Disclaimer: HP isn't mine. The phrase 'trick or treat', however, is. I'm expecting royalties, people.
Yeah, so, been a while. I kind of lost motivation during a bout of Major Authoring Insecurity ("Oh god why am I writing this shit, it's so ridiculously self-indulgent and crappy and stupid"). But then I got a couple of reviews that reminded me that hey, some people enjoy ridiculous self-indulgence and stupidity, and that I am in fact one of them and quite like writing this thing. SO. Sorry about the wait. Also, I've been writing Hikaru no Go fic like a crazy person.
In other news, One Piece is awesometastic. The best part? Knowing that I've still got three hundred and fifty episodes to go.
CHAPTER NINETEEN: In Which Snape Is, Like, Human Or Some Weird Shit Like That
The Not-Granddaughter ("Oh, for crying out loud, just call me Lilsy, everyone else does. Except for Mom. And Mister Malfoy. And Uncle Neville and Aunt Hermione and Aunt Luna—she calls me LL the Pottster, don't even ask, it's some kind of rap phase or something…") was decidedly displeased when Severus declared that there was an Order meeting he and Lily absolutely had to attend.
She was even less pleased when she realized James would be staying behind to keep an eye on her—"I'm eleven whole years old, peeps, I don't need a, a babysitter. This is totes grodiferous. Do you know what my brothers and I do to our babysitters? We've been blacklisted since I was three." She paused, scowling. "Eight years, and still no one believes that the tar was my hovering overhead lightbulb."
"Idea, people, idea. You know those cartoons with the lightbulb going off when someone's got a plan or whatevs?"
"You," Severus announced, and Lily thought she could almost see the migraine forming, "are the monster hiding under the English language's bed." The girl beamed for a moment, before remembering she was supposed to be annoyed.
"What's a lightbub?" James asked.
James was well aware that no Order meeting had been called, but despite his confusion and annoyance at being left out ("Not to mention this lightbub business," he grumbled), he agreed to remain behind. Lily suspected he gave in so that he could continue trying to argue their young pseudo-relative out of her determination to accompany them on their quite possibly fatal and most likely futile rescue mission.
"Quite possibly fatal and most likely futile rescue mission of awesome," was the girl's unfazed reply.
"We'll talk in the tunnels," Severus murmured quietly as they left the two Potters to yell at each other about propriety and stupidity and the importance of not being a corpse versus the importance of having half a dozen eternally grateful relatives at your beck and call ("Okay," James admitted, "that's a good point. But still—").
Lily nodded back, gnawing on her lower lip nervously.
They walked quickly towards the trap door leading to the tunnels, and Lily felt absolutely smothered by the awkward silence surrounding them. Smothering them. Blanketing them like, well, a big fat fluffy smothering blanket. Severus had been her closest friend, a very long time ago, but—she'd never been able to forgive him for choosing the Death Eaters over her. And he'd never been able to forgive her for giving up on him, not really.
Plus, there'd been that, ah, inconvenient little crush thing he'd had going on when they were teenagers. Which…just, no. Not ever. No.
She still missed him as a friend, though, even after so many years. She'd gotten to an age where she'd started spending a little too much time weighing up her regrets, and leaving him behind in Hogwarts was a big one. She'd tried to make up with him a few times after Harry died, and they got along well enough now, but she always felt like there was an indefinable distance between them that made true friendship impossible.
Well, she thought grimly, if he didn't have a damn good explanation for giving in to the younger Lily's demands, that distance would be bridged in a hurry—by her fist hitting his nose. Totes.
Lily turned on him the moment they climbed into the tunnels, finally safe from any eavesdropping—and on that count, she trusted James about as much as she trusted the younger Lily.
One thousand years of hellish torment wouldn't have been enough to make her admit that she was even worse than her husband when it came to nosiness.
She meant to get the first word (and hopefully the last, though probably not all at the same time), maybe start out with something snappy like, "Severus, what the hell are you thinking, if you're thinking at all?" But what came out was a quiet, almost tense, "You've met him—met Harry. What…what is he like?"
