Severus cracked open a bottle of Newcastle brown, and wandered back into the front parlour. The record player was reinstated on its shelf now, after having been carefully disillusioned during Pettigrew's stay at the house on Spinner's End. He'd bought the turntable with his first paycheck as a curse breaker the summer after leaving Hogwarts, and had lovingly maintained it ever since.
He put his bottle on a shelf, and started to search for a record. Finding the one he wanted, he placed it on the turntable, dropped the needle, and let it spin. As the A-side filled the air, he dropped into his armchair, took another sip of ale, and allowed himself to be transported back in reminiscence. It was The Pogues’ Rum Sodomy & the Lash , and he’d gotten it a month before his fifth year teaching at Hogwarts. Lily’s death was still raw, and the yoke of obedience that Albus kept him under chafed, most especially because as far as anyone knew, Voldemort was gone . The old wizard’s demands seemed largely a matter of caprice, of power, of showing who held the reins. In those days, he would spend his summers brewing for a local Manchester apothecary, and getting rat-arsed most evenings. He'd play the record, and drunkenly bellow along, sticking two fingers up to Dumbledore, the Aurory, the Death Eaters, the sodding Ministry, the bloody, buggering Tories, and the ungrateful little brats he had to teach.
As Cait O'Riordan finished "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day", Severus drank deeply and shivered slightly. The first time he'd heard this next song, he'd lifted the needle and replayed it four times, until he could sing along with the chorus and at least approximate some of the verses. In those days, he intentionally changed the words, and he'd yell along until old Jimmy Platt next door would beat on the adjoining wall and tell him to shut the fuck up, ya little arse.
Some cursed, some prayed, some prayed then cursed, then prayed and bled some more... and the only thing that I could see was a pair of GREEN eyes, thank you very much. And how those green eyes had held him. Emblazoned indelibly in his memory, he remembered how they sparkled when she solved a particularly tricky problem for Flitwick or Slughorn, how they glinted with mischief when they talked about ways to prank Tuney. He thought of how they danced as she hid her smile when fucking Potter hoisted him upside down in front of the whole bleeding school and stripped him. How they narrowed coldly when she rejected his apologies.
The night that The Boy Who Lived Because Lily Evans Died started at Hogwarts, he had gone back to his rooms, systematically closed the floo and warded the door, and proceeded to get thoroughly shitfaced on Ogden's Old. Once he passed from the angry drunken stage to the maudlin, he eventually found himself brokenly singing "and a-rovin', a-rovin', a-rovin' I'll go", until he eventually wept himself to sleep.
Snape almost entirely thought of Harry as James’ son, rather than Lily’s. When Albus reminded him that young Potter was starting at Hogwarts, Severus had, for a whole week preceding term, gotten his hopes up that perhaps Harry might end up like Lily, sharing his mother’s love of school and potions especially. But the first day in class, the little brat hadn’t been able to answer a single bleeding question. Jesus, even his da had known that monkshood and wolfsbane were the same sodding thing. (Eight-year-old Sev hadn’t known what they were when he brought back a bunch of purple blossoms for his ma after weeding the allotment. Tobias had thrown them in the bin and cuffed his ear for leaving poisonous flowers on the kitchen table.)
In fact, the only times that Harry made it easy to remember that he was Lily’s, too, were when he stared his uncomfortable stare and Severus caught himself gazing into Lily’s green eyes. And they always, always held a look of dislike. When he looked into Harry’s eyes, he was never taken back to one of the good memories he had of the boy’s mother, memories where those eyes sparkled. No, whenever he met Harry’s gaze, those eyes were narrowed in hatred and disdain, as they’d been on the day of his great humiliation, as they’d been when he’d abased himself outside of Gryffindor Tower, begging to be permitted to apologise.
But Fate was a fucking cow, and as Snape lay bleeding on the floor of the Shrieking Shack (he’d survived a damn werewolf in the place twice already, and the third time was always the charm) he saw those eyes finally looking at him with concern and pity. God knows how, but he managed to squeeze the memories out, and Granger - Hermione - managed a flask. And somehow The Boy Lived Again, and the potions he’d been choking down the whole damn year held until Winky was able to get him to the Infirmary, and Poppy, bless her , stitched him up as she’d done since he was eleven. And so The Fucking Toerag Who Betrayed Lily became the Snakebite Survivor Who Helped Win The War And Got An Order Of Merlin First Class. He said an overdue farewell to Hogwarts, took the money from the Order of Merlin, and set up his own apothecary.
It didn’t happen all at once. After going back to Hogwarts for her NEWT year, Granger sat her A levels and went to Cambridge, where (probably because she didn’t have Minerva and Filius to tell her how perfect she was), she actually learned to think. She studied chemistry and approached him for a job after she graduated. He took her on with the condition that she’d be sacked if she asked more than five questions per day. She made an able assistant, and he grew accustomed to having her around the shop. Once she impressed him with both her intellectual acuity and, more importantly, her new-found moderation, he actually began to enjoy conversations with her. He found that he positively relished those arguments that grew heated enough for tendrils of her bushy hair to escape her bun, as if her hair felt the need to remonstrate with him as well.
And after she'd worked for him for a couple of years, she’d turned up on his doorstep that frigid Sunday afternoon, on his forty-fifth birthday, with a Victoria sponge. As he stood in shock as she purposefully swept past him through the parlour, gasped appreciatively at his library, and made herself at home in his kitchen, he realized that he never wanted her to leave.
Confidently assured of the futility of his affections for the younger ( too much younger ) witch, Severus spent the day after his birthday viciously sniping at her and finding fault with every single minute thing she did in the laboratory. After two days of this behaviour, she slammed a cauldron down on the table, narrowly missing his hand, and stroppily told him that he was being an arse. ( "If you don't fancy me, you should just sack me already. But if you do fancy me, I'd infinitely prefer it if you'd snog me instead." ) After several false starts and missteps, they eventually achieved a quite, quite happy relationship filled with kind honesty, invigoratingly sarcastic arguments, enthusiastic sex, and affectionate companionship. Once he allowed himself, Severus had never been happier.
And as he sipped his ale and sang along with Shane MacGowan, Severus realized that he no longer felt the need to change the lyrics. The eyes that held his heart were brown, filled with warmth and wit, and he trusted that he’d not be left alone to go a-rovin'.