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That night – and not for the first time – James Potter dreamt about flying. He dreamt about clouds getting snagged on his toes and trailing after him like brambles. He dreamt about clear, forget-me-not-blue skies and sheer drops without fear. He woke up a few times, tingling with anticipation for the coming dawn, while Padfoot snored loudly in the next bed. He paced around for a while, deliberately creaking the floor-boards in the hope that one of his friends might wake up and provide him with some company, but they slumbered on, oblivious.

James was never troubled with nerves before a Quidditch match – only impatience. He wanted to be up there in the sky, instead of having to come up with threatening taunts for the Slytherin Quidditch-team, or suffering the indignity of having people pat him on the back and assure him that he would be brilliant, as if there was some kind of doubt in their minds.

Tomorrow would be the adventure of a life-time, and he couldn't wait to get started. Dreamily, he ran possible team strategies and flying formations through his head. He would have to wear thick gloves, because he'd heard that the Dark Snitch released a paralyzing potion whenever someone touched it. It would have other defences too, so he'd tucked his Antidotes Kit – only seven Galleons from Quality Quidditch Supplies, "The perfect piece of kit for the magical adventurer on the go" – into the breast-pocket of the T-shirt he wore under his Quidditch robes. He'd be taking his wand too, of course. That went without saying. He didn't know how long he'd be gone, but he wasn't going to come back without the Dark Snitch.

The day, when it finally dawned, turned out to be hot, muggy and overcast. There was something crackling and oppressive about the atmosphere. It was as though the clouds were gathering together, pooling their resources, in order to throw everything they'd got into the coming thunderstorm. James half-hoped it would break during the Quidditch match, for extra drama.

He got through the rest of the morning on automatic, smiling and scowling at people based on the colour of their school-tie, and putting his Quidditch robes on back-to-front when he finally reached the changing-rooms. He probably would have walked onto the pitch like that, if it hadn't been for Boyd. Boyd was a third-year, hoping to become Quidditch Captain when James eventually left school, and consequently very keen that the team should be well-turned-out. Back-to-front robes, he said, would be unlikely to impress Dumbledore.

James mumbled that he had already impressed Dumbledore by winning four Quidditch Cups, and went back to change again.

By the time he got onto the pitch, he was completely numb with excitement. He hadn't felt this way since his first match. The crowd was a nervous blur before his eyes – a writhing mass of shouts and colours. He held his breath as Madam Hooch, with her whistle between her lips, kicked open the box containing the Quidditch balls.

It rose out of the open box, straight up, like a piece of debris from some earth-shattering explosion. A gasp emerged from the crowd at the same time – the familiar collective intake of breath before the whistle blew on a Hogwarts Quidditch-match – but it lagged hopelessly behind the Dark Snitch. Still, James felt it wash over his skin, raising goose-bumps along the way.

The Snitch was lost to sight for a while – and still Madam Hooch hadn't blown the whistle – but it flitted back down again, as though wondering why nobody had started the pursuit.

It was beautiful, that was the first thing you noticed: made of black steel, with raven-feather wings, perfectly curved. Its wing-feathers lay sleek and straight and declared emphatically that they'd never been messed-up by human hands. It was remote and unconquered. James felt as though he was standing on the shores of a new world.

It passed within three feet of his head, and he had to work hard to stifle a moan of longing. He couldn't start before the whistle blew, even though every muscle and nerve was straining against its moorings, desperate to begin the chase. The adrenaline had kicked in, as it always did at the start of a Quidditch match – blurring his vision for a second, before smoothing the world out into a panorama of bewitching clarity.

When the whistle finally cut through the air, it sounded faint and far-away. But James didn't dwell on that. He was too busy leaping into the air, hardly caring if his broomstick was beneath him.

His thoughts were rocketing through his head at speed; everything else seemed sluggish by comparison. He could discern every beat of his heart – every beat of the Snitch's wings – but, somehow – maddeningly – he couldn't get any closer to it, no matter how his thoughts raced and his body glided through the unresisting air.

He started to lose all consciousness of the crowd below. Their gasping, cheering and jeering – which had once powered every loop and dive – was starting to drop back. Perhaps he was flying out of the Quidditch stadium. Or perhaps he had finally learned to tune out the irrelevant things in life. He couldn't believe he'd once cared about winning House Cups, or getting even with the Slytherins, or wondering who Lily Evans was currently dating. All of that was wonderfully distant now. The only thing that existed for him was the dark glittering of the snitch. It filled his whole field of vision – even though it was just a miniscule point on the horizon, getting no closer, but guiding his broom like the north-star, steering him back on course.

After an indeterminate amount of time – it seemed like seconds, but it could have been hours, because time flew when you were having fun and it rocketed when you were transfixed by the Dark Snitch – he saw it slowing down, dropping back, as though it wanted to make sure it still had his attention.

