Disclaimer: Severus, Lily and Hogwarts magic are property of JKR. Unfortunately.
This is for Justin.
He knows why.
He had been planning it since Christmas break, with a meticulousness bordering paranoia; she had been angry with him, because he chose to return home for the holidays while she stayed in the Castle. They had never been apart for Christmas; when he refused to tell her the reason, she got mad. In any other circumstance, no reason would have been good enough to tear him apart from Lily, especially during Christmas, which was her favourite festivity: he would have never denied himself the quiet joy that waved over him each time her green eyes shone and her face lightened up in childlike, innocent wonder as they witnessed together Hogwarts changing its clothing, from grey medieval castle to colourful, glittering, deliriously good-smelling Christmas tree overloaded with gifts, mistletoe, fairies, falling snow, eggnog and carols.
Not speaking of the fact that going back to Spinner's End would have meant seeing his parents, and suffering the violence and anguish which were sure to follow. Lily was his private Shielding Charm; without her to help him endure the pain, even for a few days, he would be spiralling into a black hole of heartache and loneliness.
Her family was not home for the holidays, so Lily was forced to stay at Hogwarts: she had begged him to reconsider, expressing her fears for him. He had lied, telling her he would be okay.
He had not been okay: she had been far away from him, and dangerously near to Potter's ruddy clutches and bespectacled, assaulting eyes for 16 days straight.
Jealousy had eaten him alive every bloody second of it.
But in the end, it was worth it.
Severus looked at the flat envelope wrapped in forest green paper in his hands, and smiled in satisfaction.
She was going to lose it.
He sped up, hoping to catch her before Arithmancy class: as he walked towards Gryffindor Common Room, some of her friends crossed him and, as usual, they put their heads together at once, exchanging remarks and gossip. He couldn't care less whether the rest of the world considered their inter-house friendship weird, or inappropriate, or even unhealthy. Although his own housemates were starting to get edgy about it, Hell would break loose before he'd give Lily up.
It would be like giving up his soul.
Granted, there have been some misunderstandings between them in the recent past: Lily hated his circle with a vengeance and she didn't really let him forget about the prank on Mary – out of all the girls, did Mulciber really have to choose her other best friend? – on which, anyway, he wasn't involved in the least.
But he wasn't worried: he knew Lily still cared, and, as long as he could keep her close and his mates closer, all was well.
Lily still cared; Severus was set on discovering just how much, before he'd try anything.
Coward, his inner voice taunted him.
He scowled at himself: he was not a coward; he just had to be sure, prudent.
Prudence was very Slytherin, he conceded.
Yet, he sighed, yet...his patience was growing thin, and she was too popular for her own good. Potter wasn't the only one around...
He stopped in the middle of the corridor and checked his gift once again: this could be his major card to play. The Grand Slam's match point, as Harry Evans would've put it. It was not the gift per se, but the mood it could create, if he played his game well. He just had to wait only until summer.
From the Gryffindors Common Room, boys and girls were coming in his direction, loaded with books and parchments for the next lessons. A couple of them were sniggering, gesturing wildly toward the Common Room. One of them – was it Longbottom? – said, "Potter's wasting his time. There's no way she's going to give in."
Severus frowned and hurried up: there was something ominous about that remark.
He heard the quarrelling voices before seeing them. When he turned around the corner, there they were: Lily, almost backed up against the wall, her arms crossed, a frown of deep exasperation all over her features, and that blasted James Potter, one hand glued to the wall as though preventing her to flee and the other one stuck in his stupid hair; his ever present minions – Black, the werewolf (oh, he was so bloody right about it!) and that stupid useless Pettigrew – were backing him up.
Severus pulled off his wand, just as a safety measure: Lily was well capable of defending herself (not to mention that, as stubbornly self-reliant as she was, that girl hated when somebody took her defences), but if Potter crossed the line – that is, if he only as much as brushed her with any part of his body – he was going to get hexed into a jelly in no time.
"C'mon, Evans! Just one date, is all I'm asking you. One hour down at Hogsmeade and I'm going to make you change your mind about me."
