It was the year of 1976. It was the longest and hottest summer since records began and did not make Spinners End, Cokeworth, any the more bearable for its sudden scorched landscape. The heat was sweltering, the ground was hard and cracked like parched lips and the once luscious fields that surrounded the lines of terraced houses now had degraded themselves to nothing more than desolate wastelands of dust and debris. The river that snaked around the outskirts of the town had dried up, leaving a long and unsightly length of earth to bear crude judgement upon: beer cans from late night stragglers was littered amongst the dead weeds and if you looked closely enough the small, fragile skeletons of fish glittered in the unforgiving sun at its bed.
However, there was a small reprieve from the weather in the way of a clump of trees that stood a little way back from the river in a secluded clearing where I, Severus Snape, took full advantage of. I was leaning against one of the familiar trees in the refreshingly cool air that the shade provided me with. A passer-by would perhaps think me to have a hunched disposition but it was only out of habit because I so often had my nose pressed closely to a book.
It was one of those few moments when I was genuinely relaxed and at my ease. The forest dwelling was in half light and actually looked like a half way decent place to spend a pleasant afternoon with a friend. There was only a slight taint to my peacefulness though. I wiped my streaming nose on the sleeve of my terribly overlarge mackintosh for the hundredth time that day. Hay fever had been plaguing me incessantly ever since my return home. My thin mouth twisted in a sardonic grimace. When did my return home ever offer up anything more than a feeling of more distain and disgust for where I lived?
As my long thin white fingers idly picked about the scrubs of the forest floor, I felt my forehead knit together as I fell into one of my deep thoughts. It was a little less than a month now before the start of my fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and in all honesty I couldn't say that I was wholly looking forward to it. Yet…nor could I say that I wasn't looking forward to it either. It would be of quite a considerable relief to leave, as it always was, to become free of my parents incessant arguments and the pitiful and shameful home life that I only had to endure for a few years longer before leaving forever. And yet a return brought about its own problems.
I felt my mood of relaxed ponder turn darker, more sinister, as thoughts strayed to the face of James Potter. What I wouldn't give to just have it be just him and I, to see how he really faired against myself without the help of his bastard friends and his crooning audience. He would be no match for me, who would forget more curses than Potter would ever know in his pathetic life. I imagined Potter in my mind's eye, crawling on the ground with his wand far out of reach, bleeding, crying, and pleading for my mercy like the coward he was.
Then another figure entered my imagination. A figure who's dark red hair bounced as she rushed towards me, a figure who had also filled out over the last year or so as well … At first I thought Lily to be cross, but no, she had come to give her admirations of my skill, my power and my ability and to laugh at the downfall of Potter. I closed my eyes against the image and sunk back a little more against the trunk of the tree. Yes, I had associates at school of that of my house, Slytherin, but Lily was the only one who truly made it bearable for me at Hogwarts against the tirade of slander from a large proportion of the school lead by Potter, Black and their cronies. When I saw her stroll into the Great Hall for breakfast, or pass by me in the corridor or see her smile at me from across a classroom it made my gut clench in a private pleasure.
I was so lost in my musings that it disguised the footfalls of Lily Evans whom was walking towards the place where I was lounging. This exact place held so many joyous memories of past excursions where we had spent hours together, just the two of us and no one else. However of late I had only seen her a handful of times. She had been meeting up with friends from school or neighbours, basking in the sunlight and sipping lemonade.
'Hey,' Lily called, startling me out of my deep reverie and making me quickly straighten up almost dizzyingly so; I felt the warmth of a familiar dull flush tint my cheeks as I saw her watching me. 'Sorry, I didn't mean to make you jump.' She gave me an apologetic smile before putting a hand down to the ground to sit down opposite me at her tree. She lay back against it heavily and closed her eyes for a moment although it gave her great relief to just be still for a moment. She wore a tan brown cropped top with a halter neck fastening, a short tiered skirt of a floral pattern in dark blue and her favourite pair of leather sandals that were scuffed and worn from wearing them so often. My flush grew in its temptress like heat. My eyes, as if magnetically attracted, stared at her bare, creamy stomach in uncomfortable fasciation to the point where I had to pinch my side to look away, dare they stray anywhere else.
'It's fine, it wasn't your fault. I was just…' I muttered without finishing as I struggled to regain some sort of composure. That's when I finally noticed the slight stillness of her face and the set of her mouth. She still had not opened her eyes. Lily usually had a very animated face so was easy to catch out on if she was ever troubled or upset.
She exhaled deep and slow, still blinded by her lids to my expression. 'It doesn't matter.'
'It does to me.' I mumbled in a muted voice of embarrassment and quiet curiosity. Lily paused before opening her eyes and straightened up a little to face me.
'That's nice of you but I don't really want to talk about it … it's just family stuff, you know, the usual.'
