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Severus had been combing the castle for a Boggart ever since term started, but, even when he found one lurking at the bottom of a mahogany chest in the abandoned Charms classroom, it had taken him forever to persuade Lily to go and see it.  

The classroom had been abandoned for months. The roof had caved in due to some magical accident – the students who’d been in class at the time were still having counseling, and everybody else was forbidden from asking them about it – but, whatever the catastrophe had been, it had left the ceiling blackened and, in some places, completely missing. There were just jagged holes in the masonry showing patches of cloudy sky. And, in the midst of all this wreckage, he’d found the Boggart. It had instantly assumed the shape of Lily and Potter, soldered together in a passionate embrace, but – once the clouds of agony had cleared on that scene – Severus had realized that this was a blessing in very, very convincing disguise.

They were standing outside the door to the classroom now. Lily’s eyes were still half-closed with sleep, and she was leaning heavily on his shoulder. She hated early mornings.

In what was probably a pointless effort to soothe her, he said: “It might be good for you to face your fears.”

“I am facing my fears! I’m going out with you, aren’t I?”

Severus decided to ignore that.

“You know that you’ll never turn into her,” he said gently. “Your life’s never going to turn out like hers. It’s just that, some parts of it, I could live with.”

Lily made a face, but she didn’t say anything. She was acting kind of shy around him these days. Ever since he’d performed that spell to take away her pain in the Hospital Wing, they had been coy and awkward. Severus felt it too. It had been so intimate. It was as though they’d had sex.

He sighed. Only he could find a way to have sex without ever actually seeing her naked. That was typical. Now she probably wouldn’t want to have sex with him at all. How could he ever live up to that spell?   

Apart from that, their time together was spent happily enough. Too happily, he thought sometimes. It frightened him, all this contentment. Getting exactly what he wanted terrified him. It was too much. It couldn’t last. He could feel the storm-clouds gathering. And when it was all taken away, it was really going to hurt.

So he needed something – anything – that could persuade him this state of affairs was going to last. The Boggart Lily was… well, a vision of the future that he could trust. If it had been perfect – if they’d lived happily ever after – he never would have believed it was possible. But she was angry and bitter and – as much as it hurt him to think he’d done all that to her – it was believable. No Slytherin would trust a happily ever after. But a ‘happily for about ten years, followed by a painful and permanent separation, in the knowledge that you’d ruined her forever’ – well, that was plausible. Terrifyingly plausible, of course – but still plausible.

Besides, a Slytherin wouldn’t like a happily ever after, even if they ended up with one. They needed something to strive for, something to fix.   

Of course, he didn’t want Lily to become a broken, bitter and sarcastic Death Eater – of course he wouldn’t let it happen – but, if he could just get his head around the beginning of that future – if he could just find out from the Boggart-Lily how he had managed to make her stay with him – then everything would be alright.

It had taken him a long time to persuade her. Even now, as they stood outside the Charms classroom, he felt wretched about making her go in there. It was like making her crawl through spider-web-infested tunnels.

She was giving him a look that was trusting and reproachful at the same time. It seemed to say: ‘Any minute now, you’re going to tell me that this isn’t really necessary. You’re just toying with me. You’d never make me go through with it.’

It was horrible, trying to open that door – he had to wrench his muscles into position, because they didn’t want to do it. They didn’t want to co-operate with anything that caused her pain. But it was necessary. If only he could make her understand how treacherous the world was. If only she knew how many people wanted to take her away from him – she’d know the Boggart-Lily was their best hope.   

“Maybe you could take the Unbreakable Vow not to kill yourself?” she suggested. “Then we’d know my life couldn’t turn out like hers.”

Severus gave her one of his exasperated smiles. “Lily, the whole point of the Unbreakable Vow is that you die if you don’t keep it. If you’ve already made up your mind to die, it’s not going to be much of a deterrent, is it?”

“I guess…”

“I’ll take the Unbreakable Vow not to be mean to you.”

She gave him an affectionate nudge. “You’ll be dead by Thursday.”

She sighed, and pushed her hair out of her face, as though she was rolling up her sleeves and making a real effort to be serious. “Anyway, it’s never a good idea to take that Vow about anything. I mean, nobody knows what’s going to happen…”

“Exactly my point.”

“But I don’t get why this is so important,” Lily protested. “We’re already going out. And what Guillotine Valance told me… you know… about how I’d marry Potter and die protecting our child…”

Snape grimaced. They never talked about this, if they could help it. Speaking it out loud made it sound more plausible.

“Anyway, I… I mean, I can’t make any promises, obviously… but I don’t want to marry Potter… so I’m pretty sure that won’t happen.”

The grimace turned into a scowl. “What do you mean, you can’t make any promises?”

Lily couldn’t help laughing. “I like how you focus on that part of the sentence, Sev!”

Severus re-played the sentence in his mind, and found it just as disturbing as he had the first time round. Still, he didn’t want to fight. He wanted to see the Boggart again. He couldn’t believe how eager he felt. He’d waited so long for some kind of tangible hope – something that would dispel all the visions of Potter getting his filthy hands on her. And now here it was – admittedly with a Dark Mark and a ton of emotional baggage – but it was a future that he could negotiate with. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start. At least they got to be together.   

“I just don’t understand why you can’t promise me,” he said, in a rough approximation of calm.    

“Because I don’t know what’s going to happen!” Lily protested.

“Oh, you think it’s possible that some day you’ll wake up and think Potter isn’t an arrogant creep?”

