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Meg Valance liked being a nurse. You got to bustle around, shouting at people, and telling them how to look after themselves. It was like fighting, except that they had to thank you for every elbow to the ribs and every cheerful insult. In fact, she was seriously starting to consider nursing as a career option. Obviously, it wasn’t as honourable as going into law enforcement – which was where her father had always assumed she was going to go, because it was where everyone else in her family had gone – but it had almost as much conflict, and consequently, almost as much appeal.

In fact, if she hadn’t been so worried about Lily, these days in the Hospital Wing would have been highly enjoyable. She got to miss her classes; she got to sneer at shoddy curse-work and offer the Gryffindors some whispered advice about more effective hexing.  It was just that Lily was spending all of her time in Madam Pomfrey’s Office, up to her eyeballs in books and saying nothing but ‘I’m fine’.  

Meg liked to check on her, as often as she could. This morning, she opened the door to the office and then stopped in her tracks, watching her breath steam in front of her. It was like walking into a freezer.

Lily had flung the windows wide open. The thick, clinging fog from the forest was rolling in over the windowsill. The pages of the open books on the desk were starting to curl with damp.  

Lily herself was standing by the window. She had stripped down to a vest-top and skirt, even though she was clearly shivering. There were goose-bumps on her arms, her hair was wet from the mist, and her breath was steaming in front of her.  

For the first time in her life, Meg Valance was lost for words. So she said the obvious ones.

“It’s kind of cold in here.”

Lily shrugged. “I like it.”

“You know, you can’t internalize it, Lil,” said Meg cautiously.

Lily treated her to the maddeningly blank stare which was just about her only expression these days. It was politely puzzled, and Meg was fairly sure she’d got it from Dumbledore. “What an odd thing to say,” she murmured.   

But Meg persevered. “Because, we’re warm-blooded creatures. I’m fairly sure a Healer ought to know that.”

She hadn’t expected it to work. That blank stare was her only response. Lily closed herself off when she was upset. She withdrew into a cold, considerate trance – the most compassionate sulk Meg had ever encountered – and she couldn’t be teased, cajoled, or even shaken, out of it.

But trying to freeze herself was something new. She obviously felt like a traitor, because she wanted to take that greasy-haired creep back. It was like she was trying to physically put out her passion. But Lily Evans couldn’t do ‘ice-queen’. Ice queens didn’t shiver. Lily was quite literally out of her element in the cold.   

You couldn’t wrestle her vital instincts into submission. They would fight back. She looked like a fire spirit who’d had a bucket of water emptied all over her. Meg could practically see her steaming. And, with all the shivering, and steaming breath, she looked as though she was crackling with energy – there was no grace, no smooth restraint, no upturned chin. She couldn’t have looked less like Narcissa Black.

But it was so sad that she was trying to be like Narcissa Black. It was so sad that she thought her warm heart was a traitor. Merlin knew, it wasn’t smart to care for that Slytherin creep – but it wasn’t wrong either. What he’d done was wrong. Lily needed to accept that she’d had nothing to do with it.

If you accepted that somebody’s villainy was absolute, your own conscience was never troubled. It was a Valance-trick. Meg’s ancestors had learned it in the days of the Goblin Rebellions, because there was no room for blaming yourself on a battle-field. You needed absolute conviction. If you started to see things in shades of grey on a battle-field, then pretty soon you would only be able to see things in shades of red.  

You needed to know – not just in your mind, but in your heart – that your enemy was one hundred per cent wrong, and that you were one hundred per cent right.

Lily couldn’t get the hang of it. In fact, she swung too far the other way. She was always finding excuses for people, even if that meant she had to invent faults in herself.

Meg decided to change the subject. She was not in the habit of being subtle but it hadn’t escaped her notice that, the more she shouted at Lily, the more withdrawn she actually became. It wouldn’t do any good to shout – for now, anyway.    

“What’s wrong with the Hufflepuff Seeker?” she asked, peering out from between the blinds at a tall, blonde, muscular boy, who was sitting on the edge of one of the hospital-beds and swinging his legs impatiently.

“Anderson?” Lily asked. “I don’t know yet. He says every inch of him aches.”

“You didn’t notice any extra inches?”

Lily gave her a blank look. “Extra inches?”

“Never mind.”

Meg perched herself on the side of the desk and tried again. “When you spoke to him about his symptoms, were you wearing that vest?”

“What?”

“I mean, you sort of look as though you’ve taken part in a wet T-shirt competition.”

