Prelude
by Your Undoing
Chapter 3
Ugh, this took me forever to write... I'm such a freaky perfectionist it isn't even funny. That said, please read & review- I'm sure you can come up with some constructive criticism anyway.

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"I'm so sorry Severus. About James."

Even in the near-dark of the requirement room, he could feel those jade eyes- piercing straight through his pale silhouette, reaching down into his heart. Waiting for him to react. Standing on the edge of a precipice… preparing to fall.

"Oy, Snivellus!"

"Damnit Moony, I was just having a bit of fun…"

"He's mental, spends all his time with books"

"Like a girl could even look at him without running away…"

Stop it. Stop.

The taste of bile filled his mouth as he stared back at Lily through the dark. He didn't want to blame her. He couldn't stand the expression that he knew was written on her face. He couldn't stand to see her hurt. He couldn't stand to make her hurt.

But it seemed that was all he could do. Time and time again, he found himself greeted by that look- the fallen face, the disappearing smile, a shadow of a tear in those beautifuleyesWhat had once been a game had become their conflict.

She stood there, staring at him in the dark. As her hand tentatively brushed Severus's cheek, he felt himself turning away.

"I'm sorry Lily," he whispered hoarsely. "I know you're torn."

He bowed his head, rubbing his brow. A small warm hand gripped his own. Instinctively, he allowed his hand to fall limply to his side… she didn't let go.

"Severus. Don't say that. You know I love you, and only you."

Her voice was calm, but he could feel the emotion just behind her lips. Whether it was sadness, guilt, or anger… he didn't know anymore.

"Only me," he repeated hollowly.

Lily wrapped her arms lightly around his torso. Tinted gray in the mock twilight, her eyes sparkled with what could've as easily been tears as passion.

"Only you."

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Professor Snape glared disapprovingly at the class sitting in front of him. The usual load of dunderheads, he was sure. Most were shifting anxiously in their seats, while those who weren't had begun making faces at one another across the classroom. Why Dumbledore insisted on grouping Gryffindors and Slytherins together in his class…

Of course, first year Gryffindors meant Harry Potter.

Snape glowered at the parchment in front of him, scanning down the list of names. Yes… there he was. Quickly swallowing the feeling of dread in his stomach, he scowled around at the class.

"Lavender Brown," he said with a raised eyebrow.

"H-here," squeaked a small girl with a button nose.

Marking a small check next to her name, he continued down the list.

"Vincent Crabbe…"

The beefy looking boy he'd noticed at the sorting made a low grunting noise.

Dunderheads indeed. Continuing down the list, he was embarrassed to realize how reluctant he was to call Harry's name.

Considering the circumstances.

"Ah, yes.." he found himself saying softly. Realizing he had paused, he jerked his eyes up to glare, sneering, at the class.

"Harry Potter. Our new— celebrity."

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The sun glanced off the black lake and sparkled serenely in the winter mist as Severus strode across the grounds. His heart pounded in his throat as his feet, normally surprisingly graceful, trudged heavily across the muddy grass. His lower lip glowed pink against his stark-white face- unusually pale, even for him. It looked as though whoever had stolen most of the pigment from his skin in the first place had come back to finish the job.

"Hey Snape, you know what I heard?"
"What," he snapped irritably
"I know you'll find this good"
"…"
"I heard- now you're not going to tell anyone, alright? But Black, he said that Potter- you know Potter- finally got around to snogging that Evans girl over the weekend."

He didn't care that it was hearsay. He didn't care that every bone in his body ached for it to be a lie; he didn't care that stupid Pettigrew would make up any story if it got him a moment's attention, even from a taciturn Slytherin.

He didn't care that everyone was there. He didn't care that Lily looked so god damn happy for once. He didn't care that he was biting his lip so hard that a small trickle of blood was running down his chin. He didn't care that James smiled even wider as he noticed him approach. He didn't care if everyone in the world saw what would happen next.

"Snivellus? What are you- get off her!"

Severus grabbed her roughly by the shoulder. Her auburn hair swirled through the air as her head whipped around with surprise.

"Severus?" she whispered. Her forehead creased as her eyes widened with confusion.

"I said get off her."

Severus didn't bother to glance up at James. He knew that multiple wands were being pointed at him now- but he didn't care. He didn't bloody care.

"What- what's going on?" she asked in a small voice.

"What's going on?!" he echoed. His voice sounded unfamiliar to him, high pitched and bordering on panicked. "What's going on?! Why don't you tell me, Lily? Tell me what the hell is going on!"

He turned to glare at the rest of the group, daring them to challenge him. James had lowered his wand, his look of usual disgust laced with confusion.

"Why don't you tell them, Lily? Why don't you tell them what's going on, eh? Why don't you tell the BLOODY TRUTH?!"

He was yelling now. Passersby were picking up their pace, clearing the way for a possible duel. Those who didn't leave were watching with interest. Like it was a bloody soap opera.

Lily was frozen. The tears that had so often threatened to stream from her eyes had finally broken past any mental barriers she may have previously possessed. Tears clung to her eyelashes, framing those malachite eyes. Slowly, she shook her head.

"Lily? What's going on?"

James's voice was so unfamiliar sounding that for a moment Severus didn't realize it was him. The hatred that always spewed from his mouth was gone, replaced by such a tender concern that it made Severus's blood boil.

For a moment Lily closed her eyes, sending tears seeping out from beneath her eyelids. "Severus… Severus, I…"

"Lily," he croaked. "do you love me?"

He didn't notice the stunned silence; he didn't notice the fact that, for once, James was keeping his mouth shut. All he could see was her eyes, and the fact that there was no more hope behind that cloud of tears.

"Lily. Look at me."

Drawing a shuddery breath, she stared silently at the ground. With a choked sob, she slowly shook her head.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.