Chapter Ten: The Deal
That same evening, Harry found that he really enjoyed playing Old Maid with McGonagall and that his Head of House could be good company if she wasn't talking sternly or taking points.
When he fell asleep, curled up comfortably in bed, he dreamed that the Jack of Spades had come and stolen the Queen of Hearts away from the sleeping King of Diamonds. Then the Jack and the Queen lived happily ever after, faraway in a rickety house of cards.
Before long, Harry's dream turned into something dark and distorted. He was running up one of Hogwarts' many moving staircases. But instead of feeling warm and inviting, the castle felt dark, cold, and ominous.
He could hear footsteps somewhere behind him and Harry's heart started beating more rapidly. He twisted his neck to look behind him as he ran, but it was like he'd come from a long dark tunnel. He couldn't see anything. But the footsteps were loud and they were getting closer.
Harry looked ahead again and tried to run faster. The portraits on the walls merely watched him, looking quite bored and not nearly as concerned as Harry thought they should be.
His foot caught in his long school robes and he stumbled. Before he could even try to right himself, he could feel himself tumbling and then falling...
He landed with an "oomph!" on the floor beside his bed, his blanket tangled about his legs. He took a deep breath and blinked his eye slowly, taking in the dark bedroom.
He wasn't being chased. It had only been a dream.
Pushing himself to his feet, Harry put on his glasses and squinted through the darkness to see the form of his mother sleeping in the bed against the other wall.
It was still dark outside the window, but quite a few lights could be seen in the other houses of Baske. Giving a thought to the chill in the air, Harry wrapped his blanket around his shoulders before heading downstairs.
The steep staircase was dark, but he could see a light coming from underneath the door at the bottom. Harry grasped the cold metal doorknob and pushed it open ever so lightly. Just enough to peek through without being seen.
Snape was leaning against the sink, staring blankly out the window, with a cup of coffee clutched in his hands.
He hadn't changed his clothes from the day before and while his shirt was still tucked neatly into his black trousers, the top few buttons had been undone, giving the man a relaxed appearance. But Snape's usual stiff and straight posture had vanished and now he stood with slumped shoulders.
Harry opened the door and stepped off the last step.
Snape looked at him, briefly, before turning to gaze back out the window. There were bags under the dark eyes. "You're up early, Potter."
"I'm always up early," Harry said, shrugging.
"Yes. At six usually. It is barely five."
Harry went to the upper cupboard by the sink and, pushing himself onto his toes, he pulled out a drinking glass. "I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep."
Snape pushed the cupboard door shut over Harry's head. "Sit down and quit dragging that quilt over the floor. Where are your slippers?"
"Don't have none." Harry dropped into his usual chair and held out his mouse trapped toes so he could see them again. Snape's bruise salve had worked pretty well. His toes only hurt now when he flexed them really fast, back and forth.
"Any. You don't have any," Snape corrected him. He was beginning to sound more like the Snape that Harry was used to. "Accio socks!"
A pair of Harry's socks came flying down the stairs and Snape caught them out of the air with his wand hand. Then he walked over to the table and dropped them in Harry's lap.
"Put these on. This house can be cool in the morning, even during the summer months."
Harry pulled the socks on. "You got back late last night?"
"We did," said Snape, taking a sip of his coffee.
"What did you talk about?"
A large owl landed outside the window with a newspaper. Snape opened the window, took the paper, and came to sit at the table.
"Well?" asked Harry.
"Well what, Potter?"
"What did you and my mum talk about last night with Professor Dumbledore?"
"That is none of your concern." Snape held the paper in front of his face and turned the page.
Harry traced his finger through the condensation forming the outside of his glass. "I was just wondering..."
"This may come as a surprise to you, but not everything is your business."
"I don't think that..."
Snape took another sip of his coffee instead of responding.
The sky outside was slowly turning from black to grey. Harry stifled a yawn. Even though the sun was coming up, he considered going back to his warm bed. But then his stomach growled loudly.
Snape looked up at him.
"Sorry." Harry's face burned and he got up to drop some bread in the toaster and pour himself some juice.
He leaned back against the counter, but Snape said, "Come sit down. There is something I wish to discuss with you."
"Come sit and listen." Snape reiterated, pointing at Harry's chair. "This is important."