Lily giggled again, but she cast a guilty glance over her shoulder just the same. It made Snape’s mood darken even more. Potter was never more than a Quaffle’s throw away from her. And now she was starting to expect him.

“You know,” she said guiltily, “he’s not that bad, Sev. Most people are nice.”

“Of course they’re nice to you. You’re a pretty girl. Anyone can be nice to a pretty girl.” He thought of Narcissa and added. “Except other pretty girls.”

Lily smiled shyly. “You think I’m pretty?”

Severus shut his eyes, both weary and amused. “I think you have a tendency to focus on the wrong parts of the sentence too, you know.”  

“Look,” she said, in a soothing voice that did nothing to mask her amusement. “I don’t want to marry Potter – that’s the point I think you should be focusing on. And this Boggart isn’t a prophecy. She’s just a stupid idea I had about the future before I knew who you really were. She can’t tell us how to make our lives turn out right.”

Severus grasped her hand and gave her what passed, in his mind, for an encouraging smile. “I’m glad you look at it that way, because we’re going to talk to her.”

And he pushed her through the doorway into the Charms classroom. She had to be in front, or the Boggart would turn into his worst fear – and he really didn’t want Lily to see that.

They were still holding hands when the Boggart rose up out of the mahogany chest in front of them, unfolding her skinny arms, pushing back her shoulders, and lifting her head with cool defiance.      

And, now that he was seeing her face to face, he found he’d forgotten how beautiful she was. He had remembered her as gorgeous – the luscious, heaving chest and the slick curtain of blood-red hair. But there were other features – things that you would have thought would detract from her gorgeousness which, in fact, only enhanced it. Those collar-bones showing starkly through her chalk-white skin, the smudged eye make-up, the bitter lines etched around her mouth.  

She looked voluptuous and skinny, slick and disheveled, all at the same time. Her green eyes were just as bright as Lily’s – but bright with a kind of unwholesome energy that gave him goose-bumps. Life and strength wouldn’t leave Lily Evans, no matter what she went through – they were programmed into her every move – but all the energy that made his Lily light on her feet and constantly laughing – all it did in this woman was fuel her bitter smiles and sarcastic comments.

It was these similarities that tormented and confused him. Everything about her was so wrong but, at the same time, so horribly right. He shouldn’t be attracted to her, because she wasn’t Lily, and yet she was Lily. Every familiar feature was there – it was just doing a different job.

Severus started to feel light-headed and inexplicably awkward – as though he was introducing Lily to an ex-girlfriend. He supposed, in a way, he was. The thought wasn’t comforting. For somebody with all these beautiful girlfriends, you’d think he would have managed to have sex with at least one of them. But no. Reality was a bastard like that.

“Back again, are you?” said the Boggart, folding her arms expectantly.

Lily was the first to answer. “We want to speak to you,” she said simply. “About the future.”  

“You first.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I want to speak to you alone first,” the Boggart explained patiently.

“No - ,” said Snape and Lily at once.

“Or I don’t talk at all,” she continued. “I don’t have to talk. Boggarts don’t, usually. All I need to do is stand here and look scary.”

Severus looked at Lily. The anxiety in her eyes had hardened into annoyance, but he could see that it wasn’t directed at him.

“Go on,” she said. “Wait for me outside. This won’t take long.” She turned her eyes to the Boggart and said, in a contemptuous voice. “She’s got nothing new to say to me.”

“Well, I’m a great believer in the power of repetition,” the Boggart answered, with brisk brightness.


Lily was feeling nauseous. Her knees were trembling and, however hard she tried to excuse him, she couldn’t understand why Severus had brought her here. Her eyes were stinging with betrayal. She really, really wanted to sway on the spot or stagger into a chair, but she wouldn’t show weakness in front of the Boggart.

It was so ridiculous. As though you had to pretend to your Boggart that you weren’t scared! Your Boggart knew you were scared. It wouldn’t exist if you weren’t scared.  

But she stood up straight and lifted her chin anyway, mimicking the Boggart’s defiant movements without realizing it.

“A lot’s happened since we last spoke,” the creature murmured.  

Lily thought this was an odd thing to say. She assumed she had spoken to a different Boggart last time, but somehow this Boggart shared the memories of the others. There really hadn’t been enough studies on Boggart behaviour. If she wasn’t feeling so sick with apprehension, she would have thought about starting one.

For some reason, the Boggart seemed to be thinking very carefully about what she was going to say. Obviously, this caution wouldn’t result in tact, but she was very curious to see what it would result in. For the first time, the creature didn’t seem angry or contemptuous. She seemed almost as nervous as Lily herself.  

The eyes were strange, she thought, as the Boggart hesitated. Not dark green, but darkened green – like a bright colour that had been plunged into blackness. They spoke of unfathomable loss and unbelievable fury. For the first time, Lily was frightened, not of what her Boggart was, but of what it could do.   

“Is he still jealous of Potter?” the creature asked at last. “Does he still get depressed and suspicious every time you even mention his name?”

Again, Lily didn’t answer. Names were potent – almost magical – for Severus. They had a physical effect, as though they were an incantation. She could break his concentration in class just by very softly, almost on the edge of hearing, speaking his name. It was like touching him someplace very sensitive. It flustered him. Of course it would hurt him when she said Potter’s name. Although that was nothing to how he reacted when she said the word ‘James’. To Severus, that was tantamount to infidelity.  

