I Think I Knew
disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. But I'm thinking I should. JKR wrote DH like she just mashed together a bunch of fanfictions. . .
This pretty tosses out most of Deathly Hallows, by the by. This is just a one-shot of Severus visiting Lily's grave after the Final Battle, finally saying good-bye and getting some closure. And yes, I am paraphrasing what is in the book, from chapter 33 – The Prince's Tale.
Snow was falling gently on the statues. Unlike statues erected by muggles, these statues showed no wear; they were as detailed and lifelike as they had been the day the Order had put them up. The only difference was the addition of other statues, honoring more of the fallen. Severus Snape bowed his head to each as he made his way to the burial grounds themselves, where the bodies lay entombed and as magically protected as the statues, so the rotting indignity of death would never touch the heroes where they lay.
It took some time to make it to the grave he so wished to visit, the one he'd never visited before. A few times, Severus dropped to one knee to trace names of those he'd fought beside or protected during his tenure as Dumbledore's spy, the only real double-agent. By the time he reached the older graves, his nerve had almost given out. He looked down and the name on the grave made his knees give out.
"Lily," he breathed, falling to his knees, his hands on the smooth stone with the name etched deeply and carefully. Albus Dumbledore had etched James Potter's headstone with his own hands, while Severus had labored over Lily Potter's, etching not only her name, but her epitaph:
Beloved Wife and Mother
Friend to all
Enemy to none
Severus had carved lilies and petunias to the edges; it was his final, private joke and secret with Lily, one that not even James hadn't known of; Dumbledore himself knew only because Severus himself had told him recently, while recovering from Nagini's poison. At least, as far as Severus knew.
"I should have come before, before you died, and warned you. I begged for you, Lily, and I didn't know until it was too late that he'd disregarded my pleas. But I should have warned you. And I haven't been to visit you because I was ashamed.
I was afraid that they wouldn't let me visit you, even here. It was my fault that you didn't even get a chance to run again. I couldn't repay that, but I helped your son. But I don't think that absolves me. I wanted to tell you one last time that I loved you, I still love you.
I didn't tell anyone that I'd de coming here, but Albus owled me this morning. The raven you gifted me with that last birthday is still with me, and he almost killed the barn owl Albus sent. Where did you find Pandaemonium? He should have died long ago.
That doesn't matter, I guess. All that matters is I still have that bit of you with me," Severus breathed heavily, sitting back on his heels. He contemplated the solitude that covered the graveyard. In a few minutes, it would be midnight, and his birthday. He reached into his pocket, pulling out a small sack. He opened it and drew out what looked like a silver cauldron.
"It will be my birthday at midnight, do you remember? Of course you do; you were the only one who remembered it every year, even when we were arguing. Of course, Albus remembers, but I know that you're the one who reminded him while we were at school. This is his latest gift to me, a pensieve. I have three already, but he told me that I can never have too many. At least it isn't another pair of socks, or worse, pajamas.
He said it has something he's wanted to give me for a while, that it would help me get some closure. I want to share it with you, but you're gone. I wonder what's in it; he obviously has put in some memory of his; he always includes a memory of himself using a pensieve, as if whomever receives it has never used one, or perhaps forgotten how to use it."
Severus laid his hand on the cold granite as if caressing Lily's cheek. He felt more than heard the bell in the nearby town striking twelve. With his other hand, he reached out to the pensieve.
"It's foolish, but I feel as though if I do this while I use the pensieve, I could really share it with you. Maybe Albus put a memory of giving Black and Potter a detention in it for me; that would really make my birthday, don't you think?"
With that, Severus touched the surface of the pensieve with his fingertips. He felt the memories drag him in, and felt a surge of panic as he was dragged fully in; he couldn't get out. . .
In the pensieve's memories. . .
"Severus, you won't be able to get out of this pensieve until you've seen all of these memories. I promised Lily to give this to you, and I felt that I had to add one or two of my own memories," Albus Dumbledore's voice filled Severus's head. "I have only added where Lily left off. You'll be guided as such. Let us begin. . . "
Severus felt a sense of dread. He was missing much between the time he became a Deatheater and Lily's death. He knew about Lily's pregnancy and labor, but he hadn't really been all there; the boy had been premature but healthy. Potter had been crowing about everything. Perhaps that had pushed one of his breakdowns around that time. . .