Potter urged his broomstick forward and stretched out his hand. He could feel the manic black wings beating against his gloves. But, after three beats, he started to smell smoking leather and feel a brief, tingling coldness where his hand had been exposed to the air. After that, all feeling in his arm evaporated. He tried to tell his fingers to close around the Snitch – it was within his grasp, for God's sake! – but they wouldn't listen. His whole arm sagged and hung limply by his side. James felt it over-balancing the broom, and adjusted his trajectory to compensate.

He'd forgotten about the paralyzing potion. Well, it was no problem. He could catch a Snitch left-handed any day. He'd even once had to catch one in his teeth, that time when a Bludger had broken his left arm, and he'd been holding Boyd off the ground with his right. Man, he'd been a hero in the Gryffindor common-room that night!

He followed the Snitch under the dark branches of the Forbidden Forest, gliding between the trees with split-second ease. Always, it remained just ahead of him – not so far that he couldn't dream of catching up, but getting no closer, no matter how he accelerated or flattened himself against the broom-handle.

He chased it into a clearing, carpeted with grass spangled with little white flowers. James, who only had eyes for the Dark Snitch, was slightly disoriented to see unexpected colours in his peripheral vision – a kind of dark, distracting red, which looked out of place amidst all the black and brown. Even weirder, he could hear humming.

For a sole, stupid moment, he took his eyes off the Dark Snitch. But a sole, stupid moment is all it takes in Quidditch, especially when your quarry has been souped-up with added magical powers.  

He saw a girl in the clearing, bending down to pick the white flowers, and then everything came to a shuddering halt. It didn't hurt, because the entire right-half of his body was numb by now, but he had the definite impression that it was going to hurt tomorrow, when the paralyzing potion wore off. He'd caught his helpless, limp right arm in a crook between two branches, and his broomstick had clattered to the ground – which was at least twenty feet away. James was hanging from the tree by a limb he couldn't even feel.

And, to make matters worse, he realized, as his eyes searched desperately for the Dark Snitch, that the girl in the clearing was Lily.  

She hadn't noticed him. She was immersed in her flower-picking and her humming. Dimly, James realized that the white, star-shaped blooms in the clearing were Dittany flowers, and that she must have been harvesting the pods for healing potions. A stream of potion-statistics – relics of last year's intensive OWLS revision – streamed into his head, but he shook himself, trying desperately to relocate the Dark Snitch.

It hadn't zoomed off. It was just hovering a few inches above Lily's shoulder, perhaps wondering why she wasn't gasping and trying to snatch it out of the air.

Gently, it lowered itself onto her. For a few seconds, she didn't even seem to notice, and then she must have felt the stirring motion of its wings, because she turned her head very slowly, as though she was expecting to see something horrible climbing up her arm, and blinked in puzzlement.

She looked around, obviously wondering if she had wandered into the midst of a Quidditch game, and that was when she saw Potter hanging, bloody and bruised, from the tree at the edge of the clearing. Her mouth formed itself into a perfect 'O'. Potter's mouth reciprocated, because he was looking at her left shoulder, where the Dark Snitch's paralyzing potion was burning away her school-shirt.

For a moment, neither of them moved, and then, dreamily, as though he was doing nothing more extraordinary than untying his shoelaces, James cast a Severance Charm in order to cut his own arm off.

And that was the last thing he knew.

The Hospital Wing was bustling. There had been outbreaks of green fire in the stands of the Quidditch stadium. This, it turned out, was a paralyzing fire, which didn't burn but froze you, motionless, inside your own body. There were at least fifty people crammed into the beds in the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey was in a terrible mood.

"Unforgivably irresponsible!" she shouted, as she dabbed potions fiercely onto random student limbs.

"Are you talking about me, or the students?" Dumbledore asked politely. He was sitting – very emphatically out of Madam Pomfrey's way – in an armchair which had been positioned outside the door to her office, reading a magazine.

"Everybody!" she snapped. "You're not exempt from it, Dumbledore, believe me! When you get students this stupid, it's irresponsible to even let them out of the castle! You should keep them under lock and key, for their own safety!"

"We don't know who replaced the snitch with Ulysses Santacruz's Dark Snitch," Dumbledore replied gently. "There may have been only one stupid student. Perhaps one who didn't even realize what he or she was doing. It would be unkind to keep them all locked up because of one student's mistake, Poppy."

He gestured at the unconscious form in the bed nearest to him. "There, for example, is the delightful Margot Holloway, who has never cost Slytherin House so much as a point in her entire school career – who thinks the Death Eaters should carry out controlled scientific experiments before they make any rash pronouncements about superior and inferior blood-lines. Surely you can't be suggesting we should place her in the same category of irresponsibility as a James Potter or a Sirius Black?"

Madam Pomfrey dropped into a chair beside him, massaging her temples. "You are aware that we could be sitting here with fifty dead bodies, instead of fifty injured Quidditch-fans?"

