Chapter 10: The Green Sweater
Lily had never felt so relieved to be in the Hospital Wing as she did on the final day of term; she heard hoards of people stampede about, shouting and screaming in excitement – one more day of lessons and then the next they would be with their families…it was a heart-warming thought. It was also a relief to lie in this warm bed, motionless, listening to all the activity so far away.
The only prickle of annoyance was that Severus hadn't visited her that morning…
It was not as though she had wanted him to come – he was probably very busy with lessons, the last day was always a homework fest – but she had just…expected him to turn up.
"Lily," She turned her delighted eyes to her visitor…it was James.
"James," she swallowed, "What a surprise…" It really was a surprise. She had told Madam Pomfrey not to allow any visitors except Severus.
"Yeah – old Pomfrey's getting a bit strict lately – Lupin is distracting her."
"How is he distracting…? Oh, never mind – why are you here?" He seemed scandalised by her question.
"To see how you are of course!"
"Of course," she repeated weakly.
"And – to see if you were well enough to come with me." Excitement oozed out of his every feature.
"Come with you…where?" She stared at him dumbly. This obviously burst his bubble.
"To my house…" she stared back at him blankly, "…for Christmas…remember?"
"And don't worry! I have it all sorted out – Pomfrey wont mind – I'll just speak to Dumbledore, convince him you'll get rest and relaxation," he winked, "at mine this holiday! Great, right?"
"Right…James," His expression of joy faltered at her tone. "Listen. I need to rest and, frankly, don't you think it's a bit inconsiderate to ask me to go to your house when I'm not even up to going home for Christmas?"
"She does have a point, mate," Sirius strode into the ward, looking supremely bored, "Come on, one more lesson and we're free! We're going to be late." James looked at him and then back at Lily, his expression morose.
"I didn't think…I just thought…"
"Its ok, really," Lily said hastily, "Just – you have a good holiday and...say hi to your parents from me." She could see him lean forwards – yet determinedly stared at the ceiling.
"These are for you," James placed a card and a single red rose on the mattress beside her. He glanced at her coolly and left without a backwards glance.
Sirius approached her with his usual cool grin.
"You've just hurt a man's pride you wicked wench."
"Yeah well…" She sighed, "How are you and Lupin doing by the way?" Sirius' face went pale. "Its ok, I haven't told anyone.
"I know…" he relaxed a little, "But its still hard to think that it's 'you and Lupin'…it's a strange thought…strange to think someone knows about it."
"Actually," he smiled a little, "Its ok."
"Sirius – forbidden emotion – it only exists to be broken. You know that right?" Sirius' face suddenly became alert.
"Within limits," He said quietly, watching her, "How is Snape by the way?" She tried to fight down her blush.
"I'm not sure – haven't seen him for ages." She stared back at him defiantly. He nodded slowly.
"Yes. Okay. Although, you should know, weird rumours are going around – about you and him. I've tried to play them down – tried to stick a few werewolves and yetis to make it less plausible – but I can't keep doing that forever." They stared at each other – something passed between them, "What I'm trying to say is…be careful, yeah?"
"You too," She said, still defiant – the stared at each other in silent understanding – and then he walked towards the door to leave.
"Oh yeah," he turned, "Forgot to ask you: how are you?"
"I'm…good. Really good."
"That's good to hear." And, although he was already walking away, she somehow knew he was smiling.
Severus felt guilty for not seeing her all day – but he had to be cautious. Nobody knew what really happened with Johansen; only that he'd been removed, Lily was in the hospital wing and Severus Snape was somehow involved…as Lily was in the hospital wing and Johansen unavailable for comment, it was Severus who had to bear the brunt of it. Rumours followed wherever he walked. He couldn't seem to avoid curious – often hostile – eyes; they packed together, and spoke just loud enough for him to hear…
It had been for this reason he'd been excused from attending the end of term feast; he knew even after an explanation from the headmaster the gossipmongers would have the final word.
So he lay in bed and ignored the Slytherins, who ignored him - tainted object…
He lay in bed and dreamt of the whole week where it would just be Lily and him in a practically empty castle…he let a smile grace his lips. Had he ever felt this…happy? The whole castle hated him, including his own Housemates who classed him as a traitor, and yet had he ever felt so completely, calmly happy?
