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Cracks were starting to appear on the horizon – little lightning-shaped fissures in the pebble-dashed sky. Severus had drifted morosely out of the bar and onto the sea-front, in order to get some of what passed in Mapledurham for 'air', and now he was being greeted by a fracturing sky. It must have been the Phoenix Curse getting ready to renew itself, he supposed – taking a deep breath before it plunged into its new life of crime. Perhaps there had been a silence like this before the Big Bang – right before the universe started swarming with all that messy, complicated matter.

And he almost wished – but for the exhaustion, and the depressing Lilylessness of the scene – that he could drag this moment out forever, and never have to suffer all the noise and nastiness that was sure to follow. He was on the edge of something loud and horrible. In Hogwarts terms (and it helped to use familiar analogies when you were this far out on a limb), he was on the verge of waking up from a gentle doze, to find James Potter standing over him, sniggering, and looking unaccountably pleased with himself.

And he didn't have any resources left to face it with. He was weak, exhausted, and completely out of ideas. He might not even have the energy for Occlumency soon, and then he would really be in trouble.

Maybe he should be using these terminal moments of peace and quiet to come to some kind of understanding with life – to forgive his enemies and make his peace with the world. But, all he could think about, right now, was how much he bloody hated Potter.

Still, hatred was good short-term fuel. Almost a substitute for food and sleep. Severus had been living off it for longer than he cared to remember. That hatred was good for at least another five minutes of standing upright.

And progress was not always constant. Sometimes, no matter how far you thought you'd come, the scaffolding got ripped away, and you had to fall back on hating James Potter, because nothing in life was guaranteed, except that gerbil-faced bastard and his arrogant schemes.  

James had been inside every teacher's office and staff room in the castle, usually standing in front of somebody's desk with a guilty smile on his face, and the remnants of some botched potion splattered all over his robes. He was particularly proud of his knowledge of Dumbledore's office. He got sent there when the really spectacular pranks had gone awry, and his senses were always sharper in those moments. It was like being a stag again – but underneath your skin, where no-one would notice.

James – just like Severus, but in a much more cheerful way – treated everything as a learning experience. During his many detentions in Dumbledore's office, he had familiarized himself with every strange, whirring silver instrument, every book, and every past Headmaster or mistress of Hogwarts whose portrait hung on the walls. He had even managed to charm Fawkes with a packet of monkey-nuts. Of course, now Fawkes had a companion on his perch: the stooped, balding-white eagle that had once been Professor Caladrius.

He was looking at James with baleful brown eyes, managing to convey with looks – far better than a human could with words – that monkey-nuts would be unlikely to charm him. Those eyes seemed to say that James had better have something pretty spectacular in those bulging pockets, or he was going to get a savage beaking the moment he came near.

So James stayed put, in his chair in front of Dumbledore's desk, watching the headmaster pace up and down behind it. James had never entertained the notion that somebody could possibly want to get rid of him, so he wasn't perturbed by Dumbledore's short, impatient, distracted answers. Besides, he had never been silent when there was something on his mind, and he wasn't about to start now.

Dumbledore had explained days ago that it wouldn't be a simple matter to force Caladrius to reassume his human form. "Because his Animagus transformation was incomplete, we cannot simply reverse the spell."

"Incomplete?" James had repeated. "He's a bloody great eagle!"

Dumbledore had treated him to a patient smile. "Yes, but he didn't become an eagle all in one go. His initial transformation failed, and the spell remained dormant in his system for nearly twenty years, only to be re-triggered by extreme emotional stress. The trail, you see, has rather gone cold. I couldn't locate the spell in order to reverse it. It was performed decades ago – and improperly, at that."

"But you could do it, Professor!" James insisted, brushing aside these logical objections with a sweep of his hand.

"The slightest mistake could kill him."

"You don't make mistakes!"

Dumbledore rubbed his temples wearily. "Your confidence is gratifying, James, but entirely misplaced. People of all ages and intelligences are equally prone to mistakes."

James had automatically dismissed this as modesty, but he hadn't pressed the matter. Lily had seemed – at that time – to be safe.

Now it was different. Snape was at the Valance House. James had been told that he was in a coma, but he didn't see how a little thing like a coma could sideline a committed bastard like Severus Snape.

"If Snape's there, she's in danger," he repeated, for what seemed like the hundredth time. He didn't say that she was in danger of becoming a cynical, sexy, remorseless killer like the Boggart he'd encountered, because he didn't know how to explain that. Most of the time, he couldn't even put his finger on why it was wrong, because the sexiness was the trait that stuck overwhelmingly in his mind. But it was wrong.

"I assure you, James, he is quite incapable of posing a threat to anyone at the moment, even if he felt inclined to. He is not even capable of movement."

"That won't stop him!" James shouted stupidly. He stopped, and tried to backtrack, aware that he sounded mental. "I mean, his mind's still at liberty, right? I know for a fact he practices Legilimency, Professor. He uses it on first-years! And there are no wizards at the Valance House to protect her. Snape's always up to something, even when he looks helpless. It's just in his nature. He's a Slytherin to his slimy bones."

Another patient smile. Dumbledore had a limitless supply of them for James Potter. "The difference between a good person and a bad person, James, is not to be found at the molecular level," he explained gently. "It is largely a matter of opportunity. Despite what you may have heard, Slytherins are not made of slugs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails."

"Huh! Slugs and snails and puppy-dogs' tales are too bloody nice to be a part of Snape."

"I forget why you came up here," said Dumbledore, with slightly less twinkle in his twinkling smile.

