In The Eyes

Summary: The day Lily saw James - and Snape - for who they really were. James/Lily.

Lily Evans was sat on the bank of the lake, Hogwarts castle behind her, the sun setting, the grounds pretty much deserted. It was only October, but the evening was cold and most stayed inside the warmth of the castle. Lily wanted to think, just be alone and think.

In just a few months, she'd be leaving Hogwarts. Really leaving it, going out into the real world.

And it terrified her. Not only because, hey, she wasn't ready to be an adult and get a job and do all those kinds of things. Not only because she didn't know what kind of job she wanted. Not even because she knew she'd probably lose contact with some of her friends.

It was because the real world - the magical world - was a mess. A dangerous, death-filled mess.

And it annoyed her, greatly, that she sometimes thought it'd be easier, safer, if she'd just stayed a muggle.

Of course, that was stupid. Muggles were no safer than wizards. If anything, they were less safe, because they were completely defenceless against magic, weren't they?

But ignorance was bliss. What they didn't know could hurt them, but they didn't get to sit around worrying.

Truth was, Lily was muggle-born - mudblood, she thought savagely - and she knew she'd be one of the first to go.

Some Gryffindor. She thought miserably. I'm not brave at all.

"Hey, Evans." Lily froze at the voice, then turned her head slowly.

"Avery." She said coolly, getting slowly to her feet and sliding her hand inside her pocket, closing her fingers over her wand. She cast her eyes over the Slytherins on either side of Avery, felt her heart trip with fear. And then she saw the boy behind them.

Boy probably wasn't the right term anymore. He was of age now, they all were. Not children. But he was the same as he'd always been, pale and thin, his hair black and greasy.

"Sev." She murmured, her eyes meeting Snape's. And then he looked away, looked down at the floor. And she knew he wasn't going to help, wasn't going to stop his friends.

Hurt, she was distracted, and later she'd think it was lucky Mulciber's aim was off. His jinx shot past her, barely an inch away from her arm.

"Hey!" She pulled her wand out of her robes, reminded herself this was three against one, that the odds were against her.

"Hey - hey - leave her alone!"

It was again lucky that she wasn't the only one to turn towards the shout - the moment's distraction could have cost her if all the Slytherins hadn't turned too. But she didn't think of that, too surprised to see James Potter running towards them.

He fired off a jinx as he approached, caught one of the Slytherins - she didn't know his name, did she? - and made him fall to the floor, unconscious.

He reached them quickly, and planted himself in front of her.

"Leave her alone." He repeated, and Lily realised he was trying to shield her, protect her.

She'd realised, recently, that he wasn't as bad as she'd always thought he was - or he wasn't that bad anymore - and they were sort of friends, but this took her by surprise. And, bizarrely, made her smile.

Then Mulciber tried to hex James, and the smile vanished. She stepped sideways, forward. As nice as it was of him, she wasn't going to hide behind James. If she didn't count Snape as an opponent - and she hoped with all her heart that she wouldn't have to - the odds were now even.

The fight was fast, confusing, and over in seconds. She'd stunned Avery - the first time she'd managed that on a real person - and James had done something to Mulciber that had caused him to be rolling on the floor, clutching his stomach and moaning.

"Are you OK?" James asked, turning to her, concerned. "Did you get hit? Are you hurt?"

"I'm - I'm fine." She assured him. "What about you?" Her eyes strayed to his left sleeve, where the fabric was torn and tattered, barely hanging onto the rest of the robe.

"I'm OK." He shrugged, and brushed her hair from her face. Then he turned to Snape, and his face hardened, his wand raised.

"You -"

"James, no!" She said quickly, grabbing his wand arm and trying to jerk it down. "He didn't do anything."

"Exactly." James muttered, but lowered his wand. "How could you stand there and let them ambush her like that?" He snapped at Snape. "You used to be her friend! I get that you've decided they -" he kicked Avery - "mean more to you than Lily does, but to just stand there, to let them hurt her -"

"I didn't get hurt." Lily interrupted.

"That's not the point. Did you never care about her at all?"

Snape didn't answer, just stood, completely still, filled with hate and disgust, not all of it directed at James.

"I wouldn't have let them hurt her." He snarled, but he couldn't, not honestly, say whether or not he would have, whether he'd have had the courage to stop them.

He met Lily's eyes again - this time it was she who looked away, unable to look at him. Without a word, Snape turned, walked away.

"I can still get him from here." James said, his tone light in an attempt to calm them both.

"No." She murmured, watching him go. How many times had she looked into his eyes? How many times had she assured him they were best friends?

She'd thought she'd known him, known him so well, and yet...he was a stranger to her now. The Sev she'd known, the boy she'd trusted completely, loved as a friend, wasn't the same boy - man - who'd stood by and let her be attacked. The eyes she'd just looked away from weren't the same as the one's she looked into at eleven years old.

"Only for you." James said quietly, watching the shadow of Snape get smaller and smaller.

"What?"

"You're the only one I wouldn't curse him for." He replied. "I can't believe he did that."

Her vision blurred; her eyes filled with tears.

"Don't cry. Lily, please don't cry over him." James said weakly - what the hell was he supposed to do? - and when she moved closer to him, buried her face in his shoulder and wrapped her arms around him, he hugged her back.

Almost at the doors, Snape glanced back and saw them, and his heart broke. He'd lost her, and he couldn't convince himself otherwise anymore. He'd lost her, let her slip away, and he'd never get her back.

Miserably, he turned, continued walking, thinking vaguely that he should probably tell someone about Avery and the others. And yet, he didn't care if they stayed there forever.

"I'm sorry." Lily mumbled, drawing back and sniffling, avoiding his eyes, a little ashamed of herself. "I didn't mean to...fall apart on you."

"It's fine. It doesn't matter. Are you OK?" He said it so anxiously that she looked up, met his eyes. And saw, truly saw, for the first time, who he really was.

"I will be." She murmured. "Thank you." She rose to her tiptoes, kissed his cheek, then looked at him. "We'll be OK."