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They went down to the beech tree beside the lake, and watched the castle cast its huge, sloping shadow over the Hogwarts grounds. It seemed ominous to Severus, but Lily had dragged him out there, and he didn't have the heart to resist her. He had so much bad news to deliver that it seemed only fair to let her pick the actual location in which it was done.

In the end – because he didn't want any interruptions, and because it seemed like a familiar, comforting situation – he perched an open book on his lap and told her to pretend he was reading to her. This turned out to be a bad idea in terms of the interruptions, because she could never stay still or quiet when he was reading to her anyway. She was always fidgeting, or thinking up questions, or leaning over his shoulder to make sure he was reading it right. Being read to was never a passive activity for Lily Evans. She couldn't resist joining in. Perhaps it was her relentless need to sympathize.

When he'd first started reading ancient runes – because, for some reason, he took to it quicker than she did – she would let him read the text-books to her and peer doggedly over his shoulder, following each line with her eyes to see if he made a mistake.He very rarely did. His meetings with Lily were no joke. They were both physically and intellectually exhausting – intellectually, because he had to steer around the myriad topics that were sure to offend a Gryffindor, and physically, because he had to suppress every tell-tale sign that he was aware of the highly noticeable body she'd been developing under that school uniform for the past few years.

In fact, when he was tired – or having a bad day – and he saw her coming down the corridor towards him, he would frequently turn round and walk the other way, because his meetings with Lily were far too important to be embarked on when he was off his game.

It was the most thrilling, demanding, dangerous, gorgeous pastime of his life, translating those ancient runes. He had to do it all flawlessly, and at high speed, to impress her, never getting distracted by the closeness of her body, or the startling way she would gasp and clench her hand on his shoulder whenever he got to the good bits. Honestly, it was the best practice for sex he could possibly have asked for.

And now he might be reading to her for the last time.

He literally had no idea what she was going to do. All his plans were for the moments after this – the magical time when this was over and done with, and Lily still loved him, and he only had the relatively small troubles of Voldemort, Dumbledore and an all-out magical war to deal with.

But he didn't know how he was going to get there. He didn't know how Lily was going to learn that, in some alternative future which would hopefully never occur, she married him, lost a child, and then went crazy when he committed suicide and abandoned her.

If there was even the remotest possibility that her life could go the same way as the Boggart's, surely she would avoid it like the plague, and run straight into the willing, waiting arms of James-bloody-Potter.

It was stupid to be here. Even if she managed to get through the bare facts of the story without storming off, he still had to show her the Boggart's memories. There was no way they could be encouraging. He had borrowed the Pensieve from Dumbledore's office, and stashed it at the bottom of his bag, but its presence was impossible to forget, and, every now and then, out of the corner of his eye, he was sure he could see it twinkling at him, just like its bloody owner.

Still, it was a beautifully restful, bittersweet afternoon, sitting on the lawns, telling her stories about tragic futures. Even with the gnawing anxieties, and the hundreds of plans he had to simultaneously consider, he was happy. If this was going to be his last afternoon with her… well, it would be difficult to let go of a scene so idyllic, but at least it would be a good memory. Something to keep him going in the sea of darkness that would inevitably follow. Like a piece of driftwood to cling to.

He sat with his back to the beech tree while Lily lolled around on the grass beside him, trying to look as though she wasn't worried. When he got to the horrible bits – the dead baby, and the fact that he killed himself and left her alone with her grief – he kept his eyes determinedly fixed on the pages of the book. But there were no gasps or groans or requests for him to repeat himself. And, when he next looked up, she was watching him quite calmly, without even a worried hand clamped over her mouth.

That was the good thing about Lily – or the horrible thing, he was never quite sure which. She didn't react right away. She didn't leap to judgement. She would hear you out, and then try to find excuses for you. The problem was, she wouldn't try so hard to find excuses for herself.

He skimmed over the details of the Boggart's death, mainly because he wasn't sure whether he could talk about it in a calm, level voice yet. Lily kept very quiet in any case, perhaps sensing that it was a touchy subject for him. But, when he told her that the Boggart-Lily had once been the Boggart-Slytherin, she couldn't bite back the interruptions.

"She was the same Boggart?" Lily demanded. "How is that possible? How long do they live?"

Snape shrugged. "There haven't been any studies, have there? And you know why?" he added, because he was nervous and couldn't resist. "It's because magical theory has traditionally been led by Gryffindors, so everyone thinks fears are something to be laughed at and then shoved back in the nearest cupboard. The idea that you could learn from your fears would never occur to a Gryffindor - ,"

Lily cleared her throat. A mild but potentially dangerous look was kindling in her eyes. "You know, I'm right here…"

Severus relented, even though the dangerous look was making his skin tingle.

"You know what?" said Lily, after a while. "Maybe we could study them…"

"Oh, because we're not going to be busy enough in the months to come?"

"I know, but…" she trailed off, looking bright-eyed and excitable. "If they can do all these things – change shape, and keep the memories of everything they've ever been – and do everything that the shape they've assumed can do – maybe they can help us to defeat him. And he thinks they're just household pests – one rung below House Elves – so he'd never - ,"

"I agree with you," said Severus, in a soothing voice. "It's something to be considered. But not now." He tapped the book on his lap meaningfully. "We've got a story to finish."

But he couldn't keep her quiet very long. She tutted all the way through his relation of the Boggart-Slytherin's speech, and, when he started to describe the Purifire, she said: "The Boggart... I mean, the Boggart-me... She knew about that? She meant for you to drink it?"



"Because she's you."

