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Lily Evans altered people. Severus knew she did it by instinct, but there were still moments when he thought of her as the most cunning strategist he’d ever seen, and wondered why she wasn’t in Slytherin.

Just as Bella knew that all living things must die, Lily knew that most dead things aren’t dead. Creatures that seem blighted can still sustain life. You just need to learn how to coax it out; create the right conditions for it to flourish. Ghostly, undead-looking things like Margot Holloway and Jonah Valance could still be revived, if you were patient with them. He just couldn’t understand why she bothered.

She was studying in the library with Margot Holloway today. Severus watched moodily from the wrought-iron balcony that overlooked the ground floor of the library, hunching his shoulders instinctively, as though he was trying to fold himself into the shadows.

Margot Holloway was a Slytherin. She was about six foot tall, had an upturned nose, and a strange, nebulous crop of blonde hair. The troubles of the world never seemed to bother her – perhaps because she’d always had to look down on them from such a great height. She had that untroubled serenity that Lily was drawn to in the same way that a person might be drawn to the edge of a cliff. It was unsettling and mesmerizing at the same time.  

He watched Holloway with a surly expression, trying to discern any signs of life. There was breathing, certainly. And blinking – though it wasn’t as frequent as Severus would have expected. She reminded him of those lizards that never blinked – the ones that had to flick their tongues over their eyes every now and then, in order to keep them moist.   

But even Margot grew more animated under Lily’s calm, non-judgemental gaze. She started gesturing with her hands, and her voice grew louder. Severus caught the words ‘distended liver’ and ‘fascinating’. He sighed. Poor Lily. Still, she did ask for it sometimes.

He suspected Holloway wasn’t used to being allowed to talk for this long. When people didn’t ignore her completely, they tended to tune her out – especially when she got onto the topic of dissections. That was just basic self-preservation. An instinct that Lily didn’t seem to have mastered yet.   

It was the Healer in her, he supposed, trying to find something to like about these misfits, in case she was ever called upon to perform healing magic on them. Because healing spells were like the unforgivable curses: they wouldn't work without interest. You had to mean it. You had to care that the people you were treating got better.

Lily’s father was a doctor, but her mother was more like a shamanic medicine-woman. The doctor’s wife, in a close-knit city suburb, is a minor celebrity in her own right, and Lily's mother had risen to the occasion with magnificent spirit.   

She kept her pockets stuffed with aspirin, tissues, lollipops, bus timetables, and biscuits. She could always tell you the best method to stop a nose-bleed. Whenever she was asked for directions, she would get carried away and escort the people to their destination, often pointing out important historical land-marks along the way. She was the most helpful person in the world – and, of course, being nosy was an essential part of this.

Both her daughters had inherited her nosiness. But where Lily’s turned her into a detective, Petunia’s turned her into a judge. Lily’s was infused with the thrill of discovery; Petunia’s was infused with the horror of revelation. Everything Lily saw made her hungry, and everything Petunia saw made her sick.

Much as he hated to admit it, Severus was more on Petunia's side there. Lily seemed to think of herself as some kind of explorer, whenever she set about trying to find a person's redeeming qualities - she seemed to see herself wading through a jungle of half-truths, trying to discover little relics of tenderness, and theorize about the strange, long-forgotten civilizations that might have created them. All Severus could think about, when he imagined this scene, were the wild beasts and the poisonous snakes lying in wait for her.

It worried him. The more irredeemably stupid a person appeared, the happier she would be – as though it was an incredible challenge. People stumped her, of course – she’d never been able to find anything to like about Narcissa Black or Lucius Malfoy, but she’d been happy to learn that they were getting married, all the same:

“It’s tidier,” she explained. “At least now they’re not ruining two separate relationships.”   

And she could always fall back on the idea that these cruel, vain, selfish people had nice relatives. Andromeda could excuse Narcissa and Bellatrix - Potter's mother was a walking, talking apology for the arrogance of her son.

And it worked - that was the crazy thing. They opened up to her; they confided in her. They started showing signs of tenderness and humour, not because the redeeming qualities she saw were actually there, but because nobody could bear to disappoint her.

It didn't surprise Snape that it worked. Life was an opportunistic little bastard. With warmth and sustenance, it would come unbidden. It was no miracle. Life was everywhere – voracious – striving; it would fill any gap - swarm all over anything. It was just as formidable, sudden and opportunistic as death – just as random and cruel – just as ingenious. Lily was as skilled at encouraging it as Bella was at encouraging death.