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” the Boggart continued, clearly unfazed by the lack of response. “He wants to make you his sanctuary. Every time he comes home to you, he expects you to make everything alright. Your cheerfulness has to support the both of you. And it’s exhausting, Lily. You live on a knife edge – feeling ridiculously vindicated if you raise a smile, and unbearably rejected if you don’t.”

Lily tried to keep her face completely impassive. She’d been prepared for this. Whatever the Boggart said, she was not going to react.   

“You know how draining it is to support him when he’s in those moods. How can you care about someone and stay cheerful when they’re miserable? That’s the point – when you love someone who’s depressed, you feel their pain almost as sharply as they feel it themselves, but you have to stay cheerful – you have to tread water. The worst thing you could do is shout, or sink into an unapproachable gloom of your own. They need you to distract them and be patient with them, but they don’t care how much they’re hurting you. And you have to not take it personally. You have to resist the feeling that you caused this gloom, and the feeling that, if you really mattered to them, you’d be able to pull them out of it.”

The Boggart stopped to catch her breath. She looked as though she’d been bursting to say all this for years. She smoothed down her dress – a mannerism that reminded Lily unpleasantly of Narcissa – and continued.   

“You basically have to put aside all thought of yourself. Put away your own feelings. And, after a while, you start to forget where you put them. And, suddenly, when you need to, you can’t feel anything at all. When someone is pleading with you to be merciful, all you can do is think about how all this shrill, whiny screeching is getting on your nerves.”

Lily shivered. She hadn’t meant to. She’d been trying so hard not to betray her feelings. But the Boggart saw it and closed in for the kill.  

“That’s how it happened, Lily – and it did happen. Call me whatever you want. I’ve heard it all: monster – bitch – whore – anything and everything – words don’t hurt me anymore. Call me a personification of your deepest, darkest fears. But you can never call me implausible. You’re young. You don’t understand. Love and patience is finite – but there’s no exhausting his misery.”

“No, no, no!” Lily shouted. She was almost laughing with relief. Here, at last, she could put this gloomy bitch right. “There is – I’ve seen it! When he gets tired – when he needs me – he stops being suspicious. I’ve seen it. I taught him to fly with it! I am not imagining things!”  

“And, if it was just you and him in the world, Lily, maybe those occasional flashes of trust would make a difference,” she snapped.  

“I’m not giving up on him,” said Lily simply. “I’ve seen that there’s hope, and I won’t give up. Walking away from that would be unforgivable. You know I couldn’t do it. I’d be you already if I did it.”

The Boggart was staring into space. Lily didn’t know if this was a trick, but she looked almost… defeated. Her voice was very faraway when she eventually spoke. “I’ve heard all that before. You thought it was an adventure. You thought you’d be like Orpheus. Your love has been carried off into the darkness, and the only way to get him back is to go there, and charm whatever monsters lie beyond it. Well, I’m sorry to say it, Lily Evans, but you just didn’t have enough charm. Orpheus could make stones weep.”

Lily, who automatically interpreted this as a dig at Sev’s cold-heartedness, said: “I get a smile out of him every now and then.”

The Boggart didn’t look angry; she just looked unfathomably sad. “Oh, God, you’re impossible,” she said, in a voice that was almost dead with weariness. “I think I’m going to have to kill you.”

She took a deep breath and drew herself upright. “Alright. I’m clearly talking to the wrong person here. Bring him in. If you won’t save yourself, maybe he can save you. He’s unbelievably selfish, or he wouldn’t have brought you here in the first place, but I know he cares for you, in a very warped and twisted way, so maybe he can be reasoned with.”

“You’re going to emotionally blackmail him into breaking up with me?” Lily asked – shocked in spite of everything she’d heard so far. “You just don’t get it, do you? You don’t exist! You’re a figment of my imagination, and a figment of my imagination is not going to order me around!”

“He’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t get to talk to me,” said the Boggart, still in that dead tone of voice.

“He’ll understand,” Lily answered. “Now get back in that box and wait around to terrify some other poor young couple, because we don’t need you.”

And she walked out.  


Severus had promised himself he wouldn’t listen – but, when the door closed behind him, he found that he hadn’t needed to. Magical classrooms were always very carefully soundproofed, because of the regular explosions, so he could only hear raised voices.  

For a while, he entertained himself with the thought that they were having some kind of bizarre and beautiful cat-fight in there, and that it would result in them ripping each other’s clothes off. But, when Lily stormed out, looking white-faced but triumphant, and definitely wearing all of her clothes, he knew that this was only the beginning of the disappointments.

“I’m sorry, Severus,” she said, raising her hand to halt his protests. “I can’t do this. I’m going to the library, OK? I’m not coming back here.”

And she walked off down the corridor before he could respond.

Snape sighed and plunged his hands into his pockets. He’d been so close! Why did she have to be so stubborn? Anyone would think she didn’t want them to stay together.  Anyone would think she was secretly looking forward to dying horribly for the sake of Potter’s little brat!

But maybe she could still be persuaded. He’d better hang on to the Boggart, just in case. He wandered back into the classroom to check that the mahogany chest was closed properly, and then he had to grab onto the door-frame to stay upright, because the floor seemed to be hurtling away from him in shock.    

The Boggart was still there. Still there and still Lily. He could hear Lily’s footsteps receding up the corridor, until they eventually faded from hearing altogether, but the Boggart didn’t disappear. She continued to stand in the mahogany chest, looking just as surprised as he was by her continued existence.

“Well, that’s… interesting,” she murmured. “Am I your Boggart too, Severus?”

Snape gave her a look that took in the tight, heaving dress and the pouting lips.