"You conceited git! You have the nerve to ask me out after what you've done to Faith Burbage during the holidays?"
From behind Potter's back, Black coughed a malicious Busted!
Severus silently cheered: so the toerag had managed to screw up his chances by mistreating one of her Hufflepuff friends? He was an idiot.
Potter looked taken back, as though he didn't want to divulge that particular information. He shot a warning glare to Black and took a steady breath.
"So you've heard..."
"Of course, I've heard...the whole school has..." Lily spat, her eyes flashing dangerously. "I've spent New Year's Eve trying to make Faith understand that you surely are not worth a single one of her tears. Did you have fun? Are you satisfied? My God, I cannot believe your gall! Coming to me after you've..."
She bit her lips; even from where he stood, Severus could clearly see the enormous strain she was enduring to keep herself from hexing Potter into oblivion. There were aversion and anger, but also disappointment and something else Severus could not quite figure out.
Was it sorrow?
"To you, girls are only a trophy." she went on, in a low, shaking voice. "The more the better, isn't it? Well, I can already tell you that you're not going to catch this Snitch!"
The remark must have hit hard on the spot, because almighty Potter seemed to be at loss for words. The fact that he has just been rejected in public for the thousandth time surely didn't help. Potter did have guts and determination, though, Severus ought to grant him that, at least. If Lily had ever looked at him with such disgust and contempt, he would have surely wished for death.
As Severus mulled over it, Pettigrew spotted him and patted a warning on Potter's shoulder. The Gryffindors all turned their heads simultaneously. Severus gripped his wand as Black drew out his own and made a move toward him, but Potter stopped him before they could engage in a fight. It looked as though he didn't want to make a scene in front of Lily, now that his chances had fallen even lower.
"Well, happy birthday, then," he said, serious and genuine, and took a step back making room for Lily to leave. His tone and demeanour, mischievous and arrogant only moments before, had totally changed. Lily locked eyes with him, and blinked a couple of times: she looked so puzzled at this sudden switch that it took her a few seconds to understand she was free to go.
Black was still blocking her way.
"Excuse me!" she forcefully said until it might have sounded like a "Back the hell off!". Black stepped aside, sniggering and mimicking her, but was silenced at once by a hard smack on the back of his head.
"Ouch! What was that for?"
As Lily marched past him, Potter ignored Black's outraged cry and was now staring at Severus: the look of mutual, pure loathing was unmistakable. Severus bit back the hex standing at the tip of his tongue – Lily would not have liked it – and automatically took Lily's books as she intertwined her now freed arm around his and almost dragged him away.
"One of these days I'm going to say yes out of exhaustion so maybe he would stop pestering me," she murmured, more to herself than to him.
Lily must have sensed it, for she instantly broke into an apologetic little smile and clung harder to his arm, as though preventing him to disentangle it and run away. The pressure of both her hands reassured him to some degree, but he could not help feeling that awful chill getting him each time he caught her talking with Potter, especially in those last months: they were still bickering, a lot, maybe more than necessary, but at times Severus noticed Lily becoming moody and touchy, when she heard about some prank pulled by the so-called Marauders. Severus temporary tried to dismiss these doubts, by pretending it was O.W.L.s stress starting to get to her, even if they still were months away from exams. It worried him, and more and more often he found himself wondering about them. On a couple of occasions he even refused to speak to her for the whole day, after he witnessed some furtive glances thrown into Potter's direction. Most of the time he acted irrationally, like a jealous boyfriend, but the truth was that he couldn't really put forward claims on her.
She wasn't his.
Not yet, at least.
He watched her from the corner of the eye: "Well, then, perhaps I should give my birthday present to somebody who's worthier of my attentions," he said, and mentally commended himself for the way he managed to cover his annoyance, sounding casual and teasing at the same time.
Lily stopped on her track, a greedy gleam in her eyes.
"Is there a birthday present? Where is it?"
Severus disregarded her, feigning indifference, hands in his pockets, a look of boredom in his eyes. Lily hated not getting what she wanted: patience was surely not one of her virtues. She grabbed his tie and pulled him closer.
