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“But he can’t be a werewolf,” said Lily, with the air of someone repeating this for the hundredth time. “He’s always so polite.”

“Polite?” Snape asked derisively. “What difference does that make?” He imitated Lupin’s quiet, growling voice. “‘Good afternoon, madam. I am a werewolf. I’m afraid that, as part of my genetic programming, I am required to consume prey. Unfortunately, today, that means you. Please accept my heartfelt apologies for the inconvenience.’”

Lily giggled. “I just mean,” she went on, when she’d recovered herself. “That he’s always so sweet, and – ,”

What?”

“Well, self-conscious, then,” she corrected herself, sensing trouble.

“Yeah, well,” Severus said darkly. “Once bitten, twice shy.”

Lily gave him a smile that comprised exasperation and pleasure. He loved these. He loved feeling that he’d made her laugh against her will, and even against her conscience. He loved feeling that he had so much power over her.

Severus had found some chocolate frogs in the pocket of his robes, nestling between a mandrake root and a bottle of Acromantula venom and, as they weren’t too squashed, he and Lily had divided them up, and were systematically devouring them, their fingers numb and raw with cold. It was strange what starlight and chocolate and aimless talk could do for heartbreak and terror and jangling nerves. Severus felt warmth spreading through him; not the exciting, confusing warmth that Lily’s presence usually generated – the kind that made him flushed, embarrassed and inarticulate – but the comforting kind. He hadn’t really had much experience of this type of warmth before: usually, he only found it in deserted places: the tinted darkness of the potions dungeon, the smell of Wormwood and Amaranth in a lightly simmering cauldron. Further back, he could remember his mother’s cool, bony hands on his forehead, whenever he’d been crying – a warmth that came from coldness. He supposed he had never cried much, even as a child, because he had a strong impression that these moments of tenderness between them had been rare.    

But tonight, he felt at ease with Lily. There was no heart-thumping uncertainty, no stomach-churning jealousy, no sweaty, stumbling insecurity. She understood him: and, though Severus had always been terrified of being understood – of being an open book to people – it was different when it was Lily. It seemed right, somehow. She’d earned it tonight, by being sharp and courageous and, within reason, forgiving.

So they huddled together against the cold, (wrapped up in Snape’s cloak), devoured chocolate frogs and talked about nothing, while they waited for Voldemort or Dumbledore – certain death or uncertain trouble – under a star-spangled sky. Also, there was the matter of the revenge-crazed muggle, Bruiser, intent on breaking into Azkaban and killing the amiably demented Azkaban Liaison Officer, Idris Mulligan. Lily was going with him to prevent deaths, which not only meant they would have to fight Dementors, but also meant that they would have to, at some point, fight Bruiser and Rosier. Snape wasn’t looking forward to that.

But, for now, everything was good; everything was easy. He was with his beloved Lily, away from sneering pure-bloods and big-headed Quidditch Captains, and she was listening to him.  

And she had liked him. And, yes, he’d screwed it up. Of course he’d screwed it up. He could never be with her. He’d almost got her killed. But she had still liked him. And nobody would ever be able to take that away from him. He would always have that. It would hurt sometimes, yes – a lot of the time, probably – all the time, he shouldn’t wonder – but it would be a wholesome ache, like the kind you’d get from slipping your hands into thick gloves lined with broken glass – it would warm you and mutilate you. It would be constructive agony; comfort wrapped up in barbed wire.       

Instantly, his thoughts strayed to the prophecy Caladrius had made about her death. He could tell she was thinking about it too, because her exhilarated smile had faded, and she was folding her arms against the cold, as though it was striking into her heart.

“It’s not going to happen,” Severus said.  

Lily blinked, but didn’t question him. She knew exactly what he was referring to.  

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said mildly.

“I’m not going to let it happen,” he insisted.

“I don’t want to talk about that either.”

She settled her head back on his shoulder, and they were silent again; Severus’ stomach was at once fluttering with happiness, and heavy with gloom: it was beating its wings, but it couldn’t take off, like the poor, half-transformed Professor Caladrius, who still spent all his time in high places – and, it was popularly rumoured, had feathers growing on the back of his neck, under his high, stiff collar – but was weighted down with cares and an embarrassingly human body. Severus suddenly pitied him: he had always thought that the ability to see how everyone was going to die would put things in perspective. You would know that creeps like Potter would get their come-uppance, eventually. But it was not like that. There was no cosmic justice that eventually asserted itself. The good people died, just as the evil people did – in most cases, much sooner – and there was no way, in the end, to tell the difference between them.     

