A/n: This fic is a sequel to the novel-length Lily and the Half-Blood Prince which covered the period from when Severus Snape and Lily Evans first met up until the end of their friendship in June 1976. Thus, there may be references to characters, places and events that occurred in the first novel which may be slightly confusing.
To prevent this I have tried, in the first chapters and wherever possible, to add some explanations. Those of you who have read the first fic may find them repetitive, but I think that overall, it helps in making this fic a stand-alone one.
For further information about the scope and 'canonicity' of this story, please read my profile page.
Chapter 1: Separation.
The heat-drugged fly buzzed drunkenly around the dimly-lit room in erratic, ever-widening circles, the annoying noise louder in the unnatural, tense silence penetrating the bare floorboards and damp-stained walls of the shabby bedroom.
A greasy-haired teenager lay on his back on an unmade bed in the shadowed end of the room, one arm behind his head, so completely motionless and still, that one might be excused to think he was asleep, or dead even, for there was no sign of slow, rhythmic breathing. However, something about the taut lines of the thin figure belied that theory: the youth seemed to lie in the motionless expectancy indicative of a tightly-coiled spring, or an animal about to pounce. Closer observation would confirm that beneath thick, dark lashes and narrowed lids, black eyes glittered malevolently, following the movement of the buzzing fly as it mindlessly circled the stuffy air, coming finally to rest with a dry, rustling thud against the peeling wallpaper in a corner above the door.
He had a thin, pale face with high-cheekbones and a hooked nose that gave him a somewhat imperious, disdainful look. There were dark shadows under his eyes as though he hadn't slept in days, but it was the expression in them that was disconcerting: a dangerous, hard look that you wouldn't expect to find on such a young face. So young there was only a soft downy growth on his upper lip and along the delicate curve of his jaw line. He had a thin upper lip and a fuller, sensitive-looking lower lip, but both were now set in a grim line.
Severus Snape's pale face was rigidly still, but his eyes remained fixed on the tiny black spec now impudently washing its wings on the wallpaper. It was mid-afternoon and up until this moment, he had been sunk in the relatively calm, emotionless state of Occlumency, a disassociated level of consciousness that allowed him to endure the latest of his parents raging battles downstairs.
His father had been sent home due to the fact that he had been 'taken ill while at work', an ever more frequent euphemism to describe his inebriated state. Tobias Snape had always managed to hide the symptoms well for years, a shorter temper being the most notable difference, but after he had got into a brawl last summer, and been knocked unconscious for several days, he had never quite regained his previous control over his drinking, and his health had deteriorated even more rapidly, despite the magic potions his wife grudgingly concocted to try and stem the damage. That had been the reason for the flare up earlier on, for, with the unreasonableness of the confirmed alcoholic, instead of thanking his witch wife for the potions that were keeping him alive, he accused her that they were damaging his liver.
Eileen had been shocked out of her usual broken-spirited passivity into retaliating, for if there was one thing she had prided herself upon, it was her knowledge of Potions. The shouting match that had ensued rocked the small house at the bottom of Spinner's End to its very foundation, and Severus had forced his cringing, despairing mind into Occlumency, thereby escaping to a place devoid of the crippling hatred and vengeance that seeped like noxious fumes from downstairs through the very floor and walls of his room.
The resultant clarity of mind also gave him the opportunity to intervene, if necessary.
Luckily for his mother, Tobias was in too much pain to carry out the various threats that poured out of his mouth like poison, but insisted instead on going to the local doctors' clinic on the other side of town to get some 'proper, real medicine'. To Severus' disgust, he insisted Eileen accompany him, to see how a really scientific cure works.
They had just gone out, slamming the door behind them and leaving a reverberating silence in their wake that was so palpably unnatural, Severus could almost taste it. He reluctantly came out of his Occlumency state, waves of hatred and disgust and guilt, his parent's legacy, washing over him, forcing him to relive in detail their latest argument.
