Social Schizophrenia

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After All This Time
Gaiman: Ending
cat_exploded
Title: After All This Time
Author: eponine254
Fandom/Character(s)/Pairing(s): HP (Lily and Snape)
Genre: General
Rating: G
Words: 3071
Challenge/Prompt: fictionland #09: These Pens Were Made for Writing. Prompts 10 (Quote: "Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings." -Anais Nin), 11 (Prompt: You & me) & 14 (Song: Marchin’ On).
Warnings: None
Summary: Lily knows that she's losing her best friend. Looking back one day, she wonders if she could have done things differently.

After All This Time

Lily was shaking with fury as she climbed back through the portrait hole.

“You all right there, Evans?” James Potter called from beside the fire, where he and his cronies were no doubt plotting something illegal, dangerous, unpleasant, or a combination of all three.

She ignored him. As if she didn’t have enough idiots to deal with.

She could feel tears in her eyes as she began to make her way back to her dormitory, her hands clenched so tightly that the nails dug into her palms. She stopped at the foot of the staircase, not sure she wanted to face the other girls. She knew they would be waiting for her to come back with some lurid story about why that Severus Snape was waiting outside the common room for her. News of the incident by the lake had spread through the school with a speed which only an exam-time need for distracting gossip could foster. Lily could already picture the smug look on Mary’s face as she pressed Lily to say something horrible about Severus.

But Lily didn’t want to. She couldn’t do that to him. She was angry, furious with him, but the memory of the skinny boy shivering in the corridor the other side of the portrait did nothing to fuel her anger. Besides, despite everything, he was her friend.

Or at least, he had been.

Could it really be over? Was she really relegating their friendship to the past tense? He was her oldest friend. They’d always been there for each other. Maybe even... No. She pushed that particular thought aside very quickly. They were friends. They had always been friends. But after everything that had happened...

A sudden silence in the common room shook her from her thoughts. The Potter boy and his ghastly hangers on were staring at her. She supposed she must look a little crazy, standing frozen, in dressing gown and fluffy slippers, frowning into space.

She would just have to brave the other girls. Even their need for gossip was better than the blunt curiosity of the boys by the fire. She was not about to let them know how much Sev’s betrayal had hurt her. It would only make Potter think he’d achieved something by being an obnoxious bullying... toerag. The word wasn’t nearly strong enough, but she had never been able to shake a particular properness about her thoughts, no matter how much she was teased for it. So a toerag he would have to be until such a time as she could bring herself to think anything stronger of him. God knew he deserved it. Refusing to so much as glance in his direction, she climbed the staircase to her dormitory.

Lying in bed a short time later, having managed to evade her roommates’ questions by pretending to have a headache, her thoughts returned to her best friend. A stab of guilt shot through her. She wanted to be hard-hearted. She wanted to walk away. After all, it had been clear for months that she was losing Sev. Nothing she said could convince him that his friends were bad for him. She didn’t know how much longer she could ignore what they were up to. Ignore the things they thought about people like her.

Mudblood.

It wasn’t even the word that had stung so much. She was used to it. And the irony of the term was that, having grown up with Muggles, it didn’t hold the same sting for her as it did for those who had spent their lives knowing how foul a swear word it was. It was the fact that he had said it. She cursed her stupid naïveté. Had she really believed that it wasn’t what he had thought all along? She’d been so happy to be ignorant, to pretend that he, unlike his friends, didn’t care about anything as stupid as blood status.

She wondered if he was still waiting outside the portrait hole. The thought gave her no pleasure. Guilt twisted Lily’s insides. She hadn’t even listened to him. He had tried to apologise. And even though she knew it wasn’t enough, knew that apologising for what he had said to her didn’t change what he really thought, it somehow didn’t make her feel better about the way she had given him the cold shoulder.

She cried into her pillow so that the others would not hear her.

***

They met after breakfast, down by the lake. The summer holidays had not officially started, although their own exams had finished, which meant that they had the day to themselves.

“I’ve been trying to find you for days,” Lily said, looking up at Sev as they walked along the lake, Sev moodily throwing bits of toast to the giant squid, which accepted them with a lazy tentacle. “I didn’t see you in the Great Hall.”

