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.
Chapter 1: Pain
Chapter 2: Perspective
December 15, 1981 1:43pm
He’s been dying to see her all day, even more than usual. His classes seemed overly long. Each second ticked by in infuriatingly slow increments. He snapped impatiently at those of his students not clever enough to give him a wide birth, causing one first year boy to ruin his sleeping potion with tears. Snape smirks at the memory, weren’t Gryffindors supposed to be brave?
His legs make long, quick strides and he has to force himself not to sprint. He can not wait to see her beautiful, smiling face as he tells her the news. The renovations to the once empty classroom next to his office and chambers have been finished and Severus is eager to tell Lily she can finally move out of the hospital wing.
She is not in her bed when he enters the long room and his eyes search frantically for a moment before spotting her. She’s bundled up in a padded chair by the windows. Her forehead is resting against the glass, her face turned away from him. He makes no attempt to hide his presence, fully expecting her to turn and greet him upon his approach, but she doesn’t react at all.
“Lily,” he calls her name, eager to share his good news. She still doesn’t respond, so he kneels down to get a better view of her face. Silent, thick streams of tears are leaking from her eyes. There is a small puddle on the windowsill where they have dripped off her chin and yet, she makes no move to wipe them away. She makes no moves at all.
Worried now, he lays a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Lily,” he calls again. “Are you hurt? Are you in pain?” She does not reply. “Please Lily,” desperation is starting to edge into his voice. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“It’s snowing,” she finally replies and her voice is empty and hollow. Severus spares a glance at the view out of the window in front of them. He’s mildly surprised to see the thick cloud of white powder pouring down from the sky to cover the grounds below them. It has obviously been snowing for some time, but he’d been too preoccupied with the prospect of a joyful Lily to notice the weather. Still, this doesn’t explain her melancholy.
“Sweetheart, please,” The term of endearment rolls off his tongue easily, despite having never used one before. “Tell me how to help you.”
“James loved snow,” she begins, and Snape’s heart grows as cold as the window pane. “He used to run outside at the first sign of it and make a complete fool out of himself dancing around and having snowball fights. Harry was too little to take out in it last year and we promised…” Lily’s voice breaks and she has to take a deep breath before continuing. When she does her voice is hollow again. “It doesn’t matter anymore. James will never dance in the snow again.” She looks down at her useless legs. “And neither will I.”
Snape’s vision blurs for a moment and he can barely breathe as pure, unfettered, fury overwhelms him. Does she honestly think, after everything they’ve survived, everything he has risked for her, that he’ll let her just give up? Severus grits his teeth determinately and jumps to his feet. There is no way he is going to listen to her fatalistic attitude for one second longer. He glares down at her, every inch the severe professor now. “You are a disgrace.” The words are cold and show no trace of pity. “You call yourself a Gryffindor, and yet are so cowardly you’re ready to toss it all in before the actual work has really started? One measly month of magical and physical therapy and you’ve already decided your fate? There is no chance of improvement, of anything better?”
Severus ignores her shocked expression and strides across the room, weaving through small hospital beds until he reaches Madam Pomfrey’s office. She’s not inside, so he just takes what he needs without permission. Lily is looking at him warily when he returns.
“Here,” he says, thrusting the nurse’s thick winter cloak into her arms. “Put this on.” He waits for her to slowly comply before kneeling down on the floor again. He lifts each of her feet in turn, gently sliding Pomfrey’s sturdy shoes over Lily’s thick socks. They’re a little big, but they’ll have to do. He finishes off her borrowed ensemble by shoving a ridiculous wooly hat over her ears. The fluffy puff on top of it lists to one side.
She gasps in shock as he suddenly lifts her from the chair; one arm under her knees, the other at her back. He cradles her against his chest easily as he strides towards the door. She’s light, weighing far less than he expected and he adds this to his list of concerns to address later. For now, Severus focuses all of his energy on staying angry with her, on ignoring how warm, and soft, and just right, Lily feels in his arms.
“Put me down Sev,” she commands, her voice finally showing some life. “Put me back in my chair, right now. I’m serious!” He ignores her protests as they pass through the doorway and into the long stone corridor. “Severus Tobias Snape,” she yells emphatically, “you take me right back into the hospital wing this instant! Do you hear me?”
