Severus Snape resorts to desperate measures to win Lily back after the "Mudblood" incident.
Steam was rising in spirals all around sixteen-year-old Severus Snape in the tiny, decrepit tool-shed behind Spinner's End. The wooden walls of the old shed were already showing signs of rotting through, and the fire from his cauldron turned the cramped space into an oven, but Severus considered it the perfect location for his current occupation. It was the only place at home where he could be certain of complete and utter privacy, and brewing a potion this intricate and dangerous demanded security from interruption. His father's Muggle tools and an old, rusting manual lawnmower rested in the corner, untouched for years judging by the condition of the garden outside.
He had used this shed for practice and experimentation before--a Babbling Beverage he had concocted the summer before Fourth year had been put to exquisite use on Potter--but the potion he was currently brewing was not a matter of fun and leisure. This was most serious business.
Pervading the air of the shed was a variety of scents rising from the cauldron. There was the musty waft of old books... and the slight but unmistakably bittersweet scent of spilled blood... but one scent overpowered the others by far... a dainty, lilac scent... Severus inhaled intently, and finding everything to his satisfaction, uncorked a vial and filled it to the brim with the potion, its iridescent mother-of-pearl sheen visible even here in the dark of the shed.
He had never made this particular potion before, but there was no doubt in his mind of success. His Potions textbook lay open beside him on the small workbench; it had never failed him before. In his Third year he had stolen--or "covertly borrowed," as he liked to think--the N.E.W.T.-level book and had been studying it, practicing it, and perfecting it ever since. He liked to make annotations in the margins of all his ideas and discoveries as they came to him, and for the first time in three years, he had reason to turn to the page he had long ago simply marked, "For Emergencies."
Hiding the vial next to his heart under his school robes--for he was already wearing them in anticipation of tomorrow's journey from King's Cross--he extinguished the fire, plunging him into total darkness, before opening the shed door and dumping the remaining contents of the cauldron onto the earth. All that he needed now rest by his heart.
Tomorrow, Lily Evans would be his.
Trepidation consumed him during the entire train ride to Hogwarts.
He had arrived late to King's Cross--his mother and father had been waylaid by a disagreement over the consistency and edibility of that morning's breakfast--to find that all the Slytherin compartments were full, and he'd had no choice but to flit from one compartment to another like a lost and injured bird, until he finally found one that would have him, a group of Ravenclaw girls that eyed him with disgust and sat as far away from him as possible, but nonetheless were civil enough not to throw him out.
In return, he tried to make himself as small and unnoticeable as possible, scrunched into the corner by the window with his face stuffed into a book, pretending to read. His heart was pounding wildly against the vial by his chest. The last compartment he had entered in unfortunate haste had found him staring face to face with Lily, who looked shocked, then angered. He had stared into her eyes for one excruciating moment, her hatred not lost on him, before dashing out of the compartment as quickly as he had come, to the sound of giggling Gryffindor girls.
It was the first glimpse of her he'd had since their last day at Hogwarts the previous school year. All summer she had gone to her very best efforts to avoid him--and Lily's very best had always been very good. He had hoped--no, prayed--that all would be forgotten, that a summer's worth of time away from him had cooled her temper, and when she saw him again she would welcome him back as her friend with open arms, and the wretched vial by his breast could be disposed of. But seeing that look in her eyes had wrenched this dream away from him. The eyes that he loved so much held only purest hatred for him. Severus had no choice. Tonight, during the feast in the Great Hall, he would slip the vial's contents unawares into Lily's pumpkin juice, and then he'd never have to suffer a sour look from Lily Evans ever again... such was his naiveté.
Severus knew well that the affects of Amortentia were temporary, but he was so sure that Lily's love for him was Fate, inevitable. All it needed was a kick-start, a nudge in the right direction, and she would see him forever finally the way he had seen her from his very first look upon her all those years ago. Of this he had convinced himself, and why not? What hope would he have if it were not true?
By the time he was seated at the Slytherin table in the Hogwarts Great Hall, and all the newly sorted first-years had joined them, and the start-of-term feast had begun, Severus had worked himself into a rigid board of anxiety. Perspiration was dripping into his eyes, and involuntarily his hand went to his heart, as though to confirm that the bottle of Amortentia was still safely there.
He barely took two bites of food, even though the feast spread before him was as lavish as ever, and he hadn't eaten one lick on the day-long train ride, despite the fact that he'd actually managed to save a bit of money for it this year.
