17 YEARS LATER
The room was cool and quiet. Severus stood, stiff in his place. The view out the window was fogged from the touch of winter. He slowly smeared the stuff away. His black eyes went to the lake, to the willow, the patch of hillside. His fingers began to tremble, his breath falling short. He staggered away the view and returned to his desk, falling into a chair. He immediately opened the bottom drawer of his desk, revealing a small box. He fingered the wooden engravings of a flower. It was a lily. He hadn't opened it for years now. Not since the day it was first closed, 10 years ago. Severus tapped the top with his wand and it creaked open. He sat still for a moment, before slowly pulling the small box onto his lap. Lily's hippogriff beanie lay curled up inside. He delicately took it in his hand, it crinkled slightly. Even though he had just heard it, knew it was still there, he peaked inside the hat and there it was. The small cellophane baggy, that so many years ago held a gift for Lily, and a gift for him. His heart began to swell with memories, weighing him to the floor like metal chains. Feelings of the past coiled around his heart. The days under the willow. The Valentine Dance. Lily's smile, her laugh her voice. Never again.
Severus coughed out a sob, his shoulders shaking. Lily was dead. Though it had been 10 years since he found her, 10 years since he held her lifeless body still warm in his arms, the shock and the despair he felt clung to his bones with an inescapable grasp. He let out another sob, feeling as if blades had replaced his ribs, panging him with each breath. He had held on for this long. Held his screams and sorrow inside for 10 long years. They were suffocating him, dragging his mangled spirit forward day after day. Lily Evans his best friend was gone. He had no friends. Severus was as equally lonesome as he was as a child. No one to separate him from his Slytherin comrades. His best friend, dead for 10 long years.
Severus couldn't face it any longer. His job in protecting Lily's son was finished. He had done his work. Harry was older now, soon to be at Hogwarts. Dumbledore could care for him. Severus' protection was no longer needed. He rose and hurried to a cupboard of potions, opening the glass doors. Dozens of colored vials rested on the shelves, but one was sealed separately in a box. Severus reached for the red potion, tapping the metal lid with his wand and murmuring something. It opened only for his tongue. The box unlocked, and he took the thing in his hand. The potion was lethal, made by Severus himself. His hand crinkled, Lily's hippogriff beanie was still in his hand. Severus tightened his grip and pressed it to his chest; he wanted to die holding something happy.
He turned his face to the window. The patch he had smeared away was slowly fogging back up, the image of the willow fading. He knew Lily would stop him; say he was better than this. But she was dead. And the Lily that he was closest with he lost even longer ago. Severus swallowed, and gripped the hippogriff beanie tight in his hand. Lily Evans, his best friend.
"I'm sorry, Lily." He closed his eyes and brought the potion to his lips when the door busted open.
"Do excuse me, Severus." Dumbledore stood in the doorway, his eyes bright with awareness but his expression calm as always. Severus hastily capped the potion, his skin burning as some of the liquid spilled.
"Headmaster." Severus said as he wiped his hand on his robe. The old wizard's intent eyes were locked on him then flicked to Lily's beanie in his hand.
"I always did like that." Dumbledore smiled. Severus reluctantly sat the potion aside. He was ready to die. He had wanted to die. "As I said, pardon the interruption but I am in dire need of something to settle my stomach." The old wizard patted his belly as he began scanning the potions on the wall. "You must have something." Severus could tell by his eyes, his words that Dumbledore knew.
"Why did you stop me?" Dumbledore's hand froze on a vile as he looked to him.
"You are about to begin a new chapter in your life, Severus. I wouldn't want you to miss it. Harry Potter is currently taking his first ride on the Hogwarts express. He will arrive shortly." Severus balled his fist.
"I do not-"
"Please, Severus. You may find more familiarity in the boy than you believe. Look to his eyes, they are not James'." The old wizard smiled. "I suppose I shall be going. I will be seeing you soon then. The feast will be delicious. And do try to not be too harsh to the boy."
"And your stomach." Dumbledore's brow rose.
"It seems to have vanished." He smiled as he turned out the doorway, the door creaking shut behind him. Lily's son. James' son. If it were his choice, if it wasn't also Lily's boy, Severus wouldn't have risked so much to protect him. But Harry Potter was another link to her. Her blood, her eyes. Protecting him would lead to avenging Lily. He had no other choice. Would Lily ask this of Severus? Asked him to do what she no longer could? Severus squeezed the beanie. Yes. It is what Lily would have wanted. What she would have asked of her Slytherin friend. He had to do this for her. Live on for her. Because Lily Evans was once his best friend. She was the only one he ever loved.
Author's note: Thank you to everyone who read this story, it is much appreciated! It was as equally sad and fun to write, and I hope it was the same to read it.