A/N: Hi everyone! Wow it's been ages since I have written anything on fanfic, but now that I am on holiday, I have much more time on my hands. I know that I said that Chapter 30: 'Until the very end' would be my last chapter of 'It is our choices', but after my brother read my story (finishing it recently) he expressed a wish to know what would happen when Harry's family found out that Severus was 'a part of all of them'. I realised that while many would assume what would happen (they would be delighted of course), I realised that it may not be as simple as that…

Consequently, this chapter is what I would call a 'take it or leave it' chapter. Chapter 30 will always be the true ending of 'It is our choices' but this epilogue may provide some people with much more insight into what happened after Harry used the resurrection stone and he tells his family.

Nevertheless, I hope you guys enjoy it and thank you to my brother for suggesting I continue writing.

Also, don't forget to review and tell me what you think!

Epilogue

Harry watched as the Resurrection Stone flew out of his hands as he threw it somewhere deeper into the forest; he could not even see where it landed. He had just finished saying good bye to his parents, Sirius, Remus and Severus and already he missed them, especially the latter. But he knew that he needed to let go and move on- he even felt ready to talk to Severus' portrait again, for he hadn't even looked at it since Severus' death; it was just too painful.

Harry stood still for a moment thinking about the Resurrection Stone. Although his resurrected loved ones were concerned that he was leaving the Stone in the forest without protection, Harry felt that the odds of someone finding a black stone in a dark forest were slim to none. Having told himself over and over again that the stone would be safe, Harry began to walk out of the forest.

Tumbling over and over in his mind were the voices of his loved ones for Harry spoke to them for roughly half an hour before he decided to say goodbye and let go of the stone. It moved him that Severus was afraid he would not be able to return to the other dimension because of his desire to stay here with him and his family, but what truly made his day was that his father, Remus and even Sirius supported Severus and promised to help him if he could not leave Harry when the time came. Harry knew that they and his mother would take good care of Severus and that the resentments they had all those years ago had evaporated, but of course, not forgotten.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Walking back up to the castle, Harry sent his Stag to Ginny and his children, letting them know that he planned to meet them all at Grimmauld place and if they could, to be there when he arrived. He also sent his Patronus to the Deputy Headmistress, letting her know that he would be away for a short period and to keep an eye out on the school.

Walking to the outskirts of Hogwarts grounds and beyond the enchantments he placed around the castle, Harry apparated to his home.

Only Ginny was waiting for him when he arrived, for his children would obviously need to inform their spouses before leaving.

"Harry! What is it? Why do you want us to meet here? What's wrong?" Ginny asked looking panicked; she absolutely hated these secret meetings now.

Harry stepped forwards and hugged his wife.

"Calm down, Ginny. Nothing is wrong; it's good news, I promise. I just want to wait for our children to arrive, okay?" Harry said calmly, kissing Ginny's forehead. The woman nodded; relieved that her husband was not bringing them any bad news- she didn't know how much more she could handle.

Finally when all of the children had arrived and everyone was sitting down in the lounge room, Harry began:

"I'm sorry to call you here so late, but there is something important I wish to tell you," Harry said with a small smile on his face.

"Why are you smiling, Dad?" Albus asked, for this was a rare occasion; since Severus' death he rarely saw his father smile anymore.

"Because I have some good news," Harry replied.

"What is it?" James asked in anticipation.

"My care of magical creatures teacher was unable to do magic in the forest the other day-"

"So…" James said, seemingly confused as to how this was significant.

"I went to remove what was preventing him from doing it." Harry then paused and waited for his family to realise exactly what it was that Harry went to 'fix'.

Ginny was the quickest. She gasped: "The Resurrection Stone!"

Harry nodded.

James and Albus were staring at their father avidly, wanting to know more but Lily looked frightened and even more pale than usual.

"So what happened, Dad? Is Severus okay?" Albus asked eagerly.

"Well that is of course what I wanted to know. My mother arrived first and she told me she had seen Severus and that he was fine. Soon afterwards my dad, Sirius and Remus arrived and they too asserted they had seen Severus. I was so glad- relieved that he was okay and when I asked them to tell me more, my Dad simply said: 'Why don't you ask him yourself?'"

Lily gasped and put her hand to her mouth. "You spoke to Severus?" she asked in awe.

"I did," Harry answered nodding.

There was silence as everyone processed within themselves just how much that must have meant to Harry seeing as he was the only one who didn't get to say goodbye to their friend.

