Note: Thanks for reading and staying with me this long! Please review if you enjoyed or have any criticisms. Everything is welcome. The essay written in Mugglenet's Madam Puddifoot's section about Snape/Lily inspired this fic. This is FINALLY the last version of this chapter. Unless of course I have done something else that terribly deviates from canon. Which is completely fine, better I know than do it ignorantly! And it gets better! I mean . . I hope it gets better.
He had to give Lucius credit. He had swooped in at the most advantageous time, when Snape had been the most susceptible to his lies and false promises of companionship. The naivete that his youth that his attendance at Hogwarts granted was long departed, and Snape could now look at those times with open, objective eyes.
Not that it mattered much, anyway. Not only had Snape gained the upper hand on Lucius in the long term, he had gained it on many of his (or their) cohorts. Namely, he had never been to Azkaban, suffered serious loss of reputation, or, more importantly, been murdered. If Lucius made it out of Azkaban alive, it wouldn't be long before the Dark Lord got the better of him. Before that, however, the Dark Lord would draw on every last drop of Draco Malfoy's desperation to save his father. The Dark Lord would wrench every advantage he could out of Lucius before killing him. Such were his ways.
Draco. He performed average at best, throwing weapons so wide and conspicuously that Snape was astonished half the school didn't suspect him. Unfortunately, the students of Hogwarts remained as dull and dimwitted as ever. Also, Draco was surprisingly adept at Occlumens, allowing Snape no opportunity to get insight into his real plans. This, of course, assumed that his real plans weren't the badly executed cursed necklace incident and poisoned wine. Snape could only hope it wasn't something so stupid it would bring Draco's purpose and Snape's affiliation with him into sharp, unnecessary focus for all the wizarding world to see. That would place Hogwarts and all its students in a dangerous dilemma since the Dark Lord so hates his secrets exposed.
His thoughts were pushed aside, and Snape's lip curled involuntarily as the simple-minded Harry Potter, every bit his father's son, steamrolled into his office. So famed for his agility and grace on a broom, Potter Jr. certainly had an infallible finesse when it came to barreling through doors and destroying finely kept rooms. Any of Snape's rare good humor was lost at the sight of the boy who could not possibly try to look more like James. His unfortunate resemblance made it all the easier to be as cruel and as horrible to Harry as possible. Though Harry's similarity to James, as infuriating as it was, was far from the worst of his physical qualities.
"Ah, Potter. Mr. Filch has been looking for someone to clear out these old files. They are the records of other Hogwarts wrongdoers and their punishments. Where the ink has grown faint, or the cards have suffered damage from mice, we would like you to copy out the crimes and punishments afresh and, making sure they are in alphabetical order, replace them in the boxes."
He paused a moment, clearly to relish the opportunity to inspire hatred in Harry Potter. "You will not use magic," Snape added, remembering that Potter, surely like his father, would search for the easy way out.
As Potter moved to the nearest box, Snape interrupted. "I thought you could start with boxes one thousand and twelve to one thousand and fifty-six. You will find some familiar names in there, which should add interest to the task. Here, you see . . ."
He pulled out a card from one of the topmost boxes with a flourish and read, "James Potter and Sirius Black. Apprehended using an illegal hex upon Betram Aubrey. Aubrey's head twice normal size. Double Detention.'" Snape sneered. "It must be such a comfort to think that, though they are gone, a record of their great achievement remains."
Snape's face flushed with a resounding satisfaction. His mouth curled into a dry, malicious smile so familiar he wondered if there had ever been a time when he hadn't felt completely satisfied in Potter's misery and frustration.
Harry's eyes acknowledged him with profound resentment before he dropped into the seat in front of the boxes, clearly resigned to the laborious and dull work. Snape stepped swiftly to his desk and, after shuffling a few papers, sat down as well. He delicately picked up his gray quill and likewise resigned himself to grading papers, a task as equally unengaging as Potter's.
After nearly half an hour, his thoughts drifted from the tiresome chore, his eyes gradually sliding back to Potter. Potter was hunched over a note card, his brow furrowed in concentration and . . . something else. Snape quickly noted the names on the card who were, as always, paired together in some meaningless misdeed. Good. Perhaps Potter could finally understand how powerful reminders could surface buried emotions of pain and loss. His attention lingered on the faint reflection of Potter's eyes in the circular frame of his glasses. The green hue was no less electric, no less hypnotic then those of his mother.
