Hi, everyone:

Thanks for commenting and reading! Here's the next part. To those of you who were wondering whether the vow Lily made Severus swear to will come back to haunt them, all I can say is: you shall see. :) This part, though, deals with the inevitable fallout of Lily and Severus being a couple.


PART II: COMING OF AGE

That evening, during supper, Severus did his best to keep his eyes on his plate, instead of gazing longingly at her while she sat at the Gryffindor table across the Hall. But he couldn't help glancing up at her from time to time to see her smile over at him, her expression warm and radiant, and with a something in it he'd never seen there before but which now sent a dart of heat through his being.

He noticed Macdonald frowning at her, but Lily didn't seem aware of it. And Severus's own reverie was interrupted when Avery leaned over and asked him "What's the matter, Snape? Are you ill?"

Severus immediately drew on a cold expression, said curtly "Not at all," then took a sip of his pumpkin juice.

"Well I wouldn't blame you if you were. Staring at that Mudblood like you were doing would put anyone off."

Severus gnashed his teeth, but he forbore saying anything. It was imperative that no one guessed what had happened that afternoon, for he would not reward Lily's kindness and generosity to him by letting anyone cast aspersions on her.

After supper, Severus broke from the other Slytherins and stole away to an alcove on the fifth floor where before the whole Mudblood incident they'd sometimes met in private. Perhaps it was foolish of him, but he'd hoped she'd have the same idea, and he huddled into the carved stone with a shiver of anticipation and despair, itching to kiss her again as though already addicted to it, terrified that she'd deny him, or even worse not show up-

"Severus!" he heard a whisper behind him; and he swung about only to be hugged round the waist with such force it nearly knocked him to the ground, and he returned her embrace so savagely he lifted her right off her feet.

"I didn't-I wasn't-" he stuttered incoherently into her hair, "I wasn't sure you'd come."

She made a snort of impatience as she let go of him, then giggled. "Of course I would, silly. Do you think I wouldn't, after that?" He felt his face flush hotly, and she laughed again.

"I wasn't certain that you'd-I thought perhaps you'd be angry with me," Severus admitted.

"Why?" she asked, and she genuinely looked puzzled.

"Because I-" Because I practically raped you, he thought miserably.

It was as though she'd read his mind, for she frowned now, said "You couldn't tell I wanted to do it too? It was lovely," she sighed, and he found himself trembling violently at her words. Already he wanted her so much again, but he restrained himself, since he hadn't the faintest idea where their circumstances stood.

"I've got to get back to Gryffindor Tower," she said now, reaching for his hand. "I'm leaving early in the morning to go back home, but I should return tomorrow evening. Meet me here after supper tomorrow, won't you?" she asked.

He nodded his head up and down about ten times, squeezed her hand till he thought maybe he broke all her fingers. He still wasn't certain of their circumstances though, and therefore didn't presume to kiss her like he wanted.

Instead, she did so for him, standing on her tiptoes and pressing her lips to his. Before he could master himself, he'd drawn his arms round her, and deepened the kiss till she was left breathless.

When he released her at last she smiled up at him, her lips so red and bright his heart knocked painfully in his chest. "Does this mean I'm your girlfriend now, Sev?" she asked pragmatically.

"Only if you want to be," he replied, barely a whisper. His mind was foggy; this all had to be a dream. Only yesterday he was certain that she loathed him. And now...

"I think you know the answer to that," she replied playfully. And bestowing a last quick kiss on his mouth, she turned round and fled down the hall, her black robes swirling about her feet, her hair no longer a stop sign but a red flag to a bull.

All the next day, he wandered the castle as though in a trance, like a ghost, like a ghost who'd died and gone to heaven except the heaven was on earth and so he wandered the halls waiting for his heaven to return to him.

It was unutterable. He could hardly study for thinking about what happened the day before in the Forbidden Forest, in the alcove after supper. His whole body felt feverish, his blood was Amortentia, his mind a late-bloomed flower. Not even the Marauders' taunts could disturb his dreamlike reverie, though he longed to boast the truth to Potter, watch his smug expression crack into pieces from the shock.

Oh, Potter, if you only knew, Severus thought with a surge of triumph as Potter by rote called him Snivellus and Black yelled "Greasy git" and the rest of the tired refrain. Severus's lack of response to their taunts seemed to infuriate them, but instead of trying to curse them like he normally would, Severus merely protected himself with a shield charm and floated away from their attempts to hex him. Today on this day, Severus wanted nothing to interrupt his daydreaming, his hopeful plans for the future, the drowsy passion that lit his veins.

