The characters and situations in this story belong to J.K. Rowling, Warner Brothers, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Still new to this fandom; still assuming that it's all been done already. Any unoriginality is accidental.
Cincoflex kept her patience, cheered me on, and wrote the gorgeous Impedo Gravida, which inspired this story. Bless her for putting up with my bumbling late entrance to more than one fandom.
Trialia Britpicked and edited meticulously despite going through some very rough times. I appreciate her dedication very much!
Occasionally, I ignored them. As stated above, any errors are mine.
"Drat." Lily stared down at the folds of wrapping paper in her lap, nose wrinkling.
Severus leaned forward a bit to peer at the revealed object, but he couldn't quite make it out. "Did your aunt send peppermints again?"
"No." Lily lifted a small glass bottle from the paper, grimacing. "It's more lily perfume."
Severus blinked. "And the problem is…?"
"It's always lilies." She waved the bottle. "Just because it's my name, people always give me lilies. Perfume, stationery, jewellery—calendars, you remember that hideous one last year—"
"Unfortunately." Severus smothered a nascent grin. Lily had stood it until halfway through April, and then her grandmother's gift had gone up in literal smoke.
He settled his shoulders more comfortably against the stones of the wall, and watched Lily rant. She was beautiful at any time, but she was especially alluring when she was riled, cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling with irritation. It was at those moments he wanted most to kiss her; to feel her little gasp of surprise, her heated skin beneath his fingertips, her annoyance melting into—he prayed—eager willingness—
Severus shut the thought off deliberately. These stolen moments before breakfast were too precious to risk, all the more so when the only thing that kept them private was the fact that no one had thought to seek them out in an empty classroom.
"—And—I'm sick of the smell of lilies!" she finished, drawing back her arm. Severus reached out just in time to intercept it, her fist smacking into his palm.
"Then I would advise not hurling it across the room," he said calmly, though his fingers curled around her wrist without his conscious permission. "The scent will linger for weeks."
Lily scrunched up her nose again with a smirk, shook her hand free of his, and tossed the bottle straight up. With a flourish, she pointed her wand. "Evanesco. Dear Great-auntie Orc, I enjoyed your gift so much…it was so useful."
Severus snorted as the bottle vanished mid-air. "As target practice. Great-Auntie Orc?"
"Orchid," Lily sighed. "She looks like one, too."
"An orc?" He was having trouble with the image.
"No, an orchid. Tiny and fragile and sort of strange. And spotty." Lily screwed the paper into a ball and vanished that as well. "Stupid naming tradition…a plague on that house…"
Severus had heard that rant before. "I take it your sister receives better gifts."
Lily giggled, a sound that always made his stomach somersault. "Worse, actually. It's usually embroidered handkerchiefs or more stationery. Half the time the flower in question isn't even really a petunia."
Severus nodded, grateful that his gift to her had nothing of the lily about it. A narrow escape; he'd lingered for some time over a delicately beautiful silver pendant before deciding, reluctantly, that a gift of jewellery at this point might be too forward.
He wanted her, more than anything. But he couldn't risk losing her friendship.
Lily moved on to the other packages she'd found piled on her bed that morning—dormitory delivery being reserved for Christmas and birthdays—and he watched with distracted interest. Her parents had sent her books, her sister stationery, though with kittens instead of blossoms. Gifts from other relations bore out her complaint: two different kinds of bath salts, a rather cheap enamelled pin, and a tiny figurine, though he thought the tiny glass frog on a green glass lily pad was at least marginally clever.
One last parcel was bigger than the rest, and Lily opened the card and huffed, brows drawing together. "What is it?" Severus asked.
"It's from James Potter," she replied, and he felt his jaw clench in anger. What right had that sod to be sending her presents?
"If you'd rather, I can get rid of it for you," he offered smoothly.
Lily shot him a dry, teasing glance. "I don't need a knight to protect me. Not from him."
Severus held his tongue as she unwrapped the gift, knowing that she was perfectly capable of hexing Potter into next month if she chose, wondering if she would ever need protection when Severus was around, and desperately pleased at the hint that she might consider him a knight of any stripe. All the emotions, however, coalesced into irritation as the box of chocolates was revealed—and Lily's face went from impatience to softened surprise.
"Ooh," she said, pulling off the lid. "Oh, nice."
The smell was delectable. Lily reached for one of the confections, but Severus grabbed her elbow. "Wait."
"I'll share," she said impatiently, but he shook his head and lifted his wand.
