Here is the next instalment at last. In case anyone is following this. Unfortunately I had to work so it took me longer to get this out. Sorry! Thanks to Lisa for the beta-work! Also thanks for the Pensieve idea. I love you. And Jane, Lily's socks are yours. You can also have her shoes. They were scourgified. And Lilgreenmomo, as always, thanks for the support and for liking the Gene-ified Severus. More to come. Please read and review. Reviews are good.
Chapter: The First Letter
16th of January, 1977
You never answered my last letter. I don't understand why you've cut yourself off from me like this. For the past six years, ever since I was first accepted to Hogwarts, things have been tense between us, but you always wrote back in the end. I don't know what I've done that you're no longer even being civil to me. I told myself it wasn't your fault that trip to Canada happened to coincide with my summer holidays. Then at Christmas you spent the whole time with your boyfriend even though Mum is ill and we didn't get to talk longer than 5 minutes the whole visit, but I didn't complain. I told myself things change, priorities change. But that's not it, is it? You've been avoiding me. When I wrote to you that I was no longer friends with Severus Snape, part of me was hoping you'd be pleased and welcome me back. And we could be sisters again. I know it can't be the way it was before; we've both changed too much. But you can treat me like a sister again. With Mum ill we have to stick together. I thought you'd realise this and come round, but it seems to me that you're colder than ever now. Please tell me what I can do to make things better between us!
I suppose if I want you back as my sister I'll have to try to be a Muggle again. That will never happen though, Petunia. I'm in this world now, for better or worse. Maybe it would be better if I didn't write to you about Hogwarts and everything going on with me here. But you see the thing is, I don't know who else to write to. Sure I have friends here, Mary McDonald is nice and so is Dorcas, but it's not the same. You're the only one besides Severus who ever really bothered to see the real me.
Things haven't been too good for me since Christmas. I thought by severing (haha, no pun intended) ties with Severus, I was doing the right thing - disassociating myself from the Dark Arts, you know, bad magic. I thought it would be easy to move on - after all, he is wrong. He chose those bad friends and was hateful to me. Things aren't that black and white, though, as you have often told me.
Mostly I've been avoiding him. At first he kept trying to corner me and he sent me notes all the time. He even went over to the house during the Christmas holidays; you were out, Dad sent him away. I saw him from the upstairs window. He seemed resigned. I don't know, but when I saw him looking so helpless like that…you always said I have a weak spot for the underdog. But the name he called me last summer was completely unforgivable, how would we ever get past that?
About a month ago he stopped following me around; he won't look at me or talk to me. I don't know what's going on. I should be happy, but I'm not. Sure he has evil friends and he shouldn't have called me a Mudblood, but shouldn't I have tried to help him? Isn't that what a good friend does? Steer friends away from the wrong path? We've known each other forever, and I just abandoned him because of one word. And I know you never liked him Tuney, but what sort of person could abandon a friend like that? The real reason wasn't even the word Mudblood, or the fact that he is obsessed with Dark Magic. It's that I was ashamed of being friends with him. That's what it was. He was wrong but I was worse, I didn't want to be seen with him anymore, with his greasy hair and funny way of talking. I was worried people might think we were…you know, romantically…That's just stupid though isn't it? He was just a friend.
The last few weeks he's looked just awful, just dreadful. You'll probably say he always did, but he looks downright unhealthy now, terribly thin and pale, with dark circles under his eyes. I keep thinking I should send him an owl or try to send a secret message using that ribbon he gave me that passes notes on instantly. But I wouldn't know what to say. Should I just swallow my pride and try to help him? Is he this way because of me? Petunia, what if he's seriously ill? It's bad enough with Mum and the chemotherapy. I can't stop thinking of this… of him, Tuney, it's driving me mad.
I don't know what to do.
Snape set the letter down on the little table to his right. He felt cold inside, dead, but his face was burning. His emotions pulled him in every direction at once, hooking him by his belly button, like travelling by Portkey. She had been ashamed of him. He buried his face in one hand. After all that time it still hurt. Romantically, she'd written; she'd been worried people would think they were connected romantically. He knocked over his glass of wine and let it shatter on the ground. Romance be damned. He'd loved her completely. He was still paying for that love, every single day. To look into her eyes almost daily, that boy's green eyes, sunk in James Potter's thin, arrogant face…
A rustling sound at the door alerted him to Wormtail's presence.
"I thought I heard…" the rat-like man began.
