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Liquid Luck (re-write)

Title: "Liquid Luck"
Fandom(s): Harry Potter
Characters: Lily Evans, Severus Snape, James Potter
Pairing(s): None
Rating: T (for a small bit of schoolboy crudeness)
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 2959

Summary: Before Harry, only one other student ever managed to concoct the Draught of Living Death and win the vial of Felix Felicis from Professor Slughorn. Who was it, and what did that person do with it?

Author's Note: Rewritten after a reader pointed out that I had the events of the end of year 5 and the beginning of year 6 (for Lily, Severus, James, and Remus) wrong. She was very right and that changes all of the characters' relationships substantially. She also felt that I implied that the first and second parts happened at the same time (that Severus was in Potions while Lily was in Charms, which would be wrong) but I think she misread.


As the hook-nosed boy emerged from the classroom, his two friends trotted up on either side of him and knocked him companionably with their shoulders, his dark greasy hair swinging from the impacts. The taller of the two, a stocky boy with a severe crew cut, grinned with unmasked greed in his eyes. "That's my mate, Sev! I knew you'd do it! The moment he showed us the prize, I thought, 'Snape’ll win it, he will!'"

"Of course he did," the other boy, a thin boy with tousled hair and a devious expression, affirmed. "There is no one better at Potions than our Severus."

"Did you see the look on Slughorn's face when he looked in his cauldron, Avery? 'No one's ever managed to win it,'" the taller boy mimicked the professor's pompous style. “Next year, he'll have to change that speech to 'Only one student has ever won it.'" He clapped Severus on the back.

As they climbed the stairs from the dungeons, Avery grinned. "Even better, it brings proper glory to Slytherin. No one could believe it. Even now, you can feel their jealousy. Ain’t it grand?" Glancing around at the students from the other houses watching them and whispering to each other, he basked in the atmosphere of envy, even though the prize wasn't his.

"So let's see it, Sev."

The boy in the middle pulled his hand out of his pocket, where he'd been fingering the smooth glass vial. Spreading his fingers, he revealed the tiny bottle full of golden liquid, tightly stoppered and sealed. His lips slowly curved into a proud smile, an expression that rarely graced his face. "Felix Felicis."

"Liquid Luck," the tall boy breathed, and reached to pick it out of his friend’s palm.

"No." Severus' hand snapped shut, and he held his fist to his chest. "I'm not a fool, Mulciber. If you want this, you'll have to win it yourself. Or make it yourself. I'd love to see you try."

"We'd have to wipe his remains off the ceiling if he did," laughed Avery.

Mulciber sneered, disappointed that he hadn't been able to steal the potion from his friend. "That potion is proper hard. Even you couldn't make it, Severus."

"But I know better than to try. If we didn't keep an eye on you, you'd be back in the Potions room tonight, sweating over your cauldron. Such a greedy heart." He laughed at the look of disgust on Mulciber's face.

They entered the school's main hallway, and the three friends stopped in an intersection, as they were all heading to different classes. Avery knocked Severus with his shoulder again. "So, do you know what you're going to do with it?"

"Oh, yes. I knew the moment Professor Slughorn held the vial up in front of us," the boy replied, his eyes wandering to a group of girls in Gryffindor robes passing by. Wicked smiles spread on Avery's and Mulciber's faces as they recognised the one Severus was watching.

"Evans again?" Mulciber rubbed his hands together as he watched her. “What a waste of magic.”

"That Mudblood's pretty enough, but I don't know what you see in her," remarked Avery in a dry, disinterested tone. "Perhaps you'll see more in her with her knickers off, eh?" Sudden lasciviousness dripped from his words.

"Perhaps. Today, after classes." Severus squeezed the vial in his hand, then slipped it back in his pocket.

. _ . _ . _ . _ .


Flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder, the girl in the Gryffindor robes uttered an overly-dramatic sigh as she hefted her bookbag onto her shoulder. She snuck a peek at the Charms master to make sure he wasn’t listening before she muttered to her friend in a low voice, “This is simply ridiculous, Lily! How does he expect us to do such advanced magic?” The two girls turned together to exit the classroom with their mates.