There was a split second pause, in which Lily raised her eyebrows, and Severus hastily went on: "But, listen, just because she was you, that doesn't mean you have to be her. I'm not cursed anymore, so-"

"You know, I don't actually believe in unicorn curses," said Lily, folding her arms. "They tend to be mentioned in the same breath as Nargles and Spectrespecs. Professor McGonagall says-"

"Good," said Severus. "Fine. Believe in them, or don't. It doesn't matter anymore. It won't affect you. And that's what's weird about her leaving you these memories." He took out the little glass bottle labelled 'From Russia with Love' and tapped the glass meaningfully - maybe a little too hard, because if it broke, all his troubles would be over with. "She's ensured that what happened to her doesn't have to happen to you, so what's the point in scaring you with it?"

"Maybe she's not sure," said Lily, shrugging.

"She bet her life on it."

"Yeah, but, from what you're telling me, it doesn't sound like her life meant that much to her."

"I don't know what she's trying to do," said Snape grimly. "That's the point. Don't think of her as some kind of misunderstood tragic hero. Not yet. She hated me, and she hated you even more. I don't know if she's trying to help us. It's possible she's just trying to traumatize us. She saved my life, but that doesn't mean she's any keener on the two of us having a relationship."

"So what are you saying?" said Lily. "Don't believe anything you see in there?"

"I'm saying don't let it upset you."

Lily gave him a distinctively Lily-ish smile. It comprised elements of disbelief, cheerfulness, and dread, and she reserved it for those moments when they were sitting together in the library, making jokes about politics and all the heavy things that were supposed to matter - the things that would probably, some day, wrench them apart. It meant 'I'm going to laugh with you now, but this is going to gnaw at me later. It's worth it, though. Make no mistake about that'.

"No problem," she said.

Severus upended the bottle of memories into the Pensieve. He took a long time peering inside, and swirling everything around like a gold prospector, waiting to see if an image would float to the surface and give him some kind of clue about what to expect. But nothing happened. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised. The Boggart's poker-face was so good that it was no great leap of the imagination to believe that she had an even better poker-mind.

Lily leaned over his shoulder and watched the swirling memories apprehensively. "You're coming with me, right?"

"I think that would be a good idea, yes." He stopped, and then forced his lips around the unwise and unwelcome words that he'd promised himself he'd say. "But she left them for you. They're yours. If you don't want me there, that's your prerogative."

Lily gave him the response he'd been hoping for – the you're-being-stupid raising of the eyebrows. Then, without any more words, she grabbed a handful of his robes and touched her nose to the swirling liquid in the Pensieve.

Snape felt an unpleasant, watery lurch, and a confused impression of colours, as though he'd been sucked underwater and was swimming through several streams of coloured dye. After a few seconds, the multi-coloured swirling resolved itself into what must have been the Gryffindor girls' dormitory. Severus had never seen it, although he'd had plenty of dreams about the place – and a whole host of nightmares in which Potter sneaked in under that wretched invisibility cloak while all the girls were changing. Just like every other dormitory at Hogwarts, it was packed with four-poster beds – only the hangings on these ones were red velvet, instead of the Slytherin-green Severus was used to.

It was untidy, too, which he hadn't expected from girls. There were little islands of crumpled clothing on the plush red carpet - and shirts, socks and ties had been thrown over every chair and bedspread with reckless abandon.

Lily – and she couldn't have been much older than his Lily – was perched on the side of a bed, next to Meg Valance. They were passing a bottle of vodka back and forth between them, glugging, giggling and grimacing by turns.

"Look, why don't you use that charm Madam Pomfrey showed us?" said Meg, after her third sour-faced gulp. "You know, the one that makes horrible potions taste like strawberries?"

Lily squinted down the neck of the bottle dubiously. "I think alcohol's supposed to taste bad," she said, with a minimum of slurring. "If it tasted like pumpkin juice, people might drink gallons of it in one go and end up in the Hospital, having their stomachs pumped." She gave a diplomatic pause, and added. "Of course, some people do that anyway…"

"Ha!" said Meg, as though she was delighted to hear this. "No Valance would ever need her stomach pumped! My granny used to drink a pint of this stuff every morning, and she lived to be a hundred and ten. And she only died because a strap broke on her Hippogriff's saddle."

Lily giggled, a little guiltily, and Meg tried valiantly to retain a straight face. "You do realize you're laughing about my dead granny, don't you? It's a slippery slope, Miss Evans…"

This made Lily's giggles redouble, but, as soon as she could manage a straight face, she spluttered: "I'm sorry-"

"Oh, don't be," said Meg, leaning back against the pillows and swinging her feet up on to the bed. "She died doing what she loved. We should all be so lucky. Anyway," she added, leaning forward and snatching the bottle from her, "I'm not ready to get to the weepy, emotional drunk-stage yet. Let's talk about the living. Truth or Dare time, okay? No cheating. Are you really-"

"Dare," said Lily gloomily.

"Aren't I supposed to ask you the question first? I mean, it's a muggle game, and you're the expert, but-"

"Meg, I know you! You never ask me a question I want to answer. I think it's some kind of battle-instinct or something…"

Meg beamed, as though this was the most flattering thing her friend could ever have come out with. "Ah, but, if you know me, then you'll know that my dares can also be quite… daring."

"Try me," said Lily.

"OK. I dare you to tell me whether you're really serious about Severus Snape."

"Meg!" Lily protested, and then reached for the bottle, frowning. "How do you mean, serious?"

"I mean, how long is it going to go on for? 'Cause he's got this creepy kind of intensity and, sometimes, I worry that he's going to eat you alive."

"Maybe I want to be eaten alive," said Lily sulkily.

There was a moment's silence, and then both of them burst out laughing, and weren't able to stop for three solid minutes.

