Remus Lupin watched from the staff table as Harry talked with some of his housemates over breakfast. Apparently, the boy wasn't happy with something that was said, for his brows were drawn together in a manner that was decidedly un-James-like. He could see, of course, how others could find James in Harry if they tried, but Remus had never really thought he looked much like the elder Potter at all. No, the boy looked like his mother. Even his shock of messy black hair was off, finer than James' had been, and slightly wavy.
That wasn't all, though. Harry's disposition lacked much of the levity which had characterized James. He was more serious, introspective. Furthermore, the boy didn't quite smell right to his sensitive nose. Never had, really.
He recalled the first time he had held the boy, had first caught his scent. His doubts must have shown on his face at the time, for James had looked him in the eye and firmly said, "He's mine, Remus." Not about to risk being at odds with one of his best friends, Remus hadn't pursued the matter, dismissing it from his mind. It had been far easier when Harry was a baby, however, with the scent of both James and Lily constantly on him from being held. Now, his own scent seemed more pronounced, and the werewolf couldn't help but wonder.
Remus didn't wish to think ill of Lily, of course, but her marriage to James had felt a bit rushed – particularly since the two of them hadn't been close while at school. They'd been happy, he was certain, in the almost two years they were married before their deaths. Both had doted upon the raven-haired child with the pride of parents everywhere, yet, to Remus, they had always seemed more like confidants than lovers.
Harry, ever astute, sensed his pensive gaze and looked up, shooting a crooked smile in his direction. Remus wondered which side of the family he had gotten it from. One thing was certain: the apparent anomaly with Harry's scent wouldn't have bothered him half as much if he wasn't positive that he recognized it from somewhere else.
Snape was in an almost pleasant mood. The day had passed rather smoothly, for once. None of the little dunderheads had blown up their potions or melted their cauldrons, he'd taken nearly two hundred points from Gryffindor, and even the detentions he'd held had brought him more joy than usual. Now, his grading for the day already complete and his numerous potions stores fully stocked, it seemed that the Potions Master finally got a quiet evening to himself. And relatively early in the school year, too.
Entering his quarters, the man shut the door behind him and strolled towards his study to the liqueur cabinet behind his chair. The rumor of a smile ghosted his lips as he selected a glass and a bottle only to vanish the instant he turned around, his eyes immediately drawn to the narrow, leather-bound volume which had lain forgotten upon his desk: Lily's diary. He let out a vicious curse. Clearly, Dumbledore lived to make his life hell.
Lowering himself into his seat, Severus poured himself a drink, quickly downing one swallow before meditatively savoring the next. He glared at the innocuous book, as though his menace might force it to account for itself. Before he knew it, his first glass had been drained and still he stared at that cursed diary as he shakily poured another. Its existence shouldn't affect him so. Why should it matter to him what she had written? Lily Evans had proven herself little more than a deceptive, cruel, muggleborn bit–
"Why Potter?" he whispered, cutting off the insult he never had managed to complete in the past. Suddenly, he knew he would read the journal if for no other reason than to answer the questions that had been eating away at him for years: What did James Potter have that Severus Snape lacked? And why would the only woman he'd ever loved go to him before he'd even had the chance to push her away?
Gulping the contents of his glass, Severus again refilled it. Tugging the diary towards him, he hesitated but a moment before he began to read.
"I am in love," the first entry had begun, the date indicating a day in late July of '79. Snape had paused after that first short sentence, but nothing could have truly prepared him for what Lily had penned next:
"Severus is everything I could have hoped for and more."
Him. She had written that about him. Not James Potter. Him.
To his surprise, the entire entry was about him. Apparently, Lily had loved his dark eyes and sense of humor. She had thought him 'brilliant, but humble'. In fact, she had written so fondly of him that Snape couldn't help be transported back to times he'd spent as a happy young man basking in the light of Lily's warmth and affection.
