Word count: ~5,000
Warnings: Language, sexual situations
Summary: Sometimes a storm comes on quickly, and when it’s over, everything has changed.
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Author’s Notes: Hello, 7types! Thank you for the lovely prompt. I tried to explore the canon relationship between Lily and Severus, take it to another level, and yet still remain in character. I truly hope I’ve completed the task to your liking.
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
My Papa’s Waltz — Theodore Roethke
He learns to fly during his first year at Hogwarts, but he first learns about speed at the hands of his father, whose lessons are short and sharp and often result in bloody noses and bruises the colour of overripe plums. Hogwarts teaches him about freedom, and the fact that maybe he isn’t as big a fuckup as he’s always been told, but his father teaches him the best places to hide, and how to stay quiet and still for hours at a time. School awakens his passion for Potions, for science and exact measurement—his life’s calling—but each time he returns home, he learns the most vital lesson of all: that sometimes fists fly even faster than broomsticks.
He’s loved Lily for as long as he can remember. He remembers loving his father only once.
Severus is five, or six, still sweetly ignorant, but just beginning to know the breath-stink of whiskey, or bourbon, or beer, or all three and then some.
Severus waits by the window for his father to come home from the mill. His mother makes dinner, her silence seeping through the small house. Her bitterness is palpable and Severus thinks the food is poisoned: everything she cooks tastes like vinegar.
Finally, he’s there! Tall and stoop-shouldered, trudging along the sidewalk. Severus can barely contain his joy. He throws the door open and Tobias smiles as if it pains him to do so, claps a heavy, weathered hand on the boy’s head, leans down close, and kisses him. Severus feels rough whiskers against his own pale, smooth cheek. His father’s hands grip the boy’s shoulders, making his knees buckle. His father’s hot breath blows across his face (smells like the bottle, the brown bottle in the top cupboard, it always does), but Severus doesn’t have a clue what that means, really. It means nothing. His father smells like that. It just is.
“Good boy today, Severus?” he says, chucking him under the chin, and Severus nods, eager, because he tries so hard to be, and Tobias nods in return. “Good.” He pushes down on his head so hard it makes him stagger, but it’s a good push and it makes him grin.
Tonight his father is home.
Tonight he doesn’t hit him.
Tonight he hugs him, so Severus hugs him back.
Tonight was a long time ago.
He knows every inch of the cramped, dark house. Every sharp corner, each creak of each floorboard. He can take stairs three at a time, if he has to, and he has to, often. His shoes (always too big or too small, never just right) make a sharp clattering sound on the old wood floors, lighter than the heavy pounding steps of his father as he gives chase. When Severus gets a head start, and even when he doesn’t, he can outrun the man, who is mostly always drunk, banging into the walls and sharp corners his son has memorized. Severus could run the course in the dark, and has. He runs and runs until his chest burns, until he can barely see, until he almost forgets who he is and who’s after him. Almost.
Lily, who is his best friend—his only friend—has never been in his house, and if he has his way, she will never set one foot over the threshold. He meets her, when they meet, on the sidewalk, by her house, in the park. Anywhere but near his house. Except for the day he is late, because his father is drunk, staggering drunk, and yelling at his wife and son about something—Severus doesn't even know what, or care—but he suddenly realizes he's late, and that understanding panics him more than his father’s thundering voice and smacking hands.
He dashes out the front door and almost knocks her down. Her hand is poised to knock, comically so, and he grabs her upraised arm and pulls her along behind him, away, away.
“Sorry,” he says brusquely as they half-jog down the street.
“Doesn’t matter. Could’ve waited. Thought you were still eating or something.”
“No.” He sees his plate of food lying smashed on the kitchen floor, peas rolling every which way. He fights the urge to laugh. Or, cry. “No.”
“Are you all right?
He nods tersely without looking at her and tries not to wince at the pain that shoots down his neck into his shoulder—hard right hook as he tried to stand in front of his mother. Hadn't seen that one coming.