Dumbledore's smile faded. "I am aware we have been exceptionally fortunate, yes."

"Who's responsible?"

"I shall endeavor to find out."

"You know what I think?"

Dumbledore coughed delicately. "My dear Poppy, you're seldom shy about it."

She ignored that. "I think Potter wanted to impress us all by catching the legendary Dark Snitch in front of a large audience."

"I imagine that is what the rest of the school will think too."

"They don't seem to mind much!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed. "I caught six first-years trying to sneak in here earlier with a box of chocolate frogs for him! I mean, where does a first-year even get hold of a box of chocolate frogs at short notice? They're not allowed to visit Hogsmeade."

Dumbledore put down the magazine and leaned closer. "You know, I'm not supposed to know about it, but there's a thriving trade in Honeydukes and Zonko-products within this school, and what it thrives on is the naivety of the younger students. Did you know that a first-year will pay up to a Galleon for a two-Sickle packet of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, just because it comes from Hogsmeade? I really must put a stop to it sometime – although, I confess, the logistics of such a mammoth operation are somewhat daunting."

Madam Pomfrey's irritable attention had wandered back to Potter. "He was extremely lucky he didn't succeed in cutting his arm off, you know," she mused. "If Lily hadn't Stunned him when she did…"

"I know."

"Another second and she wouldn't have been able to! The paralyzing potion would have prevented her."

"I know."

"And I expect she had second thoughts about saving him in the first place!"

"Second thoughts in the first place?" Dumbledore enquired politely.

"You know what I mean."

"My dear Poppy, if you are trying to extract compliments from me, you shall not find me wanting. Your protégée acted commendably, and I intend to tell her so as soon as she comes round."

Madam Pomfrey, slightly mollified, lapsed into silence, while Dumbledore glanced around the room.  "I see you have yielded to the temptation of separating the injured Gryffindors from the injured Slytherins," he observed.

Madam Pomfrey smiled sweetly. "It's my job to preserve their health, Dumbledore; it's your job to educate them."

Dumbledore chuckled. It wasn't the first time Madam Pomfrey had been led to suspect that he enjoyed being insulted.

Severus loitered in the anteroom outside the Hospital Wing. He had been loitering there for most of the afternoon, standing, seething and unseen, in the shadows, while hysterical visitors rushed to pay tribute to their dim-witted hero and were shooed away by an irate Madam Pomfrey.

If only he'd been too miserable to think! But Severus was never too miserable to think. Misery and thought went hand in hand for him, and the one would always encourage the other.

It had been satisfying, in a surreal way, to see Potter brought in on a stretcher, covered in blood. It had been tantalizing to hear the whispers of the crowd outside the Hospital Wing, while they swapped rumours and reports. Was their beloved Potter responsible for all this chaos? Had he put everyone in danger just to boost his own ego? Had he really been unable to catch the Dark Snitch?

Severus felt as though satisfaction had been circling him from above like a carrion-bird, waiting for its moment to descend. But the moment had never come. Satisfaction hadn't just been chased away - it had been shot out of the sky with a violent squawk, because Lily had been brought in on the next stretcher, looking pale and startlingly still.

The whisperers said the Snitch had actually landed on her. They said Dumbledore was worried she'd been corrupted by dark magic. Some of them even said it stood to reason that, as a muggle-born, she would have a lower resistance to dark magic than everyone else.

Severus knew better than to give any credence to what they said. Unfortunately, his own informed speculations were even more alarming, and there was no way to shut them out. The Dark Snitch was a very… unpredictable object. Only one person had ever touched it before, and he'd died immediately afterwards. Granted, he'd been riddled with arrows at the time, so death couldn't have been very far off, but that was even worse. Everyone knew you should keep dying people away from powerfully magical objects. Their last breath was so often a curse, and the kinds of curses that cost the caster his last ounce of strength were potent.

On top of everything else, after a few hours, when it became apparent that nobody was going to die, the whispers started to take on an altogether more jovial quality.

What a character that Potter was! He'd try anything! Bringing Ulyssez Santacruz's Dark Snitch into a school Quidditch game! People would be talking about this one for years! He deserved a medal just for the cheek of it!

Worse than that, they started to hope that he would make a full recovery before the next Quidditch match of the term. It was his fault, and they were still concerned for him! He had put them all in danger, and they were queuing up outside the Hospital Wing to pat him on the back!

Not Lily, though. That was something. She was sitting up in her bed in the Hospital Wing, hiding her face behind a copy of Witch Weekly, or pretending to be asleep, whenever Potter glanced over at her.

And he was sickened by the way he clung to that – by the way the world would offer him pitiful consolations and he would accept them.

Severus didn't understand it. The more Potter tried to get away with, the more they loved him. They more trouble he got into, the more they trusted him.

His one, dim, final hope was that Dumbledore would come to his senses and expel the bastard, but there didn't seem to be much likelihood of that. Dumbledore loved Potter, and what he did. It was as though he thought that a certain amount of bullying and chaos added character to a school.

