AN: This story was written for The Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. My prompt was that the story had to begin and end with the same pronoun.
"Him? Merlin's bollocks, Poppy, I'm doing good to teach Severus how to brush his teeth properly. You want me to teach my husband how to meditate?"
The Mediwitch simply smiled as she took inventory of her potion stores. "Professor Granger, it would do him some good. You've seen how tightly wound he is; something is obviously bothering him, and if he doesn't learn how to relax, he might do himself an injury."
Hermione snorted. "He might do me an injury for even suggesting it." She tapped her foot impatiently. "And it's Hermione, not Professor Granger."
"Oh, I doubt that very much, Hermione," Poppy replied, marking inventory items with her wand. "If there's anyone who can get Severus to do something for his own good it's you. Hmm, we're low on burn paste; Hagrid must be showing his blast-ended skrewts again." She finished her checking and handed the parchment to Hermione. "When you talk with your husband regarding relaxation techniques, would you please giving him this list of the potions we need? There's a dear." She patted the younger witch and walked away.
Hermione stared at the inventory sheet and sighed.
"There's no need to worry, Hermione; I am fine. I simply have an extraordinary amount of dunderheads to teach this year."
"Severus, please, I know there's something bothering you." Realizing her mistake, she immediately apologized. "I'm sorry, love; I know you don't like that phrase."
He grimaced and pulled her to him. "You should not have to concern yourself with my neuroses, Hermione." He sniffed her wild hair and smiled in defeat. "I will do as you ask."
It took a few minutes for Severus to relax. He had first tried just a thin mat, but the stone flooring of his bedroom was simply too hard for his tired bones. He was now sitting on a pillow on his bedroom floor, meditating like Hermione had shown him. It sounded like nonsense to him, but if it made Hermione happy, he would do anything she asked of him.
He reached deep into his mind and found the source of his stress almost immediately. She wore a filthy blue sundress and was sitting on an old-fashioned swing beneath an ancient tree.
"Lily?" He grimaced at how hopeful he sounded.
The swing came to an abrupt halt. Lily Evans Potter stared at the tall man dressed all in black, her eyes wide with shock. She abruptly recovered herself and stood, glancing to her left and right nervously. "Severus? Sev? Dearest Merlin, is it really you?" She self-consciously brushed her hands off, further soiling the thin blue fabric. "What, um, what brings you here?"
He stared a moment at her dirty feet and greasy hair, the vibrant red having gone dark and dull. "I came here to speak with you," Severus replied calmly, stepping closer. "You and I have some unfinished business."
Lily wrung her hands and backed away. "What do you mean?" She moved until the swing was between the two of them. "You have no business here! Go away!"
Severus shook his head sadly. "You and I both know that's not true, and I will not leave; not this time." He waved his hand, transforming the swing and its rope into a solid bench. Severus positioned himself on the bench and spoke to the woman behind him, gesturing to the empty space he had left her. "Sit with me, Lily." She hesitated, and his patience wore thin. "Please," he growled.
Lily slowly made her way around the side of the bench and sat where Severus had invited. She positioned herself at the very edge, her arms tightly wrapped around her slim frame. She rocked back and forth slightly, her face in a grimace of discomfort. "What do you want, Sev?" Her face turned angry and petulant. "Are you here to call me more names?"
"No, I'm not." Severus took a deep breath and let it out slowly, counting to ten like Hermione had shown him. "I'm here to let you go."
She snorted delicately. "Well, that's rich of you."
"I mean it, Lily," Severus said, his face twisting with regret. "You are poisoning my life."
Lily turned to face Severus and pointed at him. "You insulted my heritage with the worst word possible after I had defended you, and then you expected me to just let it go because you said you were sorry!"
Severus grabbed her hand and pulled her onto his lap, her back against his chest. Lily screamed in furious indignation and struggled, but Severus was far stronger. He waited until she had spent herself, and her protests soon deteriorated into resentful sniffs. "Just let me know when you're done," he drawled.
"Let me go."
"Oh, now you're asking to be let go," he chuckled bitterly.
"Please don't laugh at me, Sev," Lily asked petulantly. "It's cruel."
"Cruel?" Severus tightened his embrace until she squeaked in pain. "What's cruel is your supposed best friend not forgiving a word spoken under extreme duress. What's cruel is marrying the man who tortured your best friend in a stupidly Gryffindor attempt to get back at him!" His face was red, and spittle flew from his lips, landing in her dirty hair. "But the cruelest, the meanest of all, is the fact that you actively chose not to forgive me!"
Lily was sobbing, her chest heaving against his arms. "Severus, please..."
He flung her to the ground, her hips banging painfully against the roots of the old tree. "How many times have I heard that phrase?" He ran his hands through his hair, his eyes dark with horror. "How many souls have gone to their graves with 'Severus, please' on their lips?" He looked down upon the crying woman. "Even in my own mind, I can't keep from hurting you…"
Severus knelt down and picked up the crying woman, wincing when his touch brought her more pain. "I am letting you go." He drew a deep breath. "Lily, I forgive you for hurting me."
The scene abruptly vanished. Severus found himself sitting upon a pillow, his aching back full of tension. He took a deep breath and let it out, his mind searching once again for stillness and peace.
Just like Hermione had shown him.