July 1984 - Spinner's End
For months after the Potter boy's rescue, Severus did all he could to avoid reading the papers, listening to the wireless, or going out unnecessarily. Unbeknownst to him, something about the kidnapping, the death of the "Fallen Five", and seeing the broken young child being rushed into St Mungo's had sparked a change deep within the former Death Eater turned spy, and he found himself incapable of connecting with the outside world; more so than ever before. That single event, like a catalyst, altered his perspective on the world around him, and when he returned to Hogwarts for his next year of teaching, he found himself unwilling to venture too far away from this secluded world. He made exceptions, as needed, such as trips to Gringotts to deposit his commissioned salary, the occasional parent-teacher conferences when problems with his students arose, and the fateful day when Voldemort was supposed to receive the Dementor's kiss as a punishment for his crimes against Wizarding Britain. He had that day marked in his diary as soon as the Wizengamot announced it.
Severus, like the vast majority of the adults in the magical community, knew Voldemort's execution day would be one he would never forget; a day more significant than his capture or his ridiculously unnecessary trial. However, not even the most powerful seer could have predicted that their long-awaited retribution would never come, and instead sleeping peacefully that night, finally free from the vilest wizard of their time, they were left feeling hollow because the Dementor had failed to remove a soul for the first time in magical history. The DMLE attempted a second, third, and fourth kiss the following week, each with a fresh set of Dementors, but they all failed, no different from the first. It really didn't surprise Severus in the least. Deep down he knew, like a cockroach, the bastard would not go down so easily. Although he had to admit that he, too, was curious why it did not work.
It outraged the community for months. Everyone seemed to have a strong, public opinion about how the ministry should eventually proceed. Suggestions ranged from demanding Voldemort's immediate release, proposed mostly by those who believed Voldemort's inability to be kissed was a sign of the next Merlin, to performing a quick Avada Kedavra and then unceremoniously tossing his remains into the sea surrounding Azkaban. Naturally, the latter was the most popular, and Severus figured the austere method would be a fitting end for a wizard who sought to create a grandiose legacy. It took weeks of serious deliberation before the Minister for Magic, Millicent Bagnold, declared the killing curse illegal to use in an execution. The unfavourable decision sparked such an uproar that the rumours at the Malfoys' Summer Gala centred solely on her impending resignation, but the last Severus heard, the Wizengamot sentenced Voldemort to live out his remaining years in a secured bunker only a handful of highly qualified aurors were aware of. Severus assumed, based on his experience as a double agent spy, that his former Master was heavily guarded around the clock on some remote island off the coast of Norway, and no one would see him until the plethora of DMLE-hired curse-breakers solved the mystery behind his failed demise.
Severus didn't entirely care about what happened to Voldemort as long as he never saw the light of day again, and after the announcement of the sentence, Severus resumed living his life as detachedly as possible. His daily routine was straightforward: wake up, teach uninspired students for hours, supervise detentions, and go to bed. Get up. Repeat. The monotony was ideal for keeping the professor's demons at bay - at least until the school year ended. Now resigned to his run-down, overly muggle childhood home for the summer holiday, Severus found he had little to do to prevent his mind from replaying the events that haunted him daily; beginning with his recruitment as a Death Eater and ending with his memory of the small battered boy being carried through St Mungo's on his third birthday.
He tried everything outside of illicit potions to avoid thinking about the Potters, but on any given copy of the Prophet he saw James Potter's face plastered across the front page, applauding some major accomplishment his school year nemesis achieved in his latest case. If the papers were any sign, it seemed Potter and Black did the exact opposite of Severus - rather than taking the year for internal reflection and growth they were chasing their next case… most of which they solved in record time, much to Severus's annoyance.
