A/N: This is just a one shot about Lily and Severus. It's pretty self-explanatory and just an idea I had in my head. I'd love to know what people think - if it works or not. :)
Running To The River
It was, without question, the most miserable summer of Lily's entire life.
And now, as she ran desperately through the night, her bare feet pounding on the cool grass and her long, tangled, dark red hair flying freely behind her, she was more convinced than ever of that fact.
After what had just happened to her in her own house, in her own bedroom, by her own sister, she had nowhere to go and not a friend around to help her. There was no one to wipe the tears from her emerald green eyes and to help her wash the sticky liquid from her hair. There was no one to dry her cold, wet skin and no one to heal the cuts covering her arms. There wasn't even anyone to give her what she needed most…a simple hug.
Nowhere to go. Lily hated the sound of those words. And because she had nowhere to go, she was going to the one place she had been avoiding for so many weeks. She was running to the river.
She had never felt so alone before. Her older sister, Petunia, whom she had once been so close to, now resented her and she was the reason that Lily was running through the night like a homeless refugee. Her parents were away for the weekend and couldn't help her now. And her best friend, Severus, had hurt her in one of the worst ways that he could have, and so she no longer spoke to him.
The river seemed years away. Lily almost feared she would never reach it. And when she finally did, she collapsed into the soft grass and cried as she held herself up on her elbows, trying her very best not to wail. It was so unfair. Everything was going wrong and nothing, not even the slightest thing, was going right.
And when her head finally began to ache and she ceased to drown in her own tears, she lay on her back and looked up at the night sky, searching the stars for constellations and anything distracting that she could find. But the beauty before her eyes could not block out the horrible night that was replaying in her head, like a bad, continuous movie reel, from beginning to end…
So far that summer, Lily had spent a lot of time in her room. She didn't like to be in the parlour, where she could feel Petunia's cold eyes on her, and she didn't dare go down to the river anymore, for fear of running into Severus. And although she loved her parents, she was sixteen and couldn't hang around with them all of the time. And so on her bed she stayed, occasionally sitting on the floor to mix things up and make life interesting. She thought about Hogwarts a lot and read all of the time. She tried not to think about everything that was wrong.
It was going to be a long summer.
And then, only weeks after she had arrived home, one of the worst things that could have happened did. Her parents announced that they were going on vacation for the weekend – just the two of them – and that she was spending the weekend alone with Petunia.
It wasn't that she was afraid of her sister. No, it would never be that. It was that she couldn't stand the fact that they had once been best friends and that one little change in Lily's life had torn them apart so easily. And no matter how many times Lily had tried to make amends over the years, Petunia would never listen to her. No, as far as Petunia was concerned, the damage was done and irreversible.
Lily was convinced that a weekend alone with Petunia wouldn't be that difficult. That was, until Petunia invited two friends to stay the weekend. Lily hadn't imagined there was any way she could feel more alone than she already had, but Petunia had made it possible.
The two friends were unreasonably mean and spiteful girls and Petunia had no doubt informed them what a "freak" Lily was and how "horrid" Lily was to Petunia. Petunia had spoon fed them sweet, little lies. And so Lily did the only thing that she could. She stayed away from them. She hoped fervently that the weekend would end soon.
That night, she had crawled into bed after reading for most of the evening. Her eyes were sore and she was just so tired, and she had fallen asleep immediately, a wonderful, dreamless sleep in which she felt nothing but peace. But a sensation of pain woke her in the middle of the night and as she opened her eyes, she realized she was tied to her bed.
It was nothing but thin, white string but it cut into her flesh just as if it had been a knife. She struggled against it and that was when she smelled the strong, sweet scent of honey and felt the stickiness on the sides of her face. As she finally freed herself from the string, her hands flew to her hair, which was matted, sticky, disgusting, and curled into tight knots. Uncharacteristic rage pulsed through her very veins as she realized that Petunia and her awful friends had done this to her. They had tied her to her bed and put honey in her hair.
Scrambling out of her bed, Lily flung open the door, only to have a bucket of ice, cold water fall onto her. She let out a pained gasp and stood in her doorway, sopping wet, as Petunia and her friends appeared from another room, snapping pictures and laughing cruelly.
Disappearing briefly back into her room, Lily grabbed her black Hogwarts robe and threw it on, to conceal the wet dressing gown that she was wearing. Then she ran back into the hall, down the stairs, and out the door, away from her terrible sister and her equally terrible friends. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get their laughter out of her ears.
