Chapter 6: A Song for Easter
Harry and Snape’s conversations became much more literarily focused after his books came into the equation. The boy discovered that this old teacher had quite a hidden passion for the subject, and seemed just a little less stiff and morose when discussing it. It fascinated Harry to observe this other side of his longtime nemesis, and he started to read through some of his musty tomes just so he could make broad inquiries to set Snape off on a tangent.
The responses always started with a typically snide remark, along with lines of “Really now, you bricker-brack boy, isn’t it bloody obvious?” Then he would go on to explain, in great detail, the “obvious”, which he had obviously given a great deal of thought. Harry couldn’t help but get something of a kick out of it, and the way he seemed to have an encyclopedic ability to recall and recite the most obscure of verses and folkloric allegories.
Snape may have been an expert at potions, but he seemed to loathe teaching about them. He had let the skill go so far to his head that he had no tolerance for children struggling through it in their earlier attempts. He seemed to think it below his expertise, a shameful waste of his abilities. Lecturing in class almost seemed to have been a jaw-wrenching experience for him, exuding nothing but annoyance and ill-temperament.
But with literature, it was different. The subject seemed to flow out of him with verve. Snide introductory remarks aside, Harry could read something special dancing in those dark eyes when he was retelling and analyzing the classics. They did not say, “See, I am an expert,” as they did in potions class, but rather, “See, I am alive.”
One day, Harry ventured to remark, “Snape, I think you missed your calling. You should have taught world literature.”
Snape snorted. “And teach in some wretched muggle school, I suppose?”
“I don’t know,” Harry countered. “You might have just shocked yourself into liking it.”
“Where would the glory have been in that, pray tell, wasting away in a backroom library with a lot of little muggle monsters asking me stupid questions I’d have to give reasonable answers to, and magic left to rot?”
“But…you seem to talk about this stuff as if it were magic. You actually seem to…love this stuff. Getting glory is nowhere near as good as loving something.”
Snape opened his mouth, preparing to retort, and then stopped. This damned boy had just summed up the quandary of his whole life.
“Some might…seriously disagree with that snippy little statement, Potter.”
“Yeah, but something tells me they’re not particularly happy people. Maybe successful and famous, but hey, successful and famous people can still be miserable.”
“Love can make people miserable as well,” Snape stated.
“Sounds like a poem in one of these books I found last night,” Harry remarked. “It’s called ‘Annachie Gordon’, about some girl who poisons herself because she gets married off to the wrong guy, and then he shows up too late, and dies on top of her.”
Snape looked at him strangely. “That was…an elegant way of putting it.”
“Well, that’s what happened,” Harry mumbled. “But there was one thing I wanted to ask you. Why did you have this song marked ‘Easter’? You seemed to have scratched it in the corner of the page with a pen. But there was no mention of Easter in it.”
Snape winced. “It was…just a memory.”
Yes, a very vivid memory…one that he would replay over and over and over again until his dying hour. It was the last time he spent a day with Lily as her friend.
It was the spring before starting their fifth year at Hogwarts. Fifteen-year-old Snape had been sitting on the stoop on that Easter morning, just watching the world go by with indifferent, almost dead eyes, as he often did at that time, not thinking of much to recommend it. But he had found himself humming an old tune under his breath absentmindedly, and his mother heard it.
“Sev,” she had called to him in a raspy voice, and he had looked up at her, and saw a sad smile on her worn face, wrinkled to make her look twice her real age. “That’s ‘Annachie Gordon’ you’re humming, ain’t it?”
“Suppose it is,” he’d mumbled in reply.
He had felt his mother’s hand on his shoulder. “Maybe it’s an old wives tale, but they say that young folk humming that might just be in love, and bad off for it.”
Snape shrugged. He and his mother had never shared the closest relationship, not since she’d let his father beat him without the defense of her wand, and he didn’t like her prying.
“You know the Evans girl will be down at the church with her family today,” she reminded him. “Why not go down and…say hello?”
“I think I’m the last person she wants to see in that place. I’m something of a devilish freak, remember, mother?”
Of course, he’d meant the words to be bitter, he’d meant them to sting. She did not even know the half of it, how he had been bullied and abused at Hogwarts, and how the power of darkness had entranced him, and made the rest of the world with clean fingernails and false smiles shudder at his approach. They would be among the heroes, and he would be among the villains, and that was that, and he could live with it. He could grow powerful and feared that way, and no one would ever dare cross him again. But he still blamed her, somehow he blamed her all the same…for what had been and was about to be lost.