And, mostly, that involved listening. A sympathetic ear and a goblet-full of patience; these were the necessary ingredients for regeneration.

You forgot about being defensive when you spoke to her. You forgot about justifying yourself. You forgot that there were some people who wouldn’t respond to your secrets with the same mild-mannered curiosity. Lily Evans was interested in you. A pretty girl – and not one of the high-pitched, giggling ones either – was interested in what you had to say. You felt almost drunk with it. People who usually communicated by grunts were turned into orators by the sympathetic ear and steady gaze of Lily Evans.  

She was a professional listener. And it wasn’t because she was pretty – well, alright, it was probably helped by the fact that she was pretty. But there was something else: the way she sensed your enthusiasm and closed in on it, as if she was sniffing out your heart. Once, when she’d been getting him to tell her about Undetectable Poisons, he’d tried to work out exactly what it was she did when she listened to people. She didn’t just listen to your words: she mimicked your posture, as if she was physically trying to recreate your perspective. She did the same thing whenever they were playing wizard’s chess: she came to sit beside him, so that she could see the board from his angle. She probably also did it because she knew that physical closeness clouded his thoughts. Lily’s body was the enemy of all clear-thinking.

It was fair enough. He was much better at wizard’s chess than she was. She played too emotionally. She’d get attached to particular pieces (generally the less violent ones) and become very upset whenever they were captured. He expected her to use whatever advantages she could – he was a Slytherin, after all – and, because he was a Slytherin, he knew how to use other people’s schemes.

You adjusted your priorities to fit your desires: he could handle losing the odd game of wizard’s chess, if it meant he got to feel the closeness of her body. Sometimes, he even took a long time beating her, just to draw out these moments.  

But there were other things she did when she was listening. There were sharp little intakes of breath from her whenever she sensed enthusiasm in your speech, as though she was feeling your thrill vicariously. She’d remember what you’d been talking about, and she would come back to it. “Tell me more about this. Your voice got so interesting when you talked about this. You used words I’d never heard before. And there was an inflection at the end of your sentence that sounded almost like joy.”

That was it: the words, although she took in each and every one of them, were not important: she listened to the texture of your speech. She listened for the cadences and intonations that sign-posted emotion. It was much harder to hide things from her than from anyone else, because she took what you actually said with a pinch of salt: what mattered most was how you said it.

Lily Evans was not a morning person. She usually slept right through the mass exodus of Gryffindor girls to the Quidditch practice on Saturday mornings. And she was still clinging stubbornly to her pillow when they trooped back in, mud-spattered and rosy-cheeked, enthusing about James Potter’s latest suicidal Quidditch maneuver. Now she was sitting, scowling, in a patch of sunlight at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, trying to nurse herself back into consciousness with an ice-cold glass of pumpkin juice. It didn’t help that she had dreamed about Guillotine Valance again last night – that Victorian doll with the baby-blonde curls and pointed teeth.

The woman’s words kept rattling inside her head – always louder when she’d been listening to other people’s problems, because she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was only doing this to escape. A shrill, nasty voice in her head would hiss:

You don’t belong in Gryffindor. You only use other people in order to forget yourself. That’s not tender-heartedness, you little parasite.

She hadn't performed Healing Magic since that night on Azkaban, when Guillotine Valance had possessed her. Madam Pomfrey hadn’t bugged her about it. Neither had any of the other teachers. But she couldn’t help feeling she was disappointing them.  

She let her eyes wander up to the staff table, to where Madam Pomfrey sat, next to the ghost of Professor Binns.

She always looked the same during meal-times. She would sit with her head cocked slightly to one side, her eyes fixed on the plate in front of her, just listening. Lily wondered how many individual voices she could recognize. Could she pull one voice out of the tangle and follow it, like a thread, through the whole twisted labyrinth of a teenager’s conversation? Or did she simply find the combined babble of a hundred voices soothing? Or was she just trying to avoid talking to Professor Binns? (The ghostly History of Magic teacher didn’t need to sit at the staff table, of course, because food was merely ornamental to him, but he still liked to chat to the other teachers – mostly about goblin rebellions – and he found mealtimes a convenient time to do so. Unfortunately, Madam Pomfrey had been given a seat between this perennial lecturer and a wall. It was little wonder she didn’t feel like talking.)  

