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Lily grabbed his arm (none too gently) and pulled him to the door. Voldemort was doubled-up, clutching his eyes and screaming. It was a horrible sight; that shrill, high-pitched voice clamouring, those spider-like hands shooting curses, completely at random, around the room. Severus could see the green light of the Avada Kedavra Curse bouncing off the walls, and he pushed Lily through the door in a fit of panic.

He wondered whether the curses would hit Regulus or Malfoy.

Well, it wasn’t his fault. They had asked for this. They had signed up to fight in a war; Lily hadn’t. She was the only thing that mattered now.   

Rosier and the muggle, propping Caladrius up between them, were already outside in the street, as Severus and Lily hurtled through the bar of the Hanged Man and out of the door.

“Can’t Apparate in there,” the muggle gasped. “Old Snake-face has protective spells in place. Now grab on to Rosier, Miss Evans, and your sour-faced friend too, if ‘e can’t mind ‘is own business, and we’ll get out of here.”

But Severus grabbed her shoulder as she reached for Rosier. “We’re not going anywhere with them,” he said breathlessly, trying to sound calm and reasonable and unafraid. “We’re going straight to Dumbledore. The Dark Lord won’t be able to get you there.”  

“What makes you think it’s the Dark Lord that’s going to kill ‘er?” the muggle asked jovially.  

“I said I’d go with him,” Lily muttered, shrugging away from his hand coldly.

Severus ran his fingers through his hair. Even in the midst of his terror, he was hurt. Not surprised, exactly, but hurt. He felt as though he was back in the Hospital Wing, being glared at for kissing her when she didn’t know what she was doing.

“Look, I don’t understand any of this!” he shouted. “What in the hell is going on?”

“It’s OK,” she said. “Bruiser’s put Rosier under the Imperius Curse.”

“But he’s a muggle!” Snape protested. “He can’t put anybody under anything.”

“I could put you under a bus,” the muggle growled.

“It’s Rosier’s magic,” she breathed. “He’s just…borrowing it.”

Snape passed an exasperated hand over his eyes. “Does that sound like something that could plausibly happen?”

“I wouldn’t have thought that you selling innocent teachers to the most evil dark wizard in history could have plausibly happened,” she replied coldly. “We live in a world of surprises.”

There was a sound of breaking glass from the Hanged Man, and then the slow, building crackle of burning timber. The muggle winced. “Foe Fire,” he said, with a low whistle. “You really made ‘im angry.”

Severus shut his eyes. The pounding headache was clouding his senses. He felt as though his head was filling up with mist. He stayed like this for what seemed like hours, and might have been forever, if Lily’s voice hadn’t come back to him, softer this time, but still prickling with coldness. Still, the ice was thawing. Even in her current, desperate situation – even knowing she was going to die tonight – she still had sympathy to spare for others. Lily was a strange woman in life-or-death situations – hard and soft at the same time.

“There’s no time for this,” she said, with gentle disdain. “Come with us, or don’t, Sev. But we’re leaving.”   

It was going to get her killed, of course, this sympathy. But maybe, for every person that took advantage of her because of it, there was one that was so grateful they’d die for her. And, if enough people stood between her and Voldemort over the years, she might survive.

Snape grabbed on to her outstretched hand, and saw Rosier turn on the spot, looking dazed but happy. Then he felt the familiar, uncomfortable, ear-popping, lung-squeezing sensation of Apparition.

And, as his feet left the cobble-stones of Knockturn Alley, he remembered, with a surreal, hollow feeling, that Malfoy was unconscious, and Regulus blind, in a room that was being engulfed by malicious, conscious fire. There was now no chance that either of them would survive. Those stupid, pampered pure-bloods, desperate to be part of something dangerous, when they’d had everything they could possibly have wanted from the beginning – riches, respect, doting parents, and girls mobbing them at every turn. What did they need to go joining the Dark Lord for?  

When he opened his eyes again, all he could see was a vast black ocean, pounding against some jagged rocks fifty feet below. He staggered backwards, reaching out for Lily, but she had withdrawn her hand and stalked off, arms folded against the cold, her eyes bright and resentful.