Harry returned to his seat, but only because he wanted to. He lifted his glass to his mouth and watched Snape warily over the top of it.
"You are going to be leaving my house sooner than expected." Snape leaned across the table towards Harry. "This morning, most likely."
Harry's eyes widened. They were leaving? Maybe Dumbledore had finally realized what a terrible idea it was to have he and his mum live with Snape all summer long. He tried to ignore the fact that his professor was actually acting almost human this morning. Well, come to think of it, the man had been acting a bit strangely ever since he'd shouted at Harry in the cellar the afternoon before. But still, Harry decided, if they were going to leave Snape's house, he was all for it.
"Is that what you had a meeting for last night? Did you talk to a realtor?" Harry drank the last of his juice and put the empty glass down. "Were you trying to find a place for me and my mum to live?"
Snape's eyes narrowed. "Not exactly. What we discussed is none of your concern. If your mother wishes to leave, that is her prerogative and you will abide by your her wishes. Do as she asks. Don't make life harder on her than it has to be."
"I wouldn't!" Who did Snape think he was talking to? Harry would never do anything to upset his mother. Ever.
"Oh, but you will." Snape ran his fingers against the edges of the newspaper. "Every boy wants to please his mother, but it is inevitable that at some point, no matter what you might think, you will make things hard on her."
Harry couldn't imagine doing that to his mother. But then he remembered his mum's face when she'd seen his school report the day before. She hadn't looked very happy then.
He slumped in his chair.
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Are we going to behave, Mr. Potter?"
Harry nodded glumly.
"See that you do," said Snape, getting up.
And Harry vowed to himself that he would. It didn't matter what Snape said. Snape was wrong. Without Snape around, Harry was sure that he and his mum would get on just fine.
The first few days at Hogwarts went by okay. Great, actually. Harry had used the Floo for the very first time and had been all but spit out, ash covered, into a very nice set of tower rooms arranged by Dumbledore. There, Harry and his mum could have meals together every day without Snape. They laughed and joked, also without Snape. By Wednesday evening, Harry had even talked her into letting him stay up late so they could play Old Maid together, which also only happened because Snape wasn't there.
Every morning, his mum went through the Floo to meet with Dumbledore for a few hours and while Harry was never invited, he knew exactly what they were talking about because she shared these things with him. Unlike Snape who didn't like to tell Harry anything at all.
Their first night at Hogwarts together, she had sat Harry down and explained to him that she couldn't do any magic. She could still use magical things like using the Floo and talk to portraits, but she couldn't cast any spells on her own. She didn't know why and Dumbledore didn't either, but they were working on it.
They were also working on freeing a man from prison. His dad had a best friend named Sirius who, after the night that Voldemort came, had been accused of murdering a bunch of Muggles and betraying Lily and James. Everyone thought Sirius had been the Secret Keeper (which Harry understood because his mum explained the term to him), but he hadn't been.
She had told Dumbledore that Sirius was innocent and that she knew who the real murderer was. Harry didn't know his name though. His mum didn't like to talk about him. It made her too angry.
So every morning, his mum talked to Dumbledore and they planned how they would free Sirius and what they could do about her magic. While they were gone, Harry would sit alone and sort chocolate frog cards or play with his gobstones set.
But by late Thursday afternoon, all the things that had at first seemed great were starting to become normal and mundane.
While they were eating lunch, his mum brought up the subject of his school report and told him they would be working on his summer schoolwork that afternoon.
"You need to study, Harry," she told him when he frowned.
"I don't." He stabbed at a rolling pea with his fork.
"Your end of term report worries me. Professor McGonagall suggested that you get an early start on your work. And I can help you."
"No, you can't."
She wiped her fingers on a serviette and stood up, gathering her plate. "Why not?"
"It's magical stuff, Mum, and you..." He didn't finish his sentence. He hadn't intended to be rude, but judging by her face, he'd just hurt her feelings. "Sorry."
He hung his head and pushed his plate away, no longer hungry.
She took his plate without saying anything. Her eyes didn't meet Harry's as she wiped a dish towel over the smooth wooden table top. When she was finished, she left the room, letting the door to the sitting room swing shut behind her.
Harry dropped his head into his hands and tried to forget the hurt look that had appeared on his mother's face. He'd only meant that ...well, he wasn't sure exactly what he had meant. He just didn't want to have to do his work.
