She spots him coming out of Knockturn alley with Lucius malfoy. He looks well, better than she ever remembers seeing him look, even though she can tell, despite the difference, that he has the same sallow half-starved look about his face.
Malfoy money has still padded him out nicely. He’s wearing expensive robes, and he’s gripping a silver cane in his pale hand, matching Lucius almost exactly. They are a handsomely matched pair - both of them tall, and war-worn, but well-kept despite it, heads held high, one of them dark, the other light.
They’re talking quietly amongst themselves, and he looks – almost – at ease.
She wonders if she should wave Severus over, or say anything. It’s been so long now, so awfully, terribly long, and bloody, and violent, and she hasn’t spoken to him for years now, and he looks – he looks good, like he’s just another pureblood Slytherin prince, and she misses him from before, and she misses how things were before, and she wants – something.
She bounces Harry on her knee distractedly, and almost automatically keeps him from knocking his bowl of ice cream all over her jeans. Malfoy and Severus are walking straight towards her, although he still hasn’t noticed her. Or maybe he has, and is pretending, the way she pretended, all through their last two years at Hogwarts, like she didn’t see him around corners, hiding from Sirius and James. They are talking in quiet amicable voices, and when they are only a few steps away, she catches a few words of their conversation, auror training, and all. Malfoy is blocking Severus’ view of her, his straight back haughty, aristocratic, and mocking, from beneath the velvet ripples of his cloak.
“… well it isn’t my idea either… come anyhow.”
“Anything at all … disappoint Narcissa.”
Malfoy seems satisfied at that. She doesn’t catch what he says next, but it makes Severus laugh, his eyes dancing with it, and the ache of missing him, of missing her absolute best friend -
before she can think differently, she raises her arm, and waves at him when his eyes slide over Fortescue’s. He catches her look, and something passes over his face, that looks like fear, but clasps Lucius on the shoulder all the same and makes his excuses. Something painful shifts inside her, watching him struggle not to lean on his cane as he strides between the various passers-by. Some of them spare him a second glance – the Death Eater turned war hero, but he has always had a particular talent for disappearing.
Malfoy turns on his heel and apparates with a sharp pop. Severus is still smiling as he straightens the front of his robes, their silver buttons catching the sunlight.
“Severus!” she raises her free hand and waves at him again. He does looks up, and straight at her, and it is not that he looks startled. She has seen what startled looks like on his face. This is not it. This is the expression of a man who was ready to turn around and start firing dark curses. For a single moment, he had been at a battlefield, on the other side, against her. It’s the same face James has, whenever the Muggle postman knocks at their door.
His faces rearranges itself once again into a smile smoothly, almost without glitch. “Lily?” voice quiet, and cautious, but nonetheless brimming with warmth. “Are you talking to me?”
She still looks good, after all the shit. She’s always been rather a pretty girl, and loathe as he is to admit it, motherhood suits her, with the child in one arm, and her red hair spilling elegantly over her shoulders in the late afternoon sun. The one good thing that’s come out of letting James Potter live, is that he kept Lily alive, and put that look on her face. Sometimes, just for that, when the pain potions and the dreamless sleep have done their job for once, Severus thinks he can forgive him.
“I – yes. I was. Talking to you. Severus. Hi.”
“Hello,” he leans his hands on the silver tip of the cane, and waits for her to say something else. There is an apology, somewhere in his mouth, but he swallows past it. She had made it clear to him, back then, that his friendship, and his apologies were unneeded and unwanted.
“You’re ah – you’re still friends with Malf- With Lucius then?”
“Well, I should certainly hope we’re friends. I’m the godfather of his child.”
That catches her off guard. It hadn’t been in the papers, and surely, Lucius Malfoy making a halfblood with no pedigree the godfather of his firstborn would have made the gossip columns, since Rita Skeeter has nothing better to write about. It must not have been made official yet, then. She resents that she is even thinking that way, but marrying James had put more than a few things about wizarding society, and pureblood society in particular, into startling perspective.
“I thought you didn’t like babies.”
“I like one baby,” he says pointedly, his eyes travelling to Harry. “Maybe one and a half.”
She wonders if she is only imagining the bitterness in his voice. Wonders, if he has any right to it, and if she has any right to judgment.
“That’s Harry.” she says automatically, like he doesn’t know that she’s married and has a child. After all that embarrassing Order of Merlin nonsense, pretty much everyone knew.
“He’s got your eyes,” he remarks. “But good luck to you and the barber, if he ends up with Potter’s hair.”
There’s no malice in his voice, only humor, and she is ashamed at her own surprise for it. He bends to be eye level with Harry.
“Hello there,” he says, not in baby talk, but his voice lower, softer, “Hi,” he gives Harry his finger, and Harry takes it. Severus gently moves his hand, in an imitation of a handshake. “Nice to meet you, young man.”
He straightens up, and she notices the wince as he does. She’ll be damned if what’s really got his knee is a Quidditch injury. They’d only stopped talking the same week he got the limp, and she never found out. They’d said Lestrange-the-younger hit him with a bludger accidentally, while he was subbing in a practice match. He hadn’t needed the cane until the war, though. Malfoy had always used his, but he’d started leaning on it a lot more heavily. Marlene MacKinnon hit a Death Eater’s knee with a Reducto, the night they stormed her house. Lily looks up at Severus’ impassive face, and wonders.
“I’m sorry, Lily. I would love to stay and talk, but unfortunately, I have some business at Gringotts.” Years as a Slytherin teach one a thing or two about social graces, and taking the right cues.
“Do you want to… come round for tea?”
“To Godric’s Hollow, Sev. To uh… catch up. And um- to see me. And Harry. Maybe get you to liking a whole two babies, rather than just one and a half.”
