1995-10-30B: Hope Is The Thing With Feathers


Snape_icon.gif Siobhan_icon.gif

Special Guest Star: Lily Evans Potter

Scene Title Hope is the Thing with Feathers
Synopsis Siobhan apologizes with a Grand Gesture. That 'Grand Gesture' and Severus have a long-overdue talk.
Location Room of Requirement
Date October 30, 1995
Watch For Old wounds, old arguments, old friends and a new beginning.
Logger I am the Bad Wolf

Late Monday evening - after yet another missed meal - finds Siobhan pacing back and forth in a strange sort of room. The Room, this time, has somehow managed to become a strange hodge-podge of the sitting room at Spinner's End, Siobhan's own quarters and the Slytherin Common Room. That's what happens when the room is required to provide 'somewhere safe'. Her magenta cloak is thrown over one of the armchairs by the fire with a sleepy, sated Q curled up to nap on top of it. Despite the elements being drawn from three such different sources, it all melds together into a soothing atmosphere - though one could never tell from the agitated pacing of the young professor. The only incongruent piece in the whole room is what looks like an easel stand with a large white cloth draped over it, resting in silence on the side of the room opposite the fire. She'd waited until a time she was very nearly positive that Snape would be marking alone in his office and sent Ed down through the floors with the simple message of 'I know I'm probably the last person you want to see right now, but it's important' or she wouldn't ask. 'The meeting room has orders to open for you only'. Which, she hopes, is enough.

Late Monday evening, and Severus has even more of a headache than normal. Taking on the other professor's brats, even for a reading study hour, is not at all his kind of fun. "You may tell her I shall be along shortly." He gives a soft reply to Ed, whether the apparition will pass it along or nay. He stands, stretching the kinks from his back, and striding toward the door. On a whim, he grabs a couple different potions, in case she needs help the matron will not be asked to provide.

One of the positive things of having worked in the school for so long is that he can get from one side of the castle to another in short order. So it's only a few minutes later that he's standing outside the door of the Room. He glances both ways, checking for watchers, then inhales sharply and pulls the door open. He's almost ready for anything. "Miss Noble." He greets the woman pacing the room. "What was so extremely important that you required to disturb my already lessened marking time?" He steps a little closer. "Do you need — assistance?"

His entrance startles her and Siobhan jumps a little. The tea with Minerva settled her a little, but it didn't take long for the fatigue from the last few days to mingle with guilt and nerves in a cocktail that makes this much harder than it needs to be. When he jumps to the - now that she thinks about it - obvious conclusion, Siobhan wraps her arms around herself as if doing so will hide the myriad of ugly bruises and healed-over scrapes. A quick look is shot over to her cloak, as if judging whether or not she can hide herself posthumously, so to speak. "No," she manages, horrified at the nerves in her voice. Turning her head at an angle to hide the lovely purple bruise across her cheekbone, she rubs her hands up and down her upper arms. "There's nothing she can do anything for, now." Bruises are notoriously hard to heal after the first few minutes and all the scratches and cuts are sealed over. Funny how she jumps to Pomfrey first, as if assuming she'll get threats of being dragged before the mediwitch by yet another colleague.

Taking a deep breath - and ignoring the shake in it - she forces herself to stand still. "Look, I was too careless and I did something really … really stupid." There's another deep breath and then the rest comes out in a rush, as if she's afraid that if she doesn't get it out now, he'll stop her. Or she'll lose her nerve. "I let something take hold in my mind again and hurt someone I care about and I know better than that. It's the reason I asked after Occlumency and I know it was stupid to let something else have control over what I did and I also know that sometimes apologies just … don't cover it." There's something like real fear mingled in the rambled apology. Siobhan is so, so very protective of her mind. She needs to be in control of herself and when she isn't… Swallowing hard, she forces herself to look him straight in the face. "I had to make it right."

She drops the gaze almost immediately, finishing with a half-hearted gesture towards the cloth-covered easel. "Like Da says, sometimes you fuck up too bad for an apology. That's when it's Grand Gesture time. So," she finishes lamely, moving to edge past him towards the door. "I'll … just - " Shoulders slump and she curses under her breath for being an idiot. "Let me know when you've finished talking and I'll come back to get Q."