"So, so Severus knew you wanted to talk to him so he was resurrected?" James wondered out loud.

"That's what I thought, but no- to my surprise at the time, though in retrospect it is not such a shock, the fact is that Severus is a part of me, like my mother, father, Sirius and Remus are," Harry explained, bracing himself for the look his family were about to give him. Sure enough, Harry was not disappointed, all four of them were gobsmacked; not because they didn't think Severus would become a part of Harry but because they hadn't thought of it before.

"That's great, Dad!" Albus asserted, walking up to hug his father; "I am glad you had the opportunity to speak with him."

"Thank you Albus," Harry whispered back. Then letting go of his son, Harry continued.

"Of course I knew that I could have walked into my office and spoken to Severus myself, but I just wasn't ready for that- seeing him up there next to Dumbledore made it all seem too real, but seeing him face to face, younger, happier than I have ever seen him before was so much better than speaking to his portrait."
"So your Dad and Sirius weren't giving him a hard time?" Ginny asked.

Harry laughed, remembering what Sirius said when Harry asked James if he were reverting back to his old ways.

"Not at all, in fact they helped Severus…" and Harry continued telling his family what happened with regard to Severus not wanting to be resurrected in the first place and how much Severus wanted to stay with him, how much he missed them all…

"We really miss him too," Lily whispered, speaking for the first time in many minutes.

"I told Severus as much. I also told him that I was worried about you, Lily," Harry added.

Lily gulped. "What did he say," she whispered so quietly, Harry had to move closer to his daughter just to hear her.

"Severus told me to tell you that he is well, he is happy and he forgives you for everything you felt you did, but he wants you to know that you did nothing wrong, even though you feel you did. None of this was your fault Lily, the way Severus died or the way he felt about himself was not your fault, you could not have changed it. Severus has no regrets and he wanted you to know that."

Lily stared blankly at her father, but when she found her voice she said:

"How did he know I was blaming myself?" she whispered, so that only Harry could hear.

Harry smiled. "He can feel your pain," Harry replied simply.

"Why? Because of what happened when Lily died?" Lily asked, sympathetically, trying to work it out.

Harry shook his head. "No, Lily; Severus feels whatever you feel, the pain, the regret, the grief- he feels it all," Harry said seriously, staring intently into his daughter's eyes, waiting for it to sink in.

Suddenly, Lily felt her heart warm and knew that someone was doing this to her- someone loved her. Lily grabbed her chest in shock, but never took her eyes away from her father. Harry was smiling for he felt a similar thing not long ago and he knew what it meant- Harry was glad Severus was nearby.

"Severus," Lily whispered, tears forming in her eyes as she continued to stare at her father and then realising what this must mean, Lily continued:

"He knows what I feel, he knows how guilty I feel because he's a part of me too? He lives within me too?" Lily asked, half hysterical, half in disbelief.

Harry smiled. "Yes, and Severus also wanted me to tell the rest of my wonderful family that he continues to live on in all of us," Harry announced.

Harry was delighted as he watched his entire family smile; this moment definitely signified the happiest they had been in a long time.

Then James started laughing. "He really has stayed close to us didn't he?"

"He did James," Harry replied nodding with a huge smile on his face.

"At least he knows how much he means to us- how much we miss him- we don't have to tell him because he already knows…" Ginny thought out loud.

Harry walked up to his wife and hugging her, he whispered: "He knows more than we could ever imagine. He is still here for us, even in death."

When the reality that Severus was in fact a part of all of them, sunk in, the Potter's decided to have a hot drink in the kitchen before everyone went home, even though it was already really late. There was silence around the table as everyone thought about that night's events.

"I'm glad he's okay," Albus said out loud, breaking the silence.

"It's great that your father and Sirius are decent to him- I think they'll take good care of him," Ginny added, looking at Harry, who nodded in agreement; he had no doubt that Severus would be in good hands.

"Hey, I just realised something," James said suddenly, looking directly at his father. "What did you do with the stone?"
Harry paused for a moment; he knew that, like his spiritual guardians, his family would also be concerned about what he did. Taking a deep breath, Harry replied:

"I threw the stone deep into the forest-"

"Without any protection?" Albus interrupted, looking aghast.

Harry looked between his family members, all of whom appeared concerned, except Lily who seemed deep in thought with a passive expression.