It was to be expected that, once the Marauders discovered the truth, they would be merciless to him. Severus also knew that all of Slytherin House was likely to turn on him as well. But what finally made his blood run cold was realizing that they'd turn their poison on Lily too, and he decided right then that this should not happen.

He knew she would be teased and tormented by the Gryffindors for going out with "That greasy git Snivelly" or "That Slytherin scum," and harassed by the Slytherins for being a nasty little Mudblood who didn't know her place and corrupted real wizards with her filth. The idea of this made him ill, and he made up his mind that no one should know of his and Lily's newfound understanding.

"I don't care!" she yelled at him that evening when they met in the alcove after supper and he admitted his concerns to her. "I'm not going to pretend just because they don't like it! They can mind their own bloody business!"

"But they won't mind their own bloody business," Severus said miserably. "They'll torment you too. They won't leave you alone. And I can't stand it."

"I can take care of myself, Severus," she replied. "Don't worry about me."

"Right," he said sarcastically. "I won't worry about you."

"Really, it'll be fine," she assured him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders.

"And if it's not?" he muttered into her hair.

The next day, just as he feared, she made no bones about taking his hand in front of the entire Hall as they walked in for breakfast. It seemed to him that both the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables fell silent as she marched Severus through the door with her, before she let go of his hand, stood up on her tiptoes to kiss him, then nonchalantly went to the Gryffindor table as though nothing happened.

Immediately, the Gryffindor table was in uproar.

As Severus blindly made his way to his own table he could hear Macdonald's voice say "Lily, what did you just do? You're not going out with Snape now, are you? I thought you hated him?" and over the cacophony Black yelling "Oi, Evans! What do you mean by kissing Snivelly? Has he Imperius'd you or something?" Severus missed whatever her reply was though, for he was now staring down the long line of Slytherins who were frowning at him with identical coldness, and he had to focus his attention on giving them his most icy, superior look of disdain as he took his place and reached for a piece of toast.

It was just as bad as he predicted. All that day, the Slytherins cut him dead, when they weren't saying the most awful things to him about being a Mudblood lover, or worse, calling Lily names like Mudblood whore. He found himself tripped, hexed, and kicked violently by Potter and Black that afternoon in the courtyard before Lily, coming from her stupid Divination class, broke into the circle and shot his assailants with a freezing charm. No one, not even Avery or Mulciber, had come to his aid besides her, but as a Slytherin shot at her his Levicorpus curse, Macdonald instantly raised her wand and did the countercurse before Lily was shamed in front of the school the way Potter and Black had shamed Severus the year before.

Aside from Macdonald's lone attempt at helping Lily, the entire school seemed to throw down its condemnation on their heads. He saw Lily put a brave face on it when all the Gryffindors ignored her during supper, and try as he might to smile at her from across the Hall, his heart ached for her.

Yet, that evening when they met again in the alcove, she still insisted that they shouldn't hide their relationship, especially since "Everyone knows about it now anyway so there's no point in pretending."

"You could pretend to change your mind and tell them that you broke up with me," Severus suggested, though he wrapped his arms round her and held her tight, as a talisman against this actually coming true.

"I won't let them bully, me, Severus," she said seriously, placing her hands on his shoulders as she gazed up at him. "I won't let them make me hide who I am, or be ashamed of whom I like. They're the ones who should be ashamed. And I won't let them bully you, either."

"You can't protect me every moment of the day, Lily," he smiled ruefully at her determined frown. "You shouldn't have to, you know." He knew better than to be angry at her that she should take up for him as though he weren't a man. Last time he did that, she didn't speak to him for half a year.

She should have understood how it would be. But it was only when she saw how much it put Severus in danger that she greatly regretted her decision.

One evening about a week after Lily made their relationship public, Severus was skimming the edge of the lake looking for the small, dusk-blooming white flowers that Lily loved so as to present a small bundle of them to her after supper. But Severus stopped in his tracks as he heard a familiar laugh behind him, before a voice called out "All right, Snivelly?"

"Well, well, well," Severus replied as coldly as he could when he turned round to see Potter and Black standing before him. "Here we are at last. How very brave of you, Potter, to only go two against one instead of four against one. No doubt your father would be impressed with your valor."

"Don't say a word about my father," Potter sneered, taking a step toward him. "Your ugly mouth has no right to speak of him in any way."

"What have you got there, Snivelly?" Black barked, pointing to the bundle of flowers in Severus's hand. "Trying to find something that will bribe Evans to kiss you again? What's the matter, the love potion that you sneak into her pumpkin juice not doing its job?"