“I heard a lot of yelling.”
“Did you?” He makes his voice cold and low, mostly to keep it from shaking, but she’s not put off. If anything, she’s more concerned than before.
“Yes,” she says, “I did. What’s going on?”
“Your face looks funny,” she says. He realizes he’s been fighting back tears.
“Always looks funny,” he jokes, which makes her smile. The tension is broken at last. He taps her shoulder. He takes any opportunity he can to touch her. “C’mon. Race you.” And he takes off. He wins, of course, because he can run so very fast.
His mother tries, in her way, to comfort him, Evanescoing blood, tending bruises with a Soothing Spell, but her hands are somehow always cold, her movements harsh and accusing.
“It hurts,” eight-year-old Severus says, mopping at his wet face with the back of his dirty sleeve. His nose is throbbing. The corner of his mouth is cut.
Eileen’s grim face bobs in his vision as her wand works its magic.
“Of course it does,” she says, because she knows. “Just…stop making him angry, all right?”
“How?” is the plaintive reply, every time, to which comes her reply, every time:
“You brought this on. You caused this. What did you do? What did you do?”
But to this question Severus has no answer.
Years later, his students will think he was born this way, mean and ill-tempered, prone to outbursts and snide comebacks, but he isn’t. He simply learned, very young, to defend himself, to duck and dart, to slink around corners, to melt into darkness, and to run, and more importantly, to outrun.
He kisses her for the first time when they’re 15. It’s summer—his most beloved and most hated time of year—and it’s so bloody hot they spend much of their time at the park, in the shade of the overhanging trees, talking about school, teachers, plans. Time, he thinks, seems endless.
They are bound by magic, the two of them. She is the only person in the world he can really talk to about spells and charms, and when her eyes light up he knows, he knows they belong together. Who else could he love? Who else would have him?
“Aren’t you hot?” she asks as they lie back under the trees, arms behind their heads, bare feet sliding in the grass. She is wearing a sleeveless shift of some violet material, gossamer, something faeries might spin. She eyes his ugly, long-sleeved shirt and he shrugs, like it doesn’t matter, but sleeves hide odd bruises that might draw unwanted attention, and besides, no one has offered to buy him anything more fashionable, and damned if he’s going to ask.
“Top of the class again this year,” he says, redirecting as he always does.
She shrugs like it doesn’t matter, but he sees the flush of pleasure and pride in her pale cheeks. “So? You were second.”
“But, you were first.”
“Yeah, and don’t forget it,” she giggles.
“As if you’d let me.” He smiles. She stops giggling.
“You have such a lovely smile.” She sounds so serious he can hardly stand it. “You should smile more often.”
He doesn’t know how to respond without sounding like an idiot, so he just scowls instead. She rolls her eyes.
He tries not to smile. “You looking forward to Potions next year?”
“Course. It’s my best subject!”
“I know. James says—”
And all the good feelings are gone, just like that, with those two vile words.
“Why the hell you bringing him up?” Severus says. His body goes tight, like a spring.
“Severus,” Lily says. “You didn’t even let me finish—”
“Potter doesn’t know his arse from his ankle, so I don’t give a bloody fat fart what he has to say.”
She laughs in spite of herself. “He’s not that bad, Sev.”
His heart breaks a little. He can feel his face growing hot and red, hates himself for it, and he hates her a little for making him feel this way.
“That’s your opinion,” he chokes out. “Ignorant though it is. And you, top of the class.”
She pushes up onto her elbows, glares down at him. “You’re acting like a jealous—”
He glares back. Now she’s turning red. He’s glad for it.
“What? A jealous what?”
“Nothing,” she says.
Does he dare?
“Would it be so terrible?” he says quietly. She starts.