"I know it sounds crazy, but-" Harry said louder still for he could tell Albus was about to interrupt him again. "No one has searched for the Deathly Hallows for years and besides, I would like to see someone try to find a black stone inside a dark forest- it would be close to impossible," Harry asserted reasonably confidently forcing everyone in his presence to agree, however silently, that the stone would be safe.

When everyone had finished their hot drinks, Albus, James, Lily and Harry left one by one, saying goodbye to each other as they all flooed to their relative homes, craving for some sleep for it was 2am in the morning.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

When Lily arrived home, she got changed into her pyjamas and collapsed into bed, however quietly so as not to wake up Michael. However, Michael heard her come in, and once under the covers, he wrapped his arms around his wife and asked:

"Is everything okay?"

"Yeah," Lily whispered back, silent tears pouring down her cheeks.

"Are you alright?" Michael asked concerned. Although he couldn't see Lily's face, he could sense that she was thinking about something- something was bothering her.

Lily nodded. "I'm just really tired," she replied only half convincingly.

Michael decided to leave her be for now, but only pretended to be asleep so he could keep an eye on her.

Ten minutes later, Lily was still awake and although Michael couldn't hear any sobs- even though Lily was completely silent, Michael was growing concerned. Rubbing his wife's back, he moved in close to her ear and whispered:
"What happened, Lily?"

"I'm fine, it's okay, just go back to sleep," Lily said dismissively.

"No, something is bothering you," Michael persisted.

Lily turned around so that she was facing her husband.

"Dad used the Resurrection Stone earlier this evening… he spoke to Severus…"

"And how is he?" Michael asked, wondering if this is what was bothering his wife.

"Dad says he's good, Dad's father and Sirius are not giving Severus a hard time and he's pretty happy."
"Well that's good, isn't it?" Michael asked uncertainly.

Lily nodded. "Yes, of course it is, but Dad also told us that Severus is a part of him, a part of Albus, a part of James, a part of Mum and… a part of me," Lily cried, sobbing a little.

Michael was taken aback; he thought this news would be something to celebrate; he thought it was wonderful that Severus had become such a huge part of their family.

Michael held his wife tightly to him whilst she sobbed.
"Why are you so upset, Lily?" Michael whispered, kissing her on the forehead.

"I don't know," Lily cried. "I guess I just feel so stupid; how could none of us realise that Severus was a part of us? It never even crossed our minds! I just thought that if he meant that much to us, if he truly was with us all this time that we would have felt it- that I would have felt it- but I can't feel him near me- how can I really be sure that he is here? That he is a part of me?"

"You don't believe what your father said?"

"I do, I do, but I want proof, I want to see Severus and make sure he is okay, and make sure he's with me- I miss him so much, I just want to talk to him again!" Lily cried, half pleading, half in assertion.

"So is that what you have been thinking about? Are you trying to find a way to speak to Severus?" Michael asked as if finally realising what was preoccupying his wife's mind.

"I've already thought of a way," Lily whispered.

Michael stared wide eyed at Lily- not that she could see his expression for the room was in darkness.

"How?" Michael asked.

"Dad only threw the Resurrection Stone into the forest, he didn't even put protective spells around it, so if I could just go to the school right now when everyone is sleeping, I could find it, use it and no one would be any the wiser-" Lily blurted out.

Michael paused. He knew that this was not a good idea, but at the same time, he could tell how much his wife was relying on her plan to work and he didn't want to turn it down.

"Do you think it would work?"

"Why wouldn't it work? It may take me a while to find the stone, but once I do, there won't be a problem-"

"But the stone could be anywhere, Lily- it could take you a very long-"

"Why aren't you supporting me?" Lily fired back, clearly upset that Michael was not encouraging her to do as she wishes.

"I just think you need to realise that the stone could be anywhere in that forest," Michael repeated a little cautiously.

"I'm not stupid! Of course I realise it will take me a while, perhaps all night, but I will find it if it's the last thing I do!" Lily yelled, sitting up in bed and turning away from Michael.

"Why are you acting this way?"

"I just want you to support me Michael! Is that too much to ask?" Lily fired back. "And there's nothing wrong with me, it's just frustrating that you're not on my side!"
"I am on your-"

"Don't lie to me! You think it's a waste of time! That I should just move on from Severus- that seeing him again would just make me worse- that you will then have to endure another 3 weeks putting up with my grief, sorrow and pain- you don't want me to see Severus!" Lily cried hysterically.

Michael grabbed hold of Lily's hands which looked like they were about to get violent and said gently.

