Challenging Fate

 

Title: Challenging Fate
Author: Sibyl Moon
Fandom: Harry Potter
Theme/Genre: Redemption, AU, Fix-it
Relationship: mostly gen, James/Lily, mentions of other pairings
Word Count: 13,427
Beta: Twigen
Alpha:  HarleyJQuin
Warnings: Character Death, Canon-Typical-Violence, Discussion of mind manipulations through magic and/or potions
Summary: Waking up to the nightmare of his choices almost immediately after leaving Hogwarts & taking the mark, Severus Snape is determined to do everything to right the wrongs he’s committed. When he discovers Voldemort’s plans for the Potters, Severus decides to tell James & Lily everything he knows about those plans & the prophecy. Things really began to change after that.

 

     

 

Chapter One

March/April 1981

Severus Snape savored the burn as he finished the bottle of firewhiskey he’d purchased on the way home. Despair washed over him. He leaned forward, staring into the fire with his elbows balanced on his knees, the empty bottle hanging from his fingers.

“What am I supposed to do now?” he asked the flames, his mind muted by alcohol and misery, searching for an answer to his dilemma. They’d known there had to be a mole in the Death Eater camp for a while now, but until tonight, Severus had had no idea just how close to Dumbledore’s most trusted circle that individual was. He still didn’t have a name, but there was no question that the mole – the traitor – was their very own Brutus, not after all the gloating was done tonight, revealing how much information the bastard had had.

“Fucking hell.” Severus barely refrained from throwing the bottle at the wall. How was he supposed to keep his promise to James and Lily? How was he supposed to protect Harry? “Damn it. I make a sorry fucking drunk.” He closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair, trying not to think and failing.

Severus had fallen in with the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters before he’d even left Hogwarts. The lure of power and prestige had been too enticing for the boy from a broken-down home in Cokeworth. Then they’d  Severus had been invited in. The Death Eaters had been willing to give Severus a pass for his muggle blood due to his friendship with Lucius, his innate genius in potions, and the fact that his mother, at least, had been a Prince. Unfortunately, due to his stupidity, Severus found himself at the mercy of the Dark Lord once that foul brand was embedded in his arm, a slave in all but name.

Not only did it identify him as a loyal follower, but it allowed the Dark Lord to track him and then command him from any distance. The mark also allowed the Dark Lord to embed commands that Severus found himself forced to follow. It was how the bastard had gotten the prophecy piece from him. The best Severus could do about it was get himself caught so he didn’t hear the whole thing. He’d learned and perfected the art of occlumency, which aided him in resisting and finding loopholes – to a point. However, he never let the Dark Lord know how much the leash had slipped – not yet – not until he could discover how to release himself completely.

Severus had taken the mark during a Samhain ritual immediately following graduation from Hogwarts and had just as immediately regretted it. He was sure that quite a bit of it had to do with the clarity of mind that had come to him around that time. It had been as if he’d recovered from some sort of undefined illness he hadn’t even been aware of having. The anger that had dogged him relentlessly was just…gone. One day he’d woken with the unhindered emotional landscape he’d been missing before.

Severus had gone to Dumbledore as soon as he’d acknowledged his mistake, but Dumbledore had sent him away, telling him that there was nothing that could be done for him.

“If only you had come to me before you had taken the mark, my boy,” the old man said sorrowfully, shaking his head, blue eyes twinkling at him. “Lemon drop? No? Well, I can’t release you from Voldemort’s service, but if you are willing to help our cause, then once he is defeated, it will go well in your favor, and I will speak for you before the court.”

Severus had become a spy for the Order. He’d been walking this precarious road for the last few years now, and he was exhausted. He should have known it would only get worse. His only consolation was that he’d been in touch with Lily. Severus had swallowed his pride and managed to apologize for his behavior – to both her and James Potter. They’d replied and forgiven him, but told him to keep his distance. He’d been more than willing to adhere to any restrictions as he’d never been expected to be forgiven by Lily, not after throwing around words designed to cut as deeply as they had. While their interactions at order meetings were awkward, they weren’t as volatile as he’d expected.

It had been James Potter who had made the first overtures towards what could tentatively be called something like friendship. He’d helped one evening that Severus had come in to report after a Death Eater meeting. Severus had displeased the Dark Lord that evening and paid for it dearly. James Potter had helped with his healing after Dumbledore had dismissed them all and left. After that, the man wouldn’t leave him alone, as intent on Severus’ friendship as he’d been on his rivalry. Severus could never really figure out what changed with the other man, but he had come to realize why people like Lily, Black, and Lupin were so loyal to James Potter.

Severus had felt himself begin to churn with aberrantly obsessive emotions again during the order meetings, so familiar from his school days. Now that he’d had his mind clear, he was able to recognize the feel of false emotions trying to influence him, but he couldn’t pinpoint the cause. He laboriously shuttled them all behind his occlumency barriers to examine later and began to take a potion of his own design to shore up his defenses.

The events of the war had been moving too fast for him to have time to do more than acknowledge that someone was trying to play games with his mind again. That they were intent on him hating certain members of the order, intent on turning what might have been a small and justifiable childhood crush on a friend into an obsessive and dangerous thing that could have – and almost did – ruin him.

Severus opened his eyes and lifted the bottle of firewhiskey. He frowned when he saw that it was still empty. He didn’t drink often, and he drank to get drunk even more infrequently. Too many of his childhood memories were layered in the scent of cheap liquor. The news that had come from tonight’s meeting with the Dark Lord had sent him straight for the bottle, but even if he felt like it deserved more than a single bottle of firewhiskey, he wasn’t going to push it.

“Snape?” Potter called into the room. “You around, old man?”

Severus shook himself free of his thoughts; he hadn’t noticed the fire change from its red-orange glow, and now he had James Potter’s head floating in his fireplace. “I’m here, Potter. Give me a damned minute,” he said, setting the bottle down and ignoring when it fell over and rolled under the chair. He stood unsteadily, holding onto the arm of his chair for balance.

“Snape?” Potter called again, and Severus wasn’t sure if the man hadn’t heard him or was just being impatient.

Sliding his wand out of its holster and into his hand, Severus snapped out the locking and anti-eavesdropping spells. He had permanent spells built into the wards of the place already, but he wasn’t going to take any chances, not with what he’d discovered tonight. Kneeling in front of the fire, Severus met the concerned countenance of James Potter. It was surreal even after the last few months. Now that the vitriol that had fed much of their school years was gone, they’d found themselves on the same side of a conflict and willingly cooperating. They were even something close to friends at this point.

“There you are,” Potter huffed. He squinted behind his glasses. “You okay there, Snape?”

“I’ve finished the better part of a bottle of Ogdens,” Severus replied, settling himself more comfortably. “I’m considerably better than I was a few hours ago.”

“Don’t let Lily hear you say that,” Potter replied with a glance back over his shoulder. “It isn’t like you to drink like this. What happened?”

Severus sighed, leaning back on his heels and pinching his nose. He was entirely too drunk for this conversation, and as much as he didn’t want to be sober for it, he was going to need to be. “One moment,” he replied. Then, leaning over to the side, he fetched a sober-up potion, a glass of water, and a bucket.

“Are you using that purging sober-up?” Potter called out. “Oh, man. Let me through. I’ll help, and then we can have this conversation.”

“It isn’t safe outside your wards, Potter,” Severus said, sticking his head back into the fire. “This form of communication is dangerous enough.”

“We’re moving soon, you know that,” Potter said, exhaustion lining his words. “We’re just waiting until after Harry’s blessing. We’ll set the Fidelis then, and we won’t be able to talk, so just let me through.”

“Fine.” Severus rocked back and got to his feet, spelling the security charms to let Potter through with the correct passcode. He bent over and poked his head through. “Passcode is the same.” He stepped away.

Fire flashed, and Potter stepped through, quick movements dispelling the ash from his clothes as he surveyed the room. “You need to change the passcode. Just because you have it locked to my magical signature doesn’t mean that it’s safe.”

