Author's Note: This came into my head the other day and begged to be written. I may do a sequel or second chapter about James and Lily actually choosing their Secret Keeper if there's interest. Let me know. I hope you enjoy this.
Lily felt a hand reach out and grab her wand arm, pulling her close and clamping a hand over her mouth. She was pressed full length against a body, her back to the body's chest. A voice whispered in her ear; it was a single word, her name, quiet and urgent. "Lily." She would have recognized the speaker without his voice. He was the only person she knew who always seemed to smell of cauldron smoke, slightly spicy herbs, and ground roots, with perhaps a little dirt still present. He pulled her into the little alcove where he had clearly been waiting for her.
He slowly released the hand over her mouth, confident that she wasn't going to scream now that she knew him. She turned to see his face, half-hidden as usual behind his hair. "Sev…" she murmured quietly. "What are you doing here?" She tried to discreetly reach for her wand; she hadn't seen him in a long time, and he had just accosted her in the hallway.
"I had to talk to you." There was a fresh cut on his hand and he hid it in his pocket as quickly as he could. Another stood out on his face, on his cheek not far from his ear.
She kept her voice down, not wanting to attract any attention, pushing her hair out of her own face. "About what? How did you even get in here? This location is supposed to be secure." She'd have to be sure to tell Dumbledore about a breach like this, and see if she could convince Severus to tell her how he got in here in the first place.
"He already knows, Lily."
She grimaced at him. "I hate it when you do that, Sev."
She looked a little exasperated. "No, you weren't doing Legilimency, but you still have an uncanny way of knowing what I'm thinking. I never could hide anything from you." She paused, glancing over her shoulder to where the room was clearing after the meeting. She made a motion with her wand, murmuring a sort of "don't notice us" charm around the two of them and hoping her trust wasn't misplaced. "What is it you came to say? If you've been keeping away and are risking being here now, it's for a reason I'm sure. You were never one for senseless frivolity or whims." It was something they tended to have in common; both serious from young ages. She stared at him levelly, an excellent trick for being half a head shorter than he was.
He tried to memorize the sight of her face, in case he never saw it again. He met her gaze, black eyes to green, it was hard to hold. "I know that you're going to choose one of Potter's friends as your secret keeper soon. You can't trust them, Lily."
Lily was looking at him, matching the intensity of his gaze with hers. "They've never done a thing to indicate they're not loyal. Any one of them would give their life for James. Or for me."
He let out a hiss of a breath, a hiss of frustration. "Lily, there's a leak, somewhere very close to you. I don't know which one it is…" He clenched his fist and blood started to run out of the slash on it again. "Three times you've come up against the Dark Lord. Someone knows something and is giving it away. You're not safe with them."
"And where have you been for the last four years, Sev? You never liked them. Not that they gave you a reason to like them… But you hardly spoke to me those last two years at Hogwarts, and since we've been out, not at all," she pointed out. She narrowed her eyes. "Let me see your arm, Sev."
He instinctively pulled his right arm back and offered her his left.
"Not that one." She took his right arm at the elbow and he looked away as she pulled up the sleeve. He didn't resist. "That's what I thought."
"Lily, I wanted to leave when I heard…the Dark Lord wants your son. I went to Dumbledore the night I discovered this. I told him I'd leave them." He spat out the last word. He could remember it clearly. He had Apperated to Hogsmeade as soon as the meeting at Malfoy Manor had ended. He had walked to Hogwarts in a drenching rain. Professor McGonagall had been the first person besides a student he'd run into. He demanded to be taken to Dumbledore at once.
She raised an eyebrow fractionally, skeptically. It was true that if Dumbledore hadn't wanted him here, he wouldn't be here now. Probably. Severus was resourceful, but Dumbledore knew defense-it wouldn't be easy for anyone to get in here who wasn't welcomed. "Death Eaters don't let you just walk away," she remarked.
He took his arm away, covering the Dark Mark again. There was a tinge of irony to his voice. "Neither does Dumbledore. I'm too valuable. I've been told to keep up all appearances as a Death Eater and report back to Dumbledore with whatever news I can."
That might explain why their information seemed to be getting better lately. They had an inside source—Dumbledore had wanted one for some time. She still hesitated.
Severus Snape set a hand on her shoulder, tilting her chin up with his other hand, an uncommonly tender gesture for him. "Trust me, Lily. I need you to trust me. Potter's friends have not been tested as I have. I would do anything for you. No matter what torture is devised, I will not leave you unprotected. I swear it."
She thought of Harry in the other room, presently in a crib next to Neville Longbottom. "Don't swear to protect me, Sev. If you mean it…swear to protect Harry."
Severus bristled. "Potter's spawn—"
She looked at him sharply. "My son. My and James' son. I'm fighting in this war to make the world a better place for him to grow up in, so that he doesn't grow up in a world like the one you and I grew up in. Sev, if something happens to me, I need you to make sure Harry is all right. Please. If you still care about me at all…"
He growled, but didn't hesitate on the words. "If I can protect your son, I will, Lily, for your sake, and yours alone." He face was fierce, with a hard edge to it. "I will stand up to whatever the Dark Lord unleashes on me. Don't make one of Potter's pets your secret keeper."
She studied him. He looked paler than usual, and tired. She held off answering by brushing his hair back from his face and healing the slash there, and lifting his hand to heal the gash on it. "Severus, James would never believe it. And for all I know, you're the leak."
"I am the ideal answer. No one would suspect it. What sort of imbecile would I have to be to come into a home filled tonight with members of Dumbledore's followers with this on my arm." He pulled his sleeve up again. "I'm here for you."His nostrils flared. He was not a stupid man. He knew the risks he was taking—on both sides—to be here. He thought it worth the risks. She was worth the risks.
"This concerns Harry's safety, and James', and mine. I have to talk to him about it. We have to agree on someone."
Severus couldn't help thinking, It'll be Lupin then…Lily would never be in favor of Black. Then again not so long ago, she couldn't stand Potter. "One week. For now, I need to be going before your…husband…comes looking for you." He quite clearly wanted to call James something else and had restrained himself only just. This was for her. This trip was dangerous enough to make once. "I need you to trust me, Lily."
"I'm working on it, Sev. I just need a little time to process all of this…"
His response was dry. "Time is not a luxury you have in this world anymore than I do." He looked as though he wanted to reach out and touch her again, to stare at her a moment longer. He pulled himself together, allowing himself no more looks, no more touches. "You still know where Spinner's End is."
He disappeared as Lily heard James calling for her and Harry starting to make fussing noises in his crib. She saw a slip of paper drifting to the ground and doubted it was dropped by accident. It read, Trust me. Sev. It was the name only she had ever used for him. It was the only proof she hadn't just imagined Severus Snape's arrival. She tucked it in her pocket and went to the living room, picking up Harry.
"There you are, I was beginning to wonder what had happened to you." James ran his fingers through his hair.
The living room was mostly empty. Frank had Neville in his arms, and Alice was beside him. Sirius and Peter were on one of the sofas—Sirius had a crossword in his hand. Remus was staring into the fire. He looked up, and Lily caught the twitch of his nose. She wondered if he could smell Severus's contact with her. He made no comment.
How could any of these people ever betray her and James? Or Harry? She looked out the window at the October night sky and then down into the face of her sleeping baby.
Author's Note: Just to clarify since I listed Severus and Lily as the central characters in this story, they are not still romantically involved at this point. I feel like it was a possibility...maybe in their third year of Hogwarts or fourth...close friends who cared about each other...maybe some romance. But that that's in the past, but it's a past he's hung on to, even though she's moved on.