“Never said that.” She blinks, slowly. He pushes up and kisses her. It’s all gentle and sweet, with the summer dirt under his nails and the so-green leaves above their heads. Her lips are softer than he imagined, even, and he’s imagined them more often than he cares to count. There’s nothing else but them and the sound of the leaves rubbing together, and their quiet breaths.
He pulls back at last, and stares at her so openly and nakedly, and so full of love that she can’t bear it. She stands, smoothing down her skirt with shaking hands.
“Lily—” he says through tingling lips. The longing, the longing.
“C’mon,” she says. She can’t stand still. “C’mon. Race you. Race you!” She runs. He chases, his heart pumping in time to her name:
Oh, Lily. Lily. Lily. Lily. Lily. Lily.
On the platform he searches for her, twisting his neck until it hurts. When he finally sees her, boarding several cars ahead, Lily smiles and waves to him, but turns away quickly and when he looks again, she is gone.
Hogwarts is a refuge from the hell that he calls home, but it has its own hellish moments. Most of them involve Potter and Black, and most of them leave Severus utterly humiliated, and thirsting for vengeance. He hates them, but he tolerates them because they have nothing on his father.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” Lily asks in November, first light dusting of snow beneath their feet, breath billowing white around their mouths.
“Not sure, yet.” He has, in fact, received an Owl from his mother just that morning, Plans have changed. Do not come home for the holidays., but instead of feeling distressed and unwanted, he’s almost relieved. “You?”
She wrinkles her nose, which has gone quite red in the cold. “Oh, the usual. Mum has all sorts of things planned. It’s her favourite holiday, you know. Caroling and cookies and stringing popcorn.” She sighs. “I’ll invite you over, all right? Promise you’ll come?”
He nods, just to keep her smiling. “Wouldn’t miss it.”
He feels the pull to Dark Magic growing stronger each year, even as his desire for it pulls him away from Lily. It’s the power he wants, the power he’s never had. It’s stronger than love, some days.
When Mary Macdonald insults Quentin Mulciber in Potions, Severus laughs, because it’s funny, then groans in dismay when he catches the cold, dark expression on Mulciber’s face. He knows Mulciber, knows him too well.
That night in the common room he sees: Mulciber has caught a mouse. He’s making the creature dance around a barbaric-looking trap, all metal and springs. The mouse moves forward, stops, twitches. Mulciber’s heavy brow furrows in concentration. It’s torture. Avery sits beside him, positively gleeful. Another tiny step, another. The mouse seems to be resisting, then moving forward again, against its will. Severus forces himself to believe he’s imagining things. It’s just a stupid mouse, after all.
“What are you doing?” Severus asks.
“Practicing,” Mulciber says.
“Yeah? For what?” Severus can’t swallow properly. The room is too hot, too dry.
“That cow Macdonald. Who does she think she is, talking to me like that?”
“Bit harsh, don’t you think?”
“What’s with you? Turning into a Gryffindor?”
Avery snorts. “Told you he was spending too much time with that bloody Evans wench.”
Snap goes the trap. The boys cackle with laughter. Severus turns and bolts, his dinner lurching in his stomach.
He realizes, much later, that he was supposed to laugh, too. Then, the sick realization washes over him: as repulsed as he was, there was another emotion dancing just beneath as he watched Mulciber exercise his power and control over the smaller, weaker creature: Longing.
Severus doesn’t come upon them until it’s almost too late. Mary, cornered in an empty, dead-end corridor in the dungeons, has the sharp knife in her hand, one they use for skinning Shrivelfigs, but it’s pointed at her neck. Her face is bland, impassive, but just underneath is sheer, blind panic: Severus stands frozen, reminded of something—
He sees Mulciber, off to the side, his face furrowed in concentration, his lip between his teeth, sweat on his forehead. The knife blade is shimmering, swaying, coming closer to the skin of her neck. Avery is watching, breathless, eyes wide in anticipation: he wants blood, and it’s coming, soon. Severus takes a step forward, is just about to yell, to break the Imperius Curse when suddenly Mulciber, overwhelmed, loses his concentration, grips his forehead in pain.
