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Silence.

It clung to the office as a babe clung to its mother when afraid—fearfully, desperately and as tightly as though it would never let go. It was thick and impenetrable, the sort of silence that came when everything that could be said, had been said, until words had as much value and power as dust. The sort of silence that came after only one thing: a very great loss.

And there had been a great loss, a death that had caused much pain, and so now there was nothing, nothing, but silence.

Then, when it seemed like silence would conquer, it was broken by a groan, by the sound of clinking as a firewhisky bottle was set back down on the table, next to the single candle that gave off a gentle light—a light that illuminated little. It made the glass of firewhisky sparkle, and the bottle glowed green, and as the light moved farther on, it shone upon the puzzle box. It was no bigger than a music box, and intricate squares were set on the top, lines twisting, winding, twirling on it into an indescribable pattern—the picture was not yet formed. The aged wood showed a glorious red, but yet, the color did not add warmth to it—instead it lay desolate and untouched.

Then a hand, pale and long fingered, reached towards it, appearing in the candlelight. The fingers, only inches from the box, stopped as though afraid that, if it were touched, the box would disappear: prove to be merely an illusion. And it was much too precious to risk. So the hand withdrew, and the owner of the hand simply remained sitting in the chair before the table, concealed in the shadow.

Yet, some of him could be glimpsed as the flickering flame of the candle was blown by a soft draft, allowing the light to move just a bit closer. The man was still young, just into his early twenties, and yet age and burdens beyond his years darkened his obsidian eyes. If someone could for just a second glimpse past his stony, unreadable feature and his harsh, intimating demeanor to be able to see the emotions the young man fought so hard to hide—they would not see not a collected man. If they could see into his thoughts, into his bleeding heart, they would see something that could only be described with one word:

Broken.

It was why Severus now reached for the glass of firewhisky, letting its warmth run down his throat, seeking comfort in the substance that would only harm him more. Though some part of him knew it would not aid him, he still sought solace in it, consuming not enough to be drunk, for these were too dangerous of times for his mind to be impaired. No, he did not aim to numb his mind, just his heart.

He once again set the glass down and his eyes returned toward the box, the beautiful puzzle box. It had been found in the ruins of the home, found so close to where she had last stood, where her life had been stolen away. It had been given to him by the Headmaster because of the inscription carved gracefully at the base of the music box. His name and her name. Even now, he could picture the way her name looked, carved deeply into the wood.

Lily.

The thought of her name sent a pang of agony that even the firewhisky could not make him numb to, and his grip on the chair arms tightened until his knuckles turned white. He tried to keep her face from coming to her mind, but after thinking of her name, there was no way to keep her face from following after. He failed, just like he had failed for the past week. He saw it all, as vividly as though she was there, sitting in the candlelight. It was...impossible...to believe that only days ago, that her face hadn't been a memory. She'd been real. Distant—untouchable—but alive, and that had been enough. And now...now she was gone.

His Lily was gone.

No matter how much firewhisky he consumed, the knowledge of that would not change. She had been stolen away from him, and all that was left was this: the darkness, the firewhisky, the pain, and the puzzle box. The puzzle box that was the only part of her that he still had; the puzzle box that held the memories of a time when Lily had been his. His friend. His best friend.

He reached for the puzzle again, longing to hold it, to be sure that it was not an illusion, that he at least had this. At least he had the puzzle box, an object that had once been so dear to her. This time, he did not stop himself—he dared to touch it, to let his thumbs caress over the smooth wood, to snatch it close to him. Yet, he was not seeing it; he was seeing Lily. Lily dressed in ponytails. Lily smiling that beautiful smile, laughing that glorious laugh.

After so long of fighting back the memories, he didn't deny them any longer. Instead, he let them fill his mind, as his fingers slid the pieces around on the top of the box, trying to form the picture so familiar. They moved feverishly, dancing about as his mind disappeared into a time so long ago when everything was good.

Because Lily was beside him.




She loved puzzle boxes.

