Disclaimer: As always I own nothing but the original characters and the situations all characters find themselves in. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy.

Next Moves

After leaving Severus alone to his thoughts, the Slytherin certainly had a lot to think about, Hugo headed down the hallways and straight for Lily's room, knocking very lightly on her door before entering. When he was given the all clear to enter and did so Hugo really wasn't surprised to find her curled up on her bed with the thermos he'd given her earlier still clutched in her hands, a miserable look on her tearstained face. Shaking his head over the predicament they'd all found themselves in, though of course he'd figured it was only a matter of time, Hugo walked over to join her on her bed, nipping the thermos out of her hands to set it on the bedside table before gathering her up in his arms. She quite obviously needed a hug.

Finally she spoke, her voice small. "Is he leaving?"

"No. I don't think so."

Wrapping her arms around his neck Lily made a teary sound of relief, laying her head on his shoulder as she asked if Sev was very mad at her.

"Mad…isn't quite the word I would use. Tired, confused or upset would be better choices. Hopefully he'll go straight to bed now and sleep on it, which you should do too. And come morning you need to give him his space and treat him like normal or he really will leave. He needs time to process and think things through or you're both going to end up blowing up at each other and saying things you're going to regret for a very long time."

Lifting her head Lily gave her cousin a look that was comical in its disbelief. "You think I can act like nothing happened tomorrow? Are you mad?"

"How much do you want him to stay?"

The strangled sound she made made it clear she did not like that question or the implications of it.

"Lily." Hugo's tone said plenty as well, being decidedly adult and mature for the moment. "You need to think about this rationally, not emotionally. He doesn't understand how to handle the emotional, especially this kind. You need to think of him as…as an abused cat."

"A what?"

"Well he's more cat than dog…plus dogs are generally friendly while even the most domesticated cat can be pissy even if it likes you. Or would you prefer another animal? Any kind would do provided you could hypothetically domesticate it."

Unable not to smile a little, this was Hugo logic after all, Lily settled back down with her head on his shoulder and asked him to explain how Sev was a cat to her.

"Well when you approach an animal that's been abused for a really long time, it's not going to let you near it right? It's going to be conditioned to see you as a threat and your good intentions don't really mean a damn. An animal in pain knows only pain, and expects it, not kindness. So you see we're at the point in this relationship where Severus has let us take him home with us, and we can feed him and give him kind words, but he's just not ready to let us pet him yet. So what we have to do is let him get used to us more, learn that we would never, ever hurt him, and let him let us know when it's okay to pet him. Because trying to force him to let you pet him is going to get your hand raked open to the bone for your efforts."

"He lets you pet him." Lily grumbled, lips twitching immediately afterwards. "And that sounds so wrong on a number of levels."

"It does, yes. But what you need to consider is the fact that three people in your immediate family gave him the hardest of kicks. It's not fair, or reasonable, but you're a Potter and that does not have good connotations in his head. He'll get over that eventually, especially since you're more Weasley than Potter…but still it makes sense that he should be more suspicious of your intentions than mine."

"That and you're a super adorable, curly haired bundle of cuteness."

"That is probably a factor too, I agree."

Thinking over what he'd said, it was pretty adorable to imagine Sev with cat ears and a tail, Lily could see that Hugo did have a valid point. Sev wasn't a cat of course, but people did react to regular abuse in much the same way, especially if their backs were to the wall. And if animals could talk in a language people could understand they'd probably lash out verbally at people too, the way humans did when someone hurt them or touched on old wounds. She'd given James a black eye once, while in the midst of a bad dream. He'd been trying to wake her up, but locked in her terror she hadn't been aware of anything but hands on her. Al had ragged James about it for weeks.

So yeah…sometimes you couldn't tell the difference between a hand raised to stroke, and one poised to strike.

"I can't change who my family is, or what they did to him."

"Very true. So all you can do is be yourself and let him get used to you. Eventually he'll see you, and then you can give the petting another try." Hopefully it would end better this time.

"But I want to pet him now!"

"Lily."

Much grumbling from Lily followed that unspoken warning, that followed by her inquiry as to whether or not it was permissible to bribe the hell out of Sev in the hopes of getting her petting rights that much sooner.

"That's okay, yes."

"Okay, fine. I'll try to be good. It's not going to be easy."

"On that we can agree."

