June, 1997

Green eyes framed by dark hair and glasses began to fade, and with them everything else. Snape floated on clouds of blackness: pain, tiredness, and anguish leaching from him. He decided to sleep. He didn't know how long it had been since he had last slept without fear of waking; years, probably twenty years.

It was a scent that pricked his mind back to awareness, sandalwood mixed with jasmine. For a moment he didn't want to open his eyes. It was impossible.

"Not any longer." The voice he had been longing for rang in his mind. His eyes snapped open.

Green eyes, this time framed with auburn hair, looked down at him with tender concern.

He stared up at her, afraid to move, afraid to blink, afraid that any action on his part would make her vanish.

"I'm not going anywhere." Her fingers caressed his cheek and her lips formed a smile.

He scrambled into an upright position, began to embrace her, but stopped short. Holding onto her shoulders he looked at her. He still couldn't quite believe she was there.

"I really am here."

He crushed her to himself. Tears began to fall down his cheeks and into her hair. "I've missed you. God, I've missed you! I tried to save you. I begged both of them for you. Dumbledore for protection, and Voldemort for mercy, and it still didn't work. I tried to protect your son, but I couldn't do that either. I tried to avenge you, but Wormtail died too soon, and Voldemort killed me before I could get him…" He continued his litany of failure, but as his words and sobs combined he became unintelligible.

She cradled his head, made soothing noises, allowed him to vent his years of pain and frustration. Finally, as he began to calm down, she pulled back from him, kissed his forehead, and spoke, "You didn't fail me."

She continued before he had a chance to contradict her. "This was the way it had to be. You, me, Harry, we all had a part, and that part ended with our deaths. Harry could not have survived Voldemort without my death. He could not have defeated Voldemort without his own death. He could not have accepted the information you needed to give him without your death. Unlike many of the others in this war, our deaths weren't senseless."

Snape sat quietly. Holding her hands in his, gazing at her, he eventually noticed he was naked, and briefly debated robes, but decided against it. He didn't want to hide from her.

"Did Harry win?"

"Yes, my blood kept him somewhere between alive and dead…" she explained, but he cut her off.

"I don't need the details, not now. I just needed to know that he's truly dead."

"Yes, he's truly dead. We won."

He laid back in the grass beside her. "We're back near the river. Near where we grew up."

"Yes, I think so."

"I was happiest here, those long summer days talking with you about our grand magical futures. I came here the day you got married, and the day after you died. It was autumn then, and the leaves were gone. I had hoped, when I agreed to infiltrate the Death Eaters that you'd love me, that by doing something so brave, so noble, James would slip right out of your mind. But it didn't work that way did it?"

"No, it didn't." She didn't say anything else, because he knew. He knew she had loved him, but that she had loved James more. And how, with each passing day, her relationship with James had deepened, and her memory of him had grown less acute. Slowly, he had become a fondly remembered shadow in her life, while she had remained the focus of his.

"What happens now?" He asked.

"We wait. Eventually, the path will open, and we'll go on."