Lily frowned, looking down at her fog-dampened top. “So?” she challenged defiantly. Then she frowned and added. “Do wizards have those? Wet T-shirt competitions?”

Meg rolled her eyes. “No, but Padfoot’s got a TV, and he described them to me in detail.”

“So there are no wet robe competitions?” Lily asked, with the beginnings of a smile.

Meg made a face. “Nah. There are some areas where muggles really have the edge on us, and I think fashion is one of them.”

“Never mind,” said Lily brightly. “At least you know you could kill them with a single incantation.”

“Yeah, but it’s not the same.”

Lily picked up a book from the desk and lapsed back into her preoccupied trance. Meg felt her spirits sinking. She had almost thawed out for a moment there.

She yanked the book out of Lily’s hands and tried again.  

“I don’t think Anderson’s really sick, Lil. I mean, he’s sick, but not in the kind of way that can be cured with pepper-up potion or anaesthesia charms.”

Lily frowned. “Why would he pretend to be sick?”

Meg rolled her eyes. Lily was usually pretty quick on the uptake but, when it came to recognizing her own charms, she was dimmer than a troll. Still, she had a lot on her mind right now. And she probably didn’t feel very attractive, after the way that Slytherin creep had used her.

Meg had naturally assumed that Severus Snape had only taken away Lily’s pain so that he could inflict it on Madam Pomfrey. He was using Lily as ammunition, but unfortunately, in a way that she had kind of enjoyed.

Lily hadn’t been too keen on describing that first part of the spell, but Meg gathered that it had been a lot like sex. And no girl liked the idea of a man using her for sex with the sole intention of hurting one of her best friends.

For one thing, it suggested distinctly messed-up priorities. Sex should be an end in itself, as far as Meg was concerned. When it was a by-product of a crazed revenge campaign, it was probably time to start distancing yourself from the man in question. A teenage boy who was angrier than he was horny was just unnatural.

Meg felt very protective of Lily. As far as she was concerned, Lily was an honourary Valance. She had the same determination, loyalty, and suicidal attachment to lost causes.

But she was distant and quiet – and therefore fragile. She needed to be looked after. Her patience and understanding could easily be abused. Anderson seemed to have been counting on this.

“Listen,” she said suddenly, coming to a decision. “Why don’t you let Margot take over his treatment? Then watch how quickly he gets better.”

That did it. Suddenly, the deathly pallor broke into a blush. Meg felt a twinge of satisfaction. It was no easy task to drag Lily Evans into the real world these days.

But the blush subsided quickly. It was like a firework – blossoming into life and then dying out with a fizzle. A tiny flash of feeling lit her face, before she sank back into that busy, preoccupied, but ever-so-polite trance.

“Alright,” she said, shuffling papers on her desk to cover the moment of embarrassment. “Tell Margot to perform that pin-point diagnosis charm we practiced. You know, where your wand points at the afflicted area?”

Meg grinned. “I can tell you right now where it’ll point, Lil.”

“That’s enough.”

“You sound exactly like a teacher.”

“I said that’s enough.”


Lily went back to her books. The afternoon faded to black, and she only looked up again when she found that it was getting too dark to see the page in front of her.

Then she crossed to the window and leaned out, relishing the feeling of the moonlight on her face. It was cool, and it made her skin tingle, like a snowman’s kiss. The cold from the open window raised goose-bumps all along her arm, but she didn’t mind. She wanted to feel cold and clean.

Her heart felt like a screwed-up piece of paper – crumpled into a ball and then thrown onto the fire. Nobody wanted it, but it wouldn’t stop burning.   

She felt so dirty – so ashamed. She missed him. And she hated that she missed him. She missed hearing him complain about the giggling girls in the corridor, or the shoddy curse-work of the students in their class. She missed the sarcastic comments and dead-pan jokes. She missed his perspective on the world. She could only really discover how she felt about things by arguing with him.

But why did he have to hurt Madam Pomfrey like that? And when did he decide to do it? While he was still tracing his wand over the bones of her ribcage? Was he thinking about it even then? Was that why he’d been trembling – because he was impatient to start the cursing? Had she been boring him with all that panting and moaning?

It was too horrible. She couldn’t think about it. Whenever she was left alone – and that wasn’t often – because, between her duties in the Hospital Wing, she had to catch up on the work for the classes she was missing – she tried to drown it out by reading endless tomes on curse healing.

When she was tired, she wasn’t thinking. And, when she was cold, she wasn’t wanting.   