It was dangerous to be this uncaring. He knew that. But he…cared for Lily. He cared for someone other than himself, for once…and, although it scared him shitless, it felt good – better than good…
It was most unlike him to…let go, like this, true…but at every thought of her warm hands, as they reached for his in that dark, silent hospital ward – and her soft, brave admittance that she wanted to be with him that Christmas…it sent shivers through him and he just wanted to think of her – to be with her – even if, perhaps, a small part of him still thought she could turn around at any second and say it was all a Gryffindor ploy – a joke, with Potter somehow involved.
He opened his eyes remembering bitterly how she had accepted Potter's kiss. So, even she felt safe with him, it was probably only because he had saved her from Johansen. He found it funny in a sad way…that he could finally say to himself he…cared for her, only to find her think of him as a friend. He felt it was ironic, somehow.
And when the term started again it would not be her that would be taunted, maligned, ridiculed – it would be him. He would bear it, of course – his secret victory being his noble act of protection…but how much sweeter would that secret victory be if she…cared for him, the way he cared for her. He could stare into the eyes of the prejudiced ignorant and think – as he was cursed, hexed and abused – that Lily would be on his side, soft and thoughtful and kind…
And that could never be. Her presence, her very being, belonged to another…and they had kissed – a meeting of the souls (he'd read that once) was what a true kiss was – two willing souls interacting in its purest form…and that honour would be bestowed on another. Lily – her flashing green eyes, her soft smile and sharp expression…all to another.
So, perhaps, you can forgive Severus Snape as he finally nodded off to sleep…forgive him, as he could never forgive himself, for that solitary tear of self-pity, the first in many, many years.
It was so cold out Lily felt her nose pinken almost as soon as they stepped outside. She had wrapped up warm, but nothing had quite prepared how cold it was - and how perfect the snow was…
"It's so beautiful!" She cried out, running and then jumping and then running, feeling so young and so alive…
(Severus smiled – she looked so innocent.)
Realising Severus wasn't the running type she ran back to him – and didn't stop. She grinned at his exasperated face as she sat on top of him – she had jumped him and he – surprised – had fallen in spectacular style into a healthy mound of snow.
"You alright down there?"
"Yes…I just never realised you were so heavy." He mock-coughed. She pouted. He smiled a little and she smiled back…it was an odd moment. Lily was sure he was thinking what she was thinking; they could never do this if anyone else was around.
"The feast tomorrow will be good, right? I've never been to the one for Christmas at the castle…"
"It's always very comforting – like how a home should feel, only with tipsy teachers and rather sad looking students milling about the place…" She looked at him closely when he said this and he looked back. She blushed and rolled off him.
It had been several days since everyone had left for the holidays. Madam Pomfrey had been most insistent that Lily rest – and she had probably been right. Lily had felt most tired (in an explicable, completely unphysical way) after her attack. Severus visited daily – he never brought her flowers…he brought her books, books that fascinated her endlessly about branches of magic she had only ever dreamed about…he smuggled in Honeyduke's chocolate and even managed to procure some muggle sweets (in an attempt, she supposed, to make her feel more at home)…and he had done all this in the half-embarrassed, half-insolent manner of a somewhat petulant child.
However, after a few days where she would walk about with him in the castle, and sit in the library, chattering freely – teasing him mercilessly – he became slightly less petulant, less resistant. He spoke thoughtfully, seriously and sometimes lightened her with the softest smiles…it was at moments like this she would stay silent and watch him. Watch the shadows of his face brighten, his eyes lose some of their pain. When no one was around he was so…gentle. It was almost heartbreaking…and yet a secret part of her was thrilled it was her – and only her – that could see the true Severus Snape.
Although she could not over-romanticise the matter; he could sometimes be very sharp. Rude, in fact. Downright rude. Sometimes he made her feel so inadequate, and often so completely angry she could kill – and yet, she couldn't imagine him any differently…Severus without the sarcasm would be something like soup without salt. Or a sugarless dessert.