Why the bloody hell had Eileen agreed to go with him to the Muggle doctors? Did his father think that any stupid Muggle medicine was going to be of any use, when even magic potions could not repair the damage to his guts? If he was so intent on destroying himself, why did he want to take his mother down with him? Eileen was fragile enough as it is: alternating between bouts of fiery defiance and anger at her husbands' drinking, and, more often now, bouts of brooding silence, a manic depression at the downward spiral of her life and the hopelessness of it all. She seemed unable to take control and get herself out of the mess her life had become - or else she just didn't want to.
Severus cursed silently, as frustration grew inside of him. It was the end of July, and there were still six months left till he became officially of age. Once he did however, once he was allowed to do magic, he was going to lift himself and his mother out of this squalor, whether she liked it or not!
In the meantime, it was the most he could do to contain his anger and frustration in this stuffy, shabby room he was confined to.
The fly in the corner launched itself once more into a buzzing, erratic flight, but it was its last, for with a quick movement the teenager pointed the wand he held in his right hand and with a pencil-thin flash of light, the fly dropped dead on the floorboards in front of his bed.
Severus Snape's dark eyes narrowed as two more flies came into the room, the irritating sound of their buzzing duet grating on his still-raw senses. The narrow tip of his wand followed them relentlessly as they flew drunkenly in the sultry, heavy air.
Severus was thinking of his father when he shot down the first fly.
If only it was so easy…
If only it was so easy to get rid of someone who was destroying your life as well as his own… or to get rid of irritating gits that buzzed mindlessly around you in both Muggle and magic world.
And it was Potter's face he imagined as he shot down the second fly. It gave him a momentary feeling of satisfaction to see the miniscule black corpse as it fell out of the heavy air, dead. The feeling dissipated completely as Potter's name opened a floodgate of memories, none of them pleasant.
'Unpleasant' was an understatement: they were, rather, a searing, agonising collection of painful images that he wanted to avoid even thinking about, for fear they would hurt more. But Severus Snape's mind was not something that could ignore the facts, even if he wanted to. He had to analyse everything from the most trivial to the most brutal, and so he could not avoid recalling the memories of last June in vivid detail, again and again, especially here, in the close confines of his room with nothing to do and no school or lessons to distract him.
It had all started with Potter's humiliation on the day of his DADA exam, and had escalated into the worst day of his life when Lily Evans broke all contact with him in a way that brooked no argument. He couldn't argue with her, or shout or get angry, for she treated all his attempts with a tone of infuriatingly calm politeness, a façade he never knew she was capable of maintaining.
Not that he had had much time to speak to her, even had she allowed it. He had only seen her a few times during their remaining OWL exams and she always ensured she would be surrounded by a tightly-knit pack of Gryffindor girls that looked belligerently at him whenever he came close.
Perhaps next year would be better, perhaps over summer she'd mellowed a bit and realised that he'd acted for her own good – that he still was acting for her own safety.
But he had no way of knowing, for he hadn't seen her all summer.
He'd avoided going to all their old haunts by the river, or anywhere near her house. He had promised himself he'd never again beg so humble for forgiveness as he had that night last June: to Lily Evans or anyone else! That was why he'd spent a lot of time confined to his bedroom stewing in the unhealthy air of Spinner's End. The few times he ventured out, he kept inadvertently glancing in the direction of Spencer Street, where she lived, wondering what she was doing … wondering if she was thinking about him, or else determinedly pushing him from her mind, and hoping against all hope to catch a glimpse of copper-red hair dancing in the sunlight, and see a flash of recognition in those green eyes!
It was pathetic!
So he had decided to spend the long weeks of July shut up in his room feeling like a caged animal, goaded by thoughts and feelings he was sure no caged animal, however poorly kept, had to deal with.
He scowled darkly at the ceiling above, as his tired brain revolved once more around that fateful night, when Lily Evans had kissed him for the last time and then determinedly disappeared from his life. There had never been a summer, in seven long years, that he hadn't spent without Lily at his side, except for a brief month-long separation in their third year, when Lily had accompanied her family on a holiday in France. That had been bad enough, but this was infinitely worse, and he hadn't even known what to do with himself this summer. He glanced over at the mountain of dark, leather-bound volumes on the desk. Even they seemed to have lost their allure, and were stacked haphazardly in precariously-leaning piles by the wall.