"You are putting words in my mouth, Lily. If you really want to find the stone and see Severus again then I wouldn't nor couldn't stop you. If you feel you need to speak to him after what you have discovered tonight, then I will support you because I love you and want you to be happy."

Lily continued to stare at her husband, but could feel her anger subsiding; she knew she had overreacted- that she shouldn't have lost her temper, but she so badly wanted to see Severus again, she just needed someone to understand and give her the permission to fulfill her desire to communicate with the man again.

"Thank you," Lily whispered, as she turned around and kissed Michael.

Then leaping out of bed, Lily put on her robes and cloak.

"You're going now?" Michael asked in disbelief; it was nearly 3am.

"Of course-"

"But it's late, Lily, I don't think your father would appreciate-"

"I'm not telling my dad!" Lily replied, smiling a little at her husband's stupidity.

"Why are you smiling at me?" Michael asked, concerned that Lily found this humorous.

"If I told my dad I wouldn't even get into Hogwarts! He would stop me from using the stone!"

"Then if you know your father would object, why are you going nonetheless? Why would you choose to secretly enter Hogwart's grounds without even telling the Headmaster?" Michael asked in a serious and stern tone as he too got out of bed and walked towards his wife.

"I just want to do this on my own- I have to do this Michael and telling Dad would only make things harder- it'll waste time." Then looking at the clock on the wall, Lily made towards the door, but Michael stood in front of her and Lily looked ready to attack him again.

"I support you in searching for the stone if that's what you want, but I will not endorse your desire to enter the school property without informing your father. If anyone else was headmaster of the school, I know you would do them the courtesy of informing them of your actions. Your father should be no different even if he does waste your time," Michael stated firmly.

Lily looked as if she was about to yell, but then quickly calmed down and said in an equally serious voice.

"I cannot write him a letter; it would take too long for him to receive it."

"Why don't you send your Patronus?" Michael suggested.

"You know I have not been able to produce a Patronus since Severus' death, Michael."

Michael, of course knew this, but hoped that maybe the extra adrenalin may have lifted Lily's spirits a little.

"You should try-"

"I can't!"

"But you haven't tried for weeks!"
"It doesn't matter! It won't work!"
"Not if you have that attitude, Lily," Michael replied gently.

Lily was staring aggressively at her husband; she knew deep inside that he was right, she should give it a try- it has been 3 weeks after all. But at the same time, Lily felt weak and incapable of producing a corporeal Patronus let alone a message as well.

Lily sighed. "Okay, I'll try but if I can't, will you send your Patronus instead?"

Michael nodded.

Lily grabbed her wand from the bedside table, held it in front of her and then thinking of what would happen when she got to speak to Severus again, she said:

"Expecto Patronum!"

A silver mist erupted from Lily's wand, but no tiger was to be seen.

Lily looked hopelessly at Michael who encouraged her to try again.

Thinking of the fact that if Severus was with her at the moment, he would have faith that she could do it- remembering how much Severus believed in her, Lily yelled again:

"Expecto Patronum!" and gasped as she watched her Patronus gallop out of sight towards Hogwarts. Realising that Lily didn't have to time to input a message into her Patronus, Michael sent his eagle soon after it, informing Harry that Lily would be at Hogwarts soon.

Lily was staring after her Patronus in disbelief and Michael gave her a reassuring hug.

"It'll be okay, Lily," he whispered as he walked her down to the fire place and gave her a loving kiss before leaving her to floo herself to Hogwarts. Once Michael was out of sight, however, Lily put the powder down and slowly opened the front door of their house, closed the door gently and placed the protective spells around the place before apparating to the outskirts of Hogwarts: she didn't care what Michael said- she needed to speak to Severus face to face.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

As Harry walked back to the castle, he realised that his most recent experience with the stone was just the closure he needed to move on, to finally confront Severus' portrait. Harry knew how ridiculous it was that he couldn't even walk into his own office for fear that Severus would be in the portrait staring back at him- fear that he, Harry would fall back into the sorrow and grief he felt weeks ago- he didn't want to go back there.

But Harry was ready now and thought he would just say a quick 'hi' to Severus and Dumbledore, before going to bed for the night.

Entering his office, instead of rushing up the stairs like he used to, Harry now smiled broadly at two of the greatest Headmasters of Hogwarts, as he approached the two portraits that hung above his desk.

"Long time no see, Severus," Harry said smiling. Severus returned the smile, laughing a little.

