The common room was lit with its usual green glow, and yet one boy still managed to keep to the shadows. His fellow Slytherins were not unlike the rest of the school in their activities. They laughed, played card games and gossiped much like their classmates. Lucius Malfoy sat at the head of one of the gleaming tables, a smile gracing his lips that was much more innocent than those that would rest there in years to come. His usual Fifth year lackeys surrounded him, with the younger students sitting furthest from him.
"Have you heard? Professor Slughorn informed me that this year Hogwarts would be celebrating the mudblood tradition of Valentine's Day!"" he said the words with an accentuated shudder.
"What day?" Mulciber asked, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
Few of the Pureblood students had any knowledge of the Muggle world; it was through their ignorance that they maintained their hatred, after all.
"I looked it up in the Library. Apparently it's a day when Muggles exchange tokens of their love. Pfft," Lucius snorted, an alien sound from his aristocratic lips.
Some of the older Slytherin girls smiled slightly, before putting their masks of indifference back up.
"That sounds terrible. Stupid Mudbloods. Like any Slytherin would be caught dead doing something a Muggle would do!" Rookwood said.
"Exactly. Anyway, I feel like some pumpkin juice. Let's go down and terrorize the House Elves. Professor Slughorn is on duty tonight; he won't deduct points if we're caught," As Lucius rose, the rest of his friends followed without complaint.
He was their ringleader; the rest of Slytherin house had long ago learnt not to question his orders. After they had gone, a young second year stepped from his hiding place; none of the remaining students would bother him. Still, his eyes darted furtively around the room before he pulled out a shabby Potions Book held together with determination and Spellotape. He let the book fall open; knowing the weight of the card inside would open it to the right page. His long fingers would one day become renown for the brilliant Potions they would create, but on this day he let them caress the soft pink paper inside the book.
Unlike his fellow Slytherins, Severus knew the muggle world. He knew about technology, he knew about their culture, their history. He knew all these things because he was a part of their world just as much as he was a part of the Wizarding world. He knew about Valentine's day, because there was someone he wanted to give something to, whether it was the Slytherin thing to do or not.
There was a certain beauty to Lily Potter that had little to do with her symmetrical face, thin figure and mischievous green eyes. When she smiled, Severus found himself smiling with her. He never wanted to see that smile fade, and he never wanted the sound of her laughter to leave his ears. She walked towards him, hair pulled back in a messy ponytail with a smudge of dirt on her cheek.
"Hey Sev! How'd you go with you Venomous Tentacula? I think Mary McKinnon was a bit rough on hers. Wonder if they've stopped the bleeding yet?" she smiled.
Severus felt the corners of his mouth twitch.
"Fine, mine seemed rather passive actually," She laughed at his modesty.
Together they vied for the top marks in each class, but there was never any malice in it. When Severus had topped the Potions class the year before, Lily had been the first to congratulate him. When Lily demonstrated a natural aptitude with Charms, it had been Severus who had scoured the library for the best books in the Library so she could learn more. She slipped her arm naturally into his, the green of his Slytherin emblem resting next to her Gryffindor colors.
As they walked towards the Castle comparing notes, a crowd of Gryffindors pushed past, and a boy with messy black hair glared at Severus through his round glasses. Severus scowled back, feeling that same old bitterness he felt whenever he saw the popular Gryffindor Chaser. James Potter was everything he was not; Handsome, popular with students and teachers alike, and good at sports. He had everything Severus had ever wanted. Well, except one thing. Lily laughed again and tugged playfully at his arm. She had steadfastly ignored the Gryffindor boys. She thought that James was obnoxious, a suck up, and that sports had no real bearing in life.
"I wondered whether you were free on Saturday morning? I thought…thought we could compare notes before the History of Magic half yearly tests? Maybe walk around the lake?" Severus said breathlessly as soon as the other students were out of earshot.
Lily looked at him quizzically for a moment, before nodding happily.
"Of course! That sounds great Sev. I'll meet you in the Great Hall Saturday morning, OK?" she untangled her arm from his, and dashed up the stairs in front of him with ease. He caught a whiff of Strawberry shampoo before she left, and closed his eyes in relief. She had said yes! With his eyes closed, he failed to notice the scowling figure of Lucius Malfoy watching him from the banister above.
