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The forest of thorns had reclaimed Lily's garden. Wandering vines had overturned the trestle table and throttled the marigolds. One particularly vicious-looking vine had snaked into the teapot and was now protruding from the spout like a black tongue. You would never know there had been a garden here. Not in the past hundred years, anyway.

The thorns were perfectly still now, radiating innocence, but Severus could feel horror creeping over him, and it crept in just the same way as the vines – curling round his shoulders and driving needle-like points into his flesh. He didn't want to look for Lily. She was nowhere to be seen at the moment, but he didn't dare look closer, in case he found her.

This was fine. A relief, in a way. She had given up – obviously showing a sense of pragmatism he hadn't previously thought her capable of. She had got tired of pulling up thorns and wandered off to plant marigolds in a more hospitable environment. It was sensible of her. She was not – she was not – still in that forest, mummified by thorns, bleeding to death from a thousand little pin-pricks. That was not possible. He just had a morbid imagination, that was all – it came up with worst-case-scenarios, especially when he was tired. He was never too tired to torment himself by thinking.

And, because that was the case, logic started – hesitantly at first – to creep back into the vacuum in his head. Horror had left a lot of room for it. Horror had cleared out every trivial detail. If Lily could have enlisted horror to clear away those thorns, she would have deforested the bloody place in seconds.

Severus stared straight ahead, willing his eyes not to take in too many details, and wondered how he'd got here. He didn't remember casting the Esperio Charm again. He didn't remember getting pitched through that postage-stamp-sized window in Sympathetic Magic. He could just remember shouting at Dumbledore, going away more angry than when he'd arrived, and – oh.   

Elsa was standing at his elbow, fidgeting awkwardly and trying to be cheerful. "You've been redecorating," she said brightly.

Snape groaned.

"It's not as nasty as the last one, really," she chattered nervously. "I mean, you aint got any horrible Death Eaters beating Lily up. Just plants. It's actually sort of scenic."  

Severus turned to give her a withering look, and found himself eye to single-glaring-eye with Jonah Valance.

"It's OK if he comes along, isn't it?" Elsa asked nervously, grabbing Jonah by the arm and presenting him to Severus as though he was a stray dog she wanted to keep. "He says it's all got too serious. He says he's not going to let us rescue German soldiers on our own."

"I can't hear him saying that," said Snape, massaging his temples wearily.

"You know I don't trust you," was all Jonah would deign to reply.

Elsa frowned severely and elbowed him. "He'll be ever so good," she insisted, turning back to Severus.

"He doesn't exactly look inconspicuous."

"Well, I thought of that, too," said Elsa, biting her lip. "And then I thought we could say he was from London and his house had been bombed in the Blitz. Loads of kids lost eyes in the Blitz, I reckon."

"They were evacuated to the countryside."

"Only after some of them got bombed to smithereens, probably. Else they wouldn't have done it."

Severus sighed. "He'll have to take orders from me," he said, addressing Elsa because she seemed to be Jonah's only liaison with the outside world.

"I will if they seem like sensible orders," said Jonah.

"No," said Snape. "That's not good enough. We won't have time for your laborious brain to scan all my orders for sense. You'll do as you're told, and you'll do it quickly."

Elsa was nervously bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. "Listen, we're all trying to help Madam Pomfrey," she trilled. "We're all friends." She said it as though she could make it true just with an authoritative voice, but Jonah snorted.  

"Um, could you excuse us for a minute?" she added, seizing Jonah's elbow and dragging him away from the forest of thorns. Severus gave her a surly shrug. He would hear every word of their conversation anyway. Pure-bloods weren't very good at whispering.   

"Please be nice, Jonah," she hissed. "He's my friend."

"No, he isn't," Jonah grumbled. "I've been watching you, remember? He talks down to you all the time. He treats you like you're stupid."

"He's trying to teach me things!"

"Yeah, and he's the worst bloody teacher I've ever seen. Why does he have to treat you like that?"

Elsa's voice dropped an octave, until it was barely audible. "I don't know how to do this without him, OK?" she quavered.

There was a silence. But out of it, for Severus, came illumination. He knew right then, as surely as if he'd heard the Sorting Hat bellowing it out across the Great Hall, that Elsa Valance was going to get sorted into Slytherin.  

Did Bruiser know, he wondered? Was that why he'd been so insistent that Severus, rather than Dumbledore, should be the one to teach her Occlumency? Was he just trying to get her some Slytherin allies? And some practice for the life of duplicity she'd have to lead as soon as she got to school?

