Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns everything.
Oh, God... Too late... No.
Snape tasted blood and venom inside his mouth. His heart was thudding in his chest and he could feel his life draining away from him. Already, his body felt cold, his vision was blurring; agony coursed through his limbs and he would have screamed again if he had had the strength.
Lily... Forgive me. Forgive me...
He had tried, desperately tried to convince the Dark Lord to let him fetch Potter, but then he saw the look in Voldemort's eyes -a horrible, icy, calculating look, and Snape had known that his life was at an end. He was no longer needed. Not that Voldemort had ever truly needed him, or anyone.
Snape clutched his neck, weakening by the second. "You have been very valuable to me. Very valuable." Nausea gripped him at the memory of Voldemort's words.
All was lost. Years of sacrifice, loneliness and regret, for nothing. He fought, his fingers tightening around his fatal wounds... It was useless. He was beginning to tremble and his breathing was growing more labored.
Suddenly, a form came into view. Snape swallowed and winced at the acrid taste of Nagini's venom. He had to be hallucinating.
With a swiftness that belied the imminence of his death, Snape reached out, grabbed Harry's robes and yanked him forward. Yes, the boy was real... Yet what could Snape do now? Pain washed over him, hot like the blood that was flowing from his mangled throat, and without being quite aware of what he was doing, or how, he poured himself out, gave all he had left in a frantic effort to fulfill his vows. A silvery mist emanated from his mouth, his ears, his eyes. He conjured a flask, or at least he thought he did...
He attempted to speak, his voice a mere, halting rasp. "Take... it... Take... it..."
Stop him, Potter... Only you can... Lily... I'm sorry... Harry...
Everything was becoming dark. His chest rose and fell more slowly, and he shivered. His fingers felt numb; his hold loosened. He was so tired. He wanted to close his eyes... No. He was afraid to, fearful of the nightmares that had haunted most of his life. Would he be granted rest after all he had done? Were his sins forgiven?
"Look... at... me..."
He gazed into Harry's green eyes. A bright light blinded him, and he knew no more.
"So Voldemort, instead of asking himself what quality it was in you that had made your wand so strong, what gift you possessed that he did not, naturally set out to find the one wand that, they said, would beat any other. For him, the Elder Wand has become an obsession to rival his obsession with you. He believes that the Elder Wand removes his last weakness and makes him truly invincible. Poor Severus..."
Harry recalled Snape's last moments with a shudder, and a feeling he could not name.
"If you planned your death with Snape, you meant him to end up with the Elder Wand, didn't you?"
"I admit that was my intention," said Dumbledore, "but it did not work as I intended, did it?"
"No," said Harry. "That bit didn't work out." He paused and finally said, "Professor... Where is he now?"
"What?" Dumbledore said, as if Harry's question had jolted him from his thoughts. "You mean Professor Snape, Harry?"
"Yes. He... I haven't seen him. Did he... Is he a ghost?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "No, though I daresay he might have enjoyed that."
Harry pictured Snape's translucent form sweeping down the halls of Hogwarts and frightening students, and a rueful smile curved his lips. "Yeah." He looked at Dumbledore again. "So, well... Where is he, sir?"
"Oh, he's sleeping, Harry."
Harry blinked. "Sleeping?"
"Things had been particularly difficult for him, before he died," Dumbledore said, sighing. "Of course, his entire life had been difficult, as you have seen."
"Maybe if he'd been less of a git, it would have been easier," Harry said with a frown.
"He certainly had a way of complicating things for himself, but it was not always his fault."
Dumbledore rose and said, "Would you like to see him?"
Harry's eyes widened. "See him? I don't think so, sir, I don't think he'd..." Then curiosity got the better of him. "You can take me?"
"I don't see why not," Dumbledore said. "Come, Harry."
The Headmaster gestured towards the emptiness ahead of them, and after they had only taken a few steps, the white expanse began to transform itself into a large circular room. Its tall windows opened onto a green field and flooded the room with a soft, yellow light. The scent of fresh grass and flowers hung in the air, and the faint songs of birds punctuated the silence that permeated their surroundings.
In the middle of the room was a bed, where Snape lay motionless. Although he was wearing his robes, a blanket covered him to his waist. His hands were folded across his chest and his features were tranquil despite the weariness that still lined his face. A bandage was wrapped around his neck; Harry detected small spots of blood marring the clean gauze near the place where Snape had been bitten.
The young man drew closer.
"Professor Dumbledore, why is he bleeding? Shouldn't it have stopped, now that..."
"Well, sometimes, healing takes longer," Dumbledore said, approaching the bed. A chair materialized by Snape's side and the Headmaster sat down. "Even in the next world, we continue to heal, Harry. Depending upon our ability, it can take more time." Dumbledore reached over and gently stroked Snape's head. "Poor Severus. I wish it could have been less painful for him, but at least he is safe now."
"Do you know when he's going to wake up, Professor?"
"Ah, that I have no idea. It won't be for a while, I believe. But he deserves his rest."
A few moments went by, and Harry said, "Yeah. It's peaceful here."
"I've got to go back now, haven't I?"
"That is up to you."
"I've got a choice?"
"We all have a choice, Harry... And yet we don't, do we? Not if we know in our hearts what it is we should do. Love guides us, and we follow."
Harry nodded. "Maybe Professor Snape, when he wakes up... Maybe he'll want to see me." He shrugged, lowering his gaze. "I don't know why I said that. Kind of stupid, really."
"I'll let you know when he does," Dumbledore said, smiling. "Goodbye, Harry. And good luck."
Everything in the room was growing indistinct.
"Thanks, Professor. Goodbye."