Green. The greenest most beautiful shades of green--green he had adored his entire life. Green he had loved, LOVED, dearly, every minute of every day, green, green, green...perfect circles, like virgin fields of the sweetest lilliest that had yet to bloom.
He had Lily's eyes. The last thing he had wanted to see before his sight became a dark tunnel, those vibrant eyes imprinting his ebony souless ones before all went black.
He was...floating. Drifting where it was no longer cold, no longer hot, it only -was-. It was dark. The darkest dark he had ever experienced. What's more, he could -remember- experience...and he could remember dark. He remembered faces, embroideries, and sounds in the dark. He -remembered-. And like his memories, his body settled firmly on what he could only deduce as ground. And his limbs had yet to move. He had been attempting this for the past few seconds, when he realized how intact he was with the reality of himself.
Severus Snape was dead. That much he was sure of. Nagini had quite cleanly ripped his throat open, and...he shuddered at the memory. Well, he thought he had. Since nothing else could move, it was more the memory than the actual sensation of shuddering. Snape started to annoy himself. He may be dead, but surely there was something more to death than this.
Then a chilling thought occured to him.
He was in Hell.
Unable to move, unable to do much of anything, only be left with himself and his memories--forever. He hadn't really deserved it, had he...? Years of repentance, years of guilt, years of watching and tollerating the Potter child--years of Dumbledore's services--years of spying---years---YEARS---knowing Lily's death laid heavily on his shoulders for his entire miserable life, that the man he both resented and loved had died willingly by his hand--shoving every living person out of his head and heart...
"Have all my skeletons come back to haunt me?" He thought desperately. And suddenly--it occured to him. He hadn't -thought-. He had -spoken-.
"Only one, I'm afraid. A considerably old, and wretched one."
There was a hand on his shoulder. Another on his own hands. He felt them. He -recognized- them. And it was then he opened his eyes.
Above him was a face. A thin, pale, ancient face, with a long, white, snowy beard, a crooked nose--that looked to have been broken once or twice--and two bright, piercing blue eyes, gazing gently over half-moon spectacles.
Severus stared. For a moment, he felt that's all he -could- do. He stared at the caring face he never thought he would never gaze upon again in the flesh, the face of his savior, his damnation, his guilt, his freedom, his all. And he only stared back. Silent.
Severus found the power to move. He sat up, and turned his head, his dark gaze never leaving that of blue, pristine eyes. There was the longest silence...it could have been days, weeks, maybe even years alotted, just starting blatently at the wizard before him.
An eternity, and then...
Albus Dumbledore smiled.
"Yes, Severus. I am. And it breaks my heart to find you are as well."
Severus looked away. There was nothingness surrounding them. A gleaming white nothingness, with gentle gray-blue shadows of drifting fog. It made him ill.
"...is this heaven?"
"This is death, Severus. Nothing more, and nothing less."
He felt a hand on his elbow, and allowed the old headmaster lift him to his feet. Relieved to find he could stand, he absently pulled his waistcoat straight, looking down at his feet. Brightness surrounded them, and he had no shadow. Neither did Albus.
He returned his attention to Dumbledore, who watched him calmly with those ever-understanding eyes. The serene, cool, gentle face. Oh, how he wanted to break it. Or worse. If only he still had his wand. Albus must have seen the anger in his face, for he nodded and seemed to step away.
"...I must admit, I'm surprised, my boy. You seems much less angry at me than you should be."
"You know -nothing-." His words cut like knives in the too-still air. His fingers clenched. "...You...it's because of YOU, all of this--down to the last bloody detail--happened. It was YOU--with your...secrets, your LIES. Your scheming--YOU--YOU!! It's YOUR fault!"
Severus raged a small path before the former headmaster.
"From the BEGINNING, you--you KNEW--knew Lily's son had to die! You KNEW what would happen when all the pieces of your plan fell together, you KNEW--knew what was to become of ME!!" Tears stung his eyes. "ME!!! I've paid, haven't I?!! Didn't I pay ENOUGH having---having--when Lily--!! Didn't I pay?!! Didn't I promise you---gave you EVERY scruple--EVERY last bit of my trust and loyalty?!! I gave you TRUST, I even CARED what happened to you!! Didn't I?!!! DIDN'T I PAY ENOUGH?!!"
Severus's breaths came in ragged gasps. Where his throat was supposed to feel raw and dry, he felt nothing. Only the air he desperately sucked into his chest. With heaving sobs, tears trickled down his pale cheeks. He had stopped his feverish pacing, crumpled, and cried.