Severus felt as though the universe was persecuting him. It wasn't even that the world was meaningless, chaotic and unfair. He hadn't been without an inkling of that. It was that the powers of the world seemed to be allied against him, bent on his destruction, on a level so fundamental that they didn't even realize it.

If the world was just indifferent, he could have endured it: but the world was actively hostile. And, in a situation like that, turn-about was fair play. He had to learn how to fight back, how to rely on himself, since no-one else could be relied upon.

The world had already made up its mind about James Potter. And he was beginning to realize – in a slow, creeping sickening way – that it had also made up its mind about Severus Snape. It didn't matter what he tried to do, or how he tried to do it. He would always be the bad guy. Somehow, without meaning to, he'd acquired all the narrative trappings of a villain. He skulked around in the shadows. He was pale, isolated and ugly. He would always end up hurting, disgusting and alienating Lily, because she and the rest of the world had decided that they were on different sides. There was no way across that divide, not while Potter and Dumbledore were still living.

He felt so abandoned that it went beyond anger. He felt as though he was staring uncomprehendingly into the void, and it wasn't even bothering to stare back, because it, too, had dismissed him as a greasy-haired lurker.  

He wondered how many dark wizards had been here before him, on this lonely precipice of logic, realizing that the world was against them, and that the only way to lead a full, independent life was to turn against the world. Had even the Dark Lord been here? Handsome, brilliant, popular Tom Riddle? The world hadn't been shy about handing him gifts, but it had never handed him Dumbledore's approval. And, without that, you were the bad guy. You might as well accept it. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, because there was no going back.

"How are you feeling, Lily?"

"Alright," said Lily cautiously, lowering her copy of Witch Weekly. She didn't feel alright, of course, but she had been feeling un-alright for months, so it was probably irrelevant to the present discussion. Besides, Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey were looking so anxious. She felt duty-bound to soothe their anxieties, even with lies. "Why?" she went on, brushing her hair back. "What was that thing?"

Dumbledore steepled his fingers and peered at her pensively over the top of them. "How much do you know about the history of Quidditch, Lily?"

"Nothing, sir."

Madam Pomfrey grunted approvingly. "That's what I like to see in a Healer," she muttered.

Lily, despite her worries, had to work hard to suppress a smile here. She liked Madam Pomfrey. The matron was brusque, touchy and constantly annoyed, but Lily had learned to love that kind of disposition when she'd first got to know Severus. In fact, she had been seeking out Madam Pomfrey's company more and more in the months since her argument with Severus. She loved Meg and Mary to bits, of course, but they were so… noisy. They always displayed and never watched, always exclaimed and never listened. In a world without Severus, Madam Pomfrey's office was the only place where Lily could find quiet, and words of more than two syllables.

Lily stiffened, hating herself for that last thought and wondering where it could have come from. Restlessly, she turned her eyes to the place where the Snitch had landed, on her left shoulder. There was no mark – no bruise, scratch or burn – and the tingling was probably only to be expected. In the aftermath of the paralyzing potion, her whole body had been tingling, as feeling crept reluctantly back to her, reminding her of things like hunger, thirst, the stomach-cramps she was getting with her period, and the nagging sting of isolation she'd been nursing for the past few months. It stood to reason that the part of her body which had actually been touched by the Snitch would be the last to lose the tingling sensation.

Dumbledore gave her a reassuring smile. "The Snitch that landed on your shoulder was one engineered by a very famous, very talented Quidditch player one hundred and thirty years ago. His name was Ulyssez Santacruz. He gave the snitch quite brilliant magical defences, such as the paralyzing potion which immobilized you, and the green fire which has hospitalized a large proportion of our students. He hoped it would present him with a challenge worthy of his extraordinary talents. The pursuit of it consumed fifty years of his life, and resulted in his death, so I suppose, in a very extreme fashion, his hopes were fulfilled."

"He never caught it?" said Lily. Madam Pomfrey had been fussing over her while Dumbledore spoke. She now took advantage of his silence to grab Lily's chin and demand that she say 'aaaah'.

"No, he never caught it, in the conventional sense, but I believe it came back to him as he lay dying and settled on his shoulder."

Lily, her mouth still open, stared at him. "Why did it do that?"

"Perhaps, over the years, it had developed some form of relationship with him."

"But Snitches aren't…" she hesitated, while Madam Pomfrey grabbed her wrist and took her pulse. "They're not… conscious?"

"This one was an extraordinary feat of magical engineering, Lily. It may have acquired more of Ulysses Santacruz's personality than even he realized. The point is that, to my knowledge, you and he are the only ones to have touched the Snitch and, since he died immediately afterwards, we were in no position to question him about its effects."

"Well, what kind of effects are you expecting?"

Madam Pomfrey let go of Lily's wrist with a satisfied tut. "I can't see any obvious signs of corruption, Dumbledore."