He tried to get his bearings. He never liked to look confused in front of her. They had Apprated to a freezing cliff-top. The cold was so intense, after the window-less, stifling muggle-baiting theatre, that it was a whole species of physical pain. It felt as though jagged little ice-crystals were forming in his blood, frosting his lungs, turning his nose into an icicle. He was grateful for it, in a way; it was a welcome distraction from Lily’s disappointed gaze – from the knowledge that she had been tortured – from the horrible prediction that she was going to die tonight. At least this cold had the decency to stay outside his heart.

He had wanted to show her that he could take care of her.    

Don’t think about that. Not now. Concentrate on getting her through tonight alive, and you’ll have plenty of time for reproaching yourself when they throw you in Azkaban.

Everything was black on the cliff-top, but in so many varying shades that Severus felt as though he was in another world. There was the charcoal-grey of the cliffs, the bruise-purple sea, the jet-blue sky, and a thousand moving, squawking shadows darting across it. There must have been birds nesting in the cliff-face below, because these tattered shapes were flying everywhere, detaching themselves from the darkness with a squawk, and then melting back into it silently. There was a whole rainbow of night-colours here. It was as complicated, as textured, as the daylight world. He thought of the eye-lacerating brightness in McGonagall’s Transfiguration classes and shuddered.

He would be in love with the dark his whole life. Darkness, magic and Lily. But only the darkness loved him back.

Rosier was pacing around, casting protective spells around their location. Caladrius had crumpled onto the grass, and was pressing his face against it, mopping up the life-giving coolness. Lily was watching the muggle warily.

He had put on a cloak now – a waist-length cloak over his bare torso and tattered jeans. He didn’t seem to be feeling the cold, though. He was rubbing his hands together enthusiastically, a boyish light in those bright blue eyes. Snape was reminded forcibly of Dumledore.

“They can’t find us here, right?” Lily asked anxiously. “There’s no way to track an Apparition.”

“Ordinarily, no,” said the muggle brightly. “But Rosier here has the Dark Mark. Snake-face can track that anywhere.”

“You mean he knows we’re here?” Snape asked angrily.

“Yes and no,” said Bruiser. “There’s no way to detach the Dark Mark with any conventional magic. It wouldn’t be such a life-time pledge if a wizard could just scrape it off using Scouring Solution, or Mrs. Scower’s All-purpose Magical Mess Remover. That ain’t so all-purpose as Mrs. Scower wants you to think. Short of cutting your arm off – and I’d be tempted, but it’s on ‘is wand-arm, and we need that – there’s no gettin’ rid of it.” He shot Severus a penetrating look. “You remember that, sonny. Once you take the Dark Mark, it’s never comin’ off. They dig you up a hundred years after you’re dead, and it’ll still be burnt into your skeleton.”

“Well, after blinding him and stealing his prisoners,” Snape replied coldly, “I don’t suppose there’s much chance that he’ll be taking me on as an apprentice now.”

Bruiser chuckled. “Well, you never know. As your pretty friend says, we live in a world of surprises.”

“So how are we supposed to hide from him?” Lily asked impatiently.  

“I’ve done what I can to dampen the homing effects of the Dark Mark,” he replied, still as happy as ever. “Voldemort knows we went North, but ‘e doesn’t know where exactly. I’m pretty sure ‘e’ll assume we’ve gone to Hogwarts. Dumbledore’ll be able to stall ‘im once ‘e gets there. Incidentally, missy,” he said, turning to Lily, “Dumbledore can track you just as effectively. The Light Mark acts as a homing-beacon too, and everyone who has it can track everyone else who has it. It’s a lot more democratic than the Dark Mark.”  

“What the hell is the Light Mark?” Snape demanded.

Lily was obviously not in the mood for explaining. She shot him another reproachful look and moved off to comfort Professor Caladrius.

Snape stood forlornly on the cliff-top and contemplated throwing himself off it. It was cold, Lily hated him, and he was aching all over. But Dumbledore knew exactly where they were, and Voldemort didn’t. That was some comfort. But Voldemort was better than Dumbledore. There was nothing he wouldn’t do, and that, as any Slytherin could tell you, always made people more efficient.  

The starlight was brilliant. There was grass underfoot, quite dry, and spangled with daisies – an ebony green shot with little star-like flowers. He sat down, pulled his knees up to his chest, and contemplated his surroundings.  