"Where is it?" she growled, threateningly, in a perfect imitation of Slytherin wickedness.
Severus just raised an eyebrow: menace never worked with him.
The Slytherin attitude wasn't getting her anywhere, so she changed tactics, entangling him into a bear hug, her chin over his chest.
"Severus, please?...pretty please?..."
He had to hide his hands behind his back to avoid doing something rash. She was too close, putting all of her charms, Amortentia-like scent, fluttering eyelashes, lavish auburn hair, pouty lips, startlingly shining green eyes, dimples and freckles, into her quest for gifts. Severus suppressed a laugh: at sixteen, Lily hasn't changed much from her nine-year-old younger self. She still was that little girl: carefree, unstoppable when she wanted something, curious like a cat, totally oblivious to the power she held over him.
He surrendered right away.
Her eyes shone in victory when she grabbed the envelope, and bulged in mute shock, turning a darker shade of green, from emerald to jade, when she saw its contents.
She gaped from him to her present, and back to Severus again.
"No bloody way! You're playing a trick on me."
Severus made a disparaging grunt, defensively crossing his arms.
"Your trust amazes me. No, they're the real thing. Authentic as Magic."
Lily's smile grew bigger and bigger, until it almost reached her ears. And there she was, totally losing it, just as he had predicted. Crazily hopping from one side of the hallway to the other like a drugged doe on a rocky hill, screaming like a hawk, startling to death the Five Jolly Monks in the portrait next the moving staircase. Some kids were curiously watching them, sniggering and mocking them as they passed by: Lily's outburst could catch the teachers' attention, resulting in points deduction for both Slytherin and Gryffindor. But she was so funny that he didn't have the heart to stop her.
The reason behind all this commotion was that the envelope, in fact, contained two tickets for Knebworth Fair, August 21, 1976.
10cc, Hot Tuna, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Don Harrison Band and Todd Rundgren were all enlisted to play as supporters. But on the tickets, above the other names, in bold, bright, big letters, there was a gigantic red tongue and another band's name: The Rolling Stones.
It was the last show of their European Tour, and Lily had been wearing him out for months. They would be still at school, with their hands full of O.W.L.'s dung, for the London dates in April, so Lily set her heart on the Fair. When she discovered, after Christmas, that the tickets were all sold out, she was miserable for two days, and just stopped talking about it. Severus inwardly smiled for three weeks: January 30 wasn't coming faster enough. Actually he himself was pretty eager about the show. He had come to love Muggle contemporary music. Lily had somewhat infected him with it. Corrupted was the exact term she once used: as he tutored her in the noble art of Potions, she tutored him in the noble art of Rock 'n roll. The Evans girls were big fans of the Stones: Petunia kept her personal album collection safely locked in her room, with the prohibition even to her own sister to gain access to it without her permission.
But Lily always found a way to get around it. The previous summer they had spent some really enjoyable afternoons on their special hidden place, near the river: Lily would bring her radio and Petunia's guitar (unbeknownst to the big sister brat), would sit on the river's bank and play few accords of Sympathy for the Devil or Not fade away.
She sang awfully.
Completely off-key the whole time.
It was a sweet torture for him. Sweet, but torture, nevertheless. So, one day, he started singing over her voice to the tune of Time is on my side which she was playing. Afterwards, she said he had a really stunning, distinctive voice.
I think you should seriously forget about academic glory and commit yourself to international singing stardom, she had said. I'll be your groupie, making you some hot cocoa for your vocal chords, following you around with big puppy eyes, hexing the other girls if they become too friendly...
Off his raised eyebrow, she had put her chin on his shoulder: You know how terribly jealous I am...
It had been a wonderful summer, full of songs and disastrous attempts to dance – on both parts.
He couldn't remember another time when he was happier; although, as he watched Lily jumping up and down, roaring with extremely contagious laughter, Severus thought the one he was living now was a close second.
When she finally stopped, she threw her arms around his neck.
"My Goodness!" she exhaled, slightly out of breath. "The tickets are sold out! How did you get them?"
