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They made a strange procession, climbing up the grassy hill to the elder tree. Colonel Riddle led the way, sauntering nonchalantly, with his hands clasped behind his back. Then came Severus, with the unconscious Madam Pomfrey hanging in the air beside him. And then the widows, who were occasionally shoving their prisoner - the mud-and-coal-covered Boggart - in the back to keep her going, even though she was as docile and silent as a lamb.  

And there was someone else. Severus had only recently become aware of him – and that, in itself, was strange, because his senses were screaming with sensitivity at the moment, and he was used to being stalked by a man in a bloody invisibility cloak, so he had become phenomenally good at spotting shadows, and out-of-place noises, and all the other signs that indicated stealthy pursuit. The man who was following them must have been really good at it. He wore the shadows as though they were his own invisibility cloak.

He was sticking to the trees that bordered the far side of the hill, and his frame was so angular and stick-thin that it was becoming difficult to distinguish him from the tree-branches.

Of course, Severus knew of someone who was thin and angular and currently missing: the German airman. But he didn't know anything about him – he didn't know if the man spoke English, or even understood what was going on – although he supposed you couldn't mistake things as obvious as tidal-waves and killing curses.

Still, there was no telling what he would do.

No, that wasn't quite right. There was some telling – because this nightmare was conscious, and everything in it was designed to drive Madam Pomfrey over the edge. The German airman was part of the dream, and so he would do something horrible. He didn't have any choice in the matter. Maybe nobody did. Maybe even Severus and Voldemort were working for the dream now.

It was a chilling, but strangely liberating, thought – because he was helpless either way, and he would rather be helpless because he'd been enslaved by the will of a millennia-old curse than because he just hadn't been prepared for this many catastrophes.

Everything on the hillside was black – from the shiny-black of the grass, to the thick, matte-black of the mud, and the charcoal-black of the sky. They all sort of bled into each other, as though the dream was getting too lazy to put in corners or dividing lines. Perhaps it was gathering its strength for the moment when it would be reborn, and didn't have any energy to spare for details. Severus felt the same way himself – although he suspected that, for him, a glorious resurrection would not be imminent.

It would be alright, as long as he kept in character for Lily. He kept telling himself that, even though he was aware that he couldn't stop glancing over his shoulder at the Boggart. She was moving up the hill just as sinuously as Voldemort, with her hands tied together in front of her, looking as innocent and unconcerned as Snow White in the hands of the Huntsman. The widows seemed to be finding her docile grace difficult to deal with, because they kept shoving her forwards, and muttering things like: "no shame, of course," "- brazen hussy - ," "probably doesn't even remember her husband's name."

She paid them no attention, but that was hardly surprising. It must have taken intense concentration for somebody that jaded to muster up a convincing impression of innocence. He was surprised she could spare the energy to go on standing upright.

Sally wasn't muttering or shoving, but she couldn't seem to resist telling her prisoner, in a quiet, deadened voice, exactly why she should be ashamed.

"It was unspeakably wicked of you, helping Poppy free that German," she whispered.  

"And you're even worse than she is!" Mrs. Reynolds put in. "At least Poppy didn't lose a husband in the war – you did, and you still went gallivanting off with his enemy!"

"I assure you, there was no 'gallivanting' involved," said the Boggart meekly.

"Don't you have any shame?" Mrs. Reynolds demanded. "Don't you have any loyalty to your husband's memory?"

"Why should I?" said the Boggart, with a cheerful shrug. "Just because he's dead, that doesn't mean he wasn't a creep."

Snape's clockwork heart gave a bitter clunk. And that was just typical, he thought, as he turned away from the bickering widows. The most powerful dark wizard in history couldn't get an extra beat out of his heart, but some childish rebuke from a thing that looked like Lily not only got past his defences but gave his organs an extra kicking on its way through.

What a bitch.

And she was doing all of this on purpose. She was trying to make herself a target. She had a plan, she said – but you couldn't trust Lily's plans to include any kind of provision for her own welfare. He was going to have to watch her die, he knew it. The only question was when. He found himself flinching every time she opened her mouth, because he was sure each flippant remark would be the one that made Voldemort lose his temper.

Sally, after regarding the Boggart with nauseated interest for a few seconds – presumably to see whether she could come out with anything worse – slapped her. Severus heard a faint ringing in his ears, but the clockwork tick-tock of his heart remained steady.

"And what is this, anyway?" Sally demanded, tugging at the cord around the Boggart's neck, which disappeared into her ample cleavage. "Something your German lover gave you?"

The Boggart wasn't quick enough – perhaps because she was too busy keeping up that veneer of infuriating innocence. Sally had dragged the cord, with its rough little pendant of Hogwarts masonry, from around her neck before she could snatch it back. And, for a second, it was very satisfying to see that innocent smile freeze on her lips.

But then it gave way to the familiar, nausea-inducing blur of a Boggart changing shape. A swirl started at the centre of her stomach and spread outwards, even rising up to the porridge-thick clouds. The Boggart-Lily – and all the scenery behind her – took on the appearance of a smudged painting – a visual cacophony of blacks and reds and browns – and two significant pinpricks of green. And then everything slid back into bewitching clarity.   

But it had all slid back into the wrong shape. Suddenly, a man was standing where the Boggart-Lily had been – a man in a Field Uniform and trench-coat, with untidy blonde hair and slightly bulbous eyes. He had his hands clamped over his stomach, as though he was trying to keep his insides from falling out. And, when you looked at the scenery behind him, you realized that this might, in fact, have been the case.

There was a battlefield at his back, pockmarked with craters and strewn with muddy, discoloured things that you hoped were only the limbs of blasted trees. Flares ignited here and there, bathing the widows' bloodless faces with their eerie lights. And the view was endless. It extended right off into the distance, as far as the eye could see.

And Severus realized that this was proof beyond contradiction that fear could change the whole world – and that, if the Boggart was as strong as fear, then she was invincible. It was the first comforting thought he'd had for quite some time – and, best of all, it was comfort laced with horror, so his battered heart couldn't automatically dismiss it as 'too good to be true'.  

Sally was standing very still in front of the apparition. It was as though she'd been spotted by a predator, and she thought her only option was to play dead. Her lips were pressed tight together over her teeth, and she was breathing hard through her nostrils.

The young man in the trench-coat caught sight of her, and beamed with absolutely radiant happiness. Then his eyebrows knitted together in puzzlement, and the smile gently collapsed.

"Where were you, love?" he said. "I thought you were going to explain to them. You know? About Doctor Roland's letter and how I dint have to fight?" His wide, honest face was boyish and uncomprehending. He had the slightly aggrieved tone of someone who had seen you peeking when you were supposed to have your eyes closed for a game of Hide and Seek.

Sally's jaw stayed locked. The sinews in her neck were sticking out, as though she was really straining with the effort to keep still. And Severus had to suppress a hysterical impulse to yell out: "He's seen you! The game's over! You're It!"  

"They come and took me to the recruitin' Sergeant, and I kept waitin' for you to come and explain. Doctor Roland said I dint have to. But nobody would listen. And I dint know what to do. And they kept on talking, but nobody would tell me what to do. And I don't know why you weren't there to tell 'em. You should've told 'em."

Sally's whole head was trembling now. With an effort, she managed to wrench her jaws apart, and lift up her chin. "They would have called you a coward," she said, in a voice that somehow managed to be chiding, contemptuous and terrified all at once. "They would have called you a coward if you hadn't gone. It was your duty."

"But Doctor Roland said I dint have to," said the boy, as though she was being very thick. He didn't look angry – just confused. There had been some transgression, and he was prepared to hammer away at it with his simple, stolid honesty until the world offered him an unconditional apology, or until the world ended. Whichever happened first.

