Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize belongs to me. Just borrowed. Will be returned. Snape is welcome to stay, though.
A big Thank You goes to my beta-reader and brit-picker, Melusin, who transfers my babble into language, sorts my random punctuation and is a good friend.
This story was written for the snapedom house warming party. It's been on my personal archive since March. Now I'm finally getting around to posting it.
Severus Snape flung the door to the Room of Requirement open and strode inside.
Finally, peace, he had thought before he'd entered. Give me a place where I can find peace. His head hammered painfully. Teaching Potions to dunderheads hadn't become easier over the years, and the stress of constantly having to watch out for explosions and mischief, together with the backstabbing, snide remarks and sideway glances of his colleagues, didn't help.
Even five years after the war, his name had yet to be cleared. He had been spared Azkaban, thanks to Potter, who bore witness in his favour. However, despite having defeated Voldemort and being admired as a hero, Potter's reputation was still one of a somewhat confused and irrational young man. Potter's reports about Severus and his mysterious task as Dumbledore's spy had added to his reputation of being a bit scatterbrained and had not done Severus any favours, either—especially after Severus had thrown Rita Skeeter out of his house when she had promised to publish his true story. He knew her idea of a true story…
And so it transpired that he went back to teaching Potions. Despite the reluctance of the Headmistress to accept him back, despite the distrust of his colleagues and the dislike and distrust of the children in his house, he had taken the opportunity to earn a living in an environment he knew well. That, at least, was an advantage. Sometimes he wondered if it would have been better if he had died that day, the day of the final battle, five years ago. He had no friends and was as despised, disliked and distrusted as before. His whole life was a mess, and there seemed to be no way of improving things.
He would have much rather left Britain all together, taught at Durmstrang or worked for an apothecary somewhere. However, the Ministry had made it very clear that they expected him to stay in the country, to not engage in suspicious activities and to be grateful and appreciative about their generous offer to take him back as a teacher. As if they had very many good Potions teachers to choose from, especially now, with Slughorn gone, too, Severus thought.
The only respite for him was the few hours of peace he spent in the Room of Requirement. Peace, quiet and soothing dreams; that's what he had asked for today from the room, as so often previously, when he entered. What he got was Albus bloody Dumbledore, standing in the middle of it and twinkling at him.
"Damn," Severus said. "The room's still not functioning properly after all this time." He glared at the fantasy Dumbledore, turned on the spot and tried to open the door. The door didn't budge.
"I want to get out of here, immediately," he snarled. Nothing happened.
"Alohomora!—Open up! I, Severus Snape, master of this school, order you to open up."
Severus stepped back and shielded his face with one arm, his wand once again pointed at the door."Confringo!"
The door rattled in its hinges, but nothing else happened. The Blasting Curse seemed to have been absorbed by the door. Shaking his head in disbelief, Severus stood and glared. He had no idea how to get out again.
"My dear boy, there's no need for all this excitement. Why don't you sit down and talk to me?" The image, or whatever it was of Albus Dumbledore, said.
"Shut up! You're not real," Severus snapped.
The apparition laughed merrily. "I'm as real as this room, or the peace and quiet you seek to find."
"What do you want?" Severus growled through clenched teeth. Sometimes, it was better to give in to the room's little quirks in order to get around the malfunction. With patience, he would get out again, and the room would be a step closer to being back to its old self since the time Crabbe's Fiendfire had almost destroyed it completely. But that 'sometimes' was hard earned, Severus thought.
"I want to help you, my boy." The old man's eyes twinkled behind his half-moon glasses.
"As if. Even if you were real, you old codger, helping me would be the last thing on your mind. Torturing me, giving me tasks that might get me killed, would be more like it. So what's it to be? What do you want?"
"Tut, tut," Fantasy-Dumbledore said and shook his head theatrically. "Could it be that you don't like me?"
"My, aren't we observant?" Severus snarled. "Out with it, and then get out of my sight."