)

Lily did her best to act like nothing had happened the next morning, which was more than she could say for Snape who acted like he expected her to jump him at any moment. Whether to take that as a compliment or not weighed on her mind, but she pushed that aside with Weasley stubbornness and got through breakfast without doing anything Sev could call her on. Hugo even gave her a thumb's up before it was time for her to see him safely to work. She'd be a little late getting back to, Lily informed their resident Slytherin before they headed out of the house. She needed to stop at Domi's shop for a bit.

It took considerable effort on her part not to snap at how relieved Sev looked in response to that statement. But she managed not to snap or maim or give the idiot prat what was coming to him, dropping Hugo off without a problem before heading to Domi's shop.

As per usual it gave Lily both a thrill and a need to gag when she arrived at her cousin's store, thrilled as always to see the fruit of her previous labor, but it was also a little nauseating to be surrounded by products that were designed to convince you that you were physically lacking in every way unless you used the merchandise. The fact that she made more than half of the stuff was a cruel sort of irony whenever she bothered to think about it.

Of course in her present mood, it was all just ten times worse.

Yay me, Lily thought as she did her best to block it all out as she made her way over to the counter to ask the eerily perfect woman working there where Domi was.

"In the back."

"Thanks."

Leaving the front to head back into the storage area Lily smiled automatically when she saw that Domi wasn't alone, her cousin currently trading 'I'm the BOSS' glares with her husband. The two were made for each other, no question, which was a little depressing given her own single status and how seriously mad at Sev she currently was, but she was big enough to be happy for Domi. Especially since Christopher was tough enough to go toe to toe with his wife, which was something very few people dared to do, much less pulled off without ending up on the ground crying for their mummies.

Naturally Christopher noticed her first, looking over to raise a hand in silent greeting.

"Hey, Guys. Should I come back later?"

"No, it's okay. We can fight later." Waving the whole thing off, she didn't mind fighting with him one little bit after all since that just meant make up sex later, Domi smiled as she walked over to her cousin, her ruby red lips turning into a bit of a frown as she looked Lily over carefully. "What's wrong?"

"I need advice. From both of you, actually. I could use a male ear that's not Hugo's." Christopher wasn't nearly as in touch with his feelings as Hugo was, but Lily figured that that would be to her advantage since her Slytherin had all the emotional maturity of a fruit fly. Plus Christopher knew how to handle Domi, and she was even more exasperating than Sev a lot of the time. She could probably learn a lot from him.

"We've both got time." The look Domi aimed in her husband's direction made it clear he'd make time or else.

Luckily for all involved he didn't have anywhere he had to be, so Christopher nodded and followed them over to the break table, taking a seat and settling in to hear whatever insanity was going on in Lily's world.

"So my problem is this guy. This infuriating, emotionally stunted, makes me want to beat him over the head repeatedly with my frying pan guy-that I'm pretty sure I'm in love with and am therefore doomed for all eternity. He basically acts like I'm the bane of his existence most of the time, so I have to figure out how to make him fall in love with me and that's where you come in, Domi. You've got the skills."

"I do indeed." Looking quite smug about that fact Domi grinned, pleased she'd been picked for advice giving as opposed to her older sister. Of course Victoire had always been the type that if a guy she had her eye on didn't fall in line her interest turned to hate really soon. She, on the other hand, had always preferred a man who presented a challenge.

At her side Christopher rolled his eyes but didn't argue.

"I get the fact that I'm going to have to lose some weight and start taking more care not to look like I just rolled out of bed. Plus making sure that I don't blow him up in the lab would be important too-"

Christopher couldn't speak, werewolves had seen to that when he was a child, but he could rumble a little in his throat and the hand he placed on top of Lily's drew her attention to him, insuring that she saw his head shake.

"What? You think I should blow him up and hope that gives him an attitude adjustment? Because I have been tempted, I'll admit."

Since Lily didn't know signed language, and he hated to write stuff out when he didn't have to, Christopher shifted in his seat so that he was facing Domi and quickly signed to her what he wanted her to say to Lily on his behalf.

"Awww, sweetie!" Hopping out of her chair when he was done Domi came around the table to give him a very appreciative, hard kiss that had him looking more than a little dazed when she finally let him go.

"What did he say?"

Smiling like the cat that got the cream, Christopher was hers after all and she'd go psycho Veela on the arse of any bitch who tried to trespass on her territory there, Domi blew her man another kiss before summarizing the just of what Christopher had said. Namely the fact that she didn't need to lose weight and shouldn't change herself to try and get this idiot to like her more. She was who she was, and if this man couldn't appreciate what made her uniquely herself then this guy didn't deserve her. The not blowing the guy up was a good idea though. He strongly advised that.