With the same strange mixture of terror and contempt, Sally stepped forward and slapped him, hard. It seemed to be her answer to everything. Then – with a presence of mind Severus wouldn't have expected from her – she forced the cord with its pendant of Hogwarts stone back over his head, and fell to her knees, sobbing, while the scenery blurred itself back into shape.

Severus watched the shimmers and blurs coalesce into the shape of his beloved Lily – albeit a Lily smudged with mud, mascara, coal-dust and bitterness. Dear God, was he actually feeling happy to see her again? She was going to get herself killed, there was no doubt in his mind now – but there was something bitterly comforting about having her here, where he could torture himself with the sight of her.

"My goodness," said Colonel Riddle, breaking what would – but for Sally's sobs – have been an awkward silence. He was sitting back in his make-shift throne in the elder tree, watching the chaos with a cold, proprietorial air, like a choreographer watching his dance troupe perform. He was critical, of course – but also proud. "This curse is a work of genius, Severus. How fortunate that I will soon have all eternity to study its intricacies."

He got up, and walked over to the Boggart-Lily, lifting her chin up with his hand in the same grim parody of tenderness he had earlier used on Sally. "Tell me," he said, "do you think Madam Pomfrey would be upset to see you die? I've run out of 'loved ones' to murder in front of her, so I'm afraid you'll have to do.  Please try not to be too irritating in your death throes. I realize it will be hard."

Elsa – still chattering excitedly and crunching sherbet lemons – explained that she was going to take them into Madam Pomfrey's dream via the sea-front. "Don't wanna go near the elder tree," she added. "You-Know-Who likes that place. We'll be safer with the widows. They think I'm really cute anyway."

Lily didn't know what she had been expecting. She had seen the dream once before, of course, but only at the site of the elder tree, and her perceptions had been somewhat clouded with shame, confusion and terror then.

She supposed she had expected to see a pleasant English sea-side town, with white-painted houses and gulls wheeling overhead. She hadn't expected the darkness – or the dead fish on the cobblestones – or the pervasive odour of salt and rotting seaweed.

Elsa looked up at the houses on the sea-front, and her mouth – still half-filled with shards of boiled sweets – dropped open.

Lily took her cue from Elsa, even though she didn't know what this place was supposed to look like. Whatever was supposed to be there, it couldn't have been this. All the buildings on the sea-front looked as though they'd had their roofs ripped off. They were lying open to the stars – or to where the stars would have been if the night sky here hadn't been so cloudy and curdled. Some of the shattered walls had clumps of sea-weed hanging off them.

They were standing outside what must have been a pub. There was a bar in there, sparkling with shattered glass – and she could see the broken stump of a pub-sign standing outside the door. And through the doorway, amidst a few puddles of salt-water, something dark and motionless was lying on the floor.

Comprehension dawned in one heart-stopping moment and filled her veins with ice. She felt as though the cobbles had been yanked out from under her. The sudden lurch of realization pitched her forwards into a sprint in which her feet barely touched the ground – but she somehow managed to leave her voice on the sea-front, yelling instructions for Dumbledore. "Stay here – hold Elsa – oh god!"  

Lily skimmed through the puddles of salt-water inside the ruined pub, finally throwing herself onto her knees beside the motionless figure on the floor. She turned him over, fumbling for a pulse she knew she wouldn't find, and then tried to focus on his face.

Waves of relief crashed over her, followed swiftly by a wave of shame. Some poor man was dead and all she could do was feel relieved that it wasn't Severus! Sheepishly, she fumbled again for a pulse, even though she could see it was hopeless. He looked very peaceful – and, in the turmoil of guilt and anxiety, she almost envied him. Nothing could bother him now.   

She heard Dumbledore calling her name from the sea-front. "Lily? Who is it?"

"I…" She pushed her hair behind her ears and tried to catch her breath, head still buzzing with shame. She knew who she thought it was. But it couldn't be, because she'd last seen him lying in a glass coffin in Narcissa Black's back-garden, which was apparently where he'd been lying for the past seventy years. "I think it's… Moribund Prince."

There was a short, sharp scream from Elsa, followed by the sound of her little feet splashing through the puddles on the pub's wooden floor. "Oh no!" she moaned, skidding to a halt beside Lily and wringing her hands in agitation. "Oh no!" Madam Pomfrey's going to be so sad! We've got to her find her!"

"It's alright, Elsa," said Lily, who was still operating on auto-pilot while her brain processed all the guilt.

"No, it's not alright!" she declared, with a splashy stamp of her foot. "You don't even know who 'e is! He was nice! He never hurt anyone!"

Elsa's agitated hands had found Lily's shoulder now – probably out of a desire to shake the proper response out of her. "Why won't you cry for anyone except that Snape?" she demanded petulantly. "He isn't worth it!"

She suddenly staggered – and, for one heart-stopping moment, Lily thought she'd done something to her – maybe jinxed her out of sheer unconscious irritation – but then she remembered what time it was, and realized she had done something far worse.

"Hey," said Elsa slowly, her little eyebrows knitting together. "Why's everything all blurry? What's going on?"

"Listen, Elsa," said Lily, trying to prize the girl's hands off her shoulder. "I tricked you, OK? I'm not proud of it, but it had to be done. I didn't give you a dud Sleeping Draught – I gave you a delayed Sleeping Draught. I needed you to get us into Madam Pomfrey's nightmare, but I couldn't risk you getting hurt. I hope you understand someday. You'll pass into a dreamless slip in a few seconds – it won't hurt or anything. And we'll still help Madam Pomfrey, I promise."

"What?" Elsa, still unsteady on her feet, flushed a deep scarlet and spluttered: "Why did you…? How could you…? My mum fought dragons! Yours was just a nasty old muggle!"

"Goodbye, Elsa."

"You and Snape deserve each other!" Elsa hissed. Every inch of her body was transparent now. She looked like an irate little ghost. "I hope you both die in here! I hope You-Know-Who curses your heads off!" But she fixed Dumbledore with an imperious look in the moment before she disappeared and yelled: "And you'll help Madam Pomfrey right now! And stop smiling like that!"  

And then she was gone. Lily stayed on the ground, kneeling beside the dead man. She didn't want to look at Dumbledore.

"I know it was the wrong thing to do," she mumbled, to break the horrible silence.

"Were there any right things to do?"

"You wouldn't have brought her back here in the first place," said Lily wretchedly. "But, if you had brought her here, you would have respected her enough to let her fight beside you. You would have given her a chance. I just couldn't risk it. She'll probably never speak to me again."

"Hurt feelings mend more easily than broken necks," said Dumbledore gently. "And the hurt feelings of an eight-year-old are particularly ephemeral."

Lily summoned enough grim conviction to look him in the eyes. She couldn't have done it if she was seeking consolation – but, since she was seeking further pain, it was relatively easy. "The Sorting Hat made a mistake with me, Professor," she said. "I'm not a Gryffindor. I'm a Slytherin. I use people. I lie to them to get what I want."

To her annoyance, Dumbledore seemed to find this funny. He gave a delighted chuckle, and then saw her irritation and made an effort to straighten his face. But his eyes were still twinkling when he spoke. "I know you well enough to suspect that you avoided any outright lying," he said. "And I'm quite interested to learn where you got the idea that manipulation was the exclusive province of the Slytherin. Are you also under the impression that Hufflepuffs can't be brave? That Gryffindors can't be intelligent? I know one or two people who would heartily endorse the latter view, of course, but I was rather hoping you wouldn't be one of them."

Lily scowled at him. "I just didn't want to be that kind of person," she said, with all the cold dignity she could muster.

