One Last Kiss
Severus had one weekend of peace—the weekend where Lily and James were away. It went by too quickly for him to get used to their absence. When they came back, they were both immensely happy. Lily kissed James before he went to talk to the other Marauders. Then she approached Harry, asking to talk.
"I know you've been worrying about me. I know you don't like James, or at least you're not friends." She waited for him to nod before continuing. "Well, I wanted to let you know that I'm good. We're good. He's different from what I thought before, different even from what his friends might think."
"Yes. James is—he's slow to express how he feels, but he has more personality, more depth than how he comes across."
"So, you're happy?"
She smiled. "I am. He's smart, kind, adventurous, brave, and has a big heart. Sometimes he does childish things, but he's learning, just like everyone else."
Harry nodded, trying to hold back what he really wanted to say. "How long do you think you two'll make it?"
"Why?" Lily studied him, then her hands. "I don't know. James always talks about 'our' life after school, and that's a little too far in the future for me to consider…"
"Not only that; having kids. And he's not even fifteen yet. I know he's liked me since we met, but we haven't been together long and he acts as though we're soul-mates." Lily hesitated. "I shouldn't be telling you this."
"We're friends, aren't we?"
"I know. You're right. And I'm sorry for not being around anymore."
"It's okay. Can I ask one thing?"
Lily shrugged. "Sure."
"Why do you get along so well? Why do you like him? And—a reason more than a list of adjectives."
Lily furrowed her brow at him. "That's more than one thing." She smiled and nudged him with her shoulder. "Stop worrying! He cares about me. He makes me laugh. We know each other really well. We're just…compatible." She hugged Harry, then joined James on the love-seat across the room. He kissed her lightly on the lips, then said something and they laughed.
She is happy, Harry realized, feeling guilty.
By March, James and Lily's relationship had become a part of everyone's lives. If James was becoming king of the school, Lily was queen. The hardest thing for Severus to endure was how romantic people thought James and Lily's story was. Every so often, he complained to Harry about how they saw the story. "They think James deserves her because he tried so hard to win her over. They think she always had feelings for him, even though she always told him to leave her alone, which he ignored."
Outside of his occasional rants, Severus was unexpressive. He went to bed early, slept as late as he could, and said very little. It was different from when the Slytherins had punished him; the pain wasn't as obvious, and his grades weren't suffering. It was as though his soul had been removed and he was just going through the motions.
On Tuesday, in Potions, Harry asked Severus if he could use the tips Severus had written in his book. Severus didn't respond, eyes glued to the page. Harry sighed, then craned his neck to see if Severus had an alternate number of stirs for the potion they were making.
Words were appearing on the pages before their eyes: "Greetings again, Mr. Snape, you ugly git. We were wondering: how can you even see over that abnormally large nose of yours? You think that people—that she—would like you if you were the least bit handsome. If you were—and I, Prongs, can't imagine it—you'd still be evil, dirty, poor, and—"
Harry slammed the book shut; a few people turned around in surprise. Severus flinched but didn't look up.
"What was that?"
Severus blinked. "I don't know."
"How long has that been happening?"
"It's not a big deal—"
"Since this morning."
"On just this book?"
"No, on any paper or parchment I have."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
Severus shrugged slightly. "I can't let them think they can get to me that easily."
"You think it's the Marauders, right?" Harry remembered when, in his third year, "Professor Snape" had taken the Marauders' Map and it had insulted him.
Severus squinted at Harry, an indication for him to explain how he knew.
Harry thought back. "When I was in my third year, something like this happened. I don't think they control what the spell says." He didn't think Severus should know about the Map. "Do you want me to tell them off?"
"Okay, I suppose, disregard it, if you can, but let me know if it happens again. I don't think you should have to take their shit at all, but at the very least you shouldn't take it alone."
Severus nodded, probably because agreeing was easier than arguing.
In the next class, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Severus tapped on Harry's arm. "Can I use your book?"
Harry nodded and they traded. He realized that Severus had only asked for his book when the words from the Marauders' spell had covered the entire text.
Harry could only decipher what was on the margins: "No one cares about you. Your dad is right to beat you. If you can't escape them now, you never will. You will stay poor. Your mom will keep on whoring in Nocturne Alley. You'll be alone for the rest of your life. Jacob will leave, then you'll have no one. Lily will stay with James and she will die without ever saying another word to you. You are unfeeling, selfish, and you should hate every part of yourself. You, Snivellus, do not have any reason to live—"
Harry couldn't continue reading. He suppressed his reaction so as not to upset Severus, surveying the room to distract himself. Lily met his gaze, and the way she sharply turned her head suggested that she'd been watching them for longer than Harry had seen.