Her friend frowned in disbelief. “This isn’t that advanced, Lucy. Protego duo is only a slight bit stronger than a regular Shield Charm.”

“Only a bit? I can’t even do that,” Lucy groaned. Now out of the classroom, she spoke at a normal volume.

“You can’t?” Lily’s eyebrows shot up, obscured by her russet fringe.

“No. I hate Charms. I don’t know how I managed an ‘E’ on my O.W.L.s. I shouldn’t be in this class.” Her shoulders drooped as she shook her head. “How do you always do so well in Charms?”

Lily shrugged. “Practising, mostly. You can’t just read about casting spells. You have to do it.”

“Is that where you go after classes are over for the day? To practise?”

“Yep. That’s what I'm doing right now. Charms are so fun to cast.” She flashed an eager grin at her friend. “Wanna come with? We can practise together.”

Lucy halted in the hallway, causing a Hufflepuff boy behind her to almost collide with her. After excusing herself, she shook her head at Lily. “No. I think I need to drop this class. It’s only the first day. Maybe I’ll sign up for Ancient Runes.”

“All right. I’ll see you at dinner then.” The two friends parted, Lucy for the assistant headmistress’ office, Lily for the castle grounds. She had a favorite spot for practising her spells, out of sight of the main school and rarely frequented by any of the other students.

As Lily walked through the enormous doorway into the courtyard, a group of boys loitering near one of the other doors caught her eye, as they all seemed to be watching her. One of them was her former friend Severus Snape; the others were his housemates from Slytherin. Glancing away immediately to avoid eye contact with Severus, she tried to hide her discomfort by adding a shade of purpose to her stride. Severus had been her best friend since before they had started attending Hogwarts, but only three months ago, he’d shown his true colors, that he considered her inferior because of her Muggle ancestry - he’d actually called her a Mudblood, to her face! - and she’d drawn the line there. In hindsight, she’d known that he had always felt that way, an attitude reinforced by the influence of his Slytherin friends, those cruel and vicious boys who were obsessed with Dark Magic and blood purity. She’d just chosen to remain blind to it out of friendship. But when confronted directly with his prejudice, she couldn’t continue to be friends with him and tolerate his hateful attitude towards her and others like her. She was more likely to befriend that arrogant James Potter and his little group of delinquents than reconcile with Severus: they might be prideful, but their jokes and pranks stemmed from overenthusiastic playfulness, not hatred and bigotry. However, the lost friendship tugged at her heart. The Severus she thought she knew was better than that.

As she approached the exit archway, it occurred to her that Severus must not have been in Advanced Charms, if he was here loitering in the courtyard as she left the classroom. That was very unlike him: he was quite the brilliant wizard, and she was sure he couldn’t have gotten less than Outstanding on his Charms O.W.L. He must have skived off class. Well, she thought as her foot landed on the start of the gravel path out of the school building, he certainly made a fine showing in Potions. A twinge of jealousy stuck in her throat. I would have liked to win that Felix Felicis, but that Sopophorous Bean just didn’t produce enough juice. But, if anyone had to win it, it was going to be Sev.

She hadn’t taken more than ten steps down the path before she heard Severus calling from behind her, “Lily!” Deliberately taking a few more steps before acknowledging him, she turned and waited for him to catch up to her. His housemates were nowhere to be seen.

“Severus.” She kept her expression carefully stoic.

“May I join you?” he requested as he nodded to her in greeting. A dour boy, not one to smile much or be overtly friendly, he was oddly cheerful and courteous today. Lily knew she needed to assert herself, but felt bad about deflating his good mood.

“No. I thought I made myself clear last year.”

“You did,” Severus agreed, “but does that mean we can’t be civil to each other?”

Frowning, Lily looked him up and down. What is he playing at? She bit her lip. “We can be civil. I’m heading down toward the lake. You can walk with me.” She turned on her heel and resumed her stride, not checking to see if he was following her.

Catching up to her, Severus strolled along at her side, along the path which wound down the wide lawn. Groups of students were scattered on the grass, some studying, others chatting and lounging, all of them enjoying the September sun which would be weakening all too soon. “Did you have a good summer?”

“I did.”

“Home in Cokeworth?” His tone was suffused with nostalgia, which was odd, as he was not fond of his family and hated returning to, or even mentioning, their hometown.