The night was thick as treacle now but, if they hadn’t been so absorbed in each other, Severus and Lily would have seen ripples in the darkness behind them; little concentrated patches of night being drawn irresistibly in their direction.

They had been attracting Dementors from all corners of the island for almost twenty minutes. The ones guarding the main gate – and some that were hunting the island for stray tourists or ship-wrecked muggles – were drifting towards them – but with a sense of urgency that couldn’t be encompassed by the word ‘drift’. They were frantic with greed. It was a strange sight, though Severus and Lily hadn’t seen it – these scraps of darkness, swarming towards the cliff-top like jostling lemmings.

The chill of the night air was so numbing, and the happiness of the two teenagers so acute, that they hadn’t noticed the approaching figures. Bruiser had, though: and it was what he’d been waiting for. Dementors were not disciplined creatures. They didn’t work together; they didn’t delegate. They could hunt in packs, but that was as far as their co-operation extended. As soon as the relief came, to replace the guards at the main gate, and joined the throng of Dementors converging on the laughing couple, he stepped in. Or rather, he made Rosier step in. Azkaban had thoughtfully emptied itself of every guard.

It seemed to Severus and Lily, when the rush of light and shadow finally made them look up, that Bruiser had turned into a ghost, or an angel – but more solid than a ghost, and infinitely uglier than an angel. He was suddenly silver-white and snarling. He was standing between the children and the Dementors, flexing his muscles and baring his teeth. Severus, amidst his astonishment, had the wildest urge to laugh. As though Bruiser – even a mysteriously glowing Bruiser – could frighten away a horde of Dementors, by showing them his biceps and his teeth!

They were, now that he came to think about it, very pointed teeth – but, by the standards of magical creatures, they were laughably tame.

Yet the Dementors were backing away. Hundreds of them, moving as one, were gliding backwards – stumbling slightly in their anxiety to get away, as if those long robes were tripping them up. Bruiser, darting first to one side, then the other – he could move pretty fast for a decrepit muggle – was cutting off their escape route back to the fortress. They had nowhere to go but off the edge of the cliff.

It was a bizarre sight – it was pathetically absurd – but the Dementors hovered slightly before they plummeted, like characters in a cartoon. Then, in a rush of hurtling shadows, dark water, and startled sea-gulls, they fell – all of them – hundreds of them – into the sea below.

Lily gasped, but Severus grabbed her arm, in an effort to comfort and restrain her.

He couldn’t stop her rushing to the cliff-top and peering down – though he followed, ready to grab her at any moment, because Caladrius’ prophecy was still oppressing him, like a Hippogriff standing on his chest – occasionally digging in its talons. He wouldn’t breathe freely until the sun came up, and Lily’s heart was still beating.   

The glowing Bruiser darted back to Rosier, and then vanished. A shadowy Bruiser, complete with tattered jeans and sinewy muscles, emerged from behind them, whistling cheerfully and staring down at the spreading circles that marked the point where the Dementors had met the water. Comprehension dawned on Severus.

“That was Rosier’s Patronus?” he asked.

“Well, why not?” said Bruiser. “S’far as he’s concerned, I’m an animal. But I remind him of his happiest moments – the thrill of the muggle-baiting ring – the blood, the sweat, the roaring crowd – you’d know about that, wouldn’t you, sonny?”

Snape felt a prickle of uneasiness as he remembered the only time he’d seen Bruiser fight in the muggle-baiting theatre. He’d watched with an exhilarated sense of superiority. Not just the squabbling muggles, but the entirety of human kind, seemed pathetic, chaotic, cruel and pointless. He’d felt as far above them as if they’d been ants, crawling aimlessly around in the dust, trying to construct nests that Severus could have knocked down with a sneeze. He supposed Voldemort felt like that all the time.

The idea that Bruiser had been conscious throughout that whole performance – had been thinking, plotting, and playing a part – was discomfiting. Severus was also far from happy about Lily finding out that he’d witnessed a recreational fight to the death between two captive muggles – but fortunately, she didn’t seem to be paying much attention.      

“Can they drown?” she asked anxiously, peering into the water below. It was now worryingly calm.  

