Title: Two of Us
Beta Reader(s): curia_regis, carolinelamb, songquake
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Note: Many thanks to my betas who helped out as brainstormers and cheerleaders! I had fun writing this. I just hope these songs do not get stuck in anyone's head like like they did for me!
Summary: A song on the radio takes him back in time . . .
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
When Severus Snape arrived at Spinner's End, he welcomed its stillness, the layers of dust, the fraying curtains, and the faded carpet in the sitting room. He glanced at the yellowed wall, and his eyes landed on the familiar radio.
He was glad to be finally away from Hogwarts and a certain old, eccentric, meddling wizard who wore half-moon spectacles over his twinkling eyes and had a nasty habit of offering sweets to students and staff members at apparent random.
Then again, he thought, looks could be deceiving. The esteemed Hogwarts headmaster might be an old coot who was getting on years, but Severus knew better than to underestimate one of the greatest wizards known to the wizarding world.
Nonetheless, tonight's conversation with the headmaster had left him unsettled to where he found himself wishing he could poke a liquorice wand up the headmaster's crooked nose. Then again, maybe not. Knowing Albus, he'd enjoy the wand up there and make a comment such as, "Now it makes perfect sense why this sweet is long and thin!"
Severus rolled his eyes as his mind wandered back to the conversation he'd had earlier. In fact, he could not believe it was already a decade since that year, the year he'd failed to protect her . . .
At the end of summer, at the start of the new term, Severus would see him. The thought of it left him feeling rattled. He wondered if he had any of her traits, along with her green eyes.
Stifling another sigh, he threw himself on a chair. Next to him was the Muggle radio, the same radio he used to listen as a child. He stared at the thick layer of dust and spelled it away. Then he slowly reached out to flick it on.
First the radio spewed out static noises and indecipherable words. Severus fiddled with the knobs until he could hear something akin to music pour out of the speakers.
It was a song he hadn't thought of for years; a song he had never quite liked because of its silly melody and lyrics. His fingers twitched, wanting to turn the radio off, but the dreadful song seeped into his mind.
"In the town where I was born, lived a man who sailed to sea. And he told us of his life, in the land of sub—"
The sound of water, the sea crashing against an unknown shore, a captain’s voice, and a brass band filled his sitting room.
Then, in his mind, another voice began to sing.
Severus stilled his hand.
"In the town where I was born, lived a man who sailed to sea. And he told us of his life, in the land of sub—"
"Lily!" Severus yelled, holding his hands against his ears for protection. "Stop!"
She ignored Severus and continued to sing, her voice loud and off-key. "—marines. So we sailed on to the sun, till we found the sea of green. And we lived beneath the waves, in our yellow submarine!"
Severus groaned and kept his hands on his ears, eyeing the back door of Lily's house, hoping Mrs Evans would come out and tell Lily to stop her horrible singing.
Nobody came, so Severus was condemned to suffer until the song had ended. When she had — finally! — finished, Severus brought his hands down. She turned to Severus and said, "Come on! Sing with me!"
Severus recoiled in horror. "No! I am not going to sing!"
"Aw," Lily said, her green eyes opened wide. "Why not? We'll sing your favourite."
"My favourite?" Severus stared at her, wondering if she had lost her mind. "I don't have a favourite Beatles song."
"Yes, you do." Lily grinned and tossed her long red hair. "I heard you sing it before when I snuck up on you once. And stop glaring! You're going to have a pinched forehead like Petunia if you constantly frown like that. Now come on. Sing! You say yes, I say no . . . "
Severus gave a resigned sigh, and in a very monotone voice, completely the opposite from Lily's belting vocals, he sang, "You say stop, and I say go, go, go." That was what he did for the next hour. Lily would urge him to sing with her, and he'd sing, all flat and on one note, but that didn't deter Lily. She just continued to sing happily and — unfortunately for Severus — horribly.
He didn't mind, though. Not as much as he pretended to anyway.
He'd rather put up with Lily's awful singing than listening to the daily arguments of his parents. Compared to their screaming and arguing, he found Lily's voice beautiful . . . when she wasn't singing.
Later, when he finally couldn't postpone going home, he wondered if he should see if there were any potions that would improve someone's singing quality. Better yet, he thought, maybe he could find some magical earplugs that were invisible when worn and that would block out someone's off-key singing, but allowed the wearer to still hear everything else.
This idea had come to him last year when Lily suddenly had become interested with this band, but Severus had never acted on it because he didn't mind Lily having fun with these awful songs. Mostly. He just hoped that she would improve one day.
"Hello, Severus." Mrs Evans smiled. "Lily's in the back. Do you want a jam tart before you go?"
He looked at the mouth-watering treats, something he'd never find in his own home. His pride made him decline them. "No, thank you. I'm still full from lunch." He hurried away before she could insist and ignored his empty stomach's protest.
