At his home on Spinner's End, sitting partially inside of his large brick kitchen fireplace, Severus Snape stared down into a golden cauldron. The red flames licked the sides lovingly, causing brilliant reflections to flit around the dark corners of the room. Tiny whisps of smoke were rising in spirals from the pale liquid whose surface rippled lightly with a pastel-colored sheen. The kitchen was small and somewhat dirty. A heavy wooden table strewn with herbs and bottles took up most of the cabinet-lined room which also contained three chairs, a white sink with chipped enamel, and a small window lined by tatty green curtains.
A faint knocking sound startled Snape. He looked up confused for a moment because the entry had been spelled to repel unwanted visitors. Snape strode through the kitchen door passing into a small dark sitting room lined with books. Clutching his wand in his pocket, he slowly opened the door. A moment later, he thrust the door open wide, for standing on the threshold was Lily Evans, her light blue coat and dark red hair contrasting strongly with the dreariness of the grey trash-strewn street behind her. She stood in the doorway with her arms crossed, looking away as if she hadn't noticed that Snape was there. For a moment, Snape simply stared at her. Then he made a slight bow of his head and stepped back from the door.
"Lily," he said, " what a wonderful surprise. Please come in."
Lily turned to glare at him for a moment, her pink lips pursed in anger. Then she strode into the room and turned to face him. Her arms crossed. Severus Snape closed the door and turned toward her, but before he could open his mouth to ask her how she was, Lily shouted, "What did you mean by sending me that letter?"
Although Snape's face looked quite calm, he was absentmindedly wringing his hands. "Lily, I ... "
"It exploded in my face!" she said angrily, " It scared Petunia half to death. What was so important that it was worth burning off my eyebrows?"
Severous Snape's brow wrinkled, "I'm sorry if I caused you any distress," he said, "I simply meant to prevent the letter from falling into the wrong hands. You were able to read it, were you not?"
Lily shifted her weight uncomfortably, "Well... yes I did read it, but I still want to know what you meant by it."
Snape pulled his hands into his sleeves, and looked directly at Lily, "I only meant to warn you."
"That I am in danger? That marrying James is a mistake?" Lily Evans walked forward her hands on her hips, " Yes, I read the letter but I don't understand what you mean by it. It this some petty joke? Some last ditch effort to get back at James Potter?"
At the mention of Potter's name, Snape frowned. "I only thought that ... as a friend, I should ask you. Are you sure? Are you sure that you know what you are doing marrying Potter? He is a liar and a cheat. He has shown you one face, Lily, but the face that he shows others is totally different. Marrying Potter would be a grave mistake! He couldn't keep you safe. Not like ..." Snape looked down at his feet his voice trailing away, "not like he should."
Lily stepped forward until she was only inches from him, forcing him to look down into her face. "Don't you think that it is my decision whether or not to trust James Potter? I know what he was like in school. I'm not completely naive about his past. He's changed, Severus. He's not as cruel or as irritating as he once was."
"You think not?" Severus sneered, "I think that he has simply gotten better at hiding things from you." Snape's face then softened and his voice became deep and earnest. He reached out and touched her shoulder with the tips of his fingers, " Potter is dangerous, Lily. Open your eyes and see it. He makes enemies. If you marry him it will put YOU in danger too. Do you remember what we discussed about his friend Lupin. No, don't deny it, we both know that it's true. He is a werewolf!"
"I know." Lily said, "James told me."
"And how long did he hide it from you? How long did he keep it a secret? "
"James wouldn't talk about Lupin because he could never easily betray a confidence," Lily said.
Snape's head fell back as he stiffled a laugh. "Oh, so that's the story he gave you? And you believed it? Don't fool yourself into believing that he has told you all of his secrets! "
"What happened to Lupin was unfortunate. He is a good man. He deserves our compassion and our respect."
"I see. So your ...fiance expects you be friends with him? To welcome a werewolf into your home? To take the risk of being killed by him! Don't you see? Potter cares nothing for your safety!"
Lily turned away from Snape walking toward the tattered couch, "It's only once a month. He is contained at those times."
Snape walked up behind Lily. He leaned over her shoulder talking quietly into her ear. "And the one time that he gets loose? Lily, you know that when a person transforms into a werewolf they have no memory of friend or foe. He could kill you, Lily... and yet Potter finds that an acceptable risk?"
"I find it an acceptable risk," Lily replied as she turned to face him, " and Severus, please keep it quiet about Lupin. He could lose his job."
Snape couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice, "So now I am to lie for him as well? When will you see that Potter does not have your best interests at heart? I fear for you, Lily. I fear what will happen to you if you ally yourselves with those who are too vocal and too conspicuous. Those who already have dangerous foes. Gryffindors may value bravery, but you mustn't confuse it with foolhardiness."
"Dangerous foes? Severus do you mean..." Lily lost her anger. Her face was now full of fear. "Do you mean... is James ... are the death eaters planning to harm him? Do you know this?"
Severus raised his chin speaking in a haughty voice, "Who can say what the servants of the Dark Lord will do. But it is certain that those who openly defy them will be challenged."