"He'd tell you, wouldn't he?" said James, nodding in the direction of the bald eagle on the perch beside Fawkes. "He's always right, isn't he? If he sees how she dies, and it's all Snape's fault, you'll believe me then, won't you?"

"And, if he's always right, what can you hope to do about it?" said Dumbledore.

James fell silent, staring at the faded stars on Dumbledore's robes.

"He seems much happier as a bird," said Dumbledore conversationally. "Perhaps he no longer has visions in that state. Perhaps prophecy requires a larger brain – although, judging by the seers I've met in my lifetime, I rather think not. He must be kept safe from Voldemort, of course, but I would hesitate to force him back into human shape simply for our own education."

"Education?" James repeated. "He can tell us how to defeat Voldemort! That's our survival, Professor!"

"And, if he tells us there is no way to defeat Voldemort, would you give up and join the Death Eaters tomorrow?"

Another silence. But Dumbledore didn't need him to respond.

"Precisely," he said, with a bright, businesslike smile. "You would not give up if it were proved beyond doubt that Voldemort is destined to rule us all, and I would not give up if it were proved beyond doubt that Severus Snape is destined to kill Lily Evans. Therefore, proof cannot be proof, because we will go on hoping anyway. And you and I, James, are far too intelligent to hope for no good reason. Let Professor Caladrius rejoin us in his own time. None of us, I think, can truly imagine what he's been through."

When Poppy Pomfrey watched the soldiers arrive at the Normandy beaches, she had gone from predicting their deaths to witnessing their deaths in the space of about half an hour. If she had been told about Professor Caladrius' strange visions – because she certainly didn't remember him at this point – she would have said that at least he had time to come to terms with what he saw, and variety in the deaths he witnessed. Soldiers died in tiresomely predictable ways. They screamed the same words in their agony – but for a few variations in the names of loved ones or family members. But Poppy knew the tone, the familiar harmonic of their deathbed speeches. None of them had exactly been surprised. Death hadn't come out of the blue for them, the way it did for someone who got hit by a bus. But, even in battle, when you saw people dying twice a minute, you clung to the idea that it wouldn't really happen to you.

And then it had happened to them and they had been childishly – almost adorably – shocked. They were supposed to believe that all of this – all the noise, politics, blood, pain, hunger and boredom – was going to stop? These were the only things they'd ever known. What else could be out there?

At the moment, she was running across the moors to the village like a woman possessed – which, in certain crucial respects, she was. Some kind of dam had broken inside her, and now the anger was pouring out – it was raining down on her like molten lava. She turned her face up to it as though it was a refreshing downpour. She was parched.

Obstacles that she'd had to think around for years had suddenly vanished. Thoughts were streaming into her head from all directions, and the ones that bobbed to the surface – no, the ones that thrust themselves up through the surface, took a deep breath, and screamed – were the ones which insisted that Sally and the others had to pay for what they'd done.

How did they dare raise a hand to Morry? How did they dare set fire to her house? And what use were they, when you got right down to it? Poppy had bled herself dry trying to cure their ailments and listen to their troubles, and what did they do with all that health? They moaned and plotted and tortured people!

And, if you cured torturers, so that they were in a fit state to continue torturing, weren't you a little bit of a torturer yourself?

Mrs. Snape had tried to follow her across the moors, but she was suddenly loathsome to Poppy. She was just another one of those callous, blood-sucking widows, trying to get revenge on the world for her misfortunes.

Poppy resisted – with all her might – the idea that she herself was falling into that category. She stumbled onwards, dreading the moment when the anger would subside and force her to think.

Kurt was gone, of course. She had a horrible feeling she knew where he was going, but she couldn't work out whether it was horrible because she was appalled by the idea of violence, or because she wanted to commit all that appalling violence first.

"Poppy, wait!"

Poppy hissed through her teeth, but didn't slow down. The horrible woman was still following, although she was limping quite severely now. For the first few minutes of her fury, Poppy had hurled fireballs over her shoulder, and one of them had accidentally – but quite gratifyingly – hit Mrs. Snape on the ankle.

Bundles of suitable healing spells flocked into Poppy's head as she risked a glance over her shoulder at the limping woman, but she dismissed them all with biting satisfaction. Let somebody else feel what it was like to stagger through this world in pain for a while. Mrs Snape wouldn't recognize mercy if she was beaten over the head with it. When had she ever tried to soften the blow, or take away the pain? She wallowed in pain – other people's for preference, of course, but she had enough of her own to fall back on, if it came to it.

Besides, there was something in the way she looked at you – something in that spreading, cynical smile – which suggested that she wasn't expecting mercy. She had seen to the bottom of your soul and you had already disappointed her. If Poppy had been in a different mood, she might have found that liberating. As it was, she found it infuriating.

"Poppy, you don't want to do this!"

Poppy shot another fireball over her shoulder, causing a thumping, coughing sound, as Mrs. Snape dived to avoid it and then choked on the fumes in its wake.

"OK," said the widow, when she could speak again. "Badly phrased! Of course you want to do this – I would too! That's how this curse operates! But it will kill you."

Poppy stopped and turned round, trying to avoid looking directly at the widow, because she wasn't sure what it would make her do. At the moment, all the spells occurring to her were relatively harmless – classroom pranks like fireballs and Body-Bind curses. But Mrs. Snape was so irritatingly pretty, even though her forehead was plastered with sweat, and she was holding her high-heeled shoes in one hand because they were impossible to run in.

"Trust me," said Mrs. Snape – and she must have known how infuriating that sounded, coming from her lips. "You don't want to do this, Poppy. You don't want to be like me."   

"I wouldn't mind looking like you," Poppy muttered resentfully.