Every stroke of the quill spoke of her joy and sincerity – Lily had believed the words she had written, Severus could tell. He couldn't help but wonder what might have happened if he had never taken the Dark Mark or ridiculed her parentage. Would she still have gone to Potter, in the end? Swallowing another shot, he forced himself to continue reading. The diary started in July and their falling out didn't take place until November, after all. A lot could happen in a few months.
The next several entries, spaced days and weeks apart, were a mix of interesting day-to-day tidbits and more reflections of the man now violating the dead woman's written thoughts. Not once was there even a mention of a James, nor an indication of any discontent. Then suddenly, after a particularly joyous entry that fully expressed the girl's happiness without actually disclosing the event which brought it on, the hand-writing becoming abruptly cramped and stilted.
"Nov. 14, '79
"He hates me."
Snape felt his heart grow cold in his chest, but shoved the sensation away before it could fully assert itself. Of course he hated her. She had lied to him. Betrayed him. The one offense might have been forgiven, particularly since he could see now that it might have been a matter of miscommunication. The other – his blood boiled – was unconscionable.
The Potions Master almost slammed the book shut right then, but morbid curiosity fueled by a slight alcohol-induced haze prevented it, and he turned the page, instead. He didn't need to read about how unfair she felt he'd been the day of their falling out, nor did he care to do so.
The next date was another he remembered all too clearly, a day late in December of the same year.
"I saw Severus today," it began...
The girl stood across from him, face carefully blank. Her green eyes betrayed her surprise, however, as did her hands her distress. A soft rasp could be faintly heard beneath the noise of the street around them as her palms rubbed determinedly against one another. She had no idea she was doing it. Severus wished he could take hold of her wrists to stop the frantic motion, having witnessed her palms raw and even bleeding on more than one occasion. He knew he could not, however, so he settled for keeping his own expression neutral.
"Sev," Lily whispered, her voice nearly as quiet as the sound rising from her hands.
"I have told you not to call me that," Severus coldly intoned. In truth, the pet name actually heartened him – he wanted to apologize, but couldn't just then. He did not wish to arouse suspicion, nor draw the Dark Lord's attention to the one he loved. "Will you quit with that incessant rubbing?"
Startled, her hands came abruptly apart, where she held them awkwardly for a moment before wrapping her arms about herself, a clearly defensive posture that managed to still them. "I didn't expect to see you here," she admitted.
"Nor I you," he returned blandly.
Lily bit her lip. Had the woman no end of nervous ticks to tear at his guilty conscience? "Severus, there's something I want to tell you..." she trailed off uncertainly. He could not recall having ever seen her at such a loss for words. Had he hurt her that badly?
"Oh?" Severus lifted an inquisitive eyebrow, taking a step forward. The witch tensed as though she wanted to retreat, but held her ground. She searched his expression, meeting his inscrutable black gaze for a brief moment before her eyes fell to stare at his left sleeve.
Drawing in a bracing breath, she again looked him in the eye, finally speaking, her voice clear for the first time in their conversation. "I'm going to marry James Potter."
Severus felt his world fracture.
Lily raised her chin slightly, her arms tightening around her middle. "I thought..." she stammered a bit, her voice oddly thick. "I thought it was only fair that I told you myself, in-instead of letting you find out from the Daily Prophet."
He was helpless to do anything more than stare, his entire being numb. She pulled that beautiful, determined green gaze away from his, looking to someone beyond him.
"Are you ready to go?" James Potter himself stepped past him, barely sparing him a glance before gently taking Lily by the elbow.
"Yes," she nodded.
As they turned to leave, James paused, solemnly regarding the Death Eater for a moment. "Lily, maybe-" he began.
"No," Lily shook her head emphatically. "Leave it, James. Please." She met Severus' gaze one more time, her own eyes overly-bright, as though with tears. "I'm sorry, Sev," she murmured softly.
As he watched her walk away, Severus wondered if he had ever truly felt pain before – or if he would ever feel anything again.