"You sounded just like one of those Russian femme fatales from a James Bond film," Meg giggled. When she could straighten her face, she did an imitation of a sultry pout, and purred: "Vell, Misterrrr Bond, perhaps I vant to be eaten alife."

Lily, who had been taking a surreptitious sip of vodka, spluttered with laughter, and had to pause for about half a minute to cough. "Are you trying to kill me?" she demanded, when she could talk again. "Also, do the Russian people really pronounce their double-yous as vees like that? Are you sure you're not thinking of Germans?"

Meg waved a hand dismissively. "What's the difference – a couple of hundred miles?"

"I suppose it depends what part of Russia you're talking about," said Lily, ever the scholar.

"The point is, you'll soon be calling yourself Natalia and slipping cyanide into everybody's pumpkin juice. That's probably the kind of girlfriend Severus Snape needs," she added, nodding sagely. "I told you it was a slippery slope…"

The scene changed, to one of absolute chaos. It was like Snape's vision of Platform Nine and Three Quarters, except, here, there was no steam to soften the edges of things. Through the hastening bodies and clamouring voices – in fact, there seemed to be more voices than there were people to account for them – Severus could make out a long, high-ceilinged room, lined with beds along each wall, like the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts.

The beds were all occupied, but very few of those occupants were sleeping. Some of them thrashed about in their covers, or babbled insistently in a language Severus couldn't understand. Some of them were being wrestled back into recumbent positions by grim-looking healers in lime-green robes.

And, between the beds was a whole circulatory system of hurrying figures – somehow managing not to collide with each other – carrying trays of potions, or mugs of tea, or grasping the arm of some bewildered-looking civilian who'd blundered into all this mess.

Nothing was still. The entire place writhed and heaved with humanity, in a way that set Snape's teeth on edge.

And, as if that weren't enough, the full-length windows at the end of the ward had blown open, and long black curtains were streaming into the room, caressing the heads of passing healers, as though in a vain effort to soothe them.

Responding to several shouted orders, a harassed-looking nurse managed to wrestle the windows shut again, and completely failed to notice a shadow detach itself from the drooping curtains. Actually, you would have had to look very hard to notice anything. The hurrying figures in the ward were casting manic shadows on the wall, and this new shadow knew just how to blend in with them.

Besides, people didn't watch for the shadows themselves – they looked out for the creatures casting the shadows, on the very sound basis that these were the things which could actually hurt you.

But this shadow appeared to have no caster. It leapt from one patch of darkness to another, making its way up the ward with a swiftness which put those hurrying nurses to shame.

And nobody saw it, except – Severus felt a surreal jolt of recognition, as though he'd been staring for fifteen minutes at what he'd thought of as an abstract painting, and suddenly realized it was a detailed portrait of his home. There was someone standing still between the hurrying bodies, watching the shadow's progress as intently as he was. It was a woman with dark red hair, who was pretty enough to make lime-green healer's robes look like the height of fashion.

Severus stared at her. She had lost some weight in adulthood, but not from any of the places on which the male eye tended to linger. God, how had he ever thought he could get away with marrying a creature like her? Wouldn't everyone they met look her up and down with their mouths open and say: "That's your wife? That's your wife? Are you, like, really rich, or in possession of arcane sexual secrets? Is there something wrong with her eyes?"

In fairness, he couldn't have known, when he'd fallen in love with her, that she was going to blossom into this creature of pure gorgeousness. Also, he hadn't wanted a simple life. He kind of wanted one now, but it was too late. He'd gotten too attached.

The adult Lily's eyes were still keen, and her body-movements still awkwardly under control, as though she was restraining herself – with great difficulty – from jumping up and down on the spot. She didn't yet have the Boggart's sinuous grace. But her eyes had become a little narrowed, and there was an odd expression playing round the corners of her mouth, which could have been a prelude to the Boggart's cynical smile.

She was still electrifying to Severus – like a real, graspable, three-dimensional shape in a room full of cardboard cut-outs. Good or evil, Boggart or human, friend of foe, she would always have that effect on him.

He wished he could convey that to the young, confused Lily standing beside him.

The adult Lily watched the shadow for a few more seconds, and then, smiling slightly, she turned round and headed for a door at the back of the ward. She passed a healer on the way, and touched him lightly on the shoulder.

"I'm going to the store-r-"

"Dragon's blood, arsenic and about six rolls of bandages," said the man, who had a bald-patch, and little streams of sweat running down the side of his face. "And – er – thank you," he added, as she headed away.

Lily went into the store-room, but left the door enticingly open behind her for a few seconds, just enough time for the errant shadow – and Severus and Lily – to slip inside. Then she closed the door, and the darkness pounced on her. There was a torch burning in its bracket on the store-room wall, but the shadows still enveloped her greedily, eclipsing her face, wrapping dark tendrils around her waist and shoulders. She turned her face upwards – the way a desert wanderer might turn her face up to the rain – and tried to grasp the shadow back. Eventually, her hands snagged in folds of black fabric, and the shadow across her face resolved itself into the dark hair of a man who was kissing her with all his might.

Severus felt a hot stab of jealousy before realizing that it was him. This version was thinner, if that were possible - taller, if that was wise - and had gathered a few more frown-lines above his eyes - but, other than that, he was exactly the same, and seemed to feel exactly the same about Lily.

They were kissing to the accompaniment of shouts, screams, sirens and weeping relatives, but it seemed they had learned to tune out these distractions a long time ago. It was just a background sound to them now – like a ticking clock or a purring engine. You wouldn't notice anything unless it stopped.

Lily turned away with some reluctance, and let him go on kissing her neck and shoulders while she rummaged amongst the shelves for dragon's blood. Clearly, she was used to multi-tasking.

"It's late," said the shadow, who looked as though he was trying to restrain himself from biting into her neck.

