A/N: I'm in the middle of writing my next chapter of Time Turning Elixir, when this plot bunny struck. I'm thinking about incorporating something similar to this in my follow up story (whenever that arises), but for now, this is my interpretation of the final events of the First War. Let me know what you think.
He didn't know what possessed him as he walked down that foreign street in Godric's Hollow. The leaves crackled on the pavement like fire under his quick footsteps. If he was to catch her alone, this was the perfect time. Dumbledore had already summoned Potter to notify him of the…rising situation.
That you started, his conscious betrayed him.
As soon as the words left his lips, seeing the Dark Lord's sinister smile, Severus knew he stood no chance in protecting Lily. He pushed so many thoughts of other children to the forefront of his mind, but those defenses could only last so long. The guilt he bottled up after he overheard the prophecy loomed over his head for the following weeks, and eventually the walls he built up in his head crumbled under pressure. The Dark Lord finally discovered the existence of the small Potter child.
For the first few months, Severus assumed that everything would be sorted out on its own. The Dark Lord only wanted the baby. And how was he to be sure that this Potter spawn was the one the Prophecy marked? Thousands of children were born at the end of July. It could be any of them.
Severus did not have the chance to hear the entire prophecy that day before his interview. Only enough to condemn a family. When he approached Dumbledore, it was as a last resort. No longer would his tactics fool the Dark Lord. He knew he was going to be severely punished for his stalling, but in the end, but if the pain and brutal nature of the Dark Lord's anger saved Lily Evans's life, it would be worth it.
That was also his justification of running to Dumbledore. The bargaining chip the old codger played was unthinkable, but Severus had no choice. Turn spy for the Order of the Phoenix in exchange for Lily's safety. In the end, Severus knew he was going to die. The time bomb was ticking. He just didn't know when. But Lily would live, and Dumbledore would make sure of that.
As for the lives of the other two Potters, Severus could survive without. It was only Lily that mattered.
The autumn sun was setting behind the small church. The wind, crisp with the scent of leaves was beginning to pick up. A late storm would brew in the next few hours. Hopefully by the time its ferocity settled, he would be back in Spinner's End, nursing the wounds the Dark Lord would inflict. That is, if he survived the encounter, which was why Severus was in Godric's Hollow to begin with. James could easily notify his wife of the coming dangers. But Severus could not face death without seeing his Lily one last time.
Severus usually had his wits about him. He could smoothly coerce the unwilling to do his bidding. He could remain calm in the presence of the most evil wizard to grace the planet. But it was always Lily's to lower himself to a man incapable of a rational thought. His mind was racing. His rehearsed speech, forgotten. His hands, clammy. His throat, completely constricted. His limbs, trembling. How he managed to knock on the wooden door was beyond him.
Severus could hear rustling behind the door as she called out for the visitor to wait a few moments before she could get the door. Her voice was music in his ears. It was like the phoenix's song, filling him with a sensation that was so alien to him. And as he heard the doorknob turning to greet the guest, he realized the sensation was happiness. Hope. Something he hadn't felt since they last parted ways years ago.
His visit was unannounced, so Lily's cheerful expression was the first thing he saw. Lily was always the woman who tried to see the best in people. This made her naïve. Severus could easily be a blood thirty thief, wanting to raid the house for valuables, and still she would answer the door without a second thought.
"Hello, there! What can I…" Lily greeted with her beautiful smile. But slowly, the expression faded to one of complete shock. Her green eyes stared at Severus like he was a ghost. Her soft mouth hung slightly open, completely caught unaware at her old friend. She was in disbelief. Severus would be the last person standing in her doorway.
Her auburn hair floated in the breeze, but she did nothing to move back into the warmth of her home. She and Severus continued to stare, drinking in each other's forms. The tension continued to mount to the point it was unbearable for Severus any longer.
"Lily…" he managed to muster.