"Corruption?" Lily repeated in alarm.

Dumbledore shrugged cheerfully. "It's just a word, my dear Lily."

"Yes, but it's just a word for something you think I might have!" she protested. "Can't you even tell me what you're looking for?"

"I don't think that would be a good idea, do you?" said Madam Pomfrey briskly, sticking a thermometer in Lily's mouth. "Besides, you're well-acquainted with the library's section on healing magic, Lily, you're quite capable of finding out on your own."

"We don't know very much ourselves, Lily," Dumbledore explained gently. "And, in cases like these, symptoms tend to turn up as soon as the patient knows they're a possibility."

Lily folded her arms and tried to sound disdainful, which is hard to do with a thermometer in your mouth. "You mean you think I'll start imagining things?"

"Nobody's immune to it," Madam Pomfrey cut in, grabbing the thermometer and shaking it impatiently.

"Something that absorbed its maker's personality, and can produce green fire and paralyzing potion," Lily murmured uneasily, "it sounds a lot like... well, like dark magic."

Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey exchanged a glance. Madam Pomfrey was the first to speak. "And if it was, Lily Evans?" she demanded sharply. "What's that to you? Dark Magic can only influence you if you let it. Poison goes where poison's welcome, and it should never be welcome in a Healer's mind."

Dumbledore interrupted her, in soothing, diplomatic tones. "Poppy is trying to say that we think you're more or less immune to corrupting influences, Lily. I assure you, she means it as a compliment."

Lily gave an embarrassed shrug and nodded. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. I know."  

They walked off to tend to the other students, and Lily had to bury her face behind her copy of Witch Weekly again, because Potter was seeking out her eyes with a kind of determined wretchedness. She did not want to hear any thankyous or apologies just now. And, most of all, she didn't want to hear anything more about Quidditch.

There was a tangle of anxiety in her mind, and she couldn't unknot it, or work out which thread had come from which source. Somehow, the touch of the Dark Snitch was mixed up in her head with her growing loneliness, with the way she missed Severus, with her worries about what he was going to do without her.

And, god, why did she care? He'd made it abundantly clear that he didn't care about her – or that he would only care about her when nobody was watching. Why couldn't she lose this fear, or reason it away? Why couldn't she shake him off? They had nothing in common, did they? They had always disagreed on everything, hadn't they? Why did she feel as though he'd walked away with a sizeable chunk of her soul?

Sirius came to visit James after dinner, when Madam Pomfrey was finally letting visitors into the Hospital Wing. She couldn't forgo the urge to glare at him suspiciously, but, compared with her attitude earlier in the day, that was practically friendly.

Most of the other students had been allowed to go back to their Common-rooms by then, and, to Potter's combined annoyance and relief, Lily had been amongst them. He didn't like the way he couldn't control himself around her; it was a terrifying echo of the way he hadn't been able to control himself earlier in the day.

"They say I tried to cut my own arm off, Padfoot," he whispered hoarsely, as soon as Sirius was settled into the chair next to his bed, leaning back casually with his arms behind his head.

"So?" said Sirius. "It's not like that's anything new. Let's face it, Prongs, you would have cut your arm off for the House Cup last year. And for the Quidditch World Cup, you'd probably chop off something a lot closer to home."

James blushed. "I would not!" he protested.

"Ah," said Sirius, nodding sagely. "Of course. No point winning the Quidditch World Cup if you then can't enjoy the girls you'd get as a result of it. Clever."  

"Shut up, Padfoot!" said James, glancing around to make sure Lily hadn't come back and overheard this. "I'm being serious! I can hardly remember anything! Dumbledore said if Evans hadn't stunned me, I'd still be zooming around after that thing, with only one arm, trailing blood all over the countryside!"

Sirius grimaced. "Lovely. I suppose he's still a bit annoyed with you. Did you tell him it was you who swapped the Snitches?"

"I had to. People could have got killed."

"Yeah," sighed Sirius, leaning back in his chair. "I told him I got the Snitch out of my family vault. No sense in getting the little Princess into trouble. I've got about a month's worth of detentions, but they're with Hagrid, so I don't really care. What about you?"

"Same," said James, with a feeble shrug. He was feeling unaccountably sorry for himself, despite the fact that he was clearly lucky not to have been expelled.

"You really can't remember anything?" Padfoot went on.

James made a face. "I can remember what the Dark Snitch looked like. And I can remember it settling on Evans's shoulder and burning away her school-shirt."

"Would've been a crying shame if you'd forgotten that."

James twisted his fingers wretchedly. "Think it'll have any effect on her?"

"It might turn her into less of a bitch."

James blushed again. "Shut up, Padfoot! She saved my life, Dumbledore said."

"It's not personal," said Sirius, chuckling. "She wants to be a Healer. She probably thought it would get her a placement at St. Mungo's when she leaves school. They're bloody hard to come by, you know."  