The memory was garbled, as if Albus had been not to rights when he deposited it; bits and pieces were missing.
Severus saw himself kneeling, begging Albus to warn Lily, to get her to safety. Albus was scolding him, and Severus heard those words yet again.
"If you care for her so, why not warn them yourself? Or do you wish her to be elsewhere when the attack falls, so you may comfort her?" Albus said harshly. "You are sickening, Severus, absolutely sickening; if you love her so, you should want her, her husband, and her son to survive. She wouldn't be happy otherwise."
Younger Severus was pleading, begging, his body shaking. Severus remembered then, that he had wanted to be the one last comfort left to Lily, to let Voldemort erase what had come between them. At the time, he'd thought that James Potter was his only obstacle to happiness with Lily. He returned his attention to the scene in front of him.
"Fine. Hide all of them -- but do it, Sir, please, do it soon. I -- I don't know exactly when the attack will come, so they must be gone from that place before it happens," younger Severus grasped Dumbledore's robes, and something changed in the Headmaster's face. "I'll do anything to save her, even if I can't have her."
"So you have learned to love. Perhaps I owe Lily even more. What would you give to save her, if it could be done? And why beg me, instead of your lord?"
"I think he believes that I just desire her body; I can't explain love to him," younger Severus said churlishly. "And I don't care to try. He fed Lucius Malfoy's brother to Nagini yesterday for asking him to cast a warming spell on the meeting room."
"You haven't answered my other question, Severus, and I'm going to need to leave soon. What would you do to save Lily and the son?"
"I-- anything. Ask it, and I shall do it, even poison the Dark Lord himself," younger Severus was desperate. Older Severus remembered a time when he thought himself the greatest fool for saying that, but as he grew older and helped rear his love's son, he knew that awful a fate he'd had, at least he'd had one.
"Done. But you won't be the one to strike the last blow. I will do what I can," Albus had said, and Severus watched the light sink into his younger self, the inadvertent oath settling on his young shoulders.
Severus flashed to another memory, one Lily had definitely put in; it was the summer before their final year, and Severus recognized the place he was standing in as Lily's childhood bedroom.
"I can't believe you like him now," sixteen year old Severus said to Lily, who was packing to head back to school early. "And what possessed your sister to invite me to that wedding of hers? As if I'd go."
"Tuney was just trying to be nice, you know," Lily said, smiling. "She thought you might be nicer if you hung out around muggles. Not likely, if you ask me."
"I'm nice to you. I'd be nicer if you weren't with Potter all the time," young Severus said, sneaking up behind Lily and putting his arms around her waist. "A lot nicer if you'd come and visit me at Spinner's End."
"Sev! Not here. And not right now. I think things are actually going to be monogamous between James and me," Lily said, though young Severus still managed to turn her in his arms.
"You think? So they aren't yet?" young Severus said, applying his mouth to her neck.
"Severus! Someone will hear, or come in," Lily protested.
"A little something I nicked from Lupin," young Severus said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small radio. "It looks like a radio, but it actually spreads a silence ward around small rooms."
Lily smiled and kissed young Severus, her hands in his hair. Older Severus watched, and he felt warmth spreading from the memory to himself. They'd only ever fooled around, though he wished for more every day that Lily had grown more beautiful, even when girls from his own House had started to go after him, lured by the air of danger that clung to him.
The pair in the memory had managed to lever themselves onto the bed, Lily on top of Severus, various kissing noises coming from the pair. Older Severus wished he could just rewind and watch again and again, and never go back to the world where Lily was gone.
The memory started to get away from him, and Severus wondered where he'd be taken next. Soon, he and Lily wouldn't speak anymore, though they exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts. Severus felt cold for a moment, and he was in another memory.
A younger Severus stormed into Albus Dumbledore's office.
"What happened? I-- I promised to do anything, if you'd save her," he panted, screaming and crying.
"I did what I could, my boy. Apparently, someone figured we'd know when the attack would come. Know anything about that?" Albus stroked his beard, looking for some hint of untruth.
"Know? I was in some bloody basement lab, trying to come up with gods know what to take out the ministry. Where is she?"
"As I said, someone knew we'd know."
"But -- you said -- and I made an oath!"