Finally, she looked away. Severus held back a sigh of happiness. This woman standing in front of him was so much like the woman he knew years ago. He could practically hear her think. Her eyes would always flitter from one object to another when she was bewildered or taken by surprise. She managed to calm down slightly, and gathering up her Gryffindor courage, her green eyes met his own dark obsidian orbs.
"What are you doing here, Severus?" her familiar voice whispered quietly.
Severus exhaled. She wasn't going to turn him away. It was promising. "May I come in?" he asked politely.
Lily didn't respond, but she slipped back inside the house and opened the door completely to allow him entrance. He slowly walked into her humble abode. The hearth was crackling merrily, and he could see a small cradle in the corner of the room, gently rocking back and forth. Plenty of photographs were hung on the walls of a smiling faces. Lily, her husband, and a giggling baby boy. The perfect family.
Severus wrung his hands together, his usual anxious behavior, as he glanced around the room. The uneasy silence that was waiting outside the door was now enveloping the sitting area.
"James isn't home, but he should be back in a couple hours," Lily broke the silence, as if to assure Severus no awkward run-ins would occur that evening.
Severus sighed and ran a hand through his dark lank hair. "I know, Lily," he whispered defeatedly.
Lily could sense the foreboding atmosphere rising. Her beautiful deep green eyes glistened with concern as she busied herself with some tea and biscuits. She carried the tray to the sofa, where she motioned Severus to have a seat next to her.
He removed his cloak and draped it over the end of the sofa. Severus was still trembling slightly. He couldn't be sure if it was out of nervousness from the presence of the girl, or if it was his anxiety of being the bearer of bad news. It was probably a mixture of both. Lily fixed him a cup of tea, and handed it gently to the broken man next to her. He took a sip and sighed.
"You still remember how I take my tea," he chuckled softly.
That lightened up the mood a little. She glanced downward and placed a few strands of her hair behind her ear. "Well, you were my best friend at one point, Sev. You were so very important to me. I couldn't bear to let little things like that go." She met his eyes once more. "Severus, I know you wouldn't risk the chance at meeting James here if it wasn't something important. What's wrong?"
He couldn't look at her any longer. It was burning the skin on his very face. He set down the cup and cradled his head in his hands. "Lily, I've…I've done something terrible," he hoarsely whispered.
Severus's breathing became coming in short gasps, and once more his hands began to shake. The strategic walls he build up against his emotions were starting to fall, and just like in Dumbledore's office, he began weeping. Severus felt something warm pressing up against him as his body began trembling, overcome with the guilt his actions and consequences finally bore upon him.
Lily stroked his head and hushed him, allowing him to cry freely. He held onto her robes in a vice grip, whispering his apologizes over and over again. A few times, Severus felt tears of her own falling on his skin, mixing with the bitter ones he shed for all his wrongdoings. He didn't deserve her comfort or her sympathy. He deserved to rot in Hell for the pain he was about to put her through. And all he could do was say 'I'm sorry.'
He slowly pulled away, trying to catch his breath. He couldn't resist looking into his love's face once more. So many emotions were crossing her features, and Severus wished he could find one expression of hatred on her flawless face, but there was none.
Lily reached out and cupped his cheek. Severus leaned into her comforting touch, closing his eyes. If he could stop the world from spinning, he'd do it at that moment. Lily's pure and innocent touch was the first real thing he'd felt in years.
"You've been in pain for so long, Sev," she whispered. "Please, let it go. Don't torture yourself any longer. I forgive you, Severus."
No. She didn't say that. Severus quickly pulled away as if he was burned by her touch. "No. Lily, you don't understand. I've done…I've," he bit down on his knuckle to stop himself from losing control once more. His hand was trembling again, and his vision blurred.
But Lily would have none of that. She snatched his hand from his mouth and gripped it fiercely. Her hand was shaking just as much as his and her eyes glistened with tears. "I forgive you. I don't care what you have done in the past. I forgive you."
