Acacias and Willows – February, 1979 : Apology Accepted

Nervously straightening the Muggle tie as he slipped into the back of the funeral hall, Severus quietly took a seat. Up near the front of the room, he could see the back of Mrs. Evans’ head bowed as she rocked with quiet sobs while Petunia sat ramrod straight next to her. Much as he remembered Lily describing her sister’s violent rows with their parents, though, he knew that tears were streaming down her face even without seeing it.

Then his eyes were drawn by Lily’s hair and his heart clenched as he saw her leaning against Potter’s shoulder. Even from the back of the room, he could hear her little hiccoughs of breath as she tried not to sob aloud. He watched as Potter wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gently stroked her hair until the funeral was over.

When they and other members of the Evans family rose to start for the back of the hall, Severus wanted to get up and run before they spotted him. He stilled that urge, however, because he wasn’t going to take the coward’s way out. There hadn’t been that much interaction between him and the Evans’ family other than Lily but he had met her parents once or twice. They had always been kind to the grubby little boy he’d been and while he hadn’t appreciated it much then, he did now.

He appreciated a lot of things now that he hadn’t before.

Looking up, he saw that Mrs. Evans was leaning on Petunia as they headed for the door and he bowed his head respectfully towards the still weeping woman. He caught a ragged, almost furious intake of breath that had to be Petunia – as she surely wouldn’t have easily forgotten him with all the terrible things he’d called her – but she kept moving.

When he lifted his eyes again, Severus was looking into Lily’s startled eyes.

She mouthed his name in surprise then Potter was ushering her on past him with a hiss about keeping up the line. That had her moving past but she gave him a look that he had well missed – the one that said she would be having words with him and there was nothing he could do about it.

He smiled for a moment as he was looking forward to it then the expression faded as he gingerly touched the inside of his left arm. The Mark was hidden under his shirt and the Muggle jacket he’d dug out expressly for the funeral but he felt like it was on blatant display here. It certainly wasn’t something he was comfortable bearing in the presence of Lily or her family.

His regrets at taking the Mark were swarming at him more and more lately. The life of a follower of Voldemort that Lucius and so many others had extolled about during his years at Hogwarts was certainly not what they had described. Lily likely knew he had taken the Mark alongside his “friends” and he feared that she – or Potter – might ask.

Potter he could have lied to.

He couldn’t lie to Lily.

Glancing up, he noticed that the rest of the hall had cleared out and he rose to follow the crowd, following them outside the building. Severus stepped away from the rest, coming to a stop up next to a tree, and he waited patiently.

To his dismay, Petunia was the first one to approach him.

You!” she growled as she practically stomped up to him and shoved her face up towards his. “What kind of nerve had you got showing up here, Snape? You never liked any of us except for Lily and that died at your stupid freak school.”

“Eloquent as ever, Petunia,” he drawled lazily in response, recalling that he’d once gotten pleasure out of tormenting Lily’s sister. After having experienced Lucius’ idea of Muggle-bating, however, he honestly couldn’t find it in him anymore. Sobering, he continued, “As much as it might surprise you, I came here to pay what little respect I can to your father. I do remember them treating me kindly when we were younger.”

He bit his tongue to keep from saying that he still liked Lily perfectly fine and it was his own stupid mistake that had shorn their friendship in twain.

Petunia’s lip curled and she started to open her mouth again when Lily’s slim hand came to land on her shoulder. The gentle but firm press of her fingers urged her sister away as she said, “Mum wants you, Petunia.”

With a snort and a harsh glare at Severus, Petunia left to stomp her way back across the ground and he bowed his head.

“Hello, Lily.”

“Sev,” she murmured in response and his heart hammered hard against his chest. He dared look up then, just barely meeting her eyes, and he found his breath taken away by the fact that there were tears in them. “What are you doing here?”

He shrugged before answering quietly, “Your parents actually cared about the little boy from down the road. So when I heard about your father, I came straight away. I…there have been things lately in my life that have brought me to the conclusion that I’ve been a right idiot about a lot of my past.” When she remained silent, Severus dared continue. “Maybe it’s too late but…my apology back then. When I…well. You know.”

Lily reached out a hand to touch his arm – the left, oh Merlin, why the left – and pressed, “Tell me again.”

He suddenly wanted to run again, wanted to insist he had nothing to say and Apparate away no matter how many Muggles were about. If he was anything, though, Severus was not a coward.

“I’m sorry,” he managed to say, blurting it out a little louder and faster than he’d intended. Seeing heads turning towards them in confusion, he regained control and lowered his voice. Reaching for her hands – she shouldn’t be anywhere near his left arm, not near that – he gripped them tightly and sought out the words to explain himself. “I never meant to call you by that name. Never. And not just because you’re you but because it isn’t right. You and everyone like you prove all of them wrong, Lily. I’m so sorry for what I said.”

Is it too late? he asked silently, almost begging her to hear him. Is it too late for me to have you back, my best friend, my only true friend?

Her fingers clenched around his and a strangled laugh came out of her throat as she shook her head, looking up at him with the tears still gleaming in her eyes. “Oh, Sev. We were both young and stupid then.”

“Still are,” he noted with a smile that he didn’t quite feel. Underneath his shirt and jacket, the Mark felt as if it was burning into his arm and he wished with his all that he had never taken it.

Lily smiled up at him, warm and inviting, and Severus found his heart beating wildly as hope dared flare up inside him. Then the moment was broken by bloody Potter coming up behind her and tugging lightly on her arm.

“We’re to head to the cemetery, Lils.” He then did a double-take and straightened as he realized just who his young wife was talking to. “Snape,” he said firmly, nodding slightly while an almost possessive hand came to rest on Lily’s shoulder.

“Potter,” returned Severus coolly. He turned his attention back to Lily then, not wanting to focus on his old childhood nemesis. While he had far greater worries nowadays, he still loathed Potter with all of his being.

“Lils,” began Potter, the warning obvious in his voice, but Lily retrieved one of her hands to fold it over her husband’s.

“It’s fine, James,” she said. Smiling, she squeezed Severus’ hand and asked, “Are you coming?”

As he shook his head because the cemetery is more for the family and he is not that, she nodded. “Then,” Lily said firmly, “you’ll come to our house after?”

“Lily!”

“So we can talk?” she continued as if Potter had never said a word, her smile suddenly strained. And underneath the weight of Potter’s glare, Severus simply nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

With that, they were gone, Potter hustling her away towards the distant figures of her mother and Petunia. Severus stood for a moment before he sank against the tree, his right arm rising to cradle his left as his face went ashen. Eventually he’d have to reveal to her that he went down the path that she had feared he would, that he had let his so-called friends lead him so astray. Once every so often his thoughts would turn to her in blame but with his recent self revelation, he knew he only had himself to blame.

He had made his bed and he will lie in it.

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