How many times had he watched her bend over one of them, her slender fingers moving widely as she tried to solve it, sought to end the mystery of what had tortured her so much? Her tongue would be pressing onto her tightly pursed lips, sneaking out of her mouth the way it did when she concentrated hard. Her eyes would dance with a fiery determination as she looked and saw nothing but the puzzle box. Her hands would never move unless it was to push an ornery lock of her thick, lively hair out of her eyes once again.

Severus would watch her, though she never knew it, peering over the edge of his book that she thought he was enjoying. They had often down it, sitting in the pretty thicket of trees—their place—him with a book, and her with a puzzle box. At times, she would ask him to read to her, but others she was too focused on her puzzle box to listen. He didn't mind, though, because glancing at her every few pages was much more interesting than reading out loud from any book could have been.

Sunlight would push through the leaves above them to glitter off her hair, making it look like fire. She'd let out squeals of excitement as she managed to figure out a plan that might lead her to a solution, only to groan in frustration as she came so close only to fail and be forced to start at the beginning. The many emotions would dance across her face, startling Severus at how a person could possibly show so much in so little time. She had always been like that—her emotions free and fascinating, but none that was more extraordinary than when she finally succeeded.

She would leap to her feet, laughing in pure, innocent delight. Her smile would be wide and her wonderful green eyes would sparkle with happiness as she lifted her puzzle box into the air for victory. “I did it!” She would twirl about once, and then she would turn to him, looking so proud and looking as though she wanted him to be proud too. “Sev, I did it! I actually did it.”

In those moments, he would want to say something appropriate, something that a prince in those books she adored so much might say, just so she would know that he was happy for her. Just so she would smile more, but he would be unable to express it, would be unable to do anything more than let his lips move into a tiny smile and give a nod. She would never mind; somehow, she understood—in those days, she understood him all too well.

Sometimes, if she were truly excited after her success, she would grab his hands, pulling him to his feet so that the book would fall carelessly on the ground. She would spin about him, teasing, 'Spin with me, silly,' until the only choice left was to do just that. He would be listening to her laughter, a celebration of her victory. They would spin round and round, until they were dizzy and would tumble back to ground, Lily still laughing, and perhaps, Severus laughing with her—Lily had taught him how to laugh.

It had been in one of those moments, when they were laughing and spinning so that the world around them was nothing more than a blur, that it had come to him: because in those moments, one thing was so perfectly clear.

She loved puzzle boxes.

And that was enough.

It started as diagrams, countless hours in his cramped, dark bedroom, working on the plank of wood that was propped up on boxes to form the only desk he had. He would write and draw and edit until his fingers ached from holding the quill and his palms where covered with dark ink. He even borrowed one of Lily's other puzzle boxes—though he disguised his reasons—to study its design. He would work feverishly, seeking perfection, and hardly noticing that in those moments, the arguing of his parents would fade from his ears, for the very first time.

Then it would be time to make it. When his father was at work, he would lay a blanket over his mother, who had either drunken or had cried herself asleep, before slipping out of the house and walking the half-mile to the junkyard. He would seek through the pile of old lumber, getting splinters and scratching himself on the occasional nail, but he would never mind. He would search and search, until he would find the perfect pieces. Then he would sneak home, stopping only at the general store to spend the pounds he had received from his father for the last three Christmases to pick up sand paper, a carving knife, and the few of other small things that he would need to finish his gift.

He would work the paper into the grain of wood, taking out every single rough edge until it was smooth, softened to perfection – because it had to be perfect. Nothing else would do. Once every edge was gentle, every rough spot smoothed, he would take out his carving knife and begin his work. Over time, a simple block of wood would be transformed into a box, deep and square. Then came the lid, making sure to have place for the pieces. He would sneak tools from his father's shed to attach the hinges and lock; he didn't even care when his father had found him with them and had smacked his bottom good. There had been stupider reasons for such punishment, and this one was far from stupid.

Lastly, would be the pattern. Again, he used the carving knife, forming a picture on the thin piece of wood, each stroke thoughtful, each movement of the knife precise, until it had formed. Then into tiny pieces the picture was cut, before they were placed upon the box, so that they would slide about. He would check it, to make sure it was possible to solve it, then reset the pieces to their original setting.

