A Noteworthy Encounter
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. That honor belongs to J. K. Rowling
Author's Note: For my multi-chapter story, One Mistake Reversed, I offered to write a one-shot for my 100th reviewer. So, credit for the inspiration of this goes completely tosevlily4ever, the winner of the prize. Also, credit must go to my incredible sister for editing this for me.
I hope that everybody enjoys this story!
Severus Snape whirled around when he heard his name spoken behind him, nearly falling off the stool. It wasn't only because he heard his name but also because of the voice that said it. A voice he recognized very well. A voice that, when addressing him, preferred to use a moniker besides his surname.
However, even after blinking several times and shaking his head to try and clear his vision, the figure standing stayed the same. With a mixture of disgust and thinly veiled shock, he replied "Potter."
James Potter uncrossed his arms long enough to only beckon to the other man, nodding towards a secluded corner of the pub. Severus hesitated. He wouldn't have survived this long as a spy if he was willing to blindly follow a longtime nemesis anywhere. Well, technically they were on the same side now and the "anywhere" was just a quieter area of The Leaky Cauldron. He should be fine. However, Severus firmly grasped the handle of his wand and made sure he could brandish it at a moment's notice before he followed Potter.
Potter had already settled into his seat by the time Severus slipped into the booth across from him. Incredibly familiar resentment flared up as Severus realized James had turned the tables to make it seem like the Slytherin had come to him. Whether it was intentional or not, Severus scowled at the Potter heir.
"Apparently you find the need to drown things away in liquor, Snape. What things?"
Severus bristled at Potter's bluntness. It was something he had always disliked. Lily used to concur with him on that. He had to suppress a sigh. This was the exhausting thing about hating Potter. Because Lily had previously agreed with him on his opinions about Potter, thinking about them now brought up so many painful memories. Those memories were the answer to Potter's question, but he was not about to share that with the Gryffindor.
"I don't see how it affects you, Potter," he snapped. "And besides, you draw that conclusion from one mere pint of ale?"
Potter rolled his eyes. "Maybe you had only one tonight, but don't pretend you aren't a regular customer of this place. I have to confess, I'm surprised you come here instead of, say, a Death Eater haven."
Severus fixated on Potter's first words, ignoring the latter ones clearly said only to guile him. "Do you keep all of the places I frequent under surveillance?" he asked coldly.
Again the other man rolled his eyes. Even though he was only two months younger, Potter acted far more immature than Severus did. "No, Snape. I just come to The Leaky Cauldron for my own reasons and see you in here often enough to know I could find you here tonight."
Severus raised his eyebrows. "So you sought me out. Why?"
Potter leaned across the table. "Look, Snape." Although it was the third time Potter had called him that, it was then that it struck Severus. Why was Potter not using his beloved mocking name, Snivellus? Was he going out of his way to not alienate the other man? And if so, why? "There's something I need to know. It was you, wasn't it?"
Severus' blood ran cold. Potter had guessed. Yet, if he had, how could he be so calm? Although Severus was loath to admit it, Potter did in fact love Lily. If Severus despised himself so much for how his foolish actions had harmed Lily, wouldn't Potter despise a previous enemy? Quickly logic overcame his panic. Obviously Potter hadn't guessed the truth. Not that truth, at least. He decided to clear his confusion the simplest way possible. "Could you be less vague, perhaps?"
Potter either overlooked or didn't catch the condescending sarcasm in Severus' question. He sighed deeply, as if Severus was the foolish one here. "Dumbledore said we need to go into hiding. He wouldn't say how he knew except that a spy tipped him off. Now, considering he's been especially against Sirius and my suggestions of forcibly dealing with you recently, it stands to reason you're on our side. However, from what others have said, you still associate with your Death Eater buddies. Dumbledore doesn't seem at all fazed by that, meaning you're probably spying for him. I don't know how many other spies he has, but even if there are many others, you're my best guess. I know that you never stopped caring for Lily."
