“Don’t be too long now, Miss Evans.”
“Just packing up, Professor. I’ll be down in a minute.”
“Well, since everybody else is finished, I might leave you to it. Good night, Miss Evans.”
“Good night, Professor.”
The teacher followed the departing students down the stairs, leaving Lily to finish packing on top of the Astronomy Tower.
Interesting, she mused, the Professor never even noticed that Sev is still up here. There’s a way he’s got of disappearing into the background.
She glanced over to where her friend stood quietly in the shadows. He was leaning with his elbows on the top of the waist-high stone wall, gazing out over the grounds towards the lake, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the Astronomy class was over for the night.
Lily finished putting her star charts into her bag and walked across to him. She put her arms on the wall as well, unconsciously mirroring his position.
“What are you doing?” she asked quietly.
“There’s a news flash!” she teased. “What are you thinking about?”
He glanced at her with a slight smile. “I was remembering that day in the park when I first met you. You flew off the swing that day, really flew. How did you do it? I’ve asked the teachers and tried to find information in the library, but there’s no mention of any wizard or witch being able to fly, not unless they use a broom. So how did you manage it?”
“I was a child back then, Sev. I don’t remember what I did. Anyway, it wasn’t proper flying, you know. More like a – a controlled fall.”
“I thought it might be something like the time I was being chased by that Muggle gang from our old primary school, do you remember them? I managed to somehow jump up to the school roof to get away from them, even though it was two storeys high!” He smiled grimly. “And then I couldn’t get down again, and the janitor had to climb up on a ladder to rescue me!”
Lily didn’t say anything. Before they’d become friends, she’d barely noticed the skinny, black-haired boy who the others used to bully so unmercifully. It made her angry that even here in Hogwarts, Severus was still picked on, even by members of her own House. He often had to hang out with the other Slytherins just for his own protection. This tended to put a strain on their relationship, as Lily, being Muggle-born, was not exactly welcomed into that elitist group.
“I thought,” he continued musingly, “that flying might have something to do with levitation. I’ve been working on it for the past few weeks, and now I’m sure of it. Instead of using the charm to lift something, you can use a variation to push against the ground and hold yourself up …”
“Hmm, sounds logical, I suppose,” Lily acknowledged. She yawned widely. “D’you want to go on down now? I’m tired.”
“Lily, this is more important than sleep! Think what we could achieve if we could fly, really fly, unaided!”
“I’m not too bothered, to tell you the truth. Although I’m looking forward to learning to Apparate. It’s a shame they don’t let fourth-years learn; I’d really like to try it.”
Severus waved one hand dismissively. “Anyone can learn to do that, if they just apply themselves. I’m talking about flying, like a bird!” He pushed away from the wall. “I’ve been working on a modified version of the charm they put onto broomsticks, but that didn’t work to lift a person. So then I tried to use a reversal of the levitation charm, and it worked! I managed to lift myself a few inches off the ground, just before class this evening!”
“You did? Hey, that’s amazing! Show me!”
“I plan to.” Putting a hand onto the waist-high wall, he vaulted onto it, to stand on the very edge, arms outstretched and wand held ready.
“Sev! What are you doing?” Lily cried in alarm. “Come off there! It’s dangerous.”
He glanced down at her. “I could push up from the ground before,” he said seriously. “Now I’m going to try it from up here!”
“No! Get down, you idiot! What if it doesn’t work so high up? You’ll fall and kill yourself! Please, Sev! Don’t risk it!”
He drew a deep breath. Staring up at him in horror, Lily could see he was trembling, despite the warm night and his confident manner.
“If it doesn’t work, I leave you all my textbooks,” he said with dark humour. And dropped.
“NO!” Lily screamed. She rushed to the edge and peered down. The moonlight wasn’t strong enough to see that far; he must be lying on the ground, smashed and broken …
Lily shrieked. Severus came floating up at an angle, his forehead wrinkled in concentration, but his eyes were exultant. “It’s a … series of … controlled … falls,” he said, each word punctuated by a brief dip in height before his concentration brought him back up again. “I’m flying … Lily! Really … flying!”
Lily stared at him, breathing heavily in fright as he managed to land clumsily back on top of the wall and leap down to stand beside her. She pulled back one hand and slapped him, hard, on the upper arm.
“Ow!” He clutched his arm and pulled away from her, looking surprised. “What’d you do that for?”
Lily shook her head. “You scared me to death, you idiot! Don’t do that again!”
“But, Lily, don’t you understand? I’ve learnt how to fly! And it was thanks to you giving me the idea!”
“I don’t want to hear anymore about flying! You’ll end up dead, and then what will I do?”
Severus’s exultant expression changed. He looked suddenly very serious. “Would it matter that much to you?”
Lily sighed in exasperation. “Of course it’d matter! You’re my best friend, Sev; don’t put yourself at risk like that again!”
Severus stared at her, flying forgotten for the moment. “Let’s go on downstairs,” he said at last. And as they walked away there was a new spring in his step …
The Dark Mark burned like Fiendfyre on his arm and in his blood. It was purest agony, but Severus stared at it with a sort of bitter pride. He’d done it; he’d have the power he’d always craved now. It seemed to assuage, a little, the desperation he’d felt when he’d learned that Lily was to marry Potter …
The Dark Lord had rifled through Severus’s memories before accepting him; he knew everything, even the secret love Severus had harboured for years for Lily Evans. Yes, even that he knew, and he did not hold it against his newest recruit that he had such feelings for a … a Mudblood …
The other Death Eaters had Disapparated, leaving their newest member standing alone in the moonlight with the Dark Lord. It was the custom that each new initiate had to perform one task with only Voldemort present as proof of their devotion to the Cause. The task was usually bloody, always difficult and occasionally fatal. Voldemort required a lot in the way of proof.
“Severus,” the high, cold voice spoke now. “You are keeping a secret from your Master.”
Severus stared up at the red eyes. “My Lord? Never!”
Voldemort permitted himself a brief smile. “Oh yes. I saw the briefest glimpse into your mind, when I carved the Mark into your flesh. You had somehow managed to hide it from me before, when I was exploring your mind. It was the strangest vision, you were floating above the world, gazing down at Malfoy Manor below you, unaided by broomstick or flying carpet. What was that?”
“Oh.” Severus blinked. Earlier that evening, when Lucius had notified him of his acceptance into the Death Eaters, he’d flown, just out of sheer exuberance at learning he was to at last have power. “My Lord, I discovered the magical charm which allows a wizard, or a witch, to fly. I first developed it while I was a student at Hogwarts.”
“Unaided flight, Severus? How very – intriguing. Did Dumbledore know its secret, I wonder?”
“I don’t think so, my Lord. So far as I know, I’m the first wizard to have developed it. I’ve never shown anybody else –”
Nobody who matters, anyway, he amended to himself bitterly. She’s going to marry Potter, she doesn’t love me …
“Hmm. It seems Lucius was right when he sponsored you. He said you were one of the most intelligent wizards he’d ever met. Severus, for your initiation task, you will show your Master the secret. Teach me how to fly.”
Severus gazed up into the red eyes. The most powerful wizard of the age valued him that highly? It soothed some of the deep hurt that Lily had inflicted on his heart.
“Yes, my Lord,” he breathed.