Today, however, with the perfect glistening snow beneath them, and the weak winter sun above them, he seemed peaceful enough. And so they lay in the snow, speaking lightly of what usually occurred at Christmas time for them…Severus smiled at her as she retold the stupid things her family would get up to…Uncle Rod getting too drunk and falling asleep in the punch bowl, Auntie Cass bursting into tears because of the overdone turkey, Lily's mother comforting her, Lily's dad trying (in vain) to entertain the various spoilt cousins she had with a party hat and some very old poppers, her grandparents watching the chaos, her grandmother tutting, her grandfather smiling, perhaps feeling it was all worth it to sit beside the (un-magical) Christmas tree and watch how his family had grown…
"And there's no magic?" Severus asked softly, watching Lily carefully, "None?"
"Not a bit," She said a little too cheerily.
"Doesn't that get…frustrating?" She was about to reply fiercely in the negative, but saw his calm, curious face watching her with eyes that hinted at concern.
"Well…sometimes I…this is going to sound silly, but sometimes I feel like magic – Hogwarts – is not really…they block it out. It's not real – not for them, anyway. I think they do it for Petunia – blocking it out like that…but sometimes…sometimes I wish I could be myself. I feel like a huge part of me is missing when I'm with them. I don't feel like me." As soon as she said it she knew it was true, and yet felt she had somehow betrayed them, "They never say mean things or…"
"It's ok. I understand…" And Severus didn't push anymore. It meant so much to her, his silence, his acceptance…
"What about you?" She asked suddenly, "What's Christmas like in a traditional wizarding family?" She immediately knew she'd passed some treacherous ground – his face darkened, his eyes seemed rich with untold pain. After what felt like an eternity of silence:
"I wouldn't go as far to call what I have a 'family'." Despite seeing him so sad she felt a burning curiosity…and yet she couldn't delve further without hurting him – so she said nothing. "It's safe to say," He said suddenly, "that I don't feel like I'm myself with them either."
"Fair enough – we'll both be outcastes waging a war against the norms." She smiled at him, watching him relax.
"Ugh, don't give me all that teenage anarchic shit."
"Hey! Excuse me, but you're the one who wouldn't be seen dead in any other colour but black like you're some quasi-existentialist!"
"Well, I'm not the one pretending to know what existentialism means!"
"It's a fun word!"
And they looked at each other and grinned.
"Although I do have a rather fetching green sweater somewhere…"
"You're kidding me?"
"I kid you not."
"Prove it – wear it at the feast."
"Suspicious creature, aren't we?" The tone of the conversation had changed, subtly, once more – he was observing her with searching, thoughtful eyes. "It's a good trait to have. Especially with guys you don't know too well." This did not bode well.
"You mean – like – Johansen?" This was a feeble attempt to bypass what he was really talking about - she knew he didn't mean Johansen at all.
"That's not what I meant – after all you were forced into that situation," a certain coolness lay behind his words, "Can I ask you something?" He didn't wait for a reply, "Are you – suspicious – of your fellow Gryffindors?" She felt her face, which had been full of merriment a moment ago, flush. "Of Potter…?"
"I…I better get back. I need to get ready for tomorrow and, um…yeah," She waved awkwardly and walked away, leaving him by the lake, alone, silent. He did not attempt to follow her, and she never asked him why he let her walk away.
It was just as he had described; it was like home.
Only stranger. Everyone she had always associated with work and tedium and authority were cheery and rosy-cheeked. Even Professor McGonagall seemed to have drunk a little too much. Dumbledore had been called away on Ministry business (and Lily was somewhat relieved; he would only serve as another reminder of her attack). Only seven students had remained that year, all intent in keeping their heads low – two Ravenclaw, three Slytherin and her and Severus. They all sat mutedly at the single table that had been placed in the middle of the hall.
On a more material level it was also more spectacular; the huge Christmas tree was alive with real fairies (and some "masquerading doxies" she'd heard Filch complain angrily) and baubles that shone with unnatural light and changed colour in unison (the tree when from blue to gold to red to florid pink…). Berries, oranges and other festive fruits were strewn artistically about the place; tinsel, glitter and incredibly low lighting completed the Great Hall's festive feel.
A wood nymph began serenading them (with a violin accompaniment by a surprisingly apt Professor Flitwick) as the food began appearing before them – the table heaved with traditional roast turkeys, potatoes, gravies, cranberry sauces…Lily's mouth watered and yet she was distracted…
Where was Severus?
