Aftermath and Life Decisions

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The teachers try to isolate the Room of Requirement, but once word got out, all the students needed to see what was happening and the Room complied by removing an entire wall. Filch and Hagrid clear as many onlookers as they can but more continue to slip inside, hoping to catch a glimpse of the body.

I sit with my back against an old crate. My knuckles are crammed between my teeth to stop a scream from escaping. Tears continue spill down my face. I no longer try to wipe them away.

Sometime during the commotion I see Sirius run past me and down the hallway. I know that my friend has left the school, never to return. Sirius will go back to the family he always claimed to hate; he'll take refuge in the Black family name and wealth. Hell, they may even be proud of him at last, with the death of a bloodtraitor on his hands.

Snape had been right about unbecoming behavior for Gryffindors.

Lily sobs into Professor McGonagall's arms while Dumbledore and Madame Pomfrey examine the body.

"Stone dead, Albus," says the school's Healer. "Boy looks to have died some time ago. No telling with these crazy Vanishing Cabinets. Bloody hazardous things! What in the name of Merlin was he doing messing about with one anyway?"

"Shocking!" Madame Hooch wrung her gloved hands together. "How long do you suppose a human being could survive the limbo inside one of those?"

"Without a wand, food or water? A few days." Dumbledore's words are without energy. "Certainly not a week."

"But he was at the Ball," says Professor Slughorn. "We all saw him dancing with Ms. Evans. Dear, dear boy. Tragic. Tragic. How could he be there if you claim he was dead already? Impossible."

"He wasn't a ghost," squeaks tiny Professor Flitwick. "He gave young Potter quite a blow. Left a black eye behind as proof. Hardly the work of a shade."

"How was it done, Albus?" asks Madame Pomfrey. "Unless the boy had a Time-Turner or some Polyjuice Potion."

"He had promised to dance with Lily," I say at last. My voice cuts through the air like a razor. "And Severus Snape believed in keeping his promises."

Then I confess. All of it. James turns white and Peter moans into his hands.

Lily turns eyes of fire upon me, eyes that burn darker the longer I speak. I try to imagine her thoughts. Her friends have played their last prank on the boy they had tormented for all those years. The boy she loved. They have caused him harm and then lied to her about it.

But I have a promise to keep myself, and this time I will not forgo my responsibility. I can do this much for Severus.

I sit in the courtyard along side of Peter, waiting for the Ministry cars that will take us back to our homes.

James had been escorted away by Azkaban guards hours earlier. He had confessed to having planned the entire joke himself and accepted the full blame, sparing Peter and myself from further retribution. His father's solicitor will see that James does the minimum sentence, I'm sure. In the end, I think that my friend genuinely regretted his actions.

Lily comes into the courtyard, dragging her trunk behind her. She notices that we are also there and she sneers at me, very Snape-like. I wince to see my once close friend regard me with such hatred.

"A-are you going somewhere, Lily?" I ask, tentatively.

After a while she decides to answer. "Home. I cannot stay here. Not now. Not without…. Dumbledore's cleared the rest of my term for me."

"Well, that's good, isn't it?" Peter says and attempts to smile but looks back down at her fury.

"So," I go on. "You are, ah, leaving school, then?"

She shrugs. "Dunno. I'm thinking of coming back after break. I asked the Headmaster about taking extra courses. I've decided to become an Auror."

"Really? Why?"

"So when I get my license I can hunt down that scum Black and send him to Azkaban where he belongs!"

She sounds so different from the girl I knew, the girl who had been like a sister to me just a few hours ago.

"I don't see why we got in trouble." Peter mutters into his coat. "It's not like we did it. It was all James and Sirius. We didn't do anything wrong."

"We did," I say, my voice heavy. "We all went through with our prank, not caring how it would end. Well, this is where it got us."

"I shouldn't have been sacked from Hogwarts. I didn't do anything wrong! I'm innocent! Potter was the idiot. My mum's gonna kill me!" Peter puts his head in his hands.

I am sick to my stomach by my once closest friends. One ran away, one will depend on his fortune to save his hide, and one will never accept that he had done harm in the first place. All this time I have been friends with them because I was just like them. A coward.

"Lily…" I mutter. "Are… Are you going to be all right?"

She looks at me and smiles; her eyes are full of tears. "No. No, I'm not. He really loved me. He came back just so we could have one last dance together. No one will ever love me more than Severus Snape."

The truth of her statement is indisputable. I cannot argue with it, but I cannot let things go the way they are.

"I didn't want him to get hurt, Lily. You have to believe that. We didn't know that it was dangerous. You have—"

She is clutching the green and silver scarf to her chest and I give up the plea I had prepared. I remove the ebony wand I keep at my side all the time now; a reminder of what our actions–or lack thereof–can lead us to.

Maybe she will forgive me, in time, and maybe I will be able to forgive my friends. After all, Severus said that people can change.

END

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A/N: I really love Severus and Lily and want them to be together. Unfortunately, it did not work out in this story. Someone always wants to drive them apart, and sometimes true love's kiss is not enough to break the evil spell.

My inspiration came from a musical called "Steel Pier," a charming ghost/love story. I didn't want to make it obvious till the end that Severus was at the dance only on borrowed time. I know that J.K. has decreed that there is no magic on earth that can bring people back from the dead. However, she has also stated that love is the greatest power of all. Somehow, through the powers that be, or through the power of love, Severus was allowed one last dance with Lily. I'm gonna pull a "Twilight Zone" explanation. Sev was at the Ball but he was also trapped inside the Vanishing Cabinet the entire time. I'll leave it to the imagination.

I started out with the intention of showing the character development between Sev and Lily, but it soon became clear that it was Remus who was going through the real journey here. I like Remus' amiable character, although I find him very flawed and often cowardly. I wanted to put him in the ultimate test against peer pressure and see how he would respond. Like all high school boys, the need to be popular doesn't always lead to the right decisions.

I chose the title for this story from Vanessa Carlton's song "Ordinary Day," because when I hear it I imagine Sev and Lily dancing at the Ball. The rest of the story evolved around that happy image.