Throughout his first few weeks back in Cokeworth, Severus often wondered how Lily managed with her husband constantly away on the job, especially given what little he knew about her son's condition. Lily had done her best to shield the three-year-old child away from the media, and aside from a few statements made by Crouch Senior early on to update the public on the boy's condition, the Potters thanking the wizarding community for their elaborate support shortly after the child's release, and a picture or two taken while the family shopped in Diagon Alley, she did her job well; giving them few opportunities to report on regarding Lily or Harry. Yet as the first anniversary of the "Fallen Five" approached, more people became eager to know how "Little Harry" - the Boy-Who-Lived - fared in the world around him, and wondered why she kept the child out of the public eye.
Severus was sitting in his favourite armchair by the fireplace in his sitting room, browsing an owl-order catalogue to replenish his home potions cupboard after having recently secured two separate commissions for over the summer holiday, when a solid knock on his door jolted him out of his reverie. Not one to answer his door on the first call, he tightened his grip on his quill and debated if the lace fly wings from last summer would still be fresh enough to reuse or if it would be worthwhile to replace them just in case. The pay from the two jobs would more than warrant replacing the ingredients - proving Lucius's persistent claims that Severus was squandering his Potions talent in the educational sector versus a position in a private laboratory - he despised the idea of purchasing new if he didn't have to. Another, more impatient knock alerted him that his unexpected visitor would not be deterred so easily, and likely knew Severus rarely answered right away. Even so, Severus waited. A third round, followed by an angry fourth round of knocking, had the professor dog-earring his page and heading to answer it.
If forced to place a bet on who would have been standing on his damaged stoop after he yanked open the door - most of whom would have been unwelcomed and forced to leave - none of them would have been the redheaded Gryffindor witch, dressed in a white sundress with yellow and red flowers scattered across it and wringing her hands together in front of her.
"Lily? What are you doing here?" he asked, almost breathlessly, and so quietly he doubted she had heard him.
She carefully tucked a strand of her long, red hair behind her ear, drawing attention to the slight blush creeping across her face. "I heard a rumour you still lived here," she responded as if that somehow explained everything.
"And what?" Severus leaned against the door frame with his arms clasped across his chest. "You needed to confirm the veracity of these rumours?"
"What?" Her eyebrows knitted together and her red face darkened further when she realized what she'd said. "No! That's not what I meant… I was… hoping… to talk to you about…" She shifted her weight between her feet in trepidation, then pointed over the professor's shoulder and asked, "Well, can-can I come in?"
Torn between his desires and his sense of logic, Severus paused for a moment to reflect on the situation. Lily had left her Godric's Hollow home that morning to travel back to her old stomping ground to see him, obviously for a very specific purpose. He found the action strange. When he worked as a spy for the Order, Dumbledore had made secure arrangements for Severus's and Lucius's reports to be made to as few members as possible, limiting the encounters either Death Eater had with the Potters. For this, Severus was eternally grateful. He had little faith in himself to hide his temper if he had to see the happy couple parading around him at every meeting. The disadvantage of his absence from the other members, the Potters in particular, was that one-on-one meetings, such as what Lily proposed, became extremely awkward.
After a lengthy internal debate, and against his better judgement, Severus stepped aside to invite his former friend into his home, softly responding, "Of course, Lily, come in."
She crossed the threshold and immediately gazed around the dilapidated structure, a sour test clear on her lips.
"I can't believe you moved back in here." She frowned, sadly, over her shoulder at him. "You always hated this house. I assumed you'd move far away as soon as you got the chance."
"That was certainly the original plan," he stated, motioning her to the sitting room where she sat perfectly straight and proper on his threadbare sofa and him back in the wingback chair beside it. "However, with ten months of the year spent at Hogwarts, I quickly recognized that it made little sense to invest in my own real estate. This would be the outcome of such a choice."
She bobbed her head listlessly, though Severus suspected she had no true understanding of his situation, having married someone with Potter's vault size directly after school. An uncomfortable silence engulfed the former best friends, exacerbated by Severus's refusal to offer her any of the comforts one would normally offer when having a guest in his home: tea, biscuits, scones; none of which actually existed in the house.