The teachers and other students began eating (Prfessor McGonagall's speech had comprised of two words, "Merry Christmas" which got a loud round of applause – she had never been fond of long speeches and the present company were very hungry) and with food came a sort of companionship – the thin Ravenclaw girl next to Lily asked her shyly to pass the ketchup, and then proceeded to complain about her Hufflepuff boyfriend who simply couldn't understand why reading and expanding the mind was important.
"…and I just don't know what to do!" Said the Ravenclaw girl tearfully, "Perhaps everyone is right about inter-house relationships being impossible…"
Lily felt someone sit beside her, their body softly brushing hers.
"Perhaps you should take more interest in him rather than your own conceited pursuits," It was Severus. The girl looked suitably scandalised and ignored both Lily and Severus for the rest of the meal.
"Sev…" She could say no more. He looked totally and utterly…beautiful. Or, handsome…he had kept his promise and wore the bottle-green sweater, beneath it a white shirt and what looked suspiciously like…jeans. He was holding a leather jacket.
"Don't say anything," He said, boredly flicking a pea towards a nearby flying object (most likely a fairy). "Please. I'm in no mood for all…this." He waved his hand about and then glanced over to her; he had to look again. "Lily…"
"Yes, Severus?" She said knowingly.
"You're wearing a…dress." It was a sleeveless, knee-length, white affair. She had her hair up, and a thin, gauzy gold shawl wrapped around her bare shoulders.
"Well-spotted – and you're not wearing black. Guess who wins." He scowled at her.
"Hurry up, will you? I want to get out of here quickly," She saw him glance at the Slytherins at the other end of the table who were looking at them both menacingly. He did not touch his food and as soon as she had finished he quietly told her to follow him after exactly five minutes.
She was slightly alarmed by his behaviour, but waited for five minutes obediently (she wished Severus had waited a little longer – the wood nymph tried to snog Flitwick who shrieked in a ladylike way to be "released at once!") and crept out of the hall as inconspicuously as possible.
He was in the Entrance Hall, still looking edgy (and breathtakingly handsome).
"Let's go for a walk," It was a demand.
It was freezing outside – the kind of cold that penetrated into your very being. Lily tried hard not to shiver, but almost immediately felt her lips turn blue…Severus handed her his coat without looking at her with the words, "it has a heating spell."
It certainly did – as soon as she donned the leather jacket she felt warmth radiate from it…and it smelt familiar, as old, leather jackets should do. She shot him a look of gratitude and happily skipped in the moonlight, talking about Clair de Lune, about the wizards in Albania, about flowers on the moon…
She could see he was distracted, and soon she stopped talking and fell in step with him; they walked in silence until they reached the lake. They stood side-by-side, gazing across the grounds; bathed in the silvery moonlight everything looked serene, yet deeply, irrecoverably magical. Silent, they watched the glass-like surface of the Lake, the shadows of the forest...
"It was here I saw you...kissing..." he closed his eyes as if trying to block out the memory, frowning slightly, a faint blush tinting his face visible even in the moonlight. "Kissing...him."
She had no response to this. She tried hard not to look up at the spot ahead where she had, indeed, kissed James. She turned away - did the remorse show in her face? She could hardly apologise...it wasn't a crime...and yet...she knew it was wrong. She didn't belong to James, the way I belong to you, Severus, she thought to herself, promising to tell him some day, when things were less fresh in their minds.
Would this explain why he was acting so strangely tonight? Was that stupid, conniving act the reason he could barely look at her now? How trivial it had seemed at the time; her lips had collided with James' and she had watched Severus walk away…perhaps he felt disgusted. Perhaps he knew she had only allowed the kiss because she wanted to pique his jealously.
He still had not given her a single glance. Yet how could she refute what he had seen before his very eyes? How could she lie?
She could bare it no longer.
Without looking she sought his hand - he seemed almost expectant of this. He didn't react at all when she took it; long, tapered fingers - cool, still. She held it almost defiantly, waiting for him to throw it away from him, or give her a disgusted look.
She chanced a look at him from the corner of her eye...he looked quite as if nothing was happening to any part of his body; this annoyed her - she was risking her pride, in a way she never had done before - she was risking more than that...her heart. He continued gazing coolly out across the grounds.