"I did not want the scar above my left knee which resembles a perfect map of the London Underground," said Dumbledore cheerfully. "In fact, before I passed out from the blood loss, I remember feeling distinctly inconvenienced by it. And yet now I'll never be lost in Central London – provided I can find an out-of-the-way place to lower my trousers and consult my thigh."

Lily found herself giggling, in spite of the dead body beside her – in spite of all the outrage and guilt and anxiety that was squeezing the air out of her lungs. She wondered if she was getting hysterical. She didn't care. It was a nice way to be, when you'd seen the alternatives.

"Life is unstinting with its inconveniences, Lily," said Dumbledore. "And yet some of them turn out to come in handy. It would be… short-sighted of us to despair."

Voldemort woke Madam Pomfrey with a light tap on the shoulder. She couldn't have been sleeping very deeply, because her eyelids fluttered once or twice, and then she lurched into a sitting position as though she'd just been punched in the stomach. It was such a sudden motion that even Voldemort took a step backwards. Her iron-grey curls seemed to wind themselves tighter, like springs under screamingly intense pressure. Severus wondered what would happen when they uncoiled. What would happen when a woman as tightly-wound as Madam Pomfrey let her hair down? If it hadn't been a prospect with so many attendant disasters, Severus would have been quite looking forward to seeing it. As it was, he was reconciled to seeing it. He just had to buckle in, hang onto the hand-rests, and endure the ride.

Voldemort waved his wand, and Madam Pomfrey was lifted gently onto her feet. She didn't try to run, even though her eyes were wild and wide. With an unpleasant jolt, Severus realized that they were darting around just like his mother's had done, scanning the horizon for possible sources of attack, or impossible sources of consolation.

"Let me get you a chair, my dear," said Colonel Riddle, conjuring one out of thin air and sitting it on the grass beside the elder tree. He placed a long-fingered hand on her shoulder, and pushed her down into it. She moved jerkily – like a wind-up clockwork toy – but she didn't resist him.  

"I have some entertainment for you," said Voldemort, using his creepiest, child-catcher voice. "A spell that I'd been saving for an occasion such as this. Mrs. Snape has kindly agreed to be my lovely assistant."

He settled back into his makeshift throne, and flicked his eyes back to the Boggart-Lily, who was suddenly standing quite alone ten metres in front of him. The widows – with impeccable instincts for self-preservation – had backed away, dragging the sobbing Sally with them, to create a wide empty space around the Boggart.

Snape's restless imagination had already started filling it with horrible monsters when Voldemort raised his wand and hissed "Tenebro!"

All eyes – presumably even Sally's tear-swollen dead ones – turned back to the Boggart. She was still standing there, wearing that faint little smile of childlike innocence, but little plumes of black smoke were starting to rise from the ground in a circle around her. And she was so gloriously dark and calm and curvy that, for a moment, she looked like one of them. But then the plumes spread out and joined up like interlacing fingers, and the smoke thickened, becoming more turbulent in its motions, as though it had frantic creatures writhing inside it, struggling to get out.

Severus stared. For the moment, it was a just a roaring, boiling circle of black smoke. You couldn't discern individual figures in it. But, every once in a while, something would solidify out of the chaos, and you'd get a momentary glimpse of fist, or steel-capped boot, or pointy teeth. Severus couldn't tell whether it was a circle of figures who just couldn't be bothered to remain solid, or whether it was just one figure running around in a circle so fast that he blurred.

And, because he was Severus, underneath the fear, he was fascinated – even greedy. He'd never heard of this spell before. He wanted to know how it was done.

Had Voldemort been reading his mind? Had this whole place been reading his mind? Had it got tired of making Madam Pomfrey's nightmares come true and started on his? Maybe the strange sympathy he'd felt for Madam Pomfrey had fused their nightmares together. After all, the more closely you aligned yourself with another person, the more their nightmares became your nightmares. That was the risk of tying yourself to another individual. You doubled your vulnerable spots.

He managed to wrench his eyes away for long enough to glance at Madam Pomfrey, who was sitting demurely on her chair, with her hands resting in her lap, watching the smoke boil and thicken as though it was simply porridge. Severus was the only one who could see that her hands were balled up into fists and her knuckles were white. There was another fight going on, somewhere inside her head, and he couldn't even cheer her on from the sidelines. She wouldn't have wanted that, of course; fuss would only have been a distraction. It was one of the reasons he respected her.

A fist whipped out of the insubstantial walls of the circle and dealt the Boggart a blow across the face. She staggered backwards, falling against another point in the smoky walls. This time the hand which dragged her round and lashed out at her had long fingernails, because four livid red slash-marks appeared suddenly across her cheek. She blundered backwards, trying to remain in the centre of the circle, but it only tightened. The walls closed in on her and rained down blows that echoed horribly in the ringing silence.

Snape's senses were excruciatingly sharp in that moment. Every smack and crunch as they hit her – every slight gasp she let out in response – was magnified in the silence until it hammered on his eardrums and reverberated in his chest.

He heard other things too – somewhere down in the next valley, a church clock was striking the hour. He hung on to the sound of those chimes as though they were the only thing keeping him afloat. There should be six of them, he thought muzzily. It should be six o'clock in the morning. It must have been almost time for the sun to come up – except that the sky overhead was cracked and flaking like an old oil painting, and probably couldn't handle another dawn.

A boot lashed out of the smoke and drove itself into her stomach, causing her to double up and hiss through her teeth. Snape forced his eyes downwards and tried to concentrate on the grass, but he couldn't seem to focus. The dull sounds of those punches and kicks were causing ripples across his vision.

He started to pace around the outer edges of the circle, with his hands clasped firmly behind his back to stop them from doing something stupid of their own accord. To every onlooker, he was just morbidly fascinated. He didn't have to fake that, because he was morbidly fascinated. He wanted this power to be his – but mostly so that he could turn it against someone who deserved it for once – someone who didn't have those bright, accusing green eyes, and a body whose contours he'd been memorizing from the age of twelve.

He felt as though he was waiting for something. What was it? The cavalry? The idiot Gryffindors? Was he still naïve enough to be counting on Dumbledore?

No, that wasn't it. He was waiting for himself. He'd been relying on himself for so long that he literally couldn't imagine help coming from any other direction. He was waiting for a new version of himself to come along – stronger, smarter and less tired. A Severus who'd be strong enough to deal with this. But it was never going to happen. This time, the cavalry was not going to arrive.

And he was furious with himself for letting it come to this. It wasn't as though he hadn't been here before. He had known all along that he couldn't watch her get tortured, no matter what she was – no matter which improbable future she represented. And what had he done about it? Why hadn't he hidden her away somewhere safe? Why hadn't he planned for this?

Because he had thought, all this time, that he was going to snap out of it. He had been convinced that this new version of himself – the smart, unsentimental one – the one who could handle anything – was going to turn up and let her go.

She wasn't Lily. He had just seen her turn into the barmaid's husband, for God's sake! And his Lily needed him – needed him – to stay in character now.

He stalked around the outer edges of the circle and tried to hold on to the sound of the chimes. Three…four. When the chimes ended, he would help her. He would have to, because there wouldn't be anything left to distract him anymore. When the chimes stopped, he was going to die.

But they wouldn't stop. Six – seven – eight. God, what time was it? Was the clock broken? Had he just been imagining the chimes? Why wouldn't they stop?

They'll never stop, he thought, with sudden, ringing certainty. Because you'll never help her. You've made your choice. Our little Lily – the innocent Lily – needs us.

It was another – nastier – 'no contest' contest. There was pain, and it was horrible. He felt as though his heart was being throttled, and he knew, if he survived, he would be having nightmares about this moment for decades. But there was also Lily – his little Lily – and she could counterbalance the most agonizing pain because, without her, everything would stop – pain and pleasure and past and future.

He chose to live, that was all. There was nothing heroic about it – it was just instinct. Lily was life, and he wasn't ready to let go of it yet.