Behind him, what he had at first thought of as more cliff, was now revealed to be a cube-shaped fortress of black rock, surrounded by ramparts. Severus had seen the wizard-prison in children’s books – books with moving pictures that had always made his father angry and his mother sad. Fascinated as Snape had been by everything connected to the wizard world, he remembered looking at the books with a volatile mixture of terror and excitement. How much reading could they get through, before Tobias Snape snatched the book away, and threw it out of the open window? Would he get to hear the story of the Three Brothers before his mother was overcome with tears?  

“This is Azkaban,” said Lily, looking up from Caladrius. Her voice was quite calm, but there was an accusing note in it. The muggle grinned.

“You think I’m planning some kind of prison-break, don’t you, girl?” he asked, apparently delighted by the idea. “And you don’t know how funny that is, because the only prisoner I wanted to bust out of ‘ere was sneaked out by your good self three months ago.”

Lily drew a sharp breath, but he continued, apparently enjoying the dramatic effect his words were having. He had a little of Rosier’s showman-ship, that muggle.

“No-one’s ever escaped from Azkaban, they say. The Dementors can smell escape-plans, ‘cause they can smell hope. They suck it out of you, whatever you’re thinking – tunnels, riots, rescues, disguises – there ain’t nothing that gives you comfort that they can’t eat. But they see you, Miss Evans – a woman with joy so intense and so scattered that it’s difficult for them to keep track. And when you leave, they know there’s something different about you, but it’s like trying to find a crumb in a bakery. They’re confused. They sense one tangled web of joyful woman come in, they sense one tangled web of joyful woman leave.”

“You’re talking about Guillotine Valance?” she interrupted, unable to stand the suspense. “But, she didn’t escape; it was just her memories. She’s dead. She’s been dead for years.”

“But those memories are alive,” he muttered, grinning. “After you smuggled them out of Azkaban, they used to wander about the Hogwarts corridors at night, did you know that? Crept out of Dumbledore’s office, and wandered around, in different shapes: sometimes a silver doe – she liked that shape – sometimes a beautiful woman with baby-blonde curls. Freaked the Hogwarts ghosts out, she did – not quite dead and not quite alive. They didn’t know what to think. Rosier met ‘er in the Hogwarts corridors one night when he was up to something he shouldn’t’ve been. And everything Rosier sees, I see.”

“But why should you care about helping Guillotine Valance?” Lily demanded.

“Her name was Maggie,” Bruiser said sharply. Then his face clouded with confusion, and he added: “Leastways, I think it was. She was my wife. They were my children, the ones the goblins carved up for treasure. But the goblins would never ‘ave got ‘em if we ‘adn’t been betrayed. Someone close to Maggie kidnapped the children, and brought ‘em to the goblins. And we’re here to kill that someone.”

“How do you know that someone is here?” Lily asked, her mouth a curly line of nausea and sympathy.

“Idris Mulligan? She lives ‘ere, don’t she? The Queen of the Dementors, they call ‘er down Knockturn Alley. Dark wizards tell their kids that she commands the hordes of despair. And after she’s set her little pets on you, after there’s not a grain of hope left in your body, she throws it to the goblins, to make jewelry out of.”

Lily stared at him. “But she’s just a mad old woman!” she protested.

“Been a friend o’the Valance family for years,” Bruiser went on, apparently not hearing her. “Used to be Maggie’s baby-sitter.”

“But you said yourself there are things you don’t remember,” Lily argued. “How do you know for sure she betrayed you?”

“I wrote it down,” he said cheerfully, rolling up the leg of his jeans. “I couldn’t keep no paper in that cell, and Rosier would ‘ave seen if I’d written it anywhere that weren’t usually covered. So I wrote it on my leg.”

Carved into the flesh just above his knee were the words Idris Mulligan.

“Told yer it was under my skin, didn’t I?” he prompted, grinning broadly, as though he was proud of this twisted ingenuity. “Told yer it was in my veins.”   

“Shame she had to have such a long name,” Snape pointed out. Lily shot him a scandalized look, and then asked Bruiser, in a gentle voice, what they were waiting for.

“The changing of the guard,” he said mysteriously, and went off to tend to Professor Caladrius, adding: “No offence, missy, but Rosier here knows more healing magic than you, though ‘e wasn’t smart enough to get ‘imself branded with the Light Mark. We’d better take care of ‘im.”   

Lily went to join Severus on the cliff-top, looking out over the churning black ocean. He could tell she was frightened and irritable, and that she was trying not to make it worse by shouting. But, obviously, she couldn't think of anything calm to say. For a few moments, neither of them spoke; then she said coldly.

