A/N: For James and Lily. Thank you for all that you have given me.
With a pop, she appeared in an abandoned ally. She pushed back some of her dark auburn hair that had fallen into her eyes after apparating and secured her black handbag more firmly on her shoulder. In the cold, she took a short breath, examined the rubbish bins and muggle newspapers for any sign that someone had spotted her, and then made her way onto the street.
Her heeled boots clicked quickly against the cobblestone streets, and strangers hurried past her as they scurried to their locations to get out of the falling snow. Pausing at a furniture shop to wait for the traffic to stop, Lily quickly adjusted her red scarf that had been falling off her neck and then scampered across the street. Shivering, she clutched at her green and black patterned wool coat as she passed by a used book store, a barber shop, and a record store. Finally, just as the biting cold was causing her eyes to water, she reached her desired location.
She took no of how the café's hanging flower pots, which were always overflowing in pink and purple blooms in the summer when she used to frequent the spot at least once a week, were barren and practically frozen, or that the café had changed its name from "Chuck's" to "Spinner's Blend." Instead, Lily merely grasped the gold doorknob and gratefully escaped the frigid outside air.
Immediately, her red, running nose warmed due to the toasty temperature inside the cozy café. She inhaled deeply and smelled cinnamon, peppermint, and ginger. A bell alerted the small café of her entrance, and a young waitress, who had a candy cane apron on and little peppermints hanging from her ears, walked over to her. Her bright red lipstick complimented her dark hair nicely.
"Hello, Miss! Table for one?"
Lily smiled as she chose not to correct the girl. Her eyes quickly ran over the counter on the right, which was advertising specials on drinks and treats especially designed for the upcoming holidays, and then focused in on where the customers were seated at small, round tables formed from mismatched furniture. She looked past a young woman who seemed to be focused on whatever storyline she was diligently scrawling out into her wire-ring notebook, an elderly couple politely chatting, and a middle-aged man who was reading the paper. Finally, in the back of the shop near the window, she spotted a head of dark hair with his back to her. "I'm meeting someone. Thank you."
The girl turned to see where Lily was looking. Her eyebrow piqued in curiosity, but she did not say anything. "Can I get you something to eat?"
"Tea will be fine, thanks," Lily told her as she left the girl and then strode to the back of the little room, ducking between tables and chairs.
She had already removed her black, leather gloves and was unbuttoning her coat, which had actually become a tad stifling in the overwhelming heat of the café, to reveal her dark skirt and burgundy colored blouse when she sat down in the waiting chair opposite him.
As she draped her coat over the back of the chair, he raised his eyes to look at her.
She smiled slowly at the tenderness he used simply to say her name.
She waited patiently for him to speak as she unwrapped the scarf from around her neck. His gaze was unnerving, but she politely avoided his eyes as she crossed her legs under the table and wrestled with her hands in her lap.
He looked different than he did when she had seen him last about a year ago in passing at Diagon Alley. They had not spoken, but she was sure he had noticed her, too, before he had disappeared into a shop. His hair was cropped shorter than it was in his school days, falling just beyond his ears, and seemed like it had been washed recently. He was dressed in dark dress paints, a white button-down shirt, and a heavy overcoat that he had not removed, despite the temperature within the café.
Lily suppressed a sad smile as she remembered how he always refused to take off his coat even on the warmest of summer days when they were children playing on the swings together.
His features had filled out a bit more. Severus had always had an angular face and a prominent nose, but the fullness made him seem more mature. She would have gone as far to call him handsome.
His eyes were as dark as ever, but she could no longer read them as she once could. He kept them devoid of any emotion.
During her perusal, Severus opened his mouth several times in what seemed to be an attempt to find the right words to say. "You came," he said finally. His tone was flat and betrayed nothing.
"You asked me to come," she replied back.
"I wasn't sure – "
He stopped speaking as the same waitress from before approached their table and gave Lily her cup of tea. While Severus stared out the window to look at the steadily falling snow as it covered the cars and parking meters along the street, Lily thanked the girl and poured some milk and sugar into her tea before taking a long sip.
Earlier in the week, she had been quite surprised to receive a letter from him. It had been short and betrayed nothing, as much as she could have expected. Lily had battled with herself for the rest of the day before ultimately confirming that she would meet them at their old meeting place. She was not sure why she had said yes; she swore she would never let herself be beguiled by him again. Yet, Lily had always had a weakness for Severus Snape, so there she was. She put down her cup, which was festively decorated in little ceramic poinsettias down onto the matching plate, before clearing her throat to speak. "Your letter surprised me. It's been so long since I've heard….Did you get a new owl?"