Nothing would stop, not the tears, not the needy gasps, the groaning--neither would the memories. Lily's narrowed eyes upon their first meeting----walking with her after hours and sneaking food from the house-elves at Hogwarts--the horrible look she gave him when the word 'mudblood' left his mouth--first laying eyes upon Harry Potter, and his striking green eyes--a warm fire and a cup of tea with an infurriatingly cheerful, yet surprisingly tollerable, Albus Dumbledore--curing a burned and cursed old hand--a flash of green light, and his mentor, his loyalties, arching over a stone edge, and plummeting to the ground.
It wasn't fair.
It just wasn't fair.
It wasn't until his breath had calmed considerably that he noticed arms about him, hugging his shaking shoulders and clogging head. His own hands betrayed him, and clutched the robes on the chest pressed to him, his forehead against the long white snowy beard. He never would admit it in life, and will never in death, but...Albus, somehow, always sparked relief in him. No matter the awful feelings he had.
It was Albus who forgave him when he could never forgive himself. Albus who gave him hope for redemption. Albus...whom he never understood.
And even now, furious beyond all rational thought with this man, he held onto him, desperately, urging his tears to end. How much he had wanted to see his face again, and never told himself. How much he had wanted to ask, and never did. How much he wanted to scream, and tear at him, and how much he didn't want to do it at all. All he wanted to blame him for, and much of which he had no blame of.
Another eternity, he pulled away from Dumbledore. The air he breathed seemed to be clearing his head and nose by the second, and again he noticed the absence of pain in his throat and chest. What does it do for the dead to feel physical pain when they're haunted by their emotional hurt?
He looked upwards, wet-faced, and staring sullenly into Dumbledore's ice-blue eyes. Albus had been weeping himself.
"...You paid, Severus. In full. You are above us all, in bravery, and repentance...You are a true hero. Truer than any man whose stories have been told countless times. I am sorry, Severus. For every bit of pain you have endured on my behalf. And of anyone's forgiveness...it is not yours I have earned."
On occasion, Severus had heard quiet and rather flooring praises from Albus, all gentle, symbolic, and--he hoped--true. Never had he heard this. Not from him. Not from anyone. He was Severus Snape, Snivellus, the snake-in-the-grass, disgusting, low, and a murderer. He was hated and revered for his general nastiness. The only person who had looked at him like he was worth something, the only girl he loved, he had thrown away, with one small horrible word. A hero. Perish the thought.
"...I sent the boy to his death." The words sat on his tongue like something decayed and foul.
"...Harry lives, Severus."
His head snapped up to meet Dumbledore's eyes again.
"He did. And the shred of soul Voldemort attatched to him died. Harry lived. Whole."
Severus could barely take it in. Potter had lived. -Lived-. Survived--AGAIN--now the Boy-Who-Lived-Twice, or some ridiculous thing--he had -lived-...Lily's son was alive...
"...You knew this would happen. Didn't you."
"--And you couldn't tell me?--You couldn't TELL me I wasn't sending him off to die--that you weren't--"
"--Heartless? Using him? 'For the greater good'?...For Harry to accomplish this...he needed to accept death. Not fear it. Embrace it. Only then--that pure souled boy--that selfless man...could truly conquer death."
Severus didn't know what to think, really. This old man--a mad genius, or perhaps just -mad-. Never in a million years could he had delved into such secrets, and unraveled this tapestry of destiny. Until that night when Albus asked Severus to kill him, he had never doubted his love for Potter. It would sicken him, really, how much time Albus spent, thinking about the boy's future and happiness. Severus felt very little affection toward's James's boy...yet deep worry for Lily's son. It struck him like a knife. But now...his assurances were--reluctantly--regained that Albus truly did love that boy. And it was a wonder death didn't allow him to truly feel nauseated.
Severus was positive he didn't have the whole story. He probably didn't have half the story. It didn't really matter now. He was dead. Dead, sitting on his knees, with a puzzling old man sitting in front of him. In truth, the only man that remotely cared about his measely existence. The only man who, he hoped, would have stood at his funeral, not because of formality, but for want of being there. And, again, this man was dead. It was only then he realized -where- he had died...and the only one who knew where his body lied was Potter. Was he still cooling there, in the Shrieking Shack, staring unseeing at the broken wood above...? Tombed by graying wood, waiting to decay..?
"...I am no hero." His voice was quiet, hollow. "It's a pleasant fancy, Albus, but I am not a hero. I'm...nothing. Nothing to anyone."
There was the faintest twinkle in those blue eyes. Even in death, he was -infuriating-.
"You never could see your own worth, Severus...it is the very least I can do to show you." Dumbledore stood and extended a hand to Snape. After a moment's hesitation, he took the hand and got to his feet. Albus smiled lightly, turned, and started walking. Perplexed, Severus followed him further into nothingness.