Life would not be easy for a Slytherin whose father was proudly, ostentatiously muggle. Oh, she wouldn't be unhappy. Severus couldn't imagine Elsa ever being unhappy. Misery was for children with subtler perceptions. But she would be bullied as a matter of course. Every half-blood got bullied, but not every half-blood had a dad who walked proudly around Diagon Alley in a muggle suit.

She would be surrounded by people who thought her dad was scum, and she would have to learn to keep her mouth and her mind shut if she was going to survive. She would have to learn Occlumency. The older Slytherins wouldn't scruple to perform Legilimency on a first-year. And they'd be after other types of information besides her true loyalties, like what kind of security arrangements were in place around the Valance House. That place was bound to become a fortress for muggles, half-breeds and fugitives in the coming war. To go from there to the Slytherin common-room without being skinned alive on arrival was going to take some delicacy.

But she would have one advantage. She would be able to visit her enemies' nightmares. She would know exactly what they feared – exactly how to break them. Severus allowed himself a thin-lipped smile. He could teach her how to break them. If she was going to end up living the same wretched life as him, he could at least give her a few pointers. And first among them would be: don't trust Dumbledore.

"Right," he said briskly, clapping his hands and making them both jump. "Are we ready? This German isn't going to rescue himself, is he?"


Severus felt wide awake. He had reached a wall and broken through. There was a state of advanced tiredness beyond which the world looked dewy and fresh – or as dewy and fresh as Mapledurham could ever look, with its porridge-thick clouds and twitching net curtains.

They made their way along the sea-front, Jonah slouching along with his hands thrust deep in his pockets, Elsa skipping with excitement.

"I've been thinking about this," Severus said, as The Shipwreck's pub sign loomed into view. "We can't take him out of the nightmare, can we?"

"No-o," said Elsa slowly. "No, I don't think he even exists outside the nightmare. We can't wake 'im up, 'cause there's nobody to wake." She frowned for a moment, and then her expression cleared triumphantly. "But we could take him into one of the other nightmares I visit."

"He's had enough of nightmares," said Jonah emphatically.

"Alright," said Snape. "So we'll take him outside the village. Get him some food and a blanket and tell him to stay out on the moors."  

"Oh, and you speak German, do you?" Jonah asked scornfully.

Severus ignored him. He didn't speak German, but he sure as hell wasn't going to admit it to the tight-lipped, glaring Jonah Valance. It suddenly struck him what a perfect husband he would make for Jen Morgan. They were both stone-faced and uptight. He would have to introduce them.

Severus turned to face The Shipwreck. Behind him, he could hear Elsa elbowing her brother and whispering "Why can't you be nice?"

It reminded him so much of Lily that he felt a wrench of longing. But there was no time to dwell on it. He barely had time to wince.

"Elsa," he said, without turning round. "I need you to fake an ankle-sprain right outside the door. Can you do that? Make as much noise as you can, but don't forget to be cute. The women will come running out to fuss all over you and, while you're keeping them occupied, we can sneak inside."

"Easy!" Elsa exclaimed, beaming with excitement and pride.

"Good. We'll need about ten minutes, so don't use up all your cuteness at once."

They swiped a milk-bottle from one of the village doorsteps, and Elsa reluctantly donated the toffees that had been turning up in her pockets ever since she'd arrived. The blanket was harder to find, but there were a few accessible washing-lines in the village gardens, and Jonah was surprisingly expert at stealing things.  

When they got back to The Shipwreck, Severus cast a Disillusionment Charm over himself and Jonah, and they stood to one side of the door while Elsa began her theatricals. She was a good actor. She could do a magnificent damsel in distress – a role that he was sure no other Valance, in the long history of their family, had ever mastered. Severus had been worried that, as a pure-blood, she would overdo it, but that didn't actually seem possible, now that she'd started. A distressed and adorable eight-year-old was an irresistible draw for these women: and, the more distressed, the more adorable. She had even come up with real tears. She was a Slytherin for sure.

Severus watched as several old women – including the bar-maid – flocked out of the door, clucking with sympathy, taking the little girl's hand and wiping away her tears. It was hard, watching her disappear under their creepy, clucking, ministering care, wondering if she would ever come out again. But Snape dragged himself onwards.

The trapdoor to the cellar was behind the bar, and Severus could tell just by looking at it that it was going to be noisy. Of course, Elsa was screaming and jabbering so much that they probably wouldn't be heard by the women outside. But the prisoner might hear, and a volley of German expletives could probably drown out even Elsa's shrill voice.  

Severus cast a Silencing Charm on the floorboards and turned to Jonah.  "Stay up here," he said. "Keep an eye out."

"Ha ha," was the withering reply.

Severus headed down the wooden stairs, thankful for the Silencing Charm, because the wood was rickety, and his feet would have unleashed a symphony of creaks as soon as he stepped on it otherwise.