That evening, Harry waited until Severus was getting ready for bed before he went up to Lily. "Can I talk to you?"
James, who she was studying with, eyed Harry as Lily nodded and stood.
"It'll just be a moment, James."
Harry led her a bit away from James. "They did something to Severus."
Lily blinked. "They?"
Lily kept expression out of her features. "What does 'something' mean? And…James must not've known about it." She seemed doubtful of her own words.
"They charmed his school things to insult him. I thought you might want to know, because didn't James promise he wouldn't do that sort of thing anymore?"
Lily frowned and returned to James. She sat down and said something quietly to him.
James blinked, mouth ajar in disbelief. "I was testing a charm for a project! Can't anyone take a joke?" He glared at Harry from across the room.
"James, you told me you stopped bullying people."
"Oh, for Merlin's sake, Lily, why do you care? You told him you wouldn't protect him—help him—anymore. You're not friends."
"It doesn't matter, I'm talking about everyone. God knows what else you did behind my back."
"It isn't like that. Look, can we talk upstairs?" People were staring at them.
"Fine." They gathered their things and didn't come back down before the other members of the dorm came up.
Severus tried, unsuccessfully, to not stare at Lily as she sat on James' bed. They'd been talking for over two hours. A few times, they started to argue, but their annoyance would dissipate after they moved on to something else. Sirius was the one who told the two to finish up and get some sleep. He turned the lights off and put a pillow over his head to make his point.
"Goodnight," Harry heard Lily whisper. He stared at the ceiling, and his eyes adjusted to the dark. He saw Lily move further into the room. She put her hand on the footboard of Severus' bed, standing silently, face shrouded in the dark. Then she walked away.
After the door closed, Severus rolled over in his bed. Harry saw him exhale and close his eyes. Harry could feel the tide beginning to shift.
As James' birthday approached, he insisted that Lily didn't need to do anything as extravagant for him on his birthday as he did for her. They went to Hogsmeade, just the two of them, as an early celebration. Severus and Harry, by now, had grown out of intruding, so they stayed in the dorm that day. On the following Thursday, March 27th, the week before Easter Break, there was a standard party thrown by the Quidditch team, which the other Marauders worked tirelessly to improve. They cleared everyone out at nine, but the closest friends stayed in the middle of the common room, talking.
Harry, Severus, Raven, and Remus went to do homework in the back, along with a dozen others. Actually, Remus was doing James, Sirius, and Peter's homework in addition to his own. He already told James that that would be his birthday present. But Remus didn't seem to mind so much; it was an essay for Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Harry finished his essay before the others. He looked over at the remaining partygoers: Aluria, Sirius, Peter, Lily, and James.
James was telling a story, presents scattered around him, his arms waving around. At the end, they all laughed, then Lily kissed James, and after pulling away his eyes remained on hers. James said something to the others, then took Lily's hand and tugged her up and off the couch. Lily left her wand where she had been sitting, studying him quizzically as he led her upstairs. The other three exchanged a grin.
Harry watched Sirius stand on the couch. His hips swayed as he started to sing, "So here we are alone/We made it on our own/love you love me love…"
What was James doing? Harry remembered what Lily had said about James being forward with their relationship. So that meant in more ways than he previously thought? Harry turned to the others; only Raven had seen. Severus and Remus were buried in their work.
What should we do? Harry mouthed to her. He didn't know how far they had gone on Lily's birthday, but that didn't matter. This felt wrong.
Raven shrugged, as if he shouldn't worry about it, but her eyes were on the stairs.
"Severus, Remus," Harry said. The two looked up. "He took her upstairs. Just so you know." Remus turned red, Severus' expression didn't change.
"What? What do you mean? To the dorm? Why…" The realization dropped. He muttered to himself, "Not again," before raising his voice. "Did he force her?"
Harry shushed him. "It didn't look like it." Severus was about to get up and march up to the dorms, so Harry said, "Hang on, don't go after them. She knows what she's doing."
Severus scowled at Sirius, who, by his hand gestures, appeared to be telling Aluria and Peter a dirty joke. Peter thought it was hilarious, Aluria shook her head in disgust.