“I wouldn’t have thought so,” he replied, still numb with shock.

“Well, this is going to take some getting used to,” said the Boggart mildly.

Severus felt as though he ought to say something, but he didn’t know what. The mad notion occurred to him that he should wrestle her back into the chest and run for a teacher, but bitter experience had taught him that teachers were seldom on his side, and that opportunities needed to be grasped as soon as they arose, because they definitely wouldn’t come again.

He could ask her all his questions now. He’d been rehearsing them for months.    

But he didn’t know what she was. If she could exist independently of Lily, then she could repeat all his questions to Potter, or one of his idiotic friends. But the silence was spiraling out of control. He still wasn’t sure that the floor was very secure beneath him. And, besides, he had an urge to hear her voice again. That smoky voice – the kind that made you think of jazz-clubs and soft-pattering rain outside. There was no warmth in it, of course – but it was hypnotically smooth.  

He decided to ask her the most innocuous of his questions – a question that anyone would ask if they saw Lily Evans with a Dark Mark on her arm.

“How did you become a Death Eater?”

The Boggart smiled grimly. “Dead woman’s boots.”

And she put a foot up on the edge of the chest she was standing in. She was wearing scuffed leather ankle-boots.

Severus paused. The first thing he thought was: I’ve never seen her feet before. She was always standing in the chest – she always stayed in the chest. She never came after you. She was the kind of Boggart who did all the terrifying she needed to do with her mouth.

In fact, now that he came to think of it, he wasn’t entirely sure she’d had feet before.

The second thing he thought was: I know those boots. His shins knew them so well they were starting to ache at the sight.

“Those are Bella’s,” he said in a hollow voice.

“Yep.”

There was a silence, while Snape tried to prevent his brain from shutting down with shock. “You killed Bellatrix Black?”  

The Boggart shrugged. “Eventually. She sent out eight or nine of her cronies before she’d agree to face me herself. Apparently, it was dishonourable to duel one-on-one with a mudblood. But, once she’d run out of servants to hide behind, she had to come out. I told her I’d write the words ‘Killed by a mudblood’ on her tomb-stone.” She paused, and Severus thought wildly that her scowl made her look almost ugly. He would never have thought she could look ugly to him.  

“It was the night you killed yourself,” she resumed. “I didn’t feel like being walked over.”

Severus tried to focus. His head was buzzing with panic. He had never, ever thought he would hear words like that coming from Lily’s mouth. “But that wouldn’t get you in to the Death Eaters,” he said – and there was a pleading note in his voice now. “The Dark Lord… likes Bella.”   

“Apparently, he likes me more.”

Severus frowned. Killing Bella – well, that was reasonable enough. Who hadn’t thought about it? Anyone who’d ever heard that shrill, inquisitive voice, demanding to know everything about you, but never listening to your answers – would have considered killing Bella. Some perfectly sane and reasonable people had fantasized about killing Bella. If they had planned it out – even with diagrams – Severus would not have been the one to judge them.

But killing innocent people to get to Bella – taunting her in the moments before her death… he couldn’t imagine Lily doing something like that.

“She’s made you soft, hasn’t she?” said the Boggart conversationally. “That kind of story wouldn’t have shocked you a year ago.”

“No, I think it still would have, if Lily Evans had been the protagonist,” he said, in a kind of free-floating calm.  

The Boggart shrugged. “Like I said, it was the night you killed yourself.”  

Severus didn’t like the silence that descended. It made him feel horrible, in a way he didn’t want to work out right now. “I didn’t realize you and Bella had the same shoe size,” he muttered, in an attempt to distract himself.  

“Oh, we don’t. I mostly just wear the boots to annoy her sister. It’s quite amusing to see Narcissa trying not to smudge her eye make-up by crying.”

Severus hesitated. It took a lot to shock him. It was never a stretch, for him, to believe the worst of people. Except this person.

What did you expect? he suddenly thought. You knew she was a Death Eater. Did you think she was just the tea lady? Did you think she was in charge of the admin, but didn’t do any of the actual killing? You didn’t think at all, did you?

But this didn’t make sense. It couldn’t make sense. Lily Evans stomping around in boots that were too big for her, just to make Narcissa cry? It was like Lucius Malfoy hugging a muggle. It was like Bellatrix getting bored of the Cruciatus Curse. It was like Potter seeing an opportunity to mention a Quidditch victory, and not taking it.

Everything was breaking down. He had thought this was a future he could negotiate with. He was good at negotiating. Obviously, he didn’t want Lily to turn into a Death Eater. Obviously, the sight of his Lily with a Dark Mark and a bitter smile was unsettling. Of course it was.

It wasn’t that he’d thought this future was something to hope for. But it had been… the beginnings of hope. He got to be with her in this future. She hadn’t ended up dead, or married to Potter.

But this woman wasn’t hope. She was despair. This future was just as horrific as the other one.

The only thing that made a difference – and he was ashamed to realize how much of a difference it had made – was that, in this future, Potter wouldn’t get his filthy hands on her.

He’d been prepared to sell her soul to keep Potter’s hands off her body. That thought struck him like one of Bella’s heavy-handed but affectionate slaps.

Well, was it better to see her dead?

But this woman was dead. All of Lily’s bubbling energy had been sucked dry; her oceans of sympathy and sweetness were dried up. She wasn’t Lily any more. She was like a dried river-bed. He hadn’t been able to see the cracks until he got really close-up.   

She was still the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, though. She was still his Lily. That made it worse, somehow.

