His Greatest Wish by AndromedaMarine
A/N: So this delayed posting schedule will continue for the foreseeable future. I meant to post on the 17th, but forgot that I had a test on the 20th. :P I'm working on my hardest semester ever (thankfully the hardest it will get, credit wise at least) although I seem to have more free time than I did in previous semesters, so this is a good thing. In other news, I became an aunt on September 10th, 2012, so I'm dedicating this chapter to my little niece, in the hopes that Rylee Elizabeth will become as big a Potterhead as her aunt. :)
Severus Prince awoke the morning of Christmas far too early for a normal teenager. His heart was pounding, and he felt the cold sweat on his forehead and that had soaked through his nightclothes…and then he remembered the nightmare. He'd been in a darkened, stone room with no doors, and as he tried to scrabble at the walls with his fingers he heard the hair-raising cackle of the Dark Lord…and when he looked up, instead of seeing the ceiling he saw Voldemort peering over the edge, and Lily struggling in his chokehold. He was powerless to stop a tear from dripping down his the side of his head and into his ear.
He shook off the nightmare and blinked several times, disturbed by the strange, gnawing feeling inside his stomach. The room was dark, but his drapes were open and when he padded across his small room in the flat in Ottery St. Catchpole to look out the window, he saw the pure white blanket of snow covering the ground where the streetlight below shone. It took him a few moments to remember something.
Voldemort is dead. He cannot hurt Lily.
It was the third morning he'd said those first four words to himself, and been unable to believe it. He still found himself incapable of speaking the Dark Lord's name aloud at all; even thinking about it made him look over his shoulder to make sure no Death Eaters had come at the call of their Taboo. After their brief moment of uninterrupted bliss after Dumbledore's departure, Severus and Lily had found themselves explaining a great deal to their parents (although the shared secret of his true identity remained firmly in the shadows)…and yet he could not shake the feeling that it was not over.
It was too easy. Only six men died…it was too easy. How could Lily's suggestion have worked? How could Muggles have been the key?
But he knew. He knew why; Voldemort had been a blind fool where it truly mattered. The Hitler of the Wizarding world had made his own crucial mistake in believing the Muggle populace to be inferior in every way.
The snow outside looked soft. There were more flakes floating down now, leisurely drifting through the light of the streetlamp. Suddenly he wanted to be in it, trudging through the white blanket into the dark, and test for himself. He'd heard Dumbledore all right, but he had to know for his own sake. He didn't know why he hadn't done it earlier…perhaps not to worry his love. It was Christmas, their first Christmas without Mark, and despite the relief of Voldemort's fatal downfall, it was still the biggest wound in them all.
Severus quietly pulled on his dragonskin boots and his heavy winter cloak; it was early enough that nobody would be out, and if anybody did see him it could be mistaken as a trench coat. His wand was already up his sleeve in the holster he slept with, and for comfort's sake he flicked it into his hand to feel the smooth, familiar wood beneath his fingers. He wrapped a Gryffindor scarf around his neck and stepped lightly into the hallway. He closed his door, and paused for a moment. Silence assaulted his eardrums.
The snow crunched beneath his feet as he crossed the road in front of their small flat on his way to the darkened park in the middle of the village. He didn't know what drew him there, but as he walked his mind wandered, though all the while his wand was one flick away from being in his hand. Sev stopped walking when he stood in the middle of a tiny copse of trees in the approximate center of the park, and looked up at the sky. It was less black now, more grey, and he knew dawn was approaching. Soft white snowflakes floated slowly down and melted in his hair.
Taking a deep breath, he let his wand slip into his hand.
"Voldemort," he whispered.
He raised his voice to the volume of normal conversation, and repeated, "Voldemort."
It's true, I know it's true…but why can't I believe it? "Because I've only ever lived when he was in power," he answered himself. This was the future I worked for…and now that it's here I don't know how to live in it. "I've only ever known war," he said aloud again. "I've only ever known war and this is peace…" But what purpose have I now? What have I to live for, besides Lily? I will never teach again, not if I can do something about it... "I expected to die again, didn't I?" he realized. "I always thought I'd be in the final battle, and that he would kill me again…except this time Lily would live." How can I not have realized that I would be lost when it finally ended?
The snow had stopped melting in his hair and was now forming a thin blanket atop his black hair, sending a chill through the top of his head.
His nightmare came back to him. The walls were covered in my blood. I had to get out, I had to get to her…and I couldn't. Four stone walls and no door. He shivered, and drew his cloak tighter around his lithe form. She's safe. We're safe. Voldemort's dead. "Voldemort's dead." The Daily Prophet still hadn't reported the news of Voldemort's defeat, which seemed strange to Sev since the newspaper should have rushed to have it in the next day's edition…unless they wanted to thoroughly question the captured Death Eaters before giving the full account to the public. By now the Muggle papers would have reported the deaths of four men of Scotland Yard in an unorthodox shootout…and many Muggleborn families were still attached to Muggle papers.