"You should check them first," he said, and did just that, looking for both hexes and evidence of any adulteration. He didn't put it past the slavering fool to have laced the chocolate with a lust philtre.
"Oh, come on, Sev," Lily said, frowning. "He's an arse, but I don't—"
"I'm thinking more of Black," Severus replied, who wasn't. "Pulling a prank on both you and Potter seems just his style."
Actually, he was fairly certain that the insufferable Black lusted after Lily as well, but wasn't willing to twist his family's tail quite enough to take up with a Muggleborn. But Lily didn't need to know that.
"They're clean," he said when the spells revealed nothing, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
"Could have told you that," Lily said, and popped her chosen bonbon into her mouth whole, biting down with a look of bliss. She extended the box in his direction, but Severus shook his head, feeling his sulky expression emerge but unable to help it.
Lily rolled her eyes and put the lid on the box. "I'll have to hide it or my mates will leave nothing but crumbs."
The breakfast bell spoke with a low toll, and they both scrambled up, Lily sweeping the bath salts and the stationery into a heap and vanishing it before gathering up her other gifts. Severus handed her the last book and realised that they were standing almost toe-to-toe—as close as they had often been as children, before their bodies woke to more adult possibilities.
She smelled of wool and shampoo and her own warm skin, and Severus couldn't help leaning a bit closer. "You're right," he murmured. "Lily is entirely the wrong scent for you, it's far too sweet."
A flush touched her cheekbones. "Are you calling me sour?" she asked, teasing and—if he dared hope—a little breathless.
"Not at all." He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, analysing the faint fragrance rising from her skin, letting the instincts that made him so good at Potions come into play. "You need something deeper, darker…something almost herbal, perhaps, with a touch of musk. Something wilder." And not without sweetness, he thought, but never the metallic whisper of lilies or even the predictable, over-worn rose...
"Sev—" Her voice was a little choked, and he opened his eyes to discover that he was looming over her, possible now that he'd finally caught up to her height and surpassed it. Her pupils were dilated and she looked almost alarmed. Her scent deepened, stirring something at the back of his brain, but he stepped back hastily.
"Lily, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you."
She stared at him a second longer, then shook herself. "You didn't, silly. Come on, let's go before all the sausages are gone."
Severus followed her out, her fragrance lingering in his nose, and was suddenly caught up in an idea.
It was rather nice to have her birthday on a Friday, Lily thought as she shoved in amongst her mates at the Gryffindor breakfast table. It meant compliments from Professors Flitwick and Slughorn in class that day, and the pleasant anticipation of being taken out to tea at Hogsmeade by her friends tomorrow.
There would be more gifts, too, mostly little things and no doubt some as stupid as those she'd got from her relations, but like anyone else Lily enjoyed receiving them. She filled her plate with toast and sausage and stewed fruit, listening to the chatter about the weather (snowy), classes (difficult), and the odds of Peeves goading Filch into bellows by Sunday (two to one against) and letting it all flow past her.
It had been important to her to spend the first moments of the day with Sev; it was something of a ritual, now, and she treasured those quiet times, even if they did no more than argue gently about the latest Transfiguration assignment. Ever since Avery and Mulciber had gotten expelled for what was now referred to as the MacDonald Incident, he'd pulled back from what she'd considered to be a very dark path, and it was a relief.
Slytherin or not, he was her best friend, and had been since before the Sorting Hat had split them up. He was important.
And he hadn't scared her. Well, not really. It had just been a little...intense, him being so close like that, close enough that she could smell the bitter-mint he used and feel his breath stirring her hair...
The goosebumps returned, and Lily shook her head impatiently. Sev needed looking after, whether he would admit it or not, and making sure he was part of her birthday was part of that, since he would have no place in any noisy Gryffindor celebration. Nor would he want one, she admitted silently; Sev was for quiet times, reading together and studying and just talking or being silent, not shrieks of laughter and loud teasing and the other joys of being a Gryffindor.
She'd taken him out to tea herself, since his birthday was during hols, and that had been a pleasure all its own—he'd been staying with the Malfoys over Christmas, but they'd met in London for the day and it had been so much fun. Lily always made a point of his birthday, partly because it was so soon after Christmas, but partly because no one else did nor ever had, and it made her throat ache just to think about. She'd found him a lovely old volume of A Phoenix Too Frequent as a gift, and he'd—
Oh. Lily blinked. Sev had given her no gift today. And he always had, from the day she invited him to her Muggle tenth-birthday party and he'd shoved a clumsy package in her hand and run away without so much as a refusal. She still had the tiny wooden unicorn at home somewhere; but this year—she wasn't greedy, but it wasn't hard to feel hurt.