Snape grabbed the first thing that came to hand: a Muggle LP of Viviane Pettigrew's piano concertos that he had been listening to the night before. He hurled it at the door with all his might. Peter's eyes widened slightly and he slammed the door just in time, before it hit the doorframe and broke into two uneven pieces.
Snape whipped out his wand and muttered, "Reparo."
That record was worth something these days. The woman hadn't played in public since her son, Wormtail, had "died". If she only knew what had really become of him - that snivelling, grovelling sycophant, content with vestiges of acknowledgement from the Dark Lord and ironing Severus Snape's socks.
Snape sat down again and picked up the first letter. She had never sent it, from the looks of it. Petunia never got to answer. Just as well. If Petunia had answered, things would probably not have happened the way they did.
He thought back to that uncertain time when he had been busy digging further into the Dark Arts than he had ever been before. With Lily no longer speaking to him, he was free to spend his time with whomever he pleased, to read anything he pleased, to use whatever words he pleased. Much of the attraction to these things had faded since she had ended their friendship, but Snape had found that once you opened the door to the Dark Arts, it wasn't so easy to shut it again.
He'd spent many feverish nights reading, practicing, and savouring the new knowledge. He'd asked himself: how could knowledge be bad? Finally, what he'd been hoping for occurred. In Sixth Year, soon after Snape's 17th birthday, Lucius Malfoy sent him an invitation to a meeting. Though Malfoy had left Hogwarts several years before, he was still famous in Slytherin House for his good looks, charm, success, and most importantly his very deep pockets. It was a very big honour indeed to be noticed by Malfoy.
Snape remembered worrying about what Lily would think of him going to meet a great, dirty bunch of Death Eaters, and then he'd remembered that they were no longer friends. There had been a brief nagging feeling that he was getting himself into something that wouldn't be so easy to get out of, but without Lily, nothing really mattered. So he'd attended. It had felt so good that there were people who wanted him, who needed him; at last, he'd found something he could belong to.
Things had gone downhill quite rapidly from that point. The Dark Lord wasn't a kind master. After receiving the Mark, Snape had been ill for days, weeks. He'd missed more classes than he had in his first 5 years at Hogwarts combined. Teachers were starting to worry. He'd relied more and more on Avery and Rosier to manhandle him through lessons and meals. He'd struggled to keep his thoughts of Lily private, locked in; he'd practised clearing his mind of all emotions every day. As a result, his feelings towards her had dulled somewhat, like a cancer in remission.
Snape stood up abruptly and warded the door. There was an easier way to remember, painful as that method may be. He crossed the room, set up his old Pensieve, and pulled the silvery thread of memory from his mind, releasing it into the dish. He wavered for a second before plunging his face into the liquid and emerging in Hogwarts, mid January, 1977, sixth year.
Snape blinked and found himself in the cafeteria. He looked towards the staff table, where his place was filled by Horace Slughorn. Dumbledore, his wandhand whole and unblemished, was sitting beside the moustachioed Potions Master, talking animatedly.
He quickly scanned the room and discovered his17-year-old self sitting next to Rosier and Wilkes at the Slytherin table. The plate before his younger self was empty save for a stray bit of toast. As Snape recalled, that particular morning he'd managed to choke down a substantial breakfast- a rare feat in those days, when even the thought of food turned his stomach. Rosier was pushing a glass of orange juice towards younger Severus, insisting he needed the vitamins. Snape smiled grimly; of course, Rosier had wanted to be a healer in those days. In hindsight, it was funny that Evan Rosier, renowned in his day for duelling and maiming, had originally wanted to be a healer.
Snape turned away from the 17-year-old version of himself and angled his head towards the Gryffindor table, but Lily Evans had already finished her breakfast and was gone. He followed himself down the hall on the way to Charms, watching with interest as Rosier shouldered the younger Snape's school bag and gave him a little pat on the back. He was surprised at the casualness of the gesture: this boy had liked him. He recalled, as if through a veil, that there had been other Slytherins who had been kind to him - almost friends - but at the time he'd been too distracted to pay them any mind. Mulciber, younger and entertaining notions of facial hair, passed them and muttered: "Sev's turn today."
Snape watched as an expression of sheer terror crossed the face of the younger Severus.