Mrs. Snape rolled up her sleeve, to reveal a dark, horrible tattoo on her left forearm. "Yeah?" she demanded. "Still?"

"I don't know what that is," said Poppy.

"Does it look auspicious? This says ugly, Poppy. Trust me. There's no ugliness like it."

"Stop telling me to trust you!" Poppy hissed, raising Mrs. Snape's stolen wand over her head. Hideous incantations were rushing into her mind – incantations for curses she had once read about with a horrified shudder – but they were frightening, too frightening to speak out loud. Besides, it would be better to choose something to mar all that infuriating beauty.  

She brought down the wand with a slashing motion, and watched with satisfaction as the mud around Mrs. Snape's bare feet started to bubble. The woman took a step forward, and instantly sank up to her ankles. She tried to stagger towards Poppy, wrenching her legs out of the mud with every footstep, but it was no good. She was being sucked down now. The mud gulped thirstily at her knees, then her thighs, until her struggles only plunged her deeper.

Poppy watched with vague curiosity as the woman fought it. She was breathing heavily. The exertion was making her cheeks pink, in a way that shame evidently never could. But she was crackling with energy. She was clawing her way through the mud – waist-deep by this time – as though her life, or something she didn't hate as much as her life, depended on it.

But there was nothing she didn't hate. She was Mrs. Snape. She existed to make cynical jokes and bring you back down to earth when you were feeling almost hopeful. What could be making her struggle like that?

Mrs Snape gritted her teeth and tried to grab onto something to slow her inexorable descent into the mud. There weren't many trees on the moors, so she had to make do with the branches of a prickly hawthorn bush. Her eyes brightened as the thorns sank into her skin. She looked almost as though she was enjoying it.

"I was hoping we'd have more time that this," she gasped. "I'm not good at calming people down."

"You astonish me," said Poppy.

"Morry was right when he said we were in a dream," she choked out, craning her neck back to try and keep her chin above the mud. "Actually, it's a magical coma, induced by a curse that uses the power of your anger to reproduce itself. We're actually in the middle of a bizarre, asexual mating dance."

"You're not doing your best to sound believable, are you?" said Poppy. But the unexpected stupidity of it had broken her concentration. The mud had stopped sucking Mrs. Snape down. She was still encased in it up to her boney shoulders, but her struggles were making some headway now.

She hauled on the hawthorn bush, and managed to wrench her shoulders a little further out of the mud. She spat out a mouthful of turf and said: "Yes, I am. I am doing my best. I'm just not used to this kind of thing."

"You mean telling the truth?"

Mrs. Snape ignored her. Little streams of blood were trickling down her wrists from the places where she was gripping the hawthorn. "The curse renews itself," she panted, liberating inches of her body every second, "by recreating the worst experience of your life, and making you so angry that you throw your whole existence behind a curse to strike down your enemies. The energy generated by that kind of hatred is enormous. Standing in the middle of it will be like standing in the middle of the sun. You won't even live long enough to complete the incantation. But that won't matter, because you will have already released the energy. Whatever curse you cast will become the Phoenix Curse."

She had succeeded in freeing her torso by this time, and she flopped forwards onto the relative stability of the grass in front of her, trying to catch her breath. "And, if you don't kill Sally tonight, the curse will keep squeezing you," she panted, "trying to make you angry enough to kill."

"So what does it matter?" said Poppy, with a shrug. "It sounds like there's no other way to end it."

A little smile curled the only part of Mrs. Snape's face that was still visible. "Ah, but there is, Poppy. According to Riddle, a great wizard has been here before us, leaving us clues. He was the one who carved 'Resurgam' into the beam over the bar in The Shipwreck. He's the one who makes every spilled liquid assume the shape of a Phoenix. Riddle thinks he's only giving us clues about the nature of the curse, but I think he's also telling us how to break it." She looked up suddenly, revealing a face darkened with mud, mascara and determination. "Resurgam, Poppy! Amor vincit omnia!"

"Stop quoting Latin at me!" Poppy shouted. "I don't know what you're talking about! I never learned Latin!"

"Yes, you did – yes, you did, Poppy," she hissed excitedly "Think! Where do people like us hear Latin words?"

Poppy stared at her. "It's a spell? 'Resurgam' is an incantation? Why haven't I ever heard of it?"

Mrs. Snape shrugged. "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Poppy frowned. "Who wrote it? Who carved 'Resurgam' into the beam?"

Mrs. Snape, having caught her breath, placed her palms flat on the grass and tried to wriggle her legs free. "I guess, in a manner of speaking, I did."

"What does that mean?"

"I just want you to promise me you'll think about it," said Mrs. Snape. She had curled up on the grass in a foetal position, but her voice was smooth and businesslike again. "We can go and rescue Morry if you like, but promise me you'll remember that something in this dream wants you to be angry."

Poppy gave her a surly shrug. "And what do you care if I get killed by some non-existent curse? Why warn me? What's in it for you?"

Mrs. Snape got to her feet. Her skin was blotchy with mud and her wet dress was clinging to her more audaciously than ever. But her spirits hadn't been dampened in the slightest. Poppy was sure the mud could have hardened and cracked in the heat of her determination. "My husband," she said calmly. "Shall we go?"

The hand holding the goblet was trembling. Dark, steaming green potion was slopping about alarmingly, cresting the sides of the goblet and creeping perilously close to the edge. But Lily didn't spill a drop. She had been expecting the trembling. She had only filled the goblet half-way, so that her hand could tremble as much as it wanted without spilling any potion and attracting Bruiser's attention.  

