"I dreamed last night that we were lying on a blanket in the middle of a park. We were having a picnic and were staring up at the stars."
"This was at night?" Severus said. One of his hands slowly stroked up and down her back. "That's a rather dodgy dream."
"It was more than that, I think," Lily chuckled. Her spine arched under his deft touch. "It was a midnight picnic. An invention of mine. Better than ones during the day because everything is completely different. A world remade. It felt wonderful. Like we were the only two people alive.
"It wasn't like that when I tried it with James. This was a few years back. He agreed to it, to make me happy, but I had felt edgy the entire time. I couldn't enjoy it for some reason. It felt out of sorts, if that can be explained. We should try it sometime. Can we?"
"You think I could refuse you anything after last night?" He smiled and pulled her closer, kissing her neck and shoulders. She giggled and sighed. This pleased him. "You do mean it, don't you? You do want to see me again?"
He sounded so afraid; a word, a simple word from her could crush this brave, composed young man. His snarkiness had been, as she thought, a protective wall that could be torn as easily as paper. She loved that he was willing to drop his guard for her sake.
"I do," she said and smiled brilliantly. "Of course I do. Why would you even ask such a thing?"
He met her eyes and held her there. "You know why. You might want to break things off now. I'll understand if you do. I won't be happy about it, but you have a family to think about first. I don't see how you should be expected to want me around. The chance of ruining your life, your respectability. Potter is a powerful wizard in the community. He could never lose a Quidditch game with grace. This will be much worse. I-I should never have asked you to… it was selfish of me to allow this to happen. I should have been stronger. Firmer."
Lily wrapped her legs around his hips and wriggled shamelessly. "You feel pretty firm to me already, but I'm sure we can help that along."
He moaned and took her in his arms.
Later, after he had made them a simple meal, the bleak mood re-entered their midst.
"What will you do now?" Severus asked.
"Go to my mum's and get Harry. After that, I'm not sure." She took his hand. "I meant what I said, Sev. I need you in my life. It's like when we were in that restaurant and you had threatened to walk away. I felt this deadly chill, like I was about to bleed into nothingness. I was afraid that you'd leave and disappear and that I'd… I'd—"
"You'd forget me. As if I'd never existed."
She walked around the breakfast table and set herself in his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. She felt she ought to be wearing something tawdry and low cut, something skin-tight with black lace that left little to the imagination; too much red lipstick on her face, false eyelashes like tiny swords. Something like what those "scarlet women," as her mum dubbed them, might look like. An adulteress ought to dress the part, after all.
But this was not what she felt like. Being with Severus didn't feel dirty or like a blow against James. It was more like a puzzle piece sliding into place. She had come to Severus because she felt safe with him. Being near him was freedom. He was her brother, her friend, her conspirator, and her lover. He was her secret. He was her own.
"I'm afraid, Sev. I don't want to lose my son. They will be angry with me. They had all had such high expectations of me ever since I was a little girl. It made sense. I had a role to play. My life is what they all wanted it to be, even me at one time. The only puzzling thing is that I think the bridegrooms had been switched. The old switcheroo, they might call it. How bizarre, that such a thing could occur and I never noticed."
She stared into his eyes. "You are getting the worse part of this deal, Sev. A used woman, complete with baggage. But Harry needs a father. I must not fail in that, no matter what else occurs. I know that he is the son of the man you hated in school—"
Severus held her tighter. "He is your son, with your blood and your good nature. I'm already more fond of him than I thought I could feel about a child. Whatever you decide, Lily, I shall support it. I'm a fool. I've been a fool for you since the beginning."
They Apparated to Lanarkshire together. Lily had asked him to accompany her, perhaps to steel her strength, perhaps because she was too afraid to be parted from him. Suppose she had gone off only to find that Severus had vanished like Leprechaun gold in the morning light?
He was just as nervous as she was and kept her hand safely in his larger one. Maybe it was so that he could keep an eye on her as well, whether she might disappear into the air or back into her husband's house. Whatever the reason, she was grateful for this simple, supportive gesture.
Lily was no longer concerned about her constant feelings of déjà vu. What did the past matter when they had a future to plan together? They could erase it all, like chalk scribbles on a blackboard. It could be made into anything they wanted it to be.
She would take that job at the Apothecary, or perhaps Sev could find her a place at St. Mungo's. Why stop there? Lily had been a half-decent reserve Beater back in school. Perhaps she could retrain and sign up for an amateur team somewhere. She felt giddy at the thought of so much power.
Falling in love was just that. Falling. No idea where she'd land, if her feet ever touched ground again. She wasn't even sure if she wanted to.
