A/N: I am so sorry it has been so long since I have posted! The characters were not cooperating with me at all. Finally Severus just snatched the laptop away from me saying, "This is the way really happened, you silly little girl." This chapter is one of the longest yet and I hope it makes up for my absence. Please take note of the rating (pointing up to the M at the top of the page) Many thanks to Rose and Tambra for doing a brilliant job of betaing. Also thanks to everyone who is reading, reviewing and following this story.

Chapter 18

Severus ground his teeth as he gave the blood replenishing potion a final counter-clockwise stir. For this he had left Lily's arms?

He had spent the last eighteen hours brewing several mind-numbingly mundane potions at the Dark Lord's request. However, the list of potions troubled Severus. It wasn't so much as the complexity of the potions that worried him, it was what the potions indicated. Bone mending, blood replenishers, a stimulation potion that increased awareness and endurance and Veritaserum, all potions that were useful in an attack and then the subsequent interrogation of prisoners. The potions were not only brewed for Voldemort's followers who were injured, but for in-between the rounds of torture he ordered to be carried out by his followers. He certainly couldn't have a prisoner dying before he spilled his proverbial guts.

Severus shook his head, clearing out the troubling thoughts, he needed to send a message to Dumbledore to have everyone in the Order on standby, but he had not been given the opportunity. It wouldn't do for Bellatrix or one of the other inner circle to see him casting a true Patronus. He had no idea who or what was the target was yet, but he was sure to discover soon. Occasionally someone would stroll past the open door of the potions lab, likely reporting his activities back to the Dark Lord. Severus was grateful for the solitary and uninterrupted brewing time that had afforded him the chance to finish the potion for Lily, and he had been able to run it through all the preliminary tests to determine its safety. He was sure it would work to alleviate her discomfort with minimal side effects.

Only a few moments after Severus had placed the last of the potions into the properly labeled phials, he winced as the familiar pain flared on his left forearm. He snatched up several of the most useful potions along with the one he made for Lily and tucked them securely into his robes. He marched solemnly through the cold, dark halls of Malfoy Manor until he reached the Apparation point. He spun on the spot and felt the burning Dark Mark guide his way to the unknown location of the attack.

It was only seconds before he was surrounded by utter madness and chaos. The battle was already in full sway; it looked like the Dark Lord had called his Inner Circle into the fray long after the less valuable foot soldiers had begun the assault.

Severus looked around at his surroundings; he seemed to be in a small village surrounded by a dense forest. It was certainly a place that was occupied by wizards. He observed that the residents of the small hamlet were fighting back with both brute force and magic. Severus made his way through the melee; trying to look purposeful in his destination, but in truth he only wanted to find a secluded area to send his Patronus. The Order's help would be needed on this night. He moved through a dense thicket of trees and saw a dilapidated barn standing in a small clearing on the other side of the foliage. It was well hidden and clearly abandoned. Ever cautious, Severus slowly entered the structure and raised his wand, quickly casting his doe Patronus. She would bring help in some form; she had not failed him yet.

As he turned to exit the barn, it suddenly felt as if a hippogriff had attacked him from behind. Severus heard a sharp crack as his head made contact with a wooden beam. The world spun eerily for a second then he slid facedown on the dirt floor; his wand clattering out of his hand. A yelp tore from his throat as he was flipped over and sharp incisors ripped through the flesh of his throat. He flailed wildly, finally breaking free of the creature's grip and saw a flash of long brown hair, a preternaturally beautiful face with the reflective eyes of a nocturnal animal and bloody razor-like teeth. Her pointed tongue darted out to lick his blood from her lips before she pushed him down with her inhuman strength and settled down to feed again. He waited with a sense of crawling horror and closed his eyes, waiting for her to sink her fangs into his neck. The final strike never happened, instead, over the terrified rush of his blood, he heard a vaguely familiar voice

"No! Leave him! He is not really one of them. He is on our side!" The weight on him quickly lifted, but his vision blurred and he couldn't keep the darkness from claiming him. The world went black.

Severus blearily opened his eyes, realizing he was lying on his back in a small clearing surrounded by dense clusters of trees and brush. It was still dark; the stars were twinkling merrily above him. He shifted stiffly on the ground; several roots were digging painfully into his back. His neck ached and Severus reached up trying to remember what had happened and he froze as he found his robes were torn open at the neck and covered with sticky congealed blood. A vampire nearly had him for a late night snack, but who had been his savior?

It wasn't long before his question was answered. Sitting up and looking around, he stifled a groan, for sitting across a campfire made of the wonderful, portable Bluebell Flames, was James Potter. Severus wondered for a brief moment why he wasn't dead or at the very least on his way to Azkaban. The idiot had not even bothered with binding him, but Severus' heart sank as he realized his wand was nowhere in sight. Potter glanced up, saw he was awake and smirked.

