Chapter 49 The Offer
Lily was surprised when Severus didn't appear in the Great Hall Tuesday morning. She eyed Avery and Mulciber from across the room, trying to see if she could detect anything in their behaviour to suggest they might have done something to harm their housemate. As far as she could tell they weren't acting in any way out of the ordinary.
She glanced at the entrance to the Great Hall and then at her watch. There really wasn't much time left before the start of the first lesson of the day. She worried at her bottom lip while running options through her mind.
"Is everything alright, Lily?" asked Sabrina.
"I'm not sure – Sev hasn't come to breakfast."
"He skips breakfast a lot." Remus supplied in what Lily was sure he thought was a helpful manner.
"Not lately, unfortunately."
Lily glared at Sirius but didn't get a chance to respond before James chimed in with, "Sirius is right, Remus, Snape hasn't missed breakfast in over a month not since…"
"The day Lily snogged him like crazy in the potions room." Peter finished, then he gave a little yelp and turned to Sirius. "What was that for?"
Sirius plastered an innocent look on his face. "I don't know what you're talking about, Pete."
Lily sighed and turned away from the trio and back towards her dormmates. "Anyway, he isn't here and class starts soon."
"Maybe he didn't sleep well last night and is having a lie in. I do that sometimes." Alice offered.
Lily knew her friends were trying to help. She also knew they didn't know Severus the way she did. He only skived off meals if something was wrong or seriously bothering him, otherwise he was regular as clockwork. She reached down and grabbed her bag before swinging herself off the bench.
"Lily, stay and eat. I'm sure Snape will turn up soon. It won't do anyone any good if you get yourself ill." James pushed a dish towards her. "Here, the kedgeree is especially good this morning."
"No, I'm not hungry." She barely glanced at him before she rushed away.
Lily paused just outside the entrance of the Great Hall contemplating between going down to the dungeons to try to find Severus or just going up to his class and taking the chance he might already be there.
"Are you worried they did something to him?"
"What?" Lily asked absentmindedly not really focused on the man who had come to stand next to her.
"I saw you staring at Avery and Mulciber so I was wondering if you were afraid they had done something to Severus."
Lily finally focused her attention on Remus. "The thought had crossed my mind – Maybe I'm just being paranoid. I seem to be a walking bundle of nerves these days between my mum being sick and Sev trying to get out of the mess he's in."
"I can certainly sympathize with that. I live in constant dread mam will be attacked and have no way to defend herself and – you know."
"Surely there's someone there, as a safeguard."
"I don't know what sort of protections she has. I don't know anything beyond she's in a flat somewhere. Apparently giving me as little information as possible is her way of trying to protect me. That and trying to talk me out of coming for Christmas, as if there's the slightest chance in the Universe that's going to happen."
"I understand completely, nothing would have stopped me from going home last year, though Sev suggested it."
"Really? That's surprising for him. Usually it seems like he can't wait to for you two to get out of here and away from James and Sirius."
Lily dropped her voice and pulled Remus a few steps towards the stairs to the dungeons to get away from the people who were starting to stream out of the Great Hall. "Sev thought I'd be safer here, what with the whole recruitment thing."
"Can't say I blame him. Sometimes Hogwarts feels like the only safe place left in England." Remus glanced up just as Avery and Mulicber walked out of the Hall, their heads bent towards one another and whispering excitedly. "I honestly don't think they'd be foolish enough to do anything to him here."
Lily was about to tell Remus about the bruise on Severus' arm last year when she heard Severus' voice echo up from the bottom of the stairs, "what exactly are you two whispering about?"
"Where have you been? I've been worried about you!" Lily rushed down the steps and threw her arms around him.
"I'm going to leave you two. I'll see you in class, Lily." Remus raised a hand in farewell before he disappeared.
Lily didn't respond to Remus, all her attention was focused on Severus, who looked tired and just the slightest bit anxious. "What happened?"
He didn't answer, he merely hurried past her, headed into the Great Hall and to the Slytherin table. Lily rushed after him, brushing past the rest of the Marauders as she went. "You're going to be late, Lily." James called after her. She waved at him dismissively, still close on Severus' heals.
Severus didn't slacken his pace in the least, managing to get to the table and grab a piece of toast and an apple just as the platters and bowls disappeared. He sighed as he looked down at the piece of dry bread and tiny apple in his hands. "Guess this'll have to do."
He turned back around and looked at Lily. "If you don't hurry you'll be late for Charms."
"Bugger Charms, tell me what's going on."
"I can't right now, it'll take to long. I have to go or I'll be late to History of Magic. We're talking about Ulick Gamp today and I'm certain he's going to be on our N.E.W.T.s."
"We'll talk later, I promise." He gave her a quick peck on the lips and sped from the Hall without so much as a glance in her direction.
Lily stood still for a long moment, staring at the after Severus, trying to figure out what could have happened last night to make him act so strangely. Then a shrieking laugh pulled her from her reverie. She glanced at her watch and swore slightly under her breath. Even if she hurried, she would be hard pressed to make it to class on time. Lily sped up stairs and down corridors, falling into her seat next to Alice just as Professor Flitwick began his lecture.
Generally, Lily found Charms to be engrossing but today, try as she might, she couldn't seem to focus. When it was finally time to do the practical part of the lesson, she was barely able to conjure a single bird, let alone control it, leaving Professor Flitwick to look a little disappointed in her uncharacteristically lacklustre results. She smiled at him apologetically before leaving the room and walking as swiftly as possible to the Defense Against Dark Arts classroom.
Lily wasn't surprised to see she was almost the first student to arrive. She took a seat near the back. Normally she and Severus sat up front. But she wanted to be able to talk to Severus. As it turned out Professor Grinspun was unusually diligent for a Defense professor so note passing was harder than usual. Students slowly trickled in and the classroom steadily filled up, but with only a few minutes until class was scheduled to begin Severus still hadn't arrived. It didn't make sense, he was only two floors away and the rest of the Slytherins had already turned up. Lily threw a worried glance at the door and for the second time that morning seriously considering going to look for him. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Remus looking as worried as she felt.
She was just about to leave when Severus and Professor Grinspun both entered the room from separate doors at opposite ends of the room. Severus looked surprised to see Lily sitting so far back in the room but since the professor was looking at him pointedly all he could do was sit down hastily next to her. As Professor Grinspun began his lecture for the day, Lily hastily scribbled a line a spare bit of parchment.
Are you finally ready to tell me what's wrong?
She shoved it at him before beginning to studiously take notes. Severus read the note, sighed, and paused for a moment before jotting a reply and slipping it back to her.
I'd rather wait until we can talk properly.
Lily's heart skipped a beat and she glanced at him surreptitiously but she couldn't suss anything out from his expression.
Is it that bad?
It seemed Severus had the note a long time before he replied. And the words on the parchment brought her no comfort.
I don't know what it is.
What does that mean?
Please don't Lily. Not now. I can't explain like this. We'll talk later. I promise.
Lily stared at the scrap of parchment for a moment. As she pondered over how to respond, she glanced over at Severus. His attention was fixed on the professor but his face was set in such a way Lily knew even if she sent him another note he wouldn't respond. He was done for now. She sighed and stuffed the scrap in her book and tried to concentrate on what Professor Grinspun was telling them about the Unforgivable Curses.
By the end of the lesson she almost wished she had picked a fight with Severus just so she wouldn't have had to listen to how horrible those three curses were. Most of the class seemed rather subdued as the professor released them. People packed their bags silently and shuffled out of the room. The people who did speak did so in whispers.
"That was grim." Lily said in a soft undertone. She deliberately put her things away as slowly as possible knowing Severus would wait for her so they could walk down to the Great Hall together for lunch. She wanted to talk and she didn't think he'd be willing to in front of other people.
"Maybe, but it's best to know what we're up against and now we do." He answered as the Marauders and Sabrina stopped by their table.
James smiled at Lily and asked, "you coming to lunch?"
"Okay, I have some head stuff I need to talk over with you."
"Can't it wait until our normal meeting?"
James shifted uncomfortably and fiddled with the strap of his bag. "No. I've gotten a few requests for changes to the patrol schedule and I promised people we'd look into it as soon as possible."
"James, you have to learn to tell people no."
"Yeah, well one of them is that one there." James jerked a thumb in Remus' direction. "So feel free to tell him no now."
"I've had six patrols in a row because I was covering for others. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for a change. I do need to study and sleep."
Lily let out a long exasperated breath. "Fine, we'll meet tonight and see what we can work out."
"I have quidditch practice."
"James, I'm not giving up my entire lunch hour so I can redo the patrol schedule. I have other things I need to do."
James shot a disgruntled look at Severus as if it was his fault Lily wouldn't meet at that exact moment. "Right. Well, I guess we'll leave you to it then and I'll see you after quidditch practice."
"See you tonight then." Lily stated sharply before turning away, leaving no doubt she was now done talking to James.
Potter muttered a few words under his breath and then shuffled out of the room, the rest of the group following after him. When the door closed behind them, Lily looked up at Severus expectantly. He smiled at her wryly and said, "so, I guess we're not going to lunch."
"Not until you tell me what's happened to make you so worried."