Once again, Severus Snape is completely unprepared for Siobhan Noble's comments. "It was not…" He struggles to find the words. "You did not pour the elixir into the punchbowl, neither did you encourage or allow it to occur." Not your fault. However, he understands the 'Grand Gesture', even if most of his have fallen flat, knocking him back on his arse. "What have you done?" Curiosity and worry tinge his tone slightly. He can't think of anything that might — he already has a picture of his mother in two places. "I shall." He doesn't add the obvious 'thank you', but lets it show in his expression. He moves to sit in front of the painting, steeling himself for whatever lies underneath the white cloth.

Siobhan Noble tends to have that effect on a lot of people.

Turning to look at him over her shoulder, Sio's face twitches with the first signs of a hesitant smile. Most people would miss it. Severus Snape is not most people. It's a strange sort of relief not to have to push to try and put something more obvious into her expression, just now. It's a relief she appreciates much more after her conversation with the Lioness. "Thank you," she replies softly. He could have made this so much harder than it already was and when it's just the two of them she has no qualms about letting that gratitude have a voice - no matter how quiet. With one last flick of her gaze to the portrait, Siobhan flicks her wand at the sheet and slips out the door to allow her friend some privacy.

The sheet lifts slowly, carefully - so as not to disturb the painting beneath it. Once out of harm's range, it falls unheeded to the floor. Revealed by the moving cloth is a large painting of a woman, elegant in a soft green sweater that manages to intensify the natural brightness of her eyes. Long red hair frames her face in loose curls and the smile is as heartbreakingly familiar as it is warm. "Hello, Sev."

Looking out at him from behind the wall of canvas, Lily Evans Potter settles herself more comfortably in her own painted armchair and widens her smile to something more akin to the secret playfulness they shared as children. "She went ahead and did it anyway, I see. I told her not to, you know. Told her you didn't like having a fuss made over you and to just give it a little while and it'd all be alright." Just sweep it under the rug and move on - a very British outlook. "I didn't know Slytherins had such a thing for dramatics." But then she's leaning closer and narrowing her eyes at him just a little, as if just now taking in his appearance. "What happened to you, Sev? You look like hell." Bull? Meet China Shop.

Beyond shocked, Severus can only answer his dearest friend before completely considering his words. "It is what happens when you spend the fourteen years since your friend's demise walking a line between two old, powerful wizards, neither of which are willing to give an inch." He scowls deeply, and then, perhaps belatedly, the realization hits him. This is Lily. This is his friend. And Siobhan did this for him. "Well, yes, she was always a bit loathe to completely listen to those older than she." Not that it's always a bad thing. He sits silently for a moment, eyes hooded and intense, making a mostly successful attempt to control the roiling emotions inside. "Hello, Lily." A half-smile brightens his face.

Lily snorts with a dry kind of amusement - something she picked up from the man across the canvas, though don't anyone tell James. "Nothing like us, then?" Because their generation so totally always listened to what they were told. Right? Ahem. "Wait. What?" She's looking at him as if he'd just sprouted a second head. That half-smile makes Lily beam right back, suddenly content in that way of portrait-people to find the medium so very quickly. Even so, however, this portrait doesn't seem inclined to let go until her questions are answered. "Explain that first bit." That tone brooks no argument - something every male in Gryffindor Tower knew well at one time.

"Nothing like us." Severus agrees, though there is a smirk on his face. He plays idly with a string on the sleeve of his robe, a rare nervousness appearing. "It is nothing," he begins to backtrack, but he hears the Tone, and sees the Look, and capitulates. "I made a most grievous error when I left Hogwarts." He pushes up his sleeve to show the Mark. "I had gotten tired of fighting, of swimming upstream every day, and my reason for doing so…" He turns away, dropping his sleeve again, giving her just enough to draw the conclusion herself. "When I discovered that the Dark Lord was intending to target you — your family, I went to Dumbledore, who encouraged me to do certain things to keep you safe. When they were unsuccessful…" He pauses, closing his eyes. "He suggested that you might appreciate it if I — looked out for your son by keeping him alive. So, while he lives with Tuney and her whale of a husband, I walk the line between the two men, delivering such information as keeps me — and Harry — alive." It's the most he's said about himself and his situation for a long time, but Lily Evans always did know how to get him to talk with very few words.

