Pairing/Characters: Severus Snape/Lily Potter
Spoilers: Through the Deathly Hallows
Beta: This one is unbetad, so sorry in advance for any mistakes.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything
Synopsis: After being attacked by Voldemort, a recently widowed and severely injured Lily Potter is brought to Hogwarts with her one year old son. In an attempt to help both her, and his young potions master heal, Dumbledore puts Severus Snape personally in charge of her care.
November 1, 1981 2:15am
Blood pounds deafeningly in Professor Severus Snape’s ears as he runs up the spiral staircase, three steps at a time. The door at the top is no match for his urgency, screaming on its hinges and slamming noisily against the wall as Snape bursts into the circular room. Panting with exertion and ever rising panic, he calls out to the office’s lone occupant.
“Is it true?” The last word breaks in Snape’s throat as he waits desperately for the headmaster’s answer.
“Severus,” Albus Dumbledore’s voice is infuriatingly calm as he stands from behind the ornate desk and raises a hand in an attempt to soothe him.
“TELL ME!” The words are a scream, the panicked cry of a cornered animal. Everything, absolutely everything in Severus’s existence rides on the old Headmaster’s answer.
Dumbledore’s eyes are kind, too kind, as he finally speaks. “I am not entirely sure of the details just yet. However, the rumor you have most likely heard is at least partially true. Lord Voldemort did indeed attack the Potters at their home this evening.”
Severus’s legs give out and his knees hit the polished floor as his entire world comes crashing down around him. A tortured, barely audible, “no,” escapes his lips. All that time and effort, all of the personal risks he’s made over the past terrifying year have all been for naught. Everything is for naught now. Lily Evans... No, he reminds himself while fisting his fingernails into his palms, Lily Potter is dead. “I’ll kill that dog!” He vows, spitting the words through clenched teeth. Sirius Black will pay dearly for betraying the secret of their location. Severus will make sure of it.
Hot tears burn the backs of his eyes and he barely feels it as a warm hand slides onto his shoulder. “Severus,” he hears as if from far away. He ignores it, only to finally glance down when he feels the sleeve of his shirt being gently slid up. Dumbledore is kneeling in front of him, revealing his cursed Dark Mark inch by inch. Of course, he thinks bitterly, the Dark Lord will be summoning him soon to celebrate his glorious victory over a mother and her small child. Dumbledore will want him to attend, to continue his pretense of loyalty. Perhaps he will go, he decides. He’ll put on his mask of unending devotion one more time, only to take the Dark Lord by surprise. There’s a small chance Severus will be able to kill him, to end it. And if not, Voldemort will end Snape instead. Either option is equally appealing.
“Severus,” The headmaster gently calls again, finally gaining his attention. “Look.”
Forcing his eyes to focus on the present instead of the past, Severus obediently examines the tattoo on the inside of his forearm. A gasp hisses from his throat as he traces the now pale pink outline. “I don’t understand,” he says, bewildered. In all the time he’s been a Death Eater, either in truth or deception, the Dark Lord’s mark has never been so insubstantial.
“It would appear,” Dumbledore says with a touch of irony, “that Voldemort made a grave error tonight. In his attempt to avoid the prophesy foretelling his demise, he has in fact fulfilled it.”
“The Dark Lord is dead?” Severus is incredulous. “It’s impossible! Potter is not powerful enough…”
Snape’s words trail off at the headmaster’s sad smile. “I am afraid James was killed in the noble act of protecting his family. His body was found very close to the front door. He didn’t even have a wand in his hand. Lily…”
Severus cannot stop the soft whimper from escaping his lips and squeezes his eyes tightly shut. He does not want to hear about what he’s sure is Lily’s heroic and yet futile sacrifice to save her son.
“Lily,” Dumbledore continues determinedly, “was found in young Harry’s bedroom, along with the quite dead body of Lord Voldemort himself. We found Harry in his cot, completely unharmed. There’s not a scratch on the boy.
“But that’s impossible!” It is the second time Snape’s cried those words tonight, but he just can’t grasp the situation.
“You’ll have to excuse an old man,” Dumbledore says, easing himself up off his knees and motioning for Snape to follow him to a couple of chairs. “I just can’t kneel on the floor a moment longer.” Severus follows obediently, a numbness starting to settle into his soul. Once seated, the headmaster pours an amber liquid into two small glasses. Severus takes the one offered to him, but just sits there holding it.