He sighed and sat back down. "I guess I should know better than to try and keep anything from you at this point." He rummaged through his bag as he continued to speak. "I'm not sure it's anything bad, not really. Maybe I'm overreacting, reading to much into this." He held out a piece of stationary to Lily.
She took it and quickly read the one sentence written there. "When's the last time you heard from Lucius?"
"Over the summer."
"Do you think I'm lying to you?"
"No, I'm just surprised. I'd have thought he'd have sent you something, anything between now and then." Lily sat back down next to him. "What do you think this is about?"
"I honestly don't know. I just…" He took the letter back from her and gazed at it intently for a moment as if hoping an answer would suddenly appear.
"Sev, talk to me." Lily prompted.
"Whatever it is Lucius wants to talk to me about, it's important, very important."
"How do you figure?"
"Because he didn't write it down. Whatever it is, he feels he can only tell me about it in person and – well there's only one type of news he wouldn't write about."
"Death Eater news."
Lily swallowed hard and grasped his hand. "Maybe he's going to tell you they're not happy with you." She instantly realized how bad that sounded and hastily added, "like we've planned."
"I don't think that's it."
"Whenever he hasn't been happy with my behaviour in the past he's written to me. The only time he came to talk to me specifically was when he asked me to recruit you."
"Maybe that's what this is about. To see how the recruitment is going."
"Perhaps." Severus conceded reluctantly.
They both sat lost in thought for several more moments before Severus' stomach gave a loud grumble. "Sorry." He muttered sheepishly.
"No, don't apologize. Let's go get you some food. Merlin only knows when you last had a decent meal and we're not going to sort out anything by sitting here fretting." Lily gave him what she hoped was a cheerful smile before scooping up her bag and pulling him up.
He gave her a half-hearted smile and grabbed his own satchel. As they headed towards the door Severus' stomach rumbled again.
"When was the last time you ate properly?"
"I swear I had dinner last night."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, the letter from Lucius came just as dinner was ending."
"Maybe you worried so much it sped up your digestion and – maybe you worried your food away."
Severus couldn't help but smile. "If you could worry your food away I'd have been perpetually hungry since I was a toddler."
"It would explain why you're so skinny."
He let out an exasperated huff and Lily couldn't help but laugh but it died as soon as she saw the worry clouding his face again. She grasped one of his hands in hers and then ran her other down his cheek. "Dearest, you can't brood on this for weeks, you'll make yourself ill."
She wished she knew what else to say, but she couldn't think of a thing. All she could do was press a kiss to his cheek and lead him by the hand to the Great Hall. She only grudgingly let go of him once they reached the Gryffindor table. He merely smiled and kissed her before walking to the Slytherin table.
Lily waited until he sat and then picked her seat accordingly; remembering how he had once told her he did something similar. Only moments later there was a rustling as Remus and Sabrina moved to sit down next to her.
"Is everything alright with Severus?" Remus asked in a quiet undertone.
Lily was about to reply but not surprisingly James, Sirius, Peter and Mary chose that moment move their seats so they were sitting down across from Remus, who smiled apologetically. As the Marauders and Mary started in on quidditch talk, Alice sat down on the other side of her and began to talk about an article she had read the day before in the Daily Prophet.
After a few moments Sabrina traded places with Remus so she was sitting next to Lily. She promptly began to weigh in on the article Alice was discussing. At first Lily wasn't particularly paying attention but she soon found herself wrapped up in the discussion. Alice and Sabrina were still picking over the article when they all rose from the table at the end of lunch.
"Are you coming Lily?" Alice inquired.
"No, I'm going to wait for Sev."
Alice nodded and she and Sabrina hurried off, so wrapped up in their discussion that for once, Sabrina failed to wait for Remus. The rest of the group laughingly followed after, Remus rushing ahead of the rest of them to catch up with his girlfriend. Lily couldn't help but notice James and Mary were walking especially closely as they exited the hall.
She smiled as a hand slid into hers and not bothering to turn; she nodded towards the retreating group. "That looks hopeful don't you think?"
"James and Mary so absorbed in conversation."
"What were they talking about?"
Severus laughed. "Hardly a romantic topic."
"It's James; he's not likely to quote poetry."
"I don't think Mary's the type who would respond to it anyway."
"I honestly don't know her well enough to comment. Speaking of absorbing conversations, what were you and Sabrina and Alice talking about so intently?"
"There was an article in the Prophet about Minister Minchum and we were debating how much of it we thought was factual."
"The one by Rita Skeeter?"
"Yes. It seemed a little farfetched to me."
"I saw that story. I thought, her style was overly flowery. I'm not sure I trust all her facts either."
"I don't recall ever reading anything by her before."
"I think I remember seeing a couple of small stories from her last year. I hope the Prophet isn't going to turn into some sort of sensational rag, that's the last thing the wizarding world needs right now."
Lily nodded in agreement. "Didn't she just leave school a few years ago?"
"I think around the same time as Lucius."
"I wonder how she was able to write such a prominent article so quickly."
"Who knows?" Severus leaned down and gave her a quick peck. "I should probably go or I'll be late to Charms."
"I'll walk with you."
"Mmh hmm, I have a free period now since I gave up Divination. Are you feeling any better, less worried, about the letter?" She asked as they exited the Great Hall and started up the stairs.
"I suppose, as long as I don't think about it."
"I'm sorry I brought it up then."
"It's alright." He said but Lily could see the worry creeping back into his eyes.
They walked along in silence for several more moments before Lily abruptly said. "You're always good at poetry."
He stopped short and looked at her questioningly.
"You could quote some now, if it would help take your mind off things. And it might be nice since you haven't recited any for me in a while." He chuckled a little at her words and Lily gave him a playful shove before she added, "just make sure it's not sad."
"A love poem then?"
She smiled and nodded, squeezing his hand firmly.
He stared at the stones in front of him, clearly searching his memory. Then he began to move and speak simultaneously. His voice was soft and low so no one could overhear him.
"I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
"I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don't know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams."
"That was beautiful, who wrote it?"
"A Chilean poet called Pablo Neruda – I should go in." Severus waved at the door to the Charms classroom.
"Probably a better use of your time than standing around reciting poetry to me."
"I wouldn't say that."
"Poetry recitations aren't likely to get you a job."
"True." He leaned down and kissed her more firmly than he generally did in public.
Lily couldn't help but smile at him serenely as he pulled away. She let out a contented breath before saying, "we conjured birds today, they can be a little hard to control if you're not paying attention."
"Thanks for the tip."
Lily nodded and gave him another quick peck before walking back down the corridor.
The rest of the day past quietly enough and Severus seemed to be in a better frame of mind when they spoke after dinner. Unfortunately, Lily wasn't able to have a long conversation with him because she had a mountain of classwork to get done before her meeting with James.
She had just managed to put the finishing touches on her History of Magic essay when James dropped down at the table next to her, smelling as if he'd come off the quidditch pitch 30 seconds earlier. Lily wrinkled her nose and shifted her chair slightly. James seemed unperturbed by her actions; he simply dug in his bag and pulled out a rather beat up piece of parchment.
"Okay, this is the list of changes people have requested."
Lily sighed, pushed her assignment to the side and fished out her copy of the patrol schedule before looking over the list of requests. "This is completely mad! We'd have to redo the entire schedule to accommodate all these requests! No, absolutely not. I say we only reschedule Remus. Then I'll have a talk with him about making people take his shifts when they say they want to switch and that will be the end of it."
James ran his fingers through his hair a couple of times and smiled at her in what Lily assumed he thought was a winning way. "The thing is, I already promised some of these people we'd make changes for them."
"Before you talked to me?"
"I didn't think it would be a problem."
"James." Lily closed her eyes and silently counted to ten before she looked back at her fellow Head. "You can't make promises like that without looking at the patrol schedule and seeing what we changes we can make."
"I honestly didn't think it would be a big deal."
"Not a big – it'll take us half the night to redo this and in case you missed it, it's not especially early now."
James grabbed the schedule and pulled it to him. "I'm sure it's not that bad. We can probably just make a few alterations and be fine. Like here, we just pull Rem out and put Nath – oh no, wait he can't – well what about Aioffe – no, she's no good either." James looked between the list of requests and the schedule and after several moments whispered, "bugger."
"See, not so easy after all."
"I'm sorry, Lily. I really did think we could accommodate everyone. Maybe I can talk to Remus."
"Are you two working on the schedule?" Remus asked as he came down from the boy's dorms and crossed the common room. "Because this is the last night in a row I'm doing this. If I don't get some real sleep soon I'm going to drop. Not to mention what Brina's going to do to me if I don't start spending time with her outside of class and meals."
James looked up at his friend. "The thing is Moony…"
Lily stopped him with a kick under the table. "We just started working on the new schedule so we don't have everything sorted yet."
"Yeah, alright. Just remember, I need sleep and my girlfriend is complaining. If you care about me at all you'll get me a free night."
"We will, as soon as possible. Promise."
"Thanks." Remus smiled at them, waved and then headed out the portrait hole.
"Seems to me you just made a promise." James smirked.
"To Remus, he works harder than any other prefect. He deserves a night off, several as a matter of fact and he's going to get them.
"Now, it might be helpful if you could remember why people wanted the nights off they did, that way we can prioritize. Anyone needing time off for a school related issue, say to study or due to a project gets first priority."