Sev shrugged, but said nothing.

Lily exhaled in exasperation. “Look, Sev,” she said. “You can’t go giving me the cold shoulder now.”

“And why not?” he asked, turning to her, with such a fierce look on his face that Lily spluttered, caught off guard.

“Because... Because I’m not the one who screwed up here! If anyone should be ignoring anyone, I should be ignoring you.”

“Go ahead, then,” the boy said, turning his gaze back to the lake and lobbing a piece of toast into it with unusual force.

“Ok, ok,” Lily said, taking hold of his arm and moving to stand in front of him so he couldn’t avoid looking at her. “You know I don’t want to. I’m sorry I wouldn’t listen to you, ok? I just – ”

“I know,” Sev said, looking down. He still wouldn’t meet her eye. “I shouldn’t have said what I did. Not to you.”

“But you still don’t see that that’s not the point,” Lily said, trying to control her temper, although she wanted to shake him. “It’s not about me. If you don’t think Muggleborns are worth anything, then there’s no reason I should be any exception.”

Sev said nothing.

Lily drew a deep breath, and tried again. “It’s those friends of yours,” she said.

“Don’t start on that again,” Sev said, pulling away from her to throw another piece of toast to the squid.

“But it really is,” Lily persisted. “You know they’re a bad influence on you.”

“Thanks a lot, mum.”

“I’m serious,” Lily said. “Sev, look at me.”

His eyes met hers, and she saw something of the sullen glower disappear, to be replaced by sheepishness. She gazed up at him. “I want to be your friend,” she said, taking his hand and squeezing it. “You’re my best friend, Sev. But I’m worried I’m losing you to those...” Once again, her sense of propriety wrestled with her need for accurate self-expression. “...those guys,” she finished, unsatisfactorily.

“Look, Lil, I – I really am sorry,” Severus said. “I’ll try.”

“But what about Avery and that lot?”

“You can’t expect me to just stop hanging out with them,” Sev said.

Lily sighed. “I’m not your mother. I can’t tell you what to do.”

Sev made a noise which sounded suspiciously like a laugh, but he disguised it as a cough.

Lily went on, “I just want you to think.”

Severus took her by the hands. “I never want to do anything to hurt you,” he said, with an intense look that made Lily want to blush, although she didn’t know why. Now it was Lily’s turn to look away. It made her uncomfortable. Something about his gaze brought to the surface a lot of things about their friendship that she preferred not to think about. “But without them... I haven’t got... I mean, I’ve only got – ”

She pulled away from him, feeling a hot flood of anger course through her once again at his words. “Oh, you’ve only got me? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Well... yes. And I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”

The quiet sincerity with which he answered her outburst sobered Lily. “You won’t lose me,” she said at last, shaking her head. “We’re still friends, ok?”

“Ok,” Sev said. The instant of vulnerability had passed. The veil was back.

Lily hugged him briefly before returning to the castle. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to laugh or cry.

***

“I just don’t know what to do any more,” Lily said, throwing the newly-shelled peas into the bucket with unnecessary force.

“Steady on there,” Hagrid said, watching a pea bounce out and roll across the floor.

“Sorry,” Lily said, starting on a new pod with more restraint.

“Yer upset, is all,” Hagrid said. “But he’ll come righ’. Jus’ you wait an’ see. You jus’ keep marchin’ on, an’ he’ll come righ’.”

Lily shook her head. “I used to think so,” she said. “But after last night...”

“Lily, yer sixteen,” Hagrid said sagely. “At yer age, fights always seem like the en’ of the world, but they aren’. Give him another chance.”

Lily sighed in frustration, furiously shelling the gigantic peas in front of her. “But you must have heard what they did to Agnes. His friends.”

And him, she added silently, although she still couldn’t bring herself to believe it.

Hagrid fell silent. “Aye, Professor Kettleburn did mention somethin’,” he said delicately.

“You don’t have to protect him, Hagrid,” Lily said. “They attacked her. Madam Pomfrey doesn’t even know if she’ll wake up. Why they haven’t all been expelled...”

Another small green missile arced upwards towards the ceiling.