“As far as we can tell,” Dumbledore continues from where he left off. “The killing curse Voldemort enacted on Lily Potter was reflected back at him, instantly taking his life. I saw his body myself. It is being held in a secure morgue at St. Mungo’s. If I had to hazard a guess as to why this happened, it would have to be because James Potter sacrificed his life to save his family. That kind of old magic is powerful in itself, but then Lily duplicated the process when she stepped in front of her son, making it doubly powerful. Of course, we will never know this for sure unless Lily wakes up.”
Severus doesn’t feel the shards gouging his palm as the little glass shatters. He doesn’t notice the burn as amber liquid mixes with blood and spills to the floor. His heart is about to explode into his throat. “What did you say?”
“Because of James and Lily’s Potter’s two separate, selfless attempts to save their son, Voldemort’s curse did not instantly kill Lily. She is however, gravely injured. The healers cannot tell me when, or even if she will recover.”
There’s a loud crash as Severus’s chair tumbles to the floor in his haste to stand. Without a glance back at the Hogwarts School’s headmaster, he strides purposely across the floor, blood and alcohol still dripping from his injured hand.
Dumbledore calls out to him. “Where are you going?”
Snape turns. He’s frustrated with this delay, with this waste of precious moments. “Where do you think?” He snaps. “I’m going to St. Mungo's.” He has to see her. He has to prove to himself she still breathes. And maybe he can help her, maybe there is a potion the healers haven’t tried yet. Everything else; the dead Dark Lord, Sirius Black, his own agonizing guilt, can wait.
“She isn’t there Severus.” The old man says patiently. “The Death Eaters are still out there, many of them may try to seek revenge. We had her and Harry moved to a secure location. There is a team of highly skilled healers assigned to her. There is nothing you can do.”
“Where. Is. She.” Every nerve in Severus’s body tenses, screams to go to her. How dare Dumbledore keep this from him!
The old man sighs resignedly. “She’s here, Severus, in our hospital wing. There is nowhere else more secure.”
Snape’s heavy footsteps are pounding down the spiral staircase before Dumbledore’s sentence is complete.
November 1, 1981 12:42pm
Severus doesn’t know how long he’s been sitting in the hard wooden chair, but he can no longer feel his extremities. He no longer counts the ragged breaths of the small, bandaged woman in the hospital bed next to him, but he thinks they may have eased just a bit in past few hours. Every so often one of the healers comes by to chant another charm over her. Twice her bandages have been replaced and potions rubbed into her wounds. The clock on the wall ticks away her heartbeats, but Severus doesn’t dare keep track of either. Guilt and despair threaten to cripple him, but he does not yet dare to give in to them. She might still wake up. She has to wake up.
There’s a soft scraping noise as a second wooden chair is dragged to the opposite side of Lily’s bed. “Any change?”
He spares the newcomer a glance. Remus Lupin’s clothes are in disarray, his hair matted to one side of his head and full of debris, suggesting he slept on the ground last night. With bloodshot eyes and tearstained cheeks, the werewolf looks as horrible as Severus feels. Unable to drudge up enough energy for any hateful feelings for Lupin at the moment, let alone a scathing reply, Severus merely shakes his head in the negative.
“We’ve taken care of James’s body,” the werewolf continues, his voice rough. “We’re keeping him preserved at St. Mungo’s for a while so Lily can go to the funeral once she’s recovered. Harry is with Professor McGonagall right now, but she’s planning on bringing him up to see his mum in a few minutes.”
Snape can’t seem to fathom why Lupin would think he’d care about any of that, so he just stays silent.
“Why are there bandages on her eyes?” Lupin asks suddenly.
Severus has asked the healers all of the obvious questions already and the last thing he wants is to have to recount the answers back to anyone. “She was burned. They aid in the healing process.” His answer is curt in the hopes that this will be enough to shut Lupin up for a while.
The werewolf chokes back a sob. “Will she…” He chokes again. “Can she still…?”
Snape cuts him off. “The healers don’t know anything.” He emphasizes the last word harshly, venting some of his frustrations. The incompetent staff Dumbledore put so much faith in had bandied about phrases like “we are hopeful that she will regain consciousness, she may regain her sight,” and “we don’t know if she’ll ever walk again.” They gave no absolutes, they effectively knew nothing. Severus wanted to throw them all out of the hospital wing windows just to hear them scream during their decent.