He felt the ground opening up in front of him. No, not just in front of him. Everywhere he tried to turn, the ground slipped away from under his feet. The only way was down.

Because she was gorgeous, and because she hadn’t ended up in Potter’s bed, he had thought the rest of it didn’t matter – as though all he cared about was having her skinny, voluptuous body all to himself. He hadn’t cared about her; he had only cared about keeping her.

He felt sick to his stomach. All the desire of a few moments ago had turned into disgust.  

He wanted, more than anything else, to confide in someone. He wanted advice. But there was no-one to turn to. He couldn’t tell Lily what the Boggart had said; even if he could, it would only propel her into Potter’s arms ten times faster.

And, because Snape’s imagination was so fatalistic but so very vivid, he saw her throwing herself into Potter’s arms. And he saw Potter smirking at him over the top of her shoulder, in a sickening, triumphant, sharp-toothed grin. Snape almost staggered with the impact of that thought. His imagination was always tormenting him with images like this.

Jealousy burned in his throat as though he’d swallowed hot coals, and the horrific images escalated, fell on top of each other like dominos, as though he was flicking through a photo album of their happy lives together.   

He saw her embracing him after a Quidditch victory. He saw them holding hands in the corridors and passing each other notes in class. And then his thoughts would slide inexorably downwards, until he saw Potter grinning and swaggering his way into her bedroom, peeling back her clothes, unwrapping her with lazy nonchalance, as though she was his hundredth Christmas present – as though his next remark was going to be: ‘Oh, I’ve already got one of those. I hope you kept the receipt.’

Potter had won. Potter would always win because he was just… just… Potter. The whole world seemed to be charmed by him. Gravity ignored him; Snitches zoomed right into his out-stretched hands; girls didn’t care that he was skinny and unattractive; all his moronic boasting was only ever met with sighs of longing and misty-eyed smiles. Lily was the only one who had ever seemed immune. Severus had thought she could see right through him – or maybe he’d just wanted to believe that so much that he’d started to hallucinate her scorn. The creep must have been bottle-fed Felix Felicis!

While you were breast-fed unicorn blood, said a nasty little voice in his head.  

He was so alone. He felt like he was back in his bed at Spinner’s End, waiting for his dad’s anger to catch up with him – listening to the shrieks of the normal children outside, and wondering why he couldn’t be one of them. Why did the world only conspire against him?

And he wondered if his future had been laid out in front of him even then. Before he’d ever set eyes on Lily, was he destined to lose her to a Quidditch-playing narcissist?


He didn’t really remember how he’d left the Boggart, or how he’d got down the staircase to the library. Everything was a blur. He only knew that Lily was there, and that, when she saw the look on his face, she didn’t ask any questions. She just let him sit next to her on the bench beside their table, and hold her in his arms.  

He liked to hold onto her like this – as though she was the only thing that was keeping him from being swept away by the current. He couldn’t tell her what was bothering him, and she wouldn’t press him. But she thought it was only a matter of time. She didn’t realize that this silence would have to be forever.

He could never, ever tell her what the Boggart had said. He could never tell her what it had felt like to see Euphorbia Coren murdered. Now, more than ever, he didn’t want to taint her with horror like that. He needed her as a refuge from all the darkness.

He just needed to see her for a few hours a week, and hear her doomed but valiant attempts to find the best in people, and know that this was what he was doing it all for – so that she could be his sweet, care-free, laughing Lily. She was the only proof he had that there was goodness in the world. And, out of a desire to be close to her, he could shatter that goodness. He’d never realized before how fragile it was.

So there were parts of his life that he would have to keep completely closed-off from her. Would she understand that? Would all these silences drive them apart?

But they never spoke about anything relevant anyway. It was always playful disagreements and hypothetical scenarios. They never talked about politics. They were already finding refuge with each other from all the horrors of reality. And she seemed to need that just as much as he did. He wondered if there were things she wasn’t telling him, too. Ordeals she was struggling through; doubts she was wrestling with. Perhaps she wanted to preserve his innocence just as much as he wanted to preserve hers. It was a thought that comforted and unsettled him at the same time.

He didn’t like to think of her having a secret life he wasn’t part of; going on secret missions, fighting in secret wars – even if all of that was to protect him. He would see it as a slap in the face.

But, whatever happened with the war – with healing magic and Occlumency, with Potter and the Death Eaters – this was what was real – their jokes, their disagreements, their mutual antagonism and mutual affection. It was the only thing that would ever be real for him. That was the real story, and all the muggle-killings and espionage were just irrelevant details. So he held on to her tightly, and pretended he couldn’t feel time slowly dragging her away.

He wasn’t sure how long they’d been there. It was the hasty footsteps of Meg Valance that disturbed them. They were still in the habit of springing apart whenever somebody caught them together – and so, without thinking, they pretended they’d been deeply immersed in their books, until they saw Meg’s face.

She was out of breath, and completely white. Lily was halfway out of her seat before she’d even spoken.

“Lily - ,” she panted. “It’s Madam Pomfrey. I’m really sorry, she’s… she’s not well. Dumbledore thinks she’s in a coma. He wants to speak to you.”

Snape’s blood ran cold. He saw Lily get up, almost knocking over the table in her haste, and follow Meg at a run, without a backward glance at him. When she reached the library-door she stopped, and threw him a look that told him she wanted him to be with her. He nodded miserably, and then set about gathering up their books, clumsy with shock, but methodical, as ever.
Following on from The Soulless Redhead [link]
Finally, the return of Boggart-Lily! :dance: I've missed her. Though she didn't get to be as sarcastic as I would have liked. Maybe next time.
Sorry it's so long and, as ever, thank you for reading! :)
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 20, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
Severus - I admire you for trying to negotiate with your fears, but you can NEVER BELIEVE A BOGGART!