Minutes passed. Severus and Remus went back to work, the former to distract himself. Then, from upstairs, they heard Lily yell, "I SAID NO, YOU THICK ARSE!" There was an audible slap, and the common room fell silent. Lily ran down the stairs, James close behind.
"Let's not do this out here, c'mon, Lily…" James grabbed her arm.
"Let go of me!" Lily wrenched her arm away and turned to face him.
"I didn't know you meant it, I'm sorry!"
"So, you didn't think I meant it when I kicked you in the chest."
Lily cut him off. "Save your breath, Potter. I'm tired of your excuses. I told you before that I wanted to wait."
James stepped toward her. "I thought you loved me."
Lily rolled her eyes. "You're such a fucking child. Yes, I thought there was something between us—"
"There is!" James cut in desperately.
"…but I was wrong. You only wanted to get up my skirt."
"That's not true. Lily…I do love you." James gazed into her eyes for what seemed to be his perfect, pre-determined time, then leaned in and—
"LEVICORPUS!" James had been flung into the air by his ankle. Lily spun to see who had cast the spell. When she saw Severus, his wand raised, her brow furrowed and she turned toward James.
Severus disarmed Sirius and Peter before either could react. The spectators gathered at the front of the writing desks. Aluria tossed Lily her wand. Severus crossed the room, stopping close enough so that he could've reached out and touched the top of James' head.
Severus' voice was low and he spoke through his teeth. "You arrogant toerag. You think everyone will do whatever you say, that you own the school, that you own her."
James glared at Severus. "Oh, shut up, Snivellus. You don't know what you're talking about. This is between me and—"
Severus raised his voice to cut him off. "Isn't this situation familiar to you?" Then he dropped to a whisper. "Now you're the one who gets to think of how sorry you are every day. Because all it takes is one fuck-up, and you fucked up—bad. You just couldn't keep your Billywig-sized dick in your trousers, could you? But I'm not sorry for you. It's not just because now you can understand what it feels like to be humiliated, but because you deserve it more than I did."
James, rotating slowly, scanned the area as if he was searching for something. Someone. Someone he expected to explain why this was happening. He blames me, Harry realized. It was Harry who had given the idea that James and Lily would get married, have a kid, and live happily for the small piece of life they were given. James had taken this idea and tried to turn it into reality much too soon.
"Don't think of this as revenge. I'm just trying to protect the same person you were." Severus glanced at Lily, whose watery eyes were focused on James, wand aimed at his face. "Though, I don't think she needs protecting." Severus forced a smile and backed away.
There were a few claps, but the Gryffindors were not as enthusiastic about James being beaten by Severus as they were Severus being beaten by James.
Lily didn't acknowledge Severus, so he went back to study. The four finished up their homework as Lily and James talked. Their conversation lasted about ten minutes before she let Sirius get him down. James lay on the ground for a while, wallowing in self-pity and pain, before getting up and slouching up to the dorm. Raven and Aluria went to Lily and walked with her up to bed.
For the first half hour after, Severus couldn't write, his hands were shaking so badly. Eventually, however, his anger gave way to self-satisfaction. He had simultaneously made a fool of James and helped Lily. Severus knew Lily would have to at least say something to him, but what she'd say, he didn't know.
The next morning, while the other Gryffindors were going down to breakfast, Harry, Raven, and Severus stayed behind to wait for Lily. When she came downstairs, body tired but eyes brighter than ever, Raven and Harry gave them some space.
Lily didn't notice Severus at first, and when she did, she told him to wait a second and ran back upstairs.
Severus shifted on his feet and wiped his hands on his robes.
Lily returned with a potted flower. It was the Moon Lily Severus had given her before their first year of Hogwarts. "I still have this. And…" Lily pulled out a stone from her pocket, "…this, too." The stone, so far, read "Severus Snape and Lily." She set both things down on the table, then fidgeted, unable to look him in the eyes. After a moment of silence, she wrapped her arms around him.
Severus hardly hesitated to do the same. Tears ran from Lily's eyes to his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry."
Severus gripped her tightly, not wanting to lose her again. "No, it's my fault."
Lily smiled, though he couldn't see it. "I couldn't have imagined you saying that until now."
"I promise, I've changed."