Lupin lets out another ragged, sob-like breath, distracting him from that pleasant thought. “I can’t believe Sirius would…I can’t…” The werewolf covers his face with his palms, his whole body starting to shake with suppressed grief.
For the love of Merlin, can’t the infuriating beast just go away?
“He was our friend!” Lupin continues to wail, nearly hysterical now. “Something must have happened. I can’t believe he’d turn on us like that, on James.”
“Believe it.” Snape’s voice is made of steel. “Sirius Black is a dead man.”
Before Lupin can comment, a middle aged witch with black hair and green robes enters through the privacy drapes. She has a sleeping toddler in her arms. Severus immediately averts his gaze to the woman on the bed. He does not want to see the child of James Potter.
Lupin gets up from his chair to greet them. “Minerva,” he says with audible relief. “How is he?” There’s a rustle of fabric and then Lupin is crooning sickeningly sweet nonsense words at the child. Severus has to clench his teeth together to keep from screaming.
After a quick conversation with Professor McGonagall that Snape refuses to listen to, Lupin lays the small boy in a portable cot that’s been placed near his mother’s bed. “I need to go make a statement to the ministry,” he explains, quietly. “I should be back before he wakes up.”
Severus breathes a sigh of relief as he listens to Lupin and McGonagall’s footsteps fade away.
November 1, 1981 1:55pm
At first, Severus isn’t entirely sure what has awakened him from a troubled and unintentional sleep. He lifts his head off the side of the hospital bed, his back protesting painfully as he sits back up in his chair. He risks a glance at the clock on the wall. Lupin has been gone for over an hour. Panicked that it has awoken, professor looks towards the portable cot, but the small, person-shaped thing inside it is silent and still, except for his even breathing.
Lily looks exactly the same, but he lets himself believe her breathing is even easier than before. He’s just getting up for a drink of water when the cause of his awakening becomes clear.
“James.” It’s barely a whisper, but Snape can clearly see Lily’s lips move as she says the word. He’s out of his chair in an instant, everything forgotten except the women on the bed. “James,” she croaks again, this time a little louder. The name burns a hole right through Severus’s heart, but he ignores it, jubilant that she can speak at all.
“Lily,” he calls to her, smoothing soft, ginger hair back from her forehead. “You’re safe, Lily. We’re in Hogwarts.” He picks up her frail hand and rubs the back of it against his cheek, letting her feel the day’s growth of beard.
“Sev?” Her voice is growing more panicked, her breaths more quickly. Her free hand gropes weakly at the bandages covering her eyes.
“It’s me Lily. I’m here.” He catches the flailing hand, stilling her movements. “You’ve been hurt, but you’re going to be fine. Just leave the bandages in place for now.”
“He came for us Sev.” There are tears in her voice. “James. He killed James. I couldn’t stop him, Sev. I couldn’t stop him!”
“Shhh.” Severus is desperate to calm her, but Lily keeps speaking, the words pouring out of her in gasping sobs.
“He wanted Harry. I tried to stop him. Oh God Sev, I don’t remember what happened after that! Where’s Harry? Where’s my baby?”
“Please calm down, please.” Severus can feel his own throat burning with unshed tears. “Harry is fine. He’s here. He’s fine.” Lily is nearly hyperventilating now and he calls frantically for a healer.
“No!” She’s clearly hysterical now, exerting much more energy than she can afford to. “Where is he? Where is he?”
The incompetent healers are nowhere to be found and Snape is left groping for some way to help her himself. Every cry from her lips is ripping him apart. He retrieves a sleeping potion from the supply cupboard and holds it to her lips, begging her to drink. She refuses emphatically, crying for her baby and growing ever more hysterical. Where are those damn healers?
Finally, he glances towards the small cot. The child is stirring, agitated by his mother’s cries. Everything inside Severus rebels at the thought of what he must do. He does not want to look the thing in the face. He does not want to touch it; the living, breathing proof of Lily’s love for James Potter. But the one person in the whole world Severus cares about is in agony, and it is mostly his fault. He’s made so very many mistakes, first in losing her by following the wrong people, and then by betraying her to them by relaying the prophesy about her son.