"I don't care why she did it," said James churlishly.

But that wasn't true. He'd been hoping all afternoon that she'd done it because she'd changed her mind about him. He'd even been telling himself that she was so anxious to avoid eye-contact with him because desire had turned her suddenly shy. The hopes expired every time he thought about what had actually happened, though. He couldn't have looked very impressive when he was hanging from a tree, trying to hack his arm off. A girl of a more sensitive disposition would probably vomit every time she looked at him.

He hadn't been being entirely truthful when he'd told Sirius he hardly remembered anything. He remembered the Dark Snitch with such bewitchingly clarity that he was sure it would be turning up in daydreams and nightmares for years to come. It made him ache with hunger and humiliation whenever he thought about it.

And, somehow, Lily was caught up in all that now. Snitches worked by flesh memories. But, by settling on her shoulder, it had imprinted itself on her, not her on it. She became invested with all the desperate mystique of the Dark Snitch. She became something he had to catch, at all costs.

"There you go again," sighed Sirius, as though reading his mind, "going after something just because you can't have it."

"She's not a 'thing'," he said peevishly.  

"What would you do if she turned around and said: 'James, I've had the hots for you since first-year. Let's go for it, right here, right now'."

James stared into space for a while. "Is that a trick question?"

"I'm saying you wouldn't like her if she liked you. Just like you wouldn't bother catching a Snitch if it zoomed straight into your hands."

"It would be hard not to catch a snitch if it zoomed straight into my hands," he pointed out. "And, also, you're wrong. I don't enjoy getting rejected, you know. I'm not mental."

"You enjoy getting pelted by bludgers."

"Wrong again!" James protested. "Just because the challenges make you appreciate the prize even more doesn't mean the prize wouldn't be worth anything without the challenges!"

"Doesn't it?"

"No! She's…" he floundered, reddening. "Well, you wouldn't get it."

"Why not?"

"Because you don't have a heart, remember? We established that last Christmas when we went to that muggle cinema to watch 'Love Story', and you spent the whole time laughing."

"Oh yeah," said Sirius, scratching his head. "I'd forgotten about that. Was that supposed to be sad?"

"Ask Wormtail," said James rebelliously. "He was in floods of tears, and you laughed at that too."   

Sirius barked with laughter. "Well, don't worry, Prongs. You're further ahead than you were last year. At least now you know she doesn't actually want you dead. And," he added, nodding meaningfully at James's bandaged arm, "chicks love a scar, especially the Healer chicks."

Even after Lily went back to the Gryffindor common-room, Snape had stayed in the ante-room outside the Hospital Wing, staring out of the unglazed window, watching the moon gilding the tops of the fir trees in the Forbidden forest. He told himself he was waiting around to see Potter expelled, but he knew it would never happen. Was he waiting for some modicum of justice to emerge out of this hellish situation? He would be waiting a bloody long time.

There was a delicate cough behind him, and he turned, expecting some fresh torment – maybe Narcissa, demanding to know why Malfoy had not yet arrived at the castle and thrown himself at her feet – or Bellatrix, come to give him what she thought of as a friendly punch on the arm for nearly getting one of Potter's limbs amputated.

But it was only Dumbledore. The fact that Severus didn't immediately recognize this new visitor as a torment was something he was going to rebuke himself for later.

"Shouldn't you be in your common-room, Severus?" he asked gently.

Snape shrugged wordlessly. He wasn't going to give Dumbledore the satisfaction of acting as though he'd been caught out in some way. After all, Sirius Black was out of his common-room, and Dumbledore wasn't breathing disapprovingly down his neck.

"It has been an exciting day, has it not?" Dumbledore went on, joining him by the window, and looking out over the Forbidden Forest.

"Yeah, very exciting," said Snape darkly. "Fifty students nearly dead and Potter not even expelled for it."

Dumbledore's lips curled into a mischievous smile. "If there was definitive evidence that he was behind it - ,"

"If there was, you'd hush it up!" Snape shouted. "Like you hushed it up when they tried to kill me!"

"You were not entirely innocent yourself in that instance."

"Was I guilty enough to be disemboweled by a werewolf, Dumbledore?"

Dumbledore's eyes were sparkling. He seemed to be enjoying himself. "I am happy to say that, then as now, nobody has died."

"I see," said Severus. "So you only get expelled for murder? Attempted murder is just a slap on the wrist?"

Dumbledore smiled. "Let me endeavour to explain my reasoning to you, Severus. In cases where a little bit of guilt is widely dispersed amongst the student body, I think it best to simply let things be. If I were to expel everyone who was involved in this incident, I would be down at least six excellent students. Therefore, I propose to give everyone a second chance. You can call that favouritism if you like. I prefer to see it as keeping this castle inhabited."

He doesn't know anything, Severus told himself, as he glared determinedly back. He's just trying to rattle you. There's no way he could know.