He looked somewhat taken aback but then nodded. "The old one died."
She sat back as she digested the news. She could recall days spent when she just left her window open so that she would not have to be constantly reopening it when they would just write each other notes. "Mercury was a good owl. When did that happen?"
"About two years ago."
"Oh, well, my condolences," replied Lily, feeling a bit foolish to be getting so sentimental over an elderly bird that was not even her own.
"Thank you." Severus took a long sip of his tea and then grimaced.
"Need sugar?" she offered helpfully as she went to reach for the dish on the table.
"No," he refused quickly. "No, that's quite all right. It's not the tea, it's the – "
"Situation," Lily finished for him with a nervous twitch of her lips. "Awkward, I know."
"We didn't used to be like this. Remember when we were thirteen? We came here every Friday."
"Back when we used to order cherry danishes and lemonades," she added as her eyes swept their civilized tea cups.
He sat back straighter in his chair. "And could not go five minutes without arguing about something and then laughing over it," he recalled.
"A lot of things have changed since then," she reminded him dutifully before pulling a piece of her hair behind her ear left ear. She realized this was a mistake when his eyes zeroed in on the diamond ring on her left hand.
His mouth gaped a bit, and his eyes widened for the briefest moment before he composed himself again. "Evidently."
Lily quickly placed her hands back in her lap. "Surely, you knew. It was announced in the Prophet when it happened."
Severus took another sip of tea. "I knew. It was spoken of in many social circles – even my circles. It's just one thing to know something to be true and quite another to see it flashed before your very eyes." He sighed before adding, "It's a large diamond."
Lily rolled her eyes as she suppressed a smile. "You know James."
Severus's eyes flashed, and he pursed his lips.
Lily could tell he wanted to say something insulting but appreciated it when he refrained.
"So married life is good then? Everything you dreamed it would be?"
Lily ignored his sardonic tone as she attempted to change the subject away from her marriage life. She and James had been married for little over a year. Because of the war, they had not had the luxury of planning a grandiose wedding – much as James would have wanted; he had teased her the entire time about making her wear a traditional hoopskirt to match the top hat and coat tails she refused to let him and Sirius wear – but it was still beautiful. Lily's only real regret was that her elder sister had refused to be her Maid of Honor.
"Why did you ask me here, Severus?" she asked.
He shifted in his overcoat and flexed his fingers.
Lily half expected him to hide behind the lapel the way he used to, but he refrained.
"Cold weather today," he commented.
She nodded. It had been snowing all week. James jokingly had offered to carry her everywhere she wanted to go to avoid her slipping on any ice. "It'll be nice for Christmas, though, it'll be strange not to go home this year."
"I'm sorry about your parents," he said softly.
She nodded sadly. Though it had been months since the accident, their death still seemed to slice her insides. "Thank you for the flowers."
"I didn't leave a….how did you?" he asked in confusion.
Lily reached out to cover his hand with her own. He flinched slightly but did not pull his hand away. Apart from James, Severus was the only other person who seemed to know that she preferred peonies. Everyone else always sent lilies. "Of course I knew it was you."
"I wanted to go to the funeral, but I wasn't sure if….Your parents were kind people."
Lily sighed. "They were. Thank you."
"I remember when your mum finally stopped calling me that boy. Took her years to learn my name."
"Of course she knew your name. You nearly broke my sister's arm," she replied as he shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "Plus, I spent nearly every afternoon with you during the summer."
"That's true. Your dad liked me better, though."
"Dad hated you!"
"No, he didn't."
"Yes, he did. No father wants his teenage girl spending that much time with a boy."
"Nothing ever happened," Severus emphasized.
"You don't understand a parents' worry," explained Lily, wrapping her arms around her torso. "I think that's what I miss most – having them fretting about me, even if it annoyed me at the time." She sniffed and held back tears.
Severus's eyes narrowed in concern and he carefully raised his hand up to her cheek to slowly brush away a stray tear with his ink-stained thumb.
"Are you okay?" he asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
Lily nodded against his touch as she looked down at her lap. "It gets easier. Every loss becomes more bearable with time." She looked up and held his gaze for a few seconds before inhaling quickly and removing his hand from her face. "James was wonderful," she added. "He knew what exactly what I was going through." If Lily had ever needed more evidence that James loved her, those first few days after hearing the news was it. Without him, she probably would not have managed.
