Severus went pale, clutching tightly to the wall beside him in an effort to keep himself upright. "H-how…" He started, not sure which question to ask first. Instead he stared blankly, trying to work things through. He felt like a lost little boy all over again. He'd been on the receiving end of this conversation far too many times.
"Voldemort." Lily said simply.
Regulus leaned forward, breaking into the conversation. "You don't mean that blonde chick, do you?" His brow was furrowed with curiosity.
Severus' throat was dry, causing the words to come out in a grating manner. "Yes. I hadn't realized you'd known her."
"She was a bit…reckless. I can't say I'm surprised she finally met her untimely end."
"What do you know?" Lily questioned, watching him carefully.
Regulus shrugged carelessly, not seeming to register the delicateness of the situation. "The Dark Lord was always angry with her. Most of his followers tried to avoid angering him while she seemed to run into it."
"That sounds like Zahrah." Severus agreed. He shook his head. "I always asked her to be more careful…she was just so bullheaded."
"Sev…" Lily bit her lip. "Have you heard anything from her?"
"No." He responded, squeezing his eyes shut. "Not since our fight."
"Dumbledore thinks she may have been held captive a few days before…"
Severus swallowed hard, his throat tightening further. He thought of Lucius' threat only a couple days prior. Had they already had her then? We're they just waiting for him to make his move? Or had there been a meeting, one she was never allowed to leave? Lucius had said there would be consequences to his disobedience…was it Severus' fault that she was dead? "I have a potion to finish. There's no sense in causing two deaths today." He spun on his heel, turning back the way he had come.
Severus watched the potion bubble hypnotically in its cauldron. It was white in color, almost pearly, the opposite of the poison Regulus had drunk. He worked on muscle memory alone, slicing and stirring without really paying attention. His mind was elsewhere as the antidote neared its completion, on the fact that he was at fault again.
"Talk to me, Sev." Lily stroked his back lovingly, causing him to flinch in surprise.
"I'm alright, I need to work."
She sighed and stopped her massage, moving into his line of sight. "Why do you always act like I don't know how you work? You're practiced, the potion doesn't need your full attention. I don't think you've even given it in years."
"…fine." He glared at her. "What do you want me to say? That I could've prevented it?"
A pitying look crossed her face. "This isn't like before." She reached for his hand which he snatched away.
"You're right, it isn't." Severus poured the completed potion into a vial before walking out on Lily. He forced the potion into Regulus' hand.
He downed it, trying to sink into the cushions and make himself invisible during what appeared to be a lover's quarrel.
"What about the turner? Isn't this why we have it?"
He shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut. "If we weren't in reality…yes. Her death wasn't an accident, I know it wasn't. If we could find a way to revive her, Voldemort would only ensure that she dies again. The torture he inflicts…I wouldn't put anyone through that even once, let alone again."
"That's it then?" Her voice was quiet.
"For now." His eyes fell on Regulus then, he'd almost forgotten he was there. "How well did you know Voldemort before abdicating?"
Regulus looked taken aback at suddenly being included in the conversation. "About as well as one would expect, I'd say."
"And his past? What do you know?"
"It's more than I knew until recently." Severus turned, going up the stairs. He heard Regulus shift in a move to follow him and an exasperated sound of confusion escape his lips. When Severus returned he had the thick file in his hands. "I'd prefer it if you could take this. I believe you'll have more luck with it than I will."
Regulus stood taking it from him. "I'll leave you to destroy the horcrux. Dark magic has always been more of your specialty."
Severus gave Lily an uncomfortable side eye before clearing his throat. "I'll take care of it today."
Regulus nodded "And I'm sorry about your…friend. Thank you for the potion." He tipped his head and disapparated, leaving Severus to finally, fully, fall apart.
Sitting down he rubbed his hands down his face. He suddenly felt so very tired. It was an exhaustion he could feel in his bones, one that sleep wouldn't fix. Lily tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and sat beside him, hand on his knee. He could tell by the look on her face that she was worried he would fall apart again and he spoke to reassure her. "I could go for a stiff drink right about now" He craved the smoky, aggressive burn of whisky. "But I'm not going to." He looked down, examining the bluntness of his fingernails. "Food however, is necessary to live."
"You need to get rid of the horcrux before anything else. Just think how perfect that revenge will be. He destroyed part of you and you get to destroy part of him."
"Ah, you and your logic." He shook his head jokingly before reaching up to stroke her cheek.
With his other hand, he withdrew the locket from one of his robe pockets, turning it over in his hand.
"I'm coming with you to destroy it." She spoke firmly, giving him no option to turn her down.
They'd landed in a dead patch of grass in the middle of nowhere. Thin patches of snow dotted the grounds around them and a light breeze fought against their clothing. Severus placed the locket down in the center of the field before backing up and Lily did the same.
"It might fight back." He warned. "Be ready." Removing his wand with a flourish, he aimed it at the locket. A stream of brilliant flame shot from his wand suddenly, causing a minor explosion on contact with Voldemort's soul. A likeness of him created in fire rose, swirling around them, threatening to consume them. She watched carefully for any sign that they should flee or put out the flames, but Severus remained transfixed by the fireball.