“Dunno,” said Bruiser. “There ‘aven’t been many studies into Dementor behavior, on account of the fact that the scientists get sad and run ‘ome to their mummies. They don’t understand that unhappy memories give you strength and purpose. I’d rather ‘ave my memories than all the Galleons in the world.”

Severus raised his eyebrows at Lily, but she just bit her lip. She was obviously worried about the muggle.

Bruiser’s response to these concerned and exasperated looks was cheerful, as always. “Now, we just walk in,” he said.  

“What?” Snape demanded. “But… there’ll be more of them.”

“Oh, yeah. The Queen’s pers’nal guard. But I’m much mistaken if she doesn’t want us to wander in.”

“Why would she?”

“She’s got unfinished business with Maggie,” Bruiser answered, with a shrug.

“Yes, I was meaning to ask about that,” said Severus, with contemptuous politeness. This muggle was reminding him more and more of James Potter all the time. “Where are those memories now?”

“Close,” said Bruiser.  

“What about Professor Caladrius?” Lily interrupted. “He’s ill; he needs to rest. He can’t go breaking into castles with homicidal muggles and brain-washed Death Eaters!”

“Don’t you worry about that, love. I’ve perked ‘im up distinctly.”

Severus looked over at Caladrius, who’d been sitting serenely on the grass all this time, meticulously pulling the petals off daisies. He was looking more alert than he had done when they’d left the Hanged Man, but a lot less rational.

“What did you do to him?” she demanded.

Bruiser grinned. “Gave ‘im a potion of Rosier’s invention. I couldn’t cure ‘im, but I could delay the symptoms. He’s still ill – it just won’t be apparent for another hour or two. By then, I ‘ope all three of you will be in the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts.”

In spite of herself, Lily looked interested. “How did you do that?” she asked.

“You wouldn’t like it, love,” said Bruiser. And then, as though this settled the matter, he set off in the direction of the fortress, rubbing his hands together with school-boy enthusiasm. Severus hurried to catch up with him, intending to be a Slytherin – negotiate with the muggle, if he were not past the reach of reason, try to buy Lily’s freedom – but there was no way Lily would leave a volatile situation like this, even with the knowledge that she was going to die tonight. She wanted to help Bruiser and Idris Mulligan. And Severus knew that, if she got her way, the only person who’d get hurt would be herself.  

“What I do to Rosier,” Bruiser said, before Severus had a chance to speak. “That’s your kind of magic, isn’t it, boy?”

“If you can do it, then it isn’t magic,” Snape replied coolly. “It must be psychology or physics. Just a trick.”

“It is magic, Severus. It just isn’t mine.” He gestured around at the star-lit scene around them, still with the same hostile cheerfulness, still oblivious to Snape’s disdain.

“See, the universe was not very discriminating about who it gave magic to. It seems to ‘ave covered its eyes and pinned power on random idiots like a cruel, cosmic game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I reckon you understand about that. The Potter boy has a lot of magic, doesn’t ‘e, but not a sliver of intelligence. Magic is more than the idiots who wield it. It resents being put to moronic uses. Every time you use it to conjure a rabbit out of a hat, it seethes at you. It wants to change the world. It wants to make things ‘appen. I reckon you understand that better than anyone, being as you’re the closest thing the magical world has to a mad scientist. Rosier’s magic was bored. It was bored of lighting cigars and inflicting low-level torture on muggles. And then I came along with a plan, a purpose – something that was beyond sordid pleasure and humourless amusement – and it called to me.”

Severus raised his eyebrows again, but said nothing.  

“You and I know that cleverness matters more than magical ability,” Bruiser resumed. “If it didn’t, Potter would be in charge of the world.”

“He practically is,” Severus murmured resentfully.

“But he’ll fall. You know it. ‘Cause he’s not smart enough to hide ‘is feelings, not smart enough to cosy up to the important people. He’s a wizard, but any muggle could tell ‘im that ‘e’s going to die. That’s why cleverness matters more. Magic is just a force, like gravity. It’s not impressive that it’s there. It’s always been there. What matters is the way you manipulate it. And you don’t have to be able to perform it to manipulate it. That’s why Voldemort isn’t going to win. And, forgetting for the moment that ‘e wants to kill your girlfriend, you can’t join the losing side anyway. You’re a Slytherin. You use ideas, you don’t let them use you. That’s your remit. You know he’s not going to win. Anyone who values random attributes above cleverness is doomed from the start. And Salazar Slytherin would tell you the same. So I know you won’t cause me any trouble, Severus Snape, because – quite apart from your tragic decision to fall in love with a girl who’s ten million times too good for you – you’re a Slytherin. You’re a thinker. You’ve got standards to uphold.”