“As you are not my mother,” Severus answers her coolly, “calling me by my full name will have little to no effect on the outcome of your situation. And furthermore, as you have suddenly decided that you are, in fact, an invalid and will forevermore be one, you don’t get to make important decisions for yourself anymore.” The sound that comes out of Lily’s mouth at that moment is hard to define, but Severus takes it to mean she’s rather cross with him. Good.
He has to stare daggers at a number of students loitering in the halls to make them move out of his way. They stare back at him, mouths gaping in shock as he and Lily pass by. Severus can only imagine what the children think their least favorite teacher is going to do with the struggling woman in his arms.
A few moments later they are plunging out onto the frigid, snow covered grounds. He spots a familiar tree in the distance and sets out toward it. He’s not dressed for the weather, having forgone stopping to get a warm coat or cloak from his office in his rush to get outside. He learned a long time ago to always wear trousers under his robes, but the snow reaches up past his shoes and moisture is seeping through to his skin. Severus tucks Lily closer into his body and keeps walking. He lets rage and righteous indignation take the edge of the chill.
“Harrison, Finnegan!” Snape yells to a couple of sixth year students snogging enthusiastically against the tree trunk. They break apart guiltily. “Find someplace else to be, now.” He can hear the girl giggling foolishly as they run away, but Severus has already turned his attention towards a deep looking snowdrift. He abruptly lets go of his burden and Lily plops to the ground with a loud oomph. She sputters in the snow, making the same irate noise as when he refused to return her to the Hospital Wing. Severus decides it is sort of a growl, scream hybrid.
“What,” she bellows at him,” in the name of Merlin and his bleeding set of Round Table Knights, do you think you are doing? I am going to kick your sorry…oh!” A wet, heaping glob of snow hits Lily square in the face, cutting her off mid-tirade.
“I,” Severus announces while collecting another small mound of snow, “am having a snowball fight. Isn’t that one of the things you said you missed?” Three more snowballs hit Lily in fast succession, leaving her gasping for breath. Madam Pomfrey’s stupid, poufy hat slips wetly from her hair and slops onto the ground.
Lily’s exclamation of rage is more scream and less growl this time as she takes up the gauntlet. Severus dodges four snowballs easily before she lands one right in his stomach. He drops to his knees with a loud huff before firing back. They pelt each other remorselessly for while before finally coming to an exhausted halt.
“Don’t think for one minute,” Lily gasps breathlessly, “that purposely making me angry is going to change anything. It won’t work.”
“It already has.” Severus answers, crawling close enough to feel the smoky puffs of her breath on his face. “If you’re angry, you’re not dead.” he says intensely. “I want you alive. I can’t stand seeing you wallow in self-pity.”
“Getting angry with you doesn’t help!” She shoves him back, but he doesn’t budge. “It isn’t you I want to hurt.”
“Then who?” He clasps her shoulders gently. “If not me, who is it you want to punish. Is it Pettigrew, or those incompetent fools who call themselves your healers? Tell me who and I’ll bring them to you in chains, Lily!”
“Voldemort!” She screams the name and hot, angry tears stream down her face. “I hate him. I hate him! He killed James. He turned me into this.” She gestures down at her limp legs. “He tried to kill my son, an innocent baby! And we were lucky compared to most people. What gave him the right to ruin everyone’s lives?”
“Nothing,” he answers firmly. “He was a sociopath. He was a sick, twisted, evil son of a bitch, and so was everyone who followed him.” Severus knows this, intimately. “And he’s dead, Lily.” She lets out another choked sob. “I watched his body burn with my own eyes. They dumped his ashes in the ocean without so much as a word towards his memory, other than ‘good-riddance.’ There are probably hundreds of fish with horrible indigestion right now.”
Lily lets out a harsh snort of reluctant mirth. She pulls away from Severus to lie back on the ground, her arms outstretched as if making half of a snow angel. When she speaks again all traces of laughter are gone. “I wish I were the one to have killed him.”