"That won't be necessary," the apparition crowed and whirled around its axis like a Boggart when it changes its shape. When it came to a halt, Lily Potter stood in front of him and smiled sweetly. "I really want to help you, Severus."
"Go away," he whispered, covering his face. "NOW!"
The apparition whirled again only to reappear in the shape of his former student, and now colleague, Hermione Granger. She was wearing a black corset, a lace thong, suspender-less stockings, high heels and nothing else. "Better?" she asked in a sultry voice.
"NO!" Severus bellowed. "For crying out loud. Who are you, and what is the meaning of this?"
Fake-Granger stalked towards him on her high heels, put a hand on his chest and smiled up at him seductively. "I am your Wish Fairy. I look into your heart and show you what you desire."
"I DON'T DESIRE GRANGER! AND I MOST CERTAINLY DON'T DESIRE DUMBLEDORE!"
Fake-Granger giggled. "For someone who doesn't have desires, you have rather naughty thoughts, sometimes." She winked at him and whirled again, reappearing as Granger but thankfully decently clad this time. "You have noticed that Hermione has grown up, haven't you?"
"I'm not dead yet. Of course I've noticed. Every man would…" Severus scowled at the 'fairy'.
"Tut, tut. Don't try to divert my attention, Severus. As if you were every man… and yet, Hermione must mean something to you, else I wouldn't have seen her in your heart."
"She's been a constant irritant ever since she came to this school, and now I have to endure her as a colleague. But at least she's good to look at. Now get to the point, you useless piece of a dream-reality charm."
"Is that what you think I am? You are so wrong…" The apparition smiled patronisingly with Granger's face, which was even more infuriating than the fact it was daring to waste his time.
Severus had pulled his wand out of its sleeve pocket. "Finite Incantatem!" But the apparition only smirked and remained right where she was.
"I wouldn't be so rude, if I were you," Fake-Granger said. "I'm here to grant you three wishes. Exactly three, no matter what it is. Now, tell me what you want."
"You have got to be kidding me." Snape threw his head back and laughed. "Who are you, the sister of the Brothers Grimm? Do I have to go through every fairytale cliché before I can get out of here?"
"I don't know what you are talking about," Fake-Granger said with a huff. "Tell me your first wish. And when you're ready for the second, just call me, and I'll grant you the next." She smiled at him encouragingly.
"Very well, then," Severus said slowly, rubbing his face. "I wish to go back in time, to the day when I was sitting my Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL. I will not lose my present memory and know where the consequences of my deeds will lead me. I want a second chance with Lily."
"Done!" The Granger-thing's voice faded, and a dense mist surrounded him, whirling him around, up and down, left to right and upside down until he felt his lunch conversing with his tonsils. Far too slowly, the wild ride came to an end, and the mist cleared.
Severus found himself hanging upside down, his robes hanging over half of his face, his hands desperately trying to push his robes up to hide his pants. He knew exactly where he was, and why he was there.
Many people in the small crowd surrounding him, including his tormentors, cheered; Black, Potter and Pettigrew roared with laughter. Lupin had his eyes on his book, pretending not to see, as usual.
And there stood Lily, his Lily. He drank in the sight of her; she was just as lovely as he had remembered her. But instead of the furious expression he had thought she'd had when he had lived through this particular hell for the first time, now he realised that her expression had twitched for an instant as though she was going to smile. "Let him down," she said.
"Certainly," said Potter, and he jerked his wand upwards. Severus tried to brace himself, but was released too fast and fell into a crumpled heap on the ground. Disentangling himself from his robes, he got quickly to his feet, wand up, but Black said, "Petrificus Totalus!" and Severus keeled over again, rigid as a board. He had forgotten how the cowards always covered each other's backs. He realised he'd better keep his wits together if he wanted to end this differently from the first time around.
"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Lily shouted. She had her own wand out, now. Potter and Black eyed it warily.
"Ah, Evans. Don't make me hex you," said Potter earnestly.
"Take the curse off him, then!"
