Rating: M (contains harsh language and references to violence and sexytime. Not all three at the same time, though, I'm afraid.)
Pairings: Mainly Severus/Lily, with some mentions of others (such as Lily/James)
Main characters: Lily Evans, Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, James Potter, Petunia Dursley, and a bunch of others.
Summary: An accident sends the nineteen-year-old Lily Evans eighteen years into the future, and a coincidence leads her to her former best friend, Severus Snape. Lost in a terrible world she no longer recognizes, Lily is torn between doing what she is supposed to do, and doing what she thinks is right. Can Lily change her fate, or must she succumb to what was meant to be? Meanwhile, Severus can't believe his own luck when he realizes that he's given another chance to save Lily, and to finally tell her how he really feels – but is he brave enough to take that chance?
Warnings: AU. Includes time-travel. Tad confusing. Severus is mostly depressed, Lily has an odd sense of humour. Multichaptered and kind of long. Angst! Angst! Glorious angst!
Disclaimer: I wrote the story, but I don't own the characters. Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling.
Christmas was coming.
Severus stood in his office and peered outside through the frosty window. The last Thestral-pulled carriage had just left the school grounds and headed towards the Hogwarts Express, which would take the children back home to spend the holidays with their friends and families. The sight made him give a small sigh of relief, although he still felt as though there was an invisible anvil stuck inside his guts.
"Most of them left. I'm guessing that many of them are not coming back," he said, "Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, Draco Malfoy, and some other Slytherins are the only ones who stayed here. Crabbe, Goyle, and the Carrows are kindred spirits, so they will not need my protection. I'm not entirely sure about Draco. It appears that he has fallen out of the favour of his friends because Lucius has lost the Dark Lord's trust."
"He is smarter and stronger than he appears, though certainly not as smart and strong as he thinks he is," replied Dumbledore, "I trust that he'll be fine on his own."
Severus glanced over his shoulder at the portrait of the deceased wizard, "Do you still think that I should go as well?"
"Nobody here needs you right now, Severus," said Dumbledore, leaning leisurely on the left side of his picture frame, "The Professors are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, and most of the students are safe with their families. And I can always alert you if something happens. I am the eyes and ears of the walls of Hogwarts."
"I've spent nearly every Christmas at Hogwarts since I turned eleven," replied Snape, staring into the flames of the fireplace, "As intolerable as this place has gotten since the Carrows joined our beloved faculty, I might as well stay here. I have nowhere else to go to."
"You could go home and get some rest. In fact, I think you should indeed get plenty of rest while you still can, because you need to stay strong and focused for the sake of the children. They might not know it, but you are the most important person in their lives right now. You need to be at your best in order to protect them, because I'm afraid that we're yet to see the worst of this."
Severus weighed Dumbledore's words, but neither of his two options tempted him. He was exhausted, but he did not feel right about leaving the school without his supervision, even if it was only for a few days. Then again, he desperately longed for a break from his double-life, which was getting harder and harder to pull off with every passing day.
Since the beginning of his first year as the much-loathed new Headmaster of Hogwarts, Severus had carefully kept his distance to the rest of the faculty - save for the Carrows, whom he kept as close to him as he possibly could, as one is often advised to do with enemies. He rarely left the Headmaster's office, joining the rest of the school only during supper and detentions, which he insisted on supervising so that he could secretly control the cruelty of the Carrow siblings.
Solitude did not bother him. In fact, he rather enjoyed being alone - as much as a man can enjoy himself while being trapped in an impossibly difficult position that would most likely cost him his life in the end. The alternative to loneliness was going outside and meeting the loathing glares of his colleagues. It was not easy to be the most hated man in Hogwarts, but on the other hand, it was nothing new to him, either. Severus had always been hated by someone. Having been tragically familiar with the unkindness and the cruelty of people since childhood, he already knew what it felt like to be despised by all. A lifetime of practice had made Severus perfect in being the object of the contempt of others without making a huge fuss about it.
Sometimes Severus even humoured himself with the thought that perhaps all the misfortune he had been granted in his life had been there for a reason. Perhaps fate had taught him to endure hatred so that one day he would be strong and numb enough to stare back at a world which despised him so without blinking an eye. The future of Hogwarts and everyone within its walls depended on his ability to survive without allies, and it was both Severus's gift and tragedy to be perfectly capable of doing so - carrying an impossibly heavy burden all by himself without the help of anyone.
Severus did not feel the slightest desire to reveal the truth about himself to the rest of the staff of Hogwarts. He knew from many years of personal experience that a vast majority of the professors were either drunkards, mentally unbalanced fools, or mentally unbalanced drunkard fools. The chances that Severus was actually going to successfully carry out his task were already extremely slim, and he was not going to split them in half by telling all about his true intentions to his dim-witted colleagues just to make himself feel less awkward in the dinner table. He did not consider sharing his secret even with the few people in Hogwarts he actually respected, such as the sharp-minded Professor McGonagall, the wise centaur Firenze, or the haughty Professor Sinistra. After all, the only way to gain their trust would have been to tell them all about his neverfading love for Lily. And that was private.
So Severus kept himself to himself, retreated to the solitude of his Ivory Tower of an office, yet constantly observing the school with his raven eyes, having vowed to do everything in his power to protect the students. The children knew too little to be grateful to him, so they hated him with burning passion instead. Their loathing was immaterial to Severus, who at the eve of his death had finally realized that he quite honestly did not care about what the world thought about him. He had wasted his youth and ruined his own life trying to earn the respect of people he didn't even care about, and it wasn't until now that he understood how little his own reputation actually mattered to him.