That was the real story, and all the muggle-killings and espionage were just irrelevant details.
I love that. I love that he finds the story of his life to be about Lily and their romance, and the war is part of the backdrop.

Omigosh, cliffhanger! And the next chapter doesn't even carry on where this leaves off! You are cruel (and yet so effective as a writer. Really, it's a great build up of suspense and then an appropriate break from the main story/suspense). :(
Snape's personal distribution of minor justice seems like it's gone badly wrong...
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 22, 2010
I love that he finds the story of his life to be about Lily and their romance, and the war is part of the backdrop.

:giggle: That's how I see the story too! Their relationship is far more interesting to me than all the curses and muggle-killings!

Sorry about the cliffhanger - I have a bit of a weakness for them. Another one of my insecurities about how to keep people interested in the story... :blush:
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2009
I just went back and reread some earlier chapters and I've noticed something else.

It looks like you've had Severus mature here. I remember at one point you had him musing that even though Bogart-Lily ended up miserable, he was still sort of happy that she was his. Now however, it seems that he's moved on from just wanting to possess her, to actually trying to understand her. It's not enough that she's his.. he needs her to be happy when she's with him. It's an interesting sign of growth, because in his own way, hes coming to a realization of what a healthy relationship should be. Now of course he has to figure out what he needs to do.. but this is a start.

Also, I was re reading Dumbledore's rather haunting reassurance to Severus when he recruited him.

"I'm giving you what you want Severus. You just don't know it yet".

I wonder what your interpretation of DD will be like as time goes on. If DD really understands what Severus ultimately wants, then is being a spy for the order a possible path that could lead Sev to Lily's love? It would definately be a painful and dangerous road, but it would certainly be a DD thing to do. Looking at it from another perspective.. technically it allows Snape to fight for what is right (and all the things Lily believes in), while making use of his darker talents. Being a sarcastic, cold hearted git among death eaters is an endearing quality I'm sure.. :p

Lol.. the gears in this head of mine are whirring endlessly. :D

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2009
I totally agree, I think Dumbledore was giving Severus a chance to be a hero - giving him a heroic outlet for all his secrecy and manipulativeness - which are the kind of talents which could easily lead you in the opposite direction! Being a spy is a very Slytherin way to be a hero. It's not attention-seeking or spectacular. It's not like catching a snitch. It involves subtlety and intelligence and hard work, and James Potter could never do it! I think that's important for Severus - being good at something that Potter isn't.

At the same time, I'm not sure Dumbledore really cares how traumatic being a spy could be for Severus. It's as though he assumes that, once you've lost your innocence, there's no way it could get any worse. People who are already jaded, in Dumbledore's mind, can do the dirtiest jobs.

And, yes, I definitely think it's an encouraging sign that Severus doesn't want Lily to become like her Boggart anymore. Up until this chapter, he was trying to convince himself that it wouldn't be so bad. It was a shock for him to learn just how cruel the Boggart could be! To hear a version of Lily boasting about murder was a nasty wake-up call for him!

You really have such a wonderful understanding of these characters, you know! You've no idea how happy it makes me to think that my story could capture your imagination like this! I love reading your comments! :)
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2009
Well that's just it isn't it. It's not only that James Potter couldn't do it... no one else at all could do it! By the time the original story ended, Severus was pretty much the greatest Occlumens that had ever lived. You've pretty much had DD admit that even though he's good at it, he never had the raw aptitude that Sev does. Already he's closed off his mind from Voldemort's probing while getting hit with a crucio. Plenty of people can catch snitches, but not many can conjur up bold faced lies while staring death in the face .. and live.

It's actually rather ironic, that the whole time Severus laments about how powerful and unbeatable Voldemort is ( no one controls Foefire ), he doesn't realize just how good he himself is. After all, as far as everyone is concerned no one can lie to lord Voldemort. And even though Narcissa and others have done it, I doubt they could close their mind if Voldemort really put in the effort to pry into them. So like Severus then to have such a misguided sense of self worth, that he doesn't realize just how worthy of respect he really is. Hopefully one day Lily will help correct this accute condition ;)

As for DD, yes I think it's accurate to say that he believes Severus can handle a greater share of crap than others. At the same time though, I think that belief is party out of a sense of kindredness. After all, DD himself is pretty damaged goods and I'm sure in his own mind, he thinks his job is a rather dirty one as well. He doesn't really have an equal and he constantly has to make difficult decisions. Like you and Northangel mentioned, the relationship is rather complicated.

What I'm interested in particularly though, is how you'll have DD act in relation to Sev and Lily's relationship. Will he oppose it to ensure that Harry is conceived, or will he let things take their course. I never personally saw DD as being particularly malicious... even when he knew Harry had to die, he was banking on the fact that he'd survive in the end. For all his wisdom, I wonder if he'll be wise enough to recognize the multiple ways that prophecies can be interpreted. Yeesh, I'm glad I'm not the writer that has to decide these things ;)

As for Boggart-Lily... I was especially impressed that she had also become Sev's worst fear. Originally his worst fear was someone else possessing her. Now his greatest fear though is that he'll end up ruining her. So I particularly enjoyed that spark of maturity amidst all the paranoia and jealousy :D.