That was his final undoing, and they were once again sobbing in each other's arms. Too long were they separated. She was his breath of fresh air, his refuge, his reason to live. He didn't have to pretend to be invincible with Lily. She knew him inside and out. His flaws and strengths. To cry in her arms felt like the most natural thing he could do. To be in her arms felt like home.
As they both calmed down, sitting up was too wearisome. Severus gently pulled Lily against him and reclined back fully on the sofa, and he was surprised she didn't resist. He even caught the sound of her breathing slow down, as if she was on the brink of falling asleep. He allowed a small smile grow on his face as he stroked her long hair. Her scent was divine. It was wonderful to smell it again.
But Severus was not there to reconcile with Lily. He would have sooner hoped that her look of betrayal would always be on her face when it came to him. It would have been easier to bring her the news if she hated him. He should have known better. Lily always wore her heart on her sleeve, and she could never hold grudges forever. He only wondered how long ago she had forgiven him.
"Lily," he whispered gently. "I…I have to tell you something."
She roused from her partial slumber and looked up at him with an inquiring look. She knew from the seriousness on his face that it was not a small matter, so she reluctantly pulled out of his embrace and sat back up.
He sat up as well, and rested his forearms against his thighs, steepling his hands in the process. "Lily," he began, "You've been targeted."
He heard her gasp quietly and stiffen next to him. She didn't say anything at first, but finally she mustered up the courage to respond. "Why? What does he want from me?"
Severus sighed defeatedly. "He doesn't want anything from you," he paused, the next words coming out painfully. "He wants…he wants your son."
Lily covered her mouth in disbelief at the news. "How…how certain are you of this?"
Severus looked at her with worried eyes and a pleading expression. "I'm sorry, Lily. I've been stalling him ever since I found out, but he's a very powerful wizard. I couldn't withstand it. I couldn't do much more, so I notified Dumbledore and he's planning protection for you and your family. That's why he contacted James this afternoon."
Lily nodded and slowly stood up. She began nervously pacing across the floor. "Why does he want Harry? He's…he's only a baby," she choked out. "What is a baby capable of?"
Severus shrugged his shoulders. "Well, there was a prophecy overheard about a boy who would be the one to take down the Dark Lord. Your son fits what the Seer said. The Dark Lord does not wish to see fate out to completion. He wants to…" he couldn't finish his explanation. Lily's expression confirmed her worst fears. She knew the Dark Lord wanted Harry dead.
She rushed over to the cradle in the corner of the room, tenderly picking up her baby boy and holding it close to her chest, as if symbolizing she would not go down without a just fight. She was whispering quietly to her son, even though Severus knew the child would not understand. It was the thought that made it worthwhile and beautiful. The undying love of a mother for her child.
Severus observed her, swallowing a lump that formed in the back of her throat. He felt he was intruding on this sensitive moment between Lily and her baby boy, but he couldn't bear to tear his eyes away. Lily carried the baby to the sofa and sat back down, adjusting the bundle in her arms. Little Harry was starting to rouse in her arms, and he was showing a little distress.
"I don't believe you've met my son, Severus," Lily whispered, handing him the baby wrapped in a soft blanket.
Severus reluctantly took the child from her and cradled it in the crook of his left arm, carefully supporting his head. He adjusted the blanket the baby was swaddled in so it wouldn't be obtruding his face. Severus looked down at the little person. As soon as Severus had taken the child, the baby stopped fussing, curiously looking up at the stranger with his large, green eyes.
"You've named him Harry?" Severus asked quietly. Harry's little hand had freed from the confines of the blanket, and the tiny fingers grasped Severus's reflexively. The older man smiled tenderly at the innocent being in his arms. It was too bittersweet. If Severus would have been rational all those years ago, this little person could have been his son.
Lily slid closer to Severus and stroked her son's head. "Yes. Harry James. James and I hope he won't be teased too terribly for it when he starts school," she joked. "He's already on the list for Hogwarts. You'll be his teacher eventually."
He moved his gaze to the glowing mother next to him. "You heard that I took the position?"