When the chimes got past thirteen, he knew he had to let the Boggart go. She'd been seeking him out with her eyes – as best she could through all the swelling and blood - and she saw him – she saw him – give up on her. Just like she'd seen him choose the other Lily when Voldemort was holding them both in his grasp.

It turned out that his uncertainty was the thread she'd been hanging by. As soon as he made up his mind, he could see her falling – still upright, but falling. And she wasn't surprised. There was even some kind of grim satisfaction in her eyes – as though everything was going to plan.

That was what had done it, in the end. That was what he couldn't endure. That was why he'd raised his wand – without plan or purpose – to the ring of dark figures. He took a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the alarm that darted into the Boggart's eyes – the way she frantically shook her head.

Ha – she hadn't expected that! Shock number three, you masochistic bitch.

But it was too late. The inhabitants of this dream were falling apart faster than he could pull himself together. They'd had a head start on him, he supposed.

At the time, it seemed as though all these catastrophic things happened at once. He didn't have an opportunity for sifting through the layers or determining causes and effects. He would do that later, of course, because Severus would always be Severus, no matter how many horrific shocks he'd lived through.

But, right now, there was a gunshot, followed by a slicing, sighing sound as the German airman detached himself from the shadows and ran something sharp through Sally's chest. And Severus - in the childishness of shock - thought: you waited. You waited until she'd fired the gun. You bastard!

Two bodies dropped to the ground simultaneously.

The Boggart-Lily was clutching her stomach. The bullet had hit her exactly where the swirling usually started when she was about to turn into somebody else's nightmare – and, for one wild moment, Severus thought that was all that was happening – until he realized that the blurring was inside his own head, and the only change he was witnessing was her slow transformation from a living Boggart into a dead Boggart.

With great difficulty, he wrenched his eyes away and fixed them on the German airman. His wand-hand raised itself mechanically – well, why not mechanically? His heart was powered by clockwork – his head was ringing with chimes – and he must have been made of metal, because something that looked exactly like Lily Evans was lying bleeding on the ground and, for some inexplicable reason, he wasn't dead yet.

And he would have killed the German airman – he remembered that quite distinctly. Sally had fired the gun, but the airman had let her. He would have joined in with the whole, grotesque, moronic dance of death, but Voldemort got there first.

"Avada Kedavra," he said dismissively. And the third body dropped to the ground.  

That was when Madam Pomfrey screamed. She wrenched herself out of the stiff, sitting posture she'd been keeping up for the past fifteen minutes, threw her head back, and screamed. And it didn't seem to be out of sorrow for the German airman, because she threw herself to the ground beside Sally's body, not his. Severus supposed his death had just been one death too many.

She scooped up what she could hold of Sally's torso and shook it. On the grass beneath her, blood was spreading in every direction, shaping itself into a wide-winged phoenix.

A very wide-winged phoenix, thought Severus muzzily. Sally wouldn't be getting up again. And, in the dimness brought on by shock and horror, that seemed like comfort. It probably wasn't a comfort that would stand up to close scrutiny, but he clung to it anyway, because he had nothing else.

While Voldemort's eyes were riveted on Madam Pomfrey, he crept round – trying not to run, trying to press his feet deep into the ground with every step to make it look as though he wasn't desperate – to the Boggart-Lily, and dragged her out of the way, to the cliff-edge beside the elder tree.

When she was still, Severus leaned over her. She seemed very far away. He felt as though he was looking down at her from the top of a very high cliff, and the vertigo was making him nauseous.

She smiled at him through the pain. But she didn't look any different, so he could only conclude that she'd been smiling at him through the pain for as long as he'd known her.

"Arterial wound," she whispered, almost proudly. "Can't do anything about that, can you?"

"Who says?" Severus snapped. He would have said anything to get the smile off her face. "You worked for five years to get your Light Mark, and I got mine on an evening-off, remember? Just stop…" He had intended to finish that sentence – with something like 'stop moving', or 'stop talking' – but he found that 'just stop' covered pretty much all the bases.

He could hear – from what seemed like a very long way away – Madam Pomfrey moaning.

"Wake up!" she cried, shaking Sally's body until her head lolled helplessly from side-to-side.

"Oh dear," said Colonel Riddle, with undisguised glee. "Really, Madam Pomfrey, a Healer ought to be able to tell the difference between a sleeping muggle and a dead body – although, in truth, the difference is only one of time, and of whether or not they've met me." He got up and walked over to her, leaning down with an expression of pouting, patronizing sympathy. "You've let everybody down, haven't you?" he said, shaking his head sadly. "You're their Healer, and you've caused more deaths in this village than a rampant and fatal disease.  It looks as though the bodies are going to keep on dropping until you do something about it."

He put down his wand and spread his hands wide, in a gesture of messianic innocence. "Physician, heal thyself."

Poppy held on tight to Sally's body. She didn't dare to scream again. She could feel things rising up in her throat, clawing to get out, and she didn't know whether they were curses, screams, swear-words, or vomit, but she didn't want to open her mouth to find out. If she spoke, more people might die. If she moved, more people might die. It seemed as though the only way she could keep death at bay was to keep very still, and hold Sally tightly in case she was swept away by the rushing tide of nausea.

She had passed the number of violent deaths she could endure, and, unless Sally got up right now, making one less corpse, something terrible was going to happen. Why it had to be Sally, she didn't know. Kurt and Mrs. Snape had been a lot nicer to her – even if Mrs. Snape had been nice in a not-very-nice-at-all kind of way.

Poppy fought against the urge to be sick, and raised her eyes upwards. The old woman had said the reasons not to kill Colonel Riddle were swirling around in the ether, ready to be grasped by greater minds than hers. But the clouds were hanging too low – they even seemed to be sinking – pushing down on her spine like that strange, black ceiling she had felt lowering itself onto her in the Field Hospital in Normandy. Pretty soon it would be grinding her chin into the dirt. There was no ether, atmosphere or even air. The reasons not to kill Colonel Riddle must have been above the ceiling of cloud, along with the stars, moon and sun she hadn't seen in years.

How do you know there are stars up there? said a faint voice inside her head. When did you last see them? She couldn't remember. Were they just something she had seen in story-books? They were fainter than a memory, and seemed to be surrounded with swirling clouds of skepticism. They were filed in the same corner of her mind in which she kept Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood, and the idea that you could free a grandmother from the belly of a wolf by chopping the wolf in half. They were ridiculous. And she felt the same way about mercy, and kindness, and happiness. She knew they existed, as ideas – but she couldn't recall a time when she had ever experienced them, and they seemed somehow… fantastical, as though she had read about them in a badly-written, unconvincing book.

And her eyes kept falling on Colonel Riddle. That was exactly it, she thought wildly – it was as effortless as falling. Somehow, looking at him was the easiest thing in the world to do. The landscape even seemed to be tipping slightly, to make it easier for her to raise her wand-arm towards him – as though the world was saying: "Look, you don't even need muscles to curse him. If something's this easy, it's got to be right, hasn't it? Cosmically, narratively right? Like an ending that was pre-ordained?"

This won't be an ending, said the faint voice. Somebody's death is always the beginning of somebody else's misery.

But this man's? Who was going to cry for him?

Thinking was hard, but, even when she managed to force her brain into some grinding, scraping kind of action, she literally couldn't imagine a mother, or a loved one, or even a friend, who would weep over Colonel Riddle's dead body. Even her empathy failed her. She couldn't imagine a childhood so horrible that it would excuse the killing of Morry and Kurt. She couldn't understand why he was doing any of this. It was all so pointless.

And she was mortally afraid of another body falling to the ground.