The puzzle box was then formed—but the gift was not yet complete. There was still one thing that needed to be done: the prize that was within needed to be formed, the thing that she would love, just as much as she loved puzzle boxes. When he had that, then, and only then, it was done.

Perhaps it was not perfect, but it was the best he could ever do. It was his perfection, and he would hope that it would be enough for her. Because it had to be enough, it just had to be. And if he had been asked during this process why he was doing all this, wasting nearly three months planning and making such a gift (but of course no one would ask him—no one knew about his deeds), he would not quite of known what to say—at least with his mind.

But his heart would know. His heart would say, “Because it's for her. Only for her.”




He woke early, the day he was to give it to her, feeling a strange mixture of emotions dancing in his gut and making his heart feel quite odd. He laid there, staring up at the ceiling with the puzzle box sitting on the bed beside him, where it had been all night, cradled close to him, and tried to sort through each feeling that coursed through him. Excitement? Yes, and one not so wonderful. One that twisted his gut into a thousand knots. He'd felt the feeling before—when his father had raised a hand in his anger as though to punch him. It was fear. Fear that she wouldn't like it; fear that she would laugh; fear that it would not be enough. Whether or not he was afraid, he would give it to her. He had spent too much time on the gift, and she had to know what he had done, what he had made for her. Even if she laughed, he had to give her it.

So he collected it, pulled it into his arms from the bed beside him, and climbed to his feet. He dressed, never leaving the precious gift unattended for long, and then he waited. They were not to meet until later that day, after Lily got home from her Muggle school. So Severus wasted the time, doing the assignments from books that his mother had given him and ignoring the sound of her sobbing downstairs. There had been another argument the night before, but regardless, it always seemed like she was crying.

Severus flipped through books, but was never able to focus through the excitement. He couldn't wait to see the look on her face. But what if she didn't like it? She would, he insisted, pushing doubt away and forcing himself to keep it away, though it was quite a struggle. He spent much of the time pacing back from the clock on the bedside table, picking it up and staring as though perhaps he was seeing the wrong time—how could have only been two minutes?--and the desk where he had set the box, letting his fingers slid over the wood he had polished just last night. Each second seemed so very long, but sooner than it seemed—and it seemed like forever—the hands of his clock showed the proper time.

He had grabbed his cloak, collected the music box, and rushed out of the house, yelling a brief “Be back by dinner.” He didn't know if his mother heard him; it didn't really matter to either of them. He raced down the street, down the familiar path that led to her house. He arrived, breathless. She was just reaching the gate, alone without Petunia. Perhaps Severus did have a bit of luck, after all.

She spotted him and smiled softly, looking genuinely happy to see him. “Hello, Severus. How was your day?”

Severus wanted to thrust the puzzle box at her, but that would be rude. She had asked a question, and she wanted an answer. “It was...fine. Nothing different than usual. And how was yours?” It was the polite thing to ask, and he did want to know; he just wanted the chance to give her the gift more.

“Oh, no different than usual,” she repeated his sentiment, almost mischievously, but her smile was nothing but innocent. She opened the gate to her house and walked towards the front steps of her house, where she sat down. He followed along behind her, sitting on the step next to her. “Petunia walked home with that Parson boy. You know, I think she fancies him.” She said the word 'fancy' as though it was something quite disgusting, even as her eyes flickered with a bit of interest. “I find him rather boring, though. But other than that, it was quite a nice day, thank you.”

He didn't know what to say to that, so he did what he always did, he listened and waited for her to say something he could respond to. She did, when she noticed the thing he had been waiting so anxiously to present her. Curiosity crossed her face and she pursed her lips in wonder. “What's that?” she asked, pointing to the box cradled safely in your hands.

He had waited for this moment for hours, and now he wished that he had spent that time thinking of something appropriate to say instead of glancing down at the box as though he had never seen it before. He wondered vaguely how Lily always managed to make him feel uncollected in such special moments like this and remarkably comfortable around her at any other time. He felt as though she had cast a Tongue-Twisting Spell on him, for as he tried to open his mouth, something ridiculous spilled out.

“It's yours.”

She raised a single eyebrow, her face moving into an inquiring gaze, kindly asking him to explain.