"What's with you, Prince?"
Avery was eyeing him from across the table.
"You look paler than usual. Didn't catch some filthy Mudblood disease over the summer, did you?"
Severus jerked his head, but didn't answer. He had just spotted Lily across the room at the Gryffindor table, smiling and chatting animatedly with her friends. His stomach gave a lurch, and without a word, he rose from the table and sped out of the room, ignoring the calls of his Slytherin friends after him.
Avery leaned over to Mulciber and whispered, "Told ya he was gonna be sick."
Mulciber just nodded, busy stuffing his fat face with food.
Severus walked out of the Great Hall as fast as he could without breaking into a run, his skinny legs working stiffly. Instead of heading for the bathroom, he snaked past the marble staircase and disappeared behind a door to its right, hurrying down the stone steps beyond it. He emerged in an expansive stone corridor whose walls were covered in portraits, where he had only ventured once before when tailing Potter and Black. It was Potter whom he had seen stop in front of a painting of a giant bowl of fruit, tickle the pear, and thus unlock the secret door that led to the kitchen beyond. And so he would have Potter to thank for the bit of mischief that would send Lily into his arms... Severus felt a sinister bit of irony in that.
Once in the kitchen, Severus paused, a bit overwhelmed by the busyness of it all. Over a hundred house-elves were bustling about the enormous room, many of them preparing and laying out the desserts that were about to be sent above to the Great Hall.
Worming his way between the four long tables that filled the kitchen, with many a house-elf stopping to curtsy or bow as he passed, Severus finally spotted what he was looking for. Several dozen goblets were arranged in rows according to drink, waiting to be sent up as soon as someone's glass upstairs was empty. With shaking hands, he took out the bottle of Amortentia and emptied its entire contents into one of the goblets of pumpkin juice--Lily's favorite. Then he beckoned to the nearest elf.
"You there," he said, feeling a small sense of satisfaction in being able to order someone around. He had never had that liberty before, growing up as he did, poor. "Come here this instant."
A skinny elf with overlong ears and a doorknob-shaped nose rushed over, carrying a tray of crumpets. He smiled and bowed before Severus.
"Zippy is at your service, young Master. Zippy is doing anything for you. Would the young Master likes a crumpet?" he said, offering the tray in his hands.
"No, no, never mind that," Severus snapped, snatching the tray away from the elf and setting it down on the table. "I have a special job for you... Zippy, was it?"
The elf practically squealed with delight at the request. "Zippy is doing anything for you! Zippy is honored that the young Master would entrust him with this task!"
"Excellent." Severus lifted up the goblet of pumpkin juice that he had spiked with Amortentia. "I need you to ensure that this goblet is delivered to a particular person. Can you do this?"
"Why, yes, young Master!" Zippy said, bowing again. "That is simple elf magic. All I is needing is a name, sir."
"Evans," Severus enunciated slowly and clearly. "Lily Evans. Got it?"
"Lily Evans, sir! I is happy to be seeing this up to her, sir!" Zippy said, taking the goblet and holding it close like a cherished thing.
"It must be sent to the right person, do you understand?"
"Of course, sir. Zippy only aims to please. Why, if I was to be making a mistake, I would punish myself most expertly, sir!"
Severus narrowed his eyes. The creature looked very foolish to him in its tea towel toga, but he had no choice but to trust him. "Very well."
"Will the young Master take a crumpet on his way out--"
And with that, Severus brushed past the elf and hurried back out of the kitchen, through the corridor, up the stone steps, and into the Great Hall where he resumed his seat at the Slytherin table, sweating fiercely.
"Geez, mate," Avery said when he returned, "you look worse than ever."
The tables were laden with desserts now, treacle tart and rice pudding, chocolate gateau and apple pie....
Severus glanced nervously at the Gryffindor table, where Lily was just now taking a sip from her almost empty cup. He waited on pins and needles, praying that she was still thirsty and would finish her drink in time for the new one to be sent up.
Minutes passed, but they felt like hours to Severus, and still Lily had not finished her drink. Severus had stopped making pretenses of looking casually around the room and was flat out staring at Lily, silently urging her to drink. For a moment he entertained the notion of hexing her mouth dry or sending a Pepper Enchantment her way, but he couldn't do it. Even if the end result was innocent enough, he couldn't bring himself to use a curse on her that he would have normally reserved for Potter. In his intense state, Severus paid no attention to the conversation Avery and Mulciber were holding beside him, until Mulciber said a word that caught him so off-guard that he instinctively tuned in.
