Disclaimer: All characters belong to JR Rowling. The idea of heaven is owed in part to the author of Lovely Bones. I make no money from this, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Ghosts

He's old and tired and when the end comes he's asleep, passing swiftly and painlessly into that Other Place without a sound.

He sees Hermione first, in the world beyond, and she squeals, "Neville!" and runs up to hug him. The others arrive soon, and then there's laughter and talking and tears as well because he remembers their funerals, and is thinking of the grief there will be at his.

Lupin is there, Harry, Hermione, Ron, the Weasley Twins, Seamus, Luna, Lavender, he's outlived them all.

And of course, waiting for him, smiling, are his parents.

He doesn't believe it at first, but they walk towards him and suddenly he's crying again. They hug and comfort him and he can't truly believe that now he'll be with them forever, for eternity.

There is a fountain in the Other Place. They sit by it and talk and talk. Time passes and they still sit there, the boy and his parents, covering all the lost years that they never spent together.

Eventually Neville gets up, "There's someone I want to see."

They nod. Everyone has ghosts that must be laid to rest, and the Other Place is a good place to do it.

"I'll be back." And they know it is true. You cannot lie in the Other Place.

---

"Can you find any dead person, anyone you want?"

Hermione glances at Ron, "Yes…but only if you're with someone who's part of their Heaven."

Neville tells Harry who he wants to see. Harry laughs, "Sorry Neville, I can't help you with that one. I was never part of his heaven, not ever."

"Oh." Neville doesn't really know where to go from here.

"Sirius can help." Hermione says confidently, "If you're sure you really want to do this."

Neville nods.

---

There is only one Other Place, Neville learns, but people can see it differently. When he's with Sirius, there are endless fields stretching out over the horizon, broken by a lake glittering in the distance, and a forest somewhere behind. The landscape is mutable, depending on Sirius's mood, but there's a definite theme. Outdoors, and freedom, for eternity.

Sirius is told who they're trying to find and, once he's stopped laughing, gasps out, "There is no way, in heaven or earth, that I would be allowed anywhere near-"

"Your brother." Hermione interrupts, "Regulus would be able to reach him."

"So would Lily." Remus murmurs, but not too loudly, because James might be close, and some grudges live on after death. He doesn't want to cause trouble, even in the afterlife.

---

Regulus is in the Black family home. Neville doesn't recognise it, but Sirius does, and scowls as he clambers up the stairs.

"He doesn't want me here. He always was a little worm."

Neville says nothing. Sirius reaches Regulus's room and pounds on the door, "Open up, little brother."

"Why." The voice from inside sounds almost exactly like Sirius.

"Someone needs your help. Not me, obviously. Well go one then." The last sentence is hissed to Neville, who nervously stammers, "Uh, Neville Longbottom."

The door opens, revealing a young man in his teens, a slightly less handsome version of the twenty-five year old Sirius standing next to him.

"Longbottom." Regulus repeats. He looks a little nervous, and his eyes dart towards his brother.

"Yes." Feeling more confident, Neville tells him who he's trying to reach.

Regulus looks slightly surprised, but he nods. "Yes, I can reach him."

Sirius leaves. His parent's house is no part of his heaven, not for any longer than he can help.

---

The landscape flickers again and, to Neville's amazement, they end up in Hogwarts.

"Here?" he asks, slightly surprised.

Regulus nods, "He'll be in the-"

"Yes." Neville knows where, "I think I can guess."

There's silence for a while, as both of them think back on the memories Hogwarts holds for them. Then Neville says, "Thanks."

"No problem." Regulus gives a brief smile and leaves, back to his parent's house where he tries to endlessly relive his childhood.

Neville swallows nervously. He's chosen his body as it was at twenty-three, tall and relatively muscular (he'd been doing fieldwork in Argentina at the time) although still a little on the chubby side. His mind, however, is suddenly eleven years old again, walking down to the lesson he dreads.

The door to the Potion's room is ajar. Neville knocks politely and waits.

No answer.

Nervously, he pushes the door open. He has to, he knows, he has to face Snape, lay that ghost to rest, and he knows if he doesn't do it soon he'll loose his nerve completely.

It's funny, but Snape is the only thing he's ever been really afraid of. Actually terrified, rather than merely nervous, or filled with dread. He'd almost rather face Voldemort again than Snape, at least they defeated Voldemort.

Snape is standing behind a cauldron, and looks up sharply as the door creaks open. Neville steps in and then, as the mists of fear begin to clear slightly, gives a gasp.

Snape is only nineteen.

The overall looks are the same; the sallow skin, greasy black hair and hooked nose are all present. But Snape looks much younger, much thinner, and far more scared than Neville remembers. He looks a bit like a plant, that's been grown in the dark.

"Longbottom." Says Snape flatly.

Neville suddenly realised that he is now taller than Snape.

Snape stares at the bubbling cauldron, gives the smallest of shrugs, then steps out and sits on the side of the desk. "I know why you're here."

Neville leans against the side of the door and crosses his arms. Snape's shoulder twitches slightly, and his eyes flicker around the room.

"I might as well tell you Longbottom, you're wasting your time. There's no pain in this place, I won't feel a thing."

Neville frowns, confused, "I don't want to hurt you."

Snape raises an eyebrow, unconvinced.

"I just wondered…why?"

"Why what?"

"Why you were so, well, horrible, to me and Harry. When as a teacher you should have known better."

Silence.

"It was completely unprofessional. At first I just thought it was me, that I deserved it, but now I'm not so sure."

The silence continues for a while, then Snape says quietly, "Because you survived, both of you, when she didn't."

"Lots of people survived."

"If the Dark Lord had killed Harry first, she would have lived." The younger Snape is far twitchier than the old one. "If he had gone for the Longbottoms and you had died, she would have lived.