But in an instant, he regretted the harshness of his tone as he had felt her pull him up against her, and she murmured brokenly, “Oh, my boy, my boy…I’m so…sorry…” She sniffled back a sob and then broke down in a cough.
He had looked up, worry prickling up his spine. “Alright…?” he asked, afraid that his voice showed too much of his concern. She had been coughing a lot over the past few weeks, and it sounded like she was scratching up her throat.
She waved her hand dismissively. “Fine, just a tickle.” Again, her eyes filled with a look of melancholy. “I…I just want you to know…no matter what happens…I’m proud of you, Severus.”
He felt her hand run through his messy black hair, and he jerked away, struggling to his feet. “I think…I shall take a walk,” he stated shortly. “Want me to…pick up anything?”
It was just a game they played together to save face; they both knew full well there was no muggle money to buy anything at the moment, and they probably would go without supper tonight, unless Tobias shocked them and showed up with the winnings from a card game. Medicine for her cough was out of the question, as was any muggle doctor.
“No need,” she replied, with faux cheerfulness. “You just…enjoy your walk.”
So he had gone out walking, right up to the little Methodist church he didn’t like to be around due to the assortment of disdainful “pious” faces who viewed him and his parents as little better than insects. He watched from behind a cherry tree lined wall as the attendants streamed out from the morning Easter service.
Then he caught sight of Lily in her Sunday best, rosy-cheeked and smiling, talking with a group of her girlfriends outside the church door. She turned and started walking alongside her sister Petunia, who was evidently lecturing her about something, most likely having to do with associating with the riff-raff from the less comfortable end of the parish. Lily, as ever, was still the kind one.
And Snape was still the antagonist. With a smirk, he picked up an acorn and flung it in the direction of Petunia, knocking her squarely in the ear. She yelped and Lily turned in the direction of the flying projectile. She squinted, knowingly, and marched over to the wall.
Snape gazed at her, his eyes dancing with naughty pleasure.
Her eyes squinted, and for a moment, they seemed on the brink of glinting with some strong emotion. “Sev…you bad, bad boy…” Her voice trembled with the unspoken message: It’s been so long…so very long…
“If you don’t object to spending a little bit of your Easter with a heathen,” he muttered under his breath, “this bat might just be hanging in the woods come noon.” And then he spied red-faced Petunia angrily rampaging towards the wall, and rapidly darted away.
And so he waited by the stream in the woods for her for hours, wondering nervously if she would show or not. And then finally, she did. All was not lost.
She had changed into casual attire of jeans, a green cardigan sweater, and a tweed cap, with a bulging pouch slung over her sweater. He couldn’t help but smirk.
“What?” she challenged, tilting her head.
“It’s just…a Lily-ism, taking that much stuff along for a walk in the woods.”
“Hey, I like to be prepared!” She unzippered one of the compartments, revealing…candy. Lovely, colorful, Easter candy.
“Wonderful,” he exhaled. “Now I shall be dealing with you on sugar overload.”
“Well, I won’t eat it all on you.” She winked, and they both set themselves up for a devouring fest underneath a nearby oak tree. And then they talked. And talked. And talked. Damn, they hadn’t talked like that in so long…if felt good. Like unplugging a valve.
“Okay, so…what made you emerge from the shadows exactly?” Lily inquired after a long while. “I know you hate going around the church.”
“I believe you churchgoers have postulated that Easter is a time of…new beginnings. Besides…I happen to suspect your Christ had Slytherin tendencies.”
“Well, he’s said to have turned back death, correct? Therefore he had to be a wizard, and a very powerful one at that to overcome death. My only question is why he didn’t prevent the whole mess to begin with…”
“I think you’re sort of missing the point of the story,” Lily stated lowly. “Sometimes…you can’t…cheat death, if you want to save others. You have to…embrace it for them.”
Snape looked uncomfortable for a moment, and glanced over at her bag. He noticed the edge of a book jutting out, and took the liberty of pulling it out, in spite of Lily’s cross expression.
“What a stimulating title,” Snape remarked, stifling a chuckle. “I didn’t know Tom the Talking Carrot was on your must-read list.”
“It’s a gift for my baby cousin, dufus!” she sighed, punching him the arm.
“Oh, well…let’s explore the scintillating reading experience he shall have,” he decided flipping it open to page one.