“You've finally come to your senses, then. It took you long enough.”

“I didn’t know it was you,” he muttered.

“Why should that make a difference?” Lily asked sharply. “You’d happily watch Narcissa die, would you?”

“Not happily…” Severus mumbled, shrugging.

“Why did you do it?”

She wasn’t judgemental, Lily. She had very strong feelings, and they were easily revolted, but she always tried to see things from another’s point of view.

Severus shook his head, flushed and miserable, and plunged his hands into the pockets of his robes. He couldn’t explain. He couldn’t talk about the Rosura potion, or her friendship with Potter. She probably wouldn’t see these as valid reasons, anyway. Come to think of it, he wasn’t sure that even he did anymore.

“I just…” Snape trailed off. “I wanted to be somebody.”

“A Dark Wizard?” Lily asked. There was scorn creeping into her voice now, and it made Severus defensive.  

“Not especially,” he said, shrugging. “It was just what I was best at.”

“Is that all you have to say?” Lily asked. She was keeping her condemnation back. She was giving him a chance to explain himself. But this only made Severus feel more wretched. He didn’t deserve it.

He had disappointed her. He’d been useless to her – worse than useless – when she was being tortured. While she’d been risking everything for friends who didn’t deserve it, he’d been wallowing in his own misery, taking his anger out on helpless old men, and bribing the Dark Lord to murder a school-boy. And although Potter – that disgusting, arrogant creep – was not just any school-boy, he was not worth losing Lily over.

He could feel her anger, her revulsion, battering at the dam of civility she was maintaining, and it would break at any second. He didn’t want her to be disgusted with him. He wanted to say something to exonerate himself. He wanted to explain that he’d been angry. That was it. It sounded like such a stupid explanation, but it contained everything. It was the motivation for everything he’d done since kissing Lily in the oubliette.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You…” Severus tried to pull himself together. He was probably going to die tonight. What did it matter, if she knew the truth? He wanted her to know the truth, didn’t he? Or some of it, anyway.

But when he’d envisioned telling Lily about his feelings for her, it had always been in a romantic setting. Not on a storm-battered cliff, far out to sea, hiding from Death Eaters and Dementors, trying to explain why he’d kidnapped her favourite teacher and sold him to the Dark Lord.

Everything was wrong, everything was backwards. It struck Severus so forcibly that he could feel his eyes burning with tears. He blinked them away, pretending to be interested in a puffin’s nest on the cliff face below them, but the cold, sucking hollow in the middle of his chest only expanded.

He had wanted to impress her. And all he had done was get her tortured.  

“You went off with Potter…” he said miserably. “And, when I asked you if you remembered what happened in the oubliette – with the Rosura and…” he couldn’t finish that sentence, so he leapt into another one, just as painful. “When I asked you, you said… you said ‘Just make sure it doesn’t happen again’.”

Lily gave an involuntary shudder, but recovered herself. Snape’s misery deepened. Was she thinking about how he’d kissed her in the oubliette? Did she really feel like he’d taken advantage of her?

“You want to know something?” she said, staring out at the swirling ocean. “I thought you were talking about putting the Cruciatus Curse on Malfoy. I didn’t remember about… you know… any of that. Not all of my memories came back at once.”

Severus blinked. “So you… you remember now?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, staring vacantly out to sea. “Now I do.”

Severus was silent. He was happy that she wasn’t looking at him, because he couldn’t keep his feelings in check. He’d pinned them down too much tonight, and there was some kind of mutiny going on inside his chest. His heart was thumping rebelliously. And the cold hollow in the middle of his chest, that had been engulfing everything, contracted suddenly. Even on the frost-bitten cliff, with the salt spray of the North Sea being whipped into his face, he felt warmer.

Still, he had to remember where he was, and what had happened. Even if she had felt something for him, how could it still be there after everything he’d put her through tonight?

“What did you think when you remembered?” he asked, keeping his voice determinedly casual.

“I didn’t have much time to think,” Lily confessed. “Slughorn came up to me the next second and told me Professor Caladrius had been kidnapped.”

“Right,” said Severus. The hollow feeling was back.

Lily was still staring out to sea. “I’m not going out with Potter,” she said, still in that vaguely irritated tone.

Severus didn’t say anything. He stared straight ahead of him and told himself not to hope. She could be telling him that for any number of reasons.