“Of course.”

“How’s your sister?”

Lily couldn’t help but stare at him with disbelief, her head cocked as they walked. Severus never liked Petunia - because she’s a Muggle, Lily realised for the first time - and ignored her whenever he could. “Tuney’s fine," she replied with a cold edge to her voice.

“Glad to hear that.”

Lily stopped and whirled on him. “Look, Severus. What do you want?”

“I don’t ‘want’ anything. I'm simply here to catch up with an old acquaintance. Is that so suspicious?"

She could see the hurt in his eyes, and she wondered if she'd been wrong about him, if the pureblood worship he espoused was a veneer he maintained to survive in Slytherin. No, she thought, it's more than that. He loves Dark Magic and participates in his friends' cruelties. I can't change him, but I don't need to be mean to him. She cleared her throat.

"I'm sorry, Sev. I'm being unreasonable. Of course it's not suspicious. It's good to see you. And thanks, my family is doing well." She glanced down the path. "I was going to practise some spells, but we could sit and chat for a little bit, if you like."

Though he didn't smile, Severus' eyes lit up. He began, “I’d love to, Lily -” but his reply was cut short by a shout behind them.

“Hey, Evans!”

The pair turned to see James Potter jogging up to them, his friend Remus Lupin trailing him at a walk.

“Hello, Potter,” Lily replied, keeping her voice even.

Running a hand through his hair, James gave Severus a scathing glance. “Is Snivellus bothering you? I can get rid of him if you want.”

Always trying to impress! Lily thought. As awkward as her conversation with Severus was, she didn’t need Potter to stick his nose into her affairs. As she inhaled to tell him to bugger off, Severus stepped forward and drew himself to his full height.

“You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried.”

Incredulous at Severus' audacity, James smirked. “Aren’t you a glutton for punishment? We know the colour of your pants, remember?” He took a step between the two to part the boy from Lily. “Leave our Evans alone.”

“Nobody owns Lily, Potter, except herself.”

The note of command in his voice drew her eyes to him, and she couldn’t help but wonder what had gotten into him. Severus never asserted himself, never found the right words, and certainly never successfully stood up to James Potter.

James laughed at sallow-faced boy in front of him. “Oh, look at Snivellus here, playing the honourable knight, protecting the maiden. I bet your hair keeps the joints of your armour greased, eh?”

Moving next to his friend, Remus grasped James' elbow and tugged. “Come on, James, let’s go.”

Severus stood his ground. “Lily doesn't need protection. She is a far more powerful witch than you." His eyes raked over James from head to toe. "But you can't even tell that, can you? She simply doesn't see the need to show off all the time like an insecure little boy."

Behind James, Lily stepped out to stare at Severus with disbelief. Why is he praising a Muggle-born over a full-blood?

For a brief moment, James' face fell with uncertainty and embarrassment, but his arrogant confidence, coloured with anger, returned as soon as he recovered from the shock, and he leaned towards his friend. “Look at him, Lupin. We can’t refuse him when he’s asking so politely for it, can we?”

“Potter!” warned Evans. She thrust her hand in her pocket for her wand, but James was already acting.

“You never learn, Snivellus.” With a quick, smooth motion, James’s wand appeared in his hand “Petrificus to-

Severus brought up his wand with a lazy wave. “Protego.” As James’ spell fizzled against the shield, Severus flicked his wand at him, “Expelliarmus,” and James’ wand flew out of his hand. “No, Potter. This is how you do it. Petrificus totalus.” James’s arms and legs snapped straight down and Severus jumped back as the boy tilted forward and fell on his face.

Clapping her hand over her mouth, Lily stared at the immobile James. She wasn’t sure if she should laugh or be horrified, but she didn't want to show favor to either side, so she stood there, her eyes flicking back and forth between both boys. Shaking his head, Remus hopped over to turn his friend face-up, then scrabbled in his pocket for his wand. Glancing at Severus with an inscrutable expression, he proceeded to work on undoing the curse. The witnesses around them were staring daggers at the Slytherin boy, but Lily couldn’t help but think that Severus' actions were completely justified.