Severus' mind was reeling. He felt relieved that this was all that Potter had figured out, grudgingly respectful of his deductive reasoning, and pleased that Potter recognized that he cared for Lily, no matter how reluctantly he acknowledged it. Of course, little good your care for her did. You still betrayed her, whispered a vindictive, self-hating part of him. He tried to brush that aside and instead answered Potter's question. "Yes, then. I warned Dumbledore of the plot against your family."
Potter nodded, an unreadable emotion in his eyes. "I suppose this is where I ought to thank you. First, though, how?"
Severus blinked in confusion. "How what? Again, Potter, be clear."
"How were you able to warn us? Why would Voldemort share his plans with you so early on? He can't even do anything for ages." Seeing the expression on Severus' face, Potter nodded. "Yes. I'm asking what you did to get his trust. I figure I have the right to know."
Considering Potter seemed close to figuring out Severus' action had endangered the Potters in the first place, he refrained from commenting that Potter really didn't do anything to earn that right. Severus searched for a lie; any other reason. All he knew was that he couldn't reveal the truth. Not for nothing was he a spy capable of lying to Lord Voldemort, master Legilimens. He kept his face expressionless as he contemplated possible explanations. Finally, his thoughts stumbled across the perfect thing to say. "Unfortunately, Potter, that's information I can't disclose. Dumbledore's orders."
It wasn't a total lie, at least. Dumbledore had warned him against letting any other Death Eaters know who exactly had relayed the prophecy, especially since there was likely a Death Eater spy among the Order of the Phoenix. The headmaster hadn't been sure of what could happen with that information in the wrong hands, but the most likely possibility was that Severus' spy status be put into great risk.
Potter grimaced but accepted it. "Fine, Snape. I don't need to know everything, I suppose. One other thing, though. Or maybe two. What made you become a spy?"
Severus inwardly groaned. Yet another question that had to be asked by the worst possible person: James Potter. "What's the other thing?" he asked, hoping to avoid the question if at all possible.
"What exactly are your feelings and intentions toward my wife?" Potter stressed the last two words.
Severus contemplated how to best answer, but decided to stick as close to truth at possible. This time, the truth would actually be mostly suitable to divulge. "Given you said 'Or maybe two,' you think that the answer to the questions will be related. You're correct. Because of your wife's influence on me, I became a spy. I still have feelings for her, but…" he wasn't sure how sincere his next words were, but he needed to say them. "She's happy with you, Potter. Don't worry."
Severus purposefully didn't specify what not to worry about. His words were mostly true, but he intentionally misled Potter. Not that he actually had any intentions—or possibilities—of stealing Lily's affections away from Potter, but he was far from content about the two of them. Lily's happiness made the pain easier, but he couldn't find it in himself to be fully happy for her. He just couldn't.
Potter nodded slowly. "Well then, I suppose I have no excuse for not thanking you now." He held out his hand. Severus stared at it, but cautiously took his hand off of his wand, where it has rested the entire time, and gingerly shook the hand of his nemesis. Something softened in Potter's eyes for a moment. "Snape, I do … respect what you do for the cause. And…" he hesitated but said the next words, although they did appear to cause actual pain. "I apologize for the things of the past. It's the present that matters now; that and the future. I hope we can work together to make it a good one."
With that, Potter nodded goodbye and briskly left the pub. Severus sat back in his seat, stunned.
Potter said that he respected him? And then, the unthinkable happened. The tormentor of his adolescence had actually apologized. Snape would have liked to sneer and scoff at the apology, but then Potter had to go and add something that made it seem reasonable to make amends.
Fine, he decided after a good deal of deliberation. I'm willing to put the past aside to work with Potter to defeat the Dark Lord. Only for that. Once he's gone, it'll go back to how it was before. Severus was sure of it—this understanding would only last while they worked together against their common enemy.
He scowled. This definitely didn't change how much he hated Potter.
Well, maybe it did.