“He just felt terrible that Malfoy had used his map to get into the castle,” she continued. “He was nice to me.”

Severus resisted the urge to wonder aloud why he’d been so nice to her. He resisted the urge to say: “Oh, as long as somebody’s nice to you, it doesn’t matter how many first-years they jinx, does it? Polite bullies are fine, aren’t they? It doesn’t matter how much time they spend looking in the mirror, or how many sycophantic, giggling goons they surround themselves with, as long as they’re suitably apologetic, when it’s too late to do anything about it.”

These bitter reflections were interrupted by the words: “If I had remembered, I would have told you I was glad it happened,” she said, looking up, her eyes bright and fierce. “I would have told you that I liked you. But I didn’t remember. And you took Professor Caladrius to Voldemort. There’s nothing we can do about that now. So let’s forget it.”

And, as Severus stared at her, heart in his throat, and burning with bitter excitement, he realized that this was the best he could have hoped for. He realized that he wouldn’t have loved her so much if she’d forgiven him. She wouldn’t have been Lily. She wouldn’t have been so many miles’ distant from the cool, dishonest, manipulative Narcissa, if she didn’t put her feelings away and do the right thing.

He looked away, unwilling to betray his feelings, filled with fierce, hopeless, miserable ecstasy. She liked him. Or, she had done, once. It was enough. It was excruciating, but it was enough. He was happy.

“I did the right thing in the end,” he said, shrugging. “That’s got to count for something.”

“It does,” she replied coolly. “It’s the reason I haven’t slapped you in the face.”

Severus smiled. It had been so long since he’d done this that his face hurt, as though she really had slapped him. Whenever he spoke to Lily, it always felt like a playful conversation by the canal-side in Manchester, or a whispered exchange in the library about Madam Pince’s musty smell. However long they had been apart, whoever they had been hanging out with in the meantime, they always settled back into this kind of talk – this cheerful discussion of absolutely nothing. She just couldn’t be serious. It was unspeakably comforting, after everything that had happened tonight.

“Thanks for doing what you did,” she murmured.

“Don’t,” Snape interrupted. “Seriously. Don’t do that. It was – literally – the least I could do.”

“What are you going to do now?”

He shrugged. He didn’t really want to think about that. He was with Lily, and she was talking to him. Something so rare and wonderful shouldn’t be interrupted with thoughts of the future.

She shivered again, and edged nearer to him, resting her head on his shoulder. Severus put his arm around her, and breathed in the ginger-bread scent of her hair. He wanted time to stop right here. He wanted to topple off this moment’s brink into oblivion, or eternity, or whatever there was. If time went on, it would only drag her from him.  

“What on earth made you want to be a Dark Wizard?” she asked lightly.    

“You don’t understand,” he mumbled, shaking his head. “It’s different for you. The people you love, they… they don’t want anything from you.”

Lily looked up at him petulantly. “My sister wants me to leave Hogwarts and give up magic,” she muttered.

“Well, that’s one idiot,” Snape said flatly. “One idiot, you can ignore.”

“I can’t believe how much she hates me,” Lily muttered distractedly.

“I can believe it,” Severus said darkly.  

“You think she’s just a hateful person,” Lily said accusingly. “But she’s not. Before I went to Hogwarts, we were so close.”

“She was a bitch before you came to Hogwarts,” Severus pointed out. “If she’s jealous of you, it’s for more fundamental reasons.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying her sister already had the looks and the brains. When she got the magic as well, it was just too much. The last straw for Petunia Evans. She had to hate you. No other choice.”

“But she’s pretty,” Lily protested warmly. “And she’s good at lots of things.”

“Like noticing when somebody’s shoes are scuffed?”

Lily smiled in spite of herself. “You know, we’re never going to be friends if we stay on this subject.”

“I thought you didn’t want to be friends.”

“I said it didn’t matter whether we were or not,” she corrected him. “On account of the fact that we’re both probably going to be hunted down by Voldemort and killed.”

“If we’re lucky,” Snape added.

She giggled.

He realized that this kind of flippancy in the face of certain death was the most comforting thing he could possibly imagine. Even a complete lack of danger wouldn’t have been so good. They were both being completely mad, of course, but they were together, and there was a kind of peace between them that Snape hadn’t felt for a long time. They accepted each other. And he would have felt bitter that this connection – the best thing he’d ever had in his short, miserable life – was going to be torn away from him, but he was too amazed that he’d had it in the first place. It was all a matter of perspective. He hadn’t been dealt a fair hand in life – his disappointments had been unremitting – but he could still marvel that there was somebody who wanted to stick with him, in spite of everything. He’d been dealt a bad hand, and he’d still won the pot. It was just that he wasn’t going to have it for very long.  