Lily awoke to the orange streaks of dawn warming her face and a cool breeze brushing her skin. As she opened her eyes, she felt a horrible sensation of sadness overwhelm her. She was once again aware of her terrible summer and what had happened to her the night before. Gingerly, she reached up and felt her hair, which was still tangled. Her cuts still stung. She curled deeper into her Hogwarts robe, as if it would conceal her and pull her back to where she wanted to be most.
After about ten minutes, Lily sat up and stared across the lake that was sparkling in the newborn sunlight. There was no doubt about it. She couldn't go back to her house and she would have to spend the rest of the weekend here.
It was then that Lily felt a presence and turned to look behind her. And what she saw made her scramble to her feet in alarm.
Standing in the vibrant green grass, also dressed in his Hogwarts robes, was Severus Snape.
"You," she whispered, as all her calm came shattering down around her. No, she thought to herself. No, no, no. After being bullied by her foul sister and her awful friends, she couldn't face Severus. She couldn't do all of it in a twenty-four hour period. It was simply too much.
Not taking her eyes off of him, Lily made her way carefully to the nearest tree and climbed into it. She knew it wouldn't make him go away but it put much needed distance between them.
"How long have you been there?" she asked, digging her nails into the bark of the tree and trying to keep her voice from trembling.
Severus moved closer to the tree and stared up at her. "All night."
"You were watching me?" Lily asked incredulously. "All night?"
"What else could I do?" Severus asked dryly. "You're the one who chose to sleep in the open and risk getting attacked by wild animals or…or worse."
Lily leaned against the tree and crossed her arms. "I had nowhere else to go."
"Why?" Severus asked, inching even closer to the tree. "What happened?"
Lily opened her mouth to speak but closed it. Why should she tell him anything after what he had called her? After he had called her a filthy little mudblood when she had tried to come to his defense, when he was hanging upside down from a tree not unlike this one, being harassed, with his underpants showing?
"What did your foul sister do to you this time?" Severus didn't sound at all surprised.
Tears sprung to Lily's eyes as everything that had happened in the last year overwhelmed her. "Oh that's right, call her that, Severus! Because she shares my blood and I am a filthy little mudblood, after all!"
Severus stared at her in shock as pain filled his dark, black eyes. Not at all satisfied that she had caused him emotional discomfort, Lily lifted her arms to pull back her sticky hair from her shoulders, her sleeves falling down to her elbows in the process. Lily didn't notice that she was showing Severus her scars and that his pain had turned to alarm.
He was climbing into the tree with her. The safe distance she had created between them was disappearing. She tried to move over but there was nowhere else to go.
"What did she do to you, Lily?" Severus asked quietly as he settled next to her, like an overgrown black bird. Lily shoved her sleeves down and looked down at the grass. She wanted to climb out of the tree, but if she did, he would just follow.
"Lily, please," Severus pleaded. "Please put that behind you at least for now and let me help you."
Lily suddenly turned back to him. "They sabotaged me while I was sleeping," she said angrily. "They put honey in my hair and tied me to the bed with string. And when I walked out of the door, they poured cold water on me and took pictures."
Anger flared in Severus's eyes as his hands slightly trembled. "I will…"
"You will do nothing," Lily said sharply, before she sighed. "I have nowhere else to go now. My parents are away for the weekend and Petunia and her friends are holding the house like it's some kind of fort. And that's why I'm here."
Severus took out his wand and reached out to her. She flinched, but eventually pushed up her sleeves reluctantly. Tapping each cut gently, he whispered spells that didn't quite heal them, but made the sting go away.
"Thank you," Lily whispered.
Severus nodded as he put his wand back into his robes. She had known him long enough to know that he was thinking about something. She sat uncomfortably in the tree as she waited.
"I'm so sorry, Lily," Severus finally said, his voice no more than a whisper.
Lily felt so tired. She didn't want to think about it, but she couldn't let it go either.
"You knew," she said, staring out across the river. "You knew how much that word bothered me."
Severus bowed his head, his long black hair covering his face.
Lily didn't like to see him looking so distraught, but she couldn't believe how easily she had gotten sucked in to telling him her problems and to trusting him to soothe her wounds, just as if he were her best friend again…
But before Lily could get wrapped up in her thoughts, she heard a shrill voice.
