Chapter 1: The Surprise
As you may know, I like my characters to be a bit more complex, have some meaning behind their actions, whether is a disability like before or what you'll find in this fic. This one will have the theme of over coming things one may not like about themselves. I never intend to offend anyone, so I sincerely apologize ahead of time if that happens. This one is a bit different, you'll see why, but all will become clear shortly
I certainly understand that this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but the problems detailed in this chapter exist for a reason. I ask you to stick with me.
Disclaimer: I don't own any part of the Wizarding World.
"Loneliness and cheeseburgers don't mix" - The Simpsons
The Order was fixed quietly around the table. After the deaths of the Prewett brothers only days ago, a melancholy weight hung over each of them. They found no point to mingle, to share the good things in their lives when two young, inspirational men had been snuffed out. Molly Weasley's eyes were still ringed with red, as they had been for the past four days since the loss of her brothers. Her short sniffles were the only things that filled the room. Frankly, Lily was surprised she'd shown up at all.
After a series of surprise attacks, only a dozen or so Order members remained. They sat in depressed silence, staring up at the headmaster who had called them. The Prewett brothers had been a devastating loss to all of them. In their grief, it seemed inappropriate and unnecessary to have another meeting so soon.
Every seat was full, save for ones that had belonged to Fabian and Gideon. Lily was curious as to why the meeting had yet to begin. She was anxious to go home, to be free of the overbearing sadness the meeting brought.
The door to the safe house clicked open suddenly, followed by two hushed voices whispering to one another. Each head, other than Dumbledore's, snapped to glance at the unexpected newcomers. The first one to step through the door was a woman. She was overly thin, with her skin stretched tight over each bone in her body and held high on long legs. Her attention had yet to be given to those already waiting and all Lily could see was her stick straight blonde hair. She fiddled with her own, ratty red curls, feeling an unprecedented jealousy.
The woman finally turned away from her unseen companion, beaming at those waiting for her to get on with it. She seemed clueless, or careless, about the mood the room was filled with. Grief having permeated every object in the building.
As she stepped inside the other person was made visible. Lily's heart plummeted for a reason she didn't quite understand. Standing in the doorway was Severus, looking quite a bit different than the last time they'd laid eyes on each other.
The ghost of a smile he'd had upon entrance, the one given to the woman before him, easily fell from his lips as he looked at the rest of the crowd. More importantly, it seemed, was as the crowd looked at him. His mouth quickly formed into a hard-pressed line as he took a seat beside the snobbish looking woman he had arrived with. The two empty chairs been expecting others all along. A space was no longer needed for the lost brothers.
"Ah." Dumbledore said with a grin and a nod. "Ms. Novak, Master Snape, glad you could join us this evening."
Around the room eyebrows quirked and looks of curiosity were exchanged. It had been well suspected that Snape had become a Death Eater even before graduation. This Novak person on the other hand remained unidentifiable. Why now? What changed Severus’ mind? Where had he found…her? And why did Lily even care? She turned her face away from the new couple, focusing on the headmaster before her.
"I regret we had to reconvene so soon, after the tragic loss of two of our valued members." He sighed wistfully, the twinkle in his eyes dimming slightly. He turned to look once more at Severus and Novak. "It seems however we have two new members interested in joining our ranks.” Lily’s own eyes landed on the clearly furious and confused one of James who fidgeted in his seat. She gave an irritated shake of the head. Even now, he was unable to give up his prejudice.
"If I may, Dumbledore?" The blonde woman spoke with a heavy accent Lily hadn’t expected, continuing after the approval she was given. "My, eh…associate and I are pleased to fight amongst you, to end Voldemort." She glanced quickly at Severus for his approval. He nodded almost imperceptibly, urging her on. "You may call me Zahrah." She smiled sweetly, turning her eyes on each of them.
"Thank you, Zahrah." Dumbledore returned the happy gesture before continuing. "For our older members, Severus attended Hogwarts with some of our very own, Lily, the Longbottoms, and our three troublesome boys in the corner." The comment earned dispersed chuckles. "Now, let's get down to business, shall we? It seems we may have hit a lull. According to my intel-"
Lily felt the sudden heat of a pair of eyes boring into the side of her. She turned in it's direction, finding Severus' smoldering black eyes upon her. She met his stare, giving neither a smile or a frown and receiving the same in turn. He searched her face and she fidgeted uncomfortably beneath his critical gaze before turning away.
"-demort is seeking some particularly rare forms of magic, for what we do not yet know. I would ask our shop keepers in particular to keep a record of anyone requesting such things. Merlin knows Lord Voldemort won't have good intentions for these items-"
Lily listened half heartedly, fidgeting with a stray thread on the hem of her plum colored sleeve as Dumbledore continued. The sight of Severus had thrown her off. She hadn't seen or even heard of his presence since the day they'd left Hogwarts. She hadn't exactly planned on it happening again either, they'd always run in different circles.
Part of her was surprised he was even still alive, knowing what he was now. It wasn't necessarily his being here that disturbed her so, rather the ease he'd had with Zahrah, the expressions he'd thrown her way, the smile he'd come with that was meant for a different woman. She found herself wondering where Severus had been, how the two of them knew each other.
The blonde didn't seem to share the same affection, distancing herself carefully from him physically and sharing looks with less of a heat than Severus had shown. They were looks Lily recognized because she herself had given them to Severus once upon a time.
It was then she found her eyes drift down to his disappearing waistline. That was certainly different. In their short time apart, he had clearly grown in size and Lily couldn't help but notice just how fat he'd gotten. She was surprised by her own rude thought and averted her eyes back upwards…where she found him staring again, knowing just what she had been thinking.
Lily whispered an almost silent "excuse me" and pushed herself away from the table she was seated at despite the discussion that continued. She made her way to the refreshments that had been laid out for them and poured herself a cup of water. She turned, leaning back against the table and pretending to listen to Dumbledore as she sipped at the chilled liquid. Lily remained there, feigning interest and thirst until the meeting concluded.
As Dumbledore finished speaking the room was filled with the quiet hum of voices picking up and conversing. Some lingered her way while others stayed seated. It was Alice who approached her first, standing close by so only Lily could hear the words she spoke. "Are you alright? You seem…"
"Yeah, yeah." Lily plastered on a fake smile in an attempt to placate Alice's clear worry. "I was thirsty is all." She held up her refilled cup for proof.
Alice lifted a disbelieving eyebrow at her. "It's him, isn't it?"
Lily dropped her eyes, focusing on swirling the water in her cup and wishing she'd opted for something stronger. "I wasn't expecting it is all."
Alice nodded, not pushing her any further. "What do you think of the new girl? He seems smitten by her."
"She's obviously not from around here." Lily dodged. This wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have with herself. Voicing her thoughts out loud just made it all the more real.
"Lily." A deep voice interrupted them, and Alice stepped away with a knowing smile. Lily wanted to grab her and pull her back.
"Severus." She replied, equally measured and uncomfortable. Her gaze flicked temporarily over his shoulder, looking for an excuse to leave.
They stared at each other momentarily, neither sure what to say to the other. It was Lily who broke the silence first. "How have you been?"
"I've been well." He replied awkwardly, his voice otherwise toneless. "Are you still in Cokeworth?"
She shook her head. "No, I moved to London with James some time ago."
"Ah, I haven't been there in a while myself. "
She thought she saw a glimmer of hurt. "Not even to see your family?"
"No." He replied simply. "I spent some time traveling Europe, I only just got back."
"Is that where you picked up the arm candy?"
He smirked at her obvious jealousy, she'd never been comfortable in her own skin and he had known it. "You could say that.” He changed the subject before she could comprehend the answer he had given. “James doesn't seem happy to see me."
Lily laughed suddenly, clapping a hand over her mouth. She looked over at James who was once again in close proximity to Remus and Sirius. The furtive glances in her and Severus' direction made it clear just what their topic of conversation was. "No, I can't say that he is."
"Well." Severus began, ending the conversation much sooner than she had expected. “Zar is waiting.” He said with a nod of goodbye.
He turned from her and Lily reached out instinctively to touch his clothed arm. He shifted on his feet, looking at her once more and she remained frozen, seeming to have forgotten her words momentarily. "It was nice seeing you." She forced finally. She dropped her arm back to her side as he gave her a confirming grimace before stepping back to Zahrah's side. Lily watched as he placed his hand on her low back, how she smiled at his touch. As they left, Lily suddenly felt sick.
She cleared her throat, depositing her cup and following closely behind, off to her own home. She heard the resonating pop of Severus' disapparation as she stepped into the cold, winter air. With a turn on her heels she found herself back in her own, lonesome flat.
It was still clustered with moving boxes she'd been too lazy to unpack and had no plans to begin that night. Stepping past them and into the dark hallway she wandered to her bedroom, flicking her wand as she stepped inside. The black room was filled instantaneously with harsh, fluorescent light.
Lily stepped from her robes, leaving them puddled on the floor before stepping in front of her mirror. She examined herself, her faults more specifically. Her face was covered in far too many freckles, a consequence of her red hair and pale complexion. It was nothing like the tan, unblemished one of Zahrah. Lily just seemed to be "too everything". She was too short, her thighs were too chubby and dimpled, even her eyes were too pale of a green. Nothing about her seemed to stand out, to grab a man's attention.
There had only ever been Severus and James. One she had pushed away while the other had done the same to her. It was no wonder James had left her, had found something better. She would have done the same thing if she were him. She sighed in disappointment, dressing herself in a thick nightgown that would hide as many imperfections as possible and climbed into bed, shutting the lights off once more.
He didn't know why he bothered. It was clear Zahrah had no interest in him, he was just so desperate for some type of human touch, compassion, and he hungered after her. Their living situation was one of convenience, not attraction. Of course, if it had been a sexual relationship they wouldn't have had separate bedrooms.
They'd parted their separate ways as soon as they arrived, each to their respective quarters. Severus' was filled with the enchanting smell of cherry and alihotsy. He stepped towards the potion that was bubbling listlessly in the corner. Taking a large inhale of the overly sweet fumes, he gave two more counter turns and watched as the liquid changed from a scarlet red to a dull, greying color.
Severus stepped away, taking a heavy seat upon the edge of a chair and untying his hefty, black boots. He let go his held breath, sitting back up. He sighed in disappointment at his thickening middle, his hand going instinctively to it. Merlin, even Lily had noticed. That much had been obvious, the way her eyes bulged at the sight of him.
He'd dreaded today's meeting since deciding to join. There were the obvious pains of James and Sirius, but they weren't the only ones he'd attended school with. The reception of his presence had been better than he expected, he was more than grateful the Marauders hadn't approached him. But, the look of surprise on Lily's face had been enough.
He'd never been comfortable in his own skin. As a child and throughout his teenage years he had been overly scrawny, more bone than meat. There simply hadn't been enough food at home to feed the three of them. Once at Hogwarts, he had the opposite problem. There was an abundance of food, but he was too small to fit much of it in.
That had certainly changed. HHhe thought to himself as he stripped. The death of his Mum had been the tipping point. It had sent him spiraling into a depression he'd only recently begun climbing out of. She'd been the only stability in his life and having lost her mere days after returning home from Hogwarts for the final time had been too much. He'd packed his few belongings the day after her funeral and hadn't seen his father since. The circumstances surrounding his Mum's death we're too suspicious. That, combined with a life with his abusive father had given him no reason to stay behind.
First came France, the land of carbs. It had been fun at first, exploring a new city everyday, living a life he'd never thought he would. But, as he traveled across countries the caloric increase, excessive drinking, and lack of exercise had begun to take their toll, until he became the utter butterball he was now. Severus fell asleep vowing to change things, if for no other reason than being back with his schoolmates – with Lily.
Chapter 2: The Reconnection
Severus found himself in the headmaster's tower only days later. His presence had been requested following his long absence. He wasn’t surprised that Dumbledore had questions, ones Severus was sure he didn’t want to answer.
“What brings you back now, Severus?” Dumbledore watched him intently over the rim of his golden glasses. Severus shifted his gaze slightly, should the headmaster decide to use legilimency.
“It was time.”
“And the woman? Why is she here?”
Severus suspected Dumbledore's curiosity went beyond what he could use for the Order. "Zahrah's a Death Eater, she bares the mark. She has never aligned herself with Lord Voldemort, rather joined his side purely for information.”
Dumbledore tipped his head slightly, eyes narrowed and sparkling dangerously. “And you?”
Severus stood abruptly, already done with the integration. He had expected questions, he hadn’t believed that Dumbledore would fall for the gossip about his whereabouts. Severus glanced at the glass of Amber liquid he had been sipping at slowly. His fingers twitched with the desire to drain it, but he restrained himself. “If I can be of further use-“His voice halted as a light knock came at the doorway to the office.
Dumbledore pushed himself from the chair he'd been occupying and made his way, slowly, to the large wooden doors. "Lily, dear. Come in."
"I hope I'm not imposing." Came her small voice. "Rather I had some interesting information to share."
The headmaster stepped back from the doorway and she stepped in, eyes falling on Severus in surprise, much like they had days before. "Oh!" She startled. "I didn't know you had company."
"Nonsense, Lily." Severus spoke in gruff irritation, retrieving his coat from the back of his chair. “I was on my way out.” As he stepped towards the doorway Lily was still occupying, he saw a questioning gaze pass between her and Dumbledore.
The old man replied by leading her over to the set of furniture he had previously been sharing with Severus. Taking his leave, Severus overheard the whispered conversation.
"I found myself in Knockturn Ally this morning and overheard some whispers. It seems You-know-who is actively recruiting again. He practically had a booth and a signup sheet set up near Dystyl Phaelanges."
Dystyl Phaelanges. Severus thought to himself as the door thudded shut behind him. He wouldn’t mind a visit to the pub nearby. He walked quickly down the many staircases, their ever-changing directions having been memorized long ago.
He had arrived – purposefully – while classes were in session. He had no desire to run into any of his old professors or the few remaining students that might recognize him. Because of that, his steps were the only ones thudding down the stone hallways, echoing off the vast space that surrounded him. The only things there to watch him were the portraits.
“Hold up.” The feminine voice of Lily called after him. He stopped at her words in surprise, not entirely alone as he’d thought. His hands were stuffed into his pockets as he faced her, and she caught up to him. “How much did you hear?” She asked, slightly out of breath.
Severus glanced around them warily, knowing students needn’t be around for someone to be listening. “Enough. I was headed to Wyverns to check it out…You’re welcome to come with.” Lily watched him unsurely and he shut his eyes momentarily. “James, Right.”
“No.” She hurried. “James isn’t a problem. I’d- I’d like that very much.”
"What exactly did you hear? At Knockturn Alley, I mean." Severus pushed to her surprise.
She shrugged as they continued from the castle. "Much of the same as before, guaranteed protection, a chance to make a difference. It seems the Order’s last hit did some damage to their numbers." Severus nodded, confirming that she was right. She paused, flustered. "I'm sorry, but perhaps we could use our words?"
"I'll look into it.” Severus explained. "Did you make out any details by chance?"
Her eyes narrowed as she shook her head. "The typical black robes. I couldn't have gotten close enough to make out features without raising suspicion."
"Then how did you overhear them?" Severus asked with his own suspicion.
"Oh." She blushed. "I'd vacated a shop behind them, they didn't know I was there."
Did it seem as if anyone was interested?"
"Quite a few, unfortunately. It is a seedy part of town." Lily and Severus stared at one another awkwardly. “You aren’t one of…them, are you? Why else would you have joined the Order?”
He shook his head, a frown on his face deepening. “No. But I can’t say I didn’t consider the opportunity.”
Severus pulled back a sleeve, checking the magical watch on his wrist. Was 10 am too early to get drunk?
I see you kept it." She nodded at the time piece.
He frowned again. "I don't understand why I wouldn't."
Their voices slowly came to a stop and they continued their journey to the gates in silence. Finally, when they were out past the line of apparition, Lily linked her arm through his which earned her a raised eyebrow before she disapparated.
The pub was musty, dust and cobwebs evident in the corners. Lily rubbed a hand up the flesh of her arm uncomfortably as Severus led the way. She watched him from behind, still confused at the person he had become in two short years. The Severus she had known before had never enjoyed food, and now…
One thing she did notice, was how much more comfortable he seemed with himself. He more willingly engaged in conversations, his snark was subdued. It didn’t make any sense. He reached the bar, sitting close to bartender and exchanging a few short words before shaking slightly with a laugh.
Lily sat beside him, noticing he had chosen a great vantage point. They could see out the door at the Death Eater activity going on in the streets beyond the doors. Severus hadn’t wasted any time ordering a pint of Quintin Black. The murky drink was placed momentarily in front of him before meeting his lips.
Lily watched with a wince as he greedily chugged the liquid. Her own butterbeer remaining untouched. His nearly empty glass came down with a loud thud on the wooden bar. "Pace yourself, Severus."
"On the contrary, perhaps you should speed up." He countered as his hand was raised for another. The bartender had been prepared, quickly sliding a newly full glass in front of him.
Lily vaguely wondered how often he came here. "We aren't here to get pissed." She reminded him in annoyance.
“Maybe you're not." He closed his eyes as the dark black liquid washed into his mouth before setting it down with a satisfied sigh.
Lily turned on her barstool so that she was facing him fully. Her elbow was leaning on the bar, head propped against it. "Out with it then. I seem to remember your intense hatred of drunks."
"Ah, yes." He said, finally forgoing the alcohol and meeting her gaze. "That was before I realized they were on to something." She took the stein from out in front of him in disappointment. He had been flawed before, but this…this was new.
"I don't understand." She said in exasperation. She made no attempt to hide the displeasure she felt toward him in that moment. Their true reasoning for being there had been forgotten.
"About what exactly?"
"Well, any of this." She gestured to him in general. "After the boozer your father was-"
"Don't." He warned, a sudden sharpness to his voice. One he had only given her on one other occasion. "Things happen, people change, get used to it Evans."
She turned in her seat again, taking tentative sips of the drink in front of her as she stared out the open door and into the busy square. They were quiet for a moment, neither quite enjoying the other's presence. The sharp edges of their personality rubbing against each other.
"I'm sorry." He offered suddenly, again surprising her. "I shouldn't have snapped."
"No, I get it." She replied without looking at him. "You aren't the only one who's changed."
"I guess that explains why you don't seem worried about finding a way to explain this to James."
She heaved her shoulders up before letting them drop again, having no desire to get into it. "You could say so." From the corner of her eye she saw him lift his hand to place an order once more. She placed her hand on top of his momentarily. "Could you slow down? at least for me?"
Severus stared at her as the third drink was placed in front of him. When he spoke something was different about his voice than before. It had grown quieter, shameful. "For my sake as well."
Her eyes left his clearly embarrassed features, changing the subject. "You wouldn’t recognize anyone, would you?”
“Only the majority of Slytherin house.” He examined the three men standing outside, decked in black. “Zahrah would know.”
Before Lily could react, his wand had slid from the inside of his sleeve to his hand. She grimaced.
He offered a quick glance around the room. There was only one other person in the bar with them. The man appeared to have arrived before them, judging by the fact his cheek was pressed to the table and drool dripped from his mouth.
Seeming to decide there was no risk involved, he cast a wordless spell and Lily watched, mesmerized, as a silvery creature slid from the tip of his wand.
"Patronus?" She asked, despite knowing the answer.
"Salamander." He confirmed, turning back to the bar. He drew a much slower sip of Quintin than before and she smiled lightly.
His eyes flicked up to the doorway every few seconds, checking for the woman she'd met the night before. He seemed so intent on catching her that Lily was surprised when he spoke again. "What were you doing down here anyway?"
"…Shopping." Lily blushed, avoiding his gaze.
Severus scoffed. "I could have guessed that. I never assumed Knockturn Alley would sell anything that interested you.”
"I was looking at Mulpepper's inventory."
"And here I would have thought you could have brewed any of it yourself."
"Not this time, I'm looking for something particular." Her voice turned into a mumble and she felt her face growing hot with the flush of blood.
"Anything I could help you with?" He pushed. "I wouldn't charge half of what Mulpepper does."
"Really, Severus, it's fine."
He turned suddenly as a familiar voice dripping with a thick accent filtered into the pub. She followed his gaze out the doorway and saw the svelte figure of Zahrah conversing with one of the cloaked men they had been watching. The woman had crossed her arms, pushing her breasts together and she conversed easily with the man in front of her. Lily rolled her eyes. “She’s one of them, isn’t she?”
"Not in a way you'd expect." Severus responded. As if on cue, Zahrah left the men, walking towards the two of them with a swing in her hips. She crooked a hidden finger at Severus, urging for him to follow and he did, like a love-sick puppy. Lily came with, ignoring her lack of invitation and followed the two of them up a set of stairs she hadn't noticed before.
The trio walked down a long hallway before cramming themselves behind a stack of shipment crates, trying to hide themselves as much as possible. Severus flattened himself against the wall, trying to suck his stomach in and failing miserably. It was the first time Lily had noticed his insecurity. He had seemed so sure of his new self until that moment.
"It was Igor of course." Zahrah said with a roll of her eyes as soon as a muffliato had been placed "And Dolohov. I didn't recognize the third man."
"What did they want?" Severus hissed despite the spell.
She winced at the scent of his breath. "I think you can figure that out for yourself. Tried to get me to join them in their, eh, search."
"Does it look like I'm still standing out there?" She swatted at him playfully. "If the Dark Lord didn't order me to be there I won't be getting myself into their mess. Told 'em I was just passing through."
"Why does it matter if it was Igor?" Lily asked suddenly, referring to the woman's earlier statement.
"Durmstrang Headmaster. He always gets himself into this kind of trouble. He's a glutton for punishment, that one."
Durmstrang. Lily mulled the word over, wondering if that's where Zahrah had come from.
"I'd better get a drink of my own and head out before they get suspicious." Zahrah said.
"Yes, of course." With a mumble under his breath Severus undid the enchantment and Zahrah began walking away, Lily close behind. Severus reached out, grabbing her arm and letting Zahrah get farther ahead. "It wouldn't be wise to be seen together." He reminded her as she was pulled back into their hiding spot.
A crash filled the bar room below them suddenly, followed shortly after by a yell. Lily withdrew her wand, expecting Severus to do the same. Instead he grabbed her arm again, holding on to it tightly. "I wouldn't recommend that either. It's our signal to leave."
Before she could say another word, Lily felt a familiar yank behind her belly button and found herself standing suddenly in a place she didn't recognize. She rounded on him. "You're just going to leave her?!"
"I know what it seems like, but it's better than the alternative. She can take care of herself.”
She wrapped her arms around herself, uncomfortable in the intimate surroundings of what appeared to be his home. "Severus, I don't understand any of this. Two years ago, you were…and now you're…It's almost like you're afraid."
"It's the opposite of that really." He plopped onto a nearby piece of furniture. "It isn't a matter of not wanting to get involved, I can't be seen."
"Why not?" She perched uneasily beside him.
Severus shrugged. "I sort of ran out on Voldemort. He wouldn't be pleased to know I was back."
"Then why were you so carelessly out in public?" Her eyes narrowed in confusion as she watched him.
"Wyvern's not one to tattle, shall we say. He prefers to keep his clients’ secrets, keeps him out of more trouble than if he was to start telling everyone. Plus, I've gained a bit of a disguise, if I do say so myself." The last sentence was given with embarrassment.
Her head dropped into her hands. It had been an overwhelming few days since he had reappeared. "Severus…why now? Why like this?" He furrowed his brows, not understanding the questions. "We haven't seen each other in years and it's been even longer since we talked…yet it's like nothing has changed on your end."
His mouth opened and closed as he fought to find an answer. A grim expression flickered across his face suddenly before it was replaced once again by the stoic calm. "We're going to be seeing each other at the Order meetings, we might as well get used to it. Tea?"
She nodded slowly, suddenly craving the warm liquid. It seemed like stability in a world with him that had suddenly been turned upside down. He stepped away, turning into what she assumed was a kitchen and returning momentarily with two steaming cups. She took her time inhaling the hot vapor and taking small sips until she was prepared to ask her next question. "Why do you let everyone believe you've joined him?"
He shrugged. "After a certain point you stop caring what everyone thinks."
Lily bit her lip, considering his words. It was something she'd struggled with for some time and Severus had so quickly reached the solution. It occurred to her then that he'd kept talking and she focused on his face once more. "I'm sorry?"
"I said, what about you and Potter? How long has that been over?"
She smiled weakly, he’d seen through her lies. "A few months now. He turned out to be someone completely different." Lily heard something sounding like a huff escape Severus' lips, but he didn't say anything more. Before either of them could form another thought, Zahrah apparated in front of them, swiping away a trail of blood trickling slowly from her arm.
"Are you alright? What happened back there?" Frenetic, Severus stood, following her as she crossed the flat. She seemed entirely unconcerned about the gash on her wrist.
"It's nothing, Sev'rus, really. They got a little, eh, enthusiastic, that's all." She smiled softly to ease his worry.
"Here, let me fix it." He gripped her by the wrist, aiming his wand. "Was it more Death Eaters?"
"No, Stan this time. His weekly bender. You've really got to find a new place."
Severus shifted so they were standing farther out of ear shot from Lily. His voice dropped, a conversation meant only for Zahrah, but Lily strained her ears anyway. "That’s not why I was there, not this time. We were- “
"What about yesterday? And the day before that?" Zahrah hissed. "Sev'rus, I get it. I know how hard it is, but you need to snap out of it and-"
"Zar, I-." He dropped her now healed arm, hands running through his hair instead. "Maybe this was a mistake."
She glared back at him, stretching up to meet his gaze. "What's a mistake?"
"This!" He gestured loudly, indicating their surroundings and forgetting that Lily was watching everything.
"So, what? You're going to run away like before?”
Lily approached them finally, speaking uncomfortably. "I think I should go…"
"Yes." Severus cleared his throat, turning an angry gaze from Zahrah and giving Lily a softer one. “I’ll let Dumbledore know what happened.”
Lily shook her head. "I'd like to speak to him myself.” She leaned sideways to meet the blonde’s eyes. Lily noticed her rigid position and her clenched teeth. “Nice seeing you again, Zahrah.” She hurried. “Afternoon…Sev." She stepped away from them, turning on the spot to disapparate when she heard their voices raise again. All she could make out before disappearing completely was something about Hungary.
She didn't waste her time, didn't even bother to knock. Instead, Lily found herself bursting through the door to Dumbledore's office only minutes later. "You knew, didn't you?" She accused.
The Headmaster sat behind his desk, a stack of papers placed before him. "I'm sorry?"
She ignored the startled expression on his face, ploughing on. "About his drinking problem."
"I had my suspicions, yes." He avoided her gaze.
She squeezed her eyes shut in anger for a second. “Then why did you suggest we go together?” Lily demanded.
"He would have gone without my help. It's best to take control of what ambitions he does have left, put him to some use."
Lily collapsed into one of the chairs placed in front of the desk. "I don't understand any of it." She mumbled. "Why is everything so complicated now that he's back?"
"I'm afraid it's a habit the two of you always had."
"No. It's different this time." She insisted. She was well aware that she’d had her fair share of fights with Severus.
Dumbledore thumbed through the parchment. "Has he told you nothing?"
"Only that he traveled – seemingly ate – his way across Europe."
"He lost someone, Lily." Dumbledore said, looking at her finally. "He's coping the only way he was taught."
It wasn’t the answer she expected. She racked her mind, trying to come up with someone he might have been close to, but found nothing. "What about her then? The new girl."
Dumbledore sighed, fixing his glasses across his nose. "I'm afraid I can't offer much there. As far as I know they met during his…trip and connected."
"They still seem rather close." She muttered, mostly to herself. She was surprised how much that statement bothered her.
"I know James hurt you, that it was unexpected-"
"Unexpected?! We were talking about marriage! Then I found him in bed with-" She squeezed her eyes shut again, trapping the tears that we're threatening to fall.
"You and Severus aren't all that different. It isn't me you need to talk to."
"It's not that easy!" She protested. "Do you know the last things we said to each other? How can we possibly go back to what we had before?"
"Lily, the fact that you're here, asking about all of it, proves that perhaps you already have. Perhaps you never lost it in the first place."
Lily stared at him in silence, wiping away the wetness of her eyes before finally nodding in agreement. She had never stopped caring about him, the circumstances may have changed, but even then, she knew Severus hadn't ever fully left her thoughts.
Chapter 3: The Truth
It had been several weeks since the bar fight at Wyvern's. They'd run into each other occasionally since then, but had spent very little time together. Lily had had no reason to drop by his place and Severus didn't even know where hers was. It was only now, almost a month later at an order meeting that they had a real opportunity to talk again.
Severus found it unusual how she avoided the Marauders. There was a risked glance to them here and there, but he noticed she moved around the room in an effort to be as far from them as possible. He had a similar problem, although he enjoyed his situation. The few people in the room he did know, he wasn't exactly on good terms with. No one but Lily had any reason to approach him. He couldn't complain about being left alone, in fact he preferred it. Lily and Zahrah were the only two he could be bothered with, preferably the first who was making her way over to him.
She stood close by, speaking so only he could hear. "Are you on better terms?"
Severus smirked as he replied. "We never are. She wants things to be one way and I want the other. We butt heads quite frequently."
"I'm surprised the two of you are together."
"Dating? No. We we're at one point, but too many things got in the way. We're better off with whatever this is." His lips tightened with a sadness he hadn’t felt for some time.
"That's not what your fight sounded like."
"Tune in later for round two." He joked. "I'm sure it'll prove you wrong.”
She gave him a strange look, like she wanted to know more, but decided against it. "How long has she been a Death Eater then?"
He rolled his eyes back, thinking. "Four years now, I believe. She isn't a fighter, deals more with information."
"No wonder Dumbledore is so pleased to have her on our side." The headmaster only took interest in things that could further his plans.
"You have no idea." His stomach grumbled. "Do you want to get out of here, maybe grab a bite to eat?"
Lily looked over her shoulder. Severus followed her gaze and found James watching them. He was surprised James had yet to find his way over to them, to make some snide comment. "I would like that." She replied suddenly.
Severus felt a warmth growing in him at her answer. He wouldn't call this a date, but he certainly hadn't expected her to say yes. "I know just the place." The two of them walked from the building without so much as a goodbye to anyone. When they were past the protective spells surrounding their headquarters, Severus gripped her by the hand and they disapparated.
It was a small muggle place in London, one of the few open so late at night and one of his favorites. He'd been busy experimenting with some new potions, trying to prefect them, and the meeting had snuck up on him. He knew it was at eight, but had simply lost track of time and hadn't done anything before hand, such as dinner. Now, seeing Lily enter the restaurant beside him he was glad that was the case.
He'd missed her so much over the past years. With their reconnection he wanted to spend all the time he could with her, whether it was spying for Dumbledore or something along the lines of tonight. She'd turned him down before, when they were still at Hogwarts, and he couldn't say he expected her opinion of him to improve based on the changes since then.
"Severus, back again I see." The host greeted them.
Severus smiled weakly, embarrassed. He felt Lily’s curious gaze watching him. "Table for two this time."
The two of them were led into the dining room, only one of the few couples there this late into the evening. Lily was quiet as they were seated and as she read through the menu. Severus wanted to kick himself for picking a regular spot. He hadn't thought much of the wait staff recognizing him until then, but now he was sure there was a blush in his cheeks.
He ached for alcohol, but remembered how disappointed Lily had been in him the last time they'd done something similar. Just one drink. He told himself, hoping he could keep his own promise. He ordered a bottle of wine this time, under the ruse it was for both of them, that he shouldn't be ashamed if they were both drinking. The look on Lily's face as he ordered though told a different story.
He stared at the dark, maroon liquid in front of him hungrily, not sure what exactly to do. He hadn't thought about his drinking affecting anyone but himself – something he was perfectly fine with – until recently. Although now he felt a tinge of guilt for putting Zahrah through it as well.
"Mum died." He said suddenly. Lily looked up from her own glass, slightly startled by the sudden revelation. "Murdered, really."
"No, don't say you're sorry. That's what everyone says. It's no one's fault but his, and perhaps mine."
"Yours?" She tipped her head to the side, obviously feeling sorry for him.
Hating the look she was giving him he looked down, staring at the steak that was being placed in front of him that he suddenly wasn't hungry for. "I was the one that found her, strangled in her own home." He could still see the purple marks of Tobias' fingers around her neck. "I'd meant to go over earlier, she'd asked me to come, but I'd been focused on what I thought were more important things. When I finally arrived, it was too late." He took a large drink, forgetting his earlier compromise.
"How…how long ago?"
"Just over two years now. They tried to convict Tobias, but there simply wasn't enough evidence. I would have been a suspect as well had it not been for Dumbledore's help." She reached across the table, placing a hand on top of his. "I drink to forget." He continued, accepting her touch. "Eat too, I guess. Except it’s always a temporary fix. Now, my physique serves as another reminder." He chuckled humorlessly.
"That's why you left, isn't it? Your holiday?
He nodded. "I couldn't stay here, I thought things would be better elsewhere, but I couldn't have been more wrong."
"I…I don't know what to say."
"You don't need to say anything. I just thought…you deserved to know, deserved an explanation." He took another large gulp and refilled his glass.
She was quiet, picking at her salad, but never taking a bite. He wondered if maybe he shouldn't have said anything at all.
"James cheated on me." She said finally, meeting his eyes. "I found out only a few months ago. I thought he was going to propose. I came home early from work one night to voices. That itself wasn't unusual, James constantly had his friends over, so I didn't think much of it until I noticed the voices were coming from the bedroom. I found him and Sirius knocking broomsticks, as they say."
"Sirius? Sirius Black?" He was stunned.
She sighed. "That's exactly how I felt. I guess they dated off and on at Hogwarts, in secret of course. I don't know if he ever really felt anything for me or…" She looked around them, it suddenly felt too intimate despite the emptiness. "I think I was just a cover up for their families."
"And I thought he was an idiot before, to use you like that…it's not right." He tightened his grip on his fork.
She shrugged. "At least I found out before it was too late. They're happy, you should see how they look at each other. I'm happy for them, I just wish it hadn't come at the expense of hurting me."
Hands still clasped together, they finished the rest of their meal in silence, each wallowing in their own problems and putting a rather large dent in the wine. Severus wished he hadn't brought her here, hadn't made this night so painful for the both of them. Yet, another part of him was glad they'd done this.
"Can you come over for a bit?" She asked suddenly. He stared back in pleasant shock which caused her to backtrack. "Forget it, it was a stupid question-."
"On the contrary, I would love to." He shoved a hand in his pocket, removing a few notes and placing them on the table. They walked down the almost empty street together, heading back the way they came until they were comfortably out of view.