Snape's free hand balled into an unintentional fist. Why must he be forced to look at both his childhood tormenter and his lost crush? Why must he look at the living evidence of James' and Lily's ludicrous love? His quill cut sharply into Draco Malfoy's paper, etching a spiteful, resonant A despite the boy's abysmal, careless work. Snape felt there was an ironic sense of poetic justice in reminding Harry of his loss of Sirius and James in the same manner in which he often reminded Snape of his failure to Lily and weakness to James.
Snape blazed with a relentless desire to punish Harry more, to strip him of everything he took for granted, to diminish him to a point where he might possibly conceive of what it was and what it had been like to be Severus Snape. While Snape could easily keep him from every Quidditch match, fail him on every essay, and slander him to every potential follower, it wouldn't matter. He could not pry Potter's blindly loyal friends from him, he could not quell the undeserving fame that had burned respect and awe into every ignorant and senseless witch and wizard. Lily had sacrificed herself and destroyed the Dark Lord, not Potter.
Snape quickly veered away from that train of thought, requiring himself to focus. He cleared his mind so that it would not become more vulnerable to anyone so inclined to intrude. Thinking of Lily was often a danger, especially now as an adult, when it came to maintaining a single-minded control of his emotions and of his Occlumens against the Dark Lord and countless others. It wasn't as if he didn't allow himself to think of her at all, but, when he did, it was only in a way that approached everything from an emotionless standpoint. There was a place he could do this, a place more protective than any other; a pensieve.
Snape often sought the luxuries of the pensieve. He would crawl out of bed at unearthly hours of the night, deprived from sleep by a frequent, nameless cause, and push past the crumpled papers and dusty tomes in his closet to retrieve his pensieve. He would stare into the liquid glow of the surface for minutes at a time before he would consider which memory to relive. A part of him needed to constantly revive the past, to immerse himself in times and memories that felt so much more alive, that were animated in contrasting reds and blues, not the modern grays and blacks of the present.
The pensieve had also leaked one of his darkest memories to none other than the famous Harry Potter. When it came to their Occlumens lessons, Potter had certainly proven his worthlessness in that area of expertise. The only thing he had gained was the uninvited trespass into one of Snape's worst memory. The memory of returning to his office to find Potter submerged in his pensieve, his memory was one he often repressed. An anger that unyielding threatened his defenses.
Dumbledore had detected the shift in Snape that day immediately, before Snape had thought to close the door in his mind that lashed out so violently. Dumbledore ended their sessions immediately, a wise decision, in Snape's opinion. Snape doubted he would've been able to control breaking into Potter's mind without a murderous abandon. It had been a year since then and, while his temper had cooled, his appetite to inflict pain on Potter had only intensified. His new post in Defense against the Dark Arts had happily given him a new arena to do so.
"I think that will do.Mark the place you have reached. You will continue at ten o'clock next Saturday."
Snape didn't look up as Potter bolted from his office. He waited for a few minutes for any uninvited interruptions before he got up from his desk and locked the door. He walked in slow, measured steps towards his closet, unfolding the doors to reveal the pensieve. He traced a finger over the cold stone basin before promptly choosing a memory.
The Dark Lord bored into him, his unblinking red eyes searching as ever for a trace of deception, for the seeds of betrayal.
"Do you know why I have brought you here?" The Dark Lord spoke in rhythmic hisses, a sound Snape often had fleeting nightmares of, a voice that permeated his very being with horror and fear. He had long since placed impenetrable fortifications around his inner thoughts and feelings so that the Dark Lord would never know, but that did not stop the feelings, the innate sense that he was in danger. His fortifications were so thick, so flawless because he needed to be in control of himself so that he would never become the Dark Lord's brainless minion like so many other death eaters.
"I would not presume to know any of your intentions."
Voldemort smiled, a wicked, depraved sight to behold. "Always the picture of obedience. That is why it is you here for this most important task and not Lucius."
Snape knew better than to ever assume the Dark Lord favored him. He knew better than to be pawned by his superior. The only reason he could be 'here', wherever here was, instead of someone else was because the Dark Lord trusted him least, feared him most for his abilities and skills in the dark arts and potions. It could've been a death trap for all he knew.
The Dark Lord continued to regard him as Snape looked at two neighboring houses, neither of which withheld any particular characteristics of interest to him.