He sat up and swung his feet over the edge of the bed, looking distastefully at the rumpled sheets. Lily Evans had once lain there on his bed, her dark red hair spread like a halo on his threadbare pillow, asleep. The pillow had held her smell for days after, and he had fallen asleep every day, imagining she held him in her arms, imagining…
He shook himself angrily and got off the bed, walking to the window to peer outside through the dark material of the curtains. A blinding sun seared his eyeballs, and he closed the curtain hurriedly. He must stop thinking of Lily, or he'd end up going to pieces! He desperately needed something to distract him, yet the only thing that was keeping him sane wouldn't be coming for a long time yet. Rosier and Rabastan kept up a regular correspondence, and even Avery and Wilkes had sent the odd note, but their Owls would only arrive in the dead of night, and that was still hours away.
He sighed and sat down heavily at his desk. A folded piece of parchment addressed to Evan Rosier was placed on top of scraps of parchment and some ink-stained quills. Rosier had invited him to spend the rest of the summer in the large crumbling estates of his ancestral home, and he had written an answer immediately, accepting the invitation. He had refrained from sending it by return Owl because he didn't want to appear too eager. Rosier knew that he could never return the favour. He wouldn't dream of letting anybody of his Hogwarts friends come over to Spinner's End. Who would want to spend any time at all in this hovel?
Well, Lily had – she had seen the squalor, the sad wrecks his parents had become, and though he had been surly and protested, she hadn't minded at all. She had not only made herself completely at home, but had helped him when his mother lay comatose from an overdose of Dreamless Sleep Potion.
Merlin! Couldn't he just stop thinking about Lily for a second?
He scowled at the dust motes dancing on a sunbeam that, in spite of his best efforts, had penetrated the gloomy interior of his room. He wished it was night already so that he would hear the gentle flapping of the owls' wings against his window, signalling the arrival of more news from the world he felt he belonged to. Owls that would send his reply winging towards the Rosiers' and the reprieve they offered.
In a few days, he'd be leaving Spinner's End for Evan's majestic old mansion in the south of England. The next time he returned home , he would be officially an adult, and he was going to make bloody sure that there would be some permanent changes here at Spinner's End, whether his father or mother wanted it or not! With that one reassuring fact firmly lodged in his head, he turned to the tomes on Dark magic that littered his table, sat down and grimly pulled one of them towards him.
She was very pale, her skin snow-white against the coppery vividness of her hair. Even the light smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose had faded. And she looked thin - unhealthily thin - he could see that clearly now.
He hadn't wanted to before. He hadn't wanted to see her. All during the trip on the Hogwarts' Express, and at the Beginning-of-term feast in the Great Hall, he had determinedly kept his eyes away from any Gryffindors, and from the Gryffindor table in particular, unwilling to catch the eyes of the one person he most wanted to look at.
But here, on the first day of school, and in Slughorn's first NEWT Potion class, there was no avoiding it. Only fifteen students had got the required grade in Potions (or wanted to continue at NEWT level) and Lily Evans was sitting at a table across the dungeon classroom with two Hufflepuff girls, in plain view. She had come in late and pointedly took a seat as far back in the classroom as possible.
There were only five tables with three students each, and he was with Bertram Aubrey and the Ravenclaw Prefect, John Paige, because Rosier had insisted on staying on a table with Nyneve and another Slytherin girl, no doubt to spend the time productively flirting with the two Pureblood witches. Then there was a table with three Ravenclaws, and one with the Marauders.
