-1Part III - Redemption

I tried not to let my anger show when Severus started to insult my husband, but it was more difficult than I was anticipating. He had known me too well for too long, and was well aware of how to get me riled up. I failed to see how James feeling the need to protect "people like me" would be a character flaw.

"That's not a bad thing," I said. I balled one of my fists up, with my nails digging into my palm.

Severus was quiet for what seemed like a long time, which made me slightly uncomfortable. I didn't know if he was trustworthy and I couldn't ignore the fact that he had been rubbing his left forearm. It was smart to be cautious around strangers in times like this and I had to face the truth in that yes, Severus had been little more than a stranger to me for the previous four years.

"Why did you never forgive me?"

That was one question I was not expecting, and I'm sure it showed. My eyes widened, my jaw dropped a bit, and it felt like my eyebrows were trying to get into an inhumane position on my forehead. "Excuse me?" My words came out like a splutter. Anywhere else, that mixed with my expression would have been embarrassing. But it barely even crossed my mind, given the circumstances.

Severus looked at me, with his black eyes staring into mine intently. There was no signs that he wasn't one hundred percent serious. "Why did you never forgive me?"

"You called me a Mudblood Severus," I said, stressing the offensive word. "You were my best male friend and you insulted me when I was trying to help you. I realized that you couldn't be the person I thought you were. The person I knew would never have said something like that to me."

This time, there was no denying that the look that crossed his face was pained, even though he regained composure within a few seconds. "But you had no problem forgiving Potter for everything he had done to me."

His words felt like a punch in the stomach. "James changed," I whispered. "He's not that immature little boy anymore."

We were eighteen, recently graduated and even more recently married. James had come home from a meeting with Dumbledore, and he was beaming with pride. We had both been asked to join the Order of the Phoenix and he had just been given his first re-location assignment. A Squib had married a muggleborn, and Dumbledore was guessing that they would be killed. After all, he had tarnished his family name twice over as a blood traitor and a Squib and she had no magical heritage.

He later told me that he felt better than he had in his life. After all, what was he other than a blood traitor to the Death Eaters? "I don't see how people can say blood purity matters Lils," he said one night after we had crawled into bed. "Your parents are Muggles, and you're the best thing that's ever happened to me by far."

"Thank you sweetheart," I said, kissing his bare chest.

"I'll protect you no matter what," he whispered into my hair, his voice so low that I had to strain to pick everything up. "I'll never let anybody hurt you. Ever. They would have to kill me first to get to you."

"I know," I whispered back to him. "I know."

We were just starting our seventh year, when an owl landed on the table in front of James, a bright blue envelop in its mouth. This drew some attention, because the owls rarely brought anybody letters when it wasn't breakfast time.

"What's it say?" Sirius asked, his mouth full of potatoes.

"He hasn't opened it yet, you twit," Remus said, rolling his eyes.

The expression that crossed James's face as he pulled the sheet of parchment out and began to read engraved itself into my mind. I was sitting directly across from him, with an excellent view of his face going white before developing a sallow, sick looking tinge. He dropped the letter on the table, took off his glasses, rubbed the spot where they rested on his nose, before putting them back on and walking out of the Great Hall.

Sirius read the letter for the rest of us out loud. "Dear Mister Potter," he began. "We regret to inform you that your parents have been hospitalized. Both have developed nasty bouts of Dragon Pox…" His voice trailed off. The disease was often fatal, especially for older people. People like James's parents.

We were in sixth year and I finally figured out why James and Remus had been exceptionally angry with Sirius and Peter early on in the year. James and I had been having a conversation when he slipped and mentioned that Sirius, with the help of Peter, had planned a vicious plan against Severus.

"I don't like Snape either, but I don't think a hilarious prank would be getting the guy killed," James said, sighing and running his fingers through his hair.

"They tried to kill him?" I was shocked. I had no idea that they were that violent or cruel. "What did they try to do?"

James hesitated, realizing that he had let something very important slip. "I can't say," he said slowly, looking at me with pleading eyes. "But Peter gave Sirius the idea for a prank that would have gotten Snape killed and hurt one of the rest of us. I found out and pulled him back before something would happen that'd send Sirius to Azkaban."

Something in his tone of voice made me pause. "You only did it to help your best friend, or were you trying to protect yourself too?"