The cellar itself was cold, damp stone, and smelled of disinfectant. It seemed that the widows' mania for scrubbing things raw had extended as far as this room. But it hadn't extended as far as the man chained to the wall with his hands over his head. He was caked in sweat, and the smell of disinfectant competed uneasily with the ferrous tang of blood.

The widows had not tried anything advanced or ingenious. Mostly, they had just burned him with cigarettes. His finger-joints were swollen too, the fingers pointing out at odd angles, suggesting broken bones which had healed without being properly set.

There were swirls of scar-tissue on his torso, accentuated by the fact that the prisoner's chest was very hairy, but no hair grew in the wake of the scars. White pathways meandered through the hair, like ancient hill-carvings.

So knives and cigarettes and hammers to the bone – nothing technical, but you didn't have to be technical to be effective. The prisoner was sagging in his chains, in a position which suggested that even sagging was painful, and the sight would stay with Severus for the rest of his life.

His face was stubbly, but not bearded. He had five o'clock shadow so dark and deeply-etched that Severus would have called it all-time shadow. Somebody shaved him, then, but hadn't done so for days. The stubble looked like a dark echo of the scar tissue – all mottled, uneven and chaotic.

Severus sank back into his Occlumency state and breathed. He had seen worse than this. He had seen Bella's playmates after she'd finished with them. But it was always the same, somehow: the smell of disinfectant over the decay; the grim reminders of how fragile – how messy – human beings could be. And these memories came back to him at odd moments: when he was eating in the Great Hall, or sitting in class, or looking at Lily. Every time he was somewhere civilized, secure and safe, he remembered how easily people came apart.

Severus shook himself and stepped forward. He wasn't here to philosophize. He just had to get in, free the prisoner, and get out again. He didn't have to speculate about how this had happened. He didn't have to observe – and he sure as hell didn't have to sympathize.

He had never been remotely curious about these people, and now he resented the fact that they'd imposed themselves on him like this. They were stupid, vicious, pointless muggles, and he hated that he would be remembering the sight of their brutal stupidity for years to come. He begrudged them the space. As if he didn't have enough to traumatize him! Next to this, Voldemort's cruelty seemed – well – not justified, but understandable. Voldemort was fighting a war. These people had already lived through a war, and they had come out the other side of it demanding even more blood and guts and violence.   

Save your energy, said the Occlumency state. You'll have plenty of time to dwell on the details when the job's done.

And it was a timely reminder. The prisoner was getting agitated. He had seen the trapdoor open – and even with the Silencing and Disillusionment Charms, he could sense that someone else was in the room with him. On top of that, he could see dust filtering down from the ceiling as Jonah paced restlessly on the floorboards upstairs.

If Severus didn't do something soon, he would start to shout. But he couldn't risk Stunning him. Using Stunning Spells on a twitchy man in an enclosed space was a recipe for disaster. He would have to try reasoning with him – in a language he didn't speak.

Severus knew some German incantations, but they tended to translate as simple commands like 'transform', 'rotate', 'fasten' and 'rise' – none of which would be good things to say while introducing yourself to a frightened stranger. He knew how to apologize in about ten languages, because the English had odd linguistic priorities, and generally learnt the word 'sorry' before they learnt the word 'hello'. But 'sorry', appropriate as it might be, didn't seem to cover everything.

So he said the first German word that came into his head, just as the prisoner was gathering breath to scream.

"Entschuldigung."

It was sufficiently unexpected for the prisoner to forget about screaming and stare. Well, he actually stared at a point two inches to the left of Severus's head, because the Disillusionment Charm was still screening him from view, but it was the not-screaming which was important.

"Sprechen sie Englisch?" Snape asked hopelessly. He wasn't entirely sure about the German word for English but surely – surely – it was close enough?

There was no reply. Perhaps it hadn't been close enough.

Grudgingly, Severus pointed his wand at the man's chains, and muttered: "Alohomora."

It was another difficult thing to watch. After all this time, it was clearly painful for him to put his arms down. Severus watched him cradle his wrists – heard him trying to suppress the moans of pain - and wondered whether this was a good idea. Once set free, would he come back and throttle the villagers in their beds? Severus didn't care if he did, but he had to keep Madam Pomfrey from getting angry, and a death in her village would not be the most soothing of events. But what else could he do? Tie the prisoner up and come back every night to feed him? It was sensible, but not nice. From the looks of it, this man had been tied up for years.