"Then tell Voldemort not to curse anybody after ten p.m.," she replied, picking up a tiny red phial and shaking it experimentally.

"Tell the Aurors not to ambush him after ten p.m."

"I will," she said primly, slotting the phial back into its rack. "They ought to know how cranky he can get in the evenings."

"Something tells me they do now," said the adult Snape. "Any survivors?"

"All of them, so far."

Snape winced. "He's not going to like that."

"My heart bleeds for him," said Lily.

"If he finds out they all survived, he'll take his frustrations out somewhere else."

"That's why I'll be working a triple-shift tomorrow night too," she said, with just a hint of weariness.

There was a pause, while Lily bewitched a tray to hover in mid-air beside her, and started arranging potion-bottles on it with efficient little clicks.

"Is Lenzman on the wards tonight?" said the adult Snape – and Severus had to re-play the sentence in his head because, although he'd heard 'Lenzman', the word had been delivered with as much dark, smouldering animosity as if it had been 'Potter'.

For a split second, Lily flinched. The creases around her eyes suggested that this expression was a frequent occurrence. "Erik is on the wards tonight, yes," she said.

"I liked him better when he was married."

"Well, that's Voldemort's fault too, isn't it?" she said, shaking a bottle of dragon's blood with rather more force than was necessary. "And, for your information, he was extremely upset when his wife died."

"Not as upset as he would have been before he saw you."

There was another momentary flinch, and then Lily's habitual patience kicked in, and her face softened. "You're wrong about him, Sev – but, even if you weren't, he knows I love my husband and don't want to leave him." She said the last part very slowly, as though she was talking to somebody dense, but it still made the young Snape's heart kick out at the inside of his ribs.

Somehow, exasperated affection in a store-room was so much more real than well-spoken affection over a candlelit dinner table. He hoped Lily thought so too because, even if their lives weren't going to go this way, he still couldn't see them having much time for candlelit dinners, or moonlight strolls along a beach.

"You see," Lily went on, "it doesn't matter how he feels, because he knows how I feel."

"You think any of these men care how you feel?"

"Oh, there's more than one of them now?"

Snape locked his jaw and breathed out through his nose. "Forget it."

"Happy to," said Lily, busying herself with a box which seemed to contain bunches of porcupine quills. She picked one out and held it up to the light. "You think this one is spoiled?"

Snape barely glanced at it. "Yes. How long is your shift?"

Lily smiled bitterly. "How long is a piece of string?"

He took a deep, exasperated breath, and said: "You know, eventually, you're going to reach a state of exhaustion in which your ministrations will become more of a hindrance than a help."

"I guess that's when my shift ends," she said, shrugging.

"And will you know it when you get there, or will a few dozen patients have to die of medical malpractice first?"

Lily looked a little offended. "I generally pass out before I make any big mistakes."

"This isn't good enough," said Snape, almost to himself.

"It's the best I can do."

"No, I mean this–" he indicated the dingy store-room, and her too-tight lime-green robes, "-isn't good enough. This life isn't good enough. You should have better. You would have had better–"

Lily gave a gentle groan. "Please don't start that again. I'm hap-py. I-like-you. I-don't-think-you're-curs-ed."

Despite himself, the adult Snape smiled at this – or, anyway, allowed his habitual frown to soften for a few seconds.

"Anyway," said Lily, counting out rolls of bandages and stacking them on her hovering tray, "would a unicorn curse allow you to marry such a goegous woman?"

Again, there was a dark, glittering suggestion of a smile. "It might, if it wanted to screw up her life as comprehensively as it screwed up mine."

Lily rolled her eyes, but he reached out for her arm and swung her round to face him. The smouldering frown was suddenly back to full power. "It's not a joke," he said urgently. "I know it's there. I've had a whole lifetime of getting the short end of the stick-"

"You know," said Lily – quite bravely, when you considered the look on his face, "both the ends of a stick are pretty much the same."

Snape paused to consider this, distracted from his anger by pure intellectual curiosity. "Maybe the expression comes from someone offering you a short bit of stick to grab on to when he's trying to pull you out of a river," he suggested.

Lily raised her eyebrows. "Couldn't he just shift his grip further up the stick? Or get a longer stick?"

"Yes," said Snape impatiently, "that's the point – he won't. Because – for the purposes of this analogy – he's a complete bastard."

"Then why'd he offer you the stick in the first place?"

Snape looked at her – and it was difficult to tell whether those dark eyes were glittering with amused exasperation or just-about-to-get-violent exasperation. "I think we may be straying away from the point here," he said.

"Which is?"

"That he's not going to let anything good happen to either one of us."

"Then he should have kept us apart," said Lily, smiling wickedly into those fuming black eyes.

For a moment, Severus was mortally afraid that his adult self was going to hit her. But, instead, he placed a possessive white hand on either side of her face and pulled her into a kiss.

Outside the broom-cupboard, there were hurrying footsteps, groaning patients, Healers barking out orders – even the sirens of muggle police-cars. But, in here, sweet oblivion. The world was burning around them, and, for one blissful second, they didn't even notice.

It was only then that Severus began to understand how frightened his adult self was. Dodging curses and lying to the Dark Lord was all very well on your own, but, when you had a loved one to care for – someone as gorgeous and nave and masochistically hard-working as Lily – and, when any slip up could mean her death, the world turned into a house of horrors, with only these little, wonderful, ten-minute meetings in dark rooms to soothe your aching bones and slow your thumping heart.

But fear – as the Gryffindors were so fond of saying – makes more trouble than complacency. And, as if to illustrate this point, a strange light spilled into the store-room, from around the edges of the closed door. A horrible wave of vibrations followed, making test tubes rattle in their racks. The lampshade overhead started to swing back and forth – and glass bottles wobbled and vaulted into sudden suicide dives off their shelves.