"Take a moment to look at the fruits of your labor," the Dark Lord said handing him a slip of paper. Snape took the delicate piece of paper and read it carefully. The words 'Godric's Hollow' were slow to form logically in his mind. As he looked back up, he noticed everything had changed.
A new house stood before them, perfectly centered between the houses that he had originally deemed unimportant. The house had two stories. The moon dimly lit the plain white paint as a light switched on in one of the upstairs rooms. They were home.
"I brought you here because it was you who illuminated this possible danger. You could have easily kept it to yourself and used it against me, but you didn't." The Dark Lord began methodically walking across the dewed grass towards the door. "I brought you here because I know that you have a particular score to settle."
He stopped to thoughtfully ponder because, after all, the Dark Lord was never in a hurry. "I suppose this visit has been long due anyway. I have always needed to show my gratitude to James for aligning you so completely to me." With a sinking feeling, Snape knew without a doubt where they were.
After learning of the prophecy and reported it to the Dark Lord, his own research had yielded him two conclusions; either the Potters or the Longbottoms would suffer. The twinge of feeling he felt was unrecognizable. It had been so long since he'd smothered his feelings for Lily. His dreams of her had died the day of his initiation as a death eater. He had far more things to dream about, dreams much less pleasant than the fair-skinned Gryffindor.
He'd felt a sizeable intensification of his hatred for James the day he heard she was married. Excluding the news about their wedding, Snape had rarely thought of her. Her memory was just another point of weakness he had moved on from. But as he reread the results of his research, his reactions told otherwise. As the feeling escalated from a twinge to an irrepressible panic, Snape was having more and more difficulty convincing himself of his own apathy.
Even . . . even if she still held some perverse attraction to her, the birthdates that had laid before him indicated one thing: this could mean James' death. This could be his opportunity to kill him. Could he let a simple attack of conscience thwart what he'd been waiting for since his 5th year at Hogwarts? He hadn't let his misgivings overcome the necessary then, why should he now?
That day Snape had sat at his desk unmoving until the sun sank below the horizon and the first stars speckled the dusky sky. Several times he had reeled toward the fireplace with the unbidden desire to contact someone, to ask someone for help, but he had stopped himself. Snape had to remind himself that it could still be the Longbottom boy. But even the possibility of his being the cause of Lily's death Snape caused sudden regret and guilt to slice through him like a hot knife.
Snape wondered if his reaction would be this strong if he was not already dissatisfied with the choices he had made. For a time, being a death eater had been exactly what he wanted. He was allowed to freely plunder any number of Dark Arts volumes without rousing suspicion among his own. He constructed their plans (be them mayhem or murder) and took utmost satisfaction in the genius designs he produced. He had respect and power. They had given him everything he wanted. But of late, he wondered why he hadn't just gone about achieving his desires himself.
Why did he have to rely on a master for instructions? Why must he follow someone else's agenda, someone else's orders? Once again, Lily flitted unprompted into his mind. The path he had chosen would never allow for his vindication. The prophecy alone had not made that day so momentous. That day's events had made it impossible for him to villainize Lily or justify the taking of her life.
Snape had been in Diagon Alley the day he overheard the prophecy. Were it not for his extraordinary need to replenish his ever-dwindling stock of wormwood, he would've stayed and read in his dreary room. He hated visiting the heavily crowded places in which he might recognize or, even worse, interact with anyone but was often required to do so out of extraordinary need. Therefore, it was a horrible twist of fate as he browsed an aisle of Slug and Jiggers Apothecary, that he should see her, skimming her finger along a tub of ingredients unmarked and looking somewhat suspicious. Luckily, he had seen her first and was able to examine the contents of her small basket.
It contained a variety of ingredients that were many and varied. From what little he had known about her in school, he didn't doubt that she continued to cultivate her great interest in the subject. Snape was entranced, struck with a forceful sensation that he'd seen her, just like this, before. Though dreams of her were sparse, the ones he did have were in settings just like this, where he would be confronted with the chance to talk to her.
Just as it was in his dreams, the decision was highly distressing. He wondered if he should just leave the store, backing gradually down the aisle before she could see him. But he couldn't stop himself from believing that this might be the opportunity to get an answer he had long awaited. He would finally know if she thought of him, if she even remembered him, if she hated him, if she was apathetic.
As this craving took over, he opted to feign interest in a package of horned snails, deliberately remaining until she would look up.
He glanced up, the package of wormwood in his hand. "Lily," he acknowledged her blank faced. He couldn't bring himself to say her new last name.