“Now you’re being loony!”
“I think it’s important to make sure there’s nothing traumatic contained within…like, the March Hare shows up at the end and devours Talking Tom. Could put your cousin away in a mental ward…”
Now Lily was cracking up, and as Snape read through the little picture book in his flawless monotone, tossing in sarcastic commentary aplenty, Lily was rolling in the grass laughing. Somewhere along the line, she teasingly snatched the book away from him, and inaugurated a lighthearted little chase that almost ended with her falling off a slippery rock she had hopped on in the middle of a stream. But Snape had been faster and caught her before the tumble.
“Whoa, Lils…easy, I won’t go after Talking Tom anymore.”
“Ha! Well, he owes you a debt of gratitude, as he might well have been washed downstream.”
“I suppose carrots can’t swim then.”
“Not a stroke.”
They both started laughing at this, and then they quieted awkwardly, remembering Snape’s arm steadying her around her waist.
“But I must admit…I don’t believe he was the prime reason…for my gallantry…”
For a long moment their eyes met, searching each other out…and their faces seemed to drift closer together…until their noses touched. Again, there was more embarrassed chuckling. “You still have some freckles…on your nose,” he remarked tapping the place where the cluster existed. “I thought you’d lost them all by now.”
“I know,” she groaned. “They refuse to go away. I feel hexed or something.”
“No, I’m glad they’re not all gone. I think…I’d have missed them.”
She smiled sadly, then buried her face in his dingy gray overcoat, worn from age and too many patches. “I’ve missed you, Sevy.”
“Well…I’m here now,” he muttered lamely, affectionately tucking a stray strand of her red hair back under her tweed cap. But in his heart, he knew exactly what she meant. He knew this comforting little dream could not last…not if he chose the path of glory-strewn shadows. Originally, he had thought his skills with the dark arts would impress Lily, but now he knew, in an unspoken way, that it was threatening to tear them apart.
“Remember on the first train to Hogwarts,” Lily reminisced, “how we sat next to each other and shared a bag of honey roasted nuts and determined to take over the world together?”
“Vividly.” The corner of the young man’s mouth twitched. “We were going to be the Cokeworth Coalition. They couldn’t…get between us.”
“Remember when we talked about traveling the world together, before then?”
“Mmm. As I recall, the little girl version of you was quite set on seeing a white tiger in Siberia, and drinking chocolate in Spain, and buying a fan in China, am I right?”
She beamed at his memory. “And as I recall, you wanted to go follow in the footsteps of all the great sorcerers of history…including Merlin himself!”
“It sounds rational to me,” he asserted. “Magic is life for us, after all.”
She looked down and shook her head. “You see, that’s what makes you and me different, Sev. I don’t believe that. I think life is…bigger than that. We’re bigger than that. I’d give up all the magic in the world if it meant…” She swallowed hard. “Sometimes I wish…we just went to the local muggle school instead. Then there wouldn’t have been any Slytherins or Gryffindors, just…us. I think we would have had a better chance not getting sorted away from each other, and could have gone on as…The Cokeworth Coalition.” She took his hands in her own and swung them a little. “Nothing could have…gotten between us.”
Gotten between them…oh…he knew what she was thinking of…too well…
“But we wouldn’t be ‘us’ if we were muggle,” he argued, the very notion disgusting him, although her words had made him turn his eyes to the ground. “Magic is what made us friends. Without it, I’d never have come to trust you. It’s the deepest part of us.”
“I think…not.” She turned him a little, hands still joined mimicking a swing dance.
Memories…so many memories…that bring smiles…and tears…
“I remember your dress…that Christmas,” he remarked, with mirthful twitch at his lips. “You were…are…” He paused, turning red.
She smiled coyly and spun away from him. “My father has warned me about young men going into fifth year,” she rambled lightly. “Evidently he is very concerned I shall fall in with a bad set and lose my virtue, or be pushed in a locker or something if I wear my clothes too tight…”
“If anyone ever did that to you, I would kill them.” His words were as cold, and deadly earnest, as steel, and they left Lily shocked. She knew he meant it, and she knew how he meant it. The Killing Curse.
“Sev, I…I wouldn’t want you to do that, and you know it.”
