A/N: Obviously, this is AU. There are plenty of little changes, but the big one being that what if James was not surprised by Voldemort, instead having the presence of mind to run into the other room where his wife and child were, avoiding his death at Voldemort's hands? This started out as a Severus/Lily fic, but then I realized it was so much more than that single moment that I had imagined. This is intended as a one-shot, but if there's interest, I'm willing to try and write more - suggestions welcomed, of course. The epic AU is not out of my reach, it's just something I've never completed. So Severus discovers Peter Pettigrew fleeing the scene, and goes for help...
"JAMES! TAKE THE BABY AND GO!"
Lily Potter shoved her son into her husband's arms. James stood shocked for a moment, realization dawning on his face – his wife was going to stand against You-Know-Who, and she was telling him to get out.
To leave so their son did not see her die.
She turned around in a rush, and took her husband's shoulders, and kissed him quickly on the lips. "I love you, James. Now GO!" She shoved him, and he half-stumbled towards the door, not yet able to tear his eyes away from his beautiful, fierce, red-headed wife.
# # # # #
With a loud CRACK!, Severus Snape apparated into the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.
"Potter," he managed to get out, fear and urgency in his eyes, face, and his voice.
Albus Dumbledore, nor the other remaining members present needed anymore. They raised their wands and with the sound of firecrackers, were gone, following their comrade into the ether.
# # # # #
The sound of firecrackers arrived abruptly at the Potter residence, Severus Snape was first.
And he watched as a green light shot out of the end of Voldemort's wand, striking Lily Potter directly in the chest.
He hardly got the chance to yell her name, and as she fell, she turned her head, and her pupils dilated, seeing the man who uttered it.
He raised his own wand, and uttered the same curse, just as the rest of the Order appeared, and almost as one, raised their wands and did the same.
The heavy black cloak the Dark Lord wore crumpled to the floor.
If he was not dead, he was awfully close to it, for the strength of one of those curses from those wands would have killed any other wizard, and the sheer number alone, seven at once on the heels of the first that he had deflected from the woman he had killed, was more than devastating.
No sooner did the green lights hit their target, the Dark Lord momentarily defeated, did Severus Snape let out a noise that Dumbledore and the rest had heard many times before in their war against the Death Eaters and their master.
It was pure pain, agony, and sorrow, all in one.
He took a step, and fell to the floor on his knees, leaning forward and gathering the body of the red-head in his arms. He clutched her close to his chest, and started rocking back and forth, his sobs issuing from his throat as he repeated her name over and over again, sounding so foreign to those that watched in dumb shock. Of all the things they were expecting, this was not one of them.
Except for Albus Dumbledore, who merely looked sad.
James Potter came back into the room then, holding his son, who was fussing, and he stroked his downy hair, trying to calm him.
He stopped short, seeing the scene on his living room floor; a black-cloaked man held Lily close, his head bent over hers, her face clutched beneath his chin, pressed against his sternum, her red hair tangling as it fell over his arm. He looked and saw her own arm, flung out to the side, limp, her wand slowly rolled out of it as the man rocked her back and forth.
He stared at the wand rolling out of her fingers bit by bit, shock not quite suffusing his body with complete awareness.
Then he managed to tear his eyes away from his wife's hand, and saw as the man turned his head slightly, kissing his wife's forehead, just where her hair started, murmuring her name, and then "no, please, no."
He recognized that hooked nose, and was consumed by an altogether different emotion.
Still clutching his son tightly in one arm, he rushed forward, and with the other arm, grabbed the man by the collar, and tried to pull him off his wife.
"GET AWAY FROM HER! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
His emotional state gave him the strength, but his son still in his arm, halved it. He was only able to tip him backwards, and so, with James Potter's wife still in his arms, Severus Snape fell into a sitting position on the floor, and for the first time, looked up.
He had no words, and just stared at the man, who was seething.
Dumbledore stepped forward, and held out his hands for the child.
"James," he said softly, and James numbly handed the old wizard his son, and then bent over to scoop his wife out of the arms of the stranger, the man who had no right to touch her.
Snape let him. He let him lift Lily out of his arms, but James only got turned away from him when he collapsed to his knees, and the anger of the previous moment melted away in favor of grieving.
Snape did not move, at first. He watched James do what he had done, clutching her body close, but his words were more than just her name.
"Lily, why, why Lily? Why did you do that? We could have both gone together, we could have both…" he whispered into his wife's now-deaf ear, tears streaming down his cheeks. He made no noise of sobs, just held her as the tears escaped his eyes, falling into her red locks.