With a squeeze of his hand, she disapparated, taking them both to her home. The surroundings didn't register, he was too focused on the woman in front of him. She held tightly on to his hand still and he reached up with his free one, brushing a chunk of red hair behind her ear.
Before he could even think about what was happening she had stretched up on her toes, placing her lips gently on his. He wrapped his arms around her, pressing her as close as they could possibly get, returning the kiss. Lips still together, she laid her hand gently on his soft chest, guiding him back to the nearby couch. As the back of his knees hit the fabric he collapsed, pulling her down with him. Lily moved so that a knee was on either side of him, allowing her to sit on his lap. Her hands went around the back of his neck while his wound their way into her hair.
It wasn't long before the bulge in his pants pressed up against her figure. He wanted more, causing him to groan quietly when she broke the contact, leaning her forehead against his. They both panted breathlessly. She could feel how badly he wanted this and went back for more.
"No, stop, Lils." He spoke softly, hand running lightly down the bare skin of her arm. "I don't want to do this for the wrong reasons."
She frowned. "What exactly did you think I was interested for?"
"I thought…well I thought it was about James."
She laughed. "It was never about that." Her lips found his again and he focused on the fruity taste of her tongue. Their need for each other – for something grew frantic and irrational in their buzzed state.
Severus hadn't realized so much time had passed until he awoke sometime later. Glancing at the watch on his wrist he found it was just after 6 in the morning. He rubbed a hand down his tired face and glanced to his side. In the crook of his arm he found Lily cuddled up against him. Severus tried to snake his numb arm back out without waking her and only ended up achieving the opposite.
"Hmm…where are you going?" She mumbled, barely awake.
"It's tomorrow, I need to go." He held his pounding head, keeping his eyes squeezed shut.
"Hungover?" Her voice was soft as she asked. He only nodded, saving himself from speaking. "I didn't realize you were such a light weight."
"I may have had a few before the meeting."
The shape of the cushions next to him changed and he knew she had stood. In an instant he felt a glass vial being passed to him.
"Here." She insisted. He squinted at her gratefully, downing the potion as she continued. "Don't go…for me?"
"Take me somewhere."
"I…what?" He frowned at the random question.
"Please? I'm not ready to be alone again."
The eager look on her face broke him. "Of course, I'd like to, but-"
"No buts! Is there anything holding you back? You just got home from your trip, you can't possibly have a job yet."
"Alright, alright." He smiled broadly. "Let's do it."
She cheered victoriously as she stood. "I'll be just a moment."
"Wear something muggle."
She hurried from the room before he could change his mind, shutting a door behind her. Severus walked around her flat interestedly while he waited, peering into picture frames and fingering knick knacks. There were some he remembered from when they were children and others that he'd never seen, but one in particular had caught his eye. A chipped, green colored dragon figurine was tucked in a corner. Severus picked it up, feeling the weight in his hand. He'd given it to her on her 10th birthday. He'd worked as many odd jobs as he could, trying to earn any amount of money. It hadn't cost much, and he'd been embarrassed, but she had loved it. Severus smiled, surprised that she had kept it after all these years.
"Are you ready?" Her voice called suddenly, bringing him back to the present.
"I need to go home really quick, get my tongue lashing from Zahrah and change." He turned and found her standing behind him. She was dressed in a tight pair of jeans and a plain red shirt. His eyes moved suddenly back to her face, afraid to be caught admiring the view, despite what they'd almost done the night before. Without a word, he slipped his hand in hers and disapparated.
"Where the hell have you been!?" The shrill voice came as soon as they landed, and Severus let go of Lily, stepping away
"I lost track of time, Zar."
"Sev'rus, I was afraid you were dead, or-"
"Stop." He stepped to his bedroom door, pushing it open. "In."
She obeyed quietly despite the scathing look in her eyes, only speaking when they were in private. "You can't just disappear on me like that."
She leaned into his chest and he put her arms around her. "I didn't think about it, really. The night just got away from us, but I'm okay." Zahrah nodded against him with a sniffle. "I know you're still scared, I get it, but they don't know we're here. I'm sorry, it didn't occur to me."
She shook her head, stepping back. "Maybe you're right. I just don't like being in one place too long."
"Things are different here, you don't have to worry."
"That's easy for you to say." She grumbled.
"I'll let you know next time I'm not coming home."
"I…I would appreciate that.
He used his thumb to dry a tear that had escaped and run down her cheek. "Do you remember the friend I told you about?"
Zahrah nodded. "It's her, isn't it?"
Severus smiled. "Yes. She asked me to spend the day with her and I said I would. I just needed to make sure you were okay."
"I am, now. Go, have fun." She returned his smile sadly before leaving the room, closing the door behind her.
Severus undressed quickly, grabbing a pair of jeans himself and stuffing his legs inside. He pulled them up and fought to do the button, an act that did a number for his self-esteem. To be fair, it had been a bit since he'd worn his muggle clothes. He shouldn't have been surprised that they had shrunk slightly, or rather, that he'd grown…again, but he wished it didn't have to be today. He was absolutely floored by the way Lily had come on to him the night before, an act he'd dreamt of for years. He didn't understand how she could possibly be attracted to him like this and reasoned she must be lonely.
Things always came back to Potter, perfect Potter. James had always been better looking, even during Severus' prime. He found it a bit ridiculous that his only chance with Lily came from her boyfriend dumping her for another man.
With one last look of disgust in the mirror he finished covering his plump self. He approached the potion still bubbling in the corner and was thankful that this particular one took several days to complete. It would soon be ruined otherwise.
"Are you ready?" He asked as he returned to the front of the house, forcing a smile.
"Maybe you should stay here." Lily's voice was disappointed as she pointed to a room in the back. "I think she's crying."
Severus followed her finger before turning his gaze back on her. "It's complicated, but I think it'll be best if we leave."
Lily nodded sadly. "If you're sure."
"You know it isn't about you, right?" He turned her chin towards him gently. "There haven’t been any romantic feelings between her and I for quite a while." Well, for her. He added mentally. "I wouldn't be doing this if there was anything left with her.
"Right, let's go." She smiled finally, but Severus noticed it didn't quite reach her eyes.
They wandered the small town in which he lived, one she had never been to. She asked him about it, where they were and why he had chosen here, but received an "uh huh" for an answer.
"I can tell something's on your mind." Lily stated Finally, when they'd found a secluded bench along a walkway.
He was quiet for a minute before avoiding her eyes as he answered. "What are we doing here? You and I."
"I'm not sure I understand?"
He dropped his voice, seeming concerned he might be overheard. "Lils, I've wanted you for as long as I can remember. To be more than what we've always been, yet you've never seemed to feel the same. Why now?"
"Why do you assume I haven't felt that way?"
"Potter makes that situation rather obvious, and the fact you once said no."
She leaned over so that her head was on his shoulder. "We've just never been on the same wavelength. You were with what's her face for so long and I felt the same way. Then I was with Remus. When I turned down the date it was more about the dark direction I thought you were heading. We never had a chance to see if we'd work before everything fell apart."
"That's what I don't get. After everything we've done to each other and all the time we've spent apart, how is there something still here?"
"Just because the things around us changed doesn't mean we have, Severus."
He scoffed loudly. "Perhaps you haven't. Look at me, Lily."
She understood finally what the conversation was about and where his mind had been since they left. She wondered if Zahrah had said something to make him think this way. "Do you really think I wouldn't care about you over a few measly kilos? How could you ever-"
"Because! It's not just a few…."
"You told me yourself you were grieving. Everyone does it differently."
"Not everyone turns into a blimp." He pointed out.
"Would you stop? There are things I hate about myself too-"
"Merlin knows why. You're perfect."
"I could say the same thing about you."
Severus laughed. "Zahrah wouldn't agree.”
Lily looked around her mockingly. "Seeing as she isn't here I don't understand why that matters."
He met her eyes finally, gazing at her intensely before deciding she deserved to know. "I met her in Czech when I was still thin. I'd just arrived there a few days before and went to one of the wizarding pubs in town. She was already drunk when she came on to me and it didn't take long for me to get there either. We went back to her place and that was that. I stayed in Czech for a month, mostly with her, when it was time for me to move on she came with. The sex gradually came to a stop as I started drinking more and putting on weight. Finally, when we were in Hungary she decided she was done."
"Sev...that's not right." She was mad. "Couldn't she see why you were doing all of that?"
He fiddled with his wand. "Like I said before, it's complicated. She was going through her own problem and it was just too much. If I scared her off so easily surely it won't be long before you're gone too."
"You aren't going to scare me away. I'll admit I'd like to see you drink less, but I understand why you're doing it. Maybe, when you're ready, we can work on it together."
"If you're still attracted to me then."
"Come on." She stood suddenly, tugging on his hand.
"Where are we going?" He asked as he got to his feet.
"If you aren't going to believe me I'll just have to show you." She smiled flirtatiously, and he obeyed as they disapparated yet again.
"We don't have to do this." He insisted.
"No, I want to. I wanted to last night." She reminded him.
Severus scooped her up in his arms which made her laugh. He carried her in the direction of her bedroom, throwing the door open forcefully, and finally placing her down. She scrambled on to the red covered bed, pulling him closer as she laid back. When he was leaning over her, Lily wrapped her legs around the back of his thighs, trapping him.
"You're positive?" He asked again
"Stop asking and just kiss me already."
He obeyed, lowering his lips to hers gently. She inhaled the familiar earthy scent on his skin as her mouth opened and closed against his. Placing a hand on either side of his waist she drew him as close as possible, feeling a satisfying wetness between her legs. His tongue flitted in and out of her mouth, drawing circles.
His hands teased under the hem of her shirt as it was gradually pushed up her skin. "Lily…" He moaned against her before pulling back. She took the opportunity to remove her shirt and he did the same. Instead of laying back on the mattress she began working on the button of his pants before those too were pulled down and off.
"This isn't fair." He grinned and undid hers as well. They hurriedly helped each other out of the remainder of their clothes before stopping and simply staring at each other. Lily was embarrassed and tempted to cover herself again. She didn't like what was beneath, surely, he didn't either. No. She reminded herself. They'd just had this conversation about him. She thought it was crazy he'd feel that way and knew he would say the same thing about her if she brought it up.
"What's wrong?" He asked, noticing her pause.
"It's just different, in a good way." She leaned forward, meeting him halfway with a tender kiss. He cupped her gently and she gave in once more, laying back.
Severus didn't hesitate before climbing on top of her again. She loved the feeling of his warm skin pushed up against hers, the soft exhales of air when he kissed her. He expertly fondled her, going from her chest to in between her legs and she shuddered.
His lips travelled down her neck, nipping at the tender skin of her neck, her shoulder, and her cleavage. He moved sideways with a gentler touch, drawing the rosy tip of her nipple into his mouth and sucking. She squirmed in satisfaction, gripping him tightly and aching for more.
She forced him away, taking control. He rolled onto the bed beside her where she climbed on top of him. She hovered above the tip of his penis, teasing him like he had her. There was something about the sight of his hardened beer belly, round between her legs, that she enjoyed.
"Oh!" She cried as he slipped inside. She moved back and forth against him, causing him to bounce slightly. Every part of them moved together in an unheard rhythm, causing them both to moan. All of it together caused her to build loudly before finally reaching the crest of pleasure. She threw her head back as she orgasmed, legs squeezing him shakily. She felt him relax beneath her and knew he had gone over the edge too.
"That was…" He started, breathing heavily as she moved to lay next to him.
She snuggled up beside him happily. "Yes, yes it was." Lily watched curiously as he got off the bed, pulling his wand from the front pocket of his jeans and firing the familiar patronus. "You picked a rather odd time for a conversation." She pulled a pillow on top of herself, feeling self-conscious now that the heat of the moment was over.
"She asked for me to let her know if I'm not coming home. I see no desire to do that when I could stay here with you." He smiled sweetly at her and she couldn't help but return the gesture.
Chapter 4: The Whole Truth
A sudden light in the dark, curtain drawn room caused them to disentangle themselves from one another beneath the sheets. The twisted, mass of fabric was flung off them as Severus sprang from the bed in response.
"What was that?" Lily whispered in disappointment, her voice still husky from sleep.
He fiddled with the buttons on his robes, dressing himself in a hurry. "Zahrah, it's Lord Voldemort." Lily followed, dressing in a similar urgency as he continued. "He's in the Ministry."
"That's not far from here!" She gasped.
Another blue light filled the room, a phoenix this time, informing them both of an emergency meeting. With a quick spell, Lily smoothed her rumpled hair and the two of them disapparated together.
They arrived in the grassy field on which the Order's headquarters sat and filed into the building with the small crowd of other Order members, each ambling in confusion. They stood around, waiting for Dumbledore's instruction. Zahrah and the few aurors that joined their group were the only ones missing, clearly with the Dark Lord.
Dumbledore spoke immediately, garnering everyone’s attention with a tone of urgency. "Lord Voldemort has infiltrated the Ministry. Our source is telling us he's attempting to get into the Department of Mysteries although he hasn't disclosed what he's searching for. Aurors have already been sent to apprehend him, but I'll need several others on standby.” He looked at them all in question. “We don't know how many Death Eaters are there and don't want to be caught without enough fighters. Any volunteers?"
Lily turned to look at Severus, asking with her eyes if he was going to go. He shook his head no and she faced forward again, keeping any further curiosity to herself. An abundance of hands were raised, the Marauders among them. Lily's hand however remained by her side, to Severus’ relief.
"Very well. You three wait in the lobby." Dumbledore pointed to several of them. "You four descend to the bottom floor. The rest of you wait here for further instruction." The eight of them, Dumbledore included, disapparated, leaving just a few stragglers behind.
"I thought she didn't fight." Lily asked under her breath when the remaining members meandered away from them.
"She doesn't. However, she does have experience with unusual types of magic. I'm assuming Voldemort expects her to lead them wherever he asks."
"Will she?" There was a hint of uncertainty in her voice.
"Not if she can help it. Well find out soon enough."
Lily reached down, intertwining her fingers with his. "Shall we sit? There's no point standing around." She conjured a velvet chair that was just large enough for the two of them. He sat first with her curling beside him. They made no attempt to hide their budding relationship from the others.
It seemed they weren't the only ones prepared to stay there for some time as around them Order members conjured their own furniture or retreated into the back rooms for some rest. The warning had come just after midnight and many of them had been pulled from their beds. As a result, the building was filled with a tired silence. No one, other than Severus and Lily cared to interact with another person.
As the minutes ticked by he frowned, noticing something across the room. "Lily." He shook her gently.
"Hmm?" She asked already half asleep. She straightened her position to meet his eyes.
He gestured to a far chair with a nod of his head. "Isn't Alice Longbottom an auror?"
"Then why is she here?"
Lily lifted her head from his shoulder, following his gaze. Sure enough, the petite brunette sat in a secluded corner chewing nervously on her fingernails. Lily left Severus' side in interest, strolling across the room to check on her.
"Alice?" She whispered with a peek over her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
Alice turned her head towards Lily, taking her in with wet eyes. "Frank is out there, it’s hard not knowing what is going on."
"Why aren't you with him? Dumbledore said-"
"I can't be. It's safer for me to stay here." She glanced around her as Lily had before, checking for anyone who might be listening in. The act was pointless. Their number was small, and the order members were spread about the house. "I'm pregnant." She admitted finally.
Lily smiled, showing each of her teeth and leaning down to hug her friend. "Why don't you go home, get some rest?"
"No, that'd be even worse, to be alone. I'm fine, really."
"Come pull a chair up to Severus and I. We’ll keep you company.”
Alice hesitated, her brow furrowing. "I'm not certain he would forgive me, the two of you looked so cozy together."
Lily looked over her shoulder, catching Severus' eye. She couldn’t admit he’d be entirely happy about the idea. "Nonsense, come on."
She walked away, giving the other woman no choice but to follow and she did. "Don't tell anyone, okay? We want to keep it a secret a little while longer." Alice gave Severus a narrowed glance as the whispered hurried from her mouth before he was close enough to hear them.
Lily smiled and nodded, agreeing that she wouldn't. She returned to her place at Severus' side and Alice took an empty seat beside them. There was tension in the air, mostly between Severus and Alice who always had had a different idea of what was right for Lily, much to Lily's displeasure. Despite him being here, proving that he was on their side, Alice apparently still didn't feel comfortable around him.
"Why didn't you volunteer?" She asked, a little snide, breaking the awkward silence.
"For the Ministry? It’s not an opportune time for me to be in the presence of death eaters.” He gave lily a cautious look.
"Your friend went." Her chin was lifted in arrogant defiance as though he hadn’t thought of that himself.
"I'm afraid, being a Death Eater herself, she didn't have much of a choice in the matter. She was the one who tipped off Dumbledore."
"Oh." Alice blushed a little before changing the subject. "She isn't from around here, is she? Certainly not from Hogwarts."
"Cyprus, but she moved around a lot as a child."
Lily felt him shift beside her in discomfort which made her all the more curious. "She went to Durmstrang then?"
"Does her family support You-know-who?"
Before Severus could answer the room was rocked with apparitions. The few stragglers that had remained formed a circle around the returned fighters. Lily watched enviously as Severus pushed through the small crowd in search of Zahrah. Several conversations filled the room as those that had stayed asked what had happened. The buzz of chatter made her mind go fuzzy and she was unable to concentrate.
Severus was back almost as soon as he had left, eyes wide in an uncharacteristic worry. "She's not here."
A searing pain shot through her head, drifting down her spine. She squeezed her already closed eyes in an attempt to make the pounding stop. It felt as though her skull might crack from the pressure within.
Only a soft light flickered in the corner, the rest of the room bathed in darkness, but it was enough to make her head thump even harder. When her eyes were opened again she could spot Voldemort on the edge of her vision, pacing dangerously in front of her. His white wand was held tightly in his hand, but it remained at his side, waiting for her to test him, begging her to give him a reason to use it.
"My Lord…" She winced. "I thought it would be best, for you to have a shot at Dumbledore. I didn't intend to stop your plans."
"No?" The high voice called. "How can I be so certain? Perhaps you've been fighting with him all along." His footsteps halted on the gravel ground as his arm whipped upward. His wand was aimed at her suddenly, but he didn't speak. She waited for the cruciatus, knowing it was his spell of choice. Instead there was an audible snap in her ankle causing her to cry out. "I will tell you what I want, and you will do just that. Should you ever step out of line again I won't be as forgiving."
"Yes, my Lord. I'm eternally indebted to you." The words were forced through her clenched teeth as she tried to focus on her working her mouth rather than her twisted leg. She could see the satisfied smirk on his face despite the shadows.
"Perhaps we should test you once more, see how worthy you are to bare my mark." His wand was raised teasingly again and what could hardly be considered a smile crossed his face.
"I am worthy." Her head dropped to her chest in a desperation to prove herself, a fear that more pain would come. "Tell me how I can prove it to you."
"I will let you know when I decide on your test. You won't be invited to our meetings for some time, I can't have you risking us again."
"I wouldn't dream of it."
Lord Voldemort let out a huff of air. "It’s only a matter of time until tonight's events are leaked to the Prophet. If you hadn't been such a fool we could have kept this under wraps, preferably indefinitely. Until I decide what to do with you, I think it would be wise to give you a taste of what waits if you betray us again."
Her heart seized in terror, knowing what was coming. She opened her mouth to reply, to act obedient in the off chance he'd change his mind. Instead of the words she had planned, a scream was ripped from her body and she fell backwards. Her head connected with the floor a second time and she prayed for unconsciousness. Every nerve in her being danced to the cruciatus curse as he stood over her, smiling mirthlessly.
In the pain, her weak occlumency barriers came tumbling down. She closed her eyes both in torment and fear if the Dark Lord decided to use legilimency. She was unable to keep out the images that floated into her brain, resulting in a process more painful than what she was experiencing physically.
She could see the flicker of fire burning in the foreground. Acrid smoke filled her lungs, causing her to struggle for fresh air. She sputtered over it as if she were really there, not in the Dark Lord’s headquarters.
In the memory, her arms were bound tightly behind her, nearing a dislocation of her shoulders. Zahrah struggled forward, anxious to get away from her captor. He laughed at her attempts, tightening his grip as she screamed in desperation. Stop! Make it stop! Take me instead!
The agonized screams coming from inside the burning house were too much. She swung a leg upwards, connecting a foot against the man’s groin. He slackened his grip just enough that she was able to slip from his hold. She ran with a stumbling gait toward the home as the heart wrenching screech began to grow quieter. That was almost worse.
Her sight was blurry from tears and she tripped along the uneven ground. She was shoved to the grass suddenly, a momentus weight holding her down. She hadn’t gotten far at all, not nearly far enough. With the weight of an entire human being on top of her there was no way for her to react, to kick back like she had before. Her sobs came harder, it was too late and there was nothing she could do. As she watched her home, and everything inside burn to the ground the cries inside stopped while hers worsened.
Severus paced his living room nervously, waiting. He knew where Zahrah was being held and he had a fairly good idea what was happening to her at that moment. Remus had seen her there; had told him she wasn't dead. That left only one other possibility and Severus was helpless to stop it. He was terrified for her. He'd been on the receiving end of Lord Voldemort's fury several times, had experienced the pain he could inflict. But, this was different. Zahrah had outright betrayed him, she'd be lucky to return home at all.
Reaching the end of his small circle he turned, heading back the other direction when Lily grabbed him, forcing him to stop. "You can't make the time pass any faster, Sev."
"I can't just sit there and do nothing!" He grit his teeth.
"No, but you can't find her either. Just stop and let me help you."
His eyes drifted closed in defeat and he paused in his steps. He plopped down beside her, holding his head in hands while Lily rubbed his back. His knee bounced up and down in anticipation when there was a sudden pop in the room. Instinctively, Severus stood, barely catching Zahrah before she fell. Her face was full of anguish and her ankle was twisted unnaturally. "Lily, can you make us some tea?" He asked hurriedly. She nodded, leaving the two of them alone.
Zahrah was sobbing uncontrollably as he hefted her entirely into his arms. He sat back down, cradling her protectively as she cried against his shirt, warm tears soaking through to his skin. "What hurts? What do I need to fix?" He didn't even know where to begin. The sleeves of her robes were soaked with what he assumed was her own blood. Even her face was dotted in scratches, a particularly bad one across her left eye had caused it to swell. He removed his wand, going to start at her leg when she spoke again.
"He made me remember."
Severus paused, wand hand hovering above her as his own stomach plummeted. There was only thing that could cause her to be this distraught. "Does he know?"
"I-I don't know." She spoke between sobs. "It seemed worse, more realistic than usual. I could smell everything, hear…”
"Oh, Zar." He hugged her tighter.
"I just want to forget.” She choked. “I want…"
He sighed, watching her diamond shaped face and the small features it held. "I want to too, let me fix you up and I can take care-" His speech was muffled by her kissing him tenderly, an act he wasn’t entirely angry about. Part of him had missed this part of her, but he knew this wasn’t love. More importantly, he was with Lily. His arms went slack around her, and he broke the contact with a glare.
"I made a mistake." She whimpered. “I should never ha-.”
"Bloody hell, Zahrah! You can't do this!” He swiped a hand across his mouth, removing her spittle. “It was your decision to end things, not mine and it's too late now to change that." He shifted her off him to stand, fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. "I'm going to…grab some potions, I'll…I'll be back." When he straightened he found Lily watching them from the doorway, a steaming cup in her hand. He groaned inwardly, knowing she had seen what just happened.
Severus approached Lily, taking the mug from her and passing it to Zahrah before pushing Lily down the hall and into his bedroom with him.
"Maybe I should go." She looked to be on the edge of tears herself which didn't surprise him after what had happened with James.
"Lils, please don't. I just need to patch her up and I can explain everything.”
"What's there to explain? It's obvious she still cares about you and I'm not sure I believe that you don't feel the same."
He was disappointed he couldn’t deny it. "I can't do this now. The hell she just went through has nothing to do with me. Just give me five minutes, okay?"
"Okay." She conceded, and he smiled in a gesture of thanks before snatching several vials from his desk and returning to the front of his flat. He was grateful Lily didn't follow him, the situation was becoming increasingly difficult.
"Here." Severus shoved a dark green bottle into Zahrah's hand and she downed it quickly before he passed her the second and third one. He trained the tip of his wand above her ankle, humming a deep chant. He continued up her body, watching the gashes stitch close and the swelling diminish. It wasn't long before she began to look normal again.
He wrapped an arm beneath her, supporting her as she stood. "Stay off that for a few days. I don't know what spell he used to cause such a messy break, it might take longer to heal." Zahrah nodded and the two of them hobbled to her room.
Swallowing hard, he helped her remove her bloody clothes. Each layer was stripped, left on the floor to be dealt with at another time. He averted his eyes, trying not to gawk at the body he had once covered in kisses. Instead, he focused on guiding her to the bed and beneath the covers.
Severus sat beside her, reaching up to touch the side of her head and giving a large exhale. "It's still hard for me too. I don't know how to make it better."
"You can't, Sev'rus." She dropped her still teary gaze.
Severus passed her the final potion, a sleeping draught. "You know where to find me, but I expect that won't be necessary with this."
After a muttered thank you she downed it in one gulp, anxious for the dreamless sleep. Once he was sure she was drifting off he snuck from the room and into the kitchen.
Lily had curled up on his bed, waiting for the explanation he had promised her. She heard the door reopen just a few minutes after he had left her waiting. He came in with a large bottle of fire whiskey in one hand and a carton of ice cream in the other. It had been two weeks since they started dating, during all their moments together she had witnessed the alcoholism, but he'd been more careful to hide his eating habits from her, even if she did notice when her cupboards had been raided. The fact that he had brought both vices when he returned informed her whatever it was he had to share, it wasn't going to be easy for him.
Because of that, she let him take him his time. She didn't push for the answers she so desperately wanted. Severus sat beside her, the mattress sagging under his weight. Lily watched him uncomfortably as he drank from the bottle and scooped the ice cream into his mouth. She was starting to wonder if she'd made a mistake. He seemed to have a problem with obsessions. First it had been with dark magic and You-know-who and now this. He kept digging himself holes he couldn't get out of alone and part of that scared her. "Are you going to talk to me?"
Severus swallowed the bite in his mouth and took one last swig before setting the carton to the side. "I can't put it off forever." He admitted in defeat.
With a glance at the bottle still in his hand she spoke. "Why is she here then? Why are you living together if you're just friends?"
"We went through a lot, I'm afraid we'll always be connected." He filled with the neck of the bottle.
"Is that what she meant about remembering?"
"How much did you hear?" Severus asked with narrowed eyes.
"Everything, I believe. It doesn't take long to make tea." She hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but hadn't exactly stopped herself either.
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. "I haven't been completely honest with you. I agree that I should have, but it's easier said than done." She stiffened, straightening up, but keeping silent. "I told you that all of this was about Mum, and while that was the beginning of it, there's so much more to the story."
Her patience was running thin and his stalling didn't help.
"I left Cokeworth to travel shortly after it happened and met Zahrah a month and a half into the trip. It was just meant to be a one-night stand, I left the next morning before she even woke up, but she tracked me down a couple weeks later." Severus sighed. "I got her pregnant, Lils." He looked at her carefully, attempting to gauge her reaction, but she didn't let the hurt show. "Well, the pregnancy was fine, we stayed together the entire time, settling down in Hungary as the end grew close."
She remembered how Severus had told her they were only together a few months. Apparently, that meant at least nine. She also remembered the mention of "Hungary" when she'd witnessed a fight. Slowly the puzzle pieces began to come together.
"It was a girl, Saffiah. Not long after she was born we-." His voice cracked, and he cleared his throat. "We were attacked. I wasn't there at the time. They burned down our home…she…she was still inside."
Lily blinked, taking a moment to register the weight of what he was saying. "Severus, I-"
"No, no pity." He shook his head vigorously. Unsure how to comfort him she simply held his hand while he spoke. "Things between us ended after that. She resented me for a long time, for not being there when it happened. It was a blow we simply couldn't survive. It's been just over a year now, but she's still heartbroken, we both are. After tonight she just needed a little extra comfort. She's simply coped with it differently, certainly better, than I have."
"Why didn't you tell me before?"
"It's a large burden to bare and an even larger one to say out loud."
"Do you have any idea who it was?"
"That attacked us? Most likely a branch of Death Eaters. We don't hear of attacks outside of England, but they certainly happen. The Dark Lord's reach is bigger than most people realize. I don't think they knew she was one of them, but at this point we don't understand any of it."
"Come here." Lily opened her arms, gesturing for him to get closer and he did, she was propped against the headboard and he leaned back, laying his head on her chest. She crossed her arms over his large middle. "I know you've been through more than the average person in such a short amount of time, but I'm worried about you." She bent forward slightly, kissing him lovingly.
"You aren’t the only one.”
Chapter 5: The Problem
"Thank you, by the way." Zahrah said as she stretched to grab another bottle from the top of the fridge, passing it to Lily while avoiding specifically looking at her. "I don't know how you convinced him to stop drinking. I've been trying for some time."
Lily shrugged as if it was nothing, tossing the half full bottles of alcohol in the trash. "We just talked…he told me what happened."
Zahrah frowned. "Oh…I must say I'm surprised. He doesn't talk about it with anyone, not even me." She winced as she placed her weight back on her ankle.
“He was the same way when we were kids.” She smirked sadly. “I don’t think the occlumency barriers were originally meant for You-Know-Who.”
Zahrah sighed, watching her hands although her mind was somewhere else. "I can't say I blame him this time."
Lily hesitated, unsure if she should bring it up. "I'm sorry for… what happened, I don't know what to say about it all. To him…or you. Or if I even should.”
"You don't need to say anything, just acknowledge that she existed." She attempted a smile, meeting Lily’s eyes for the first time since the kiss.
"I'll keep that in mind." Uncomfortable with the look she was getting, Lily moved on to unpacking the sacks of groceries. "His dad is an alcoholic too, I don't know if you know that."
Zahrah shook her head. "I know very little about his past, although there are a few things I could guess. We didn't spend much of our time talking."
Lily swallowed, that meant they spent the majority of their time using their mouths for something else. She didn’t enjoy the idea of Severus being with Zahrah, or being with anyone other than herself for that matter. "He lived down the street from me, growing up I mean. His Dad beat him and his Mum pretty badly on a regular basis. There were times I'd go days without seeing him because of it. His dad is a big guy himself, I can only imagine how easy it was for him to kill Eileen...Poor Severus, if he ever goes bald he'll be the splitting image of his father."
"I’m not sure he could survive that.”
“No.” Lily chuckled. “I don’t think he could either.”
“You've been good for him.” The words were careful, as if she didn’t really want to say them. “In just this short time since he's been back I've noticed a difference. I'm not sure I've ever seen him…happy."
Lily smiled to herself. "He's been good for me too."
Zahrah cleared her throat. "I'm sorry about yesterday, I- I overstepped."
"Do you feel anything for him still?" A flicker of anger rushed through her and she tried to suppress it.
Zahrah averted her gaze. "I'd be lying if I said no. But, it's a path that's too painful to revisit. He's devoted to you, Lily, I think he always has been."
She dragged her bottom lip between her teeth, feeling the chapped skin. She was aware that Severus’ feelings had been there for some time, perhaps the whole time. But he had been reserved, only showing them on occasion and she had turned him down when he did. She had so many regrets when it came to him, things she wished she had done differently or not at all. This was one of them. If they’d only starting seeing one another sooner…so many things could have been avoided.
Now, there was a finality with him. As though this relationship, no matter the short amount of time they’d been together, was it. She hadn’t even felt that way with James. Part of that scared her.
Severus appeared between them, filling the silence that Lily wasn’t sure how to break. He looked at the trash bin in disgust. With the situation or himself, she wasn’t sure. “How quick you were to rid the place of my vices.”
“You agreed to make a change.” Lily poked him hard in the chest, feigning anger despite the smile on her lips.
"Yes. Let's not do this again, okay?" Zahrah scolded less playfully. Severus nodded back in embarrassment.
"James asked me to stop by." Lily interrupted. " I guess I left some things at his place, so I'll be back in a bit." She wrapped her arms around the back of his neck, kissing him deeply. He hesitated at the touch in surprise, his hands going awkwardly to her sides and Lily smiled in satisfaction. She felt the need to stake her claim, one he clearly returned.
It was a more than modest building, substantially better than where she was now. James certainly had the money to afford it, even if it was a bit excessive. She felt a pang in her stomach and found herself missing this place as she took the stairs to the second floor. She stepped up the doorway, exhaling before knocking on the pristine, white paint. She could hear the quiet murmur of voices before it was opened, causing a different pang from knowing James wasn’t alone.
"Hey, Sirius…" There was an awkward tension between them. She’d avoided the pair of them since she’d found them together and had no desire to have a conversation now. "Is James here?"
"Um, yeah. He has a box for you." He moved aside, allowing her in.
Lily stepped past him and into the home she used to share with James. It was depressing being there, especially when his new, or rather old, boyfriend was too. Any sign of her presence here had been wiped away, replaced by signs and belongings of the new man. The place even smelt masculine, like cedar wood and sweat.
She wandered into the bedroom they used to share where she found him next to a half full cardboard box. "I was making room for Sirius' things and I found some stuff you left behind." He called from where he was crouched near a drawer by way of hello.
Lily approached the box, looking inside. "He's moving in?" She couldn't help the sad tone in her voice. Had she made an impression on him at all?
James looked up, looking through the doorway before dropping his voice so only Lily could hear it. "I'm thinking about proposing. About time, you know.”
About time…she and James hadn’t even been over for long. She ground her teeth in anger. "You aren't going to string him along like you did me?" She rifled roughly through the things he claimed she had left behind, avoiding looking at him.
"I didn't- I wasn't-" He stammered.
"But you did. I don't know why you had me come here, this is the stuff you gave me."
He looked at her, perplexed. "You don't want any of it?"
She sighed at his obvious disappointment. "No…I'll take it."
"So, you and Snape, huh? Interesting…choice." He grinned, more to himself than her.
"One that I'm happy with." She smiled broadly to herself, ignoring his mocking stare. "I know you never liked him, Merlin, everyone knows that, but he's…there's a lot more to him than you realize."
"There certainly is a lot more." James muttered. "Just be careful, you've seen the things he can do."
She smiled wider still, ignoring his previous comment. "Yeah, I have. I love him, James. Your opinion isn't going to change that." She lifted the box into her arms, one that would likely go into the trash. "I'm happy for you and Sirius, I'm glad you can finally be together, but you shouldn't have done it behind my back."
"I know." James said adjusting his glasses. "It was wrong and I'm sorry."
She smiled softly. "Thanks. I- I better go, Sev is waiting for me."
