —

The Girl kicked at the front door, and it flew open.

There was no time to figure out how or why (she'd seen Uncle Vernon lock it, hadn't she?). There was a pang in her chest that felt like triumph, like winning a game of football or outrunning Dudley. The Girl bolted through the door, straight into the front hallway, scouring the floor for letters letter letters —

There was a stack of them — maybe twenty or thirty — on the kitchen table. She couldn't believe her luck! Her heart leapt up into her throat and she launched herself at them, her hands shaking terribly.

She was going to take one and run. She'd find whoever was sending these letters, she'd find them and they'd help her… even then, she'd stolen all of the money out of Dudley's piggy bank, and he'd had enough in there to buy the entire family groceries for at least three months. He never checked it because Aunt Petunia usually just bought him whatever he demanded, but she could certainly use that… maybe get a ticket to London? But where would she go…

Before she could decide, she heard voices approaching from outside.

Privet Drive — or so the street sign said — was a waste of pavement and brick and foundation.

It was ticky-tacky, and Muggle, and there was nowhere for Severus to meld into the shadows. It was open and bright and far too organized for his taste. Spinner's End wasn't his haven either — he fucking hated living in his parent's house, but this made him want to start setting homes on fire. He'd sooner become the flying instructor at Hogwarts then set foot in suburban Muggle territory after this.

This was where Lily's daughter had grown up, he thought with a shudder. There was nothing Severus could do about that now. He'd tried ten years ago, but Dumbledore's mind had been made up already, and the Blood Wards were (up until this point) impenetrable. He tried to imagine Lily settling down here, and felt his hands begin to shake. He thought of a small version of her running down the street he was standing on, and quickly shoved the thought away from him. What was wrong with —

He hated Muggle neighborhoods. He hated Petunia all the more for making him be here.

Severus scanned the rows of lawns and picket fences, trying to incinerate each door with his glare as he followed Dumbledore. He soon found himself face to face with a deep chestnut brown door with a brass knocker that had clearly been over polished.

"There's no bloody car in the driveway." said Severus, who was growing more and more agitated by the second.

"Forgive me, my dear boy, I'm not familiar with Muggle terminology." Dumbledore did not take his eyes off the door as he unsheathed his wand. Under the circumstances, he was handling this remarkably well. Then again, Dumbledore had never shown panic, not even at the height of the war, when the Light had been losing, and badly.

Severus sighed as Dumbledore stepped onto the stoop. "A car is one of those metal death-traps with wheels that they use to transport themselves on the roads. A driveway is where they keep them in front of their homes."

"Ah, I see, thank you." he frowned, staring at the door with laser-beam precision. "Do Muggles often leave their doors open as well?"

He froze, a horrible sense of dread falling over him as he realized the door was slightly ajar. Dumbledore gave him another grim look and quickly let himself inside the house, his robes making a scratching sound as they grazed the doorframe. Severus was close behind him, wand drawn.

Severus took one step into the front hallway and immediately wrinkled his nose, artificial scents of air fresheners and a strong smell of tea filling his nostrils. Everything about this place screamed one word: Muggle. Severus had to force himself to blink several times as he took in the parlor.

White. Everything was so clean, so bright in a disturbing kind of way, and so white.

Lily would have hated it.

It was exactly the kind of place Severus had expected Petunia to end up in – or at least, it was where her happy ending was written down. If Severus could have dictated her fate, he would have put her right smack dab in the middle of some god-forsaken scrap of land in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by magic-practicing hermits.

It was unsettling. Severus recalled Petunia cleaning Lily's house when they'd been children, her annoyance if something wasn't where it should be or a mark on the furniture enough to sour her mood for days. Anything out of place — a speck of dirt on the carpet — would mean that something wasn't right, and if something wasn't right, it wasn't normal, and if she valued anything, it was her normalcy. It was the one thing that Petunia could do right, in her mind. She could be the ordinary one, something her logic stated that her sister wasn't capable of. Petunia would, in fact, be so conventional that she would land herself at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, even if the one Petunia had established inside her jealousy-riddled brain didn't count or matter.

No — magic and Lily and her daughter did not belong here, Severus the least of all of them.

There were pictures of what looked like a piglet scattered about on the mantle, on side tables, hanging on the walls. Several of them contained Petunia, who looked exactly the same, and a man who strongly reminded Severus of the type of men that his father went to bars with, back when Lily had stopped speaking to him and Severus had wandered Cokeworth aimlessly.

There were no Muggle photographs of Lily or any other children. None that looked like her, or Potter.

It was quiet, and dark. The only sound was the hum of the refrigerator somewhere nearby. Dumbledore led the way, casting a wordless Lumos as they made their way through the house. The front hallway led straight into the kitchen, where the smell of tea grew even stronger. There was no sign of forced entry, beside the unlocked door, or a struggle. Severus grew more agitated the more he saw, wondering what in Merlin's name could have possibly happened to cause Blood Wards to fall.

Upon entering the kitchen, Severus saw them.