He softened his tone a little, but none of the earnestness, and continued, “If anyone caused you real harm, I would…I would not rest until…they paid for it.” He exhaled. “I have…been defenseless too many times when banned from cursing. Now…now I can fight and win. I can protect myself, and…those who I…”
“Now you sound like an over-protective big brother,” she chuckled, but it felt forced. She was trying to make light of the intensity of his words that frightened her. “But don’t think they won’t be putting the pressure on you during fifth year too. One of those Slytherin girls, I bet…I bet she’ll try and get you to spend the night with her.”
“It won’t happen.” Their eyes met again, and he continued, “I…I’m not the type to…do that sort of thing…believe it or not. I know there are lots of things you don’t approve of in me lately, but I would…do right by a girl…if I cared enough about her, and would want to make it all right before…that.”
She smiled. “I know you would. At heart, you’re a caring person.”
He snorted. “I…highly doubt that. In case you’ve noticed, whatever empathy I may possess has not manifested itself for people who rankle my nerves or get in my way.” And that counted for muggles in general…of course.
“Yes, you do act abysmally sometimes,” she admitted. “And it hurts me when you do, because…I know you’re not so tough. You like to act that way, but I know you, Sev. I know, I know deep down, you’re good…and no matter how far down you bury it, that goodness will resurface some day. That’s…that’s why we’re friends, Sev. So please, don’t…get lost…” She was biting her lip now, struggling to hold back her depth of feeling.
He drew closer to her, not sure how to respond. “I…I have more faith in your ability to find me than…than in my ability to…lose myself.” He glanced nervously at the darkening sky. “Bloody hell, it’s so late…better get you home…”
And they had walked home through the woods together, their mood mostly somber…until Lily started humming and then singing something under her breath.
“Harking is bonny, and there lives my love…my love lies on him, and cannot remove…it cannot remove for all that I have done…and I never will forget my love, Annachie…”
What a wild coincidence that she should have her mind on the same song that had started off his day! Or…was it…?
“You who are her maidens, come take me by the hand…and lead me to her chamber, where my love she lies in…and he kissed her cold lips till her heart had turned to stone…and he died in her chamber, where his love, she lies in…”
“That’s so sad, Lily,” Snape remarked, realizing that the song had touched an unusually emotional chord in him. “It makes me sad to hear you sing sad songs.”
“But it’s beautiful,” she insisted. “They loved each other always, even through death. I think everyone wants to be loved like that. I certainly would like to be.”
When they reached Lily’s house, and he escorted her to the door, she looked deep into his eyes again. “You came to see me today for a reason, Sev. What was it?”
He shrugged. “Do I have to have some reason to…?”
“No, but you did have one this time, and still do, and that’s the whole point. Can’t you tell me what it is?”
Looking into those green eyes, and feeling their concern for him, he had wanted to blurt it all out to her, wanted to get out all the pain and confusion and frustration eating away at his heart. He had wanted to tell her that his mother was coughing like she was going to die, and his father had been coming home less and less often, presumably spending more time in taverns out of town in the arms of pretty barmaids. He wanted to tell her that the store credit was all out, and he couldn’t get any work because his father had burnt all the bridges with the other townspeople and they trusted no one named Snape, much less a bitter, brooding young man who everybody said had “gone Goth” and might murder one of them in their beds.
He wanted to tell her how murky his mind was in the falling darkness, and that no matter how it thrilled him, no matter how obsessed he had become with it, he was beginning to sense that he was getting in over his head, and it frightened him. He knew, he knew in his innermost self, that as much as his companions from Slytherin had given him the chance to rise (or fall) to greatness, they were not truly his friends. He wanted to tell her – oh, dare he risk it? – that she was the one he truly loved, and that he would be willing to try and do anything for her, anything at all…if she would just ask, if she would yell at him, or plead with him, or just reach out her hand in that moment, and pull him back towards the surface.
But he had not been ready to bear his heart. No, in this crucial moment, he had not managed it. Maybe later, he had thought, maybe he could get it out later, if they spent more time together, and grew back together again like the old days, and his defensive walls could come down again. So he asked tentatively, “You’ll…be home for a while now, won’t you?”
“Actually, my family will be going to visit my aunt in Cardiff for our holiday. That’s the reason for the book. I’ll be seeing my little cousin…”
“Oh.” It was all he could say in that moment, although the look of pale desolation on his face spelled out the rest. He needed her…please, please, I need you to stay…
“Sev, something is wrong,” she realized in horror, squeezing his arm.
“No…no, it’s nothing…” He started to turn away.