The knife clatters to the floor at Mary’s feet, followed by a steady stream of liquid from between her legs: urine. Mary blinks and looks down. She seems to realize what has happened. She staggers to her left. Severus is about to grab her, when she runs past them, footsteps heavy and echoing.
“That was brilliant!” Avery says in awe.
“Told you I could do it,” Mulciber pants.
“Do what, exactly?” Severus says coldly, heart thudding in his ears. “Make her piss herself?”
Later he finds her with Lily in the Library. They are both pale and quiet, their eyes accusatory.
“Are you all right?” Severus asks quietly.
“What do you care?” Mary hisses. “You saw the whole thing! You knew! You knew and you d-didn’t do anything!”
“It’s not true! It’s not!” He looks to Lily, pleading. “Believe me, I didn’t know. I didn’t know what they had planned. How is she?”
“Scared nearly to death,” Lily says, her arm across the weeping girl’s shoulder. “Which, I guess, was pretty much the point, wasn’t it?”
He wants to tell her many things, not the least of which is I love you. He doesn’t understand, then, why the word Mudblood is the one word that comes spilling out instead.
“Lily,” he says, later. He can hear himself begging and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about anything but her forgiveness. If she won’t forgive me. If she comes to hate him—“Please.”
Her eyes are colder than he’s ever seen them, colder even than when she’s glared at Potter or Black, or even at him on the numerous occasions he’s fucked up before.
She turns and leaves him there, alone and stupid outside the portrait hole, and not for the first time, he wishes he was dead, if only to make the throbbing, excruciating pain stop.
He sees her only once this summer, walking with Petunia. They both glance his way as they pass. Petunia sneers, no big deal, her face seems to be set that way, but Lily looks nervous, and Severus thinks she might stop, might say something if she was alone.
Her name is on his lips—it always is—but he can't voice it, and so they pass, almost like strangers, but they both look at one another, and he sees something in her face, something like longing, and, he can only hope, something like mercy.
Sounds he can never get used to in the Muggle world: Honking cars. Airplanes. Lily’s silence.
He’s vowed to never drink, for obvious reasons, but he slips oh-so-easily when he sees James Bloody Potter with his arm slung around her waist and his foul mouth against her ear at the Christmas Ball in sixth year. Someone, Sirius probably, has spiked the pumpkin juice and instead of reporting it to a Professor, as Snape usually would, he drinks three cups in quick succession. He can suddenly, completely understand its appeal: he loses part of himself as the alcohol moves languidly through his bloodstream. He loses the part he hates, the awkwardness, the sadness, the hatred. He loses his memory and when he stumbles into her he can’t remember why they haven’t spoken in almost a year.
“Severus,” she says in surprise, mostly because she can see the unfamiliar glaze in his eyes, the slight, soft curve to his lips. His face is relaxed, his demeanor loose. He smiles at her, because, You have such a lovely smile. You should smile more often.
“Hullo, Lily,” he says and she almost smiles back before she catches herself.
“Enjoying yourself, are you?” she says with a disapproving sniff, but she can’t turn away. Something about his face, about the way he is looking at her, mesmerizes her. She stares at him.
“S’all right, I guess. Punch is brilliant. Had any?”
“I think Sirius—” she begins. Then, flat: “You’re drunk.”
He bows a little.
She bristles, despite herself.
“Fuck whatever I said. Who cares? I get it now. I get it.” He shrugs and smiles, even wider and she’s suddenly reminded of that day in the park when he first kissed her, how sweet it was, how right, how she felt she’d never have someone love her that much again.
“Severus,” she says, stepping closer. “Be careful, okay? Don’t—”
“I’ve missed you,” he cuts in. He moves closer, too, and he’s no longer smiling. He grabs one of her hands in his own, squeezes it so hard it almost hurts. “Do you know that? Do you know how much I’ve missed you? You’re…you’re breaking my heart, y’know?”