As soon as the portrait had closed behind him, Severus was seized and dragged forcibly over to the main Slytherin table. Lucius was looking at him with utter disdain. Severus struggled, but the two boys who held him were much stronger than he. Both Crabbe and Goyle played for the Slytherin Quidditch team, as Beaters, and their wiry muscles were no match for a second year.
"It has come to my attention that you have been spending far too much time with that Gryffindor girl, Snape. As a first year, we could give you certain allowances, but I cannot allow you to fraternize with this Mudblood any longer," he said smoothly.
"Don't call her that," Severus mumbled, eyes on the floor.
"What was that?" Lucius asked, raising Severus' face to meet his with a single finger. Severus bit his bottom lip.
"I said don't call her that!" He growled, eyes flashing.
"Hn," Lucius maintained his calm demeanor, but rose swiftly to his feet. "I think perhaps Snape here needs to learn some Slytherin pride. We don't show anything less than solidarity in front of the rest of the school, but behind closed doors…" his fingers clicked towards the bathroom.
Crabbe and Goyle dragged him across to the door, as the rest of the students raised their books a little higher and ignored him.
Lucius closed the door behind them, a malicious smirk dancing on his lips.
"Get ready to learn, young Snape,"
Lily leant against the wall, trying not to let the worry show on her face. The hall was filled with floating pink balloons and streamers. Even the House flags had been transformed into red hearts that sent glitter falling to the ground below. Lily could well imagine the how the rest of the school would react when they finally awoke and came downstairs. Finally a soft sound caused her to turn her head. Her eyes widened with surprise before she rushed forward.
"Severus! What happened to you?" she gasped.
His head was lowered, but even then she could see the bruise on his cheek, and from the way he was holding himself he was obviously injured elsewhere.
"It's nothing. Look, let's get going, before anyone else wakes up," he insisted, refusing to meet her eyes.
"You should go to the Hospital Wing," Lily said, gently taking his hand.
"It doesn't matter," Severus said smiling crookedly. "Let's just go, OK?" So they left behind the garish decorations and walked towards the lake, Lily eyeing her companion with concern. Finally, Severus stopped.
"Are you going to tell me who did this to you?" Lily asked.
"The Fifth years. They…they don't like our friendship," the bitterness in his voice almost drew Lily to tears.
"Oh Sev, I'm sorry. What did you do?"
"I told them to mind their own business. Probably not the smartest thing to say to Lucius Malfoy," he smiled again, but the other boys had really hurt him and he did not want Lily to realize this.
"Anyway, I wanted to talk to you alone because…because I know that Valentine's Day is special to you. Usually you go out with your parents for dinner, right? Since that was the day they were married," Severus coughed and cleared his throat.
"I just wanted to make this day special for you here at Hogwarts…here," he thrust a card and a long, thin box into her hands.
"Sev, it's beautiful," Lily whispered, staring in awe at the now opened box. Severus could not bring himself to look up and share this moment with her; he was far too embarrassed at how far he had already gone. But when Lily pressed her lips gently against his cheek he knew she appreciated it, and he could finally look at her.
"It's…enchanted. As long as we're friends, the rose will stay alive," he explained.
Lily looked again at the rose lying on the pink tissue paper. It had not opened yet, but the petals were soft to touch and a gentle, sweet fragrance rose form it.
"That's an amazing charm, Severus. Thank you, and Happy Valentines Day,"
She grinned at him again.
"Come on, let's get you back to the castle. Once we've been to the Hospital Wing, we've got to check out the Great Hall. The other students are going to be so surprised!"
She took his hand, and Severus wished that they could stay forever that way.
But as with all things, it could not last. For years they maintained their friendship, with Severus admiring Lily from afar. They never spoke about the Valentine's rose, but when Lily pulled it from her trunk on occasion, it had changed. Every year the rose grew and opened a little more, as every year Severus grew to love her more as he matured. Even when Lily dissolved their friendship and Severus felt the draw of the Darklord, the rose maintained its beauty. Severus had charmed the flower to do this. He had spoken truly when he said that as long as they were friends the rose would stay alive, but there was more than that. As long as he loved her the flower would exist and reflect that love. When James stole Lily's heart, when they kissed at the final school dance, when they moved in together and even when they had a child together the rose maintained it's vibrancy. Perhaps some things really did last forever.