"I heard about that raid right after we left school. Nine aurors died."
Lily took a sip of tea as she watched the elderly couple she spotted earlier leave their table. "The world is pretty scary right now. I read the news every day and hope to God I don't recognize anyone's name in a victim list….or as the perpetrator, I suppose." Her tone turned icy as she shook her head at him with disgust. "The things I hear, what I've seen. I can't believe you're involved. It isn't you, Severus. You could never do those things."
He turned to look out the window at the cold. "You'd be surprised what I'm capable of, Lily," he spat bitterly. "If you knew, you would never…it's too much."
"Then get out," Lily pleaded. "You can explain to Dumbledore. Convince him that you want to change sides. You can change things. I'll help you. We can do this together."
Still not looking at her, even though his fingers twitched when she grabbed his hand across the coffee table, Severus shook his head. "I can't. It's over for me. I've tried to move past it, but I'm stuck in it now. The death, the hatred, the torture, I see it every day. There's no redemption waiting, not after what I've done. There's nothing that can take those things back or make me forget the faces of the people I've…It's why I asked you here today. I just wanted to remember what it was like before I destroyed everything around me."
"Don't say that. Don't give up, Severus."
He turned and tightened his hold on her hand. "I gave up when you chose him instead of me."
Lily frowned and dropped his hand angrily. "Don't put that on me, Severus. Please, that's unfair."
Severus tightened his jaw and tugged at his hair. "What's unfair is that I had to stand there and watch the love of my life marry my most hated enemy."
"But you said you read it –"
Severus scoffed dismissively. "I know what I said. I found out when it was, and I went – watched from outside. I kept waiting – hoping – for something to go wrong, for you to call it off, but it never happened," he concluded bitterly before sighing. "You were beautiful. You still are. Lily, you're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." He said it coldly, as if he blamed her for tempting him.
"Severus," she scolded. "Don't." Lily frowned as she watched tears well up in his eyes as he suddenly seemed to get excited.
"Damnit, Lily, stop. I can't keep it in anymore. For years I resisted you, and it only served to push you away. I can't keep denying it anymore."
Lily's eyes flicked over to the waitress, who was counting money at the register, and squirmed uncomfortably.
"Tell me you felt something for me. Lily, I look at you, and you're the only person I've ever loved, the only person who's ever mattered. Say it wasn't just me all these years. Say you felt it too. Tell me you still do. I have to know."
Lily reached up to cup his cheek and then slowly leaned over, watching him intently, and kissed his lips lightly. When she was younger, she had once considered what it would be like to kiss Severus Snape, and now she was learning that it was poignant – a bittersweet glitch in time that did not seem to fit in with reality yet felt so painfully real.
His fingers carefully wove into her hair as they both closed their eyes. Lily allowed herself to succumb to the kiss because she knew as soon as they broke away, the moment would be over.
Then, Lily pressed her lips against his with a tad more pressure before retracting back to her side of the table.
With his eyes still closed, Severus felt his lips in a dreamy manner. "I love you," he whispered reverently.
Lily smiled sadly before sniffing back to tears. "I love you too," she returned in a hush.
His eyes opened, and Lily swore she had never seen anyone look quite so happy before. His bliss made everything so much harder. The dark circles under his eyes seemed less severe, and his entire body seemed to be pulled up by strings.
He took a deep breath as his mouth spread into a triumphant smile. He grabbed her hands and planted kisses on her knuckles. "Oh, Lily, come away with me. We'll get out of England, away from all of this death and destruction. We'll go to some island and just be together. I know I could never deserve you, but I'll spend every minute trying to. We'll be happy. Nothing will matter as long as I'm with you."
Lily imagined it – the warm sun and the bright beach and the peace – for only the briefest second before removing her hands from his grasp. "Severus, I do love you."
His grin broadened as though he could never get enough of the sound of her words.
"But not like I love him," she finished.
His smile left, and his eyes turned murderous. "Why?"
"It was always him. Surely you must know that."
"But I loved you first."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize," he spat viciously. "Don't even."
"Severus," Lily said as she reached out to grab his hand, but he pulled away.
Severus looked away, but she still caught the devastation clearly evident on his face.
Lily bit her lip as she tried to think of what she could possibly say to comfort him when she felt movement in her stomach. "Oh!" she gasped as she clutched her torso.
"What is it?" he asked. "Are you okay?"