Snape swallowed, struggling more than usual to battle the memory away. He never thought about that day, preferring to focus on Lily's betrayal than having to watch her leave with his bitterest rival.
"It wasn't a very pleasant meeting," Lily concluded without elaborating on the encounter.
"I've agreed to marry James," the next paragraph began. "He's been a great help to me these last few weeks, and he listens. I find myself incredibly grateful for him. He treats me well."
Well, good for James bloody Potter, Snape thought spitefully.
"I'd do anything, though," she'd penned in the final line. "I'll protect my – him at any cost."
A stab of jealousy shot through him and he flung the book onto the floor. Fixing the offensive journal with a baleful glare, he took another drink straight from the bottle before rising to his feet to put it away. Had he consumed a little less of it, he might have noticed that it was much emptier than when he'd selected it.
Snape decided, yet again, that Albus Dumbledore was a meddlesome old fool and this latest stunt of his was unusually cruel. What in Merlin's name was the man thinking, insisting he read such a thing? The image of those knowing, twinkling eyes flickered across his mind as the headmaster's words came back to him: "What Lily had to write was rather illuminating, actually. I'm quite certain you will feel the same, my boy."
What had he meant by that?
Slowly, the Potions Master turned to stare down at the diary where it lay against the base of a bookshelf. Naturally, Snape had already known about his own relationship with Lily, as well as the fact that she'd chosen Potter over him, but the headmaster wouldn't have considered any of that illuminating, would he? Which meant that there had to be something else. Which also meant he'd have to keep reading or that smug, knowledgeable expression of Dumbledore's would never leave him alone.
Resigned to his torment, Snape picked up the handwritten volume and found the next entry. It was dated several months later – the last day of July, in fact. Had she not felt the need to write about her own wedding or her undoubtedly perfect honeymoon? He had thought such things were important to women. Surely, Lily would have been overjoyed at the time?
"My son was born today. I just knew he would be a boy," Lily penned. "He's such a miracle – my beautiful little baby. I can't believe I'm so blessed that I can have so much of..." The man frowned, wondering why she had trailed off, what she'd been about to write.
"We've named him Harry James – it's Potter family tradition that the first born be given his father's name as his middle. James couldn't be prouder if Harry was his own."
Snape froze, staring blindly at the page a moment before his vision regained focus. He couldn't have just read–
"James couldn't be prouder if Harry was his own."
No... no, no, no no no no... Context. He needed more context...
"He isn't the same as he was in school. He's matured quite a bit, actually. Not that James Potter is humble, but he is gentle, and he can – grudgingly – admit to his mistakes. He's taken care of me these last few months. He's become my best friend. My confidant. I've grown to love him. Not the same as" – another hanging sentence – "James knows this, though, and he doesn't begrudge me any of it. I don't think he expected me to love him, actually, and seems glad that I do.
"He's sleeping with a hand next to Harry in the crib, right now. It really is rather adorable. I can't help but wish it was somebody else seated there, though. It almost makes me feel guilty, I wish it so much. I just... I hope Harry looks like his father, just a bit.
"I miss him so much."
Again, Lily's diary hit the floor, this time slipping from nerveless fingertips. I hope Harry looks like his father... The man's mind insisted that there was only one logical conclusion, but that would go against everything he had thought over the past thirteen and a half years. Obviously, he had consumed far too much alcohol and it was wreaking havoc with his ability to think.
Stepping over the fallen book, Snape made his way out of his office and to his bedroom, weaving ever-so-slightly. Classes the next day would be hell – even with a dose of his carefully formulated Hangover Draught. Did he even have any of that on hand, anymore? Yes. Maybe. He couldn't recall, just then. He needed rest. Then, he would be able to properly decipher the contents of the journal Dumbledore had thought he should look at. It was sheer insanity to think it might suggest that he...
Finally, he made it to his destination, shuffling over to his bed. Before Snape could make an attempt to change into night clothes, he fell face-first onto his mattress, as much from shock and denial as from inebriation. There was no way he was – no. Just no.