"Right, that sounds fair." James grabbed the list and went down it noting the reasons, if any, he was given for the schedule changes.
It took a half a dozen attempts and several hours but eventually Lily and James came up with a schedule that honoured most of the requests James had promised. And after a little good natured bickering it was decided James would have to tell the people they couldn't accommodate they were stuck with their original schedule. Lily thought this would help James learn a little more responsibility and to not promise people things you mightn't be able to deliver.
Lily drug herself up to bed and barely managed to pull on one of Severus' old shirts before collapsing into bed. It felt like she had hardly closed her eyes before Sabrina was shaking her awake.
"Lily, if you want breakfast you need to wake up."
Lily whimpered before half-heartedly pulling herself out of bed and getting dressed. She hastily grabbed several sheaves of parchment from her bedside table and thrust them into her bag.
"Are those the new prefect schedules?"
Sabrina eyed her fixedly. "Did Remus get any time off?"
"Yes, quite a bit actually."
Sabrina beamed and threw her arms around her friend. "You're absolutely the best."
Lily couldn't help but smile at Sabrina's exuberance. "I should go if I'm going to distribute all of these before the end of breakfast."
"I hope James is helping you."
"He's actually in charge of telling everyone we couldn't change that they have to keep their original schedule."
"How many of those were there?"
"About five and I imagine every one of them will want to have a go at him so I think I got the better task."
Sabrina laughed and nodded in agreement. "If you give me Remus' I'll get it to him and save you at least a little bit of time."
"Brina, I sit with the two of you at practically every meal."
"I know but..." Sabrina blushed slightly and Lily had a sneaking suspicion Remus' new schedule was going to be delivered with a good snog session.
"Here, go deliver the good news." Lily dug out one of the copied schedules and handed it to her dormmate.
Sabrina gave her another enthusiastic hug and raced away. Lily silently laughed to herself and shook her head; following right after her, but Sabrina was long gone.
Lily hadn't counted on it taking so long to find all the prefects and distribute the new schedules to them. Especially since it turned out James' memory and notes hadn't been entirely reliable in regards to who he promised what to. More than once she was forced to tell people there would be no more changes unless there was an absolute emergency and they needed to work out any swaps between them. She made a mental note to talk to Remus about not just saying he would cover other people's patrols without them taking one of his before he found himself right back in the same dilemma he had just gotten out of.
She still had several schedules to hand out when a loud whoosh overhead signalled the arrival of several dozen owls. Lily scanned the group for Archimedes but didn't see him. Apparently May was taking longer than usual to answer her last letter. She sighed and was about to move on to the next person when she saw a large screech owl land in front of Severus.
She quickly hurried to the Gryffindor table and threw the rest of the schedules in front of James. "You finish handing these out."
"But I thought…"
"Just do it, James."
Without waiting for another word from him, she sped over to the Slytherin table. She didn't bother to sit but leaned over and whispered in Severus' ear, "who's it from?"
He started at her words. "What?"
"The letter. Who's it from?"
"Lil, it's nothing."
"Sev, please, just tell me."
He looked up at her for a moment, before picking up the napkin next to his plate and grabbing several sausages and a pile of toast, and wrapping the whole lot in the napkin. "Let's go."
He handed her the bundle, slung his bag over his shoulder and led her from the Hall. "Eat."
"You were so busy running around this morning you didn't get time to eat so eat that." He pointed at the parcel in her hand.
She gave an annoyed huff as she followed him out of the Hall and down the stairs to an empty room in the dungeons.
"You're not eating." Severus said after he closed the door and turned to look at her.
Lily opened the napkin and hastily stuffed a sausage in her mouth. " 'appy now?"
"Well, I could do without seeing your half eaten food."
She hastily swallowed and glared at him. "Severus, who's the letter from?"
He reached into his bag and pulled out a cream coloured envelope. "It's a reply from Cris."
"Remember, I sent Cris a letter, this is his reply."
"Oh, I'd forgotten about that. Sorry I was so…"
"I was thinking more annoying."
Severus laughed lightly. "I know you were just worried."
"So what does it say?"
"Funnily enough I didn't actually have time to read it before you came over and had a nutty."
"Read it now then."
"We'll be late for Potions."
"It's three doors down the hall and Slughorn loves us."
Severus hesitated, looked at the letter in his hand and then back at her. "Only if you eat the rest of your food."
Lily nodded and hoisted herself up on an empty table, pulling out a piece of toast and biting off a piece of it while looking at him expectantly.
He quickly settled in beside her and opened the letter.
Dear Sev and Lil,
I hope things are going well for you at school and you're staying out of trouble and studying hard. Never mind, it's the two of you, of course you're studying hard. And since Sev hasn't mentioned anything about the DE problem I assume that's still on track.
Honoria continues to have morning sickness, I don't know why they call it that, she seems to vom, morning, noon and night. Mum says it's normal and not to fret but I admit we're both ready for it to be over. Honoria actually fell asleep with her head on the toilet the other night she was so knackered (don't tell her I told you about that). Thank God for Mum, not sure how we'd make it through this without her. Heaven knows neither my mother nor Mrs. Archer are of any use. All they do is come over all the time with expensive baby clothes, no advice, nothing practical. Honestly, how much fancy clothing does one baby need? Where are the practical things like nappies or a pram or a cot? I'm trying not to bother Mum when she's still recovering but I think at some stage I'm going to have to ask her for a list of what we really need, otherwise this baby is going to have to sleep in a drawer and wear nothing but ruffled lace gowns. Is it possible they've gotten us 2 dozen christening gowns in various lengths? Or are they assuming this baby's a girl? Is it wrong to throw your mother and mother-in-law out of your flat? Sorry to whinge, can't do it to Honoria, won't do it to Mum, poor May's getting the brunt of it so I guess it's your turn.
Anyway, on to other things, May did phone and tell me about Petunia talking to Dursley. I don't know what Petunia's thinking. May thinks it's because he feels safe and comfortable that Petunia's contemplating going back to him. I'm at a loss for what to do besides find someone else to introduce her to, since Honoria tells me going and punching Dursley and telling him to stay away is not an option. So make a list of everything you think Petunia would look for in a future husband and I'll see who I can look up here at University. I do think we're going to have to move fast because May seems to believe Petunia's going to go back. So send back the list as soon as you can because heaven knows we don't want a brother-in-law like that.
Sorry this letter isn't longer. I seem to have far to much to do and no time in which to do it these days.
Ps. I miss Dad. I feel like he'd know just what to do on all fronts right now.
Lily struggled to swallow down the last bit of sausage. "I wish Dad was here too. Cris is right; he would know what to do."
Severus didn't reply, he simply put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her tight to him. They sat in silence for several minutes, then at long last Severus said. "We should go to potions, unless you want to skive off entirely."
"No, we should go." Lily stated as she jumped down off the table.
Luckily, this time Lily was able to focus her attention on her lessons, though by the end of the day she honestly wasn't sure she had learned anything. She couldn't seem to get what Cris had written about Petunia out of her mind, about how May thought Petunia felt safe and comfortable with Vernon and so would eventually go back. It felt like yet another weight added on top of everything else.
She was still brooding on it all when she went up to meet Severus to work on the list Cris had asked for. Not surprisingly, she found him in his old spot secreted at the back of the room, his head already buried in a book. She didn't say anything to him, just pulled out the chair next to him and sat down. When he didn't look up immediately, she pulled out a pad of paper and a biro and began to write. She had a half a dozen items on the list before he looked up.
"Sorry, I wanted to finish that page. So, where are you?"
"I've started the list for Cris."
"I figured, and what do you have so far?"
"Loving, Dependable, Honest, Traditional, Practical, Warm. What else do you think we should add?"
Severus sighed. "Angel, please don't take this the wrong way, but are you sure this is a list of qualities Petunia is looking for?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm just wondering if this is a list of what Petunia's looking for in a future husband or if it's a list of qualities you think Petunia's future husband should have because those are two very different things."
"Alright, what do you think she's looking for?"
Severus looked off into the distance for a moment and then back at Lily. "I think Petunia wants someone predictable, steady, someone respectable, dull even, who wouldn't attract any sort of attention, hardworking, very upper middle class or at least has the potential to be."
"You've just described Vernon."
"I know, but there was a reason she was attracted to him."
Lily looked back down at the list and thought of everything Severus had just said to her. "Do you think it's even worth it to make a list and send it to Cris?"
"Are you asking me if I think Petunia and Dursley will get married after all?"
"Yes, I suppose."
Severus sighed and once again seemed lost in thought for a moment before turning back to her. "I've never known – I honestly think Petunia will make the decision that ensures her the most stability and normality. If that's Dursley then that's the choice she'll make."
Lily nodded slowly, ripped the page off the pad and crumpled it up.
"Lil, I'm sorry. Write your list. Send it to Cris. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Cris can find Petunia someone else."
"Do you really think Petunia picked Dursley because he was the most normal, boring man she'd met? I never thought…" Lily sighed and pulled a book from her bag.
Lily shook her head, unable to meet his eyes. So he reached out and stroked her cheek gently until she turned to meet his gaze. "Talk to me."
"I just – This isn't how I imagined people picked how they got married. We know Cris and Honoria got married because of the baby and apparently my sister is going to go back to that dolt because she wants boring and normal. What about love? Does anyone think about love when they decide to marry?"