It was not the Sleeping Draught he'd asked for. It looked like the Sleeping Draught he'd asked for in every particular – she had been quite careful about that – but it was not going to give Elsa a peaceful night of dreamless sleep.

She wondered if, in years to come, she would be able to trace her moral dissolution from this exact moment – the moment she'd risked an eight-year-old's life to rescue her boyfriend. It was like taking a bite out of an apple in the Garden of Eden. Dumbledore wouldn't have done it, she was sure of that much.

She had the eight-year-old's consent, of course – Elsa had been surprisingly eager to go back into the nightmare. "But not for him," she had said, balling her little fists. "For Madam Pomfrey. She give us hot chocolate when we came out of the ice."

Passion had mangled her grammar, but Lily was still impressed. Elsa had conceived a fierce loyalty towards Madam Pomfrey – and it only hardened when she found out about what she thought of as 'Snape's treachery'.

"I should've chose someone better to rescue her," she said firmly. "Someone less sneaky. But, don't worry, my dad'll sort him out. And that snake-faced idiot he takes orders from."

"I'm glad to hear it," Lily had said primly, flicking a speck of dust off her skirt to give her guilty eyes something to linger on.  "But your dad won't understand about Madam Pomfrey. He doesn't see why you have to be the one to rescue her."

"But you do?" said Elsa, narrowing her dark eyes into slits.

"Yes, I do," said Lily, giving her a reassuring smile that turned to ice on her lips. "There's nobody else to stick up for her, and someone has to."

Elsa's eyes widened. "Yeah," she said slowly. "Yeah, that's what it is. Someone has to, and you can't sit at home, twiddling your thumbs, wondering who it's going to be. You've got to do something."

"We definitely understand each other," said Lily, letting a genuine smile thaw out her lips for a moment. "So you won't say anything to your dad?"

"Get me a Sleeping potion that puts me to sleep but doesn't stop me having dreams," said Elsa. "But it'll have to look good, OK? Dad knows everything about magic."

"Don't worry," said Lily. "I've never got a grade below 'Outstanding' in Potions. Professor Slughorn used to call me his 'Cut-throat Potioneer'."

Elsa raised her eyebrows. "Well, that's silly. I thought he was supposed to be a grown-up."

Lily stood up suddenly. She didn't trust herself to linger. She felt half-tempted to grab hold of Elsa's blouse and sob into it, wailing: "I'm so sorry I'm doing this to you!" She missed the old days - when she had been able to get things done without compromising her principles. She had always been quick enough, clever enough – or, more probably – lucky enough to get everything she wanted without being dangerously irresponsible. Was the world getting darker, or was she just getting thicker? It was probably both.

She took a detour on the way to Elsa's room, even though she knew it was stupid. What was she expecting to have changed? And the sight of Severus Snape was hardly likely to steady her hands. But she dragged her footsteps up the great staircase to his room anyway, just so that she could stand in the doorway and feel her stomach churning as restlessly as the potion she held in her hands.

She had closed the curtains in here, even though it deepened her gloom. Severus didn't like the sunlight, and respecting his wishes seemed more important than keeping her spirits up.

He was sleeping in the same tense, prickly posture as before, as though he had just lowered himself onto the bed and hadn't had time to relax yet. His jaw was clenched, and he was breathing hard through his nostrils. Nobody had dared to pull the covers up around him. He looked as though he would snap out of his coma and strangle anyone who tried it. His chest was bare, boney and racked with tension. Too little over-stretched flesh and far too many poking-out ribs. Lily couldn't help wincing in sympathy every time she looked. Whatever he was trying to do in that nightmare, it was killing him.

But she was on her way to helping him. Nothing was going to go wrong. She would ache and tremble and torment herself, but she would do what she was going to do anyway, because she knew who she was now. And this was not the time to battle with her instincts. She had done so much wrong that she needed to do a little more just to get out of it. This was the course of action that entailed the least damage overall. And she wasn't helpless anymore. It was going to be alright.

Passing and failing were not the only options, after all. You could always cheat. Although, if you thought that, you had probably already failed.

Lily wanted to touch him – she wanted to put her hands on those rock-hard shoulders and feel the tension melt away under her fingertips – but she had to admit that she hadn't often managed to accomplish that, even at the best of times. And these certainly weren't the best of times. She was afraid of breaking his concentration. Whatever he was going through behind those eyelids, he had screwed up every muscle in his body to try and cope with it. She was worried that she would distract him if she even entered the room.

No, she wasn't going to bother him with hugs and kisses now. She was going to be of more material assistance.

Anyway, physical contact with her usually increased his tension. You wouldn't think that was possible if you didn't know the full, furious limits of what Severus Snape could cope with. However stretched he looked, he could always stretch further.

When she touched him, the contact usually shot through him like an electric current. Sudden greed jolted him to life, and he would grab hold of her, as if he thought there was still a possibility – after all this time – that she was going to go away.

She would have done anything to see him jolt back to life now.

Standing wretchedly in the doorway, Lily remembered her old dreams with sadness and a certain degree of embarrassment. She had once longed for peace with him – for a slow, unhurried undressing at the end of the day. But now she understood – even shared – the urgency he felt.  Those dark figures that he was convinced were just over the next horizon, waiting to drag them apart – she could hear them approaching. She could hear the relentless, remorseless shuffle of their feet.

She couldn't imagine an unhurried meeting now. She liked it best now when they clutched each other convulsively, their stomachs heavy with dread and their ears roaring with desperation. This is your last chance.

She dragged her eyes away from his sleeping figure and looked at her watch. It was ten minutes until Elsa's bed-time. She had made the potion ridiculously early. But she had needed something to do. God, she never wanted to wait again. She wanted every crisis to spring on her like an ambushing tiger. It was horrible – horrible – to have the time to think all these thoughts.