Olive branch, olive branch, olive branch.
I don’t want your and Potter’s shoddy tea. Where was your catching up when I needed it. You will pry an apology out of my cold dead body. Do you really think I would ever -
“I’d really like that, Lily. Owl me some time.”
“Do you still live at – “
“My old address. Yes.” his face closes off so sharp and sudden, it feels like she’s had a physical door shut in her face. Severus Snape, in his fine robes, with their silver buttons, and his silver-tipped walking stick, still haunting the half-bedroom house on the wrong side of the river. “It’s been very lovely to see you, and Harry. Give your family my best.”
He turns on his heel, and walks away, before that ugly and vindictive part of him takes over. Shut up. He thinks at it. Shut up.
He thinks about Lily Evans-Potter while he waits for his accounts manager to show up. He would never admit it, on pain of death, but she really was the ultimate girl-next-door. Od course there had been a dream, in there, somewhere, years ago, about it. He tries to put the thought out of his mind by tea-time, as he pours himself a glass of red, and surveys the living room of Spinner’s End imperiously.
It would have brought him no small amount of pleasure to cut contact let Tobias Snape rot to his death in this decrepit mess of a home, but good manners did win out in the end. It was not the best possible care home. It was not the best money could buy by a long shot, but it was what he was willing to give that wretched man, so he had better take it.
He has to will his heart back from his throat, and the killing curse off the tip of his wand at the sound of Narcissa apparating at his doorstep. The unmistakable clack of her expensive shoes, and the subtle sound of her knock do the rest, and he lets her in easily.
“Oh, Severus,” she says, her voice just the right amount of practiced pureblood melodrama, as she weaves her slender arms around his neck and gives him a solid kiss on the lips. She tastes like something vaguely fruity.
She pulls back and has a look around. “So have you decided what you’ll do with the place then?”
“Oh, you cannot be genuinely thinking of living here. Sell it.”
“I only just walled my father up in a home, Cissy,” he chides gently. “Not sure I’m ready to sell the house in the same month.”
“Oh, very well. You always have been so terribly sentimental.”
She takes a delicate perch on the side of the sofa, and summons the wine for herself.
“Always,” he agrees, with a self-depreciating smile.
“Well, rent it out then. To wizards, mind. This is a quiet area, and you said your mother has a brewery room in the back. It can do quite well for, say, someone who’s just graduated. OR a muggleborn, who’s looking to be surrounded by muggles… And then you can rent yourself something nice and proper, I’ve been keeping an eye out, you know. For all the property listings, after the war. Now is the time to – “
“If your next words are about to be “ivest in real estate” I am going to be forced to check if you’re actually Lucius, polyjuiced.”
“Well, I am not wrong about this,” she says. “You think the Malfoy accounts ran and reviewed themselves, while Lucius was waiting for his trial? Get yourself a decent flat in London. It doesn’t even have to be wizarding London, if you don’t fancy, but Severus, come on – you deserve a decent place. Lucius and I can help with the rent, even. Or – “
Severus swallowed some wine, sensing the dreaded Black female pause, which always came before something quite indecent was about to be proposed. Narcissa may have been the sweetest, but she’d learned all her tricks from Bella.
“Move into the manor,” she finished triumphantly.
“What?” she batted her lashes at him innocently.
He finished his glass of wine. “I don’t want to have this conversation anymore.”
“But – “
“I mean it, Cissy. Enough. I’ll think about what to do with Spinner’s End. For now, shall we go back to the Manor for dinner. So you can talk my ear off about the plans for Draco’s Christening?”
Her eyes brightened wickedly. He wondered if it was possible for him to be quite so smitten with a woman quite so charmingly evil.
The silver tresses of dawn are just beginning to peek through the gap in the curtains when Severus wakes with a start, shooting up in bed, his heart hammering in his chest. He grips his wand, and blinks owlishly into the half-darkness of the room, trying to identify what woke him.
His brain catches up with his body quickly enough to remind him he is not at war anymore, just as his eyes settle on the lit candles, wafting pleasant vanilla-and-cinnamon scent through the cold morning room.
He makes out the shape of Narcissa, sat gracefully in her vanity chair. If she has sensed him waking up, she doesn’t let it show, focusing instead on carefully curling her hair around heated rollers, and pinning them to the top of her head. There are spells, of course, but she has always preferred the more put-together look of doing it by hand. Her lovely face, which he can catch a glimpse of in the mirror, is covered by a puffy white cream, or mask or something-or-other that is supposed to keep her smooth lovely skin just the way it is.
He slumps back in the pillows, and watches her quietly.
Narcissa, who wakes up at dawn to do her hair, and pamper herself. He watches the thin pale column of her neck, and the place where is ends, covered in the deep green of her robe. He casts his eyes to the bed, where Lucius is still asleep, and won’t be waking up any time soon, thanks to the industrial strength Dreamless Sleep Severus brews for him. His left arm is thrown towards the middle of the bed, where Narcissa had slept between them, and Severus watches the familiar lines of the dark mark on his marble skin. His gaze travels to Lucius’ face, his long silvery lashes barely touching the slopes of his cheeks, his full beautiful mouth that had kissed him to sleep only hours ago. He wonders if he will ever stop waking in a cold sweat, and a heart full of terror, wonders if his filthy blood will learn to sing to a new tune. Here, you are safe, here, you are loved. Isn’t that what Narcissa always said to him? He thinks he can spend eternity in these quiet mornings with them. He thinks, Draco must already be a master Legilimens, because no sooner had the thought entered his head, that the pitiful wailing from the adjacent room shattered the peace.