He grimaced momentarily, "Right…Thanks for stopping by."
Lily disapparated back to her place without a final word. The box hit the floor with an audible thud and she sat down, holding her head in her hands. She'd loved James, maybe a part of her still did. It hurt to know how quickly he had moved on, had decided to get married. She was sure she'd be invited to the wedding, but she didn't know if she wanted to go anyway.
Severus was surprised how long it had taken for Lily to return. He and Zahrah had been in the front room together when she appeared suddenly. Her eyes were tinged in red but her cheeks were dry. She ran a hand up the skin of her arm. Zahrah stood with a pathetic excuse that she had somewhere to be and left them alone.
“Was it that bad?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to know why she was so upset after visiting her ex-boyfriend. Surely it couldn’t be a good sign.
She collapsed on the couch beside him, her head going to his shoulder. “It just hurts, knowing you weren’t enough. That you were easily replaceable.”
Severus’ upper lip curled. “Sirius was a poor choice, certainly a step down.” She shifted beside him to look into his face. The tenderness there softened him, and he raised a hand, rubbing a thumb across her cheek. “How he could ever- “
“I don’t need the reassurance, I promise.” Lily placed a hand on top of his stomach, where it curved outwards beneath his chest. “Even though it hurts, I’ve found something better.”
He leaned forward, the corners of his lips twitching into a smile. He had waited years to hear her say those words. He brushed his lips against hers ever so gently, relishing in the experience of her.
She pulled back just enough to speak, and he couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed. "As happy as I am you're working on fixing things, I love you just the way you are."
"Excuse me? What was that?" A broad grin stretched across his face this time and he made no effort to conceal it.
"I love you, Sev."
"I love you too." Severus wrapped a hand around the base of her neck, kissing her passionately this time. "You know,” He murmured against her. “There is a perfectly good bedroom right there." He cocked his head in its direction.
She stood, pulling on his hand. "What are we waiting for then?"
He obeyed, letting her lead him. When the door was shut, and a silencing charm was cast Lily was on him, kissing him furiously as if she couldn’t get enough. Severus moved her hand away from the side of his face, sucking first on her wrist and then trailing affectionate kisses down her arm. He gripped at the loose fabric of her robes, pulling her impossibly closer.
She fiddled with the buttons of his clothes and soon enough the skin of her hands rubbed across his smooth shoulders and down his back. The remaining layers between them found their way to the floor and she was pulled into his arms, legs around his waist. The kisses of before trailed further down her bare skin, the need overwhelming each of them.
"She informed me of her return last night, but nothing more."
Severus nodded, staring across the large wooden desk of Dumbledore. "She was badly injured, I'm not sure he'd let her live a second time. I’m surprised he did this time. Zahrah must truly be an asset to survive disobeying him.”
A finger strummed against Dumbledore's haired chin as he considered Severus’ words. "Has she talked about the events of last night? What Lord Voldemort was looking for?”
"She was…rather distraught. I thought it best not to push." Even if he had, he couldn’t have gotten a straight answer out of her in a state like that. Her mind was far too concerned with other matters to consider what the Dark Lord would want.
"It may be wise to leave that alone for now.” Dumbledore agreed. “Are you still refusing to take the mark?"
Severus gave a jerk of his head, mostly in annoyance. "It's out of the question. At this point, even if I wanted to return, it's been too long. I'd be murdered without a second thought."
"Why is it then that Zahrah was able to remain faithful to him despite being countries away?" The headmaster asked with genuine curiosity.
"She chose to join him two years before I even knew she existed. The Dark Lord doesn't care where you live or what you're doing as long as you're devoted to him, that you don't do anything to harm his plans."
"Have you ever questioned which side she's on?"
Severus stood roughly, turning his back on the Headmaster in a huff. "I wasn't aware this was an interrogation."
Dumbledore peered over the rim of his glasses. "It was a simple question."
"She put her life on the line for you, for all of us.” He growled. “She almost didn't come back. No, I haven't questioned her loyalty."
"When will she be ready to return?"
Severus' fists clenched tightly at his sides. He looked at the stone floor as he spoke, otherwise he couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t deck the professor. "It seems…the Dark Lord has found a way to make someone relive their worst memories. I don't know if he can tell what exactly they are, but I don't care to find out. Zahrah needs time to recover and you need to give it to her."
"Time is the very problem were facing. I wouldn't have her there at all if it could be helped."
"Find someone else then." He lifted a hand before dropping it at his side in anger. “You’ll lose her completely if you don’t.”
"Severus." Dumbledore breathed almost in annoyance. "From the information she had given me prior to the attack at the Ministry, I believe Lord Voldemort is after a time turner."
Severus wiped a hand across his mouth, leaving it against his chin. His frustration in the headmaster temporarily forgotten to be replaced by intrigue and fear. "What could he be interested in using it for?"
"Do we really want to find out?"
He swore loudly as he stepped further from the desk. "We could lose everything." Severus turned suddenly, facing Dumbledore once more with wide eyes as a thought occurred to him. “…or we could get it all back.”
Chapter 6: The Cheese
"I'm fine, really." Severus insisted with mild annoyance. To be honest, he wasn't even sure how he felt. Voldemort getting his hands on a time turner could be devastating…but, it could also give him what he most dearly wanted.
"Well, what did he say?" Lily fretted.
"He was just asking about Zahrah, when she'd be ready to return." He shifted away from her concerned touch with a slight sneer.
"Sev.” She rolled her eyes. “Do you really believe that after all this time I can’t see right through you?”
He set his jaw. If that had meant to relax him it had achieved the opposite. "We discussed the war, he suggested I become a Death Eater." Lily looked at him, eyes wide. "Which I shot down, of course." He hurriedly continued. “As much as I’d wish to continue this lovely conversation, I need to update Zahrah.” Severus stepped away before she could question him further.
He walked down the short, carpeted hallway in the direction of the cracked open door that led to Zahrah's room. He pushed it farther inwards, speaking quietly. “Zar?”
A shuffle of movement, a sniffle responded, and he let himself in. She wiped her face quickly, brushing away the platinum blonde strands that clung to her tears before she sat up from her curled fetal position. Severus glanced over his shoulder, checking for Lily before shutting the door fully. The bed frame creaked as he sat beside her. "I spoke with Dumbledore." He looked her up and down.
"What does he want from me now?" She asked in exasperation, her shoulders slumping with exhaustion.
"Actually, I'm the one with the question. Do you know what it is the Dark Lord is after?"
She shook her head. "I told you, he's being secretive. After leading the Order to him it’s unlikely I’ll ever know.”
"Dumbledore seems to think he wants to acquire a time turner."
Her own eyes widened first in confusion before narrowing under a furrowed brow. “What does he plan to do with one?”
Severus lifted his shoulders slightly before dropping them back down. "I'm sure nothing good, but I wanted to suggest that you lead him to it, help him."
Zahrah's voice rose dangerously. "Are you insane?"
"Shhh." Severus glanced at the doorway before dropping his voice further. "I'd prefer to keep Lily out of this."
"Out of what exactly?" She snapped. "What good could possibly come from that?”
“I shouldn't have to explain what a time turner is used for. Perhaps, if the Dark Lord changes certain events in his process…whether on his own or with some… guidance..." He raised an eyebrow.
Zahrah gasped, covering her mouth. "Do you really think it's possible?"
"I think it's worth a try." A devilish smile spread across his face.
"How…how would we even begin to do that?" She sat up straighter, invested in the conversation more than she had been before.
"Dumbledore will be stationing guards outside the Department of Mysteries from now on, to prevent the Dark Lord from returning. I myself have one this Saturday evening. I can guard the door while you sneak inside."
"And steal from the Ministry? Isn't it a little risky?" Her brow came together again.
"Says the death eater.” He responded with a laugh and a nod to her arm. “If you can offer this to him you may be put back in his good graces without being harmed further, and we may get what we want in return."
"I'll arrange a meeting with him now." She stood hastily, but Severus gripped her arm before she could go anywhere.
"You understand this isn't a sure thing?" Severus asked carefully. Zahrah bit her lip, nodding sadly. "Are you okay?” He pressed. “Something tells me those aren’t tears of joy.”
“Its hard, Sev'rus.” She exhaled, looking at him in a way that made him uncomfortable. “And maybe I wasn’t entirely aware of what else I’d lost until Lily started hanging around.”
His grip dropped, giving her hand a gentle squeeze instead with an attempt at a reassuring smile. "It's hard for me too." He pushed himself into a standing position, ignoring what else she’d said and leaving once more.
Zahrah remained motionless, watching him leave. When she could hear his footsteps down the hall she removed her wand. Nervously pressing it into her mark she muttered "Disputatio". For a minute nothing came, and she sat there motionless until a sudden searing pain filled her arm, telling her to come. She did as she was told, disapparating quickly to the empty headquarters.
She wound her way through the stately and silent hallways, finding herself utterly alone. Upon reaching the interrogation room her wand was placed in a compartment just outside the door, for the Dark Lord's safety. Through the glass she could see him standing there, waiting for her. The expression he wore was not one of pleasure. Taking in a large breath to steel her nerves Zahrah pushed the door in. Her head dropped, facing the ground as she approached with a limp before finally kneeling on the concrete in front of him.
"Why have you contacted me?" He snarled.
"My Lord, I have found a way to get the item you seek."
He glared at her dangerously. "How do you know what it is?"
"It is only a guess, but I wish to help. I would never attempt to understand your knowledge." Her breath came out in ragged bursts of fear. This was a perfect way to get herself killed.
"What exactly is your plan?" He spoke slowly, enunciating every letter. Zahrah kept her face toward his feet, afraid to meet his cold, dead eyes.
"Dumbledore is going to keep Order members outside of the Department door, in case you return. They know me, they trust me. It would be easy to, as they say, 'slip inside' and find what you need."
"It's an interesting proposition. How do I know you will do as I ask? That this isn’t an attempt at an ambush?”
"My Lord, all I do is to support our cause. I wish to begin repaying you for the error of my ways."
"If you are capable of retrieving it your placement here will be reconsidered. If not, I see no use to keep you."
Her fingers dug into the stone beneath her. "What is the point if I can't give you everything, My Lord?"
"Is Dumbledore aware of your mission?"
"No, and he never will be.”
Voldemort's skin stretched into a tight smile. "Very well, fetch me a time turner and we'll see what to do with you."
"Thank you, my Lord." She breathed sincerely. She kept her head bowed as Voldemort left her alone in the room and couldn't help but smile to herself. She wouldn’t be dying tonight.
"Lily? What…what is this?" Severus' voice called. She turned from where she was crouched across the room. She’d brought a box of her things to Severus’ place, intending on storing them there. Seeing the deep orange book in his hands she blushed. She had hoped to sneak that one in among his books. Severus flipped it over, so he could read the title. "Charm Your Own Cheese…I can't say I was aware you were interested in this branch of magic.".
"It's more of a joke." She mumbled.
He began flipping through the pages. "Loving with Cheeses. How exactly does that one work?"
"Ha. Ha. It's from James."
Severus deposited the book back where he'd gotten it from with a curled lip, as though the pages would physically harm him. "Cheese was his specialty then, that makes sense."
"No, it was a joke." She reiterated with a glare as she continued sorting. "He tried to cook for me the day we moved in together and used cheese that was bad. It was foul, but I kept eating it to be nice. He bought it as a gag gift a few days later."
"I'm sorry you had to be subjected to that."
Lily rolled her eyes. "It was funny."
"You're keeping it then?
"Yes, he was my friend first. We had a lot of good memories and I’m not going to wipe them all away because of your opinions of him.” She ground her teeth together, returning to her work. Behind her she could hear him rummaging through the box and almost asked him to stop.
"Just after everything that happened…there's a snitch too? Stealing school property…"
Lily put her hands on her hips and heaved a sigh. "You do realize you’re living with your ex, right? I haven't said one word."
"You know it's more complicated than that." He glared. "Besides, Zahrah is lovely."
"If you've had sex with her maybe." Lily whispered under her breath
"Did she do something?" He couldn't conceive her being anything but nice.
“She didn’t do anything, other than kissing you that is. I’ve seen the way she looks at me, at us and it’s obvious she isn’t happy about my presence.”
He frowned. "That's not true, she-"
"Severus." She rolled her eyes again.
He lifted his hands, conceding. "Alright, I'll talk to her."
"No, that's not- I was just telling you, she's not perfect either."
"Believe me, I'm aware. The Dark Lord was harsh on her. She’s struggling, but she shouldn't be treating you that way."
Lily shrugged. "I was making a point more than anything. I can handle it. There have just been a lot of changes."
"I wouldn't count on that changing." If Voldemort got his wish, the very wish Severus was handing him, each week, day, could be an entirely different reality. Every tangible thing could slip through their fingers. His throat went dry at the thought. By Salazar Slytherin, what had he done?
"Severus…what is it?" Her hand squeezed his arm seemingly from nowhere.
He blinked, shaking his head. "It's nothing."
Lily's eyes narrowed, unsure if she believed him. "Okay…”
"I'm, uh, going to take a walk." He picked up his coat which was hanging off the back of a nearby chair. "For my health and all." He lied, desperate for a breath of fresh air.
"I'll come with you." She smiled softly, going for a jacket of her own.
"I'd prefer to go alone." Severus slammed the door behind him harder than he meant to. He winced at the sound, but was grateful when she didn’t follow him.
He hurried to the door of the flat and into the cold before he pulled the collar of his coat up, attempting to warm his ears in the dropping November air. He walked a short distance, taking side streets until he arrived at a nearby park where he sat slowly onto a nearby bench.
He crossed his feet at the ankles, watching the children play despite the weather and wishing he’d stopped for a drink first. Could he do this? Could he risk losing his life and everything in it for something that might not even happen? It was a foolish question, he'd do anything to get that little girl back, even if all of this was selfish. But, he was putting other lives on the line and it wasn't fair…none of it was. He closed his eyes, bringing in the laughter and lighthearted screams around him.
A figure plunked down in the seat beside him. Severus looked at her with a frown. "What are you doing here?" He asked entirely unfriendly.
"What do you think? Lily told me you ran out of there.”
"So, what? You're here to scold me? How did you even know I was here?"
Zahrah swiveled her head, looking at the few kids scattered on the playground. "It wasn't that hard to figure out. Wyvern’s was my next guess.”
Severus exhaled sharply, ignoring the jab. "Did you do it?"
She looked to him again. "Yes…he was pleased, to say the least."
He focused on the children in front of him a moment longer before continuing. "Were we wrong to do this? How can we stop him once he has it?"
She brought her fingers to her lips. "I don't know." Her voice was a hoarse whisper, seeming to be as ashamed as he was. "Lily doesn't know anything about it, does she?"
"No, and I can't tell her. I don't think she'd understand."
"You have to figure out something, Sev'rus." She patted his knee gently before leaving it there. Severus cursed to himself, maybe Lily was right.
He lifted a hand, palm to the sky. "How can I when nothing makes sense?"
"Have you seen your father?"
"Absolutely not. The man is a monster."
She sighed. "I just thought-"
"You women." He shook his head sharply. "You're going to drive me to drink." Severus opened his mouth a crack, realizing what he'd said. "It's a phrase…but not a bad idea."
"No, too late…You need to talk to her, Sev'rus, really talk to her." She looked down at her lap. "Or you're going to drive her away too."
"…I've never treated her right." Severus was silent for a minute, staring straight ahead again and patting the hand still resting on his leg. It dropped from his lap as he stood. As Zahrah followed him he wrapped her in a warm embrace, closing his eyes and breathing in the exotic scent of her perfume. "How do you always know what to say?" He felt the rise of her chest beneath him as she laughed.
"Come on." She pulled back, out of his arms. He followed in her footsteps back to the run down building they called home. "Real walks wouldn't be a bad idea once in a while." She smirked.
Severus punched her on the shoulder playfully. Zahrah slid the key into a lock, smiling at a muggle neighbor who walked past. The door squeaked open and she threw the shared, rarely used keys on a table next to it.
"You're back." Lily's tone was clipped. She sat curled on the couch holding a pillow tightly to her stomach. Severus sat next to her, attempting to grab her hand which she snatched away. When Zahrah had wandered far enough away and he was sure they were alone he spoke finally.
"I need you to understand that just because I'm back in England doesn't mean everything is okay.”
"Why did you come back then?" Lily asked, picking at a loose thread hanging from her shirt and carefully avoiding the intent gaze he was giving her.
"It was two years, it was time. I couldn't live in a dream, Lil." He swallowed. “I tried to escape and got hurt just as badly there as I did here.”
"What else are you keeping from me?"
"I want to tell you, I do, but- no, Lily, wait!" He chased after her as she made to leave.
"Is this whole thing going to be a lie?!" She rounded. "Why am I even here?!"
"It's the Dark Lord, I can't, I can't. It doesn't matter what I want. I love you, I do. I just need you to trust me." He pleaded, not ready to lose her again.
"Why? Do you even care? You have yet to ask me about yesterday."
"Yesterday?" He screwed his face up in confusion.
"With James, it was awful. Now I have all this…this garbage that he insisted I have. They've been together four months! At least, publicly and they're getting married. I was with him almost four years and I don't even know if he ever even loved me…"
Severus watched her sadly. "He did, without a question he did. Do you have any idea how hard it was to watch you two? To see the way he looked at you, how he kissed you…I don't know when, or how it could change, but he loved you."
She came closer, laying a head on his chest and wrapping her arms part way around him. "Then you were making fun of the few untainted, pure memories I have left with him today. I know you hate him, but I don't. It was hard when you called me that name and even harder when I told you to leave, but James was there. Even though he didn't understand what we had, he was a really great friend to me. The four of them accepted me like one of their own almost immediately."
"I don't think I ever even apologized properly, unless you count my bawling outside the Fat Lady. I meant every word of it though, even now.”
"You don't have to do this, Sev. I get it." Her voice was muffled by his robes as she spoke. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
"No, I do, Lily, I do. I became too involved in the wrong crowd and the word just became natural. Maybe I meant it then, but I don't anymore. I'm sorry and I didn't mean to upset you today either."
Lily reached up, wiping the wetness from her eyes. "I shouldn't have… I understand how difficult this whole thing has been for you, and it must be even worse for her, but it isn’t sunshine and rainbows for me either.”
"She was crying earlier, when I went to talk to her. There's a lot about her you don't know. Her life has been very similar to mine."
Lily was quiet. Severus watched her eyes close as she leaned against him and he wanted to close his too, to sleep and wake up when all of this was over. He wanted a stiff drink and something sweeter than an apple, but he pushed away the urge. "Lily?"
"It's only been two weeks for us, but I have known since the day we met that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. That hasn't changed. I don't want to propose, yet, but I won't string you along either."
"I won't say no." She promised.
"Is this an engagement to be engaged?"
She laughed lightly in his arms. "I'll take it for now."
Severus placed a finger beneath her chin, raising her head so that she was at looking at him. He stared deeply into her Jasper green eyes and she stared back. "Should we find out what cheese related spells we can learn?"
Lily giggled again. "I think James might kill me if he finds out you're using the book." The two of them separated momentarily and meandered into the other room. "I kept your dragon, you know."
"I do, actually, I saw it." He responded, grabbing the book of before and climbing on to the bed. She followed suit, nestling into his side.
"Oh." He said, flipping through the pages. "Cheesy murders."
"If we go to Sirius and James' wedding you better not give them cursed cheese as a gift."
"I can't make any promises." He smiled wickedly, planting a kiss on the top of her head.
Chapter 7: The Heist
Zahrah walked down the overly large hallway. Every inch of the walls, the arched ceiling, even the floor was covered in the same obsidian tile. It was disconcertingly quiet in the Ministry, lacking the typical bustle it received in the day. As she descended lower, the lack of noise grew more eerie.
At the second to last level she happened upon Severus who was leaning against the cool wall, arms and ankles crossed in boredom. He'd been here, alone, for five hours, she'd been here all of 10 minutes and was ready to leave. "Are you ready to do this?" He asked in greeting.
She exhaled, slumping her shoulders as she did so. "It's now or never. It's a maze in there, I have no idea how long it will take." When she’d been there with the Dark Lord it had taken several missteps. Only the knowledge of what each room looked like put her ahead this time.
"If you need help-" He reached out, rubbing her arm reassuringly.
She shrugged out of his touch. He was constantly concerned about her well-being, but even more so since the resurgence of memories, ones she was having a hard time shoving back down. Severus had chosen his coping method and she had chosen hers.
"I know, I'll be fine." She plastered on a smile as if to prove it and pulled on the obnoxiously large, gold door knob, stepping inside. As the door slammed behind her the room began to spin dizzyingly. She closed her eyes to quell the impending nausea, only opening them when she heard the doors wind to a stop.
Zahrah reached for the first one, yanking it open. An intense darkness washed over her, and she lit her wand. It did little to keep the blackness at bay, only providing enough light for her to make out the planets and twinkling stars within. Captivated by the sight, she remained in her spot a moment more before shaking the awe away.
Leaving the door open to prevent another revolution, she moved onto the entrance beside it. This was the opposite of the last, holding unending bright light instead. She gazed on at the stately whiteness of the room. It felt empty yet crowded at the same time and she was overwhelmed with a sense of peace. She felt the desire to go in and stay there forever and fought to move on.
The third door was locked, resistant to any spell she tried. The dark paneling was warm to the touch from whatever laid inside. With no other option, she moved on to the next. This time, she found incessant ticking – time - and stepped in.
The walls were covered in clocks from floor to ceiling, each ticking to their own time. Some produced a noise much sooner than a second while others seemed to last minutes between each movement. No two clocks struck at the same time and no two looked alike. In the center of the room stood a large grandfather clock, only it's face was that of a wizarding watch instead of that of a muggle timepiece.
Zahrah walked slowly through the room, peering into any crevice she could find. Her and the Death Eaters hadn't made it this far before. They hadn't even found this room before Dumbledore's men arrived and the fight had ensued. Other than assuming this was where the time turners would be kept, she was entirely clueless and on her own.
The beat of each clock as she explored slowly caused a throbbing in her head. She was anxious to get out of here and return to the silence she had hated before. On her way through the room she passed a door and swung it open. Inside were hundreds of thousands of orbs filled with a blue smoke, much like the color of a patronus, prophecies.
Had she had the time to examine every one in search of her own name she would have. She doubted she'd be able to call for it with an accio. Curiosity flickered through her as she realized Severus would have one too. Forcing herself back to the task at hand, she continued deeper into the room, stopping this time in front of a large, cabinet made of cherry wood.
It was filled with dozens of gold chains from which an enclosed hourglass hung. Zahrah reached in carefully, afraid they might shatter at the tiniest touch. She picked one up, gazing at it's complexity before hanging it around her neck and reaching for another.
The cool metal pressed into her skin beneath the cotton of her robes. She placed a hand over them with a sense of peace and with a quick replicating charm she replaced them. It was doubtful the replicated ones would work, but by all appearances they would seem normal. It should be impossible to tell just how long two time turners had been missing.
She wandered back the way she had come at a much quicker pace, now knowing the route and no longer consumed by curiosity. She clasped a hand around the necklaces, keeping them from knocking together. It was only minutes before she returned to the revolving entryway, pulling on the remaining doors before finding her way out.
"Did you find them?" Severus asked, eyes wide the moment she stepped through. She dropped her hand, smiling at her prize. "Why did you get two?" His brow furrowed.
Zahrah shrugged. "I was already in there and thought it might be smart to have on hand. We could use it to help stop Voldemort or maybe just to save Saffiah ourselves…"
"We can't save her like that. She was only three weeks old and never left our sight. You can't let yourself be seen when using a time turner, it drives you mad."
"Still…" She said in disappointment, reaching for them again. "It'd be wise to keep."
"Absolutely, just don't get your hopes up." He glanced down at the watch on his wrist. "I'll be here another three hours until Fenwick gets here. "I'll see you in the morning."
With a smile and a goodbye Zahrah turned, heading out of the Ministry in the direction she had come.
Severus fell into bed in exhaustion. He'd hardly taken the time to even undress. It was three in the morning and he was amazed how tiring standing for eight hours could be.
"How was it?" Lily murmured as he draped an arm over her.
He sighed, the words coming out as unclear as hers had. "Entirely uneventful. I would have much rather been here."
"Where did Zahrah go? I heard her come back some time ago."
"Hmm? I'm not sure." He lied. "Go back to sleep."
Lily rolled over so that she was facing him. "Why should I when you're here?" Her hand teased at the edge of his underwear, of which his stomach hung slightly over.
"I'm too tired right now, one of us has been attempting to subdue the Dark Lord. Being a hero is exhausting.” He adjusted the pillow beneath his head with a smile, but didn’t bother to move her groping hand away.
"I'll do all the work." She bargained.
Severus cracked his eyes open and found her smiling devilishly at him. "How could I possibly say no to that?" She had found the one part of his body that wasn’t tired.
Lily propped herself up on an elbow, the other hand dipping fully beneath his drawers. In one fluid motion Severus reached down, removing them and Lily climbed on top. She kissed the top of his pelvis, working her way along the curve of his stomach and to his chest.
"Would you just start already?" He groaned, trying to make her sit. She ignored him, gently running fingers along both of his sides. Lily kissed him passionately, her tongue drawing circles on his, their breath mingling together. His hands were placed on the curves of her waist, inching their way down her hips and taking her underwear with them. She slipped from her top and bottoms finally and Severus' fingers found her breasts in the dark.
He rolled the tips of her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers as her hand stroked the skin of his taint. His growing erection pressed into her supple skin and she wiggled her way on top of his dick. He moaned loudly at the sensation of her surrounding him, grinding against him. Her own head was thrown back in pleasure, her red hair tickling the flesh of her back as she dug her fingers into the softness beneath her.
Severus woke to the touch of fingers running along his chest. He blinked his eyes open, watching Lily who gave him a satisfied smirk. She laid on her stomach beside him with her hand supporting her chin. He grabbed her hand, moving her arm so that she rolled beneath him as he climbed on top. He pinned her wrists down, tempted to take her again. Instead, he kissed the edge of her clavicle and removed himself.
He pulled on a pair of trousers and a shirt, ones he could have sworn were recently looser. The rumble of his stomach, the need for breakfast over took the thought. He walked from the room feeling Lily’s eyes on him.
Zahrah leaned up against the kitchen counter, a steaming mug in her hands. A sparkle of gold from the chain beneath her neckline glinted in the artificial light. “The two of you had fun last night.” She teased with a sip.
He paused, the fridge open before him. They had forgotten a silencing charm. “My Apologies.”
She shrugged, turning away from him and placing her cup in the sink. “You aren’t the only one.”
Severus frowned, slightly put off that she had been with someone else. “I was unaware you were seeing someone.”
“No.” She gave him a pat on the shoulder as she passed. “It’s just sex, like usual.”
"Let's go out." Severus insisted upon his return. "We haven’t done anything in a while and there's nothing to eat in this place.”
Lily rolled her eyes as a shirt was pulled over her head. "There's plenty to eat, I made sure of that, but your other reasoning is sound."
He admired the way the fabric clung to her in all the right places, but the distraction didn’t prevent him from registering the frown she gave herself in the mirror. “I know just the place.”
"No, no where that serves alcohol and I want something relatively healthy."
“It’s nine in the morning.” He laughed. “Do you really think-.” He halted, their first outing together had included morning drinking. Perhaps it wasn’t entirely out of the question. “I’m completely out of ideas, then.”
"Come on." She sighed, looping her arm through his. They arrived in a dingy alleyway in an area Severus didn't recognize. He followed her lead through the narrow streets until they arrived at a small building.
He admired the sign in distaste. "Do you ever throw caution to the wind and have junk food anymore?" He wasn't in the mood for whatever this placed served and he hadn't even been inside.
"No, not really." She stepped up to the hostess podium and waited her turn. They heard the tinkling of bells behind them and she turned instinctively at the new comers.
"I see we weren't the only ones with this idea." James beamed at her, going in for a hug. Sirius and Severus stood beside them awkwardly, looking anywhere but at each other. "Have you gotten a table yet?"
"No, we only just got here." She gave a smile that didn’t completely reach her eyes.
"Let’s get one together then." James insisted.
Severus tried to shoot her a warning glare, but if she saw it, she ignored it and agreed with James instead. He followed the three of them begrudgingly to the table. He could about kill for something greasy right now and he was okay if James was the victim.
He listened half heartedly to the conversation, not really caring what was being said as he scanned the menu. He debated ordering something small, more reserved, but a quick glance over the paper told him the other men were already watching him. He placed the menu down, deciding on an extra-large meal instead. If they were going to stare he would give them something to stare at.
As their food arrived, Lily avoided looking at him directly, causing a twinge of guilt. He had made the promise that he wouldn’t overindulge and had just broken it, only a couple days later. "So, uh…" He began, hoping to please her again. "…did you and Lils come here a lot?"
"Every Sunday. I guess the tradition still stands for both of us." James beamed
"No." Lily quickly interjected. "We just didn't know where to go.”
“I’m sure Sn-…Severus had plenty of ideas.” Sirius muttered.
"We should have gone to that place we had our first date." Severus suggested, choosing to ignore the snide remark as he took a large bite.
"You know precisely why that wasn't an option." She snickered.
"Perhaps you should trust me next time."
"I'm sorry, what are we talking about?" Sirius asked.
"It's nothing." Lily responded, standing from her chair. "I'll be back."
The three men watched her walk in the direction of the ladies’ room before James leaned in close to Severus. "You better not hurt her."
"You mean like the two of you did?" He raised an eyebrow. "I have no intention of cheating on her, or leaving her at all for that matter."
"What are your intentions, then?"
"I don't believe that's any of your business." He sat back, and they did the same, eating in a tense silence while they waited for Lily to return. When she did, he put an arm around her shoulder, whispering quietly in her ear. "We don't have to be here. We can go home, pop some…sparkling cider.” The drink was muttered with a sneer. “And have a repeat of last night.” He raised an eyebrow hopefully.
She smiled softly though it didn't fully reach her eyes. "As tempting as that is." She spoke quietly. “This will be over soon enough.”
He sighed before dropping his lips to her cheek and kissing it gently. His arm fell, intertwining his fingers with hers. He was rather put out by the idea of public intimacy, but the light blush on Lily's cheeks and the momentary distraction made it worth it. Across from them he saw the other two guys exchanging a look.
"How's your breakfast?" James asked awkwardly.
"Delicious." He replied, not taking his eyes off Lily. "One of my favorites. I saw that cheese book." Severus turned to face him.
"Oh, it's an inside joke. It's a rather long story."
"Yes, Lily told me about it. It was…cute." The sentiment didn't seem to bode well for James and they went back to sharing nothing but silence between them.
When the checks finally came Lily was the one to whisper in his ear. "They likely came from the same alley as us. Want to make him jealous?"
“The answer to that should be obvious.” He replied with a smile, quickly throwing a few notes on the table and standing. They walked from the restaurant some ways ahead of the other two with their hands clasped together. When they turned the corner to the alley Lily shoved him up against the wall, kissing him furiously. Her hands held on to the front of his coat while she stood on her tiptoes. Severus placed his arms around her, one hand on her low back and the other on her arse.
They heard voices as James and Sirius turned the corner to where they were. The sound of chatter dropped off as they spotted the two of them. Severus smiled pleasingly against her lips as she broke away, pretending to be embarrassed.
"I'm sorry." She apologized in mock shock. "I didn’t realize we’d see you again.”
Though his eyes were considerably wider than before, James said nothing, instead hurrying away without so much as a goodbye. When they disapparated, Lily started laughing. "That was fun." Her face fell serious as she looked at Severus again before capturing his lips intensely.
"We should get some dessert." He placed a hand on his already full belly, amazed he still had room.
She looked down at it with an expression he couldn’t read. "There's an ice cream shop not far from here."
Severus pushed off the wall, letting her guide him. They walked for several minutes, her arm around his back and his over her shoulders. He breathed in her intoxicating scent and realized then, more than before, just how much he had missed her the past four years. "Lily, stop." He paused, and she did the same.
"What? What's wrong."
He removed his arm, coming closer and tilting her chin upwards. "Not a single thing." He wrapped his fingers in her red hair, kissing her deeply and not caring who saw.
He leaned against the headboard after their return, rubbing at the stomach he had filled past capacity. Severus closed his eyes with a wince. His problem of over eating was one he had yet to grasp an understanding of. It had started as a way to cope, a result of never having enough as a child, but this was something else.
There never seemed to be an end, which concerned him. He never seemed satisfied, always wanting one more bite, one more drink, wanting to feel the way his paunch settled more and more on his thighs. He was disgusted with himself each time he noticed the new poundage, but at the same time…it was pleasurable.
Lily settled on what remained of his lap, a leg on each side of him. She brushed sweaty, black strands of hair from his face, watching him with a lip between her teeth.
Severus felt his cheeks begin to redden “I know I said- “
“When did this really start?” She interrupted. “I know this…obsession…didn’t form in just the last couple of years.”
He examined her face, unsure if he should tell her the truth. “…first year.” He admitted. “It was so different from what I was used to at home. The only difference is I was able to put away very little.” He paused, finding breathing a tad bit hard at the moment. “Then I went home for the summer, back to scraps, and it just made the problem worse. I didn’t begin noticing extra weight until our last year, and even then…”
Having opted for muggle clothing that day, there were no restricting robes. Instead, the skin of his stomach was visible beneath the hem of his shirt. He reached down, undoing the button of his far too tight pants and relaxing slightly.
Lily stroked the visible flesh distractedly. “Why didn’t you say anything?” His eyes narrowed, not understanding the question. “I didn’t know you were struggling.” She clarified.
“Neither did I, not until it was too late. It’s only by looking back that I realize just how long I’ve been doing this.”
She sucked on her lip again, averting her eyes from his as a slight blush crossed her cheeks. “I want you to be healthy. I’m worried if you continue on this way…” She shook her head, not wanting to finish the sentence when a laugh escaped her lips. “But, I can’t deny that it’s kind of hot.” She scrunched her nose and Severus let out a bark of laughter.
Chapter 8: The Past
Dumbledore rubbed his temples, dozens of eyes staring back at him. "We have a problem." He ground out. "I've been informed that despite our increase in security at the Ministry, Voldemort has somehow gotten his hands on a time turner."
"Do we know if he's used it?" Alice asked nervously, the question they’d all been thinking.
"There’s no way of knowing at this point. However, it’s only a matter of time."
Severus shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He and Zahrah had stolen the time turners nearly two weeks ago. It unnerved him how quickly the Ministry had noticed. Should they investigate further and find that the two of them were at fault they’d be sentenced without question. They had aided the enemy in a war for selfish reasons.