Lily jumped forward and grabbed the front of Snape's robe shocking him with her intensity. "Severus!" Lily demanded, "do you know something for certain? Is James, or Sirius, or Remus, or Peter on a death list that you know of? Does He-who-can-not-be-named have them marked for death? Please, tell me! Severus please."
"No," Snape said quietly all of the haughtiness gone from his voice, "they are on no list that I know of. I only meant that they might one day be."
Lily sagged, relief etched in all of her features. She walked over to the tattered couch and slouched down upon it wiping her eyes. Snape took a seat facing her in a large faded armchair. He clutched the arms of the chair with his fingernails as he gazed fiercely at Lily, watching as she bit her lower lip her eyes closed. She blew out a breath.
A smile touched Lily's lips and she sat up opening her eyes. She looked around the small sitting room noticing the walls of books and the small cabinet with photos in silver frames. Then she looked straight at Snape causing him to blink. "It's been a long time," she said.
"Yes," Snape agreed.
"I heard about your mother," Lily said quietly, "I'm sorry. That leaves you in this house all alone doesn't it?"
Snape sat up taller, pulling his robes around him, "Yes, this house is mine now. It isn't a mountain of Gringotts gold, but there are worse inheritances."
Lily's smile widened a bit. "So what have you been doing these days? Still selling potions to the Apothecary?"
"It pays the bills," Snape said sharply, "Mother left me a small muggle bank account for the upkeep of this house, but one still has magical expenses." Snape arched his hands but his eyes never strayed far from Lily's face. "Professor Slughorn has promised to introduce me to some of his friends in the ministry, and I have also been pursuing some ...other prospects. Alas, some of us must still work for a living."
Lily smiled, "What you meant to say was, 'Alas, not all of us can marry money?' " Snape opened his mouth as if to deny it, but Lily Laughed loudly, and a smile touched the edge of Snape's lips. "Oh, Severus," Lily said warmly, "How I've missed your sense of humor."
Snape's breath seemed to catch in his throat at her mention of his given name. He leaned forward gazing into her eyes, but Lily turned away, her face turning red. Her voice lowered to a whisper, "I'm sorry Severus," she said, "I'm sorry that I abandoned you." She glanced up at him, but Snape said nothing. "We were best friends, and I left you alone. I never forgave myself for that. I just ...wanted to apologize. Please, just ... don't hate me anymore."
"Hate you?" Snape said, his voice cracking with emotion, "I could never hate you Lily. You know that."
Lily's smile shone like the sun. She reached forward and grabbed his hands with hers, and years fell from Snape's face. It was as if they were children again. "Oh Severus," Lily said,"how I've missed you. We used to do everything together. When you were gone, it was as if I was a boat that had lost an anchor. Do you remember the first time we were able to make patronuses?"
"Yes I do," Snape said, "And your doe chased my patronus around the room." They laughed clasping their hands even tighter.
"You know what's funny?" Lily began, "James' patronus is a Stag. He says that proves that we were meant for each other." Snape had stiffened at the mention of James Potter. "Oh no, not you too!" Lily said exasperation in his voice. "I can't even mention your name without James getting as prickly as a knarl, and now I see that it's the same if I mention his name in front of you." Snape scowled. He pulled his hands free from hers. Lily sighed," Why is it that the two men that I care most about, hate each other so much?"
Snape had been frowning but when Lily mentioned how she cared for him, his heart leapt. he covered his face with his hand to hide his smile. Lily, mistaking his gesture for distress leaned forward and placed a hand on his knee. "Don't be upset, Severus," she said.
"I'm not," he croaked unable to keep his voice from cracking. He took a breath and then sat back in his chair. "I'm not upset Lily." He smirked, "It's just that my patronus has changed since you last saw it. Potter may have a patronus that looks like a Stag, but now my patronus is a plate of roast venison." Lily laughed. Her loud voice booming off of the walls of the small sitting room. Snape's eyes sparkled as he gazed greedily at her long red hair, her soft lips, and her beautiful smile. Snape was filled first with desire, then with jealousy as he thought of James Potter touching her, holding her, kissing her. Resolve formed in his mind and his smile turned sly. "Would you like a cup of tea?" He asked.
In the kitchen, Snape hurriedly gathered all that he would need. He waved his wand, and a silver kettle filled itself in the sink and hung itself on a hook over the fire. He pulled out his mother's silver tea tray and her best china. "Scourgify!" He cried and the dust flew off of the cups revealing the pattern of silver hippogryphs in a green forest. He searched and found the tin of ginger and treacle biscuits that he had bought at a muggle shop but never opened. Then he carried the teapot over to the fireplace and held it in one hand while he used his wand to stir the potion that was sitting over the fire. It would not reach full potency until the evening, but that couldn't be helped.
Snape summoned a golden ladle and placed two spoonfuls of the potion into the teapot. Then he prodded the fire with his wand so that it flared up. In a few minutes, the water in the kettle was boiling. Snape poured the boiling water on top of the potion before adding a tea bag. A few wispy spirals of steam rose out of the teapot before he replaced the lid. He placed the teapot, biscuits, sugar, milk, cups and saucers on the silver tray and carried it through the door into the sitting room.