"There's going to be a memorial on the thirtieth for the Fallen Five. Will you be there?" The Gryffindor witch eventually spoke up. "It's the… the anniversary-"
Severus hissed at her, "I am well aware of the date! And, no, I will not be attending. My presence at these events is most certainly not welcome."
His words appeared to strike a nerve in Lily, causing her head to snap up, and suddenly sitting in front of him was not the timid woman who had knocked on his door, but the vivacious girl he used to know in this same neighbourhood. "I disagree!" she fired back. "You absolutely have the right to be there! I know you helped in finding Harry that night. I saw the reports James brought home, and the aurors… they had nothing to go on before you stepped in. If it hadn't been for you… and Lucius I know it would have been so much worse for Harry. H- he might not even be here right now."
"While you may see the turn of events in this light," he cautioned, "the other side of that same coin is how my information got five aurors killed. Two of whom orphaned their three-year-old son on his birthday. Believe me, to them, I am unwelcomed."
"You can't let them get to you, Severus," she lectured animatedly in her true, righteous, Gryffindor fashion. "It's not fair for them to dismiss you given everything you've done. You should be honoured right alongside James and Sirius! Not hiding away at the school, doing a job I know you have to hate."
Despite having a plethora of viable retorts at his disposal, he said nothing to her that would further engage this topic. Instead, he did what Slytherins did best: he changed the topic. "How is Harry?"
His question had the desired effect, and Lily physically recoiled back as if he had struck her.
"He's doing good. We're all still adjusting to the new normal, but things are going well. At least as well as one can expect under the circumstances." As she spoke - or, more accurately, lied - she nervously picked at the skin on the side of her thumbnail, a habit he recognized from her youth. "Thank you, by the way, for the-the salve to help with his scars. I know it was you who sent it-" Severus slowly inclined his head, "- and I really appreciate it. The Healers… they're hopeful the shallower scars will fade over the years, but some of the deeper ones… Well, he'll probably have those the rest of his life. The salve, though, I think will make them less noticeable."
A small price to pay for the child's life, not that Severus said so out loud.
"That's actually why I'm here. I found this a month or so ago." Lily pulled out a sheet of parchment from her purse and held it out between them. "His Healers said it won't hurt to try it, but they can't brew it. They didn't say why. They just gave me a list of private apothecaries to contact. The thing is… I don't want just anyone to prepare it. I need someone I can trust. With this being so unconventional, and after everything Harry has been through already, I don't want to put him through… I just… If we're going to try it, I need someone I can trust to do it."
"Yes, I picked up on the trust aspect," Severus stated unemotionally, pinching his eyes shut at the mere idea of her trusting him for something so important. Once composed, he took the offered parchment and barely scanned the first lines before understanding its purpose: a nerve regeneration potion, a borderline dark, experimental, and rather potent one to target Dark Magic, based on the ingredients list.
"Lily," he began with the utmost caution, "what exactly happened to your son?"
"The healers don't really know," her formally stoic voice trembled in a way that made Severus feel desperation over the request. The confident girl he once knew had vanished instantly, and in her place sat a mother filled with doubt and regret. Not unlike any of his commissioned patrons. "He had so much they needed to repair… and the healers… they kept reassuring me that once everything settled in his body, they'd be able to heal all of him, but… but then they said he had a gap. That he was missing the vertebrae and spinal cord as if some spell had dissolved it."
It wasn't Sectumsempra. Since the night he spent hidden away at the hospital, he had feared one captor had used his signature spell to permanently harm Lily's son. So hearing about this new, equally dark, spell provided immense relief throughout his body.
"Does that mean he's suffered a spinal cord injury?" Severus clarified, easily slipping into his potioneer persona. He'd be better off putting as much emotional distance as possible between himself and Lily's son - not Harry, definitely not Harry - while he asked the questions he needed to know to properly assess his ability to brew for her. No different from any other prospective client.