The problem was, she knew – underneath the terror – that corpses couldn't be shaken awake. She knew she couldn't keep herself from killing Colonel Riddle. The bodies had dropped and more bodies would join them. You couldn't call a halt to it now, any more than you could hold back a tidal-wave with two outspread arms. You might as well embrace it. The wave wouldn't care, of course, but at least you'd retain some dignity.

You went with the flow. You folded into the course of things. Because it was painful to resist, and you were tired anyway – tired to your very bones – and you didn't have the strength to even imagine a world that could be otherwise.

"Get up," she whispered to Sally, through chapped lips, even though she had no idea why she was still trying. Death was death, after all. It was final. It wouldn't get cold feet and back away if you spoke sternly to it. Once it had been unleashed, it couldn't be reined in.

So don't unleash it.

It's too late, Poppy shrieked, feeling the scream rebounding off the inside of her skull. Besides, this will never stop until I kill him!

Did any of the previous killings stop further killings? Are we just sitting here waiting for the right murder?

Poppy realized that she had lowered Sally onto the ground – probably to free up both her hands for cursing. The blood – dark and glossy as it puddled on the grass – was forming the shape of a phoenix at her back. But, because Sally's chest was lying over the body of the phoenix, the crimson wings that extended out on either side of her looked like her wings. For just a moment, through the film of tears, it looked as though she was the phoenix.

Death was everywhere. And, if she killed Colonel Riddle, there would just be more of it. Previous deaths had caused all the subsequent deaths. It was a never-ending cycle. There was only one way out. And she knew what it was now.

She grasped her wand. Her hands were slippery with blood and sweat and yet it was still – somehow – very easy to keep her grip. Even the laws of physics had been eased up to encourage her to kill him. Well, that would be useful.

In Normandy, you couldn't feel hope, so you had to think it. Despair wouldn't let you believe in the existence of anything else. And maybe there was nothing you could do about that, in the moment. Maybe you couldn't force yourself to see hope, or to believe that you might not feel so miserable tomorrow – but you could still choose to believe that it was a possibility. You could choose to believe that there was something other than despair – or, anyway, that there could be.

She forced her chapped lips apart, and framed her tongue around the incantation. It didn't have to be very loud, she knew; the sentiment was loud enough. And she fuelled it with grief, not anger. Anger was too structured for the wild desperation she was feeling now. She poured into it all the unutterable sorrow of Morry's death – but not just his – the death of Sally's husband, and Kurt, and Mrs. Snape, and all the soldiers she couldn't cure at the Front. She let it well up from the pit of her stomach into one long howl of loss. And she framed it around the word "Resurgo."

The energy was incredible. It was white-hot, but also violet-coloured and liquorice-scented. And, in the middle of it – the linchpin from which everything hung – was a keening cry, like the wail of the banshee, except that this, as they were about to discover, was foretelling imminent life, not imminent death.

Severus could feel the heat rushing past him, peeling off whole sections of his skin. But he was also weirdly exhilarated by it, underneath the pain and panic. He couldn't stop thinking – stupidly – that he was proud to be here. As if proud corpses were any different from the regular kind!

He didn't understand what was happening, but he knew that 'Resurgo' wasn't a curse – it was too positive. Besides, Madam Pomfrey had been pointing her wand at Sally. Something had gone wrong – amazingly, gloriously wrong – but the energy was still being released. Madam Pomfrey had still thrown her life behind some kind of spell. It just wasn't a spell that had been directed at Voldemort.

In the brilliant white light, he thought he could make out Sally's torso jolting. The crimson wings under her were shrinking – retracting – gathering themselves up into her body once more. And it was driving her eyes open. It was inflating her lungs. It was making her fingers stir amongst the blades of grass.

And Voldemort was frightened, actually frightened. He let out a kind of half-shout, half-hiss, but there was too much alarm in it to leave any room for anger. He had never seen magic like this before. It was a million miles beyond the magic that reanimated dead bodies to turn them into Inferii. That was like comparing a little tea-light candle with the full majesty of the sun.

And, when the light died down, there were suddenly more colours in the distance. The sun still hadn't come up, but the darkness was filled with different tones, like cotton-white, and a sort of star-spangled purple. Severus narrowed his streaming eyes, still nursing a hundred little stinging pains from where Madam Pomfrey's curse – or whatever it had been – had lashed past his skin.

And he felt as though the ground had dropped out from under him. He didn't want to blink, in case the beautiful image didn't come back when he re-opened his eyes. It was a heavenly sight – albeit a heavenly sight edged with horror, anxiety and exasperation – a heavenly sight that meant a thousand more problems, but one unbreakable central strand of hope.

Lily – his Lily – seventeen years old and mercifully un-bullet-riddled – had Apparated into the field, with Dumbledore beside her.

It was a sight like the sun coming up, and yet it preceded the darkest moment of Snape's life. She was here. She was in terrible danger, of course, and he probably wouldn't even be able to risk blinking in the next few hours in case something happened to her, but she was here.

And, if it could have been just that – if the wheels in his head hadn't kept on turning – if he could have just wrapped up the wonderful fact that she was here and hoarded it like a sacred relic at the centre of his chest, it would have been alright.

But, because he was Severus, he had to think about causes and effects – he had to worry at loose threads until the whole fabric of the universe unraveled. And that was what happened now. He let himself wonder – just for a moment – how she'd got here.

And the only way she could have got here was by risking Elsa's life.

And, if she could do that

Feeling as though the ground was dropping away beneath him, Severus glanced down at the Boggart. She was visibly whitening with every second, but she held his gaze without flinching. It would have been so much better if she'd looked away.

Because he recognized her – he recognized her this time.

She had always been familiar, of course – every contour of her body was familiar, because it was the same body with which he'd been tragically fixated since he was twelve years-old. But the soul had always been different, before.

He didn't know how it had happened, or what it meant, but he suddenly knew she was the girl he'd grown up with. Underneath the mascara, mud and bruises, she was the same little girl who had flown exuberantly off the swing in that muggle playground. She was the little girl who'd helped him sneak illicit ingredients out of Slughorn's store-cupboard. She was the young woman whose magic went crazy when she was in a state of heightened emotion – the woman whose buttons had come undone of their own accord when she was feeling excited.

He knew they'd lived through all of this. He knew she remembered it – and the knowledge twisted in his stomach like hot lead. He felt as though he'd received a bullet of his own.

"Oh god, it is you, isn't it?"

He felt the ground beneath him give another shuddering lurch. Everything was falling apart – but he bit down on the pain. He clamped his jaw shut and tried to catch the screams and swear-words in his teeth before they could leap out of his mouth.

"There never was any choice, was there?"

"There will be," she rasped.

That was when the ground beneath him shifted again, and it he realized that it wasn't just the horror of recognition tossing him about – the cliff face was actually giving way beneath his feet.

He snapped his head up so quickly that there was a lash of pain between his shoulder-blades, but he ignored it, trying to force his clenched jaws apart, trying to get a fix on Lily and Dumbledore.

"Run!" he screamed, as the grass dropped away from him. And he felt – while he tried to keep his eyes on her distant face – that he meant it so much more than just literally. He wanted her to keep on running, even after she'd escaped the crumbling cliff-edge – even after she'd escaped the dream. She had to get as far away from him as possible and stay away forever, or he would turn her into the Boggart. Oh god, maybe he already had!

He tried to keep his eyes on her as he fell – that was surely the last harmless pleasure he could ever have in his life, and it was hard enough to balance pleasures on top of the knowledge that you were probably falling to your death – but there were stones whipping past him, and dust driving itself into his desperate eyes like fingernails – and soon she was lost to the darkness, and he had nothing to look forward to but the ground and the end of pain.