"Yes." Severus stated emphatically.
"Do you think your parents…" Lily stopped and clasped her hand over her mouth. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked." She whispered.
"It's fine. The truth is, I don't know. I can't remember a time when I thought they loved each other but I guess I always hoped they were in the beginning. But Angel, all you have to do is look at your parents to know people can marry for and stay in love."
"Maybe my parents are the exception."
"I don't know. I used to listen to my gram and the way she talked about my grandfather I have no doubt they were in love. And look at the way Mrs. Lupin was at Mr. Lupin's funeral, they must have been in love for her to be that devastated. And if May marries Alex someday it will be because she loves him and he loves her. Believe me, Lils, people get married for love every day." There was such sincerity in his eyes, Lily smiled.
"You really are a romantic aren't you?"
Red crept up Severus' neck and started to stain his cheeks. "I don't think it's especially romantic to be in love with the person you're marrying." He picked up the piece of paper, uncrumpled it and looked at it for a minute. "Send the list to Cris. Everyone deserves to marry someone they love."
Lily took the paper from his hand and kissed him hard on the lips. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
Suddenly Lily remembered what Petunia had said to her during their fight that summer, how Severus wanted to marry her and Lily was struck by a sudden urge to ask him where he saw them in the future. But she suppressed the impulse. After all, you couldn't ask your boyfriend if he wanted to marry you after only five months while the two of you were sitting in the library at school.
Instead she pulled the pad towards her and looked up at him. "Tell me again the qualities you thought Petunia wanted. If we're going to try to find Tuney someone else then it should be someone she's likely to date."
Severus smiled at her and recited his list again while Lily scribbled away. In the end, she thought they'd come up with a pretty decent list and while Severus dashed off a quick reply to Chris she looked over the paper one last time trying to think if there was anything they could have missed.
"If you give me that I'll seal it in here and take it to the owlery."
Lily glanced down at her watch. "You don't have time before curfew."
"First thing in the morning then."
"I can do it."
Severus shook his head. "I want to."
"Okay, but promise me you won't go tonight."
"Don't worry, I won't not keen on getting a detention right now. In fact, I think we should go now if I'm going to be able to walk you up to the tower and still make it to the dungeons in time."
"You don't have to walk me back to Gryffindor tower."
"I want to."
"Sev, you'll never make it."
"Of course I will."
She laughed and leaned over to kiss him before scooping her paper and biro into her bag. "Good night, dearest. I'll see you in the morning."
He sighed before wishing her a good night.
Lily slowly made her way up to Gryffindor tower, entering through the portrait hole just as the bell rang the hour. She really hoped Severus had made it to his common room in time. She smiled as she spied Remus and Sabrina curled up together in a chair by the fire talking softly to one another, their hands intertwined, foreheads resting together. Not far away, James, Sirius, Peter and Mary were playing a game of Exploding Snap all laughing and talking excitedly.
"Did you get a chance to talk to all the prefects you needed to, James?"
"What? Oh, yes. There were one or two complaints but most people seemed okay in the end."
"Do you want to come play with us? We can make room for you after this hand."
Lily shook her head but lingered, glad to see Mary so happy for once. "Where's Alice?"
"I'm not sure, she was writing a letter to Frank."
"I think it got a little hard for her to concentrate." Sabrina responded with a laugh just as the cards exploded.
"I don't know what you're talking about." James responded quickly dealing the cards in a circle.
"Yeah, we're as quite as mice." Sirius responded, throwing a pair in the centre. Before turning to grin and wink at his friend.
"Sirius!" They all yelled as the cards exploded again.
"Yep, perfectly quiet us lot." Sirius grinned as he waved away the smoke and they all laughed.
Lily shook her head and laughed. "Well have fun."
"Sure you don't want to play Lily?" James asked.
"No, I'm tired, I think I'm going to go to bed. Good night all."
"Good night." Voices chorused after her as she made her way up the staircase.
When she reached the dorm room, Alice was laying on her bed writing a letter that already seemed to be several feet long. She looked up and smiled as Lily entered the room and then went back to writing.
"Say hello to Frank for me." Lily said as she pulled off her clothes.
"I will. Am I going to keep you awake if I keep writing?" Alice asked noticing Lily changing.
"No, not at all."
"I wonder if Frank would send me one of his shirts to sleep in." Alice muttered, dipping her quill in the ink and hastily dashing off a sentence.
"Don't ask." Lily yawned as she pulled the sheets up around her.
"Don't ask Frank, just take a shirt. That's what I did."
"Severus doesn't know you have it?"
"How on earth can I get a shirt from Frank without him knowing? We don't live together."
Lily rolled over and smiled tiredly at Alice. "Alice, if you can't figure out how to get Frank out of his shirt you're not half as smart as I think you are."
Alice blushed a little at Lily's words. "He will have to put it back on again."
"Winter's coming, he'll be wearing layers, just fling one out of the way and he can put on the rest of them to go home."
"Lily Evans! You are wicked!"
"I don't have to be, I can just nick Sev's shirts out of the wash. Of course, I might have to do some shirt stealing of my own soon since this one is starting to lose that Sev smell."
Alice laughed again. "I trust you'll give me some pointers then."
"Count on it." Lily answered and yawned loudly. "G'dnight Alice."
"Good night, Lily." Alice answered softly. Seconds later the quill began to scratch on the parchment again and Lily soon drifted off.
Lily found with the letter now sent off to Cris she had nothing left to occupy her thoughts except Severus' upcoming meeting with Lucius. Since she didn't want to make him anxious she refrained from saying anything to him about it for more than a week, though she was certain he knew she was watching him like a hawk.
He finally cracked one night, when he sussed out she hadn't gone on a single patrol since he'd gotten Lucius' letter. Lily had reluctantly admitted to trading so she could be with him just in case he needed to talk or just wanted company.
"This is ridiculous. At some point you're going to have make all those nights up and you'll be as overworked and as exhausted as Remus was."
"It'll be fine, honestly. I have it all worked out."
"Enough Lily. I'm fine. When's you're next patrol?"
"Then take it. I'll be right here, in the library, studying for N.E.W.T.s."
"What if you get another letter?"
"Then I'll come find you. If I get lonely, I'll find you. If I get nervous, I'll find you but I'm almost 18 years old I think I can spend a night on my own."
Lily nodded a little reluctantly. "Speaking of being alone, do you think – should I come with you, when you go to the Hogshead?"
"NO!" Lily started at the forcefulness of his tone. He must have seen he startled her because he took a deep breath and then took her hands in his. "Lil, I don't know exactly what Lucius wants or what's going to happen and I'd feel more comfortable if you weren't there."
"No, Angel, really. If you're there all I'll do is worry."
He looked so anxious Lily nodded in agreement, figuring she still had time to talk him around before the Hogsmeade weekend.
But as the days slipped past Lily found herself becoming less and less confident Severus could be talked around. Most of the time he refused to even speak about the meeting, as if ignoring it would mean it wasn't going to take place at all. If she tried to talk about it he would turn the conversation to other subjects like N.E.W.T. review or the completely disheartening letter they had received back from Cris saying he'd talked to May and he thought looking for someone else for Petunia wasn't worth the time and energy it require.
They'd sent a letter off to May at that point asking point blank what was going on with Petunia since up to now May's letters had mostly contained information about Violet and how she was getting on. There hadn't been a reply yet, though Severus seemed to be on a constant look out for one. As if getting a letter from May or her mother would somehow distract Lily from her goal of going to Hogsmeade. She supposed she did have to give him some credit because at least he wasn't hiding, which is what he would have done only a couple of years ago.
The other night he'd even allowed her to drag him along on patrol with her when Aioffe had suddenly been taken ill and Lily had had to take the patrol herself. Of course, taking Severus was against the rules but she had a sneaking suspicion she wasn't the first Head to bend this particular regulation. Not that it had done her any good because the second she said Lucius' name he had started quizzing her in History of Magic.
But tonight Lily wouldn't be put off any longer. Tomorrow was the meeting and he was going to have some sort of discussion with her. Lily rose that morning feeling completely determined to have her say.
It was almost as if he knew what she was planning because he studiously avoided making eye contact at breakfast, nose buried in a book. He was still focused on Moste Potente Potions when he rose from the table and distractedly joined her. Lily could tell he was too engrossed in what he was reading to pay any real attention to anything she might say to him so she didn't bother to say anything beyond good morning, which he barely responded to. As usual she was awed by his ability to be able to read and not pay the least attention to where he was going while avoiding catastrophe.
His attention didn't waver from the book in the least until Professor Slughorn entered the room and began instructing them on the Invisibility Potion. At which point he focused all his attention on brewing. Lily decided not to broach the subject since she didn't really want to start a row with him in the middle of Potions. When the class was over, he handed over his phial of perfectly brewed potion, hastily packed his box and was apparently ready to leave the room without another word when she pulled on his sleeve to stop him.
"Are you going to ignore me all day?"
"I'm not ignoring you."
He sighed and slumped back against the table. "No, I just know what you're going to say. I'm not going to change my mind Lil, not about this."
She was ready to protest but he had that stubborn look on his face, the one that meant he was resolute and no amount of cajoling would change his mind. She nodded. "Okay. Will you at least meet me tonight?"