But he always suspects the Slytherins, doesn't he? Especially when he can't stand to think that his precious Potter might be to blame.

"I don't understand," he said, trying to keep his voice even. "Hasn't Potter admitted that he switched the Snitches? Didn't Sirius Black admit that he got the Dark Snitch out of his family vault? What kind of definitive evidence are you looking for?"

Dumbledore tapped his long fingers on the window-ledge. "It's a small matter, but I happen to know that the locks on the Black family vault were changed when Sirius ran away from his family home. I am not supposed to know this, so it's very hard for me to confront Sirius with the fact." He turned to Severus, his eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. "And there are other oddities, Severus – things which may be completely unconnected but which should nevertheless give one pause for thought. The theft of some extremely rare ingredients from Professor Slughorn's store-cupboard – ingredients which, he tells me, could be used to make up a cauldron-full of Amortentia. The mysterious indisposition of a friend you went drinking with at the weekend."

"What?" said Snape, his mouth dry.

"Didn't you know Mr. Malfoy was ill?"

"No! What's wrong with him?"

"Nobody can tell. He has barred all doctors from his presence. Another possibly unrelated but potentially thought-provoking fact is that you received an owl half an hour ago." Dumbledore passed him a sealed piece of parchment. "Forgive the idle curiosity, but the crest on the seal is the Malfoy coat of arms, is it not? It seems Mr. Malfoy feels that nobody but you is qualified to be his physician."

Snape set his jaw and took the letter with determinedly steady hands. "For someone who won't expel Potter for a crime he's admitted to, you're strangely eager to leap to conclusions without proof," he said calmly. "Would that have anything to do with the fact that I'm a Slytherin, sir?"

Dumbledore chuckled. He seemed delighted by the cold, composed rebuke.

"Professor Slughorn tells me your recent project on antidotes was exemplary," he said, in a lighter tone of voice. "You are a credit to the school, Severus. I am unspeakably glad to have you here."

He turned and made a typically Dumbledorean exit, complete with trailing robes and bouncy walk. Severus stared resentfully after him.
Continuing from 'Desconfianza' [link]

This is another new chapter in which I try to tie up the loose end of the Dark Snitch - except that, every time I try to tie up a loose end, it creates another five loose ends, (with the result that I'll probably be editing this story for the rest of my life! ;))

My computer's sick, so my boyfriend very kindly let me borrow his computer for five hours today (I kid you not, that is how long it takes me to write a chapter - often longer - and I can make myself do it all in one go, without stopping for lunch, all for the incentive of a few comments from Deviant Art readers - is that sad? I'm pretty sure I enjoy the actual writing process itself but, by the time one of these chapters has been checked and formatted, I'm usually so sick of it that it is only the comments I think about! :faint:

Anyway, thank you for reading! :hug: :)
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Veronika-Art Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2015
I am guessing my comment won´t be read, but still, this and the last chapter have been incredible Lu. I can only tell you I can take about 40 hours for a painting too, for a few comments in DA... and for me, it´s a bit sad... anyway.

Dumbledore is a wise guy... And poor Snape, I really feel for him, with all that hate building up inside of him. I feel like if was myself they were going to catch.... so nervous for him...

I am very curious about Lily, thinking of Snape after the Snitch touched her... I guess I have to read on... 

I loved this : 
" He would always end up hurting, disgusting and alienating Lily, because she and the rest of the world had decided that they were on different sides"...

Marvelous writing Lu, never stop :heart:
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2011
five hours today (I kid you not, that is how long it takes me to write a chapter - often longer -

Good god woman, this is over 6300 words! It takes me weeks, months, usually-I-never-even-get-there to write that much. You pound it out in five hours? It might be a bit much to do in a streak with no breaks, but it's hardly slow - it's a word every three seconds. (Which sounds slow if you think of it as typing speed, but it's not - it's crafting-a-finished-product speed.)
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2011
:blushes: I'm sorry, I was feeling quite low when I wrote that comment! In fairness, though, that particular chapter was probably more like ten hours - I just wrote the last half of it in one five-hour sitting, and then felt sorry for myself because my Sunday was gone and I wasn't very pleased with the end resullt (the weekends are so precious when you're none too keen on your job! ;)) I don't mean to complain - I mean, I don't think I'm a quick writer exactly, but I could be slower. Before Severus Snape inspired me to start writing fan-fiction, I used to write about a page per year!
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2011
I was so curious as to why you started out with James' perspective, of all people! Until he got bloodied up-then I understood :) I really liked the part about the world having made up its mind about James and Severus. But what has happened to Lucius!? :O
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2011
:rofl: Ha ha, exactly! Can't bring myself to write about James Potter unless he gets injured somehow! ;) Since this is a chapter from earlier on in the story, Lucius's mysterious illness is just his Amortentia-poisoning, which took place ages ago, and was the reason why poor Lucius suffered so much in the earlier parts of the story! The next chapter chronologically is Blue Satin [link] which I've edited and updated in order to put up on (hope that all makes sense!) You're an angel for still reading, I've missed you! :hug: Hope all is well with you?
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2011
Oh yes, thanks for asking! I'm very well, just unreasonably busy! I do community theatre, and am in two shows right now, one of which is an Easter Pageant at my church. I love it so much and am having a brilliant time - it's just really time consuming! I am having fun catching up reading. Do you have the same username on
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2011
That's so cool, I'd love to see your shows! Good luck with them! I was very keen on acting too until the age of 13, when the stage-fright kicked in... :fear: It wouldn't be good for me now, since I feel as though everyone's watching me even when I'm not on stage! ;) :giggle:

Yes, I have the same username on My account is here: [link]
Melorik Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2011
Hey Lucy,

Glad to see that you've tied up this loose end. I was quite curious about the dark snitch for a while. Good to see that it's finally been resolved, although it's interest that you've left open the possibility that it's turned Potter into the obsessive stalkerish type in the later chapter ;). Still... knowing Potter I don't think it'd take much to turn him stalkerish anyway.

I also enjoyed your last chapter in the main plotline, although I didn't get a chance to comment on it. I'm looking forward to seeing how Snape manages to handle Voldemort in the damn dream world :P.

Keep it up,


ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2011
Thanks, Sam! :hug: :) I'm so glad you're still reading and enjoying the chapters! Did you get my note? Was just worried because I hadn't heard from you in so long, but I'm a constant worrier so just ignore me! ;)

I was thinking about Potter's alternative future in the Boggart Lily's universe when I wrote this chapter (you know, where he stops fighting Voldemort and just becomes a paunchy, embittered Quidditch coach - a cross between Severus Snape and Ludo Bagman! :fear:) Don't worry, I will come back to the main plot-line (in fact, the next chapter will continue from where I left off there).

Have you seen your dedication? [link]
Melorik Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2011

Yes, I have seen the dedication. In fact I did notice your story go up a while ago, but I tend to lurk on, so most of my commentary happens on here. Now that you're on, perhaps one day you will see some of the reviews that I have left to writers who have run afoul of me :-D.

I actually didn't even notice that you sent me a note cause I'm not used to the interface on Deviant-art. Thanks for the heads up. Don't worry, I'm all good so far... I've just been a bit busy with law school. I've kinda hit writers block with regards to my commentary lately, mostly due once again to my studies. So the last week I've just read your new chapters with same relish, yet with the critical eye of a vegetable :P. I just kinda sat back and read mindlessly.. if that makes any sense ;)

Perhaps your story is rotting my brain as much as TV and Video Games.... now if only it could make the same ammount of money as either of those two mediums :D.


ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2011
:rofl: Apologies for the story rotting your brain! I think it did that to my brain too. I'm now unfit to go out in company and refrain from talking about Severus Snape and fanfiction! :blushes: Don't worry, there's no necessity to comment in detail (or even comment at all) on the new chapters, I just wanted to make sure you were OK. I figured you must have had loads of exams - my friend's training to be a lawyer and she says you have to commit vast numbers of precedents and statutes to memory - it's like memorizing every word of every book in a whole library! Still, it must be good to know about something so useful. All I know about is Snape, and, by now, people have learned not to ask me about him 'cause it results in a lengthy and frighteningly earnest conversation about why he's the best character in the whole of western literature! ;)
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
Seeing these characters a year or so younger than they are in the current stories feels like starting the HP books over from the beginning again, and thinking "Oh wow, remember how young these kids were, and how different everything was for them!" James Potter is still unsympathetic to me (no matter how pathetic and nearly-endearing the image of his frantic obsession with the snitch leading him to try and cut off his own arm is), Severus has less of a defined goal and more un-recompensed anger, and Lily is still a little lost without her childhood friend.
Dumbledore, of course, is ever-unchanging. :hmm:

Sorry to hear your computer is on the fritz. I hope it's in working order soon. When you say five hours, do you mean you sit down and start writing on a blank screen and five hours later have a finished chapter? Say what you want about boredom, ma'am, but that's discipline.
ls269 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2011
Oh, definitely not always! Most of the time I write in distracted little bursts and then try to sew everything together so that it makes sense. (I always start with the scenes I want to see, and then try to come up with some passages that link them at the last minute!) This chapter was about half-done when I came to it five hours before I posted it, so the total writing time was probably closer to ten hours! I guess it is disciplined to sit down for five hours straight and work at it, but, I don't know, it's an enjoyable thing until it gets to the end stages. (The proof-reading and formatting is hellish, and that's when I really have to sustain myself by thinking about the chance of talking to lovely DA people about these characters and this story!)

I'm so glad you don't mind the lengthy digression back to the beginning of the story! I feel more inspiration there, for some reason. And I think it's helpful for thinking about the ending to see how the story started, even though every edit makes the story seem never-ending! ;)
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