I made no extra preparations for her arrival, trying to tell myself I didn't care if she showed or not. I couldn't help worry, however. Part of me was dying, almost literally, to see her. The other part was angry and bitter, unable to see anything but disappointment in her potential visit. I was halfway through my first glass of bourbon when she appeared. She was dressed so casually, I almost sneered. I guess I wasn't worth a nice dress.

I gazed at her with what I hoped was apathy and raised my glass to her. "Congratulations."

To my delight, she looked ashamed, her eyes averted from mine and hands wringing nervously. "Thanks," she mumbled.

I finished my drink and took her presence in. Maybe, I reasoned inanely, I could better control myself if I did not try to ignore her completely. She was as I remembered, but also softer somehow. Her face seemed fuller than the last time. I could not help but ogle her. It had been too long.

Her eyes met mine defiantly and my heart warmed to her immediately. Damn.

"So, I bet you're wondering why I'm here." Her pursed lips and slightly furrowed brow meant to be intimidating, instead causing a smirk to break across my lips involuntarily. In that second, she looked so familiar.

I stood carefully, taking my glass to the sink. Standing before her, she had to tilt her head up to meet my eyes, but she did not look away. I realized I must have gotten taller. Keeping my voice even and smooth, I said, "I know you will tell me."

She smiled and though her eyes did not soften completely, her posture and jaw relaxed. It was beautiful. "Sev, I...I wanted to apologize."

I couldn't help but roll my eyes. "Please. Don't."

She shook her head. "I am sorry though. I know everything has changed and that we can never be the same, but I just had to see you one last time. Before..."

Her eyes did not leave mine. I shook my head. "I know, Lily...I know..." Our lips met and the sparks flew without hesitation. The warmth in my chest spread so quickly through my body, I wondered how I ever lived without it.

"Please, Severus, please..." she whispered against my neck, kissing a trail slowly between words. I groaned, but knew I was no match for her. I was putty in her hands and it would be up to her what was left of me after this was over.

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

The morning came too soon. The bright sun filtered through the old, dusty curtains covering the small, grimy windows, sending shafts of sunlight over the carpet. I was too afraid to move and wake her to close the curtains further. She was curled on her side, her hands on my chest, heavy with unconsciousness. Her face was peaceful and slightly rosy, no doubt from the vigorous activity of the previous night.

The pain began when I realized she was leaving no matter what I did or said. I kissed her softly, hoping she would remain asleep, and she did, all though I think she kissed me back in her sleep. I acknowledged the pain and walked away from her.

If I left her there, she could leave before I returned, I thought to myself. It was easy enough to dress and walk to the door. Opening it took several moments, but once I was through the door, I did not look back.

I returned to my home late that day. I stood outside for twenty minutes, just watching. It did not appear anyone was in the house, but I had to be sure. A part of me wanted her to be there. To have stayed. I felt so foolish.

I felt even worse after I had entered the kitchen. She had left a note.

Sev,

I waited hours for you to return. I can't believe it took me so long to realize you wouldn't be coming back. Thank you for being you and for everything about me that is you. I wish you a happy life. I want you to get everything you want, Sev. What I wanted to tell you is that my choice was made long ago.

I am living someone else's dream. Always have. You may never believe me, but he needs me more than you do. That is why I am marrying him and not you. James would die without me. You will not.

Love, love, love,

Lily

My mind was blank and the rage I felt was pulsing through me, my fists clenching. Suddenly, I saw her face behind my eyes. The rage dissolved into sadness. The tears came and I let them fall.

--

Nothing is more painful than the knowledge of living without her. It is, however, reassuring. The sun sets in the west, the sky is blue and I will love her without reason for the rest of my life.