"You look hilarious when you're angry, you know," He said abruptly, almost coldly, with the strangest smile she had ever seen him have. His fingers quite suddenly intertwined with hers - she felt her heart beat harder... she had the briefest thought that this was the most thrilling moment she'd had in her life; and only a few days ago the boy considered the most handsome in Hogwarts (well, after Sirius) had kissed her...she wanted so much to say this but couldn't bare the reaction Severus would give her; probably a bit too satisfied, even for him.
"You look hilarious all the time, so I guess we're even," She responded as nonchalantly as she could, pressing his hand softly - she felt him return the pressure. Slowly she edged towards him, until she felt him completely against her side.
Suddenly he dragged her towards him - his other hand around her shoulder, in an awkward hug. She let go of his other hand in surprise and this was immediately wrapped around her waist. He pressed her so tightly against his body breathing was an effort - but then she realised she'd just stopped breathing. She wrapped her arms around him and tried to convey how completely she felt for him - how could the word 'love' describe the diatribe and profundity of these emotions?
She wanted him.
She had longed for him for so long...
She needed him.
And she…she loved him.
Loved, loved...loved him so completely she felt her throat catch - tears well up in her eyes.
"I don't want to lose you," She said - her voice muffled in his shoulder. He drew away slightly, enough to look deeply into her eyes, his curtain of black hair enclosing them both.
"You need to know that I'm not...James," He said this low, urgent. "I'm not all laughs and...and Quidditch and..." he looked away and began drawing away.
"I love you." She blurted out. She felt herself colour and looked at his face, even though she feared what she would find - perhaps derision...perhaps a platonic expression of warmth...perhaps rejection? She felt such fear course though her she shivered.
But no... He looked stunned. Almost as stunned as she felt at having admitted what she had, she now realised, always knew was true. She waited for the consequences...most of the boys she knew would have ran in the opposite direction - love meant commitment. Love meant stretches of time in comfortable silence. Love meant sharing responsibilities and…and...
"Me...?" Something clouded his expression - it looked a little like disbelief, a lot like confusion. "But I'm not...I'm nothing like..."
But she didn't find out what he wasn't, and never did (though she later suspected that he was 'nothing like James' – which was something she was very happy about) because she had had enough. She grabbed his shoulders and pulled him towards her - she kissed him fervently, holding him, hoping everything she felt would somehow be transferred like this...
She moved away; he looked stunned.
"Geeze, I just kissed you, it's not like I just cast a Stupefy spell or something, is it?" She snapped, letting go. He blinked.
"You just…you just…" He breathed in and stared at her. Then he began looking upwards as if he'd lost something to the sky.
"What are you looking for?"
"Mistletoe – that's the only rational explanation I can think of."
"Oh, come off it! Isn't it obvious that I…that I love you?" He looked as if she was saying the most ridiculous thing in the world. "Isn't that an explanation as well?" He blinked.
"Probably because my mum didn't pray for me a lot," He laughed abruptly, yet still looked incredulous.
"I don't believe you."
"Why on earth not?"
"Because…you're you, and I'm me…we weren't meant to be…this isn't our storyline…" he said this whilst staring into her eyes; she took his face into her hands.
"We can write whatever we like in our lives, Sev," She felt tears come to her eyes, "No matter what has happened to us in the past – no matter who we are standing here now – as long as we believe in a future and care for each other and…" Lily let go of him, "But of course if this is the nice way of letting a girl down, isn't it? Its ok, I understand…"
He remained silent.
And then he began laughing – laughing so hard it scared her. He laughed in a way that it felt as though he would never stop; he jumped up and ran away from her – ran back to her – he took her by the hands and they span and span…and then he brought her close, held her and said:
"'I'll follow you and make a heaven out of hell, and I'll die by your hand which I love so well.'"
"Are you quoting Shakespeare, Severus?" She said, giddy from spinning and laughing.
"I believe I am…"
He brought his hand to her face and kissed her softly, gently. She felt her breath catch somewhere in her chest, felt his soft mouth become more and more insistent. How could she have ever considered going out with James…? She could barely contain herself any longer and wrapped her arms around him, deepening their kiss.
They held each other, whispering lover's promises until, even with the coat on, Lily shivered – so they ran back to the castle, holding hands, laughing, drunk on their happiness…
Such is the naivety of youth.
And remember no ending ever ends this happily…
And so be warned, this is not the end.