Having been one of the few Hat Stalls during her time at Hogwarts, Lily Evans struggled daily with the two sides of her own nature. Now, sitting in a portrait, the magical remnant of Lily Potter struggles with it again, the internal conflict showing plainly on her pretty face. The sight of the Dark Mark makes her recoil instinctively - point for the Lion. "Severus … how could you?" she whispers, the beginnings of betrayal in her eyes. "Reason? What reason could you possibly have for - for joining Him?" The explanation of events sparks a narrowing of her eyes and a thoughtful crease to her forehead - point for the Eagle. "Peter sold us out, I - " And then the realization that her son, her child, her Harry is living with her sister. Fury blossoms like a forest fire. "MY SON IS LIVING WITH WHO?" Oh, yes. There it goes. The Lion wins this round.

"We were informed that there were special wards around your sister's home that protected him specifically from the Dark Lord." Severus replies. He doesn't answer the reason question for a long moment, considering his reasons, or even the lack thereof. "You knew that every single male student in my year and the two above it, as well as Bella Black — now LeStrange — joined the Dark Lord, did you not, Lily?" He begins his answer with a question, a reminder of history, hoping to appeal to the Eagle. "When I lost your regard," he keeps the blame squarely where he feels it resides: on himself. "I had only those men for friends. It was extremely easy to attend a meeting with them, to speak with a friendly, charismatic man who promised to fix everything. Quite early on, he was not mad. In fact, he was handsome, friendly, charming. I believe he has delved into enough dark magic that it has changed him irrevocably." Even more than he knows, to be honest. "It was less a clear choice than the avoidance of making one." Going with the flow, so to speak.

Lily huffs, still not at all happy with the idea of her son living with the distasteful excuse for humanity that is - or was - Petunia and her husband. "Well, fine, but then why do you have to protect him too?" She frowns, trying to work through the problem - the Eagle making a valiant attempt to regain lost ground. "Or is that tied into the wards somehow?" But she doesn't know magic that would do something like that. His explanation earns a sharper look, Lily's lips pursing into a frown. There's disappointment clouding her bright green eyes, disappointment warring with compassion. "That was really dumb, Sev." No pulling punches, here. "All you had to do was apologize, you know. I know James was a bit rude sometimes." And there's a fondness to her voice, a genuine affection for the mentioned man that probably helps explain the vast understatement. "I figured you'd cool down, come say you were sorry and we'd be fine." But he never came. She'd watched him spend more and more time with the boys of his own House and stopped seeing him as 'Sev' and started seeing him as 'one of them'. "That … that thing was never charming." Or anything good. Not in Lily's eyes. Not in eyes that had seen his face twist in malice when he cast the curse that ended her life. "You could have said no." And to her, it really is that simple. However. "You … you were the one who told Dumbledore we were a target?" Obviously that's a piece of the puzzle she'd never before been given.

"I made a promise that I would protect him for you, because you could no longer." And Dumbledore has gotten his Galleons' worth from that promise. "That is the supposition, though the Headmaster has never given us a clear explanation. He merely mentions 'Blood Wards', and everyone oohs and ahhs, and falls back into place." Snape sounds tired. "Granted. It was least intelligent decision, or lack thereof, that I have ever made. I did attempt to make my amends by warning the Headmaster and giving him the information he has asked for all this time." He sighs, running his hands through thick, oily hair. "I did return, Evans!" His voice is sharp, pained, and he cannot bring himself to call her by James Potter's name. "I spent three hours standing in front of that bloody portrait, hoping you'd come out and accept my apology. I would have stayed there longer, had a prefect not harried me away from the leonine domain, and encouraged me to return to the Nest." He snorts. "Between that and the incident with Lupin, I gave up trying to be anything but a 'greasy, Dark Slytherin'." Blunt words reply to blunt words; it's the way they've always spoken.