Not all the Marauders. Apparently that creep, Pettigrew, had not made the NEWT grade for Black, Potter and Lupin were alone. The whole classroom was filled with fumes from five cauldrons, each one standing on the floor next to each table, which had been arranged in a sort of wide semi-circle. A sixth cauldron, a small bench-top one, stood on Slughorn's desk, a golden liquid bubbling merrily within. Severus felt a twinge of something he hadn't felt in a long time: excitement. That was Felix Felicis! He had heard about it, though never actually seen the potion. The ingredients were notoriously expensive, and the potion difficult and long to brew. His admiration for old Slughorn went up a reluctant notch. Knowing Slughorn's penchant for theatrics, the Potion master had probably placed it on his desk as a sort of pièce de résistance.
He glanced round to see where Professor Slughorn was. He was talking to one of the Ravenclaw girls, whom he recognised as a member of the Slug Club. Behind Slughorn's back, Sirius Black noticed him and made an obscene hand gesture that he ignored. After what happened last June, Severus knew that there would be an all-out war between him and the Marauders now that their OWLs were over. His eyes flew to Potter, but the be-spectacled Gryffindor was looking at Lily, frowning slightly.
A white-hot flash of anger sliced through Severus' mind, as he saw the direction of Potter's intent gaze. He'd do anything to foil that bastard's hideous intentions on Lily Evans. Why couldn't he lay off her? After all, she had made it abundantly clear, last June, that she didn't want anything to do with him! It was just like Potter and his damned arrogant over-confidence, to persist in looking at her!
Not that Lily was paying any attention. Her eyes were downcast and she was ignoring everybody around her, including the two chattering Hufflepuffs she was sharing a table with. A twinge of anxiety shivered through Severus. Why did Lily look so thin and pale? Surely it wasn't because of what happened last June? She had wanted it after all! She had insisted that they had gone down divergent paths and there was nothing to do about it! Well, she might've been right to a certain point, for she wanted him to renounce the Death Eaters, and he could see no way of doing that without dire consequences, but bloody hell, he was there, just across the room from her – all she had to do was look up and see him, damn it!
But Lily's eyes remained fixed on the graffitied surface of her table, and she did not look up, but swayed slightly as she stood. It was only then that Severus noted the badge glinting on her chest. A Prefect's badge! So Lily Evans had been made Gryffindor Prefect! The rumours about Alice Walker's resignation had been right. Well, apparently she had certainly been quite busy this summer!
But even his usual sarcasm couldn't work where Lily was concerned. Now he couldn't take his eyes off her, just as much as he had previously avoided it, and as he stared greedily at her, he could see that something was wrong, for she was becoming progressively paler, and those two Hufflepuff idiots near her hadn't even noticed! He grabbed his own table in a white-knuckled fist to resist the urge to just go over and ask her what the matter was, when Slughorn suddenly called the class to attention.
'Right!' he said 'Let's begin! You should have had enough time to examine the cauldrons near your tables, so now I want you to tell me what you think the potion inside them is!'
Lily looked up at the sound of Slughorn's voice, and, for a brief instant, green eyes met black, but then she looked away immediately with what Severus could only describe as a small shiver.
Fuck! He didn't know what to make of that! Lily moved closer to the cauldron as the two Hufflepuffs jostled her for a closer look at the softly shimmering potion near their table. He glanced contemptuously at the one by his own table: it was the Draught of Living Death. He could brew it with his eyes closed.
From the blank look on his face, Bertram Aubrey, the Slytherin Prefect next to him, obviously had no idea what it was. Aubrey was silently fuming as John Paige, a typical Ravenclaw know-it-all, very obviously knew, and was smugly waiting to be asked.
Severus' eyes swept the dungeon swiftly. There was Temporetiam, an Everlasting Elixir at the Ravenclaw's table; Polyjuice Potion at the Marauders; Veritaserum at Rosier's; and Lily was standing over a cauldron of …. Amortentia.
Amortentia! How ironic! He recognised the mother-of-pearl sheen and the spiralling vapour. He had read about it and even knew how to brew it in theory, but had always refused to, despite several seventh-years begging him to, last year.