Potter sighed deeply, then turned to Severus and muttered the counter-curse.
"There you go," he said, as Severus struggled to his feet. "You're lucky Evans was here, Snivellus— "
This was it. "At least now she can see you in all your pathetic glory, Potter," Severus snarled. "The Quidditch hero, who always needs his cronies to support him while he struts around. The coward, who needs three others to watch his back…"
"Watch it, Snivellus," Black said lazily. "If my underpants were as grey as yours, I'd hide in a cave and not mouth off. Evans, there, is shocked for life; she won't help you this time"
"I don't care," Severus yelled, seething. "I don't need the help of a bloody Gryffindor." Damn, where had that come from?
"Fine," she said coolly. "I won't bother in future. And I'd wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus."
She turned on her heel and hurried away.
"Evans!" Potter shouted after her. "Hey, EVANS!"
But she didn't look back.
"What is it with her?" said Potter, trying and failing to look as though this was a throwaway question of no real importance to him.
"Reading between the lines, I'd say she thinks you're a bit conceited, mate," said Black.
"Right," said Potter, who looked furious now, "right— "
There was another flash of light, and Severus was once again hanging upside-down in the air, his wand slipping from his fingers.
"Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?"
"Stop it, James. That's enough." Lupin had finally closed his book and stepped in front of Potter.
Making a werewolf a prefect Severus thought disdainfully while he was trying once again to hold his robes in place. The cowardly Lupin always pretended not to see what his best friends were up to.
"Or what, Remus? Will you take House Points from me?" Potter laughed and Pettigrew snickered.
"If I have to," Lupin said in that infuriating sanctimonious tone of voice he always used.
"All right, all right, but only because you asked so nicely," Potter said grinning and released Severus, who once again fell to the ground. Black absentmindedly cast a Leg-Locker curse on him, almost as an afterthought, and then the four gits strutted away. The crowd dissolved, and Severus managed to crawl towards his wand to release himself from the curse.
Thoroughly confused, he went to the Slytherin dormitory, threw himself on his bed and closed the curtains; he needed to be alone to think. Severus was dumbfounded. Lily had called him Snivellus, in front of that cheering crowd. And had she really laughed at him, at his old, worn, greying underwear? He thought she understood what it meant to be poor, to have to wear your clothes until they were so faded that they fell apart. It had almost looked as if she didn't care… No, that was impossible. She was his best friend. He loved her.
Calling her a bloody Gryffindor wouldn't really have offended her, would it? He had to know; he had to go and talk to her.
"Lily, I'm sorry I called you names, but you made fun of me in front of all those people."
"I didn't make fun of you, and I'm not interested whether you're sorry or not."
"You laughed when Potter used the Levicorpus on me."
"I defended you. I told him to stop."
"Oh yes, but it didn't exactly look like you'd done it for me, you know? You hardly spared me a glance. It was 'Potter this and Potter that'—and you weren't interested in Black, either. He was just as bad as Potter, but you simply ignored him. It almost looked as if all you were concerned about was steering Potter away from his evil ways. You want to make him worthy of you, is that it?"
"You're being ridiculous, Sev. Why are you always picking fights with James Potter? You can't beat him." Lily frowned up at him in the corridor, standing next to the portrait hole that led to the Gryffindor common room.
"That's rich. I'm not the one picking fights, and you know it. They are always together when they attack, the cowards. What am I supposed to do, suffer quietly?" Severus couldn't believe that Lily was taking Potter's side.
"No, of course not, but you always let yourself be provoked, Sev. No wonder James enjoys egging you on."
"James, is it, now? My, my, how cosy. So, have you already decided to go out with him, seeing how you prefer flirting with him at my expense?"
"Your expense? What are you talking about? He is my housemate, and you force me to go against him all the time. That's not flirting."
"Right. And it isn't as if you've never urged me to go against my own housemates, is it? Don't take me for a fool, Lily. I saw what I saw. And why is it that it's always my fault when something happens and never Potter's? Tell me you don't fancy him."