"... Charged with /rape/?"
"Well, the use of a magical aid to commit rape, yeah," Avery said. "It's one of the toughest cases Dad's had since he's been at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. But Dad's the best defense attorney the Department's got. I'm sure his client will be cleared. Dad's cooked up a brilliant defense."
Mulciber looked positively gleeful. "Tell me already."
Avery took a long draught of pumpkin juice before licking his lips and continuing. "Dad's built his case on the fact that the plaintiff--some filthy Mudblood girl--gave her consent knowingly and willingly. Of course, the prosecution contends that her consent was worthless on account of her being under the influence of a love potion at the time. They claim she didn't have free will, but it's all a sketchy gray area, these love potions and things. Dad's client will be acquitted, sure thing...."
Throughout this conversation, Severus had found himself growing paler and paler, as though he were going to be sick. But he did not hang around to hear Avery and Mulciber laughing, for at that moment he saw, as though in slow motion, Lily finally pick up her glass and drain the last drops of pumpkin juice in it, and then a new goblet--the one he had tainted with Amortentia--appear instantly before her. As soon as it did, it was like a jolt to Severus's heart, and he found himself running like mad across the Great Hall, past the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables, all the way to the end of the Gryffindor table where Lily sat, many heads turning to watch the strange Slytherin boy with interest, and just as she was raising the goblet to her lips, he grabbed it from her, lost his balance, and dumped the entire glass of juice all over her head.
The noisy hall seemed to grow suddenly silent to Severus's ears. He heard isolated sounds amplified in his head--the gasps of Hufflepuffs, the angry shouts of Gryffindors, and the hoots and laughter all the way across the room from the Slytherins, who were watching in amusement.
Lily was staring up at Severus, stunned and angry and--worst of all--hurt.
"I knew you were a jerk..." she said lowly, her voice burning with hatred, wiping the juice out of her eyes, "but I didn't know you were a childish prat to boot."
"I-- I--" Severus was too horrified to say anything, and how could he possibly explain his actions anyway? He was so stunned by what had just occurred that he didn't have time to react to what happened next.
"Snivellus!" a voice bellowed from behind him, and suddenly he felt himself being lifted upside-down into the air by a familiar, silent curse to the cheers and jubilation of all around him. James Potter had rushed up behind him from the other end of the Gryffindor table, red in the face with fury, and had hit him with Levicorpus before he knew what was happening.
"That's enough!" he heard the stern voice of the Gryffindor Head of House calling as she rushed over to the scene. By the time Potter had let Severus down--none too gently, he hit the cold, stone floor with a thud--both boys had received detentions and been marked off five points each for their respective Houses. Professor McGonagall told Severus to go back to his own table in a commanding voice and swept away as though the matter was finished before he could even pick himself up off the ground.
He looked up to see Lily regarding him almost with pity. Her voice was soft. For a moment, he thought she was about to help him up.
"Don't come near me ever again."
And Severus watched as she turned her back on him, and sat back down with her friends, and then a helpless rage filled him as he saw Potter flash him a dirty look and sit down beside her. His knees and chest ached as he got back to his feet and slunk back to the Slytherin table, sinking down, exhausted, next to Mulciber.
"That was brilliant," Mulciber was saying.
"Yeah, too bad Potter had to go and spoil it," Avery added.
"I'd thought you'd been avoiding that Mudblood girl, but I didn't realize you'd finally come to your senses."
"Good for you, Prince. Never got what you saw in her anyway. Filth like that is beneath us."
Mulciber nodded his agreement, and the two of them went over the "brilliant prank" with relish. They took Severus's silence about his newfound vendetta against the Mudblood girl for modesty, never guessing that inside that cold exterior he felt like he was dying.
That night, when he was back in the Slytherin common room, Severus tore out the page in his Potions book with the instructions for brewing Amortentia, balled it up, and threw it into the fire, where it shriveled up and died quickly in the flames.
Avery looked confused behind him.
"I've seen you carry that book around for three years like it was your own child," he said. "What the hell are you doing?"
Severus did not answer him, but instead walked into his dormitory, climbed painfully into his four-poster--for his knees still ached--and closed the curtains, where he remained without speaking to anyone for the rest of the night, feeling slightly nauseous.
A more timid man would have accepted defeat then and there, but such was not the character of Severus Snape. As long as Lily Evans lived, there would in his heart remain a shred of faith, and the hope that one day she would be his.