"I'm not sure what to expect." Dumbledore continued. "He hasn't vocalized just why he wanted one, until we can figure that out our days could change from minute to minute. Some of you we may never see again, while others could return. If Lord Voldemort continues to mess with time it could be catastrophic."
"And what?" James insisted in astonishment. "We do nothing?"
"What do you suggest we do?" Severus sneered, unable to help himself.
"That's rich coming from a Death Eater." James bit back with a smile of satisfaction. He seemed particularly aggressive since catching Severus and Lily together.
Severus rolled his eyes, wanting nothing more than to wipe the smirk of the moron's face. Unbuttoning his sleeve, he pushed it back before holding up his blank arm for all to see. James' mouth gaped momentarily before shutting it tightly. Looking around the room, Severus found others in surprise too.
Dumbledore took advantage of the stunned silence to regain control. "I'm not sure there's much we can do until we know just what Voldemort is after. Miss Novak will let us know as soon as she has information on the subject."
"How will we even remember? What if this all changes in the next five minutes?" Came a third panicked voice.
"The fact that we're aware of the time turner makes it so. Your mind will be able to recognize when there's a change because you understand that change is a possibility." When no one questioned him he continued. "I'm afraid this meeting must be rather short and I must be getting back to Hogwarts, but feel free to stay as long as you like." Dumbledore hurried from the building before more questions were lobbed at him, leaving the rest of them there stunned.
Severus couldn't help the over whelming guilt. He had sacrificed all of them without a second thought and seeing how terrified everyone in the room was, he felt sick. He was the first to leave the table, the others too stunned to do anything. Zahrah followed after, speaking to him when they were far from the others.
"You feel it too?" She asked.
Severus knew what she meant without any explanation and nodded. His hand was clasped over his mouth. "We did something bad." He mumbled, closing his eyes.
"You don't have any affiliation with You-know-who?" James asked skeptically, suddenly beside them.
Severus opened his eyes, seeing that Zahrah had gone. "No." He said in irritation. "If you'd only listened to me when we were at school you would have understood why."
"Where have you been then? All of us here thought you were by his side."
Having no desire for an argument, he heaved a sigh. "Spain, Luxembourg, Austria, take your pick."
James frowned. "While we here fighting him you were on Holiday?"
"Yes, I was living it up, lounging on beaches and drinking mai tais." Severus snapped, pushing past him.
"Coward!” James shouted. Severus grew tense, feeling the eyes of everyone on them. “You could have made a difference, and instead you turned into…this." He continued in disgust. Severus stopped momentarily, clenching his fists and wishing he could just punch the little twat in the face. Shoving down his anger, he resumed his steps, continuing from the headquarters without so much as a glance at Lily. He disapparated in anger with only one place in mind.
Everyone remained rooted in their seats as Severus slammed the door. Lily looked hastily to Zahrah with a fearful look before scrambling out of her chair and over to where she stood. “We both know what he’s going to do.” She whispered, voice dripping with concern. "You have to find him, please. I don't know his favorite places."
"On it." Zahrah agreed, seeming to have the same thought.
Lily rounded on James next. "You absolute scumbag. Do you have any idea what you've done?" James stared at her speechlessly. It was clear he didn't have a clue and hadn’t expected a scolding. Lily yanked his arm, leading him away from the curious crowd. Sirius and Remus tried to follow after, but Lily shut the door in their faces before they could join the conversation and gang up on her.
"You could never be nice to him, could you?" Lily seethed. James opened his mouth to retort, but she hurried on. "I know your excuses. Merlin knows I heard them enough times."
"Why are you with him, Lily? You didn't used to be his biggest fan either."
"Do you know where he's been? Why he was gone?" She asked, ignoring his question.
"Yes." He responded proudly. "He was on-"
"No, he wasn't." She forced. “You have a mind, use it.” She turned to go, not wanting him to say he was sorry. She realized then why Severus never let her do the same. "Now, Zahrah has to figure out which pub he's gone to, which is great when he already has a drinking problem." Opening the door again, she found three startled faces looking back at her, Remus, Sirius, and Zahrah. Lily walked past all of them, knowing that Zahrah would follow her.
"Why are you back?" Lily hissed in worry as Zahrah fell into stride beside her.
"He only has two regular spots, they didn't take long to check and he's not in either of them. "
Lily’s shoulders dropped. "Well, we have to do something. We can't just sit and wait."
"Do you know how many bars there are in England? We don't even know if he stayed in the country. We'll just have to wait it out. He won’t be gone forever."
"What was all that about?" Zahrah asked once they were at home. "Why do they hate each other so much?
"They tormented each other in school." She fell onto the couch, unable to stand any longer. "James and his buddies ganged up on Sev quite a bit, but Severus got in some good spells of his own."
"Well, it sounds better than it was, and there are a lot of incidents I don't know about. Something happened with Remus, but he never told me what it was. I just know that suddenly Sev seemed to hate him for no reason."
"Have you tried asking about it, more recently I mean?"
Lily could tell Zahrah was pushing, wanting to know more. "No, I'm not sure that I should."
"You'd think they'd be over that stuff by now." Zahrah rolled her eyes, sitting beside her.
"They weren't childish fights. They each landed in the hospital and detentions more than enough times to count." Lily looked away from her. "And out of the two of them, I picked James."
Zahrah scrunched up her nose. "Why?"
"Sometimes I wonder the same thing.” She almost laughed. “Severus has always been…different and he certainly comes with more baggage than before, but I can't help loving him despite it all."
"I fell for the same thing." Zahrah responded. "What we had certainly didn't start off as anything other than lust, but it didn't take very long before I looked forward to whenever he came home and dreaded when he had to leave again."
"He worked while he was gone? What did he do?
"He helped a local herbologist tend his plants. A lot of them were rare or dangerous and Severus had the knowledge to not be killed by them."
"That seems like him." Her lips turned up ever so slightly. "What about you? I really don't know anything about you."
"I quit my job as a curse breaker in Czech to follow him around. I'm waiting for Gringotts to hire more, until then I've been working at a shop in Diagon Alley."
"Curse breaker." Lily repeated. "Sev did say you worked with weird magic."
"I enjoyed it, I'd like to do it again."
"What about your family? Any siblings?"
Zahrah shrugged weakly. "I don't have one. I grew up in an orphanage and bounced around houses until I was 11. Igor was pleasant enough to let me stay at Durmstrang during the summers." She forced a smile. "It was a long time ago though. What about you?"
"I'm muggleborn, I have a sister that hates me for it and my parents died in car crash during my sixth year. Now it's just me."
"We're a lonely little trio, aren't we?"
Lily laughed humorlessly. "I'm not sure that's a good thing."
"Was it true what you said about Severus’ home? Those scars? I noticed them, but he never said anything."
Lily shook her head. "He's hard to pry open. I didn't know what was going on for years. His dad used to whip him with his belt. I found out when we were together one time and he started bleeding through the back of his shirt. His skin was just hanging off in patches, it was awful…and then James had to bring everything up tonight." She closed her eyes tightly, hugging her knees to her chest.
"Have you sent Severus a patronus?"
"I never learned it."
Zahrah reached into her robes, removing her wand. Lily watched, expecting some fierce animal to erupt from the tip of her wand. The only time she'd seen Severus receive one from her, she hadn't seen the form it took.
Now, she was surprised to see a blue mouse scurry across the carpet before disappearing. They waited impatiently for an answer, for something to tell them where he was, but nothing came.
"I'm worried about him." Lily admitted.
Severus staggered, barely managing to apparate. His vision swam as he tried to keep the contents of his stomach from reappearing. A pair of arms were around him suddenly and he registered a mass of red hair before him.
"I've been so worried about you." She said bleakly.
"I haven't…been gone…that long." He slurred.
"Severus." She pulled back looking at his shoulder with a frown. "You're bleeding."
"Oh." He said simply, not seeming to care.
She dabbed at it again. "I think you splinched yourself."
He stood there in a trance as she removed his shirt to get a better look. He swayed slightly in his stupor, suddenly feeling sick again. "Lily, I-" He started before spewing vomit on the carpet before them
She sighed, vanishing it with her wand. "Let's get you in bed first."
He obeyed, following after her, letting her undress him and guide him to the bed. She propped him up on pillows and began her work. "Where's your essence of dittany?" Severus responded with a snore and she began rummaging through his potions supplies. The drawer was full of odds and ends, not the organization she had expected, the one he used to have. She felt a waxy paper in her hands and pulled it out to find a photograph.
A baby girl slept in what Lily guessed were Zahrah's arms. Her head was covered in whispy blonde hair and her skin was darker than Severus' but lighter than Zahrah's. Feeling as if she stumbled on something intimate she put it gently back in the drawer and found the dittany.
Carrying it over to him, she dripped it on the open wound in his shoulder. It began to sizzle as new flesh grew over the splinched area.
Unable to move him herself, she shook him gently, enough to wake him so that he could roll to his side and not choke in the night. When Lily was confident she'd done all that she could, she slid beneath the bed clothes with him. She draped an arm over his middle and watched his sides rise up and down, a sign that he was alive.
Lily felt absolutely crestfallen, for him and for her. She didn't know how, or rather why, either of them had gotten themselves caught up in this mess. Everything had seemed so simple, perfect when they were little. Her biggest worry had been if there would be free swings at the park. Now, Severus was a shell of what he used to be and maybe that was partly her fault.
She realized then she'd only seen him work on two potions while they were together. It was so unlike him, even during their time at Hogwarts he had stolen ingredients here and there to work on multiple potions at a time. The fact that he hadn't even tried to find work suddenly made so much sense.
Lily blinked her eyes open to find Severus sitting on the side of the bed holding his head.
"Headache? Lily asked, not bothering to dim her voice. "I wonder where that came from."
He shifted, peering at her over his shoulder. "I'm fine, I just need to sit here for a minute."
Lily rolled over in bed, closing her eyes again without offering to get him a potion. He put himself in this situation, he'd have to deal with it himself.
"Are you angry with me?" Severus asked wincing at the sound of his own voice as he padded across the room.
"Do you honestly have to ask that?" She sat up, unable to contain her frustration. "You left without saying anything and were gone for hours. I was worried sick about you, you didn't even answer Zahrah's patronus. Then you came back piss drunk, smelling like puke, and covered in blood. Please tell me which part of that I shouldn't be furious with."
Severus kept quiet as he searched for a potion to help the hangover. Lily listened to the clinking of bottles as he rummaged through his things. The noise quieted as he found what he was looking for. "I'm not sure what you want me to do about it."
"I thought you were going to change things like you said, but you aren’t even trying…” She trailed off, beginning to feel her throat grow tight.
He furrowed his brows at her. "I don't think you understand how hard this is. This isn't the first time I've tried to stop and I doubt it will be the last. Eating and drinking takes the pain away unlike anything else, even if it is temporary. I'm addict Lily, the cravings will never fully go away and especially not when your problems are mocked." He uncorked a vial, downing the liquid inside.
"You could have at least told me where you went. We couldn't find you." Her voice was even softer than before and she fiddled with her own fingers.
"I didn't want to be found because I knew you'd try and stop me. I found some place new."
Lily kept her head down as she spoke. "What are we doing here, Sev?"
He approached her finally, taking her hands in his and kneeling on the floor in front of her. "Please don't do this, not again. Just give me time."
She looked away, swiping at a tear. "I don't know if I can do this, not right now. I'll see if I can stay with Tuney for a bit."
"Lily, please." He begged. "I love you."
She met his eyes sadly. "I love you too, but I can't watch you kill yourself." She pulled her hands out of his grip and began collecting the few things she might need. "Don't try to contact me for a while…I-I need some space." She disapparated, leaving him and most of her possessions behind. Severus was left kneeling on the carpet, staring at where she had stood.
Lily landed in front of the prim and proper yard. There wasn't a leaf out of place. She approached slowly with red, puffy eyes and a running nose. She knocked nervously on the painted brown door, not sure what to expect.
The two of them hadn't talked in years, Lily hadn't even been invited to her sister's wedding to the great oaf, Vernon. She was glad it was a work day and he wouldn't be here. She didn't want to deal with his judging stare on top of Tuney's
Lily was about to turn around and leave when the door opened in front of her. Petunia peered down her nose uninvitingly. Her perfectly coifed hair was pulled up and not a hair was out of place. She wore a fitted red dress that ended just past her knees, she was the image of perfection. Lily was the exact opposite. She could only guess what a disaster she looked like right now, having not bothered to even look in a mirror. She wore her favorite pair of tattered pajama bottoms and an overly large shirt, one she suddenly realized was Severus'. Her hair was mussed up from sleep and it was obvious she'd been crying.
Petunia ushered her in without a word and Lily wondered if it was because she was concerned, or that she didn't want Lily to be seen. The way she peeked around the doorway and into the neighborhood made Lily believe it was the second.
"What are you doing here?" Petunia hissed.
Lily watched her with wet eyes. "I need a place to stay, just for the night.”
Petunia looked her up and down, taking in the mess. "Are you homeless?" She asked with a pretentious sniff.
"What? No- “ Lily started crying again. "I broke up with Se-, my boyfriend, and I can’t go home yet.”
Petunia sucked her teeth in thought. "One night, and no funny business." She glared. Lily followed her up some stairs and into the smallest bedroom which was more of a storage area. There wasn't even a bed and Lily wondered where Petunia expected her sleep. She turned to ask, but found she was alone.
It was still early in the day, but she had no desire to do anything. Conjuring a bed and resizing the items she'd brought, she collapsed and allowed herself to grieve.
Chapter 9: The Changes
Lily sat awkwardly between Petunia and Vernon at the dinner table, imaging even the streets were better than here at the moment. The married couple seemed to be having a silent feud, one she didn't want to get more involved in than she already was.
It was nice of Petunia to let her stay, it was more than she had expected from her estranged sister. But this was madness, Lily felt entirely unwelcome. Even if she had needed more than one night to stay she wasn't sure she would have.
Lily cleared her plate, washing it in the sink before hurrying upstairs and away from them. As she shut the door to her makeshift escape she could hear yelling from down below.
"What is she doing here? I thought we didn't associate with her kind?" Vernon bellowed. If Petunia replied, Lily didn't hear it. "I don't care what the reasoning is, get her out of here."
Lily sighed, expecting the massive man to come up here and physically toss her out. She waited on baited breath for him to stomp upstairs in her direction.
"…one…deal." Came Petunias meek voice, barely audible through the ceiling. Lily smiled slightly to herself, overjoyed her sister was actually standing up for her. When no more shouting came, Lily climbed into the cot she had conjured previously. It was much lumpier than the bed she had so often shared with Severus and it wasn't filled with his scent either. Instead, all she could smell was the strong lemon scent of too many cleaning products. It did nothing for her stomach and she turned over, facing the wall in hopes the closed in space would help hide the overwhelming stench.
She didn't know when she fell asleep, and she was surprised she had at all, but she woke in the early morning hours before the sun had fully risen. She half expected to see Severus on his side of the bed and was disappointed when that wasn't the case.
Lily got up before the tears could come again. Taking a break from Severus pained her and although it wasn't an official break up, it didn't feel much better. She hoped that this would at least be the kick in the butt he needed.
Lily collected her few things, shrinking them again, and vanished the uncomfortable cot she had slept on. She left the room in the same, overly tidy state it had been in when she arrived. She diasapparated, having overstayed a welcome she never really had.
She stumbled upon arrival, her stomach lurching at the travel. She raced to the bathroom of her flat, remembering that nausea had come over the day before, too.
She hung over the toilet bowl, strands of red hair falling into her face. The thought that she might be sick entered her mind. Just as she was about to settle on that conclusion, a realization came to her. She was late.
Severus wiped the sweat from his brow that was threatening to drip into his eyes. His chest rose and fell harshly from the exertion. It had been three weeks since Lily left him and he'd gone running, or rather speed walking, every day since. Even if she never came back, she was right.
He had gotten too heated up over James, had made it too easy to be hurt and get drunk again. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect he regretted it and knew changes needed to be made.
Zahrah didn't say anything about the situation. He was surprised she held her tongue, something she didn't usually seem capable of doing. Her opinions about the situation however had been very clear. She'd warned him about this very thing in the park several weeks prior and he hadn't listened. He hadn't intended for everything to fall apart, he'd simply screwed up…again and drove Lily away…again.
He was pushing himself perhaps a little too hard, wanting drastic results as fast as he could get them. As a result, he was utterly exhausted all the time.
Steam began to fill the small bathroom from the running shower that was all too hot. Severus stared at his ample flesh in the mirror, seeing little to no change despite the work he had put in which was almost more depressing than the fact he needed to change at all. Seeing himself like this he was amazed Lily had been able to love him at all. It was no wonder she had left.
He stepped into the shower, alone, like with everything else. He remembered the last time Lily had been here, doing this with him, and how long it had taken them to get clean with all the distractions. That's how everything had been since she left. Everything Severus did he found himself being reminded of the last time they had done it together.
It was hard having her things still scattered around the place. Even in the shower, he saw her shampoo. She hadn't come by once since leaving, hadn't bothered to collect any more of her things. He was worried about her, wondered if she was safe and wanted to see her.
He doubted she was still at her sister’s, likely having gone back to her own flat. He wanted to go to her, to beg her to come back, but she had asked him not to. Instead, he was left hoping she would come back on her own. Either that, or the Dark Lord's time turner would change things.
He was astounded that still nothing had happened. If the Dark Lord had messed with time at all he seemed to have done it without changing any part of the present. Severus had seen the Prophet recently and had heard no news about the stolen objects. It seemed the Ministry was keeping it a secret. Several aurors were part of the Order, he thought they would have said something by now at least.
"Severus." Zahrah called through the closed door. "Someone is here for you." His heart stopped momentarily, wondering for a split second if it was Lily, but Zahrah would have said so if it was. He stepped from the shower, toweling himself off and dressing quickly. Not knowing who lay beyond the door, he kicked himself for having brought comfortable muggle clothes to dress in, rather than his usual robes.
Once dressed, he unlocked the door, stepping out into the hallway and found the person he least expected waiting in the front room, James. James stood the second he saw Severus. "Is Lily here?" He asked first thing.
No." Severus responded curtly. "Can I help you?"
"I actually came to speak to you, in private."
At that, Zahrah stood to leave them alone. As she passed Severus she shot him a look of confusion, which he returned. "What can I do for you?" He asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I've been thinking…about what I said, I mean. Lily talked to, err yelled, at me after you left. I wanted to apologize."
"Oh." Severus responded, not sure quite what to say. He wasn't sure if he should be angry with Lily or grateful that James had noticed his mistakes. "What exactly did she tell you?"
"Nothing, actually.” He frowned as if that surprised him. “But I can tell she cares about you.”
Severus was silent, not sure that that statement was true at the moment.
"Look.” James sighed. “I don’t like you, you don’t like me, but we both care about her. Truce?” He held out a hand.
Severus gripped it tightly, giving it a shake. "For Lily."
"Where is she by the way?"
"I don't know, she left." Severus replied with a shrug.
"Left?" He rumpled his brow.
"Yes, a while ago, after a fight. I haven't seen her since."
"It wasn't because of me…was it?"
"No." Severus shook his head firmly. "It was me and I'm sure it would have happened eventually."
James rubbed his own arm awkwardly, surprisingly ignoring the easy bait. "Did you mean what you said? At the restaurant?"
"About Lily? Of course. I want to marry that girl. Now I don't know if she'll ever come back."
"She'll come back." James nodded to affirm what he said, as if there was no question about it. "It was always about you, Severus. Even when I didn't want it to be. After…you stopped being friends, I still caught her watching you. I think she regretted cutting you out."
"She wasn't the only one with regrets."
"No, she wasn't." James agreed, and Severus wondered just what he meant.
"Why did you do it?" He asked suddenly. "Why did you cheat on her?"
"I know how it sounds, but it wasn't intentional. Sirius and I had been together off and on a lot over the years, long before Lily and I were. Lily and I had had a fight, over something stupid, and I left.” He shook his head at the memory. “ I should have known better before going to Sirius' place. One thing led to another and we just got stuck in a lie we couldn't get out of without hurting her. I loved her, but I loved him more and I was tired of waiting to be with him."
"You should tell her that. She thinks it's because she wasn't good enough, that she still isn't"
"Maybe I should." James conceded.
"Wait a minute, how did you even know where I lived?" Severus asked, slightly concerned.
"I asked Dumbledore." He said it as though it were obvious.
"I guess that makes sense. Thank you for stopping by, I mean it."
"Yeah, erm, I hope she comes back."
"You and I both." Severus exhaled heavily.
Severus arrived at the Order meeting before anyone else, even Dumbledore. In his exhaustion he laid his arms on the table with his head on top of them. He didn't understand why they were even having a meeting. Nothing had changed, Voldemort had been practically nonexistent since receiving the time turner. Being here was pointless, other than the possibility of talking to Lily for the first time in nearly two months. They'd had zero contact during that time and it was driving him crazy.
He heard the door squeak and looked up hopefully. Dumbledore came through the door speaking to Elphius Doge in hushed tones. Doge's hands waved in the air as he spoke frantically, passionate about whatever it was they were discussing. Behind them came a few others, James included. Severus hadn't talked to him either, but he had had no reason to.
James made eye contact with him, giving a small wave which Severus returned lazily. The room slowly began to fill with people arriving at a steady pace. Zahrah came close to the end, taking the seat next to Severus and Lily was right behind her.
He felt the familiar butterflies in his stomach he got whenever she was around, the one that made him want to do anything if he could just keep her. He noticed that her stomach had grown ever so slightly which surprised him.
She took the last remaining seat, searching for him instantly and smiling softly when she found him. Severus internally cursed Zahrah for sitting next to him, taking the seat Lily could have had.
"I believe it's clear that nothing has changed." Dumbledore began when everyone was settled. "There haven't even been any Death Eater meetings, at least none that our own Zahrah has been invited to. All I can surmise is that Lord Voldemort is trying to lay low. The Prophet had a field day when he broke into the Ministry. It has garnered quite a bit of attention, attention that can't be good for him. I recently spoke with the Minister about Lord Voldemort gaining control of a time turner, but none have come up missing. They all remain accounted for.” Severus and Zahrah eyed each other. “As far as he knows, no other country is currently investigating the use of such objects. We aren't sure just where he could have gotten one from."
"Does he have one then or not, Dumbledore?" Arthur Weasley asked. The heads that bobbed along in agreement showed that they were all wondering the same thing.
"I'm afraid I don't have the answer to that." Dumbledore replied tiredly.
"He has one." Zahrah interrupted. "I've seen it. Is it possible he created it himself?” She offered despite knowing the truth.
"No, the magic is simply too complicated, even for the likes of Voldemort. There is only one person with the knowledge on how to create one, and he died some time ago."
"So, we’re exactly where we were before." Severus stated the obvious.
"Don't sound so disappointed. It's given us more time than we could have asked for." Dumbledore replied.
"Yet we still don't know how to stop him." Someone else offered.
"What if we steal one ourselves?" Zahrah shrugged. " Surely the cause dictates that it's worth it."
"I don't think the Minister would be open to that suggestion."
"And since when do you care what the Minister says?" Lily blurted. "Isn't this whole operation of ours technically Illegal?"
Dumbledore smirked at her in laughter. "You do make a good point. It's an option that should be considered. I'm afraid this isn't much of a meeting, not when I have no new information to impart. However, I wanted to let you all know just what exactly was going on since it’s been sometime between meetings. You have given me some things to think about. I’ll look into getting a time turner for our use, although it will likely be controlled by me.” Dumbledore stood, dismissing them. Severus looked across the table immediately, making eye contact with Lily. She nodded at his unanswered question and they both stood, heading for an unoccupied corner.
“How are you? I’ve been so worried.” He asked immediately, wanting to hug her tightly.
“Erm, fine. Do you want to get out of here and talk?” She looked over her shoulder at the people who started all too interestedly.
“I would love that.” He exhaled. “Do you…want to go back to my place?” His voice rose in hope. “Its too cold and late to be in private anywhere else.”
“It would probably be best.” She agreed, smiling ever so slightly.
Severus tried not to get his hopes up at the way she looked at him. He held her hand as they walked to the disappardisapparat and was glad she didn’t try to pull away. They apparated directly to their previously shared bedroom and Lily looked around, examining things. “It hasn’t changed at all.” She observed. “You haven’t moved any of my things.”
“Why would I?” He tipped his head to the side, looking at her.
“Maybe I’m being silly.” She smiled again. “You look really good.”
Severus looked down proudly. He’d been working hard ever since she left. “I’ve been doing better, haven’t had another drink or binge since…you know.” It had certainly been hard.
“That’s amazing. I’m proud of you.”
“I’m trying, Lily. For real this time.”
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted, honestly.”
“I’ve lost 5 kilos and found a job.”
“Where at?” She took a seat in the stiff desk chair, laying a hand on her stomach.
Severus’ brow came inward at the motion, but he ignored it. “Mulpepper’s. I seem to remember you were looking for something there, once upon a time.”
“I’m proud of you, Sev, I really am.” She dodged the mention of the potion.
“I’m trying to change, I’m trying so hard. Please come back. It’s been so lonely here without you.” He pleaded.
“I want you to know I never wanted you to change who you were, I loved you for who that already was. You just scared me, your destructive habits got out of hand and I couldn’t stand by and let it happen.”
“I get that now. I’m not just doing it for you, but for me as well.”
“You finally get it.” She smiled fully for the first time and it blew him away.
“You’ll stay then?” He asked hopefully.
She bit her lip, looking around the room for a moment. “Yeah, I think I will.”
Severus bent down and scooped her from her perch. He spun her in his arms and she laughed, begging for him to stop. When he finally did they just stood there, locked in each other’s arms. He leaned down, pressing the whisper of a kiss to her lips and she returned it. “There’s something else we need to discuss”
He froze at the seriousness of her tone, backing away with a frown.
“Um…you know the night before we had breakfast with James and Sirius?”
“Do I?” A smile tugged at his lips in rememberance. The morning after was just as pleasurable. He would have attempted to replicate it then and there if not for the palpable worry she was displaying.
“A silencing charm isn’t the only thing we forgot.”
He cocked his head slightly, trying to remember details of the night. When he didn’t say anything she sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. It was clear she hadn’t wanted to say it aloud.
A shiver of terror ran through him at the words, sending tingles up his spine. He dropped the hand that had still held her and sounded the word out slowly. “Pregnant.”
He raked his hands through his hair. "How did this happen? Again."
"You aren't…excited, at all?" Her voice dripped with disappointment that pained him to see. The fear was replaced momentarily by guilt.
Severus laid a hand on her arm, rubbing it comfortingly. "I just don't know if I can ever be ready for that at all. What if it destroys us too? It's taken less before.".
"I can’t guarantee it won’t. If something doesn’t give…it might be it for us.”
He swallowed, her reasoning wasn’t entirely unsound. He felt her hand on him and looked up to find her closer than before. "What you went through was awful, but it's not something that really happens to people. We'll be careful."
"I never claimed my thinking was rational." Memories of the fire drowned him in regret. He'd said Zahrah resented him, but he resented himself too. "What if I'm not there again and something happens?"
The palm of her hand came to the side of his face. He closed his eyes momentarily at the touch. "We can't prevent everything and I can't promise that it'll be okay. We'll just have to do our best to make it so."
He swallowed hard before drawing in a large breath. His foot tapped nervously on the floor. "Who knows where you live?"
"Um, a few people, I guess."
He smirked at the look of confusion on her face. "I'd prefer none. Almost no one knows we're here, why don't you just move in with me? I don't want to miss out on anything."
"With your ex?" Lily hesitated. "Isn't that a little weird."
"I know, we'll get our own place soon, when she's more stable."
She nodded. "Are you sure you're okay with all of this?"
"It's unexpected and I'm terrified, it would have been nice to wait at least. But, yeah…I am." He smiled at her sincerely which she returned with a glimmer in her eyes. "It's one more reason to get rid of this puppy." Severus said with a laugh, looking down.
Lily leaned against him, enveloping his senses with vanilla. His eyes drifted shut, having longed for this moment for so long. The palm of his hand massaged her back, never wanting this moment to end.
She disentangled herself from his arms. “You look worn out.”
“I am.” Severus sighed. “I’ve been so busy, and sleep has been avoiding me.”
“It’s been hard to sleep alone again, hasn’t it?”
“More than you know. Tonight might be the best I’ve had in a while. I can’t believe you’re back, I was starting to think it wouldn’t happen.”
“So was I. I wanted to reach out so badly, but I wasn’t sure if I should and without an owl or a patronus it was harder.”
“Maybe we should work on that patronus bit.”
“You mean it? You’d teach me?” She looked up at him in excitement.
“Why wouldn’t I? It’s a useful bit of magic and it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea with the Dark Lord hanging around. We can start tomorrow if you’d like.” Lily made a face of disappointment, clearly having hoped to start now and Severus continued. “I’m much too tired and I have to work in the morning.”
“Alright, fine.” She relented. “Let’s get you to bed.”
He agreed, brushing the hair from her forehead again and kissing it. He slowly, and awkwardly began to undress. The only one who had seen him naked for some time was himself and he suddenly felt selfconscious. Lily didn’t seem to care, disrobing herself and climbing below the sheets. Severus flicked the lights off, following her.
There was a certain sense of peace at the feeling of her beside him, at the warmth radiating once again from her side of the bed. He laid a hand on the crest of her bare abdomen, knowing that soon it would be hard for an entirely different reason.
With his naked skin flush against hers, he drifted to sleep easier than he had in weeks.
Chapter 10: The Patronus
"Mornin'" Lily mumbled, rolling over to cuddle with Severus. She laid her arm across him before jerking back suddenly, eyes wide. She looked around her surroundings and found that everything was different. She recognized the intricate motifs on the wall and ornate bedspread. She pulled the blanket up to cover herself before looking back at the side of the bed. James stared back at her in similar shock.
Lily scrambled from the bed with the blanket around her, going over to what used to be her closet. Jerking it open she found everything there. She stepped inside, dressing quickly and disapparating to the flat she shared with Severus. Instead of the worn furniture she recognized and had come to love she found absolute emptiness. She felt a panic wash through her and had to sit on the floor as the hyperventilation began. Severus was gone. She no idea where he was and no way to contact him. An owl could take days or even weeks for her to hear a reply. James was her only solution.
Despite the dread she felt she apparated back, hoping to catch him before he went looking for Sirius. He was in the same situation. Neither of them wanted to be together, but time had forced them to. Whatever Voldemort had done was starting to show.
"James!" She called through the much too big building. His head popped around a doorway suddenly, looking at her in interest.
"Did you find Severus?"
There was a sense of urgency in his voice that surprised her. Lily shook her head, the frog in her throat making it hard to speak. "I need your help." She croaked finally. "I don't know where he is."
James stepped out from the room doing up the button of his pants and pushing his glasses farther up his nose. "What can I do?"
"I don't know how to perform a patronus, Sev was going to start teaching me today, actually. Can you send one for me? Asking where he is?" As an answer, a stag appeared in front of her, galloping around the room before disappearing. Lily's shoulders relaxed slightly as she waited impatiently for a response. When a lovingly familiar salamander crawled towards her, she felt the need to cry again.
We're stuck in Slovakia. Stay with James if you can, I'll try to get there as soon as possible.
"Thank you." She leaped towards James, wrapping him in a hug. He caught her in surprise. "What about Sirius?"
"I've been in contact with him already, he's fine. I can start teaching you the patronus charm if you'd like? Then I'll be around if you need anything else."
She nodded vigorously. "I would like that very much. Severus would as well."
James separated himself from her. "You need a memory, something that spreads through your whole body, makes you feel like you could never be sad again."
Lily closed her eyes, filtering through memories of mostly her childhood.
"Faster, daddy, faster!" The wind whipped through her hair, creating impossible tangles as her father biked down the street. Around them, houses became a blur of colors as they blended together. It smelled of wet concrete and pine, the aftermath of rain.
She could see her father's blue shirt billowing in front of her from the fast-moving air. Lily giggled as he sped up, meeting her demands.
Lily smiled to herself, it was one of her first memories, she'd been only 3. It was short, but it was pure and gave her the warmth of happiness James said she needed. "I'm ready."
James held her wand hand, directing it in a circular motion. "It's Expecto Patronum."
Lily copied what James had showed her, but nothing happened. She pouted, trying again at a quicker pace, only to receive nothing in return. "Should I try another memory?"
"It's worth a shot."
Lily thought back to that day at the park, how she had fought with Petunia, how Severus appeared out of nowhere, how offended she'd been at first. It was funny to look back on now. It was a memory she treasured, especially now that she was with Severus. He'd given her an explanation to a weirdness she'd had all her life. She tried the wand movement again, picturing the memory as clearly as possible. Remembering the two of them under the tree and how he’d stared at her in admiration, not disgust. "Still nothing." Her hand fell to her side.
"It took me awhile too, it's a complicated piece of magic."
"What memory do you use? Maybe it'll help me find one."
James scratched the back of his head. "Sirius has some trouble with his family, I'm sure you're aware. I found him upset in the dorm and, erm, comforted him I guess."
"Comforted." Lily repeated with air quotes and a smirk.
James blushed "Something like that."
Lily closed her eyes again, thinking.
"Do you ever wonder how many stars there are?" She looked up at Severus from the crook of his arm. They were propped against the stone wall of the astronomy tower. The cold of the Scotland air found it’s way beneath her clothing, the only warmth was that provided by him.
"Approximately 100 billion trillion, that we can see."
"Okay, I wasn't expecting an actual answer.” She smirked, shaking her head at his practicality. “Does it ever make you feel tiny? To know there are whole other worlds out there we know nothing about?"
Severus shrugged. "Every once in a while. Other times, like now, it feels like we're the only ones."
Lily stared into his eyes which sparkled much like the night sky around them. She leaned into him, her eyelids fluttering shut before pulling away suddenly. "Isadora's probably looking for you."
Severus leaned back, she hadn't even realized he'd gotten closer. "You're right...I should go." He answered solemnly before looking at their discarded books. "We didn't get much done." He pulled his arm from her shoulders and stood to brush the dirt from his pants. Lily watched in disappointed jealousy as he collected his things, slinging his bag over his shoulder. She stared at his loose tie and the undone button of his shirt, sad to see him go and even sadder that he was someone else's. "Night Sev." She called, and he raised his fingers lazily to wave.
Lily raised her wand again. She concentrated on the memory, how happy she had felt being with him that night. She swirled her wand and instead of nothing this time, a noncorporal, blue mist appeared, hovering there for a moment before dissipating. "I did it!" She shrieked.