"Yes," she replied, but didn't offer any further information; information he'd need to know in order to brew it correctly.
Severus leaned back into his seat, reaching over for a blank sheet of parchment and a quill, ready to prompt her for the details. "Does he have any sensation or movement below his level of injury? Below the location of the gap?"
"No." Her auburn hair framing her face gradually covered it as she slowly shook her head. "He hasn't recovered any movement, but he's gained a little feeling back at random spots throughout the year, though," Lily sadly answered. "If it helps, there is no longer a physical gap. They grew back the bones and the cord itself in St Mungos. But it's the nerves. They weren't able to restore any of the signal in the gap region. The healers assumed he got hit with a dark curse at some point.
"Once he was as healed as they could get him, they told us they'd keep searching for answers, while we did everything we could to adjust and go on with our lives. I came across this potion while doing some research of my own. It sounds promising… to remove dark magic from the body and restore any damaged nerves. According to the description, it's intended for the Cruciatus Curse… specifically to repair nerves in the hands, but I have to try something. And I figured that if dark magic caused it and there's a potion out there to help, well… you're both the best potioneer I know and has the most experience with dark magic."
Severus nodded, acknowledging her need to act; to do anything within her power to help her child. Sadly, the wizarding world was far from equipped for a child - patient, Severus scolded himself, refusing any attachment to the child - with any level of spinal cord injury. If the boy could regain even a fraction of his function, he'd have a significantly better outlook on his future. Severus couldn't imagine what they'd have to do to get by, otherwise. How could one study magic without the ability to both move and hold a wand simultaneously?
"What about the location of the gap?" he asked, jotting down her last statement. "A general one is sufficient if you don't know exactly."
"Um… his T7 through T112 were all shattered in the accident, but his T9, T10, and T11 were the ones missing once they completely healed him." Lily leaned forward, grasping the edge of the flat sofa so tightly her knuckles turned white. "So does this mean you'll help us?"
Severus didn't respond right away. He wanted to pretend he had a say in the matter, even if her optimism and hope in her question left him little choice. Never did he foresee Lily ever speaking to him again, let alone coming to his home to ask for his assistance for her son. He'd be a fool to turn down this olive branch.
"I won't lie to you, Lily," he solemnly stated. "There are several very valid reasons they have not approved this potion. The most important of which is that it failed to repair any damage caused by the dark magic in the nerves, despite knowing the exact curse used and being targeted towards a small, specific set of nerves. Since you don't know the exact curse cast upon your son, on top of trying to use it on a more complicated set of nerves, in my professional opinion, I believe it will be highly unlikely to make much difference in him regaining any additional function." His heart lurched at her fallen face. "However, as long as you are aware of these challenges, and accept the high probability of failure, I don't see any harm in testing it out."
"Thank you so much, Severus!" she exclaimed as if he hadn't just told her that his efforts would be essentially worthless. In her excitement, she reached over and placed her hand on his knee.
"One more thing I need to know. Does your husband know you asked me to brew for you?" The question left his lips before he could think twice. Unwilling to show any vulnerabilities, he squared his shoulders and added, "I doubt he'd be agreeable to me providing anything for his heir to consume, and for a potion like this, I need to know I am not liable for any negative outcome."
Like a dementor entering his tiny abode, the surrounding air instantaneously cooled. Lily shifted uncomfortably on the sofa, regrettably pulling her hand away in the process.
"As a matter of fact, he does," she confidently replied, the fire in her green eyes returning. "And even if he didn't, he leaves most of the decisions regarding Harry's care to me."
"Most?" Severus challenged, skeptically, seeing through her flimsy facade. He had no doubt Potter left all of their son's care to his wife, allowing him to gallivant off and be the hero the papers so pretentiously praised each month, and her body language all but confirmed it.
"Yes," she attempted to lie to him, her voice betraying her true feelings, "most."