"Of course not. Don't be silly."
"Then go out with me, Lily. You know that I…" Severus bit his lip. The girl looked at him wide-eyed and slightly flattered, he thought.
"All right," she said. "I'll go out with you."
With a happy sigh, Severus went away.
"Won't you kiss me?"
"Later. Did you see the bracelet James bought Alice Fenwick?" Lily was playing with the rose Severus had given her for Valentine's Day in their sixth year. He had been undecided whether he should give her chocolates from Honeydukes or a rose; the little money he had didn't allow for both. He had decided on the rose; he thought it was more romantic. Lily's smile when he gave it to her had seemed forced, though.
"Yes, I saw it," he said, none too happy. "The rich man's son is showing off again."
"He's not showing off. He's just given her something very nice." Was that envy in her voice? "Alice says that he's always very attentive. She really is a lucky girl."
"Do you regret being with me?" Severus asked sadly.
"Of course not." Lily buried her nose in the flower and changed the subject of their conversation.
"Snape, a word if you please." Professor McGonagall held him back after Transfiguration, early in his seventh year, and beckoned him towards her. She sat behind her desk and stared at him coldly while he stood there, having not been offered a chair.
"It has come to my attention that you are, ah, involved with one of my Gryffindors. One of the brightest witches my house ever had." Her eyes narrowed at his scowl. "And while most of these youthful attachments are short-lived, rumour has it that your intentions are of a more, ah, permanent character?"
"I don't know what business this is of yours," Severus hissed.
"You will treat me with the respect due to a teacher and Head of House, young man. None of your evasive Slytherin ways here. Now, is it true?"
"And if it is?"
"I warn you, Snape. Keep your hands off Lily. She is not the right partner for the likes of you. I will not stand by and watch you taint her and drag her down into the swamp you and your Slytherin friends wallow in. If you know what's good for you, keep away from her."
"Is that all?"
"Yes, you may go now."
Severus ground his teeth, rage almost making him incoherent. That self-righteous old crone; she hadn't changed a bit… or would not have changed at all, twenty-six years later. He wondered how she'd learned about his plans to propose to Lily as soon as their exams were over. He was going to apprentice with Arsenius Jigger, and when he was an apothecary, they could marry. Jigger had hinted that he would want to retire in a few years, and if Severus did well, he could take over the business. Lily had a pretty good grasp of Potions, too. He had given her his mother's old Potions book with his own notes in the margins two years ago, and she had made good use of his gift. Slughorn, the old fool, had been totally infatuated with her from then on, and her marks had skyrocketed. Perhaps she would want to become an apothecary, too. They'd make a decent living together, and maybe even afford a child or two. A child that would be wanted and loved, not like himself…
"Sev, where are you going?" The object of his daydreams brought him back to reality.
"I was looking for you, actually. Care for a walk around the lake?"
"Not now, Sev. Alice Fenwick has invited all the girls to Madam Puddifoot's. Did you hear? James Potter has proposed to her. That lucky girl… She's got a diamond ring."
Severus swallowed hard. Not for the first time, he thought that Lily's interest in Potter and his wealth was a bit too pronounced. He wondered what she would think about his modest plans. So he told her about them.
"I don't want to decide something so serious just yet, Sev. Give me a bit more time, will you?" She stroked his cheek, and he leaned into her touch. Gestures of tenderness like this one were rare. "And I think, with our talents, there'd be a bit more to strive for than an apothecary. There's fame and riches out there…"
"With your ambition, you should have been Sorted into Slytherin, you know…"
"No bloody way. I'm not like that. They're an evil bunch in there, Sev––oh, sorry." She smiled sheepishly when she saw the look on his face, but Severus felt as if a bludger had hit him in the gut. Barely able to speak due to the huge lump in his throat, he kissed her on the cheek and walked away.