Lily nodded. "Of course. We've been in continuous communication with Dumbledore. What an achievement you accomplished in such short amount of time, Sev. A Potions Master at the age of 21? I was so very happy you made something of yourself. I was proud…"
Her voice, full of pride and a touch of sadness faded into the peaceful stillness of the sitting room. Severus began rocking the child gently, and Harry was slowly falling back into his slumber. Once the baby's eyes were closed, Severus handed him back to his mother, who tenderly smoothed back the hair on Harry's head.
"James and I weren't planning on having a child for a couple more years. He's still in Auror training and all. Still has about a year to go. But…sometimes life throws us unexpected surprises." She smiled down at the bundle in her arms. "And still… here I am, a mother. I wouldn't have it any other way. Except…"
Lily's gaze fell on Severus, looking at him with so much care. It was amazing that the emotion and feeling held in her gaze didn't change since the last time they were civil with one another. "Merlin, Severus. I've missed you so much. I was insane to think I could be happy without you, but you were irreplaceable in my life."
Tears were filling up in her eyes once more. Severus stood up and gently took the sleeping baby from her arms. He carried him carefully back to the cradle and set him down slowly as to not wake him up. When Severus went back to the sofa, he immediately wrapped his arms around Lily and pulled her close to his chest.
"Lily," he whispered to the crying woman, "I never wanted to leave you. There hasn't been a day that's gone by that I haven't thought about you. And I've made sure no one else took your place in my life. There's been a gaping hole in my heart since you sent me away, and I deserve the pain it brings. Gods, Lily. I've missed you too. So much."
Severus closed his eyes, wishing once again that he could freeze time. Tender moments like these could never be replaced. He inhaled her sweet scent, getting intoxicated in everything that was Lily. He stroked her back comfortingly.
She pulled back, wiping at her eyes and regaining composure. "What does this mean for all of us, Sev? What's going to happen now?"
"Dumbledore has everything under control now," Severus reassured her. "But you, James and Harry must go into hiding. It doesn't matter where. No, you can't tell me," he said quickly as she began to open her mouth, suggesting places as to where her family could run to. "It's too dangerous. The Dark Lord is one of the few people who now know about this prophecy, so he is relying on me to help plan the events. He could easily penetrate my mind at my most vulnerable moment and your hideout would be revealed."
Lily nodded slowly, a frown crossing her usual smiling face. "For how long?"
Severus shrugged his shoulders despondently. "For as long as it takes the war to sort itself out."
Lily closed her eyes and sighed. "Severus, we can't just 'hide.' If the prophecy is true, only Harry can be the one to take down You-Know-Who. This war could last…ages. I can't live a life like that. I can't expect my husband to want that. I couldn't bear to give Harry…I want him to have a normal childhood."
"As long as you love and care for him as if nothing is wrong, he'll be happy, Lily. You are a wonderful, loving, devoted mother and wife, and you'll give Harry and James the best you can give. And one day, this war will be over, and you won't have to pretend anymore."
His eyes glazed over, lost in his own train of thought. Lily reached for his hand and gently squeezed it. "So, what does that mean for you?"
Severus closed his eyes and snorted. "It means I go from being the Dark Lord's slave, to Dumbledore's lapdog." He sighed. "I took the position at Hogwarts under my old Master's wishes. He wanted a close eye on the Headmaster. And now, the tables have turned…"
"That's not a fair exchange. A life of…servitude? For my safety?"
He turned to look at her frustrated stare. "As long as you're safe, it will be worth it."
They held each other's intense gazes for another moment. Lily swallowed deeply, contemplating all that had occurred that evening. Severus squeezed her hand. "James will be back any minute now. I don't want to be here when he arrives."
Lily nodded mutely and stood up with Severus as he gathered his cloak and fastened it over his shoulders. He was approaching the door when she spoke up.
"Severus, can I ask you one last thing before you go?" she asked nervously.
He looked at her as if it was an insane question. "Of course."