Lily lunged for the door-handle, but the adult Snape grabbed her shoulder and threw her back against the shelves. It was an obvious thing to do. It wasn't safe out there. But Severus still winced when he saw it, and not just because her landing looked painful. It made him look as though he knew what was going on out there. It made him look as though he was in on it – whatever 'it' was – and had lured her into this store-room just to get her out of the way.

The thunderous cracking and groaning of masonry drowned out any screams there might have been. It reached deep into Severus's skull and scratched its way across his eardrums. And then, all of a sudden, there was just darkness. He could hear Lily gasping – and whether it was the adult Lily, or his Lily, who had been unusually quiet during the previous conversation, he couldn't be sure, but the sound had a strange, echoing quality to it, as though it could have been both of them at once.

Finally, the adult Lily lunged again for the door-handle, and her husband didn't attempt to stop her this time. She threw the door wide and then stood, panting, on the threshold, while green light filtered down like fairy-dust.

The Dark Mark was glittering in the sky overhead. And this was particularly noticeable because the side of the building – and the remaining two floors above them – had been ripped out, exposing the whole ward to the sky. Dust lay over everything, as though the building had been dragged through a few thousand years in the space of a second.

Lily staggered forwards and downwards. She looked as though her insides had fallen out and she was trying, dumbly, to follow them. The adult Snape caught her wrist, and shouted something that was swallowed by the howling of the wind, but she ignored him, lurching over to the nearest bed, which had been snapped in half by a ceiling beam. An indeterminate number of limbs were pinned under it.


Snape's voice finally got through. "Lily, listen to me – it blew out the ceiling – there won't be any people-"


"Oh, for God's sake," he snapped. "Hominum Revelio!"

In the dusty air, you could see the spell swooping along the length of the ward. It passed over splintered wood, broken glass, chunks of masonry, and other shapes which might once have been unique, but were now horribly uniform. It didn't linger on anything. It just passed over the inert matter and then vanished.

Perhaps Lily didn't trust him – or perhaps she didn't want to give up after just one try – because she raised her own wand and shouted "Hominum Revelio!" And, this time – maybe because of the desperation that fuelled it – the spell was visible as beams of light, which spread out and upwards, crisscrossing like wire mesh. They were trembling – because her wand-hand was so unsteady – but they were brilliant in intensity. They passed through walls and ceilings, and even spread out into the night beyond the shattered frontage of the hospital. The energy required must have been astronomical. Everything in St. Mungo's – the beams, the pipes – the whole structure – was humming to the frequency of her magic.

And there was still no trace of humanity. The cage of light must have been surrounding the whole building by now.

After a few seconds, a trickle of blood came out of Lily's nostril and crossed her lips. Severus had the mad, lucid, painful impression that it was trying to hush her. Then the blood coalesced into a drop on the end of her chin, and fell. It hit the floor at around the same time she did.

The memories dissolved, and re-formed into the image of a cosy, crowded living-room in a low-beamed cottage, with framed pictures on every surface, and bookshelves crammed anywhere they would fit. Severus – his heart still thumping from the previous scene – found the place unutterably soothing, especially when he scanned the spines of the books and discovered mouth-watering titles like 'The Lost Curses of Herpo the Foul' or 'The Rise and Rise of the Dark Arts'.

The living-room opened onto a kitchen, where the adult Lily was sitting at a table, bandaging her hand, with a lot of clumsiness and cursing. She was still wearing her lime-green healer's robes, and her hair was spangled with dust.

The young Lily stalked off to watch her. Severus tried to catch the expression on her face, but she was completely unreadable. He hoped she was feeling sorry for her adult self, but he wouldn't have put it past her to be concocting elaborate ways to hold herself responsible for the horror they'd just witnessed.

Severus hovered around the framed photos in the living-room, wondering whether he would recognize any of the faces – and whether any of the faces represented people who were still alive.

That was Bruiser – in a fussy silver frame that he would have sneered at – on top of the Welsh dresser. And over there was the lone, glaring eye of Jonah Valance. Where was Meg... please, God, let them have fallen out.. oh no. There she was. And, dear Lord, she had kids! Two freckled, gurning, curly-haired boys, who looked as though they had voices loud enough to shatter the glass in their picture-frames. Severus fervently hoped they were Sirius Black's, and that they were keeping him awake at night.

He didn't understand the urge to take photographs of friends and family, and display them in your home like hunting-trophies, as though you wanted visitors to marvel at the number of good-looking people you'd managed to bamboozle into loving you. For starters, anyone with a grudge against you, and a good memory for faces, would know exactly who to kill in order to ruin your life. And, if you couldn't simply remember what your loved ones looked like, you didn't deserve to have any.

The adult Snape came into the kitchen, shaking rain-drops off his cloak, and wordlessly went to help Lily bandage her hand. She didn't resist him. His hands were much steadier than hers, even though his mouth was clamped shut, and he was breathing hard through his nostrils. Severus could tell that he wanted to put his arms around her. He just couldn't bring himself to believe that that was what she wanted.

So he finished bandaging her hand, and then played with the gauze trimmings left on the table, winding them around his long, thin fingers. He kept his eyes fixed on this with unwavering concentration, as though he was trying to diffuse a bomb. Severus supposed he was, in a way.

"The Minister suggested I resign," said Lily tonelessly.

There was a pause – it looked as though the adult Snape was reluctant to unclench his jaw, for fear of what might come tumbling out, but he managed to say: "Why would he do that?"

She heaved her boney shoulders into a shrug. "When you're the sole survivor of a blast that killed hundreds, people start to wonder what you knew."