Lily is stunned into silence, listening with a growing sense of rankling unease that feels a lot like guilt - even though she's perfectly sure she has nothing to feel guilty about. Ire is raised when he uses her maiden name instead of her married one, but it is banked when his confession brings back vague memories of an otherwise forgettable evening. For a moment, she wars with herself - the Lion and the Eagle - but she cannot escape who she is anymore than he can. "It's Potter now, Sev. I took the name voluntarily, you know." It's a quiet statement, but a firm one. "I know you don't like him, but I expect you to respect my choice in a husband. I love him." She lets that settle into the silence between them. Her pride won't actually let her apologize for - well, for any of it, really - but she can offer something else in its place. "If you gave your word on it, I would trust your protection of my son far more than any faith I could put in magical constructs." It's another quiet statement. "But I don't understand why that means you look like you haven't had a good night's sleep in years." She cracks a smile, here, trying to bridge with humor the gap that she could not build apologies to cross. "Is Harry really that much trouble?"

Severus Snape breaks out into deep, rumbling laughter. It's a good thing no one is here to see it, because they wouldn't believe what they had seen. "Let me eluicidate for you, Lily Potter, just how much trouble your darling son has been. At age eleven, he killed his Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, who, admittedly was attempting to get the Sorcerer's Stone from his robe pocket. At age twelve, he slayed a basilisk with the vaunted Sword of Gryffindor, carried to him in the chamber of secrets beneath Moaning Myrtle's bathroom by Dumbledore's flaming chicken and the Sorting Hat. At age thirteen, he got involved in a discussion between Lupin, Black and Pettigrew. We all were convinced that it was Black who had betrayed, especially when he admitted as much because he was carrying the Lion's share of guilt for failing to see that it was Pettigrew. Pettigrew himself was able to scurry away in the aftermath, cutting off his own finger after casting a bombarda on the street behind him. Black must have been in shock, because his response was maniacal laughter. So, of course, they carted him away."

He pauses, hoping to make this clear. "That was all shortly after your demise. Your son and his two cronies, a Weasley and a muggleborn who ought to have been in Ravenclaw but the Hat Stall took into account her hero worship of your son, got between Black, Lupin and Pettigrew while they were sorting this out. On the night of the full moon with no Wolfsbane!" He pauses for breath. "Last year, he was hit with a spell that killed another student. I am not sure how he managed to survive. He is as arrogant as his father, and as heedless of the rules as the Marauders ever were." He stands up, pacing in front of the portrait. "It is a full-time job keeping him safe from his own egregious calamities and outside machinations that appear to either be for the Greater Good, or for his demise." He pauses again, completely out of breath, neither remembering nor caring about the rest of her words for the moment.

"What the hell is Wolfsbane?" Because out of that whole diatribe, the mention of an unfamiliar potion is the only thing her mind can latch on to. For a long, long moment, Lily Evans Potter is completely, totally and unprecedentedly silent. It takes a while for the shock to completely work its way through her system, after all. "I thought it was the usual Slytherin prejudice," she begins quietly, a deadly fire of anger building up behind her eyes and in the stubborn set of her jaw. "When Sio said she wasn't a … 'fan'." Because of course, Slytherins who don't praise the name of Albus Dumbledore must be prejudiced. Ah, irony, to find she'd met her kettle after so long of being the pot.

"But if he's allowed all of that … " She shakes her head and raises both hands to her temples in a motion most would associate with the living man than then dead woman in this bizarre conversation. "If he sent my son a sword, a bird and a hat instead of - oh, I don't know - a team of armed, trained wizards to deal with a basilisk?" There's something a bit shrill in her tone as it rises to the end of that question. "Then he has proved without a doubt that he's not capable of keeping my son safe - or anyone, for that matter! What the hell was he thinking?" Awakened now, the mother Lioness' protective fury is something truly wonderous to behold. "At eleven?" Disbelief and shock war with horror and protective anger.

"No, no, no. Just … just no." The fire in her eyes and the fight in her posture does not bode well for the Headmaster, should their paths cross. "You tell that barmy old codger that he will not be making anymore decisions concerning my son. Goddammit, if I had a way to hex him from here…" She lets that thought trail off before a spark of real cunning lights her face. "I bet Siobhan would do it, if we asked her right." And in that eerie way of the portrait-people, she shifts to an almost childish anticipation of retaliation well-deserved. Some might say the Marauders had an irrevocable influence on poor Lily. And not necessarily a good one.