Lily let go and tucked a strand of his hair behind his ear. "I know. I would've believed it at the beginning of the year, but I didn't know if it would last, I was hurt, and I didn't want to risk going through that again." She took his hands and studied him. "You probably think I'm pathetic. I was protecting myself when I should have been protecting you, too. You're so incredibly strong, and Jacob and Raven are the best friends you could hope for." She studied their entwined fingers.
"I shouldn't have said what I said. I—I didn't mean it then, and I don't mean it now, not about anyone." Severus bit his lip, eyes reddening, but still dry. When he opened his mouth to speak again, his breath shook. "I missed—I missed having you around."
Lily smiled, and this time he could see. "Me too, Severus."
At the sound of his name, he grinned—and it was the most genuine, happy smile Harry'd seen on Severus since before the "Mudblood" incident.
Lily remembered something else. "I'm sorry about what the Slytherins did to you."
Severus froze, and Harry, off to the side, also didn't know what to do. How could she have found out?
"Cassandra told me about what they did in between classes. It sounded awful, and so, I'm sorry for not being there."
Severus and Harry relaxed; she didn't know the worst of it.
Lily hurried to add, "I don't want you to think that I want to be friends again because I feel sorry for you, or anything. That's sort of why I couldn't…" She trailed off.
"No, I know. Er, so, what's gonna happen with James?"
Lily's expression soured slightly. "I told him that I didn't fancy him anymore, and that I wouldn't be able to forgive him for what he did."
Severus was alarmed. "What he did…?"
"No, no, I mean, he only tried."
"Oh." Severus scratched the back of his neck, gathering his thoughts, and Harry guessed that he was fighting the urge to ask if that meant she and James hadn't done it at all.
"After that—as in, when he was still hanging upside down—I felt like I had to make him feel better."
"Well, mostly because I don't want him bothering me every day like he used to. So I told him the truth about all there was between us. That he'd only fallen in love with the idea of me. It wasn't really me he loved, it was the whole, 'love at first sight' myth. He had gotten into a habit of chasing after someone he didn't really know, assuming that we'd get along, get married, and live happily ever after, because I was the first person that made him feel like he did."
Harry watched Severus' expression. So much of what she'd described applied to Severus.
"And I had fun, for a little while, because he'd gotten me to believe it. But the little things just kept stacking up until I only saw the routine, and I didn't see him."
Severus considered this. "How did he react?"
Lily smirked. "He wanted 'one last kiss'. Hey, don't look like that, I didn't give him one. But I did feel bad, so I told him there were plenty of fish in the sea—that's a Muggle expression—and that was that."
"Is he going to keep bothering you?"
"I don't know. I do know, however, that I'm starving. Let's go get some breakfast."
Just like that, it was the four of them again. Aluria, Florence, and Cheresse realized Lily wouldn't spend much time with them anymore, and they would get over it, but for now they were annoyed and upset. Lily, on the contrary, though a bit uncomfortable at first, was more like herself. She needed friends like Harry, Raven, and Severus.
On the evening of the Saturday before Easter, although the new curfew for Hogsmeade was four o' clock, some students were still out. Before every Hogsmeade weekend, at least one of Lily's professors would invite her and a few others to lunch. That day, it was Lily, Aluria, and a Slytherin who were meeting with Professor Slughorn.
It was five in the evening and they still weren't back.
Harry, Severus, and Raven tried to get as much homework done as possible before dinner. The professors, much to the disdain of the fourth years, had piled on work to help them prepare for the O.W.L.s that still seemed a long time away.
Some of the older students listened to music on the radio as they studied for the N.E.W.T.s. Before heading to dinner, one of them, was about to turn it off when another shouted for them to stop. The room quieted for long enough to hear, "…under attack by dark forces. Stay in your homes." Panicked whispers coursed through the room, followed by shushing. "…This is the Ministry speaking. Various centers in the Muggle and wizarding world are under attack by dark forces. Stay in your homes…" Harry could no longer hear over the rising confusion.
"Lily's still out in Hogsmeade," Severus said to Harry, voice strained.
Professor McGonagall came into the common room. Everyone fell silent. "You are all to stay in the dorms until further instruction. Dinner will be served here in an hour."
"Are we safe?" A second year piped up, wand in hand.
"Yes, of course. However, we have to keep everyone contained so we can ensure that. Thankfully everyone is back from Hogsmeade."
Severus glanced at Harry, eyes anxious.