The house lay in ruins. The door was on its hinges, but Severus stepped gingerly inside. James Potter lay in front of him, eyes glassed over in death. He had hated this man, but his Lily had loved him. Severus stooped down and gently closed the hazel eyes that had so often tormented him. There was no other sound in the house, but Severus made his way doggedly up the stairs. Half of the top of the house was gone, but her body remained. Hagrid had come and gone, bearing away the infant Potter. Black had been already also, and had taken off after the rat that had taken his best friend from him. But none of those things mattered to Severus. He sank to his knees and softly touched the silken strands of red hair. She might have been asleep. He should be able to cry, but the tears would not come. It was as if his heart had frozen over, and she was locked inside.
He touched the soft cheek, traced his fingers on the lips that had once kissed him under the Tree near the lake.
"I love you. I always have," he whispered, trying to etch her face in his memory one last time. Abruptly he stood, and walked away from her still form, searching the house until he found the master bedroom. Ignoring the fact that this was where she had shared a bed with the loathsome Potter, he searched the room until he found Lily's Hogwarts trunk. At the very bottom there was a few pieces of stray parchment, a sweet wrapper from Honeydukes, and still in it's box, the rose. He held it with reverence, fingers trembling as he slid the box open. As he gazed open the flower in full bloom, an unexpected tear fell and hit the silken petals. He loved her. He loved her as much as he always had.
His robes flared behind him in their customary manner. Students scuttled out of the way as soon as they saw him coming, knowing that he could dish out punishment at the drop of a hat. That idiot Dumbledore had hired Lockhart to take over the Defence against the Dark Arts class. As if this fact alone was not bad enough, the tacky wizard had gained permission from the Headmaster to celebrate Valentine's Day, something the school had not celebrated in many years. The quirky idea warmed the cockles of Dumbledore's heart, and he had immediately agreed. As he walked, teachers herded errant students into classrooms and closed the doors behind them. Finally the halls fell silent, and Severus was glad he had this class free. Lockhart had dared insinuate at Breakfast that he, professor Snape, feared Potions Master of the dungeons, would help students to 'whip up' a Love Potion! The very idea that he would do something so idiotic made him cringe.
As he walked past a broom cupboard, he heard young voices inside. Almost gleefully he prepared himself to burst in and take points when he realized whom it was that was speaking, and what they were saying.
"I'm so sorry Harry, for the musical message. I didn't mean for the dwarf to tear your bag like that," Ginny Weasley sounded tearful.
"It's OK, Ginny. It doesn't matter," Harry was saying comfortingly.
There was silence for a few moments, until the younger girl cleared her throat.
"That…that book you dropped. Where did you get it? It's really pretty," she said.
"The diary? Oh, I found it. There's nothing written in it though," Harry replied absently. "Anyway, I have to get back to class, if that's all?" there was a rustle of movement, and Severus quickly ducked out of sight.
"Oh course Harry…I just wanted to apologize is all," Ginny replied softly, as they walked into the open corridor.
The red headed girl watched as the boy walked away, heading towards the next class. There was an odd gleam in her eyes, as if she were drinking in his every movement.
Potter stopped, turn around, a smile on his face.
"Oh and Ginny?" he called. "Happy Valentine's day!"
He had turned away before he could see the day the simple words lit up her face. She rose from utter depression to glowing sunshine in seconds.
"Happy Valentine's Day Harry!" she squeaked, and scuttled away.
Severus scowled from his hiding place. Why he had not taken points was a question he could not answer.
He finally made it back to his rooms, intent on taking out his wrath on a pile of essays. When he got there however, his fingers itched to open the top drawer of his desk. After he had read the same sentence three times he finally gave into his whim, and pulled open the drawer. On the very top sat a familiar box, a little frayed now, but still containing the most precious of treasures. The rose was as brilliant as ever. Severus rested his black eyes on the delicate bloom for a few moments, before resting it gently on his desk. He picked up his quill and wrote a particularly scathing comment on Oliver Wood's latest essay. After a few moments he was back into his usual insulting rhythm.
"Happy Valentine's, Lily," he murmured, and the rose shone a little more.