“I’m aware,” Severus said dryly, but he approved of Potter’s safety measures and concerns. The man had more than himself to protect these days. “Now, I’m going to get this unpleasantness over with. You know what to do if this blasted mark starts to–”

“I know, Snape. I’m a fully trained auror,” Potter replied, twirling his wand and smiling that cocky smile that used to irritate the fuck out of him in school – hell, it still did. “I’ll knock you on your arse before you can say Slytherin.”

“I find myself wishing that Black had come through,” Severus said, lips twisting as he turned to collect his potion and water. “I’ll be right back.”

“I think Lily might be right about you and Sirius,” Potter called down the hall after him. “You’re both hate flirting. I wouldn’t believe it was a thing if I didn’t see the two of you together.”

“We don’t flirt!” Severus slammed the bathroom door shut on the other man. “For fuck’s sake. Hate flirting? I’m already feeling ill, I didn’t need the help, Potter,” He muttered, setting himself up.

When he came back into the sitting room, he saw that Potter had made himself comfortable on his couch and was going over the reports Severus would be turning in at the next order meeting. Some would be passed around to all the members, but most would be kept back for Dumbledore’s own inner circle.

“This isn’t good, Severus,” He said; he rarely used Severus’ first name, even after he’d been given permission to do so. The animosity of their childhood years had made it too awkward for either of them to let go of that one final barrier of formality.

“No,” He agreed, shoving the other man’s feet off the end of the couch and sitting down. “We knew that we had a leak, but this shows that the leak is in the top echelon of the order. This information was limited to a few, even I wasn’t given it. I didn’t know it until the meeting tonight. I wrote up the report and then got drunk.”

“So he’s definitely after us,” James swung himself up to a sitting position. “Fuck.”

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise,” Snaped looked to the side at him. “Dumbledore told you that you would be targeted a few months ago.”

“He should’ve told us as soon as Harry was born!” James snapped, shooting to his feet and pacing. “If you hadn’t gotten in contact with Lily and let her know, we could’ve been unprotected for months before Dumbledore decided that we should know that the prophecy might be about our son.”

Severus knew that something had caused a rift between the Potter faction of the order and Dumbledore’s, but he hadn’t been around enough to have all the details. His spying activities kept his contact to a limited number of order members and very few meetings.

“Listen, Potter, even though I wasn’t your biggest fan at the time, Harry was still an infant and Lily’s son,” Severus took a breath and stood. “I’d do anything to protect her and Harry, you know that. She was my first friend, and even when I thought I’d ruined that, I want to think I’d have done anything for them.”

“When you wrote that letter to us,” Potter stopped pacing to stare at him. “I thought it was a trap or something. We all knew that you’d taken the mark, of course.” He nodded when Severus flinched, his hand covering his arm. “Yeah, Lily though–Lily said that she wanted to forgive you, but that it was up to me whether or not we would have anything to do with you after that.”

“I’m surprised that we are talking then,” Severus said, a sinking feeling in his stomach. He’d sent that letter over two years ago. He’d taken the mark the Samhain after graduation, and by the New Year, he’d realized the nightmare he’d stepped into. He’d written his letter to the Potters, he hadn’t expected forgiveness, but without Dumbledore’s help, he’d been expecting his death and wanted to apologize to Lily for his behavior.

“Yeah, well,” Potter laughed, rifling a hand into his hair. “I didn’t plan on it, but you started to spy for the order, and you didn’t push into Lily’s space. You left us alone, even when Sirius was being–” He paused, shrugging.

“You mean when Black was a prick?” Severus supplied, feeling his brows arch. “I don’t recall letting him get away with anything.”

“You didn’t,” He laughed, throwing himself back on the couch. “You have the sharpest tongue I’ve ever heard next to Lily, but I can’t say that Sirius didn’t earn your replies this time around.” Potter waved that off and continued, “What I’m saying is that you didn’t try anything; your letter wasn’t a trap or a manipulation or any of the things I thought it was. When you got in touch with us after Harry was born and told us what you knew about the prophecy. Snape, you didn’t hold anything back then–didn’t hide your involvement in the whole thing either.”

“I’d cut this damned arm off if it would do any good,” Severus said, slumping on the couch next to the other man. “As it is, I can’t even kill myself without his permission. I can loosen my leash, but it still chokes me when I move too far.”

“We’ll get it figured out, Snape. Lily and the rest of the department are working on it. I doubt you’re the only one that took the mark and regretted it,” He clapped Severus on the shoulder companionly. “So, according to your report, we’d better get under the Fidelus sooner rather than later.”

“Yes,” Severus nodded in agreement. “Be selective in who you choose to keep your secrets, Potter, and who you give them away to. As you read, the traitor wears a familiar face.”

The man took his glass off to rub his eyes, replacing his glasses, he stared solemnly at Severus, “I don’t want to believe it, but I’m not stupid enough to deny it either,” He said, looking at the table where he’d tossed the papers. “I don’t envy you the work you do, Snape.”

“I’m no hero, Potter,” Severus snapped at him, jerking the sleeve of his robe up. “If it weren’t for this–for the anger, pride, and the stupidity that went along with it–you’d have to find another to spy for you. I’m grateful that what I’ve done has kept Lily and Harry safe for now, but don’t think that I wouldn’t run from that thing masquerading as a wizard given the first opportunity.” He pulled his sleeve back down, smoothing the fabric. He felt his face warm with embarrassment at his lack of control.

“I get it, Snape,” Potter replied, standing and gathering himself to leave. “I can still be grateful and think what I want about the service you’ve done so far in this war. I know that you’re constrained by that brand on your arm, but you’ve given us a better chance to win than we had. It was your intel that saved the Prewett twins, and that’s kept the Longbottoms and us a step ahead of the Death Eaters.”

“Dumbledore-” Severus began.

“Dumbledore has his own agenda,” Potter said, frowning. “I’ve talked to a few people, and we aren’t sure what it is, but we don’t trust it right now. The decisions he’s making might be good for the wizarding world as a whole, but I need to make the decisions that are good for my family.”

“Be wary of him, Potter,” He cautioned the man as they moved to the fireplace. “You don’t need enemies on all fronts, and make no mistake, Dumbledore won’t take it well if you don’t fall in with his plans.”

“I’m aware,” Potter replied grimly. “I’ve taken what precautions I can. If we don’t speak again before the Fidelus goes up and you need to get in touch, go through Sirius.”

“It’ll have to be desperate if I go through the mutt,” Severus grumbled, handing the other man the floo powder.

Potter laughed, taking a pinch, “For all that you two fight, he’ll help when you need it.”

“I’m aware. I can take care of things on my end, ” Severus agreed, waving the man off. “You just worry about yourself and your family, Potter.”

The floo flared as Potter left, and Severus shut it down for the night.

 

Chapter Two

October 31, 1981

“Black!” Severus’ throat was tight; he could still taste blood on his lips even though the spells and potions had already healed the worst of his injuries. “Sirius Black, get your bloody arse over here and let me through now!”

“Keep your hair on, mate,” Sirius ambled into view of the fireplace. His eyes widened once he got a look at Severus. “What the hell happened to you?”

“We don’t have time for that,” Severus snapped, “Let me through.”

“Passcode is the only prank I’ve ever apologized to you for,” Sirius said, stepping back.

Severus pulled his head out of the fireplace and threw in more powder. “Grim Haven Werewolf.”

He exited the flew on unsteady feet, Black had a hand on his elbow to keep him from falling over, and he didn’t hex the man for once.

“We need to go,” He said once he got his feet under him. “We don’t have much time.”

“What is going on?” Black asked, pulling him around to face him. “You look like hell Snape.”

One good thing about the renewal of his friendship with Lily and whatever the relationship he had with James Potter could be called, no one called him Snivellus any longer.

“He’s going after the Potters and Longbottoms tonight,” Severus gasped out, a pain in his side reminding him that while the worst of his injuries had healed, there were still some minor pains he’d ignored in his haste. “We need to go Black.”

“I’ll send out word to get a unit out to the Longbottoms. Frank never went under the Fidelus. He’s sure the manor will hold up to an assault, but it’s best not to take chances. James and Lily are safe under the spell, though.” Black replied, calling up his Patronus to give it the message for one of the fighting units out to the Longbottom manor.