January 1985 - Diagon Alley, London
As Severus predicted back in July, the experimental Nerve Regeneration Potion had no effect on Lily's son and the request for him to cease brewing it came only two months after mailing out the first weekly dose. He told himself he didn't care what that meant for the young boy, much less for Lily, but he found himself awake at night, staring unseeingly at his dark ceiling, wondering how he could alter it for better results. For experimental purposes only, he'd claim whenever his subconscious warned him he was becoming too attached. Imagine the royalties for creating a dark magic reversal potion.
He didn't get much of a chance to start any of his alterations, though, because shortly after his release from the nerve potion, a series of requests came for suggestions about the boy's current potions - first how to reduce his three doses of the incontinence potion down to two, then a tweak to his morning pain potion to prevent him from vomiting it, and a faster-working muscle spasm salve. It took him a full week to accept the jobs by convincing himself that the extra money would help him if he ever came to his senses and quit teaching. Over the next month, he discovered that with each request he began to challenge himself to find new ways to further improve them until he was regularly mailing off two versions of each potion: the original request and his "tweaked" formula. By Christmas, based on the variety, volume, and regularity Severus sent them, he suspected most of the boy's potions were being brewed by him, rather than an apothecary.
Despite months of brewing potions for Lily, all of their communication occurred over mail. He hadn't seen her in person since the day she came to Spinner's End the previous July. On top of the potion's requests or payments, they exchanged letters at least once a month, filled with generic things like "thank you for the latest potion, Severus, it's nice to have one last more than a few hours" or "sorry, the last pain potion turned his tongue green", but neither of them ever mentioned visiting.
Severus initially blamed their lack of meeting on his having no need to see her. Until September, he'd been working on the experimental nerve regeneration potion. He knew exactly what he needed to do, giving them little reason for continued contact. Then as the scope expanded in the fall, his Hogwarts residence made it impossible for her to drop by, and the additional commissioned work, on top of his regular school work, kept him more than busy. Or at the very least, those were the excuses he made to himself whenever he internally argued how apparating to Godric's Hollow to deliver the next batch of potions would be just as easy as mailing them by owl, or how meeting the patient to assess his unique situation could take his potioneering to the next level. No. He refused to go out of his way for Potter - all three of them, at his point - so he'd have to make do with the current arrangement.
Christmas passed as uneventfully as any other year. Severus stayed at the castle to supervise the children who did not return home for the holiday, and he continued to work diligently on his latest version of a muscle relaxant; hopefully, one which wouldn't leave a blistering rash along the boy's stomach after every dose. It was a perfect, low-key way for Severus to spend his Christmas. All of that changed the day before the students returned to the castle from the Christmas hols. His best cauldron had cracked irreparably the day before, forcing him to head into Diagon Alley for a replacement, where he decided to pick up his usual owl-ordered supplies for the next round of potions.
"How can they possibly be out of Fluxweed?!" Severus stormed out of the Apothecary door and into the bustling Diagon Alley street, muttering irately to himself. "I have a standing order, for Merlin's sake! Coming in a week early should not make one dif-"
Lost in his not-so-quiet rant, Severus paid no attention to the surrounding people causing him to collide with someone walking just as fast in the opposite direction. His holding the new cauldron and incomplete list of supplies slipped from his hands, spilling the contents onto the wet stone ground.
"What the bloody hell?!" He came to a halt at the sight of Lily standing in front of him, stuttering her own hurried apologies.
"Severus?" She asked, her face in disbelief as they stood silently in the busy street.
"That would be me." He waved his wand over his strewn purchases to summon them back into the bag and into his waiting hands.
"Right," she nervously replied, making no move to hurry on her way or end their chance meeting as quickly as possible. "I didn't expect- I-I'm so sorry. I pay more attention to where I'm going."
The corners of Severus's mouth twitched into a half-smile, and staring into Lily's warm green eyes, framed by her wind-tousled auburn hair, he didn't mind the small outward sign of his happiness. "The fault is my own, really." His own admission surprised him. "I'm afraid I was… lost in my thoughts after my minor squabble with Samson in the Apothecary. Apparently, I could have missed a Manticore running rampant through the Alley."
