(BREAKING NEWS, THIS JUST IN: in a world in which Severus Snape figures out how to be a good enough person to stay friends with Lily Evans, he is apparently my favorite)
“… They were alone. The little house was quiet. The squash vines were blooming in the yard. They pushed their way into the front hall and Severus drew his wand. The door clicked shut behind them. Mulciber yanked up his hood and moved forward, starting to kick in doors. “Oy, Mr. Monroe, you have visitors.”
“Avada kedavra,” Severus whispered at Mulciber’s back, but his wand only sparked feeble green. His gut coiled coldly. His mouth twitched. He was here because at seven he’d fallen in love with the girl down the street. He didn’t have enough hate in him.
He adjusted his grip on his wand. He whispered, “Petrificus Totalus.”
“You need to get out, away,” he told the old man who stepped into the hallway, blinking and clutching at his shirtsleeves over Mulciber’s rigid form. “Get to Albus, or Minerva. You didn’t see me,” he said, and he realized it was true with his hood hiding his face. Monroe vanished and Severus hoisted up Mulciber’s stiff body and Apparated out to drop him in the Atlantic. The sea spray soaked into his robes. He cast a cleaning spell over it when he hit land again and then he limped to Avery’s.
“The Order,” he gasped on Avery’s doorstep. “They got there first. They got Mulciber.” He thought about Lily alone at a funeral, imagined Mrs. Evans’s kitchen going up in magicked green flames, tried to will grief and rage onto his visage.
Avery gripped his elbow. “Those bastards,” he said and his voice shook with it.
Severus met his eyes. “We’ll get them.”
But he couldn’t murder every partner he got sent out with. He kept untraceable Portkeys in his pockets. He passed Dumbledore wispy vials of secrets and sabotage in the ice cream shop’s freezer room. He learned how to cast Cloaking Spells wordlessly. But sometimes none of that mattered.
Sometimes he watched. Sometimes he helped. Sometimes when he woke up from nightmares he could not begrudge whatever higher entity had sent them down– could not curse them for the way his limbs sweated and shook, for the way he limped to the toilet and vomited up the images curdling in his gut. He just knelt on his rough rug and let the shivers take him, let the bile coat his tongue.
In the Order’s camp, life went on. Alice married Frank Longbottom in a ten minute civil ceremony that would have made Frank’s mother disown him if it wasn’t wartime and if she’d had more heirs. Lily was there as a witness, but not a bridesmaid– Alice hated fuss.
“I want to see you,” said Lily over the radio on a frigid Friday. It was almost summer, again, but the weather hadn’t seemed to notice. “I know it’s hard to get away, and hard to get away safely, but I haven’t seen you in over a year.”
“It’s dangerous,” said Severus. “Why now, Lils?”
“There’s something I want to tell you,” she said, and he knew she was chewing on her fingernails, the way she kept saying she’d outgrown.
“Then tell me.”
“No, I want to see you. I want to know you’re okay– okay in general and okay with this. Your face is going to do a thing and I want to see it.”
Severus wasn’t sure his face had done a thing in years. His lifted his eyebrows and one corner of his mouth, like at one of Avery’s jokes, as though in query. The mold on his ceiling didn’t seem impressed. “Tell me anyway,” he said.
“It’s my news, Sev.”
“Are you getting a tattoo of Potter’s face on your bicep?”
“You’ve signed me up for pottery classes with Petunia. McGonagall has formally adopted you. Black has been turned into a giant canary and you need me to brew up a potion to turn him back– joke’s on you, I won’t do it. Oh, no, wait, he’d be terrifying as a giant canary. I will make you a Shrinking Potion, but that’s all.”
“I’m getting married,” said Lily.
Severus took a pause in both hands, held onto it, breathed into it. “To Remus?” he said.
“To James, you dishrag.” She sighed, the sound rough through the speaker. “You’re my best friend,” she said. “I wish you could be there for it.” Severus watched the tendrils of mold creeping across his ceiling. “I miss you, Sev.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Come visit. Be as paranoid and careful as you want, but come." “