But when she glanced across the tables at him, seated a little apart even from members of his own House, he was looking back, and she caught his tiny smirk even at that distance. He cocked a brow and patted his pocket.
Lily dropped her hand to the matching pocket in her own robes, and felt the hard rectangle of something within. Oh, that sneaky— Her laughing glare had his smirk widening, and then the dishes vanished and it was time to go to class.
She took a moment to duck into the loo on the way. Sev never used wrapping paper, just plain parchment, but his skills had improved over the years and the parchment was folded in such crisp, intricate lines that it required neither magic nor tape to stay in place.
It a little leather-bound book, scarcely larger than her palm, and untitled. Lily opened it curiously, and let another oh leave her lips when she saw page after page of Potions recipes, copied out in Sev's clean, crowded script. Here was the first one they'd worked on together; the six they'd improved through clandestine experimentation; even the wit-sharpener that he kept so very secret and that she knew he planned to patent after they left Hogwarts.
The many recipes took up two-thirds of the book; the rest of its pages were blank, waiting patiently for more notations. Lily smiled down at them, touched at his thoughtfulness and trust. He always gives me the best gifts.
She would have to hug him extra hard for this one.
Having an idea and carrying it out were two different things, but Severus knew that already. Fortunately, he had a year—or most of one, if he chose to make it a Christmas gift instead, but at this end of things the difference was negligible.
Sixth-years, at least those in Slughorn's good graces, were free to pursue independent Potions projects if they so desired, subject of course to their professor's supervision and limited by their own budgets. The former was not a problem; Severus knew Slughorn admired his skill almost as much as the man admired Lily's, and was a known romantic besides. Permission was as good as given.
Ingredients were more problematic. Severus knew he would be making multiple iterations of his experiment, and his pocket money was scant. Most of it came from selling his skill as a brewer to other students, and while what Lily teasingly called his parsimony had allowed Severus to lay by a decent sum, it could be depleted quickly if he was careless.
So I won't be. The idea had set his mind alight. To create a perfume, the perfect perfume, for Lily…to match her natural scent and brilliant personality with a fragrance that enhanced them both…it would be a masterful gift, one that no other could duplicate.
Certainly not James Potter.
Cinnamon, he thought. Or perhaps caramel, burnt sugar…
Severus sat in the dimness of his bed curtains and scribbled notes on a spare sheet of parchment. He'd need a base, fixatives, various aromatics to try; some of them he could coax from Professor Sprout, but others would need to be purchased. It was a good thing he had an excellent memory for odours, because he didn't think Lily would appreciate him walking up just to smell her—much as he would like to.
Besides, that might give the game away.
Severus frowned. How am I going to test this?
He knew enough Potions theory now to understand that the more complicated a concoction, the more effect an individual's difference had on its performance. That was the reason for the market in customised potions and one he intended to take advantage of in the future, but for this project it presented a difficulty. If he wanted to keep his gift a secret, he could hardly ask Lily to try out his experiments.
Absently Severus stroked his quill along his jaw as he thought, feeling it catch on a hint of stubble and reminding himself to use his beard-inhibiting lotion that evening. Most of the others his age used charms, but he preferred the bitter-mint salve he made himself—it lasted longer, for one thing.
If I can't test the perfume on Lily, I'll have to find a substitute. He frowned again, staring into space. Asking another girl was out of the question, and useless besides; scents were highly personal, and no one else was going to smell like her, or interact the same way with his efforts. I need to mimic her somehow.
The solution formed slowly, and Severus hesitated over it for a long time. Copying a bit of Lily was not only complicated, it bordered on Dark magic. But I don't intend harm, he told himself. And it won't be very much, just enough to smell.
But then he grimaced, and drew a line through the note. I promised. She'd made him promise, that he wouldn't use Dark magic, except to defend himself and only in the direst of emergencies. He'd argued her into the clause, but she'd never been the target of sods like Potter and Black…or his own father.
There was one other option, though the idea heated his face to a ferocious blush in his curtained twilight. But it's not Dark magic.
And it wouldn't be that hard to do. Some of the ingredients were expensive, but one batch would provide for two cycles, and time to brew didn't present a problem…
Severus wrote down the last steps, then cast a charm to scramble the letters, as he did with all his notes. No one would look at it twice. Then he pushed aside his bed-curtains and got ready for the trip to Hogsmeade. He had supplies to buy.