A/N: Alright, this is my first story, so constrictive criticism is much appreciated. It's un-betaed (so far, I'd love one if anyone is interested!) so anything you can help with would be great. Also, I'd consider myself pretty well versed in British slang, but I am American, so if I make a grievous mistake let me know! Also, sorry about how short this chappy is, but introductions tend to be.

EDIT: now 'beta'ed

Disclaimer: I'm not J.K. Rowling. Wish I was, but unfortunately, Harry Potter belongs solely to her.

The evening fog was dank, and the lingering odors of cigarettes and summer rain saturated the air. The creamy mist had snaked its way into every crevice, filling alleyways and wrapping its translucent fingers around buildings. The air was heavy, dreary. In the distance, storm clouds could be made out, black as bruises. He walked at a brisk pace, hands buried deep in the pockets of his coat, intent on reaching his apartment before it rained. The wetness in the air was tangible, and already he saw an emerging storm cloud through the mist that enveloped the city. The black tails of his trench coat flapped in the beguiling light breeze, and the soles of his shoes clacked on the damp cobblestones. Suddenly, icy water bit through his trousers as a small child hopped into puddle near him. Her mirthful shrieks were cut off abruptly by a sharp slap to her head, courtesy of a heavy woman towing a little boy by the hand.

"Elizabeth! Look what you've done now, you daft girl! I said not to go gallivanting about the puddles, didn't I? You apologise to the man!"

"But, Mum!"

"I'll tell your father, I swear it!"

"Sorry, Mister."

Her tone was plaintive and whiny. She hung her head, more from embarrassment at her mother than shame from her actions. He smirked as the tips of the small child's ears turned pink. She shuffled her soggy trainers across the cobblestones and shot him a pleading glance. His expression softened in a rare moment of pity. "It's quite all right." Bobbing her head frantically, a grin worked its way back onto her face.

"See? He don't even care, Mum!"

"So sorry, she's a right terror when she's eaten too many sweets. We must be off then, dreadful weather on the way, you know." The heavy woman turned her attention to the wet, grubby child behind her. "Oi! Chivy along, you, come on now!" He watched as the woman made towards the entrance to the underground, prying a fistful of damp leaves from the small boy's clutches along the way. The girl let out a whoop and bounded through another puddle. He shook his head; he was never having children.

The storm clouds were racing across the sky now, drawing nearer, bringing with them a flurry of wind and the patters of light rain. The wind shoved him violently back and slapped his face, staining his cheeks pink. He fought against it for several blocks before coming to rest in front of a dingy apartment complex. One could tell from looking at it that it had once stood proud and grand—but hard times and bad luck have a way of ruining things, and now it stood as little more than a hovel. However, it was warm, and dry, so the dimly lit lobby served as a welcoming haven from the weather outside.

After a curt nod to the half-asleep doorman, he worked his way up three flights of stairs and into room 334, hams burning only slightly. A flick of his numb fingers and the room was flooded with yellow light. His coat went on a hook to dry; he heard the telephone ring as he removed his shoes. The machine picked it up.

"Severus, my dear boy, are you there? Come now, this is Albus." There was an expectant pause. Severus made no move toward the telephone. "Ah well, I was hoping you might care to join Minerva and myself for a spot of tea tomorrow. I miss your company, it's been nearly a week since I last saw you. Besides, term starts in—oh! four days, and we have yet to discuss—what was the term you used? Dunderheads? We have yet to discuss the dunderheads you will be teaching. Your godson will be there. As will Lily's son, Harry, did you know? Food for thought, my boy, food for thought." He could almost imagine the headmaster's twinkling eyes by the tone of his voice. A soft click signaled the end of Albus's message. Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. Lily's son.

Mechanically, he walked through the under-furnished apartment to the kitchen and pulled a bottle of scotch from the cupboard. He grabbed a striped coffee mug he most certainly did not purchase himself before settling on the floor in front of the hearth. Outside, the storm worsened, the passing minutes punctuated by deep cracks of thunder and bright white flashes. He stacked a small pile of logs in the fireplace, bent over the hearth, lighter clenched between his teeth. Within minutes, a fire was snapping angrily, spewing gold sparks. The orange flames leaped from the logs and licked at the air in a parody of dancing, while Severus poured a healthy amount of scotch into the coffee mug. The sound of raindrops attacking the fire escape was deafening, and, strangely, it soothed him.

The headmaster's message plagued him with dark thoughts of what could have been, and the raging fire beside him did little to warm the chill in his bones. Lily's boy. He wondered if anything would. And so for the remainder of the night, he sat, propped against a recliner, as rain pounded against his window and wind screamed into the night, lost in memories of a red-haired girl with bottle green eyes whom he had loved with all his being.