“They aren’t, though, Black. They’ve been betrayed,” Severus bit out, whirling on the man. “Peter Pettigrew is the traitor; he kneels whimpering at Voldemort’s feet, tripping over his tongue to spill information as fast as he can.”

Sirius Black went so still Severus wasn’t even sure that he was breathing. His eyes didn’t blink as he stared at him. “No, not Peter,” He whispered, choking on his own words, but even as he denied it, he was fetching his battle gear from the next room, spelling it on before Severus had a chance to reply.

“I managed to slip out while that monster was making his mad plans for the night. However, he’s not going to wait. He sees tonight as an auspicious occasion; the fact that Peter brought him the information on this date cements the fact for him,” Severus straightened his shoulders. “I don’t know how much help I’ll be against him when he arrives, but I’ve managed to block him effectively enough that he can’t use the mark to command my wand against you.”

“Well, there’s that,” Black nodded, face grim. He cautioned, “I can’t give you the secret.”

“You don’t need to,” Severus grimaced, “I already have it. Of course, if we make it through the night, they’ll need to move and reset themselves just in case. But, honestly, it would be better if they left the country.”

“You might be right,” Black agreed, “Have you been there before?”
“No, I’ve made sure to stay away from anyplace associated with the Potters or Lily in the last couple of years, just in case,” He said. “I’ll need a side-along.”

“Do you trust me enough for that?” Black looked at him startled but reached his hand out gamely.

“I guess we’ll see,” Severus responded coolly, keeping his trepidation hidden. He bypassed the other man’s hand and stepped up to him to grip his forearm; using his other hand, he gripped his wand and stood in front of Black facing behind him, chest pressed up against him. “Don’t you dare splinch me.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” Black said dryly, “You’d beat me to death with whatever limb I left behind.”

The crack that announced their arrival was barely a muffled whisper of sound, proving Sirius’ competency in apparation as they arrived in a dark alley across from the cottage that held the Potter family. Severus had his wand up, eyes steady as he scanned the area. He didn’t see any movement.

“I don’t see anyone,” Black murmured. “I should send a message to Dumbledore and the order. We’ll need back up if the bastard is on his way.”

“I sent a message to Dumbledore. I told him that he was moving,” Severus said, stepping away from Black. “I told him that the bastard was sure that Harry was the prophecy child, but he sent a squad after Neville just to be sure.”

“I sent my Patronus directly to the units on standby and Frank, so whoever he sends to the manor will be met with plenty of resistance. If Dumbledore got your message, he hasn’t sent out any units to the area here, though,” Black said, looking around, casting the spells meant to reveal hidden order members.

Severus was silent, wondering if it was worth it to tell Sirius his suspicions about Dumbledore. He didn’t have enough proof to convince the fanatic followers of the great Leader of the Light, but Black might listen.

“Dumbledore has his own agenda,” Severus tested Black.

Black glanced at him before scanning the area again and moving them to an area with better coverage. “Do you happen to know what that agenda is?”

“I doubt anyone knows,” He replied using his own spells, pausing only to reach into his robes for a potion to finish the healing that he’d put off. Enough time had passed that it was safe to take now. “He’s obsessed with this prophecy though, if I didn’t know better, I’d think he wanted it to come true. Right now, it’s in stasis.”

“Hmm,” Black turned to look at him after setting some monitoring charms. “I remember some of my lessons with my grandmother. She had the gift and ensured that we were given basic instruction if Reg or I inherited it. That was before she got sick, and they retreated to the castle.” He shrugged that off and continued, “She said that a prophecy in stasis is a prophecy that can be undone; it hasn’t been activated. Even if it’s been given and recorded unless it’s been acted on–unless a physical manifestation, no a physical, purposeful act is taken–then the prophecy remains simply words spoken, and depending on what they were about, they will fade away.”

Severus nodded, “The department of mysteries won’t acknowledge it, I’m sure, but there are a lot of empty prophecy orbs in their possession.”

“So you’re saying that the prophecy Dumbledore is hoarding like a nesting dragon isn’t important?” Black asked skeptically, brows raised, face shadowed.

Severus pulled back further into the shadows himself, avoiding the quaint street lamps, “No, I’m saying it is important. I’m saying it’s so important that we should make sure that it stays in stasis, in limbo if possible. We should keep that child out of this merlin bedamned war Black,” He spat at the other man, waving his arm emphatically at the cottage with its glowing lights and happy family unaware of the danger that stalked them that night.

“How do we do that?” Black asked quietly, not arguing with him for once. “We only know the part you overheard. Dumbledore hasn’t shared the rest with us, you know that.”

“It’s enough to know that we should keep that monster away from the boy. When he comes, he’s going to be determined to kill Harry. He’ll cut down anyone in his way, single-minded in the pursuit of his goal, use that to our advantage, and take him out. He hasn’t taken the field in battle lately, not with a specific goal. Instead, he’s gone for generalized terror, which has made him hard to target. Tonight he’s going to be driven to a single target.”

“Right,” Black nodded. Severus could see the man’s mind begin to work out a plan. He might not like Black personally, but even he had to admire the strategic mind that hid beneath the flirty laid back persona. “We’ll need to classify Dumbledore as a hindrance is not an enemy then.” He frowned, “We need to get in there and let them know. We can’t do this without them being aware. If James and Lily are taken by surprise, we’ll lose half our advantage against the attack.”

“Can we get in there without setting off any charms or wards that will get back to Dumbledore?” Severus asked, following the other man as he was already moving from shadow to shadow, silently crossing the street.

“Yeah, he forgets, I think where I grew up,” Black a sliver of moonlight cut through the clouds catching his feral grin. “I don’t mean that he forgets that I’m a Black, but he doesn’t understand exactly what my upbringing entailed under my mother, merlin damn her soul.”

“Isn’t she still alive?”

“I’m hoping he’ll get a head start,” Black muttered distractedly, reaching the edge of the property and beginning to cast.

Severus turned to keep watch. As much as he wanted to see what Black was doing, someone needed to keep an eye on their surroundings. He’d left as soon as he could after being discovered as a faithful spy for the order. He was lucky not to be killed. If the monster hadn’t been distracted by Pettigrew, he would have been strung up for more intensive torture. He hadn’t taken the chance to stay long enough to find out when they’d be moving on the Potters, other than tonight.

“That should do it,” Black nudged him around, “Let’s go. I want to get in before anyone sees us out here. I don’t know if Dumbledore has anyone watching the area.”

“You’re taking this better than I expected,” Severus admitted moving ahead of the man, keeping off the lawn to avoid leaving signs of his passing.

“James and Lily had had their own worries about Dumbledore since before Harry was born. I’m not sure what exactly made them wary of the man, but James told me to keep my guard up around him until he could get back to me on a few things,” Black finished as they came to the back door of the house. “I’ve learned to trust his instinct on these things, and Lily has the same affinity with her magic to be able to get that reading on someone. So if the two of them feel uneasy around Dumbledore, that is good enough for me.”

Severus nodded, moving to the side so that Black could let them in. “Where is Lupin? I’d of thought that you would have sent for him before we left your place?”

Black paused, turning the doorknob, “He’s in Bulgaria, I think. Dumbledore has him running around trying to recruit in the packs that Voldie hasn’t made inroads into yet.”

Severus appreciated that he wasn’t saying Voldemort’s name, wary of the geis placed on it. Unlike some members of the order who took Dumbledore too literally and ran around yelling Voldemort at the top of their lungs, only to find themselves surrounded by his death squads moments later.

“That’s convenient timing,” He murmured to himself, following behind Black, shutting the door silently and casting a series of security and defense spells in layers over the entire back wall of the house. Then, turning back around, he raised a brow at the amused look on Black’s face. “It is stupidity to leave a door open at our backs tonight.”

“You might be right,” Black conceded, smiling sharply, “It’s just that I didn’t think there was anyone more paranoid than a Black.”

