For Sempraseverus

Antilitigation Charm: Nothing you recognize belongs to me. All characters are property of JK Rowling and not me. If they did belong to me, Severus Snape would be alive and well and snarking his way through Hogwarts even as we speak.

Please note that Hermione will be a very important part of this story. All will be revealed soon.

Chapter 1: Coming Home, or Not, As The Case May Be

I don't really remember the night I died. I suppose one could say I was ready, even eager for death by then. When I went to the Shrieking Shack that night fully prepared to stand with Potter and his sycophantic friends Granger and Weasley against the Dark Lord, I prayed it was for the last time. I was tired. I had done enough. I just wanted it to be over. I had fought self-pity and loathing too long; both had triumphed, and I was ready to go. I was so tired of being Severus Snape. As if I had ever been happy being me.

No matter who won, I was obsolete, a relic, surplus to requirements. I was either facing a lifetime in Azkaban or as the minion of a madman. Either proposal didn't exactly fill me with the joys of spring. No, better to be the sacrificial lamb and get it over with than suffer a long, slow painful slide into the whims of either the Dark Lord or the Ministry of Magic. Each sounded as bad as the other now.

I do remember thinking long and hard the previous night as to what I would finally say to Tom Riddle before he breathed his last, and the satisfaction I would feel when his killing curse hit me. I would hopefully be the distraction needed for Potter to finally do the bloody job the prophesy had burdened me with all those years ago, and the first thing I would do in the veil would be to find that robe-lifting Albus Dumbledore and tell him exactly what I thought of him and his gods damned greater good.

Being noble had gotten me nowhere. I was more than ready for a good dose of selfishness.

And then I'd be with Lily. The only true wish I'd ever spoken aloud had been, "If there are gods above and below, let me spend my eternity with my one true love. The only woman who ever loved me. I will happily die if that will be my reward." Surely I had earned that. Surely after last year as Hogwarts' most reviled and denigrated Headmaster, I deserved a little happiness, even if it was behind the veil.

Not many people walk into battle praying for death, but I was primed for it. My body sang with the anticipation of death. The humiliation of the last twenty years would finally be washed away, and I would no longer have to bear the guilt, the shame and the disgrace of being Severus Snape. I almost ran to my destiny that night, thrumming with the expectation that it would all be over soon. It became my mantra that night: it will be over soon... will be over soon...

Anyone can get bitten by a ruddy snake.

So, then, I was going to be denied a hero's death at the eleventh hour. So be it. Even as my blood spilled on the dusty floor and Potter stared at me, I could feel the tugging sensation to leave, and I was so grateful I almost smiled at him even as I knew I had to fulfill one last directive. Trust Granger to have a bottle to place my memories in.

This was the last piece of the puzzle, the one I was supposed to give Potter before the final battle. Before the bloody snake decided to rearrange my throat. I managed to gargle out the words, "Look at me," just to see Lily's eyes once more before the darkness descended. And then I was dead. Huzzah and two fingers to you all.

-o0o-

I was walking down a long road, a concrete-grey sky overhead. The landscape was as barren and desolate as any moor, and from my vantage point, I could see someone in the distance walking toward me. The world was as quiet as if enveloped in the most perfectly cast Silencio charm ever performed.

I ran toward the approaching figure, but no matter how fast I ran or how slow I walked, the figure grew closer at the same rate. I finally got bored and just plodded along. There was nothing better to do, and the ear-muffled silence was starting to grate on my nerves.

After what seemed a small eternity the lone figure grew close enough to see properly, and I wept as I recognized the figure as Lily Evans, my boyhood love. Of course she would be here waiting for me! "You're here at last!" I cried, so joyful to see my childhood sweetheart and would-be love. I had my wish. The gods had finally smiled on Severus Snape, after all these years of kicking me in my crooked teeth, and given me my wish. I would spend eternity with the one woman who loved me. At last.

The figure finally touched me. It was my Lily. "My love," I breathed, through tears, and the sky grew darker. In the sepia –toned semi-gloom Lily was colour and vibrancy and beauty, and I sank to my knees before my beautiful goddess and threw my arms around her waist. While she was alive, I remembered her smelling of mint and oranges, but I could smell nothing. In this world, there was no taste in the air, no scent on the wind, no sound to the ear. I might as well been wrapped in cotton wool.

"Get up, Sev," she said, and her voice rang so sweet and lovely into the indifferent sky I cried aloud at hearing it once again after all these years. I thought I might die all over again from the sheer joy of it.