Severus felt as though a veil had been lifted from his eyes. When he had been a teenager the first time around, his infatuation with the girl had blinded him. To him she was perfect, and he'd noticed no one and nothing besides her. The need to impress her, to finally be a Somebody, to be more powerful than the rich and popular James Potter, had driven him to Voldemort. This time, however, he had rejected his own housemates, ignored Lucius Malfoy's wild Death Eater party invitations and avoided contact with the gang of older Slytherins, who had all become Death Eaters, and who had lured him in the first time around by making him feel important. In this reality, he had done none of that, and now he was lonely and isolated in his own house, but that hadn't mattered to him. All that had mattered was Lily, and for her he'd have done anything.
Only, it had all been in vain. Nothing he'd done had made a difference. If he was honest with himself, he'd have to admit that Lily didn't love him. She was always kind, even caring. His attentions had at first flattered her, and she had seemed to be comfortable with him. However, they never spent time with other people; she never included him in her outings with her other friends. It wasn't as if he cared about those other friends, but he had the distinct impression that she was ashamed to be seen with him.
Was this really what he wanted? And wouldn't his heart break if he admitted his failure and gave her up now? When his train of thought reached this point, Severus realised that his heart had already been broken many years ago when Lily refused to forgive him for calling her a Mudblood. And the way they interacted in this reality, where the slur hadn't occurred, did nothing to mend the festering wound in his heart. Lily had laughed at his expense even before the Mudblood slur had occurred the first time around. She could not have loved him then. If she had, she'd have behaved differently.
Would a best friend really make fun of a best friend in such a situation? Severus didn't think so. In their first lives, he had had no idea how best friends behaved. This time he had, though. Out of duty, he had watched the trio, Potter-Weasley-Granger, closely through all of their school years. They'd had their differences, but despite there never being so much as a hint at romantic attachments, Hermione Granger had never given up on Harry Potter. She had supported him through thick and thin, had helped him and stood by him, whether she had agreed with his actions or not. That was how a best friend behaved. That was not the way Lily behaved.
Of course, even though they were in their seventh year now and close to sitting their N.E.W.T.s, Lily still acted like the teenager she was while he could look back at twenty-odd more years of experience. He'd have rather different expectations from a relationship than she would. However, Hermione Granger had been a teenager, too, and he had to admit that Lily paled when he compared the two young women. In their other life, Lily had married Potter as soon as they were out of school, so he couldn't blame her indecision on the fact that she was too young for a serious commitment. Perhaps she was upset because she hadn't become Head Girl as everyone had expected? Severus suspected that this was McGonagall's way of punishing a Gryffindor who dared to associate with a Slytherin. Instead of Lily, Alice Fenwick had been made Head Girl, together with James Potter as Head Boy.
Severus sighed. Dumbledore had made James Potter Head Boy. If Severus ever had had the slightest doubt that the Headmaster only cared about his favourites, then those doubts would have gone by now. The smug grin whenever Potter passed him in the corridors was almost unbearable for Severus. It was like a slap in the face.
Dumbledore and all he stood for certainly wasn't representing the kind of society Severus would want or support. He could almost be tempted to join the Death Eaters once more, out of pure rebelliousness, but he knew better now. There was no honour and loyalty to be found among the Death Eaters; they were criminals, many of them cruel and brutal killers, driven insane by their lust for power. While Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix wasn't a group of valiant knights and ladies either, at least they weren't murderers. And if he joined the Death Eaters again, history would repeat itself. Lily would push him away; she'd marry Potter, a son would be born, a prophecy made, and Lily would be killed. This wasn't why he had come back—to relive this part of his life.
Silently, Severus cursed that Wish Fairy thing. She had granted him exactly what he'd wanted. He had wanted a second chance with Lily, and he had got a second chance. Only this time around, he didn't seem to be any more successful than the first time. He should have wished for Lily's love instead, but he wanted to be loved for himself, not because of some magical compulsion. If he had wanted that, he'd have brewed a love potion. He had been so certain that he would have Lily's love, if only he didn't call her by that horrible name. More fool he.