He knew his mother was sensitive about her lack of magic. She tried to act like she didn't care, always smiling tightly when she talked about it. But Harry knew. He knew how she really felt because he could imagine how he would feel if his magic disappeared. His magic made him special. It made him different than Dudley and all the kids who had picked on him in primary school. If he lost that, he would just be Harry again. Even though he wasn't allowed to perform magic outside of school, he had the ability and that's what mattered.
Harry's head shot up. He was in school now. He was living at Hogwarts where there were wide open spaces and a Quidditch pitch. He thought of his Nimbus 2000, safely put away in his trunk. A strong urge came over him and he leapt from his chair and dashed into the sitting room.
His mum was sitting on the sofa, Harry's school bag at her feet and his books and essays strewn about her. She looked up at him. "I've done all of this work before, Harry. I went to this school for seven years and just because I can't do any magic, it doesn't mean I don't understand the theory behind it."
Harry didn't say anything. What could he say? Should he apologize again?
The hurt look was gone from her face and had been replaced with a hard look of determination. She held up his report card. "Theory seems to be what you're having trouble with and summer work is nothing but theory. You and I are going to work on this together until you understand it."
Harry felt his stomach clench. "Do we have to do it now?"
She put Harry's essays back in his bag and gave him a shrewd look. "When do you want to do it?"
"After dinner?" he suggested, his thoughts still on the Quidditch pitch. "I ...I wanted to go flying this afternoon," he added softly.
His mum frowned. "Harry..."
"I know it's summer, but we're at Hogwarts, so that's all right, isn't it?" He stepped closer. "I just want to fly so much."
"No one is supposed to know we're here," she reminded him. "You can't go traipsing through the castle and flying so that everyone can see you."
Harry's heart sank. He had forgotten about that little detail. It was why his mum used the Floo to go talk to Dumbledore, and why Harry was always so bored. There weren't supposed to be many people at Hogwarts during the summer, but just the same, no one was supposed to see them.
"I forgot," he mumbled, angry at himself for setting himself up for disappointment.
She gave him a sympathetic smile. "It's okay. I know you must be going stir-crazy in here."
He was. Gazing out the windows at the beautiful summer sunshine only made things worse. He wished his mum would pull the drapes shut. He hated being taunted like this. He was bored of being stuck inside and he didn't even want to think about how many weeks there were until school started. Then a thought stuck him.
"What are you going to do when school starts?" he asked, going to sit beside her. "We can't hide forever."
She paused flipping through the pages of his Charms book. "Professor Dumbledore and I have talked about that. We're trying to figure out my magic problem first, before everyone finds out about me. Besides," she added, rubbing at her neck. "I don't think I'm ready to talk to so many people just yet."
She was nervous. Harry had picked up on that, even with the few people he had seen her interact with. He supposed that he would feel like that too if Aunt Petunia had shut him up in his cupboard for years without letting him out.
"You're right. Sooner or later, people are going to have to know. And I'm going to need to find a job eventually..." she mused.
Harry wasn't sure if she was talking to him or not. He put a hand on her arm. "Mum, we've still got all of your and Dad's money in your vault. I only bought school books ...well, and some robes too and my wand. Also a little candy. But we still have lots left."
His mum looked at him and laughed. She carded her fingers through his hair once. "You're sweet, Harry, but I want to keep that money for your schooling."
"But there's tons of gold in there!"
"There used to be more. Your dad inherited a good deal of gold from his parents when they died, but we supported ourselves and Sirius with that for years. There's enough there now to cover your schooling, but not much extra. We could probably live off what's left for about a year. After that..."
Harry frowned. He didn't like the idea of his mum getting a job somewhere. The way things were now, with them spending the day together, that's how he wanted things to stay.
She held up his Charms book. "Let's go start on your homework."
"Mum, please not now," he pleaded.
"I'll do it, I promise. Just not now, okay?
His mum seemed to waver between letting him go and putting her foot down. Finally, she sighed and put the book back in his bag. "Fine, but after dinner we really need to start on this. I don't want you to fall behind."
Harry jumped up from the sofa. "Thanks, Mum! You're the best."
She got a funny look on her face, like she was trying not to laugh. She lifted her chin. "You're quite persuasive, aren't you?"