Severus lies down next to her with a grunt. “Me too.” He had the opportunity so many times during the year he spied for Dumbledore and the Order. He could have poisoned the bastard’s tea for lack of a better idea, but Severus was told to listen and report and so that is what he did, not that it does Lily any good now. Suddenly, the question that’s been plaguing Severus for over a year comes bubbling to the surface. He has to know the answer.
“Lily,” he all but whispers, “why…” he pauses, suddenly craven. “Why have you never blamed me for turning you in to the Dark Lord? It was me, you know. I’m the one who overheard the prophesy that a child would be born capable of defeating him. I’m the one who relayed that information.”
Lily’s small, cold fingers move to wrap around his larger ones, but Severus cannot bring himself to look at her. “I know,” she answers him gently. “Dumbledore told us what you did right after you joined the Order. We knew from day one why you defected.”
“Then why don’t you hate me?”
“Look at me Sev, please.” And since Severus can deny her nothing he complies. Her green eyes are full of compassion. “There isn’t just one answer to that. Part of it is that you’ve made amends a hundred times since that day by risking your life spying for the Order. Your information saved all of us over and over again. You not only proved to be trustworthy, but also that you are truly sorry for what you did.”
Severus can live with this explanation, even if he would never have forgiven himself had he been in her place. “What’s the second reason?”
Lily takes a deep, shuddering breath before answering. “It was never entirely your fault that you joined the Death Eaters in the first place.”
Well, he certainly wasn’t expecting that. It’s not true of course. Severus knew exactly what he was doing the whole time. If Lily had never been directly in danger he might still be serving Voldemort. He shudders in revulsion; the very thought makes him want to vomit.
“It’s my fault too.” She continues, looking back up at the falling snow. “Back in school, I knew you better than anyone. All you ever wanted was to belong to someone, or something; to feel special. We all want that. I was the only one you told about your dad, and how even though you lived in the same house, he hardly ever spoke to you. And then James and Sirius were always winding you up and making you feel about this big,” she holds her finger and thumb about an inch apart. “And then those want-to-be Death Eaters in Slytherin House flattered you and told you exactly what you wanted to hear. I saw you falling into their grip and I didn’t know how to stop you. And then you parroted them, calling me a mud-blood…” Severus flinches at the hated word. It hasn’t passed his lips since that horrible day, not even when he’d been a Death Eater in truth.
“Anyway,” she continues, turning to look him in the eyes again. “If I’d forgiven you that day, instead of letting my pride get in the way, maybe I could have saved you. Maybe I could have made it a condition of my forgiveness, ‘leave them or lose me as a friend,’ you know? But I didn’t even give you the choice. I was so angry, so I told you to go. And then of course they were all you had left, your horrible dark magic wielding friends; of course you fell in even deeper.” Lily’s voice crumbles a bit but she continues. “Voldemort told you lie upon lie, specifically tailored to your needs. He seduced you into his sick army by making you feel like you belonged there. You were just as much a victim as everyone else he hurt, as much as me, or James.
Severus is speechless for a few moments, absolutely dumfounded by her compassion. She’s barmy of course, completely out of her head to think that his following the Dark Lord was anyone’s fault but his own. Calling her that hideous name in school was one of the biggest mistakes of his life, and she’s correct in her assumption that it helped lead him deeper down the dark path he’d already been traveling, but it wasn’t her fault. It could never be Lily’s fault. But the fact that she’s forgiven him his crimes so easily, that she wants to shoulder some of the blame, humbles Severus completely. His chest begins to ache with a sudden, unbearable pressure. He has never felt so raw and exposed. He has never loved this woman as much as he does now.
Needing desperately to diffuse the tension, Severus falls back on sarcasm and wit. “One thing James Potter never was,” he says a little roughly, “is a victim.”
Big, fat tears spill out of Lily’s eyes again, but her smile is the first genuine one she’s made all night.
Severus takes advantage of this and continues. “He was an arrogant, insufferable, piece of work. And even worse than that, he was a bloody hero. He died the way he lived; doing exactly what he wanted to, on his own terms.” Every word is true, and despite Severus’s intense dislike for the man, he’s glad for once that those personality traits benefited him directly. Lily would be dead if James hadn’t given his life for her.