There was a long silence. Severus counted forty-five ticks of the clock on the kitchen wall. But the adult Snape was spared the burden of replying, because Lily went on: "There's no Hospital anymore, anyway. Even if we could find new premises, nobody would volunteer to heal Voldemort's victims after this." There was a slight catch in her voice – it made the adult Snape hunch his shoulders defensively – and then she went on: "God, when did it all start to go so wrong?"

"When you tied your fortunes to a dead unicorn," he said woodenly.

Lily shut her eyes. "I've told you, I don't believe in Unicorn Curses."

"And, if you didn't believe in tigers, it wouldn't prevent you from being eaten by one."

She left her eyes shut – perhaps because it allowed her to cry more unobtrusively – and let the silence drift on.

Eventually, Snape said: "I didn't know about the attack."

"I believe you," she said mildly.

"Nobody else does. Not even Dumbledore. And Bruiser keeps bloody winking at me."

Lily hadn't opened her eyes. Her eyelids looked too heavy. But she said, in a voice of ethereal calm. "Dumbledore believes you. How many times has he trusted you with his life?"

"Not as many times as I've trusted him with mine," said Snape bitterly.

"He believes you, Sev. It's just that-"


She opened her eyes, and looked at him with an expression that might have been cautious, if she'd had the energy left for caution. "Well, what would you have done if you did know?"

Snape stared at her. "Something else!" he protested.

"But, if stopping the attack was… impractical…"

Snape stood up quickly, and walked over to the window. He looked as though he was trying to out-pace his anger, or at least aim it in a direction that didn't contain Lily. Severus wondered, with numb, nauseous horror, whether he had always succeeded in aiming his anger away from her.

After a few seconds, she got to her feet and went after him, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. The adult Snape seized on it like a life-line. He caught the hand and spun round, wrapping his one free arm around her, and kissing any inch of exposed skin he could find. He was clenching the hand she had placed on his shoulder so tight that Severus wanted to run between them and pull her away, but she didn't seem to mind. In fact, she was limp in his arms, like a rag-doll, and, as soon as the adult Snape perceived this, he caught himself on the brink of ripping her clothes off, and edged back.

"Of course, you feel guilty because you survived and they didn't," he said, in a hollow voice. "I was expecting that, even though it's completely nonsensical. But there's something else, isn't there? Something to do with this." He nodded towards their clenched hands, but Lily didn't move, or attempt to wrestle free from his grip. She just stayed limp and listless and pale, staring straight ahead at the black windows.

"You know," said Snape, "two hundred and fourteen dead people is better than two hundred and fifteen. You do accept that, don't you?"

Lily shrugged. "When the numbers get that high, one more or less probably doesn't make that much difference."

"No," said Snape, wrenching her forwards by that clenched hand. "That's what Voldemort would say. You don't believe that. How could you have helped your friends by dying with them?"

"Oh, that's such a bloody Slytherin thing to say!" she snapped, finding her energy at last. The adult Snape looked almost relieved. "You're always looking for the advantage, aren't you? I don't care what good it would have done! I don't want to feel like this anymore!"

"You'd rather feel dead?" he spat.

"Yes," said Lily, wrenching her hand free from his grip. "I'd rather feel dead than feel like I only survived because I was having a fumble in a broom-cupboard with a Death Eater!"

There was a horrible silence. Even the ticking clock shrunk back from breaking it. Lily looked as though she'd said more than she'd wanted to, because she passed a weary hand over her eyes and groped her way back to the kitchen table.

Snape turned back to the window. He was clutching the side-board with both hands – and maybe passing magic through it without meaning to, because the crockery on the draining-board was rattling. Ater a few seconds of this, he swept every cup, plate and spoon onto the floor, where it shattered and clanged in one wonderful, cathartic wave.

Lily didn't even flinch. Perhaps they lost a lot of crockery that way. Or perhaps she thought – as Severus certainly did – that it was justified, after what she'd said to him.

"And you know what the worst part is?" she said, collapsing back into her chair as though all the shouting had drained her.

"You couldn't possibly have anything worse," said Snape icily.

"I'm pregnant."

He didn't move; he didn't raise his eyebrows or clench his jaw, or employ any of the other little mannerisms he used to keep himself from showing any actual emotion. He just – very slowly – lifted his eyes from the sideboard, and waited for these words to be explained.

"I'm sorry, Sev," she went on. "I've been taking the contraceptive potion religiously, but these things aren't always fool-proof."

The black eyes moved back down to the sink. "Is that the worst thing because its father is a Death Eater?" he said.

"What?" said Lily, blinking. She had forgotten – she had genuinely forgotten – the horrible things she'd said to him a moment before. Perhaps that made the adult Snape feel better – although Severus was beginning to discover that his own face was impossible to read, even for him. It was reassuring, in a way - but he could understand how all that inexpressiveness would make Lily feel lonely.

"No," she said, her voice wobbling with tears, "it's the worst thing because this world – this horrible war – is the only thing we have to offer it."

"We could try offering it love," said Snape quietly. "That counts for more than you'd think."

Lily sat still in her chair for a second, staring straight ahead. Her eyes filmed over – then brimmed over – with tears and, still, she didn't blink. She looked absolutely horrified. Eventually, she muttered "I'm sorry – for what I said-"

"Don't," said Snape.

"I don't think you're a–"

"I know."

Lily shut her eyes tight, as though she was trying to banish some kind of mental image, and said: "Do you ever think you'd be better off if you'd never met me?"

"It depends on what you mean by 'better off'."

Lily giggled and sniffed at the same time. "Damn you and your diplomatic answers," she croaked. "I just wanted to hear a 'no'."