She gave me a strained smile before crouching cross legged forward to twirl a twig around her slender fingers as she so often did with her wand. I felt a smatterings of hurt dissipate the embarrassment away in my stomach. Lily usually told me everything, why now the sudden change? I ducked my head down and found my own twig to busy myself with, lest I show some sort of emotion that was running through my head on my face.
'So what have you been up to?' Lily began with effort, shaking back her head to fully focus on me. 'I feel like I haven't seen you in ages!'
'Well that would be because you haven't seen me.' I uttered, probably a little too sourly for Lily's liking. All of a sudden my good mood for seeing Lily had taken a turn for the worse.
She looked up from watching her hand with a troubled, awkward expression on her face, not quite meeting my eyes over her slightly elevated brows.
'Yes well…I have other friends Sev, I can't ignore them.'
Lily sighed, aggravated a little at my reply no doubt, but I couldn't help it. For years we had spent the majority of our time together but now…it had tapered off. I often thought that Lily was too popular for her own good. Or perhaps it was just that I felt lonely without her. I took a small, tight breath to try and dispel my growing anguish. My eyes, in the quietness of the lull, explored the forest floor to remain intact and without chagrin.
'Who have you been hanging around with?'
'Oh, just a few people from school. Mostly my roommates and David from down the street.' To my vexation I noticed the sudden pinkness in Lily's cheeks at the mention of his name when my gaze flickered upwards. I had seen David hanging around the street corners when I strolled around trying to kill time, not being able to stand being cooped up in my room anymore. He was older than me and Lily by a few years; was heavily into punk rock, eyeliner and smoked copious amounts away from his parents' eyes.
'How nice.' I attempted to try and keep the derisiveness and jealousy out of my voice to the best of my ability.
'Yes it was it's been great.' Lily finally seemed to forget about her mysterious feud with her family and became her usual self once more. 'I went to go see the Ramones at the Roundhouse in London, it was crazy.'
'Your parents let you go all the way to London on your own?'
Lily rebelliously smirked a little in a way that made me very sure of her answer.
'Well they didn't exactly know that I went. I just said that I was meeting friends from school in London. It wasn't a total lie because I was in London, just you know…'
'Is that why you had an argument?' I couldn't help it.
'What?' Lily replied with a furrowed brow.
'You know with your family, did they find out about the concert?'
'Oh no, no…it's just ridiculous nonsense, David agrees with me.'
'What is?' I prodded but Lily merely shook her head looking faintly embarrassed.
'So you'll tell David but not me?' I couldn't keep the accusatory tone away from my voice and eyes as I stared her right in the face.
'Next you'll be saying that Potter agrees with you to!'
'Oh stop it.' Lily suddenly snapped irritably giving me a sharp look.
'I'm just so tired of you going on about him all the time…it would be so nice to talk about anything other than Potter. You know, not obsessing over him or giving a blow by blow account of all of his activities at school.'
'I don't give a blow by blow account of all of his activities at school!' I griped in scandalised tones. My face was very rapidly rising with hot blood again as well as my quaking voice in volume. 'I just can't believe how stupid people are about him as if he's some sort of saint! Prancing around the castle like he owns the place, breaking rules left right and centre without so much as an expulsion from Dumbledore-'
'Hey!' Lily cut across me with an icy steel inflection in her voice that matched her emerald eyes. 'Dumbledore is the greatest wizard there's ever been-'
'I know but-'
'Maybe he thinks there are more important things he could be doing with his time than monitoring after James Potter every other day. You know, perhaps he's more worried about You Know Who rather than an idiot teenage boy!'
I chose to ignore her comment about You Know Who. It put my already nervous stomach in confused knots.
'He's supposed to monitor his students! It's his school, he's the Headmaster!'
'Well what about Mulciber and Avery?' Lily shot at me with scorn, her chin lifted in strong resolute, suddenly changing the conversation into an ambiguous direction.
'What about them?' I queried cautiously.
'They should have been expelled after what they did to Mary that one time a few years ago but they didn't.'
'And I told you it was nothing.'
All of a sudden Lily startled me by jumping to her feet with balled fists at her sides; her short red hair swished about her face in an angry way, her cheekbones high with colour.
'I'm going home.'
'What! Why?' I asked with disappointment flooding my body with its entirety. 'You've only been here five minutes!'
'I have a headache. Wait no, in fact that's a lie, you've given me a headache.' My brain tried to engage with my mouth as quickly as possible but without another word Lily turned, dropped the twig from her fingers and was about to leave when she paused. My hopes spiked but dropped at her words.
'And if you must know, my parents don't want me hanging around with David anymore because they think he's too old for me and that I'm too young for a relationship.' She moved quickly from the cluster of trees and within moments I was quite alone.
The clearing abruptly grew dark and cold.