The Twelfth of Never

(Formerly Titled: "Snape's Worst Memory Revisited")

A/N – This story was inspired by the Chapter 28 of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," and takes place during and shortly after Snape's fifth year at Hogwarts. It may be spoilerish for those of you who haven't read "OotP" yet, so be warned. Note that this originally started off as a one-shot ficlet, but has snowballed into something bigger. Accordingly, I've gone back and made some changes, given it a new title, tweaked, polished, etc. This isn't my usual fandom, so let me know when I've messed up on anything. Feedback, both positive and constructive, is always appreciated.

Disclaimer: All characters depicted in this story are the property of J. K. Rowling. No infringement of any kind intended. I don't make any money from writing this…etc. etc. etc. In addition, I've borrowed some lines from Chapter 28 of "OotP." These I've indicated with a . Hopefully, that will keep me out of trouble.

Part I

Chapter 1 – The Horrible Realization

With a gaze so intense, it should've withered the parchment lying on the table in front of him, Severus hunched forward, beaked nose almost touching theTransfiguration notes he'd been staring at for the past hour. Staring that is, but seeing? Not necessarily. Despite the fact that the Slytherin common room was positively teeming with fifth years desperately cramming for the next day's O.W.L. exams, the young wizard was oblivious to it all. For Severus right now, studying for a bunch of tests that would pretty much determine his whole career seemed pretty…well, trivial.

Fact was his mind was on other, darker things. Like pain…suffering… and revenge…

Mostly though, he thought about her.

Earlier that day, certain events had taken place that had blackened his mood even further than its usual stygian hue. His half-glazed eyes narrowed, becoming glittering slits. Now, Potter and Black, he could understand. Their actions, though despicable, had been thoroughly predictable. He expected behavior like that from those two, and fully intended to pay them back—when the time was right. But Lily

Who did she think…? Who was she to…?

Who indeed! He certainly hadn't needed that holier-than-thou princess to come rushing down from her lofty moral plateau to 'save' him. Making him look foolish and weak in process. Like he needed her help! Of course, she'd changed her tune soon enough, now hadn't she?

Calling him 'Snivellus!'

His long, slender fingers clenched the parchment, tearing its edges. She was no better than the lot of them.

Filthy little Mudblo—

He sat up suddenly, and the frown that had been permanently engrained on his face since early childhood deepened.

Hmmm.

He'd called her a Mudblood, hadn't he? She was one, of course, but… Perhaps it may have been a little ungrateful, a tiny voice—his conscience—pointed out hesitantly. She seemed to have had good intentions, after all. And she'd stepped forward—for him. Put herself on the line.

No! But… I didn't 'need' help. Least of all from a…

Of course, while the others had laughed, or simply stood by and watched his tormentors disarm, disable, and completely humiliate him, she'd stood up to them. Green eyes all ablaze, riled up in righteous defense of the un-defendable. Him.

She'd come out smoking—and yelling. "Leave him ALONE!"

And, surprisingly, the bullies had complied—at least temporarily. Of course Potter had had an ulterior motive. Lily. Obviously the stupid fool had a crush on her. And so like a besotted idiot, he'd asked her out.

"Go out with me, and I'll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again," the idiot Potter had said.

Of course she'd turned him down. Clearly, she hated the guy. Smart girl.

"I wouldn't go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid," she'd said. Nice.

Her words had brought a smile to his face, but it had been fleeting. After a misfired counterattack, Severus had soon found himself hanging upside down in the air, his less-than-clean underpants on display.

The crowd had roared with laughter and many had cheered. Severus was humiliated once again.

"Let him down!" Lily had then ordered, and he'd unceremoniously dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Immediately, he'd scrambled to his feet, wand up, ready to fight, but Black had been ready.

"Locomotor mortis!" Black had yelled, rendering Severus helpless, stiff as a day-old corpse.

Severus' eyes narrowed with a new surge of anger at the thought of his classmates' cruelty. Potter and Black would suffer dearly for their little prank, that he was sure of, but the Mudblood…Lily…

He looked down at his Transfiguration notes, which were now badly crumpled in his hands.

She's going to pay…

But then he recalled her shouting in his defense, her wand pointing at Potter.