She opened the office door a crack to check on Madam Pomfrey. The matron’s ragged breathing was a permanent feature of any night spent in the Hospital Wing these days. It hadn’t slowed for an instant, in all the time she’d been here. Whatever it was she was seeing behind those eye-lids, it had the power to keep her scared for a very long time.

Whenever Lily checked her pulse, and felt that thundering heart-beat, she wondered how it was possible that Madam Pomfrey could live through this. How could a heart sustain that pace for a week without slowing?

Lily was too tired now to be frightened for her friend. She could only feel a sick, stomach-churning sense of wonder that Madam Pomfrey’s body hadn’t given out.  

She had learned to sleep through the asthmatic breathing. She even found it soothing now.  At least it meant Madam Pomfrey was still alive.

Lily felt as though, if she could only cure her – if she could undo the damage he’d done – it would be like… saving him. He could be himself, and it wouldn’t matter, because she’d always be able to put right anything he did wrong. He wouldn’t be dangerous; he’d just be Severus. She would be able to look after him.

But that involved assuming that she was more powerful than him, and she knew now she wasn’t. Her magic was weaker than his. Even the strength of her sympathy paled in comparison to the strength of his anger. She knew which one would give out first. It was just like the Boggart had said.  


Three floors below her, Severus was taking a break from his own reading, and having a small but violent debate with his Slytherin instincts.

Obviously, he couldn’t go to Lily until he’d found Madam Pomfrey’s cure – or something that would help contribute towards it, anyway. As a Slytherin, he knew that effort was no good without results. But he was getting impatient. He wanted to show her that he was trying.

And he’d found something. A few scribbled words in the margin of The Rise of the Dark Arts, claiming that some curses could be drawn out of the victim’s body using modified Summoning Charms.  

It wasn’t an answer, but it might be an approach she hadn’t tried yet. It took a specialized kind of arrogance to imagine you could call a curse to heel, as you would with a dog. That kind of arrogance was usually restricted to dark wizards and Quidditch Players.  

Apart from this, he wasn’t having much luck finding Madam Pomfrey’s cure. Most of the books on Curse Healing had been checked out already, either by Lily or by the growing number of snooty pure-bloods who were hoping to avoid a trip to the Hospital Wing. But there were some books Lily would never read, out of principle. If you wanted to unpick somebody else’s magic, you had to get inside their head. You had to understand what they’d been feeling at the time, and what they were trying to do. So Severus had taken to reading books on the design and creation of curses. He could only imagine what Lily would think if she caught him reading them.

But it was hard to concentrate. He kept wondering what she was doing. The thought that they were only separated by a few floors of stone masonry was very distracting. He thought sometimes that he could smell the gingerbread scent of her hair, or hear her sighing with exasperation, as though she was standing just out of sight in the book-stacks, silently fuming at him.

It was a distracting thought. Not least because she always looked very attractive when she was fuming at him. But he had to concentrate, because the only way to get her to talk to him again was to find a cure for Madam Pomfrey.  

Mostly, when he wasn’t reading, his time was taken up by wondering what she was thinking, because he had literally no idea.  

He was worried about her, though. They kept each other balanced. What was he for, if not looking after her? Merlin knew what she’d do without him. She’d probably start a support group for reformed vampires. She’d stand under those drooling fangs, wearing a low-cut top and a trusting smile, and ask them whether they needed a hug.   

And he was prepared to admit that he needed her too. He got… stuck… in his thoughts sometimes. They turned into a downward-spiral of gloom, until he couldn’t see the point in anything anymore. He needed her arguments and her jokes – he needed those irritable but affectionate nudges she gave him when he was teasing her – he needed her unshakeable conviction, however stupid it might seem, that people were capable of being good.

You could believe something with your whole soul and still be desperate to be proved wrong.    

The world wasn’t right when they were apart. They formed something complete when they were together, by the very fact that they were opposites. Even if those differences meant they could never be unified – they could never melt into each other, the way other couples did. It was worth it for what they were, as a team. Summer and winter joked around and teased each other, and made a whole beautiful world by their opposition, but never really met – and certainly never consummated their relationship. It was, now he came to think about it, a very depressing comparison.  

For a long time, he sat in the library, debating whether or not to go up to the Hospital Wing and show her what he’d found.

On the one hand, it would be a tremendous relief to see her face; on the other hand, there might be more shouting. And Snape’s nerves were already ragged with trying to control his anger. Potter was always coming into the library to smirk at him these days, and Severus wasn’t allowed to attack him, because Lily would hear about it – in fact, she would probably have to cure him. Cursing Potter would only give the slimy creep an excuse to get close to her.   