Lily saw her sister standing a few feet away from the tree with her hands on her hips. Petunia looked almost motherly in that pose, complete with a look of dramatic sympathy.
"Lily, thank goodness you're alright!" Petunia said in a voice dripping with worry. Lily felt Severus stiffen next to her as he slowly looked over to the girl who had caused Lily so much pain.
Lily stared at her sister angrily. "What do you want, Petunia?"
"I wanted to tell you how sorry I am," Petunia said and it almost sounded sincere. "What I did was wrong." She held out her hand. "Come home with me, and I'll help you wash your hair. It'll just be me and you, like the old days."
Lily squirmed uncomfortably. It did sound like the old Petunia, the sister she had loved. She felt caught in a constricting web. Did she choose to go with her sister, who had done such horrible things to her the night before, or did she choose to stay with Severus, who had torn her apart with a simple, hurtful phrase only weeks before?
Petunia was family. She was stuck with Petunia, for better or for worse. Not looking at Severus, Lily got to her feet, ready to jump out of the tree.
Severus slid out of the tree first, and held out his arms to her. Petunia let out an indignant squeak. Without really thinking about what she was doing, Lily reached down to him and let him take her waist and gently lift her out of the tree. Lily walked to her sister, but did not take her hand. Self-satisfied and smug, Petunia turned and began to walk away, with Lily falling into step behind her.
Lily's stomach burned uncomfortably. Just choosing her sister and walking away with her felt so wrong. She didn't want to go with Petunia. She didn't want to go home. She stopped and looked back at the tree.
Severus was not watching them leave. He had sat under the tree and was facing the river, his look one of quiet anguish. He had not put up a fight, but had simply taken the blow of being put last.
Lily realized then that Severus might have lashed out in his humiliation and called her something insulting, but he would never have hurt her. He would have never put anything in her hair and he would have never tied her tightly to her bed. He wouldn't have set a trap of water on her and he wouldn't have taken pictures for documentation.
Lily turned back to her sister. "Petunia, I'm staying here for now."
Petunia looked genuinely shocked. "With him? With that freak?"
"Don't call him that, Petunia," Lily warned. "I'd rather be with him than with you, after what you pulled last night."
"Lily dear, I didn't mean - "
"Yes, you did," Lily backed away. "You did mean it and you'd do it again if you got the opportunity."
"Fine, Lily!" Petunia hissed. "Choose that strange boy over your own sister and see if I care! Go enjoy being freakish with him!"
Lily folded her arms across her chest. "Okay."
With an indignant growl, Petunia turned and walked away in a huff.
Lily didn't want Severus to think that she was coming back to him just because she couldn't go to her sister. Without looking at him, she walked to the river and stood at the edge. Just like they always did so many times before when they were close, she picked up the conversation right where they had left it.
"I was only trying to help you, Sev," Lily said quietly. "It hurt to see them doing that to you."
Severus stared across the water. "I hate myself for it, Lily. I hate myself for calling you that."
Lily's heart sunk. Turning away from the river, she walked the short distance to the tree and sat next to him. "No, Sev, don't hate yourself."
Obviously distressed, Severus shook his head. "If there was one thing I wanted for you from the moment I met you, it was for you to not feel like a…like a freak. I've thought about what I did every day since, Lily, and I'll regret it always."
After the incident had happened, Severus had sought her out to ask her forgiveness and she had refused, telling him plainly that he had chosen his path. And although he was apologizing for the Mudblood incident now, there was still the Dark Arts situation. But at that moment, she didn't even want to think about it. Today, she needed her best friend. That matter could be dealt with another time.
So Lily merely wrapped her arms around her legs and stared straight ahead. "I could forgive you, you know."
Severus looked over at her, clearly surprised and hopeful. "Will you?"
Lily didn't answer him. She only looked over at him and gave him a small, teasing smile.
That day, everything turned around. Lily no longer felt alone. She had finally found her best friend again. She finally had someone to give her all the things she had had needed the night before.
Because throughout the day, Severus did everything he could. He helped her wash the honey out of her hair in the river. He went back to his house to find some ingredients, and made her a potion that would heal her cuts. He snuck back to her house with her so that she could get some fresh clothes. He assured her that everything would be all right. And he held her when a fit of laughter turned into an unexpected fit of tears.
Lily didn't know what would happen in the years to come. But at that moment, it didn't matter. All that mattered was the time she spent with Severus and the quick and easy way that he helped her spirit to heal in one day.