PART ONE - FLIGHT
"One for sorrow, Two for mirth / Three for a funeral, Four for birth."
Severus didn't know how he'd ended up in this situation.
"What do I do?!" he hissed as the swaddled bundle lowered into his arms. "Lily!"
For her part, the redheaded witch smirked as she settled in her patio chair and crossed her long legs, reaching for her plastic cup of water. "Just support her head, Sev. She's not going to maul you."
Severus didn't think the newborn would maul him; he was terrified he might drop her. She was lighter than he thought she'd be, her weight far less tangible than the pile of blankets would suggest, and he worried one strong twitch from either him or the newborn would send her toppling, and Lily would murder him. Shifting as slow as he could, he turned the infant's head into the crook of his arm, giving it support, and then looked to Lily again.
His spooked expression sent her into another giggling fit.
"Lily, for God's sake—."
"Not like that. Cradle her. Here—."
She stood again to lean over the table and adjust his arms, nudging the child until Severus had her against his chest, one hand supporting her neck and head, the other beneath her bottom. He kept himself as stiff as possible, frowning.
"I don't see why I have to do this."
"Because I'm a new mother, and new mothers want to show off their newborns. Just hold her, you ninny."
Lily settled again, tossing her hair over her shoulder, and Severus stared, the red color bright and eye-catching in the sun. Strands of it gleamed like spun gold, and Severus swallowed, clearing his throat. The infant continued to slumber.
"Thanks for meeting with me today, Sev."
"Of course. Did you make certain you weren't followed?"
"Yes, yes." She sighed, a fond quirk turning the corner of her mouth. "I followed all your instructions. We're in the middle of Muggle London; I don't think we're going to encounter many Death Eaters eating chips outside Hyde Park."
Severus arched a brow.
"You know what I mean. You're not really one of them anymore."
"Don't be foolish. I assure you, I am still a Death Eater."
"Then you're an idiot."
Severus couldn't argue that. "Yes. Yes, you're right." His shoulders slumped, and he averted his gaze to the plastic basket of half-eaten chips.
"Don't have yourself a pity party." Lily nudged his foot under the table and softened her words with a small smile. "It won't do you any good."
"No. Not pity, just—guilt. Guilt for my own stupidity."
Lily hummed and popped another chip into her mouth, her gaze turning from the patio to the road, flicking from one end to the other. The handle of her wand peeked out from the sleeve of her pink, gauzy blouse. "What did Dumbledore say about the teaching position?"
"He's decided to take me on as the Potions instructor."
"Really? Replacing ol' Slughorn?" Lily's grin bared more pearly white teeth. "You know, I can see it."
"Can you?" Severus scoffed, glancing at the child in his arms. Her eyelashes were black and thick and stark against the soft, pale skin of her cheek. He'd never seen an infant at such proximity before and hadn't realized how slight and delicate their features were. "Dumbledore insisted it would be the best way to keep me on hand and manage the flow of information."
"It'll also offer you the most protection."
"I don't care about that."
"You should. You're officially the Order's best-placed spy now. You're important."
He grimaced—and Lily nudged him under the table again, more of a firm kick against the tender bones of his ankle, and Severus flinched.
"Take it seriously, Sev."
"I am," he said. "I understand what I must do. I know it's important, important to fix my mistakes and protect you and—and Potter, and—."
"And June," Lily added with a telling look at her infant. "And everyone else. All the other Muggle-borns and half-bloods and people you've helped You-Know-Who hurt before. You're going to make it up to them and to me, right?"
"Can I ever really make amends for what I've done? You know what kind of man I am."
"I don't know. But you have to try. You have to really try."
Severus nodded, lips compressing in a firm line. He didn't care about everyone else. Generosity and empathy didn't come naturally to him, his entire life spent under the boots or thumbs of others, and those same people Lily wanted him to make amends with had never looked at Severus with anything more than utter contempt. He could slit his wrists and bleed for them and they wouldn't change their opinion of him in the slightest, not that he expected them to do so.
He could change, however. He could do the right thing.
He looked at Lily, gilded in the sunlight, features still soft from pregnancy, her hair vivid as a wildfire and her painted fingers shiny with grease from the chips. He thought of Potter, her husband, and old jealousy twisted in his belly like snakes, but Severus had never seen Lily so happy before, and he knew he could never replicate the joy she had now. It simply wasn't his place.
He could change for Lily. He could change if it meant she kept smiling as she did now. He could glower in the face of the Dark Lord and spit his lies if it kept Lily, her idiot husband, and her delicate, snoring baby safe. She hadn't needed to forgive him for the information he fed the Dark Lord. She hadn't needed to let him back into her life, and Severus would earn his place if he must. He could be better.