Lily nodded as she looked away. "Don't worry about it."
The grief in his eyes doubled. "How far along are you?"
She should have known he would guess. Severus was one of the most intelligent people she had ever met. Sometimes, she was sure he could even read her mind. "Almost two months," she whispered as she watched his eyes trail down to her stomach. She had only known for a few weeks now. The morning sickness was what first alerted her. At first, she was petrified. Not only did Lily feel completely ill-equipped to be a proper mother, her own mum had just died, leaving her with no maternal guidance. Besides, the world was not a place for children at the moment. She did not want her baby having to deal with death.
Yet, the look on James's face when she told him made her sure she could do this. James made her strong; he made her feel safe.
Severus only ever made her cry.
His fingers gripped the table so roughly that she could see the whites of his knuckles.
"I didn't want to tell you because I didn't think you'd take the news well. Obviously, I was wrong," she joked lamely.
"Excited to be a mum?"
"And produce another Potter into this world? Lord knows how Sirius will corrupt him," Lily added with a laugh, which faded when she saw his face. "Sorry."
"I hate him."
"If it makes you feel any better, I'm quite sure he hates you too," Lily replied with a tense laugh.
"Going to name him after his father, then? Want to carry on the ruddy namesake! Or were you planning on having a whole pack of children to sit at his feet?"
"Don't you dare," she hissed. "You have no right to make this about you, Severus. You decided how things should be between us a long time ago so don't think you can be morally superior."
"I know." Severus sighed and then put his face in his hands. "I'll never understand why you love him."
"I know you can't."
He banged his elbows against the table angrily, and Lily jumped slightly in her chair as several of the people in the café turned to watch them.
"And the worse part is that it makes me sick to think of a bit of him inside you, but I can't seem to stop wanting you any less. Why can't I get over you? I hate myself every day because I can never stop loving you, no matter how hard I try. You've reduced me to nothing, and I think I hate you for that. God, Lily, why couldn't it have been me? I sealed my fate in Fifth Year. I was so stupid! I was fifteen! It was just a word! But I made the worst mistake, and I pushed you towards him. It's all my fault."
"Severus, that wasn't why we wouldn't have worked out."
"What do you mean, Lily? That day was the whole reason why you chose him over me, even though he was a prat when we were that age, too."
"True," she admitted. "But that's not why I picked him. That was just a day. If we were meant to be, we would have been able to work it out. There were other reasons. It's the same thing stopping you from leaving the Death Eaters. You've always wanted to prove yourself, Severus, and you don't know quite how to do so without destroying everyone you love in the process. The boy I loved wasn't the one who could invent hexes or had the most clout in a group of stuck up Purebloods, it was the one who sat with me on the swings in his mum's old blouse."
"I can change," he claimed passionately. "I can be that again for you."
"Prove it," she demanded. "Leave the Death Eaters. Stop allowing yourself to become a monster. Stop being a coward."
"Lily, I – " he stammered.
She nodded in acceptance.
"If it ever does happen, would you leave him to be with me?"
"If that's what you need to believe."
"That's not an answer," he accused.
"I know," she agreed before looking at the clock above the counter. "I need to get going," she said as she pulled on her jacket and then her gloves. "I didn't tell James where I was going. I don't want him to be worried." She frowned at the smug look on his face. "Don't," she scolded him before standing up and leaving some money for the tea.
He frowned at her handbag. "Where did your yellow bag go?"
Lily rolled her eyes. "I'm not in school anymore, Severus. At some point I did have to get a bag that wasn't held together with tape."
"That one fit you better."
Lily shook her head. "Sometimes it's best to let the past die so that you can move on."
"Just one more thing," Severus demanded from his chair. "Does he make you happy?"
Lily smiled. "Yes," she answered earnestly.
He nodded sadly and sank down into his seat. "Goodbye, Lily."
She leaned over to kiss his cheek. "Goodbye, Severus."
They locked eyes again, and then she left the café without looking at him again, though she could feel him watching her. Her tears froze against her cheeks as she exited the café and braced the bitter cold again. Lily scampered back to the abandoned alleyway and then apparated back to Godric's Hollow. She quickly walked the two blocks to her house and then brushed off all traces of water from her face before taking a deep breath, unlocking the door, and going inside the house.
She stamped her boots against the welcome mat when she heard a rustling sounding from the upstairs.
"Lily, love, is that you?"
Lily closed the door behind her. "Yeah, James, I'm home."