Moving quickly, so that the prisoner wouldn't have time to recoil, he grabbed the man's arm and Disapparated with him. They emerged in the sunlight, on the hill that overlooked the village – and it was not nice watching the man press his hands into his eyes, as though the sunlight was so unfamiliar it was painful. But Severus was of the opinion that almost everyone who suffered had done something to deserve it. And he would try to hold on to that opinion, because it wasn't going to be fun, looking back on this moment. And he would cut his own tongue out before he shared it with Lily.

Severus put the milk bottle, the blanket and the bag of toffees down by the man's feet, and pointed to the fields behind them. Then he pointed back at the village, shook his head, and said: "Nicht."

It was the best he could do, but surely it didn't need saying? Who would willingly go back to that place?

Then he backed away as far as he could without falling off the cliff, to reassure the man that he wasn't going to get attacked while he bent down to pick up the food.

Wincing less visibly now – could he heal that quickly? – the prisoner picked up the blanket, drew it across his scarred shoulders, and then backed away.

"Hey," said Severus, his pitiful German vocabulary deserting him, "you forgot the food!"

"Nicht," said the man, shaking his head, and then turned and made his way across the fields. Severus watched him go, feeling vaguely as though he'd been snubbed. Alright, a bottle of milk and a packet of toffees wasn't much – and almost certainly wasn't what your body needed to recover from horrible injuries inflicted in the dark over a period of years – but beggars couldn't be choosers, could they?

"He'll come back, you know," said a voice behind him.

It was a gentle voice. The kind that drifted on the air like smoke, and then diffused slowly and seductively into your ear. But Severus, who hadn't been expecting it, felt it slam into the back of his head like a brick. She couldn't be here. It was impossible.

"It was a nasty trick," the impossible voice went on, "getting an adorable little girl to distract us."

Severus kept his eyes fixed on the retreating back of the German prisoner. His brain was racing ahead, trying to make plans for this new development – trying to guess what would happen next. But you couldn't make plans for her. She didn't think in terms of plans. She was crazy.

"I didn't expect it to work on you," he said, turning round slowly. He reached automatically for the wand in his pocket, but the Boggart held up her black-gloved hands with an expression of mocking innocence.

"I don't use magic here," she said. "Makes you too conspicuous."

"Conspicuous to whom?" Severus asked suspiciously.

"That is entirely the right kind of question," she said, with a smile of approval – as though the smile would make him forget she hadn't answered it.

It nearly did, though. It was difficult to be cynical when Lily was smiling at him. And she looked so raggedly, achingly beautiful – with all that tightly-wrapped composure, all that energy straining the seams of her figure-hugging dress.

The dream had kitted her out in war-time clothes, but, somehow, the Boggart-Lily still managed to make them look indecent. Her hair was short, kinked and rigid, the way all the women in this village wore their hair, and she was carrying a smouldering cigarette in a long holder, like a film-noir femme fatale.  

"What are you doing here?" he said.

"I heard it was the place to be for grieving widows."  

Severus ignored that. He'd been planning on ignoring her whatever she said. You could never get a straight-forward answer from her the first time you asked. "Why are you really here?" he went on. "Or is that the wrong kind of question? Don't tell me – the answer is: 'Because I hate you', right?"

"In a manner of speaking, that's the answer to every question," she said solemnly.

"Is it because of what the Dark Lord said?" he demanded.

She gave him a shrug of cheerful innocence. "He said so many things."

"About how someone with the Light Mark and the Dark Mark could go into this dream and achieve immortality?" Severus prompted, stone-faced. "I hope that's not why you're here, because it would be unforgivably stupid of you. Possessing something the Dark Lord wants is the one certain way to shorten your life expectancy. Anyway, what would you do with immortality? You hate your life as it is. How would you spend eternity? Hunting down more Death Eaters because you fancy their boots?"

"I could actually use a better-fitting pair," she confessed. "Do you know any Death Eaters who wear size six?"  

"What are you doing here?" he repeated, emphasizing every word.  

"Hating you."

Severus sighed. He was, in a strange kind of way, happy to see her. Her presence was never good, but it was always exciting. She made him feel alive, even though she never stopped talking about his eventual death. Why was that? Why was he happy to see her, when she was such a miserable portent of doom?

Was it because she was a portent of other things, like years spent happily bickering with Lily? She was a portent of them fitting into each other, and anticipating one another's every move. How could you despair, when you had an enemy like that? When the very thing that made your enemy so terrifying was a reminder of the hours you'd spent together?

Besides, she was still Lily, broken, bitter and jaded as she was. She still electrified him, but mostly in the sense that she jolted and twisted his nerves with excruciating shocks. Oh god, it was the healer in him, wasn't it? He was starting to enjoy suffering. Damn Dumbledore and his Light Marks! They didn't feel so light once you were wearing them.