"We were too late. But all is not lost," Albus said while younger Severus bellowed in pain. "All is not lost. You loved her?"
Severus saw his own tears in his younger self's eyes as the boy nodded.
"Prove it. You said you do anything to get me to try to keep her safe."
"But you failed."
"Ah, that is not how the oath sees it."
Younger Severus stared at Albus Dumbledore, hate blazing in his eyes. "You tricked me."
"You tricked yourself!" Dumbledore roared. "You as good as killed her when you told your lord the prophecy and begged for her life. I tried to save her, and now I have to protect the son.
This is your charge, Severus Tobias Snape. If you loved the mother, you must help protect the son."
Younger Severus nodded miserably. The boy would be a living reminder of what he could have had with Lily; what he almost -- older Severus fought a feeling that this wasn't the only time his memory had been tampered with. The scene was too important, if Albus had added it as well.
"He is quite reminiscent of his mother, those beautiful green eyes. And his father. Lots of messy black hair that we can't quite figure out what to do with," Albus said with a sad smile on his face. "Poor James will never know. . . "
Older Severus was yanked out of his reverie. Suddenly, he knew this was all too important; his memory had been tampered with.
"Lily gave you her all, Severus, like she gave Harry, and to James, as well. I will inform the Order --"
Severus saw his younger self heave the contents of his stomach onto the dark stone floor.
"Please. . . Potter's son. . . no-one can know. . . not even the boy," he heaved. "I'll do it, but this doesn't leave the room, old man."
"Yes, Severus. And in the end, you and I will know you gave Lily the best of you. . .you gave all of us the best of you. . ."
Older Severus feared what memory could come next; would it be from Dumbledore, or perhaps another of Lily's memories?
"I'm getting married, Sev," Lily Evans was standing outside Severus's window at Spinner's End. "If you don't come out here and speak to me, I'll come in, I swear it!"
The window smack open, and Severus saw his own body, albeit younger and not as scarred, lean out.
"Wingardium leviosa!" he levitated Lily up and into the window, and the view of the memory changed. "You shouldn't be here. Petunia will be after you in a bit."
"Married, remember? And pregnant. She's home for a bit to see mum, but she brought Vernon with her, and she'd have to tell him where she'd going," Lily said, making a disgusted face at mention of her brother-in-law. "Thanks for, uh, letting me up."
Younger Severus looked quite cocky, and even through the veil of the memory, Severus could smell the alcohol smell rolling off his younger self. The boy approached Lily, smiling evilly.
"Shouldn't you be sneaking out to see your intended, not the Deatheater scum you turned down?" his words were cruel but Lily smiled sensuously and shivered. "Lily, you should go."
Severus sighed as he remembered how that night had ended; he'd called Lily 'mudblood' again and she'd left. He closed his eyes as waited for the crack of her dis-apparation, but it never came.
"I wanted to make this right, Severus. And even if you won't leave You-Know-Who, I'll still love you," Lily's voice was soft, and Severus opened his eyes to see her caress his younger cheek. She kissed his mouth softly, pushing him back against his narrow bed. "Silencio. . ."
Lily cast the silence ward around the room, and Severus couldn't believe what he was seeing or hearing.
"Lily, you're getting married. Potter will expect--" his younger self was trying to be a gentleman, if not for Lily's sake, then for his own, for if James were to know that Severus had been there first. . .
"No, he won't, because I haven't said otherwise," Lily said, removing her clothing and Severus's piece by piece. "I can't marry you because of who you serve, but I can't not marry James because of you if you won't give up the dark magic."
"But you'll love me? And make love to me?" Severus heard the pain and longing in his younger self's voice.
"I will, because it is right. And this is all our love can come to."
"It will be too dangerous--"
"I'll charm you so that in a bit the memories will revert to a pensieve I've set aside in the safest place. You'll be safe," Lily said sadly, her head resting on his chest.
"I worry for you," Severus said, and he realized that he spoke in synch with his younger self.
"Don't worry. Just make love to me, and feel."
Severus watched the clumsy lovers and felt his stomach clench. She'd been so beautiful, and he so ugly. But the act had been perfect, clumsy as it was. But he knew what was coming; he embraced the next memory as it washed over him, sensing it was the last one Lily had left him.
Lily was standing over her son's crib. James stood beside her before he stretched and kissed her cheek and headed for the couch in the other room. Severus could see the child, with his grass green eyes and shock of black hair.
