The Second Half
Severus Snape died staring into a pair of vivid green eyes.
When he next became conscious, he was lying on his back, still clutching his neck, but he was not in any pain. In fact, he had not felt so good for many, many years. Not only was physical pain absent, but spiritual. He did not feel the strain and tear of time, promises and emotion. He felt wonderful and, being himself, he was very confused by this fact. Severus had not felt wonderful perhaps in his entire life.
Severus realized, with a shiver of surprise, that he was completely naked. He did not much like it.
Severus slackened his grip on his throat and noticed that the wound from Nagini's teeth had healed. No, you fool, not healed, those were wounds unintended to heal and they won't. At once the thought of a hundred or so spells and potions that might save him rushed into his mind, before he reminded himself that one way or another, the wounds were closed and neither was he poisoned or bleeding to death. Now that he was awake, Severus began to wonder. Was he still lying on the dusty floor of the Shrieking Shack in a puddle of his own blood, with Potter beside him? No, why would he be healed and naked? This suspicion did not last long, his thoughts lingered on Potter.
Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived…the memory of every sneer and snide comment between the professor and his pupil suddenly flushed into Severus' mind. Every rule that the boy had broken in six years at Hogwarts, every Occlumency lesson that they had so unhappily shared, every pitiable failure of a potion that the boy had mixed, every time that the boy had found himself within an inch of death and had miraculously lived as he so famously had as an infant…but the boy would not live much longer. The time had come…and for reasons he did not fully understand, the thought of Potter's death made him sad…could he prevent it…? Help him…?
Severus opened his eyes and once more, vivid green ones stared back, but these did not belong to Harry Potter, but to his mother.
His mind was frozen for a moment. Impossible…dreams don't come true…he had learned that dreams didn't come true from life and yet the object of his dreaming stood over him, unscathed and untroubled, judging by her expression. More memories flooded through Severus, but they were much older than the thoughts of Harry. He remembered every second he had spent with her and, painfully, every second he had spent after her. He remembered every laugh, every argument, every look and every day spent together in Hogsmeade or the Hogwarts library. He remembered Professor Slughorn, when he had still been their superior, stating to the teens that filled the dungeon classroom that he and her were the best students in that particular class. That dungeon classroom where they had effortlessly mixed potions in their youth would one day be his.
Then the bad memories came. Severus now remembered informing Lord Voldemort of Sybil Trelawney's prophecy, only to find that his master planned to realize Severus' worst fears. He remembered running to the last person he wanted to for help; Albus Dumbledore. He remembered how their efforts had failed and, as usual, Voldemort had had his way. But, no…not quite. All throughout the wizarding world, witches and wizards were celebrating the end of their oppression and the fall of the Dark Lord; praising Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived that night. And he had agreed to help Dumbledore protect and teach Potter, but not for the boy or for Albus, but for the boy's mother, who now somehow stood over him. Of course, he had been mistaken in guessing Dumbledore's intentions and they had done little more, it seemed to him, than prepare the boy for his own death. What else is life but preparation for the second half, death? Severus wondered and was shocked by his own eloquence. Even if things had been different, the boy would ultimately still die. Yet, if things had been different, he would have been the boy's father. He had run through this train of thought so many times in the last seventeen years that it was like a path worn down and worried by too many feet. If things had been different and he had fathered the boy, Voldemort would not have fallen in the first place, his destruction would not be impending and, most important to Severus, the boy's mother would have lived. He would have saved her, while the man she chose to marry had been unable to prevent her death, even if he forgave late James Potter for his many other offenses, could he ever forgive this one?
He had not seen her for a very long time, since they had graduated from Hogwarts, but that had not been a good time. Severus had already become a Death Eater, a follower of the Dark Lord Voldemort who was rapidly rising to power, and even worse, the woman who would become Harry's mother, had hated him. Somehow, she looked exactly as she had at their graduation…her dark red hair luscious and beautiful, her face glowing with joy and her vivid green eyes still locked with his. Yet, she did not look at him with the fervid dislike and bitterness that she would have then, but with the kindness and fondness that she had before. Finally he forced her name past his lips, "…Lily…?"
She grinned and he felt his heart lurch…how many times had that smile liquefied him and how many times had he dreamt of it since her death…? He had woken far too many times drenched in icy sweat, in tears, as the smile haunted him, burnt into his retinas from a dream. She nodded and said in the voice he had tried not to forget, but which had still eluded him, "Hello, Severus, I've missed you."
The words might have killed him had he been alive, which he, of course, thought he was, "I've missed you, too." But as if she had not known this? He spoke again, "Lily, this isn't possible! You're…you're dead…"
She nodded, but her smile did not falter and she said, "Severus," and he felt that familiar shudder which he had missed so dearly since she had last been there to cause it, "Severus, so are you." And now it all made sense; why he felt no pain, there was not pain after death. Lily smiled again and said, "Well, you took that well." And he finally smiled back at her, before that moment he had been unable to accept this as reality for how many of his dreams had he believed were real, only to wake and find that Lily was still gone.