James smiled for her, giving her a one-armed hug. "The memory you picked isn't quite strong enough, but you're getting there." He opened his mouth to say more when the beloved salamander appeared again. "He's coming now." James sent off his stag once more with a message Lily didn't know. She was curious about the sudden ease between them. "You're back together again then?" He asked her suddenly.
"Back?" Lily asked, wrinkling her forehead. Before James could respond there was a pop of an apparition. Severus' arms were around her so forcefully she was almost knocked over. "What took so long?"
"We were back living in Slovakia, woke up in the same bed." He looked from Lily to James. "Much like I assume you did. We had to pack everything up and then we could only apparate 1000 kilometers at a time. Zahrah's out seeing if we can get our flat back, seeing as we no longer have a place to live here."
"Do you have any idea what happened?" James asked curiously.
Severus shook his head. "I'm afraid not. Everything was normal there, we woke up in the same hotel we stayed in before. What about here?"
"I haven't left, Lily only went looking for you." James replied with a shrug.
Severus rubbed his forward, addressing Lily. "We need to talk about some things, prepare ourselves if life doesn't return to normal." There was an anguish in his features she didn't understand. "We need to fast track teaching you the patronus charm as well."
"Oh, James already started while we were waiting for you. I was able to produce a noncorporal one my third try."
"Third try?" He asked, arm falling to his side. "You always were a master at charms. What memory did you choose?"
"Astronomy tower, fourth year."
Severus tipped his head to the side in thought before a frown spread across his face. "I didn't realize that was a happy memory."
"It's not exactly." She shrugged her shoulders, giving him a half smile.
"Well then, we'll get out of your hair." Severus offered his hand to James who shook it heartily.
"Okay." She said unable to hold in the coming question. "What happened? Last I knew you two could hardly stand to be in the same building."
"I apologized." James said sheepishly. "We agreed to…settle our differences."
"While we we're broken up?" Lily asked, gesturing to Severus. "That explains how you knew…"
"Yes. I'm…I'm glad you worked things out."
Lily turned to Severus, smiling broadly, which he returned. "Me too."
They arrived at the now empty flat, practically everything they had was gone, leaving the only option of conjuring chairs if they wanted a place to sit.
Severus leaned forward so that his elbows we're resting on his knees. "I think we should have had this conversation awhile ago, before the Dark Lord actually did something." He looked down at his own fingers that we're clasped together. "We don't know what will happen, if anything will go back to normal…"
"What are you trying to say, Sev?" She mirrored his position.
"We might lose the baby, and I don't know if we'll get it back."
"I know." She said, hand going absentmindedly to her stomach. "We already did…but I'm trying not to think about it until we know for sure..." Being accustomed to her own body, it hadn’t taken her long to notice the slight shrinking of her stomach to it’s usual shape.
Severus nodded, not sure how to take the news. "It's possible that Saffiah could come back too." He looked down, seeming to be nervous about her answer.
"I've thought about that too."
"And you're okay with it?" He squinted.
Lily stood from her chair to squeeze in next to him in his, slinging her legs over his lap. She ran a stray black strand of hair back behind his ear, speaking quietly. "How could I not be?"
Severus shifted, looking deeply at her. He quirked a corner of his lips. "It's not a deal breaker?"
"No, Sev. It would never be one." She grinned back at him softly before placing a gentle kiss to his lips.
"There's one more thing." He fidgeted, appearing nervous about the next bit of information. "Zahrah and I talked about it this morning, ending in what was nearly a screaming match between us. She has a time turner.
"What?" Lily sat up a little straighter. "How long has she had that?"
"I'm not sure, quite some time I expect. She's started wearing it at all times since the threat of the Dark Lord became imminent. By doing so it'll be less likely for her to lose it like we did everything else." He looked around the empty room.
"Why are you telling me this?"
"I don't have to tell you that death is a possibility." He fumbled with the edge of her shirt.
"And you're suggesting we reverse it if it does happen?"
"I would prefer to live if possible and for you to do the same, yes."
"I would prefer it too." She conceded, drawing circles along his chest.
"You'll do it then? Should we have to?"
"Compared to the alternative of living without you?" She tittered.
He leaned into her, giving her a lingering kiss.
"Was it true what James said?" Her voice was quieter when he broke the contact, not quite ready for it to be over.
"His apology? Yes. I didn't expect it either." He stared at her so intently she found it impossible to look anywhere but his obsidian eyes.
"He wasn't conniving, and you weren't…bitter?" She had opted for a more pleasant word to describe him.
"Bitter.” He huffed. “I see what you did there. He wasn't, no.” His frown tightened. “I can't say much for myself, but his sincerity helped."
"You're finally turning into adults." She teased. “I’ve waited years for this day.”
"I wouldn't count on it." He smiled back mischievously. “If it wasn’t for you, I likely would have beaten the shite out of him long ago.” He flexed his fingers.
She scowled, nose wrinkling in disdain. “I appreciate the effort.”
"How was waking up with your ex?"
The look on his face told her he wasn’t pleased with the situation, as though she might choose James over him. "I could ask you the same thing, but yours is single." She kissed him as if to remind him who he was with. She had more to worry about than he did.
Severus groaned when she broke away. "I'm not so sure about that, actually. She seemed rather concerned to find me in her bed too."
"And you're not just avoiding taking that personally?"
"No." Severus chuckled. "She's already been very clear on the personal reasons I'm not there anymore.” He scowled, a glimmer of something passing through his features. “No, there's something else going on there."
"Maybe she just forgot what a bed hog you are." Lily shot him a teasing grin.
He glared at her playfully before changing the subject. "I have a question, why did you pick the memory of the astronomy tower?"
"It was when I realized I wanted to be more than just friends."
His mouth twisted to the side. "You mean it was when you realized I was right?"
"Something like that." She simpered, running a finger down the front of him.
"I broke up with her for you." He admitted, glancing away.
Her eyes narrowed. “I seem to remember you saying the two of you were fighting all the time and you got tired of it."
"We were, over you. Apparently the only one who couldn't see how I felt was you."
"And by the time you ended things with her I was with Remus."
"Yes, thank you for that." He rolled his eyes, annoyed about it even then.
"Maybe it was for the best. If we'd dated then we might have ruined things before we could have what we have now."
"You were always the brilliant one." He pointed out.
"That's debatable." She stretched in the tight space. "We should probably continue with the patronus charm." She climbed from his lap to stand and he followed "I'd try a different memory this time, see if you can find something stronger. Perhaps one that’s actually happy.”
"I think I already have one in mind." She watched a moment more, a smile playing on her face. Even in the midst of a war, the threat of everything falling apart, they had each other.
She woke suddenly, finding nothing but darkness in front of her. Lily rolled over, burying herself deeper in the blankets for warmth. An earth-shaking snore came from the other side of the bed, alerting her to the reason she was no longer asleep. She rolled over, towards the noise and wrapped an arm around Severus before drifting off again.
Lily focused on the wand movements for a forth time, pronouncing the words as clearly as possible. Blue mist spurted from her wand again, only this time it took the form of Severus' salamander.
"What did you pick this time?" He asked in excited curiosity.
"Our first night together. Nothing special or miraculous, just the fact that we were finally together."
A/N: Mugglenet has patronus descriptions, which I use. Here's why I chose the ones I did.
"Field Mouse – Generally small in size, field mice have to rely on their speed and wits to survive. Their senses are sharp so as to easily detect their predators, which are abundant. Field mice are incredibly adaptable, able to live wherever they can find shelter and food. You'd be wrong to underestimate the adorable little field mouse Patronus; it will surprise you with its ingenuity and resiliency."
"Salamander - …This Patronus represents a person who is capable of adapting to any environment and is open to change. Also, it describes a person who is capable of overcoming big losses and challenges but could be very dangerous if bothered."
Chapter 11: The Memory
Thank Godric. Severus thought upon seeing Lily still in bed with him the next morning. His eyes adjusted, and he found that while their bedroom was no longer bare, the items they had owned had changed. He folded back the covers to further investigate what else had changed when he found that he had. No longer was he carrying around a large amount of extra weight. Everything was as flat and bony as it had been only a few years ago.
A smile of complete pleasure spread across his face, until he realized what else might have changed. Severus quickly tore up the left sleeve of his shirt, one he hadn't gone to bed wearing, and found the dark mark etched into his skin.
He prayed that the Dark Lord wouldn't call them today, that he didn't have to be seen by him. If Voldemort knew he was alive, that he was here, he was in trouble. Even if time was altered again, Lord Voldemort would remember that Severus served him at one point which could be even more dangerous than how he was currently existing. He wasn't sure if ignoring the call would be smart either. It could result in his death and it wasn't a guarantee that could be reversed.
Realizing something else, Severus tore out of the bed, dashing from the room. He stopped, finding himself at the top of stairs he didn't recognize in a home he'd never visited. He checked every room for Zahrah, already knowing he wouldn't find her. He wasn't fat, that meant that Saffiah never existed, that he'd never met Zahrah, and that he'd never lost his Mum. Yet somehow, despite it all, he'd ended up with Lily anyway.
"Hello?" Lily's nervous voice called, looking for anyone that might be there. The tone of her voice told him she was equally confused.
"I'm here!" Severus hollered back, returning to the bedroom as fast as he could. As he climbed back up the steps, both he and Lily stopped in surprise at what they saw. She must have been close to nine months pregnant.
"I thought you were gone again…I didn't know what to expect." She hugged him tightly. “Or who to expect.”
"I didn't expect things to change so drastically." The feeling of her in his arms, in their changed bodies, was different, uncomfortable. She wasn’t aware of all realizations he had come to since waking, of the ink staining his skin.
"I want our old life back." She seemed to be shaking in his arms.
"I do too.” He lifted a hand to the back of her head, stroking her hair in an attempt to soothe her. Being so far along so suddenly had likely flooded her with hormones she didn’t understand. Their situation was upsetting, but she seemed less able to cope with it. “At least yesterdays was fixable. I'm afraid what will happen if today's reality continues."
Lily pulled back. "What do you mean?" Her eyes were tight with worry and wet in the corners, tears threatening to spill down her cheeks.
He hesitated, not wanting to distress her further, but there was no avoiding the situation. Without breaking eye contact, Severus lifted his bare arm to show her the mark it now bore. "I don't think I ever went to Europe here." She stared down at the serpent, seeming unsurprised at what she saw. He wondered if she’d worked through the same events he had. The only difference was that she didn’t know all the consequences that came with serving the Dark Lord.
A steel blue Phoenix drifted in front of them, calling an emergency meeting. The two of them disapparated without a thought, neither bothering to change from their night clothes. Appearances were far from being the most important thing.
It appeared they weren't the only ones who felt this way. Voices of all the Order members talked at once, eager to learn what was going on, each of them tense about the answer. There were some people who had never been there before, while others had disappeared entirely. Many of them were in a different state than before with perhaps the most drastic being Alastor Moody. He hadn't been complete in sometime, but now both eyes were the ones he had originally been born with. His staff had disappeared, suggesting two functioning legs. The only thing he didn't get back was the tip of his nose.
A wailing coming from one corner took all of their attention as they found Molly crying uncontrollably over a very confused Fabian. She clung to her brother’s side, drenching him as he fought out of her embrace.
Severus caught the shimmer of platinum blonde hair from the corner of his eye. Turning towards it, he found Zahrah amongst the crowd and pushed his way towards her.
"Sev'rus." She breathed in relief, clasping her arms around him. "You're okay."
"How did you get here so fast?"
"I was in Belgium this time. Woke up in the bed of some poor muggle." She gave him a look as though the taste of bile had entered his mouth. “She wasn’t a looker either.”
"Attention!" Dumbledore called over the growing noise as each of them checked on one another. "Unless you know our current predicament involving time, I must ask you to leave." The unknown new members looked to one another in confusion before disapparating, leaving only the regular ones behind and inducing further wailing from Molly.
"Why did you send them away?" Remus asked, furrowing his brow and asking a question many of them appeared to have.
"Knowing the time turner exists means they’ll be able to recognize further change.” Came his distinct brogue. “There’s a reason they hadn’t joined the Order before, while they may be harmless here, they could be serving Lord Voldemort elsewhere. Our predicament needs to remain on a need to know basis only.”
“What are we going to do then?” Zahrah asked, voice dripping in annoyance. “The changes are already becoming more drastic.” There were several of them in that room that could attest to such a statement and many of their heads bobbed along in agreement.
Dumbledore chuckled, at an ease that wasn’t shared by anyone else. "Now, now, it's only the first day- “
"The first day?!" Several of them yelled at once, catching him off guard.
"This is the second! It was enough of a scramble yesterday." Severus informed him. "Zahrah and I woke up several countries away. Do you know how many times we had to apparate to get back?"
"Well then, it appears that I was dead.” He deadpanned. “I must say, I'm happy to be back." The last statement was given with a cheeky grin that only seemed to anger the order further.
"Do you know what moment he's returning to?" It was the concerned voice of Sirius that came this time.
"I believe I may have an idea. Shortly after his graduation from Hogwarts, Lord Voldemort grew obsessed with artifacts related to his time there."
"And what? He's after more? Why couldn't he do that without going back in time?"
"Not exactly, I believe he's found those already, merely that he's returning to that same time period."
"Why would that affect our lives?" Asked Dearborn.
"It's all about chain reaction. He may not be interacting with us personally, but causing a ripple effect from the events he is changing."
Hestia Jones spoke next, her high voice piercing through the murmurs of the others. "If you know where he's going, can't you just return to that moment and stop him?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "It isn't nearly that simple. I know when he's going, not where. He will have put some safety measures in place to prevent his murder." He faced Severus. "I would like to have a word with you about that when we conclude."
Severus bowed his head in agreement and the conversation continued.
"I must apologize you had to come with me to the castle. Situations have been thrown out of their usual here as well, although the students haven't realized it. It's harder now than ever to be away from the school."
"Why did you need to see me?" Severus eased himself into his usual seat across the desk, ignoring the excuse. Coming here was inconvenient for him, too.
"It didn't escape my notice that during your time here you had an unusual interest in the dark arts."
Severus frowned slightly. “I must say, I’m worried that it took you so long to notice.”
“Was your knowledge extensive enough to know about horcruxes?” His eyebrows raised in suspicion as he peered over the golden tops of his glasses.
Severus' eyes flicked around Dumbledore's face, gaging what exactly he wanted to know. "I have heard of them."
"I believe that Lord Voldemort has created some."
"Some? As in plural? It’s inconceivable.”
"Lord Voldemort, I'm afraid, doesn't follow the rules. I can only guess how many he's created. Until we find them, destroy them, we have no chance of defeating him."
Severus was overcome with an old guilt at what he had done. He buried his face in his hands. "What is it you want me to do?"
"Help me search for them. You're the only person who knows Lord Voldemort without officially joining him."
Severus sat back, lifting his palms to the ceiling. "Where do I even begin?"
"You know as well as I do."
"You mentioned he was collecting items related to Hogwarts, could it be those?"
"I'm positive, only I think he used other items as well."
Severus nodded dejectedly. "I'll…I'll look into it then." He stood. "I'll be in touch."
"Thank you for letting me be here. I know this isn't what you want." Zahrah let go of her.
"No, I won't lie, a place just the two of us would be nice." Lily replied, returning to making tea. "But, he's worried you aren't ready to be alone after what happened
Zahrah shook her head with a smile. "Sev'rus worries too much."
"Yes, although he doesn't always know it. You should tell him, I'm not sure he'd come to the same conclusion on his own."
"I will, I-"
"What did I miss?" Severus interrupted, appearing suddenly.
"What was so important that Dumbledore needed you?" Lily took a sip of her tea, passing a cup across the table.
"I'm afraid I can't discuss it. Sworn to secrecy, as they say." He smirked. "I know, I'm sorry, it's better that you don't know." Severus kissed her forehead before directing a question at Zahrah. "You're staying then?"
"Yes, I'm-" The two of them went rigid. "I have to go."
"What? What's going on?" Lily asked, stricken at the way Zahrah and Severus had reacted to unknown event. Zahrah had already disapparated, leaving the two of them alone.
Severus gripped his arm tightly, flexing his fingers. Panic morphed his features into a person she didn’t recognize. "He's calling, I- I don't know what to do!"
"Well, don't go?" She eyed him in concern.
"It’s not that simple." He gritted his teeth through the pain before tearing his sleeve up. The carved, red appearance of the mark from that morning now burned an angry black. "The pain just gets worse. Until-"
"Why don't you apparate there, but don't join the meeting?"
"I think joining it is my only option." He forced the words out in one breath, eyes squeezed shut. "Remember what we decided with the time turner."
"Severus…how nice of you to join us." Lord Voldemort smiled wickedly as Severus entered the room, his voice full of false sincerity.
The searing in his arm stopped and a chill ran through him upon hearing his old master's voice. The one he had so blindly followed. He fell to his knees like the death eaters around him despite the burning need to search for Zahrah, to see the reassurance on her face he knew would be there, instead he bowed his head like what was expected of him.
"It's been such a long time. Where have you been hiding?" The white wand was held precariously in his fingers. While the tip was aimed away from Severus, he knew it only took a second for that to change.
Voldemort knew, he knew all along. "I'm sorry, my Lord-"
"Do not speak to me! It matters not why you've avoided me, only that you can't anymore. Your late response to my call shows how much you desired not to come."
Severus was silent like had been asked of him. He didn't understand any of it, how Voldemort knew he had been avoiding him, why he was putting on this show in front of all of his followers, or most importantly why Severus was still alive.
"You will wait outside." The Dark Lord commanded. "We won't be having you run along to Dumbledore with what you'll learn today."
He did as he was told, scrambling from the ground and through the door into the hallway before the Dark Lord could change his mind. His own nimbleness at the movement surprise him, he missed his silent, albeit cat like, qualities.
Clasping his fingers behind his head, he began to pace the thin, warehouse hallway. Perhaps Zahrah wasn't the best one to carry the turner. If Voldemort killed her they'd never find her body.
Severus sat finally. Glancing at his watch, he found that nearly twenty minutes had passed. He jiggled his leg up and down, unable to contain his anticipation. If Voldemort were to kill him, Severus preferred he'd get it over with. The unknown was almost worse. The door opened after almost half an hour later, and Death Eaters began filing out. Zahrah, among them, met his eye. Her face didn't carry the assurance he had hoped for which only made the impending situation worse.
Severus stood, walking into the room where Voldemort gave him the same evil smile as before. "I see the only way to control you is with a mark. Your intelligence would have benefitted us greatly, but I know you can never fully be mine. Crucio."
Severus fell to the floor, his screams ripped from his body as the spell connected with his flesh. He writhed painfully across the rough stone. The scratches it was leaving in his skin was no match for what the Dark Lord was doing to him. He didn't notice the blood seeping from his wounds, only able to see one thing.
Severus was frozen in his spot. What had once been his home was nothing more than a pile of ashes. Smoke still rose from the burned building and in front of it knelt Zahrah, sobbing uncontrollably. He approached her with cautious confusion, gently laying a hand on her shoulder. She jerked at his touch before whirling to face him with a blind fury. Even in the darkness he could see that her face was blotched and red, and even more importantly, that she was alone.
"You!" She screeched at him. "She's dead because of you!" She began slapping his chest, pushing him away before falling limp with only his arms supporting her. "She's gone." Zahrah cried again. The two of them fell to the ground holding each other and weeping, having had their whole world shattered.
He stared into the coal remnants of his life. Disbelieving that what he heard was true. She had been the second chance for both of them, something worth surviving for. An innocent life having been snuffed from the world before it ever even had a chance.
Severus felt violently ill, even when the torture had stopped. He laid there motionless, not comprehending the threat coming from Voldemort's mouth. The heart break was raw all over again, as if he'd just witnessed it, had just been kneeling on the grass. He could feel Zahrah in his arms, the smoke burning his lungs. Even spots danced in front of his vision from the dying flames.
His breathing was shallow as he tried not to break then and there. Even when Voldemort had strolled from the room it took another several minutes for him to sit up and the shaking to stop. He stumbled from the headquarters in a daze, barely able to disapparate.
He slumped into the closest piece of furniture while the two women fussed around him, not quite hearing their concerns. "Sev, what did he do? Are you okay?"
Severus turned his head to look at Lily with unseeing eyes. She snapped her fingers in front of him trying to shake him out of the trance. "She's dead, because of me." He mumbled.
"No.” Zahrah fell to her knees in front of him, ensuring she was the only thing in his view. Her voice was desperate as she spoke, her eyes pleading. “No, she's not." Zahrah tried to reassure him. "I was wrong I-" Her voice broke. "I never should have said those things. It's not your fault you weren't there."
He was silent a moment, as though the words took minutes to reach him. "Isn't it though? Maybe I could have stopped them, I…"
"Don't do this, please. Don't beat yourself up again. Don’t-"
Her voice trailed off, his attention to her words dimming. He watched her mouth move, but heard nothing coming from it. He vaguely registered being checked for injuries, a healing charm being sung. His only focus was the memory, replaying over and over.
"Severus." Lily shook him, and he lifted his head to look at her. "We need to get you in the shower, wash off the blood."
He nodded, blinking, and becoming more aware of his surroundings. The two of them helped him stand, leading him towards the bathroom.
"Can you handle this alone?" Zahrah hissed, gesturing to Lily's swollen stomach.
"Had you asked me yesterday I would have said no. Now he weighs seventy kilos soaking wet."
Zahrah stopped outside the door, separating herself from the two of them. Lily helped him undress before fiddling with the unfamiliar shower knob and starting the water. Taking off her own clothes she helped him beneath the stream of water. He leaned heavily on her still, unfocused on the task at hand and in a great deal of pain despite being healed. The cuts had closed up, but his muscles ached from tensing and relaxing on repeat. He had no clue how long the torture had actually lasted, it felt like hours.
Severus bent so that he was laying his head on her shoulder as she scrubbed the already dried blood from his skin. His body shook gently against hers. Lily stop her washing, moving to just hold him instead. "Why did it happen?" He asked despondently.
"I don't know, Sev, I don't know." They stood beneath the warm droplets, unable and unwilling to move. She was frozen at the sight of him
She reached around him, turning the knob again and the water dripped to a stop. Lily ripped a towel from the rack, handing it to him. Severus dried himself, beginning to come back.
They found their way to the room they had woken up in that morning and she deposited him on the bed. "You're okay, we're okay."
He laid on his back, gazing up at the darkened, popcorn ceiling. "He knows, the Dark Lord tortured me because I didn't return to him."
Lily brushed her fingers through his hair, lying beside him. "That's not a priority right now, we can figure it out later."
Severus nodded vaguely. "Why did she blame me?"
"Because she could, she needed someone to blame.” Lily shrugged. “She knows better now."
"I miss Saffiah, I miss her so much." He began to break again. "I think of her every day, what she could be doing. It just hurts so much."
"I saw your picture of her. She was beautiful." Lily admitted.
"It's the only one I have. I kept it on me at all times. It was the only one that didn't burn…" He looked her in the eye. "I'm so scared it'll happen again."
"I know." Lily exhaled. "But were fighting him, we're doing all we can. If nothing else, maybe we can hope for a safer world for our baby."
He nodded again, closing his eyes. "Were you the one that healed me? I didn't know you knew those spells."
"I was going to be a healer. I dropped out of the program."
"How did I not know that?"
She gave a light shrug. "It's not something I'm proud of."
"Oh, Lily." He cupped her face. "We'll find our place in the world when this is all over."
"I'm sorry we don't have any sleeping draughts." She ignored his statement. "I know how badly you could use one."
"Could we use one that wipes my memory as well?" He smirked sadly at his own joke. "This Severus should have made some. I just need to find them." He stood from where he had been planted and padded into the hallway. A noise drifted out of one of the bedrooms and he stopped, listening, before poking his head back through the door. "Lily, come here." He hissed, and she did as she was told, stepping into the hallway beside him. Severus smiled laughingly, some of the tension of before dissipating. "Do you still think she's not seeing anyone?" The two of them laughed quietly to each other as satisfied moans filled the hallway.
Chapter 12: The Lies
Thank you all for you incredible support. I understand that this story is a bit different, in a way that most people don't like, yet it seems to be my most popular. I can't thank you guys enough for loving this story as much as I do.
Lily fiddled with the gold chain around her neck. It provided stability in an ever-changing world. Severus and Zahrah had entrusted her with the time turner, believing that of the three of them, she was least likely to die.
She had an overwhelming desire to use it, to go back in time and relive memories, potentially fix some of her biggest regrets. But she knew it wasn't possible, she couldn't safely do any of those things and it would be much too painful to return to the real world after spending time in the most treasured parts of her past.
She didn't understand how Zahrah had kept herself in the present. Lily wondered how she had come into possessing such a powerfully rare artifact or why they were keeping it a secret from Dumbledore.
Severus was closeted with the other woman, telling her what Dumbledore had wanted. Lily knew why, Zahrah knew Lord Voldemort, she didn't, she likely wouldn't be able to help with the task he had been assigned. It didn't make her feel any better though, didn't stem the boiling jealousy or the desire to have Severus to herself for once.
They'd woken up in the same reality as the day before and now Lily regretted inviting Zahrah to stay. Why wasn't she with whoever she was boinking the previous night? Lily had done it to be nice, assuming she had no place to go, clearly that wasn't the case.
"Still in a bad mood I see." Severus stated as he joined her again.
"I just wish you could talk to me, that's all." She shook her head, looking down at her nearly cold tea.
"This isn't about trust, you know that. I'm just trying to keep you safe." He sat beside her, taking her hand.
"And how would merely knowing put me in danger?"
Severus stared at her, considering her words. "Do you really want to know?" He asked. She nodded, and he sighed, putting a hand to his forehead. "The Dark Lord can't be killed until we find his horcruxes and I'm not sure that's something we can do, at least not soon."
"And Dumbledore's put you up to the task to find them?"
"Yes, but I don't even know where to begin."
"In other words, it could be years until this is over."
Severus sat back roughly. "Exactly, and it's all my fault." He looked down, avoiding her eyes.
"How…" She gave a quick shake of her head. "How in the world is this your fault?"
He strummed his fingers against his lips for a moment before dropping his hand back down, looking as shameful as possible. "We gave it to him, the Time Turner."
Lily felt her throat go tight and she stood, pacing the room. Her hands went behind her head as her mouth gaped “Severus…how could you?"
"Zahrah snuck into the Department during my first shift. I'm sure you can figure out the why."
"That doesn't make what you did okay!" She yelled, pulling further at her hair in frustration. She grit her teeth together. If she had been in a bad mood before, it was nothing compared to now. Now, she was utterly furious
"I know, I know. I've kicked myself enough over it already."
"That's where this is from, isn't it?" She tore the necklace free, breaking the clasp, and depositing it with a slam. "You lied to me!"
"Lily, I didn't want to, you must understand that." He pleaded with her, looking at her finally.
"You've risked all of us! Our child, me, because of your selfishness. Sometimes children die, Severus. You need to-"
He jerked at her words. "What? I need to what, Lily?" Severus' stood so suddenly that his chair toppled, hitting the laminated floor with a bang. He strode away with no intention of listening to her backpedaling. Equally furious, Lily let him go before plunking back down and holding her head in her hands.
“Our child?” Came the whisper of a voice, one that had unknowingly intruded on the conversation. Severus stopped, seeing Zahrah standing in his path. They hadn’t told her, hadn’t told anyone. He lifted a hand, placing a thumb and forefinger on his lids. He wasn’t sure there could be a worse time for her to learn. He shook his head, ignoring the question and continuing to the next room with a slam.
His departure meant the two women were left together. "You mean you're pregnant? Not just here?" There was an unmistakable sadness in her voice that made the situation impossibly harder.
“Yes.” She rasped. “It wasn’t intentional.”
“How long have you known?” Zahrah sat carefully beside her.
Lily should have been angry, should have lashed out at her like she had Severus, but found herself incapable. She was simply to exhausted and out of room for any more anger. “A couple months.”
“Months.” She nodded with a swallow, a break in her voice. She stood to leave as Lily passed her the time turner which hung from its broken chain. She had no desire to be near the thing at the moment
"Do you like that?" She purred above him before going back down for more.
"Merlin, Z, don't stop." He wound his hands into her hair, gripping tightly as she worked. His back arched in pleasure against her and he fought to contain himself. "I changed my mind, just…come here." He attempted to guide her with his grip and she obeyed. He kissed her fiercely, breathing hard against her lips. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he nimbly flipped her beneath him and began returning the favor. She cried out at his touch and he smiled between her legs.
"That's what you get for being such a tease."
"Next time I won't bother." She grinned back. "You can satisfy yourself."
"We can't have that, can we?" Flipping her again, he stood behind her thrusting until they were both a shaking, satisfied, mess.
He laid beside her on the bed, catching his breath, before rolling over and propping himself up on an elbow. He laid a loving hand on her abdomen and she reached up to stroke his stubbled chin. "When did this become more than just sex?" She wondered aloud.
He stiffened beside her momentarily. "I didn't realize it had. I told you not to get close."
Zahrah examined the pained look on his face. "What is it? What's wrong?"
He opened his mouth to speak when shouts drifted up from down below, silencing them both. They strained their ears, listening to the shouts between Severus and Lily, an escalation of their fight from earlier. Despite the noise of it all, their words were lost. "Maybe you should go." She whispered, swinging her legs off the bed and dressing in her previously discarded robes.
He sat up, frowning. "You're not mad?"
"Just go, please."
"Z, you misunderstood. I didn't mean to hurt you, I-"
She shot him a look of venom which caused him to peter out and dress. This encounter had meant to relax her, give her a release. It didn’t matter that he had been there the night before. In the revelation that Severus was getting a family, again, Zahrah needed to receive comfort elsewhere.
Severus walked with an angry stride in a town he didn't know. The chill was biting, and he had forgotten a coat in his rage, yet he didn't turn back. He had no idea where he would end up, only that his body craved, needed alcohol to dim his rage. Even more frustrating was that fact that it wasn’t an option.
The world rocked suddenly, seeming to swim in front of him and he stumbled forward, anxious to grab on to something. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling a growing headache from the movement. As quickly as it had begun it stopped, yet the pounding remained. When he opened his eyes, the world was blurred slightly in front of him, but he knew he was somewhere else entirely.
It took him a moment in his new state to comprehend what had happened. He examined his surroundings, from the counter in front of him to the yeasty smell in the air he had just been dreaming of. Severus knew exactly where he was. Looking down he found a beer in his hand and it took all his might to set it down. Every desire in his body screamed for him to drink it, to savor its taste. He backed up quickly, though at a much slower pace than before. It only took him a second to realize he was much, much bigger than ever before. He'd become exactly what Lily had been afraid of. Had gone from one drastic change to the next.
The salamander appeared then, wanting to know where he was and if he was safe despite their fight. Severus was anxious to know the same, but hesitant to apparate to her. He didn't want her, either of them, to see him like this. Biting the bullet, he turned on the spot.
"Seve-." Lily, returned to normal, paused at the sight of him before hugging him anyway. "You're okay." She backed up, wrinkling her nose with a slight gag. "And you smell awful."
Feeling an intense ache in his legs from the sudden, extreme weight gain, he sat. The chair creaked beneath him. "And drunk apparently, without the fun of getting there."
"If you hadn't-" She started, bringing it all up again.
He swore. "You don't think I know that?"
She bit her lip, changing the subject. "Have you heard from Zahrah?"
"I haven't tried." His response was curt.
"She hasn't answered me…you don't think?"
"Great!" He lifted a hand in the air and brought it down with a slap against his thick thigh. "It was bound to happen eventually." Severus looked at her before narrowing his eyes. "Where's the turner?"
"I- I'd just given it back to her before everything changed…"
"You know why we wanted to give it to you." He shook his head in a new indignation. "She better come back."
"I was angry, I…You need to find those horcruxes."
He scoffed, closing his eyes. "Do you have a suggestion on where to start?"
"Well, where does he live? Where's the headquarters? Maybe it's connected."
"It's in Stockport." His eyes flew back open suddenly. "It's in Stockport."
Lily looked at him in confusion. "I don't understand."
"Lils, I need you to contact Dumbledore, ask him to come here. I'm not sure I could in this state."
She frowned, clearly wanting to ask more, but did as she was told. Several minutes later the Headmaster was standing in front of them.
"What is it that's so urgent?" Dumbledore questioned, skipping formalities.
"7462 Hempshaw Lane, Stockport. That's where the Dark Lord's headquarters is."
Dumbledore conjured a quill and parchment in astonishment. "7462?" He confirmed.
"I'm sorry." Lily broke in. "Could someone explain?"
Dumbledore did the honors. "A fidelius charm prevents you from speaking the address. It's quite an advantage that this Severus never went to the headquarters, never had the privilege of being included in the spell."
"But neither have you, what's the point if you can't see it?" She pointed out.
"No, but we can visit – ambush – the location surrounding it, it may prove useful. " Dumbledore turned to Severus. "Now, where is Zahrah? She wanted to speak with me before the shift."
Lily and Severus made eye contact for a second before the latter spoke. "We believe she's dead here. We haven't been able to get ahold of her, and I look like this which based on past experiences means it's likely connected."
"I see. Well it'll have to wait. Let's hope it wasn't too important. If that's all then, I have some other matters to attend do." He bowed his head slightly. "Good evening."
The two of them were left in an awkward silence they weren't sure how to fill. Severus was the first to break it. "I shouldn't have done it, the guilt has been unfathomable, but you must understand how desperate we were. It's about more than Saffiah. It helped put Zahrah back in good graces with him, which is important."
Lily nodded. "I shouldn't have yelled. I don't understand it and it's unfair for me to judge. The closest thing for me would be getting my parents back, and that's something I have desired since the accident."
"Come here." He beckoned her over. She slid closer until she leaned her head on his shoulder. He pressed a kiss to her temple. "It's war. The Dark Lord is destroying enough as it is, we can't let him destroy us too." Lily nodded against him. "Merlin, you were lucky to be home in this reality." He said, looking around. "I don't even know where I live. It's shocking enough that I was in England this time."
"I can see if I have potions to sober you up, only I'm not sure where they'd be."
"No, it's alright. I functioned on this level for some time, it's normal."
"I hate to be cruel, but you really could stand to bathe."
"Is that an invitation to join me?"
Lily smiled coyly. "Make up sex is always the best."
"Sev." Lily whispered in the dark of the night.
"Hmm?" He mumbled, mostly asleep.
"What do you think is going to happen? If we find these horcruxes, if everything goes right, do you think we'll get our lives back? And what then? Will it have been put on pause? Or will life have continued as normal despite us not being there?"
Severus rolled over to face her. "I have an idea, but I want to speak to Dumbledore first, before I get your hopes up."