The Dark Lord enjoyed torturing them at intervals in those days, particularly the new recruits. He sent waves of fear and pain by way of the Mark he had burned into their skin. It was his little way of testing their loyalty. How Mulciber had known whose turn it was on that day was a mystery, but sure enough, as they turned the corner he saw himself double up with pain and lurch down onto his knees, heaving desperately. The younger Snape's face was ashen and drawn, his lips nearly blue. Young Severus clutched his arm through his robes. Snape watched as Rosier placed his hand on young Severus' forehead and whispered something into his ear. He was too far away to hear what was whispered, but he remembered the words all the same.
"Just ride it out Severus. Easy does it."
He knew what was coming, but when he saw her heading towards him, he was startled all the same. Lily. She was walking straight towards the younger Snape, Rosier and Mulciber.
She wore her school robes with certain flair no one else ever seemed to pull off, and she'd discarded her tie and wore a saffron coloured silk scarf around her neck instead. It clashed with her hair.
Lily stood there for a minute, slightly stooped under the weight of her schoolbag, as if considering how best to approach the trio of Slytherins before her. Her lopsided stance seemed vaguely familiar to Snape, and he laughed out loud when he realised that she reminded him a little of Potter's know it all friend, Hermione Granger. Miss Granger had the same bad posture; she too was bent out of shape by the weight of her books. It hadn't been the first time Granger reminded him of Lily, but it was the first time Lily had ever reminded him of Granger.
Around Lily's slender wrists glittered a dozen brightly coloured bangles, and threaded in between them was the violet conversation ribbon he'd made her in third year. Snape reached towards her involuntarily, forgetting she was only a memory. She must have been coming to find him if she was wearing the ribbon, he'd never noticed that before. His heart contracted with joy.
Young Severus was still on his hands and knees on the ground, oblivious to Lily's presence. He rolled his eyes upward, sweat beading on his chalky forehead; he closed his eyes. His thin grey lips formed one word: Lily. Then he vomited all over her new violet suede shoes.
The scene changed. Snape was in the hospital wing, standing before a narrow cot. The young Snape was just waking up, shivering with cold, not yet noticing Lily Evans curled up in an armchair by his bedside. In the beds to his right lay two boys he recognised as members of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, Beaters, who had simultaneously chucked bludgers at each other's heads and had suffered twin concussions. Idiots, Snape thought as he remembered the event - so much for Ravenclaw brilliance. Ravenclaw had lost that season. It turned out the morons had been going out with the same girl. The two-timing young lady had undoubtedly been in Slytherin House.
In a bed to his left lay a tall thin girl whose face was covered in oozing blue sores: Marlene McKinnon, a notorious dueller. She would die by Travers' hand just a few years later. Beside McKinnon was a Hufflepuff whose face and arms were a startling shade of orange; Pomfrey hadn't been able to figure that one out, and had sent the boy to St. Mungo's the very next day.
With all these patients to attend to, Madam Pomfrey probably hadn't spent much time examining young Severus Snape. It was likely she had simply diagnosed him with the usual (exhaustion and dehydration) and put him in a bed. He had been to the hospital wing more than once during O.W.L. year because he'd spent so much time studying that he'd forgotten to feed himself.
Incidentally, it was during the study-intense fifth year that he had become so negligent about washing his hair - an activity that never been his favourite - that he had become known as 'the greasy git'. Sirius in particular found this amusing. Sirius Black, with his shining dark head of hair, so popular with the ladies. Snape recalled with relish Sirius' filthy, grizzled locks after his escape from Azkaban. So much for good looks.
Pomfrey's half-hearted examination meant young Snape was still clothed in his school robes under the covers; as a result, she hadn't discovered the Dark Mark tattooed onto his left arm. The younger Snape exhaled in relief. The older Snape watched the scene wryly; perhaps it would have been better if Pomfrey had discovered the Mark that day. How differently things would have turned out.
Young Severus was looking around the room trying to figure out how long he'd been asleep for. His eyes fell on a pile of homework on the nightstand. Potions, Arithmancy and Charms. He took in the pair of Beaters to his right. A smirk-like spasm rippled across his face. But when he turned to the left and saw Lily, his mouth fell open in surprise. She was wearing a new cobalt blue dressing gown, and beneath it he could see a hint of her cotton nightdress. It was night then. Probably past bedtime. On her feet she wore black and yellow striped socks, which reminded the elder Snape of a bumblebee.
"You've been here all day." She said. "Pomfrey said it's acute exhaustion and dehydration."