“Anyone that had to deal with a Black?” James Potter suggested leaning lazily against the doorway that leads out of the room. “I wasn’t expecting you tonight, Sirius, and I definitely wasn’t expecting you, Snape. So I’m guessing something is very wrong.”

“Peter is the traitor,” Black informed him, the muscle in his jaw twitched as he sucked in a breath through his teeth. “Severus brought word that he plans to move tonight with the information from Peter, so I sent a unit to the Longbottom’s manor, and Snape informed Dumbledore before he came to me.”

“Come into the sitting room, Lily is in there with Harry, and she should hear this as well,” James Potter turned on his heel and stalked down the hall.

Sirius and Severus exchanged a look before following the man, they both had experience with the man’s temper, and even though it had been a few years, Severus remembered what it had been like to be at wand point with the man.

“Well, you heard him,” Black finally said, shrugging his dragonskin battle gear to lay more comfortably across his shoulders but making no indication that he intended to remove it. “Let’s not keep his majesty waiting.”

Severus snorted indelicately and stalked down the hall, not waiting for Sirius. When he entered the sitting room, he set to work immediately to put down the same protection spells and charms.

“Hello Sev,” Lily said from the floor, Harry standing on her legs and staring up at him. “Can you say hello, Harry love?”

“Hello Lily,” Severus nodded to her, studying Harry. The boy wasn’t even out of nappies, and Dumbledore expected this child to defeat Voldemort. He shook his head. Severus didn’t doubt the power that Harry had. He could see the magic in the child’s core bubbling over without even trying. That being said, he was a child, and the act of destroying Voldemort would inevitably stain the purity of his magic. Why would such a thing need to happen when plenty of powerful and talented adult witches surrounded him who could take care of the matter.

“He’s beautiful, Lily,” Severus replied when it became evident that she was waiting for some kind of response from him. “Much better looking than the last time I saw him.”

“He was only a few days old then,” She huffed at him, pulling Harry to her and cuddling him.

“He looked like a cross between a raisin and potato Lils,” Sirius said, coming back from the front of the house, where Severus assumed he’d secured the door and wards in that area.

“James!” Lily turned to her husband on the sofa behind her, “Tell them that Harry has always been a lovely child.”

“Definitely,” James nodded solemnly at her. “Always lovely, I mean, I was a bit sleep deprived those first few months, but I’m sure he was the most beautiful baby I saw.”

Lily rolled her eyes at him, letting Harry go when he pulled out of her arms to toddle slowly around the sitting area. She lifted herself from the floor to sit beside her husband on the sofa, and Severus took the chair next to Sirius.

“He’s very powerful,” Severus observed, meeting James’ gaze since he predicted that James more than Lily would grasp the implications.

“We noticed,” He nodded at Severus, mouth tight, laughter leaving his eyes. “It was one of the first things Lily saw after she recovered.”

“Magesight?” Severus looked at Lily and raised his brows when she nodded. He hadn’t known that about her. It had to be one of the gifts that she’d trained when she’d gone into the Department of Mysteries.

“Has anyone else seen him?” Sirius had caught on to the implications easily enough. “Magesight isn’t one of my natural talents, so I’d never be able to see Harry’s core without spells or a ritual, and I wouldn’t do that without permission. I know it’s one of Severus’ abilities, has anyone else that has it seen him?”

“No, we’ve kept him away from most people since his core began to show,” James replied, threading his fingers through Lily’s.

Lily nodded next to him and then amended, “We’ve tried to keep him away from Dumbledore as much as possible, but he might know.”

“I believe that he does know. It would explain why he is putting so much behind his belief that Harry is the child of prophecy, even before tonight began to put things into motion,” Severus said, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. He leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees, dangling his wand in his fingers as he tried to think.

“What do you mean?” Lily’s voice rose.

Severus ignored them as he thought. He heard the rumble of Black answering the questions that the Potters had to the best of his ability, explaining their plans before moving on to their concerns about Voldemort and Dumbledore.

“Hi,” Harry whispered as quietly as a toddler could, which was to say, not at all. “Ouch.”

He tugged at Severus’s sleeve, and before he could stop the child, Harry had his brand bared to the room. A somber silence chilled the room, but Severus couldn’t lift his gaze from the small hand moving to touch the damned flesh on his arm.

“No!” He tried to pull away without hurting the boy but found he couldn’t move.

“Ouch!” Harry said again, looking at him from under his lashes, a pout forming on his face, his green eyes, just a shade darker than his mother’s, began to tear up. “Kiss.”

Then the boy proceeded to do that, ignoring the gasps around the room and the horror churning in Severus’s gut. He gave the brand a smacking wet kiss and then smacked it with his fat little hand.

“Bad snake,” He scolded, frowning. “Go away.”

Turning, he toddled to his mother and let her help him climb into her lap, where he proceeded to curl up and doze off.

The adults stared at the boy and then at each other before making an effort to shake off the strangeness of children.

“I think I’m going to put him down for now,” Lily said, not bothering to hold back a smirk as she met Severus’ disgruntled look. She headed out of the room in that walking sway all mothers had.

Severus ignored his old friend and turned his attention back to the conversation at hand, reaching into an inner pocket of his robe to retrieve a handkerchief to wipe off the toddler slobber from his arm.

The burning itch didn’t penetrate his argument with Potter and Black about the best way to set up their defenses until he realized that he couldn’t feel his fingers due to pain.

“What,” He groaned, rolling his sleeve back up, staring in horror, suddenly grateful that Lily had taken Harry down to the safe room and put him to bed while they decided their next moves.

The ink in the mark was bubbling out of his skin, like toxins released after a purging potion. The skin around the mark roiled and boiled; green gaseous smoke rose from the mark. He could almost make out images in it, the pain made him light-headed, and he could feel himself gasping for air.

Severus clenched his teeth together, refusing to scream or cry out any more than he might have already. He’d been through worse than this; he was sure he had, even if he couldn’t remember it. He didn’t know what this was, if Voldemort was reaching out through the mark to kill him for his betrayal, finally noticing Severus’ disappearance from the floor of the throne room or if his fight against the spells embedded in the mark itself were finally catching up with him.

“What is it?” Sirius was at his side, helping him out of the chair as he fell from it and laying him out on the floor. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” He managed to rasp out. “He knows about my betrayal, and he’s probably noticed my disappearance by now. This might be him deciding to pull a kill switch. It might be that I rebelled too much against the spells in the mark. I couldn’t say for sure.”

“Let me get Lily,” Potter said from his other side, “She might have an idea of some charms that might be useful, or something that they were working on in the department of mysteries might help.” He was gone before Severus could say anything.

A flash fire of pain swept his whole body, thick tears fell from his eyes, leaking into his hair, and his nose began to drip in a steady stream. Severus’ body arched off the ground as the pain hit him twice more. He had a moment to breathe in. Icy pain shredding at his lungs as he sucked in air and fire burning in his veins. The pain hit three more times as sharp as lightning, shooting across his nerves. The pain released him abruptly, and he sucked in gasping breaths before the pain struck him a final three times down to his bones, rattling him until he thought his teeth would crack.

“Fuck,” Sirius whispered in horror next to him, using a handkerchief to wipe his face. When Severus opened his eyes, he saw it covered blood and a black substance of the same consistency as the blood. “What the bloody fuck was that?”

Lily was suddenly kneeling next to his head, cleaning his face off with a wet cloth, “Sev, you still with us? James, we should move him down to the safe room,” She called over her shoulder.

“Lily look at his arm,” James whispered quietly.

Severus almost didn’t hear him over the heaving of his lungs as he tried to bring himself back under control, those words caused a root of panic to take root, and he struggled to sit up, ignoring the other’s protests.

“Either help me or get out of the way,” He snapped, pain and weariness dripping from him. “Potter, what about my arm?” Even as he asked, he brought his gaze to his left arm. It lay cradled across his chest, still throbbing with pain. He was afraid to pull back the sleeve that had fallen down when he’d sat up; he could feel the wet stickiness that couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than blood.

“It’s a mess, Snape,” James finally said, grimacing. “But I’m pretty sure that your mark is gone.”

