A/N: *winces* Yes, I know I promised this AGES ago. Like, a month and a half ago. You can yell at me all you want. My only defense is that I had writer's block and finals to contend with. My apologies. I hope this makes up for it.
Now, just as a reminder, this was originally created for the Winter Solstice (see, I told you it was a long time!) but I felt like that one was not enough on its own. Here's its conclusion, in which Severus gets to have an actual conversation with Lily. Nothing that should up the rating.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or the characters in the story. I would never be able to create such an amazing story. I'm just playing with her toys.
"The darkest hour is before the dawn."
When he next awoke, Severus knew nothing but a painfully sore throat, a pounding headache, and a shivery, achy feeling. For an undetermined amount of time, he lay motionlessly, trying to gather his thoughts. Then, remembering what had transpired when he had attempted to visit Lily - and realizing that he was in what appeared to be an old set of pajamas much too big for him - he struggled to sit upright, but before he could do so, a hand pushed him back down into the soft bed he was lying on.
"No," a melodic voice cried. "You have to rest."
His eyes struggled to open, to see the girl whose voice he heard. Finally, he managed to force his eyes open and stared at her, perched on the side of the bed, her hair cascading past her shoulders.
"What happened?" he tried to ask, but his voice failed to comply. Instead, his body was wracked by heaving coughs. Within seconds, he was helped upright and a cup of water was placed at his lips.
"Drink," Lily commanded, her voice betraying her worry. Blindly, he obeyed, glad that the cup held only water, having discovered in his first year that Pepperup Potion had an adverse effect on him, something he was thankful she remembered.
After several long moments, he finished the drink and Lily helped him lie back down. Still, she hovered over him like a mother, an experience that, if he were to be completely honest with himself, he rather enjoyed. It had been the first time since the incident last year when she treated him with anything warmer than the cold civility she had always reserved for his Slytherin friends. And he had never had a maternal figure caring for him before, his mother being too beaten down to do much for him.
Severus looked around, finally recognizing the room he was in as the Evans' guest bedroom. "What am I doing here?" he forced out in his still hoarse voice.
She looked at him, a familiar look of fondness mingled with exasperation. "What part of no-talking-until-your-voice-gets-better is too difficult for you to understand? Or are you just too stubborn to realize that it's for your own good?" She gave a sigh. "Then again, if you knew any better, you wouldn't have been standing outside my house for an untold length of time at the mercy of the elements."
He opened his mouth to argue but she covered it with her hand. "You really ought not talk for several days. And you shouldn't get up either," she added as he tried again to get up out of the bed.
Severus gave her an annoyed look. "And I have to use the loo," he replied. "I kind of have to get up."
Lily bit her lip, then nodded. "Fine," she said. Carefully, she lifted the covers off of him and took his arm to lead him towards the bathroom.
"What are you doing?" he grumbled, irritated, though it was rather off-put by the fact that he was shivering slightly in the cool air.
She shot him a look. "Helping you to the bathroom," she retorted. "And you're dreaming if you think you can make it by yourself," she added when he pulled free from her and tried to walk on his own.
Snape took one step forward but would have collapsed right there had it not been for Lily's quick reflexes in catching him before he actually hit the ground. With one hand firmly gripping his arm, she hauled him back upright and began to move very slowly towards the bathroom.
Even with her support and to his utter chagrin, after several more steps forward, his legs threatened to give way once more. The fact that his shivering had grown worse the longer he was removed from the bed did not aid in his movement. Finally, he was forced to drop to the floor, red-faced with embarrassment.
Lily dropped down to her knees beside him. "Can you not walk any further?" she asked, looking at him with concern in her green eyes. As she did so, she seemed to notice his trembling for the first time and her eyebrows furrowed. "Are you cold?"
He shook his head weakly, not wanting to be coddled, even if it was Lily who was treating him as opposed to his mother, who'd always frowned upon weakness.
Her concerned expression turned into a glare as a sudden and violent shiver tore through his frame. "Liar," she said, getting to her feet and returning to the bed. "Denying it won't help you get better, Sev," she scolded, returning with a blanket.
He wasn't sure whether it was the usage of his old nickname or the chills which continued to plague him, but Severus suddenly found himself wanting to be comforted and cared for. He didn't argue when she wrapped him in the blanket. He felt - and was sure he looked - like all the fight was out of him.
"Do you think you can make it to the bathroom now?" the girl asked, still hovering over him as he began to feel warmer within the shelter of the cover. "Or should I get my dad to carry you over?"
Snape was sure his expression projected how much he abhorred the second suggestion. "Try again?" he managed to rasp.
Her face set, she nodded and reached again for his arm, pulling him to his feet. This time, she awkwardly wrapped an arm around him to better support his weight as they continued their trek to the bathroom.
The journey was a bit more successful than the previous attempt though Severus found himself tiring after just a short while. He made haste in the bathroom, wanting nothing but to be back in the warmth of the bed.
As he stumbled out, Lily caught him again and slowly led him back to his bed. There, he slid back into place and she tucked him in with a gentle hand, making him feel - for the first time in a long time - protected and comforted.
Still, he felt the awkward tension in the air, the broken fragments of the friendship that had bound them together for five years, which the unspeakable word had shattered in a single, mindless moment.
"Lily," he said, waiting for her to make eye contact. There was a long silence, during which time he found it suddenly very hard to meet her gaze. "I just wanted to say... sorry... for what I said before." There was no need to explain what conversation he was referring to. "You don't deserve it."
For a second, she stared at him, her expression unreadable, and he felt a terrible wave of doubt sweep over him, threatening to overwhelm him completely. Then, her face creased into a sad little smile and he knew without her explanation that while she had long since forgiven him, things would never be the same. But, at least, the darkest part was over. He was not alone any longer. There was still light.
Reviewing after my not updating for so long is probably the last thing you want to do, but if you can find it in your heart to forgive the poor author and drop her a line (of anger, encouragement, whatever), she would be greatly obliged.