Narcissa makes to stand up, but he’s already out of bed, shrugging Lucius’ cold silk dressing gown on.
“I’ll go,” he says quietly, “You’ll scare him, with your face like that.”
She makes a move to swat his arm, laughter dancing in her eyes, but he’s already out of the way, and moved to pick his favorite (only) godson up.
He doesn’t coo at him or make baby talk. He’d read somewhere that it was better for babies if you talked to them like they’re adults, so he lowers his voice, and starts quietly questioning the little man about why he’s so determined to wreck everyone’s peace and quiet like some kind of shameless Gryffindor.
Narcissa joins him, her face now clean, smooth and lovely, and picks Draco up from his arms, bouncing him gently, and making soft soothing noises at him.
Severus leans on the crib for support, wondering if it will be appropriate for him to ask for his coffee as soon as the house elf brings Draco’s bottle. It had been extremely distressing to Narcissa to find out she didn’t have enough milk, and there had been very little the healers could do. That, after the distressing pregnancy, had made her overbearing in a way that made Severus pity any poor Hogwarts teacher that would be saddled with the duties of Draco’s head of house.
“I saw Lily the other day,” he begins, as soon as the mug of steaming hot coffee is firmly clutched in his hand, and he’s breathed in the aroma of a prime Brazillian mix that’s been worked over the state of the art French press in the manor kitchen.
“Oh?” Narcissa is distracted enough by Draco that she can’t start getting any funny ideas into her head.
“She’s asked me to come round for tea.”
“Has she now? Well, do you want to go?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know, Severus, it’s a simple yes or no question. The woman wants to have tea with you, so either you go and have tea with her, or you say you’re busy and you don’t – it’s not exactly the subtle and impenetrable art of making potions.” She gives Draco a kiss on each cheek. “Your godfather is being very unreasonable,” she informs the baby smoothly.
“Cissa, I – “
“Severus. We have gone over the Lily Evans-Potter drama way too many times for me to count, or frankly, care to hear it again. The war is over. You came out of it a hero, and, might I add, saved her life. I dare say, you have more than made up for a lapsus lingve years ago.”
“Narcissa I – I am afraid. It was fine, to recant it all, when I thought she’d never speak to me again. But if she really – wants me back into her life, back as a friend, well frankly, I am not sure I can do it.”
“It’s an invitation to tea, Severus, she’s not exactly waving a marriage contract in your face. Go to her house, have a cuppa, complement her home, try not to kill her husband when you see him, don’t insult any of her family members, and have a chat about what you’ve been up to in the few months we’ve all had not running each other into the ground on the opposite sides of a pointless war.”
“Do you reckon you might follow the same advice about your sister.”
“My sister is in Az-“
“You’re too smart to be playing stupid like that Cissy. You know which sister I mean.”
He is not an excellent Occlumens for nothing. Putting the whole nonsense with Lily out of his mind is perfectly easy for the next week. He compartmentalizes her, in the same locked drawer in his brain where his war memories are, and focuses on the much more productive and practical task of tending to his brewery. St. Mungo’s is still struggling to manage the post-war demand, and they have been outsourcing their orders between several potions masters in the country. He knows he charges more than most, but he’s got the chops to back it up, and he’s not about to undersell his hard work just to be competitive in the market. His dignity won’t allow it, when he knows full well his potions are better than the commercial use ones anyway.
His friends keep his order schedule well-stocked too – the ones that aren’t in prison anyway. He’d do it for free – for Lucius at least, but he’s long given up arguing about money, and it’s much easier to just take their gold. Easier, and kinder on his accounts, and his dignity. He’s long past a schoolboy’s misconception of pride. Slytherins do not refuse help and kindness when it is granted them, instead, they recognize the investment in their own growth, and when the time comes – return it.
He knows he won’t be able to avoid the Lily Potter Conundrum forever, but he isn’t entirely sure he’s ready to deal with his own feelings on the matter just yet. Thankfully, Narcissa, bless her proper upringing, doesn’t press the issue. Instead, she channels all the restlesslness brewing under her perfect milky skin, into directing and terrifying the construction workers at Spinner’s End. He still isn’t firm on the decision to rent his childhood home out, but some of the repairs have been long coming. Redoing the entire upper floor into a spacious master bedroom and adjoining bathroom with a shower and bath, and a small-ish study, and then reorganizing the kitchen, and sitting room on the bottom floor, and connecting the fireplace to the Floo Network, completely upending the garden to plant more herbs, and reinforcing the barrier work on his mother’s old brewery room on the basement, and god know what else – Narcissa has completely taken charge of his ideas, sketching out the new house layout, and showing him paint swatches, while he tried to determine if he really cares about the difference between eggshell and custard-cream (Light colors will open up the kitchen, Sev!), and for the first time in a long time, it gives him a sense of purposeful productivity.
He escapes the mess of scaffolding and protective wrapping around his furniture for the afternoon to restock on some of his ingredients. The fortress is in good hands – Narcissa is armed with her sketches of the new bannisters, a mug of terrifyingly strong pitch black tea, and beautiful, charming baby Draco under her other arm, and had looked like there was no one she would rather be, than sat at the old, scratched up kitchen table, discussing tapestries and antique furniture renovations with the head-goblin, and his werewolf subordinate.
He hadn’t been sure how to feel about Narcissa entering his home. Even Lucius hadn’t seen it. Only Lily had. And now Draco and Narcissa too. She hadn’t looked at him with pity, even though he’d shrunk from her, the reality of his upbringing had not reflected in her eyes. She’d walked in, sat at the sofa as directed, and drank tea from a chipped mug, and her face had been the same face she’d worn sitting in the Slytherin common room, and in the Malfoy Manor parlour.