Making some appreciative noises of her own Lily got out of her seat and gave him a big smacking kiss on the cheek and a one armed hug.

Years of being around Weasley women had gotten him used to the hugs and affection, Christopher accepting the gesture with a one armed hug of his own. He was particularly fond of Lily too, she made every encounter with her interesting and memorable in some way.

So did his sorta friend Gellert, but Lily memories tended to be more amusing.

"Okay, enough mushy stuff, down to business." Domi announced, drawing their attention back to her. "Naturally I totally agree that you shouldn't have to change yourself for this guy, but you could do with some polishing up, little cousin. This guy isn't showing you the proper lust due any extremely hot Weasley woman, ergo he deserves to be punished to the full extent of my abilities."

Poor, poor bastard, Christopher and Lily thought together. They knew that look in Domi's eyes well.

And then Christopher was looking at her with a similar expression on his face, and Lily had to gulp, realizing that she might have made a tactical error in not going to someone outside of the family.

Crap.

)

Working away at his latest project, it wasn't difficult but he had to add the next round of ingredients to it if it was going to come out correctly, Snape determinedly ignored his itch to check his watch once again to see what time it was. Because he didn't care what time it was, or what was keeping Lily from coming to the lab to continue her own work the way she would if she was remotely responsible. Which she wasn't, so she probably wouldn't be back anytime soon and that was just great with him because he certainly didn't want to see her, much less have to talk to her. In fact he really shouldn't be in the lab at all, he should be packing up his stuff and getting as far away from this place as possible, Snape told himself even as he remained right where he was.

Hugo would understand, it wasn't like him moving out would end their friendship. He was pretty sure that he was stuck with the boy even if he were to try and lose him. One had only to look at Hugo's fascination and stubbornness where Alexei was concerned to know the Gryffindor knew how to cling to someone like a burr.

And yet…he was still here. Why was he still here?

Obviously he'd lost his mind, the Slytherin decided as he competently finished the potion he'd been working on and left it to cook, moving on to the next assignment listed on Lily's bulletin board for products due to be delivered to her cousin's shop soon.

And now that he thought about it, Snape found himself realizing that it made perfect sense that he'd been driven insane by a Potter. The whole family had been trying for decades now, pushing him closer and closer to the edge, the fall inevitable. It even made sense that it was this Potter that had finally done him in because she was already insane and insanity loved company. There was a Muggle saying about that, or at least he thought there was. He was too messed in the head at the moment to remember either way. But either way he was insane, and it was the Potter family's fault, and he should really, really get out now on the slim chance that he could still be saved.

That he was still having the same argument with himself an hour later when he heard the sound of the main doors being opened was a dark irony to Snape.

Bracing himself, her good behavior at breakfast had not been enough to reassure him that she really did mean to behave herself, Snape ended up being the first to speak as she came shuffling into the area he was in, surprise loosening his tongue.

"I don't want to talk about it. I'm going to have nightmares as it is."

He was standing in front of her in a heartbeat with zero memory of moving in her direction or how his hand had come up to cup her cheek before he realized what he'd done, Snape quickly dropping it back to his side. "Who hurt you?"

Surprise and then delight lit up Lily's eyes as she asked if he was worried about her.

"Just answer the question, Potter."

"There's no one for you to curse, Mr. Tough Guy. I brought this on myself…so to speak. And Christopher did try to help before Domi kicked him out of the salon, which is why I still have my eyebrows." Reflectively she covered them with her hand, like they were still in danger.

"Who is Christopher and what the hell did you go and do now, Woman?"

"Christopher Worden is my cousin Domi's husband, and what I did…well let's just say that being a girl very often sucks, and involves rituals that would make a grown man cry if he was subjected to them. The ritual that resulted in my current walking method is one I will never engage in again, and that's all I'm going to say on the matter. Be glad I'm not telling you."

Raising an eyebrow Snape thought to himself that if he were a Gryffindor he'd probably poke and prod at her until she told him just what stupid ritual she'd done that was apparently going to cause her nightmares, but thank Merlin he was a Slytherin. He knew how to keep his mouth shut.

Thankful that he didn't press Lily gingerly made her way over to get her lab coat.

She was never, EVER getting any part of her body waxed EVER again.

No man was worth the pain.