Thursday evening found Severus stalking the dimly lit fifth floor corridors of Hogwarts. During the summer, the castle was absent of its usual life and chatter, which should have made it easier to locate small, errant boys.
Just half an hour ago, he had been poring over ancient magical theory books in his sitting room when the Floo had roared to life and Lily's stricken face appeared in it.
"I can't find Harry," she'd told him breathlessly.
She said she had gone to take a quick shower, leaving Harry on the sofa with his homework. When she returned, the boy was missing. She had only called Severus after searching her quarters and an unsuccessful attempt to call Dumbledore.
"You're the only one who can help," she had apologised, as if she expected him to be angry or resentful. "I can't leave our flat or I'd go find him myself."
He couldn't be bothered with such feelings. Lily was her own person and, as far as Severus was concerned, she could do as she pleased. He hadn't been surprised when she had packed up her few possessions and left Sunday morning and he had made no attempt to contact her since.
But he had wondered how she was faring. He'd been tempted multiple times to fire-call Dumbledore to check up on her, but each time he had resisted. He had come close, even tossing in a handful of Floo powder one time.
He'd ended up wasting a handful of powder.
Severus refused to go chasing after Lily like some forlorn dog.
That wasn't to say, however, that he wasn't bothered. Life seemed intent on continuing to play cruel jokes on him by bringing Lily in and out of his life on a whim. Every time he began to get used to the way things were, they would change.
This time it was Harry's fault. Severus was already mentally preparing the tongue lashing he was going to give the boy for his idiocy when he found him.
Lily was still in her quarters and Severus imagined her panic was growing by the minute. She had lost her son once. He couldn't let it happen again.
Severus was alone in his search. Very few people stayed at Hogwarts year-round. Trelawney was alone in her tower. Filch was certainly slinking along the castle somewhere with his mangy cat, but Severus had no intention of enlisting anyone's help.
Hagrid would actually be a tremendous help, but then the entire wizarding world would hear about it and no one needed to know Harry Potter was at Hogwarts over the summer. It would bring far too many questions.
Severus pushed aside the dusty draperies hanging over windows and kicked open vacant classroom doors as he went. Every once and a while he called out Harry's name in a tone that was not meant to be ignored. Either the brat was even more trouble than Severus had originally thought or he wasn't within hearing distance.
Just when he was reluctantly considering an amplifying charm on his voice, Peeves soared from further down the corridor to stop in front of him.
"Ooooh, look! It's Snivelly Snape!"
Severus scowled. He didn't have the time to deal with such nonsense. He ignored the poltergeist and continued on down the hall.
Peeves followed him, blowing raspberries behind in his head.
"Out of my way, Peeves," Severus commanded, brandishing his wand.
"Snakey Snivelly is looking for wee Potty…" sang Peeves loudly. "Won't find him in the castle!"
Severus stopped and turned around. He lowered his wand. "I won't, will I?""
Peeves gave Severus a rude gesture and snickered.
"Where is Harry Potter, Peeves? Tell me."
"Went out with his broom!" Peeves cackled, zooming down the corridor away from Severus. "And now he's doomed!"
Severus saw red. Damn that boy.
By the time he reached the school grounds, he had calmed himself only marginally. The sun had gone down and a full moon wasn't due for two more weeks. It took Severus' eyes a few moments to become accustomed to the darkness.
At first glance he didn't see anything. But after another more careful search through the air, he caught a flash of something over the Quidditch pitch. A leg. Then a flash of a trainer. The bristles of a broom. Then two trainers.
The foolish boy was thirty feet in the air and evidently - somehow - had made himself invisible; a feat not usually attainable by a first year and Severus grew immediately suspicious. He hurried across the grounds.
"Potter!" he shouted into the air once he'd reached the pitch.
The feet in the air stopped, but the boy made no move to come down.
"Harry James Potter! Come down here at once!"
The feet began moving again, but this time slower and gradually closer to the ground, finally coming to a rest directly in front of Severus. A hand slipped into sight, tugging away silvery material along with it until Harry was completely visible in front of him. Dressed in baggy jeans and a faded t-shirt, the boy looked every bit the troublesome miscreant he was.
"Potter," Severus growled, tucking away his wand lest he be tempted to use it. "You are in serious trouble."