She was a strange woman. Myths had grown up around her, as they had a tendency to do around mysterious characters at Hogwarts, making them all the more mysterious, because the facts got hidden behind all the conflicting rumours. It was said that she could hear the sound of anyone who spoke inside the castle. If you had a conversation outside the dormitories after lights-out, the portraits on the walls would sometimes hush you with the words: “You’ll wake Madam Pomfrey, you know.” They said Hogwarts was like a giant amplifier to her, and any voice that spoke inside it was accessible to the matron’s sensitive ears.

That was what you got for being a professional listener, apparently: it got to a stage where you couldn’t tune people out.

It made sense: and it would explain the fact that, judging by Madam Pomfrey’s expression, she always seemed to be in pain.

For the first few terms, Lily had imagined Madam Pomfrey as an exquisitely sensitive character, like the Princess in the tale of the Princess and the Pea. Whenever she had to pass the Hospital Wing on her way to classes, she would walk on tiptoes.   

Madam Pomfrey had a strange face. Lily couldn’t make up her mind whether or not it was pretty. She had dark circles under her eyes and drooping lines around her mouth, giving her a distinctly hang-dog expression. It was a martyred expression, she decided. Years of exasperation had carved it into her face – years of unraveling the spell-work of vicious teenagers intent on murdering each other.

She looked miserable, but resolute – as though she was being led in chains to her funeral pyre, but she had refused to recant.

But, for all that, she had a look of such exquisite faded beauty that Lily loved watching her. It was almost better than real beauty, because it was more complicated. It wasn’t the kind of beauty that beat you about the head with its presence – like Narcissa Black’s did. This took patience and imagination to uncover. A subtle pinkness haunted her cheeks, where flesh and health had long-since upped sticks and left. And, despite her best efforts to tame it, her grey-blonde hair always formed itself into plump little curls. At first glance, she was gaunt and haggard, but vitality leaked out of her in unexpected ways.

Lily usually had tea with her in the Hospital Wing on a Sunday. Madam Pomfrey hadn’t pressed her to go back to healing magic. Mostly, she would talk about her new crop of mandrakes, or the fact that Potter had suffered so many Quidditch injuries that his bones now seemed to be self-healing, and allow Lily to be thoughtfully silent. A professional listener knew when it was time to talk. But, today, Lily had questions. Whatever problems she was going through, Madam Pomfrey would have faced them too.

She knocked briefly on the open door to Madam Pomfrey’s office, and launched into her questions before the matron could even look up from her paper-work.      

“Do you ever feel like you listen to people because you can’t stand to be on your own?” she asked, her cheeks glowing uncomfortably. “Like healing people is just running away from your own problems?”

“What problems?” asked Madam Pomfrey calmly.  

Lily didn’t answer. She fixed her eyes on the scorched wood-work of Madam Pomfrey’s desk, and muttered: “Is it ever hard, finding things to like about people? In a place like this, I mean?”

Madam Pomfrey, who’d been gazing out of the window, suddenly turned back, smiling. “As it happens, you picked a good day to ask. Any other day, and I might have had trouble answering you. Today, I can show you.”

She made Lily fasten her cloak against the March wind, and led her out into the grounds, to the steps that led up to the draughty tower where the Post Owls roosted.

The base of the tower was ringed with cherry trees.  Lily watched their branches waving in the wind, with their china-white blossoms and budding red leaves.

The air had changed overnight. She was used to the bitter wind raking at her; but today it was caressing her. She usually came in from the grounds looking as though she’d just been mugged – with her hair tousled and her tie askew. But today, the breeze felt like a gentle hand against her cheek. Not too warm. Far enough outside of her comfort zone to be thrilling. It unsettled her.  

When she felt the watery sunshine settle on her skin, her heart started pounding erratically. She could hardly keep her happiness in check. She wanted to yell, skip, and turn cart-wheels. But her body would never respond to these moods in kind. She wanted to lose herself in motion, but her legs would sabotage the attempt. She would blush, or stumble – her limbs would suddenly get very heavy – she’d drop things, or start saying stuff that was much too relevant for your everyday conversation.  