"Oh, Harry, you look so like your Da," Lily crooned. Severus looked closer and saw that Harry was almost a year old, and suddenly he wondered how a memory of that night had managed to make it into the pensieve. He didn't want to see how it ended, but he wouldn't be relinquished until he did.
"That black hair. . . I'll have to make sure to keep it cut. Wouldn't want any rumours to follow you. He'd never accept that, would he?" Lily said sadly, stroking her son's cheek. "I wonder if you'll be considered pureblood? Perhaps not.
"Will you be a Gryffindor like mum or a -- Harry, mummy will be right back. I have to do something, and then I'll tock you a bit, hmm?"
The memory broke off abruptly, and Severus found himself swaying on his feet. It rushed back to him, as if the last memory was actually a switch that turn his mind back on. He tried to get back to himself, but one last memory beckoned him. . .
"It will look as if I'm speaking to myself as you watch this, but I couldn't bear to tell you face to face, Severus. This is the last memory because Lily died that night. She was going to put a memory of feeding Harry in, but she was interrupted while putting in the other memory. The Deatheaters stormed the house and she died to save her son. Your son.
"You often complained that the boy was getting into trouble, causing you trouble and that he didn't apply himself, was too much like his father.
"You were right. He was too much like you -- stubborn, somewhat ill-tempered at times, and he made promises without always knowing what they could cost. You and James were alike, Severus; that's why Lily could love him, too, I believe, but I also believe that you stayed first in her heart.
"And now you know. I will leave it up to you whether you want to share this with Harry, and let him find out in his own time, or perhaps you'd rather let thing lie. I hope this helps you find some peace, my dear boy, because peace is so very difficult to find in life. I want you to have it before you die, in hopes that you can have some shred of happiness.
"We wanted you to be safe. That is why Lily entrusted the pensieve to me, and why I never looked in it. I knew it though, as soon as I laid eyes on the boy, and my suspicions were confirmed when the Sorting Hat tried to put him in your House.
"Good night, dear boy, and happy birthday."
Severus was rather violently thrust out of the pensieve and back into the cold night. Hours had passed, and his body was cold and tired. His hand still rested on Lily's gravestone, and tears had frozen in tracks on his cheeks.
"I -- Lily, I think I knew it, all along. . . "
He stared at the pensieve for a moment before he continued. He expected to be angry, or disappointed, or perhaps even cheated, but more memories came to him, of sneaking to meet Lily while he thought she was pregnant with Potter's child, rubbing her stomach, feeding the boy during his infancy, and bringing potions when he was sick. All this he did for her, unaware that the child was his own.
Instead, Severus felt a strange sympathy for James Potter, and an odd sense of gratitude. The man had given Harry his best year, a year and photos that had kept the boy alive and fighting. Albus and Arthur Weasley had joked that Harry had gotten his affinity for redheads from James, but apparently that came both from nature and nurture in Harry's case. Harry had done great things, trying to live up to James's reputation, and Severus felt sorely lacking.
He thought of what Lily might say about that, and he smiled to himself.
"Severus Snape," Lily would have said, "You know that the blood is not the boy! If he lived up to James's reputation, it was only because you were there to keep him safe and teach him about self-preservation. You've got to get over that false sense of modesty you've built for yourself."
Severus knew then that he had a great decision to make, and he would have to rely on all Lily had taught him about love and family to make the right decision, and to try to make amends. He moved to get up, but something stopped him. He still had something to say.
"Lily, I never stopped loving you; you're the only one I've ever apologized to. But that will probably change. I helped raise him, Lily, and right now I wish I had known all those years; perhaps I would have been too easy on him, or too hard, though, and all this might have come to naught. When I thought the boy -- Harry -- was dead, I felt pain, and now I know, thanks to you and Albus. I have to go now, but I will bring him here, and maybe even show him some of that pensieve. That is a decision for daylight though, my love. Thank you for the pensieve, and thank you for my --- our son."
With that, Severus kissed Lily's gravestone and rose, pocketing the pensieve and making his way out of the cemetery and back into the cold night.
A light glinted over the horizon as the sun came up. Light bathed Lily's gravestone.
Beloved Mother of Harry
My Heart's Wife
Cherished and Missed