“I mean...I made it...for you.” Feeling anxiety rush through him, he held the puzzle box out like a sacrifice. His months of hard work were laid out before her to criticize or adore. And what if she doesn't like it?

Lily stared down at it for a long moment; her face that had always been so full of unmistakable emotions was now unreadable. Then slowly, she reached up to take it, bringing it close and resting it gently upon her lap. She peered at it, letting her small fingertips trace over every line, every smooth corner.

Finally, she looked at Severus and whispered, “You made this? For me?”

Severus nodded. Only for you.

She looked back at it, suddenly blinking furiously. Were those tears in her eyes? Horror leaped through him. What was wrong? What had he done? He hadn't meant to hurt her. He thought he would die before he ever did that.

He quickly opened his mouth, ready to tell her that whatever was wrong, he'd fix it. He got as far as her name. “Lily--”

“It's beautiful, Sev,” she whispered firmly. “Beautiful.

The diamond-like substance was gone from her eyes, and now she was smiling brilliantly. Her grin didn't waver for a moment, even when confusion touched her eyes. “But why?”

Severus swallowed and repeated, questioningly, “Why?” Did there have to be a why?

“It's not my birthday or Christmas—just any other day.”

Severus didn't know how to explain. He couldn't explain that he had made it for her simply because he'd wanted to, simply because she loved puzzle boxes. He didn't have to, though, because she was carrying on avidly. “But it doesn't matter!” She let out a joyous laugh, one that made all the time, all the splinters, all of everything, more than worth it. “I love it, Severus. I love puzzle boxes.”

I know.

Then suddenly, she impulsively threw her arms around his neck, though she was careful not to upset her lap enough to cause the box to fall. Severus sat tensely beneath her arms as she firmly, naturally, embraced his neck. Her hair brushed against his cheek and he felt quite strange with her being so close. It wasn't bad—in fact, it felt wonderful—but strange and new and almost alarming. By the time he had pushed the fear away and had timidly gone to hug her back, she was already pulling away.

Lily picked up the box and surveyed it closely, only now noticing one of its unique features. “It opens?”

She moved her hand to try to open it, but Severus reached out a hand to stop her, enclosing her fingers in his. He hadn't realized what he had done until she turned to look at him, inquiringly. He quickly released her and explained, “I rigged it so that the puzzle has to be solved before you can open it. It was difficult to do, but I thought it would make the puzzle box more--” He stopped his rambling, unsure how to finish.

She did it for him, stating firmly, “Worth solving.” He eyes sparkled with a mixture of delight and determination. “I'm going to solve it now,” she said matter-of-factly, and immediately began to move the pieces to do just that.

Severus didn't mind. He was perfectly content to watch her work so vigorously on his gift. She kept at it for ten minutes only look up when she realized that they were no longer alone. Petunia had appeared with that other boy, a Muggle by the last name of Parson, a boy a couple of years older than them and just about Petunia's age. Petunia was laughing her horsey giggle and, and the bespectacled boy was laughing too, though it sounded quite like snorting. Lily watched the two of them intently, though her fingers still moved in some mindless pattern on the puzzle box.

The two at the gate were clearly oblivious to the two on the stairs. They were too busy with each other, talking, saying their goodbyes, and then quite suddenly they were doing nothing but staring at each other. They both glanced at the street fearfully as though worried they were being watched—and they were, just not from the direction they glanced. They didn't bother looking the other way, but went back to looking at each other, eyes wide. The boy then bobbed is head toward Petunia several times, but always retreated, making himself look like a chicken. Then, almost frantically, he bobbed his head all the way towards Petunia so that his lips touched her cheek.

Without so much as a goodbye, the boy bolted away. Petunia didn't seem to mind though, didn't really seem to notice. She was smiling stupidly as she turned and practically floated up the driveway towards her house. When she got to the base of the steps, she gave a sudden start. Her eyes refocused, and she was looking at Severus, her eyes slowly going into a glare. “How long have you been there?” She spoke the word 'you' as though she was addressing a piece of dirt that didn't have business existing, let alone being on her doorstep.

