Chapter Four

He didn't know why he'd said it.

James knew that he could be a bit of a prat at times. He knew that he was quite good at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

But he really didn't know why he'd said it.

His own voice echoed through his mind, haunting him as it had ever since the words had spilled from his lips.

'Go back to your pretty little Mudblood.'

He felt sickened each time it ran through his mind - dirty somehow. He was no stranger to swear words, and had said quite a few in his time.

But he'd never been like that. Never.

When it all came down to it, it was Snape. He'd wanted to hurt him, to shock him, to render him speechless and just get rid of him. James had never liked the sinister Slytherin, but this year he found himself downright hating him.

But he shouldn't have said it.

It was Lily. James had fancied her for years now, but it always seemed that she liked Snape in the way she never could him. James understood it, vaguely - she saw him as shallow, a good laugh but no one she could come to for anything serious. Under the layers of grease and grime, Severus Snape was deep, and one could tell. It was something that seemed to surround him - perhaps it proclaimed itself in his endless black eyes.

Next to him, James knew he was nothing.

It was odd, being nothing. He didn't normally consider himself conceited, but when it all came down to it, he was good at everything. He excelled in his classes, he was a star Quidditch player, he was rather popular, the teachers all liked him...

Okay, perhaps he was a bit conceited. But he had good intentions at least! Better than any that great bat had...

But Snape aside, all he wanted was Lily. She wasn't like other girls... there was something... magical about her.

Great Merlin, since when had he become so cliché?

The answer was easy- since he had fallen for her. Snape was wrong, he didn't just want her for that reason. He wasn't that shallow, at least.

He turned towards the staircase. Lily... Was what Snape had said true? That her parents were dead? Even Snape wouldn't lie about a thing like that, he knew. Slowly, he climbed the stairs and pushed lightly on the door to her dorm room. It was open and allowed him inside.

He spotted her immediately in the corner of the room, hugging her knees to her chest as she stared blankly out the window and watched the snowflakes dance from a steel gray sky.

A bit nervous, he bit his lip and walked slowly toward her. When he stood only a foot or so away, he whispered, "Lil?"

She turned to look at him; her expression didn't change. Red lines danced through her eyes, and she looked pale and sickly.

"God, Lil, I'm so sorry," he said weakly, sinking down onto the floor next to her.

She was silent as she rested her head on his shoulder. A bit awkwardly, he wrapped an arm around her slim shoulders.

"It's my fault," she said tonelessly. "It's my fault that they're dead. The Dark Lord...He wants to hurt me for some reason. He wants to show me that he can destroy me."

"No," James argued lightly. "Lily, don't even think like that. Why would the Dark Lord single you out? I'm sure it was just..."

"There's something I haven't told you, James," she mumbled. "Something about him."

Nervousness immediately engulfed him.

"What?" he asked at once. "What is it?"

"Trelawney," she said softly. "You remember a few weeks ago, when I had to stay after class because I dropped that tea cup and broke it?"

James nodded slowly.

"She...told me something," Lily said. "And it seemed like she was possessed when she said it. Her voice changed, her eyes rolled into the back of her head. It seemed like she was in some sort of trance."

"What did she say?" James urged.

"Darkness is rising," Lily quoted, her voice weak. "And it will only fall...when you do."

A shiver ran up and down his spine.

"She's an old cow," James proclaimed at once, speaking more rapidly than usual. "She's an old, crazed bat and she doesn't know what she's talking about-"

"No, James," Lily said simply. "And there's more."

With a very tired sort of sigh, she recited, "The Dark Lord will ruin you slowly, agonizingly slowly. He will prey on those you love; torture them, kill them, ensnare them with his propositions of greatness. And you can only watch, powerless...until he takes you as well."

They studied each other for a silent moment that seemed to last a thousand lifetimes. An aching seemed to tear apart his soul - he didn't want her hurting; he would rather his own life be torn to pieces than for her to cry a single tear.

"I won't let him hurt you," he finally said in a determined sort of whisper. "I'll die before he hurts you."

"James, don't say that," she said at once, sounding almost scared.

"But I would," he said simply, pulling her a bit closer to him.

"He might hear you," she said quietly, desperately.

