deep green polish.

It was Valentine's day.

He brushed through the crowd of dizzy, twitterpated lovers as if they were beneath him, as that was his usual manner nowadays. The couples swarmed all over Hogsmeade, like some kind of Old Testament plague, and he slipped on a mask of disgust as he passed the flocks inside Madame Puddifoot's and the Three Broomsticks. The only outer sign of his inner twinge of pain was his curling lip, which a passerby would have taken as simple dislike for the holiday.

He slipped into the dusty old pub, knocking on the old wooden sign (emblazoned with the familiar gory head of hog) for good luck, although he felt that was far past him. Even this out-of-the-way, unromantic spot was not devoid of passionate couples, presumably those unable to secure reservations for the more popular venues, or, in some cases, those who did not wish their relationship to be public knowledge.

Severus took a seat at the bar, ordered a Firewhiskey, and looked around. He squinted at a particularly enthusiastic couple, but was unable to distinguish the members. It was probably for the best that the other clientele were too wrapped up in each other to pay attention to him; he was ever more of an outcast, and if any of the lovers happened to be Gryffindors (likely), he would be chased out of the pub at wandpoint.

He took a swig of his Firewhiskey, ignoring the dirty taste of the bottle. The burning sensation relieved some of the pressure in his head, and he almost smiled. What he wouldn't give for a chance to be here with Lily, making her laugh, tasting her lips, getting lost in her eyes. He imagined her fingernails, always painted forest green, resting on his back.

Severus began to worry when he blinked twice and the image failed to dissipate. He muttered to himself and took another gulp of his drink. The nails of the female in the nearest couple certainly looked like hers, the same deep color she loved to paint them. The male, tall and fairly well-built, blocked his view of her face. They were kissing gently, as if they had all the time in the world, and he felt an overwhelming fear that the girl was actually Lily.

He rationalized that this was impossible. For one thing, she had broken up with her last git of a boyfriend over the summer, and he would have heard if she had a new one, presumably, although he had told all of his friends (if you could call them that) that he hated the Mudblood and could they please never speak of her again. For another, an outstanding Prefect (Head Girl this year, in fact) such as Lily Evans would hardly venture into a place like this, which skirted on illegality. Finally, there was a small chip in this girl's polish, and if there was one thing Lily hated (besides James Potter and Severus himself), it was chipped polish. It went against her perfectionist nature.

Satisfied with this, he leaned back and swallowed more Firewhiskey, unable to keep his eyes off of the couple. Her hands were creeping up his back, and soon reached his hair. The pub was lit only by the slivers of sunlight that could enter through the dirt-encrusted windows, but Severus was sure that the boy had hair which was either a very dark shade of brown or black, like his own. This time he really did smile, because it was so easy to imagine that the girl really was Lily, kissing him. He was running his hands through her wavy hair, as red as the countless hearts strewn on the ground outside.

His stomach sunk. It really was Lily, laughing against the other boy's lips. Severus tilted his head forward, allowing his hair to cover most of his face in the dreary hope that if she looked away from the boy she was snogging, his own face would be hidden from her. It was nothing he hadn't already been through with her, and he forced himself to look at just her hands. Her hands, with that green nail polish as deep as her eyes, which he now only ever saw from across the room. Her hands, tangled in the other boy's dark hair, which stuck up in resistance to any amount of smoothing she tried.

Severus's breath caught. It couldn't possibly be.

He whispered something to her, impossible to hear from the bar. She giggled and replied. Her face was visible now, and it was unmistakably that of Lily Evans, gorgeous green eyes glittering with something like mischief and lips pouted. She was teasing the other boy, withholding a kiss for some reason. The tone of his deep voice was evident; he was returning her banter. He turned slightly, and a light glinted into Severus's eyes for a second. Light reflecting off of glasses. He was wearing glasses.

Severus struggled to keep his heart rate down.

She twiddled her fingers and laughed. He nodded and spread his arms out in a gesture. She moved her fingers again, to indicate something. The knife twisted. A ring glittered on her finger, as proud as the moon. All the Firewhiskey in the world could not at that moment have eased his pain. He watched, in a sort of horrified fascination, knowing that he was at risk, knowing he should leave now, he'd seen enough.

He stayed as the couple began to dance. There was no music; they apparently needed none, moving expertly and familiarly. They turned, and now Lily's face was hidden. Severus was almost glad, until the other boy looked up and he met James Potter's hazel eyes. The moment stretched on. Potter looked both smug and pitying, and the second was somehow more disgusting to Severus than the first. They had stopped dancing. Lily was turning her head.

In a single, rapid movement, he threw down his bottle of Firewhiskey (which made a very satisfying shatter) and rushed to the door. Something stopped his exit: curiosity pulled at him, and he cursed his stupidity as he turned back to look at the couple once more. She was watching him, knowingly, and suddenly he wondered if she'd known the whole time.

It was Valentine's day when Severus Snape cried.