Severus looked startled by the question, nearly as startled as she felt. But now that she'd asked, she needed the answer, needed to know. Because there was a damn good chance she'd never find out for herself, given the current situation.
"Please," she added raggedly when he hesitated.
"He is...very obviously a Potter," Severus said slowly, which could mean any number of things, coming from him, and none of them complimentary. He paused, then, and got that awkward, trapped look Lily remembered so well from their adolescence, when he was always blushing and stuttering around her—like he was at a total loss, and wasn't sure whether to blame her or himself or maybe the Marauders, just on principle.
But for once, he didn't immediately go on the offensive or try to recover his cool with a dismissive or snide remark, which meant more to her than she was entirely comfortable admitting. Severus swallowed and told her, "He has your eyes."
"I remember," Lily said, thickly.
"And while his children are largely insufferable, and he seems to have only a nominal control of their actions—he struck me as being a decent man," Severus went on, hurriedly, looking more and more pained with every faintly approving remark. "Certainly more so than your husband or your other children." The virulence of the last bit would normally have gotten her hackles on the rise, but Lily was too astonished at hearing Severus say something almost flattering about a Potter to really register the insult.
"Why, Severus," she said, because it was easier to be amused than to register all the emotions his words had stirred up in her. "I'm surprised you didn't implode at the 'decent man' part."
Severus fixed her with a look dark enough to make lesser men or women tremble. Lily wasn't overly impressed—she'd seen him try that look on for size when he still had pimples, and nothing would ever be scarier than that.
"Now," she went on, "about whatever you have planned for that little girl—"
"Tell me something," he interrupted, voice going all deep and impatient and dangerously silky, like that could make her forget the near Hallmark-sentimentality of the last minute or so. Also, she was never, ever going to forgive herself for thinking the words 'dangerously silky'. "What is the very first thing a Potter—any natural-born Potter, at least—does when someone in a position of authority tells them not to do something?"
"That's easy. They go ahead and do it anyway," Lily said automatically, then paused.
Oh, she thought.
"Oh," she said.
"Yes. 'Oh'. We string her along until we are ready to go, we pick her brains for whatever useful information she might have, and then we stun her and pack her off to Lupin or someone else with enough patience to not kill her after the eighth 'for realz, yo'." He spoke the words like the very syllables were contaminated with some sort of fatal flesh-eating disease, and had to be handled with proper care lest he become infected.
Lily felt her face go a little red, as she realized that for a while there, she'd actually really thought he'd put a child in that kind of danger. Maybe he was right to be annoyed with her. It wasn't like she hadn't been justified in thinking the worst of him in the past—but their Hogwarts days were long over, and he'd proven himself repeatedly since them.
It was enough to make a girl (well, woman of a certain age) feel kind of guilty, really.
"Okay," she said, the fight gone out of her. "Good plan. But…the invisibility—do you think she was telling the truth? How could that little girl make herself invisible and undetectable?"
Severus smiled thinly, then, looking insufferably self-satisfied as he pulled produced something small and glittery from his breast pocket. "I know for a fact that she was telling the truth. The Death Eaters missed one of the brats' bags. I did not. There were five of these inside."
She took the tiny object from him, deeply curious. It was a small, sparkly, silvery candy, with miniscule white letters spelling out 'Invisibites by WWW' on the otherwise clear wrapper.
"Her great mystery mojo is…candy?" Lily demanded, horrified. "She was going to entrust her safety—her family's rescue—to a candy?"
Severus snatched it back from her, because he was a greedy mistrustful bastard, and tucked it back into his pocket. "I am choosing to ignore the fact that you just uttered the words 'mystery mojo'. One day, I may even respect you again, though it won't be soon."
"Oh, shut up."
"And her idea was not as foolish a decision as it sounds," he allowed, rather grudgingly. "I tested one of the candies already. They last approximately fifty-three minutes, and they do provide complete invisibility for that entire period. Whoever created them must be a Master Brewer."