“What they did was wrong, no question ‘bout that,” Hagrid said. “God knows, if I had me way, tha’ Avery and Mulciber would be ou’ on their ears. But your Severus...”

“Don’t call him that,” Lily snapped.

“He’s a good kid,” Hagrid went on, ignoring her.

“Doesn’t mean he’s not old enough to know better,” Lily said.

“Maybe,” said Hagrid.

Apparently, he thought it not worth his while to push this argument any further, because he fell silent. Lily carried on shelling in silence as Hagrid got up to make another cup of tea.

“You know who came to see me earlier?” Hagrid said, his back to Lily so she couldn’t see his expression. “James Potter. He asked after you, you know.”

Lily snorted. “Please, Hagrid,” she said. “Don’t talk to me about him. Not if you’re trying to cheer me up.”

“Jus’ sayin’,” Hagrid said, returning to the table with an enormous mug of tea, which he placed in front of Lily. “Tha’s another one who isn’t as bad as you might wan’ to pain’ him.”

***

“How was your Christmas?” she asked.

The words felt wrong, far too formal. It was the first time in Lily’s memory that they had not spent at least part of the Christmas holidays together.

Sev shrugged. “Ok,” he said. “You?”

“Fine,” she said. “Petunia – ”

He snorted.

“Don’t do that,” she said. “She’s my sister.”

“She thinks you’re a freak.”

“Yeah, well,” Lily said, lamely. “She’s still my sister, ok? Leave her alone.”

“Why do you even spend your holidays with them?” Sev said.

“Oh, what, with my family?” said Lily. She could feel her temper rising again, and with it all the conflicting emotions and hurts she had tried her best to ignore over the school holiday. “What, you’d rather I just stayed here at Hogwarts with you?”

“They’re Muggles, Lil,” Sev said, rolling his eyes. It was a gesture he had begun to affect with infuriating frequency. Lily had no doubt he’d picked it up from one of his horrible friends. “It’s not like they understand you.”

“Then you’ll be glad to know I had some wizarding company this holiday.” The words slipped out before Lily could stop herself.

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Oh?” he drawled, the single syllable grating Lily beyond endurance. “Who?”

“James Potter,” she said. “I’m helping him with Charms.”

The look on his face made her wish she hadn’t spoken. “Well, charm is the one thing precious Potter doesn’t need help with,” he snapped, dropping the supercilious air at once.

Lily could feel herself blushing, but she stood her ground. She glared up at him, defiantly saying nothing.

“I’ve got to go. I said I’d meet Avery,” Sev said, slinging his bag over his shoulder. He was gone before Lily could say anything further. She wouldn’t have known what to say even if she could.

***

She was damned if she was going to wait there all night for him. The empty classroom was cold, although it was well into spring, and Lily shivered in her dressing gown. To her own annoyance, she was too law-abiding to conjure a fire. She was already out of bed at night; she didn’t need to be adding illicit magic to. She would be in serious trouble if Filch caught her. It hardly set a good example for the head girl to be sneaking around after lights out.

She had all but made up her mind to give up and go to bed when he finally showed up.

“You wanted to tell me something?” Sev said, leaning against the doorframe.

Lily perched on a desk, her arms folded, warding off the chill in his attitude as much as that in the air.

“Yes,” she said. “I wanted you to hear before... Well, I wanted to tell you myself.”

The flicker of anxiety that crossed her friend’s face was too quick, too genuine to be entirely hidden by the affected nonchalance he had taken to adopting around her, on the few occasions they were ever alone together, these days. “What is it?” he said.

“It’s...” Lily drew a deep breath. “It’s about James.”

“What about him?” The words came so fast that it was impossible for Sev to pretend that nothing more than polite curiosity lay behind them.

“He’s... I’m... We’re sort of... together. Sort of.” Lily held her wand tensely between her fists, as though she could ward off the reaction she knew would come. She carried on quickly, before Severus could reply. “Look, I know you don’t like him, and I know he was a dick to you, but he’s actually a really good guy...”

Lily’s voice faltered. She expected him to cut her off, be angry, upset, anything... But he was silent. He was staring at her with a look that seemed to contain equal parts of rage and another emotion she couldn’t, or didn’t want to, put a name to. She was relieved when, at last, he spoke.