Snape could still remember the relief that washed over him at the sound of her voice; he remembered wanting to pinch himself to check if he was dreaming. She was talking to him; she was here. Young Snape squirmed uncomfortably, pulling the covers up to his nose. He was already a step ahead, remembering the scene earlier that day, when he had thrown up on Lily's shoes.
"What are you doing here?" The boy asked, glaring at her and trying to push himself into a sitting position. He experimented with making his voice deeper, more forbidding. He forced his face into a scowl, but his eyes were covertly memorising Lily's form, savouring it.
Snape took another quick look around at the other patients, and saw that his younger self and Lily were doing the same. Blake and Rosen, the two Ravenclaw Beaters, were fast asleep. Their heads were twice their normal size, muffled in bandaging like a pair of Egyptian mummies.
Marlene McKinnon lay there so peacefully, Snape was positive she had been given a draught of Dreamless Sleep. Because of the pranks she liked to play, (her favourite victims being Slytherins), McKinnon had rarely slept through the night even when healthy; and she had wreaked havoc in Madam Pomfrey's orderly Hospital Wing too many times to count. Pomfrey was only right to be cautious.
The orange boy appeared to have no ears. Not for the first time, Snape wondered if someone had attempted to transfigure him into an orange and bungled the job. All in all, Snape reassured himself, it was unlikely any of them had heard what came next. Not that it mattered at this point.
The younger Snape and Lily also seemed satisfied that they wouldn't be overheard. Lily's shoulders relaxed a fraction, and she turned back to the black haired boy in the bed in front of her. She shut the book she was holding ("Advanced Potion-Making") and hugged it to her chest. "I was worried about you." she said at last. Her cheeks were pinched in slightly as she scrutinised the younger Snape. "You look awful."
"Well, I'm fine. Don't worry. Don't let me keep you from your homework or whatever." He turned on his side away from her, drawing the covers up around his neck.
"I've already done it." she said in a distracted sort of tone. "Look Severus. You really hurt me last summer."
"Yes. We've discussed this," Severus interrupted her. "There's no point talking about it again. You don't want to be my friend. Fine."
"Let me finish!" she snapped. She slammed the book onto the bed. "I do want to be your friend. I thought I didn't but…you deserve a second chance. Just… can't it be the way it was before? Without Mulciber and Avery and Rosier? Without this obsession with the Dark Arts? I want to be your friend, but I need you to be the sort of person who would never use the word Mudblood, not to me, not ever. Don't you want to be friends?" The words came out too fast, jumbled together, stumbling over each other.
There was a pause. Snape watched as Lily fidgeted and the younger version of himself lay there motionless, choosing his next words carefully. Then the teenaged Snape sat up and faced Lily. He pushed his long black hair out of his face. His expression was unreadable but the adult Snape knew that he was filled with emotions that warred with each other. He was one step away from shouting out some silly romantic declaration, or telling her to get out of his sight.
"No. I don't." he said instead, his dark eyes looking straight into her green ones.
"You don't mean that," Lily said, her voice shaking slightly, and looked down at her feet. She struggled to maintain her composure and shifted slightly in her seat as if contemplating bolting from the room.
"How would you know what I mean?" he said unkindly. "You haven't spoken to me for months."
"We were best friends!" she protested.
"Yeah well I fixed that didn't I? You said so yourself," the boy said.
Lily's eyes were blazing. "But I forgive you!" she shouted. She jumped to her feet, rushed at the boy in his bed and held fast to his left arm. He drew away from her as if scalded.
Snape remembered that at this point he had been ready to accept her offer of friendship, and turn his back on the Dark Arts and his new master forever. However, this was more easily said than done. Also, he'd felt the prickle of pride. How dare she set the rules? How dare she expect him to just jump when she called? He had enough of that from the Dark Lord.
"That's how it works? Half a year of silence. Half a year, you wouldn't even look at me. You forgive me and that's it? I give up my other friends and everything else you don't like, and we're back to the way it was? I don't want it the way it was. I don't want to be your friend, Lily."
Lily's mouth bent out of shape. Snape wondered if she had been about to cry. She slid down from the armchair and stood before him, her back stiff as a board. At the time, Snape had been sure she was going to turn on her heel and march straight out of the room. He had been sure this would be the last time he'd ever speak to Lily Evans. Instead, Lily did something so shocking, he had sat there as if paralysed. She walked towards the bed and took the younger Snape's hand in her own.
"You're being silly Sev," she said earnestly. "You and I are friends. Forever. You said so, when you were eleven. And I'm not going to go away until you say you're my friend again."