"Well, good morning, Sunshine," Potter said with his normal cheek as he carelessly twirled his wand between his fingers.

Severus did not reply, only stared coldly at the Gryffindor.

"You know, you are terrible Death Eater, Snape, and You-Know-Who is none the wiser. But I suppose that is what makes you a first-rate double agent."

Severus' insides froze at Potter's all too true accusations. His shields snapped up and he forced his face to remain impassive. "I have no idea what you are blathering on about, Potter."

"Come on, Snape, we are fighting on the same side. No one can hear us or see us. We are well hidden. I even cast Mufflatio, Sirius and I er...copied that out of your potions text when he uh...borrowed it at the beginning of fifth year." James paused and studied Severus a moment.

"But I suppose I might not even be James Potter. I could be a polyjuiced Death Eater, sniffing out a traitor and trying to win brownie points with the boss."

Severus mentally ran through the twelve known uses of dragon's blood so that he could successfully contain his ire. He was fairly certain he was in the presence of the real James Potter. He wasn't lucky enough to be dealing with an imposter.

"Hmm... something only James Potter and Snivellus would know..." James mused, tapping his finger thoughtfully against his chin. "Oh, Lily Evans happens to have a coffee-colored, heart-shaped birthmark right above her left-"

"Fine!" Severus hissed, "You could be none other than the real Potter, no one else could be so uncouth, except perhaps Sirius Black."

James grinned in his trademark, annoying way. "I suppose I owe you a thank you and an apology."

"You have nothing I want, Potter." Severus snarled as sat up.

"Well you are getting it anyways. I shouldn't have bullied you at school. I-we were idiots. Then as an adult you go all noble and save my arse more than once. We were idiots, but jealousy can make you do stupid things."

"Jealousy!" Severus spat, his hands clenching tightly into fists. "You had everything, money, looks, popularity, and a loving home."

"Not everything." James said, softly. "You had Lily and her friendship- her love."

"Well, you even won that in the end. She married you and gave you a son!" Severus said bitterly looking down at the dead leaves that scattered the ground.

"I wasn't ready to be a husband or a father. The idea of being married was nice, but the reality was something else entirely. Then there was the fact she was never completely in love with me. It was always you, Severus. You were always there, like the giant purple hippogriff in the room, that neither of us wanted to mention. No matter how much she tried to deny it to me -to herself- she loved you."

"When I finally put it together that you were the spy and Dumbledore's man, I knew it would be only a matter of time before the inevitable happened," James said with a bitter twist of his mouth. "She would run to the one she truly loved. I knew I couldn't compete with that; I had been trying for years. You can't fault me for being the first to see that we were both lying to ourselves. The day we got married in Godric's Hollow, she kept glancing at the chapel doors, as if she was expecting someone. I think she expected to see you come bursting through the doors, confessing to everyone your undying love. Maybe I expected it too."

He paused for a moment staring into the distance. "Your Patronus is a doe. The charm is conjured from the emotions of happy memories. The form of a Corporeal Patronus is significant; it is linked to deep emotional attachments and love. The fact your forms are the same speaks far more clearly than any words," James sighed deeply, running his hand through his eternally tousled hair, causing it to stand up even more in haphazard corkscrews on top of his head. He spoke again so quietly, if there had been any breeze that night, Severus would not have heard him at all. "It was not my son she brought into this world. As much as I tried to convince myself it didn't matter, it did matter, after all. I couldn't bear to see her eyes looking out of your face, so I ran like a coward."

Certain he had not heard the Gryffindor correctly, Severus looked up at him sharply, his mind working frantically to make sense of Potter's words.

"W-what? Harry?" Severus stuttered, staring into Potter's changeable hazel eyes. Before he could stop himself he was performing Legilimency and saw Remus Lupin holding the newborn Harry in the Hogwart's infirmary, a strange look passing over the werewolf's face as he handed the newborn back to Potter, sadly shaking his head. A flash of James holding the newborn, running his finger over the small bump on his nose.

"Why? Why didn't she tell me?" Severus murmured to himself.

"If I know Lily, she thinks she is protecting you. If Snake-face finds out you fathered him, you'd be dead before you could say Quidditch. I have never confronted her with this knowledge but I'm sure she has to realize I suspect he isn't mine. She was far too happy when I left, but then we didn't exactly see eye to eye on many things. I had hoped in the beginning Harry was a pleasant surprise, but Potter males usually have difficulty producing an heir, it can take years and fertility potions. It's not something well known. For Merlin sake, Snape! He has black hair, but he looks nothing like me! I wasn't sure until after he was born. Remus' heightened sense of smell confirmed it when we were both still in Hogwart's infirmary."

