It wasn't enough. It was never enough. How could it ever be? His whole life had been one error, one failure after another. No matter what he did to redeem his errors, make up for them, compensate in some way, it did not matter. And it never would. Because now, lying here in this hospital, his heart threatening to stop at any moment, now it did not matter. He had failed; there were no 'ifs' or 'buts' about it. He had failed them, he had failed himself…and he had failed her.
And speak of the devil, there she was now.
She was as beautiful as ever, even in her old age. Her eyes, big and bright, shimmered under the blinding hospital lights as she looked upon his scraggly, limp figure.
"How good to see you again," he rasped, somehow making his tone mocking even despite his fatigue.
"Under these circumstances, I would think it's not good to see me," she replied tersely, her face hardening as previous traces of concern were wiped away. "I'm only here to say good-bye to a man on his death bed. Commit my good deed of the week."
He managed a sneer. "I'm touched that in such a time of need you would think of me. Seeing as you never seemed to before, regardless of my situation."
"How dare you," she hissed, stepping closer to him. "How dare you speak to me like that. Every little step you took during this lifetime, every small action you made, was yours alone. You have no one to blame for your life but yourself."
"I do not object to that statement," he said weakly.
His lack of protest seemed to surprise her, but did not quench her anger. "You shoved me away, Professor – " she spat out the word, the word that was his former title of authority, as though nothing in the world disgusted her more than that single sound " – not the other way around."
"That never really seemed to stop you," he wheezed. "It certainly hasn't now, has it?"
All at once, she had rushed to his side and fallen to her knees despairingly, her arms reaching across the bed to capture his hands, her head inches away from his.
"Please," she whispered; and now, up close, he could see her eyes shimmering not only from the light but from suppressed tears. "Please, please. Don't let this end badly for us."
"How else will it end?" he whispered back, stroking the inside of her palm. "How else can it end?"
Her lip quivered, and she shook her head a fraction. "I…just…"
As the carefully guarded drops of water from her eyes began to spill, he gently reached over and wiped them away with a long, aged finger. Closing his eyes, he swallowed a rising lump in his throat. "My whole life has been a mess," he managed to choke out. "Everything, all of it. Nothing was ever right. The mistakes I made when I was younger haunted me throughout my years." His left forearm twitched reflexively at the memories. "No matter what I did…I somehow always ended up back at the dark bottom."
Her hand gripped his tightly, and he weakly cracked his eyelids apart again. "You may say that," she intoned softly, "and you may think that. But as for my life – though I fell to the bottom many times as well – it did not quite go like that." She leaned closer to him, dropping her voice even lower. "Do you know why?"
He could barely manage a shake of his head.
She gave a breathy whisper: "You." And suddenly the space between their faces was gone, closed by their lips, a final gesture between two victims of a lost love, a gesture that words could not begin to express.
She pulled away. He looked at her carefully. "You were the only strand of light in my dismal life. And I let you go. How could I have been such a fool?"
She stroked his graying hair sadly. "You were not the only fool in the game. I gave up on you all too soon. I banished every recollection of you to the far corner of my mind and wed another man, trying to pretend like I was happy and in love. And he didn't deserve that," she added softly, glancing away in shame. "Ron didn't deserve how I only pretended to love him in such a way." She looked back at the man in front of her, watery brown eyes regarding him. "We both made mistakes. But…but now we must both move on. And, you must do that right now." Hermione Granger – no, Weasley – swallowed painfully, as though every muscle in her throat burned with the simple action. "It's your time to go."
He squeezed her hand firmer, a silent confirmation of fear. "Whatever is waiting for me out there is guaranteed not to be very pleasant," he chuckled darkly.
Lips brushed his forehead lightly. "Whatever it is, I'll be there with you someday," she promised.
Severus Snape could feel his heart slowing in his chest. He gave a resolute nod and let go of her hand. She smiled at him through her tears. He felt his body unravel, untense, and closed his eyes. He smiled, letting go of everything, letting the wind carry him to his next destination.