“Severus!” She gripped him tight and forced him to meet her gaze again. She swallowed hard, and started digging in her pouch. “I’m going to give you my aunt’s phone number. And you’re going to call me, Sev, understand? You’re going to call me, and we’re going to talk.”
“Lils, I don’t have a phone, you know that.”
“Then use a phone booth, genius!”
“You know…that wouldn’t work.” He bit his lip. They cost money.
She exhaled. “I’ve got some allowance left…”
“No, I will not take your money, Lily!”
She was already pulling several paper bills from her pouch and forcing them into his hand. “Enough with the pride already! Get your mum something for Easter, from the Evans family.” She added softly. “I already know about your tussle with the grocer over the cough medicine and the charge account.”
Oh, he hadn’t want her to know that…how he had practically been reduced to pleading, and then threats, when the grocer had refused to let him have it based on his father’s old charge account. “I don’t want no ill-begotten snout-face making demands of me! Get lost, you lazy good for nothing! You’re just like your father!” And Snape had hissed back that he would rue those words soon enough, and had thought well on the type of curse he would lay upon him when he became a full-fledged death-eater…
“I still…don’t think…it’s appropriate,” Snape protested, trying to push the money back.
“It’s totally appropriate,” Lily assured. “Get your mum the medicine, get something nice for supper…and save what’s left to call me.” She started fuddling in her pouch again and pulled out a pink glitter pen and a loose napkin.
Snape dared a smirk. “Yet another Lily-ism. Pink glitter pens. Seriously, does that thing never run dry? You must have had it since you were 10…”
“I keep a steady supply on hand,” she assured, “all from the same mega-pack I got for my ten-year-old birthday. Now…turn around so I can write this.”
When his back was to her, she used it as a hard base to write against the napkin.
“So now I’m a blackboard? What is the world coming to?” He made an amused noise.
“And that was a Sev-ism,” she twitted. “The famous laugh-snort.”
He turned over his shoulder and glared at her.
“And that is the famous Severus glare,” she added.
Snape, still playing straight-man, raised his eyebrow severely and Lily burst out laughing. And he was so, so pleased this day had proved he still had the ability to make her laugh.
Then everything fell apart at once.
Lily’s father came out the door, and physically pulled his daughter away him.
“Where have you been, girl?! You mother and me have worried sick!” Then his eyes fell on Snape. “You kept her out, didn’t you? Would you be trying to take advantage of her?”
“I’ve done nothing,” Snape growled, but the accusation hurt to the core.
“Oh, no?” he spotted the money in the boy’s hand. “I know what you’re doing…like you’re father did to so many others!” He snatched the money away forcefully.
“Dad, please, stop it!” Lily shrieked. “It’s my money…”
“I gave you allowance because I thought you wiser than to waste it!” He grabbed his daughter’s arm and pulled her towards the house.
She turned and gave Snape a last, heart-tugging look as she was dragged onto the porch. Severus felt immobilized, just staring back into her green eyes, fixated. And then the door slammed shut…shut forever.
“The boy’s gone bad, Lily,” he had heard her father say from inside the house. “I’m as sorry to admit it as the next person, but it’s true.”
“Severus is my friend!” she had defended him through tears. “He would never hurt me…”
“Enough! I don’t want you seeing him anymore, is that clear, girl?”
“He’s not some sort of disease! He needs help! What if he were your son?”
“Thankfully, that’s not the case. I have enough trouble with you, and your too-good heart!” He softened his voice a little. “You would have been used, Lily. He’d have spent your money on something untoward, just his father would have. He’s no good, child.”
Snape had just stood there, rooted to the spot, crumbling the napkin with her aunt’s phone number in his hand. Then he had let it fall in a muddy puddle next to him. He had taken note of a mourning dove cooing softly in the distance, and Lily’s soft sobs, as he dejectedly shuffled away and the last rays of the Easter sun sank into the black abyss of night.
Avellina Balestri (aka Rosaria Marie) is one of the founding members and the Editor-in-Chief of The Fellowship of the King, a literary magazine with a strong Tolkienite influence (which, by the way, is open to submissions). She reads and writes extensively, and eagerly seeks out the deeper spiritual significance of popular fandoms such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. And yes, she does have a soft spot in her heart for classic Disney movies, The Princess Bride, and Merlin 😉 She is also a recording artist, singing traditional folk songs and her own compositions as well as playing the penny whistle and bodhran drum. She draws her inspiration from the Ultimate Love and Source of Creativity, and hopes to share that love and creativity with others.