"You're not going to save Madam Pomfrey by freeing the prisoner, you know," the Boggart went on, waving her cigarette holder and leaving a trail of blue smoke on the breezeless air. "The villagers will think she set him free."

"I would have thought they'd think you did it," he replied calmly. "You're the stranger. You're the one who knew the prisoner was there. Why suspect Madam Pomfrey, if they think they've done such a good job of keeping her in the dark?"

"They'll suspect her because they don't like her," the Boggart replied. "That's the way it works. I can talk to them. I can share their sentiments."

Severus shrugged. "You might be right. But I wouldn't stick around to find out if I were you."

She gave him a withering look. "Yes, you would."

Severus fought very hard to keep the smile from showing up on his face – and, naturally, he won. But he still wondered if she knew how happy he was to be arguing with her again. Right now, all he wanted to do was fire questions at her until she stumbled – until she lost her composure and was forced, through sheer want of options, to tell him the truth. He supposed it was cruel, but she had never exactly been tender-hearted towards him in their brief but eventful friendship.  

"There's a link, isn't there, between the fire that burnt Narcissa's wardrobe, and the fire that burns down Madam Pomfrey's house?"

She frowned at him. "What makes you say that?"

"Madam Pomfrey's a witch," he said lightly. "She might have had her wand snapped by the Ministry but a witch in a life-or-death situation like that will do magic with or without a wand. So it stands to reason that the fire is a magical one. Something she doesn't have the ability to control without a wand."

"You think I'm the one who burns her parents to death?"

Severus shrugged. "Is that an insulting supposition, to someone who killed Bellatrix Black just for her boots?"

"I don't kill people who can't fight back."

Severus laughed. "You were a Death Eater. Did you think their manifesto was all honourable dueling? Did you think the enslavement of muggles was going to be sportsmanlike?"

She shrugged diffidently. "I haven't planned to burn down Madam Pomfrey's house, that's all I can tell you."

"How did you get here? Is that an easier question for you to answer?"

She gave him a conspiratorial look from behind her curtain of dark red hair. It was a look so reminiscent of his Lily that it made his stomach lurch. He didn't like seeing the similarities between this jaded woman and his laughing childhood friend. But it was – it always had been – bone-meltingly hot, that look.

She considered him for a moment, from behind that curtain of hair, and then shrugged. "I started to see Elsa in my nightmares. When she left – when she conjured up a door, or whatever it is she does – I followed her. Into your nightmare, as luck would have it."

This time it was a flinch, rather than a smile, that he had to wrestle back. But he still managed it. He met her mocking gaze with a complete absence of expression. It made her ever so slightly uncertain, as she went on.

"And then I followed the two of you as you crossed over into this world."

"We would have seen you," he protested, and then stopped. Her eyes had dropped to the ground, where a rumpled piece of fabric, glittering like mercury, was nestling beside her feet. She must have dropped it when she held up her hands to show him she wasn't carrying a wand. Severus felt a lurch of bitterness so intense that it blurred his eyes out of focus. When the world swam back into view, it was suddenly not a very nice place.

"That's Potter's Invisibility Cloak."

"Yes," she said defiantly. "I know."

"What," Severus continued, in a leaden voice, "are you doing with Potter's Invisibility Cloak?"

"He gave it to me," she answered, folding her arms. And he could tell, even though she was pleased to have hurt him, that she was frightened now. It suddenly occurred to him that she'd had to endure these fits of jealousy before, and she knew how rough they could get.

Actually, it only occurred to him after he'd shouted: "Did you sleep with him? Is that it? He can't have the real Lily, but he can make do with you?"

She flinched briefly, but then her face hardened. "No, that is not it," she said coldly. "He's more horrified by what I am than you are. Some might say that's an indication that he loves Lily more than you do, but I couldn't possibly comment. He gave me a safe place to hide from Voldemort the night he rescued me, and then he came back to visit me a few times after that, because he was lonely, miserable and concerned. Sirius Black isn't the most patient of confidantes when you're broken-hearted, as you can imagine." She faltered, and then seemed to remember why she was angry with him, because she went on with increased ferocity. "I told him about my future, and he's taken it into his head that he's going to stop it from happening, whatever it takes. I'm not going to make life difficult for you anymore, Severus, but he will."

"Does he know about the other future?" Snape asked angrily. "Does he know what the alternative is?"

"The one where he fathers the child of prophecy and dies at the age of twenty-one?" She shrugged. "I shouldn't think so. But he wouldn't care, if that's what you think. I told you, he wants to save Lily, and that's the only way to do it."