He looked at her warily.
"I promise I won't bring up me going with you."
"Alright, I'll meet you in the library at 7:30."
Lily smiled and kissed him before taking his hand and walking with him up to the Great Hall. She tried to relax during lunch and spent much the hour talking to Sabrina and Alice about the newest novel by Obsidian Mulberry and wondering if N.E.W.T.s would allow them any time at all to read let alone meet and discuss it.
Severus hadn't given an opinion when she'd mentioned it in the brief moment they'd met before parting ways for their afternoon lessons. Lily wasn't sure he entirely believed her about not bringing up going with him to Hogsmeade. Then again, she wasn't entirely sure she believed it herself.
All afternoon she couldn't shake the feeling she should insist on going with him. She ran phrases over in her mind trying to find just the right one that would make him relent. She was so focused on her task she didn't pay any attention to what her professors were saying or to the conversation flowing around her at dinner later that evening.
When the last plate vanished from the table she rose distractedly, half tempted to go right to the library. But she knew this was one time Severus wouldn't be arrive early so there seemed no point in her going early either. So she reluctantly went up to the common room with the rest of her dormmates. Right away she knew it had been a mistake, Sirius and James started laughing and joking, the noise seemed to ricochet off the walls and grow louder. Lily couldn't stand the din and so slipped upstairs to get a little peace and quiet.
She had only been lying on her bed a moment when the door creaked open and Sabrina slipped in. "Is something the matter, Lily?"
Lily shrugged not wanting to lie and say no but also not sure how much to explain.
"Did you and Severus have a fight?" Sabrina asked plopping down on her own bed.
"No, why would you ask that?"
"You two usually talk each other's ears off in Potions and today you barely said a word to one another."
"Can I help?"
"Not unless you've got a fail proof way to get Severus to agree to do something he doesn't want to."
"Shag him until he's so dazed he says yes without knowing what he's agreeing to?"
Lily couldn't help but laugh at the suggestion. "You really think that would work?"
"I wouldn't know, Remus and I have only had sex once so I'm hardly an expert."
"You and Remus…"
"Yes, but don't tell anyone."
"I won't breathe a word."
Sabrina smiled at her. "Thanks. You're sure everything's okay because rumours are already starting."
Lily rolled her eyes at the ceiling and let out and exasperated huff. "I bet I can guess who started them."
"Just ignore them. Even if you and Severus had a fight it clearly wasn't so bad you broke up."
"I swear we didn't have a fight it's just…" Lily paused and then the whole story came out in a rush, about the letter and how she wanted to go to the village with Severus but he didn't want her to. "I don't know what to do. We seem to be at a total impasse."
Sabrina got up, crossed to Lily's bed and sat down next to her. "What do you think is going to happen tomorrow?"
"I don't know, but I'm scared Brina and I want to be with him."
"I understand, I'd want to be with Remus if he was in a similar situation. Maybe you shouldn't ask, maybe you should just turn up."
"No, then we'd just row in the middle of the pub and it would only make things worse. I have to find a way to talk him 'round."
"I'm sorry, I don't have any ideas. Maybe we could ask Rem."
Lily shook her head. "No, I don't think Sev really wanted anyone else to know what was going on. Besides, I don't want to worry anyone. I shouldn't have even bothered you."
"Lily, we're your friends, we want to help you and Severus."
"I know and we both appreciate it."
"Let me go get Rem and we'll go somewhere private, come up with a plan."
Lily sighed and glanced at her watch, more than a little tempted to take Sabrina up on her suggestion, and let out a little squeak. "Brina, I would but I have to meet Sev."
"I'll figure something out." She said as she scrambled off the bed. "Thank you for talking to me, Brina. Even if I can't talk Sev in letting me go, it helped."
Sabrina got up off the bed and hugged Lily. "If you can't talk him into letting you go let me know and I'll wait with you tomorrow."
Lily nodded and squeezed her friend tightly before running down the stairs and through the common room.
"Where are you going, Evans?" Sirius yelled after her.
Lily turned and smiled at Sirius. "To meet my boyfriend, you remember him, skinny bloke, kind of tall, black hair and eyes, fantastic kisser, actually you wouldn't know about that last bit. I'd invite you to come watch so you could see just how good he is, but unlike you, Sev's not much of an exhibitionist. So, you'll just have to take my word for it."
Sirius sputtered at her words and James' mouth fell open. Lily could see Remus shaking with silent laughter behind them and winked at him before she turned and swanned out of the portrait. She walked calmly until she reached the end of the corridor and then began to run. Even though she ran the whole way to the library, she was still ten minutes late.
She was holding a stitch in her side and panting loudly when she entered the room earning herself a reproachful glare from Madame Pince. Lily smiled as sweetly as she could before making her way back to Severus' table. She collapsed against it, still panting.
Severus instantly looked up and started. "Lil, what's wrong?"
"Non – nothing. I – was talking – to..."
Severus got up, pulled out the chair next to him and motioned to it. "Angel, just stop, sit down and breathe."
Lily gratefully collapsed into the chair and took several long breaths. When she was finally breathing normally she explained to him she had lost track of time and had run to the library so she wouldn't be too late. He shook his head at little bemusedly at her story, a small smile on his lips.
"I'm thirsty, will you go to the kitchens with me?" Lily asked him.
Severus nodded and quickly packed up his things. They walked to the kitchen in almost complete silence, Severus playing distractedly with her fingers and Lily trying to come up with a way to both keep her promise and talk him into letting her go with him. She still hadn't come up with a solution when they entered the kitchen and were surrounded by house elves. Not surprisingly, they were offered a half a dozen choices of drinks along with a large select of snacks when Lily made her request. Not wanting to be rude, Lily took a pot of tea and a plate of biscuits over to one of the tables.
They ate and drank in silence for a few moments when Severus abruptly said, "are you angry with me?"
"What, no. Why would you ask me that?"
He shrugged. "You've hardly said anything to me."
"You mean like you this morning."
"I was – I already explained that. Please don't be mad at me. I can't stand it when you are." The biscuit he was holding disintegrated in his hand.
Lily turned on the bench and pulled him around so they were looking at one another. "I'm not angry, dearest. I promise. I'm just…" she trailed off uncertain.
"What?" he prompted.
Her eyes darted around the room, for some reason she couldn't think of how to put what she wanted to say.
"Lily, please. I can't…" his voice cracked.
Lily's eyes met his and she blurted out the word without thinking, "terrified."
Severus' eyes widened and his lips opened but Lily found now she had begun the words were flooding out. "I'm so terrified of what's going to happen tomorrow. What if he takes you away? What if they force you take the…"
His hand flew up and covered her lips, his eyes darting to the house elves bustling around behind them. "Shhh, not here. If we're going to take about this we need to go somewhere private."
Lily nodded and hastily swallowed down the last of her tea, before rising from the table. The elves fussed as they left, trying to give them extra biscuits but Severus politely refused for them both. Once they left Lily began to walk towards the empty classroom they often went to but then she heard a sound behind them. She glanced back but didn't see anything. After a few more steps she was certain she heard the noise again, and quickly whipped around, once again seeing nothing.
"What are you doing?" Severus asked clearly confused.
"I thought I heard – Never mind, let's go this way."
She instantly turned them towards the entrance hall and began to lead them down numerous corridors and up and down stairways. Every so often, she would stop abruptly, and each time, for just a moment there would be the sound of footsteps, almost as an echo of hers and Severus'. At first, Severus had looked puzzled but she knew he quickly figured out what she was doing. The most frustrating part to her was no matter which twists and turns they took, no matter which out of the way corridors she took them down or how far ahead of the echoing footsteps she thought they'd gotten, the followers always seemed to know where they were going.
"Right, fine." Lily muttered under her breath. She turned suddenly and walked back to the library. She could feel Severus' hand shaking in hers and knew he was getting angry which didn't bode well for the conversation they were going to have once they lost the people she was now certain were James and Sirius. Lily smiled serenely at Madame Pince as they sailed back into the library and back to the table they'd vacated not long before.
"Take out your books." Lily whispered to Severus.
He sighed and began pulling items out of his bag while Lily disappeared into the bookshelves. She hastily pulled a book from the shelf and mentally counted to 100 before coming back out and sitting down. Not surprisingly, Severus almost immediately shoved a piece of parchment and quill towards her.
What's going on?
James and Sirius are following us. I just can't figure out how.
Because I said was going off to meet you.
And for that they're following us?
Lily bit her lip and glanced at him before dipping the quill in the ink and slowly writing back. I'm guessing it has more to do with the fact that I said you were a fantastic snogger and I've invite Sirius to watch and see just how fantstic but you're not an exhibitionist.
Severus gave a surprised exclamation when he read the note.
Why would you say that to Black?
Because, apparently they thought we'd had this huge row and were going to break up. I wanted to make it VERY clear that wasn't what was happening. Sorry. Lily passed the note back to him and smiled apologetically.
He nodded once he'd read the words and smiled at her. It's fine. What you're scared of, it's not going to happen.
I don't want to talk about it like this, not in a note.
I'm not talking about this in the library where everyone can hear.
Just wait awhile, if they think we're in the library to study they'll get bored and go away.
And how will we know when that is?
