Severus Snape lay on the floor of the shrieking shack, his body shook against his will and his eyes drifted closed and then open, as if on a timer. Between flashes of black he could see them, the Golden Trio, no longer children but now shining examples of brave adults.
He'd given Potter his memories, they held everything the boy needed to know, before his body went completely limp. Still, through his half lidded eyes he could see, he could see Weasley trying to drag the Granger girl away. She watched him, a somber look on her face as she tugged away and came to his side.
He'd never have expected any sentiment from her.
"Sleep well, thank you for all you've done." She whispered close to his head before she slipped away, he watched them go, his body was numb, his mind raced, was this death?
Trapped inside a numb body without the ability to move.
How had the young woman known anything of what he'd done? He'd only just handed his memories to the Potter boy.
It was the only thing that made sense.
His body gave one last shudder of its own volition and his eyes closed, this was death, and suddenly he found that he had little desire to die.
Why should he not live a free man? Why must he die when finally the war was being won?
Still, he had little choice but to succumb to the icy clutch of death, his heart ceased to beat, it was not his choice.
Severus blinked, he wasn't sure where he was but he knew it was not the shrieking shack. His glanced around and found he was in a field of…flowers?
Well, he certainly was confused at that realization.
He forced himself to stand on wobbling legs and spotted a tree in the distance, the sky was unnatural, it faded from night to day above the tree but stars twinkled on both ends. He blinked a few times and rubbed his eyes.
He must be hallucinating.
Or death was even more strange than he could have fathomed.
It could only be one or the other.
A little girl giggled as she peeked out from behind the tree before she vanished again, curly black hair still visible from his angle.
Severus' eyes narrowed.
Just what exactly the bloody hell was going on?
"Hello?" He summoned his most firm voice, the one that sent first years crying home to their mummies.
The girl giggled again and poked her head out, sharp black eyes stared him down, they were almost harsh in an otherwise soft face.
"They said you would come!" She called, a bright grin on her face as she slunk around the tree, she was small, perhaps five or six years old. It was a fact that did not take away from the intelligent glint in her eyes. Sharp black eyes that looked so much like those he saw every time he looked in the mirror.
"Who are you, child?" He grunted, his tone softened on its own, there was an undeniable connection to this child who smiled so broadly at him.
It really was a lovely smile, something about it was incredibly familiar however.
"I haven't got a name yet, silly." She giggled again and he realized he was much closer, he'd been walking toward the tree, and the girl, without realizing exactly what it was he was doing.
He stooped to her level as soon as he reached her and stared into those eerie black eyes. The black bushy curls that danced around her face made him squint a bit. It was on the tip of his tongue, who she looked like, though he couldn't for the life of him draw it forward.
"Then how shall I call you?" He wanted to brush her hair back from her face, there was an odd affection that bloomed in his chest. The connection was strange and caught him off guard but he hardly had time to acknowledge that fact.
He'd nearly forgotten he was dead, and who was this girl?
And why had he been dropped in front of a bloody tree in the middle of a field of flowers that the moon and sun both shone upon at the same time.
"I know you're confused." She pouted, another familiar look, Merlin if he could only grasp the memory and pull it from his head. "It's okay though, I'm here to help you!" She put a small hand to his cheek and smiled that broad grin again.
"What exactly are you here to help me with?" He just couldn't get over how strange it truly was, he was in a strange place, with a strange child, that he felt a strange attachment to, and he was allowing her to touch his face, it almost felt- natural.
"Oh right!" She bounced on her heels, the delicate curls bounced around her face as she bobbed.
"I am here because you are here, because if you were not here then I would not be here."
"You are only going to confuse him speaking like this." A young man, around ten stepped out from behind the tree and the girl gave him a sour look to which he just shrugged.
Severus cocked an eyebrow and stood, the two children stared at him hard, matching black eyes, matching complexions, they looked to be siblings, but the boy, the boy had a straight head of long brown hair that was pulled into a low ponytail.
"And you are?"
"If she hasn't a name then it is obvious that mine has not been granted me either." He cocked an eyebrow, his tone was rather sarcastic but it only made Severus smirk. He felt that same odd connection he felt with the girl.
But he really needed answers and he wasn't willing to dwell on odd connections.
"You take away all of my fun. I was supposed to get to tell him." The girl pouted and crossed her arms. The boy sighed but patted her atop her curly head and sighed.
"You can still tell him, you forgot the hourglass though." He pulled a little hourglass from midair and Severus' eyes narrowed.
What did they need with an hourglass? And why on earth was it filled with black sand and glowing softly.
"Oh right!" The girl blushed and turned to him with a broad smile. "Well, now that you've seen the hourglass this is easier." Her childlike voice drifted through the large empty space. The boy waved his hand and the hourglass drifted to float right in front of Severus' face.
"Just tell him so we can go. This place has always given me the creeps." The boy glared at the girl and she stuck her tongue out at him.
Severus had to agree, the 'creeps' were certainly a feeling he was getting as well.
"Fine," the little girl waved her fingers dramatically in front of her face and then giggled, "You get to go back and be alive."
Severus cocked an eyebrow.
"Give her a minute."
"Yes, you get to go back and be alive, you have until the last grain of sand falls to the bottom of that hourglass to find your true love, and win her affections." Severus blinked a few times.
They couldn't be serious.
"Of course we are." The boy crossed his arms, he looked particularly offended. "You have exactly one year to the day to find her, win her love, trust me it will not be that hard. If you fail you will simply die again, probably where you stand, we weren't really filled in on all of that."
The girl looked at him with big black eyes, there were tears on the brink of falling and he wanted to ask why but she was suddenly back behind the tree and he stood faced with only the boy.
"She's upset, she worries." He smiled softly as he glanced to the girl behind the tree, she must have mouthed something because the boy frowned. "She's right though, we are running out of time, when you take the hourglass you will wake up with minor injuries wherever you fell. Please, take this seriously." The boy vanished behind the tree too with a nod and Severus watched the tree for a moment as the breeze blew through it.
The hourglass hovered in front of his face, none of the grains of sand had fallen yet, as if they were held in a stasis and his fingers reached for the silver case that held it.
As soon as he took it he felt the world falling from beneath his feet and his eyes clenched tightly shut.
Hermione Granger released a loud scream when the professor she'd been sent to collect took an incredibly deep breath and his eyes snapped open. She fell back on her bum and scrambled all the way to the wall before she found she couldn't go any further and stared at him with wide brown eyes.
"Professor Snape?" She gasped, her fingers came up to cover her mouth as he glanced around the shrieking shack, his neck was stiff but the children had been telling the truth.
He was alive.