He wants to tell her how fucking sorry he is, too, but he knows she knows, and he’d rather she hear this, instead, because he’s never said it.
“Oh,” she says, concentrating on her throbbing fingers. He’s holding them so tight she can feel her knuckles pressing together. James has never looked at her this way, or held her that way, or—
“Lily, what are you doing over here?” James appears out of nowhere, boyishly tousled, red-cheeked and Lily wonders how much pumpkin juice he’s had. “And with him?”
Lily shakes her head, her glorious hair, as if coming out of a deep sleep. She pulls her hand free. “I can talk to whoever I want, James.”
“Fine. But Snivellus? Didn’t you say you were never—”
But Severus doesn’t bother hanging around to find out what Lily was never going to do or say. He somehow knows Lily watches him all the way out the door.
Lily does watch him, watches even as James jostles and needles her, teasing her about standing with Snape, talking to Snape, but Lily barely hears him. She watches Severus bob and weave his way across the undulating throng of students, watches him down another glass of juice, watches him leave. And when she blinks back tears, that’s when she realizes she’s missed him, too, so much that her heart has been quietly breaking all this time.
The last fight begins and ends with the brown bottle—whiskey—not Firewhisky, of course, but Bushmills 1608. It’s the hottest night of August so far; Severus can almost feel the weight of the air in the small kitchen. It’s stifling. Thunder rumbles, low in Severus’s belly. Rain is coming. He can smell it. Eileen has laid three plates on the table but Severus can only stare down at his. His stomach, as usual, hurts, as does his head and throat. Sweat beads along Tobias’s forehead. He pounds down shot after shot. He doesn’t eat, either. Eileen picks at her food.
“Who could eat this slop, anyway?” Tobias mutters, moving some peas around with his fork. “I could cook better’n this.”
“Why don’t you then?” Eileen says, which earns her a snarl and fist slam on the table. Severus doesn’t even jump. Thunder, and then more. The rain is very close, now. A freshening breeze ruffles the grey kitchen curtains.
“You!” Tobias seems to notice his son for the first time since arriving home from work, already drunk. Severus glances at his father’s red, sweaty face, making his own face as impassive as possible. It doesn’t work. “Don’t look at me like that, boy. You’re always looking at me like that.”
Like what? Severus longs to ask. Like what? There’s never an answer.
“Eat!” Tobias bellows suddenly. “Your mother cooked that food. Eat it!”
Thunder, rolling and rumbling and stomach-turning.
Severus stares at him. Tobias growls, swipes his heavy arm across the table, sending all three plates flying, along with peas, potatoes, meat. Severus stares dumbly at the mess (people wonder why I’m so goddamn thin), the broken china, at his mother and her broken face and at his father. Something inside him snaps, then, though no one watching would ever guess.
He’s taller than his father now, but oh so skinny. Skin and bones, true, but muscled, too, surprisingly so. Strong and quick. Long and lean. Angry and determined.
It’s the fucking brown bottle’s fault—
—and after Tobias has consumed almost two-thirds of it, Severus swipes it off the table where it smashes into a thousand brilliant shards across the floor.
Looks like snow, Severus thinks stupidly, staring down and waiting for the first blow. Looks like the first snowfall on the Hogwarts’ grounds. No, no, he amends. Looks like dirty slushy snow, the kind that runs in the gutters—
He hears thunder, so close now, and the first plunks of rain on the roof. Lightning flashes, brilliantly. All that magnificent science going on out there, he thinks, and here we are, here we are in here, so fucking stupid and small—
He doesn’t even try to duck, or run, or outrun. The fist lands heavy and hard into his left eye and Severus staggers back and to the left, letting his body absorb the shock and momentum, like a well-practiced boxer. This time, however, he does not run, or hide, melt into darkness. This time, for some reason, he fights back. Tobias is drunk enough to not see it coming, and why on earth would he even expect it? This time Severus, eye already pinching shut, hits back, pushes back, hard, harder than he’s ever done in his life. He feels his father’s heavy body stagger back, stumble, arms pin wheeling, head slamming against something sharp, corner of the kitchen counter (coulda told you that was there), then falling, heavy, solid, thunk, thud.
