Everyone turned and looked at her. It was the second time it had happened that day.
“Are there any new names to add to our watch list?” Dumbledore said evenly, his tone revealing nothing of the grave nature of his statement and said list. He didn’t need to say it, really. Everyone was aware that Voldemort and his followers were actively seeking out Order members. They tried to convert those they perceived to be weak, but no one had yet fallen prey to their promises and threats. Thus, they had resorted to Imperiusing the most useful individuals and slaughtering the rest. The number of people in the room had dwindled little by little over the past few months. Of course, her fellows would reserve special treatment for her if she were caught.
She glanced down at Severus, who was sitting with an emotionless expression at her side, and stood up, clearing her throat as she mentally divided the truth from the lies. Her greatest fear was that she would one day get them confused, a mistake that would be the death of her, the man she loved, and who knows how many other victims. Across the room, she noticed Lupin and Pettigrew watching her very carefully, as if they were afraid that she would cut and run at the last minute. An unnecessary fear; she had already survived enough meetings to suppress that urge.
“Arthur Weasley.” She said carefully, feeling her knees buckle slightly as a frown creased the older man’s face. “They have spoken of trying to use him to infiltrate the Ministry. No one would suspect someone so firmly on the side of good.” Arthur’s wife, Molly, squeezed her husband’s arm, refusing to meet Lily’s eyes. Lily took a slow breath in and out and found the courage to speak once more. “Andromeda Black, as well. Sirius mentioned her name.”
The woman in question sat across from Lily, watching her as well but with a face that remained unstained by distress. She had been approached by the Death Eaters at least as many times as Severus. Andromeda was a pureblood, a truly rare breed in the present day and age. However, she had defected from her family and chosen to live her life among half-bloods and Muggle-borns long before her father had died and her mother had taken to trying on new husbands like they were the latest fashions. Unlike her wilder younger sister, she was reserved and quiet, showing little interest in men or even socializing at all, though her soft black hair and brown eyes were undeniably beautiful and she could likely have her choice of husbands. Lily respected her.
“And any new Death Eaters?” Dumbledore continued.
“No.” Lily replied, tearing her gaze from Andromeda and looking back to the older man. “None were added this week.”
“Excellent.” Dumbledore smiled dryly, turning to the others so he could conclude the meeting. “Keep an eye on any Ministry workers in your circle of friends.” He instructed, as if it needed to be said. “Just because they cannot convince Arthur does not mean they will not try elsewhere.”
Lily stood up, picking up her coat from the back of her chair and draping it around herself. She looked back at Severus, but he was gone, having moved over to speak with the Prewett twins. She tried not to look interested, but she could still hear small snippets of their conversation.
“You want us to come home with you? Just have a cup of tea?” Fabian said, shooting a furtive glance at Lily.
“No, it’s fine, really.” Severus answered, putting on his own jacket.
Gideon spoke now, lowering his voice. Lily caught Frank’s name but little else. Severus shook his head, glancing over at her, and then turned his back on his friends with a tense smile. He gently took her arm, leading her through the thinning crowd and out the front door.
As they walked in silence, the light snowfall from earlier in the evening crunching under their boots, Lily thought about the other meeting she’d attended in the early hours of that morning. She had taken to looking at other Death Eaters when she lied about how Severus was nowhere to be found, about how she was still working very hard to track him down. She did this to avoid the prying eye of the Dark Lord, who had an uncanny ability to detect the untruths of his servants. However, it was getting more and more difficult to brush Sirius off lightly. He was insufferable.
“You want a cup of tea?” Severus asked, and she looked forward to realize that they had somehow arrived at his home after what seemed like a very short trek. Lily never Apparated, mostly because the idea of getting Splinched scared her to death but also because she usually used the time on her feet to sort through her very complicated thoughts and feelings. He had not suggested that they Apparate, and it pleased her to think that he preferred to walk as well.