“That’s impossible!” Lily inhaled sharply, making an abortive movement that Severus saw out of the corner of his eye.

Severus glared at the arm but slowly pulled it away from his body. He couldn’t manage the sleeve and the arm at the same time, though.

“I’ll help,” Sirius said, reaching over. He balanced Severus’ arm and began to lift the sleeve, which was already beginning to stick. “How do you want to do this, Snape, fast or slow?” He wiggled his brows with a smirk, but his grey eyes stayed somber.

Severus just arched a brow at the man, unamused at his attempt at humor. “Just get it done, Black before it ends up worse than it is.”

Sirius nodded at him and pulled the sleeve back in a smooth, steady motion. Severus clenched his teeth, the fabric hadn’t quite begun to stick, but the skin underneath was over sensitive.

“What the bloody fuck–” Sirius breathed once he had the sleeve off, using his wand to stick it back. “I think James is right, Lils give me that cloth.”

The arm was covered in a green and black substance mixed with his blood, it looked like it had been torn out of his arm, leaving an open wound, but something was making a barrier against the substance, leaving it to coagulate on his skin like an oil slick of poison.

“I’ve got healing potions in my pockets,” He whispered, unable to take his eyes off the spot where his mark had been. “I think whatever this substance is, it needs to be cleaned up and destroyed. If it came out of that mark, there is no telling what kind of black magic could be in it.”

“Take him to the ritual room. He’ll need to be cleansed, at least. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for a full ritual,” James said, holding up a hand against Severus’ protests. “We do have time for a healing and a quick cleansing. But, Severus, this means that you can do more than throw yourself in between one of us and that monster. Don’t you realize that this means you have a choice? You can fight if you want to.”

“He’s right, Snape,” Sirius said. He stood up, giving Severus a hand under his elbow and pulling him to his feet. Sirius stepped back to lean against the fireplace and cross his arms. “You have a chance to show everyone what’s really under all that Slytherin slyness and ambition.”

Severus felt himself pause; he knew without asking that they would let him go. He could walk out the door. His warning to them would be taken to heart, and they would be grateful for it, but he would never be welcomed fully back into their circle again. They would still let him go, let him run as far as he could from the monster that had put his mark on him and from whatever plans Dumbledore was making. They’d probably even pack him a bag, bloody Griffyndors.

He looked at the three of them, Sirius by the fire, James and Lily near the door to the basement safe room where little Harry lay sleeping, and knew the danger that was to come later.

He couldn’t leave. He’d already made the mistake once of obliterating bridges with his only real friend. Now he had her back, and with her, he’d somehow made something like friends with her husband and Sirius Black, of all people. Even Remus Lupin was on speaking terms with him, though with how much he traveled for the order, they didn’t see each other often.

“I’ll stay, but whatever we’re going to do, we should hurry. Knowing that monster’s flair for the dramatic, he’ll probably show up around midnight or three, counting on arithmancy to aid him, as well as catching you off guard.” Severus replied, gingerly shrugging out of his over robes. Most of the pain in his arm was gone, but he didn’t want to disturb the cloth they’d laid over and secured with a sticking charm. The last thing he wanted to do was contaminate the cottage with whatever this vile substance was.

“Let’s head down then. It’s in the space next to the safe rooms,” James said. He nodded to Lily as she took up a guard position at the door when Sirius made to follow them down.

Severus made sure he kept his robe with him; all his garments would need to be burned to ensure that nothing was left of whatever had come out of the mark. “Did either of you or Lily get any of this on you?”

“Lily had some on her hands,” James said. “She’ll come down and do a cleansing when we’re done. We’ll all go through it, just to be sure. I’m just glad that whatever happened did it when Harry was out of the room.”

Severus shuddered at the horror that thought brought. “He needs to be kept as far from that monster and his magic as possible. Potter, your son, has some of the purest magic I have ever witnessed. Yes, it’s some of the strongest, but most of us can build strength as we age, as you know. The purity of our magic, though.” He trailed off. “He’s going to be brilliant.”

“Well, I think he already is,” James said, grinning. “But I get your meaning.”

“Harry is the best,” Sirius punched James in the shoulder, moving to walk next to them now that they were down the steps. He grinned at Severus, “He’s my godson, you know.”

“I think everyone is aware of that Black,” Severus rolled his eyes, hiding his amusement at the man’s evident joy and pride at being chosen. “The only thing you didn’t do was take an ad out in The Daily Prophet.”

“Well, I was being circumspect,” He sniffed when James laughed, “I see how it is.”

He threw his hair back and sauntered off down the hall, all false indignation as James chuckled behind him.

“That man wouldn’t know how to be circumspect if it came up and bit him in the face,” Severus muttered.

“He isn’t so bad, he does well at work and for the order,” James defended, pushing open the door that Sirius had disappeared through.

“Yes, yes,” He acknowledged. “He’s good at his work, but in life?” He sniffed and shook his head. He made his way to the side of the room and started stripping out of his robes.

“Peg!”

“How can Peg be helping Master Potter?” He wore a uniform in the livery of the House of Potter and held himself very erect. The house-elf was small, the pale pink grey that most of their species were.

“We need to do a cleansing, my friend was hurt by the monster we’ve been hiding from,” James said. He sighed at the censuring look the elf gave him. “Yes, you can have the nanny elf come in to watch Harry tonight, he’s in the safe room.”

“Potter!” Severus snapped at the man, thoughts tumbling through his mind. “Are you saying that you have access to Potter Manor, the manor that he believes has been destroyed, razed to the ground?”

“Uh, yeah,” James looked over at him, “The goblins put it behind wards for me, he did attack it and killed my parents, but the manor itself wasn’t as bad off as I told everyone.”

“Then why in merlin’s name are you keeping Harry here tonight?” Sirius interjected, seeing where Severus was going.

“What he said,” Severus agreed, waving his uninjured are in the other man’s direction. “If you have at least one trusted house-elf there that can watch over him, why is he even still here?”

James stood still for a minute before bursting into movement, “I’ll be right back, Peg get them set up for cleansing and send for Mimi, she’ll be taking Harry to the manor.” He turned to the other men, “I have to go talk to Lily.”

Sirius turned to Severus. “I didn’t even know about the manor, or I would have made them go there and leave this place as a decoy.”

“He’s your friend,” He replied before turning to the elf who was tapping his foot impatiently. “I need to empty the pockets, but after that, the clothing will need to be destroyed. It’s all been contaminated, but unknown black magic.”

“I know what to be doing,” Peg sniffed at him, snapping his fingers and disappearing.

Severus didn’t even look down when he felt the cool air hit his skin, just glanced to the shelved to make sure the elf had indeed emptied his potions out, the uncontrolled destruction of which could have been a minor catastrophe.

“You are too, you know?” Sirius said he was slipping into one of the white ceremonial robes that had been on the shelf next to him.

“What?” Severus bristled, automatically stalking forward to get his robe on. He’d forgotten about Black momentarily with how quiet he’d been.

“You’re our friend as well,” Sirius smiled, his eyes crinkling. “Hell, if I know how that happened.”

“It was a merlin bedamned miracle,” James replied, reentering the room. “Circumstances being what they were, I say it was a miracle. Lily says we all grew up, and some of us learned some harsh lessons.”

Severus felt the internal strike of that remark but didn’t dispute it. They were harsh lessons, but at least he’d learned them instead of ignoring what was going on around him and continuing on the path he’d been on. Severus glanced down at his arm. It was still covered by the linen cloth, but he had a feeling that it would scar when all was said and done. While a part of him shuddered at the thought, mostly he was relieved that there would be something left to show what stupidity brought–at what his anger and pride had led him to–at the reminder that actions would forever have consequences. If it hadn’t been for the mark, he wouldn’t have been forced by the spells within it to report the glimpse of the prophecy he’d overheard. Hell, he wouldn’t have been forced to spy on Dumbledore in the first place.

“Friends,” Severus tasted the word as he said it, waiting for James to change into his robes. Of course, the term was familiar, but using it in connection to these men was so foreign he wasn’t sure how to feel about it. “I presume it’s too late to change my mind.”

