Chapter 15

Lucious Malfoy stared at Lily's body with a hungry gleam in his eye.

"Very good."

Severus turned to see Voldemort smiling approvingly, his arms still folded and his red snake-eyes glinting in the darkness. He lifted a long fingered hand, stepped forward, and rested it on Severus's hair. Severus tried not to flinch as the icy, seemingly lifeless fingers touched him.

"This," he said to everyone present, "is a servant. Anyone who obeys me is my servant and . . ." his mouth twitched as if he were about to relate a spectacular joke, "my friend."

The boys watched Voldemort now with a mixture of hunger and fear, and when he turned back into the cabin, they were being admitted two at a time, they were so eager.

"Wicked!" Nott said appreciatively, clapping Severus hard on the shoulder. "I wish he'd picked me! I could have done it!" he added, almost sulking but grinning ear to ear just the same.

Severus wasn't listening. He was staring at Lily's still body, his eyes glittering.

"What? Don't tell me you feel bad!" hissed Nott in an undertone, his eyes darting at the others for fear of being overheard. "Stop staring at her like that, they'll notice!"

He tried to steer Severus away but was shoved off so hard that he slammed into a few of the other boys. Nott righted himself and stared at Severus in disbelief.

"Fine!" he cried, sweeping his dark hair out of his eyes. "Get yourself in trouble! Don't say I didn't warn you!" and he stalked off.

Severus knelt down and lifted Lily's body in his arms. Without another word, he turned and walked away with her.

"Yes, he'd better get rid of the body, hadn't he?" asked a shrill, nervous voice Severus recognized as Peter Pettigrew's.

But Severus was too intent on Lily at the moment to care.

He marched on, her limp form in his arms, her red hair fanning in the breeze. Her arms and feet dangled pathetically as he walked purposefully across the grass, and he couldn't help breathing the flowery scent of her hair as it lifted in his face. He could remember not long ago telling Lily how red wasn't a bad color after all, and it stung him how many times he'd taken their friendship for granted. Even now when he was beyond hope, she had put her life on the line to save him. If that wasn't bravery, if that wasn't friendship, he didn't know what it was.

The feverish whispers outside the cabin soon faded as Severus reached the darkness of the streets. He passed beneath their floodlights meeting no one on the way, Lily's body limp in his arms, still warm, still beautiful.

He sighed to think that it had come to this, that in his desperation to become not the bullied but the bully, he'd had to wind up with her so lifeless in his arms. Why, why, why hadn't he put her back on the Knight Bus and sent her home? For surely she'd taken the Knight Bus to reach the orphange. Did her parents know she was gone yet? And what would they say if they could see their daughter pale and staring in his arms as he moved through the quiet streets? They wouldn't say anything. They would fall to their knees and cry, and Petunia would have a field day.

"I hate you!" she had screamed as he'd run into the night, but she hadn't meant it. If she'd hated him she would never have run to his rescue like that. But how many times had he tried to make it clear: he was beyond love, he was beyond compassion, he was beyond hope. But even as Severus thought miserably of how he'd pushed his darkening soul to its limits, he knew that deep down within there were still those old feelings for Lily.

"Ekstasis," Severus whispered sadly, his eyes glinting with more than the usual malice as he turned onto the street where the orphange stood. "Ekstasis might have saved me if I'd given in to it . . ."

But his feet carried him past the ophange, past his new life into his past. He went faster and faster, his feet shufflling quickly, his black eyes hard in his determination. Then he came upon a sidewalk flanked with benches in a closeknit town square. There was the ice cream place to his left, there was the closed pub to his right, and directly infront of him were the two trees between which he had laid eyes on Lily Evans for the first time. Severus laid her on the grass beneath the two trees and touched her throat lightly with his wand.

Lily gave a huge gasp so that the veins stood out in her neck and looked around, her eyes wide. She sat up on her elbows, then fell back as if this was too much, clutching her head.

"Severus?" she said in wonder, her eyes still large even as she frowned. "Severus, what happened to me?"

Severus couldn't keep himself from smiling as he told her gently, "I killed you."

Lily stared at him, "You -- you what?"

"Well, not really," admitted Severus, stepping back and rising from his knees.

A moment later, Lily joined him, though she still looked groggy.

"Then what happened?" she asked again, clutching her head.

"I only made it look like you were dead," Severus explained. "You know how Muggles have those poisons that can make a person look dead -- even to a doctor?" He didn't wait for Lily to answer. "I sort of invented a spell that would do the same thing. Non Verbal. I said it in my head while I shouted the killing curse."

"Severus," Lily whispered in awe and gave a dry sort of laugh. "You're a genius!" and she threw her arms around his neck.

Severus was so startled that at first he did not throw her off, but merely stood allowing the hug to happen while his own hands remained limp at his sides. And then slowly, he lifted his hands and patted Lily uncertainly on the back.

"You're going to get in so much trouble," Lily sobbed, pulling back to gaze, terrified, at her friend. "He's going to punish you for this! He'll find out, don't you see?"

"Bother him," snapped Severus, but he felt his skin crawl nonetheless. "I'll never tell him how you survived the killing curse. Never."

"How?"

"I'll become an Occlumens."

Lily stared at him doubtfully.

"I will! You'll see!"

"Severus," she said after a moment, "This is the end of things, isn't it?"

She knew without really having to ask that there would be no more secret meetings in the library, no more talks in the owerly tower, no more strolls through Hogsmeade. They couldn't be friends anymore, for Severus had a new and more dangerous set of friends now.

"I don't want this to end. Tell me we can still go on being friends?"

As if in reply, Severus whispered in disgust, "Mudblood!"

Lily's mouth fell open, tears running down her cheeks as she stared at him.

"You heard me, "Severus hissed, taking a step closer and shoving his long nose into her face. "Mudblood!" he cried again. "What was I thinking, being friends with the likes of you!"

"Severus . . .?"

"Get lost!" he screamed, trodding on her feet as she staggered back.

Lily steadied herself against the two trees behind her and stared at him with a mixture of wonder and anger.

"I know what you're trying to do -- " she began heatedly.

"Mudblood!" Severus shrieked again, a mad light in his eye. He grabbed Lily's shoulders and shoved her hard.

Lily fell to the ground, righted herself, and stared at him in disbelief. Severus advanced on her, his screams of "Mudblood" rising louder and louder. Soon, he had mixed "I hate you!" with the phrases "Get lost!" and "Filthy Mudblood!" Lily was staggering away from him as he advanced, her mouth open, apparently unable to believe the things Severus was saying.

" . . . and don't ever speak to me again!" he was screaming as Lily finally turned and fled across the street, sobbing into her hands.

She turned on the opposite street corner, her hair whipping her in the face, and glowered at him before raising her wandhand and getting swept off by the Knight Bus.

Severus had merely watched her flee as he stood on one of the many benches in the park, his hands shoved into his pockets and his eyes glittering impassively. She'd dropped something as she ran, and stooping from the bench, he bent and plucked it from the grass. It was the red M&M of course, the symbol of their friendship which Lily had cherished so much. She had never known -- would never know -- how much he'd cherished their friendship as well.

Severus turned, shoved his hands in his pockets, and headed back for the orphange, feeling with a guilty twinge that maybe he'd done the right thing in ending their friendship, maybe driving Lily away had been the only way he could have saved her. In sacrificing his own happiness, maybe he'd saved her -- and maybe the world wasn't such a bad place when a young teenage girl was willing to die for her friend. Maybe.

Curtain Fall.