“Do you really think I don’t know how normal people live?” she’d asked imperiously, some time later. “That I haven’t seen a woman do dishes by hand? Or that I couldn’t imagine a house without servants and house elves? You are really a foolish boy, Severus Snape.”
“The others can’t know,” he’d said, quietly. The Dark Mark was still fresh, still practically an open wound.
“They won’t know. Not from me,” she’d reassured. She’d helped him find and rent the shoebox student quarters during his apprenticesip in St. Mungo’s, leaning on the combined weight of the Black-Malfoy name, and it had not been charity, and he had been grateful.
He was grateful now too. She wasn’t trying to change the house – his house – merely going forward with his ideas.
“You’re too technical, Sev, in your head,” she’d chastised. “You’re creative about potions, I’ll give you that, but not about stuff like that. Let me take care of it – I promise not to change anything without asking you first, but I am adamant on having a lion paw-footed bathtub – that’s the only thing I’m going to insist on. Oh, and baby-proofing the … eclectic outlets.”
“Do you mean electric, dearest?”
“That is exactly what I said.”
“Please,” Lucius had asked, while they were having a customary evening cigar in the study while Cissa was putting the baby to sleep, “Please, just let her at it. She is going crazy in the house all day, and I don’t know how to help – this whole mess with Bella means all her friends are on a no-contact order until we build a muggle orphanage or something equally redeeming, and she really does want to help you – “
“Fine. But I want to be the one paying for all the work. No sneaky attempts at passing this off as a gift, understood?”
“I can only pass off the message,” Lucius had sighed. “You know I’m not anywhere close to being in charge in this marriage, right?”
And so, Narcissa had her daily occupation, and Severus had to have a word with Jedediah Burke on attempting to swindle him with the black scarabei wings like he was some third year Ravenclaw brewing memory potions to impress a crush, and not the youngest, and one of the most reputable, potions masters in the country.
The leg had been giving him more trouble than usual recently, his hip and knee locking up painfully in the mornings when he tried to get out of bed. He’d actually started following Lucius’ example and apparating instead of taking the stairs.
He was leaning more heavily on his cane, tapping it on the cobblestone. His wand is a familiar weight in the holster inside his right sleeve. Appearing on Knockturn these days is dangerous business – the familiar street that had once been his sanctuary is now ripe with enemies – those who consider him a turncoat, a traitor to the cause, nothing but blood traitor scum.
“Snape! Is that you? Snape?”
Rabastan’s voice startles him unpleasantly, but he forces himself to smile politely, and turn around. The other man looks considerably worse for wear after his brief stint in Azkaban, but there is no open hostility in his face. He shakes Severus’ hand warmly and clasps his shoulder. His heavy emerald cloak can’t hide all the weight he’s lost.
“Rab Lestrange. How have you been?”
“I won’t lie to you, Snape, I’ve not been good, not been good at all, mate,” Rabastan says, shaking his head and dragging a hand over his face. He’d always been wilder than his brother, less inclined to follow in the social graces, mostly just along for the ride on the wheel of life – he had all the money in the world, and was produced as a secondborn, second-thought result of fine pureblood breeding, and as Rodolphus was more than perfect in every sense of the world, there was no particular expectation attached to the younger brother to do anything but drink his inheritance away. And unlike Regulus whose sweet familial devotion had caused him to meet God-knows what horrific end, Rab had done just what was expected.
Usually vain and fastidious to a fault, he was in what passed for obvious disarray in their circles, the pin on his cravat crooked, and his hair a mess, day-old beard prickling at his fine pale face.
“I’ve been hoping to catch you,” he admits, “but it just didn’t seem appropriate to write you, or anything like that. It wouldn’t look good with your redemption and all.”
“Rab … “
“Cissa wrote me – she’s been awfully sweet, with all that mess, and obviously, she won’t go and see Bella in prison, but I did have to go and see Rod – needed his signature on a few things, now that I’m heir – it’s all been quite upsetting really – so I did have some stuff to tell her.”
He’s always been like this, eager for honesty almost to a fault, and Severus waits patiently for him to finish speaking.
“The point is, I’m leaving the country,” he says, shrugging somewhat uncomfortably. “It’s all been rather hard on Mamà – she’s not getting any better, you see, so I am moving back to France to take care of her. I don’t trust those young uppity healers they’ve imported from Eastern Europe, and I would like you to take a look at those memory potions they’re cramming her full of – “
So that’s what it’s all about – Rab wants a favor – it’s nothing unusual. Severus doesn’t hold any particular grudge against the old Lady Lestrange, except for her not shocking at all political beliefs regarding people with his blood status.
“I don’t mind,” he reassures, “I’ll charge you my usual fee of course.”
He and Rab were never close enough to warrant a free service. Certainly, they’d always been friendly, but these days a reformed death eater with Dumbledore’s backing cou;d find friends a dime a dozen.
“Of course, of course, but listen, that’s not what I actually wanted to talk to you. You know how I’m leaving the country, and how Narcissa wrote me – well, she hinted you might be looking for a new place to live.”
“Oh, I’ll kill her,” Severus murmured.
“Black women – what can you do with them?” Rab said, shaking his head. “Don’t mistake my meaning – I’m glad I escaped that particular deathtrap with Andie.”
“But,” he held up a hand, returning them to the topic at hand. “I’m leaving next month, and I’ve still got five months of my contract on mine and Rod’s old apartment. I’ll be paying the rent on it anyhow – so I might as well sublet it to you. Have a think about it, and owl me – I’ll let you or Cissa know my new address, when I move.”