But taking a deep breath and counting to ten wasn’t working. In fact, he usually lost count before he lost the desire to punch Potter in the face.

So it would be best to steer away from any meetings with Lily. Severus already regretted a lot of the things he had said to her. If she shouted, he might get defensive again.

On the other hand, he hadn’t seen her for a week now, and he was starting to think he might have been imagining her all along.  

In the end, it was only the thought that she might be asleep – and that he could see her without making her angry – that swung his decision.

He marked the page in The Rise of the Dark Arts with a book-mark, promising himself that he would just put it somewhere she would see it in the morning, take one look at her, and then go straight to bed. He wasn’t going to stalk her. He wouldn’t be like Potter, creeping around wherever she went, probably watching her undressing - ,

Stop it, stop it, stop it. You have to try not to kill him. And this isn’t helping.  

He crept up to the Hospital Wing, keeping to the shadows, as usual. He tiptoed past the sleeping Madam Pomfrey, who was still gasping as though there was a grand piano on her chest, and tip-toed to the office at the back of the ward, where Lily usually slept at the desk, with her head on a pile of notes.

It felt as though he had wandered out of a window and not realized it. Not only was the room freezing cold and damp with mist, but the sight that met his eyes made him feel as though he was falling. It was hard to keep your balance, when you were looking at the girl you’d loved since you were ten, slumped over a desk, wearing skimpy clothes and almost blue with the cold.

Severus hurried over to her. Her wet hair was stuck to her forehead, as though she’d been sweating, but her skin was like ice. She was alive, though. Now that he was close, he could see her breath steaming in front of her face.

He felt his eyes burning with tears, so he locked his jaw and blinked furiously. He tried to swallow the anger that was rising in his chest, and aching to find release in a torrent of swear-words.

This wasn’t fair. She was refusing to let him near her, and now she’d stopped looking after herself. And he’d almost decided to go straight back to the dormitories! She could have died of hypothermia tonight, and he never would have seen her again.  

She didn’t want him looking out for her. She had been quite clear about that. But she hadn’t told him she was going to stop looking after herself. And keeping yourself warm was one of the basics. It was pretty much point one on the ‘How to Survive’ check-list. If she couldn’t master this, then she wasn’t going to last long.

Did she know that she could have died? Was she trying to die?

No, she wouldn’t do that. She would never be able to convince herself that it wasn’t selfish – that it wouldn’t hurt people. This was just… forgetfulness. It had to be. She had just opened the windows and then fallen asleep before it got really cold. She had a lot on her mind right now. But she wouldn’t try to kill herself. He would never sleep again if he let himself believe she’d tried to kill herself.

He slid his fingers under her cheek and gently lifted her head, resisting the urge to bang it repeatedly against the desk. Then he slipped the book underneath her, and let her head rest on it. She would find it in the morning.

He didn’t care, now, whether she got angry with him for creeping into the Hospital Wing at night. He wanted her to be angry. He wanted her to know what it felt like.

How was he supposed to keep her safe if he wasn’t allowed near her? Could he trust her moronic Gryffindor friends? Evidently not.

He shut the windows quietly, and then tapped the back of her vest with his wand, passing a warming charm through the fabric. It would radiate heat for up to five hours, and that would hopefully be long enough for someone to discover her and make her put some bloody clothes on.  

She must have felt the warmth, because she moaned in her sleep and Snape shuddered with miserable longing.

He waited until he couldn’t see the goose-bumps on her flesh anymore – until her breath had stopped steaming in the cold air. Occasionally, his vision would start to blur and he would furiously blink back the tears. He wrestled back the anger until his shoulders were shaking.

If he started to let go, Merlin knew what would happen. If he let his self-restraint slip for an instant, he might lose his handle on everything.

Anyway, Potter could be lurking around, hidden under his invisibility cloak. It was never safe to let go.

Even when he was reasonably sure she wasn’t going to die, he lingered for a while. Furious and miserable as he was, at least he could keep an eye on her here. For these few, precious hours, he could be sure she wasn’t clasped in Potter’s arms or killing herself with negligence.

If he went back to the Slytherin common-room, he would still be furious and miserable. He would just be furious and miserable in a place that didn’t afford him a glimpse of Lily.

So he sat still, in a strait-jacket of misery, watching her sleep. He hated her so much in that moment. He wanted to shout. He wanted to start smashing potion bottles on the floor and crunching them beneath his shoes.  