"You think it's possible then?"
"I do, yes. I'm not sure about your other questions. Time travel is so rare and particularly on such a grand scale. There really aren't any documented incidents of it for us to say how life will continue."
"Getting back is the most important, I just don't want to return to a life where we have a five-year-old that knows us, but we don't know them."
"I don't want that either, but there isn't much we can do. Despite having the time turner ourselves, we can't fiddle with time too much without changing everything again."
"Is that why you haven't used it?"
"Not exactly. There isn't a way for us to save Saffiah without being noticed by ourselves. We can't exactly just go back and kill Lord Voldemort either, not until we know when he started creating the horcruxes. Otherwise it might be pointless to travel back and have him live anyway. The time turner has been intended as a safety net more than anything."
"Couldn't you go after the Death Eaters at least? The ones that burned your home?"
"There are too many unknowns. We don't know how many were there, how long they had been waiting for Zahrah to exit the home, or even who cast the spell. I can't just go there and kill all of them, it'd draw too much attention from the Dark Lord."
Lily was quiet, mulling over his information. She had received so much of it in such a short amount of time and none of it had been good. The situation they were stuck in left them royally screwed at every angle. No matter how many times or ways she examined it, Severus already had. Memories kept popping in to her mind, pointing to just how long Voldemort had had the time turner. Zahrah knew for a fact he had one because she was the one who gave it to him. Lily recalled how Severus had told her they'd done this during his first shift and something occurred to her. "Severus?" She asked again. "When you made the decision to help him, did you think about me at all?" She listened to him shift on the fabric of the bed sheets and waited anxiously for him to speak. The fact that it was taking so long pointed out the obvious.
"I'm afraid I only had one thing in mind."
She felt her throat close. "So, essentially, you traded one life for the other."
A disappointed exhale came from his side of the bed. "Not intentionally, I had never even thought about that. You're not still cross about it all?"
"I'm trying not to be." She shifted uncomfortably, unable to help the betrayal she still felt.
"The Dark Lord would have gotten his hands on one eventually, I'm sure of it, we just sped up the process."
"Why do you call him the Dark Lord?"
"His followers are forbidden to speak his name. Ever since I had my mind set it on it, it was a habit I adopted. Being around Zahrah doesn't help. Voldemort just doesn't roll off the tongue as easily."
"I just don't understand why you'd ever want to be on his side." Her voice was barely above a whisper.
"I wish I could be valiant, say that I wanted to join him just so I could defeat him from the inside like Zahrah did. But, the truth is I was a coward. I didn't see any other option because I didn't even try."
Lily wasn't sure what to say. It had been the main source of tension between them for so long, but "I told you so" simply didn't feel right. Instead she focused on a different part of his answer. "That doesn't make sense to me either, what could have possibly motivated her to fight from the inside?"
"I believe Zahrah told you she was an orphan? It happened when she was three. She believes Death Eaters got to her family as well, that her parents weren't of pure blood. It's just suspicion, but it fueled her with a need for revenge."
Lily shook her head despite the fact that Severus couldn't see her. "It's senseless, all of it. How many branches of death eaters are there?"
"Unfortunately, there's no way to tell. He seems to have an arm in every country, yet terrorizing England is his main desire. If we don't stop him soon I can only imagine how much farther he'll extend, taking advantage of witches and wizards who don't know any better, just like he did here."
She turned into him, head against his chest and he wrapped an arm around her back. "I'm scared."
"Me too." He whispered. "Me too."
Chapter 13: The Information
"You've learned so much about my life after you, but I know so little about yours." He twisted a chunk of her wine-colored hair around his finger from where he laid beside her. They'd woken up in their normal lives for the first time since this started and had taken advantage of the first stress free moment by spending the day in bed together.
"What do you want to know?" Lily asked, blissful in her surroundings.
He feigned thought, already having his question prepared. "Why did you quit the healer program?"
Her smile faltered. "I didn't need to work when I was with James. Money wasn't a problem and it took up so much of my time."
"I have a hard time believing that's it. I know how you are." He lifted an eyebrow up at her.
"I guess that was more of my excuse for James." She showed a sudden interest in the edge of the blankets. "I was depressed."
Severus gently brushed her cheek with his fingers, turning her head towards him. "What happened?"
"Nothing, honest. I was in love, I had everything I could have asked for, but it wasn't enough. It wasn’t his fault, I just couldn't handle the program."
"Do you think you could ever go back? Would want to?"
Leaving the stitches of the blankets be, she rolled to her side. Hooking her finger around the collar of his shirt and intertwining her ankles with his she spoke again. "I'm not sure. It's hard to have much of a perspective right now, with everything so broken."
"Whatever makes you happy." He gently kissed her cheek. "How come you didn't tell me before?"
"It was just simpler that way, like it never happened. I'm not exactly proud of the drop out."
"What else did you want to know?" She interrupted.
Severus screwed up his face in thought, dropping the topic like she wanted. "Well, what about that potion? The one you were looking for."
"Oh, it's nothing." She rushed. "Why are you so curious about that?"
"Your defensiveness only makes me more so. I could pick it up for you."
"If you don't get fired for skipping."
He rolled his eyes, but the smile on his lips told a different story. "It's only one day. You're avoiding the question."
"I was looking for a…beautification potion of sorts, a slimming one."
"You don't mean the bellus draught, do you?" Red began creeping up her throat. "I'm not sure I see why you think it's necessary. You're perfect." His hand drifted down her curves as if to prove it.
She pushed it away. "And I'm sure you would also disagree if I said you were perfect. There are simply things I wish to improve."
"And you didn't want me to brew it out of what? Embarrassment?"
"That and we had only just run into each other after years."
"I'll still brew it, if you'd like, but I can't say I condone it." He brushed hair behind her ear.
"I'd rather walk with you in the mornings."
Severus kissed her on the nose. "I look forward to it." It was his turn to drop his gaze. "There is one more thing…What happened after I called you…you know? How quick did you move on?"
"Sev, do we really have to do this?"
"That fast, hmm?" He cleared his throat.
"It wasn't as bad as it sounds. The night that it happened James apologized. He told me he was sorry things had ended between us the way they did, that he had antagonized you."
"Funny." Severus grumbled. "I never got that apology. I wouldn’t say he most recent one counts"
Lily ignored him and went on. "I started hanging around the Marauders more with my sudden free time. They talked about you a lot at first, things I don't care to repeat. Gradually, I see now it was as I got closer to James, it stopped. I saw you move on, but I don't know that I really did."
"Move on? Losing you gave me the final push to join The Dark- Lord Voldemort."
She lifted a shoulder. "If you hadn't been interested in him in the first place it might have been different."
"It's not as clear a path as it sounds. Your mistakes look a lot simpler when you look back on them, and when you aren't surrounded by murderers that make you feel…wanted."
"Then what made you go the exact opposite direction? Joining the Order."
"I'm afraid I can't claim responsibility for that. I merely followed Zahrah. I let slip the organization one day and it lit a fire under her, gave her the support for her cause she had been seeking. If I hadn't, I likely would still be in Europe, possibly Asia. After seeing myself yesterday I'm more than glad I returned." He shuddered at the memory.
"Joining the Order wasn't my idea either, it was always James' plan. I wanted to work at St. Mungo's."
"Have we found reason number 3 for ending your career?"
The corners of her lips twitched. "I guess we have."
"You're a potion's master." She laughed from in front of the stove. "How do you not know how to cook?"
"It isn't that I can't do it, more that I haven't tried. Why do I need to when a wand will do it all for me?"
"Merlin forbid you do something for fun." Lily fought back a smile. "Add a pinch of each of those." She commanded, pointing at a line of spices.
Severus took her place, doing as she asked. When all four had been added he turned to face her again. Placing a hand on each of her hips, he backed her up slowly, snogging once her back was against the opposite cupboards. She didn't fight him off despite the food that was threatening to burn.
A loud knock came suddenly. Severus leaned his forehead against hers momentarily before splitting apart and making for the door. "Marlene?" Lily heard him ask and she stepped out from where she stood to watch the exchange.
"Is Zahrah here?" Marlene hesitated.
"Come in, I'll get her."
Marlene stepped past the threshold while Severus walked away. She shot Lily a cautious smile, clearly not wanting to be there.
"Zar." Severus pounded. "You have a visitor." The door was whipped open suddenly, leaving him to stare awkwardly.
Zahrah dabbed at her eyes as she peeked past him. "Marlene." She brightened. "Come back."
Severus stepped back, allowing the woman to pass before the door was closed in front of him. He returned to Lily's side in the kitchen, but she noticed his lack of attention on her. "She was crying."
"Really? Was it the tears that gave it away? Or the running nose?"
"Shut up." She pushed him playfully. "What are you so interested in anyway?"
"I'm just wondering if Marlene could be the one."
"The one? You mean who Zahrah has been seeing?"
"I wasn't aware she fancied girls." Lily stated, turning back to her cooking.
Severus shrugged. "Men, women, vampire, she's had it all."
"I'm afraid Marlene is quite smitten with Adrian."
"Ah, so much for that theory."
"I've never seen you so invested in another person's private matters."
He turned away finally, his full attention on Lily. "Normally I wouldn't be, it's just interesting to see who she's moved on to, particularly when she's been so secretive. Didn't you feel the same way about Remus when you broke up?"
"I never had the chance." She slid the pan into the oven. "He hasn't dated anyone else. I certainly didn't find it interesting to see that James had moved on." Ready to be done with the conversation she eagerly changed the subject. "Have you looked into the horcruxes at all?"
"Yes, it's not good news. Each founder owned an item, but I'm sure you know the legends surrounding most of them. I don't even know where to begin." He slumped against the wall.
"What about his personal life? It could be related to that."
"The problem is I know nothing about him and I can't exactly ask."
"No, but you can ask those who knew him." Lily pointed out. "He was a kid once too."
He frowned, impressed. "That's actually not a bad idea."
Voices from the end of the hall could be heard again and the two of them quieted. When Marlene had left, and the door clicked shut Zahrah appeared beside them. Lily's smile broke at the sight of her intruding and she turned away.
"Sev'rus. You don't have to stay here. You two deserve a life together…without me." He looked from Zahrah to Lily, not entirely sure what to say to the sudden assertion. When nothing came from his mouth she continued. "I don't need you anymore." As the words left her mouth she turned to walk away from them which prompted Severus to follow.
He grabbed her by the arm, causing her to spin back and face him. "What happened?"
"Nothing, it's clear-"
From the corner of his eye he saw Lily turn her head, listening intently to the conversation. "That's not what I'm talking about and you know it. You were fine two days ago and now you're a wreck."
She sighed heavily in defeat. "I thought things were getting serious with someone. Apparently, we had different ideas of what was going on. He told me not to contact him anymore."
"Do I need to punch someone?"
She laughed lightly despite herself, but the happiness was short lived. She stared at Severus as if she wanted to ask him something before seeming to change her mind. "Marlene is teaching me French. I'm not sure I want to stay here. I can still attend Order meetings from France."
"France? You really cared for him, didn't you? How long has this been going on?"
"Nearly as long as you and Lily…Sev'rus? No, never mind." She shook her head.
"Spit it out already." Lily could hear the growing irritation in his voice.
She looked down, ringing her hands. "A while back, Lily told me that something happened with Remus, but she didn't know what it was."
Lily looked up in a huff. She had told her that in confidence.
"What about it?" He asked in hesitation as Zahrah faced him again.
"Well." She started, looking down at her hands and back up. "I was wondering what that was."
"It's not my secret to tell."
"Isn't it though? It happened to you too."
Lily watched the exchange with interest, only stirring the pot occasionally. Perhaps using a wand wasn’t the worst idea after all.
"I was asked never to tell. Why do you want to know so bad-“ He paused, staring at her in shock before it morphed to anger. “it's him, isn't it? That's who you've been seeing."
"…Was seeing." She looked down, avoiding the gaze of both of them.
"Zar." He raked a hand through his hair. "You can't get messed up with him, he's dangerous."
"Excuse me?" Lily cut in finally. "He's nothing of the sort."
Severus shook his head. "I don't know how you had a relationship with him without even knowing his biggest secret."
"How did you of all people find out then?" Lily countered. She folded her arms across her chest, popping her hip out to the side.
"Because it was used against me." He replied with a similar snarkiness before turning from her. "Zahrah, if he ended things because of it you need to let him go."
"I don't want to, I don't care what it is, I need you to tell me. He never will, but perhaps I can convince him to change his mind if I do know what the big fuss is all about."
He stared at her in irritation, but her pleading eyes clearly got the best of him. Lily had noticed long ago that he had a weak spot when it came to Zahrah. "You cannot say you heard it from me. He has to believe you figured it out on your own. Are we clear?"
"Yes, master." She rolled her eyes, causing Severus to glower in response.
He looked between her and Lily, speaking to both of them. "I was an idiot. I was positive I'd already figured out what was going on with him, but I listened to Sirius anyway. They told me to meet Remus in the shrieking shack and I almost died in the process." Severus seemed lost in thought for a moment before continuing. "He's a werewolf."
The color drained from Lily's face as she put all the pieces together. She'd had them all along, but had never bothered to think things through, she hadn't had a reason to. The monthly sickness, the scars, how stupid was she? "Does Dumbledore know?"
Severus' eyes darkened. "Who do you think told me to shut my mouth? The lot of them should have been expelled."
"That's it?" Zahrah interrupted before laughing.
He was petrified by her reaction. "What do you mean that's it? The git almost murdered me!"
She sobered. "You were making him sound like a hit wizard or something. Werewolf pales in comparison. At least with a werewolf you know when it's coming and I'm sure he's careful."
"I'm on Remus' side. You need to use your head here and not your heart for once."
"Like you're one to talk!" Lily scoffed. "I was with him for six months and he never hurt me. Remus is one of the most careful people I know."
Severus held his hands up in front of him. "Nevertheless, I'm not the one you need to convince. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have something to take care of." He walked away with angry strides.
The sky was almost pitch black by the time Severus stepped out of the shop. He hadn't meant to be gone so long, he merely got lost in a book on his last errand. He found himself easily enraptured with knowledge and a desire to learn as much as possible. It had gotten him in trouble more than a time or two and now, seeing how late it had gotten, he felt another argument coming. They'd been having more than their fair share lately, and he found it infuriating.
The flat was silent by the time he apparated back. Severus wasn't sure if that was a good thing. He turned the handle to the bedroom, pushing the door in with a squeak. A single light was on inside the room. Lily was propped up against the headboard with a book spread across her lap. She looked up at him, in a not entirely warm manner. "Remembered where we lived, did you?"
Severus exhaled, slipping out of his overcoat and boots before sitting beside her on the edge of the bed. Reaching into his bag he pulled out a number of objects. "I was trying to find out as much about…Voldemort, as I could. I picked up a few books."
She set what she was reading aside. "Did you learn anything?"
"Not, particularly, but it's a start. Tom Riddle isn't exactly an uncommon name."
"Tom…she rolled the name in her mouth. Bit funny thinking of him having an actual name."
He smirked. "On the contrary, he finds it disgusting. I'll be speaking with Dumbledore about it all, pick his brain, if I get the chance in the next few days."
She curled her legs as she moved closer to him. "Are we going to talk about this Remus situation?"
"Changing the subject, are we? I'd prefer not to, no." He lovingly laid a hand on her leg.
"I understand that you are particularly bad at letting things go, but you need to. He's a perfectly decent human being. He knows when the full moon is coming, he wouldn't risk anyone's life like that.”
"Why do you think they became animagi? The other three I mean. They took him out on excursions, so he wouldn't get bored. They're reckless, the whole lot of them."
"I don't want to fight." She pleaded. "Just try not to overanalyze the current situation."
He stood up again without another word and she watched him worriedly. He stepped to his side of the bed and slipped a small parcel from the interior of his robes. Placing it in his bedside drawer without a word, he undressed and climbed into bed. Lily pursed her lips, about to voice her curiosity when Severus began speaking again. "I'm not prepared for things to change again. I didn't realize how much I actually enjoyed this life until it was taken away. Now that it's back…" He laid an arm haphazardly over his forehead.
"I was thinking…" She walked her fingers up his other, free arm. "Why don't we learn the sex…we'll be able to give the baby more of an identity in the chance that…"
"You are taking this better than I had expected. I remember how fretful you used to be."
She shrugged hopelessly. "I can't control what's happening, I can't change any of it. There's no sense in being hurt by it."
"Should we do it now then? While we're still here."
She stared at his blush colored lips in the dim light, memorizing every line. Her eyes moved slowly up his face, taking in every pore and imperfection that made him...him. "Maybe in a minute." Her voice was full of the sexy huskiness that she knew drove him crazy. He reached out, burying her fingers in her red hair as she breathed warmly against his skin. His lips found the nape of her neck and her lids fluttered shut as he nipped at the soft skin. Severus' mouth brushed against her shoulder before dipping lower momentarily.
Lily found herself on top of him in a spontaneity she hadn't planned. The strands of her hair tickled against the bare skin of his chest eliciting a smile. His fingers dug crescents into the skin of her sides. She paused, watching the way he looked at her with such an adorning love she believed he truly found her perfect. "I love you." She whispered.
Severus sat up enough to wrap his arms around her, flipping and pinning her against the mattress beneath him. She giggled at his unexpected reaction and he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead before muttering the same.
Chapter 14: The Proposition
"Voldemort: How is the wizarding world not full of diabetics? This is why I had to make seven horcruxes, because I drank this stuff...Butterbeer: the real killing curse" - Studio C
"You seem to think that I understand him, that I know everything, but I don't. You should have picked someone else for this job, someone who spends time with him." Severus paced the office, unable to help the rage and frustration that was bubbling inside him. The fact that Dumbledore just stared back, almost laughingly made it worse.
"That's precisely why you're perfect for this. You aren't under the same scrutiny or control." His mellow voice grated Severus' nerves.
"That sounds all well and good, but how could I possibly find horcruxes with zero information? They could be anywhere, anything. I need guidance here, a place to start." He pounded his fist on the desk in frustration.
Dumbledore stroked his beard in thought. "Wool's orphanage could prove useful. I've been meaning to talk to the caretaker, Mrs. Cole. Slughorn would be of interest as well."
"Slughorn?" Lily intercepted. "Does he know about the horcruxes?"
"In a way." Dumbledore peered over his glasses at the two of them. "I believe he provided a young Tom with vital information towards the subject. Unfortunately, he's been rather reluctant to speak to me about it."
Severus looked at Lily in exasperation. "It's more than we had before." He lifted his hands before slapping them back down at his side. He had expected more. He had also expected Dumbledore to give him all the information at the beginning, not bits and pieces when he found it convenient.
"It would be wise to keep his love for Hogwarts in mind. This place was Tom's life blood for some time. I would be willing to bet the horcruxes are in some way related to the castle.” He relaxed back into his throne like chair as if they were discussing puffskeins. “Severus, don't doubt my faith in you. This must be done, and it must be you." His tone indicated that he was not willing to negotiate the situation.
"Sir?" Lily started, unsure. "Do we know anything else? It's been almost a week since the last time change. It stopped as suddenly as it started."
"I acquired a time turner if that's what you're getting at. I believe Lord Voldemort is testing something. The sign that nothing has changed could be very good or very devastating. "All we can do for the time being is be grateful he stopped."
Lily leaned forward with an elbow resting on the metal railing, one hand underneath her chin. She stared out at the massive Hogwarts grounds and the few students that wandered it's rolling -now white- hills. Severus rubbed her back lovingly, sensing her distress. "What's the point in any of this?" She grumbled suddenly. "He's going to win this war."
"Don't do that. We still have a chance. Dumbledore gave us some information. We can only hope it proves to be useful."
"He gave us nothing. If he knows so much about 'Tom' then why doesn't he do the search himself?"
"What do you want me to tell you? That everything will be okay? It's fine to be down occasionally, but you need to be prepared for the possibility that it won't be okay. We could lose each other, irreversibly."
She turned, shooting him a glare. "This is supposed to make me feel better?"
Severus took advantage of her position, gripping her shoulders tightly. "The point is instead of being upset about the possible inevitable, we should fight to prevent it."
"You're right." She breathed, stepping forward and placing her head against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. They stood together on the astronomy tower despite the falling snow and ever present cold that was seeping through their coats and into their bones.
"Let's do something. Hogsmeade is right there and we have no other commitments. Let's just spend the day together and forget about everything else."
"And possibly get indoors where it's warm." Her voice was muffled by the fabric of his deep blue, nearly black, robes. "Remember when we were here last? Everything seemed so much simpler. I wish my biggest worry was still my grades."
"That's a good point." Severus mumbled distractedly. "What if that's why The Dark…Voldemort is returning to his school days? A place where he isn't at war and can easily gain control…We need to find Slughorn, and the orphanage as well."
She pulled her head back to look at him. "Do you really think that would be helpful?"
"Who better to talk to than the people who knew him as a child? You said so yourself.” If they could just point us in the right direction, give us some names. Dumbledore's tips may be rather helpful after all."
"Do we have to do it right this minute? Put it off for now, spend the day with me. There are shops and hot drinks down there begging me to come visit."
"Of course." He smoothed her hair with a mischievous glint in his eye. "We said we'd go, we'll go."
The warmth of the castle was heavy compared to the freezing temperatures outside. His eyelids drooped with a sudden desire to sleep in the inviting heat that surrounded them. It was surprising really, how insulated the castle could be. The two of them walked through the empty halls, the moving staircases, to the massive, oak door of the castle that would send them back outside shivering.
The only thing that kept him moving, trudging through the tall piles of snow, was the idea of hot chocolate waiting for them only a few meters away. He missed fire whiskey then, the comfortable burn it sent down his throat before spreading through his veins. Even warm butter beer sounded positively heavenly at that moment. Neither were a possibility.
Seeing the small, stone building of the Three Broomsticks ignited a desire in him he'd been fighting to tamp down for weeks. It had been a struggle not to fall into his nightly, more like early afternoon, routine.
"We can go somewhere else." Lily suggested at the look on his face. "Madam Puddifoot's…" Severus curled his lip in horror and she trailed off.
"I am capable of restraint. Let's go in, it'll be fine." He placed a hand at the small of her back, guiding her forward with reassurance.
The pub was nearly empty with only a few stragglers nursing something stronger for that hour. The majority of Hogsmeade's occupants were still out of town for the holidays, leaving mainly employees to service the few visitors.
The two of them claimed a particularly wobbly table in the corner as they awaited their drinks. Lily leaned her elbow on the table with a thumb and finger placed to her temple.
Two mugs of rich, steaming hot chocolate were placed in front of them. Lily adjusted herself, placing both hands around the ceramic and inhaling the vapor. Severus took a hearty sip, only mildly disappointed it wasn't something alcoholic.
They drank with only few words exchanged between them. He fiddled with the interior his pocket, rolling the object in the palm of his hand. He'd had a plan, but now he couldn't help but wonder if he should wait. Lily looked at him again from beneath her lashes and seemed to decide his distracted manner was one of concern.
"There's Tomes and Scrolls, or that quill shop down the road a bit. We could use some new ones."
"Honeydukes." Severus suggested with a halfhearted shrug. "We can pick up some crystallized pineapple for Slughorn and I know how you used to love the sugar quills."
She scrunched her nose, looking into her glass. "I think this is sweet enough for me."
"Come on." He pushed. "We aren't up here very often. One quill won't kill you."
"Alright, alright." She grinned finally. "We'll stop by."
He quirked the corners of his mouth before standing and grabbing the thick coat hanging on the back of his chair. She moved to follow, and he held a hand out to stop her. "Stay here." He whispered as he passed, having caught the eye of someone familiar up ahead. With a look, over his shoulder he turned up the wooden stairs. His feet pounded with slow, deliberate steps. As he rounded the corner, Severus found the self-assured figure of Lucius Malfoy.
"The Dark Lord is watching you." Lucius drawled quietly. "You best be careful."
"And I should thank you for this…warning?"
"Who says it's a warning? You becoming a Death Eater some time ago was no accident. He knows the details of your betrayal."
"Betrayal?" Severus occluded his fear. "It was merely a change of heart."
Lucius smirked. "I'm not the one you need to convince, simply the messenger. The Dark Lord is willing to negotiate in return for your service."
He narrowed his eyes. "What exactly is he willing to offer?"
"As I said, simply the messenger. You know where to find him."
Before Severus could say another word, Lucius had disapparated, leaving him to stare at the spot he had stood. He cleared his throat, turning quickly on his heel and descending the stairs again. From across the room he could see Lily's back facing him and he approached her again. "Ready?"
"Where did you go?" Her brow was furrowed as she stood and collected her own things.
"Had to pop into the bathroom I'm afraid." He looped his arm through hers and they exited. Severus passed by both the quill and book shops, he ignored the herbology and potions supplies having only one destination in mind.
"You've been so quiet. I thought today was supposed to be fun? Yet you've been locked in your own mind." Lily spoke meekly.
He shook his head to clear it. "I'm sorry, I am. I've just been trying to work all this out."
"I get it, I recognize that pensive look." She smiled as if to show him she wasn't angry. "You've always been this way, you know. We'd have days at Hogwarts where we wouldn't say more than a few words until you had your big revelation. Then I couldn't get you to shut up about it." She bumped him playfully with her hip. "Just work through it out loud."
"Not here, not with so many strangers listening in." He glanced around their surroundings. If they were being followed… "Let's stop at Honeydukes then I have one more stop to make." Severus yanked on the doorknob and a bell at the top tinkled, announcing their entrance. The entire building smelled like sugar. It was an intoxicating scent of chocolate mingled with lollipops. Severus wondered if it was possible to develop diabetes just by being here.
He examined the sweet lined shelves, wanting to grab more than a few items, but fought the urge. He caught Lily watching him carefully and reached for Slughorn's bribe. The professor had always had a stash of it on his desk or in his office. It wasn't a secret to anyone that this was perhaps his absolute favorite food.
"Find anything?" Lily interrupted his thoughts. Looking down he saw several sugar quills in her hand.
"I thought you didn't eat much junk food?"
"I don't, for reasons I confided to you a few days ago."
He grabbed her hand, lifting it between them. "Obviously."
A blush began creeping up her throat and into her cheeks. "Can I blame it on the pregnancy?"
"Can I blame my desire for shock-o-choc on the fact that it's Wednesday?" He chuckled, grabbing the small square package. He lifted up the sweets in his other hand. "Think two packages of the pineapple would be enough?"
She twisted her mouth to the side, puckering her lips in thought. "Get two more, just to be safe. We don't have to use them all at once."
He did as he was told and placed their items on the counter. Ambrosius eyed them curiously. It was the awkward time between Christmas and New Year's where people had grown tired of sugar. It was one of the few times of the year that visitors dimmed. Severus handed him a handful of knuts and sickles before grabbing their items and heading back into the cold.
"One last place, I promise.”
She smiled weakly and Severus took hold of her, disapparating. She seemed disoriented momentarily, glancing around her in confusion. "The river? Why here?"
Severus peeked past her and through the trees. Both of their houses were visible from here, although in different directions. This place had been their sanctuary for so many years, both before Hogwarts and during the summers. It was a close enough meeting place, but the thick foliage provided a much-needed privacy for times like now. He watched carefully for any sign of Death Eaters. This hadn't been his original plan, but perhaps it was better than the first one.
With a careful check for muggles, he used his wand to clear an area of snow off of the ground and took a seat in the blank patch of dead grass. He leaned back on his wrist with his legs spread open. He beckoned for her to sit with him and she sat between his thighs, leaning back and resting her head against him.
"Sugar quill?" He removed the treat from the bag, passing it to her. She took it gratefully and began sucking on the end of it. "Do you remember the first time we went to Honeydukes? The first time you had one of those?"
"You're full of questions today. I do, why?"
"What was it you said again?" He changed positions slightly, reaching into the pocket of his robe and palming the item he'd placed there that morning, the one he'd bought earlier and slipped into his bedside table.
"I'm not sure." She answered. "Something about loving them so much I could marry one."
"I guess marrying me is out of the question then, seeing as you're taken." He smiled broadly as she flipped around to face him.
"You're not serious." She narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
Severus opened his hand, revealing the simple ring. "I know it's soon, I know it's only been a few months, but I know what I want. I've known since I was nine years old, since that day I saw you in the park with Petunia. I've lost you more than enough times. I'd like to keep you forever, make this family thing official."
She cupped his face, kissing him fiercely. "You already know my answer. I didn't realize how much I needed you until you were gone, Severus. How could I ever say anything but yes?" Her candy lay on the ground, forgotten.
He slipped a hand onto her growing waist, holding her gently. Their mouths moved in sync with one another, breaking contact only to breath. Severus stopped her finally, having more to say. "I found us a place, somewhere we can be on our own. I know how badly you've wanted that, and frankly I have too. It's just a small house and I know we could lose it with everything else, but-"
"A house? You bought me a house?"
He smirked lovingly. "The only problem is we need to keep it a secret, only those closest to us can know."
"I wouldn't expect anything else…thank you." She brushed the side of his face, fingers tracing the black stubble that framed his jaw. "When did you become such an adult?" Lily punctuated with a kiss. "I can't imagine today was easy, being surrounded by addictions. I saw the way you eyed other people's drinks, how your eyes lingered on the sweets. I see how much you're trying and I'm so proud."
"Everything I do is for you. It always has been.” He smiled at her sweetly, his smiles were always reserved for her. "As much as I love being at the river and freezing my arse off, why don't we go home? Home, home."
"I've waited forever for you to say those words." Her eyes twinkled with a hopefulness he was beginning to miss. Those blasted, spring green eyes that had gotten him into this mess. He wanted to snog her senseless and eagerly pulled her from the ground with him, so they could consummate the engagement in the home they'd dreamed off for so long.
Chapter 15: The Newcomer
Severus stood facing the building that has once been built with a brilliant red brick, but now stood muted from a mixture of age and soot. The main area was several stories high, yet from the roof came a tower compromised of even more floors. It seemed there was no grass, no area to play. It was certainly a devastating place for children to grow.
He stepped inside and found no one waiting for visitors. Glancing around he spotted several picture frames and stepped forward to investigate. The photos inside were dated, filled with children who didn't appear entirely happy to be there. Their uniforms were drab and gray, almost like the rest of their surroundings. Severus peered at each face, knowing he could never recognize Voldemort, but trying to anyway.
"Can I help you?" Interrupted a gruff voice and Severus turned away from the photos and towards the young woman who had called out to him.
"Yes. I was wondering if I could speak with Mrs. Cole? It's about a boy who lived here at one point."
"I'm afraid not. She retired quite some time ago. We do keep files on the children however, should that be helpful."
Severus stepped forward, allowing his wand to slide into his hand. "Surely you don't let just anyone look at them."
"Unfortunately, not…" A glazed look appeared in her eyes. "But, I can make an exception, just this once."
He allowed his lips to curl into a smile. "It's much appreciated."
The woman disappeared through the doorway in which she had come once she had been given Riddle's name. Severus returned his wand to his sleeve. When she came back minutes later she held a file that was several inches thick. "It seems this young man was quite the trouble maker." She handed it over to him.
"He still is." File in hand, Severus approached a nearby table, taking a seat. He opened the folder, afraid of just what exactly he'd find. The first page held a picture of a young boy who couldn't have been older than six. Straight black hair hung into his eyes and a scowl was etched into his face.
The stack of papers was much too large to read then and there. With a quick peek over his shoulder he found that he was alone once again. Sliding his wand out again he quickly duplicated the stack before shrinking it and placing it in the interior of his robes. He flipped through the papers of the original, scanning the red pen marks detailing Tom's more dangerous adventures and the punishments that entailed. He paused momentarily on one that mentioned the Cliffs of Moher.
Putting the file back in order he stood again, having heard her footsteps as she came to check on him. "I'm afraid it's not what I'm looking for. Thank you for your help." He handed the fat stack over to her.
As he exited, his mind was stuck thinking about the cliffs, wondering if they could hold any significance to his tasks. Holding the thought, he disapparated home.
It was silent, likely meaning Lily was still in bed. He took two steps at a time, slowing only when he reached their bedroom door. He cracked it open quietly, peering inside. All he could see was vibrant red hair just above the blankets. Severus stepped inside silently, approaching the desk and reaching to remove Voldemort's file as he went.
"What did you find out?" Her voice was weak, tired.
He reached back into his robes, removing and resizing the stack of parchments. "Mrs. Cole wasn't there, but I was able to snag this." He held it up for her to see. "I'll let you know if I find anything interesting."
"Please do." She murmured with a smile, tucking deeper beneath the bed covers.
Severus set to it, cracking the file open once again. He lingered on the photograph of a young Tom Riddle before turning to the first true page. Seeing the scores of personal information written there he began taking notes on his own piece of parchment. He scribbled down Voldemort's birthday before moving on to his known family. Under Mother was written "Merope Gaunt" while the father was listed as "Tom Riddle?" Both those names were written in his notes as well. Turning another page, he scanned the words. The intake date was listed as that of his birthdate. Severus couldn't imagine spending any amount of time in that depressing orphanage, let alone his whole childhood.
The first couple years of his life were unexceptional. There was only so much trouble a baby could get into. However, that didn't stop the notes. There were details of scratches and bruises caretakers supposed had come from the other children and even more notes of the injuries he had left in return.
When he was only a few months of age he seemed to be interested in a particular stuffy. No matter where it was kept it somehow always ended up in his arms. Severus was positive that had to be his first use of magic. It was unusual for it to happen so young, typically only seen in those that were exceptionally adept at magic, a trait the Dark Lord had.
Around two years of age was when the problems started. Objects belonging to the other children would turn up missing and if they did get them back they were destroyed. He began slapping and biting the other orphans, lashing out in any way he could. As he grew older it only got worse and unusual happenings seemed to surround him.
Mice would flock to him and birds would sit at his window and stay for days before disappearing completely. A pet rabbit owned by one of the other boys was tragically hung and Voldemort was expected to be the culprit. As a result, he suffered caning and proceeded to lock himself in his room for nearly a week.
Severus put a hand to his forehead, closing his eyes.
"How dare you speak back to me! After all I've done for you, you ungrateful bastard. You're no better than your filthy whore of a Mother!" Tobias gripped him tightly around the shoulders. Severus could feel his father's fingernails digging painfully into his flesh as he was shaken. Spittle flew from the man's mouth as he screamed, landing across Severus' face. He whimpered at his dad's touch, pleading silently for him to let go. When Tobias finally did it was so forceful that Severus stumbled back in tears, falling clumsily to the ground.
"Get up!" He screamed, advancing on Severus. Tobias jerked him by the arm, resulting in a painful pop of his shoulder. His father's face was a brilliant shade of red from a mixture of anger and alcohol. The scent of bourbon was stale on his breath, making Severus sick. "Off with it then! You know the deal!"