“You didn’t run when your mark disappeared in our living room Severus,” James said soberly, crossing the room to open the door into the open ritual bathing room.

“That’s the thing, Snape,” Sirius said, clapping him on the shoulder and dragging Severus through the door with him. “Despite how we acted in school and what you did in those last years after you and Lily broke off your friendship, we’ve all noticed how you’ve been working for the order. You run towards the danger in the most Slytherin way possible. You hamstring the bastards so James and I can cut their heads off.”

“It took us a while,” James said over his shoulder as he added potions to the sunken pool formed in the rock foundation that wouldn’t exist if not for magic creating it. “But Lily and Remus both helped us see it from a different perspective, and it helped that you didn’t act like you had in school. You were a bit of a–”

“You were a creep when it came to Lily,” Sirius filling in unapologetically. “We all know this, even you.”

Severus nodded shortly, “I don’t disagree, which is why this is all the more baffling, to be honest.”

“Well, you aren’t being creepy, that helps,” Sirius laughed, breaking up the mood. “You’ve made wrong choices, really wrong choices, but you’re also trying to correct them.” He shrugged.

“I say that you just accept it, Snape,” James slipped out of his robe and into the steaming water, dunking himself in one motion as he moved to the opposite side to make room for them. “If you have run away by now, I expect you won’t.”

Severus and Sirius made their way into the pool without wasting time on any further conversation. Everyone seemed to feel the clock ticking down. They went through the motions to cleanse themselves and were out of the room and redressed within thirty minutes.

“I have sir’s clothing,” Peg said, standing as tall as possible, hands clasped behind his back, ears twitching. “Battlegear for sirs and the lady. Mimi took the young sir to the manor hall with Lady Potter’s instructions.”

“Excellent Peg,” James nodded at the elf, moving to dress. “Let Lily know that the room is ready for her. We’ll begin prepping the house for our visitors once we head upstairs.”

“As sir wishes,” He sniffed before popping away.

“That elf has more dignity and pride than half the old men on the Wizengamot James,” Sirius laughed, shrugging into his battle robes and sliding his wands into their holsters.

“He always has,” James agreed, mimicking Sirius, twisting in his robes to makes sure they didn’t inhibit his movement. “I was shocked when I got to Hogwarts and realized that not all house-elves spoke or acted like him.”

“This is an interesting material,” Severus interjected, dressing in his robes slower than the others. His own robes had been disposed of, and he’d known he’d be borrowing robes, but these were of finer quality than he’d expected, and they had adjusted to fit him perfectly.

“It’s a mix of dragonhide, acromantula silk, and some lethifold, but don’t mention the last part,” Sirius winked, flicking the last clasps of his robe closed. “Looks good on you, better than what you were wearing.”

“How’s your arm?” James asked, holding his hand out for Severus’s arm.

Severus sighed and let James look at his arm. After the cleansing bath, it had been cleaned well, the toxic substance was utterly gone, and his arm looked like it had been scraped across the road harshly, but otherwise, it wasn’t bad off. It didn’t hurt enough to hinder him in the upcoming fight, either.

“The mark is really gone,” Sirius stared from next to him, close enough that his breath brushed across the abraded skin of his arm. “Do you have any idea how it happened?”

“No,” Severus forced himself not to snap his reply. “I can only presume that He attempted to kill me through the mark, and somehow it failed. How or why I couldn’t fathom. I’m not going to question it right now and simply count it as a blessing from Lady Magic, I don’t know what I’ve done to be granted one, but I’m not going to throw it away.”

“Good,” James nodded, standing back up, letting go of Severus’ arm, and he pulled the sleeve of his robes down to secure the wrist buckles. “Let’s head up. I’m sure Lily is already in the baths and will be ready to use this room soon.”

James smacked Sirius on the shoulder, leading the men through the door at the opposite end of the room. Severus trailed behind them as they walked down the underground passage and up a set of stone stairs. They emerged out the back of the house into the cool night air.

James shrugged at their looks, “We went about it backward, for the most part, it wasn’t wrong, but the rooms were built for us to come in from work and go through the baths before coming up into the house and the family. Everything is ritually cleansed each time, so going this way isn’t going to lessen the effect, don’t worry.”

“Let’s get things set up,” Severus said, moving to the fencing at the edge of the yard. “We should stay subtle out here. The point will be to get him trapped inside. With Harry not in the house, it’s going to be even more important to draw him in.”

“This will be our one real chance to get him unaware,” Sirius agreed. He began to cast opposite of the other man.

James took the back of the house, avoiding the exit from the underground, obviously waiting for Lily to emerge before spelling the area.

“You started without me,” Lily came up out of the passages like Persephone rising from the underworld, Queen even while deigning to bring spring to the mortals. Her red hair falling behind her like fire crackling in the autumn breeze, eyes blazing as green as the killing curse.

Severus almost pitied Voldemort and Dumbledore at that moment, those wizards who dared to threaten this mother’s child. Almost.

“We left the best part for you, Lils,” Sirius replied, gesturing emphatically to the house. “All the fun spells are going to be in there.”

“Hmm,” She sniffed, turning to look at the house, tilting her head, a twitch of her hand had her wand falling into her hand.

“Fuck, she’s gorgeous,” James sighed, eyes heavy-lidded, smile soft and secret.

“Come on, loverboy,” Sirius shoved at him. “Let’s finish the yard, and then we can follow your wife into the house to see what destruction she’s wrought.”

“Can you believe she’s my wife?”

“I wouldn’t have believed it in Hogwarts,” Severus said quietly, his voice carrying on the wind after Lily had disappeared into the house. “Seeing you together, even briefly over the last few years, though, you are well-matched, and she loves you. That’s enough, I would imagine, for anyone to believe it.” He turned away to finish casting his portion of the defenses, ignoring the heavy silence behind him. After a moment, he heard them move about to finish up their part.

Working together, it didn’t take long before they were done and ready to head into the house. The wards were set and made to look as if the Potter’s were defenseless, counting on the Fidelis alone to keep them safe. Sirius and Severus hid under a thick blanket of spells and charms to be undetectable.

A twist of the wards and a young house elf in the nursery left the impression that Harry was in residence, further drawing Voldemort into the trap, or so they hoped. What happened with Dumbledore afterward would depend on how he reacted when everything was done.

Severus was sure that James and Lily would dig a grave under her roses for the old man if he threatened their family. He didn’t plan to stand in their way.

The night settled over the house. As they took their positions, midnight chimed on the clock. They heard the muffled cracks of apparition.

Out of the corner of his eye, Severus saw Lily tense before taking a breath and relaxing back into her position of feigned sleep on the sofa. Standing where he was at the doorway from the back kitchen, he saw the form of a disillusioned man making his way into the house. Severus readied a spell, stopping in shock when he realized exactly who it was. Narrowing his eyes, he followed the old man up the stairs, tapping James on the shoulder as he went by, “Dumbledore,” He breathed in passing.

James just nodded, casually getting to his feet and making his way to the kitchen doorway, taking Severus’ position by leaning against the wall.

That was the last thing Severus saw before he was out of sight up the stairs. He wondered at Dumbledore’s reasons for being here. If it hadn’t been for the subtle spells that they’d laced the yard with, they wouldn’t have noticed him coming in, and Dumbledore would have passed through without anyone’s knowledge. Was he here to help with Voldemort?

Severus slipped into the nursery on the heels of the self-proclaimed lord of the light, making it just in time to avoid being locked out by a series of spells that Dumbledore cast after shutting the door.

Dumbledore removed the spell keeping him invisible, gliding across the room to the crib to study the sleeping child.

Severus held his breath. He’d scoffed at Lily’s insistence at spelling the elf to such an extent with her department of mystery charms to fully replace Harry, a changeling charm, she’d called it. Severus was grateful now for Lily’s paranoia and the elf’s willingness to act as the child. Not only did the elf carry enough of the child’s magical signature to draw Voldemort into the house, but he should fool Dumbledore as he stood over the crib.