Lily spoke up for him, her voice haughty as she tossed her head indignantly. “Longer than you.” It was all in good fun, teasing her older sister, and Lily never once meant it to be hurtful.

Petunia's cheeks turned a delicate red as she glanced at her little sister, putting the timing together. “Then you saw him...” Flustered she gestured to the gate where the Parson boy had just stood. “You saw him...”

“Kiss you?” Lily finished. She gave a confirming nod. “It was gross.”

Petunia's blush went from dainty to burning red. “Shut up!” she snapped, before pounding up the stairs past them and slamming into the house.

Lily looked over her shoulder, her face twisting with guilt and sadness. The two sisters were no longer quite as close as they had once been, and Severus knew why. It was because of him, because Lily was now spending so much time with him, and not so much with her sister. Before Severus could begin to feel guilty, Lily's sadness disappeared. She had gone back to the puzzle box. He went back to studying the movement of her fingers as they slid around on top of the pieces.

She was silent for a long time, before her eyes slowly drifted up towards the gate, her expression thoughtful as though she was replaying some scene in her mind. Severus watched her, wondering what was going through her mind, but not daring to ask her before she figured that out herself. He waited four full minutes before she voiced what was so rapidly going through her mind.

“I wonder what it's like.”

“What's like?” Severus asked, frowning in confusion.

She looked at him as though he was silly for not knowing, but it was not an unkind look. “Kissing,” she said, rolling her eyes as though it should be obvious.

Kissing? Why would Lily be thinking about that? Why would she even care? Besides, he had no idea how to end her wondering. He didn't know what it was like. He'd only seen it a few times—like now, and from what he had seen, it seemed rather disgusting. After all, who would want to embark in something that seemed to make people act like idiots? It didn't seem so special, but by the dreamy expression that crossed Lily's face, he didn't think 'it's ridiculous' was something that she wanted to hear. But what did she want to hear? He didn't know, so he only shrugged.

She shrugged as well, as though it didn't matter after all, but she gave the gate one last furtive glance before returning to the puzzle box. After a while, she ran into the house to bring out a book for him to read out loud from, and which he did at her request. She still sat, working on the puzzle, her tongue sneaking out of her lips in her deep concentration. She went through the emotions—the 'yeses' of delight when she thought she was on to something and the groans of frustration. His puzzle box was giving her all the joy that any other one had, Severus noted and a sweet taste of satisfaction pressed into his gut. Then came the sound that he had most longed to hear.

Click!

It was soft and gentle, but it met Severus' ears and made his heart freeze in anticipation, because he knew what would come next.

“I did it, Severus!” she exclaimed joyfully, her eyes sparkling merrily. “It was difficult... but I did it!”

The smile on her face made his heart do something funny, made it feel all warm, and he wasn't sure what that meant. It was a good feeling though, accompanied by happiness. This was the joy he had been hoping for, for so long. But no happiness is completely whole, and nor was his, because he felt a touch of fear, because her hand was reaching toward the box, ready to open it and reveal it. His last gift. He held his breath, his heart stilling. Please like it, Lily, please.

Lily opened it a crack peeking in. She froze for half a second, and then threw it open so that the object within could be seen. Lying there, in the box he had spent so long carving out, was a single, perfect, short-stemmed rose. A yellow rose.

She picked it up between two dainty fingers, not having to worry about thorns, because he had removed them all—for her. She brought it to her nose, and he memorized the way the soft, yellow petals touched her button nose as she inhaled its scent; the way she closed her eyes as though to enjoy it more. She looked like an angel, she looked as pretty as...as roses. It settled the confirmation of what Severus had known all along. She loved yellow roses.

Yellow for the sunshine that now shined down upon them, no where near as bright as the light of her eyes. Yellow for ribbons that she so often tied her hair back with. Yellow for the delight that now danced through every line of her smile. And yellow...

“Yellow for friendship.” Lily looked at him, a soft smile on her face. “It's perfect, Sev.”