"Prefects, if you could manage the students. The Head Boy and Girl as well as the professors will be with me searching the school for any remaining students."
As soon as she had finished speaking, McGonagall was bombarded with questions. She held up her hands. "You will know what you need to know when you need to know it. I will return after supper." She swept back through the portrait hole.
Severus grabbed Harry's arm. "We have to go find Lily."
A prefect who was walking by stopped. "What's that, Snape? No one leaves this room unless told otherwise."
Severus scowled and reached into his pocket, the one that contained the invisibility cloak.
"No, Severus, it's not worth it."
"So she's not worth it? She's your own mother, and you don't care about her safety?"
"She is safe. She can defend herself well enough. And she's with Slughorn."
"You don't know that."
"You don't know that she's in danger. Listen, last time I decided I'd rather be safe than sorry, someone I cared about died. And it turned out he was never in harm's way."
"Sirius." Harry glanced at the Marauders, who were by the desks, solemn and nervous.
"Like that counts. He was an adult then, perfectly capable of handling things on his own. You shouldn't have worried."
Harry opened his mouth to retort when Severus continued, "How could you have even liked Sirius? He couldn't have been that much different from now, except that now he doesn't like you."
"Sev!" Lily ran toward them and threw her arms around Severus, who stumbled back a little.
"You're safe," Severus said, either surprised or reassuring; Harry couldn't tell. Severus gripped the back of her jacket, one hand in her hair.
After a few moments, Lily said, voice muffled, "I'm okay, really."
Severus let her go, muttering an apology, face red.
A sixth year student climbed onto a chair. "Attention, everyone. There's a meeting in five minutes about the Order, open to all students in third year and older."
"We already had one this month," a fifth year said, confused.
"We're having it again," the student replied. "All first and second years, go up to the dorms." He made way for a girl who stood before all of the desks, waiting for everyone to be seated.
Lily, Severus, Harry, and Raven chose a table; Severus next to Lily, Raven next to Harry.
"Hello everyone. I'm Holly Fenwick, I'm in seventh year, if you didn't already know. I was chosen to speak about the Order of the Phoenix because my brother, Benjy, is a member, and I know enough to talk about it. Some of you have heard me speak before." She smiled, then cleared her throat.
"I know there are some people here who are interested only because they feel obligated. On the other side, some may have had trauma that gave them no other choice—in their opinion. Let me tell you that the first, doing it because you think you have to, is not what they're looking for. Those are the people that betray the Order."
Harry glanced at Peter, whose arms were crossed, expression solemn. Lily had taken Severus' hand—they both still looked shocked about the recent events.
"So anyone who has lost family, or friends, and wants to avenge them is gonna have to bury it. Let that be your motivation, not your motive, or you'll become reckless. You'll become obsessed to the point that you stand outside our ideals. What they stand for. And they stand for bringing down You-Know-Who and his followers together, not through personal missions. And there's no power struggle, either. There are no leaders, unless you count Dumbledore, who founded the Order. They aren't showy or violent, like You-Know-Who and his followers are, and they're feared for the threat they pose to them, not for murder and destruction. The Order's purpose is to unite witches and wizards who are connected by the same cause; to preserve peace. Your commitment, if you choose to accept it, will last for the entirety of the War. It could be over before you leave school, or it may continue to the end of your life. It will probably be to risky to start a family."
Some students, couples in particular, exchanged looks. Severus and Lily stared straight ahead.
"You'll have to make sacrifices, but it would be worth it. Who wants to live in a world where everything, everyone you love is in constant danger? Where you would be forced to think a certain way, without a proper government? Today is just one example of how You-Know-Who will make us live in fear." Holly paused, considering something. "Professor McGonagall told me what happened, and I wasn't supposed to say anything, but I will anyway. Death Eaters attacked Diagon Alley and the Ministry. At least a dozen people were killed."
Harry stood up and asked, though suspecting the answer, "Did the people have anything in common?"
Holly hesitated, regarding Harry, whom she'd never spoken to before. "Yeah. Most of 'em were Muggleborns."
Silence. Severus and Lily still didn't look at each other, but she squeezed his hand.
"Each of you has a choice. Gryffindor House, like every House in the school, has enormous strength and potential. After Hogwarts, you have the chance to be recruited. They're looking for good people, kind people. Talented people. So think about what I've said, and pay attention to what's going on in the world around you. If there's anyone who's certain they're willing to join, we're taking down names to contact you after you graduate. The ink is invisible until a certain word is said, and only members know what the word is." She unrolled a piece of parchment and put an inkwell and quill on the table nearest to her.