She turned into ‘a squealing Hufflepuff’, as Severus had so characteristically put it. And, when he said things like that – oh, she knew he said them fondly – but she started to feel as though she was making a fool of herself – as though he was laughing at her.

She pulled her cloak tighter about her, trying to stifle the bewitching coolness that was raising goose-bumps along every inch of her skin, and followed Madam Pomfrey across the lawn.  

It had been a diversionary tactic, of course: Severus Snape was brilliant at those. Her exuberance excited and scared him – he wanted to be on the receiving end of it, but dreaded anyone else encountering her in these moods, in case her happiness suddenly bubbled over into passionate kisses. She was a ticking time-bomb of tenderness. Imagine Potter, or Lupin passing her in the corridors at the instant when she lost control of all that joy. An explosion of kisses and torn clothing would inevitably ensue. Buttons and Gryffindor ties flying in all directions. The thought of it turned his stomach.

When she was in these moods, Severus wanted to clear the area. The particular person didn’t seem to matter, as far as he could see. She found everyone equally fascinating: she was elated by everything: it was so random, and – to Severus – so violent, that it terrified him.

But it was also bewitchingly exciting. Her happiness blinded her to everyday things like politeness and propriety. She would suddenly grab his hand, or lean in very close when she spoke to him. He would feel her hot breath in his ear and wonder whether it might not be worth risking that explosion of tenderness, on the off-chance that he was the one who caught the full blast of it.

Madam Pomfrey led them to the base of one of the cherry trees, laid her cloak on the grass and sat down. “You get the best view from here,” she explained, motioning for Lily to sit beside her.

Uncertainly, Lily did so. There was indeed a nice view. You could see the whole tower, with its broad, glass-less windows, and its pointed turret raking the cloud-ragged sky.

Narcissa Black was leaning on one of the windowsills, her white-blonde hair spilling over her shoulders, absent-mindedly patting the feathers of a snowy-white owl. That must have been Artemis: a fast, expensive pure-breed bought for Narcissa on her last birthday. The thing had, apparently, been trained to peck out the eyes of any muggle-born that had the audacity to look at her.

Lily was pleased to see that it wasn’t working.  

Artemis was holding her leg outstretched expectantly.

The porcelain bitch was wrapping a little stack of magazines in brown paper, tying them up with great care. Lily squinted upwards. She could just see the heading of Witch Weekly’s pull-out travel supplement. She’d seen a copy in the Gryffindor common-room this morning. It had a feature on the voodoo priests of Haiti.

“Her mother never leaves the house,” Madam Pomfrey explained. “Never does anything except cook and clean and get ordered around by her husband. Narcissa doesn’t dare criticize her father, but she’s taken to sending her mother aspirational magazines, to try and tempt her into the outside world. Travel journals; details about evening classes in wand-lore or experimental charms – hoping that something will catch her eye, and give her a life outside of the kitchen.”

Lily felt a little lurch in her stomach, as she watched Narcissa lovingly seal the package with Spellotape, and attach it to the leg of her owl.  

“Don’t think of it as the bright side,” said Madam Pomfrey. “It doesn’t cheer you up at all. In fact, it makes things lamentably complicated. Just when you think it might be easy to hate somebody, they do something like this.”

“Has there ever been anyone you couldn’t bring yourself to heal?” Lily asked suddenly. “Someone you just couldn’t find a reason to like?”  

“Only one. And, fortunately, she’s quite resistant to injury.” She paused and then added, under her breath: “She’s not so resistant to causing injury, of course, but there’s nothing she can break that I can’t fix.”

Lily gave her a sly smile. “And what will you do if Bellatrix Black ends up in the Hospital Wing someday?”

Madam Pomfrey raised her eyebrows, but she didn’t seem particularly surprised by Lily’s guess-work. They had such similar feelings that it would have been astonishing if Lily couldn’t guess, especially given all those clues.

“I don’t know,” the matron admitted. “It bothered me a little, to begin with. I think I became rather obsessed with her. I started watching her in situations where any normal person might have been expected to show some degree of affection – with her friends, her family, her pets. But sometimes understanding people only increases your contempt for them.”

When Lily got back to the castle, she decided she was going to spend more time with Margot Holloway. If Narcissa Black had a soft under-belly, then there had to be some redeeming features to Margot. And it was easy – incredibly easy. Once you’d gotten over your squeamishness, the things Margot said were actually very interesting. She’d had no idea that the crushed liver of a Chinese Fireball could soothe burns on human skin, or that the severed head of a Hippogriff could be used to ward off curses.