"Lily, I'm sorry! It was my fault, all my fault! I told him about the prophecy! I was a fool, Lily, a blasted fool! I paid for it, I've never been happy in seventeen years, before that it was only you that made it worthwhile! When you died I wanted to die, but I couldn't! I couldn't be a coward again, I had to do something, but I couldn't! I couldn't save you, or Potter! I couldn't even save Harry!" all the things he had thought endlessly about telling her were finally said, but he found immediately he had more to say, but when he spoke about James and Harry his voice had broken and for the first time, Lily's smile faded.
"Severus, you weren't meant to." She shook her head, her red hair swaying, "I had to die and J-James with me." She sighed, "And Harry, oh I hate to say it, but the death of my own son…it must be."
Severus sighed and realized, like the bad dream of a child who enters a classroom in his underwear, that he was still naked. No sooner had he blushed than a pile of neatly folded robes appeared beside him. Lily modestly looked away while he was changing and Severus asked her, "Lily, where are we?"
"That's for you to tell." She replied. He looked around at the white, hazy world, trying to make out shapes or lines in the mist. With a jolt he realized that it was Hogwarts.
"We're in the Entrance Hall!" she raised one eyebrow at him and he added, "At Hogwarts!"
"Really?" she looked around and then shrugged, "Alright."
"Lily." He said suddenly, "I'm not missing another chance to tell you this in case this is only a dream; I love you."
She smiled and nodded, "Yes, Severus, I know that. And this isn't a dream, I promise." She placed a hand on his shoulder. It was very soft, very warm and very gentle, "I'm proud of you, Sev, very proud of you."
He looked down at her incredulously, "Proud of me? But Lily, I've caused so many terrible things! I've…I caused your and Potter's death!"
She brushed it off with a light hand gesture that he would never have expected her to use when they were speaking about death, especially those of her and the man that Severus grudgingly knew she loved, "You redeemed yourself, Severus, you made mistakes but instead of wallowing in it or following us, you did the right thing."
"I only did it all because of you."
She nodded, "Perhaps, but I am not the one you saved. You really saved the wizarding world, you know?"
"That was your son." Severus said, with the slightest tenderness and the slightest envy and the slightest spite in his voice.
"Well, yes, but without you he wouldn't be alive now to end the reign of the Dark Lord once and for all! He may have died a thousand times while he was at Hogwarts, will you tell me you didn't have a hand in preventing that?" she laughed sweetly, "Harry took your memory, didn't he, before you died?"
Severus nodded, "Yes, but I was mostly thinking about you…at Hogwarts…and Potter."
"Well, he'll enjoy that." Lily said and folded her arms casually, "He rather likes seeing James and I. You know, he found the mirror of Erised in his first year and it was the first time he saw us after we died, Petunia didn't keep pictures of us around, but, of course, I'm not surprised," her voice was not bitter, it was painfully matter-of-fact, "Harry has photographs and things, and of course in your pensieve…" she met his eyes again. They both recalled that day by the lake after their Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L.s far clearer than they would've liked to, "Anyway, I don't believe he knows we were friends. I do hope he gets a better impression of James than from that one memory he saw during your last Occlumency lesson…" she smiled, "Not that I expect your memories to display him as anything short of a monster." She sighed and paused for a long time, "He'll know the plan, though, won't he? He'll know what he must do?"
Severus nodded, "Yes, he'll know." He was surprised that the thought of Harry dying, willingly dying, caused an ache to develop deep in his chest, the same place it had ached when his parents had fought and when he had seen Lily cry.
"Sev…James and I, well, actually and Sirius, we've watched you and James and Sirius have a message for you." He raised both eyebrows, "They say that they know it's not enough and they don't expect you to accept, but that they're sorry. Sorry they treated you so badly when we were all at Hogwarts and sorry that they never really knew you."
"Sorry they never knew me?"
"They say that you have proven you're more than they thought, a better man and a better wizard." She recited and he could tell that Sirius and James must have made her practice. How strange…he thought, how strange this second half is…
Severus could not quite say why, but this apology and praise made him unreasonably happy. He smiled again and nodded and then the pleasure faded. He asked Lily, "You'll have to go back to them soon, won't you? You'll have to leave me again?"
The pain in his voice caused Lily's vivid eyes to glitter with tears and as she shook her head, they splashed down her cheeks, "No, Sev, I'm not leaving you again, you're coming with me."
"Where, Lily, where do we go from here?" he asked, looking around the empty, white Entrance Hall with its wispy marble staircase and walls.
"Up the stairs." She replied and they both looked at the marble staircase. They could not make out what was at the top, although Lily knew. She extended her hand to him when she stepped onto the first stair, beckoning him forward, "Come on, I'll lead you."
Severus gently took her hand as he had longed to for so, so many long years, since he was a child. Rapturous joy and fulfillment exploded from his hand, up his arm and through his body. He joined her on the staircase and he felt dizzy with happiness, a feeling that he had never experienced as long as he was alive. They began to walk and Severus remembered what he was leaving behind on Earth and regret, woe and fear bubbled in the pit of his stomach, like an angry, festering potion, yet he could not bring himself to look back over his shoulder.
Lily must have sensed his misgivings because she squeezed his hand and whispered, "I'll be right here the whole time." And she repeated, "I'm not leaving you again."
With her hand in his and those words ringing like Phoenix song in his ears, even before he got there, Severus Snape was in heaven.