"James and I've made our final choice on a godfather."
"We've picked Sirius," she admitted. Thin lines bracketed her mouth as she wrinkled her nose.
"You don't sound pleased with the choice."
"No, I am. I am!" she added with a defensive growl when Severus smirked. "Sirius is a great choice. If anything happens to James or me, he'll take care of June and give her a good life. She'll be happy." Lily cleaned her hands on a napkin and reached to brush a fingertip against the child's cheek as if to reassure herself of her presence. "But he's…. Sometimes, he can be a bit immature."
"And maybe it's just my stupid motherly over-protectiveness kicking in, but I worry about what could happen if Sirius was left in charge. I caught him trying to feed her a Chocolate Frog last week. She's only three months old!"
"I wouldn't trust Black with a rock, let alone a child."
Lily blew air through her lips and her eyes sparkled.
"I take it this has to do with your reason for asking me here today. Not that I'm not pleased to see you."
"Nothing gets past you." She flicked her gaze upward and sighed, tucking her hair behind her ear. "I want you to promise me something, Severus."
He stiffened at the lack of nickname, and the inert bundle in his hands wriggled ever so slightly, like a lid on a cauldron about to boil over. "Anything."
"You don't know what I'm going to ask yet."
"Prat." She grinned, shaking her head. "I do trust Sirius, but I want you to promise if something happens to me and James, will you…will you protect Juniper?"
"Nothing is going to happen to you," Severus argued. "And why would you ask me to protect her? I—."
She brushed his arm, stalling the words in his throat. He choked on them. "Because I know you think we're all a bunch of optimistic Gryffindors, but we're aware enough to know that if the worst happened to James and me, and somehow Juniper survived, they would come after Sirius next, and he'd rather fight than run. You know that."
"I—." He inhaled to refute her but couldn't. "Yes."
"James knows I'm here and knows what I'm asking. He doesn't bloody well like you, but he—." Lily fidgeted and squeezed his arm. A diamond ring glittered on her finger. "We're both scared. We just want what's best for June. Things are…complicated, but I know—I know you would do what was best if I asked it of you. It might not be what the Headmaster would think is good or right, but it'd be…best."
He lowered his head. Lily touched his cheek and pushed his lank hair back from his face.
"So make me this promise. Please."
As Severus tried to think of a response, the bundle in his arms wriggled again, and his hand moved without thought, his thumb brushing against the slim, warm nape resting in his palm. Shocked, he looked down and found himself being inspected by a pair of wide, curious green eyes.
He looked into those green eyes Juniper Potter inherited from her mother, and he didn't know he wouldn't see them again for seven years. He wouldn't see them until he held the girl again, knee-deep in the blood of her relatives on a hot summer day in mid-June. He would make a choice then that would change their lives and destinies forever, but today was not that day.
"I…promise," he said, his throat tight, mouth dry. Of course, the fate Lily feared wouldn't come to pass. Nothing would happen to Lily, or to her great pillock of a husband, or to that dumb twat Sirius Black, but Severus gave Lily his word. There was no other choice.
The infant fussed, and Lily retrieved her, cooing as Severus relinquished the weight. He watched Juniper burble and hum, and Lily glowed.
"Thank you, Sev."
He cleared his throat, tugging on the collar of his buttoned shirt. "Yes, well. Merlin grant us mercy if you're coming to a Slytherin for help."
Lily laughed—and her daughter echoed the sound, kicking her tiny feet inside her blanket.
They finished their lunch, a basket of fish and chips split on a patio outside Hyde Park—a perfect October afternoon Severus would save forever in his mind, a memory he'd take out and relive like formal china carefully kept, wrapped, and cherished. They shook hands when it came to an end, and Severus watched Lily walk away until she disappeared into the crowd of mingling Muggles. He'd recall the color of her hair in those final moments best, as red as the autumn leaves still clinging to the trees, caught and rippling in the breeze.
He would never see her again.
A/N: Standard disclaimer here - I don't own Harry Potter. This is a fan-made fic created for fun, not for profit.
One for Sorrow, Two for Mirth is a Severus Snape-centric tale following him through an alternative storyline in which he promises Lily to look after her daughter in the event of the unthinkable. It's my intention to present Snape as a flawed figure who won't always make the right choices, though he endeavors to do the best he can for Juniper. The story is in 3 parts, taking place from 1987 - 1995. There are no romantic pairings. The first chapter is fairly short, but the others will be longer.