Alastor Moody held out a hand to Snape, who still sat on the floor staring. Moody snapped his fingers once, getting Snape's attention.
Snape looked at him, the tear tracks evident on his face, but his tears had stopped. For now. He stared at the man's hand for a moment, and Alastor was about to snap his fingers again, when Snape reached for his hand, and let the older man help him to his feet.
Albus turned to his company, and ushered them into the next room, just as the door flew open.
"James! Lily!" the breathless voice rasped.
Snape sneered at the man, Sirius Black, who had been no friend to him since they were children.
"This is your fault, Black!" He strode towards the man, the other members of the Order parting like the red sea between the two men. He raised his wand, and then they were on him, pulling his arm down, and saying his name, over and over again.
He bared his teeth at the man in the doorway, who still had no clue what had happened.
Sirius looked to Dumbledore, and saw the child clutched in his arms, a question in his eyes.
"James is in the other room, Sirius. Lily…died defending her family."
Black's eyes darkened and he pushed past the small crowd, and into the room where his friends were.
Snape turned to follow, but for what reason he couldn't say.
Dumbledore almost considered leaving the child in Severus' care while the rest of the Order dispersed, to find Pettigrew, to assure themselves that the Dark Lord was dead, and not just gone from corporeal form, to tell the wizarding world of the events that had taken place.
But he knew all too well how Potter, Black, and Snape had gotten along, even now, years after they had left Hogwarts. He knew it would only cause trouble. But he also knew that Snape needed his own time to grieve.
All these thoughts passed through his mind in a flash, and then Snape spoke.
"I'm going after Pettigrew."
"Severus, we don't know for sure," Dumbledore began.
"I saw him, Albus. That little rat is working for the Dark Lord!" He hissed. "Black should have been watching them, but Pettigrew told the Dark Lord where to look!"
Frank Longbottom stepped forward. "I'll go with him, Albus. We must find Peter Pettigrew."
Albus considered for a moment, and then nodded his head once.
Sirius Black came back into the room, his eyes red, and held out his arms to Dumbledore.
"Give me the boy, Dumbledore."
Albus complied and placed the child in Sirius' arms. Sirius shifted him, and the boy, who had been sleeping lightly, began to fuss again.
"Alice, Alastor, make sure he's dead."
Dumbledore nodded to the other two members, and said "Go back to the Ministry. I will be along shortly. Tell them what's happened."
All four wizards apparated out with a crack!, leaving Frank Longbottom, Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, and Sirius Black standing in the front room of the Potter's secret hideout.
"I'll take care of James," Sirius said softly, and Dumbledore nodded. Sirius stared at Severus for several moments, before turning away from the group to rejoin his friend.
Frank put his hand on Severus' shoulder, and said "Come on, son. We're already behind."
Severus nodded once to Dumbledore, and then looked towards the other room, where the woman he loved lay dead.
"Severus," Dumbledore said quietly, drawing his attention back. They shared a look, but Snape had already closed off his emotional tap, and just gave him a hard flinty stare. Then he looked to Longbottom, and the two of them disappeared.
Dumbledore took a deep breath, and surveyed the damage.
While their crusade against the Dark Lord may have ended, their war against his followers would not fizzle out so quickly. There were still so many of them carrying out his wishes, and the definite chance that any one of them could try and carry on his mantle of fear themselves.
Severus Snape had joined the cause to protect Lily Potter, and Dumbledore wasn't sure that when Pettigrew was caught, that Snape would continue to be on anyone's side, much less theirs.
He looked to the other room, where one of his members lie dead, and two were grieving for her. He himself had no time to grieve. Not yet. Lily Potter had been a shining light in the Order of the Phoenix, and she had no equal.
He remembered her as a child, meeting her in person for the first time, and remembered her holding the hand of a dark-haired little boy, who looked both petrified and defiant. Her grin was wide, her freckles dotting her cheeks, and she clutched the boy's hand and pulled him up the stairs. She didn't even know who she had bumped into; it was still several hours before the sorting.
"Oh! I'm so sorry, Mister!" Then she turned to her friend, who looked petulant at best, until he saw her grin at him. Then he rolled his eyes and gave her a wry smile of his own. "Come on Sev, we've got to catch up!" She giggled, and he smiled.
And hope took hold in the world again.
A/N: Well? Thoughts, anecdotes, comments, criticisms? Leave a review - I might be convinced to continue this...but I hope that if I don't, I left you with a good enough idea, a good enough setting, and a conclusion that gives some idea of how things might unfold...