Severus didn't answer. Lily suspiciously narrowed her eyes, her smile obliterated.
"Whom did you have to kill?"
"You, ungrateful little goose!" he protested, snatching the tickets out of her hands and pretending to be affronted. "I've fought hard for them."
"You must have done something slithering."
"Maybe you don't know me that well!"
Actually, Severus thought, she did, since technically he had put a harmless Confundus Charm over the couple at the start of the queue in order to be the first to buy the tickets. But this one was a little peccadillo, totally justified by good means, which he could easily hide from her without feeling guilty. He was a Slytherin, after all, and all's fair in love and war.
"You should be a little bit more appreciative," he mused.
Lily studied him with that unnerving smirk she sometimes had when there was something wicked in her mind; she stared at him for the longest time, hands on her hips, until he felt his cheeks grow hot.
Oh, Merlin, please no, not the blush.
Then, she stood on tiptoe and kissed the top of his nose.
It was not the first time, and there was nothing more in it than a warm gesture of fondness, devoid of any more-than-friends suggestions, but as some catcalls could be heard from below, Severus couldn't help but wonder where was a Potter when he needed one to witness his triumph. No doubt he was bound to know about this nose-kiss, as soon as the news reached the Lions Common Room.
Blissful contentment surged from inside him like honey: it was a small victory, but it helped to ease some of his insecurities. He was still Lily's favourite, her first choice.
He gave the tickets back to her as they walked toward the class.
"Oh, I just can't wait to be over with O.W.L.s. It will be the best summer ever. I've been told that Hertfordshire is beautiful. We could go camping for the whole week! There's Stevenage, and St. Albans, and the little Wizarding Marketplace right under the Gardens of the Rose, and Berkhamsted Castle! Sev, can we go there?"
Severus laughed out loud: Harry and Margaret Evans trusting a teenage boy with their baby girl for a week to be spent alone in the woods? Sure!
"Your folks won't be having any of it."
"Bugger them! I'm going to lie, if that's what it takes. I'll be with you: nothing bad can happen."
He smirked: the blind confidence with which she would rely on him was touching, and totally unjustified. If they were going to spend a week alone in the middle of nowhere, he would surely try to take advantage of the slightest chance he's got.
Thank goodness, she was too focused on the tickets to figure out his real thoughts.
"That was the reason why you went home for the holidays."
It was not a question, and he had to look away to prevent her from seeing painful memories in his eyes. She could read him well enough even without Legilimency and he never liked the slightly patronizing, sympathetic expression Lily took every time his parents' relationship was concerned.
"Well, if you'd followed me, it would have been near impossible to sneak out to Manchester and buy the tickets, without you prying."
The joke was somehow lost to her: Lily's eyes were cast down, and for a mad second Severus thought she was crying.
She had stopped and taken his hand. Hers was cold, and slightly shaky.
"You know, just when I think that you can't possibly do anything else to surprise me, you come up with this..." she whispered. "How can you do it?"
She wore a look of amazement and tenderness, a look which he alone could place in her eyes.
Severus stared at her, mesmerized: he would do anything – endure his father's abuses, his mother's tears, give up his ambitions, his own life – anything, to bring that look over her face once more.
Lily was the only thing in the world worth dying for.
He bent down, close enough for a kiss, and simply whispered in her ear. "Magic."
Lily smiled up at him, her eyes shining.
"I really hope they're going to perform Dead flowers."
As she started chatting again about the many things they could see and do, Severus thought that, with a little encouragement from the Stones' wonderful ballads, the stars sparkling over their heads, the warmth of the night and the thrill of being on their own for the first time, he would never get a better chance to tell her how he really felt.
By the time they had reached Arithmancy class, a new hope had blossomed into Severus' heart: there would be time to think about what to say to her, and how to say it. For now, he was perfectly happy to just sit so close to her, and dream for a summer that never came.
"Faith has been broken
Tears must be cried
Let's do some living
After we die."
Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones
Many thanks and lots of love go to thejealousone, whom I practically lured into betaing, with the pretext of letting me know what he thought of it.
Do be kind and review!