“Thank you for letting me know,” Severus says stiffly. What is it with the Malfoy-Black family consistently micromanaging his life anyway? Bellatrix had paraded an endless list of reputable men and women in front of him to get him to settle down, and Andromeda had nagged consistently about his NEWTs back in the day …
With friends like these, and enemies also, right?
“Take care of yourself, Rab,” he turns to walk towards Borgin and Burke’s. Rabastan disappears around the corner down Diagon Alley.
Severus has a lot of friends now, and some of them are expendable.
The transitions in this chapter are super clunky, but I just wanted to get it out, because I'm stressed and revising for exams, and this is keeping me sane!
THIS CHAPTER INCLUDES MENTION OF SUICIDE
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“SNAPE,” Mulciber was screaming, banging his shackled hands on the metal door. “It’s all on Snape!”
He keeps slamming his hands on the metal, his eyes wild. Only a few weeks in the holding cell turned the handsome arrogant aristocrat into a shrieking wreck. The auror passing by shook his head and shrugged, exchanging a look with his companion, and gesturing with his hands in a what can you do motion.
“Can you believe this guy?” he asked, striding purposefully down the hall. “He’s been screaming about Snape for weeks now, like a madman.” He shook his head and chuckled. “Like we’re gonna believe him.”
The younger auror had a sharp, thoughtful look about him, a frown marring his features.
“Hey that reminds me,” Yaxley said, turning towards his companion as he pushed the door open to get into the warden’s office. “Didn’t you use to go to school with him?”
“Snape. And Mulciber, I guess.”
Sirius Black regarded his superior carefully. Corban Yaxley had a good ten years on him. His family was old, pure, and traditional in every sense of the word, but he didn’t seem to hold Sirius’ rebellious past, and blatant disregard for pureblood nonsense against him.
“Yeah,” he said finally. “Yeah, I did. They used to be friends. Those two and Avery.”
“Despicable, that,” Yaxley said. He was rummaging through the warden’s files, half-heartedly at best. “Throwing a friend under like that? And for what? A few years off his sentence?” He shook his head again.
“There we go. Edwin James Avery III,” he pulled the file out with a flourish. “Let’s go see if he has any names to give us besides listing all his schoolmates.”
Sirius stepped from one foot to the other. As they walked down the hall to one of the rooms where Avery would be brought for interrogation, the halls still echoed with Mulcober screaming SNAPE SNAPE SNAPE.
Severus startled, and was on his feet in a second, wand drawn. His bad leg protested, the knee seizing up brutally. In the haze of pain it took him a moment to realize where he was.
Lucius’ handsome face was looming in his general line of vision, his arms held up as an offer of peace. Severus put his wand away, and collapsed back in the armchair.
“Were you actively napping?” Lucius asked curiously, striding across the room to pour himself a drink, and making one out for his friend too. He wasn’t using his cane, which meant he was having a good pain day all in all.
“Maybe.” Severus rolled his shoulders in a half-stretch, and shifted to make himself more comfortable. “Rab wanted me to take a look at these memory potions the French are shoving down his Maman’s throat, and I’ve been up all night.”
He accepted the drink, and leaned into the kiss that came with it. Lucius always knew how to put him in a good mood. It was easy with him. It had always been easy. Here you are safe. Here you are loved, his impure blood sings, with Lord Malfoy’s tongue in his mouth.
“Well, Yaxley dropped this for you today, when I was at luncheon,” Lucius said, handing him a thick envelope. Severus’ long graceful fngers turned suddenly into the claws of a bird of pray, with how quickly and possessively he snatched it.
“Do you know what it is?” Severus asked, as he pried the wax seal open.
“No. Figured you’d tell me if you wanted me to know.” Lucius’ steely eyes regarded him carefully.
“My file. From Azkaban. And my testimony. Corban’s been cleaning them off all the public and semi-public archives.”
Severus’ eyes roamed over the pages listlessly. He stood up in a fluid motion, crossing the room gingerly. He was pale with the effort of exertion, beads of sweat rising to his high forehead. He threw the papers in the fireplace.
Lucius studied his back carefully. The black shirt clung to his form. A man who’d spent his summers away from Hogwarts working with his hands, shaped by the manual labor he’d despised. He made for a handsome figure, lean and with e predatory grace in him, like a big cat.
Severus did not turn around until the ashes in the fire were unrecognizeable. He was still breathing with enough difficulty that Lucius was tempted to tell him off into summoning his cane.
“Yaxley says Mulciber’s been name-dropping you,” is what he says instead, and watches Severus’ face tighten dangerously.
“And here I thought he was my friend,” Severus said quietly, but with no real heat behind it. He made his way back across the room carefully, slowly, and dropped gracelessly to the floor at Lucius’ feet, resting his head against the older man’s thigh. Lucius’ hand automatically went to thread fingers through his long dark hair.
“You’re doing Rab a favor, aren’t you?” he asked quietly. “Send him in. He can go visit Rod and Bella, and scramble Mulciber’s brains on the way out. No one will know any better.”
Severus smiled humorlessly. “Don’t give me ideas. Did Corban say anything about Avery’s interrogation today?”
“Black was there with him. But Avery behaved himself. He’s too low on the food chain for them to verita serum him. He’ll do a few years, light security sector, and they’ll let him out early when his aunt donates a new wing to St. Mungo’s.”
Severus barked out a short unamused laugh, reaching to the side table to reclaim his drink.
“Where’s Narcissa and my favorite godson?” he asked, when he felt the silence had stretched too long and too thin. Mulciber had been a good friend in their Hogwarts years. An advantageous connection to have for a poor half-blood boy with nothing but his smarts to his brain. But now he had better friends. And Mulciber had never quite gotten over that same half-blood boy he’d once begrudgingly shared his candy with being allowed to sit at the Dark Lord’s right, while he was delegated to being a nameless mask in a sea of others. Something ought to be done about a fellow like that.