Lily was standing across the room examining the pictures which stood on the mantle in wooden frames. Placing the tea tray down on the table, Snape walked over to Lily's side. She was examining a picture of a young Snape in oversized school robes standing in front of the Hogwarts express. He fiddled with a small pin on his chest, and looked down hiding his face behind his hair. Every so often his mother's arm would reach out and tug on his robes to straighten them. "Oh I remember this," Lily said, "this is when we came back from our first year. You had gotten an award in defense against the dark arts, do you remember?"
Snape leaned over Lily's shoulder. She smelled of wild lillies. "If you look closely, you may see someone else you know," he said as he reached around her to tap the picture frame. Snape and his mother moved aside, and she could see in the background two young girls. The smaller talked animatedly motioning with her hands, and the older tried to hide the fact that she was interested in what her younger sister was saying.
"Why that's me and Tuny!" Lily said. "She was much more tolerant of magic back then." Lily said her smile slowly fading. "I really wish that she could have come to Hogwarts with me. Now all that I have are her jealousy and her spite." Lily put the picture back down on the bookshelf, and returned to the couch. Snape sat across from her again and poured her a cup of tea.
"Would you like milk or sugar?" he asked.
"No thank you," Lily said and lifting her cup with both hands she blew across it so that the steam flew in complex spirals. Snape poured himself a cup, and sat back in his chair watching Lily who lifted the cup to her lips. Snape gazed intensely, his eyes never leaving Lily's face. Lily looked across the rim of the cup straight into Snape's eyes and froze. Three seconds later she slammed the teacup down on the table which such force that the saucer cracked. She rose to her feet. "Severus Snape!" Lily yelled angrily, "You would have let me drink that wouldn't you? Did you think that I wouldn't notice Amortensia when I saw it? You weren't the only one to get an O in potions, you know!" Lily was shaking with her anger now. "Did you plan for me to take this and break my engagement? Do you hate James Potter so much that it is worth utterly destroying a lifelong friendship? How could you!"
Lily turned to go, but Snape rushed forward grabbing her sleeve to stop her. "Lily!" he demanded, "You know me. Do you think that I would...that I could ever do anything that would harm you? I only wanted to keep you from making a dangerous mistake. Can you fault me for trying to use whatever means were available to me ... to do whatever I had to do to save you?"
"Save me?" she exclaimed as she slapped his hand away. "You think that making me infatuated with you would save me? You were going to slip me a love potion for my own good?"
Snape stood up straighter his voice filling with pride. "But Lily, this is no crude passion pill to confuse the mind and cause lust for a day. Nor is it even Amortensia the strongest of the so called 'love potions' that causes an obsessive infatuation. I have, through careful and meticulous research, minimized the negative effects of Amortensia and created the first 'true' love potion. I added silkworm pods and an infusion of lovet to increase longevity. I added a tincture of spearmint and rose hips that have been steamed with lavender for sweetness. The person who drinks this potion will think on the last person that they have seen with tenderness. A tenderness that will grow in time into the deepest affection. My potion creates caring, not coveting; love and loyalty, not lust; joy not jealousy. And I wouldn't let you take it alone. We would drink it together. Just a touch to your lips and mine and we would share a love of the kind that legends are made of!"
"But don't you see Severus, that this proves exactly what they have been saying about you all along?"
"What do you mean," Snape spat, "What do 'they' say of me?"
"That you think only of yourself. That you think yourself superior to those of muggle birth."
"But I never said ..."
"But you just did. You would have me drink this thing with you no matter what I wanted. Did you not for one moment think that I might want some say in deciding who I spend the rest of my life with? Don't you realize that to try to make this decision for me means that you don't respect my will or trust my judgement?" Lily turned toward the door to leave.
"Wait!" Severus called out. He grabbed her shoulder turning her toward him, but he froze when he saw her.
Tears streamed down her face. She looked as if the world had crashed around her. "The saddest thing ..." she began, "is that I already loved you Severus, but now ... now I know that you never trusted me. You never loved me the same as I loved you. You never were able to put my feelings before your own."
Lily walked to the door and opened it. Snape started forward but she turned again and her eyes froze him on the spot. "Goodbye Severus," Lily said, her green eyes filled with tears. Then turning she walked out of the door closing it behind her. The door shutting sounded like the sealing of a tomb, but when he heard it, it was as if a paralysis spell had finally lifted. Snape ran to the door and tossed it open, but she was gone. The street was bare and empty as if no one had walked along it in months.
Snape came back into his dark, empty house and closed the door. He walked a few steps and then sank down to the ground clutching his face in his hands. He had lost her. He had lost Lily Evans forever. It seemed like a long time that he was on the ground. Was it minutes or days, he could not tell. When he reached the table, wiping up the spilled tea with a dirty dishtowel, the pot had gone cold. Snape dropped down into the armchair, despair etched on his face. Then he stared at the pot. "You were right, Lily," he said to the empty room, "I did not trust you enough, I did not love you enough!" Snape picked up the teacup and drained it before pouring another and drinking it down as well. " I didn't love you enough then," he said," but I will never...never make that mistake again."