With an air of grace, Severus turned to Lily and gestured down the path. “You were heading to the lake.” Stowing her wand back in her pocket, Lily started down the path and Severus fell in beside her, pointedly ignoring the boy on the ground.

Lily only spoke again once they had put some distance between themselves and James. “You really shouldn’t have done that, you know.”

Severus shrugged. "I'm going to defend myself when I can."

"Of course you are. Good for you." He glanced down at her and caught the first smile she had directed at him all day.

They walked in silence until they reached the shore of the lake. Severus turned to Lily and bowed deeply. "Thank you for the company, Lily. Good to see you again." He regarded her with a broad, heartfelt smile, and an insight flashed through Lily’s mind.

“It’s been a great day for you, hasn’t it?”

“A perfect day,” Severus replied. "I won't keep you." He turned and started back up the path.

“Severus? What’s wrong?" she called after him. "You don't have to leave."

The boy spun, walking backwards a few steps. “A perfect day,” Severus repeated. "Have a wonderful year, Lily." She stared after him as he resumed his hike up back to the castle with a little bounce in his step.

. _ . _ . _ . _ .


Full from a fine dinner, Lily trudged up the stairs to her room high in the girl’s tower of Gryffindor House. She’d spent most of the late afternoon practising the advanced Shield Charms, and had managed to successfully cast a Protego Maxima... once. The other fifteen times had fizzled, but that single success was a major achievement, as it was actually a grade seven spell. The practice had tired her out, but she needed to get changed into casual clothing so she could start on her Alchemy homework in comfort.

As she climbed, the exuberant voices of Potter and his friend Sirius Black floated up from the Gryffindor common room as they played piggy-in-the-middle with a Snitch with some unfortunate first-year. Lily puffed a laugh as she remembered the events on the lawn and the anger burning in Potter’s eyes as he lay stiff on the ground. She knew it was hardly gracious of her to gloat over his defeat and humiliation, but it was nice to see him take what he normally dealt, for once.

Nudging open her door, she dropped her bookbag on the floor and plopped onto the bed, shrugging out of her robe as she remembered Severus deflecting Potter’s spell and disarming him in one easy motion. He’d been so confident, perfect in timing and execution, and afterward, neither cruel nor taunting. And all that in defense of her, a Muggle-born, a girl he’d stunned with that filthy label “Mudblood" only three months ago. Felix Felicis, she knew, conferred luck, making the imbiber's attempts succeed, and could easily have given him confidence, but it can't influence attitudes or beliefs. Had he really changed? Or had he been just trying to regain her friendship with luck-infused words and actions? She couldn't shake the feeling that her thoughts were being influenced by the magic of the potion, and she sighed for her former friend. Oh, Severus. You have to really believe. In yourself, and in what's right.

Rising from the bed, Lily grabbed her robe and strode to the wardrobe to put it away. As she arranged it on its hanger, her hand brushed a hard object hidden among the cloth. Sticking her hand in the pocket, her fingers closed around a cold cylinder, and she drew out a tiny glass vial filled with shining golden liquid.

“Oh, Severus,” murmured Lily as she clasped the vial to her heart, “you do.”

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
flowsoffire
Aug. 24th, 2014 08:03 pm (UTC)
Ah, see, you were speaking about character insight—this is a quite interesting exploration, if plot-driven :) The first thing that stood out to me (well, chronologically it figures :D) is the way you portrayed Severus and Lily with their friends—well, because it reminded me of your wonderful Donna fic, which might be the first of your works I've read: I just thought you make a really good job at picturing friendship and group dynamics, amongst the Slytherins it was really different than between Lily and Lucy of course, but it was all realistic and layered. The Slytherins had both a sense of togetherness and individuality: they were proud from Snape's achievement, and the one's success made the whole group look better, they could very visibly benefit from it—there was complicity but also each looking out for their best interests, Mulciber was certainly hoping to get some more substantial gain out of Severus winning the potion, and Severus knew better than to be fully honest to his friends regarding Lily, obviously. As for Lucy and Lily, I liked seeing their dialogue, highlighting both their differences and Lily's readiness to help out her friend if she needed…