No doubt the four fallen officers would be commemorated in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic alongside Scrimgeour and Dawlish. Dumbledore was not so great a fool to make the Wizarding world believe only Aurors had taken Voldemort down. He would want everyone to know that Muggles were not to be forgotten or looked down upon, since it was a Muggle weapon that brought him to his knees.
Sev brushed the snow from his black hair and ran his fingers through the strands. The grey was slowly lightening, and he decided it would be wise to return to the flat, lest Lily wake and discover him missing. But when he turned around, he saw her walking towards him, silent as a shadow.
"I followed your footsteps. I meant to wake you up and give you your present early, so no one else would see it." She trudged through the snow up to him and planted a kiss on his cold-reddened cheeks. "What are you doing out here?"
Sev swallowed and scratched his head. "I wanted to make sure."
"Sweetheart, Voldemort is dead. Dumbledore himself killed him."
"Do you?" she shot. "You've been brooding for the last three days. Why? You know he's dead, you heard it from Dumbledore."
"I don't trust—"
"—Dumbledore. That much is obvious, Sev. What will convince you? Do you need to see his body?"
"No, it's not that. I…I just…I had a nightmare last night…he was still alive, and he was killing you. Don't you see? War is all I've ever known, and now there's peace. I don't know how to live like this."
"You'll have to learn. We all do." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small wrapped box. She handed it to him. "Go on, open it."
Carefully he tore the paper on and tucked inside a pocket of his cloak. When he opened the box, he stared for a good few seconds before looking back up at his best, longest friend and love. "How did you do this?" He picked the pendant up and watched the silver memories inside swirl around. It was on a silver chain, and the memories were encased in a latticework of wrought silver leaves. It was long enough to be hidden beneath his shirt.
"I practiced," Lily shrugged. "They're the happiest memories of our relationship. I read something in the library about how emotions can leach from memories if they're worn close to the heart, and I practiced that too. Whenever you wear it you'll always be happy. And if you want to see the memories, all you have to do is dunk the pendant in a pensieve. The memories will be released and when you're done they'll go back inside."
Sev felt entirely overwhelmed. He gathered Lily up in his arms and held her close, breathing in the smell of her freshly washed hair and skin, his love for her increasing tenfold. "I love you, Lily, so, so much," he whispered to her as he blinked back unbidden tears. "This means so much to me. You loved me of your own volition, even after you saw the truth of my memories. There is nothing greater, and nothing I could possibly say, do, or give that could ever tell you how much it means to me that despite your every choice in the matter...you always chose me. I love you, Lily Evans."
"I know," Lily replied softly, her eyes shining with unshed tears. She held him just as tightly as he held her. "Our mums will be waking up soon. We ought to head back."
"Yes, we should. We should also have a snowball fight with Petunia and Cordon later, if they want."
Lily grinned up at him. "You're a devious man, Sev. We'll smash them."
Eileen and Rose were already in the kitchen when Sev and Lily came through the front door.
"Where were you two lovebirds so early this morning?" Rose asked as she whisked the batter for cranberry-pumpkin muffins.
"I woke early and fancied a walk through the park," Sev responded. "Lily came to get me a few minutes ago."
They hung up their cloaks by the fireplace and went upstairs to change into more comfortable clothes. Lily, as it turned out, had followed him out in her pajamas, after taking a shower. She sat on his bed waiting for him as he went to wash.
When he walked into the room with naught but a towel around his waist and his long black hair dripping onto the floor, he stopped and stared at her for a good moment. "Well, this is hardly proper," he drawled.
"I don't care," Lily replied.
Sev warned, "Our mothers are downstairs, and your sister is just down the hall."
"Still don't care."
Lily's mouth dropped open. "What?"
He opened the door behind him and beckoned for her to leave. "I know what you want. All I can say is not today, not at this age."
"Alice and Frank have already—"
He gave her that look that meant no arguing. Abruptly he shut the door again and went to her. She stood up to meet him, but when he reached her his hands clasped her wrists and kept her from reaching up to lay a hand on his bare chest. "When we first make love it will be on our wedding night. Not before. I have not worked so hard for this…for you…to have that sweet moment taken from us before it is meant to be. I want you, Lily, I want you desperately. But if I have learned anything at all it is patience. Now is not the time."
Her eyes were wide and her jaw slack. "But this morning…the park…"
Sev's brow furrowed. "Did you think I meant…Lily, we're fifteen!" Lily's face radiated disappointment. Sev released her wrists and put his hands on her shoulders. "Trust me when I say this is for the best. If things did not go according to plan…you are not ready to be a mother."
She pulled back from him and sat heavily on the bed. "I know that. It doesn't mean I want it any less."
Sev sighed and ran a hand through his damp hair. "What am I going to do with you?" he muttered. He looked down at her. "I have to get dressed. I can't do it with you in here, or else someone might ask questions."
"Fine," she huffed, and stood to leave. But before she crossed the room to the door she planted a kiss on Sev's cheek. "You're infuriating, but I love you anyways."
He gave her a weak smile and watched the door close behind her.