It's James and Sirius they'll be gone in a half hour.
Severus didn't write anything else, he simply grasped her hand and turned his attention to his book, never once letting go of her hand, his thumb gently caressing her palm. Lily, meanwhile made a good show of reading her book, though in reality she was scanning the room to see if she could find James and Sirius and constantly wondering how they could become invisible like that. After what seemed like ages, a book on the edge of a nearby table seemed to fall to the ground of its own accord. Severus smirked as a bit of shoe flashed from out of nowhere.
"What in the world?" murmured Lily.
Severus leaned close to her and whispered. "One of them has an invisibility cloak."
She was about to ask him to explain more but he shook his head and his eyes flickered towards the spot where the book had fallen. He kissed her hand and then, as if totally uninterested in what they had potentially seen, he went back to his book. Lily gave him an adoring look she knew was especially over exaggerated before seemingly focusing her attention back on her book. After a long moment there was an almost imperceptible whisper of fabric and soft footfalls away.
Lily started to close her book but Severus murmured, "not yet, let's give them a few moments to be certain they've gone."
Lily sighed and flipped another page discontentedly. Finally, ten minutes later, Severus got up and disappeared towards the front of the library. He came back a moment later. "They're gone," he said as he began to shove his supplies back into his bag. Lily didn't bother to put her book back on the shelf, she stood shifting from foot to foot until he was ready to leave.
Just before they reached the library doors, she turned to him and said, "I have a place we can go if that's okay with you."
Madame Pince made a loud shushing sound in their direction but Lily ignored her. When they left the library Lily took Severus' hand and guided him along until they reached a cupboard at the base of the Ravenclaw tower. She opened the door and gently nudged him in before following after and closing the door. She pulled out her wand and whispered a few quick words, hoping the charm would be strong enough to keep everyone short of a professor out.
When she turned around, Severus was looking around the generous cupboard. "How did you know this broom cupboard was so much bigger?"
"Perk of being Head Girl. It's a popular place for people to come to snog."
Severus nodded and then took in a deep breath. "Lil, what you said earlier, it's not going to happen."
"How do you know that?"
"Why would they ever force someone to take the Dark Mark? If you did that the person would have no loyalty to the group."
"Then what if he just takes you away? I can't lose you, not after dad and with mum so sick. If I'm there at least I can fight with you."
Severus reached out and crushed her tightly to him. "Lily, if you were there I'd be so concerned about protecting you, I…" he trailed off as if afraid to say the words but Lily didn't need them.
"Are you saying you wouldn't fight back?"
"Of course I would, but all my concentration wouldn't be on that, most of it would be on you. Lily, I honestly don't think Lucius is going to pull me out of the middle of Hogsmeade. And if he tries it, I promise I'm not going quietly. There'll be a fight. It would be stupid. Lucius maybe a lot of things but stupid is not one of them."
"Then let me go."
He stepped away from her. "You promised we wouldn't talk about this tonight."
"I didn't mean to but I need you to understand how I feel. I need you to…" she broke off to exasperated to continue.
He hesitated a long moment. "I do understand you're scared Lily. I do. Don't you think I'm scared? If anything were ever to happen to you because of me. I couldn't live with myself Lily."
"I don't understand you, Sev. On one hand you're telling me nothing's going to happen tomorrow and it'll be fine so I don't need to come and on the other I can't come because you're afraid something's going to happen to me."
"Well, when you put it that way." He replied with a wry smile.
"Don't you smile at me, Severus Tobias Snape. I want the truth. I want to know what you think is going to happen tomorrow!"
He leaned back against the wall and pinched the bridge of his nose. "The truth is, I don't know. I honestly don't think Lucius will get me out of the village forcibly. I do think he's going to press me to take the Mark over the Christmas hols despite what was agreed on before. I think I'm going to have to do a lot of quick thinking and Angel, that's easier for me if you're not there, if he can't use you or your safety against me in any way. I don't mean that to sound horrid but he knows I love you. He knows I'll protect you. Can't you see Lily, if you're there my head won't be completely in the game and – in my gut I feel I need to be completely focused tomorrow. Please understand."
"I suppose I do but Sev, someday very soon we're going to leave school and if you think I'm just going to stay at home and not fight at all then I'm going to wonder if you know me at all."
He swallowed hard and met her eyes. "I know you. Believe me, I know you. I'm just trying not to think about that right now. I can't, I couldn't do any of this if I had to picture you – I can't talk about this right now. I'm sorry, I can't. I need more time. I do know what you'll do but –" his voice broke and tears gathered in his eyes. "I'm not sure I'm that strong, Lily."
"Sev." She walked to where he was and wrapped her arms around him. "I understand."
He didn't say anything but held her tightly. After a moment she leaned back and wiped the tears from his cheeks. "You are strong. So, so strong but just so you know I have no intention leaving you anytime soon. Remember that."
"I'll stay here tomorrow if you really think it's best."
She caressed his cheek gently and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. Her eyes took in his every feature hungrily, despite all he had said she still felt as though something horrible was going to happen at the meeting. Unable to stop herself, she kissed the corners of his eyes and the tip of his nose, down the length of his cheek bones. He stood there, silently, returning the kisses when she wanted and otherwise just holding her, hands threading through her hair. Lily completely lost track of time and was surprised when the quarter till curfew bell rang.
"We have to go Lil. I'll barely get back to my common room as is."
Lily nodded but as he passed her and headed towards the door she pulled him back by the hand, wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him with all her might. Severus hesitated only a second before he responded as enthusiastically.
He finally broke off, panting heavily. "We have to go. We're going to break curfew."
His hand was on the knob when she spoke, "Sev…" Lily stopped abruptly not sure what he would say when she told him what she wanted.
Severus waited a moment and then prompted her to continue. "What is it, Lily?"
"I wonder if there's some sort of charm on the prefect's bathroom that would tell a Head of House or Dumbledore how long two people stay in there."
"I have no idea and why would you wonder that right now? Angel, I'm going to end up with a month's worth of detention if I don't leave about five minutes ago."
Lily barely registered what he was saying, lost in her own thoughts. "Probably better to not risk it. Can you think of anywhere else we could spend the night?"
"You can't seriously be thinking."
"If we get caught we'll be in so much trouble it'll be unreal. Let's just go back to our dorms."
"No." Lily shook her head to emphasis her point.
"Someone will tell on us. We were so lucky last year with the astronomy tower."
"I don't care. I don't care about anything but you tonight."
"Sev, we don't know what's happening tomorrow. Maybe you're right and it'll be nothing but maybe it won't, either way, I want us to spend tonight together, right here in this broom cupboard if we have to."
Severus shook his head. "No, not like this. Not in some cramped, horrid broom cupboard."
It took a second for Lily to understand what Severus was saying and to realize he'd misinterpreted what she had said and why he was so against the whole idea. Still, part of her wanted to press the issue, if Severus was killed tomorrow this might be their only chance to ever make love. At the same time she understood his point, she didn't really want them to lose their virginity on a pile of old rags in a cupboard that smelt of Mrs. Skower's All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover. And she really couldn't help but feel that pressing him would be tantamount to telling him she thought he wasn't coming back tomorrow.
So, she nodded in agreement. "Alright, no actual sex, but I need to hold you tonight. I need you to hold me. I can't not do that, not tonight Sev, please."
He nodded slowly and pulled her close again. "Alright."
"Where do we go?"
"I don't know. It's already after curfew so that's going to make going anywhere difficult. The astronomy tower will be freezing, classrooms will be patrolled, the owlery…"
"Ugh, no, I can't spend all night in that stench."
"Then either we go to the prefect's bathroom or we stay here."
Lily sighed and turned her head to look the length of the broom cupboard. All of a sudden it seemed minuscule but she really wasn't sure about the wards on the bathroom. Suddenly a thought came to her.
"What about the Shrieking Shack?"
"What?" He said the one word slowly, drawing it out and she could feel his heartbeat pick up pace where her hand rested against his chest.
"Do you know how to get in there?"
"You've almost been twice; you have to know the trick to getting past the Whomping Willow."
"I'm not spending the night in there."
"Why not? It'll be safe and relatively comfortable and there will absolutely be no one patrolling it."
"And who knows what sort of wards are on it and who might already be there."
"It's not a full moon."
"Maybe not but you're forgetting Remus' friends also know how to get in and who knows when they go there."
"Why would they go outside of a full moon? No, the only people who go there any other time are Remus and Sabrina and I don't think they'll be there."
Severus pushed her away and stepped back as far as the cupboard would allow. "You don't know for certain no one else goes there. Maybe Black uses it for his assignations. I honestly don't care what they use it for I just know I am never going in that tunnel again!"
He shuttered when he said the word tunnel and from the look on his face Lily thought he might vomit. She quickly crossed to him and pressed her hands to his chest. "I'm sorry dearest, please forgive me. I didn't think about how much going in the tunnel would upset you. I'm so sorry." She pressed her lips against his.
A moment later he broke the kiss, smiled down at her and brushed a piece of hair back from her face. "Forgive me, I'm being foolish. I know it's only a tunnel. I do know that – I just can't, Lil."
"I know. Can you be comfortable in here for the night?"
Severus glanced around the cupboard. Then he shifted a few things around before sinking to the ground and holding out his arms to her. Lily quickly joined him, snuggling up to his side. "Thank you for doing this for me."