The pain didn't end, but it backed off a little bit and gave him some breathing room. Something had caught him, and lowered him gently onto the pebbled beach at the foot of the cliff. He could feel gentle waves lapping up around his chin. And, far up above – very far – almost muffled by the distance and the layers of Occlumency that had wrapped themselves around him during his fall – someone was screaming his name.

"I've got them – I've got them, Lily."

Dumbledore's voice cut through her screams like a surgeon's knife – steady and sharp and wielded by an expert. Dimly, Lily felt a hand on her shoulder. "Madam Pomfrey, please Lily – please," he added, as she lurched, heart-first, towards the cliff.

Lily wrenched her eyes away from the darkness where the cliff edge had been, and forced them onto a sight that was only a little less likely to suffocate her with anxiety – Madam Pomfrey's bloodless face. She was lying on the ground beside the muggle lady, but she didn't have any of the muggle lady's signs of life.

Lily nearly wasn't quick enough. She was still getting used to her magic after its long absence, and it didn't always come the instant she called. The Shield Charm she conjured at Dumbledore's back was barely in place before it shattered. Shards of broken charm rushed past her and stung her cheeks – Dumbledore staggered – there was a smell of burning hair – but it was nowhere near as bad as it would have been if she hadn't conjured the Shield Charm at all.

As it was, Dumbledore was getting up, suddenly businesslike, aiming his wand in the direction from which the curse had come.

"Thank you, Lily," he said calmly, waving his wand, and conjuring a protective dome of white light around them. "But I'll take it from here. Please ensure that Madam Pomfrey does not die."

The dome shook, as another curse bounced off its walls. And now she could see Voldemort out there, prowling the outer edges of the dome, his white face livid with anger and sweat.

"He will not bother you, I promise," said Dumbledore. His voice sounded a little strained.

"Yes, sir," she said, forcing her attention back to Madam Pomfrey, who was doing a frighteningly good impression of a dead woman. She was bone-white, and didn't seem to be breathing. Lily opened her mouth to see if there was any obstruction in her throat, but – of course – that would be too easy, too mechanical. She was dying of magical injuries, and only a piece of very advanced Healing Magic – exactly the kind of advanced Healing Magic she couldn't remember anymore – would be able to save her. Lily breathed into her mouth, and then, hands slippery with sweat, started a clumsy chest compression charm, simply because it was better than doing nothing.

She tried to blink away the clouds of panic that were shrouding her vision. She felt as though a large part of her intelligence had toppled off the cliff edge with Severus. And it was hard to concentrate with the sounds of aerial bombardment overhead – and with the fact that bits of the dome's roof kept falling in, and Dumbledore – who had dropped to his knees by this point – had to vanish the shattered pieces so that they didn't fall on Lily and Madam Pomfrey before filling in the holes they'd left. And he had to do all of this before Voldemort had the time to launch a new curse at them – but, so far, she had to admit, he was doing it brilliantly.

The chimes were still going, and the scenery was still lurching, no matter how tightly he curled his hands around the pebbles on the beach. He had to get up there and get Lily. The sound of her screams had been horrible enough, but the unnerving silence which cut them off was slicing through his insides like a rain of broken glass.  

But, oh god, there was another Lily down here with him, somewhere. Did Dumbledore catch her too? It wouldn't matter, because she was already bleeding to death, and hell-bent on a martyr's funeral, but maybe he could – oh god, what? Take away the pain? Shake her by the shoulders and shout at her? Why was she doing this to him?

"Where are you?" he groaned, trying to prize his face off the pebbles. "Stay here, OK? I have to get Lily." He lurched upwards, and then staggered. A sheer effort of will had dragged him to his feet before his muscles were ready to support him, and he felt his legs give way, slamming him hard onto the pebbles.   

He got it right the second time, but his vision still wasn't clear enough to discern the Boggart.

"If you go up there to help her," said a faint – but still exasperated – voice, "Voldemort will know you're a traitor. She's got Dumbledore to help her."

Severus squinted into the panic-edged gloom. There was a dark shape lying on the beach a few metres away, her hair clinging to the rocks like seaweed.

He forced unco-operative muscles into a painful sprint, and skidded to a halt next to her. He wanted to say: 'Are you hurt?' but it would be patently ridiculous, so he stood still, torn between anger and yet more anger.

"Besides," she went on, in her infuriatingly calm voice. "You have to go into that cave."

She nodded in the direction of the cliff edge, and Severus turned very slowly, wondering what he could possibly see that would be worse than what he'd turned away from.

It was always a stupid, stupid thing to wonder, but then humans were unavoidably stupid creatures – and Severus was feeling painfully human right at that moment. His clock-work heart had burst apart in an explosion of jagged cogs and gears, and whatever was left underneath all that machinery was beating as rapidly as a humming-bird's wings.

A cave had opened up in the cliff behind him, probably as a result of the avalanche. There was nothing supernatural about it, except that it was supernaturally dark in there.

He stared at it dimly for a few moments, to see whether it was going to attack him, and then turned back to the Boggart. "I have to get Lily," he said groggily.

"No, you have to go into the cave," she said, slightly out of breath, but firm as the rocks she was lying on. "You want me to have died for a reason, don't you?"

"Not particularly," said Snape. "It won't change anything for me."

"It will change everything for you!" she shouted. "Literally everything – from the way you choose your friends to the way you eat your breakfast! This is important! You have to trust me!"

"Trust you?" he shouted. "You meant for this to happen! You killed yourself!"

"So we're even, then."

"No," said Snape, through gritted teeth. "We are not even, because I am not your husband. I haven't done what he did. Yet." The 'yet' sneaked out before he had a chance to bite it back, but the Boggart didn't – as he'd expected – seize on this momentary proof of weakness with triumph. She just gave him a closed-lipped smile, and said:

"If you don't ever want to do what he did, you need to go into that cave."

Severus turned again, to stare at the entrance to the cave. He kept listening out for Lily's voice from the top of the cliff, but all he could hear were those never-ending chimes. "No," he said, massaging his aching temples. "No more cryptic clues or prophecies of doom. You tell me what's going on right now, or – can anyone else mother-fucking hear that?" he demanded.

The Boggart hesitated. "Probably only someone who has both the Light Mark and the Dark Mark," she said. "I can hear it, but I'm not strong enough to go into the cave."

Severus narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Is this still about that stupid prophecy of immortality?" he demanded. "Get this through your thick head, you masochistic bitch – I don't care! I want Lily safe, and I want a long sit-down in a quiet room. That's it!"

He literally couldn't think of any form of immortality that wouldn't be a punishment for him, because luck hated him. Luck was in love with people like Potter. Lily probably would be too, if he didn't get out of this alive. He didn't have time for this!

"Besides," he said, "Madam Pomfrey didn't kill anyone – she didn't renew the Phoenix Curse, so how can immortality still be up for grabs?"

"She still threw her whole life behind a spell," said the Boggart, in her ragged voice. "The energy produced was still enormous. She killed the Phoenix Curse, did you know that?" The Boggart-Lily permitted herself a smile of pure, girlish enthusiasm. It tore through Snape's guts like a bullet. "She threw her whole existence into a life-giving act, and it's tearing the dream apart from the inside out. No-one's ever done that before. A more passionate woman would have killed everyone in sight, but Poppy resurrected her worst enemy! I mean, that's – that's gloriously demented, isn't it?"

Severus was staring at her. "How do you know so much about this curse?"

The Boggart's resolution seemed to wobble slightly. She bit her lip, looked down at the black pebbles underneath her, and then looked up at him with increased defiance, as though she'd managed to find a fresh supply amongst the rocks.