Severus did as he was told, tearing the threadbare shirt from his body and revealing the malnourished, scarred figure underneath. He prepared himself for the blow that he knew was coming. First came the stiff leather, carving into his skin, then the cool metal buckle that tore even further at his flesh. He winced audibly, unable to keep himself from crying out until finally the pain and the rich blood running down him didn't matter as his world faded to black.
Severus stared at the page with unseeing eyes, unable to keep memories of his own childhood from flooding back in. His leg shook anxiously, bouncing up and down in his seat. His breath came out in rasps, remembering how his back was etched in scars.
Maybe his Mum could have done something, at least at the beginning when she'd still used magic, but he'd kept it from her all this time. He wondered if she ever knew what had happened under her own nose. That the mere shower water pounding against his flesh was enough to make him weak, to make the freshly healed cuts bleed all over again.
He'd begun avoiding showers because of it, unable to take the pain and more willing to live in his own filth. As a result, the beatings only changed. Instead of abusing him for an overuse of water, Tobias' began doing it over stench. There was no way for Severus to ever win. He fought back the feeling of terror, blinking away the memories that would forever haunt him and forced himself to read more.
Shortly after Tom's incident with the rabbit, a new habit was noticed: bedwetting. It seemed to correlate with him acting out or receiving punishments. The other kids in the orphanage would make fun of him, causing him to act violently in return. One particular time resulted in Tom breaking a young girl’s arm.
Severus stared up at the popcorn ceiling above him. He was momentarily confused, caught in between wakefulness and sleep and not quite sure how he had gotten there. A strong scent of ammonia wafted up to him and it was then he realized he was wet. He threw himself from the bed in disgusted embarrassment.
He tore the dingy sheets from the mattress, wadding them up in his arms. Cracking open the door he peeked out into the hallway before tiptoeing into the bathroom. Turning the faucet on the tub he began scrubbing furiously at the new stain. He jumped at every creak of the floorboards, every sound of the house settling, afraid that he would be caught and what that could entail.
He was anxious to wash the scent of urine from his only set of sheets, but equally terrified that he would be caught. He could already hear his father’s voice, feel the punishment that would ensue, and he scrubbed harder. He needed to find the careful balance of getting them clean, destroying the evidence of his accident while keeping silent all the while.
Severus shut the file roughly and stood up. He hadn't realized just how much Lord Voldemort's life was like his own, how much abuse and bullying he had suffered through. Severus wondered how much of what Voldemort was today was inevitable and how much was due to his childhood.
"Are you alright?" Lily's voice drifted to him. She had propped herself upwards, watching him in concern.
"Yes." He responded curtly, whipping his coat into his arms. "I'll be back." He strode purposefully from the room, not bothering to wait for a reply. If she had called out to him he had no idea if he'd even stop to listen. He was too wound up, too stuck in his own mind to register anything else. Life around him seemed to be fuzzy along the edges and he walked without fully realizing where he was heading.
The town was new to him. They'd only been here a couple of days and he had yet to venture out of the house. He'd been more disconcerted that Voldemort's use of the time turner had ceased. None of it made sense, why it had started or whatever purpose the Dark Lord had.
Severus had had very little contact with Zahrah recently. As a result, she hadn't filled him in on any death eater meetings, if there had been any. He was furious with her still, her complete lack of empathy or concern for her own safety. She'd let other emotions take over, seeming not to care about the dangerous possibilities being with Remus could bring.
A familiar Phoenix appeared in front of Severus suddenly, simultaneously breaking his stride and thoughts. Glancing around him, he found himself alone in the frosty neighborhood and disapparated.
He approached Dumbledore's office with curiosity. The headmaster had given him no information for the request, merely asked that he come at once. Severus was grateful for the message if only because it served as a distraction from his own mind. "You wished to see me?" He asked as he was admitted into the room.
He stopped in his tracks at the sight of who else was there. Severus hadn't heard anything of him in years, had suspected that he was dead, or worse. The other man viewed him with similar hesitation, each of them looking towards the Headmaster for guidance.
He smiled broadly at their confusion. "I see introductions aren't necessary."
Severus stared once more at the man who looked so much like his dreaded brother, Sirius. It was a shame really, the resemblance.
Out of the two of them, Regulus was the first to speak. "Pardon me, Sir, but what exactly am I here for?"
"The two of you have the same goal in mind. I believe it would be beneficial if you could work together."
Severus made no effort to hide his distrust. "Are you sure this is wise?"
"Regulus recently came to me with a bit of information I think would interest you. It seems his house elf was asked to hide what we believe to be a horcrux." He turned his head slightly, speaking to Regulus. "I have asked Severus here to track them down, but I don't believe he's made any progress."
He shook his head slightly to indicate that he had not.
"You can trust each other." Dumbledore continued, sensing the tension. "Neither one of you has affiliation with Lord Voldemort."
Severus' gaze dropped from Dumbledore's face to look at that of his old school mate, his long-ago friend. "I acquired information from the orphanage the Dark Lord grew up in and have begun skimming the pages for any clues."
"Meanwhile I've actually found one."
Severus gritted his teeth at the typical Black personality. "Where is it?"
"Cliffs of Moher, Ireland."
Severus was jarred by the name, recalling seeing it only earlier that day. "You have yet to retrieve it?" He asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Unfortunately, no. It's a two-person job. I was barely able to retrieve my house elf from certain death. Our other problem is destroying it."
"A simple fiendfyre curse should do the trick."
"Well then, what are we waiting for?" Regulus grinned.
Severus paused momentarily, thinking of Lily back at home. "What are we waiting for indeed."
He let Regulus lead the way, disconcerted at the touch from someone other than Lily. The two of them disapparated, landing on a cliff side in biting weather. Wind whipped black strands of hair across his face while large waves crashed against the rocks on which they stood, sending cold mist over them. Regulus jumped suddenly into the churning sea below them, surprising Severus. He swore under his breath before following him into the freezing water.
He felt his lungs squeeze shut at the drop in temperature. His clothes threatened to drag him down below the surface and his legs refused to kick. Up ahead he could see the pitch-black curls of Regulus Black as he made his way towards an inlet. Raising his arms, Severus forced himself to swim, no matter how slowly. As he dipped below the surface a foul taste of salt and water over took him, filling his nose and mouth. He came back up sputtering, trudging on.
"Are y-you m-mad?!" He practically shouted upon reaching the shore, his teeth chattering against one another.
Regulus smiled back manically, drying himself with his wand. Severus did the same, allowing the heat to sink past the fabric of his clothes and to his skin. With the warmth, his quivering jaw slowed to a stop.
He watched as Regulus paced past the cliffside, running his fingers along the jagged rock. There was a practiced rhythm in his steps and Severus watched with interest as the other man searched for whatever it was he was looking for. Settling on a shallow ridge near the edge of the beach he stopped, removing his wand. "Your hand, Severus."
"Blood, it needs blood to open." He spoke with an air of carelessness, as if blood held them same value as saliva.
"And just why does it have to be mine?"
"Should the Dark Lord come looking he can't know that I'm here." He curled his fingers, asking silently for Severus to step closer.
"I can't say it would be a good idea for him to be aware of my presence either." Nevertheless, he did as he was told, slicing his own hand open and approaching.
Regulus gripped him by the wrist, causing Severus to flinch, and waited for blood to collect in his palm. When he was satisfied, he lifted Severus' hand and smeared it across the stone. As the wall moved in front of them he snatched his hand back, muttering a healing charm beneath his breath. The skin began to stitch closed again and he flexed his fingers.
The two of them stepped into the dark cavern, the light outside barely penetrating the blackness. A creaking behind them revealed that the pathway was sealing itself again and they lit their wands. Severus followed Regulus as he neared the lake that lay inside. The light from their wands glinted off the surface of the dark water and Severus crouched beside it.
"Don't tou-!" Regulus' began frantically.
"Inferi." Severus finished for him. He could see the distorted, decaying flesh beneath the water and stood once more.
"Yes." With a silent accio a chain shot from the interior of the lake and into Regulus' hand. "His victims I believe." He paused, staring at the boat connected to the chain disconcertedly. "I'm afraid we have a bit of a problem, only one of us will be able to cross."
"It's there." He pointed to a faint green light just visible on the edge of the horizon.
"What happens if two of us use the boat?"
"I'm not sure I want to find out. I suspect it has to do with the bodies beneath us.”
"Ah, let's try not to awaken them, shall we?" Severus examined the air around them, it seemed to be charged. "Magic doesn't work appropriately here, does it?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
Severus put a finger to his chin in thought. "A disillusionment charm likely wouldn't work." He began, mostly to himself. "It wouldn't hide an entire magical presence..."
"Want to levitate me across?" Regulus offered with a shrug.
Severus scoffed. "And if it doesn't work or the spell breaks you'll be plunged below."
"Maybe not then."
"If it can sense two people…would that qualify as a mind of its own?" He furrowed his brow.
"I'm not sure what you're getting at?"
"An Imperius, if it acts like it has a brain, surely we could trick it like it does."
Regulus looked from him to the boat. "It may be our only option."
Severus tightened the grip on his wand. "Be prepared, in case it doesn't. Imperio." He focused on the fuzzy presence of another being connected to his own mind. Allow us both. Severus commanded before gesturing to Regulus to step inside. The boat lilted under his feet as his weight displaced the water beneath. When he was settled, Severus took his turn. He started tentatively, with just a foot. When nothing happened he shifted his weight, planting the other foot inside. He sat carefully, afraid he'd be bucked out at any moment. The two men stared at each other fearfully, afraid the slightest movement would break the spell.
Row. Severus told the boat finally and it did as it was told, edging slowly across the water. They were silent during the journey, the lake seeming to stretch on forever. Beneath the light of his wand, Severus could see the thousands of bodies lurking in wait for any misstep. Should this fail, they would have no chance. He hadn't realized just how many inferi there were when he suggested the idea of an Imperius. His hand gripped tightly to the edge of the rowboat, fingers turning white from their hold. Slowly, ever so slowly, the green light began to grow closer.
"You said a house elf placed the horcruxes?"
"Yes, under the Dark Lord's intention of him dying."
"Why didn't the elf just give it to you? Would have saved us a lot of work." Severus couldn't help the snappishness that entered his voice.
Regulus shook his head. "Had I known that was why he wanted Kreacher, I would have instructed him to do so. By the time I'd learned of the plan it was too late. There's a potion guarding the horcruxes, one with rather undesirable effects. Kreacher was already in bad shape. Should one of us had tried to drink it I don't think we would have made it out alive. It turned into a rescue mission and nothing more."
"Which one of us is drinking it then?" Severus asked, and Regulus stared at him apprehensively, clearly not willing to do it himself. "Regulus, how likely are we to die in here?" It occurred to him then that he should have alerted Lily, should he not make it back…
"I'm afraid I don't have an answer to that." He averted his eyes momentarily before glancing back up. "I'll…I'll take it."
If he expected Severus to fight him on the issue it wouldn't be happening. "Undesirable effects?"
"I don't know the specifics, only that I'll need help getting out of here."
"Right." Severus agreed as the boat finally hit the rocks. The two of them eyed each other again, mentally preparing themselves for the task at hand. Regulus was the first to scramble out with Severus coming after him. They approached the basin that caused the greenish glow, peering inside.
The quartz dish was filled with a murky, gray liquid. Inside laid a gaudy, gold necklace, barely visible through the potion. Regulus took a large inhale of breath before blowing it out and reaching for the scoop like shell. With a shaking hand he filled the shell and raised it. Having a sudden idea, he tipped it above the rocks in an attempt to pour it out. Nothing fell. "Right then." He said quietly to himself, this time raising it to his lips. As the liquid dropped into his mouth he cried out in pain, dropping the makeshift cup and falling to the ground.
He cried out to nothing and no one in particular, his body trembling. "Stop!" He mumbled. "Please, no!"
In a swift movement Severus scooped up more potion and forced it past Regulus' lips. He choked and spit against the liquid that was being forced down his gullet. "I didn't do it, I didn't mean to!" Regulus wailed. Still, Severus forced the potion in despite the unnerving cries for help. It was clear that Regulus had been launched to somewhere else entirely, perhaps reliving some painful part of his past. Severus himself shook at the mere thought, afraid just what exactly he would see had he chosen to be the guinea pig.
As he went to pour the potion into his mouth once more, Regulus reached up, gripping him by the robes and begging for mercy. "Father, don't do this…" He whimpered.
"We're almost done…Just…just a little more." Severus lied, going back again and again. Each drink seemed to exacerbate Regulus' pain until the words were no longer decipherable. Finally, the shell began to scrape against the bottom of the bowl, signaling that they were in fact nearly done. As Severus reached in one last time he felt his fingers graze the metal chain. Dropping the scoop, he closed his hand around the jewelry, clutching it tightly. "No more, Regulus, we're done."
"Water." He begged, his voice hoarse from his shouts. "I need water."
Pointing his wand at the basin, Severus tried an aguamenti, but nothing happened. He spun around, eyes catching the water filled with Merlin knows what. Deciding it wasn't an option, he faced Regulus again who was growing paler by the minute.
He gripped him roughly by the cheeks, forcing his mouth open despite Regulus' protests. Before he could fight him off, Severus placed the tip of his wand in Regulus' mouth and tried the spell again. As the water hit his tongue he stopped fighting, allowing it to trickle down before choking again. Severus smacked him roughly on the back and water spewed from his mouth.
Regulus sat there, taking in ragged breaths, beginning to come back to his senses. Severus held out his hand and Regulus gripped it, helping himself to his feet unsteadily. Although he was no longer crying out, his eyes still had a glazed look and his mind seemed to be elsewhere.
The boat had sunk back under the water and Severus summoned it again. He hadn't released the Imperius curse and found it still under his control. He helped Regulus into it where he plunked down heavily. They sailed back across the lake in total silence, neither saying a word until they hit the other shore.
Severus gripped him tightly by the shoulders, causing Regulus to look up at him. "You're absolutely positive you have no connection with the Dark Lord? You won't go betraying me to him?" His wand was pointed dangerously under the other man's throat.
"No." He forced out weakly. "You have my word."
"Good. If you even attempt to hurt my family I will see to your death myself."
"Family? I'm not following."
"Pomfrey is too inexperienced to deal with such drastic poisoning symptoms, Slughorn is daft, and the hospital will have too many questions. I'm your best bet." With that, he hooked an arm beneath Regulus' armpits and helped support him.
Approaching the stone wall, they had passed through before, Severus found that it had been sealed again. With another slicing spell, he gouged his hand once more and pressed it to the rock like they had before. A low rumble signaled that it was opening. Supporting most of Regulus' weight they worked their way back to the ocean. Severus realized it was likely a good idea he hadn't been the one to drink the potion.
"You can't apparate here, can you?"
"No, I thought taking the polar plunge would be much more fun." Regulus rolled his eyes.
"I could leave you here, you know." He pretended to loosen his grip.
"Very funny. You can disapparate once we're in the water a ways. We don't have to go clear out to the rock."
Severus nodded, grateful for the bit of information and lowered the two of them back into the icy water. Regulus paddled against the waves as best he could, only stopping when they were about fifteen feet out in the ocean.
"This is far enough."
Severus paused, spinning clumsily in the water. It was a bit more difficult to disapparate when you weren't on hard ground.
Sopping wet, they landed inside Severus' home. With a hot air spell, they dried themselves like before and Regulus was deposited on the couch.
"Severus!" Lily appeared suddenly at the top of the stairs. "Where have you been!?" She hurried down the stairs towards him, wearing a thin nightgown and a bathrobe. She stopped, taking in the new man and holding her robe tightly around her.
"Erm, for a walk, really. I ran into an unexpected complication. You remember Regulus Black, don't you?"
Regulus raised a hand lazily to wave at her.
"I…I don't understand."
Severus dug into an interior pocket of his robes. Removing his hand, he held out the necklace, engraved with a great, green snake. "We found one."
She clasped her hands over her mouth in shock before taking it from him. "You didn't! How?"
"It's a bit of a long story, I'll explain later." He gestured to Regulus. "I have a patient."
Without waiting for a response, he hurried away to collect some supplies. Severus rummaged through his stash of potions ingredients, searching for the right things. He closed his eyes, remembering the sickly-sweet smell, trying to figure out just which ingredients could counteract the poison. Voldemort wouldn't be so stupid so as to use one that could be remedied by a bezoar. Yet another crucial reason he shouldn't have been the one to drink it.
Severus began chopping and crushing ingredients, throwing them into a cauldron to set before walking away. He stepped back out of his potions room and began walking down the hall to where he had left Lily and Regulus. As he entered the room, Lily stared at him with an unreadable expression.
"Sev." She spoke with concern, approaching him and laying a hand on his chest. "Somethings happened."
Chapter 16: The Grief
Severus went pale, clutching tightly to the wall beside him in an effort to keep himself upright. "H-how…" He started, not sure which question to ask first. Instead he stared blankly, trying to work things through. He felt like a lost little boy all over again. He'd been on the receiving end of this conversation far too many times.
"Voldemort." Lily said simply.
Regulus leaned forward, breaking into the conversation. "You don't mean that blonde chick, do you?" His brow was furrowed with curiosity.
Severus' throat was dry, causing the words to come out in a grating manner. "Yes. I hadn't realized you'd known her."
"She was a bit…reckless. I can't say I'm surprised she finally met her untimely end."
"What do you know?" Lily questioned, watching him carefully.
Regulus shrugged carelessly, not seeming to register the delicateness of the situation. "The Dark Lord was always angry with her. Most of his followers tried to avoid angering him while she seemed to run into it."
"That sounds like Zahrah." Severus agreed. He shook his head. "I always asked her to be more careful…she was just so bullheaded."
"Sev…" Lily bit her lip. "Have you heard anything from her?"
"No." He responded, squeezing his eyes shut. "Not since our fight."
"Dumbledore thinks she may have been held captive a few days before…"
Severus swallowed hard, his throat tightening further. He thought of Lucius' threat only a couple days prior. Had they already had her then? We're they just waiting for him to make his move? Or had there been a meeting, one she was never allowed to leave? Lucius had said there would be consequences to his disobedience…was it Severus' fault that she was dead? "I have a potion to finish. There's no sense in causing two deaths today." He spun on his heel, turning back the way he had come.
Severus watched the potion bubble hypnotically in its cauldron. It was white in color, almost pearly, the opposite of the poison Regulus had drunk. He worked on muscle memory alone, slicing and stirring without really paying attention. His mind was elsewhere as the antidote neared its completion, on the fact that he was at fault again.
"Talk to me, Sev." Lily stroked his back lovingly, causing him to flinch in surprise.
"I'm alright, I need to work."
She sighed and stopped her massage, moving into his line of sight. "Why do you always act like I don't know how you work? You're practiced, the potion doesn't need your full attention. I don't think you've even given it in years."
"…fine." He glared at her. "What do you want me to say? That I could've prevented it?"
A pitying look crossed her face. "This isn't like before." She reached for his hand which he snatched away.
"You're right, it isn't." Severus poured the completed potion into a vial before walking out on Lily. He forced the potion into Regulus' hand.
He downed it, trying to sink into the cushions and make himself invisible during what appeared to be a lover’s quarrel.
"What about the turner? Isn't this why we have it?"
He shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut. "If we weren't in reality…yes. Her death wasn't an accident, I know it wasn't. If we could find a way to revive her, Voldemort would only ensure that she dies again. The torture he inflicts…I wouldn't put anyone through that even once, let alone again."
"That's it then?" Her voice was quiet.
"For now." His eyes fell on Regulus then, he'd almost forgotten he was there. "How well did you know Voldemort before abdicating?"
Regulus looked taken aback at suddenly being included in the conversation. "About as well as one would expect, I'd say."
"And his past? What do you know?"
"It's more than I knew until recently." Severus turned, going up the stairs. He heard Regulus shift in a move to follow him and an exasperated sound of confusion escape his lips. When Severus returned he had the thick file in his hands. "I'd prefer it if you could take this. I believe you'll have more luck with it than I will."
Regulus stood taking it from him. "I'll leave you to destroy the horcrux. Dark magic has always been more of your specialty."
Severus gave Lily an uncomfortable side eye before clearing his throat. "I'll take care of it today."
Regulus nodded "And I'm sorry about your…friend. Thank you for the potion." He tipped his head and disapparated, leaving Severus to finally, fully, fall apart.
Sitting down he rubbed his hands down his face. He suddenly felt so very tired. It was an exhaustion he could feel in his bones, one that sleep wouldn't fix. Lily tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and sat beside him, hand on his knee. He could tell by the look on her face that she was worried he would fall apart again and he spoke to reassure her. "I could go for a stiff drink right about now" He craved the smoky, aggressive burn of whisky. "But I'm not going to." He looked down, examining the bluntness of his fingernails. "Food however, is necessary to live."
"You need to get rid of the horcrux before anything else. Just think how perfect that revenge will be. He destroyed part of you and you get to destroy part of him."
"Ah, you and your logic." He shook his head jokingly before reaching up to stroke her cheek.
With his other hand, he withdrew the locket from one of his robe pockets, turning it over in his hand.
"I'm coming with you to destroy it." She spoke firmly, giving him no option to turn her down.
They'd landed in a dead patch of grass in the middle of nowhere. Thin patches of snow dotted the grounds around them and a light breeze fought against their clothing. Severus placed the locket down in the center of the field before backing up and Lily did the same.
"It might fight back." He warned. "Be ready." Removing his wand with a flourish, he aimed it at the locket. A stream of brilliant flame shot from his wand suddenly, causing a minor explosion on contact with Voldemort's soul. A likeness of him created in fire rose, swirling around them, threatening to consume them. She watched carefully for any sign that they should flee or put out the flames, but Severus remained transfixed by the fireball.
His arm was slack at his side and she almost went to shake him back to reality when the flaming skulls began to die, morphing into shapeless flame. "Now." Severus commanded, conjuring water this time. Lily did the same, aiming the pouring water at the lingering wisps of fire until all of it dimmed to smoke.
The previously yellow grass was now burned black and a chard hunk of metal remained in the center. He reached carefully to touch it, skin grazing the misshapen metal before pulling it up. "That wasn't nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be."
"What did you expect?" Lily asked carefully, knowing that he was taking the earlier news harder than he let on.
"Vindication." He looked over his shoulder at her. "How do we know she's gone?"
Lily fought to spare him the gory details. "Her body was found by muggles." He stared off, mind remembering something she couldn't see. "She chose this path, Sev. It may have been for the right reasons, but she knew what danger she was putting herself in."
"People do dangerous things all the time. It's in our foolish natural to believe we'll be different... If only she'd been right." He looked down, scuffing his foot along the ground.
"Sev." Lily reached out tentatively to touch him. "It could have been you. If you'd joined him…" She shook her head, closing her misty eyes. "I can't bare to think of it."
"My life was similar to Voldemort's. I never considered how much he must have suffered to turn out this way."
The revelation surprised her. "You're nothing like him. A similar past doesn't make you the same person." She stepped closer, so he was forced to meet her gaze. "You're kind and good and-"
Severus flinched away from her. "I've used the cruciatus before, Lily. You have to mean it. I did terrible things when I wanted to join his side and I never thought anything of it."
"People change, Sev. Just because you hurt others before, that you've done things you aren't proud of, doesn't mean you aren't a good person now." He closed his eyes, exhaling slowly and she continued. "It's okay to have regrets, it's not okay to wallow in them. Had you thought this path would get her killed, you would have said something. But, she was her own person and she chose to join him."
"Okay, okay." He agreed finally. "Should the opportunity present itself…we'll try and save her. Until then, we have a lot of work to do."
"Do you really think Regulus can help?"
"He's our best bet at discovering more of them until I speak with Slughorn."
"The two of you seemed awfully chummy."
Severus laughed ironically. "Regulus is cheeky like his brother. We got on while at Hogwarts, but I assumed he was a lost cause."
Lily was quiet for a minute, considering something. "I wonder how many other Death Eaters wish they hadn't joined him."
"I imagine a fair few. We were lured in by mostly propaganda. All he had to do was implant an idea and Slytherin house let it fester." He looked at her seriously. "We need to get you out of the cold, let's go home."
"Lunch first." She countered. "I know you're trying to give up these habits, but I also understand you need to grieve. Besides, I need food too." Her stomach growled as if to prove her point.
Severus eyed her carefully before giving in. "A muggle place would be safest."
"I wouldn't expect anything else."
He fell backwards on to the bed, the button of his muggle jeans undone. Severus had surprised her, and not exactly in a good way. Lily had seen what she assumed to be the extent of his alcoholism, and even that of his binging. She thought their outing with Sirius and James had been tribute to that. It never occurred to her that she hadn't seen the extent of this addiction. It seemed up until this point he had been careful in front of her, whether out of embarrassment or what she wasn't sure. In retrospect, she shouldn't have let him pick a buffet.
She found herself lying beside him, fatigue taking over again. It was like a heavy weight was attached to each of her limbs, dragging them down. "Are you alright?" She asked, concerned by his heavy breathing.
"Yes, fine." He paused. "It's been about two months since I last ate like that."
"Two months?" They were already together then, yet she'd had no idea. "I apologize for the delicate question, but about how often did you do this?"
"More than I'd care to admit." He swiveled his head to the side looking at her. "I didn't gain so much weight by eating my vegetables." Seeing something on her face – what exactly she wasn't sure – he quickly continued. "It was a momentary lapse. Tomorrow it's back to eating right."
She noticed a gentle blush filling his white cheeks and couldn't help but feel bad at how she had reacted. Scooting closer, she leaned her head on his shoulder. "You've had a bad day."
Severus scoffed. "Understatement of the year." The small smile he'd had fell. "This is when being blackout drunk comes in handy. At least I'd get a few hours of reprieve."
"You have to deal with it eventually."
"Yes, but it's easier to do when the pain is dulled. I simply don't understand how I got here…Mum, Saffiah, now Zahrah…they were my family, all of them."
Lily ran her fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp. "It wasn't easy losing my parents either. I can't even tell you how much it hurts to not have them here now. They won't get to see their grandchildren, they don't get to know about you…My Mum was always found of you."
"Was she?" He furrowed his brow. "I never noticed."
"I think she'd like knowing we ended up together."
"I don't think Clark would agree." Severus smiled earnestly.
"That wasn't personal." She giggled. "Dad wasn't fond of Vernon either."
Severus scrunched his nose in exaggerated disgust. "You have met him, right? Vernon is mental."
"I'm well aware." She rolled her eyes, thinking about the night she'd spent at her sister's. "My point was we were his daughters and you were the boys threatening to take us away."
Severus rolled over, facing her fully with dropping eyes. "I'd say I succeeded."
Lily felt the tiredness she could see on Severus' face. So much had happened in one day, more so for him, that it was impossible not to be exhausted. Under the weight of his arm across her, she began to drift off.
Chapter 17: The Spouse
Soft, full lips were pressed to his, waking him up. He kissed back, opening and closing his mouth with hers. "Mmm, Lily…" He mumbled.
"Lily?" a cross voice responded.
Severus eyes flew open and instead of jade, he found chocolate brown eyes flecked with gold looking back at him. He sat up suddenly. "It must have been a dream." He forced a confused expression as if he didn't understand it either before throwing the blankets off himself and muttering some excuse about needing the bathroom. He was grateful the door was open, and he didn't mistakenly run into the closet.
Placing his hands on the counter he leaned forward and saw someone in the mirror he didn't recognize. A hand went up to run through his now cropped hair. Severus paused, seeing the glint of gold. Looking down, he found a wedding band on his finger. How was he going to get out of this one?
"Severus!" Isadora banged on the door.
"Just a minute!" He racked his brain trying to think of a solution. She had never been a fan of Lily, they'd had many heated arguments over his friendship with her. He knew exactly what kind of trouble he'd be in over his "dream". Desperate to be out of here and with the woman he actually loved he settled on the most drastic, but easiest option. He kicked himself for not bringing his wand.
He whipped open the door and found her nose practically pressed to it. Severus pushed his way past her in the direction of his nightstand. His wand wasn't laying on top of it like it normally would have been and he began rifling through the drawers below. "Where's my wand?"
"You know very well where it is." Her voice was cold. He turned to find her standing with a hip popped out to the side and arms crossed over her chest. "What the hell is going on with you?"
A shiver ran down his spine in realization. "Give it to me."
"Are you cheating on me?" She deflected.
"What? No." Severus blurted, not entirely knowing if it was true. Squeezing past her again he headed for her side of the bed when Isadora gripped his arm tightly. Her fingernails dug painfully into the skin below and he ripped the limb from her hand. Severus straightened, leaning forward slightly into an intimidating stance he felt she had never seen from him. He dropped his voice an octave and spoke slowly. "Give me my wand."
She nodded, stepping away and exiting the room. He smiled satisfactorily while internally kicking the cowed version of himself that had allowed this situation to ever happen. She returned a few minutes later, offering up his wand and he snatched it from her with a glare. He ignored the hurt look on her face as he disapparated.
The first place that popped into his mind was Cokeworth park. He sat on one of the benches, breathing deeply. His arm felt bruised from her grip and he rubbed it absentmindedly. How he had ever let that happen boggled his mind and brought back too many memories he hadn't realized he'd repressed. That was likely why he thought about the park.
Shifting in his seat he faced his childhood home. He felt a pull in its direction, where he was sure his Mum was alive. Screw it he thought, forcing himself up and toward his home. His heart pounded for a different reason as he approached.
It looked the same as always with dying grass and peeling paint. The walkway was cracked in multiple places and he walked it with practiced steps. He approached the thin door that barely held Intruders out and glanced around him before removing his wand and unlocking it.
It was Tuesday, ideally Tobias should be at work. "Mum?" He called as he stepped inside. He felt his eyes begin to wet in anticipation at seeing her for the first time in over two years.
Eileen's head popped around a corner suddenly, her stringy black hair hanging down in a braid. Severus rushed to her, enveloping her in a hug he knew was too tight.
"Rus." She breathed, patting his arm so he would let go. Severus released his grip, staring at the woman who he was nearly identical to. "What's wrong?" She asked in obvious concern at the sight of him.
Severus smiled weakly, attempting to memorize her voice again. "I just missed you."
"Why didn't you ever tell me you were a werewolf? I thought we were close." Lily noted the newly healed scratch across his nose and cheek.
Remus' eyes went wide momentarily before falling into a glare. "Who told you?"
"Zahrah. You didn't answer my question."
"Wait, who told Zahrah? And when did she tell you?" His anger was morphing into confusion.
"She didn't tell you she knew, did she?"
Remus shook his head. "No. I can't believe Snape-"
"What does Severus have to do with this?" Lily faked surprise.
"It's nothing. How did Z find out then?"
She was disgruntled by the fact he blew over the situation with Severus. "She figured it out, rather vocally. Did the two of you talk at all? Or just screw?"
Remus' cheeks filled with color. "Mostly the latter."
"Oh, Remus." Lily sighed. "How could you be so stupid?"
"If you weren't a…werewolf, would you have stayed?"
"Absolutely. My condition complicates things. I don't want her getting hurt, literally. She's unlike anyone I've ever met."
"So I've heard." Lily glowered quietly before raising her voice and continuing. "Zahrah was heartbroken."
"Was?" He frowned, cocking his head to the side.
She felt a sense of dread beginning to grow. "When was the last time you talked to her?"
"We haven't spoken for several weeks. I've tried reaching out, but she's ignoring me, apparently."
"Remus…" Lily bit her lip, unsure how to break the news. "Voldemort…she's dead. He found out she was a double agent."
Remus raised a hand to his mouth and his eyes softened before closing. "When?" He asked finally.
"About a week ago." Lily reached out to squeeze the other hand that hung limply at his side. "I thought you would have known, I'm sorry."
"No." He croaked. "We were keeping things between us a secret, or so I thought. No one else would have known to tell me."
"Severus knew for some time that she was seeing someone. Zahrah asked him a question about you while at Hogwarts and he put the pieces together. She didn't tell us."
"Of course, of course! Snape was always butting into other people's personal matters."
"Don't. Start. You forget who you're talking to."
"Right." He said coldly, rolling his eyes. "The one person stupid enough to forgive him."
"There's no need to lash out at me because you're upset." She bit out the words. "I need to find him."
"He's just going to hurt you again."
"It doesn't matter anymore." Lily lifted the corners of her lips before walking away.
Lily shivered in the crisp February sun and held her arms more tightly around herself. She sat on the stiff plastic swing, kicking her legs lazily while she waited for Severus. The wind froze her skin on contact and she wished she had transfigured something warmer to wear. She didn't understand why he had wanted to meet her here and was more than a little curious about his morning compared to hers.
Finally, she saw a scrawny figure come over the hill of the park. Seeing that it wasn't Severus she looked away again. Leaning into the chain of the swing she closed her eyes and wished she was still asleep. Life was so much easier that way.
"Morning, sleepy head."
Before she could open her eyes, she felt his hands placed gingerly on her sides and the whisper of a kiss on her cheek. She grinned in response, lifting her tired lids and found that he was in fact the person she'd seen. Lily reached up, running her hands through his cut hair. "I don't think I've ever seen it this short."
"I bloody hate it." His arm shifted, pressing her towards him as he kissed her passionately.
She pulled back. "I'm freezing."
"Let’s go somewhere, find a hotel.”
Lily felt a bulge pressing into the inside of her thigh through his pants. "Someone is eager."
"Apparate already." He pleaded, and she did.
Severus was anxious as she checked in. He'd taken a seat, leaning forward to hide the state he was in. Lily stifled a laugh as she watched him bounce his leg in anticipation. She was finally handed a set of keys to one of the rundown rooms and he practically leaped from his seat to follow her. They wandered down the hallway until they came to their room.
Once she was in the room beside him the door was shut impatiently. Instead of immediately placing his lips to hers, he met her eyes earnestly. There was something in them she didn't quite understand. Severus ran a piece of hair behind her ear before allowing his finger to trail down her neck causing her to shiver.
Hooking a hand below her thigh, she was hoisted upwards and wrapped her legs around his waist. He carried her to a nearby wall, allowing her to lean back into it and placed a hand on either side of her. Severus exhaled lightly into her ear before dropping his lips down to her earlobe and sucking gently. He kissed along the nape of her neck, burying his face in her hair. She felt a wetness pooling between her legs in response, her nipples growing hard.
Lily's hands came up to wrap her fingers in his hair as a sleeve was pushed down her shoulder to receive another kiss. He fingered the buttons of her robes, undoing them as he nibbled her skin. She directed his mouth to hers, no longer able to wait. Lily slipped her tongue inside, drawing circles against his. The movement emitted a low, guttural sound from deep within his chest.