This was how Severus must have felt all the time, she realized. He thought faster than her – or he didn't know how to switch his thoughts off – so even the disasters that came suddenly had been expected, dreaded, and picked over in the recesses of his imagination.

Lily felt her chest heaving with sympathy. She needed more oxygen than her lungs could possibly contain to neutralize all that sadness. But she would keep trying. All things considered, it was the least she could do.

Something wasn't right. No, make that: something new was wrong. Various things hadn't been right for a long time – Severus barely remembered what 'right' was supposed to look like. It seemed like something you only got in fairytales. But there was another discordant strain to the chaotic symphony, and he had been staring at it for about a minute before he finally realized what he was looking at.

He had drifted back into the bar of The Shipwreck, simply to get away from the sight of the fracturing sky, and now he was staring out of the windows into the pub's back garden, while Voldemort nursed what must have been his seventh scotch under the big, carved beam by the bar. Severus was impressed. The Dark Lord could clearly handle his liquor. He wasn't slurring his words at all, and his evil schemes were, if anything, getting even more complicated.

There wasn't much to see in the back garden of The Shipwreck – and night had turned the windows into black mirrors anyway. But there was something pale out there, sunk in various overlapping shades of darkness. Its contours were the kind he would have recognized under normal circumstances. In fact, under normal circumstances, those contours made his nerves stand up and scream with urgency. But these were not normal circumstances. And, anyway, he was used to seeing her poised and beautiful – smiling at him with savage cynicism, as though she was thinking: I can't wait to see how you're going to try and wriggle out of this one.

He was not used to seeing her dripping with mud – although it was, underneath the dread that she always engendered in him, sort of sexy.  

There was no savage smile now. Her face was framed with straggly wet hair and set with sadness. She was staring in at him through the window as if she didn't even have the energy to hate him anymore. If the Boggart-Lily had been at the end of her tether ever since Severus had met her, she had now reached the end of the end of her tether.

And he couldn't help remembering a time when their positions had been reversed. He'd been about eleven, and it had been Christmas time – or that weird interval between Christmas and New Year when nobody knew what day it was, or why they ever bothered waking up before noon. He and Lily had been out for a walk on the frosted, rubbish-strewn paths beside the canal, and he had dropped her off at home, but lingered sullenly on the pavement outside her house, watching her through the lighted windows of the front-room, with his hands thrust deep in the pockets of his oversized coat. Through the window was a scene of complete domestic happiness: the kind he had thought you only got in stories. Lily's father – still wearing the paper hat from his Christmas cracker – caught her in his arms as she came in from the hall, all pink-cheeked and shivering, and tickled her until she was warm again. The only sour note was the horse-faced Petunia, and Lily's luminous beauty more than made up for her.

And, at first, Severus had been disgusted – or pretended to be disgusted, while secretly writhing with longing – which he did so well, even at the age of eleven, that he genuinely couldn't tell, if they were suddenly to fling open the doors and beckon him inside, whether he would run to their arms or tell them to fuck off.

It was unlikely to happen, either way.

But, as usual when Lily was around, desire overcame his disgust, and he looked up, right into the glare of other people's happiness, just to catch a glimpse of her.

And she was looking right back.

Immediately, Severus had flushed and hurried onwards, annoyed that he'd allowed himself to be caught off guard. When he threw a casual glance back, at the end of the road, Petunia was closing the curtains with a horse-faced frown.

His childhood had been full of moments like that – moments where he wondered whether he could have had her, if only he'd been less defensive. But they were all over now. She had been laughing and blushing and exuberant and out of breath in his arms, and that was never going to go away, no matter how often he had to suppress the memory when looking Voldemort in the eye.

It all came back to him at the thought of that memory. Twenty-seven hours of exhaustion presented its bill. Severus swayed on the spot and listened to his muscles screaming.

"Flesh and blood, remember? You're happy enough to be flesh and blood when her flesh and blood is also involved. Well, this is the downside. You want us to work for you, you're going to have to give us something to work with. Even a sit-down would be a start."

Severus covertly rested his shoulder against the wall, hoping that would be enough. He couldn't show weakness in front of the Boggart. Weakness was something her husband would show, right before he gave up on life and left her alone with her grief.

And he knew it was stupid. He knew she was just a nightmare made flesh. He knew she hated him. But somehow, he couldn't bear to let her think that he was the same man whose jealousy and despair had turned her into a raving psychopath. If he could convince her that she was wrong about him, maybe he could convince himself.

Severus stared back at her for as long as he felt able. It wasn't nice, to see her standing out there. He didn't like to see Lily standing out in the cold.

Oh god, he was starting to think of her as though she was Lily. She was not Lily. Lily was that little slip of red and white he'd seen at the top of the hill overlooking the village, bare-armed and shivering in Voldemort's vice-like grip. Lily was who he was doing this all for. He couldn't allow himself to get distracted now, especially not by a demented Boggart who hated him.

Severus turned away from the window and cleared his throat. "I think Madam Pomfrey is here, my Lord."
Continuing from 'Accidental Grace' [link]

Sorry it's been so long since the last update! I tried to get a chunk of narrative from every major character into this chapter, but there wasn't room for Regulus, Morry, Lucius and Narcissa - and they've all got a part to play in the big finale! (Am getting very excited about it now!)

Thank you so much for reading, and for sticking with this story for so long! :hug: :hug: :hug:
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polkadotpeony Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2011
I loved this chapter. The scene with James and Dumbledore was perfect. It actually reminded me of Dumbledore talking to Harry.