"Alright," she said. "I was your wife for ten years. It happened, somewhere. But I can also remember having been a Boggart for a thousand years.  Every time I took on a new shape, I took on the whole of it. It had its intelligence, its memories. I knew I'd lived all my life as that particular creature – even though I remembered being a different creature – and that, too, for my entire life – perhaps as recently as yesterday. I have no memory of existing between these incarnations. And I seldom take on a form which is intelligent enough to articulate all these subtleties."

She hesitated, and then plunged on, perhaps aware that she didn't have much time left. She was the only part of the black scene which was whitening instead of darkening. "Seven hundred years ago, I was the Boggart of a young muggle-born girl called Elizabeth Hartwell. I daresay you've heard of her. She's generally depicted in oil paintings, swooning and showing quite a lot of cleavage."

Severus continued to stare at her. Eventually, he managed to say: "Her Boggart is a bit more famous than she is."

The Boggart-Lily heaved her white shoulders into a painful shrug. "Well, that just goes to show how perverse the world is. She was a real creature – one creature for her whole life – not some fickle freak-show like her Boggart. Anyway, when I was… him… I found this curse. I worked out how to break it, but I didn't have the necessary… restraint." It wasn't just a difficult thing to say. Her breath was coming in ragged little gasps now. She was finding it hard to keep her head up. She fixed him with a look of pure, green-eyed concentration, and continued: "You need to go into the cave, alright? Oh, and give this to Lily when you next see her." She fumbled in her cleavage, and drew out a tiny glass bottle. How it had remained un-smashed through the beating she had taken up on the cliff-top, he would never know. It was filled with swirling, pearly-white memories. There was a label around the bottle which said: 'From Russia, with Love."

Severus raised his eyebrows. "You're giving her a James Bond film?"

"No more questions," she said, handing it over with a dismissive wave of her hand.

"No, one more," said Snape, keeping his eyes fixed miserably on the glass bottle, because it was easier than looking at her. "Why should I trust you?"

The Boggart shrugged cheerfully. "No other option?" she suggested. "Besides, we were kids together. You know that, right? It did happen, somewhere."
Continuing from Despair, Full Stop [link]

And, my word, this took forever! :faint: I'm expecting there to be typos galore, but I just couldn't look at it anymore, so here it is.

For anyone who's forgotten about Elizabeth Hartwell (she was about 46 chapters ago), she and her Boggart are first mentioned in 'The Witch and the Wardrobe' [link]

Thank you for reading! :hug: :) I hope this is alright!
Add a Comment:
28dragons Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2013
I love how you take threads from previous chapters and weave them into current chapters - this Boggart being the Boggart-Slytherin, for instance - it's SO GOOD. It connects the whole story. Umf. I'm spinning in amazement XD
bobbyStadler Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2011
Rereading this, I realized how much I like this line from Albus: "It would be… short-sighted of us to despair."
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2011
Yay! Thank you! :hug: Well, you totally helped me recognize and focus on the central themes of this story, so the credit goes to you!
bobbyStadler Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2011
Uh, you're welcome I guess :D
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2011
I loved every bit of the Boggart's story, and especially Severus' greed to learn the spell! Good job!
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2011
Yay! :hug: :) Thank you! I'm so glad you liked the Boggart's story! I was really hoping the exposition about her wouldn't seem rushed. (With this chapter, I felt like I'd been teasing the action for a zillion years, and then got it all over with in one incoherent rush! :faint:) But there should be more action next chapter, for action-hungry readers!

Thanks for your comment, my dear - it means a lot to me that you're still reading and commenting on this story! :hug: :hug: :hug:
laventadorn Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2011

So I got powerslammed with some kind of miserable flu last Friday, and this fic has basically saved my sanity. Haven't had the energy to go anywhere, do anything, see anyone; all I've done is read this fic. (Which explains how I'm now at the current end of it after only five days.) I think this is probably the densest (I mean that in an excellent way), most literary fanfic I have read in years -- maybe one of the top two I've ever encountered. Your word-building! Your characters! Snape is so ineffably Snape! Even when he is being horrible, he is still so Snapely that I cannot look away, nor do I want to. Of all the characters to make a study of -- and such a marvelous study as this fic incorporates -- he is one of the best. (When Morry made some comment about Snape's restraint suggesting he wanted to throttle everyone in the room, I lol'd for real.)

I probably should have left a gushing comment at the end of each chapter, so you'd get the full measure of my enjoyment, but I just kept having to plunge straight into the next chapter, and then the next, and then the next... If I now listed all the stuff I loved, I'd leave a comment about half the length of this chapter, so, I just wanted you to know this story has made me very happy. (And that I want it to leave me feeling happy when it's over.... just so you know....) :D

Darn, now I don't want to read anything else! Ah well. Hopefully another chapter will come, in time. :)
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2011
:w00t: Thank you so much! I can't tell you how happy this comment has made me! I've been feeling really dispirited about my writing these past few days (and definitely lacking in inspiration! :faint:), but you've really cheered me up and made me feel motivated to get on with the story. I'm so glad you've been enjoying it - and that it has kept you sane and entertained during the course of the flu! (Hope you're feeling better now, BTW :hug:)

New chapter should hopefuly be ready soon! (well, 'soon' might be an exaggeration given the writer's block I've been suffering from recently. I think maybe Snape is refusing to co-operate because I've put him through so much trauma in the past few chapters! ;))

Anyway, thanks again - I'm so impressed you whizzed through the fic in five days!

Lots of love,


P.S. Oooh, hey, if you're looking for something new to read, I've written some one-shot fics about Severus Snape that aren't part of the main story. (Sorry, I'm such a shameless self-promoter! :blushes:) After reading through all one-hundred-and-goodness-knows chapters of 'Sympathetic Magic', I'd totally understand if you weren't looking for more reading, but, just in case you are, there's a list of my one-shot fics underneath the Sympathetic Magic chapters in my journal here: [link]

:hug: :hug: :hug: L xxx

laventadorn Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011
Never fear, I am always looking for more reading! Hahaha :)

I'm happy my comment produced some good feelings! -- even as I was leaving it, I felt it was paltry in comparison to the effect the story had had on me. ^-^ I still feel that way, mind!

I'm sure it's tough to keep the story going after so many years (even though it still reads beautifully). I've definitely had stories of my own that wouldn't stop stewing, and yet never seemed to go anywhere; so you can't leave them, yet you can't progress. Inspiration is so fickle, too, isn't it -- essential, and maddeningly elusive at times. Sometimes I feel like a lot of writing -- maybe too much, at times -- is just waiting for inspiration to come back to you.

But, no matter how long it takes, you clearly have many people who love this story and are delighted to see it continue. We'll all be there at the end, I'm sure. :)

And Poor Severus -- he needs some happiness! He's probably exhausted from all the fangirls' (including me) keeping on putting him through the ringer. ;)


(Whoops, I think I clicked the fear icon and didn't mean to. Ignore that! I fear nothing, like a Gryffindor dunderhead.)
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2011
:giggle: Hee hee, it's good to be like a Gryffindor dunderhead sometimes!

I feel exactly the same as you about inspiration! I can honestly spend two hours at a time staring at the screen and come up with absolutely nothing! But I don't want to stop looking at the screen in case something crucial occurs to me. Oooh, let me dig out my favourite quote about inspiration, it's in an old journal somewhere... ah, here it is:

"I learned... that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness." Brenda Ueland.

(I like this because it means creative people HAVE to be idle for large portions of their day, just to give inspiration a chance to come out of its hiding place! I always like excuses to be idle! ;))

Anyway, thanks again for your comment - it totally made me want to write again! I'm sure you know, as a writer of fanfic, how encouraging comments and reviews can be. Sometimes, when the writing is exhausting me, I feel as though I'm only doing it for the comments (not all the time, mind, because I LOVE Severus and Lily but sometimes it can get a little much and comments are the only things that keep me going! :blushes:)
hhimring Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2011
Talk about gloriously demented!
It's glorious (and a bit demented, but we are in a nightmare after all!) and I can't wait to read what comes next, but you deserve a rest after all that!
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011
Yay! :hug: Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it! I'm definitely having a rest now (or working on different things, which is as good as a rest! ;) Lots of jewellery-making! :boogie:) but I wrote a little bit of the next chapter this morning.
thesonge Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2011
Oohdelally how exciting!!!