“You’re such a small child for such a large destiny, aren’t you, my boy?” Dumbledore murmured, leaning down to trace the boy’s cheek with his wand. “It’ll be a hard life for you, young Harry, but we can’t choose our fate. We must simply follow where it leads.”

Severus moved closer, trying to get a better look at what the old man was doing. He gritted his teeth when he saw Dumbledore begin to set a spell on the elf. He moved forward to stop it when he heard a commotion take place downstairs.

“It’s begun,” Dumbledore said smiling, “Everything is in place, just as I hoped. Every piece on the board and you little one, you will be my most important pawn.” He set his spells again, fading into the background.

Severus managed to tag Dumbledore with his own spell so he’d be able to keep track of the man even while he was unseen to the naked eye, just in case he became lost in the coming confrontation.

Dumbledore took the spells off the door and headed down into the sitting room, where James battled Peter until Lily sent a cutting hex that sliced him open.

“We’re never getting that out of the rug,” She complained, grimacing at the stains spreading from the body.

“I’ll buy you a new rug, love,” James said exasperatedly. “We have other things to worry about, like the great noseless wonder.”

“James?” Lily queried, staring at Voldemort as he came through the door of their sitting room wand raised, she threw a couch into the path of his first killing curse. “If he doesn’t have a nose anymore, do you think he’s missing anything else?”

“Like what?”

“Well,” She tossed her bookshelf into the path of the next curse, both of them ignoring the monster’s monologing. “Do you think he still has a dick?”

“Lily!” James paled, staring at her.

Lily just raised her brows at him and then looked at the thing that was supposed to be the darkest wizard of the age, “Hey you,” She shot off a series of hexes intermixed with curses in a cycle she’d learned from her mentor. Only a few of them hit, but they hit the thing hard.

“You’re a wretched woman, and I shall delight in killing you and your son,” Voldemort hissed, staggering upright from the wall he’d been thrown into.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Lily replied. “Now inquiring minds want to know, do you or do you not have a dick?”

“Lily!” James smacked a hand over his face and sighed, even as he managed to maneuver himself into place near where Sirius was crouched, ready to spring their trap.

Dumbledore suddenly broke his spells, “James, Lily, you must stop. This isn’t the way things are meant to go.”

Everyone froze, Voldemort his wand still pointing at Lily, but his gaze locked on Dumbledore.

“Dumbledore,” Lily said, ice coating her words. “Are you here to help take care of this monster?”

“You know what is coming,” Dumbledore began to coax the Potters. “What must be done.”

Severus stayed hidden, even as his gaze took in the battlefield that had once been the Potter’s sitting room. He saw Voldemort make a move towards Dumbledore, and while he might be willing to let the old man go down, he was too close to James now for Severus to take the chance that Voldemort was only aiming for the light lord.

“I don’t think so, you ugly snake fucker,” Sirius said, shooting a cutting hex from his place behind Voldemort.

“You think you can take me, the great Lord Voldemort?” Voldemort hissed, spitting his words as he engaged in a fight with Sirius that led them past the Potters and out the front of the house.

“He’s good,” Lily complimented offhandedly.

“Years of dancing and dueling,” James replied, stalking around Dumbledore to wrap an arm around her in a quick embrace. “It’s time to end this. You ready, Evans?”

“As if you need to ask Potter,” She huffed, twirling her wand and began to glide her way through the wreckage left in the wake of Sirius and the monster who wanted to kill her son.

“Wait, you can’t do this,” Dumbledore had his wand out casting before anyone could catch their breath. The spell knocked James away from Lily and sent her out into the ongoing battle in the front yard.

Severus moved to James, slipping to his side. He didn’t take the time to disengage the stealth charms when he saw Dumbledore looming over James.

“I’m sorry, my boy,” Dumbledore shook his head, “This could have been so much easier if you’d have just played your part like I wanted you to.” He stroked his beard, pressing a foot on James’ chest when the man went to sit up, looking dazed from the impact with the wall.

“What’s the meaning of this Dumbledore,” He rasped out, shoving the foot away. He pulled a reserve wand and pushed the order leader back as he managed to stagger to his feet. “I thought you were fighting against Voldemort, not for him.”

“I fight the dark, Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore responded, slashing a hex with his wand, managing to twirl and dodge the barrage that James sent at him.

Severus shouldn’t have been surprised by how agile the old man was, he’d been the one to take down Grindelwald, and no one had ever besmirched the man’s dueling abilities. Severus threw his own set of jinxes and hexes to keep the man off balance. He wasn’t sure how James wanted to handle Dumbledore, whether this would be capture or kill situation, so he took his cues from the other man.

“We’re all fighting the dark old man,” James wheezed. The blast must have injured his ribs. “You seem more intent on the death of my family Dumbledore.”

“You have to die, James. You have to die to ensure that the prophecy comes to fruition and your son brings in a new era of light,” Dumbledore spoke with the fervor of the devout, eyes blazing with the fire of the zealot. “He’ll lead us all, and I’ll teach him the way. Your deaths are just the first steps in his journey. You must understand that.”

‘He’s insane.’ Severus thought, there was no other word for it. They’d long known that Voldemort was crazier than a peach orchard boar, but not one of them had thought that Dumbledore was on that level.

“You’re insane,” James said on stunned breath, face pale beneath the dirt and ash that had settled into a mask around his wide, shocked eyes, a trickle of dark blood crept down his forehead. “You’re bloody fucking insane. I’m not going to let you have my son, and I’m not going to let you kill my wife or me.” He shifted his stance, shaking off the shock and engaging in dueling Dumbledore with his full power.

Severus continued to help James after glancing out the hole toward Sirius and Lily. He saw the two of them engaged with Voldemort, so he presumed that the attack from Dumbledore hadn’t put her down for long. Now it would be up to the two men to keep Dumbledore from putting his plans into motion. He rummaged in the debris and picked up James’ wand, knowing the man would need it to hold out against Dumbledore.

“Potter,” He threw the man his main wand even as he felt the spells hold him invisible, being ripped away. He turned to face the light lord.

“Severus,” Dumbledore said nonplussed.

“Dumbledore,” Severus drawled, already casting against the man, he wasn’t going to take any chances, and they needed to end this soon.

The fight was fast and furious after that, James and Severus trying to corner Dumbledore. They ended up out in the yard with the others before long, and the only thing keeping them from having an audience was that someone was holding some powerful wards over the property now that Peter was dead.

“Now, I hate to do this, my boy, but needs must, and fate needs more than most.” Dumbledore had James down on the ground, half-buried under the sidewall of the house and unable to move.

“James!” Sirius jerked Lily back from Voldemort’s spell, and with a look towards Severus and James, they went back to battling their own opponent.

Staggering to his feet, dazed from being thrown across the yard, Severus was moving before his vision realigned. He’d lost two wands already tonight, he had one left, his mother’s, and outside of the one he’d received upon entering the wizarding world, it was the wand the resonated the best with his magic.

“Just close your eyes, James. Death is just the next great adventure,” Dumbledore pontificated, whipping his wand in a pattern that Severus didn’t recognize but still sent a chill through him.

“You won’t get your way Dumbledore,” James said each word came on a labored breath as blood dripped into his eyes. His infamous hair was crackling with blood, dirt, and magic. “Lady Magic will take her due from you.”

“I’m carrying out her will James,” Dumbledore said, slicing his wand down, using a twisting motion at the last moment, creating what looked like a lance of light.

“If that is what you think, then you are more insane than that thing over there,” Severus grunted, the lance that Dumbledore’s spell had built cutting into his shoulder. With a twist and jab of his wrist, he cut the blade away, pushing Dumbledore back.  He didn’t give the man time to recover before holding his wand steady in front of him. “Sectumsempra!” He held the spell as the cuts began to open on the old man. He held it as he felt the blood drip from his shoulder down his arm. He held the spell until he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“He’s gone, Severus,” James said, pushing his wand arm down. “It’s time to help Lily and Sirius.”

“You really think Lily needs our help?” Severus said automatically, turning from where Dumbledore lay, as he did, the blood from his wound fell on the bare skin of James’ hand.