"Wolfsbane. It is a potion which takes an abysmally long time to brew, but when all of its myriad steps and processes are complete, allows the werewolf to keep his or her mind throughout the transformation. They may lay docilely in their kennels, resting through the change, instead of clawing at themselves and any other being in the vicinity." The potion answer is the most easily replied to, much as it was the most easily asked. "I owe the Headmaster much. Or I did." He begins to think about his life as a Snake should. "However, perhaps I have paid …" It requires more thought, which thought he will not get while his best friend is scheming. "You have been around your esteemed spouse for far too long, Mrs. Potter." His tone is dry, but there is a little bit of censure there. He can't exactly support the general hexing of the Headmaster, much as he may want to. "Perhaps the greatest effect may be had by letting you discuss a few things with the Missus Noble, Weasley and Snape." He chuckles this time, a soft, devious laugh that may hark back to the times when his only clear enemies were a gang of four Gryffindor students in his year.

"Oh that's nifty." Yes, Lily is one of those women who will probably use 'nifty' even fifty or sixty years after the word goes out of fashion. "I bet Remus is doing much better with something like that." She tilts her head to one side inquisitively as Snape mentions three familiar names. "Noble? Liam's mum?" She hasn't yet made the appropriate association it would seem. "I mean, she's fierce and he's a good study partner, but I don't see why she'd get involved." She does not mention his own mother. She doesn't remember much about Mrs. Snape except that she often had strange looking bruises, like she fell or bumped into things a lot. With those easier things out of the way, she looks at him with a sudden sort of seriousness. "I think it's him that owes you, Sev." It's one of her rare moments of truly cunning insight into the layers her leonine mind usually avoids. "If you've been protecting my son - and his friends - through all of that, then I'd say you've done more than your share." Whether or not the Headmaster would agree with her is, apparently, immaterial. Always ready to speak her mind, she is.

"It is, quite. I have been — I had been —- I would, had I the time, attempt to improve it. It takes interminably long to brew, and tastes foul if the smell and Lupin's eyewitness account bear out." Severus shakes his head. "Noble. As in Siobhan Noble. There are six progeny now. William, Icarus, Peter, Brian, Michael — who insists on going by the plebian nickname of 'Mickey' — and Siobhan. That would be why she was involved. Also, there may be some connection between the House of Noble and magical orphans, if the plans I've heard bear out." He smiles again, the deviousness still there. When she mentions the Headmaster owing him, the smile disappears, and a tired look replaces it. "I am not sure how to distribute the weight across those scales, Lily." He doesn't know who owes whom by now. It's all twisted and bent at this point.

"Maggie Smith had a little boy named Mickey. They brought him around to James' parents' place sometimes. Can't believe they were all killed." The strange inter-relationships of the old Pureblood families always has been something of a mystery to Lily - and then a delight when she became a part of that world. But then the rest of that statement catches up to her. "Sir Michael and Lady Edana had a snake?" She doesn't sound quite … horrified. More terribly confused as to how two Gryffindors who produced - as far as she could remember - two more Gryffindors could somehow breed a Slytherin. It doesn't fit the neat little categories she'd had for them all and that's quite upsetting. "Magical … oh, that sounds like Lady Edana, all right. Giving the kids someplace safe to call home." Even the wisest have their prejudices. But all other thoughts are swept away in the exasperation that comes from her oldest friend's final statement. "You're a truly daft bastard, Severus Snape. It's not all about balancing some set of cosmic scales, you know." She folds her arms over her chest and gets … an eerily familiar stubborn look on her face. "I used to think it was just a Slytherin thing, but if that woman - " she gestures towards the closed door " - can hang those stupid scales of yours and dig through rubble and a roof collapsing on her head to give me a chance to see my son just because I'd asked for it, bring you to me first so - I see now - I could beat some sense into that thick skull of yours and then walk out and thank you? It's gotta just be a 'you' thing." And, her piece said, she settles back into calmness in the way of all the portrati people. There's a little pause and she amends her diatribe with a succinct, "Are you sure she's not a Gryffindor?" Because that would make all her boxes line up in a nice, neat row and wouldn't be nearly so unsettling.