Her childhood home came into view. It hadn't changed much. It looked the same as when she and Petunia came running home from the park with dirty knees and ice cream stains on their colorful frocks. She thought of her parents just beyond the front door. What would they say? Would they blame her? Was it something they had long been expecting to happen? How would they speak about her to their friends later on?
Our Lily, a pretty girl, managed to marry far above her station, but lost it all, I'm afraid. Acted badly and he tired of her; she really didn't try to salvage it. She had it all and threw it away on a whim.
"You sure you want me to go in with you?" asked Severus.
"Abandoning me already?" She grinned so he knew it for a joke.
"I'd never give cause to be called a coward. I just don't want to bring you more harm than I already have. Merlin knows what your parents will say when they meet me. The cad who seduced their daughter."
Lily laughed, a warm tingling sensation. "I'm sorry, Sev, but the idea of you seducing me is mad. As I recall I practically stalked you and forced you into bed."
"You make yourself sound like quite the villain, Lily. But I won't let you take any of the blame. We'll see this through together."
She kissed him. Her palms were all sweaty from nerves. She rubbed them on her skirt.
"Well, time to face the music." Lily steadied herself and ran the bell.
A moment later the door opened. "Lily," Rose said brightly. "You're a bit early, but Harry's been eager to see you."
The boy charged past his grandmother and threw his chubby little arms around Severus' legs. He laughed and waved to be picked up. Severus did so and allowed Harry to toy with his hair.
Lily half smiled at this. The cat was among the pixies now. She glanced back at her mother, prepared for the hurricane to begin.
Surprisingly, Rose looked pleased. "Is that—" she began, "I say! Is that little Severus Snape all grown up? Dearest lamb! How are you?"
Lily felt she could've been knocked over with a feather.
The meeting of the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers was held in a grayish round room that reminded Lily of the inside a beaker. How apropos, she thought. Wizards and witches from all over scrambled to find a seat. A Quidditch World Cup for intellectuals. Lily chuckled.
James sighed in that way he did whenever he was extremely bored. He never cared for Potions. Strange how as an Auror he had never been pressed to retain this information, vital as it was. That's what having a clever wife is for, he'd say to her and kiss her cheek.
He had agreed to come with her, at least. A jock in a room full of bookworms. How he must feel the tides had turned against him, and no Sirius there to guard his back. He was in agony, close to hexing someone just to break the tedium; she ignored it. She wanted to be there.
Lily was eager for the seminar to begin. Libatius Borage would be reading from his novel, Advanced Potion-Making. James never understood how she could love such an obscure branch of magic. He didn't care for anything so complicated and time-consuming. Lily, on the other hand, found it beautiful and bewitching.
James had left her to persue the home-brewed ale in the back. Potioneers, he could at least admit, knew how to make good spirits. Lily was examining Borage's book on its display table. Someone at her right made a tsking sound. She glanced up. It was a young man dressed all in black, he had greasy black hair and a large, hooked nose. He was glaring down at another copy of the book, his lip curled in contempt.
Lily was curious. "Master Borage has said something you disagree with?" she said.
"Several things actually," answered the man, not bothering to look up. He angrily flipped through the pages. "This man is a dunderhead! Half this thing is taken directly from Hesper Starky's work; the rest is fluffed-up tripe and untested theories. How this fool ever got published is beyond me. I assume they were running short of toilet rag."
Several people gasped. "Sure. Everybody believes that something is correct just because it's in print. Everybody does stupid things, but one shouldn't have to pay money for proof of it."
Lily smiled. She couldn't help it. "If you disagree with the author, then why are you here?"
"And pass up the chance to call him out? I've tested each of his potions and have found several flaws already. He calls potion-making an exact science, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved upon."
"Example, if you would be so kind?"
He glanced at her and she was struck. The man was not very handsome, but he had penetrating black eyes, deep and clever. She suddenly had an image of a teenage boy standing in a corridor, wearing elegant dress robes, his arms full of daffodils. Such an uncanny feeling, Lily thought, and quickly shrugged it off.
The man was regarding her, judging whether or not she was worthy of an answer. He must have found that she was for he turned to a chapter in the novel. "For instance, here, in the directions for the Draught of Living Death, he says to cut up the sopophoropus beans. I've found that crushing them with the flat side of a silver dagger is far more effective at releasing the juice."
"Truly? How did you discover that?"
The man turned his head slightly, letting his long hair cover his face. He muttered something.
"Pardon?" she said. "I didn't catch that."
"I lost my temper," he admitted. "Stupid beans are so small and tough, so difficult to cut up. I struck it with my dagger in frustration and to my astonishment it exuded all this juice. Who would have guessed that so small a thing could have held it all?"
"So, your brilliant discovery was no more than an accident?"
He hid behind his hair again and she realized that he was blushing like a schoolboy. She found that so cute.
