Author's Note: This scenario is admittedly unrealistic, I realize that. I wrote it knowing that, however, and I'm willing to strain credulity in a world with magic wands and unicorns and werewolves. Cut me some slack. Also, I will not tolerate James-hating OR Snape-hating in reviews. Both of them are flawed characters. I know this is dreadfully short, but better that than rambling, right?
Disclaimer: WB and JKR own everything. I'm not making a profit, so don't sue.
She looked absolutely beautiful – breathtaking. He knew perfectly well that he should not be there, but how could he have possibly stayed away? It had been years now since they had been friends. He had never tried again after that horrible night outside the Gryffindor common room. He had walked away, feeling more broken than he had ever had before. More broken, more lost… He had not known what to do, and so Severus Snape had thrown his all into the dark arts. He had tried to fill the hole in his life with serving Voldemort. Yet all he could think now, seeing Lily Evans in a white silk gown and white lace draped over her thick auburn hair, was that he would all too willingly have traded the Dark Mark burned forever into his forearm for a simple gold band around his finger.
Well, that was a laugh. Friends they may have been, but however much he had loved her, he doubted Lily had ever seen him in that way. James Potter had been an "arrogant toerag," no doubt still was, but she had ended up in his arms, ended up his fiancee, not Severus'. How had he finally won her? Since he avoided Potter and his friends – any Gryffindors at all, after his friendship with Lily had shattered so violently – as much as possible, he would never know. Yet he envied Potter now more than he ever had before. It was bad enough that he had been handsome, rich, beloved by nearly everyone; that he had been a teacher's pet despite his troublemaking ways; that he had barely to crack open a book before he'd mastered the subject. Yes – for all those reasons, Severus envied Potter more than anyone. But now, Potter had the one true friend Severus had ever had, the one woman Severus had ever loved.
The happiness on her face, the light in her brilliant eyes, nearly drove him away. It was a pure joy that said to him you have no place here. It told him he was a coward, a fool, that what he wanted most was already lost to him forever. It killed him inside to see her so very happy, knowing Potter was the cause. Yet he wanted her to be happy. Even more than he wanted her for himself, he wanted the best for her…didn't he? James Potter is not the best for her, he thought angrily.
But neither was he. Severus Snape was a Death Eater now, and there was no escape from that – none save death, and he was far too cowardly to court death. Lily would never be a follower of Voldemort's. He had tried to coerce her several times, despite her tainted blood. She had made it all too clear that she would die a thousand times before joining him. She was brave and good and kind and he was none of those things. Even if he was not a Death Eater, Lily would not want him. She had seen something more in Potter since that day four and a half years ago when she had declared she would rather date the giant squid than him. She had seen something that Severus himself did not possess.
So why was he there? Perhaps he should go and spare them both. What could he say to make up for those years? How could he apologize for what he had said then – for what he was now?
Before he had the opportunity to change his mind, however, Lily turned away from the mirror. In one hand, she held a bouquet of – what else? – fresh lilies, delicate pink and white ones. He watched her eyes widen. Those eyes…he could never forget them. They haunted his dreams nearly every night. Almond-shamed and emerald, so warm and welcoming and nonjudgmental. Not until that fateful day, at least… Now, they were filled with shock and something else. Dare he hope it was happiness?
"Sev!" It was her name for him, one he had not heard for years, and it fell from Lily's lips without hesitation. She grinned then as if she was genuinely pleased to see him. She took a single step forward. In that one moment, Severus felt his heart sing. Sev, Sev, Sev. Her voice rang in his ears, just the same as it had been the last time they'd talked, only now she was not angry. She was happy to see him, as he had hardly dared hope she would be. The corners of his mouth were tugged upwards in an uncharacteristic smile. He felt hope. Had she missed him, then, as he had missed her? For that one terribly brief and absurd moment, he wondered if she would turn James Potter down now that they had seen each other again.
Then she stopped. The bouquet fell from her hand, her slender fingers uncurling from the flowers' stems. She stumbled back, away from him, nearly tripping, nearly crushing the lilies. There was something else in her eyes indeed – fear. Severus felt sick.
She was afraid of him. She thought…what did she think? Simply that he would spoil her perfect day? That he would duel Potter, or that Potter would do the same to him? Maybe it was more serious than that. Maybe she thought he had brought Death Eaters, Voldemort himself, to her wedding and that it would be a massacre. Could she truly see him doing such a thing, or would nothing he did surprise her now? Had Lily lost all faith in her old friend? Whatever the reason, he hated himself for coming, seeing the look on her lovely face now.