"Of course." He smiled at her and pushed a lock of hair behind her ear before leaning down to kiss her.
Lily kissed him back passionately, shifting so she was eventually straddling him. After several minutes she leaned back, hands playing with the hair at the nape of his neck. She could see the vein in his neck throbbing and feel his heart thudding. She looked at him intently almost certain he wouldn't turn her request down but still a little hesitant.
"Sev, would you – that thing you did with Anastasia, would you do that with me?"
"Lily, I told you, it doesn't mean to me…"
She abruptly cut him off. "No, will you do to me what you did to her?"
"You mean –" Severus swallowed hard, his eyes flickering away from hers for a moment and took a deep, calming breath before once again met her gaze. "With my hand?"
"Lily, I – Anastasia, she isn't like you…"
"She wasn't a – you're a – we're…" He scrubbed his hands over his face and looked at her bewildered.
Lily laughed lightly. "Sev, do you really think I've never gotten myself off before?"
His eyes grew wide. "You – I – okay – I never thought…"
She laughed again before standing up, pulling her knickers off and dropping them next to him on the floor. He watched the flowered cotton fall to ground and then looked back up at her. He swallowed hard and Lily could see he was trembling slightly. She dropped back onto his lap, took his face in her hands and kissed him deeply. "I trust you."
"What if I muck it up?"
He pulled her close and kissed her in that way that always made her head spin. She could feel his hands caressing her back and Lily was beginning to think he wasn't going to take it any further when one of his hands moved to her knee. He began to make slow caressing circles up her leg, stopping when his fingers lightly brushed the hair between her legs.
"Are you sure you want me to do this?"
Lily shifted her legs so they opened further. "Yes."
He nodded, kissing her long and hard, his fingers gently playing with her curls. After only a moment he pulled away and looked at her intently. "Lils, if you decide you want me to stop you have to tell me. Promise?"
"I promise," she whispered before leaning in to kiss him.
He sighed and his hand slipped deeper between them and the pressure increased. His fingers began moving in a way not dissimilar to the way her own did when she did this to herself in the shower or her bed, though with more pressure and a different pace. And of course Severus' fingers were longer and harder than her own and he had callouses where she didn't and so it felt different but still good. Lily rocked her hips forward and Severus' other hand tightened the slightest bit on the back of her neck. She moved again, and then a third and a fourth time and they both moaned. She seemed to be moving instinctively now, her hips moving over his hand, his thumb still circling her and under all of that the fabric of his trousers, slightly scratchy, seemed to excite her even more.
Not even thinking about what she was doing, her hands fell to the front of his trousers, unzipping and unbuttoning and pushing clothes down. Somehow he felt harder and thicker than the last time she'd held him. Her hands slid up and down his length as she had done before. Their kisses were growing in urgency, his hand increasing in pace and pressure. It wasn't until she moved on his lap, rising herself over the length of him that he broke their kiss, his hand falling from her neck to her hip to stop her movement.
"No, Lily. No."
"Sev, please. I need…"
"Lily, I don't want to us to remember our first time like this. I want it to be better. So, you never look back on it and regret it, wish it had been more perfect."
She let out a noise of exasperation and as if to persuade him she began to move her hand up and down his length again. He smiled, and his eyes slid shut, Lily was almost certain he was ready to say to hell with it and shag here and now. His lids slowly fluttered back opened and he placed an almost chaste kiss on her lips and pushed on her hip so she was forced to move back to her previous position even while his other hand began to move between her legs again, firmer and faster than before.
"Tell me what you need." He whispered.
"You." And she lightly squeezed him to emphasis her point.
"Anything but that."
She was ready to tell him she didn't need perfection only him when she felt a finger slide into her. She gasped and Severus tensed.
"That, do more of that," She urged him.
He nodded and as Lily leaned in to kiss him she felt another finger join the first. After that, things became a blur, all her senses coiling tighter and tighter and then releasing in a rush. She rested her head against his shoulder, her breath coming in short, hot pants.
"Are you alright?" He whispered a bit anxiously.
Lily leaned back and smiled. "Absolutely. Merlin, but you're good at that." She saw the blush start to creep across his cheeks and he suddenly looked very shy, more than he ever had in the past. Suddenly, Lily was very aware that she was still holding him and he had very obviously not reached his climax. As she began to once again move her hand, she whispered, "How close are you?"
"Close. I can – I just need to find – a cloth."
Lily leaned in so her lips were close to his before saying "No, I'll do it."
"At least get a rag or some – thing."
"It'll be messy."
A smile curled her lips and her hand moved quicker. "Then it'll be messy."
Severus' only response was to groan. It hardly seemed like any time had passed before he hastily moved her off his lap and shoved a rag into her hand. Not entirely sure what she was doing, Lily tried to copy what she'd seen Severus do months earlier. She wasn't as successful and as he had predicted it was much messier than when she had let him finish himself off but he didn't say anything. He simply handed her his scarf, to clean herself he said before grabbing another rag and wiping himself off and pulling his clothes back into place.
Lily couldn't bear the thought of ruining his scarf so she cleaned with her knickers. She stuffed them both back into Severus' bag, figuring she would get the knickers in the morning and then hid the dirty rags at the very back of the cupboard behind a couple of ancient bottles of cleanser.
Then she curled up with her head on Severus' chest and soon fell asleep.
She woke when Severus attempted to roll over and hit his head on a box with a loud thunk.
"Ow, bloody, buggering…"
"Are you okay?"
"What time is it?" Lily asked sluggishly.
She could hear Severus fumbling around for a moment before he uttered, "lumos." The cupboard was bathed in a soft white light.
"Crap! Lil, get up, it's after 9!"
She struggled to sit up. "What? How can we have slept so late?"
"I don't know but I have to go so I can get cleaned up before I have to meet Lucius."
Lily scrambled to her feet and hastily smoothed her hair down before pulling open the cupboard door, not bothering to check if anyone was outside.
When they reached the corridor where they'd have to go their separate ways, Severus kissed her hard on the lips. "I love you."
She knew what he was doing but wasn't about to let him get away with it. "I'll meet you in the entrance hall in 45 minutes. Now go."
He looked ready to protest but Lily gave him no opportunity, turning on her heels and heading back to the Gryffindor common room. Uncertain if Severus would wait for her or if he would try to sneak off early, Lily raced up to the dorm, grabbed her toiletries and took the fastest shower of her life. She was unendingly thankful not a single one of her dormmates was in the room so she didn't have to talk to them as she pulled on the first clothes that came to hand. She slid her wand into her pocket and left the dorm. The castle seemed almost deserted as she walked swiftly through it. Even the usual first and second years, who usually hung around the corridors because they couldn't go to the village were nowhere to be seen.
She glanced down at her wrist to check the time and saw only Severus' forget-me-not bracelet, her watch forgotten on her bedside cabinet. She walked faster down the stairs, arriving only seconds before Severus. The hall was mostly deserted, with only a handful of stragglers remaining. Lily thought the two Slytherins there were watching them suspiciously and was hardly surprised when Severus pulled them off to one side of the hall.
"Promise me you're not going to follow me."
"I promise. I'll be waiting for you in our clearing. Go there when you're done."
Severus nodded determinedly, then turned and strode confidently out the door and down the track towards the village. All Lily could do was stand and watch him go.
After he had disappeared from view, she left the castle herself, not bothering to go back for a book to read or down to the kitchen for food. She just couldn't bear the thought of running in to anyone and trying to have to pretend to be cheerful, not when her stomach was already starting to tie itself into knots. So, she walked as slowly as she could, knowing it was going to be a long wait but not sure what else to do.
When she got there, she sat down with her back to the tree where she and Severus had spent their first hours together as a couple and began to day dream. Some dreams were simple, about N.E.W.T. scores and what Cris and Honoria's baby might look like and what they might call it. How happy she'd be when her mother told them she no longer had cancer. Some were more complicated like trying to imagine herself into a variety of different jobs or how to get Mrs. Snape to like her more. Then there were sweet ones, of her and Severus and whisper proposals, white gowns and flower filled churchs, thatch roofed houses and tiny babies with his beautiful smile. Then other thoughts started to creep in, horrible ones of Dark Marks over destroyed houses and Lily crying in a church while Severus rested in a casket and dark eyed children who would never know their father.
Lily, jumped to her feet, unable to sit still any longer. Why on earth had she let Severus talk her out of going to the Hogs Head with him? She paced back and forth through the clearing, her stomach tying its self in tighter and tighter knots. At the very least, she should have ignored him and gone to Hogsmeade, then she would have been closer to where he was. That way if something bad had happened she could have stood by him, defended him or if worse came to worse, fought side by side with him. Her mind spun out a myriad of scenarios, each worse than the last. This was torture.
Perhaps she should just forget the promise and go down there now. Would it be worth having Severus angry with her? Lily was almost certain it would be. What she was less certain about was how much of a distraction her presence would truly be for him. She knew what he had said but she also knew he was a fighter and ultimately if it came down to life and death she didn't believe he'd allow himself to be distracted. Her hand went to her wrist and began to turn the bracelet around over and over as she weighed her options.