He had already gotten in terms with his approaching fate, which was becoming clearer and clearer with every miserable day. Whether Harry Potter succeeded at defeating Voldemort or not, Severus knew that he would eventually die in the hands of the winning side. Voldemort would kill him for being a traitor, and Harry would kill him for thinking that he was a traitor. That was the unfortunate side-effect of fighting a war without true allies. However, he was not afraid to die, for there was absolutely nothing left in the world he bothered to live for.
That was, of course, roughly thirty-six hours before she came to him.
"Remember, these are Muggles. Muggles. Now, I haven't had the time to show them as much as a card trick, so I would expect them to be a little upset if you decided to demonstrate how great you are at transforming furniture into sex-crazed monkeys. Don't try to show off, unless you desperately crave a nosebleed. I mean it."
"But Evans. How else am I supposed to leave an unforgettable first impression? Everybody loves monkeys!"
Lily narrowed her eyes, raising a threatening finger at him.
"Look, these are the rules: if it isn't eating biscuits, drinking jasmine tea with a polite smirk on your face, laughing at my father's jokes, saying that Petunia looks nice in her new dress even if she really doesn't, or repeating the phrase 'Oh yes, Mr. Evans. Your daughter and I sleep in separate beds and lead a risk-free, chaste life, and neither of us are newly recruited members of a secret crime-fighting organization' as convincingly as you possibly can, I don't want you to do it!"
"Separate beds? A chaste life? Wouldn't that be lying, Miss Evans? Or is your conception of chastity just so much more fun than mine?" replied James with a wide grin, snaking an arm around her waist.
"Har, har, har," said Lily sourly, wriggling her way out of his grasp, unamused, "Remember, if your idea of an 'unforgettable first impression' even borders the definition of a criminal offense, it's out of the question. In fact, it's probably best if you don't do or say anything at all. That would minimize all the usual risks."
"Fine. Can I breathe, though?"
"Only if you really, really have to."
Lily gave a frustrated grunt and patted his head, trying to press down his messy hair, which pointed to South, North, East, and West, and all the directions in between. Then she straightened his tie, and made his shirt tuck itself in with a flick of her wand.
"How do I look? Smashing, dreamy, gorgeous?" asked James, striking a heroic pose and giving a dashing smile.
"Presentable," Lily sighed, sounding like she meant the exact opposite.
She rang the doorbell and groaned, already predicting a moderate catastrophe. The mere idea of having James enjoy his supper with Petunia sounded about as smart as taking a bath with a toaster, but it had to be done sooner or later. She had already postponed the formal introduction of her sort-of-fiancé too many times, since the thought of the loud-mouthed, flamboyantly wizard James trying to leave "an unforgivable first impression" to his could-be father-in-law and the distinctly Muggle Petunia made her shudder.
It was not that she was ashamed of James. He was certainly not the worst thing she could have imagined reeling in front of her family for show-and-tell, but she knew from personal experience that James could come off a little bit off-putting before one got to know the sweet and sincere person hiding behind his rather arrogant and boastful facade. Lily feared - no, she knew that Petunia, who already resented everything magical by definition, and her father, who had been very distant and frail since Lily's mother had passed away a year and a half earlier, would not appreciate James as much as Lily had eventually learned to appreciate him. After all, it had taken Lily herself over five years to get used to him, too.
Looking back at the brief history of their relationship, she still found herself wondering how on earth she had ended up moving in with James Potter, of all the people in the world. Three years ago she had barely tolerated his general existence, let alone even considered ever giving in to his restless attempts to capture her heart. However, something had changed when she had been forced to sit next to him during Potions at the end of their fifth year, becoming regularly exposed to his presence. She did not know how or when it had happened, but suddenly she had began discovering likable qualities about him she had not noticed before, much to her own surprise.
All of a sudden, the witty insults, which had once been their only form of communication, had been replaced by actual conversations and mild flirting. The flirting had lead to a half-serious date, which then had lead to a series of serious ones. Soon kissing entered the picture, first innocent and private, next public and passionate, and then there was hand-holding, and love letters, and resting one's head in the other one's lap on sunny days, long walks around the lake, personal gifts, inside jokes, mutual holiday plans, mutual friends, groping, awkward sex, and finally, on a cold winter night during their seventh year, James had confessed that he loved her, leaving Lily gaping her mouth at him in wonder, unsure what to say in response.
It had all happened so fast that Lily had not quite realized how serious it had become until a little while after James had casually asked her to come and live with him and Sirius in the slightly decaying yet comfortable townhouse James had inherited from his late parents. Now they were all living together under the same roof like a family of three, and Lily and James's everyday lives had become entwined, as though they were already a married couple.
She still did not know what she was doing with James, and where it was all ultimately leading to. Sometimes she imagined what it would be like to marry him, to never part of him, to have his children and raise them with him. She did not know why, but somehow the thought made her feel uneasy and anxious, as though there was something wrong with the picture that she could not put her finger to. She liked him, she liked him a lot, but she was still not sure if she loved him as much as he loved her.
Then again, they were only nineteen. She knew she would still have plenty of time to ponder whether she wanted to share the rest of her life with him or not.
Lily glanced at James, who did not seem the slightest bit nervous. He gave her a goofy smile, squeezing her hand happily. She stared back at him, veiling the secret doubts of her heart with a stiff smile.
"I was serious about the nosebleed, you know," she whispered, seconds before the door opened, "It's your pick. Behave, or suffer."
"Alright then, Evans, since you're asking so nicely," he replied with a roll of his eyes.