It starts like this: a kind girl from a well-off family, a boy with jagged scars, and kindness from former to the latter, who has never known it.
The girl’s hair crackles like flames in the wind, with a temper like a forest fire and a mind as quick as a lightning strike. The boy’s hair is dark and dirty, with a heart cased in glass and eyes colder than ice. The girl cares for others, the boy has no one else to care for.
There are no secrets between them.
She tells him about things she’s done, about the books she can float through the air, about the breeze she can feel through her still room. He tells her about turning his teacher’s hair blue, about disappearing from the ground and reappearing in the air.
She gets her letter a year earlier than he does, but she knows he’s like her, so she shares her books and tells him about all the things she learned on her birthday.
He gets his letter a year later and then they’re off, out of the muggle world and into the magical, living in a castle with stairs that move and paintings that talk. They’re separated only by the colors on their robes and the space between their beds.
Severus watches it play out before him, a parody of his own youth: a skinny, Dark, half-blood boy in Slytherin and a bright, intelligent, muggle-born girl in Gryffindor.
The boy excels in his class, focused and curious and cautious, topping even Severus’ own godson, who has studied his art under him for years now. He’s a prodigy in Defense, incredible in Charms, struggling in Transfiguration.
If Severus had seen Lily at all in the last three years of her life, he’d have assumed the boy was his own son.
The girl has had very little introduction to her new world, but she’s already far ahead of her peers, the only challenger to the boy’s rise in class rank.
Severus sees the Gryffindor boys: the mean, the brash, the studious, and the quiet. He sees them sneer at the Slytherin boy, sees the Gryffindor girl argue back, standing up for the first, the only, friend she’s ever had.
It pains him, watching it all play out, his own Hogwarts experience repeating itself before his very eyes.
Minerva sees it too, he knows. He knows it in the way she watches him, them, carefully, out of the corner of her eye and never directly at him. Sees the way her Lions push away her young Lioness, sees the way they attack one of his Snakes like it’s their career.
He watches them grow and mature, as simple House rivalry turns into true hatred, as the insults get harsher, as the curses get sharper. Watches as the boy retreats further into himself, and further into the Dark. His roommates, bigoted and hateful, invite him closer.
It’s here that what he sees diverges from what he knows.
The boy fights back. He doesn’t give in, he doesn’t turn around and stab the back of the only person who’s ever truly cared about him. In fact, she’s more protective of him than ever, just as willing to fight his Housemates as her own.
But they fight. They argue over their Housemate, clash over the height this feud has reached. They yell and curse and hex each other. But the boy never says that gods damned word, and they make up and they fight and they make up and they fight and they make up .
This is a boy who is often alone, but who has not been lonely in a long time. This is a boy who will do anything to cling to the only person who has ever shown him kindness. This is a boy who is never going to know the deep, intense longing and loneliness that has been Severus’ only companion for longer than these children have been alive.
This is a boy who fights against the man who tries to kill the only person he’s ever loved. This is a boy whose life has run parallel to Severus’, until it doesn’t. Until he refused to join a madman out for blood, until he created his own two-person army to fight in the war he was born into.
Severus watches it play out before him, a mockery of his own failure: what could have, should have , been for him. This is a boy and a girl who grow up and fight in a war they’re too young for, only their best friend at their six. The girl with sparks in her hair, the boy with the coldest of eyes, nothing between them but the clothes on their backs. Fighting in a war they have been thrust into, taking no side but their own. The girl doesn’t fall for the mean Gryffindor boy, the boy doesn’t fall for the pretty faces and beautiful lies, and together they rise.
They rise, and they win, and they do what Severus and Lily never had.
The girl lives long enough to become a woman, the boy dies, lives, grows, and they are happy.
It started like this: a kind girl, a lonely boy, and them against the world.
It ends like this: a fierce woman, a strong man, and a wedding.
It ends like this: a man in his bed, gray in his hair, passing quietly in his sleep.
It ends like this: two dying parents, grandparents, great grandparents, taking their last breaths together with their family around them.
It starts like this: a sob, an “I’m so sorry. Forgive me, I’m so sorry.”, and “You’ve been forgiven for ages, Sev.”
It starts like this: tears for parents he’s only seen in death, tears for parents she'd thought she’d never see again.
It starts like this: a handshake between the boy who grew into a man, and the man who was never quite able to leave his past behind him.