"You bewitched her, didn't you?" Potter suddenly hissed at Severus, the rage in his eyes unlike anything Severus had ever seen from him before. "Because there is no way she'd ever on her own let you put your nasty, stinking, greasy hands on her-"

In a way, Potter's rage was delicious to Severus, for it was the rage of defeat; Severus knew that he himself would have behaved similarly if it had been Potter who'd ended up with her.

"Ah, no, it didn't take magic for her to prefer me over you," Severus replied in a silky tone with the superiority of the triumphant. "For you see, among her other excellent qualities, she has loads of sense, as well as an appreciation of...well, shall we say brains over brawn." He smirked, summoning the memory of that first train ride to Hogwarts.

"How else did she go from loathing you to suddenly snogging you then?" Black asked baitingly. "For she did loathe you, you know. You should have heard what she said about you after you called her a Mudblood. She told everyone in Gryffindor Tower that she didn't know why she'd been friends with you in the first place, since you were such an ugly, filthy, greasy, awful git and that you must have put a spell on her the moment you two first met so that she'd like you."

"That's a lie," Severus replied, trying to maintain his calm. But Black smiled, knowing he'd hit his target.

"Is it?" Black asked smoothly. In some ways, he was even more diabolically cruel than Potter. "You weren't there, were you, Snivelly? Why don't you ask her yourself, see what she says?"

Severus raised his wand, and at once the other two did too. Suddenly Severus found himself flat on the ground unable to move, and Black laughed like a mad dog.

"What do you think, Prongs?" Black asked him as he raised his wand and levitated Severus. "Do you think Snivelly should finally have a bath?"

Severus began to panic when he found himself now floating over the surface of the lake. He didn't know how to swim.

"Maybe a quick dip into the lake would do the trick," Potter laughed in agreement. "Maybe the Giant Squid can wash his hair for him."

At once Severus felt himself plunge into the icy water, but he was still under the freezing charm and so could not move. He felt the cold water run up his nose, and his heart began to pound in his chest.

"He looks like a wet dog," Potter sneered when Black levitated Severus out of the water again and Severus gasped for air. "No wonder he detests baths."

"Oi, mate! Don't compare him to a dog!"

"You're right. He looks more like a drowned crow."

"I don't think he's clean enough, Prongs," Black observed, dunking Severus into the water again. This time Severus inhaled a mouthful of water, and he choked.

After what seemed like an eternity, Severus was finally lifted back out of the lake, though everything seemed faraway and distant, even Potter's voice as he said "I think Snivellus has learned his lesson, Sirius. He's no fun to us dead."

"I'm sure I'd like nothing better than him dead, James." There was a wild look in Black's eyes, a mad glee that caused a bolt of fear through Severus.

"Are you mad? We'll be expelled!" Potter shouted. Severus was surprised at the panic in Potter's voice now, and Severus realized he must look as drowned as he felt.

"No we won't. If Dumbledore hadn't expelled me for tricking him to play with Mooney, he won't kick us out for giving Snivelly a much-needed bath." And Severus sunk beneath the surface again.

When Severus awoke in the Infirmary some hours later, the first thing he saw was Lily sitting beside him holding his hand, her eyes red and raw from weeping.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, leaning down and kissing him on the forehead. "You were right. It's all my fault. You could have died, and it'd been all my fault."

"Shh," he said hoarsely, lifting his hand to her cheek. "Don't torture yourself, Lily, for standing up for us. How can I be upset that you aren't ashamed to be seen with me?" He managed a weak smile.

"Oh Sev," she replied, tears forming in her eyes again. "You're better than everyone. You're better than them all."

"As long as you think so," he said, running his thumb over her cheekbone.

"Always," she replied.

The seriousness of the incident caused Dumbledore to step in at last, and that night he visited Severus in the Infirmary, and quietly asked Severus to give him his account of the events. The Headmaster's blue eyes were hard as Severus described everything as truthfully as he could, though Severus was surprised to find that the Headmaster's anger wasn't directed toward him.

"Thank you, Mr. Snape," Dumbledore said at last, rising from the chair next to him. "I believe Miss Evans is waiting to see you, and I don't want to keep her from healing you than I have to." With a twinkle in his eyes he turned and exited through the curtains that Madam Pomfrey had drawn round Severus's bed for privacy, and Lily immediately reappeared with a stack of chocolate frogs and a gentle kiss for him.