“Picking christening gowns. She’s being strategic about it. She’ll drop that you’re the godfather today, and the rumor mill will do the rest of the work, and we’ll read all about it tomorrow.”
“I love it when Rita calls me a social climbing mudblood war criminal,” Severus downed his drink in one go, suppressing another eye roll.
“She’s a sweet woman like that, but I’m about to invest heavily into the Prophet. My old man always regretted that he didn’t buy a newspaper.”
“So she’ll only be calling me a war criminal from now on,” Severus’ lips twitched in amusement.
“Depends. Is that what gets you going?” Lucius’ hand moved to rest on the side of his neck, a heavy steadying weight. His signet ring was warmed by his skin. Severus looked up, found his friend’s eyes darkened with something.
“Sure,” he said slowly, tasting the word on his mouth, and shifted carefully to be on his knees. “Shall we play death eater and captive?”
“Which one are you?” Lucius’ fingers trailed over his lips. Severus opened his mouth.
“With you? Captive. Always.”
Lucius’ smile was slow and indulgent. He let his knees spread, and made a magnamonious gesture. “Let’s play.”
WAR HERO BECOMES GODFATHER TO WAR CRIMINAL’S FIRSTBORN
In a desperate grab for the public opinion’s forgiveness, Lucius Malfoy, who narrowly escaped a life sentence in Azkaban after pleading no contest to committing countless crimes under the influence of the Imperius curse, has chosen his one-time Slytherin housemate Severus Snape as godfather to his firstborn son. Draco Lucius Malfoy, the new heir to the Malfoy fortune and name, son of Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Malfoy (nee Black – read more about the Black Family’s wartime war-torn history on page 19) can now and in the future boast the relation to acknowledged war hero, carrier of the Order of Merlin Second Class for acts of bravery during the War, Severus Snape, whose work as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix and the Ministry of Magic is credited by Dumbledore himself as heavily contributing to the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. (More on page 7).
James Potter tried very hard to disguise his expression as he scanned the first page of the Prophet. Did the rag have nothing better to do than to write about who was godfathering whom? The article was intrusive at best, not even considering who it was about. And he had held the exact same opinion when she ran and printed a page on Harry’s christening, and Sirius being there.
“Can you believe this, Lil?” he said. She was brewing coffee, while Harry sat on the counter gazing up at his mother adoringly, and drooling everywhere.
“Believe what, dear?” she was distractedly flipping through her own pile of mail. The department had been very kind in allowing her to work from home for a while, until things settled down.
“The Malfoys have picked a godfather for their kid, and Rita Skeeter’s taken two whole damn pages to talk about it,” he indicated the paper, still on the table between them. It was still new and exciting to him, this – sharing the paper. The kitchen. Now that they weren’t living in a glorified safehouse, now that they could get mail like this, in the morning – it still took him by surprise.
“Oh, yes,” Lily picked Harry up in one arm, and carried the pot of coffee in the other. He’d made breakfast for them – slightly soggy pancakes, and jam, and cut up fruit. “It’s Severus, right? If Narcissa hasn’t changed her mind? He mentioned something about it the other day –“
She trailed off, preoccupied with settling Harry into his high chair, and presenting his cereal with a flourish.
“He did? Snape?” James tried, and failed to keep his voice from raising an octave.
“Yes, yes,” Lily was attempting to put a pancake in her mouth and a spoonful of cereal in Harry’s. “I saw him at Diagon Alley the other day, I didn’t tell you? I’m sure I told you.”
Oh, no. He would have definitely remembered if Lily had mentioned anything about Severus Snape.
Lily managed to feed Harry a few mouthfuls, and Jamed considered not questioning her further, because she’d also shoved an entire pancake in her mouth, and was using her hand to keep the dough and jam from spilling out. She was the most beautiful, charming woman he had ever met.
He busied himself with drinking coffee and scanning the rest of the headlines. Buried at the bottom of the second to last page
SUSPECTED DEATH EATER COMMITS SUICIDE IN AZKABAN CELL
Jonathan Mulciber, suspected death eater awaiting trial in Azkaban has ended his own life by slashing his wrists on what investigators suspect to be a mattress spring that he –
He had to stop reading. He felt sick.
Hadn’t Sirius just mentioned seeing him in his cell when he’d been doing the rounds with Yaxley the other day?
He had to consciously work on relaxing his fingers before he ruined the newspaper. Lily always liked to do the crossword and the puzzles, and she’d complain if they got bunched up, so –
“Anyway,” Lily said, washing the pancake down with her coffee. “I said I’d have him over for tea. I probably ought to write him anyhow, or he won’t show up at all, but I did miss him a lot, you know, and it seems silly now – James? Are you listening to me?”
“Of – of course I am, Lil. Sorry, you were saying – you’re having who for tea now?”
“Severus.” Lily said, and her voice had that final scary quality that just dared James to have a different opinion. He was a Gryffindor, and he was brave, but he was not stupid.
“Uh,” he said intelligently. “I guess… fine?”
“Like I said – “ Lily was smiling brilliantly at Harry, encouraging him to eat, before turning to her husband. “Like I said. It just seems pointless now. Holding grudges. And I’ve missed him.”
“That means I want you on your best behavior, James,” she fixed him with a harsh look. “Daddy’s gonna be nice, isn’t he, Harry?”
“How about… daddy’ll just be out of the house?”