I see those rewritten bits about the state of Lily and Severus' relationship, and the problem of classes! ;) Nicely portrayed. (It was interesting to see how her view of James and his friends had started shifting a little, too.) I enjoyed the subtle hints and changes you scattered in Severus' attitude as he approached Lily, and the girl's wariness at first (especially as he mentioned Petunia—figures). It's a lot about confidence too, that feeling that you can do just anything, reminded me of Ron thinking he had taken some. Here there was the fact that he knew exactly what to say to her, but his feeling more relaxed and confident also played a lot—same during the duel with James, the confidence and ease gave him a fluidness he usually lacked, whereas the magical skill was all his. And in the argument before the duel, he was actually the one defending Lily, as a free, independent girl and a capable witch, whereas James came across as a bit of a jerk as his usual cocky airs were completely turned to his disadvantage. It was only James' usual attitude, but Severus knew just how to take advantage of that, and it was all the more meaningful because he compared Lily and James, never once mentioning their blood status but knowing that given their history, the thought would come to Lily at once… And James was visibly at a loss, and made the obvious mistake as he reacted with aggressivity instead of acting mature, thus putting himself in the wrong even further. Really, the various ways the potion could aid him were very nicely portrayed, quite some possibilities :)

The end of Lily and Severus' encounter was very interesting—that smile they shared as she approved of his defending himself, his leaving her after just savouring that moment together, not demanding more and wishing her a great year. Her finding the potion was also a great moment, and her last line, echoing her former and very accurate thoughts about him :) It's a really nice idea to close the fic. Great work overall! I really enjoyed this :)
shivver13
Aug. 25th, 2014 08:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for such a detailed review! I really appreciate it! :)

I think my main goal in writing this was to give Lily's and Severus' relationship more complexity. It's obvious in the books that once they had their falling out, they didn't ever really become friends again. I thought it makes it much more interesting if they had some level of understanding, and if Lily sees that Severus isn't completely evil, that he has those shades of gray, where he recognizes that blood purity isn't really important, but he is still fascinated by the Dark. He's one of those shades-of-gray characters, and that makes him far more interesting than purely good or purely evil characters. (In my opinion, he's the real main character of the HP novels - his story is really what's being told.)

While I didn't consciously set out to make the Slytherins interesting, I will admit that I tried to give them a bit more personality than they got in the books. It's always seemed a weakness in the novels that the evil characters (both the students and the Death Eaters) were all very one-sided, flat characters, intended only to make threats at Harry. (Draco in specific was a disappointing bully.) I wanted to give them a bit more personality, as well as give a glimpse of these normal kids who have normal kids' concerns, while you know that they're evil (or will become evil). I wanted to do the same thing in Mistaken Identity with Nott and Avery, showing them as more than just "let's kill everything" Death Eaters, but it didn't work in how the story played out and I pulled out most of what I planned for them.
flowsoffire
Aug. 27th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! ^_^

I see what you mean—indeed Severus is a very ambiguous and pretty fascinating character, quite layered… I like the idea of his relationship with Lily being less all-or-nothing, too. She would pretty much be the person who knew him best… even if their differences kept growing and his unthinking insult to her was the last straw, their being unable to remain close doesn't mean Lily would think he was downright evil. Their attachment and history would still be there.

I really agree with that—I'm a dark-side fan, actually, so it pretty much couldn't be any other way ;) The thing is, good or evil, characters remain human beings. They made wrong choices, for different reasons and with different backgrounds, but they have feelings and pasts and vulnerabilities… And that duality makes them all the more interesting.
shivver13
Aug. 28th, 2014 02:59 am (UTC)
With HP, I have to always remind myself that it was meant as children's literature, and so that's why the characters, especially not the main three, are rather flat. I would love to see Ms. Rowling write non-children's fiction, to see how she creates fully-realized characters.
flowsoffire
Aug. 28th, 2014 06:40 am (UTC)
Yes, that's true. Well, there is potential and some characters are nicely explored, but on some accounts it's still lacking… lots of room for fanfiction writers! ;)
shyfoxling
Nov. 5th, 2014 11:54 pm (UTC)
I would love to see Ms. Rowling write non-children's fiction, to see how she creates fully-realized characters.

I have not read them, but there are her "Cormoran Strike" books: The Casual Vacancy as J.K. Rowling, and The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm which were written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
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