"Lily –," he stammered, hoping to explain.
"Sev, what are you doing here?" Lily demanded, her voice a hiss. She rather resembled a frightened cat, quivering and ready to pounce. He wondered, vaguely, where her wand was or if she had discarded it entirely on this day. That would be foolish. He was not, never would be, a threat to her. He would rather die than hurt Lily. But many, if not all, of his fellow Death Eaters had no reason to be merciful… "How did you – oh Sev."
Then, worst of all, he saw tears shining there in those eyes he loved so much. He bit down hard enough on his lower lip to draw blood. The metallic taste of it made him grimace. Fear, dismay, genuine grief? The last thing he wanted was to cause her pain in any way, and that was what he was doing. It had been so foolish, going to the trouble of finding out where Lily and Potter were being wed, and when. It had not been worth it. He would rather have remembered her… what? Angry with him, turning her back on him? Severus closed his eyes, wishing he had not come. Now he would have to explain, or else be told to go and say not a word. Which would be preferable – confessing to Lily how deeply he cared for her, even now, despite what he had said, or knowing she did not want to hear it?
"Sev, you can't stay," she whispered. "You've got to go – James…" Her voice was thick with the tears.
"Lily, I'm sorry – I – I came alone. I told no one. You aren't in danger, I just…I wanted to see you." His voice, in turn, was far smaller than he wanted it to be. He knew he sounded weak and vulnerable and knew, or at least very much hoped, that Lily Evans would be the last one to hear him this way. It was too much like the little boy he had once been, listening to his Muggle father raising his voice, raging at his wife, beating her…
"Oh Sev." Was that sympathy or derision he heard? Lily bent over for long enough to retrieve the flowers. She closed the distance between them until she stood there, just a few steps away, staring into his face. The tears that had glistened in her emerald eyes were gone now. She looked – resigned? Determined? He could not put a name to her expression now. "We're all in danger these days, Sev, and you more than any of us. But that was the choice you made, and this is the one I'm making. I love James Potter. He is a good man – the best, Sev. And I won't apologize for that."
He is a good man.
She loved James Potter, and Severus loved her. She would be the mother of James Potter's children – if they lived through this war. If Voldemort was conquered. And if that happened, Severus would be in Azkaban, or worse. He would be nothing but a distant memory, a sad example of what not to do with one's life. If Voldemort was not conquered…well, Severus could not bear to think of that.
A man who might have been in his fifties or sixties appeared at the door then, looking quite surprised indeed to see someone other than Lily there. Severus knew this must be Mr. Evans, Lily's father, even before he spoke. "Lily, my dear, it's time."
That was the choice you made, and this is the one I'm making.
Lily lifted her chin. She met his eyes and held his gaze steadily for a few heartbeats, almost daring him to look away. Then she walked forward until she was so close that Severus could feel the warmth of her next to him. It made it difficult to breathe. He wanted to say something, anything, for this seemed to be the end of their story. If he could have, he would have gone back to the day he'd first revealed himself to her – the day he'd told her she was a witch. He would have begun again and fought more fiercely to keep their friendship if nothing else. It was too late for that now. He would have to live with the consequences of his choices forever. Lily would very soon be Mrs. Lily Potter, lost to him forever for so many, many reasons. He should use this opportunity to end it properly, but he could think of not a single word.
All he was capable of doing was holding his breath as her lips brushed his cheek. Her breath was like a caress against his ear as she whispered, "Good-bye."
And then she was gone. Severus turned in time to see Mr. Evans tuck his daughter's arm into his, a vaguely curious look on his face. She was walking away, out of his life, forever. Forever. It was such an unbearably, unimaginably long time. This must be what dying felt like; it was truly his heart breaking. "Lily!" he called, but it was a strangled sound. She turned her head to the side, but she didn't stop – she didn't want to hear it.
"I love you!" Yet instead of ringing out clearly, proudly, his words died only moments after they left his tongue. Lily had not heard. She vanished from view, though the image of her was still burned into his mind. "I'll always love you."
He turned on heel then, abruptly leaving the empty room and then the church behind him. It was the last time they would ever see one another, but despite what Severus thought and despite her great happiness that day – despite kissing James so passionately with the same lips which had touched Severus Snape's cheek only minutes earlier – Lily had heard him. She could not forget the sight of him there. No, she could not forget him at all. Happy as she was to become Mrs. James Potter that day, some small part of her loved Severus, the Severus he had once been.
Some part of her always would.
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