"Are you calling a Manticore?"
The joke, and her feigned insult, instantly relieved the tension between them, even causing Severus to release a small chuckle. The action, and the accompanying feelings, felt foreign to him, but at the same time, they released a pressure inside his chest he hadn't realized he constantly carried.
Much later, he'd reflect on their interaction, looking for some logical reason to attribute his next words on; a stroke or the imperious curse perhaps, anything other than fate to explain his unusual behaviour.
"Would you like to go for tea? The students return from holiday tomorrow, and I am in no rush to give up my last moments of freedom before the castle is once again inundated by swarms of sugar-laden teenagers." As soon as the offer left his lips, Severus mentally berated himself for not noticing the lack of either male Potters in her presence, and quickly added, "Unless, you have somewhere else to be-"
"No!" She was quick to respond, almost yelling the words at him. "I mean… yes to tea and no, I don't have to be anywhere else to be at the moment. The meeting with my solicitor turned out to be a complete waste of a trip here, but Molly Weasley… you remember her, right?"
"The first two of her brood of children are in my class," Severus grumbled. While the first two Weasley wizards weren't much trouble in his class, statistically speaking, the odds for the next four following suit were not in his favour. The last one, a witch, would be a toss-up as to whom she followed.
"Right." Lily patted her hand tensely against the side of her cloak-covered leg. "Well… she's watching Harry for me this afternoon and isn't expecting me for another couple of hours. I'm sure she won't mind…"
"Ok," Severus simply said, noting how she omitted any mention of James Potter. Perhaps the answer was straightforward - he was at work and unable to supervise their child so Lily could run an errand alone - but the slightest strain in her voice as she told him about Molly's arrangement made him doubt it.
To avoid any further awkwardness, Severus said nothing as he led them in the opposite direction to the Fragrant Kettle - a small tea room of only ten tables off the beaten path of the main Alley. Far from the type of establishment Severus usually visited, he thought the quieter atmosphere would help to calm whatever was fraying Lily's nerves.
While they waited for their tea and orange scones, Lily asked all about Severus's classes this year, sounding both equally proud and astonished at his recent appointment as the Head of Slytherin. The latter he secretly shared with her, though he would never admit to it out loud. It wasn't easy being the Head of House for students who had been his housemates only four years ago, and he was looking forward to next year when those first-year Slytherins from his final year would be gone. Naturally, the conversation made its way to the last batch of potions he sent right before Christmas and he inquired if she foresaw any changes needed in the next one - scheduled for the end of January. She may have said no, but Severus took the two spots of pink on her cheeks as a sign of her appreciation for the improvements he had made to it on his own.
Mutually avoided at all cost was anything directly related to the Potter wizards, including the latest case the Prophet had praised Potter senior for "solving in record time", and any of Potter junior's non-potions-related updates. The closest Lily got to talking about either wizard was voluntarily telling him about their move out of Godric's Hollow three months ago and into a bungalow out in the muggle countryside. She went on and on about how the new location provided them with privacy from the wandering wizarding world's constant eye, as well as more space in their home for Harry to live comfortably. The topic, though seemingly innocuous, took their conversation in a wildly different direction when Severus asked what he thought was an innocent question, one meant to show his interest in her life.
"You mentioned earlier something about meeting with a solicitor?" Severus inquired, setting down his cup of peppermint tea on the chipped flower patterned saucer. "Was it related to the purchase of the new home?"
"Uh… no… not quite," she said behind her teacup. Her face blanched once more, but this time in a more embarrassing way.
"Please accept my apologies, I did not mean to pry into personal matters," Severus offered, not wanting to push her if she felt uncomfortable discussing the situation.