So, steeling himself against the revulsion, Severus picks up the squirming child and lays him next to her. “He’s here Lily,” he croaks out, rubbing the tiny fingers against her cheek. “He’s fine, feel his hand.”
“Harry,” she sobs over and over again, the words slowly becoming a soft whimper. “My baby, my baby, my baby….”
Tears stream freely down Severus’s cheeks for the first time since he can’t remember. She’s so damn beautiful and the sight of her with that child hurts so much. He’s the spitting image of James, untidy black hair and all. But there are bits of Lily in the boy as well, the eyes especially. The affection this observation stirs within Severus wars with the revulsion already there, until it makes him feel physically ill.
“He betrayed us.” She says suddenly, her voice calmer now, but still laced with fear and grief. “Everything should have been fine. Voldemort shouldn’t have known where we were, but he betrayed us.”
“I know.” He answers soothingly. “Every Auror in England is out looking for Sirius Black. He won’t get away. I promise.”
“No! You have it wrong. We changed it at the last minute and didn’t tell anyone.” Lily tries to sit up, but it is futile effort and she slumps back down onto the pillow. “Sirius wasn’t our secret keeper. It was Peter.”
“Pettigrew?” The shock in Snape’s voice is evident. Visions of severed rat tails swim in his mind.
“Sev,” Lily’s voice is weak again and he has to lean in closely to hear it. She squeezes the hand he’s still holding with all her strength, but Snape can barely feel it. “Sev, you have to protect Harry.”
“Lily, nothing can hurt him here. You are both safe. Just try to sleep.”
“No.” She insists, and it breaks his heart for the millionth time today. “You need to protect him. It has to be you. You owe me this, Sev. You know you do.”
He does. As much as Severus does not want this responsibility he knows she’s right. “You have my word,” he agrees.
Her grip does not loosen. “With your life?”
“I vow it.” The words are iron clad and Lily, finally giving into exhaustion, slumps into a dreamless sleep.
November 1, 1981 4:32pm
“So she’s in no immediate danger?” Sirius Black asks, despite the fact that Snape has just said precisely that, almost verbatim.
Severus’s reply is purposely cold, his grip on his emotions tenuous. “She’ll live, but they don’t know precisely how much permanent damage there is. The healers don’t expect her to ever walk again, but she should regain her sight.”
Black hisses a breath in through his teeth at the news, but Lupin just sits quietly, his skin growing paler by the second.
“I’ll kill Wormtail,” Black cries, throwing a small end table against the wall of Dumbledore’s office. It loudly smashes into pieces. “I’ll kill him!”
Dumbledore stands quickly and gestures towards Lupin. “Remus,” he says in a gentle, but firm tone. “Won’t you please take Sirius for a walk to calm his nerves before you both go visit Lily and Harry?”
“Of course.” Lupin stands wearily, as if he is one hundred and one rather than twenty-one years of age, and guides his now sobbing friend from the room.
The headmaster waits for them to be out of earshot before finally addressing his potions master. “Would you think it accurate to say that Lily Potter is going to require a rather long recovery?”
Snape grits his teeth and nods, as visions of Lily spending months, or even years in St. Mungo’s long term care ward fleet through his mind.
“Well then,” Dumbledore says, and Severus steels himself for the inevitable. “I suppose you have your work cut out for you.”
Snape looks up in surprise. “Excuse me?”
“Voldemort is dead,” he explains, “but that doesn’t mean that the Potters are safe. I still fully expect the Death Eaters to attempt some sort of violent revenge. This school is the only place I can guarantee their safety. She’ll have professional healers and an aide of course, while it is necessary, but you’ll be officially in charge of her and Harry’s care. You already live here and she trusts you. Besides, you’ve vowed to protect the boy, haven’t you Severus?”
Snape lifts an eyebrow in surprise. “Do you make a habit of listening in on private conversations?”
Dumbledore gives him a knowing smile, “only after someone has been bellowing loudly for help.”
“Lily has a lot of healing to do, both physically and emotionally and she needs to do it in a safe environment.”
“I hardly think a school full of children is the proper place,” Snape attempts to protest.
“I think it is the perfect place,” Dumbledore argues, “for both of you.”
Dumbledore’s smile grows infuriatingly wider at Severus’s confusion. “Consider it a penance,” he says, laying a comforting hand on Snape’s shoulder, “another step on your path towards redemption.”