"Well," James said with a weak smile, "That would be awfully rude of him to eavesdrop like that."

Lily rolled her eyes, a vague hint of a smile playing at the corners of her lips.

"You're an idiot," she stated weakly.

Relief filled him at this flash of the Lily he knew making a brief return, and he responded, without thinking, "You're really beautiful when you smile."

A light sigh escaped her lips, and she quickly leaned toward him and pecked him on the cheek. He felt an insanely giddy smile spread across his lips as she leaned back against his shoulder, rocking back and forth slightly.

He tentatively leaned toward her and planted a kiss in her scarlet hair.

And the room seemed to fill with silent 'I love you's that didn't need to be put down in words.

* * *

Severus strode through the corridors, his face set and teeth clenched. Malfoy's 'Let's Kill Potter Club' didn't sound so bad right about now. He absentmindedly rubbed his knuckles, still stinging from when he had lashed out at Potter. But oh, he had deserved it. How DARE he call Airelle a bitch... and a Mudblood no less! The brainless bastard.

He growled and the sound came out a bit louder than he had intended. A first year Hufflepuff let out a frightened squeak and scampered hurriedly away from him. He rolled his dark eyes upwards. Honestly.

Quickening his pace, he turned a corner and nearly ran into Lucius, who seemed to have been waiting for him. The blonde boy was leaning casually against the wall, his arms crossed and one foot propped up on the wall behind him. He was talking to a pretty Slytherin girl who was known for... well, she was known for... uh... for her... willingness to take her clothes off.

When he spotted Snape, he waved the girl off and turned with a smile to his friend. "Ah, Severus, I've been waiting for you. Did you hear about the Muggle's parents?"

Snape's fist clenched involuntarily, but he restrained himself. "You seem... happy about it, Lucius," he commented carefully.

He shrugged casually. "You would be too, if you understood."

His eyes narrowed, and he took a step closer. "Understood... what?"

Malfoy smiled. "Everything is falling into place, my friend. And when it does, we will gain all the power we could possibly desire. That's what it's all about, Severus. Life or death doesn't matter... those all blend together in the end. But what really matters is what side you're on."

"Sides? What the hell are you talking about, Malfoy? And what do you mean by 'we'?"

Lucius shook his head, a twisted grin plastered to his face. "I swear, Snape, sometimes your thickness amazes me. I chose my side last year. It's time for you. He wants you, Snape. He wants you to join us."

Black eyes suddenly widened in realization. "You're a Death..."

In a second, Malfoy's hand was pressed over Snape's mouth. "Want to shout it to the world, idiot? Shut up." He glanced around before moving away, his eyes dangerous. "Think about it. He can give you everything... all the power you could dream of. You can do whatever you want and have whatever you want. But don't make any...hasty decisions... think about it." He grinned. "You know where to find me."

Lucius started to walk away, but Snape grabbed him by the arm. "I don't need to think, Malfoy. My answer is no. Tell your Lord that there is no way in hell I would ever..."

Instead of being angry, Lucius looked merely amused. "It's because of that Mudblood, isn't it?" At his surprised look, the other boy laughed. "I should have known! That little redhead's got you under her spell. It's been obvious for so long, Snape. I mean, really, half the school can see your pathetic infatuation."

Severus' grip on his arm tightened. "Shut. Up."

"No, no... you need to hear this." He smirked cruelly. "You really like her, don't you? You think she'll just fall right into those deep black eyes of yours, that you'll go off and live happily ever after in some middle-class house with shutters and a white-picket fence around it. Maybe even have a little dog, right?"

He laughed at the idea, the sound icy-cold. "Face it, Snape, the chances of her choosing you over someone like Potter are about the same as her falling for a troll, though I actually think the troll would win over you." He moved closer to the black-haired Slytherin. "Looked in a mirror lately, Snape? It ain't a pretty sight. She just feels sorry for you... that's the only reason she even tolerates you. Wake up and smell the pumpkin juice my friend. The only place you'll ever be accepted is with us."

With that, he turned on his heel and strode away, his blonde hair breezing out slightly behind him. "You're wrong," Snape weakly said after a moment, but there was no one to hear him.