Severus felt heat from his face and tried to do anything to keep from the heat that he felt forming in his neck from turning his cheeks to a color that would put Petunia's blush to shame. Uncomfortable, he sought to make his mind focus on anything, anything other than her smile. So he began to speak, “I used my mother's cauldron and ingredients to make a potion that when this flower was dipped in it, it would make it so that the flower could never wilt or lose its fragrance.” He didn't mention that he wasn't supposed to borrow his mother's old school things, but he had anyway. She didn't need to know that.

“Really?” She let out a giggle of delight. “Magic is wonderful! Thank you so much!”

Severus felt joy spreading through his stomach, because Lily was looking perfectly happy. And he had done that. He had filled her with such happiness, with his gift. He had done it, for her, only for her.

Once again, she startled him, by leaning forward quite suddenly. Before he could react, before he could turn his head, her mouth was pressing against his cheek. Her lips were soft like butterflies, but wetter and sweeter. She quickly darted back, her eyes wide as though she couldn't believe she had actually done it. She left Severus quite confused, though his heart was feeling that warmth again. Once more, he was forced to fight away that hot blush and this time he failed.

“What...what was that for?” he asked her, truly wanting to know.

Lily shrugged, a touch of pink brushing against her cheekbones, but she tried to pretend that she really wasn't embarrassed. “Well, I wanted to know what kissing was like, and I couldn't think of anyone better to try it on.”

Severus' eyes widened, wondering that of anybody, why would she want to do the experiment on him. And after having the experiment, after having her gentle lips touch his cheek, the last word he would have used to describe kissing was disgusting. So why him?

As though understanding the unasked question, Lily went on awkwardly, “You...you deserved it.” She glanced at the flower still in her hand and smiled, every touch of nervousness completely gone. She looked back at him, her expression utterly joyful. “You're my best friend, Severus.”

You're my best friend. Severus supposed he had always known that, but it was the first time she had said it, and to hear such tender words come from her precious voice made a smile pull at his lips, but he suppressed it. Before he could feel joy, before he could let his emotions go from hope to ecstasy, he had to have it confirmed. He had to know if the puzzle box had truly been good enough for her.

“So you really like it?” he asked uncertainly.

“Nope,” she said simply, her smile gone.

His bubble of hope began to leak.

“I love it!” Her smile was back, twice as bright as it had ever been before.

And Severus smiled along with her, feeling completely happy. It had been enough. She loved it, and that was enough.

“But...” she added thoughtfully as she carefully put the rose back into the box and closed it. Her lips were pursed in consideration, and after a moment's pause, she went on, “It needs one more thing.”

Severus felt the happiness fade into worry. All these emotions were starting to take their toll on them. Excitement. Fear. Happiness. Fear. Not to mention that silly feeling of his heart. It was all too confusing. “What?” he asked, unsure if he wanted to know what one fault he had made.

“Do you have your carving knife?” Lily held her hand as though she already knew that he would nod and pull it out of her pocket to give it to her, just as he did now. When she had it, she turned the puzzle box over carefully and pressed the knife onto the bottom, moving it around. He tried to peer over her shoulder at what she was doing, but her hand was always blocking in view, so he simply sat back and waited for her to finish.

When she was done, she gave a sigh of satisfaction. “Now it's perfect.”

She turned to Severus and held it out to him. Almost afraid, he wrapped his fingers around it, but she didn't let go, forcing him to meet her eyes. He found a sudden seriousness in them, and his breath caught, unable to do anything but listen, as they sat there, eyes locked, hands joined on the puzzle box.

“This is so that, no matter what, I'll remember that it was you that gave me this gift, and that the gift—the puzzle box and the rose—both mean friendship.”

Severus swallowed, but this time, it was not for fear. It was because of another feeling, much stronger, much greater, a feeling that only increased when he looked down to see the writing, framed between their fingertips. A feeling that was as strange and as wonderful to him as any part of their friendship was. Because at that very moment, Severus felt the full effect of what that friendship meant, what that friendship brought in the innocent world of childhood. For the first time, Severus Snape felt...loved.

The words that were written were so simple, yet so profound – so easy, and yet they held more promise for Severus than anything else in the world.

Lily & Sev
Best Friends Forever





Forever did not last nearly as long as either of them had thought.