“We can be friends for now,” she said, smiling slyly. “Until either Dumbledore or Voldemort gets here. And then, for one reason or another, we’ll never speak to each other again. How does that sound?”

Snape buried his face in her hair for a moment, screwing his whole body up against the tide of hopeless, miserable joy that was trying to get out of him – that was trying to find expression, any way it could. After a few seconds, he emerged, in perfect control again, with only a slight film over his eyes to show that there had been any feeling at all.  

“It’s not ideal,” he said, in a business-like manner. “But it will have to do.”


In the smoking remains of the Hanged Man in Knockturn Alley, something was stirring.

It was a slim, silvery something – a creature that would have been described by Professor McGonagall as a ‘slip of a girl’, if McGonagall hadn’t already been in the habit of secretly referring to this particular girl as ‘the porcelain bitch'. She was dressed impractically in gold-embossed high-heels, and kept slipping on patches of charred timber, or puddles of Firewhisky.

There were little fires still blazing here and there around the wreckage, and everything was smoking, because a light, sifting rain had begun to fall, hissing on the hot skeleton of the building. Nobody had come out to investigate the fire. People minded their own business in Knockturn Alley. As long as there were Fire-proofing Charms on their own dwellings, they didn’t worry about their neighbours. Chances were, their neighbours had done something to deserve it.  

There were roof beams still standing in the tavern, but she didn’t like the look of them. She picked her way daintily through the wreckage with her arms raised, to shield her head from any falling timbers. Her face was smeared with ash, and she was crying, but these were only dry sobs, as though the full fury of her grief had passed, leaving only a few hiccoughing spasms. Narcissa would have liked to have cried for Malfoy – she had never felt so miserable, so cheated, in her life – but the tears wouldn’t come. She had been trained from birth to avoid crying, because it was unflattering. It made her face look puffy and red, and spoiled her painstakingly applied make-up. From the age of two, she had been mistakenly identified as an angelic child, because, unlike her sisters, she hadn’t marred her face with furious tears, or strained her voice with screaming. There had been no point to it. She could get everything she wanted by smiling – by charm and flattery. Tantrums were inelegant.  

Her make-up was running now, though, because of the rain, and the waves of heat that were emanating from the ruin. Watery streaks of mascara were running down her face, and her eyes were ringed with green, from where her dragon-scale eye-shadow had been smeared.

There was a tight knot in her chest that could never be unraveled now. Malfoy was dead. And nobody else could untie it. It was like the Gordian knot. The finest minds in Ancient Greece hadn’t been able to undo it, but Alexander the Great solved this riddle in style by simply cutting the knot with his sword.

That was the kind of solution she would have got from Malfoy. No thinking, just a whole lot of feeling. She didn’t want Snape’s cerebral sarcasm; she just wanted to be with her desperate warrior.

She paused in what was left of the doorway to the muggle-baiting theatre. This room was stone, so less damage had been done to it. The walls were painted thick with ash, and the doorways were hollow sockets, but the stone benches remained – cracked and glowing-hot. Most of the ceiling – which had not been made of stone – had fallen in, and Narcissa, blinded with the tears she couldn’t shed, looked for the body of her loved one.

What would be left? A skeleton? She had seen enough of them. She’d grown up staring with revulsion at her father’s collection of unicorn skeletons. And it was a Black family tradition to decapitate dead House-Elves and mount their shrunken heads on the walls.      

Narcissa had seen death from a very early age. It was the inevitable consequence of growing up in a family that was fascinated by the Dark Arts. But she had never found herself wondering what would have happened if the dead things had survived. Would they have married, or had children? What would they have looked like when they were old? Would they have gotten fat? Would they have had grey hair, or a dynasty of terrified but adoring grandchildren?

She couldn’t help thinking about that. She couldn’t stop thinking about what their life together would have been like. She supposed she would marry someday – some safe, dignified pure-blood with a promising career. She couldn’t vow to be celibate for the rest of her life. She had the family honour to support, the family name to care for. But her eventual husband, whoever he was to be, would never excite her like Malfoy.