Severus was, for once, stunned into silence, his mind going over the past few months. Things clicked into place; Harry being able to see the manor, the blasted house elves' behavior, the cryptic statements from his grandmother's portrait and Lily wanting him to take Harry on his first broom ride. Severus wanted to slap himself, how had he not seen it or even suspected it?

His head spun and his stomach lurched, he was not worthy be a father to anyone. He was sure to be the worst sort. But it was undeniable; Harry was his son. He and Lily had a child! Then mind-boggling fear metamorphosed into elation in a flash. Lily had given him a son!

"You all right there, Snape?" James asked, waving his hand in front of the spy's face. "You looked a bit peaky there. You might be the best spy in the Order, but tell you a beautiful woman is in love with you and had your kid and you go all pasty."

Severus snorted and rolled his eyes.

"Why the disappearing act? Why not just get a divorce?" Severus asked evenly.

James raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Well, it hadn't come to that before we had to go in hiding. Besides, do you have any idea how hard it is to get a divorce in the Wizarding World? It can take years and we can't exactly stroll into the Ministry and file for one, can we? Until You-know-who is defeated, for now we just go our separate ways."

"Why should I even believe a word you say?" Severus questioned, glaring at the Gryffindor.

James looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "I'll bet ten Galleons you have some Vertiserum in your pockets. Three drops and you can find out if I am lying."

Less than a half hour later, Severus had his answers. Everything Potter had told him was the truth or at least the Gryffindor thought it was the truth.

"Who else knows about this?" Severus asked, concerned that Potter may have told too many people.

"Only Remus knows for sure. But the secret is safe, I made him take the Unbreakable Vow."

"So distrustful of your friends, Potter?"

The Gryffindor cast his eyes at the ground for a moment, then looked back at Severus. "Dumbledore reckons there is another spy in the Order. I think he's right. He seems to know things only a handful of people knew, like where Sirius and I have been and what we were doing here. The way he attacked, it was like he was wiping out anyone who might be able to tell us why he had been skulking about the forests here. I can't believe that anyone would betray us, but Snake-face has been recruiting the werewolves and more than a few has joined him. They say he has been promising them a higher status... and Remus has a hard time labeled as a Dark Creature. It's possible that he may have been tempted."

"I'm impressed you would be cunning enough to even consider that possibility, let alone have the foresight to employ the Unbreakable Vow. Perhaps the Sorting Hat should have considered placing you in Slytherin."

James quirked an eyebrow and smirked. "Maybe it did, Snape."

James stood up, brushing off his robes. "I should be getting back to the others, we will be traveling to other vampire settlements soon. They are certainly an asset in battle, but maybe more can be convinced to join our cause." James said as he began that irritating wand twirl again. "Don't feel too bad for me, Snape. It's not like I'm having a horrible time without Lily; the things those lovely vampire girls can do to entertain a wizard is mind boggling and maybe even a bit illegal." James laughed and looked closely at Severus. "I do love her. When it comes down to it, I would die for her, but I don't think its the same as what you share." The messy-haired wizard sighed as he tucked his wand into his robes. "You should be getting back to Harry and Lily. I don't envy you, Snape, having to explain to our spitfire how you got that little love bite on your neck. You can assure her there will be no lasting effects."

James vanished all traces of the campsite and reached into his pocket. He pulled out Snape's wand and presented it to the young Potions master with the handle first, which was standard wand etiquette. Severus took his ebony wand, feeling the familiar warmth spread through his fingers. James studied him for a moment. "I wish you well. You had better do right by the both of them."

"I have no intention of doing anything less, Potter."

James nodded, turning to disapparate, but then the cheeky Gryffindor paused for a moment and grinned slyly. "By the way, why don't you have a limp?"

"What are you going on about now, Potter?" Severus asked scowling.

"Well, I figure you must have bollocks the size of Hagrid's, being able to look You-Know-Who in the face and lie without so much as blinking. You really should have been in Gryffindor."

"You are as predictably as uncouth as ever," Severus replied dryly.

James Potter gave him another cheeky grin, spun on the spot and disappeared.

Severus just sighed as he made the same motion and Apparated away.

Several hours later, after presenting himself to the Dark Lord and reporting to Dumbledore, Severus wearily flooed home from Hogwarts. He forced himself to shower because he was covered in blood and dirt. The warm water soothed his sore muscles and refreshed him a bit.

Climbing out of the shower and drying off, Severus ran his fingers through his wet hair to untangle it and pulled on his pyjama bottoms. He hesitated before climbing tiredly into his bed.