"Perhaps that is the child then." It must be, of course, since Mickey — who always seemed like a bit of an idiot to Severus — is clearly adopted. "Is there something wrong with two Gryffindors having a Slytherin child? Hmm?" This may be an old argument between them. "She is an excellent example of the best qualities of her house. However, should you mention that I said such a thing I will utterly deny it." As to settling and balancing and being a daft bastard he says nothing, and then, something strikes him. "A roof falling on her head??" Oh, dear. This snake's protective instinct has been awakened. Again. "That foolish…" He sighs. "Sometimes, she resembles Sir Michael more than may be good for her." Temper already beginning to rise, he scowls. "Yes. I am certain. I was her Head of House for seven years."

"It's like seeing a Husky in a litter of Irish Setters, Sev. It's just not natural." Old arguments are slipped into as easily as comfortable gloves. So much so that Lily indulges in an old habit and rolls her eyes at Severus. "Of course not, because it would be the end of the world if your friend knew you'd said something abot her that wasn't absolutely scathing." But that's an old argument as well, and she knows even as she says it how fruitless her efforts are. "Yes, a roof." Lily does have the good grace to look a little sheepish about this part. "For some reason, this painting was in an old room at the Potter's manor in Devonshire. No one had been there for ages and it has, ah, fallen into some disrepair. She shifted a large wardrobe to get at a closet door and didn't realize that it was actually holding up that part of the ceiling." At his affirmation that her young rescuer was, indeed, a snake for seven years, Lily frowns. "That must be it, then. Salvaged by constant exposure to the rest of her family." It was a method she tried to implement with the man across the canvas from her, but with significantly less success. With the matter - in her mind, at least - settled comfortably so that her neat little boxes all line up like ducks in rows, Lily settles back in her chair and regards Severus thoughtfully for a few quiet moments. "I'm not going to say that I'm not glad to know that Harry has you looking after him, because I want my son to be safe." And she's already stated how valuable she finds Severus' protection in that regard. "But he's not your son, Sev. You need to live your own life, too."

"That is abundandly clear, Mrs. Potter." Severus bristles at her words. "If Harry had been my son, things would be markedly different from the beginning." Thank you, Lily. Open old wounds. However, he understands the point she's trying to make. "I made you a promise. However…" If it's not something she really wants him to do, that changes a lot. "Perhaps Miss Noble has a point." What that particular point would be, he does not say. "And there have been known to be genetic aberrations in canines, as well as in wizards' families. I believe Ichabod Noble was a Slytherin." He patently does not use the word 'throwback' in reference to any Slytherin. "No, that is not the reason I would deny it. I would deny it because she already feels she owes me so much she goes traipsing through broken down houses in Devonshire to try to bloody even things up!" He scowls, turns toward Lily, looks at her intently, and exhales a sharp breath. "I have marking. I may come to speak to you again soon." Maybe when he's had the time to think things through and cool down. "It is good to see you, Ev — Potter."

Lily doesn't remember any Ichabods - nonetheless an Ichabod Noble - but she's also been out of the loop for a while. She listens quietly to all the points he finally manages to drive home with her. Towards the end, there is a suspicious sort of glimmer in her eyes, a hint of over-brightness caused by an excess of moisture. There are so many things that rise to her lips, then. Everything from You never told me to That's not why she did it to I didn't mean it like that to Don't throw away your friend because you're mental to Don't let history repeat itself to You're an idiot, Severus Snape struggles for dominance over her expression. What she finally says instead is something much simpler, but no less profound. "You won't see me again for a long while, I shouldn't think." And here she lets a fond smile - for she is fond of him, even when she wants to shake some sense into him - rise to soften the sadness in her wet gaze. "She brought me here to see Harry because I asked and to see you because - well, I guess because she worked it out before even I did." Which would just be the way of a snake, now wouldn't it? "After I speak with Harry, I'm to be hidden away again, someplace safe. If word got out and people started questioning how she found me then it'd put - " She snaps her jaw shut on that, seeming to remember there were things she's not supposed to say. Not very good at covering up a not-so-subtle blunder - especially when her gaze fixed on him at the opportune moment - Lily tries to rectify matters by forging ahead. "She has a place to keep me safe and so I'll sleep for a little while longer." She studies the man in front of her and raises her hand as if to push through the canvas, only to let it drop back to her lap. "It's been good to see you too, Snape."