Apart from Lily and Dumbledore, Bruiser was to have the biggest effect on Snape’s life, and his magic. He learned from Bruiser that power came from cleverness – not loud bangs or devastating jinxes. It came from your ability to contemplate what your opponent wouldn’t. Cleverness wasn’t all that mattered, but it was all that worked.  

“But you’re not being smart now,” Snape pointed out. “You’re being sentimental. Breaking into Azkaban in order to kill an old woman who’s probably only a few years and a bad cold away from death anyway, is not intelligent. In fact, it’s pretty much the stupidest thing I can think of.”

“Ah, but I’m not a part of this war, Severus: I’m just using it. I’m a war-profiteer, not a soldier.”

“You won’t get in there. It’s got to be the highest-security magical building in the world. Even if the Dementors are gone, there’ll be Unbreakable Charms, maybe even magical dampening fields.”

“Actually, it don’t have no security at all,” Bruiser replied expansively. “And the reason is as ghoulish as the rest of this place. It’s because the Dementors like real people. Ever wonder why they built Azkaban so tall? It was so the prisoners could see the rest of the island: so they could see tourists picknicking on the lawns; spot their loved ones and relatives staring longingly up at ‘em. Gave the prisoners hope. Kept the idea of freedom fresh in their minds. If they withdraw into their own nightmares – if they forget about the world outside – they’re not so good to feed on anymore. And, if any tourist or visitor strays beyond the boundaries of the fortress, well, the Ministry don’t ask too many questions. Dementors want Azkaban to be approachable. They’re ‘ungry. The Ministry gives them a ready source of food, in return for off-loading their criminals onto the island, and that’s as far as their co-operation goes. They warn people not to visit Azkaban, and then they think they’ve done their duty. No-one can defeat the Dementors. There’s no chance of an escape. The Dementors are the walls and the chains. They don’t need anything else. There’s no problem with getting in there, Severus: it’s the getting out we’re going to have difficulty with.”

“And I suppose you don’t have a plan for getting out,” Severus murmured, comprehension dawning at last, “because you don’t expect to live through this, do you?”

“You know your problem?” Bruiser asked cheerfully. “You’re much too ready to think the worst of people. I don’t expect to live through this, but I’ve got a plan for getting you three out. Not Rosier. He stays with me, to the very end.”  

“Too sentimental,” Severus muttered, shaking his head – because, even with people he was growing to respect, it was safest to maintain a wall of exasperation. “I’m surprised you ever survived those muggle-baiting matches.”
  
“But I did survive,” Bruiser murmured, grinning so widely that every one of his chipped yellow teeth was visible. “That’s the problem with you and me, Severus. We can stand things. Misery won’t kill us, no matter ‘ow much we might wish it would.”
A very rushed chapter, following on from Two Romantic Reunions. Hope it's not too terrible. I haven't had much time for writing this week, what with work, birthdays and anniversaries, but I did promise to post something by today, so here it is. I'm not exactly selling it, am I? I'll shut up now. Next chapter: Narcissa and Malfoy start to fight, the return of Claudia Black, and some very sarcastic Snape-Dumbledore exchanges.
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:icon28dragons:
28dragons Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2013
Wow - Bruiser's perceptiveness is really impressive. I'm glad he was able to shift Snape's worldview somewhat.
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:iconasmg:
asmg Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2011
wow, Bruiser's come to be a really interesting character in this chapter, and it's pretty cool how he and Snape have much in common =D
and Lily and Snape's little moment was sooo sweet~! :iconadorableplz: despite the suspense of either Voldemort or Dumbledore's arrival looming about, they're able to have a second or two together ;D
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2011
Thank you! :hug: I always have to find time for Sev and Lily to have a moment together - even in the middle of the action - because I looooove their relationship so much! :heart:
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 11, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
Okay. I loved the chocolate frogs. Because that's just what happens sometimes, when you're in a dangerous, unreal situation. You notice that you have some Chiclets in your purse, and offer them around.