With that knowledge the memory of times that had been simpler—and better—faded from Severus' mind, replaced by the truth. Lily was no longer a pretty little girl; she was gone from this world, far before her time, and that was the agonizing fact that he would have to live with for the rest of her life. She had been gone from him long before she had to die; their friendship hadn't lasted forever, like they had thought on that perfect fall day. It had died, just like Lily had died, and no matter how many times he had tried, he had not been able to get back that friendship; it was the one possession that had meant more than anything to Severus, the one thing he had lost so quickly.

Severus' fingers continued to work on the puzzle, and after a moment, he heard the click he had been waiting for. He laid the puzzle box on the table gently and carefully, tenderly, opened it. There it was – the same rose. Only it was no longer the yellow from that day long ago; it was red.

He could remember when and why he had changed it, as crisply as he could that day. It had been the day after he had formed his worst memory. It was the day after he had made that mistake of letting that horrible word slip from his lips; the day after his world had crumbled apart with the sound of a portrait closing in his face. She had wanted to give it back to him, had owled it to him, and that had been when he had known that it was over, truly over. Nothing he did, no apologies that he had been trying to form, no matter of the planning he had been doing last night would ever win her back. It was over. Somehow, someway, the firmest part of his life was gone.

But even if it was, the box had been hers—only hers. He had made it for her, and he still wanted her to have it. So he had owled it back. If he would have been asked why he would return it when it she had given it back to him in what could so easily could have been considered an insult, (but he wasn't, because no one knew his deed but her) he wouldn't have known what to say in his head, but with his heart he knew the answer.

Because she loved puzzle boxes.

And he loved her.

Before he returned it, he had made a single change. With a simple charm, he had changed the color of the rose from yellow to red. Red for the color of her hair. Red for the shade of her lips. Red for the smell of strawberries that had always been with her. Red for her fiery spirit that he had so adored.

Red for love.

Severus was not sure what she had thought of the change, but Lily had kept the box, until the day she died, and that at the very least, was comforting. Even if she would never knew the significance of red.

Severus studied that color now, the perfection of the rose that was so old, but had never withered nor lost its sweet fragrance, just like he had made sure of when he was a little boy playing with something he was not meant to, to make the perfect gift for his perfect, best friend. A red that reminded him so much of Lily, so much of what he had lost. It reminded him that he would never again see her beautiful hair or her exquisite face. She was dead, and now, the color red reminded him of the blood, not visible, not physical, but real all the same, that came from his own heart, as his heart died with her.

Then there was only agony.

He dropped the flower back into the box and slid from the chair, his knees hitting the ground. He wanted to run, wanted to scream, wanted to pound his fist against the wall—wanted to do anything just to see her again, just to bring her back to him, just to ease the pain that felt like it was ripping him apart. It was pain so intense that it broke his collected exterior, shattering it so that the silence was broken by a guttural groan. It was unfathomable anguish that though he would go on, though he would wake up the next morning, pour the liquor down the drain and never touch it again, he would still feel it, every day, every moment. It was grief so deep, so impenetrable, so total that though he would continue to live, continue to fight against the Dark Lord, continue to protect Lily's son (for her, only for her) he would wish that he could die. And it was pain so strong that it reached into the atmosphere, crackling the magic in the air until—without a wand, without a thought, with only that one fierce emotion—it began to transform the rose's color, the snowy color pressing into the red until it was gone.

First yellow, then red, and now to white.

White for the smile that was now only a memory. White for the memories that he would cling to for the rest of his days. White for the sheering hot agony. White for the undying love that he had always and would always feel for her—only for her. White for the snow that now, miles away, fell on her grave.

White for silence.




A/N: I'd like to thanks Sandy for beta-ing this. She's an absolutely wonderful beta and I don't know what I would do without her. Also, thanks to my mother (who is as big of a Severus/Lily fan as I am) for helping me come up with the perfect gift for this. Ah and of course, to the people who read this. Thanks so much (and please remember to leave a review - they make my day).

This is the first strictly Severus/Lily fic that I've written, and I must say, it feels good to finally have written something centering around my favorite ship. This oneshot was originally submitted on MNFF as a reply to their November Oneshot Challenge. It took second place.

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