Every student, as far as Harry could tell, signed their name. Harry had thought that the biggest change in the timeline had been at the beginning of the year when Severus left the Dark Arts, or when Lily had forgiven him. He realized it was in this simple act—instead of signing over to Voldemort, Severus was literally signing over to the Order. There was no death that made him turn sides, at least not beyond Harry's memories. Instead of joining the good guys at twenty-one, he was joining at fifteen.
Afterwards, the students stayed, for the most part, at the tables, talking.
Lily's features were drained, and she studied her hands. "What Holly said, about sacrifice for the greater good. I don't think I ever considered that side of it."
Harry brought his attention away from the Marauders and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "What do you mean?"
"How fighting You-Know-Who could be our whole life. No family, being in danger constantly…"
"Holly was just exaggerating so everyone knew what they were getting in to."
Severus and Raven raised an eyebrow.
"I'm not so sure, Jacob," Raven said.
Severus looked directly at Harry and said, "I know someone who had a kid even though they were in the middle of the War."
Harry tried to signal for him to shut up. Lily didn't notice and asked, "Who? Someone here with a brother or sister?"
"So it can be done." Lily rested her chin on her hand. "I still want to live, you know? Don't you all want that, too?"
Raven and Harry shrugged. Severus' brow furrowed. "You want kids?"
Lily blushed. "I didn't mean wanting kids, I meant living normally, at least somewhat."
Professor McGonagall and the prefects entered the common room, chilling the atmosphere as everyone quieted in anticipation. A few students went up to the dorms to bring down the younger students.
McGonagall cleared her throat. "I do not have any further news regarding the attacks, but I do have to relay some new rules that were decided on for the entire student body. These are for your safety and will only apply to the holidays, unless the situation worsens. Firstly, no student staying at Hogwarts is allowed outside of the castle unless accompanied by a professor. Secondly, there are no trips to Hogsmeade this week. Thirdly, the new curfew is eight o' clock."
Frustrated murmurs ran through the students, but they realized it could be worse. Someone asked, "Can we send mail?"
McGonagall waited until the Gryffindors were quiet. "Yes, only because we can't possibly ensure that no one does so. Though, any packages that arrive must be pre-screened by Professor Flitwick, Professor Candless, and I."
This was followed by some groaning, but McGonagall left before there were any legitimate objections.
The lack of knowledge about the attacks made everyone anxious and solemn. Several students received letters from family to assure them that they were okay, others remained oblivious.
The overflow from the common room moved to the boys' dormitories where girls were not magically barred from entering.
Harry lay in bed, journaling, tuning in and out of conversations around him. Raven and Remus sat across from Lily and Severus, on the respective boys' beds. The four of them talked before drifting into separate discussions.
Lily and Severus lay side-by-side, pillows stacked to cushion their backs. At first they didn't touch, but when the Marauders left (sans Remus), they became more comfortable. The room was now quieter, darker, and their voices were audible.
"When you to told me about Hogwarts, and even in first year, I didn't expect the wizarding world would be like this." Lily rested her head on Severus' shoulder and drew her legs up.
Severus swallowed and, after a moment of uncertainty, put an arm around her, resting his hand on her shoulder.
Lily gazed toward the back of the room, past Remus and Raven, out the window at the falling rain. "I thought the Muggle world was bad. All the wars and the suffering…and not only that, but it's so ordinary. Boring. But the wizarding world is not much better. It has all these problems, and it hardly ever changes."
Severus was too shaken by their sudden intimacy to sound incredulous. "You're saying it's better in the Muggle world?"
"I think they're even, if the wizarding world isn't slightly better—they're different and the same." Lily traced circles on his stomach, collecting her thoughts. Severus shuddered, making her grin. "Oh, I forgot. You're ticklish, aren't you?"
"No." Severus couldn't look at her.
Lily raised an eyebrow, then sat up and jabbed his sides. Severus flinched, almost laughing as he put up his hands to block future attacks.
"I'm done, sorry," Lily said, and once he was convinced they repositioned themselves. She breathed deeply and nestled her head into his chest. "All this fighting makes sense, in the end. Magic is worth fighting for. But our side has an advantage: love."
Severus' face burned.