"That seems a little…unfair. To blame me and Harry."

"Life's not fair." His voice is no longer bitter, just weary.

"I used to dread coming to Potions." Neville stares nostalgically around the room. It all seems so silly now, so long ago.

"I used to dread Quidditch matches, among other things."

"I attacked Crabbe and Goyle during a Quidditch match once." Neville grins as the memories flood back. "I must have been mental."

"She doesn't come, even here." Snape is almost whispering now, and Neville falls abruptly silent, uncertain where this is going."

"She came once, but they came with her." Snape stares at the floor and Neville gets the feeling that he's been wanting to say this for a long time. "Even in heaven, she still loves Potter."

"I loved Ginny once." Neville babbles desperately, trying to steer the conversation into less uncomfortable waters, "Although, I think quite a few people did."

"What happened to Miss Weasley?" Snape asks. He's genuinely interested, nobody's told him the ending yet, he only gets vague rumours from Regulus, and his visits are short enough.

"She married Potter." Neville says, and for a quick moment, they both grin. "I went into Experimental Herbology, married Hannah Abbot, and became a Professor when Sprout retired."

"You were a teacher?" Snape can't help the slight amazement in his voice.

"Oh yes. Head of Gryffindor too."

"Took plenty of points of Slytherin did you?"

"Only when they deserved it."

A pause, then Snape mumbles, "Sorry Neville."

"What?" He's shocked. This is not what he expected, he's not even sure if it's what he wanted.

Snape looks up, and Neville realises that his eyes don't look bitter and mocking any more, they look lonely and frightened. He thinks: maybe they always were, underneath, but when you're eleven years old you don't notice things like that.

"Don't push it Longbottom."

Neville nods, and he feels a lot happier inside because you can't lie in this place, he knows Snape means it, and he understands why it happened, even if he can't agree with it.

He thinks of his parents waiting by the fountain. He thinks of Sirius, young and free forever. He thinks of Snape, spending eternity in a Potions lab, brooding over Lily.

He nods towards the cauldron, "What's in there."

"It was a strengthening solution. Without the Lionskin. I'm trying something new."

"You didn't have to leave it."

"I assumed you'd come for some form of revenge."

Neville shakes his head, feeling a horrible mixture of sympathy and shock run through him. "I-I don't suppose it can be…rescued in any way."

"Of course not." Snape sneers, and then looks thoughtful, "At least, I don't think so. The aconite's been added, it needs to be stirred fairly regularly after that."

"Could you use loostrife instead of the aconite?" Neville's heart is hammering madly, "That dissolves rapidly, especially if you powder it."

Snape glowers, "Are you trying to be friendly?"

You can't lie in the Other Place, "Yes."

They stare at each other for a minute, then Snape says, "The Loostrife is in the cupboard. You can fetch ingredients, prepare ingredients, but you may not touch the cauldron under any circumstances."

Neville nods, and they set to work.

---

"He named his second child after you."

Snape's face goes rigid, "What?"

"Albus Severus Potter."

"Longbottom if you wish to continue working unharmed in this room never, never, mention the name 'Severus Potter'."

Neville grins. He's beginning to discover that the bitter sarcastic cynicism is only a front. A front which, admittedly, hides another layer of carefully constructed character, but he's certain that Snape, the nineteen year old boy, is in there somewhere, crouching beneath the layers built up for safety.

Neville visits his parents often, and spends time with Harry, Hermione, Ron and, recently, Ginny. He comes to meet his family as they arrive. But he has the rest of eternity, so there's still plenty of time to spend in the Potion's lab, experimenting, changing, refining.

Strangely, he finds he can enjoy Potions now, far more than he did at school. An old ghost has been laid to rest.

It's heaven.

Of a kind.

-----

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A/N: Wow. This is probably my favourite thing I've ever written so far…

So I'm going to talk a bout it for a bit, feel free to skip my blather, but it would be great it you would leave a review, you can criticise it, flame it, tear it to pieces if you want, I'd prefer that than no comment at all.

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OK-blather time!

Snape's character is slightly gratuitous. Although this was written just after reading DH (where Snape turns into a little proto-emo-goth-stalker-thingy) which can explain it. Besides any OOC Snape moments, I will blame on the fact that he's been stuck in that Potions lab now for over 100 years in heaven.

Makani on deviantart drew a wonderful picture of Snape looking all angsty with his Lily-Patronus behind him. The title was 'Always' and the comment underneath was 'Oh, Snape. Get a life.'

That pretty much sums up how I feel about Snape right now. Yeah he's still awesome and all but, meh, he's his own worst enemy really. Or rather he would be were it not for the fact that almost everyone else seems to be vying for that position.

Ooh, Watershipdown quote: "All the world is your enemy, Prince with a thousand enemies, and when they catch you they will kill you. But first…they must catch you."

Moving on…Neville! My first attempt at Neville, and I am really quite pleased with it, especially my description of him at 23. He does remind me a bit of Traddles from 'David Copperfield' at times though. (lol). He is quite a Traddles like figure really.

Sirius - is a bastard. A smoothly handsome, very angsty bastard, but a bastard none the less. Would his death change that? (no)

I can't help feeling that it would be so much easier to feel more sympathy for Sirius and Snape if they were just nicer people! But they aren't, they are nasty. But more sinned against that sinning in my opinion, both of them. They may be mean, bitter, vindictive and bullying, but they have suffered a hell of a lot. Sirius is a bully, Snape is a sneaky nerd, but they've both been through hell in their time (Snape more than Sirius).

JK, JK, why are your peripheral characters so awesome? (and your main characters so dull).

I have to go to lectures now. Hope you enjoyed the story, and my thinly-disguised character rant. :)