"I wasn't trying to be diplomatic," said Snape, stepping over the broken crockery and sitting down at the table beside her. He still didn't have enough confidence to touch her yet, but there was something almost merry about his gloom now. "I was trying to be accurate. If I'd never met you, I'd be a Death Eater for real. I would have found a way to justify it; there are some perfectly reasonable arguments if you're determined to find them. Perhaps I'd even be a very successful Death Eater, although they don't tend to last long. Perhaps I'd be feared and respected and as rich as a Malfoy. But I'd be dead. I'd be walking around and using my brain – perhaps even more than I do at present – but I'd be dead." He picked up another scrap of gauze, and frowned down at it, as though he didn't quite understand what he was saying, but he was determined to say it anyway. "You make me…not be dead. Even when the alternative is a lifetime of narrow escapes and dunderheaded students. I don't think you'll ever understand what an achievement that is. And I'm sorry if it wasn't the romantic answer you wanted. It's the truth."
Continuing from The Potter Factor [link]

This is part one of a three-part excursion into the dark, melodramatic world of the Boggart-Lily! (Dedicated to the lovely ~lilynoelle because she loves the Boggart-Lily. Hope you like it, my dear! :hug: :heart:)

(I tried to write all three chapters at once - thinking I could fit them all into one chapter - and then didn't have anything to post for about six million years! Or it seemed like six million years, anyway. I miss comments when I don't have anything to post... ;) :()

I've nearly finished parts two and three (although, while I'm finishing them, I wouldn't be surprised if they morphed into parts two, three and four!) so hopefully, they should be up soon.

Thank you for reading and sorry for keeping you waiting! :hug: :hug: :hug:
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fangirlhater Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2013
Yaaaay, I was waiting for this. After Severus, Boggart Lily is my favorite character, I'm just endlessly fascinated by her background. This version of Lily and Sev are so dysfunctional, it hurts... and it's only going to get worse for them. ;___;
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2013
Thank you! :hug: :hug: :hug: I'm so glad you like the Boggart-Lily (she's one of my favourite characters too, because she gets to be so cynical - she's lots of fun to write!) Hopefully, you'll like the next few chapters if you like her.

(Sorry about the late reply, by the way - I'm not on DA very much these days. Since I finished Sympathetic Magic, I've been writing a new non-fanfic story on Livejournal, with mixed results! But I am enjoying working on it. Anyway, I really hope you like the end of Sympathetic Magic - it's one of my proudest achievements that I managed to finish a story for once in my life! ;))
lilynoelle Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Student General Artist
Truly beautiful. I cried at the end of her memories. <3
polkadotpeony Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
HOLY OMG! This is beautiful. I'm sorry if I say that too often but it's freak'n true. I could drink up a story like this for the rest of my life. It is that amazing. So haunting, so perfect, so human and true. Ugh, you make me love Lily and Snape like a addict loves crack. It's not healthy. lol

>>He didn't understand the urge to take photographs of friends and family, and display them in your home like hunting-trophies, as though you wanted visitors to marvel at the number of good-looking people you'd managed to bamboozle into loving you. For starters, anyone with a grudge against you, and a good memory for faces, would know exactly who to kill in order to ruin your life. And, if you couldn't simply remember what your loved ones looked like, you didn't deserve to have any.

I loved that! I loved it so much I had to read it to my husband. Oh Sev, why must you me so amazingly brilliant?

>>"I wasn't trying to be diplomatic," said Snape, stepping over the broken crockery and sitting down at the table beside her. He still didn't have enough confidence to touch her yet, but there was something almost merry about his gloom now. "I was trying to be accurate. If I'd never met you, I'd be a Death Eater for real. I would have found a way to justify it; there are some perfectly reasonable arguments if you're determined to find them. Perhaps I'd even be a very successful Death Eater, although they don't tend to last long. Perhaps I'd be feared and respected and as rich as a Malfoy. But I'd be dead. I'd be walking around and using my brain – perhaps even more than I do at present – but I'd be dead." He picked up another scrap of gauze, and frowned down at it, as though he didn't quite understand what he was saying, but he was determined to say it anyway. "You make me…not be dead. Even when the alternative is a lifetime of narrow escapes and dunderheaded students. I don't think you'll ever understand what an achievement that is. And I'm sorry if it wasn't the romantic answer you wanted. It's the truth."

This was heartbreaking. In a paragraph he nearly describes himself in canon HP. Tragic. :(

I LOVE your writing, how many times and in how many ways can I tell you? It's probably getting annoying. But it's true. I even sit and read it and I end up saying aloud (at least five times), "wow, this is just beautiful writing. She's effing brilliant."

Most of all you inspire me to write! I need to get back to my story. I've been kinda bad about that. : /
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012
Yaaay! :hug: :w00t: :heart: Thank you, my dear - I'm so glad you're still reading this story! Your comments always cheer me up! (And it's good to know that somebody else also loves Severus and Lily the way an addict loves crack! ;)) They have commandeered my whole day today - my fingers are ink-stained and sore from writing - and have they had the decency to form themselves into nice, ordered chapters? No - that would be way too much to ask! :faint: Still, I can't help enjoying writing about them - especially when I get lovely comments like yours! :hug:
polkadotpeony Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012
Of corse I'm reading this story, it is SO amazing!!! I just happened to not check it for awhile and then I came back and like a miracle there were two new shiny chapter awaiting me. So I stayed up till midnight to read them. :) It was the best prelude to sleep ever.