Her eyes flitted to the package. "Still making sleeping potion, then?"
She regarded him unusually, in a way that took Snape several seconds to decode. The fact that she had addressed him at all meant that the prospect of engaging him in conversation was not all that horrible for her to endure. But her face was guarded and the normally smooth muscles of her face were tensed. It was as if she was faced with a rabid dog and chose to treat it with kindness so that it would not attack.
She also remembered that day.
"Oh," he faltered, unsure how to reply. "Yes. Though on second thought, if I remember correctly, you might need this more than I do."
She paused and for an agonizing moment, he thought she might just walk away. Instead she laughed, visibly relaxing as her clutch loosened around her basket.
"Perhaps. I can't say that my talent for that particular potion has improved over time."
As her face softened and she looked at him, undisturbed by his unkempt hair and simple dress, Snape couldn't repress the profound relief that flooded over him. She seemed to notice a change, but he managed to speak before she mentioned anything.
"What all have you got there?" He asked walking slowly towards her, watching her closely for any indication that his approach bothered her. "Let's see . . . knotgrass, fluxweed, three bicorn horns, and . . . nettles?" He pointed at each without picking them at, unwilling invade too much. "What could you possibly be concocting?" He said with genuine curiosity.
She seemed mutely impressed by his interest and his knowledge. She smiled lightly, her eyes alighting with the passion he knew potions must inspire. "Just a little experimentation." He watched her as she talked and noted the fine distinctions of the older Lily Evans. Her hair was no less bright and it was of similar length, but it did rest somewhat more flatly. Time had done little to quell her unequivocal beauty.
"Though I admit I don't transcribe the fruits of my labors as judiciously as you do, or . . . did," she stumbled.
He watched as a dark look crossed her face. He could only assume she was remembering more about that day, those days.
"You have an impeccable memory," he replied, drawing himself up. This was all he could afford to indulge in at the present. He had gotten what he wanted, but they were not friends by any stretch. He suspected that she knew what side he ultimately reported to and could therefore never offer more than this friendly manner.
"Well, I wish you the best of luck in your inventions," he inclined his head forward and moved further down the aisle. She looked somewhat dismayed that he'd ended the reunion so abruptly, but quickly recovered.
"I'm s—" he had said, turning sharply, but she was already gone.
She'd left before she could see the affect of her words on him, the reaction she'd almost provoked. It was one of the few times in his life that he'd had to stifle a consummate grief. Now he knew that he could've won back her friendship by himself, that he didn't need to be in the place he was with the death eaters. Later, he also knew that he would have to be there if she was going to die. He would have to stop it.
When Snape had shared the prophecy with Voldemort, a small part of him sensed that the Dark Lord would not consult him further with any new information. At the time, Snape didn't even consider the information worth worrying about. Even if Snape knew it was unlikely that the Dark Lord considered prophecies precise predictions of the future, he couldn't risk the consequences after his discovery.
Snape had methodically prodded his fellow death eaters into telling him anything they knew about the Dark Lord's movements. It had been a difficult task, especially since he should not have been asking the questions in the first place. Voldemort worked relentlessly to isolate his death eaters from one another, a smart strategy to keep any from ever forming cohesively against him. Snape had also been surprisingly disconnected from its importance.
Voldemort had suspected the very reaction that Snape was going through now. He knew about Snape's past with Lily and might have assumed Snape would try and warn them. But Voldemort would not expect Snape to betray him. Voldemort considered all of his death eaters to be too supremely cowardly to act against such a menacing lord.
He had spent several days mulling through his thoughts and feelings. He would not make a choice that was impulsive, he would not be a slave to his emotions. That would reduce him to someone as inconsequential as Potter. Potter. At length, Snape decided that two thing were certain; no matter what he felt about Lily or her son, Potter would die. He would die the cruel and cowardly death that he deserved. He also decided that nothing would stop him from trying to help Lily.
It hadn't taken long for Snape to think of who could help him. After all, he was infamous among the death eaters meaning, therefore, that he was Snape's only hope for a truly powerful ally. As Snape went about finding the safest means to contact Albus Dumbledore, he couldn't help picture the tall, expressionless professor moving across the grounds towards him, their eyes locked. Snape hated himself for getting into yet another dilemma only Dumbledore would deliver him from.
