A/N Major book 7 spoilers ahead, so if you haven't read it stop right now! This one shot is the desperate attempt of a fervent Snape fan to stop obsessing over the ending of the story and pay attention to some other things. (Yes, I cried when I read that Harry named one of his sons Severus.) Enjoy and please review!

Disclaimer It's Rowling's and she has a right to it.

The Other Side

Lily's eyes.

Severus Snape's own eyes flickered open, and he found himself staring not into a pair of brilliant green orbs but at the ceiling of a vast room that seemed to be constructed entirely of shining white marble.

So this is death, he thought with academic curiosity as he sat up and found to his great annoyance that he was naked. I realize there is no concealment in death, but did it have to extend to clothes? Something soft brushed against his hand, and he looked over to find a neatly folded set of black robes in his habitual black. Not pearly, he thought gratefully. Or was it the gates that are supposed to be pearly?

Not until he was dressed did he begin to take systematic note of his surroundings. On one side of the room – although it was so vast he hesitated to call it that – stood rows and rows of seats, as though the place were constructed to hold a vast crowd. But he was the only one here, Snape thought as he transferred his gaze to the golden door that appeared to be the only promise of an exit. He was about to stride toward it when a voice addressed him. "Hello, Severus."

Albus Dumbledore was standing behind him. He looked precisely as he had in life, all silver beard and piercing blue eyes. No, Snape corrected himself, as his eyes traveled down Dumbledore's arm. Not quite the same. The blackened hand was now well and whole.

"Do you still have to wear those?" was the only thing he could think of to say as he looked at the familiar half moon spectacles.

"I suppose not," Dumbledore replied courteously, "but some habits are hard to break, even in death." Then he smiled, an expression overflowing with warmth and approval. "Well done, Severus. Loyal and courageous to the end – you have more than justified the risk I took with you."

Snape felt awkward and not entirely pleased. "You asked a lot of me, Albus, but killing you … that was the worst."

"I know," Dumbledore said quietly. "And at the time you thought I didn't appreciate the depth of the sacrifice, that it was only another objective piece in my grand scheme. All I can say is that I did, and that I would not have asked if I thought you would not come through it. Not unscathed, certainly, but your strength had never failed me before, and it did not fail me then."

"Sometimes," Snape said dryly, "I can't decide whether it's worse to be doubted or trusted." Dumbledore chuckled, and the tension that had been humming between them evaporated. Snape hesitated and then said, "I wasn't able to tell Potter that he was the seventh Horcrux, but I left him the memory."

"You left him a good deal more than the memory of our conversation," Dumbledore reminded him.

"I had to make certain he would trust me," Snape replied automatically, even though he knew that Dumbledore would see through the flimsy, if valid, excuse, and would probably understand better than Snape himself why it had been so important for Harry Potter to know, to finally understand… He sighed and braced himself to ask another question, one for which he both needed and dreaded the answer. "Did you know that I would die?"

"I feared it," Dumbledore said softly. "I did what I could to prevent it. I meant for you to have the Elder Wand, Severus, but alas, my plan went awry."

"Me? But … Potter …"

"And he will have it in the end. But precious as Harry's life is to me, it was no more so than yours." The two men stared at each other in silence, and then Dumbledore reached out and embraced his longtime potions master. "You have never been insignificant, Severus, never expendable, never a justifiable loss. Never."

Dumbledore loosened his grip at last, and Snape stood there feeling relieved and self-conscious and blazingly happy. "You feel very solid," he said at last, to break the silence.

"That is because I am. Things are real here, Severus, more real than you can possibly imagine. Now," he motioned toward the golden door, "it is time for you to move on. There is someone else waiting to greet you."

Snape stared at Dumbledore in puzzlement for a moment, and then his heart gave a great leaping bound of hope before seeming to freeze up and making it difficult to breathe. He started for the door. "Will I see you again?" he asked, suddenly swinging back.

Dumbledore's blue eyes twinkled with mischief. "Oh yes. You will have to do more than die to shake free of me, Severus."

Snape felt the tiniest smile tip up the corners of his own mouth before he continued toward the door. There was no handle, but as he placed his hand on the warm, golden surface, it reached out and enveloped him in a shining mist. A moment later, he was through and was forced to blink rapidly to adjust his eyes to the brilliant sun. He was outdoors now, in a vivid green meadow. There was a large white marquee in the center, and people were milling in and out of it. There was music and laughter and a delicious cinnamon smell wafting toward him on the breeze. Somewhat uncertain as to what he was supposed to do, he walked slowly forward.

He had crossed about half the distance when he saw them. Remus Lupin was laughing as Sirius Black gestured wildly, no doubt involved in one of his outrageous tales. Snape braced himself for the familiar surge of bitterness, but it didn't come. Instead, he felt only a mild interest in the way they looked so much younger with the years of suffering erased. Half afraid of what he might see next, he let his gaze travel on and found James Potter looking at him. Snape tensed again, but there was no anger and no jealousy and no hatred – those things had fallen away like empty shadows, and he could see for the first time how very unimportant they were. James nodded in greeting, and Snape, to his surprise, found himself lifting a hand in answer.

He dropped his hand, took a deep breath, and looked farther. She was there, talking to the auror called Tonks. The sun brought out the coppery radiance of her dark red hair as it cascaded down her back; her hands floated in familiar, graceful gestures to illustrate whatever she was saying. As though she felt the weight of his gaze, she turned and saw him.

Echoes of the despair and guilt he had carried all those years reached up from the other world and dug biting claws into his soul. Now he would know the truth and see the loathing in her face. But it didn't happen. As though over great distance he heard her voice, light and musical, calling, "Severus!" She was running, and it took him a very long time to figure out that she was running to him, so that he just barely had the sense to open his arms and receive her.

Lily clung to him tightly, her face against his chest, and he wondered if she could hear the uneven pounding his heart made as he cradled her the way he had in a hundred thousand dreams. Then she looked up and he saw that she was crying, although she still smiled through the tears. "Severus, thank you for taking care of Harry."

Lily wore an expression of joy as she looked at him that he had never even dared imagine, and he felt again what he had known all along, even when he had no hope of such a reward. It had been worth it. The danger and the pain and the lies and the sacrifices had been more than worthwhile.

He lifted an uncertain hand and carefully brushed a loose strand of hair back behind her ear. And then he said the words that had been burning inside him ever since … Well, really, ever since she had refused to hear them the night she had slammed the Gryffindor portrait in his face. It was only that his reasons for saying them had grown so much stronger. "Lily, I'm sorry."

"I know, Sev," she said simply, brushing her fingers across his cheek, and he realized with a slight shock that there were tears there. "I forgave you a long time ago."

The most peculiar sensation began to fill him. Sweet and tranquil but moving with unstoppable power, it washed over him, dazing him so that it took him a long moment to remember its name.


The End

A/N Please review! Particularly if you are a fellow Severus devotee!