It was like a fever. Lily Evans haunted Severus Snape his every waking moment, and every minute he slept—if he did at all—was a dream of her red hair, her sweet face and those beautiful green eyes. The obsession followed him every step he took, and today it felt as thought he would drown.

This was the day that his beautiful, perfect Lily was to marry that arrogant bully James Potter. Naturally, Severus had not been invited; Lily had not spoken to him in almost three years. He had hoped she would have finally moved on from that, but if anything, her hatred for him had grown rather than lessened. The still-rational part of Severus's brain sometimes chipped in that perhaps it was he who should have moved on, that it was ridiculous to still be obsessing over a woman with whom he had not spoken in years. Yet he still thought constantly of what could have been, what should have been.

Severus considered brewing himself a potion to clear his mind. Draught of Peace would shut out thoughts of Lily for a few hours at least. Yet a part of Severus did not want to shut out the thoughts. He felt as though he deserved to be tormented; that it was his fault entirely. He should never have called her a Mudblood. It was the influence of the group he went about with, the only others who had tolerated him. Perhaps if he had renounced that group it would be he who stood beside Lily at the altar today. He could imagine her now, radiant in a white dress that would bring out the delicate shade of peach in her complexion. Next to her stood Potter, though, cackling, "You can't have her, Snivellus"

The Dark Mark blazed on Severus's left arm insistently. It was a reminder of how far away from Lily he had drifted, yet she still burned his heart as the tattoo burned his arm. He could leave it no longer; he had work to do. He turned on the spot and Apparated to the Lestrange house, the Dark Lord's current base of operations.

The Dark Lord had gathered his Death Eaters together to witness the punishment of a blundering Death Eater: it was Rodolphus Lestrange himself. Severus hated it when this happened; he felt as though it was a complete waste of his time. Of course, he was careful to keep his mind closed while he thought this; otherwise it would be he who would be currently suffering the Cruciatus Curse if the Dark Lord discovered this thought. From the corner of his eye, Severus curiously surveyed Rodolphus's wife, Bellatrix. She was watching the torture with a kind of detached amusement, devoid of any empathy for the man she had married. Severus thought briefly how he would react if it were Lily being tortured. He fancied that he would feel the pain burning through him as though the tormentor's wand were aimed at his own body. He wondered how Bellatrix could just stand by and watch while her husband screamed for mercy.

When the Dark Lord lifted the curse, Bellatrix clapped her hands, leading a round of applause. "My Lord," she said, her voice caressing the words, "I can assure you that I will keep a tight rein on my useless husband and he will never err again."

"Very good, Bella," the Dark Lord responded.

"Anything for my master." Bellatrix bowed deeply, displaying her full submission. Severus found it sickening, the unctuous displays of respect. Of course, this was another thought that he kept firmly locked with Occlumency, and he himself knelt before the Dark Lord when it was required.

He thought of the contrast between Bellatrix and Lily. Both were great beauties, though in different ways. Bellatrix was regal, exotic and sharp where Lily was pretty, blithe and a true English rose. Both laughed, though Bellatrix's was harsh with cruelty and Lily's had once filled Severus with a joy he knew he could never recapture. Both women had stood there and allowed a man to be tortured: Bellatrix had idly watched her husband scream, while Lily had plunged Severus into this world of twisted torment when she alone had the power to save him. The difference there was that Rodolphus had no doubt done nothing to hurt Bellatrix except by not being the Dark Lord, whereas Severus knew that if he had chosen his words better, Lily would still be in his life.

He watched the way Bellatrix reacted to her husband. Rodolphus was shaking and sobbing, but Bellatrix started to laugh.

"Pathetic," she snorted, "ruins the Dark Lord's plans then he can't even take his punishment like a man." She turned to face her husband. "You are a pathetic little piece of shit." Rodolphus turned whiter than ever, and began to shake harder than ever. Had he not been surrounded by fellow Death Eaters, Severus would have offered comfort; he pitied Rodolphus, and felt that he understood his plight.

The Death Eaters began to leave: they had borne witness to their fates if they were to blunder and must now carry out their own dark missions. The Dark Lord himself left; Severus often wondered what things could be so important that they could not be delegated to his core of followers. Severus himself was ordered to stay, to tend to Rodolphus. That was part of his role in the group: making sure Death Eaters were physically able to serve their master. His other function was more important, and a part that Severus enjoyed immensely: using his skill to discover novel forms of Dark Magic which could be of use. The Dark Arts were his first love, and he had discovered from a young age that he had a natural propensity for creating new spells and brewing potions of his own invention. This skill was valued greatly by the Dark Lord, and had bought him favour: already Severus had created a potion which could not be penetrated or Vanished, but only drunk at a great detriment to the drinker. It had pleased the Dark Lord hugely. Without Lily in his life, Severus felt that Dark Magic was the only thing worth living for.

Rodolphus was clearly in shock. Lily had once taught Severus an excellent Muggle cure for shock, one which far surpassed any magical remedy he had encountered. That was one of the things Severus missed most about the girl, her quick wit. She always joked that the Muggle cure for any problem was a cup of hot sweet tea. Severus had tried it before, and it accepted particularly graciously. So Severus produced a small flask of liquid that he carried with him always: a Calming Draught. It was practically useless to Severus: he had not yet found a potion that would stop his mind chattering with thoughts of Lily. It would help Rodolphus, although not as much as Lily's remedy.

Rodolphus sipped the liquid greedily, and the shaking slowly subsided. Severus prepared to make his excuses and leave: he would return to his study of the Dark Arts to try to distract himself from Lily.

"Leaving already?" Bellatrix sneered. Severus started, and he wondered how skilled the witch was at Legilimency.

"I have some important work to be done for the Dark Lord. Surely you won't want to incur his wrath by delaying me?" Severus's heart was pounding. He wondered how careful he had been in keeping his mind closed in Bellatrix's presence. He had not made eye contact; she could not know anything.

"Is that so?" Her dark eyes met Severus's. He forced himself to hold the gaze and shut his thoughts away. "I was under the impression that your role was a researcher of sorts. Nothing that couldn't possibly wait until later. Why don't you wait here? The Dark Lord himself will return soon. He is currently attending the Potter wedding. So many Mudbloods and blood traitors in one place!" Severus began to feel dizzy and sick, and struggled to appear pleased by this information. It was more than his own life was worth to betray his true feelings now.

"Good news, indeed," he replied, hoping that Bellatrix would not detect the shake in his voice. He made an effort to change the subject, commenting upon how much better Rodolphus looked. The anxiety began to fade, and Severus felt that as long as he kept the conversation away from Lily, he would be saved. He struggled to silence thoughts that he should warn Lily—if only he knew where she was!—and instead made a show of reeling off a list of potions which could reinvigorate Rodolphus.

"Be silent," Bellatrix commanded sharply. "I know full well you desire the Mudblood Lily Evans."

Severus had never felt more frightened in his whole life.