Golden light shot out from them, encircling them, sparking from their skin and hair, lines shooting towards Lily and Sirius. Severus found he couldn’t move, he couldn’t speak, barely able to move his eyes, he watched the battle playing out in front of them.

“None of you paltry tricks will save you mudblood,” Voldemort spat, blood oozing brackish red from cuts visible through the tatters of his robes. “I am Lord Voldemort, I can not die. I will kill you and your son. This prophecy will die with you all tonight.”

Lily spun out of the way of another curse, hair streaming behind her like flames, “My son will not die tonight, not by your hand or anyone else’s. You’re just an old wizard who has used himself up through too many rituals. You’re falling apart; magic is barely holding you together. I can see it all now.”

Sirius moved in with a cutting curse, moving away to avoid the return fire of Voldemort’s blasting curse. He caught the edge of it but managed to keep himself from hitting what was left of the house.

Severus was doubly grateful now Harry was nowhere near the house and that the house-elf was long gone, having been given instructions to leave if the fighting became too dangerous. The house was not going to still be standing by the end of the night if it took too many more hits.

“Just a little tug here,” Lily danced forward, lunging with her wand forward, the tip glowing. She hooked the end and pulled.

Voldemort stumbled in the act of casting, his left arm hanging dead at his side briefly, “Foolish tricks, you’ll pay for that.”

Lily retreated back, wand still hooked and pulling–something undefined from the monster’s core.

Severus watched as the magick that was erupting around James and him flared one final time before washing in a wave over the yard leaving the four of them glowing, Voldemort the lone dark being on the landscape.

“The debt has been paid.” The words came from all around them and swirled towards Severus and James, following the visible glow of magic before it settled into them, reverberating into the very core of their magical selves.

James and Severus looked at each other briefly, the knowledge of what had happened in their eyes. Then with a nod, they joined the fight against Voldemort. Severus didn’t know why he’d come alone, but with the four of them prepared for him, they had the advantage, even after taking down Dumbledore.

Voldemort flung curses like parade candy; Severus was down, his leg broken. James lay not far from him, body splayed like a broken doll, but he could make out the rise and fall of the man’s chest. Sirius went down to a curse soon after James.

Lily fought on. She kept making that hooking motion with her wand and pulling in between, casting her curses at the monster.

“Stop it, mudblood,” Voldemort screamed in his hissing voice, desperation feeding his casting; his spells were barely sparking off Lily’s shields. “I am Lord Voldemort!”

“I don’t think that means what you want it to mean,” Lily laughed, cheeks flushed, red hair dancing in the air behind her. She cast on Voldemort and hooked near his chest, and pulled.

Voldemort went to his knees, wand falling from his hand, “Stay back, woman, I can not die. I won’t!”

“You will,” Lily Potter strode across the ruins of her lawn, house falling down behind her. The man she loved broken on its grounds, two men she’d gladly call brother laid near him, all down to this–thing– “You dare come to my home to kill my family–to kill my son. You do this and expect any mother to let you live?”

“You’re of the light. Surely, you don’t want my death on your soul?” Voldemort hissed when her foot connected with his chest, sending him on his back.

“You might be right,” Lily nodded, twirling her wand, “I’m going to make sure that you can’t harm my family, though.” She glanced over at James and Severus, who had crawled to the man to check on his vitals.

“He’ll be fine with some time, Lily,” Severus said grimly, dumping a potion down James’ throat and massaging it until it was gone. “You won’t be made a widow tonight.”

She turned back to Voldemort in time to see him lifting a dagger dripping in black magic, “No!” She whipped her wand around. ‘Too slow,’ she whispered as she flung herself back, the dagger cut into her battle robes. She finished her curse, though, and separated Voldemort’s head from his body.

“Lily!” Sirius was at her side, hands shaking as he eased her away from the body, “Let me see.”

She pulled at the robes, wondering how long it would take for it to poison the well of her magic.

“It didn’t cut you,” Sirius said, hands patting at the skin of her naked arm and chest. “Severus says it didn’t even cut into your shield.”

“What?” Lily looked down and saw unbroken skin. Shaking her dazed head, she brought her magesight up and realized that the shield that had taken place after Dumbledore had fallen was indeed still intact. She felt her knees go weak. She forced herself to lock them. “If I’m fine, Sirius, may I ask why you’re still feeling me up?”

“Uh?” Sirius snatched his hands back, thrusting them behind his back. “We should go check on James and call someone to take care of these two.”

“Yes and Harry,” Lily said, heart aching. “I need to see Harry, away from all this.”

“Lily?” James called tiredly, his head was propped up on Severus’ outer robes, and he was pale as the moon. “We got him. We broke the damned thing?”

“Yes, we broke the bloody prophecy James,” Lily straightened her clothes, brushed her hair down as well as she could with all the ambient magic still swirling around, and marched over to her husband. Falling to her knees next to him, she leaned in and kissed him softly. “Harry is safe.”

“Good,” James smiled and then winced. “I think I’m going to go to sleep for a bit.”

“You do that. We’ll take care of everything,” Sirius said, standing behind Lily. “I’m going to send a Patronus out to the aurors Lils. You should send one to your old mentor.” He glanced around. “There are things here that they’ll probably want to keep out of sight for now.”

Lily looked at the body of Dumbledore and grimaced, “Yes, of course. This whole thing is going to be a mess. Severus, how is your leg?”

“Broken, nothing a few hours of Skeligrow won’t take care of, though.” He replied, he’d already taken a pain and numbing potion to keep himself going until they were finished.

“Do you mind going to sit with Harry?” Lily asked, eyes begging him to agree. “The elves are wonderful, but I’d feel better with someone I know with him. We’ll send a healer to you.”

“What about the wards on the manor?” Severus asked warily.

“I’ll take you in,” Lily replied, standing, “If Sirius keeps watch here, I’ll take you there and check on Harry. Then I’ll come back with Peg and get him to take James. I’d feel better if he was under wards right now since these ones are going to have to come down.”

“Then yes, of course, I’ll watch over Harry and James as well as I’m able,” Severus agreed.

Lily moved away to discuss the messages to their departments with Sirius before they left.

Severus looked around the yard, at the destruction and down at James Potter, his school tormentor and hated rival, now his friend. Across the yard stood Lily, a lost friendship won again, and another schoolyard bully turned friend. This was not how he imagined life playing out when he went to Dumbledore for help years ago or when he’d sent the information to the Potters and Longbottoms about the prophecy. He couldn’t say that he hated it. He looked down at his arm; reaching down, he unbuckled and drew back the sleeve, brushing the back of his fingers over the abraded skin. Severus blinked back tears. He was free of the mark, not the consequences, no those he would still have to deal with, but he wasn’t branded by that madman. Dead or not, to be free of that was a burden off his soul.

“Lily’s ready to go,” Sirius said, watching him. “I’m going to help you into the house, the floo is still connected, and it’ll be easier on your leg than apparition.”

“I’m ready,” Severus said, bracing himself and letting the other man help him stand without putting any weight on his broken leg. He’d splinted it with magic, but it still hurt like hell.

“Then let’s go,” Sirius smiled, “That woman will drag us both in by our ears. She needs to get her arms around her son now that she knows James is out of immediate danger.”

“Hmm,” Severus agreed, and they headed into the ruin of the house. Clean up, and questions would come, but the prophecy was broken, it hadn’t even been activated, and now it was unmade. They’d have to find out how the Longbottoms had faired, but that was for later.

Right now, their mission was accomplished. Little Harry Potter was safe.

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. I really really enjoyed this. You managed to keep Severus the asshole Slytherin he can be while making his redemption quite believable.
    I loved the small bits of Harry going “Ouchie, kissy” to make the mark go away and Lily wondering about Voldie’s dick (though I’m not going to try to figure out the answer xD)
    Thank you for sharing your story !

  2. I love this! Definitely insane Dumbledore.

  3. This was so good! I laughed loudly at Lily taunting Voldemort about his dick, and it was awesome to see the Marauders being smart and prepared. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  4. This is alternate path is great. I love how all of the characters think and act more than they did in the books.

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