If this is his only chance with her for a long while, even in portrait form, Severus cannot leave with the same kind of anger between them. "That makes entirely too much sense." He complains, though honestly, he's proud of his student. "Please, Lily. Forgive me." It is what he has always wished to ask. "I should not have …" Now, he's the one with a list scrolling across his features. History, right there for her to see. "I know that you're a mere representation, but you do have her mannerisms." It might help settle something. He knows enough about paintings by now, having spent a while speaking with his mother's. "If you would, I have but one request, when you are speaking with your son. Please caution him to be a little more careful. I may not be his father, but I have watched over him for so long …" It's second nature. "If he would accept the wisdom of others — especially those different from himself — and act more circumspectly, he would do you proud." Pot, meet kettle. He seems to realize this. "If this is our last meeting for a while, Lily, know that I will continue to keep an eye on him, though perhaps the means may change." He's already rethinking plenty.

Lily Evans Potter is many things. In her short life she was friend, lover, mother, daughter, sister, enemy, teacher, student - even the recipient of a love she never knew existed. In all things, she was powerful, resourceful and kind - even in her less-than-stellar moments, she was a light in darkness. There was a vivacity to her that could make everything feel better - even just for a few moments.

This likeness done with ink and stain and canvas is not Lily Evans Potter. No two-dimensional work by the hand of Man could ever do more than imitate the subject who had been crafted - by design or by some wonderful accident of Nature's magic - into someone who loved fiercely and was loved in return. But, by the very nature of the portrait's magic, there is something of Lily in this likeness - just like there is something of Eileen in her own paintings. It isn't enough to ease the pain of the fact that such sources of light have been snatched away too soon. Some may even argue that it is worse to have only the echo of the life that once was than to have nothing at all.

It is enough, however, for the Lily-who-is-not-Lily to recognize the cost involved for this man to bare his soul to her - even if she cannot appreciate as a Snake could the elegance and the beauty in the simplicity of the act. "Severus…" His name escapes on an exhalation and for one bright, beautiful moment, this is Lily. This is the girl who'd woven a beautiful piece of magic to give a frightened old man a small white fish. This is the woman who had stood against the Dark Lord when offered her own life and had told him - in no uncertain terms - no.

Whether it's by the magic of the paintings themselves or a little of whatever is left of Lily in this world, the woman in the canvas stands and looks out at Severus Snape with the love of a sister - unconditional, unlimited, unconstricted - shining brightly through glittering emerald eyes. "You have my forgiveness, Severus Snape." She says these simple words with all the solemnity of an arcane ritual - and maybe it is, of a sort. "You have always had my friendship." She touches her wand to her chest above her heart. "You will always have my gratitude." A breeze unfelt by mortal hands plays with her hair and she luxuriates in it, her eyes sliding closed.

When next she speaks, she is sitting down; once more a mere representation of a life lost to warfare and tragedy. And though her voice doesn't hold the trace of power it did only moments ago, it is earnest in its sadness when she looks at him again from flat green eyes. "But none of it will mean anything unless you can forgive yourself." The painting-Lily leans back in her chair, nodding once. She will tell Harry - she will make sure the child knows what he needs to in order to stay safe. But it seems as if her words are - for the present - all used up.

She is, after all, only a piece of ink on canvas.

And now, having finally the one thing he has craved for nearly twenty years, Severus Snape stands, gazing impassively at the picture, eyes suspiciously bright. "Thank you, Lily." Perhaps, having that small echo of what he knows she would have said is enough for him to sit down, rethink things, and go on in some semblance of peace and purpose. His actions may or may not change, but the guilt he's borne, the worry he's carried, the pain he's subsumed — perhaps they may now lighten just enough for him to find that elusive thing that has escaped him for so long. Perhaps now, Snape can hope.

The title comes from Emily Dickinson's famous poem.

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