Her Modest Manifesto

Disclaimer: Everything you love about this story isn't mine… but I'm going to keep writing anyway in hopes that you'll like the tales I weave as much as the characters that make them.

Author's Note: Admittedly, this isn't my most favorite chapter but, again, building the story. I promise more of your favorite characters will be in the next installment – and the romantic pieces will start fitting together. You think I'd forgotten I have things left to explain from Chapter Two?

It was the first time she'd relaxed, allowed herself to actually believe that she'd found a safe hideaway, since Petunia and Vernon had broken the news to her the afternoon before. When asked about it later, the red head would have admitted there had been something magic about the comforting embrace of one Alice Rodgers but, in the moment, it felt good just to be welcomed. The blonde had pulled her best friend close, hiding her face in smooth, fiery locks; it looked as though she might never let go. But Lily returned her best friend's embrace just as fervently.

When the moment had finally come to pass, the pair were left sitting on the shady verandah that wrapped around Alice's modest little house. Lily's arms were wrapped around her legs, pulling her knees to her chest so that she could rest her chin atop them. Alice, on the other hand, was sitting directly across from the graceful girl she called a best friend; her legs were folded Indian-style and she toyed absentmindedly with her hair.

"So you just… left, then?" the blonde finally broke the silence. She let a hand fall to the other girl's shoulder, a comforting gesture, and their eyes met. Alice was searching, perhaps, for an indication that Lily was more… oh, she wasn't sure – disconcerted, indignant, betrayed, bemused, frightened – after all, she'd only just been 'signed up' for England's first arranged marriage in centuries. Admittedly, this was probably not the first arranged marriage in centuries but Alice hadn't had too hard of a time stretching her sympathies as far as they might go in the case of Lily Evans.

The other girl bit her lower lip as she stared back at the bright blue eyes inspecting her.

It had been quite a lot more than just leaving… like some convict evading the law, like some frightened beast escaping the hunter. Hardly words enough existed that could be used to describe what she'd done. She'd waited until night had fallen, when she was certain that both Petunia and Vernon had fallen asleep, before sneaking across the hallway to her parent's bedroom. She had been calculating and precise about the time she spent there. Lily had been planning it all evening from the safety of her bedroom.

She'd gone to her mother's closet first, wincing at the familiar creaking of floorboards beneath her feet. Inside there were just three things the girl wanted; well, three dresses if one wanted to be technical about it. The first was a pretty maroon jumper made of wool; Lily had given it to her mother as a gift not two Christmases before. Now that she had grown a bit, it was quite likely that the lovely garment would fit her. The second dress was quite a lot more formal, emerald, and absolutely breathtaking; something one ought to wear to a party. Lily's mother had worn it to her father's Christmas party with his coworkers. Finally, the last dress Lily pulled out of the closet was a pretty yellow sundress, just the perfect, pale, shade of yellow to set off her lovely ivory skin.

Each one was laid gently on the bed before Lily crossed the floor to her father's nightstand. Inside was the tattered purple book that had been her most favorite bed time story. Her voice was soft, not even a whisper as she breathed, "The Princess in Disguise." Touching the foiled letters on the front of the book gently with her fingertips, Lily inhaled sharply, feeling a pain in her chest she wasn't accustomed to. Taking the dresses, she laid them neatly over her arm before laying the book on top and crossing back to her bedroom.

It was a quick trip; she'd really needed nothing more than to deliver the items she had gathered to safety before journeying to the attic. This part, she knew, would be the most dangerous of her plan because she'd have to creep so carefully, taking extra measure not to step on the creaky first step, right past Petunia's bedroom. And if there was one thing in this world her sister was not, it was a light sleeper.

Fortunately, Lily made it upstairs without waking anyone in the house. The attic had been a favorite place of hers to play when she was younger but it was always uncomfortable, no matter what the time of year. This balmy summer evening was no exception as the young woman strained her eyes to see through the darkness and locate the luggage she had come to find. Feeling blindly through the darkness, her fingertips brushed against a silk ribbon. It wasn't the luggage, though that had been lying right beside, but was so familiar that she felt the faint hints of a smile forming at the corners of her lips. It was her father's mistletoe… he hung it just above the doorway to his bedroom each Christmas and would kiss their mother beneath it each morning when they woke up and each evening before they went to bed. Sliding it into the luggage without so much as a second thought, Lily hurried down the staircase and to the safety of her own bedroom again.