She understood him: and, though Severus had always been terrified of being understood of being an open book to people it was different when it was Lily.
That's one of my personal understandings of love. :)

I especially love this title, and the description in the chapter.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 12, 2010
Thank you! :hug: I always imagine Severus with a sweet tooth, so chocolate frogs + Lily would have been his version of paradise!
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:iconmalfoyfanatic:
MalfoyFanatic Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Awfull big part for a muggle written by a Slytherin^^
No, I really like Bruiser. Not only because of this: “That’s the problem with you and me, Severus. We can stand things. Misery won’t kill us, no matter ‘ow much we might wish it would.” (which is true, awfully true)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2008
I really like the idea that Severus and Bruiser have a lot in common. They both see the value of will-power and cleverness, where a Gryffindor certainly wouldn't. If Bruiser had been born a wizard, he definitely would have been a Slytherin! :)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
“But I did survive,” Bruiser murmured, grinning so widely that every one of his chipped yellow teeth was visible. “That’s the problem with you and me, Severus. We can stand things. Misery won’t kill us, no matter ‘ow much we might wish it would.”

So brilliant. So true. So sad.

This was wonderful as always. I loved the image of Severus and Lily sitting on the cliffs edge above the black sea, wrapped in the warmth of Severus' cloak and their friendship, and sharing chocolate frogs. It was like one of those moments between childhood and adulthood that you never forget, one of those moments that when you look back on it years later, suddenly becomes defining.

"That. There," you say. "That was the moment when everything changed. That was the moment that I left childhood behind forever and became a man/woman."
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008
Thank you! I love Bruiser - I know I have him talking entirely too much, but it's just so much fun to write his grim speeches! Yes, I had a very strong image of Severus and Lily on the cliff-top, eating chocolate frogs - I think that is quite a defining moment, for both of them. Nothing really happens - it's slow and comfortable and unspectacular - but it really changes them.
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It is often the 'unspectacular' moments that define us, in my experience. That is what makes them so precious.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2008
Yes, I agree. I have very strong memories of just lounging around in the sunlight with Paul, and thinking that, despite the quietness, this was a life-changing experience. I guess true joy is serene. :)
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:iconchaobaby7:
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008
Oooh love it. I seem to have dried up for new ideas with Severus, maybe my books I'm reading on Alchemy might kick start me, although I've been drawing some long haired, dead boys with black clothes and hair, sort of vampire like and maybe too pretty for sev, but, Oh I like prettying him up somtimes.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008
Thanks, I'm glad you like it! Oooh, yes, alchemy will inspire you - I'd love to read a fan-fic with Snape practising alchemy (and perhaps with wet hair...)
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:iconchaobaby7:
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008
Ah yes, wet hair, very sexy. In Alchemy its about opposites attracting, like solar and luna, so there you have it, Lily and Severus. I love Alchemy actually and learning about the ideas around it, it's quite complicated though, I need Sev to teach me.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2008
It sounds fantastic, I'd love to read about alchemy. I love the idea of opposites uniting and completing themselves, jut like Sev and Lily. Will have to see if I can get a book about it too.
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:iconchaobaby7:
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2008
I did a project on it for my art course some years ago and got so into it, I borrowed books and read articles on the internet and bought books on it. I would love to have lived about 500 years ago and be an Alchemist.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2008
What's your book called, and would you recommend it? I have such a long list of things to read at the moment, but I'd love to investigate the theory of alchemy! :)
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:iconchaobaby7:
Chaobaby7 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2008
Well two i recomend are "The Alchemist's kitchen" by Guy Ogilvy and then the booklets and books you can get from "Raven" ther are a magical, herbalist, hippy stuff mail order comapny in the UK, they are amazing, their address is:
17 Melton Fields
Brickyard Lane
North Ferriby
East Yorkshire
HU14 3HE

they have the most amazing lists and books and pamphlets on most things iike this.

Oh Camber's dictionary of the un-explained is amazing too.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2008
Thanks! That's brilliant, I'll check them out. Books and catalogues like that would be very inspirational for writing Snape stories! :)
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(1 Reply)
:iconlindasnape:
LindaSnape Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008   Writer
Well, it might be rushed, but no less brilliant than usual. Nice job. :)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008
Thanks very much, I'm so glad you liked it! Was worried about it, but hopefully I'll be able to spend more time writing next week! :)
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:iconlindasnape:
LindaSnape Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2008   Writer
You're quite welcome. :)
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