Lily sighed. "You've overcome so much. I don't know if there's anyone who could do the same."
Dumbledore did, Harry thought, pausing in his writing.
"It doesn't matter if the wizarding world changes for the better, as long as the people do." Lily's voice was fading with weariness.
"Mm?" She had her arm wrapped around his torso.
"You're the kindest person I know."
"You're kind too, Sev. Even if it took a while for me to realize…" Lily mumbled the last few words and then fell silent, drifting asleep.
Severus noticed Harry watching, then they both looked away. Harry hoped Severus wasn't jumping ahead, misinterpreting his relationship with Lily. Despite Harry's off-and-on, spotty relationship with Lily, he had been hugged by her over these four years more than he had by anyone else, ever—combined.
Remus and Raven were now the only ones speaking—something about Remus' childhood.
The Marauders opened the dormitory door, the ghosts of smiles lighting their faces. Sirius and Peter froze, spotting Severus and Lily. James kept telling his joke, oblivious.
As Severus nudged Lily to wake her, James noticed them. "What the fuck?" In his shock, he couldn't think of a better question.
Lily lifted her head and yawned.
"Get away from her, Snivellus, you twat!" James pulled out his wand.
Lily realized what was happening and climbed out of bed. "Potter, for God's sake, calm down." She stood before him, glaring.
Raven kissed Remus goodnight, then joined her.
Lily crossed her arms. "People died today and you just continue bullying people you believe to be lesser than you into doing what you want. Remind you of anyone?"
James blinked, then realized she was referring to Voldemort. "I'm nothing like—why would you—"
Lily and Raven went to the door. Before leaving, Lily added, "There's nothing going on between us, so you have no reason to harass him. Good night, everyone."
The door closed.
James rounded on Severus. "Snivellus, you pale-faced, weak—"
Harry put his journal aside. "Oh, sod off, James."
James turned. "Oh, hello, Jacob, can I talk to you?"
Sirius and Peter exchanged a look.
Harry glanced at Severus, then followed James onto the landing.
"Muffliato," Harry said, casting the spell around them.
James squeezed his eyes and the bridge of his nose, then paced as much as the small area would allow. "We were supposed to be together. Lily and I."
"You might still be able to be together—"
"No, Harry, you know she made her choice. Fuck it, I'm just gonna say it: did you want them to be together? Is that why this happened?"
"No, not exactly—"
"Don't fucking lie to me, don't fucking try to bullshit this. You manipulated everyone. You made me believe she'd like me, led me make the wrong choices, and you told Severus to make the right choices."
"I didn't make you do anything. You made your own choices, it wasn't me."
"I know you must've had some idea of what was going to happen. Think about this: if Lily and I don't end up together, then how are you born? How do you go back in time and make that change in the first place?"
"I don't understand how it works any more than you do."
"THEN WHY ARE YOU FUCKING EVERYTHING UP?" James shook with rage.
"IT'S NOT LIKE IT WASN'T FUCKED UP BEFORE!"
James sneered. "Like father like son, right? Both so angry. And here I thought I didn't know you." He paused in mock thought. "What if I stole your Time-Turner and reversed everything? Or told Sirius and Peter?"
Harry took a step back. "You wouldn't."
"Why the hell not? Unless, you want to be unborn—"
"I DON'T CARE! I don't care what happens to me because there will always be another person to defeat Voldemort, or another version of myself. Severus saved my skin more times than I can count, and I gave him nothing in return, until now. And you seem to forget that the reason I came here is greater than that. I wanted to know you and Lily, I wanted to be at Hogwarts again. You don't realize; there's no going back."
James studied Harry, then dropped his voice to a whisper. "You expect me to do nothing as you ruin my chances with Lily?"
Harry sighed. "I expect you to be a decent human being. Lily didn't date you until seventh year in my time, so just wait until then. Leave her alone and try to be less of a dick, or else there really is no hope." He went back into the room. James, scowling, followed.
On the front page of the Daily Prophet on the first day back to school, there was a picture of the Atrium, damaged by the attacks, in the Ministry Headquarters.
Lily flipped through the Prophet to get to the continuation. "It says the whole thing was a distraction. Loads of information was stolen. The Ministry hasn't figured out what else."
Harry read from over her shoulder, shocked that Ministry would allow this to be printed. It made them seem weak, vulnerable, and Voldemort seem powerful, as someone to be feared. This war was completely different from the one he experienced.