In the present, Voldemort resumed walking after his pensive deliberations. Snape felt the first trickles of anxiety form in his consciousness. It had been part of his initiation to reveal himself completely to the Dark Lord. He had broken into Snape's mind and relentlessly ravaged every point of fear, confusion, hatred, and what little remnants there were of love. Snape remembered how he'd lingered on the memories of savage bullying from James and on Snape's infatuation with Lily, things he could use to his advantage. He had rummaged through Snape's dreams and found her presence unmistakable. Snape had kept her a secret from everyone before that point and felt horrendously victimized after the Dark Lord was done.
Voldemort didn't know that at that moment, that at the time he had brutalized Snape the worst, was the last he would ever see of the inside of Snape's consciousness. It was then that Snape had decided to become the most powerful Occlumens that the world had ever known. But even if Snape could block his intrusions now, he couldn't overcome the feeling that Voldemort would always wrongly have a part of him that was privately precious.
Snape now wondered if the Dark Lord had chosen him to be at the scene of the Potters' deaths to fully kill any hope of love or friendship from Lily. Voldemort never acted without a hidden, self-serving motive. The Dark Lord happily inflicted pain on his followers as often as a loving father reassured and hugged his children. It was his way of keeping them in line, of establishing who had the power in such a power-hungry, monstrous group. Anything Voldemort said to him would be lies, that was a given.
After Snape had contacted Dumbledore, they secretly arranged for Snape to become a counter spy for the Order. Snape loathed the thought of having to work with his greatest enemies, but he knew he was doing what had to be done. He was also relieved to find that Dumbledore was keeping their alliance secret from the Order for the time being. A small part of him wished Lily knew. If she died tonight, his chance for forgiveness would too.
Things were looking bad. Voldemort had planned the trip well. Snape was supposed to contact Dumbledore with any new developments in the search for the Potters, but it was too late now. He searched desperately for a way in which he could alert him, caution him but knew the chance that it would go undetected by the Dark Lord was slim. His best hope was to stall Voldemort until he could conceive of a better plan.
"The whole lot of them, then? Mother, father, and son?"
They were at the doorway now. The wood was old but it still maintained most of its original chestnut color. Snape reasoned that the Dark Lord must've gone to a lot of trouble to find the Potters. Dumbledore had informed him that a secret keeper had been put in place, and Snape saw now that even that momentous hindrance couldn't stop the Dark Lord. Snape knew that only a great betrayal could've brought them to this door.
He continued to examine the door for any other wards. Only a bronze knocker hung from the middle of the frame. Snape wondered briefly if the Dark Lord would knock.
The Dark Lord paused and studied Snape again. He brought his hands together, lacing the white, long fingers together in front of him. "Severus, I am a generous master, am I not?"
"The father and the son will die. I leave James to you. My business is with the boy," he said with a sickening smile. "The manner can be to your liking," he said with a bored tone, as if the most monstrous act of Snape's imagination would seem like child's work to Voldemort. "Be quick, however. Set the mark as soon as you are done." He waited patiently for Snape's response.
Snape hesitated, wondering if the Dark Lord waited for what came next. "And the mother?"
"I will offer her the chance to live." A glimmer of good humor buzzed in his voice. He sounded delighted at being so unpredictable. It would certainly be the last thing Lily would expect.
"Why?" Snape asked in a dead tone. Snape carefully reached into his robe to hide the shaking of his hands.
"Another favor to you," Voldemort smiled lightly.
"Thank you," Snape managed to say.
Snape was tempted by the opportunity. What if Lily did accept the chance? No. It was impossible. He knew her character well enough to know that she would never abandon her son and her husband. James. He could finally kill James. Snape thought hungrily about what James' face would look like when he was finally at Snape's mercy.
Snape didn't finish his train of thought before Voldemort put his hand in front of Snape's chest and, without touching him, motioned him away from the door.
"Please. Allow me." Snape watched warily as the Dark Lord drew his wand imperceptibly from his robes. He made to go for the lock at first and then changed course. His white hand clutched the bronze knocker as he rapped lightly, a noise barely audible in the thick night.