Sev's mouth was agape. He opened it and closed it a few times but no sound issued from it. Suddenly, Madam Pomfrey burst into the room, through the spot where the adult Snape stood observing the scene. With a cry of indignation, she propelled Lily towards the door.
"Miss Evans! Never in all my years! I'm surprised at you…a prefect such as yourself! Out and about, past visiting hours, past bedtime!"
Lily didn't go gently. She held fast to the door and called out Snape's name, winking and grinning at him as Pomfrey forced her into the hall. Young Snape stood beside the bed in his bare feet, a stricken expression on his face. He had been about to give in and ask Lily to be his friend again.
Snape pulled out of the memory with a sickening wrench, before Pomfrey could return and chastise his younger self. He was back in the parlour in Spinner's End. The candles had gone out and the fire was dying. Snape shivered and pulled his cloak closer.
"It's fine to recall the past," Dumbledore often said. "But you mustn't let it consume you, Severus. Return to the past only to learn from it. The present is where you belong."
That was rich, coming from Hogwarts' revered Headmaster. Snape had always felt that there was something about the man that was stuck in the past. And not just to learn from it.
Snape contemplated this. What had he learned form the past?
He had learned that Severus Snape at age 17, novice Death Eater had been an even bigger fool than he remembered.
What else had he learned? The conversation ribbon: Lily had been wearing it. He had never thought to check it. All these years. She may have sent him a message that he never knew about. The last time he'd checked the ribbon had been just before his fateful conversation with Lily in front of the passage to the Gryffindor common room. That had been towards the end of fifth year. The ribbon would be upstairs in his old room, with his old school things. Snape took a quick gulp of wine straight from the crystal decanter. He returned the memory to its proper place, stowed away the Pensieve, and snatched up the letters and tucked them into the inside pocket of his robes. Then he unwarded the door and silenced Wormtail, who was waiting in the hall, with a snarl.
Upstairs in his old bedroom, he pulled out the cardboard box marked Fifth Year. His old school books were all there, as well as his neatly printed notes and some rare keepsakes. He held up a wizarding picture that showed himself standing at platform 9 ¾ having just arrived home for the summer. He was hanging onto his trunk with one hand and holding a cigarette in the other. How his mother had scolded him for that! Snape had started smoking right around the time he sat for his O.W.L.s, mainly because Avery and Mulciber did - though he'd carried the cigarettes around for months hoping the more popular students would ask him for one. It had taken him ages after that to break the habit.
Years of smoking and constant contact with discolouring potions ingredients hadn't exactly been kind to his teeth. He'd thought of bleaching them, but yellow teeth hardly seemed important next to everything the Order was now facing: Dumbledore's imminent end, Voldemort's possible victory, Harry Potter coming into his role as The Chosen One. Snape shuddered. He looked down at the picture again. The sixteen year old Severus was drawing on his fag and scowling.
"Probably thought you looked dead cool, didn't you? You greasy git," the mirror on his wall cackled.
He'd had that mirror for years. It had hung in his dormitory in Hogwarts. Originally it had belonged to Wilkes, but in third year James Potter had bribed someone to let him in to the Slytherin dormitories, and had enchanted it to insult Snape. If anyone else looked in it, the mirror would bawl for Snape until he appeared. Wilkes hadn't wanted it after that. No one had been able to remove the mirror until seventh year, when it slid abruptly from the wall into Snape's hands. Some masochistic part of him decided to take it home with him, and there it had hung, in Spinner's End, ever since.
"Even after all this time you still haven't discovered shampoo? Remarkable!" the mirror said.
"Shut up," Snape muttered vaguely, and continued to rummage through the box. There it was, between the pages of his Transfiguration book. It was green instead of violet, and he hadn't touched it since the day he'd called Lily a Mudblood.
Snape looked down at the trinket in dismay. The magic had held all this time. How many times had he hoped against hope that some enchantment or potion would hold, only to find that time had dissolved the charm or curdled the concoction? This one time, he had prayed it would simply be a green ribbon, faded, splotched with water stains; but there they were, glittering in gold thread, the words I miss you. The embroidered writing was unmistakeably Lily's. Anyway, no one else knew the correct spell.
"Not fair is it?" the mirror commented.
Snape raised a fist at the glass, and then thought better of it. Magic was many things: addictive, ever-changing, wondrous, beautiful. But the mirror was right: it wasn't always fair.