She wondered if any of her female ancestors had ever been in love. Doubtless, they would have been too sensible. But this wasn’t the first time Narcissa had realized that she couldn’t be like them. She wasn’t clever enough, or cold enough. She had the beauty that they’d never needed, and nothing else.

With a little cry that died (out of habit) in her throat, she saw the charred hem of a blue cape under a fallen roof-timber. It was very discoloured, but must have once been duck-egg blue satin, just like her dress.

Narcissa, heedless of the fact that she was getting ash on her school-robes and under her finger-nails, heaved the blackened beam back, and stared at the recumbent figure underneath it. He looked bizarrely tidy, for someone who’d been crushed under a falling timber.

He was kind of… shining. His skin was radiant; his pale hair was glowing feebly in the dimness, like a white curtain with the sun shining through. He wasn’t scarred – which was strange, because his clothes had been burnt to a crisp. But all the holes in them simply revealed patches of glowing, white skin. Narcissa would have been impressed by this, even if he hadn’t been in a fire. So many men who seemed attractive had birth-marks, or blotches underneath their fancy robes.

She had always thought that she was the only creature who was flawless all the way down. Well, she supposed she was, now.

But he was breathing. At first, she’d thought she was only imagining it: in the light of the flickering fires that were still scattered around the room, everything had a subtle motion. Even the walls looked as though they were breathing. But then, there was a creasing in his eye-lids: his lips parted, his nostrils flared. And, as much as she tried to tell herself that it was just the fire-light and the heat playing tricks on her, Narcissa couldn’t bring herself to doubt her own, analytical eyes. They never missed anything.

He coughed, and Narcissa helped him sit up, pushing his hair back with joyful tenderness. Her name, of course, was the first word out of his mouth.

“You’re alive,” she said, very glad that her grandmother wasn’t around to hear her saying something so obvious. It needed to be said, however. It wasn’t real until it was uttered: that was the first principle of magic.

“I thought you were…” he gasped, looking confused and ash-smeared and radiant.

Narcissa was suddenly conscious of how awful she must look. She patted the silvery knot of hair on top of her head: more hair had slipped down from it than was still tied up, so she pulled out the clip and hurled it into the wreckage.

She looked like some kind of fierce fire-spirit with her hair down, and her make-up smeared – like one of the creatures in the Foe Fire – but Malfoy seemed too confused and disoriented to care.

“I thought the Dark Lord wanted you dead,” he whispered, trying to hang on to her. But she wouldn’t let him get up yet. She cleared away some of the wreckage, and helped him prop his back against the wall. “I thought you were screaming.”

“Me?” said Narcissa, giving him a real smile, wrinkles and all. “Never. You had a nightmare. It’s over now.”

“Where is the Dark Lord?” he mumbled.

“Chasing after the mudblood, I expect. It’s nothing to do with us anymore. Just rest. And, when you’ve rested, you can kiss me. I expect you’re too injured for… anything else.”

Malfoy shook his head so rapidly that he swayed for a moment, overcome with dizziness. “’M not injured,” he mumbled, when he’d regained his balance.

“Well, good,” she replied. “I’ll be gentle with you.”

“No need,” he said, grinning. “In fact, please don’t.”
A very long continuation to Less Broken! Sorry, I couldn't think of a way to split it up into separate chapters. Hope you made it to the end! Lily smuggles Guillotine Valance's memories out of Azkaban in Spilt Milk, Parts 5-7. And Guillotine Valance's story is first related in The Wisher.
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:icon28dragons:
28dragons Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2013
But how did he survive? I'm glad he did, but how? and what of Regulus? XD *goes to the next chapter*
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 11, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
Okay, that's not all I can say, because I also meant to tell you I really enjoyed the last scene between Narcissa and Malfoy. Reading the two of them in earlier chapters, I never would have thought I'd like them. And yet, here they are, Makani-like and wonderful in their own, selfish, weird way. :love:
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 12, 2010
Hooray! :heart: Makani-like is the highest compliment you could have paid me, you know, because Makani was solely responsible for my love of these characters. Your messages have really cheered me up today :) I'm sorry my replies have been so late (and short). We're off on holiday tomorrow, and I'm trying to pack and be on DA at the same time (if I suddenly start talking about how many pairs of socks I can find, you'll know why... ;))
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 12, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
I hope you enjoy your holiday!
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 11, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
If you've killed Regulus, I won't forgive you.