That evening, in the common room, Raven pulled Harry aside on his way to the dorms.
"What's going on with Lily and Severus?"
Harry regarded her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, don't you think she's acting pretty cozy all of a sudden? They weren't friends for a year and now? She must've known he'd forgive her easily."
Harry was taken aback. "Did something happen between you and her?"
"No. We're fine. Although I can tell she's still a bit awkward around me, since we were close. It was hard for me, too, and it'll be hard to forgive her. I feel like she's not even trying." Raven leaned against the wall behind them.
"Well, maybe because she knows Severus will accept her and forgive her, but she's afraid of your rejection."
Raven nodded, then paused. "So…do you think they'll be together now? And don't play dumb, you thought about it, too. They were—they were cuddling yesterday, as if they'd been friends this entire time, not just for two weeks."
"Why do you care?"
"I dunno." Raven blinked, as if seeing through a fog. "I dunno."
Severus came up to them, expression hard. "Hello."
"Er, hi." Harry glanced at Raven, who pressed her lips together.
"I suppose we can talk now that we're all here."
"If you're going to stay or not."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "But you wanted me to leave, didn't you?"
Severus flushed. "That was before…well, things are different now."
"So you think I should stay?"
Raven rested a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Of course you should stay. Isn't that what you wanted to do? Stay through seventh year?"
Severus sneered slightly. "By the end of the year he never knows."
Harry crossed his arms. "It's a bit early to be having this discussion, seeing as it's April."
"So you don't know yet."
Harry wanted to stay. Rather, he didn't want to go back. He was terrified that he would return to a time in which a close friend was now dead, or on the extreme end, where the world as he knew it was altered beyond recognition. He was terrified of the unknown because he hadn't planned everything out and had no idea how everything would work out in the end.
"I didn't say that. I want to stay. And I'm not going to say 'one more year' again, because I'm only fooling myself. It makes sense to see this through."
Raven beamed. Severus' reaction was harder to read; he merely nodded.
Over the rest of the year, the Marauders reestablished themselves as the school's pranksters, or bullies, depending on who was asked. Over the weeks, the Hospital Wing developed regulars, as well as the occasional mix-ins. The students might have been half-transfigured into vegetables, or grown whiskers, or had become incontinent. Severus was a victim once, and then, after Harry got revenge, never again. James knew Lily's dislike for him was deepening, but James didn't care. It was obvious to Harry that James was depressed. His mood was often unpredictable, he was irritable, and when he wasn't with his friends, he slept. Maybe he'd always been that way, but Harry hadn't been able to tell before.
The Ravenclaws won the House Cup, despite the Gryffindors winning the Quidditch tournament. Dumbledore gave a warning and a wish for everyone to be safe over the summer. And before anyone properly realized, the school year was over, and they were on the train home.
Countryside clicked past. A partly cloudy sky alternately shaded and brightened the compartment as they got closer, hour by hour, to King's Cross. Lily taught Severus a Muggle clapping game as Harry wrote in his journal.
Goals for next year:
—Become closer to everyone, esp. James & Lily
Severus had needed guidance to leave the Dark Arts, and now it was James who needed guidance. The two boys were equally stubborn, so if Harry could get through to one, he could get through to the other. And he didn't want to improve Severus' life only to ruin James.' As far as becoming closer to Lily, Harry knew he had spent too much time away from her that past year.
—Try not to get Severus' way
Harry studied what he'd wrote, then crossed it out and wrote on a new line:
—Try to give Severus space
He'd been too much like a mother (albeit adoptive); too critical of his choices, and less like an actual friend. He had constantly steered Severus in a different direction since convincing him to choose the Gryffindor house—perhaps even earlier.
A prefect told them they were twenty minutes away from the station. The four (Harry, Raven, Severus, and Lily) packed up their things.
King's Cross bustled with people. The atmosphere was more rushed, emotional, as a large portion of students had families that were directly affected by the attacks. Harry hardly had time to say his goodbyes before James, Remus, Peter, and Lily were pulled away by their families. Harry wondered if Lily's family knew about the attacks, or that she and James had been seeing each other.
Sirius, Raven, and Severus did not receive nearly as warm of a greeting. Harry waved goodbye to Severus; they would see each other the following weekend, so there was no need for a more dramatic separation.
Harry surveyed the station once more, then pushed his things around the corner, fit them into his purse, and Disapparated.