Outside, he scanned the yard for Lily. She sat cross-legged under her favourite tree, where the afternoon sunlight peeked through the leaves above, creating a shadowy pattern. In her lap was a book, and she was smiling. Severus frowned slightly, realising that the smile on her face was different from her usual ones.
She smiled shyly when meeting someone for the first time. She had a polite, courteous smile that she always smiled (in fact it was hard to catch her not smiling). When she knew someone better, her smile was a bit more mischievous. When she had an idea, her smile grew knowing, secretive. And when she was with Severus, her whole face lit up.
The smile she had now was wide, and her eyes looked dreamy. That expression unnerved him; it was an expression he'd seen before, but he couldn't remember where.
When he got closer, he saw it wasn't a book but a magazine. He stopped in front of her, looked down, and stared at the gigantic pin-up poster of John Lennon. Lily was humming something, a very familiar tune that always made his stomach clench in disgust. Of all the Beatles songs, he found himself hating "Can't Buy Me Love" most, and hearing her humming it made his ears hurt. As he tried his best to block out that tune, he glanced at Lily's face once more, and that was when he realised where he'd seen that expression before. He'd seen it on Petunia when she'd been in love with that neighbourhood boy down the street.
Now Lily wore that same look. Did that mean she was in love with John Lennon?
Severus made a face at that thought. He hoped she hadn't turned into a girl, like Petunia!
Lily looked up, finally noticing him, and asked, "What's wrong with your face? Are you sick?"
"No, but what's that?" He pointed at the magazine.
"A magazine." Lily smirked at her answer as Severus resisted rolling his eyes. "Daddy got this for me. This has a lot of stuff about the Beatles. A lot of articles and posters. See? Look at this poster of John Lennon when he was younger! See that mop-top? I think that suits him waaaaay better than what he looks like now."
He studied the two pictures, studied how different the Beatles had looked in the early 1960s compared to now. He could see that they had looked a lot cleaner when they had been younger, and then as they had grown older, they had turned into these messy people. He could not figure out who was who except for John Lennon, because of his glasses. "Do all grown-ups become this messy when they get older?"
"Maybe?" Lily shrugged as she went back to staring at the huge John Lennon poster. "He still looks good, though. I wish I could meet him one day. I wish I could go to their concert. I'm trying to convince Daddy and Mummy to let me go when I turn eleven. I'll be all grown up by then, so they have to let me go! Do you think they'll ever come here and perform?"
"I don't know."
"If they come here or any nearby cities, I'm going to go. Let's go together, okay?"
Severus grimaced and took a step back. "I don't think so," he said fiercely.
"Aw, why not? I don't want to go by myself. If you come with me, you can be my bodyguard! You already like wearing black, so you can wear that and protect me."
Severus tried to figure out just what black had to do with bodyguards, but before he could ask, she stood up, set the magazine aside, and started singing a new song.
"Oh, please, say to me, you'll let me be your man. And please, say to me, you'll let me hold your hand!" Lily danced as she grabbed Severus' hand. "Sing with me! We have to practise for when they come!"
"What do you mean practise?!" Severus asked as she yanked him around the yard.
"At the concert! When they sing, we have to sing along with them. So we need to memorise the lyrics and all." She laughed and skipped around the yard, still holding Severus' hand, and continued to sing, "Now let me hold your hand! I want to hold your hand!"
Once again, thanks to Lily's convincing attitude, Severus found himself singing along with her off-key performance. Thank goodness she didn't mind his flat singing, he thought. He didn't fancy the idea of receiving singing lessons on top of all these Beatles songs.
It was cold when Severus woke up on the last day of the year. He blearily rubbed his eyes, and he sat up with a large yawn. He winced as he heard something crashing downstairs, followed by his father's deep shouting and his mother's softer sobs.
Already numb from the coldness in his room, he pulled his threadbare blanket tighter around him and lay back down on his lumpy mattress, curling himself into a foetal position and pulling the blanket over his head to block out the noises from below. Despite all his efforts, though, he could still hear everything through the thin walls. He heard his father's cruel voice as he continued to yell at his mother. He heard the all familiar threats of him leaving them, and his mother begging him not to.
Unable to withstand it any longer, he got off his bed, stopped by the loo to do his business, and went to change into a pair of frayed jeans and an old but clean shirt. He slipped his feet into a pair of socks that had holes and into ratty-looking trainers which had once been white. Finally, he pulled on his coat, quietly crept through the house, and went outside.
He walked down the road, enjoying the blissful silence and trying to ignore the frosty winds that swept all over him. He pulled his coat's collar up around his neck and ears and stuffed his hands deep into his pocket. In one of the side alley streets, away from the prying eyes of his neighbours, he jumped up and down and ran around in circles until he could feel himself getting warm.