James sighed. "Both," he admitted. "And, as much as I hate the guy, when I realized what Sirius had planned for him I couldn't do it. I couldn't sit back and watch somebody innocent be killed. Well," he said, pausing to laugh, "not innocent, but… uh…"

"I know what you mean," I assured him.

We were in our fifth year and I was standing by a tree near the lake. I had the same word repeating over and over in my head ("Mudblood. Mudblood. Mudblood.") and James Potter was standing up to me against a boy who had, only minutes before, been the closest male friend that I ever had. The one who had just told me that he didn't need to be defended by a Mudblood like me, as though I was the scum beneath his shoes.

I had expected bad things from James Potter, but he never ceased to defend me when he had the chance. I had expected good things from Severus Snape, but he had just broken my heart a little bit when he said I was a Mudblood.

Severus's insult rang out in my head again ("I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her." Mudblood. Mudblood.) and I picked up my pace. I would not let him see me cry over him.

"You forgave him for every hex, every curse, and every punch he sent my way," Severus said, speaking very slowly. "But you could never find it in yourself to forgive me for the one word that I threw your way."

I opened and closed my mouth several times, not sure of how to respond. "I don't know," I whispered, shifting my weight uncomfortably. I knew that this was not the answer he wanted, and it wasn't one I wanted to give. But I just didn't know exactly how to explain it to him. "Okay," I said, starting over. "You hurt me a lot. Badly. In the worst way possible. You insulted me and implied my family was somehow not as good as yours. And not just for me either, it was like you insulted every single person who has Muggle parents! Especially given the situation with the war, you can see why that is a sensitive topic."

Severus stood in silence, moving his cart back and forth slightly. "Oh," he said.

I was expecting more of a response from him. "I didn't think you would ever hurt me," I mumbled. I wasn't sure why I said it. I hadn't mean to say it, since it was something so personal, but that didn't seem to stop my mouth from saying it.

"I didn't think I would ever hurt you either," Severus said sadly.

We were sixteen, going back to school after the Easter break. He was reluctant to go back, so I was trying to use physical force to get him through the barrier to Platform nine and three-quarters.

"We have plenty of time," he grumbled half-heartedly. He knew how much I hated to be late.

"No we don't," I said, shaking my head. My red hair went flying. "Come with me, please. Don't make me wait alone for my other friends to get here." I gave him my best puppy dog eyes, and he sighed.

"It's a good thing you're cute," he muttered.

I laughed, and pulled him through the barrier by his hand.

We were fifteen and had Potions class together when I overheard him talking to one of his classmates. "We've been friends for a long time, we grew up near each other," he said.

I smiled, knowing that it was me he was talking about. My smile quickly fell when I recognized the voice of Maximilian Tucker, one of the other Slytherins in our year. "That doesn't make her any less of a Mudblood."

"Don't talk about her like that!" he snapped back, and I grinned. He always defended me against the other guys he hung out with. Always.

We were thirteen, and I was upset because I had just received a "carrot top" comment from one of the much older students. I had always enjoyed having red hair, since so did my mother, but I hated the teasing that sometimes came along with it.

"What's wrong?" Severus asked. Clearly, my anger was showing on my face.

"Somebody just laughed at my hair," I grumbled. "I don't get it."

"Me neither," he said, picking up a few strands. "I think that red hair is very pretty." He flushed after he said it, which made me giggle.

"Thanks Sev."

We were ten and I was having him tell me about Hogwarts again. "It sounds beautiful," I said wistfully. Even then, I could tell that the neighbourhood that we were in couldn't truthfully be described as beautiful. Home, yes, but not attractive.

"We'll have lots of fun there," he promised, grinning. "There will be lots of other people like us there and we'll be able to practice using magic every day."

That made me smile. "Nobody will think we're weird for being able to use magic there either," I added happily.

Severus's eyebrows furrowed together. "Being magic doesn't make us weird," he said, as though it was obvious. "It just makes us special. Remember that Lily."

"I will," I promised him solemnly.

I gave him a sad smile. "I guess you surprised us both then," I said.

He spoke very quietly. "Unfortunately," he said, his voice melancholy. "I meant it when I told you how sorry I was," he said. He looked me in the eyes as he said it and he sounded sincere, so I believed him.

"I know you did," I replied, rubbing my thumb over my belly. "I just wasn't ready to forgive you."