I also loved the bit with Lily lying down in bed waiting for sleep and realizing what it must feel like to be Sev, always waiting for the next horror to occur. How torturous it must be. So perfect.

And finally the most beautiful scene with Snape flashing back to Christmas.

>"His childhood had been full of moments like that – moments where he wondered whether he could have had her, if only he'd been less defensive."

Whenever I'm reminded of canon Snape I get really depressed. So your story has a very special place in my heart, where Snape can live and be happy with Lily. :)
ls269 Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2011
Canon Sev depresses me too! :( Even if I rack my brains, I can't think of any comfort he had from anyone, during his whole life. (But then, he would probably get annoyed if teary-eyed women like me started hugging him! ;)) Weirdly, the fact that he can go on doing the right thing, without any comfort or encouragement, is one of the things I love most about canon Sev, so he wows me even when he depresses me! :heart:
polkadotpeony Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2011
I couldn't have said it better. You are exactly right! How he manages to make it through every hopeless bitter day just amazes me. His inner strength and courage is really astounding, though I'm sure he would scoff at me for even thinking that.
Teme-chan-Uchiha Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2011
Goodness...I'm so terribly late with this review. I'm terribly sorry about that! D: (I think I've read this chapter three times already ;) )
But I'm so at edge right now, the suspense is killing me!! I'm hoping Lily was able to talk some sense into Pomfrey- it kind of seemed like she calmed down a bit...but I'm not sure she can take much more. D: And I really want her to see Morry, but at the same time I'm quite worried that she'll have a fit and go crazy if she does!
And I'm even MORE worried about Lily coming into the nightmare! I know it'll probably do good in the end, but poor Sev. is literally about to collapse as it is. I feel like if he sees her there he's just going to explode and it's all going to be over. D: I'm getting worried that old Voldemort is finally going to figure out all that Severus is trying to hide (not from lack of faith in Severus, but more because I think even Severus himself is almost to the very end of his tether here-I'm not sure how much more he can take! :< )
Anyways, I feel like the real action is going to start soon, and I'm so superveryultra excited for it to happen! (I can't wait for whatever is going to happen with Morry and Pomfrey as well! ;) ) So I shall be here, waiting with baited breath for what happens next!!
Tons of Love,
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2011
Yay, thank you! :glomp: As it happens, I'm just finishing the new chapter tonight, so hopefully it should be up in an hour or two. I really hope it doesn't disappoint you! :hug: And don't worry at all about late reviews, I totally love them whenever they arrive! :heart: (in fact, it's nice to have them spaced out, because if they all arrive at once, it's over too quickly! ;))

Yes, the proper action is starting now, and I have a terrible time with writing action, so this new chapter has taken me aaaaaaaaages! (Why can't it all be Sev and Lily teasing each other and sipping tea?! ;))

Anyway, I hope the new chapter doesn't disappoint, my dear, and thank you so much for reading and commenting! :hug: :hug: :hug:
chiburaska Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2011
Love it! Lilylessness? :D. You're amazingly soooooo good!
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2011
Hee hee, thank you, my dear! :hug: 'Lilylessness' is my new favourite word! (And it's so much fun to say! :giggle:)
thesonge Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2011
Oohdelally how exciting!! :D
Love the conversation with DD, you write him very well. My other fave line is:
"Something wasn't right. No, make that: something new was wrong."
Can't wait to find out what happens!
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2011
:w00t: :hug: Thank you, my dear! Am going to write and write this weekend, to try and get the next chapter finished (not entirely sure what's going to happen, but nearly sure! ;))
JanusKyot Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2011
Loved this chapter. Particularly the Dumbledore scene, and Poppy's scene with Mrs. Snape. Thanks! and keep it up!
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2011
Thank you so much! :hug: I'm really happy you liked it. I love writing Dumbledore-dialogue! :heart: Next chapter should be coming soon - I have a totally free weekend as of now, so I'm hoping to get lots of writing done.
JanusKyot Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2011
Your welcome! Any praise is well deserved. Glad you have free time, means more story! Keep it up, you're writing is amazing. I have a hard time describing your writing style... but your sentences just fit. Perfectly. Almost lyrically. Love to read it!

Reading the other comments, I hear rumors that the story is wrapping up. *shocked face*. Is that true?
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2011
Yes, the story's going to end in about 5-10 chapters' time, I think. I won't know what to do with myself when it's over, because it's been a huge part of my life for so long, :cries: but I've never finished a story before, so I feel like it's something I need to do (also, I'm hoping to write some original fiction when it's over). But I'm sure I will still post the occasional one-shot fic about Snape, because I just can't get his character out of my head! :heart:

Thank you so much for your kind words about my writing style! :hug: It really motivates me to keep going when I receive lovely comments like yours!
JanusKyot Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2011
Make it ten! Ten looong chapters :-) It's sad to hear it's almost over. But the solution to that is to write a sequel immediately after, right? ;-) Regardless, whatever you plan to do, I'll keep an eye out for it.

Original fiction sounds fun, do you have lots planned out already?
Do you plan to post here, or write and publish?