Eileen and Rose had cranberry-pumpkin muffins and fried sausage waiting on the kitchen table when they came down. Petunia was already halfway through hers, eyes glancing occasionally towards the living room where presents were piled beneath a tree and stockings pegged above the fireplace.
Lily and Sev set to eating while Eileen and Rose cleaned up the kitchen, and before long everyone was done and crowding into the living room. Lily was quickest and grabbed her stocking from the hearth as well as Sev's. She handed his to him and sat cross legged on the floor.
Sev reached into his pocket and produced the five Wizard Crackers that Dumbledore had left them before his departure. He handed one to Lily, one to Petunia, and the last two to the mothers. The two Muggles had never seen, let alone opened a Wizard Cracker, so Eileen kindly demonstrated hers by pulling it apart by the ends. A cloud of white smoke engulfed her head, but she emerged clutching a set of Slytherin-colored clothing that included a cloak, scarf, and gloves. Sev suddenly realized that Dumbledore must have enchanted these crackers to present specialized gifts to the opener.
He tugged open his own and was presented with a medium-sized carved maple chest full of the rarest potion ingredients in the world.
Lily's gave her three old and musty spellbooks that had surely been plucked from the Headmaster's own library, because they were compendiums of old magic, powerful volumes that Merlin himself would have envied.
Petunia and Rose had watched the wizard and two witches open their crackers in mild disbelief, but Rose grinned when she pulled hers open to find a set of hand-painted mugs that were enchanted to clean and refill themselves.
Petunia opened hers last, her eyes betraying a little of her fear at what she might receive from the great wizard who had once rebuked her pleas to attend Hogwarts. When the cloud of white smoke dissipated from around her head, she saw herself holding a small, slim book with the title Tales of Beedle the Bard embossed in peeling gold letters on the cover.
When Petunia continued to stare at the book, wondering what to do with it, Sev said, "They're fairy tales. Wizarding equivalent to your stories like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty." Somehow Dumbledore must have known something about Petunia, because when she heard Sev's explanation she smiled faintly at the book in her hands.
They all found a few assorted goodies in their stockings, and then Lily produced a present from under the tree and handed it to her mother.
When Rose opened her present, tears sprang to her eyes. "Lily…how…what…?"
Lily shifted in her seat. "I found some undeveloped film in the boxes we brought from home…and those were of you and dad. I developed them in a potion that allows them to move."
Rose stared down at the photographic Mark Evans tickling his photographic wife. They were young, barely married. Rose watched herself laughing and smiling up at her new husband, completely in love and believing that they would never be apart. A tear slid from her eye and fell down her cheek. "Thank you," she whispered as she traced the outline of her husband's face. "I've never received a better gift." The Evans matriarch pulled her younger daughter into her arms and held her tight, unable to stop the tears from falling.
Lily hugged her mother back tightly, and Sev could tell that she didn't have a dry eye either.
When the rest of the presents were open and everyone was enjoying their mugs (Roses' wizard cracker prize) of hot cocoa with marshmallows on top, Lily and Sev found themselves on the couch, leaning against each other as Lily read from one of the spellbooks produced by her Wizard cracker, and Sev sat with his feet propped up trying to solve a wooden riddle cube, one of his presents from Rose and Petunia.
There in the calm, Sev felt happiness engulfing his heart as the memories in Lily's locket seemed to reach their tiny silver tendrils into his chest. He was content, relaxed, everything that he shouldn't be if he wanted to be ready for anything at any moment. But Voldemort's dead. I don't need to be on guard all the time anymore, he heard himself thinking.
It had been a good Christmas, but the Evans women did not forget that it was their first without Mark. Later in the evening Lily and Petunia sat with their mother, looking down at the moving photograph that Lily had given Rose, leaning into their mother's sides and lending emotional support.
Eileen drew her son into the kitchen.
"It's hard to grasp that he's finally gone," his mother said as she looked out the window over the sink to see snowflakes drifting past the panes. "Severus…I wish you had included me in your part of Dumbledore's plans…I'm so proud of your abilities, I just…I wonder where you found them."
Sev eyed his mother cautiously. The pendant against his chest pulsed happily with each heartbeat. "Perhaps Grandfather's talents were passed on to me? I certainly did not receive any of my skills from my father."
Eileen nodded, and glanced at him. "I'm grateful Dumbledore took you under his wing…Rose has said that in letters Lily has talked about your skills within and without the classroom. You will be a great wizard, Severus."
I already am, he thought. Instead of saying that, he smiled at his mother and said, "I hope so. There's a lot of stuff I want to do once Lily and I are done with school."
Eileen pulled her son into a hug. She whispered in his ear: "I love the Evans as family, Severus. Please don't make Rose and me grandmothers before you finish your N.E.W.T.s."
Sev pulled back suddenly. "Mum!"
Eileen let out a laugh. "Oh, Severus…I have raised you well." With those final words she picked up the plate of leftover cranberry-pumpkin muffins, cast a warming charm over them, and took them out into the living room.
Sev sighed, and ran a hand through his long black hair. He would be glad to be back at school come January.