“I miss him so much,” she says in a half-sob. “I keep forgetting he’s gone, which is so stupid because I’ve been through loss before. First mum and dad died, and then we just lived through a war for Merlin’s sake. I should be used to this; but every time Harry does something new, or the healers give me more bad news, or I look out the window and see all this bloody snow, I forget for just half a second that he’s not here to share it with me. And then I remember and it’s like I’m losing him all over again. ” Severus straightens up off the cold ground and pulls her onto his lap. Her head fits perfectly beneath his chin and he can’t help but revel in the closeness. Her slight body is freezing to the touch, and he tells himself this is why he wraps his arms around her so tightly.
He was sorry you know,” Lily says against his chest, “for how he treated you in school. He told me on more than one occasion how badly he felt, how he wished he could go back in time and change things. I wish you could have known the good man he became.”
Severus is most assuredly not ready for this conversation. He doesn’t know if he ever will be. “Tell me how to help you.” He says, completely at a loss. “What do you need?”
“There’s nothing…not really. You can’t bring him back.” Severus just holds her as closely as he dares, offering comfort where he can. For a while all he can hear are her shuddering breaths and the quietly falling snow.
Eventually, she pulls back and Severus immediately mourns the loss of her warmth. Lily wipes her eyes dry with her fingers and sniffs a few times before looking back up at his face. “Well,” she says, her voice so much calmer than before. “Now that I think about it, there is one thing I was going to ask you to do for me.”
“Anything,” he says emphatically.
She bites her lip, and Severus is suddenly a bit nervous. “Remus and Sirius are coming for Christmas next week,” she tells him and it takes every bit of strength he possesses not to groan out loud. “I was really, really hoping you’d spend it with us too.”
“Anything,” he replies, “but that.”
“Please, Sev.” Her small hand comes to rest above his heart and he prays she can not feel how hard it is pounding. “Christmas is going to be so hard this year and I’m worried they are only going to make it that much more difficult. They’ll want to talk about James constantly, as if his absence weren’t reminder enough that he’s gone. I need you there as kind of a buffer, so it doesn’t turn into some horrible group therapy session. I wouldn’t ask, but I’ve come to rely on you so much this past month, and you need somewhere to spend Christmas anyway, right?”
She’s correct of course, at least in that he usually spends Christmas alone. However, the prospect of a lonely bottle of Goblin Wine next to a warm fire is far preferable to an entire day with Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. For the love of Merlin, how does he get himself in these situations? He looks down at her face, and she’s gazing up at him expectantly with those gorgeous, green eyes, that are all red from crying. Severus feels his resolve crumble. Despite every bone in his body screaming profanities at him that this is a really bad idea, he says, “all right. I’ll spend Christmas with you and your insufferable friends.”
“Really?” she asks eagerly, “you won’t back out at the last minute, claim you have some sort of important business elsewhere?”
There is no doubt in Severus’s mind that he’s going to regret this. “Of course, I’ll be there.” And before he can stop himself he says, “Tell Lupin to be here in a few days. There’s a full moon on the twenty-sixth and I have a potion I’d like to try out on him that should ease his symptoms a bit; hopefully keep him from terrorizing the school. He has to take it for a week for it to do much good though.” Her smile is brilliant and Severus thinks this particular sacrifice just might be worth it after all… maybe.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she says a few times, squeezing him tightly around the chest. “You are truly my dearest, most wonderful friend.”
“Indeed,” he says gruffly while rubbing his cheek against her hair. He is such a fool. For her, he always will be. “So,” he says, needing a new topic. “What was that other thing you claimed you’ll never be able to do in the snow again?”
Lily lets out a light chuckle, “dance.”
“Of course.” Severus’s cold muscles protest stiffly as he slides Lily off his lap and rises to his feet. Bowing regally at the waist, he offers her a hand. “Shall we?”
She clasps her frigid hand in his and in one fluid motion he has her is in his arms, once again tucked against his chest. He begins to move back towards the castle, spinning slowly at first and then gradually gaining more speed. She throws her arms out and her head back, laughing like a child at play as the snow swirls majestically around them. Severus laughs too, and despite Lily’s health, her dead husband, the impending dreadful holiday, and a world outside of Hogwarts full of evil; for the first time in….well, maybe forever, Severus feels something very close to joy.