But last year had been different: he and Lily were still friends and he had entertained misguided hopes that they would always be friends … even more than friends. So he hadn't wanted to inflict a false love ( for that was what Amortentia was, in spite of all the seductive advantages claimed by many users) on anybody foolish enough to resort to it, for he himself had tasted true love, bittersweet though that experience had been. It was something even he himself could not easily explain, for he had brewed plenty an illicit and even dangerous potion in the past, and had no scruples on inflicting any of them on anyone who annoyed him.
Lily had once asked him, shortly before their OWL exams, why he hadn't ever brewed Amortentia or even a common Love Potion.
He had never answered her question.
'Well, let's start from this cauldron,' Slughorn was saying as he waddled predictably to cauldron containing the Love Potion. 'I'm sure Ms Evans can tell us what it contains.'
Lily was Slughorn's favourite, and he did not try very hard to hide it, smiling benevolently at her and completely ignoring the two Hufflepuffs at the same table.
Severus couldn't blame him - it was very clear that those two dunderheads had no idea what the Potion was, for they had sidled behind Lily, unwilling to show their ignorance. However, Slughorn slowed down indecisively as he approached her table for Lily was getting paler by the second as she stood over the softly-shimmering cauldron. Severus moved slightly so that he could look at her from behind Slughorn's stout figure, wondering what was wrong with her. Lily was seldom sick. What in Merlin's name was happening? And what was that look she cast him?
'It's Amortentia, Sir,' Lily said, in a barely audible voice. She cleared her throat and spoke a bit louder: 'Otherwise known as the world's strongest Love Potion'
'That's correct, Miss Evans,' Slughorn nodded, but his smile faltered as he looked intently at her pale face, 'Can you … er… tell the rest of the class how to recognise it?'
'You can recognise it by the characteristic spirals of its vapour and its' mother-of-pearl surface, and….' Lily swayed slightly, her eyes fixed on the large cauldron at her feet. '…and by the smell,' she ended.
Perhaps the smell was making her feel faint. But why? It was supposed to smell good...
'The smell of Amortentia will make you recall all that which is pleasant to you, all the things that you love…' Lily was saying, and there was an unmistakeable quiver in her voice now.
She looked up as she said that, but instead of Slughorn, her eyes looked beyond their teacher and caught his. He was instantly paralysed by what he saw in that fleeting look and couldn't tear his eyes away. But he wasn't mistaken, for although Lily looked back at Slughorn, who had started describing the potion's attributes, a pale flush rose in her cheeks, turning their previous paleness to a feverish red.
'This is one of the most potent potions to be found,' Slughorn was saying, turning half-round to face the rest of the class, 'Rather fiddly to brew and requiring some rather … er ... unorthodox ingredients, but when correctly done, it can induce a powerful, obsessive, passion; an all-consuming yearning for the object of your desires that will dictate everything you do, everything you think about, …yes, Mr Rosier?'
'You wouldn't ...uh …allow us a small sample to study, Sir? Just to make sure we recognise it?' Rosier grinned.
The Slytherin girls sitting next to Evan Rosier giggled.
'I expect you know my answer to that already, Mr Rosier.' Slughorn replied wryly, 'And knowing exactly the way the hormone-addled brains of my sixth-years work, I've put an Anti-thieving Jinx on the Amortentia Cauldron,' he continued with a sly smile, ' Besides, although I know some young wizards do not really care about anything beyond seducing the witch of their choice, I would have you all know that Amortentia produces only a strong infatuation – it does NOT produce true love: nothing can create or reproduce that mysterious force, isn't that right, Ms Evans? Ms Evans?'
Lily's eyes were closed as she stood over the Amortentia cauldron, swaying slightly. Her face was now as red as previously it had been deathly white.
'That's right, sir,' she murmured in answer to Slughorn's question, 'There is nothing like true love, Sir.'
She opened her eyes as she said this, and this time they unwaveringly held his. He froze as he saw that look in her eyes again: it was, somehow, defiantly fierce yet hauntingly sad at the same time, and went straight to his heart, setting it beating wildly. Slughorn had followed her gaze across the dungeon towards him and Severus knew that the old teacher, with his unerring nose for classroom intrigue, must have noticed they were sitting apart for the first time since their first year at Hogwarts. If Slughorn commented anything, he'd bite his head off, he'd ….!