The corners of the boy's mouth turned downward into a pout. "How'd you find me?"
"You were not hidden quite as well as you thought." He held out his hand. "Give me that cloak and I will consider letting you live."
Harry hesitated. "But it was my dad's."
"And now it is mine. You are clearly not mature enough to be privileged with such a thing. Now hand it here. The broom too."
The boy's green eyes flashed with anger. "You can't do that!"
"As a teacher on school grounds, I think you will find that I most certainly can." Severus snatched away the broom and cloak. "You were foolish."
Harry hung his head. "I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have. It's just-"
"Silence," Severus hissed, grabbing Harry by the arm. "If I was a patient man, and if I thought you might have a slightly valid excuse for being out here, I would give you a chance to explain. But since neither one is true, you are going to be quiet and listen to me all the way back to the castle." He bent down to speak in the boy's ear. "There you can explain all you want to your mother, who you worried needlessly."
Harry wrapped his arms around himself and stared down at his feet. "I'm sorry."
"Save it." Severus grasped the boy's ear tightly in his fingers and started back towards the castle. "This stunt was one of the more stupid ones I've seen you pull. You are supposed to be hiding, which means you should be out of sight and not flying about on a blasted broom!"
Through the castle doors they went and began the trek up the staircase.
"If the wrong people were to see you at the school right now, uncomfortable questions would be raised. And," Severus added, tugging the silent boy over a missing step, "quite frankly, neither the Headmaster nor I possess the time to deal with such things. In case it slipped your notice, your mother is not dead and her magical powers are non-existent. While you were off playing and drawing attention to yourself, we have been busy attempting to address these issues."
They reached the fifth floor and Severus paused at the top of the stairs. He turned to face Harry, but did not loosen his grip on the boy's ear. "Are you really that oblivious to the importance of all this?"
Harry reached up to his ear, then dropped his hand and rubbed his palm against his jeans. "I know it's important. Mum told me about her magic and about Sirius too."
Severus froze. "Sirius Black?"
"He was my dad's best friend," the boy explained, shifting the weight on his feet. "Mum is trying to get him out of prison. She says he's innocent. Can you let go of my ear now?"
"No." He pulled the boy forward again as he strode down the corridor to Lily's quarters.
What the hell was Lily thinking? Sirius Black had gone to Azkaban for betrayal and mass murder. And if Lily didn't believe that, then what other information did she know?
Severus quickened his pace and listened as Harry's steps hurried behind. He stopped outside the door to Lily's rooms.
"Do you remember what you and I discussed the morning you left?" Severus asked, his voice low and controlled.
Harry started to nod, but stopped with a sideways glance towards the grip on his ear. "Yes."
"I seem to recall you vehemently promising me that you wouldn't make things difficult on your mother. And yet here we are." Severus stooped to Harry's eye level and added in a scathing tone, "Just what do you have to say for yourself?"
The boy stood there with hunched shoulders and downcast eyes, looking incredibly small and remaining silent.
Severus straightened back up, finally releasing Harry's ear. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
Harry glanced up at him, rubbing his pink ear. "Is she angry?"
"She's worried," said Severus, pulling open the door. He gave Harry a shove into the sitting room and called out, "Lily, I found him."
Lily rushed in through the kitchen door, her long hair dishevelled around her face. Her chocolate coloured blouse was misbuttoned and wrinkled, leaving Severus to guess she'd thrown it on in a hurry after discovering her son missing. She pulled Harry into a tight embrace.
"Oh, thank God," she breathed, pressing a hand against the back of his head. "You scared me, Harry."
Harry mumbled something incoherently into his mother's chest.
"Thanks for finding him, Severus." Lily's eyes flitted over to the broom still in Severus' hand. She pulled Harry back and glanced down at him. "Did you go out flying? Was he flying?"
Severus cocked an eyebrow and pulled the invisibility cloak from his pocket. "He was flying over the Quidditch pitch with this."
Lily's mouth fell open. "Harry! You know you aren't supposed to leave our rooms! And where did you get that cloak? That's your dad's cloak!"
"Dumbledore gave it to me at Christmas," said Harry, stepping out of his mother's arms. He reached for the cloak. "No one could see me so I didn't think it would matter."