This wasn’t dark magic – not if you didn’t want it to be. Magic only became dark when you put it to cruel uses. And Margot was so caught up in the thrill of discovery, so in love with the idea of knowing simply for the sake of knowing, that she never spared a thought for the uses to which her knowledge could be put.   

She was aware of Severus standing on the balcony, watching her. It gave her goose-bumps. There was a thrill to it, as well as a vague sense of unease. But this unease didn’t blossom into real panic until Margot left, and her empty seat was immediately taken by James Potter.  

“You don’t actually like her, do you?”

In some confusion, Lily looked up at the balcony where she’d seen Severus a few moments before. It was empty. She couldn’t decide whether that was a good sign.


Potter rolled his eyes. “Holloway, Evans! You can’t possibly like her?”  

Lily carefully evaded the question. Her feelings on Margot Holloway were difficult to determine. “What’s wrong with her?” she demanded, recovering herself enough to be annoyed.

“Well, she’s a Slytherin, for starters.”

“Oh, please,” said Lily, stuffing her books back into her bag.

“And she’s got those staring eyes,” he persisted.

“As opposed to those eyes that don’t actually look at anything?”

“You know what I mean,” said Potter uncomfortably. “She’s always looking at you. As though she’s planning a dissection.”

Lily laughed.

“You’re too trusting,” he complained.

“Well, that’s my problem,” said Lily firmly. “I’m going to hang out with the people I like hanging out with until they give me a reason not to.”

“When they give you a reason not to, it’ll be too late. They’ll be prodding your guts with a scalpel.”

Lily laughed again. It was amazing how much Potter could sound like Severus at these moments. She wondered if they could overcome their mutual hatred if they were given an hour to get together and criticize her.  

“Just because someone’s different from you, Potter, that doesn’t mean they spend their time dissecting people.”

“Yes, it does,” he replied firmly.  

Lily sighed again.

She had heard all this before, of course. She was always being asked these kind of questions, especially when she spent her time with Margot, Severus or Andromeda. The rivalries between Gryffindors and Slytherins were hammered into students’ heads at such an early age that the prejudice was difficult to overcome. She was constantly hearing sentences like:

“Why do you hang out with them? You’ll catch nerd.”

“They’re not your friends, you know. They’re just trying to copy your homework or get inside info on the Gryffindors.”

She was used to the fact that the people she cared about all hated each other. It had caused her a lot of worry in the past, but now she was reconciled to it. As long as they didn’t fight.

If they cared about her, they wouldn’t fight. And she had faith in them: she knew they wouldn’t want to hurt her. But sometimes – before she could dismiss the thought as unfair or unkind – she got the idea that her friends hated each other more than they liked her.

Jonah Valance was sitting in the library too, sporting an eye-patch and a surly expression. He wasn’t taking to school very well. He hated being away from his sister and father. Meg had tried to cheer him up – tried to get him interested in Quidditch, and her magical combat classes (which were rather over-subscribed these days, what with the rise of the Dark Lord – everyone was suddenly feeling the need to defend themselves). But he was spending more and more of his time alone in the library, reading up on Curses and defensive magic. Lily was reminded forcibly of Severus when he started school. Except that Jonah didn’t give her those unwilling, exasperated smiles whenever she tried to cheer him up.

She understood it. Jonah and Elsa had been through kidnap, imprisonment, and thirty years of suspended animation together. To separate them now – while they were still learning to trust wizards again, and still getting to know their father – seemed very cruel.

And Elsa was only eight. To leave an eight-year-old girl in the company of Maximus Valance (Meg’s war-obsessed father) and Bruiser (who’d spent thirty years in a prison cell, being forced to fight other muggles to the death for the entertainment of wizards) seemed like child abuse.

Still, there was no question that she’d come out of it as a true Valance. All the Valances were warriors, the men and the women. Between them, Bruiser and Maximus could teach her bare-knuckle boxing and defensive magic. She was probably getting a better education than Jonah at the moment.

Lily placed a Chocolate Frog by his elbow when she passed him, but didn’t say anything. Jonah gave her a hard, suspicious stare with his one eye for a minute, and then unwrapped it and began eating voraciously.