And then, blood. So much blood.
And then the rain comes, in a torrent. Everything outside the windows turns black and wet.
Severus stares, but Eileen’s on her feet, pale, mouth working like a dying fish.
“What have you done?” she screams. “What have you done? What have you done?”
Because there’s no answer, he darts from the house, quick as the lightning that forks across the black sky, runs through sheets of warm rain, darts from the sobbing and the sounds of crunching glass and sails down the sidewalk—Almost like flying! Faster than a broomstick—and he must be dreaming because he hears her voice, the only voice that matters, that’s ever mattered, calling his name over the surging rain.
“Severus! What’s happened? Where are you going?”
And he starts laughing, but doesn’t stop moving, just keeps running, because if he stops he’ll find out he is dreaming and this is one dream he doesn’t want to end, ever.
He runs without realizing where he is going, but when he arrives at the playground, the very playground where he first used to watch her and her sister, he thinks, Of course. Where else? His breath is ragged in his throat, it actually hurts. His whole body hurts, but it’s a good hurt: it’s a pain he’s brought on himself, for once. He collapses by the swings, his back against the cool, metal pole. He folds in on himself. He waits. He lets the rain fall on him, roll over his hair, his face. But, it’s already slowing—a sudden storm—and then it stops, almost completely, and it feels even hotter than before. Funny, how that happens sometimes.
“Severus?” Her voice is very loud in the sudden quiet. She seems to sense this, and lowers it before speaking again. “Sev?”
She’s out of breath. She ran, then, too.
He hears her shoes crunch on the gravel (glass, sounds like glass). He can smell her, all lilac and soap. He wonders if she’s just come from a bath, and that thought excites him more than it should, so he pushes it away.
He keeps his head down, his forehead pressed hard against the tops of his knees. He’s barely breathing. Is he breathing at all? Maybe not. She places a hand on his back, up high, just below the edge of his hair and he expels a long breath he didn’t realize he was holding.
“Sev?” she says again. “Look at me.”
He hunches his shoulders. He can feel the tension there, muscles and skin bunching together, and he can also feel her hand pushing gently against it all.
“Please.” One word. One bloody word, but, oh, the way she says it. He lifts his head from his knees, just a bit. Lily moves around him and kneels before him, waiting. Their faces are very close, but it’s dark, and he’s not sure how much she can see.
He can feel the skin around his eye throbbing, dully now. He can feel the swelling pushing his eyes closed. It’s almost shut tight now, but he can still see the lines and planes of her beautiful face and how the moonlight softens them even more.
She tilts her head to one side and reaches out one hand. Her fingers ever so gently touch his skin. He tries not to flinch, but it’s hard because it really hurts.
“Oh, Sev.” She breathes. “Oh. Damn. Oh, shit. Oh fuck. Fuck. Fuck it. Fuck him. Fucking bastard!”
He smiles then, because he’s never in his life heard her curse, and it all seems so ridiculous at the moment, and he’s pretty sure he’s now completely in love with her, because of it. He laughs, then winces.
“Yeah,” he agrees, almost cheerfully. “Fucking dead bastard.”
“I…I killed him, Lily. Least, I think I did.”
They stare at one another in the wet darkness. It all feels very heavy, the air, the trees, even Severus himself. He wonders if he’ll ever move again; his arms and legs feel sodden, stuffed with sawdust or clotted blood.