I don’t like him?” he said, his voice strangely hoarse. “Lil, you don’t like him. I know you don’t. You said yourself – ”

“That was a long time ago, Sev,” Lily said. “He’s not the same stupid kid he was back when... back then.”

“That’s what he wants you to think,” Severus said. “He was always trying to impress you. I thought you were smarter than that.”

“Oh, so you think I’m being stupid?” Lily said, her voice a furious whisper, only her fear of being caught out of bed preventing her from giving full vent to her feelings.

“Yes,” Severus said. “You deserve better than him, Lil.”

“Don’t tell me what I deserve,” she hissed. “You have no idea.”

Severus shrugged, and said nothing, but his intense gaze still rested on Lily. She shivered, not entirely from the cold. The air was thick with unsaid things. She met his gaze unflinchingly, and the pain she saw there dispelled her anger quicker than any charm could have done. For a moment, they were best friends again, so alike that they could all but read each other’s thoughts. But there was a depth in his gaze that spoke volumes, things Lily knew to be true, but had never wanted to acknowledge, for fear of what might happen. What might change.

He cleared his throat, and Lily felt her stomach clench.

“Lily,” he began. “I – ”

“Don’t say it,” she said, reaching out a hand as though to touch him, but thinking better of it. “Please, Sev, don’t say it. You and me... We’re... We’re friends, Sev. And even if I... Even if... Don’t you see it’s too late now?”

The distance between them was less than a yard, but it could have been the length of a Quidditch Pitch. The silence was oppressive.

“I have to get back to bed,” she said at last, standing up, finding that she didn’t want to meet his eye. “You should, too. We’ll be caught. I just wanted to tell you. Well... good night.”

He made no move to stop her as she swept from the room.

Lily left him standing in doorway of the empty classroom. She could feel his eyes on her all the way along the corridor.

***

“Lil?”

“Hmmm?”

Lily looked up from the Daily Prophet.

“You’ve been staring at that page for half an hour. What’s going on?”

James raised an eyebrow at her, turning his gaze from little Harry, who was amusing himself by trying to catch hold of Agrippa’s tail. The cat looked decidedly unimpressed by this game.

“Nothing,” she said, smiling at her husband. “I just... I was just thinking about Severus.”

“What, what an evil little death eater he is?”

Lily frowned. “Don’t say that,” she said.

“Sorry,” James said, running a hand through his hair and shaking his head. “I forgot you guys used to be friends.”

“We were,” Lily said. “And I can’t help thinking... It’s silly.”

“No, go on,” James said.

“I miss him you know,” she said. “I feel like I should have done more. Like if I’d been a better friend, he wouldn’t have – well, you know.”

She could feel tears pricking at the back of her eyes, and blinked them away quickly, but James had noticed. He took her hands between his, and kissed them.

“You did everything you could,” James said.

“Maybe,” said Lily, wanting to believe it. She felt the familiar heartache as she remembered the awkward, intense boy who had been her best friend for so many years. Where was he now? she wondered.

She looked out to the street, where Muggle children in outlandish costumes were being shepherded from house to house by their long-suffering parents. James followed her gaze.

“Happy Hallowe’en, Lil,” James said, squeezing her hand.

Lily tried to turn her thoughts back to the present. She smiled down at James. “Happy Hallowe’en,” she said.

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I didn't think it was unsubtle! I think you captured Lily's feelings well without resorting to any CAPSLOCK EMOTIONS!!!11!!

I also thought you handled the L/S thing well, hinting that she knows about his feelings, but doesn't want to actually say anything because that will make it a real thing and awkward, so she tip-toes around it instead.

The disintegration of the friendship made me sad despite my dislike of Lily. I just want to smack some sense into the both of them! Stupid, stupid kids! Poor Hagrid, trying to reason with a sixteen year old. :)

I think the saddest like for me was the one about them not spending any time together for the first time. That just seemed to make their estrangement more real.

Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you liked it. I did my best to avoid the CAPSLOCK! Although there was quite a lot of ANGER and OMG SADNESS. :P I know that as a matter of principle you won't like Lily (that principle being disagreeing with me), but I hope this swayed you a little!

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