Severus' hands slid beneath the unbuttoned cloth of her robes, rubbing against her bare skin. His fingers worked at the clasp of her bra while she undressed him, eager to feel his skin on hers. She relished in his warm touch and the rough, practiced hands that brushed against her skin with a love that she'd never felt with anyone else. Lily pulled back from him, leaning her forehead against his. Her lips quirked into a smile as she stared at him despite the unfamiliar skin he was trapped in that day.
"What are you smirking at?" He chuckled.
Her hands rubbed the back of his neck and she responded by brushing her lips against his.
"You're driving me crazy." He chewed on the bottom of her lip before spinning her from the wall and on to the bed. Severus quickly freed himself from his clothes, depositing them in a puddle while Lily changed positions. He slid inside her, causing her to cry out in satisfaction.
"Where were you this morning?" She was covered partly by the thin sheet as they rested, eyes going quickly to Severus' exposed body and drinking him in.
Severus removed his arm from behind the back of his head, snaking it between her legs to rest. "Apparently, I'm married."
"I wasn't aware you were one for polygamy." She raised an eyebrow.
"Quite the opposite, really. You are the only one I ever pictured ending up with."
"Then, pray tell, how did you end up in such a position without me?"
His face flickered with a frown before he fought to cover it up. "I have my suspicions. Where were you?"
Lily hesitated, knowing how he would react. "I found myself in a similar predicament with Remus."
As she expected, he flinched at the name before a stormy look crossed his face.
"I broke the news about Zahrah. He cares for her, er, cared…" She stroked the half Moon shaped bruises on his bicep, but kept her mouth shut about where they had come from. When he didn't respond, seeming to have no desire to discuss this again, she changed the subject. "Why we're you in Cokeworth?"
He shifted his head on the pillow again, looking at her. "I never got to say goodbye. Our last conversation…" He closed his eyes temporarily, shaking his head. "It's been gnawing at me. I shouldn't have gone, but I couldn't help it."
"What about Tobias?"
"He wasn't there. It was for the best, although I wouldn't have minded the satisfaction of leaving him as a bloody stump." Severus gave her a joking half smile.
"That one would have eaten you just much. It's not who you are."
"Yes." He exhaled. "I guess it would… I found a bottle of rum while I was there."
Lily propped herself up on her elbow, furrowing her eyebrows in worry.
"I didn't touch it. I wanted to." He rushed on
Their conversation was interrupted suddenly by the greatly anticipated Phoenix they had come to expect. The two of them flew from the bed, redressing haphazardly. By the time they finally arrived at headquarters everyone was already seated, waiting patiently.
Dumbledore himself was in his usual chair. His eyeglasses laid on the table in front of him while a pair of fingers pinched just above the knot in his nose. Severus exchanged a glance with Lily as the two of them took their seats. The wooden chair legs scraped roughly across the floor, seeming to pull Dumbledore from his thoughts.
His arm fell, resting on the arm of the chair and he looked at them all in frustrated exasperation. Lily noticed the deep bags under his eyes he so rarely seemed to have. "Lord Voldemort has been spotted, in two different locations at roughly the same time."
The room was filled with silent confusion before someone finally spoke. "Are you suggesting there are several of him?"
Lily looked across the table at who had talked and made awkward eye contact with Remus. Only a short distance away from him she spotted Isadora, who seemed to be fuming in their direction. She dropped her gaze quickly, listening to Dumbledore's answer.
"I'm afraid so."
"It's not possible. His…methods make people mad." Sirius eyed the few irregular members of the Order.
The headmaster rubbed a finger along his philtrum. "There are few documented cases... However, that has been the general consensus."
"The Dark Lord-" Severus paused momentarily, realizing his slip. "He rarely meets expectations. The destruction he's caused, only someone mental could be capable of such violence, such asinine actions."
"Are you suggesting he's unaffected because he's already gone crazy?" Asked Frank Longbottom.
"That and seeing the drastic changes to his appearance means it's possible he didn't quite recognize himself, wasn't as affected by the reported madness."
Dumbledore nodded, his demeanor having shifted slightly. "My sentiments exactly." He faced another man across the table, one Lily hadn't noticed. "Regulus, have you and Severus been able to make any more progress towards your task?"
"No, Sir, not yet. But, I may have found another lead."
"Have you kept the other one in your possession?"
"On me? No."
Lily realized what he was getting at, having had a similar conversation with Severus about their time turner. She absentmindedly reached up, feeling the chain around her neck. "That's fluctuating too, isn't it?"
"Yes." Dumbledore rasped in return. "I'm afraid I don't have any good news today. We will continue towards our defeat, but it seems to be growing more difficult to accomplish."
"That was enlightening." Severus mumbled, staring into his glass of water.
"It was Isadora, wasn't it?"
He looked up, glancing across the room. "Yes. I thought about obliviating her. In hindsight I should have considered it more seriously."
Lily looked behind her at the sound of someone clearing their throat. "Lily, can I speak with you?" Remus had his hands stuffed awkwardly into his pockets, avoiding her eyes. She stepped away, following him. When they were in a secluded corner he began to speak again. "The way you looked at me this morning, so accusatory, that's why I never told you."
She squinted her eyes. "I'm not sure I understand."
"About being a-"
"No, no, I get that. Do you think I don't trust you?"
"Well… yeah." He shrugged dejectedly.
"Remus, I understand it's not who you want to be and that you control it as best as you can."
"Even after knowing what happened with Snape? I'm not an idiot, Lily, I know he told you."
"Alright, that's fair." She wasn't going to fight it.
He reached up, scratching the back of his head. "For what it's worth, I didn't know Sirius, Peter, and James were going to pull that. I would never hurt anyone on purpose."
"You don't need to explain it to me." She laid a hand on his arm. "If you'll excuse me, I have a fiancé to save." Lily wound her way back to Severus where Isadora was whispering in an obvious show of rage. Without a word, Lily wrapped her arm around his and disapparated.
"Thank you for that." He lifted his eyes to the ceiling. "I can't wait to be free of that manipulative little-"
"I didn't get to say earlier how proud I am of you. The way you're handling life in light of our screwed over reality is fantastic. I'm sure it isn't easy, but it's nice to see that you haven’t returned to old patterns."
Severus smiled softly at her, squeezing her hand. "When Mum died I snapped. There was an instantaneous change, a hole to fill, that I too easily gave into. I let it destroy the person I wanted to be and didn't fight hard enough to make it back. " His eyes changed, growing more distant as he stared into space. "Losing Saffiah…I won't be the same after that. I lost a large part of who I am that night. Zahrah could have easily died too and I know that had she died then, as opposed to now, I don't think I'd be standing in front of you right now. I had to be strong for her, but with you I've learned that I have to be strong for me, for our son."
Lily's hand went momentarily to her empty stomach. She fought not to think about it, knowing that the change wasn't permanent, but she was already so in love. It was hard living a life without her child and he hadn't even been born yet. How Severus had survived was beyond her.
A thought occurred to her suddenly, something Severus had mentioned earlier. "You told me I was always the one. Does that mean, even if everything stayed perfect, that you wouldn't have married Zahrah?"
"Merlin, no. It was more a relationship out of necessity, a sense of duty. I'm positive we would have remained in Hungary, but not together. We were volatile, I don't believe I would have chosen her for anything other than a quick shag. Loathe as I am to admit it, I think she and Remus would have worked out well together. Marriage would not have suited us." His face grew pensive suddenly and she didn't understand why. "Do you have any family left? Other than Petunia?" Severus spoke her name derisively.
"No, both my parents had small families. It's just the two of us now and even that is a stretch."
"No expectations then. My extended family is non-existent as well." He muttered distractedly before his sight refocused on her. "What do you say we make this official? Elope."
"No expectations." Lily repeated, grinning. "I like that idea very much."
A/N: A couple things real quick.
1: I know this chapter was cheesy and I apologize for that.
2: I can't thank you all enough for the overwhelming support I have received for this story. I've wanted to write it since I started writing Fanfiction, but I didn't think anyone would really like it because of the overweight factor. Instead, I think it's actually my most popular story. I'm constantly getting notifications of reviews or PMs with ridiculously positive feedback (this story is cross posted). Again, thank you all so much.
Chapter 18: The Request
"Did you see this?" Severus tossed the thick edition of the Daily Prophet towards her. It landed with a thud on the mahogany table, words splayed up at her. He'd seen more than a few customers carrying them around that day and had eagerly picked one up on his way home. Severus took a seat across from her as she picked up the newspaper, taking in the herbal tea that sat in front of her.
"Seventeen More Dead" Lily read aloud, scrubbing her forehead. "Sightings of You-Know-Who reported across Europe." She looked up at him then, eyes betraying nothing. "The Ministry is taking notice."
"They have to be, murders have been steadily rising." He blew out a breath. "If only we still had Zahrah on the inside." Severus couldn't help the deep frown that settled on his lips. Losing her had been detrimental to the cause. She had been their spy, and without her they were left in the dark. What he wouldn't give in that moment to have her back.
Lily reached out, rubbing the soft skin on the back of his hand, seeming to understand it was about more than just "the cause". The two of them sat in a sorrowful silence. He had struggled still since Zahrah's death. Despite the increasing distance he felt growing between them and their past together ending, he missed her. He was conflicted over how he should feel, particularly when Lily's eyes bored into him, trying to read the things he kept far from the surface.
He had fought to keep those things away from himself too. They were too painful to relive yet too woven into the tapestry of his life for him to push it away completely. Instead the memories had been locked behind the steel barriers of his mind until the day came when they could be dealt with.
Her name hadn't been spoken between them for some time. Although he caught the curious glances Lily still threw his way, he couldn't bring himself to broach the topic, to say out loud just how fine he wasn't.
He knew about the growing contempt Lily had felt towards Zahrah, but he couldn't help being perplexed by her reaction. Severus had thought the two women were growing close, edging beyond acquaintances, but it appeared that theory had been squashed to hell. They simply seemed to have put up with one another over their mutual interest in him.
He wasn't sure she quite understood just what he was going through, she certainly didn't seem to know what to say about it all, other than to consistently tell him how "proud" she was. Lily hadn't known him then, couldn't possibly understand the pain he and Zahrah had shared and therefore didn't see why her pride in him was of his least concern.
A knock came at the door and he withdrew himself from her touch, shaking himself back to reality. He stood reluctantly from the chair he had so willingly settled in and approached the front of the house. Looking through the nearby window he saw a pale faced Regulus staring back. Severus opened the door and stepped out despite the cold, closing it with a nearly silent click behind him. "That doesn't seem to be the face of good news."
Regulus watched over Severus' shoulder. When Lily didn't come he finally spoke up. "You're aware I carry the mark?"
"That is the general meaning of Death Eater." He folded his arms around himself, shivering through the frock coat he still wore.
Regulus spoke just above a whisper. "The Dark Lord isn't aware of my defection. As far as he knows I left Kreacher to die in the cave. I'm still under his control."
"Why are you telling me this, Reg?" He scowled at the obviousness.
"So that you understand where this message comes from. It seems the Dark Lord, or at least Lucius, knows where you are, that we've been in contact."
"What does he want this time?" Severus felt bile burning the back of his throat and he tried to swallow past it.
"From what I gathered, Lucius issued a threat in the past?" When Severus nodded grimly, Regulus continued. "He'd like to pass on another, similar one."
Severus swiped a hand across his mouth, glancing back at the house behind him, his pregnant wife inside. "Did he give you any specifics?"
"I would join him, Severus. He won't stop until he gets what he wants."
"He already took Zar. Lily and Harry can't be next." Severus spoke more to himself than the man in front of him.
"Harry?" Regulus started in confusion before shaking away the thought. "I was only sent here to pass along the message. I believe I have a lead regarding the you know what. I'd prefer to meet you at Grimmauld place. Should you invite me in or that I stay longer than necessary it will raise suspicions. Bring Lily."
Severus agreed with a curt jerk of the head. He watched as Regulus backed off the porch, surely finding some hidden place to disapparate from. Even when he had disappeared around a nearby corner, Severus remained outside a minute more. He glared out into the early afternoon light, examining his surroundings. He peered past every bush in the muggle town, wand ready to slide into his hand should it need to. He thought they'd be safe here, off the map. Yet Lord Voldemort had still been able to find them. Severus finally went inside without turning his back on the outside world.
"What was that about?" Lily asked as soon as the door had been shut again. The roundness of her eyes betrayed her, the constant curiosity tinged with fear that they lived their lives in.
"Regulus asked us to meet him at his place shortly. He reckons were being watched here. It wasn't safe for him to stay."
"Watched?" Her voice came out as a squeak and he stepped towards her, enveloping her as comfortingly as he possibly could.
"We have some decisions to make."
"Reg?" He called out into the far too empty house. Lily stood just behind him, fingers intertwined with his. The portrait of Walburga Black began to shriek beside them at the sound of his voice, causing them both to jump. He had forgotten she existed and quickly withdrew his wand to close the curtains around her.
From his obliqued position he saw Lily quirk an eyebrow up at him. "I wasn't aware you'd been here before."
The sound of screaming seemed to alert Regulus to their presence and footsteps began to thud down the stairs above. "Yes. Regulus was one of those 'dark friends' you chastised me about. I spent several breaks here."
She nodded, a frown forming on her face. Before Severus could question it, Regulus appeared in front of them. The two of them followed him down the overly narrow hallway, stepping around the troll leg. It was dimly lit, decorated in darkness as the "Black" family name suggested.
"You mentioned a horcrux?" Severus brought up finally.
"Not exactly, only a lead. I was looking through that file that you gave me, you were right about the grimness of it all by the way, I think his mother's side of the family may be worth looking into."
"Gaunt?" The three of them reached a small, outdated sitting room. From the dust covering every surface it was clear Regulus didn't spend much of his time here.
"Yes. I'm sure you remember the rumors he boasted about being Slytherin's heir? I found the name 'Gaunt' inside a genealogy book, but not that of Riddle." He took a seat in a winged armchair, beckoning for them to do the same. Lily followed while Severus remained standing.
"He's a half blood."
Regulus looked taken aback for a moment before the line on his face crumpled into something more passive. "That would explain it then."
"Were you able to trace the Gaunt line?"
"Not exactly, the history of the family has become a bit muddled, but I believe it'll point us in the direction of another horcrux. I was only able to follow it to who I'm assuming is the Dark Lord's grandfather, Marvolo."
A thought occurred to Severus suddenly. "Dumbledore mentioned something about Voldemort-"
"You've fallen out of the habit." Regulus interrupted, clearly not pleased.
"Yes, well I have no reason to call him anything other than Voldemort, or do you prefer Tom? As I was saying, Dumbledore mentioned that Voldemort worked at Borgin and Burke's after leaving Hogwarts."
"It's unlikely that Borgin will confirm that, or give us any information."
"No, but it would be smart for business for him to keep records of items he buys and perhaps the people he employees."
"Severus, you can't be serious. He collects some of the darkest items known to wizard kind. He'd be a fool for such records to be accessible to the public."
"it wasn't a conversation, or rather public glance I was planning on. We do have some spells on our side."
"You aren't talking about Imperiusing him, are you?" Lily cut in, breaking out of her silent spell.
Severus turned to face her. "He isn't one for talking, considering his profession. It may be our only option."
Lily scowled, leaning back into the cushions of the couch on which she was seated. Severus stared at her a minute more, conflicted by her belligerent attitude and just why exactly Regulus had requested she join them.
Regulus looked between the two of them a moment before speaking again. "Talking to Borgin would be best done together. Until then, I'll continue my search into the Dark Lord's family."
"What if he suspects you?" Severus asked in concern. "It may be wiser if you pass on information and allow me to look into it physically."
"Are you sure that's still a possibility? If you join him, you'll be under the same scrutiny."
"Severus?" Lily straightened at Regulus' words. "What is he talking about?"
Severus gritted his teeth. That wasn't how he had planned to break the news. He shot a glare at Regulus before answering her question. "Lord Voldemort is trying to recruit me. I may let him."
She forced herself upwards, hands going into her hair. "Why? I thought we were passed this, that…" She shook her head. "Were you even going to mention it?"
"Severus." Regulus cut in awkwardly. "I'm not one to butt into relationships, but I'm afraid I'm confused by this entire thing myself. You were set to take the mark after graduation, only you disappeared. I can't help but notice the complete 180 your life has taken." He looked again at Lily as if to point out she was one of the many points that confused him.
"You had a date set to get the mark?" She seethed in retaliation before a hand went to cover her mouth
"Two weeks after Hogwarts ended. I was in France by then." Lily stormed from the room as the words left Severus' mouth. He watched her, conflicted if he should follow before turning back to Regulus. "I was indisposed. I haven't been back long."
"Long enough to get married, apparently. I thought you were dead Severus."
"Dead? It's not unusual for Voldemort's followers to disappear-" He furrowed his brow suddenly, eyes boring into Regulus'. "Do you know about the fire?"
Regulus' face went white again, but the fact that he said nothing told Severus more than any word could have.
"Were you there?" Severus asked, balling his fists as fury took over him. He could feel his finger nails pressing painfully into the palms of his hands.
"Not because I wanted to be! The Dark Lord didn't give me the option!"
Severus squeezed his eyes shut, trying to quell the rage. "Why were we targeted? How did he know where we even were?"
"The Dark Lord can track his followers through the mark, he knows where we are at all times-"
"Zahrah, of course." He shook his head in defeat. "We should have known."
"He'd only learned the two of you were together a few days before, while one of his followers conducted surveillance. The Dark Lord had been aware of her location, and her state, for some time, only not that you were involved."
"The potion's shop." Severus stated dumbly, the memory of it flooding back to him.
Zahrah shook his shoulder roughly, breaking him from his thoughts as he flipped through a book. "Sev'rus, we need to go."
His head snapped up at the urgent tone in her voice. Following her gaze to the other side of the musty store he spotted a hulking man watching the two of them from behind a display. Severus shifted Saffiah in his arms who gurgled in response as he placed the book back on the table. Laying a hand across the low of Zahrah's back he guided her from the store, careful not to rouse suspicion.
He stared at her with creased brows as they drifted farther away into the street, looking for somewhere hidden to disapparate. "Who was that?" He hissed
"Death Eater, Towler I believe." She chewed on her bottom lip. "He's more brawn than brain, but I'm not sure that's a good thing." She pulled him suddenly down an alleyway he'd been too distracted to notice. "If the Dark Lord knows we're here…"
"It'll be fine. We were in town, not at home."
She nodded but closed her eyes sadly anyway.
When his voice came out again it was raspy and toneless. "I did endanger her, all of us…" He felt his knees going weak and slumped to the side to support himself. "Why is he so determined to have me?" From the corner of his eye he saw that Lily had returned, likely having heard raised voices.
"Your mind. The services you could provide him, that you promised him, would be unsurmountable."
"So, he's going to pluck my loved ones off one by one until I comply?"
"Zahrah refused to give up your location when we were instructed to visit Hungary. We assumed you were inside with the baby. If the Dark Lord couldn't have you it was imperative no one else did. She has been suspected ever since."
"I was working. I didn't even know until it was too late. We'd been too concerned about other things to consider her allegiance. I wasn't even aware of what she was until it was too late…You never saw anything wrong with what you did?" Severus asked Regulus, lifting his face from its downward position.
"It was a cause you supported at one time too. You seem to be forgetting that."
"The difference is I changed my mind before it was too late, before anyone was hurt or killed." His voice came out as a growl and he was entirely fed up with the situation. "You will say nothing of this conversation to the Dark Lord." Severus fell back into his old pattern, already knowing what decision needed to be made. "I will take care of the conversation myself." He spun, gripping Lily tighter by the wrist than he had meant to.
"Severus, wait!" Regulus insisted before they could disapparate. "You need to make yourselves scarce, no matter what you choose to do."
Already having come to that conclusion himself, Severus left without a word.
"That's it then?" She started as soon as their feet touched the ground. "This isn't even a discussion?"
"I don't have any option. He's cunning, he'll find a way to get to you too." Severus collapsed heavily against the nearby wall, holding his head in his hands and talking through his fingers. "Voldemort said I would never fully be his, although he's right, I have to try if we want to stay alive."
"Whether you serve him or not he will still come after us. I'm the very thing he's trying to rid the world of." She spoke with a determined manner that forced him to look at her.
"I refuse to put the two of you in more danger than necessary. If joining him is how that needs to be done…I think we knew this was always coming. If I had just listened to you from the beginning and never gotten involved or joined him like I said I would…maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.”
"Sev." She cooed, softening towards him finally. "You can't take responsibility for everyone. Zahrah got herself into that mess. Voldemort can't summon me like he could her. It isn't the same danger."
"What do you suggest, then? Because I'm entirely at a loss."
"Don't go, not today. When time changes again, we both know it will, then visit him. You can give him the illusion of control-
"-without fulling giving it." Severus scowled. "He'll see through the farce."
"What other option do we have?" Lily folded her arms scornfully over her slightly bulging stomach, daring him to come up with something else.
He reached out in response, fingering the gold chain that had hung around her neck for days on end, threatening to dye her skin beneath green. "I think it's about time we put this to use."
Chapter 19: The Regrets
A/N: I nearly abandoned this story, but I'm too in love with it. I've spent the last few weeks rewriting it to a point where my PTSD is more manageable. Many of the changes were minor and you shouldn't have to reread if you don't want to. The blue print plot line was removed, along with pregnancy complications.
Lily is still pregnant (although not as far along), Zahrah and Saffiah are still dead, Voldemort is still insane and time travelling. In the previous chapter, for those that don't remember, Regulus admits that he had a hand in the fire. This chapter is the aftermath of that.
The next chapter will be the trip to Little Hangleton that was previously in this story, but it'll be slightly changed.
This fic will resume regular updates now that it's rewritten and I hope to start on the prequel fairly soon.
For those interested, I also started a facebook page for my fanfics. There's more info about that in my bio.
In the dark of the night, Severus looked to the side of the bed that was occupied by Lily, his wife. It was so different than what had been there a year ago. The voluptuous redhead had replaced the sylphlike blonde.
Lily slept peacefully on her stomach, arms wrapped around her feather filled pillow. Her lips were open slightly, drool dribbling on to the pillow below. The occasional, soft snore came from her, the perfect image of sleep.
Her hair was tossed in every direction, the long, deep red tendrils spread across the mattress senselessly. The thin blanket ended just below her waist, revealing the top of her sizeable arse. Her top half was bare, revealing her back and the cock-hardening sight of the sides of her breasts.
He drew himself nearer to her, an arm pulling her closer. His nose was buried in her hair, inhaling the sweet scent of her vanilla shampoo. His hand lingered to her expectant stomach, filled with the life they had created, and he remembered this wasn’t the first time he had done this.
He remembered a heavily pregnant Zahrah sleeping beside him, only turned on her side instead. The two women held so many similarities while being so completely different. Zahrah’s skin had resembled that of caramel while Lily’s was closer to that of cream. Zahrah’s had been smooth, free of blemishes or imperfections while Lily’s was dotted with freckles, the occasional mole and dimples of cellulite.
Zahrah was far from perfect, only achieving her skeletal frame through a series of her own unhealthy obsessions, the exact opposite of his. She never ate enough, picking at her food like a sparrow while he bordered more on the line of pig, having more than enough for both of them. For as much as she had chastised his habits, her coping methods of sex and malnourishment weren’t exactly stellar either.
Lily, like in everything, fell between the extremes, handling things better than either of them. She had enough insecurities of her own, the bellus draught was a testament to that, but she tended to cope with the traumas of her life as a healthy human being should.
The similarities and differences between the women encompassed more than their physical characteristics. They were both bullheaded, telling him what he should do without always considering his opinion on the matter at hand. As much as he and Lily had fought during their Hogwarts years, it was likely incomparable to how he and Zahrah would have been.
Severus had never had the highest-level of confidence, but he had met Zahrah during a time when he had his pick of women. He held an air of mystery, had nearly fit the description of “tall, dark, and handsome” which seemed to intrigue the women he’d been with. His double bass voice having solidified whatever desire they’d had to begin with.
Until she had tracked him down in Czech, breaking the news that their one-night stand had turned into more, he’d been with several others both before and after her. At any other point in his life, she, and likely many others, would have over looked him. He had chosen Zahrah for physical appearance and nothing else and she likely the same for him. Their intentions had been nothing more than orgasms
However, Lily had had entirely different priorities.
She was gorgeous, a description he’d given her before she’d even fully matured into a woman. But, she’d seen him through every horrible phase of his life. A bumbling nine-year-old in far too large clothes, a gangly teenager with greasy hair and a pock marked face, and this. She had been there during the majority of his lows in life, had abandoned him when she thought he was a lost cause. But, despite all the yelling, all the accusations, the determinations to never see each other again, they needed each other like the sun needed to rise every morning.
There was something about this moment, about caressing her, listening to her soft breaths, that brought him back. She was so unlike Zahrah, but here and now, he had a hard time differentiating the two. He didn’t know if it was the way her long hair tickled his skin or maybe that if he squinted hard enough, he could picture Zahrah there instead.
It was likely Regulus’ fault. Thoughts of the man made his blood boil. That he had been in Hungary, had a hand in destroying his family. It had brought up so many memories that Severus either forgot had existed or had blocked out entirely.
His eyes scanned the roof which was pitch black above him. He had woken in confusion to the sound of Saffiah crying, but now it was silent. It took a fair bit of time for him to determine where he was, to put the pieces together. The scent of burned wood on his skin – which he’d been incapable of scrubbing away – was the final piece of evidence pointing to where they were. Saffiah hadn’t cried at all…
He sat up, suddenly sick. He wasn’t sure if the nausea came from forgetting she was gone, or the situation over all. He reached out, finding nothing in the motel bed beside him. Severus pulled the chain of the bedside lamp, illuminating the room.
Zahrah was curled in the green and yellow, striped arm chair that had likely touched far scarier things than human flesh. Her blonde hair cascading in front of her face. She was still, the shaking of her shoulders having ended as she ran out of tears. The problem was she hadn’t run out of circumstances to cry about.
He stood without a second thought, going over to her. As horrible as this was for him, he couldn’t imagine the memories that must be flooding her. She had witnessed the whole thing and been upsettingly silent about it.
He lifted her nimbly into his arms and she didn’t fight the touch. She didn’t push away like she had hours before. Instead, she remained limp in his arms, unable to muster the energy to be angry. She leaned against him in a tear induced exhaustion.
Severus took a seat where she had just been, the fabric beneath him warm from her occupying it. He caressed her like a baby, one arm around her back and the other beneath her knees. He rocked her gently. The words required to comfort her didn’t exist. She leaned against him and he was grateful she hadn’t pushed him away. His already bruised chest was evidence of the fact she had tried to earlier.
He ran his fingers through her hair, pushing it from her downturned face. With a finger beneath her chin, he lifted her jaw. Her storm gray eyes were clouded by something other than color. She released a shuddering breath, shimmying deeper into his lap in an attempt to hide from the world.
He had no words. This wasn’t an upset that he could reassure away, could promise would get better. If anything, the thought that Saffiah would never crawl, never walk, would never turn into the person she was supposed to be, made everything worse. Severus was already, unwillingly, picturing what she’d be doing in this moment.
He could picture her infant flails as her limbs jerked inside the thin blanket she should be wrapped up in. He could practically hear the sniffs, the gurgles of sleep. Could see the infant blue eyes that had yet to decide what color they wanted to be. She should be clasped to Zahrah’s breast at that moment, instead her remains…His throat tightened. He couldn’t allow himself to go there, to the thought of what agony she must have been in.
It was her turn to comfort him as such disconcerting thoughts took over his wakefulness. Zahrah reached up, a hand going to the back of his neck as she drew him closer. Her pale pink, heart shaped lips met his thin ones. The skin of their lips brushed against one another in need. The typical passion that consumed them had disappeared. The thought of satisfying each other in such a way felt dirty, wrong in the situation they were in.
Severus cleared his throat, standing and carrying her form to the bed. He leaned part way against the chipped and broken headboard of the cheap room and she lay beside him. Allowing his arm to be draped over her shoulder and pull her closer, she relaxed into the softness of his side, one leg going over his thigh as her shoulders began to shake again.
The wetness of her tears soaked through his shirt, clinging to his skin. He allowed his own to fall, his hand rubbing her arm as he tried to comfort her despite his own pain.
He stood suddenly, needing to remember where he was, who he was with. His toes curled on the carpet as he tried to ground himself. He wasn't in Hungary, he wasn't in danger, none of this was his fault. They were doing all they could to prevent another disaster. He focused on breathing in the clean, smoke free air and relaxed further with each exhale.
He felt her move beside him, her weight having shifted the shape of the mattress as she drew closer. Her fingers found his in the dark. She had been worried about him since Regulus’ revelation. The wrinkle of her brow, the pitying gaze, everything pointed to where her thoughts were concerning him, and he couldn’t stand it. “I was thinking about the time turner.” He lied, knowing she would see right through it.
“And? What about it?
"We're stuck." He replied with a heavy exhale. "The horcruxes could be anything, they could be anywhere. Regulus found one out of sheer luck and nothing else."
"I'm not sure I understand where you're going." She rubbed her thumb distractedly across his knuckles.
"I would prefer not to join him at all. If Voldemort is using his past self, why can't we?"
The movement of her hand against his stopped. "Are you saying what I think you are?"
He didn’t know when he had returned to the bed, when they had fallen asleep. He only awoke again, mildly confused, at the sound of his alarm. He groaned, work. Being unemployed had its benefits, the lack of obligations being his favorite. He began to dress as quietly as possible.
"When will you be back?" Her voice was soft, barely audible from exhaustion.
Severus rubbed a hand across her forehead, brushing back the stray strands of hair that clung to her freckled skin and spoke in an equally quiet manner. "As soon as he lets me leave.” Mulpepper never assigned him a regular number of hours, only working him as needs be. “We can figure out the time turner when I get back.”
He began buttoning his regular set of robes, dread and depression filling his bones. The shop was far from where he wanted to be today. His fingers froze on the buttons as a thought occurred to him. He shouldn’t, he knew that. He had promised he wouldn’t. But, he honestly wasn’t sure he could function if he didn’t. It had been weeks since he had a drink, he had done really well. This was a moment of weakness. He’d return to abstaining tomorrow.
He rummaged in the drawer of his desk. He knew himself far too well and had kept a hangover potion on hand, buried with potions of other varieties. He grabbed the one he was looking for and a random one beside it. He mumbled an excuse about Mulpepper being interested in one of his inventions as he pocketed the vials.
He kissed her goodbye, having settled on the idea he wouldn’t be working at all. He could take the potion, could hop in the shower, could hide the fact he’d had a drink at all. She would never have to know.
Severus stood in front of the building apprehensively, gazing through the large glass window. He knew what he wanted to do. What he should do was another story. Before he could change his mind, he removed his hands from the interior of his pockets. He gripped the faded, nickel knob, allowing himself inside.
It was quiet, being mostly empty, save for people like him. It smelled of stale cigarette smoke and molding hops. He took a heavy seat behind the long, mahogany bar and lifted a finger for attention. The bartender approached him, rag in his hand and an eyebrow raised.
"Beer." Severus told him simply,
"You need to be more specific than that, mate." He eyed the peculiar robes Severus hadn't thought to change out of.
Muggle pubs weren't exactly his first choice, but his typical wizarding favorites weren't an option at the moment. "Whatever you have." He replied, not sure just exactly what brands those were. The bartender reached beneath the bar, grabbing the bottle Severus was sure was the most expensive. Popping off the top he passed it to Severus before striding away again.
Severus felt his mouth begin to water as he stared down into the amber liquid. He was hesitant to take that first drink, to ruin weeks of sobriety, but he felt as though there was no other option. He wrapped his fingers around the bottle, lifting it to his lips and taking a large swig. The bitterness made him wince slightly, having never been a fan of beer to begin with. Nevertheless, it was alcohol. Fire whiskey wasn't exactly an option here.
The earthy flavor splashed against the back of his throat. From there, a warmth grew, spreading through his veins, along with a feeling of betrayal. He had promised he wouldn't do this again, yet he took another sip.
He nursed the beer, taking it in eagerly. Each drink was bigger than the last. He needed some way to drown the pain that had unexpectedly taken over him. It was clawing to the surface again and he was planning to make it drunk before it could reemerge. He flagged down the bartender once more. "Can I get some fish and chips?" He raised the bottle in his hand. "And another one of these?"
He squirmed slightly in his chair, inside the robes that had finally begun to get looser around his middle. Ones that he knew would be too tight after this excursion. He had come up with a way to hide the drinking from Lily, but the bloat of overeating was another problem entirely. He had no intention of leaving this place, however, finding an excuse would be necessary.
He licked the grease, the salt, eagerly from his fingers as he emptied the second basket of food. It was placed inside the other one, beside the four glass bottles he had polished off as well. He could feel his pants growing tight beneath him, digging into the bottom of his stomach.
He had promised himself upon arrival that two drinks would be his limit. He hadn’t thought he needed to make a food related promise as well, but it was clear he would have broken that too.
He was immensely full and filled with shame. This hadn’t given him the release he had hoped for, too consumed with guilt instead. Lily would be downright furious, and rightfully so. With a hefty sigh he forced himself to set the not yet empty, fifth bottle down. Reaching into one of his pockets, he withdrew a small stack of pounds. Severus always kept a stash of muggle money on him should a need for it arise. He removed a set amount, placing it on the bar and standing.
He took another glance around the room, one he hadn't given since he arrived. The place was filled with weighty drunkards and he was disappointed to be one of them. He turned his back on the occupants, feeling that several pairs were on him. He wasn’t sure if the judging stares were real, but he was too drunk to care.
He knew the buttons of his robes were now stretched tightly over him, and he was anxious to be free of them. He stumbled from the bar, weaving down the street. The walls of buildings were the only things supporting him. He paused, removing the potion he had brought with him and clumsily uncorking it before gulping down half of the liquid inside.
He had gotten drunker than he had intended and was in serious danger of splinching himself again. He also found it unlikely that he would be able to rent a room in this condition. Taking half the potion would allow to think properly, to function, while not getting rid of the satisfying buzz entirely.
Severus leaned against the wall of a building as he waited for the potion to take effect. It would only take seconds for it to flood his system, for it to begin to work. He felt the cloudiness of his brain lift as he came back to himself.
He opened his eyes, not realizing they had closed in the first place, and continued on his way into the alley which he had come. He disapparated to the dingy motel he and Lily had gone to not long before, anxious to rid of himself of the now too small clothes and sleep off some of his gluttony.