Lily stopped and stared at the blue forget-me-nots. She had made him a promise and she would keep it. She would remain where she was and wait, even if the waiting was agony. Each minute seemed to stretch on for an eternity and her stomach was now so tightly wound she felt sick.
Lily had worn a furrow in the clearing by the time she heard the tell-tale crunching of leaves and the snapping of branches that meant someone was making their way towards her. She stopped and turned expectantly towards the sound, not bothering to draw her wand, her breath caught in her throat.
Severus walked through the parting of two trees and Lily almost fell to the ground and sobbed with relief. He was alive and he looked completely unharmed. She took two steps towards him and then stopped. Rage absolutely radiated off of him, anger burned in his eyes.
"Sev?" She said his name hesitantly. In eight years she didn't think she had ever seen him like this. "What – what happened?"
Maybe he could sense she was a little frightened because he closed his eyes and let out a long breath. "I'm sorry. I– I need a few minutes. I just need to – calm down."
Severus began to pace the clearing, obviously so furious standing still was impossible for him.
Lily watched him for at least ten minute and when it looked like his stride had begun to slacken, she asked, "are you ready to tell me what happened with Lucius?"
Instead of answering, Severus made another circle of the area where they stood. Just as Lily was beginning to despair of getting to the bottom of what had so upset her boyfriend, Severus began to speak.
"It seems – Lucius – my grandfather." He gave a frustrated growl, scrubbed his hands across his face and pulled them through his hair.
Lily went and stood in front of him, clasping his hands in hers. "Just breathe, dearest."
He looked ready to shake her off but instead he took a couple of long deep breaths in, before squeezing her hands. Lily could still see the rage in his eyes but the fury was starting to fade from his face. She lightly ran a hand up and down one of his arms. "It's fine now. Whatever it is, we'll figure it out, together. Like we always do, but first you have to tell me what happened."
He took another few deep breaths in and then walked a few steps away from her and began to start slowly pacing again. "I don't even know how to – it's so…" He broke off as if he couldn't think of what he wanted to say.
Lily was really confused now; she had never seen Severus at a loss for words.
"Sev, just start at the beginning and tell me what Lucius said. Pretend he was saying it about someone else if that helps."
Instantly, he stopped moving. The next few words were whispered so faintly Lily barely heard them. "Yeah, I can do that."
Severus turned to face her, cleared his throat and then abruptly shook his head. "No, I'm just going to – Apparently Lucius, my mother, my grandfather, one of his friends and perhaps You-Know-Who, though I'm unclear about that bit, all had some sort of meeting and worked out a life plan for me."
Lily felt her heart stop. "What sort of plan?"
Severus laughed harshly, "Well, there's still the join the fellowship part obviously and oh yes, at some point in the future I am meant to marry Urania Burke."
"What?! Are you kidding me?! '
"No. The highlights of the plan are, I renounce my father, become Severus Prince and take the Dark Mark over Christmas hols. Come the summer I become the fellowship's private and exclusive potions brewer. Finally, once Urania leaves school, we get married and presumably start breeding future Death Eaters."
Lily was in shock and could only manage to stammer, "wh – what did you say to Lucius about this proposed scheme?"
"I was shocked. I didn't know what to say at first. Obviously I'd guessed about the Dark Mark part but it didn't seem wise to reject that right away, so I started by telling him no to the Urania bit. When he asked me why, I told him I don't love Urania. I could never love her. I can barely stand to be around her for more than a half hour."
"And what did he say to that?"
"I'd learn to like her well enough to do what I had to." Severus shook his head in disbelief. "It's as if he never even knew me at all. And then…" Severus broke off abruptly, and Lily noticed his hand was trembling violently, he convulsively clenched it into a fist. Suddenly he began to pace again.
"And then what?" Lily prompted.
But clearly Severus was in such a strop the only thing she could do was let him go until he calmed down before pressing him any further. When he once again slowed down, she asked, "what happened after that, Sev?"
"You don't want to know."
"Actually, I do."
Severus turned and looked her steadily in the eye while Lily braced herself for whatever shocking revelation was about to come this time. "I reminded Lucius I was with you, that I love you. So how could I ever possibly marry anyone else? He said if I knew what was good for me, I'd marry Urania. Though I was, of course, free to keep you as a mistress if I wished."
Lily inhaled deeply, not sure what to make of this new development but feeling as if she'd been punched in the gut. "I – what – what did you say to all that?"
"I refused of course! Do you really think I would marry that foolish girl!? Or lower you like that! Turn you into little better a whore?! Force you to…" Severus broke off with a shake of his head, his face once again darkening with fury.
Lily's stomach rolled in apprehension, if she had thought Severus looked angry before it was nothing compared to how he looked now. She quickly crossed the forest floor to stand in front of him, blocking his continued movement. "Force me to what? Sev…"
Dark eyes peered intently out in to the forest, seeing right through her to whatever future his imagination had conjured up. Lily gave him a little shake. "Severus!"
Severus pulled himself out of his reverie and looked down at her.
"Force me to do what, Severus?"
"We couldn't – I'd have to ensure we never had children. That you'd never be able to have any children at all."
"You'd have to sterilize me?" Lily was sickened by this newest piece of information and she gagged slightly.
Severus nodded in affirmation before pulling her tightly into his arms. "But I wouldn't do that Lily, not ever. I couldn't…"
Lily cut him off quickly. "I know. I can't believe Lucius…"
"I can, there's nothing he wouldn't do for You-Know-Who. Lucius would hand Narcissa over to the Dark Lord on a silver platter if he was asked to."
"A Death Eater's foremost loyalty is to You-Know-Who, what he wants is of the utmost importance."
Lily pulled away from him so she could look up into his eyes. "Was your first loyalty ever to him?"
"No, my first loyalty has always been to you." Severus gave a small snort of derision. "I guess I would have ended up being a piss poor Death Eater."
"I have no doubt about that. You're too good of a man to make a good Death Eater."
Severus gave her a small smile and pulled her back in to his arms. "Thank you for that."
Lily nodded against his chest. They stayed that way for several minutes, Lily listening to Severus' heart race and feeling him tremble in her arms. She waited until the trembling had stopped and he had placed a gentle kiss on her crown before she asked, "so how exactly did you leave things with Lucius?"
Severus sighed, broke their embrace and ran his hands over his face. "After the row about you and Urania I wasn't sure where things stood. I was livid and wasn't thinking rationally. Lucius kept pressing me, asking me what my decision was…" Severus stopped and looked at her, strange mixture of anger and regret on his face. "I admit it, my temper got the better of me and I just said what I was feeling."
"And that was what?"
"I honestly have no problem cutting my father out of my life though I'm still a bit unsure of what renouncing him entails. I said I don't know my grandfather and so I'm not willing to make any commitment to him without first meeting him. I'm not comfortable with the idea of changing my name. I've spent almost 18 years as Severus Snape; it's who I am and who I'll remain.
"As far as taking the Mark over Christmas went, I was under the impression we'd made an agreement and I didn't understand why that needed to change all of a sudden, especially when I wouldn't be able to contribute anything before the summer. I wasn't comfortable with this change and wanted to know why it was happening. Lucius wouldn't or couldn't give me any answers. So I refused to commit.
"I point blank rejected the idea of doing anything to prevent you from having children. I said the mere thought of it sickened me. And I refused to marry Urania. I told him – I wouldn't marry anyone but you – ever." The last part was said hesitantly, as if he was afraid of what her reaction to this revelation would be.
Lily's heart leapt, she wasn't sure if this was a proposal or not but before she could really react, Severus continued, "That's when Lucius said he'd been wrong about me. I wasn't fit to be part of the fellowship and he didn't doubt the Dark Lord would agree with him when he told him my decisions."
Lily's heart went from racing to stopped in a second. "You're out?" She whispered, stunned.
"Not officially yet but I think it's safe to say I closed that door pretty firmly today."
A joyous laugh burst from Lily as she flung herself at Severus. "You're out! Why are you so upset?"
"They insulted you! They wanted me to make you into a whore! To mutilate you."
"I don't care. They can call me anything they like, think whatever they want as long as they've let you go!"
Severus looked at her seriously for a moment. She gave his arm a small squeeze and he finally smiled. "Everything is going to be fine from here on out. You'll see." She assured him.
She thought she saw his eyes darken for a moment but then he nodded and pressed his forehead to hers. "Of course it will."
He sighed and tangled his hands in her hair. "I love you, Lily Evans don't you ever forget that."
"Never. And don't you forget I love you."
Severus started to lean in to kiss her, but Lily stopped him by pressing her hand to his chest. "Thank you, for doing this for me. For choosing me."
"There was no choice, not really."
"No, don't make less of what you've done. I know this was hard for you, on you. It means the world to me you took this risk."
"It was worth it. You're worth it." And he leaned towards her again.
"I'm glad you think so."
"Most definitely." He smiled.
"You know, you're the only person I want to marry, too, right?"
Severus gave a little involuntary gasp and any worry or anger left his eyes. He didn't say anything. He just pulled her flush to him and cradled her face in his hands. Lily thought she heard leaves rustling in the bush to her right but any concerns about who might be watching them fled as Severus began to kiss her passionately.
On the other side of the bush, a stag slowly walked away, its head drooping so low its antlers scraped the ground, a single tear rolling down its velvety cheek.