As they went, the fog seemed to get thinner. Dark outlines and corners shone through it now--even a chair or two, or a table would pop out. A doorway, or the tail-end of some odd-looking muggle vehicle. As they went futher, the picture started to clear considerably. Familiar broken beams and awful creaking wood filled his ears. They had returned to the place he had drawn his last breath. They stood directly outside the door. The place he had died.
He wasn't entirely sure why, but panic surged within him. Was he expected to look upon his own body? He turned his eyes to Dumbledore. He merely nodded within the room.
That was when he heard hushed voices
"...n't wise to take him through Hogsmeade."
"Maybe we should, professor. Much easier than crawling back down through the tunnel."
He knew those voices. Curiosity overwhelmed him, and he stepped in.
It was very early morning, the sun had barely risen, glowing blue through the cracks and holes of the shack. There were two figures in the room, one kneeling beside a black-covered form, and the other standing, holding her wand above her shoulder, the tip glowing brightly.
The former gazed solemnly at the covered body, traces of mixed sadness in his striking green eyes. He removed his glasses, rubbed sleep away, and looked upward at the illuminated face of Minerva McGonagall.
"Perhaps you're right, Potter...best while everyone is still asleep. There are still too many people who believe he was on the Dark Lord's side."
For a moment, they were both silent. Minutes passed, and their eyes remained on that of the dead man between them.
"...Amazing how he decieved us all." Minerva's tone had softened to one never heard before. "Until the very end of it, every one of us was fooled."
"..I think he learned it from Dumbledore. So did I." It was without any shred of contempt or resentment he said this. It was a fact. One he did not dislike. Minerva turned her eyes to Harry, regarding him. It was apparent they had spoken before this meeting. Perhaps of everything. Perhaps of some things. Perhaps of nothing.
"...Albus was a man of secrets. More than you or I could imagine. Though I knew little of his more ancient past, there was much to know of him. And of the things I knew, Potter...he cared greatly for you. For this school.." Her eyes turned down again. "..For Severus. We learn from the past, and though it may be unpleasant, it is important to know it. But once we have it, Potter...it must be let go. Know the past, Potter. Do not lean on it. That...counts for poor Severus as well. Not once did you get along. But that is now the past."
Severus, the spirit, came to Harry then. He watched his face, and kneeled down to see it. Harry was in very deep thought, folding over portions of his mind, feelings, who knows what. It was then Severus first saw how alike he and Lily were, right down to the lightly creased forehead, and firmly tightened jaw. She would look like this--during a particularly hard test, or searching for an answer to a question.
What was the answer, what was the question, Potter...
All at once, his expression softened. He leaned back a little, watching the still form under the cloak of black. Then, with a pale hand, Harry reached out and touched the shoulder of the man underneath.
Lily's eyes glittered in the cool light of the morning, and Minerva's wand. Her son sighed. He stood, gently brushing dust from his trousers. He lifted a worn smile to Minerva, and she returned it. With a flick of her wand, the body lifted into the air, floated towards the door, and the two filed after it. As they left...
"Did Snape have any family...?"
"No. Passed away, or 'otherwise uninvolved' he called it..."
"...then we'll have to find a place for him, won't we."
"Yes, we will."
Severus imagined an awful swooping in his stomach. He felt like weeping. He was still crouched onto the floor, staring at the place his body had been, dried splotches of blood everywhere. He looked up to find Albus.
He was there, still standing outside the doorway, leaning against the frame. His eyes were cast down, either thinking, or listening, or neither...
In essence, Dumbledore had just shown him his last step to redemption. Harry Potter knew the deepest secrets of his childhood, his sins, and penance. And had forgiven him. And for Severus...it was if the hand of Lily Evans had touched his cold shoulder..and lifted everything away.
He wasn't sure how, or when it happened, but Severus found himself back in the white nothingness, still kneeling, while Albus stood some yards away, looking off at something he couldn't see.
There was something renewed in him. Something...warm. Tender. Something filled the bloody aching void that guilt and spite had clawed out of him. Something as soft and new as a newborn doe.
Severus was at peace.
He stood, and walked the few steps towards Albus. Yet again, he had known exactly what was going to happen, and...there was no anger. No blind fury, not even blame. And Albus smiled.
"...well done, my dear boy."
Severus couldn't help but smile. The first genuine smile he's had in many many years, devoid of cruelty. And yet, Minerva's voice flitted back to him...'...cared greatly for you. .. For Severus..'
He understood why he was there. He understood why he believed Albus's plea of guilt. He understood why he was shown the Shrieking Shack. He understood why, of all the faces to see after death, it was his. He cared. 'Know the past. .. Do not lean on it.'
"Time to go." An arm encircled Severus Snape's shoulders, and blue eyes twinkled happily in his direction.
"I believe there's a young lady with red hair and the brightest green eyes waiting to see the hero that gave his life for her son..."