Snape struggled to keep control over himself. His breathing was the first to flutter and break from its timely rhythm. He stared fixedly at the door knowing that the moment it creaked open, the moment when the first slit of firelight illuminated their tall figures would be the most crucial. He was at James' doorstep. This was it. His time had finally come. Was his breathing irregular for the anticipation? Were his hands shaking because he was thrilled to finally and definitively beat James? Would the Dark Lord kill Lily before he could save her?The door opened to reveal a ruggedly handsome, tired James. He was rubbing one eye under his glasses until he realized what he was looking at. His hand dropped to his side to retrieve his wand but it was too late . . . way too late for James. Snape bodily rammed into him, knocking him sprawling to the floor. He silently disarmed him, the wand whirling into the fireplace with a sharp, splintering snap. He started yelling warnings, the only of which that made sense were, "It's him, take Harry and ru—" Snape silenced him with a slash of his wand.
Snape nodded to Voldemort who was watching passively. Voldemort smiled but didn't move. Why did he watch? As Snape's uncertainty and anxiety mixed with his exhilaration at James' weakness, it was hard for him to maintain his barriers. Their gradual deterioration went unnoticed to Snape as the whirlwind of emotion progressively mastered him.
James scrambled on the floor into a crouching position, balling his fists madly into the carpet to push himself up.
Petrificus Totalus! Snape cast again silently.
James fell heavily to the ground as Snape walked towards him, circling around to his side.
"Potter, I have to say I thought this might be a little harder. You don't know how many times this scenario has played its course in my mind, but this . . . this is by far the most disappointing possibility," Snape spat, every ounce of loathing pouring into his voice.
Snape crouched down to look him in the eyes. James' eyes were frenzied with fear, surprise, and the faint beginnings of outrage.
"You also don't—"
Snape shuddered slightly, a sudden string of thoughts channeling through his mind. He was going to kill James Potter. Even if he hadn't killed anyone before, he could still kill James. He could kill James for so many reasons. It shouldn't matter that they were adults now, that he had a son, or that Lily was upstairs. Lily. What was she doing? He needed to go to her.
But the images didn't stop there. It was as if someone were leafing through his brain, searching for the desired page. Dumbledore placing his hand lightly on a thick book, Snape absently asking Lucius a question. Snape whirled on the Dark Lord. How could he have been so careless! In the heat of the moment, the Dark Lord had easily gotten an accurate read on him and all of his intentions. He moved to defend himself, but the Dark Lord was too quick.
Snape shielded himself with his arms automatically, but it was James who fell into a heap on the floor, his various limbs shielding his eyes from their now perpetual blank, open gaze. Snape regarded him for a moment stunned. His attention jerked back to Voldemort who was enraptured with fury. Voldemort would not kill him now. He would have to learn the extent of Snape's betrayal for disposing of him.
As a shriek ripped through the air, their gaze snapped towards the stairwell. Snape caught a momentary glance of Lily. She stared at neither of them, only James' slanted body. Though at first twisted in fear and grief, Lily's face eventually sagged as realization fully swept over her. She clutched a child more tightly in her arms.
"Run!" He said running himself at Voldemort. Once again, his wand was too quick.
He was silently blown back into the dining table, splintering it under his weight. He heard a door slam and a curse as his vision swam. As he was staggering up, limping pathetically to the stairwell Voldemort had just sprinted up, an idea occurred to him.
Maybe someone would see the mark and come to their aid. Anything sounded good at this point.
At the base of the stairs, Voldemort blasted a variety of curses, hexes, and spells at the door to combat whatever Lily had done keep it shut. As Snape took the first step up the stairs, the door crashed off of its hinges and into the wall behind.
Snape took the stairs by two until he burst into the room where Lily stood, back in a corner, facing the Dark Lord.
He saw Lily, her son in her arms, and he stooped, fixed in place, as they made eye contact. He watched her face contort and change, reflecting the emotions that tore inside her. Her hair was disheveled, nothing like it should be. The glance was short before the Dark Lord snarled at her again.
She shook her head, her mouth open but unable to produce words. Behind him, Snape had lurched forward, his hands up as if to stop something. He'd opened his mouth to . . . he had wanted to tell her to accept the offer, to live, to not die as uselessly as all the other wizards that Voldemort had come for.
Voldemort turned to look at Snape hatefully before shouting, "Avada Kedavra!"
Snape jumped forward, his hands reaching out to her. He froze when she crumpled to the ground, lying very still.
The baby in her arm began to scream now as Voldemort crossed the distance between them. Snape suddenly snapped back into action and threw himself at Voldemort. The Dark Lord hissed the killing curse for yet a third time just as he made impact. There was a bright, blinding flash and Snape was thrown backwards again into the wall.
Everything went black.