After Dumbledore had asked both Black and Potter for their wands in order to perform Priori Incantatem on them, he dismissed Black from Hogwarts for the rest of the year, and taken Potter off the Gryffindor Quidditch team. The shock of the situation resonated through the school such that many of the Gryffindors were ashamed of their behavior, and some of Lily's friends started to stand by her once more. After the events of the lake, no Slytherin attempted to hurt either she or Severus again, since it was now known that the two had Dumbledore's protection. Yet they still taunted the both of them with ugly words whenever they had the opportunity, and Severus found himself spending time in the Slytherin common room as seldom as he could.

They were the most loathed couple in Hogwarts. There was not a single person in the school who approved of them, except Slughorn, and surprisingly, the Headmaster, and perhaps even more surprisingly, Remus Lupin. When Lily insisted on tripling up with Lupin in Potions because she felt bad at the idea of leaving him partnerless just so that she could work with Severus again, Severus griped and grumbled that he would in no way sit at a table with him.

"Fine," Lily seethed, crossing her arms in front of her. "You can stay by yourself then."

"Why?" he snapped. "Why do you choose to be partners with that-that werewolf over me?"

"I am not choosing him over you! I want us all to work together!"

"You just did! You just did choose him over me!"

"Because it's rude to abandon him like that, Severus."

"You had no qualms about abandoning me."

"UGH!" she shouted, punching him in the arm. "You're so impossible!"

At any rate, after an hour of yelling and sulking and threats she finally bullied him into sitting with both her and Lupin, though Severus muttered that the werewolf probably wouldn't enjoy it any better than Severus did and most likely would prefer to be alone rather than sit with him.

That didn't turn out to be the case, however. The werewolf didn't seem to have any issue with sitting next to Severus, though he did raise his eyebrows when Lily announced to him that they'd be working with Severus now.

"Of course he doesn't have a problem with it," Severus pointed out later when she remarked that Lupin seemed all right sharing a table with him. "Between us, his Potions work can only improve, even if it's purely by osmosis."

Besides Lupin, most of Lily's friends still reacted scornfully toward Lily's interactions with Severus. Oddly enough, however, something perverse in Severus secretly enjoyed the looks of horror on their faces when Lily thrust her hand in Severus's or kissed his cheek, as though the idea of greasy ugly Severus Snape putting his disgusting hands on their delicate, beautiful friend filled them with revulsion. Severus never instigated displays of public affection himself though, not only because he didn't wish to invite aggression against them, but also because he didn't care to wear his heart on his sleeve. But Lily often as not tended to bestow upon him ill-timed embraces, which he suffered with as much grace as he could while people made faces, sneered, or shouted rude comments at them.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," he told her one time as they studied together in the library.

"Do what?" she asked, making a note in the margin of her Potions book.

"Show me affection in public."

She looked up at him, her auburn eyebrows slanting down into a frown.

"Are you embarrassed of me?" she asked waspishly, slamming her book closed.

"What? No! Are you mad? How could I-And you-" he stuttered.

"Be quiet!" Old Pince snapped at them.

"How could you think that," he whispered into her hair. "In fact, it should be the other way around."

"I don't-"

"I know you don't," he said. "Because you're a madwoman."

"You-"

Shh, listen," he said. "I just don't like how it invites attention, that is all. Also," he added hastily when he saw by her expression she was going to start yelling again "it's like pearls before swine, you know."

She bit her lip, smiled.

"Are you saying it's too good for them to see?" she asked wryly.

"I do indeed."

"Point taken, Slytherin."

However, before he could relax and turn to his homework again, he felt a hand on his thigh, and the quill dropped from his fingers.

"Lily," he hissed as she innocently looked down at her book. Then he closed his eyes and bit his bottom lip hard so that he wouldn't make a sound that Pince-or anyone in Siberia-could hear.

Merlin's beard! How could he have guessed that anyone with such a sweet and innocent face-that anyone who was such a proper girl could be so naughty? He'd thought it would take him at least a year of coaxing, begging, cajoling, and bribing to get her to even consider re-enacting what had occurred in the Forbidden Forest on that Felix Felicis afternoon. In fact, barely a week after that he found himself being yanked into a broom closet by a giggling Lily Evans, where he was surprised their noises didn't bring a wild-eyed Filch or at least a suspicious Mrs. Norris to investigate.

Yet for all the passion and affection between them, they had their share of rows, most of which he inevitably lost, and the few times he didn't were victories hard won. On some points she was even more stubborn and inexorable than he was, something he'd always known about her but which seemed to grow even more pronounced in the rich, nurturing soil of his devotion. He suspected that she was so confident in his love for her that she knew he'd almost always give in eventually, and she was right.