Lily sighed. “I do wish you’d get over your schoolyard rivalry with Sev,” she made a motion with her hand. “But I guess I can’t ask for miracles. Floor Sirius and Remus – go to the pub, fix your attitude.”
None of those were a suggestion. James was not expected to respond as though they were, so he said “Sure.”
It was good practice for when Lily got the imminent promotion to head of department in a few years anyway.
But the thought still bothered him, enough that he brought it up to Sirius in their lunch break. Sirius’ fingers were covered in ink stains, which meant he’d been filing reports all morning (and probably all night too), and James didn’t envy him, although it was good practice. James had gone on patrol with Robards, and still had energy to burn.
“Did you know Lily’s talked with Snivellus?” he began without preamble, sliding next to Sirius, as they crowded the coffee station. The shaking in Sirius’ hands suggested it might be better for him to have a cuppa instead. Sirius’ hands stilled.
“What?” he asked, voice going deadly quiet.
“Apparently she ran into him on Diagon Alley, and suddenly decided she missed him so much, she wanted him over for tea.”
“You’re kidding,” Sirius said, eyes wide.
“Wish I was, mate. She’d dead serious about it though. I mean, they were good friends in school, I guess…”
“That was before he became a death eater,” Sirius snarled, lowering his voice.
“He worked for Dumbledore though, didn’t he?” James was only half-hearted. Sirius was on his side. Thankfully.
“Not the whole time,” Sirius said quietly. “Besides… Something’s weird.”
“You know I was shadowing Yaxley the other day, for interrogations.”
“Yeah, you said.” James waited for him to elaborate.
“Did you read the paper today?” Sirius prompted.
“Don’t see how your patrol has anything to do with Snape becoming a godfather to the new Malfoy hellspawn.”
“No, not that. I mean, that too. But did you read about what happened to Mulciber?”
“What, that he offed himself?” The thought still made James vaguely sick. “Yeah. I did. It’s… awful. I mean… one day we’re all at school together, and then the next day he’s a purist maniac who kills himself rather than go to prison for his – “
“Snape.” Sirius said.
“It was all on Snape. That’s what mulciber kept saying. Just screaming himself hoarse about Snape.”
“Poor sod. We nabbed him before Snivellus’ trial, didn’t we?”
“That’s not what I mean.” Sirius said, quietly. There was something dark in his eyes. There had been something dark in his eyes from the day he cornered Peter in that Muggle street, and wiped him, two dozen muggles, and four buildings off the London map. Maybe it had been there longer.
“What do you mean then?” James asked carefully.
“I mean Mulciber is screaming about Snape two days before he’s meant to go into interrogation, and then suddenly slashes his own wrists open? What was that hex Snivellus used that night? Do you remember? The cutting one?”
“You don’t think he…?”
“Even if he did,” Sirius shrugged. “There’s no way to prove it. In any case, it’s too far fetched.”
“But you think he had something to do with it,” James prompted.
“I think,” Sirius said carefully, “That Severus Snape isn’t as squeaky fucking clean as everyone likes to pretend he is, regardless of how much he did or didn’t spy on You Know Who in the war. But I also think if you told Lily any of that, she’d throw you out.”
James looked down at his hands. They were still. For now, they were still.
“You don’t think he’d say anything about… that night, do you?” James asked finally, voice barely above a whisper.
“What, to Lily? After all this time? No.” Sirius shook his head. “If he’d wanted to tell anyone, he’d have done already. But Dumbledore made him swear, and I trust Dumbledore to keep him on his leash.”
“Right,” James said, somewhat assuaged. Albus always knew what was what.
Sirius isn't wrong about what happened to Mulciber. He was a bit too loud, and he had to be silenced. Rabastan did his bro a solid, because his mom's dementia treatment is important to him. He's cute like that.
Severus is cleaning house, more or less. He's got money from brewing commissions, he's got his order of Merlin, he's mending things with Lily, he's got a lovely godchild - and he's taking going on the straight and narrow very seriously, hence why he's hunting down all the public records of his file and destroying them. Yaxley's also a good bro like that. He's a death eater, but as far as Wikipedia tells me, he was never sentenced or convicted during the first war, so I'm having him just working as a higher up senior to James and Sirius.
Also.... I LOVE Sirius Black SO MUCH, okay???I LOVE HIM. James?? I don't really know how to write him. And if he and Lily seem off, it's because I literally have no canon feel of them, so I don't know how to write them, and know even less how to write Harry. I'm not DELIBERATELY trying to make them seem cold or unsympathetic, I just dont know how to get into James' head, or how include a toddler int he mix, so that's on me.
The owl arrives early in the morning. He’s just gotten out of bed and put the coffee to brew, when the beautiful eagle owl arrives at his windowsill and taps impatiently to be let in.
He opens his window, and lets the lovely bird step onto the counter. He feeds her a slice of raw bacon and takes the letter. She must have been instructed not to wait for a reply, because she takes off almost immediately. It’s not a bird he recognizes form any of his friends, so his heart takes a small leap of apprehension. It better not be another summons from the ministry, just when things are going well.
It’s not. It’s a letter from Lily, penned in her beautiful, absent-minded way, on the back of a receipt from a muggle supermarket, as though she grappled for the nearest paper in a rush. He can imagine life with a toddler is rather hectic, and the rest of the letter is warm and sweet anyhow, in a way only she can make two sentences feel.
Severus, it was so lovely to see you the other day! Please, will you come round for tea this wee-kend – Sunday or Saturday afternoon around 4? The address is Potter Cottage Godric’s Hollow, West County, England xxx Lil
He reads and rereads it a few times to make sure he hasn’t misunderstood. For a few precious moments, in the spaces between these sentences, he feels as though none of the other ugliness has happened.