Severus wanted to see Harry; he wanted to look upon the child that was his son. Severus left his bedroom and moved quietly down the hall to Harry's nursery. Moonlight shone through the windows into the crib and Severus tentatively stepped over to it. Harry was sound asleep, as he had expected the infant to be at this time of night. Harry's left hand was curled into a fist and tucked under his chin as if he were deep in thought. His right hand lay loosely at his side. Ever so gently, Severus moved his fingers across the baby's silky raven hair. A sudden realization startled him; this was not James Potter's haphazard hair, passed on to another generation, but his own black hair. Severus lightly touched the bump on Harry's nose. He moved his hand to his own hooked nose, hoping Lily's features would soften his more angular ones as they manifested in their son. Their son! Severus placed his finger into Harry's tiny hand and the baby reflexively clamped his fingers tightly around it. This small action induced a rare smile on the potions master's face.

It was still troubling that Lily had not revealed the truth to him. He considered James Potter's speculation on why she had not told either of them. His more suspicious nature made him want to dismiss those reasons and assume it was because she found him unworthy. It would make more sense; why would beautiful Lily love a greasy little goblin like himself? Severus took a deep breath and pushed those thoughts away, thinking of the wonderful past few months he and Lily had spent together and he did something that was completely against his nature. He decided to simply trust, to trust in Lily and in the love he felt for her. Severus heard the soft rustle of cloth behind him and he turned to see Lily standing in the doorway leading from the nursery into her room.

"Severus?" she gasped softly.

"Lily-" he began as he took a step toward her. He couldn't finish the sentence before she lunged at him and threw her arms around his neck.

"You were gone so long, I was sure something terrible had happened," she whispered, burying her face into his neck, her warm breath sending shivers down his spine. He smiled into her tousled hair and pulled her so tight against him, he lifted her off the floor.

He placed her back on her feet and she tugged him through the doorway into her room. The room was softly lit by the small fire in the grate. Lily looked at him closely and turned his head to the side. "You're hurt," she stated, seeing the marks on his neck.

"I'm fine."

"You had better be," she responded, moving her hand to his cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned into her warm touch.

Severus pulled her firmly against him, pressing his face into her soft, sweet smelling hair.

"Look at me, " Lily murmured softly, tilting his face up as she gently pushed the long strands of his damp hair out of his face as the black met the green. "I-I was so scared, Severus. I could only imagine what horrible things might have happened to you. Do you have any idea how much you mean to me? It was always you. Always. I was just too stupid to see it," Lily said, tentatively leaning closer and pressing her lips to his welcoming mouth.

The kisses were hesitant at first, then more urgent, their arms wound around each other for several long moments, but then Severus pulled awkwardly from her. The young potions master's heart was pounding beneath his ribs, his body flushing insanely. An ache was blooming in his chest that had nothing to do with any physical ailment.

Severus desperately felt the urge to reassure her, "I do not want...Lily, you do not have- please do not feel you must- " he murmured, his silky voice trailing off.

She smiled knowingly as she continued moving her hands over his bare chest and shoulders. Severus' throat tightened and his breathing was rendered shallow by the sensation of her body pressing against him. She gently urged him toward the white canopy bed and pulled him down on the sheets with her. Severus' hands rested lightly just above her hips as she pressed against him and brushed his lips with soft kisses. His mind whirled happily, this was real; it was really going to happen. He couldn't help but smirk slightly as her breath hitched when he slowly rocked his hips against hers, the thin layers of clothing not hiding his evident desire for her.

"I love you, you sneaky snake," she said lightly. "You slithered right into my heart and stayed."

She gently moved his face back to hers and kissed him again.

As Lily began to move slowly against him, he let out a long shuddering sigh and grabbed her hips, grinding almost painfully against her. Clumsily, she fumbled with the drawstring on his bottoms and he didn't even attempt to stop her as she pushed them off. He shifted suddenly and Lily was on her back against the cool sheets. She tugged her long t-shirt over her head and tossed it haphazardly to the floor. Severus deftly hooked his long fingers into the sides of her knickers and slowly slid them off. He shifted back to see all of her as she lay before him. He then pressed himself down against her as his lips moved over her body. She felt his cool hands on her bare thighs before she saw his face move down to kiss the area just below her navel.

She glanced down as he hesitated and looked up at her, strands of his black hair falling carelessly across his face. "We can still stop. As much as I would like to continue," he said, his dark eyes wide and serious. "If we don't stop now, Lily. I'll never be able to let you go."

Lily wound her hands into his thick hair. "You wan't have to, Sev."

His eyes seemed to devour her as she parted her legs further, begging him closer.

To be continued...