Still, it was too cold to linger around, so he decided to go visit Lily and see if she wanted to play. He ran all the way to Lily's house, and when he arrived, he could see his breath coming out in pants. Swallowing hard, he forced his breathing to slow down before he rang the doorbell.
Mrs Evans opened the door. Severus noticed that she appeared sad instead of her usual cheery self. "Oh, hello, Severus. You look chilled to your bones. Come on in!"
Inside, he quickly turned down her offers of tea and crumpets. "Thank you, but maybe later. Is Lily around?"
Sighing loudly, her face turned sad again. "She's out in the back. I just checked on her five minutes ago, and she's not ready to come back in yet. She's quite . . . upset. Thank goodness she's bundled up, at least. Go see her, love. Perhaps you can knock some sense into her so she'll brood inside the house instead."
"All right. I'll—" Severus was cut off when Mrs Evans wrapped a fluffy muffler around his neck.
"There. We mustn't let you catch your death of cold." She finished tying the muffler and stepped back with a smile. "Go and bring her in soon. Otherwise, I'll dig out my rubber crowbar and yank you two inside the house."
Severus thanked her quickly, and he went outside. Just like that one time when she'd been fascinated by the magazine, he found her under the tree. Unlike last time, she didn't have a silly smile on her face; instead, there were tears in her eyes. Worried, he wondered what had upset her. Quietly, he took a seat next to her on the hard ground.
"Hullo," she said, pulling her knees closer to her chest and wrapping her thin arms around her legs.
"Hi," he responded softly. "What's wrong?"
Lily kept quiet, but her bottom lip began to quiver.
"Did Petunia do something to you?" he asked, alarmed.
She shook her head. "No. Not Petunia. It's . . . it's . . . " She lost her control, and she burst into tears. She buried her face in her arms. Her shoulders heaved and shook.
Awkwardly, Severus put an arm around her shoulder, but barely touching her, afraid to upset her further. Then, without warnings, Lily turned and leaned into him, sobbing into his chest. His eyes now wide open, he slowly hugged her very stiffly.
They stayed like that for a few minutes as Lily's sob subsided. Soon, she was only sniffling. He asked again, "What's wrong?"
"The Bee Man made dinner goo?"
"No!" Lily pulled away from him and giggled before she remembered her pain and turned sombre again. "The Beatles are breaking up for good."
He blinked. "For good?"
"Back in April, Paul McCartney had left the group. So I was waiting for Paul to realise how he was being silly and needed to come back to the group, but now . . . " Her bottom lip began to quiver again. "I always thought they would stay together forever."
Severus was slightly dismayed. He knew she really liked the band, but he didn't think their break up would affect her this much. He couldn't understand why she was so upset, but he didn't want to see her so miserable.
"Here comes the sun, here comes the sun," he began to sing the first song that came into his mind. "And I say it's all right!"
She stared at him, open-mouthed. He continued to belt out the song, not caring that he sounded worse than she usually did. "Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter. Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun . . . "
"And I say it's all right!" Lily finished in a shaky voice. They smiled at each other and continued to sing. It was one of their worst attempts at singing Beatles songs, and they most likely butchered the song to where Severus would have definitely preferred an earplug or three . . . but he didn't care. Lily wasn't crying, and that was more important than his ears.
Together they finished the rest of the song.
"Will you promise me something?"
They were back in Lily's house, in the sitting room, eating and drinking Mrs Evans' wonderful tea and crumpets. Severus was going to soak in all the warmth here before he had to return to his cold home and celebrate New Year's Eve with his parents, hoping they wouldn't fight for once, hoping they'd call a truce for tonight and perhaps even fight less in the New Year.
He looked into her serious green eyes, the same eyes he'd looked into for years. But now they appeared different. "What is it?"
"Promise me that we'll always be friends, no matter what. Promise me that we'll never break up like the Beatles."
Severus slowly grinned. "I promise." Lily was his true friend; he would always be loyal to her.
She smiled back, her green eyes becoming brighter. She grabbed his hand and laced their fingers together before saying, "Friends forever."
He nodded and looked at their intertwined fingers and echoed her, "Friends forever."
When the song ended, Severus finally turned the radio off. He leaned heavily against his chair and stared at the wall in front of him; an image of Lily, so beautiful with her long red hair and her endearing green eyes smiling at him, came to his mind.
He closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he saw her holding up a baby up to her bosom.
He had broken his promise.
Yet, maybe, there was another chance.
Make sure it was not in vain. Help me protect Lily's son.
As Albus' voice drifted away, Severus smiled sadly. "Friends forever," he whispered. Lily looked at him and mouthed a single word.
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
Are drifting through my open mind
Possessing and caressing me.