Lily felt the first tentative breaths of spring before she saw a single open flower.
She could hardly believe how much her life had changed in the past year. She felt as if she were reborn from the ashes of her former self, an existence that she would have happily burned long ago had she known about the possibility of warm days and carefree hours spent with Severus. Each morning, they woke in unison with the blooming daylight and set about their chores, leaving the house every few days to run one errand or another. At night, they would finish a full pot of tea while recalling memories of their former days, the relationship they had between Lily’s unfortunate slip of the tongue and the day she’d shown up on his doorstep all but forgotten. The wee hours were still interrupted by one meeting or another sometimes, but the war had hit a bit of a lull, and she hadn’t been forced to commune with Voldemort and his followers in a month.
He held her hand softly now as cobblestone gave way to dirt beneath their feet and they carried their groceries back to the small house in Spinner’s End. Lily was smiling and laughing, reminiscing with him about her initial failures in Potions class. Just as he had then, Severus was saving her now, little by little. She had never known what it felt like to look forward to tomorrow before.
The first thing she noticed when they turned the corner were the ruined pansies.
A frown creased her face, and the familiar lines in her forehead that had vanished for a season or two now returned to their old ways. She set the bag of vegetables down on the unceremonious doormat, lightly touching the broken leaves of the purple flowers she’d helped him repot just days ago. The blooms themselves were shredded, as if a shoe had ground them viciously into the dirt. She stood up, frowning a bit more deeply. Who would waste their anger on a simple garden?
“Lily.” Severus’s voice sounded choked, and she turned around, but he was staring behind her.
She turned back just in time to see Sirius Black snake around the side of the house.
“Evans!” He grinned, and she narrowed her eyes at his yellowing teeth. It reminded her of the ugliness she’d once possessed, although Severus did not seem to see her that way. Perhaps she was like these flowers. Perhaps she also needed sunlight and warmth in order to live properly.
It occurred to her that the damage inflicted upon the pansies might have been meant for her.
“We’ve been looking for you, love.” Sirius said. “The Dark Lord was getting a bit worried about how quickly you took off after our meetings. I thought you looked a little nervous, too, you know. So I went by your flat, thinking the Order had been coming after you or something.” He folded his arms across his chest, and several other Death Eaters came out from behind the house, led by Regulus Black. “The thing is, it doesn’t look like you’re still living there.”
“Leave her alone.” Severus said, gritting his teeth, and Lily backed up closer to him.
“I was really hoping I wouldn’t find you here, Evans.” Sirius said, pulling his wand out of his pocket. Behind him, the others drew theirs as well. “I can’t stomach the idea of my girl shacking up with a half-blood.”
“I’m not your girl.” Lily said coldly. “Never have been.”
The hint of a frown crossed Sirius’s lips, and for a moment he seemed lost for words. Lily felt her heart strike another beat against her ribcage, and then he spoke, the sinking corners of his lips defying the casual tone of his voice even as they amplified the spite hidden behind his speech.
“Good.” He said slowly. “That’ll make this a bit easier, then.”
Regulus raised his wand just as Severus did. They shot simultaneous reductor curses, and Severus was the first to find his feet once again. Regulus aimed and missed from the ground, sending a jet of especially red light just past Severus’s shoulder and turning Lily’s blood to ice.
Though her concerned eyes were on her friend, her ears did not miss Sirius’s next spell.
She ducked too rapidly and fell to the ground, watching as he bore down on her, still smirking a little bit. “Imperio!” He spat again, but she rolled out of the way, finding her feet once more and pointing her wand at him just as Severus shot a leg-locker curse at an advancing Lucius Malfoy.
Lily’s hands shook, but her voice remained quite solid. “Sirius, you can’t have me.”
“Evans…” He shoved Lucius out of the way to get closer to her, his wand faltering just slightly.
“My name is Lily.” She said, and when she met his eyes, she saw something new in them.
“Lily.” He corrected, and she immediately regretted saying it. It sounded like poison on his lips.
“Don’t.” She shot back, trying to resist the urge to run like a coward. She could have fainted.
He raised his wand again now, and his lips had barely formed the words when he fell.
She felt her knees turn briefly to jelly as she watched his eyes cloud over as his body toppled to the ground before her, the green remnants of the spell still visible in the air. Behind him, another wand was outstretched by a man still gritting his teeth. At last, Severus looked her in the eyes.
Lily didn’t recognize the two Death Eaters who were still standing. They looked like they were barely old enough to have graduated from Hogwarts. It frightened her to think that they might still be students. Still, she could see their hands shaking even from where she stood. With their most powerful men down, the remaining pair Disapparated quickly, leaving Lucius locked into immobility and Regulus unconscious in the dirt a few feet from his deceased older brother.
“I said, are you all right?” His voice, tinged with an unusual frost, brought her back to reality.
“Yes.” Lily said gratefully. “Sev—” She noticed a bleeding cut on his arm.
“Did you tell them that I still lived here?” He asked roughly, jerking his arm out of her reach and turning to the spilled fruit and vegetables, picking them up and putting them back in the bags.
“No!” Lily cried, feeling hot tears pooling in her eyes. “I came to protect you!” She looked down at Sirius’s corpse, still amazed by how different a dead body looked from a living one. “I—he must have followed me back here after a meeting, or some other time when I was alone.” She glanced back at Severus, her voice gathering momentum. “I would never try to hurt you.”
“Hanging around these people, who knows what you’d do?” He set his jaw, frowning at her. “Besides, I didn’t see you doing a lot of protecting just now. I did more of that, if you ask me.”
“We were ambushed.” Lily said weakly. “I—I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t expect them.”
“You’re some Death Eater.” Severus remarked bluntly, putting his wand back into his pocket.
“Severus, please…” Lily said, picking up a stray apple and offering it to him as an olive branch. She glanced at Lucius and Regulus. “Come on, let’s tie them up and take them to the Ministry.”
“I just don’t know what to think, Lily.” He said, taking it deftly from her fingers after a moment’s hesitation but ignoring her suggestion. “It’s been so strange watching you go from Order meetings to Death Eater meetings over this past year. I want to believe you, I really do...”
Lily felt the first of the tears begin to drip sloppily down her cheek.
“…But Dumbledore’s the only other person who thinks you’re worth trusting.” He sighed.
Lily bit her lip. “Please, Sev, you have to forgive me.” She said quietly. “I—I love you.”
He frowned slightly, but it wasn’t cruel like the one Sirius had worn. “Please don’t call me that.”
“No, don’t…” Lily said quietly, looking desperate. “I just… I just wanted you to love me.” Her voice shook slightly as she admitted it. “I just wanted to protect you… be your friend again…” She tried to shut out the sound of Lucius’s yelling behind her. “You don’t feel anything for me?”
Severus put his hand on the doorknob, glancing down at the ruined pansies. He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but evidently nothing came to mind, because he closed it and opened the door. Then, he stepped into the house, leaving Lily to stand among the wreckage.
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