"Have you managed to yet?" he asked.

I looked at my old best friend in silence. He looked the same as he had when we were close all those years ago, just a more aged version of that young boy. He had the same dark hair that fell over part of his face as though it could hide him from the world, the same dark eyes that I always felt could read me too well at times, and a slightly deeper version of the voice I knew so well. Yet, despite all that, I couldn't honestly tell him that I had managed to forgive him. "Part of me has," I admitted slowly. "But part of me is still hurt and untrusting."

"Do you think you ever will be able to forgive me entirely?"

"I don't know, Severus," I said. "I really can't say."

18 Years Later: 1998

I sat, waiting somewhat impatiently. I could see what was going on and I knew that the time I was going to be needed was soon. I just couldn't be sure of when it was… seconds possibly, minutes at most.

As I was expecting, the older man went limp as his soul left his body. Almost instantly, his body materialized in front of me. Still, I did not move from my spot on the bench. I was merely observing, I wasn't needed yet. I kept my eyes trained on his face, being sure to ignore the rest of his nude body.

The man twitched slightly, and his dark eyes opened. He sat up, looking utterly confused, before he looked around. When his eyes landed on me, the look that came over his face when he looked at me could only be described as a mixture of shock and disbelief. He blinked a few times, rubbed his eyes, and looked at me again.

I couldn't resist the urge to laugh, and a small giggle escaped. Looking down, Severus realized that he was naked and blushed a deep shade of crimson. I tossed him a pair of black trousers, which he hastily put on. He still looked incredibly perplexed, but I was sure he was thankful to have some clothes on.

"Remember me?" I asked, with a small smile. We had not talked since that day when I was pregnant with Harry, and I remembered that that was the way he had greeted me.

"Lily?" he asked incredulously.

I smiled at him. "Of course it's me."

He looked around, taking in his new surroundings. Unlike the last time that we met, this was not a familiar place. Also unlike the last time we met, I was truly and completely happy to see him again.

"So I take it that I'm… dead then," he said.

I nodded. "Yes. I've come here to collect you and take you on." He looked puzzled by this. I remembered the feeling clearly, even though it had been many years since I found myself here. Thankfully, I had James with me at the time. It kept me from completely freaking out when I found myself face to face with my mother and my mother-in-law.

"Why?"

My eyebrows furrowed together. "You can't stay here forever, you have to move on like the rest of us. I'll take you to where everybody else is."

He shook his head slightly, still rarely breaking eye contact with me as though I would disappear if he looked elsewhere. "Not that. Why did you come and get me?"

I smiled at him. "Because I need to thank you Sev."

Severus's eyes widened momentarily at the old nickname. "For what?"

"Don't think I haven't noticed what you've been doing for the past several years," I said. "I've seen you looking out for Harry. And Albus has explained to me that you were the one who gave him the tip-off about Voldemort coming after my family."

A strange look came over his face. Shifting uncomfortably, he asked, "Does that mean that you know about…" Starting over, he asked, "Do you know why I did it?"

I nodded. "I know why you did it Sev. And it was very brave of you. All of it." He looked uncomfortable at the compliment, but I had to continue. "I will never be able to thank you enough for looking after my son."

"I didn't do it for him," he said quickly.

"I know that too," I said. "But I think, in time, you'll come to realize that you did it for reasons other than for me."

Severus looked down at his bare feet. "Does everybody know that I…"

"Protected Harry?" I supplied. "Yes. And they all want to thank you for it. Especially James."

His head snapped up and he looked at me. "James Potter?" he asked, as though he must have heard me wrong.

I laughed. "Of course James Potter," I said. "He reminded me to thank you at least half a dozen times before I came to collect you."

"Oh," he said. He seemed to be unable to get anything more elaborate out. I could see why the idea of James being so intent on thanking him would be strange, but under the circumstances, he must have realized that it was coming. Changing the subject, he asked, "Are we going to go to where you wanted to show me now?"

I shook my head. "I have something I have to do for Harry first," I said, grinning at the thought of finally seeing my son again. "But then I'll show you where everybody is."

"Have you managed to forgive me entirely now?" he asked.

"Completely," I replied. It was entirely true, he had saved my son's life on more than one occasion. If there was any way a person could completely redeem his- or herself, protecting my only child was it.