Letters — littering the table and shredded in the rubbish bin. There were even some in the sink they'd put through the garbage disposal. Remnants in the fireplace. Severus recalled one year — their third — when Lily had been out with him, that Petunia had taken Lily's back-to-school letter and shredded it to pieces, leaving it on her bed for her to find. Petunia had only smiled when Lily had asked her why, a horrible grin that had made Severus' blood boil.

Severus recalled asking why Lily never told Petunia off. She'd laughed at him. She's harmless Sev, she's always done this —

"The owls would only keep sending them if…" Dumbledore trailed off, and a tense silence filled the air. Severus had the overwhelming urge to smash something — to make the stark whiteness of this awful Muggle house bleed with color. Petunia was behind all of this — the letters, and the Blood Wards falling. Severus didn't have a doubt in his mind.

"I knew there would be resistance," Dumbledore said softly. "But this…"

"I told you, Albus." Severus said, his voice growing in volume with every word. "I fucking told you that Petunia would hate the girl! She all but disowned Lily for it, what makes you think she wouldn't resent her own niece for something she'll never have?"

"She was to provide a home for her. There's no proof that she hates her here." said Dumbledore somberly. "The Blood Wards were the best way I knew to protect her from Tom. There was no other way."

"And how good are your precious Blood Wards now?" Severus sneered. "They're gone, along with the girl and Petunia's family. You told me at the— the funeral that Petunia hadn't shed a single tear, and you think she'd what? Love the girl? After everything? She's done something, I tell you. She's done something to the girl, and now Merlin knows where she is!"

"Do you actually think that how long a person grieves is how much they loved someone?" Dumbledore's eyes were searching him suddenly, with a scorching intensity. "It takes a moment to tell someone you love them, but a lifetime to prove it. I had hoped…"

Dumbledore hung his head, surveying the letters, their remnants, and the rest of the room. Severus had a sinking suspicion he hadn't only been talking about Petunia.

"Petunia could not love Lily with or without her magic." Severus stared through the glass door, which led to a patio and rose garden behind the house. "Your precious love was not enough to save Lily, and it was not enough to keep the girl safe, either."

A loud noise caused them both to snap their necks in the direction of the hall.

Severus moved before Dumbledore did, his wand drawn and ready. Dumbeldore's foolishness or not, he could not fail Lily before his duties had even started because of miserable fucking Petunia. He had to find the girl — had to find out wherever she had gone, to know whatever her aunt had to her done to make the Blood Wards fail so close to term starting.

"Come out," he barked, a Binding spell on his lips. "We know you're there."

As he quickly moved towards the front door, he heard shuffling to his left. There was a door there he hadn't noticed earlier.

Severus swung it open to find a small shape pressed up against some shelving that had fallen.

The first thing Severus noticed was that the girl was small for her age — she could've passed for two or even three years younger. Severus knew this because he'd known Lily when she was that young, and Lily hadn't been this petitie when she'd started Hogwarts with Severus. The girl's hair had been chopped off — she looked like a boy, if that haircut could have been assigned to a specific gender. It was horrendous, uneven on all sides and far too much in the back. Even in the dusty darkness of the cupboard, Severus could see that it was wine red, that deep, full color of fall leaves that Lily had. It was with a surge of loathing so strong that it churned his stomach that he realized Petunia must've done this for that very reason. The girl was a little Lily-clone, the pale skin and wine-hair and freckles over the bridge of her nose. The only thing that was missing were Lily's green eyes. The girl's eyes were dark —

The box with the memory thrashed around in his mind's eye, pining for his attention. The little Lily-clone stared back at him, not afraid, but wary. Lily had never looked at him with fear, either. A rush of loathing surged through him, at this thing who was only here because of Potter, because even if she didn't resemble him, he had done… this.

Then Severus saw the cot with the pillow and sheets, and the small, dirty lightbulb hanging in the center of the room, and the carvings on the walls beneath the stairs, the dead flowers shriveled up on the shelving and he realized — he realized that Petunia had —

"Albus." he tried to say, but something else came out — the girl's face stared up at him in shock.

Dumbledore appeared beside him, then. Severus couldn't see his face because he couldn't take his eyes off the carvings in the wall.

how many days one two three four five six

happy birthday i wish you were here

cold in here

tulips one two three four

days one two three four five six seven eight nine ten

day one two three four

rose petals one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve

letters seal cupboard under the stairs

He couldn't see straight anymore, the words were a blur. The depths of Petunia's hatred shouldn't have surprised him one bit, but all he could think of was what Lily would say if she were standing where he stood. Her temper had been fearsome, but she'd never truly unleashed it on Petunia. She'd defended her sister and her awful, snide, hateful remarks, because she was her sister. Oh, how Severus wished he could throw that back in her face now, to show Lily what Tuney had done to her only child. Lily would have reduced her down to a scorch mark on the wall, and then set fire to the place.

Severus felt a hand grip his shoulder. He'd forgotten the old man was there.

The girl — the Lily-clone — appeared to be trying to make herself a scorch mark, or at least, one with the wall. Her eyes were narrowed, something familiar about them, something Severus tried to pin on Potter, but couldn't.

one two buckle my shoe

roses last one two three four

merry christmas girl