"It's fine… really." An obvious lie if he's ever heard one. "You'll find out, eventually. What am I saying? Everyone will find out eventually." She let out a desperate, humourless laugh, then took another sip of her tea and exhaled loudly. "It's… erm… James and I are separating… divorcing… whatever you want to call it. I was supposed to be meeting with my solicitor to discuss his response to the proposed custody agreement. That's why I have some extra time this afternoon… he missed the deadline to submit them, no surprise there, so there was nothing for us to discuss."
"I'm sorry." Severus doubted he could have delivered those words with the same sincerity if it hadn't been for his three years as a double agent. He wouldn't go so far as to say he was happy about their failed marriage, but the best he could do was feel bad for Lily as she dealt with Potter's juvenile antics. If Potter truly loved her, he wouldn't put her through this extra pain. He would walk away quietly, just as Severus did when Lily officially ended their friendship in their fifth year.
"I'm all right." She concentrated on her hands, gently turning her teacup as she spoke, unable to look him in the eyes knowing he'd see the truth inside of them with no Legilimency needed. "To be honest, he should have expected it. We've hardly seen each other in the last fifteen months! He didn't even want to go look for houses with me. Simply told me he trusted me and he'd see it when we moved in, as if where we lived… where we were supposed to be rebuilding our life as a family together… meant nothing to him." Her gaze darted up to his before returning to her cup. "I know he feels guilty… about what happened to Harry. He blames himself for the kidnapping. Of course, he won't admit to it, but I can see it in his eyes, clear as day, whenever he looks at Harry. For the longest time, he couldn't even sit in the same room alone with his own son.
"I told him I didn't blame him and he's being too hard on himself. I must have said it at least a thousand different ways over the last year. I said Peter-" she exhaled shakily, "- that Peter would've done it regardless of who said what and when. But I might as well have been talking to a wall for all the good it did. Then I suggested he see a mind healer… I've been seeing one since Harry came home from the rehabilitation centre and it's helped me tremendously… and you'd think I demanded he give up his magic."
This did not surprise Severus. Prideful Potter wouldn't dare admit to needing such a service, though he would never say as much to Lily.
"Instead," Lily continued, her tense body relaxing the longer she spoke, "he poured himself into his work. And what kind of person would I be to argue against something so admirable? I mean… I want the aurors to find every single bad guy out there, particularly when the case involves children, but I needed my husband and there are other equally competent aurors to do the work.
"He claimed I was being unreasonable and unsupportive and then he moved out. I filed about a week later and now he's been fighting every single step of this process. Or at least his solicitor is. I can't get a proper answer out of him either way. I think he thinks that if he continues to delay the papers, I'll change my mind."
Severus looked out the window to his right, unable to see her reaction as he asked gently, "Will you change your mind?"
When she didn't respond right away, he turned to face her.
"No," she whispered confidently. "At this point, it's too much for me. Too much fighting. Too much waiting. Too many excuses I had to make Harry asked why his father wasn't home again. I can't do it anymore. All I want is to be happy again. I deserve to be happy."
"Everyone deserves the opportunity to find happiness. Especially you."
Lily dryly laughed and attempted to divert the conversation away from her relationship by inquiring about any of Severus's potential suitresses. Once again, Severus took pride in maintaining a straight face rather than choking or spitting out his tea, and allowed the spotlight to shift away from her failing marriage and onto his non-existent romances, simply citing how living at a boarding school helped to support his desired bachelorhood.
When the teapot was empty, they parted ways, making overtly false promises to stay in touch outside of Harry's potions. Regardless of his feelings toward his former best friend, Severus knew her well enough to give her the space she needed and to allow her to be the one to reach out to him when the time was right. Lily had always been self-sufficient. She never wanted to play the damsel in distress, requiring someone to rescue her, and she never backed down from a challenge. In the end, if he tried to sweep in during this turbulent time in her life, he'd end up doing more harm than good. So, he resigned himself to waiting and hoping that one day she'd reach out to him ready to repair the friendship he'd cost them as a foolish adolescent, never once expecting what the next few months would bring.