But when she was sweet...ah, when she was sweet. When they found a quiet corner of the castle in which to be alone, and she sat in his lap, drew his head to her shoulder and just held him, her fingers running gently through his hair...Or when he would get a headache from reading too much, and she'd rub his temples, neither of them suggesting he take a headache potion instead...The way she'd quietly hold his hand sometimes beneath the table as they studied in the library, the way she'd kiss him on the brow in an almost motherly way, how she fussed over him before they went out into the cold, making sure his scarf was tucked in just so and his cloak was warm enough and where did he misplace his mittens? For the first time in his life he felt completely and utterly cared for, and he began to see some of the tenseness in his face melt away, the sharp edges softened, the scowl lifted a little on the rare, unfortunate occasions he caught a glimpse of his reflection.

Severus knew he was ugly. He'd known it almost before he'd spoken his first words. He lived with it the way he imagined Lupin lived with his own affliction. But with Lily, you'd never know it; she doted on him and touched him as though he were handsomer than even Sirius Black, her eyes soft with admiration as she gazed on him with a fondness he hardly knew how he deserved. Her nobleness only exalted her in his estimation, and the part of him that had always worshipped her now saw her as something almost goddess-like.

She also could be silly, too. There were many absurd Muggle things she cared about, and sometimes she actually preferred Muggle clothing to the more dignified robes of a witch. She could care very much for characters in a ridiculous afternoon television program, or some absurd Muggle singer with too-tight pants and a voice like a screech owl. Just because he could no longer seek to be part of Voldemort's army did not mean his disdain toward Muggles had lessened any. He still felt that most of them were what was wrong with the world, though it was pointless to ever tell her this.

That January they both came of age. Severus had never expected to receive anything from it except his independence, the ability to do magic outside of school, and to Apparate legally. Lily had other ideas. She got him a set of fine dress robes made of a rich black material, which he insisted he could not accept as being too expensive. "Well it's too late, they're already bought," she snapped angrily, and he protested "But what will I use them for? They're too fine for everyday wear." "You never know," she glared at him.

"Oh," he said quietly as he gazed down at the fine fabric. His heart thumped painfully in his chest. He wanted to ask her right at that moment but they weren't even done with school yet, and he didn't have any money, nor a job lined up, nor a home, nothing to offer her. If she only wasn't so foolish about Voldemort, he could have assumed power right away, and been able to provide her anything. As this was not to happen, perhaps she'd have been better off with someone like James, after all.

He was suddenly intensely unhappy at the bleakness of his prospects, whereas moments before he'd been satisfied with his lot. He recalled how often his mother taunted his father over his inability to provide, and he knew he couldn't stand it if that was how it would be for Lily and him. He grew sullen and cross, and the evening ended with one of the biggest rows they'd ever had. He'd felt awful about it afterward, but she didn't speak to him for days.

Her own birthday was worse. Since he'd "ruined" his by being such a "prat," she wouldn't let him do anything for her, and in fact hid in Gryffindor Tower with her friends the entire evening so that he couldn't celebrate with her at all. James and Pettigrew had laughed at him about it the next day, and told him what larks Lily's birthday party was, how there was butterbeer and even firewhiskey and food pinched from the kitchens and Lily got stinking drunk and had a great time with her friends. The obvious hangover she suffered the next day bore this out, and it was Severus's turn not to speak to her. In fact, it wasn't until Valentine's Day before things between them were all right again, when Severus surrendered his pride and asked if she'd go to Slughorn's Valentine's Ball with him instead of snapping at her that she should just take James and be done with it. She grudgingly accepted, and it was only when he went to get her from Gryffindor Tower that she finally smiled at him again when she saw he was wearing the dress robes she'd given him, and his ire melted into a puddle when he saw her dressed elegantly in a sparkling gown with her hair done up and her pale neck exposed, which he took full advantage of later by kissing her there till a scandalized McGonagall found them in the empty classroom they'd chosen and took twenty points each from Slytherin and Gryffindor.

Toward the end of the school year, most people had grown used to Severus and Lily, and the sneers and insults wound down to a minimum. Even the Marauders backed off; with Sirius dismissed for the rest of term, all the wind seemed to have been taken out of James' sails, or at least he was unmoved to bully anyone nearly as much without his trusty right-hand man at his side. Pettigrew did whatever James did, and Lupin, never as rabid toward Severus as the others, was now often rather friendly to Severus during Potions, a camaraderie which Severus ignored as much as he could without annoying Lily.

But even the longest of terms draw to a close at last, and the much-anticipated summer break sped toward them, after they boarded the Hogwarts Express and found a compartment with a bunch of Hufflepuff first-years who couldn't care less about the lovely witch and the crow-like wizard holding hands as they spoke quietly of the summer to come.