Severus rubbed his temples, trying to keep his composure. Once, this woman had made him so angry that he'd tried to put the Cruciatus Curse on her. He hadn't been able to, of course. He couldn't put an Unforgivable Curse on Lily, or anyone who looked like her – but he had still tried. He never wanted to feel that way again.      

"I don't think you're real," he said slowly, with painful calm. "I don't think you could really happen. I understand her and she understands me. If it wasn't for that fact, you could be real. I'm not saying you're unlikely. I'm just saying I couldn't hurt her – I physically couldn't hurt her."  

But he had seen for himself how vicious, cruel and unexpected the world could be. He knew from experience that nothing ever turned out right for him. He knew from experience that he was cursed. Was it so hard to believe that, once or twice – at crucial moments – they had failed to understand each other? Or maybe understanding each other wasn't even enough. Maybe nothing was. Maybe every couple ended up shouting their vocal chords into shreds like his parents had done. If he'd found himself in that situation – traumatizing a little kid the way he'd been traumatized – was it so hard to believe that he would kill himself?

Abandon his wife and child, in the middle of a war? Yes, it was bloody hard to believe!

But, if he thought he was doing it to save them…

"Oh, sure, you understand her," the Boggart exclaimed. "That's why you thought I slept with James Potter!"   

"You told me she wasn't hard to understand," Severus shot back. "You told me she was just a person; not an angel, or a martyr – even if she's in love with the idea of being both. You ought to listen to yourself sometimes. You honestly contradict yourself every time you open your mouth."

The Boggart absorbed this insult as though she was an insult-collector. "I hate you," she said, half-smiling.

"I know."

"And it was really cruel, getting that adorable little girl to distract us," she went on petulantly.

"Oh, that's right," he said, as if he'd only just remembered – as if the thought didn't wrench at his stomach twice an hour for as long as he was awake. "We – that is, you and your husband – had a child."

She didn't pounce on that error, much to his surprise. Either she wasn't in the mood to be cruel, or she was deferring it so that she could be even crueler later. Her face was strangely expressionless when she replied. "Yes. A little girl."

Snape half-closed his eyes, in an expression somewhere between a wince and a sigh. "What was her name?" he asked reluctantly.

"She didn't live long enough to have a name," the Boggart-Lily replied. "She died when she was a few days old. My voice was still ragged from screaming out in childbirth. I didn't have the energy to cry for her." She met his gaze fiercely, as though daring him to disapprove. "And even when I got my strength back, I didn't cry. I've never cried for her. Tears would insult her, do you understand?"

She saw him floundering for a response, and a bitter smile replaced her ferocity. "Of course you don't. It hasn't happened to you yet, has it?"

"It isn't going to," said Snape.

The Boggart shrugged contemptuously. "It isn't quite true that she didn't have a name, anyway. You used to call her Tabula – just as a temporary measure, until we could agree on something."

"Tabula?"

"It was short for Tabula Rasa," the Boggart explained. "Blank slate. You were very keen on that idea. She could be anything she wanted to be, you said. She wouldn't be judged on who her parents were, or what they did. There wouldn't be anything holding her back. Fatherhood transformed you into an unforgivable idealist."

The Boggart looked down at her feet, almost childishly, watching the tip of her shoes trace patterns in the dirt. "How you loved her," she murmured, tearless and inconsolable. "More than you ever loved me."

"That's not - ," Severus started, but she turned fierce again and interrupted him.

"Not what?" she demanded. "Not true? Not fair? Why shouldn't it be? I loved her more than I ever loved you. I didn't used to think it was possible to love someone more than I loved you – but that was before I saw my daughter."  

In desperation, Severus reached out for her hand. She recoiled, but not before registering astonishment that he'd tried it. He seized on that little detail with all the ferocity of teenage hope. The man she had married wouldn't have done that. It was still possible that things could turn out differently.  

"I can understand if this doesn't mean much to you," he croaked. "But, from my perspective, nobody has died yet. And, now I know what to watch out for, I can stop it from happening."  

The Boggart didn't answer. She went back to the serious business of watching her shoes tracing patterns in the dirt with child-like absorption.  

Severus sighed bitterly and rubbed his temples again. It made him feel as though he was in control, somehow. He needed to get back to Elsa and Jonah, but he didn't want to leave her. It would feel like giving up – not just on the argument, but on happiness altogether.

"Well, now I understand why you're so mental," he said, for want of anything better to say.  

The Boggart didn't look up, but she answered him in a childish, sing-song voice. "I'm so mental because you killed yourself and left me alone with my grief."

"Did your husband have this scar?" he asked suddenly, holding out the back of his hand for her inspection. The place where he'd cut open a vein for Lily's Liberus Charm had shrunk down remarkably quickly. There was nothing there now but a little white swirl of scar-tissue.