I won't.

And, if enough people stood between her and Voldemort over the years, she might survive.
Aw, much like the way people stand between Voldemort and her son.

Cool revelation about Bruiser. So that's how he knew so much about magic. He seemed a little too knowledgeable, even for having a connection with Rosier.

“Shame she had to have such a long name"
Omg, Snape. He just looks up from his confusion and intense angst, unable to resist. I love him.

there was a kind of peace between them that Snape hadn’t felt for a long time. They accepted each other.
Beautiful. That's all I can say.
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:iconmalfoyfanatic:
MalfoyFanatic Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
The part on the cliff was allready good and adoreable (Lily and Snape :heart: ), but the last bit made it for me, really. The reunion of an evil bitch and her idiotic Prince Charming was so cute! :3 I laughed -literally- my ass of. Otherwise I cried when I read that part: “If I had remembered, I would have told you I was glad it happened,” she said, looking up, her eyes bright and fierce. “I would have told you that I liked you. But I didn’t remember. [...]" :sniff: You killed me with that!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2008
Yay! I'm so glad you're enjoying the bits with Malfoy and Narcissa in them, I love writing them! Their characters make me laugh so much. And their story is such a sad contrast to Sev and Lily's - everything is easy for Narcissa and Malfoy (well, pretty much), but Sev and Lily have so many obstacles thrown in their way! Poor things! :( So glad you're enjoying the story, and thank you so much for all your kind, perceptive comments!
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:iconmalfoyfanatic:
MalfoyFanatic Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
You're welcome! The sad thing about that contrast is, that Lucissa already have everything they could possibly think of and then they find an happy ending for themselves as well.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2008
I know, it's not fair! Poor Severus and Lily, everything is hard for them, but Narcissa and Malfoy get to be rich, beautiful and in love! Still, I find them very interesting characters and the world (especially the Harry Potter universe) isn't always fair, I guess. :(
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:iconmalfoyfanatic:
MalfoyFanatic Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
That's right, but at least Sev and Lily got the character! Courage, intelligence, tenderness, sarcasm (which is to me the most important ;) )... If they would be real peopleI would definitely chose them over Lucissa.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2008
Yeah, me too. Narcissa and Lucius are always so serious! I couldn't live with that. Sev and Lily can make sarcastic comments to each other and talk philosophy. They're great characters. :)
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:iconlindasnape:
LindaSnape Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2008   Writer
Wow, this is really well done. Brilliant. I absolutely devoured it with enthusiasm. :D
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2008
Thank you so much :hug: I hope you don't mind, I've added you to my friend list, so we can chat some more, and so I can check out some of your stories and poems, they look great. :)
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:iconlindasnape:
LindaSnape Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2008   Writer
You're quite welcome. :hug: Oh, no, not at all. :) Thanks, I hope you can enjoy them.
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh goodness... I just don't know what else to say right now. My heart is just to full with painful, beautiful hope.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2008
Yay! Thank you :hug: (though sorry that it is painful! ;)) I love how Sev and Lily are when they're together, in a dangerous situation - they trust each other, and make jokes, and they're just so well-suited to each other, when you get past the fact that they're so very different! And I wanted something good to (finally) happen to Malfoy! I'm so glad you liked the chapter. :)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
There was something so beautiful about Severus and Lily in this chapter. I think you captured both their characters perfectly. I also loved the Narcissa/Lucius interaction. There was so much love all around! And it wasn't fluffy, sappy love either. It was real, profound, powerful love. The kind that you have to fight for.

Loved this!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2008
I love the characters so much, I just wanted them to have a bit of a moment together. For me, the best bits to write are the interactions between those two couples :) (even Lucius and Narcissa are very dear to me now, though I don't know what's going to happen next between them, he's going to be angry when the Amortentia wears off. Still, Sev and Lily have to go through so much, it wouldn't be fair if Lucius and Narcissa didn't have to overcome some obstacles too!)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
True. I love both these couples as you write them, so much. I was so excited today when I saw a new chapter up!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2008
Thank you! I'm so happy you're reading them - I always wanted somebody to be excited about my posting a new chapter, it was one of my DeviantArt dreams (along with being illustrated by Makani) Am half-way there! ;) It's wonderful to know there's someone else who loves these characters as much as I do! :)
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I really do, especially as you write them.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2008
:hug:
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