And as I said before, if I understand these characters so well it's because you've written them the way you have. I'm just reflecting what I see in your work :). Besides.. you encourage my endless musings and rantings so you really bring it on yourself ;) You keep writing and I'll keep commenting.

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2009
You're right, Sev has a tendency to ignore his own achievements. Potter gets such ludicrous recognition for catching a Snitch, and Sev can't even get recognition from himself! Poor thing! :( But then the Occlumency state comes so naturally to him. He's been using it as self-defence since he was about four years-old! It's probably difficult to appreciate it for the incredible magic it really is.
Not sure what Dumbledore feels about Sev and Lily's relationship. I get the feeling that, in the books, he never really believed in the prophecy as a prophecy; he just saw it as the natural result of Harry and Voldemort being the kind of people they were, so I think he's got a pragmatic approach to these things. But then, the defeat of Voldemort was always his top priority. He asked Severus to kill for it, and he asked Harry to die for it. Who knows what he's thinking! He's much too clever for me to write from his perspective! ;)
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2009
Well at least there's some common sense in pragmatism.

*sigh*

Gotta love Sev's upbringing.

"Order your Tobias and Eileen Snape Parenting Guide. Guaranteed to make your child emotionally stunted and ready for their life as a spy among homicidal racists.

Yes, all this can be yours for the low low price of a murdered unicorn during pregnancy. Order Now!" :x

Keep up the great work,

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2009
:giggle: It sure prepared him for later life - just not later love!
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2009
Yes.. he's gonna need some remedial work in that category ;)
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:iconflameofthewest7:
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2009
Oh my gosh! This does not bode well for Sev...!

I like how you really get inside his mind as he plays and replays all his fears about Lily. It's like he's watched the scenarios so many times in his head (of her and Potter together, for example)that it's hard for him to remember if it's a dream, a prediction, a groundless worry, or an actual memory that's bothering him. He probably doesn't even stop to consider this--he just assumes that the worst will most likely happen!

I also liked your choices of improbable behaviors for Lily, Lucius, and Bella, the ones that "couldn't make sense;" very funny!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2009
:hug: Thank you! Sev's jealousy can indeed get very creative! It's the same with me - when I'm jealous, my imagination goes into over-drive! And when it comes to imagining good things, my imagination dries up! Just typical! ;)
By the way, I've finally managed to write a Narcissa chapter! I'll post it sometime today, when I've checked for spelling/ typos (though there are always some that I miss). I hope you'll like it.
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009
Ha ha

Sev: Occlumency works. Lily can hardly hurt me with her anger if I simply feel nothing at all.

Bruiser: :slap:

Sev: Yes, I see your point.


But seriously, the fact that he will be upset by what has happened gives me some hope :).

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009
:rofl: It's Sev's reaction that I love! (Punch-drunk and staggering): I see your point!
Bless his little heart! :giggle:
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2009
I almost cheered when I saw that you updated a chapter :D

So where to start.

Loved seeing Bogart Lily again. She seems to be dispensing out nuggets of wisdom that Sev needs to hear. Hope he smartens up before its too late. And this thing with Potter... holy damn Sev needs to get this out of his system. The jealousy streak is gonna cause a lot of damage.

As for pomfrey... a coma?!

Sev has really gone and bolloxed it this time. Nice cliff hanger ending to the chapter by the way. I have to agree with Northangel. It seems that you're bringing these two to a crossroad. How Sev reacts to this (and the fallout) is likely to determine a great deal for the future.

This could be a valuable lesson for Severus. You don't use the Dark Arts without it taking a piece of your soul. He didn't mean to put Pomfrey in a coma, but that's what happens when you hurt someone. I wonder though... is it that Pomfrey's constitution just couldn't handle the pain, or that Sev may have pulled something out of Lily that would have left her comatose if she had gone to sleep? hmmmm..

I have a whole bunch of other thoughts flying through my head right now, but I can't write em all out at the moment :p. Suffice to say, keep up the great work and now I'm anxiously awaiting the next chapter even more than the last.

I'll still hold out hope for a happy ending, despite the tidings of woe ;).

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009
Thanks, I’m really glad you’ve been enjoying the story! Sorry about the tidings of woe – I suppose it’s likely to get worse before it can get better – but I agree with everything you say, if Sev’s reaction isn’t too stupid, they could still salvage their relationship. The trouble is that he’s Severus, and nothing’s ever easy for him!

I think Madam Pomfrey’s mysterious illness will be coming into the story a lot. You’ve totally picked up on the problem, it’s not just her weak constitution, it’s a tricky little curse that Severus could never have known about when he gave her what he thought were just Lily’s aches and pains. So, even though he's very unlucky, he has kind of saved Lily's life too. Not sure that will be much comfort to her, though...

Anyway, thank you so much for your comment, it really means a lot to me! :hug: I’ll hopefully have another chapter soon, because I’m really enjoying this plot-line, even though it is kind of gloomy!
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009
You know,

Your Severus actually reminds me of a rather dark character I'm currently role playing. He cares only about the people that he..well... cares about. The rest of the world can be damned. If it's a choice between saving someone he loves and letting an entire village burn, than that village is shit out of luck. And really why should it be otherwise at this point? The rest of the world has treated him like dirt, so in his mind, it really doesn't merit much consideration.

With Severus here, I think it's the same situation. You've already established that he will do pretty much anything for Lily. If that means lying and spying on death eaters then he'll do it, but on the flip side, he also seems to have no qualms about letting a supposed innocent take a curse that was meant for Lily. The question is, is that enough for a girl to love him? or at least start to?... I'm not a girl so I'll leave that question for those who are :D.