“Please.” She answered, knocking the snow off the soles of her shoes and stepping into the drafty house. As he went to the kitchen, she started a fire with her wand. This was normal for them now, to divide common tasks such as washing dirty dishes or folding the blankets Lily used when she went to sleep on the sofa at night. As the fire began to burn contentedly, the kettle whistled, and when she turned to go fetch a cup she accidentally knocked a picture off of the hearth.
She picked it up, fixing the broken glass with her wand, and realized that she was looking at a couple she didn’t recognize. The man was tall and slender, like Severus, and he also had dark hair and black eyes. He had his arm draped tenderly around the woman, who smiled broadly with her dark green eyes, her brown hair twisting around her shoulders in waves. They both looked to be in their mid twenties, and Lily realized with a start that they were standing in front of the house in which she currently found herself staying. She smiled, looking at them wistfully.
“Tea.” His voice came from behind her, and he glanced at the photo over her shoulder.
“Are these your parents?” She asked softly, taking the cup and turning to him.
“Yes.” He said, sitting down on the couch. “Why, can you see the resemblance?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Lily smiled a little, setting the frame down again carefully. “Was this their house?”
Severus nodded. “Mum gave it to me after Dad died.”
Lily looked at him sadly, and he set his cup down, looking down into the brown liquid. She opened her mouth to ask how, but he answered before she could speak. “There was a riot at the factory where he worked. Something to do with the workers’ union. He got trampled underfoot.”
Lily put a hand to her mouth. “That’s horrific.” She gazed at him. “I’m so sorry.”
“S’all right, it’s been years.” He said quietly, looking down into his cup. “Mum was having trouble managing the bills then, since he didn’t have a lot to leave behind. One day she got an offer from America, someone wanting her to come sell her juices there, so she left. She offered Narcissa and I the house as a wedding present.”
Lily felt a pain in her chest at the mention of his former wife, but she pressed on. “Juices?”
“Oh, right, you never knew her, did you?” He smirked a little, meeting her eyes now. “She would get anyone she could to try them, including my friends and associates. She was great at Potions, and she liked trying to mix them into Muggle fruit and vegetable juices. You know, a little Cheering Concoction in your morning orange juice. Just makes the day that much better.”
Lily smiled. It was a brilliant idea; no wonder someone overseas had expressed interest. “That must be why you were so great at Potions back at Hogwarts. It’s an inherited talent.”
“I like to think so. But I don’t know if I’m really as good as her.” Severus smiled a little now.
“I wish I was as talented as you.” Lily said, sipping her tea before it got too cold.
“What about your Charms work?” Severus countered, glancing at her.
“I mean, I’m all right. I really think it’s the wand.” She replied softly.
“Nonsense. The wand chooses the—err, witch, remember?” He said. “It must have seen some prowess for the subject in you. That’s why you got it.”
“I suppose.” She said, considering this as she recalled her feats that day in Ollivander’s shop.
“Besides, you don’t even need to be good at magic to impress people.” He added quietly.
Lily smirked, looking over at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”
He smirked back, and she shoved him playfully, and in the space of an instant they went from being cautious acquaintances, barely reunited, to old friends just picking up where they’d left off in seventh year. Then he put his hand on her back, and she touched his arm, and they were kissing. Their lips moved slowly and perfectly, executing as good a first kiss as anyone could ever hope for. Lily’s tumultuous thoughts shut down for the first time in months, even years.
Lily closed her eyes, feeling the half-full cup tumble from her lap and onto the floor. The liquid spread across the wood, soaking into the edge of the carpet among the shattered remnants of the china. Severus’s tea toppled over onto the sofa before falling down to break beside its mate.
Even with time, the pieces would still be there, waiting as long as it took to be picked up.
The two acquaintances turned friends take the next step at last! I hope you are as thrilled as I to finally see Severus and Lily travel down the “what if” road we know from canon. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this chapter (and all others, of course) in the review section :)