Lily eyed him suspiciously. "You're planning on remaking them here, aren't you," she accused. Even if Severus hadn't always had rather flexible moral ideals, there had to be some sort of natural Slytherin imperative that would've taken over and forced his hand in this.
"Eventually," he agreed, unashamed. "And patenting them and selling them. They will be extremely expensive, of course, given that a majority of the ingredients are difficult to procure." Avarice put a sparkle in his eyes that absolutely did not belong there, at all, ever. Snapes were not built to sparkle.
Actually, she didn't know many people who were built to sparkle, though young Cedric Diggory was looking strangely glittery these days. She'd asked Amos about it, but he'd just cleared his throat awkwardly and muttered something about Cedric's wife being rabidly Team Edward. Lily still had no idea what that meant, and wasn't sure she ever wanted to know.
"Fifty-three minutes," Lily repeated, deciding that a debate about the ethics of patenting products from another reality could wait for another day. "That won't be long enough."
"Not for three people," Severus said. "Not with four candies. But I will not be using any, which gives you and your…spouse…nearly two hours each."
"I am a spy," he snapped, irritated. Lily decided she wasn't going to tell him she'd been less concerned about his well-being and more amused by his physical inability to call James her husband. "The Dark Lord thinks me his most loyal servant. I do not need to sneak in when I can walk unchallenged through the front door."
"You mean he doesn't have a secret password?" Lily asked, disappointed. "Not even an exchange of nonsense phrases to determine your identity?"
"'Die, Mudblood scum' does not count as a valid password," Severus grumbled. "McNair has no imagination. It's the 'swordfish' of dark wizards."
"I…see." Lily found that she couldn't help but think that if she had to be a part of an organization fighting the darkest evil to rear its ugly head in centuries, then that evil could at least have the decency to be a little less embarrassingly lame.
"Besides, I will hardly be breaking your Not-Son out myself—you and your husband can accomplish that part of the plan yourselves. In this matter, I will deal in information, infiltration, and distraction only."
Lily didn't like it, but arguing would only offend him, and that would only make him more stubbornly opposed to whatever she had to say. "Fine," she said curtly. "Now, are we sure that the, ah, the little Lily won't catch on?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "She's eleven years old and a Potter. Her master plan is 'candy'. How clever can she possibly be?"
"Point," Lily agreed with a snort, conveniently forgetting that their master plan had become 'stolen candy', with a side helping of 'spies'. "Well then, tell me. What kind of plot are you cooking up in that giant brain?"
He cast a dark glance her way. "What makes you so certain I have a plan more involved than 'turn you and your spouse invisible and send you on your merry and suicidal way'?"
"Please. You over-think everything, Sev, this entire deception with Little Lily is pretty much a real-life illustration of that. And you've been smiling that nasty little smile of yours, the same one you always get when you've come up with something particularly humiliating to spring on my husband and his friends."
Severus eyed her oddly, and she realized belatedly that she'd called him 'Sev' for the first time in…well, ages. Huh. Apparently it was true, what the Slytherins said—the family that schemes together, stays together. Or something like that, probably with a couple of epithets about muddy blood and pureblood superiority 4evah thrown in for the look of things.
"I'm waiting to hear from the other spy before I finalize anything," he finally said, apparently letting the nickname thing go for the moment. Lily bit back a triumphant smile, because that was a definite sign he was at least partially willing to help her mend old, broken bridges.
It was surprising, how much she'd missed him. Decades and decades of hurt anger and strained civility—who'd have thought that beneath it all, something good yet remained?
Funny, the places where you could find a bit of good, buried beneath the ugly and the wrong and the bad. Like the second spy—Severus' own recruit, his back-up for the inevitable day when Voldemort wised the hell up and realized that Snape was playing him like a particularly grotesque, bald, and sibilant fiddle.
Oh, wait. Shit. No, not enough emphasis—shit.
"Uh," Lily said, suddenly worried. "I don't suppose we can just…not mention to James where, exactly, you're getting your information?"
I know. It's like I forgot I was writing crack there for a bit. WHOOPS.