"Severus, we need to talk."
"Yes?" Merlin, how much more clichée'd could they behave, he thought. Next thing, she'd tell him that they had too little in common for a relationship.
"Severus, I've been thinking about us. You know… where we're going; what we're going to do after school… and I don't think we should be together other than as friends, you know?" She looked up at him with tears in her beautiful green eyes, apparently desperate to make him understand.
"I don't want to lose your friendship, Sev. But we have so little in common, really, I don't think we can be together the way you want us to be. I'm sorry… I don't…"
"You don't love me." Why shouldn't he make it easy for her? Begging wouldn't change her mind. He knew that. He had begged once. He wouldn't do it again. It seemed to be his fate to live his life alone, wishing for something he could never have. Apparently, something like fate did exist, after all.
"That's not true. I do love you, you know… but only as a friend. You've been my best friend for so long, now. Please, Sev, tell me that you're not mad at me?"
Severus closed his eyes and sighed. What a fool he'd been. "You know that I would do anything for you, Lily. Why…"
"It's James. I'm sorry, Sev…" Lily cried when she saw the furious look in Severus' eyes.
"Potter? He's marrying Alice Fenwick, isn't he? ISN'T HE?"
"She broke it off. She's with Frank Longbottom, now."
"I see," Severus said, resigned to their fate. "And the rich boy wants you as his latest trophy, is that it?"
"Don't talk about him like that," Lily was furious now. "If you must know, he proposed to me, and he told me that he'd secretly loved me all this time, only he didn't think that I'd want to be with him because of you."
"Oh, it's my fault now that the dream couple couldn't be together, is it?"
"Well, yes, I was with you, after all. Looks like I made the right decision to break up, though. Why do you always have to be so angry, Sev? You scare me…"
"Why do you always have to be so angry, Sev," Severus mimicked her with a high-pitched voice. "Did it ever occur to you to ask why Potter and his cronies always have to attack me, never one-on-one, always in a group? Am I to love them?" he yelled, his face red.
Lily stared at him wide-eyed, tears streaming down her face. She took a step away from him and cowered.
"Damn it, Lily," he shouted. "Don't cower. Who do you think I am, my father? I'd never hurt you."
She shook her head, wiped her nose, but continued weeping.
Severus' anger vanished in an instant. He felt cold and empty. Perhaps he was like his father, after all. He hadn't meant to scare Lily, but he had anyway. Maybe his father hadn't meant to scare his mother… Maybe his father had just as many reasons to be angry as he did? And both of them took it out on the wrong person, the only person who would listen to them. He stepped towards her and fell to his knees, offering her his old, threadbare handkerchief.
"I'm sorry, Lily. I didn't mean to scare you. I shouldn't have yelled at you because I was angry with Potter. Please forgive me."
"I can't… I can't be with you, Sev. I love James…"
"I know," Severus whispered, wishing he had died after Nagini had attacked him. Lily Evans was not meant for him. He could rage against his fate as much as he wanted. She would marry James Potter, and Merlin knew what would happen next. If the prophecy was going to be made in this reality as well, he wouldn't be able to tell if Voldmort had learned about it and targeted Lily's son. Maybe here and now, Neville Longbottom would turn out to be the Chosen One. Severus didn't know, didn't want to know and most certainly didn't want to live through it once again. "Go and marry Potter and be happy," he whispered, kissed her one last time and went away.
"Fairy, I want my second wish," Severus said when he had walked out of Lily's sight.
A swirling mist surrounded him, and a voice asked him, "What will it be?"
"Take me back to my old life. That's my second wish. And my third wish is…"
"You don't need to speak the third wish now, you know?" the voice said while he found himself once more swirling, tumbling and spinning through time and possibilities.
"I want to get it out of the way. No regrets," he muttered. "The third wish is: if there is someone out there who loves me for myself, loves me for who I really am, I want to know. I want to have a chance with her."
"Granted," the Wish-Fairy said, as with a low thump, Severus landed on his back.