“He hit me, again, you know? He’s been hitting me for years, but I’ve never…never fought back before. I just run…I always fuckin’ run…but tonight…I dunno…I couldn’t…couldn’t run anymore. And you. I thought about you and school and how it used to…the school and you…be the place where I could—” He’s choking on the words, and he’s babbling, but he can’t seem to stop. “I pushed him, hard and he fell back and hit his head and there was b-blood…so much blood and y’know what? I didn’t even fuckin’ care, how ‘bout that—”
“Stop, Sev,” she whispers. “Stop. Stopstopstop—”
She puts her arms around him, tight, and holds him in the dark. She rocks him and he lets her. She whispers nonsense into his hair while her hands stroke his shoulders and his neck. He pushes into her hard, then harder still, seeking out all her soft spots. As her face brushes by his their lips brush, too and they both inhale and pull back at the same time. Then, they crash together at the same time, surprised by the intensity and the desire.
They are kissing in earnest, now, all lips and open mouths, tongues darting and dancing. His hands find her shoulders and grip them, tight, before sliding down to her breasts and she pushes into them, which makes him go rock-hard in an instant. He moans into her mouth and feels her lips curl in a smile beneath his.
“Here,” she says. “Here. Now.”
She pushes him back onto the rain-slicked stones and he can’t quite believe it. He wants to close his eyes, but he also doesn’t want to miss a single thing.
“You look scared,” she says.
“I am,” he says.
“Me, too,” she says, and she kisses him again so hard it hurts. Her hands fumble at the waist of his pants. He lies there, waiting and watching, afraid to move, afraid that if he moves she’ll simply disappear and he’ll awake in his bed, his father thundering and stumbling around in the rooms below, his mother talking and pleading and yelling and screaming. Lily eases his pants down and eases her skirt up and suddenly, he’ll never know how, nor does he particularly care, she’s astride him and there’s skin, hers and his, and oh! Oh! She is sliding along him and pushing him inside her and he wonders, fleetingly, how many times she’s done this before and of course, with James Fucking Potter, but that thought dissolves when she starts to move, slow, tentative. He grabs her hips and she leans low, her long, lovely hair brushing his face. They’re both trying to stay quiet, but he, at least, is having a difficult time; he can hear the groans building in the back of his throat as she moves above him, faster, as both their hips lift and lower and he honestly thinks this is the antithesis of Hell, it must be, and finally, finally something good is happening to him. He doesn’t want it to end, of course, and it does, of course. Lily comes first (thank god), and he knows because she shudders, from top to bottom, and her head dips even lower, and she moans, which makes him come immediately, harder, but sweeter, than he ever has in his life, fingers digging into her thighs, hips lifted high, both of them panting and gasping and wondering if it really did happen, and what the fuck, in the park?
She eases off him, lies beside him, holds his hand. They stare up at the sky, which has cleared completely—thousands of stars!—and think of nothing at all. She shifts. He panics.
“Don’t leave,” he says.
“I won’t,” she says, and she sounds like she means it, even though he knows she doesn’t, and because of that, he says it again.
“Don’t leave me, ever.”
It’s a lie, and he knows it, and she does, too, he thinks, but it’s good enough for now, for right now. He’ll take it for now because right now, it’s all he fucking has.
“Lily—” he says and the word, the name, disappears into the night, becomes even more stars. She turns on her side and puts her arm across his chest, her mouth against his ear.
“I love you, Sev, all right? No matter—” Her voice catches and she might be crying, but he’s not sure and he doesn’t want to ask. “No matter what. Remember that. I love you.”
She begins to sing. He doesn’t know the song, or recognize the words, but it’s the sweetest song he’s ever heard. She sings into his neck, and the song reminds him of birds and blossoms, beautiful things sprouting from the darkest corners of the cellar or garden. Something tight inside him loosens and unfurls. He turns to her, because she is like the sun. He cries great, heaving snotty sobs into the fabric of her shirt, but she doesn’t let go, not even a little bit. If anything, she holds on even tighter.