Your writing has more than earned any compliment. It really brings joy to my day to see another chapter up. I always think to myself, "yay! some quality story". Seriously, Sympathetic Magic is better than most books. Though, I may be slightly biased. Long live Snape!
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2011
:w00t: Long live Snape! Viva la hooked nose! :giggle:

I don't really have any original fiction planned out (although I ought to continue with my Nanowrimo novel, which I sort of abandoned after last November! :blushes:) I'll probably post some stuff here, but I've heard that, if you ever want to publish a piece of work, it's a bad idea to make too much of it freely available on the internet (and I'd soooooo like to publish stories someday, even though it might only be a hopeless dream! :faint:) So what I'll probably do is start up a friends-only account on live journal, where I can post my original fiction, but only invited friends will be able to read/comment on it. Of course, I'll invite all my watchers from DeviantArt (hopefully, they'll still be interested, even though the story won't be about our beloved Snape - but it will be Snape-inspired, I can promise that much, because every idea I ever have is Snape-inspired! ;))
JanusKyot Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2011
I wish the best to you! Get in touch with your muse and start cranking. It's definitely a good idea to keep your work less accessible if you are trying to publish. If you do make a livejournal I'm pretty sure people will be interested regardless of a lack of Snape. I know I will be.

I think that no dream is hopeless, just some of them are harder than others. So good luck!
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2011
:hug: :hug: :hug: Thank you!
(1 Reply)
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2011
Perhaps prophecy requires a larger brain – although, judging by the seers I've met in my lifetime, I rather think not.

Ouch! ZING!

It's kinda funny, we all cackle over Severus's great lines in the books, but you don't often hear (in the circles I run in) about how Albus can get in some good snarky one-liners too. (Hell, Harry for that matter, yet few write him as the lad who said sharp things like "No thanks, the poor toilet’s never had anything as horrible as your head down it – it might be sick" when Dudley asks if he wants to practice stuffing his head in the toilet and "Yeah, but you, unlike me, are a git, so get out and leave us alone" to a Draco spouting off that he, unlike Harry, has been made a prefect.)
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2011
That's true, you know, Harry's wit is definitely undervalued (but then, we're Snape fans - we're bound to be a bit biased against him! ;)) I think (heretical though it might sound) I love Dumbledore's way with language even more than Snape's. You can tell that Dumbledore really loves words and says some of them just for the sake of it (Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! :rofl:), whereas, with Severus, you get the feeling that they're precious, dangerous things, and not to be used lightly. Dumbledore reminds me a lot of Stephen Fry (the comedian/ author who reads the Harry Potter audiobooks in Britain). He writes these 'Blesssays' (blog-essays) which are just oozing with the joy he takes in language! You can find them here, if you're interested [link]

(Sorry, very chatty this evening, not sure why - I always wake up when I'm supposed to be going to bed!) Anyway, hope you're well, and thanks very much for the comment. :hug:
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2011
Dumbledore really loves words and says some of them just for the sake of it (Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! :rofl:)

Have you ever heard the song/comedy performance "Bulbous Bouffant" by The Vestibules / Radio Free Vestibule? It's kind of that idea, that certain words just sound cool. ("Bulbous bouffant blubber macadamia ... gazebo!") Here's a youtube video, looks like someone drew an animated cartoon for it: [link]
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2011
:rofl: I love how the 'normal' guys are at first really scared, and then get swept up in it! 'Tuberculosis... foible...' (Foible's one of my favourites - along with 'accentuate') :heart:
Melorik Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011
So I've been trolling lately and having read most of the recent Sev/Lily fics on that sight.. I had decided to commence the lobotomization of all snape fangirls. Just as I was about to head out the door through I read this chapter and now somehow I'm not quite in the mood ;)

What can I say that hasn't already been said. Your characterization is spot on as usual, and it's nice to see that the story has reached its climax and is spiraling towards its conclusion. I'm not to sure whether I'm happy or sad. A bit of both I think. Without this story I'm going to be stuck skewering all the awful fics out there with no solace to come back to afterwards :( On the other hand, it's good that you'll be able to conclude it without letting it drag on and on and on ad infinitum.

As for this chapter:

I especially liked the potential for "Action-Lily".. seems to me that she plans on going back for Sev now that she has this new outlook. I do hope she's learned how to be careful though.. I doubt Sev has much strength left to cover for her a second time. I'm curious though.. if Snape is asleep the whole time.. how can his muscles be hurting?... is it like The Matrix.. where his mind thinks that his muscles are in pain when in reality they aren't?

Also liked the conversation between DD and Potter :P.

Keep it up!

ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2011
Woohoo, I'm happy to have saved the fan-girls from lobotomization! (Might not make that much difference in some cases, but still... ;))

And also woohoo for this review - I'm really happy you liked the chapter! :hug: I'm excited about the potential for Action-Lily too - she's been so helpless, and then so guilty - it will be good for her to finally get a chance to let off steam!

I think Sev is clenching his muscles in his sleep because he's having to concentrate so hard in the dream-world. You know how you kind of tense up when you're doing something really hard, even though it's a purely mental activity and you don't need your muscles at all? (well, that's what happens to me anyway. I make jewellery in my spare time, and I get sooooo tense when I have to thread needles and go chasing after beads. I'm really not that good at jewellery-making, now that I think about it...) Anyway, I think it's the pressure of being constantly tensed that is making his muscles hurt in the dream world, if that makes sense. But it is like the matrix in the sense that, if you die in the dream, you die in real life. I also think any injuries sustained in this dream will transfer into real life too, but I haven't given it too much thought yet (you know me - I can't plan more than two or three chapters ahead! ;))
hhimring Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2011
Great stuff! I'm personally rooting for Poppy, of course, because I like her and after all Mapledurham is her own personal nightmare, but the whole chapter is really worthy of its title!
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011
Thank you so much! :hug: Always good to hear from another Poppy fan! She is having a tough time at the moment, but at least she had the fun of hexing the Boggart-Lily! ;)
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
Ah, Miss Lucy, you have no idea how wonderful it was to read this today. Love has been quite painful to me lately, and I don't know if I could have read anything that made me feel as hopeful as this. You have no idea. :) Thank you.
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2011
Oh, I'm sorry to hear that love has been mistreating you! :hug: (Love can be such a bastard!) It means a lot to me that this chapter helped to cheer you up!