"You waited for me," I said, more grateful for this moment than I thought possible. Lily looked down at me, unsmiling, and shook her head. Even then I was still so euphoric I didn't notice that something was terribly, terribly wrong. I plucked at her skirt nervously and attempted a smile. "Don't I even get a 'welcome home, Severus'?" A lame attempt at humour, I'll grant you, but I was too overcome to be erudite.

Sadly, Lily shook her head again, and for the first time since I saw her I felt cold, even colder than when I breathed my last on that gods forsaken shack floor. Lily sighed, and pulled me onto my feet. "You're not home, Sev. This isn't your home."

I could feel fear and panic settling in. "No, Lily, I died! I saved Harry! I don't have to put up with the shite of my life anymore!" Her eyes changed and I saw them cloud with pity. She was pitying me. Realisation swept into my heart and I felt it like a hammer blow. Oh, no. Oh no, no, dear gods no. Tears streamed down my face and she kept shaking her head.

I wept, "No, please!" Lily stepped back.

"Severus, I'm not here to take you anywhere. I'm here to make sure you return."

With a cry that almost tore my throat out, I sobbed and shook. "Please, Lily, please don't make me go back! I can't bear it! Let me stay with you!" My heart was breaking. It was unbearable.

Desperately I sobbed, "Nobody likes me there. I have no one to love." I knew I sounded childish but I was past caring.

I sank to my knees, tears and snot running down my face. "Please let me stay and be with you." Almost to myself, I whispered, "If I go back, I'll be the same hated man I always was. I wanted to die. I just want to stay and be loved by you. It's all I ever wanted."

"Then you wanted the wrong things," Lily said, gently. She knelt down and brushed some of the tears from my face, only for them to be quickly replaced by my streaming eyes. She looked so lovely and sad and beautiful I wanted to scream. I think I did.

"Shh, Sev, it's okay," she crooned, but when I reached for her she would not take me into her arms. Looking at me with more pity than I've ever seen in my miserable life, she said, "Sev, this," she made an arm gesture that encompassed us both, "was never an us. I was never yours, anymore than you were ever mine."

"I loved you," I wept. "I still love you. Only you. I'll never love anyone else." I knew I was babbling, and I knew it would do no good, or change her, or allow me to stay, but I was a desperate, drowning, pitiful excuse for a man, and I no longer cared.

"You were my friend," she said, carefully, compassionately, "and I loved you as a friend. But that was always as far as we could go. I loved James. I am with James. James and I will always be together. Your place is not with me, Sev, and you must accept that."

"No," I moaned, broken and inconsolable, and cried like a child who knows that crying will do no good. "I can't bear it. I can't bear being so hated, so ridiculed. I don't want to live that life anymore..." I have never felt so bereft, so lost. I had thought death would bring my Lily back to me. All it had brought me was another nightmare.

"You don't have to, Sev. You don't have to live that life anymore. You're free now."

I really wasn't listening. All I could think was that Lily was telling me she had never been mine, and if I was honest with myself, I had known that fact many years ago on the night she and James had lost their lives to the Dark Lord. But there was always hope that one day we'd be together, and that hope was the only thing that had sustained me in the past few months.

I might as well have hoped for the moon. I might as well have hoped that one day I'd wake up and be someone other than Severus Tobias Snape, the most hated man in Wizarding Britain. And now I had to return to that life. Thank you so much, gods, for answered prayers.

I rose, wiping my nose with the back of my sleeve, despising myself for being the sniveling coward that had earned me the nickname the Marauders had so gleefully saddled me with. I took a deep breath, and my countenance must have given Lily what she was looking for in me. She smiled for the last time.

"Sev, I will always be a part of you. Never doubt that. And I will always care for you and watch over you, as a friend would. As Harry's friends watched over him. But Sev, you don't have to be the same man you were. You have a choice now. Your Masters are both dead. You are meant for something greater than this, and you will have to return to the world of the living to accomplish it."

The air around me had been changing as she spoke, and to my dismay I could see her moving away from me. "Not yet!" I shouted, knowing it would do no good, but helpless to stop myself. "I'm not ready to leave you!" I screamed my anger and pain and sorrow to the sky. "Why? Why can't I stay? WHY DON'T YOU LOVE ME?"

The swirl of magic wrapped around me like the most sickening of Portkey journeys, and I reached for Lily, but she was gone in a haze of magic, colour and deafening sound...