Lily paused in the deep doorway, holding the earthenware pitcher she'd gone after, late spring wildflowers on the drain board waiting to be crammed in before they wilted. She stepped back, almost hiding behind the sheet of her silky red hair, the news she was hearing enough to freeze her in her tracks and nearly lose her grip on the pitcher. Her green eyes narrowed, mistrusting the speaker as much as she knew what he said to be the truth.
"...I saw an old friend….he's one of them now, old Snivellus is….no surprise, there…"
It had been years since she'd seen Severus. And, it wasn't as if Lily hadn't expected it. She'd known so long ago, but the girlish part of her heart had held out hope that it would be different. The news hurt anyway, like one of Petunia's twisted pinches, leaving a vicious welt behind. Oh, Severus, she silently wailed, suddenly all of fourteen again, watching him grow closer to Mulciber and Avery, preening in the reflected glory of Lucius Malfoy. Lily had felt so betrayed and hurt, knowing how those boys felt about witches and wizards like her, deeply stung that Severus would agree with them even in the smallest degree.
But even then, maybe there had been some hope. Severus had not been lost to the Muggle/Mudblood hating faction so early on, of that Lily was very sure.
Her first friend, teaching her all the secrets a wizard child should know, things he'd learned at his mother's knee. Severus, cheering her on the first day of school at Hogwarts, his dark eyes dimming when she'd been sorted into Gryffindor instead of Slytherin as he had hoped. Had it been that she betrayed HIM even more, turning her back, letting her hurt pride get in the way of a friendship that had started forever ago on the playground between Spinners End and the middle class suburb the Evan's family called home?
Her own words, echoing through the corridor, at the entrance of Gryffindor Tower, hit her like a rebounding curse, stunning her into retroactive silence. What power she had wielded over him, a red haired tyrant queening over her devoted country of one.
"I can't pretend anymore. You've chosen your way, I've chosen mine."
"No – listen, I didn't mean –"
Severus had been trying to respond to her accusations, and that's when Lily committed the condemning act. She'd turned, and gone back into Gryffindor Tower, leaving Severus alone in the corridor. Lily could hear the old Vicar gently remonstrating from the Sunday pulpit, her eyes drifting shut on a winter morning. "You must not hold on to any bitter hurts, rage or anger. You must not fight each other or say bad things about each other. You must not think or act because of spite. You should be friends and you should be kind to each other…." She had not been kind that night, nor forgiving. Steadying herself against the door, Lily pushed back wave after wave of nausea, once again forgetting the spell that Molly Weasley had given her for that tea…what did rose hips and honey matter now? It was as if Severus had died, and Lily could find no consolation in the idea that he was at least alive and in the service of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Severus, her Severus, was gone forever, and Lily felt a tear trickle down her cheek, which she quickly brushed away. No sense crying now. It had all been done years ago. And, Lily knew that she had cast the charm binding the deed that horrible night, possibly even sealed it the day she married James. That weight would press against her heart until she died.
It was clear that the bearer of the bad news, Peter Pettigrew, had no idea Lily had overheard him, because he continued in his squeaky, chattery voice, even as the others groaned, not needing or wanting to hear more.
"….chummy with all his Slytherin pals…heard they were off to hunt Mudbloods…."
James harshly bade him be quiet, and Sirius growled, waving Peter silent with an outstretched hand. Four pairs of eyes turned toward the door, and Lily walked through, feeling pulled to transparency. Sirius held Peter silent, his hand extended at Peter's throat, but no spell cast, and Remus had risen from his seat next to the fire, looking as battered as Lily felt, moving to put the kettle up for tea. Lily blindly set the pitcher down, no longer caring if the flowers wilted, or the well scrubbed pine table had a bit of springtime on it.
"Damn it, Wormtail." James spat, standing and moving protectively to his wife. "I've told you before that word is expressly forbidden in this house…" James slipped an arm around Lily's shoulder, glaring at his lifelong friend viciously. "Sorry, darling." James pressed a kiss into Lily's temple and helped her to the chair Remus had just vacated. "I know it must be a blow for you, never thought much of Sniv, I mean Severus, but this is beyond the beyond. I gave him greater credit for backbone than a Death Eater's mark. Do you want me to ring up Molly for you? Might do you good to have a sensible person around, instead of we troublemakers?" Sirius leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, studying Lily thoughtfully as she sat in the chair, settling back. "Especially now, with the baby coming…" James tenderly brushed Lily's hair away from her face. "Sirius could go and be back in a snap."
"It's no trouble, Doe." Sirius assured her nonchalantly and Lily smiled at them, sparing a cat eyed glare for Peter, who managed to make himself smaller, trying to escape her notice. "You know I'd do anything you wanted me to." Remus nodded agreement, filling a blue and white china mug with hot tea with all the panache of a waiter.
"No need, really." Lily replied, accepting the tea from Remus gratefully, forcing herself to relax in the chair, glad that a fire had been started in the hearth, chilled to her very marrow. There could be no going back, no finding Severus to beg him to leave the Death Eaters. No apologizing for ripping their friendship to bits. Later, when she was alone, Lily Potter wept into an old tea towel, great rasping sobs. For her childhood, Severus' childhood, and the world that played at betrayal as easily as children did Wendy Houses.