P.S. I really like the idea of being 'Miss Lucy' - can this be my new nickname? (I never get nicknames in my regular life, it's so unfair! ;)) Miss Lucy sounds like a young Victorian woman (probably quite a spoilt one, with ribbons in her hair) and I like that because I've always felt I was born in the wrong century! :giggle:

Lots of love to you, :hug: :hug: :hug:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
Ha, I've been living in the US South for several years, so it was either going to be "Miss First Name" or just "Ma'am". ;)
(Your first name is Lucy, isn't it? :blush: )

Yes... unfortunately I have been able to relate more to canon Severus' love than I ever wanted to... but my hope/faith is strong. Just seeing "Omnia Vincit Amor", and being reminded of the overriding theme of the original books was so very helpful. To me, canon Snape's most astonishing, and most redeeming, quality is his (Hufflepuff-like?) steadfastness and his loyalty to the love he had for someone who either didn't return his love at all, or chose not to act on it if she did.

It's really cool to see that that quality remains strong in him, even when he has a Lily who does love him, and is sticking close to him. He won't even give up on Boggart-Lily, for heaven's sake. Throughout this story, you've taken that attribute, which went hand in hand with his great flaw of loving only Lily, and shown him refining it in himself to be exactly what Lily wants and needs from him. I love it.
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011
Oh yes, my first name is Lucy, but I'm used to hearing either 'Lucy' or 'Miss Stone' (sometimes 'hey you!' :giggle:) I freaking love 'Miss Lucy'. I love the whole Southern courtesy thing generally! I want to meet a man who takes off his hat to me and calls me ma'am (you see, I was born in the wrong century!) Ah also adore the accent...

You know, Sev's love is Hufflepuff-like. I never thought of that before. When I try to think about the qualities of a good Hufflepuff, I can never think of any, but my favourite aspects of Snape - the way he eschews glory and loves one person for the whole of his life - are very Hufflepuff-like qualities. I'll feel better about being a Hufflepuff now! :)

Hope love starts treating you more kindly, Miss Lilli. :hug:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
Why, thank you ma'am. ;) I hope so too. :huggle:

When I really stop and think about it, although he is definitely a Slytherin, through and through, I think Sev is a pretty well-rounded character (whatever Dumbledore might say about sorting too soon). If not Slytherin, surely he'd have been sorted into Ravenclaw... but then, he is extremely brave, and certainly 'loyal and unafraid of toil.' It's too bad (or is it lucky?) that Severus is far too Slytherin to believe in fairness, and too cautious to be a Gryffindor, or else the hat might have had quite a job placing him.
loyanini Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2011
I'm trolling your convo >_> but have you ever noticed that Severus is

Loyal as a Hufflepuff
Brave as a Gryffindor
Cunning as a Slytherin
Intelligent as a Ravenclaw

It's like he embodies Hogwarts.

Also! Don't feel bad about being a Hufflepuff We are loyal, steadfast, hardworking, kind, agreeable and have a sense of justice! The only reason we don't get as much recognition is because we aren't attention seeking ;) At least you'll have me for company!
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2011
:w00t: You're absolutely right! Sev seems to combine the best attributes of all four houses. He's the perfect Hogwarts hero! :heart: (If only Dumbledore realized it! :()

And thank you for keeping me company in Hufflepuff House! :hug: I'm happy to be there really - I must admit, I do get annoyed by the extreme examples of all the other Houses! ;)
loyanini Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2011
This chapter made me cry >> no lie. The part where he was talking about christmas and the window and the 'glare of other peoples happiness'. Eugh. You write him so well, it makes me sad that his life was so crappy. But at least it had its moments! Great chapter love! You certainly know how to get into characters psyches. Also, just does James know about this? I guess I must have missed that XD
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2011
:hug: Thank you, my dear, I'm really happy you enjoyed it (And sorry it made you cry! I start welling up when I think about Snape's crappy childhood too - the poor little tike! :sniff:)

James knows about Caladrius because Lily asked him to to find him waaaaay back in The Loose End [link] (I wouldn't blame you for missing it, it was sixty chapters ago!) James has been working very slowly, on account of the fact that I don't like writing about him, so we don't often get to catch up with his side of the story! ;)

Oh, or if you mean 'how does he know about the Boggart', he met her back in 'The Cavalry Again' [link] (35 chapters ago... oh dear, this story is ridiculously long-winded! :giggle:)

Anyway, thanks again for the comment, I'm so happy you liked this! :) :heart:
JulesDrenages Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2011
> " [...] I assure you, James, he is quite incapable of posing a threat to anyone at the moment, even if he felt inclined to. He is not even capable of movement."
"That won't stop him!" James shouted stupidly. He stopped, and tried to backtrack, aware that he sounded mental. "I mean, his mind's still at liberty, right? [...[ Snape's always up to something, even when he looks helpless. It's just in his nature. He's a Slytherin to his slimy bones."

I don't think is a coincidence that he sounds exactly like Harry! :D

ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2011
Hee hee, absolutely - stupidity runs in the family! :giggle: It's good to hear Dumbledore defending Severus for once, though!
JulesDrenages Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2011
He has the same condiscent tone he uses on Harry in his famous quote: "PROFESSOR Snape, Harry..." :XD:
Now I feel excited for the end. It's like climbing the last inches of the steepest ascent of a roller coaster...
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2011
:eager: :w00t: I'm excited too!
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