"No one could see you?" Severus sneered, holding the cloak out of reach. "I saw you."
"Didn't I tell you earlier this afternoon you couldn't go out?" asked Lily, crossing her arms.
Harry's eyes darted briefly over to meet Lily's. "Yeah."
"Doesn't anything I say matter?" She threw a hand out, and then pressed it against her chest. "What did you even ask me for?"
Harry's gaze dropped back down to the floor.
Severus narrowed his eyes. "Answer your mother."
"I was just so tired of being inside and I didn't think anybody would notice me out in the dark with my cloak. I'm sorry. I didn't think."
"Clearly," snapped Severus. "You never think. Everything is not all about you and what you want."
"You were supposed to be doing your homework. You promised me you would do it tonight," Lily reminded him. She released a pent-up breath. "You lied to me. I didn't expect that from you."
"I didn't!" Harry's head shot back up. "I will do it!"
Severus watched this exchange with ever rising interest. Lily, for the first time he'd seen, was fully stepping into her parental role. He had watched since they returned how her emotions had turned gradually from concern to hurt to aggravation. It seemed she had finally been pushed too far.
She had gone from a pushover to a brick wall in a span of three minutes.
"It's too late now." Lily gestured to the wall clock. "I thought I could trust you."
Lily ran her fingers through her hair and swallowed. "I don't know what to do with you, Harry. And that stupid cloak! I can't believe Dumbledore was irresponsible enough to give you that."
"I can," added Severus dryly.
Lily rounded on him, snatching the cloak away. "Thanks for finding him, but I think I've got this."
Severus cocked an eyebrow. "By all means, don't let me stand in your way."
She glared at him.
He glared right back.
He could see it in the way her posture straightened and how she was sucking air in through her teeth. Her worry and frustration, whether from the last hour or the last week, was finally reaching its peak.
Severus didn't know whether he should leave and let her calm down or if he should stay and have finally have it out. They had never discussed the secrets revealed in Dumbledore's office. Lily had left the next morning and the reasons why were not spoken of. They both knew what they were.
And they could have gone on with their lives, avoiding each other and the obvious elephant in the room forever. Severus had fully intended to. The fact that they were now staring one another down in silent contempt was Harry's fault. It would have never happened otherwise.
"Are you guys going to have a row?" asked Harry timidly from the sidelines.
Severus did not take his eyes off of Lily. "Go to your room, Harry," he commanded, his voice clipped.
"Go to your room," Lily insisted. "Right now."
The boy left, his footsteps quickly followed by the sound of a closing door down the hall.
Severus let out a short, sardonic laugh. "I don't even know why we are doing this."
"What?" Lily rubbed her face and shook her head. "We can't ignore this forever."
"Can't we? That was my intention."
"Of course it was! Because that's what you do," she huffed, throwing her hands in the air. "You ignore things you don't like and run from anybody that might actually make you feel something!"
Anger rushed into his chest, making his heart pound. "I feel plenty of things, Lily. Do not presume to tell me how I feel!"
"Oh? Then what do you feel, Severus?" She stepped closer, breathing deeply. "Is it irritation? Contempt? Are you angry? Because that's all you ever seem to feel."
How did he feel? He knew he didn't want to be arguing with Lily. He wanted to be near and listen to her, but not like this. This wasn't what he wanted and he didn't like how it felt. How had it come to this?
"I do feel angry," admitted Severus. He cleared his throat. "I'm angry at us for arguing and I'm angry at myself for being the cause it."
For a moment, Lily said nothing. She twirled a strand of hair around her finger. Then, in a softer tone, she said, "You could have just told me, you know. Why did you wait so long?"
Severus looked away. He didn't have a good enough answer for that.
"Funny thing is I don't know what bothers me most about all of this. Whether it's what you told me or how long you waited to do it. You should have told the very first night, god damn it!"
Severus continued to say nothing. As a double agent, he had become adept at explaining himself and at making up answers to things he knew nothing about. For someone who did not enjoy socializing, Severus was quite the talker. He could talk himself out of anything most of the time. The exception seemed to be when Lily demanded answers of him. At this moment, he was completely speechless.
'I even asked you that first night," she continued, her voice rising heatedly once more. "I ask you what was wrong and you wouldn't tell me. 'Later,' you said. I asked you the next day and, again, you said nothing. Just like now. You just stand there and you don't say anything!"