Snape woke again to a deathly quiet room. Things were too blurred for him to make proper sense of them. Something wet dripped thickly down his face and onto his cloak, but he was too confused to understand what it was. He moved through the broken plaster that surrounded him and tried to get to his feet, but couldn't. As his vision cleared, the once cloudy form that lay on the floor opposite him came into sharp focus. He pushed himself upward this time and staggered to it.
Next to Lily the baby had fell helplessly out of her arms cried quietly, an irritated, red shape burned into its forehead. The baby was not his chief concern however. He went to his knees in front of her and moved a strand of red hair from her open eyes behind her ear, the action he had been interrupted from doing nearly 7 years ago. The touch of it sent violent tremors to him before he put his hand over his mouth and sobbed convulsively.
An earlier memory flashed back in his mind then, a memory from school, a memory from a time when it wasn't too late for him. Her red hair bounced around her shoulders as she walked through a sunlit corridor, her face turning just enough for Snape catch the radiant outline of her silhouette. There was no one around her, a rare occurrence, and even though Snape hadn't been able to identify the source of her happiness, she continued to smile on. He couldn't place the time of the memory, except that she had been older then, perhaps her 7th year.
She looked different now though. The smile was gone from her face, the inexplicable radiance of her skin pale now, soon to be subdued by the permanence of death.
Other memories of her flooded his mind as he continued to stare at her through the haze of tears. He remembered the way she would push her hair behind her ear with the end of her quill without looking up from the work that she was always so absorbed in. He remembered how she spent nearly every Saturday morning immersed in a variety of enrapturing, dusty tomes in the library, uncaring that her friends kept begging her to come sit out on the lawn. He remembered how she stopped to help a first year navigate his way correctly to the astronomy tower, her face glowing with good intentions and helpfulness.
Snape withdrew himself sharply from the memory at this point, watching the last glimmers of its resolution play along the silver surface. He'd fled the room and contacted Dumbledore but had been too . . . he hadn't been able to tell him what happened until later. That day the fame of Harry Potter flew through every wizard's house and was shouted at every street corner. Though people cheered elated in the streets, the Dark Lord's death had meant little to him then.
Snape stood staring down into the black murkiness for what could've been several minutes on end. He wasn't sure why he'd chosen that memory. It was one he often kept in the pensieve so that it would not creep into his mind during his daily routines. The pensieve was a much more effective tool of repression than his mind could ever attempt to be. If there was any reason he could guess, he assumed that it was simply the desire to see her face again. After he dealt with Harry Potter for an extensive amount of time, he always felt the need to see her, even if that could only be achieved with such a horrible memory.
He dreamed of her constantly after all that had transpired, as weak and as foolishly as he had done as a boy. The dreams were different now. He no longer sought her friendship, no longer craved acknowledgement in his dreams. Instead he would be in any number of locations; the library, the grounds, Diagon Alley, the Dining Hall, any location where wizards and students milled about. He would see her walking amiably through the aisles, unhurriedly leafing through the pages of a book, and he would ignore her. He would ignore her even though all he wanted to do was talk to her, to apologize for not doing more. He never did though. He watched, studied, and scrutinized her, but he would never actually talk to her. Then, she would leave.
Sometimes there was a variation. He would see her and immediately follow her through the crowds of people that would rush on like crushing waves, constantly hindering him from ever getting to her. He would eventually lose her down a darkened alleyway and though he would doggedly continue to look for her, but he would never find her. Sometimes he knew she was dead in his dreams, but he looked anyway. The sense of loss when he woke was devastating.
He tapped his wand lightly on the surface. The ripples gradually formed into an image, but he did not sink himself into the basin this time. Lily walked down a sunlit corridor, smiling at no one, smiling at the air around her.
Final Note: I know some of you close readers may wonder why Voldemort would ever trust Snape again via OOtP or HBP if he knew about Dumbledore, Lily, etc. One, in this fic I wrote that he only got the briefest glimpse of his memories to assume transpired. Two, he did say in GOF, "One who I believe has left me forever." What would have given him cause to say that if he hadn't suspected betrayal on Snape's behalf? Why would Voldemort not consider Snape as cowardly as Karkaroff? I think Snape is an exceptional liar and could've come up with a line to feed the Dark Lord upon his return. Either way, only time will tell!
Songs that go best with this fic are definitely the following: Adam Stewart – Love Me, Auf Achse – Franz Ferdinand, Shhh – Frou Frou, Before Today and Missing both by Everything But The Girl