When he left the library, he handed her the card. Lily gave him a smile, but he didn’t return that. Still, the card was a start.

She thought about Madam Pomfrey, listening to the tangle of voices in the great hall, teasing out the occasional thread and following it for a while, before catching onto another one. It was the tangle that was the important thing. Such a dizzying variety of competing voices produced a dissonance that was more beautiful than any harmony. The astonishing richness and variety of it! You could never get tired of that.  

That was why she did it – not because she was trying to hide – not because she wanted to escape the constant anxiety of being in love with someone who was angry to his very bones. She was used to that by now. And, anyway, she believed in him. He hadn’t started throwing hexes at Potter when he came to sit with her, had he?

The thought rose up in her mind before she could stifle it: Unless he was waiting to get him on his own.

Lily shook her head firmly, and tried to concentrate on the epiphany she’d been having, before her mind had turned to Severus. He really was the enemy of all clear-thinking.

Yes, that was why she liked listening to people – it was probably also why she liked arguing with them. She felt reassured by the fact that these competing opinions existed, no matter which ones were right and which were wrong. It was like diving in a coral-reef, and being overwhelmed, almost to the point of drowning, by all the strange, beautiful forms of life in there – undulating, shimmering, swarming over everything – each one trying to thrive at the expense of the others. Right or wrong didn't enter into it. It was just beautiful.
This is the Spring-themed chapter, following on from The Goddess of Death. [link]
The basic idea was to take one of the girls from the Harry Potter universe to symbolize each season and, since Lily has become a healer in these stories, and since she's always encouraging life and confidence in the people she talks to, I thought she would be a fitting personification of Spring.
I'm sorry it's so long! I got carried away with describing Madam Pomfrey! Please feel free to skip those bits. :)
Add a Comment:
lilynoelle Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2009  Student General Artist
Printing it out now! I will read it tonight by candlelight with tea or wine ~ I NEED a rest time SOooooo bad right now! So, this is perfect. :floating:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2009
Lol, I need some rest time too! Fanfics and tea sounds like a winning combination! :)
lilynoelle Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2009  Student General Artist
:nod: :hug:
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2009
What an excellent revelation into Lily's psyche! Your love for the characters is made very obvious by the detailed worlds you have created for them, filling in the missing pieces we never got to see in the canon books. Here's my favorite part of this chapter:

"Both her daughters had inherited her nosiness. But where Lily’s turned her into a detective, Petunia’s turned her into a judge. Lily’s was infused with the thrill of discovery; Petunia’s was infused with the horror of revelation. Everything Lily saw made her hungry, and everything Petunia saw made her sick."

These characters are so rich and multi-faceted, something you don't see too often in fanfiction. I love it! :)
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2009
Thank you so much! :hug: I really do love these characters! Writing about them is so therapeutic for me! For some reason, writing from Sev's perspective is easiest (perhaps because I'm just as neurotic and pessimistic as he is! ;)) But Lily is fun to write because J.K. Rowling tells us so little about her (of course, sometimes I think I idealize her a bit too much - but she was representing the Spring in this chapter, and who can say anything bad about Spring?) :)
dronarron Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009
You adjusted your priorities to fit your desires: he could handle losing the odd game of wizard’s chess, if it meant he got to feel the closeness of her body. Sometimes, he even took a long time beating her, just to draw out these moments.

Mmm... I love little bits like this. :)
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2009
Thank you! :glomp: I didn't want to make out that Sev's love for Lily was too pure - I mean, he is a teenage boy, after all! ;)
northangel27 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Again it appears that you are reading my mind. I found this rather apropos:

"The woman’s words kept rattling inside her head – always louder when she’d been listening to other people’s problems, because she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was only doing this to escape. A shrill, nasty voice in her head would hiss:

You don’t belong in Gryffindor. You only use other people in order to forget yourself. That’s not tender-heartedness, you little parasite."

In my case it is more that I listen to other people's problems and I try to 'fix' them because of the selfish nature of my empathy. When they are in pain, I am in pain, and the only way I can stop hurting is when they do. Unfortunately, pain is a prerequisite of growth, and so through always seeking to alleviate people's pain, I think that I often hinder their ability to grow.

At least that is what I am told, by people who feel I need the advice, people who are supposedly older and wiser than I am, and I see their point. I am selfish in that way. I can't bear to see anything or anyone in pain. It physically and emotionally hurts, and I become obsessed with alleviating that pain.

