He let go of her and started to move away, but her hand on his arm stopped him.
"Sev." Her soft voice saying that name, the name only she had ever called him, conspired with her light touch to send shivers over his nerve endings. "I heard about your parents. I'm so sorry."
At the mention of his mum and dad, his heart began pounding in his chest, and he forced himself to draw some air into his lungs in the hope it might enable him to speak calmly. "Oh. Of course. Thank you," he managed. Still, she stood looking at him as if waiting for more. "My father perhaps deserved it. My mother …" His voice cracked, and he could not continue. He blinked his eyelids to drive away the burning sensation he felt building behind them.
"Your mother was always kind to me," she said. They stood awkwardly a moment, staring at one another, before she moved towards him and put her arms around him. "I'm sorry," she said again.
After so long without so much as a kind word from her—from anybody, really, as few had ever shown him any kindness, and all of it had long since ceased—to feel her in his arms overwhelmed him. He stood stiff for a moment, but when she did not pull back immediately, he allowed himself to return the embrace, arms encircling her and holding her close. His face pressed into her hair; her familiar sweet scent washed over him, engulfing him.
"Lily," he said, horrified to hear the tremor in his voice. "Merlin, I've missed you," he whispered. He knew he'd already said too much, showed her too much of his vulnerability, but he could not seem to stop himself. He felt that stinging sensation in his eyes again, and his arms tightened around her.
"Sev," she said. She rested her hand on his chest, putting a little distance between them.
He did not want distance between them. He did not want to look at her; he did not want her to see …. Against his will, a drop squeezed from the corner of his eye and landed on her cheek. Embarrassed, his eyes were drawn to hers, and he saw that hers were also swimming with tears. He supposed he ought to release her, but now that he had her in his arms, he had no wish to ever let her go again. Her presence was not just a balm to his aching heart; even through his grief, his body responded to her proximity, coming alive, reminding him of everything he used to want with her.
"I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am," she whispered. "Nobody deserves that …"
Those words sent a chill through him, and his heart remembered to be bitter. "Nobody," he repeated. "Not even me." His arms fell to his sides, and he turned away from her.
"I didn’t mean it like that," Lily said to his stubborn back.
His hands curled into fists. "It's fine," he said to the stone wall in front of him. "You've said what you wanted to say, and I appreciate your kind words. You can go now."
"Sev," she said.
He whirled to face her. "What else is there to say, Lily? I know you can hardly stand the sight of me. Why would you wish to remain in my company?"
She stared at him, the tears now falling freely from her eyes. The sight shook him to his core. He'd never imagined she'd spent one moment crying over him. Perhaps her feelings for him were not quite as dead as he'd believed them to be. At the thought, he took a step towards her. "Lily," he said, his voice sounding as raw as he felt. He reached out and traced his thumb over her cheek, brushing away her tears.
She responded by flinging herself against him, sobbing loudly and in earnest now. Shocked, he pulled her back into the darker shadows and cast a quick pair of spells so that if anyone happened by they would neither see nor hear Lily Evans sobbing her heart out into his chest. Outside of Hogwarts, battle lines were beginning to be drawn, making the skirmishes within the castle walls look like the child's play they were. Neither of them could afford to risk anyone else finding out about this. Certain that they were safe from prying eyes, he wrapped his arms around her once again, resting his cheek against her soft hair. Holding her so close was the sweetest torment he could imagine. Although his mind understood he was merely comforting an old friend, his body had other ideas, reveling in the feel of her soft, pliant curves pressed against his chest. He could feel a tightening low in his belly, feel the heat, the blood pulsing.
As her storm of emotions began to subside, Lily looked up into his eyes. Her lips trembled as she whispered, "I've missed you, too." His hand brushed a lock of hair, damp from her tears, out of her face. "How did we let things get so messed up?" she asked.
"I don't know." He sighed. His fingers spread through her hair and pulled her head to rest against his chest again. "I don't know." The moment stretched between them, and he found he could not stop himself from touching his lips to the top of her head. She went still against him, and he cursed himself for ruining the moment, dreading that she would now demand that he let her go. But still his hand twined in her hair, playing with the soft, silky strands, while his other hand rubbed circles on her back. If this was to be the only time he held her, then he would make the most of it.
Lily inhaled deeply and brought her hands up to his chest, and he waited for her to push him away. But she didn't. Her hand traced along the edge of his robe, then reached to push back a lock of hair that had fallen into his face, obscuring his eyes. He caught her hand in his and pressed a soft kiss to the delicate, pale skin of her palm. He wished that they could have another chance to do it all over, but he knew it was too late for that.
He looked into her eyes and saw fear and regret, but something else, too—a spark that leapt to meet the spark in his own. Without further thought, he bent his head and touched his mouth to hers. His lips asked the question he could not voice, and hers answered him, sweet and sultry as they parted to welcome him. She tasted like the first sunny day in spring after a long, cold winter. He felt the ice around his heart cracking, melting, until the deluge threatened to drown him, and he held onto the only bit of solid ground in that raging sea of emotion: Lily, here in his arms. Lily, kissing him as if she was just as starved for him as he was for her.
He'd wanted this for so long he could hardly believe it was actually happening. He had dreamt about it in the past, but somehow those dreams did not make this seem any more real. He realized this would very likely be his only chance with her, so he grabbed it with both hands.
His grip on her tightened, crushing her to him. As with each new liberty he took, he awaited her rejection; instead, she tilted her head up to him, twining her fingers in his hair, arching so her body curved even more closely into his. He grabbed her bum and pulled her right up against him, his hardness pressing into her softness, leaving no doubt about the effect she was having on him. For one incredible moment, she strained even closer to him, standing on her tiptoes, her legs slightly parted. He reached beneath her skirt, his hands sliding over the silky skin of her thighs before inching towards her knickers.
And then she pulled back from him, her lips abandoning his kiss as her hands left off fondling his hair to clamp down on his wandering ones. She opened her mouth to speak, but he placed one finger over her lips.
He still held her, but more loosely now, and stared into her face, memorizing every detail: her flushed cheeks, her lips swollen from his kisses, her eyes still holding traces of desire mingled with the panic and sadness. He drew in a deep breath. When he spoke, his voice was reasonably calm. "So this is how it ends, then."
"Sev—" she began.
"Shhh." He put his finger on her lips again. "Don't say anything, Lily. Just … don't. Nothing you say can fix this. Nothing can make a damn bit of difference." He despised the bitterness that crept into his tone at that last bit. Bitterness was just another kind of weakness. "Just go. Go back to your … friends." Potter. He'd actually managed to forget about the lout for the past few minutes. It seemed Lily had forgotten about him, too, at least for a while. He would have to find some satisfaction in that. Cold comfort, but it was all he had, so he supposed he'd make do.
"Will you be all right?" Lily asked.
He gave a harsh bark of laughter, but the sound held no mirth. "Of course. I always am." Why was she still standing there, looking at him? "You should go. Get out of the dungeons before …" Before my friends come back and find you, a Gryffindor girl, all alone down here.
Lily seemed to understand his unspoken words. "Goodbye, then, Severus," she said.
"Goodbye." He watched her walk away from him, back up to her tower room. Snape resumed walking to his dungeon dormitory, head still down, but his pace much slower now.
When she woke in the morning to the sunlight streaming in the windows, she would probably convince herself this whole thing had been a dream. Before too long, she might even manage to forget it had ever happened.
He, however, knew he would never forget.
Author's Note: Hugs and thanks go to my betas, chivalric and karelia. Thanks for reading. I really had not intended for this to be so sad, but the muse had other ideas, and as always, she wins these skirmishes.