But Slughorn had turned back to Lily.
'Are you feeling alright, m'dear?' Severus heard him ask in a low voice.
'Could I be excused the rest of the lesson, Sir? I'm not feeling very well,' Lily answered.
'Yes, certainly. Let Ms Dearborn accompany you to –'
'It's ok, sir, I'll manage on my own.' And with that Lily shouldered her bag and made her way silently to the door, all eyes following her.
Lily Evans had never ever missed class.
For a wild moment, Severus thought of feigning sickness so he could go after her, but he was hopeless at pretending such things, and it would look too suspicious anyway. But his heart was still thudding in his breast, for Lily had finally looked at him without that hateful blank politeness of last June.
Of course, he tried to interpret her expression in all the negative ways possible, (for Severus had a die-hard attitude of always expecting the worst), but, try as he might, he could not suppress the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps, just perhaps, she had not managed to repress all her feelings for him. Perhaps she loved him still.
She had said she always would that fatal night, but then, the next day, behaved as though he was a stranger, as though he was dead to her, even.
Perhaps the Amortentia had jogged her memory: he had read something about the strange effect of the curling spiral vapours of the potion. The idea took hold and he barely even noticed as Slughorn turned to their table, asking them to identify the potion in their cauldron and automatically turning an expectant face towards him. Severus ignored him, and was barely listening as the Ravenclaw Prefect eagerly jumped in to supply the required information. He ignored both the Ravenclaw's supercilious tone and the questioning, lingering look Slughorn was bestowing on him.
Had Lily been upset because of the artificiality of the Amortentia? But her voice, though low, had been steady when she affirmed that there was nothing like true love. And besides, she had already been very pale-looking when she came into class. Was it because she knew, like he did, that they'd have to face each other, finally? Unlike him, Lily usually wore her emotions on her sleeve, and barring those few days last June, she had always shown exactly what she was feeling.
When he had entered Slughorn's dungeon classroom that afternoon, he hadn't known what to expect from Lily, but certainly not this. He shifted uncomfortably, alternating between berating himself for being so stupid, and trying to suppress that most treacherous of feelings – hope – from raising its head in his breast again. After the holidays, Lily could just be worried about her father's delicate health … but then again, perhaps Lily had missed him, perhaps she had realised that they could not be apart, that their bond was special and indissoluble, and the Amortentia had just made her remember what she was insisting they should ignore…
He glanced down at his watch impatiently (the watch Lily had given him last birthday and that, despite everything, he still wore under the long sleeve of his robes). He just wanted the lesson to end. He needed to talk to Lily, urgently. To strike while the iron was hot, for if it was the Amortentia that had had that effect on her, then it wouldn't last. She probably wouldn't have gone to the Hospital wing, and was most likely in the Gryffindor tower. Or perhaps even in the Forbidden Forest, where she always went when upset.
He knew he was being stupid – very stupid – for even if the Amortentia had affected her, that didn't mean she wouldn't have her wits about her, and stand by what she had said several months ago: he had chosen his path and she hers, and once Lily got it into her head that she had to save somebody – in this instance, herself – there was no budging her.
Possibly he was the only one, in her eyes, whom she had failed to save.
He suppressed an impatient sigh as Slughorn set them to working on the Draught of Living Death. His hands reached out for his old Advanced Potion Making book. He had spent all last year writing notes in it, but it was only this year that he was finally using it as a class text book. He opened the shabby book to find the right page and as he did so, the back cover fell open.
'This is the property of the Half-Blood Prince' was scribbled at the bottom in his tiny, cramped handwriting.
With a bitter frown, he remembered that he too had made his own decisions and there was no way he was going to shirk those duties. Lily's future, as well as his own, depended on how well he played his part on the path that he had chosen. But chosen it he had, and he would have to remember that, even if he did manage, by some miracle, to shock Lily out of her pretended indifference.