Then he remembered the visions he’d been dragged through on Azkaban. He remembered an older version of himself hurling Shattering Spells around the Potions store-room, and he felt as though she was dead already. And all this keeping her alive was just delaying the inevitable. It was just a temporary reprieve that would only hurt him more in the end.
Continuing from Smoke [link]
A very short, emotional chapter, because I was feeling melodramatic. Don't worry, though, there will actually be some plot in the next chapter (also featuring the return of Bruiser Thuggle), which hopefully I should be able to post today.
Thank you for reading! :)
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:iconveronika-art:
Veronika-Art Featured By Owner May 14, 2015
this chapter broke my already shattered heart... I feel like my tears are about to fall. you have no idea what this is to me... ans I am so bad with words, I don't think I could ever begin to explain how this just feels ... 
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:iconpolkadotpeony:
polkadotpeony Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2011
Oh this was good. I talk so much about how well you get Sev that I always forget to mention how much I love your interpretation of Lily as well. This chapter is a very fine example of that. I love the way she loves him, how she tries to push him away from her being but cannot, it's physically impossible. I also love, love, love how she is the sun and he is the moon, and in a way he is what fuels the fire in her just as she illuminates his darkness. Once again with the symbiotic relationship they have.

And yes they are a very melodramatic couple and I LOVE it. :) I'm very melodramatic myself so I understand. Sometimes I find myself purposefully (yet subconsciously) getting in fights with my husband just so I can feel something exciting. I think perhaps I share this little trait with Lily and Sev. :)

Finally I loved the very ending with Severus and his intense love for Lily. Loving her so much that he hates her. It reminded me of the song Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars. That song (and the music video) remind me of Sev/Lily.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2011
Oooh, I'm going to have to find that song on Youtube. I love making playlists of Sev/Lily related songs, so I'm always on the look-out for more!

I love melodramatic characters too! (I'm not very melodramatic in real life, so I think I get all the angst out of my system by writing melodramatic characters! Likewise, I love writing the confident, elegant Narcissa because I'm so shy and clumsy myself! :giggle:)
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 23, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
Great chapter. They are a fairly melodramatic couple, so a bit of melodrama is necessary every now and then. ;)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 23, 2010
:giggle: Oh, I like writing melodrama much more than I should! I don't like the idea of an emo Snape (as in the Snape puppet pals thing), but I guess all teenagers are a little bit emo - especially teenagers in love!
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 23, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
I can't help but think that teenaged Snape would be a little on the emo side. But he has reason to be, so I think that's what makes it acceptable. Emo Sirius or Emo James, on the other hand, would be too annoying for sympathy. ;)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 24, 2010
Lol, I sometimes think James and Sirius are too annoying for sympathy anyway, whether they're emo or not! :giggle:
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:iconvizen:
Vizen Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2009
Yes, poor Severus...That's really of him, living for her while she's not aware of him caring for her...And all this keeping her alive was just delaying the inevitable. It was just a temporary reprieve that would only hurt him more in the end. :nod:

*sighes*

You are not helping me with my addiction to Severus, you know.... With your writing, I would never stop loving him :heart:

PS I especially loved the That kind of arrogance was usually restricted to dark wizards and Quidditch Players.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2009
:giggle: Yes, I figure Snape's thoughts are never far from Potter, the same as they're never far from Lily. He's obsessed with both of them, just in very different ways!
You know, your art-work fuels my Snape addiction too, so we are not really helping each other! ;)
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:iconflameofthewest7:
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2009
That paragraph about Lily and Cissa was amazing. The description of the former as a drenched fire spirit was so original and picturesque! Lovin' it.

Oh, and I agree about Padfoot. He would totally own a tv (an enormous widescreen, probably, with surround sound) and he would definitely enjoy wet t-shirt contests! :)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2009
Yay! Thank you! :hug: Yes, I can see Sirius getting quite into the seedier aspects of muggle culture! I can just imagine him with his giant motorbike at a wet T-shirt contest (:giggle: I really want to write that now!)
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:iconthysilverdoe:
thysilverdoe Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2009  Professional Writer
I liked it. Great work as always! A little bit of emotion and melodrama isn't that bad. :] I don't think you over did it.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2009
Thank you, my dear! :hug: I just can't help myself with Severus and Lily. Am so in love with these characters by now that their pain makes me very melodramatic! :giggle:
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:iconthysilverdoe:
thysilverdoe Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2009  Professional Writer
You're quite welcome. :hug: I can understand with Severus. Not quite with Lily I've just never liked her charry. But I can feel Sev's pain and I love him. Aw, yesh, pain has a tendency to do that to a person. :D
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