She swallowed and wrung her hands together. "If…if anything should happen…to me or Harry, or even possibly James. I mean, I know it's asking too much of you, now that you're on Dumbledore's orders. But…would you…help take care of my family?"
Her pleading gaze burned intensely. How could he ever refuse her? He never could in the past, and the same was now. "You don't even have to ask," he whispered, full of deep emotion.
There was finality in the air as he held on to the door handle. Neither of them could say goodbye. It was too real for them, now that they had finally reconciled. But he couldn't stay there forever. He had opened the door when he felt her gentle hand on his.
"Wait. Severus. Why…why are you doing this?" Lily asked the most important question, one that Severus could no longer avoid. One that had burned in the back of his mind since he finally realized how he felt about this wonderful, beautiful woman standing next to him, willingly touching him, gazing up at him with all the admiration and care in the world.
Severus shut the door quietly, and turned to face her. "Well, I should think that was obvious," he stated simply. Calmly, he raised his hand and brought it to graze gently across the smooth skin of her face. She closed her eyes at his touch. And when she opened them, Severus was bringing his face closer to hers. And she wasn't turning away.
He brushed his lips gently against hers, and pulled away slightly, wondering as to how she would react. Her eyes glazed over with tears once more, but she stepped in closer and wrapped her arms around his neck, silently permitting him to kiss her once more.
Their second kiss lacked all the hesitance of the first, but it was still as innocent and yet full of passion. Severus's hands were wrung into Lily's soft, auburn locks, while hers were tangled in his ebony hair. He drank in her taste, and he swore he'd never tasted anything so sweet in his life. This was the moment he'd been waiting for his entire life. Severus clung on to her with every fiber of his being, and she responded with just as must intensity. He knew then he could never love another woman the way he loved Lily. And he knew for certain she loved him. Even though she could never be completely his, he had her heart. She loved him. She was safe. She would be alright, and that would be enough for now.
They both were out of breath when they broke the kiss, but neither of them moved from each other's embrace. Severus tenderly kissed her forehead. "I love you, Lily Potter," he whispered. "I've always loved you, and I always will, and there will never be another. You're the only thing that matters to me."
"Oh, Severus. I love you too," she whispered in response. "I can't deny it. If things would have been different…" her voice faded. "I love James too. I do. But, you were my first love, Severus. My life would have been just as wonderful with you. I wish we could have seen what it would have been like."
He pressed his forehead against hers. "This will be enough for now. You've brought meaning back in my life, Lily. Your forgiveness, your love, it's redeemed me. It's just…unfortunate it took a threat on your safety to figure that out."
She exhaled softy and leaned closer into his embrace. "Better late than never, Sev," she mused. "Please don't neglect yourself."
He pulled away and looked at her with all the love he could muster. "I will do my best." He opened the door once more, not wanting to turn away.
He suddenly felt her pull him in and she kissed him once more, not bearing to see him leave. "Don't say goodbye," she whispered after she pulled away. "I will see you again real soon. Be safe, Severus."
"I will," he promised. "James will protect you. Everything will be alright, you'll see," he assured her.
She nodded, and let him go. Severus finally managed to step over the threshold and back to the billowing winds outside, but he couldn't leave without looking at her one last time. "I love you, Lily," he said in finality.
She smiled gently in the doorway. "I love you too, Severus." And she quietly shut the door behind her.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he walked his way down the main road to the place where he would Apparate. He felt like a huge burden had been lifted off his shoulders. Lily had forgiven him. Lily loved him, just as much as he loved her.
As he reached the end of the street, Severus felt a sharp burning pain on his left forearm. There was no sense in avoiding his wrath. But Severus knew, for as long as he'd play spy, the Dark Lord could take everything he had, and still have no chance of taking away everything he felt for Lily. Voldemort could never understand the complex emotions of love and selfless devotion.
Severus always loved Lily, and she finally knew the truth. She loved him too, and it could only grow stronger with time. Even though she could never be his, for now, it was enough.