He takes his mug into the living room, and pulls out paper to write his reply. Narcissa gifted him a lovely set for letter-writing the Christmas before. He saves it for important occasions – the paper is nice and thick, and rather expensive, and though he’s not exactly impoverished anymore, he likes to keep his nice things, make them last as long as possible.
I received your note – thank you. It was good to see you too, and Baby Harry also. I will come to Godric’s Hollow, promptly on Saturday at 4.
He still hasn’t invested in an owl of his own – too few people for him to write to, when most of his friends prefer a floo call anyhow, but he’ll borrow one from the Manor owlery when he goes down for dinner anyway.
The rest of his mail arrives later. The Prophet and the Quibbler, the international press, a few Potions and Dark Arts periodicals, the payment order receipts from St. Mungo’s and the Ministry, and curiously – a letter from Igor.
It’s not that Severus had especially mourned Igor. He’d been a decent enough lover, and not wholly uncouth about Severus’ status and upbringing, but ultimately, he’d also been a coward.
He opens the letter curiously.
I am very sorry that it has taken me such a long time to write. Allow me to begin by apologizing for what I said during my trail. While I am sorry if what I said hurt you or had reprecussions on your character and good name in any way, I cannot and will not apologize for trying my damnedest to stay out of Azkaban.
Thankfully, that ugliness is now over. I have moved to [a place] now in Europe, and starting in September will begin as Master Instructor in Defensive Magic at the Durmstrang Institute, as well as Interim Deputy Headmaster. Headmaster Aleksandrov is pre-retirement, and if I am lucky in making a good impression, I should be occupied permanently as his replacement come the next school year.
I am writing all this, in short, to ask if you would be interested in a position at the school. As far back as I remember, you have been uniquely gifted in the Dark Arts, and in Potions Making. I am not sure what you do now – I haven’t dared ask anyone, and you are the first person I’ve owled since my trial. But have a think, and let me know. It would hurt me to see you waste your talents.
Please, if you are so inclined, owl me back. I miss our conversation.
He folds the letter carefully, and tucks it in the pages of Potioneer Monthly. He will have to bring it with him to the Malfoys’ for dinner, and consult with Lucius and Narcissa. He wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to do. Brewing freelance was well-enough for now, and if he put Spinner’s End for rent and got a place on Knockturn, it would make it easier to brew and sell in bulk, but beyond that, his newfound freedom of choice had left him rather stumped. Yes, this called for a discussion with his oldest friends.
It also probably called for a cigarette. He turned his bedroom over, trying to find a fag, but the truth was staring him, plain as day. He was all out.
He’d cut down significantly how much he smoked while Narcissa was pregnant, and then smoked even less around the baby, and now – this happened to him for the first time in years – he was actually completely out of cigarettes, and hadn’t thought to restock.
With an intelligible grumble, he grabbed his keys and slammed the door shut. No choice but to head into town then. Well. Might as well grab some chips on his way back, and that would be lunch sorted.
He strode through the familiar streets of Cokeworth, hands shoved in his pockets, trying to look sufficiently unfriendly that no one who recognized him as that Snape boy would try to talk to him, but also not unfriendly enough that people would talk about how unpleasant he is. It was a careful balance. He clearly didn’t manage it very well, because the shrill shout of
“Snape? Severus Snape, is that you?”
startled him badly enough that he nearly drew his wand and fired at will. He whirled around, and found himself face to face with Petunia Evans.
“Petunia?” he couldn’t quite keep the incredulity out of his voice. Hadn’t she moved?
Petunia hadn’t expected to run into anyone she knew in Cokeworth, least of all Severus. She’d had to have a final meeting with the real estate agent, to finalize putting the house up for sale – she’d felt some sort of vindication over being named sole heir of the Evans property in the will. Vernie assured her that the money from the sale would definitely match the money they’d left Lily. And besides, that way she got to go through the whole house, and pick and choose everything she really wanted to keep, decide what went in storage, and what went in donations. She’d made up a box of memories for Lily, but since she had no idea where Lily lived or what she did these days, it was a bit of a moot point.
And then there was Severus Snape, looking down at her from over his hooked nose. He was as tall and lean as ever, but his black jeans looked new and well-pressed, and his black sweater actually fit, and she could definitely tell it was expensive and well made.
“Petunia Evans? I thought you’d moved,” he says, but he doesn’t sound thoroughly unfriendly.
“I did,” she says haughtily. “I’ve married now. It’s Dursley.”
“Oh. Is it.” he sounds unsurprised. She’d actually expected him to say something nasty. Like maybe he never expected anyone to want to marry her. He casts his eye over her, appraising, and she straightens up subconsciously. Vernie got a very nice bonus for Easter, and took her to Harrods to “pick herself something nice” and then they’d had a lovely tea together. She knows she’s never been especially pretty, but she also knows she looks put-together and good.
“So what brings you back to the old abode?” he asks, after a moment.
“I’m selling the house,” she declares. Challenges him with her eyes. He’s always been Lily’s friend, up until whatever big argument they had in that awful school.
“Oh?” this time he seems genuinely curious.
“Yes.” she says with finality. If Lily didn’t want the house sold, she should have reached out. She wasn’t even at the funeral. At either one.
“Does Lily know?” he asks cautiously. Oh. So they’re still not back to talking.
“How should I know? She hasn’t called or written since she … graduated. At this point you know more about her, I reckon,” she adds nastily.
“We were at war , Petunia. Not that you’d care,” he snarls. He will not lose his temper with this woman. He will not lower himself to her bitterness and her petty jealousy.
He sidesteps her decisively, and heads to the shops. God, now he actually needs that smoke.