She looked up from her shoes absent-mindedly, and then frowned. "What the hell is that?"

Severus smiled triumphantly. "You know what it is. You've got one of your own. Did your husband have it?"

She looked up at him, and he saw agony under the cloying eye make-up.

"There are differences," he said, reaching out for her hand again. She didn't resist him this time. "There are bound to be, because you're here, warning us. That's got to count for something. I can handle Potter, as long as I've got you on my side."  

Tears were running down her cheeks now, leaving black mascara-trails.

"Trust me," he said. "I won't leave you alone with your grief."
Continuing from Cupboard Love [link]

This is a ridiculously long chapter - I'm so sorry about that! I can never cut Sev and Boggart-Lily short when they're talking!

Thank you for reading again (and again and again and again - I can't tell you how much it's appreciated! :hug: :))
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:iconasmg:
asmg Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2011
:iconveryexcitedplz: I'm so glad I'm starting to read this again!! There's been so much time from school I haven't been able to catch up until now =D I really did enjoy this particular chapter, especiallly at the end~ ;D
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2011
:w00t: :hug: :w00t: Yay, you're back on the story-wagon! I'm so happy you're still reading and enjoying it! (And don't worry at all about being busy, I know how that is! :faint: I swear, Christmas cards/shopping/parties/reunions almost kill me every year! I need the rest of the year just to recover! :phew:)
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:iconpolkadotpeony:
polkadotpeony Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2011
Awwww.... yay! I LOVED the Boggart-Lily conversation! Probably because it ended with so much hope! Severus is different and it will work out! I do believe! Sigh, I'm such a hopeless romantic.
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:iconlilynoelle:
lilynoelle Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2010  Student General Artist
Just about to print to read at bedtime. ;)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2010
My goodness, you're catching up with me! I'd better start writing some more chapters! :sprint:
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:iconlilynoelle:
lilynoelle Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2010  Student General Artist
;) Ah, so it's a race. heehee Better get on my writing shoes! ;)
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
:worship: I feel like I should be paying you for this entertainment.

Pure-bloods weren't very good at whispering.
I love the telling, albeit racist, remarks like that that give the wizarding world such believable depth.

I thought Snape's revelations about Elsa being sorted into Slytherin were brilliantly laid out. He sees what her future will be like, yet also instantly sees what her strengths and advantages are, and then decides to teach her as though that is the next logical step, rather than an act of compassion.

Abandon his wife and child, in the middle of a war? Yes, it was bloody hard to believe!
But, if he thought he was doing it to save them…

That struck a nerve. :( It's true, though. It makes me think of something your Severus said about (I think) his mother. About how perhaps the kindest thing she could have done was to ignore him. When someone sees themselves as poison... gah. I can't complete a thought on this matter. That line also reminds me of Lupin a little, of course, since he did abandon his wife and soon-to-be child in the middle of the war because he thought it would save them.

Your story-telling... I swear. James' cloak? That's so surprising, almost unbelievable, and yet it is at the same time completely believable because her relationship with James has been established. It's one of those great moments in a good novel when you realize that the author put an incredible amount of thought into the telling, because the "oh my gosh, no way!" moments are exactly like the ones in real life. "What? No way-- OH! Oh right, I forgot. Wow."

This is a particularly fine chapter. I'm so envious, but not quite to the point where I can resent your skill. At least not while I benefit from it. :D The way you deal with time and prophecy is -not to gush- unlike anything else I've read.

Only one question, and maybe it's a stupid one, but why does Snape refer to Elsa as a pureblood?
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
Oh, yes, you're right, she's technically a half-blood - I guess it was just the fact that she belongs to an ancient wizarding family that led me to call her a pure-blood there. Also, she has the loud voice and confidence which (to Sev) is always an indication of pure-blood witches and wizards. Hopefully, that will serve her well in Slytherin! ;) Will change the bit where he calls her a 'pure-blood', thank you for pointing it out. :hug:

I'm so glad you liked the chapter! :w00t: I kind of rushed through the action to get to the Sev/Boggart-Lily conversation because those are always my favourite bits! I completely agree with you about how sad it is when people think that they're trying to save their loved ones by staying away from them. I was disappointed with Lupin for doing that, too, even though I could understand his feelings (I very often share them!). I once saw a film where a working-class mother abandoned her daughter so that the daughter would be accepted by the upper-classes and live a better life - it was heart-breaking! :( Those masochistic, misled forms of heroism are really upsetting (and somehow, I think of them as distinctively British! It reminds me of Captain Oats going out into the snow to die, and just saying 'I'm going out. I may be some time.' :cries:)
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
It's actually interesting that Sev would mentally lump her in with 'the purebloods' based on her behavior, because I think it says a lot about class perceptions in the wizarding world (and our world too).