And yes, I understand how headstrong both Severus and Lily are. They don't always cooperate. I often find myself starting to write one thing and then it goes off in a totally different direction and I then find I've just written some sort of chapter from the past or future. It gets frustrating but they are such interesting characters I just can't stay mad at them for long. :)
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2012
You're right - they're headstrong but they're awesome, so it's totally worth it! I wanted to say in the last comment (but I guess I got a bit flustered! ;)) that I'm really happy this story has been inspiring you to write, and you must let me know when I can start devouring your writing! :heart:
JulesDrenages Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
"*I* don't care for romantic answers, Severus, since you're the man of my life. Please, marry me. :heart:"
Not much more to say... :XD:

I loved it, really. Dark and dramatic but very intense. And I've always been very curious about this side-universe-story...
Oh, yeah, their reading habits still amuse me very much. :) By the way, the whole Pensieve scene felt almost like watching a movie: very powerful and skilled, dynamic writing! :love:
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
Yay! :w00t: :hug: Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it! Perhaps these scenes seem more movie-like because they're not being told from the perspective of the people who are doing all the talking and acting - there's no opportunity to go into their thoughts and feelings in depth (although, I have to say, that really annoyed me, because I enjoy going into my characters' thoughts and feelings in depth! ;))

I wouldn't care about Sev's unromantic answers either... :heart: :faint:
JulesDrenages Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
Yeah, you're right. It's a nice change, though, you know: narration is more dynamic this way, and I have to admit it helps imagination a lot. As I said in the comment on the other chapter, it really makes me want to draw these scenes.
A fierce, blood-thirsty Boggart is definitely coming... :nod:
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
:w00t: I'd LOVE to see a fierce, blood-thirtsy Lily! :heart: You = awesome!
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Oh wow, this actually knotted my stomach up reading it. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it! Too life-like...
Reading all of that unspoken tension... don't get me wrong, I loved it and it was very well written. If it weren't, it wouldn't have affected me so.
I don't know if I can muster a more intelligent response than that at the moment. :faint:
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
I know what you mean - it was hard to write a relationship where Sev and Lily were still so clearly Sev and Lily, but were hurting each other at the same time - not that they don't still love each other here - but I think it was the similarity of this alternative future to the present that made me uncomfortable, if that makes sense! :faint: Still, even in these horrible circumstances, Sev and Lily are all about love for each other, I think.
DreadPersephone Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
Melodramatic and amazing!
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
Thank you! :hug: Next chapter is (if possible) even darker and more melodramatic! :faint:
DreadPersephone Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2012
That ending was like death.
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2012
:hug: Don't worry, it's not the last chapter! I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I'm a very soft-hearted girl (despite the dark content of these last two chapters! ;)) so I couldn't stand to write an unbearably sad ending! Will try to update soon, though, because it's a mean place to leave the story hanging!
rainbrowser Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
:hug: :hug: :hug:
Melorik Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2012
But. but... but there must be more.... MOOOOORREE!!

Don't make me get the cupcakes Ms. Stone. You wouldn't like me when I pull out the cupcakes ;)

Awesome set of scenes. Can't wait for the next chapter.
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
:giggle: Hee hee, no need to get out the cupcakes (I mean, unless you really want to ;)), the next chapters should be finished soon! I'm glad you liked this one! (Whenever I leave a huge gap between instalments, I always feel as if my poor readers are thinking: "Well, this had better be good...")
JustBecause62 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:w00t: More chapters! :w00t:


Now I'm really curious to see how this sometimes-fighting-but-still-completely-in-love Sev and Lily turn into a suicidal Sev and the Boggart-Lily.

I wonder why people always go into the Pensieve nose-first. It seems like it would be more practical—and certainly more dignified—to go in, say, hand-first. :shrug:

Sev's little speech at the end is so Lily finally has some idea of what she means to him.

Anyway, :happybounce:, I love this chapter and eagerly await part 2 and 3! (Or 2, 3, and 4, as the case may be.) :eager:
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
:giggle: You're right, why do people always go into the Pensieve nose-first? Maybe you have to touch the memories with some part of your head! I've always wondered whether your whole body disappears into the Pensieve when you're viewing memories, or whether it just feels that way and, in fact, your body stays frozen where it was, bent over the Pensieve with just a nose submerged in the memories! That would be quite an undignified pose to be discovered in!

Anyway, I'm so glad you liked this chapter, and thank you for commenting! :hug: The next (rather gloomy) parts of the Boggart's memories should be ready soon (I've got a four-day weekend over Easter, and I'm hoping to do lots of scribbling! ;))
JustBecause62 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes, that's another interesting question. I must go look it up and see if anybody seems to know the answer....

The only hint I can find is this: one website [link] says, "Harry touched the material in Dumbledore's Pensieve when he first saw it, and was taken back incorporeally into some of Dumbledore's memories." Incorporeally. Hmm. Not that this is the ultimate authority on all things Harry Potter, but it's the closest thing I've found to an answer.

And now I've begun to wonder if you can view memories of thought through the Pensieve, too—for example, could you share an idea for a new kind of potion by using a Pensieve? And why does one not see the memory from the perspective of the remember-er? Harry Potter magic is so complex and so far beyond my limited powers of comprehension.

It's my spring break this week, so I should really write some...I've been being lazy. :blush:
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
Hmmm, yes, 'incorporeally' seems to suggest that his body stayed outside the Pensieve. Maybe that's how Snape knew that Harry was viewing his worst memory in the Pensieve in the fifth book - because he was still leaning into it, with his nose dipped in! ;)

Your questions about memories are totally psychic - I've been wondering exactly the same things (in particular, as you can see from my next chapter, I was wondering whether sense memories - things like the memories of pain and pleasure- can be shared). If wizards can really share thoughts and feelings via and Pensieve, it must be so much easier for them to communicate (we have to rely on crummy things like language! ;))

Hope you do some writing, I'd love to read it! :hug:
JustBecause62 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, yes, didn't you know, I can read your mind across the whole US and the Atlantic! ;P (Well, the whole US minus about 17 miles....)

I shall go write now... :sprint:
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