Boats Against the Current

Setting: Maurauder Era, fifth year

My first stab at a non-humor fic...we'll see where this goes.

This is my version of the Snape/Lily relationship. It will be wildly AU, and ignore, for the most part, Lily's feelings towards the Marauders as depicted in Snape's Worst Memory. She will attempt to intercede, as the episode will be documented, though it will be with considerably less venom. My story centers around Lily's attempts to reconcile her emotions for James and Snape, so she will be shown having a comfortable relationship with the former, despite the fact that her canon counterpart loathed him in her fifth year.

The title of this story comes from The Great Gatsby. I find it particularly applicable to the Snape/Lily relationship in my story, as I hope will prove abundantly clear in due time.

Enjoy.

Chapter 1: The Ambiguous Draft

"…this potion necessitates a pair of people, such is the complexity," announced Professor Slughorn, as detailed instructions appeared on the blackboard with a flick of his wand. There was instantaneous commotion as people locked eyes with and moved towards preferred partners; there was a great shuffling as bags were seized up, cauldrons lifted and displaced to different locations. All were in motion save a small collection of belongings which remained placidly where they had been at the beginning of class, for their owner had no intention of relocating herself.

Lily Evans waited patiently for the din to subside, utilizing this moment of confusion to examine the potion of the day. The Draft of Ambiguity, she read with interest, although already quite familiar with the ingredients and process. But that was only in theory. Standard Potions Five. Lily was well acquainted with all the potions in this book, an achievement which owed itself to hours of being holed up in the dormitories, making silent references and corrections, noting some predictions and boldly testing others. However, she had never actually made this particular draft before, and was looking forward to it considerably.

"The draft of Ambiguity," she read, "is ideal foil in a hostile environment. It can be implemented to turn the tables in favor of the brewer by creating a confusing, shimmering atmospheric haze which befuddles and conceals true intentions." Interesting, she considered. She'd been looking forward to this but knew the difficulty of attempting it herself.

Lily leaned back in her seat and waited for the customary wooing of a certain James Potter. She never needed to seek out a partner. James and Lily, it appeared, were becoming associates with greater frequency in most classes. This was something Lily did not wholly condone; the Potter boy's arrogance could sustain a small Giant army for years. However, she could not deny that the boy most certainly had admirable brains which worked wonders once they directed their utility to something constructive. The pattern of events was generally the same: after a series of futile attempts to impress her, James would eventually diminish his efforts and astonishing progress would inevitably be made at the task at hand. They were complementary partners; James' reckless penchant for creative experiment was well matched with Lily's thoughtful deliberation.

With a slight start, Lily realized that Professor Slughorn was standing before her, his rotund belly resting slightly against the protruding lip of her desk.

"Miss Evans? Have you not yet found a partner?"
Lily looked about and realized at once that James nowhere to be seen; Slughorn read her mind.

"Mr. Potter has been detained by the administration," he said with a knowing twinkle in his eye.

"Why, sir?"

"Something slightly dubious, if I am not misinformed, involving a blast ended skrewt and a muggle toilet plunger."
Lily's lips, against her accord, quirked into a smile.

"But nevertheless, Miss Evans, you need a partner."

Lily peered around the smoky haze which developed as people began stewing potions from the directions on the board.

"I—"

"Why, look. See here, Miss Evans, it appears that Mr. Snape is alone…"

It was indeed so. Lily could discern, from the glimmering mists, that a lone figure sat hunched in the corner, poring over his potions book in a manner similar to what she had been recently doing. Severus Snape. Of course, she was well familiar with his presence, glowering in the back of class like a transient albeit moody shadow. He was in all of her classes whenever Gryffindors and Slytherins had lessons together, but he distinguished himself unobtrusively from the rest. The rest of the lot possessed a very blatant and vocal malevolence; Snape managed to exude a certain extent of sullen disregard, but he was not malevolent. He did not partake in slandering all three other houses, as was the religiously frequent custom of his mates; rather, he chose to sit quietly in the back, scribbling god knew what into his piles of above-grade books. Lily was aware that he was a brilliant student, although he was not inclined to advertising this fact.

He was absorbed in the same page in his book that she was studying earlier; his hooked nose was so close to the words that it threatened to disappear into the leaves. Lily put her books down; Snape looked up with a start.

Lily smiled at him, kindly.

"I'm afraid I don't have a partner. Do you mind?"

Snape put the book on the table before him and did not reply. Lily was not duly perturbed; she knew his type. Just a bit of time was necessary to melt the ice. With a friendly smile, she began rifling out the ingredients for the potion, making light but admittedly rhetorical chatter so as to put him to ease without demanding reciprocation.

"What a fascinating potion," she exclaimed, peering once more into the directions before lighting a fire beneath their cauldron. "I can scarcely wait to try it."

Snape was silently making himself useful, flattening the nutty eiderweed with his stone pestle. He made no reply.

Lily was beginning to feel a bit foolish; her approach was not nearly as effective as she had hoped. Nevertheless carried on with her own bit, as she added an alabaster splash of Moon Essence that entered the cauldron with a heated sizzle. She peered into the furling columns of smoke to read the next line of instruction: "small intestine of ivory hart, cubed into precise, one-inch pieces." Gingerly, as she pulled out the long, pasty looking bundle of internal coils and attempted to slice them, Lily discovered that they were peculiarly bendy and subsequently impossible to cut into the good pieces. With a frustrated huff, she dropped her knife with a clatter along with the intestine, which collapsed into a heap on the table before her.

She was suddenly startled to discover him gently reaching for the intestine with his fingers—what peculiar fingers! Pale and slim, like a girl's—delicately extracting them. He felt his way around the intestine with a remarkable sense of familiarity, a highly surgical but simultaneously instinctive gesture. He took his own knife—nearly unbloodied, she noted, although he'd been peeling a particularly robust pig heart, and made small, extraordinarily precise markings along the length of the intestine; she could have sworn, if measured, they'd be exact inches. Then, silently as he'd come, he handed it back to her.

Lily mouthed a small, awkward thank-you and tried to commence, although his help could not see her through the process. Again, she tried and failed to cut it up. Then, remarkably, perhaps out of an irrepressible exasperation, he spoke.

"It's the knife. You're holding it wrong," he said barely above a whisper, although he said it in a manner which made Lily believe he'd been dying to say it all period. Nevertheless, it delighted her that he would speak. I must be positively dreadful; she thought ruefully, I've willed this recluse out of his hiding with my inadequacy.

"How should I hold it?"

He demonstrated, curving his fingers around the base. "You achieve the most complete control that way," he explained. "Otherwise an element as resilient as hart intestine is generally inclined to spring back and behave on its own accord."

She tried wrapping her fingers as he had shown her, but ultimately failed to make the incision. She blushed, something she would, on mental reflection, later attribute to the fumes of the dungeon.

"I just—please…won't you show me again?"

He seemed to ponder a moment, but eventually inclined his head with a small jerk. Reaching out, he took her hand within his remarkable white one—which was slightly warm, noted Lily, and also slightly slippery with pigs' blood—and quickly wrapped it around the knife in the way he'd shown her before. Together, they made a swift incision and neatly chopped the intestine in half; the instant she'd gotten the right, he let go of her fingers and retreated back into his work with a slightly hooded expression on his pale features.

Lily imitated the movements she had just made and chopped a fine one-inch cube of intestine; she held this up triumphantly, with huge smile, right before him.

He did not reply, but she swore she saw a shadow of a grin.

In the heat, the Ambiguous Draft silently simmered.

Okay? Terrible? Should I stick to "humor"? Let me know!