Severus closed his eyes. "What would you have me do?"
"I want you to fix this!"
"If I could go back and change things, I would, believe me! And I know apologies mean nothing, but I am sorry I ever heard any of that damn prophecy."
She rolled her eyes. "I don't care about that. If it hadn't been you at that door, it would have been somebody else. I'm angry because you waited so long to tell me. You lied to me, Severus. I can't stand liars."
"Don't you understand?" He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I couldn't it alone. I'm weak. I was afraid that if I tried to tell you everything that I wouldn't do it right and you wouldn't understand the magnitude of the terrible things I did. You know I'm not that bold."
"I don't want you to be bold." Her voice softened again and she gave him a pained smile. "I just want you to be honest."
"Are you trying to say you left because I wasn't immediately honest with you?" He scoffed. "You know that's not true."
"No, I left because I was in shock and I needed time away to think about everything. But now, everything has become a disaster. At least at Spinners' End we were free. Here, Harry is cooped up inside all day, every day. It's putting him in a foul mood and," she bit down on her bottom lip, "I'm afraid it's made me moody too. Look how I talked to him a few minutes ago."
"Lily, you acted like a parent," Severus snorted. "That boy needs to learn respect for his elders and especially for you. You did the right thing."
"I suppose I should punish him?"
"Disobedience is usually followed by discipline, yes."
She looked about the small flat. "I think he's already being punished here."
"You can always come back, you know." Severus cleared his throat. "I don't wish to impose myself on you if you don't want me around, but if you want to, you can."
Her eyebrows shot up. "I can?"
"The offer is open." He shrugged and looked away. "But only if you want to."
She scratched at her arm. "Okay. But if I did come back, I want us to promise that we would be completely honest with each other. No more lies, okay?"
Severus masked his amusement under the pretence of considering what she'd said. Lily was bargaining. It wasn't very subtle; it was Gryffindor style bargaining. Usually he found Gryffindor bargaining skills lacking and somewhat annoying; Lily made it endearing,
"Fine," he conceded, shoving his hands into his pockets. "And if you were to come back, you would have to start visiting with Irma Reed instead of me. I simply refuse to continue having useless, nostalgic conversations with that batty old woman any longer."
Lily smirked. "And you have to make an effort with Harry. He's only a kid. No more hostility between you two. That's if I came back, of course."
"Of course," Severus agreed.
Then they said nothing, each of them thinking, waiting for the other one to make the first move. Severus considered Lily's "demands" to him. Honesty? That would take effort, but he could do that. He would do it. And he could be kinder to Harry, he supposed. He had already started really. And being kind did not mean he couldn't be stern, which made the arrangement actually sound doable.
He didn't care about anybody visiting his pesky neighbour, but he might as well get something out of this.
Finally, he gave Lily a nod.
She laughed softly and held out a hand. "Deal, then?"
He hesitated for just a moment, and then grasped her warm, smaller hand in his own. "Deal."
They shook hands, just once, then released.
Severus wiped his suddenly sweaty hand against his trousers.
A door opened and Harry's hesitant voice called, "Can I come out now?"
Lily relented and when the boy reached the room, his cheeks were red, his shoulders were slumped forward and he looked defeated.
"I'm sorry for worrying you, Mum," Harry said, his voice thick. He raised his head and behind the tear smudged glasses, his eyes were dry. "I shouldn't have gone out. I knew it was wrong."
Lily reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "It's all right, Harry."
"It's not all right," Severus interjected. "You are to listen to your mother when she tells you to do something."
Lily sent him an exasperated glance, and then turned back to her son. "What Severus is trying to say is, what you did was wrong, but I forgive you for it."
Harry smiled weakly, then said, "I'm probably still in trouble, right?"
"Most definitely," said Lily.
"Absolutely," added Severus. "You will be thoroughly punished, I assure you."
"I figured that," Harry sighed, and then added, "And I'm sorry for making you guys fight, Mum. It's all my fault."
"Oh no, Harry, that wasn't your fault." Lily rubbed a hand across the boy's hair and gave a quick tug on Severus' sleeve. "Sev, tell Harry it's not all his fault."
Severus looked at him. "It's not all your fault."