I don't see him sinking back into death eaterdom at this point. He's already picked her over them, and (imho), it would seem out of character for him to flip flop his loyalties. We know that even if she where to die, he would still be "Dumbledore's man" so to speak. Plus he's already horrified by what he's seen at those meetings. The more pertinent question I think is, just what is Severus prepared to do to win Lily back?

It seems that when he's with her, he's expecting to lose her at any moment. But when she's not his, he's absolutely miserable and thus that situation isn't very ammenable to him either. I think he needs to make up his mind :P

(On a side note... a good smack upside the head courtesy of the invincible muggle might help clarify things :devil: It does seem that Bruiser was very much like Sev in his youth... but that's just my own musing because I love that character :D).

We know that Lily's infuence was enough to (more or less) right Sev's compass in the original story, albeit she was already gone. Sev didn't fight for her then, when she put her foot down, but his choices so far seem to give me hope that he might do so in this story.

Ok, end of rant/muse (this was quite a long one) ;).

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009
:giggle: I didn't know you liked Bruiser so much - I'll try and bring him back (something tells me he'd get on very well with the Boggart Lily!)
I think you're right that Sev would be unlikely to turn to Death Eaterdom at this point. I think those Death Eater meetings make him feel sick rather than powerful, and not just because he has to hide the fact that he's Dumbledore's spy! But I could see him resorting to his Occlumency state more and more as a result of this fight with Lily, and that would be a dangerous thing!
He's definitely like the role-play character you mention - and, as you say, it seems so logical for him to prioritize Lily over the rest of the world, because what has the rest of the world ever done for him? He sees everyone else as disgustingly self-centred. But I think he definitely regards Madam Pomfrey as a lesser evil. There are worse people than her, as far as he's concerned, so I think her illness will upset him, and not just because Lily will get mad!
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I have the most horrible feeling that everything good is about to end forever... :-(
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2009
:( Sigh... I know. Poor Sev! It's almost worse that he's experienced happiness first (even if it's a happiness riddled with suspicion and jealousy!)
I hope you liked the return of the Boggart Lily - it was totally inspired by your beautiful illustration! :hug:
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Man, she was harsh. Killing Bella like that, wearing her boots just to make Narcissa cry. Quelle nightmare!

Poor Lily. Poor Severus. How awful.

I think that Boggart Lily here was more horrifying than she ever had been before, and what will present day Lily do when she finds out that it was Severus who put her curse on Pomfrey, and what will his reaction be to it. Actually, come to think of it this could actually be a defining moment. How Severus reacts to this could either mend them, or tear them apart irrevocably.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009
I totally agree! Sev’s reaction to this will be crucial. If he flies off into a fit of Dark magic and Death Eaterdom, then there’s no coming back. But if he feels a little bit sorry and starts trying to get her back instead of automatically accepting defeat, then maybe they could be happy together! Actually, I’ve been puzzling over his reaction to this for a while now. Not quite sure what it should be. Obviously, he's Severus, so he won't be too reasonable!

And I agree the Boggart was harsh! Stomping around in oversized boots to make Narcissa cry is such a childish image. If it wasn’t a beloved character doing it, it would make me want to laugh! But I’m not so shocked about her killing Bella. Not the sort of thing I could imagine Lily doing, but not the most unreasonable thing in the world either, as far as I'm concerned! ;)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hell, I'd have been tempted to kill Bella myself. The woman was a psychopath! So yeah, I could actually see Lily doing that (strangely enough).

I'm trying to think about what Lily would need to see from Severus in response to the Pomfrey thing, in order for her to forgive him. I think she would need to see him try and make it right. That would demonstrate that he recognized that he had gone to far.

I never expect overt apologies from Severus. I think that is asking too much, and for a teenage Snape it would be nothing short of a miracle, but I don't think it would be too out of the way for him to silently go about trying to find a cure for the curse that is now on Pomfrey, to spend long hours in the potions lab, or in the library, researching counter-curses, trying to make it right.

I imagine he'd do this on the sly, but if Lily found out, I could see that motivating her to forgive him, because I think she would recognize it as the very real regret that it is. I really don't think that Severus ever wanted to kill Pomfrey. That's his problem at this point, he succumbs to his dark urges, he toys with dark magic, but he isn't mature enough to realize what that can sometimes mean, the consequences of it.

I think that this might be an eye opened for Severus too. For him to realize that his actions have just about taken the life of a relatively innocent woman. I think that it might just hit him like a cruel slap in the face--a slap of reality.

Listen to me, trying to work out the plot of your story. I'm hopeless :no:. I just get so wrapped up in this story. I can't help myself.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009
Don't be silly, I love that you give me your opinion on these characters - you've given me a new insight into their behaviour so many times that it is really your story too, you know! :hug: And I can't tell you how happy it makes me to think that there are people who actually care what happens in this story! I think you're absolutely right on all of this - an overt apology really wouldn't be his style, but it wouldn't be out of character for him to work hard (in a very non-spectacular, non-Gryffindor way) to put it right. I could see Lily forgiving him if he did that - because, really, he never meant for it to go this far. It was just a spiteful, thoughtless action that has unluckily turned into a struggle between life and death! Poor Sev, he has terrible luck! :(
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
He really does, poor boy. But maybe all that bad luck was just fate giving him multiple chances to turn things around. Can't wait to see if he takes lady fate up on it, in this story ;-)
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