His arm was slack at his side and she almost went to shake him back to reality when the flaming skulls began to die, morphing into shapeless flame. "Now." Severus commanded, conjuring water this time. Lily did the same, aiming the pouring water at the lingering wisps of fire until all of it dimmed to smoke.
The previously yellow grass was now burned black and a chard hunk of metal remained in the center. He reached carefully to touch it, skin grazing the misshapen metal before pulling it up. "That wasn't nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be."
"What did you expect?" Lily asked carefully, knowing that he was taking the earlier news harder than he let on.
"Vindication." He looked over his shoulder at her. "How do we know she's gone?"
Lily fought to spare him the gory details. "Her body was found by muggles." He stared off, mind remembering something she couldn't see. "She chose this path, Sev. It may have been for the right reasons, but she knew what danger she was putting herself in."
"People do dangerous things all the time. It's in our foolish natural to believe we'll be different... If only she'd been right." He looked down, scuffing his foot along the ground.
"Sev." Lily reached out tentatively to touch him. "It could have been you. If you'd joined him…" She shook her head, closing her misty eyes. "I can't bare to think of it."
"My life was similar to Voldemort's. I never considered how much he must have suffered to turn out this way."
The revelation surprised her. "You're nothing like him. A similar past doesn't make you the same person." She stepped closer, so he was forced to meet her gaze. "You're kind and good and-"
Severus flinched away from her. "I've used the cruciatus before, Lily. You have to mean it. I did terrible things when I wanted to join his side and I never thought anything of it."
"People change, Sev. Just because you hurt others before, that you've done things you aren't proud of, doesn't mean you aren't a good person now." He closed his eyes, exhaling slowly and she continued. "It's okay to have regrets, it's not okay to wallow in them. Had you thought this path would get her killed, you would have said something. But, she was her own person and she chose to join him."
"Okay, okay." He agreed finally. "Should the opportunity present itself…we'll try and save her. Until then, we have a lot of work to do."
"Do you really think Regulus can help?"
"He's our best bet at discovering more of them until I speak with Slughorn."
"The two of you seemed awfully chummy."
Severus laughed ironically. "Regulus is cheeky like his brother. We got on while at Hogwarts, but I assumed he was a lost cause."
Lily was quiet for a minute, considering something. "I wonder how many other Death Eaters wish they hadn't joined him."
"I imagine a fair few. We were lured in by mostly propaganda. All he had to do was implant an idea and Slytherin house let it fester." He looked at her seriously. "We need to get you out of the cold, let's go home."
"Lunch first." She countered. "I know you're trying to give up these habits, but I also understand you need to grieve. Besides, I need food too." Her stomach growled as if to prove her point.
Severus eyed her carefully before giving in. "A muggle place would be safest."
"I wouldn't expect anything else."
He fell backwards on to the bed, the button of his muggle jeans undone. Severus had surprised her, and not exactly in a good way. Lily had seen what she assumed to be the extent of his alcoholism, and even that of his binging. She thought their outing with Sirius and James had been tribute to that. It never occurred to her that she hadn't seen the extent of this addiction. It seemed up until this point he had been careful in front of her, whether out of embarrassment or what she wasn't sure. In retrospect, she shouldn't have let him pick a buffet.
She found herself lying beside him, fatigue taking over again. It was like a heavy weight was attached to each of her limbs, dragging them down. "Are you alright?" She asked, concerned by his heavy breathing.
"Yes, fine." He paused. "It's been about two months since I last ate like that."
"Two months?" They were already together then, yet she'd had no idea. "I apologize for the delicate question, but about how often did you do this?"
"More than I'd care to admit." He swiveled his head to the side looking at her. "I didn't gain so much weight by eating my vegetables." Seeing something on her face – what exactly she wasn't sure – he quickly continued. "It was a momentary lapse. Tomorrow it's back to eating right."
She noticed a gentle blush filling his white cheeks and couldn't help but feel bad at how she had reacted. Scooting closer, she leaned her head on his shoulder. "You've had a bad day."
Severus scoffed. "Understatement of the year." The small smile he'd had fell. "This is when being blackout drunk comes in handy. At least I'd get a few hours of reprieve."
"You have to deal with it eventually."
"Yes, but it's easier to do when the pain is dulled. I simply don't understand how I got here…Mum, Saffiah, now Zahrah…they were my family, all of them."
Lily ran her fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp. "It wasn't easy losing my parents either. I can't even tell you how much it hurts to not have them here now. They won't get to see their grandchildren, they don't get to know about you…My Mum was always found of you."
"Was she?" He furrowed his brow. "I never noticed."
"I think she'd like knowing we ended up together."
"I don't think Clark would agree." Severus smiled earnestly.
"That wasn't personal." She giggled. "Dad wasn't fond of Vernon either."
Severus scrunched his nose in exaggerated disgust. "You have met him, right? Vernon is mental."
"I'm well aware." She rolled her eyes, thinking about the night she'd spent at her sister's. "My point was we were his daughters and you were the boys threatening to take us away."
Severus rolled over, facing her fully with dropping eyes. "I'd say I succeeded."
Lily felt the tiredness she could see on Severus' face. So much had happened in one day, more so for him, that it was impossible not to be exhausted. Under the weight of his arm across her, she began to drift off.