She knew that daylight was growing nearer and as it did her chances of escaping undetected diminished significantly. Hurriedly digging through her trunk to determine the items she could leave behind and those she had no choice but to take, Lily packed the suitcase. Her school robes went in first, her wand next. She mentally cursed that she was still underage and not allowed to make proper use of it until she'd returned to Hogwarts that fall. This escape would be so much easier if she were able to use magic. Hearing her future brother-in-law shift in his sleep and the bedsprings creak with the stress of his weight, Lily frowned.

She didn't have time enough to assess which books she would need. So she decided to leave them all behind; all save the lovely leather-bound copy she'd taken from her father's bedroom. Her mother's dresses quickly followed. Packing parchment, quills, and ink Lily hurriedly pushed as many of her treasures inside as she could manage. She tied the scarf Alice had given her the year before for Christmas around the handle; it was the last item she needed but there was no way that it would fit inside of the bag. Her duffel would hold more than her trunk had; it would attract less attention, as well, but that didn't make leaving the trunk any less difficult.

Lily took a final look around her bedroom, knowing that she'd never set foot inside of it again.

The vibrant young red head was on her front lawn only moments later, crossing the distance from her porch to the mailbox by the street. It was then that she noticed a football hiding out in the shrubbery between her neighbor's lawn and her own. Unbelievably, it was the very same she had played with as a child when her father had just begun teaching her the rules of the game. Smiling, she got down on her knees and pulled it to freedom.

"There we go," she mumbled under her breath as she pulled the football to her chest and hugged it despite herself. Her eyes were closed when she reached backwards for the strap of the duffel bag she had let fall from her shoulder. But what her fingertips found instead was a different matter entirely.

The leather, though quite worn with age, was still soft and Lily managed to keep a gasp from escaping her lips. Knowing emerald eyes traveled from the shoe she had quickly pulled her hand away from and up into a familiar pair of dark eyes. They were dark like midnight but as he gazed down at her, there was sorrow hidden in their depths. He offered her his hand, as he had so often when they were children, to help her up.

She accepted.

"I'm sorry about your mum," Severus whispered. Lily knew he hadn't mentioned her father because, frankly, Mr. Evans had never been a strong supporter of the friendship that had developed between his youngest daughter and the troubled young boy who lived down the street. But where Mr. Evans was unforgiving, Mrs. Evans had been understanding; Severus had escaped his father's abusive hand many a time by seeking refuge at the Evans' house. And Mrs. Evans had been as fast to dry his tears and tend his cuts and bruises as she would have been one of her own children. Severus inhaled sharply, pulling Lily's attention back to the moment.

"And I'm sorry about yours."

There was a long pause as the young man realized that Lily had known of his own mother's passing earlier that summer and yet hadn't sought him out to offer her condolences or kind words. He stared at her intently as though committing each of her features to memory; no emotion crossed his stern features.

It wasn't until Lily made a move to return the strap of her duffel bag over her shoulder that Severus finally spoke, "What are you thinking to do, Lily Evans? It's not like you to take off like this while there might be Death Eaters about."

She made to take a step around him, his concern was too little too late; but he placed a hand on her shoulder. It was enough to make her look at him again, though this time emerald eyes blazed as she shrugged out of his grasp, "Well it seems I have already had the good fortune of finding one and, all probability aside, I'm a far cry from finding another wandering about here in Surrey."

He didn't argue her words but, instead, turned away so she wouldn't see the pain in his eyes.

Then, she walked down the street, away from the dark figure on her front lawn, and left Spinner's End for the last time in her life.

"So he just let you walk away like that?" Alice questioned as Lily finished relaying her story. It was one that had taken the better part of an hour to tell, but the blonde listener had been patient. She'd inserted her 'oohs' and 'ahhs' in all of the right places and left her snide insults of Petunia, the horse, and Vernon, the whale, to herself. But when the vivacious red head confided her encounter with Severus Snape to her best friend, Alice simply hadn't been able to keep herself quiet any longer. With fists clenched at her side, the blonde was almost shaking as she growled, "The coward! And I suppose his reaction confirms he really is a Death Eater!"

It was a statement; not a question.

Turning so that she was looking into icy blue eyes, Lily pondered her answer for only a moment, "Well, I suppose I've known what he was all along… what all of the hate could do to him, what Severus was really capable of. I just – I couldn't admit it to myself; it was as though I was content to hold on to whatever fragment was left of that boy he used to be."

Alice nodded her acceptance, placing a comforting hand on her best friend's forearm while Lily let her gaze travel upwards and away into the distance.