No! She 'will' suffer…

But his conscious spoke up again, pointing out the look on her face when he'd repaid her heroics with an insult.

"I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!" he'd said.

She'd blinked once, and then given him a frosty look. The fire he'd seen in her eyes earlier had turned cold.

But she had no right…

To help a classmate in need? A friendless rodent who few people even knew existed? Wasn't that what he was?

But still…

Already starting to cool down, Severus found himself suddenly thinking of Lily's green, almond-shaped eyes, and how, when turned to James Potter, they'd filled with loathing. Those eyes had shot down the overconfident Quidditch player more effectively than any bludger ever could.

Yes. He raised an eyebrow as he reflected on this. Such…'fine' eyes.

He smiled despite himself, his hawk-like face looking unintentionally sinister.

Well, he had to admit; she was bright—in her assessment of Potter anyway. He pinched his chin between his thumb and forefinger. And, of course, not unattractive. If she weren't a Mudblood, he may have even considered…

Ah, but that was an obstacle he'd never get around—even if he wished to. His father would never let him…would never approve.

But.

He stood up suddenly, hands shaking slightly as he stowed his now ragged notes in his satchel.

He owed her an apology. Mudblood or no, she'd stuck up for him. The least he could do was…

Well, he'd do the least, which he realized, was also the most…that he could do.

He found her in the library studying, and quietly took a seat at the table behind hers. Her back was turned to him. Unnoticed, he spent close to an hour just staring at her hair. He supposed it was closest to auburn, but not quite. It fell to her shoulders in rippling waves, and glimmered in the light each time she tilted her head.

Fifteen-year-old Severus suddenly felt strange. The truth of the matter was he'd never really noticed any girl before—and certainly no girl had ever noticed him. He much preferred staying on the sidelines, biding his time, studying the dark arts. How was it that he'd spent so much time watching these people from afar, but had never really seen any of them?

Yes, truth be told, he'd never really seen her, had he? But then today, she'd stood up, and he'd taken notice. It had been sort of a delayed reaction, but now…

Much to his horror, he realized that he couldn't stop looking at her.

This is wrong! You can't….

She represented everything he loathed. Muggle-born, yet so smug and self-righteous. She walked the halls like she owned the place. So confident…so sure of herself… He could squash her in a heartbeat if he wanted to.

And hadn't he always wanted to?

Well, yes, but that was before…

Before she'd put James Potter in his place.

Aha! Is that was this is all about? Getting back at Potter…

Severus frowned suddenly. Yes, that was part of it—to be sure. But he couldn't say that it was the only reason. No, he couldn't say that at all.

Well, what then?

He was…he was here to…apologize. That was it.

Apologize?

Yes, because there was still a tiny part of him, deep down, that was decent. The part of him his father had not yet touched with his cruelty and neglect. He thought it had been lost, but perhaps it had only been hidden.

Lily Evans twirled a section of her rich coppery hair around her index finger and put down her pencil. She sighed. Severus took it as a signal and sat up straight. He was here to apologize. Nervously, he stood.

But…but…seriously, does one apologize to a spade for calling one such?

He paused. No…but…

She tilted her head a quarter to the right, and Severus' attention was caught by the way the light seemed to play upon the silken strands like a flame. As if in a trance, he pushed back his chair, and stepped around the table. He would do it. He would apologize.

He took several tentative steps until he stood directly behind her. Then he reached out to tap her shoulder, his hand brushing her hair. Closing his eyes, he savored the soft feel of her tresses combing through his fingers.

Lily whirled around immediately, a look of surprise on her face. When she saw him standing behind her, her expression became inscrutable. What was she thinking? Severus could not hope to guess. One thing was for certain, though, and gave Severus pause—there was no warmth in her eyes. He stepped back, mouth half hanging open.

"Er…" What was he going to say? Suddenly, his mind went blank. And he felt foolish. To think…

Lily frowned. "Snape?" Her voice sounded cool, and not the least bit welcoming.

He tried to smile, but his face wouldn't comply. He took another step back. At least his legs were still working. He took several more steps backward. Yes, they were working rather well. Then he turned and, taking long strides, headed for the library door, only once glancing over his shoulder to see Lily Evans staring back at him, looking thoroughly puzzled.