"I would have discovered it anyway, I assure you," he snapped.
"Most discoveries are by accident," she added. "Without that falling apple, Newton would never have discovered gravity. He is probably the most famous man due to a mere accident."
"I'd rather be barely known for a true act of genius than celebrated for a blunder. Any true Potioneer would want to solve the mystery of an ailment in the most helpful way, not the one to gain the most self-interest. Starky is a fool, but he knows how to advertise. If he looked better in cut-off shorts I'm sure he'd parade around in those too."
Lily laughed. She couldn't help herself. The man had an—she could only define it as snarky—attitude that she found intriguing. She stayed to talk with him about potions and their properties. He was rather confused by her attention at first, although he seemed to be enjoying their discussion. He was sharp as nails with a biting wit that bordered on offensive, yet nothing he said was untrue. She liked smart men.
Something about him seemed familiar to her, she couldn't quite explain what. A scent, perhaps. The way he hung his head to hide his blush, the sound of his voice, all struck something in her that she could not justify.
"Shall I ask the house elf to bring us some tea?" she asked. "Blackberry, right?"
"My favorite," he said, gazing at her oddly. "How did you know that?"
She thought for a moment. How had she known that? A guess? No, she had been certain. But how?
James had returned to her side. She observed that her fiancée and the man flinched at the sight of one another.
"Potter," the man sneered through tightly clamped teeth.
"Snape," James replied, equally dripping with acid.
"You know one another?" Lily asked.
"Old school chums," said James. "Eh, Snivellus?"
"If by chums," said the man in black, "you mean you hung all of your mates upside down and hexed soap bubbles to spew from their throats, then we were chums on a regular basis."
"Now I remember!" she exclaimed. "You were that quiet boy James and Sirius were always picking on."
The man tightened his hand inside his robe pocket, readying his wand in case of an attack.
Lily rounded on her husband. "James, I want you to apologize."
James looked scandalized. "What? For what?"
"For all those years you tormented him. And for what reason? Because he was a Slytherin?"
"That was in school. Long in the past. We're adults now."
"You just called him Snivellus! Is that what you call adult?"
When it became clear that James had no intention of apologizing Lily grew angry. "You'll have to forgive my fiancée's rude behavior, Mr. Snape was it?"
His icy gaze softened on her. "Severus Snape." He extended his hand.
"Lily Evans." His hand felt warm in hers and sent sparks through her body. She gasped a bit and let go.
James wrapped an arm around her waist. "Soon to be Lily Potter. Isn't she beautiful? Sweetheart, didn't you want to see this old lecture thing? Shouldn't we take our seats?"
He was ushering her away, as if Snape was something dangerous. "Mr. Snape and I were discussing the use of moonstone in Peace Draughts."
"Lily, I really think we ought to sit down." His voice was flat and nervous. Something was bothering him.
She decided it was better not to fight. "Perhaps we could pursue this at a later time?" she said to her new friend. "I'd also like to know what you think of today's lecture. Tomorrow, the Leaky Cauldron for tea? How about it, Sev?"
Severus grinned at this. "It will be my pleasure, Ms. Evans," he said and bowed low. "You finally did something to be admired, Potter. You chose a smart girl to marry."
James pulled her away. Lily glanced back over her shoulder. Severus was still watching her, his eyes were warm and sad. She had seen eyes like his before, but where? She could still feel the spark where he had touched her hand.
He had thought that she was smart. She could not wait to continue their conversation.
Remus Lupin opened the door to his humble flat. He was delighted to see an old friend.
"Lily!" he exclaimed and tried his best to hide his thread-worn coat sleeves at his sides. "What a pleasant surprise!"
It was more than a surprise. Remus started as Lily raised her wand to his face. She backed him into his apartment, her expression livid yet perfectly controlled. She could kill him, she was saying, and she made sure that he was aware of that fact. Another figure from his past joined them, locked the door and likewise pointed his wand at Remus' chest. Severus Snape.
He looked at them both and sighed. "The Memory Charm has worn off, I take it."
A/N: Next chapter, the truth comes out at last. I'm drawing it out, I know. This chapter turned out longer than I thought it would be.
The Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers was mentioned in Albus Dubledore's notes in The Tales of Beetle the Bard. I thought it would be something both Sev and Lily would aspire to join. I know that Severus had had the Advanced Potion-Making while he was at school, but I postponed the published date to give our couple another scene together.
Libatius Borage is the author of Advanced Potion-Making.
Hesper Starky was a Witch who studied how the moon's phases affected potion fabrication. (HP Lexicon)
Some of the text during the Potioneers conference was taken from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Thank you to everyone who has commented and/or faved this story. It means so much to me. And Happy Holidays to all!