Oh, and I meant to say earlier, I love that his nightmare is his inner landscape minus Lily.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
It was going to be a nastier nightmare (i.e. his inner landscape with a dead Lily), but I thought he had enough to worry about! ;)
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:iconflameofthewest7:
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2010
I loved the film-noir femme fatale Boggart Lily. :)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
Thank you! :hug: :) I'd love to own one of those cool cigarette-holders, even though I don't smoke! They'd just be fun to wave about! :giggle:
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2010
Length is not an issue.

Length of the waiting time IS an issue :P.

So, the longer the length of the chapters, and the shorter the length of the downtime between them, the happier us rabidly addicted fans are :D.

That being said, it looks like Sev has actually one-upped the Bogart in this one. He's actually proving her wrong, although at the same time he is proving her right (with the jealousy).. still... it is Potter that we're talking about so I think it's forgiveable. I wonder how much more fierce their rivalry is going to get now that Potter is determined to stop the inevitable 'fate' that he thinks will befall Lily. Maybe a wizarding duel between Sev and Potter will happen at some point over this :P.

Speaking of which, I remember Severus asked Voldemort way back when to kill Potter for him. I wonder if that request will come back to bite Sev in the ass at some point (or at least create an incredibly ironic situation where Sev has to actually protect Potter?!?!?!?!).

Either then that, what else can I say except that I loved the dialogue and I hope more stuff is coming down the pipeline.

Keep it up,

Cheers,


Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
Thank you! :hug: I'd love to write a wizarding duel between Sev and Potter, because they both hate each other so much that, no matter how many times they got knocked down, they'd just keep getting up again! (Although then Lily might be horrified with the violence, give up on both of them and become a lesbian! ;) :giggle:)

I think Voldemort might consider that 'killing-Potter' agreement null and void, because it was a favour he agreed to in return for Sev delivering Caladrius, and then Sev ran off with Caladrius (admittedly, he managed to convince Voldemort that he did it out of loyalty, but it probably still invalidated the terms of the original agreement!)

I'm doing NanoWriMo in November [link] (I'm supposed to tell everyone I know so that fear of potential humiliation keeps me from giving up! ;)), so I might not be able to update in November, but I'll hopefully get another chapter done before the end of October. I loved writing this one - the bickering between Sev and Boggart-Lily is so much fun to write! :)
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
A MONTH?!... a whole month?!.. but... but ..... :crying:

Nah it's cool, just as long as you come back in December and give us some nice Christmas chapters ;).

As for Lily going lez... I suppose that's a possibility but you know... boys will be boys, so I think she'll have to give Sev a bit of leeway when it comes to Potter here :D. Just as long as Sev doesn't turn him into a cactus or something equally permanent, I think the damage could be repaired :p.

Hmm... Voldemort seems to have a rather lawyerly mindset when it comes to his deals. He's more evil than I ever imagined.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
I'm sure I've left this story hanging for a month without the NaNoWriMo excuse before! But I promise I'll come back to it. The fanfic seems to have so many possibilities, when compared with the scary prospect of thinking up my own characters and settings! :fear:
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
You'd better ;). Otherwise you'd condemn me to relying on fanfiction.net and finding a good story in there is like sorting through a turd mound for a diamond. I trust you're not that cruel :D.

Best of luck with the NanoWriMO.

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconvictory-gin:
Victory-Gin Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
No, no, no--never apologize for length! Please don't ever feel like that. I assure you that I absolutely love it when your chapters carry on, especially ones that involve Sev and Boggart-Lily! I was very sad to see this one end. I just want to keep reading and reading. You continue to astound me over and over again with how creative and intelligent you are. Tabula Rasa--oh that's brilliant! Little things like that give this story such a richness that makes it such a thrill to read. The Light Mark, again, pure brilliance. I'm very much looking forward to reading the next chapter, and please never worry that you're dwelling to much on one particular subject or another--I love it all. :love: :hug:
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
:hug: :w00t: Thank you so much, I'm really glad you liked the chapter (and so happy to hear that you like the long chapters too, 'cause I think I might be writing a lot of those in the future, especially if Sev and Boggart-Lily are going to be talking a lot!) I'm hoping to get another chapter done in October, but I'm afraid November might be a chapterless month, because I'm doing NaNoWriMo (for the first time! :fear:) and I might not have much time for the fanfic. (Unless I give up in despair, which is not unlikely!) I'll definitely come back to this story after November, though.

Thanks again your your comments, they've really cheered me up this morning! :tighthug:
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