Fan-bloomin-tastic chapters! x
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2011
Yay! :w00t: :hug: Thank you, my dear - I'm so glad you liked these chapters! They had me slaving over a hot keyboard for days! :faint:
angelStained Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011   Writer
The action, mixed with the hope and Lily and everything is so so wonderful!
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011
Yay! Thank you so much! :hug: I was quite worried about this chapter (it was the culmination of all the action, so I really wanted to get it right!) It means a lot to me to hear that you liked it! :heart:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
Omg. I love you forever, the end. :faint:

As always, this was absofuckinglutely brilliant. Give yourself a well-deserved rest.

I feel so... relieved. As though I were re-reading Harry's final fight with Voldemort. Really, as though your Severus were my best friend, about whose life I have been increasingly concerned.
Not that we're out of the woods yet, but it's definitely looking up.

After all, the more closely you aligned yourself with another person, the more their nightmares became your nightmares.
I love that line. I know it to be true.

And, brava to your storytelling skills. When I read
A fist whipped out of the insubstantial walls of the circle and dealt the Boggart a blow across the face. She staggered backwards, falling against another point in the smoky walls.
I sat up straight and nearly slammed my face against the screen, saying to myself "Omg - it IS his nightmare."

And also, super bonus points for leveling out the overall tone with "Shock number three, you masochistic bitch. :D

This was beautiful. I am truly amazed at the way you have so skillfully managed to pull so many different threads together.
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011
:w00t: :hug: :w00t: Thank you so much! This chapter was SOOOOOO hard to write, because I felt as though it had to be a fitting resolution to everything that had gone before it (I didn't want to short-change any of the characters, especially since I was killing some of them! :faint:) I was really worried it was going to look rushed, but your comments have cheered me up considerably! You're an angel! :tighthug:

And I'm so glad that you've got so close to Severus that you feel relieved for him! I do too (mainly because I had no idea how this story was going to end for most of the time I was writing it!)

Anyway, thanks again, Miss Lilli! I really, really, REALLY appreciate your support! :glomp:

JulesDrenages Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2011
1) Go Lily! Finally got the right course of mind! (I know that by labelling her action 'right' I screw the whole meaning of the chapter, but that's my wave-lenght...)
2) Hooray for Dumbledore! (and his scar)
3) Severus' mind is going to melt, after all this mess... (mine certainly is.. :XD:)

Best line:
> "Hurt feelings mend more easily than broken necks."

ps: "From Russia with love"? Why I always feel so upset when that damn Boggart is involved!? :cries:
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011
Thank you, my dear! :hug: I'm happy to see Lily fighting again too (the anti-violence message of the chapter is just for the non-Sev-and-Lily characters! ;))

You're right, Sev's brain is going to melt after all this (but he does have lots of brain, so maybe there'll be some salvageable bits!)

Are you upset to see the Boggart die? Or are you worried that she's going to be manipulating Sev and Lily even after her death with this 'From Russia with Love' thing?

Anyway, thanks again for your comment - I'm so happy you're reading! :hug:
JulesDrenages Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011
Well, I've never felt too much sympathy towards the Boggart...she is everyone's deepest fear, and the tangible proof of Severus and Lily's failure at a relationship; she brings with her this defeated, angry air of inevitability towards their fate that me, reader (hopelessly romantic) don't want to accept, because you've made me crave for a happy ending (their canon selves couldn't hope for that, but maybe for these two there's still hope). When Sev got the Light Mark (that her husband did not have) I was all :squee:, than she speaks, and I feel the ground crumble beneath Sev's feet and fear for him... damned uncertainty. :grump:
ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011
Yes, I suppose she's a difficult character to like because she's so doom-laden! And she really has made Sev's life VERY difficult! I still like her, though, because I can see Lily in her (which I suppose is another doom-laden thought! ;))

But the fact that Sev has the Light Mark and the Boggart's husband doesn't will be VERY important later in the story, don't worry.
JulesDrenages Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2011
Melorik Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2011
I have no idea where to even begin!

Ok, lets put aside the fact that you just condensed about 4 chapters into two... :P

This was crazy! You know, I wonder if Snape isn't going to end up in a psych ward by the end of this. He's like in a perpetual mindfuck where the world gets more insane the longer he stays in it :D I mean.. it would have to be for Madame Pompfrey to resurrect her worst enemy.

I loved the scene with Regulus (in the previous chapter) taking to his "guardian angel". The idea of Narcissa having to reveal the news to Claudia Black also brought a huge smile to my face. I do hope we get to see that scene at some point (or at least the aftermath of it ;) ).

So DD is now battling it out with Voldie too! -That- is epic. Still... I don't think that Voldemort is going to indulge Sev's preferences for the 'mudblood' after this debacle. I mean, she brought the only man he's ever feared right into the damn dream.

Also, Lily drugging a child after she wore out her usefulness?! .. lol... that's a whole new low for her.. and yet I imagine it would be a whole new level of sexy in Sev's eyes. After all this time, he's finally managed to bring out her devious side :D. Then again, she's been bringing out his suicidal side for most of this story so I'd say the scales aren't even yet.

Not much to say about your writing style, considering I'll just be repeating myself from the past chapters. You know it's good. Get used to it :)

Loved Voldemort's line about the difference between a corpse and a muggle. He's like a Hitler with magical powers... and who isn't afraid to do his own dirty work. I almost feel guilty about actually liking the character. How sad that a few well written lines can make me enjoy the portrayal of a genocidal maniac :p.

Curious: "From Russia With Love"!?!? ... I wonder what that bottle is all about.

Gah!.. there's so much more stuff I wanna know! This story has kept me quite entertained for what now.. two years?! If you were in Canada I'd buy you a beer. As it is, I can only express the sentiment.

OH... I still find the image of Morry headbutting his way through his coffin to be hilarious. That's one way to sober up a drunken teenager.

Keep it up!


ls269 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011
Woohoo! Thanks, Sam! :hug: If I'm ever in Canada, I'll take you up on the offer of a beer (hee hee, how small-town does that sound? As though Canada's a really tiny place and everywhere there is close to everywhere else! :faint: Am silly!) Anyway, the sentiment is just as good!

I hope this chapter didn't seem too rushed. You're totally right that it should have been about four chapters (and for some bizarre reason, I thought at the beginning that I could fit it into just one!) But I got really excited and wanted to write it all at once (and then I got really exhausted and never wanted to write anything ever again! But I'm recovering now - mostly due to lovely comments from lovely DA readers!)

You're right - Sev will need some serious therapy after all this (and he would never agree to therapy, so he'll just have to endure some serious nightmares!)

I don't think Lily's little Slytherin moment was too bad. She knew she was being selfish by dragging Elsa back into the dream in the first place, so she just wanted to make sure that her selfishness didn't get Elsa killed. But Elsa probably won't see it that way...

Will hopefully write some Voldie/DD-fighting (and Claudia Black receiving the news of Morry's death) in the next chapter (or the one after that - I have literally NO idea what's going to be in the next chapter yet! I should really be more organized!)

P.S. Have you seen this? [link] The awesome =lilyhbp has illustrated Sev and Lily's auras embracing from the Danae chapter! :w00t: Am so excited to see it!
Melorik Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2011
Yes I did see that pic. She does absolutely awesome work, and she illustrates all the best Snape fics. So your story is one of the chosen few, so there :D
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