That becomes a problem when you have people in your life like Severus, who are willfully self-destructive, and compulsively doing things to destroy their own happiness. You just have to accept that you are going to be in constant pain while with them, because they are willfully keeping themself in that place of pain. It doesn't matter how much you love them, how tender and affectionate you are. They take the affection and then turn right around and do something to sabotage it, because they feel that pleasure and pain are indivisible. If life doesn't bring them pain to balance out their joy, then they will create it for themselves.

I feel your Lily so deeply and personally that she is a pleasure to read. I always seem to see a little of myself in her, to learn things about myself in her.

There was a line in the movie "Shadowlands" about why people read. A young student tells C.S. Lewis that his father always said, "We read to know we are not alone." When I read your Lily I feel that, that I am not alone, because she feels the things I feel and fears the things I fear, and because I have a Severus in my own life, I identify with everything she goes through and feels in relation to him (your characterization of Severus is also spot on, by the way, another reason for my identification with the plot).

So anyway, here I am rambling about my own issues. Sigh... ;-). But I thought you might like to know, once again, that your story has touched me profoundly.
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009
I totally understand that. It's hard seeing someone in pain, especially someone you love. And, if you're always watching them hurt themselves, of course you'd want to intervene. Empathy can be really painful and terrifying sometimes. I remember being in the cinema, watching the end of Casino Royale (I hope this isn't a spoiler, BTW!) and, when the woman was drowning, I was actually holding my breath! I was so totally lost in empathy that I felt as though I was drowning with her!
In fact, I'm fascinated by the problems that this constant empathy could create for Healers - that's why I've been writing about Madam Pomfrey and her strange, almost supernatural, sensitivity. I love the idea that always listening to people could actually heighten your sense of hearing, until you physically can't stop listening to them!
But I still see Lily's empathy as a beautiful thing. My boyfriend is very optimistic and interested in people and, while I was writing this chapter, I asked him what the big attraction was - why he always wanted to know about people - and he said it's just reassuring to know that this variety of perspectives can exist. The variety of the human race is so beautiful to him, and someone who can bring that variety out - empathetic people like you and Paul and Lily - are just totally fearless and inspirational. The variety of human perspectives always terrifies me! ;)
northangel27 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
"My boyfriend is very optimistic and interested in people and, while I was writing this chapter, I asked him what the big attraction was - why he always wanted to know about people - and he said it's just reassuring to know that this variety of perspectives can exist. The variety of the human race is so beautiful to him,"

I can totally agree with that. People are just beautiful to me, and oddly, the more damaged they are the more beautiful they seem. Perhaps that is why Severus is so beautiful to me, he is so damaged, so dark, so hurting. It a strange and terrible beauty, but it is beauty all the same.
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009
So true! A kind of stark, sublime beauty, like a dead, twisted oak or a ruined castle (lol, I have thought about this way too much! ;)) I guess that's why he serves as a muse to so many people - he's not just bitter, he's beautiful.
I think about that kind of dark, ruined beauty whenever I hear Ella Fitzgerald or Nina Simone singing (or that beautiful song "Lady" by Regina Spektor). Their songs make me feel as though there's a beauty to being jaded and disillusioned that is just as intense as the beauty of innocence. That's kind of why I want to write more abouut the Boggart Lily, because she reminds me of those smoky, jazz voices and their jaded beauty!
northangel27 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh, I hope you do write more Boggart Lily. I see so much of my own shadow side in her, and it always breaks my heart, but I just can't look away, I have to keep reading.
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009
I'm hoping to have her come back in the following chapters. I love writing her - especially because she confuses Severus so much. He just doesn't know what to do when he hears such bitter, cruel words coming from the person who's always represented kindness and optimism for him! I also really want to see what would happen if she met James Potter!
northangel27 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think it is good for Severus to see that, to see what she becomes when she lets herself love him, not because I don't think that they should be together, but because I think it is a caution to Severus, that if he doesn't start to allow some of that light to sink in to him, if he doesn't let go of some of his fear and his bitterness, he will end up destroying the one thing he loves most in the world.
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009
Exactly! I still think he could make her happy (though it would be easier if James Potter wasn't around. Sev has a hard time being rational when he sees him!)
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