"I was hoping you would eventually take the opportunity to talk to my portrait- I see that tonight has given you some courage," Severus said gently.

Harry nodded.

"Good evening Professor Dumbledore," Harry said suddenly, wanting to escape the feelings that were threatening to take over him.

"Good evening, Harry. It's very late, shouldn't you be resting?" Dumbledore questioned looking concerned, but cheerful nonetheless.

Harry smiled sheepishly. "Yes, I should be but I just wanted to say good night I guess…"

Then looking at Severus, Harry continued: "I told my family what happened in the forest-"

"I know, I was there," Severus whispered quietly.

"They seemed really happy…"

"Indeed they were," Severus reinforced, smiling at the memory.

"I'm still worried about Lily though," Harry added, lost in thought. "She hardly said anything once I told her about you. I have no idea what was going through her mind…"

Severus didn't say anything, but Harry could tell Severus knew something he didn't.

Harry continued to stare at Severus, who gave no indication that he knew more than he was letting on. Finally, Severus spoke:

"She misses me."

"We all miss you, Severus! But there's something else, something more than just grief- I am truly worried about her," Harry persisted.

"She was thinking Harry-"

"About what, Severus? If you know something please tell me!"

But before Severus could give an answer a beautiful doe Patronus galloped into the office, causing Dumbledore, Severus and Harry to stare wide eyed at it as it stood momentarily before Harry and then disappeared only moments later.

Harry turned to look at Severus, who was staring transfixed at the spot where the doe had disappeared seconds ago.

About ten seconds later, another Patronus entered the office, an eagle which Harry knew to be Michael's, opened its beak and said:

"Lily's coming via the floo network to talk to you." And then it too, disappeared.

Harry was speechless and was expecting Lily to appear amongst green flames at the base of the fire place. Harry was waiting with bated breath, Severus and Albus watching behind him.

But no one came…

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Where is she?" Harry asked desperately, thinking that something may have happened to his daughter.

"I am sure she is coming Harry, give it some time," Albus reassured the man. Severus remained silent.

"Why would she want to talk to me? It is so late, she should be resting! I hope nothing is wrong," Harry said more to himself than anyone else. "Severus what do you think?"
"I am sure she is fine," he replied, as he too was staring at the fire place.

Another five minutes passed without any sign of Lily and Harry was getting very worried.

"Okay, where is she?" Harry asked, looking panicked between the fireplace and Severus' portrait. "She definitely should be here by now."

"I am sure she is fine," Severus responded.

Then turning to Dumbledore for further reassurance, he saw Albus looking over at Severus' portrait with a strange expression on his face.

"What is it Professor Dumbledore?" Harry asked, looking between the two Headmasters' portraits.

Albus paused before answering.

"That is the second time Severus has said 'I am sure she is fine', he has not said anything else since the Patronuses arrived," he observed.

"So… what does that mean?"
"Severus' essence is not with this portrait at the moment, he must is somewhere else," Dumbledore explained.
"Do you think he is with Lily?" Harry asked, wanting to know exactly what the old man meant.

"Yes, I believe that is quite possible."

Harry began to pace. Why didn't Severus say something? Surely he could have quickly visited his portrait momentarily just to let them know that Lily was okay? Where could they be?

Harry was thinking hard and trying to recall everything that happened at Grimmauld place. After ten minutes, it finally came to him- Lily missed Severus and the strange way she looked at him when he said that the Resurrection Stone was unprotected meant one thing- Lily was looking for the stone.

Grabbing his wand, Harry left his office, telling Dumbledore what he was doing but didn't hear the man's response as he ran down the spiral staircase.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Lily was walking towards the forest, wondering how long it was going to take her to find the stone. She felt a little guilty for lying to her husband, but at the same time, she knew she needed to do this; after everything she went through with Severus she had to make sure he was okay. As she entered the forest and whispered 'lumos' she suddenly felt a warmth in her heart and knew that Severus was with her. She didn't really know what was happening, but felt a pull towards the centre of the forest. Trusting her instincts and what she knew to be Severus' guidance, Lily smiled as she set foot through the brush and leaf litter. Any moment now she would be able to see Severus face to face and was delighted that the man himself, wanted to see her too. After all, Severus was leading her to the stone, she was sure of it. After 15 minutes of solid walking, the warmth in her heart disappeared and Lily knew this meant that the stone was somewhere nearby. Crouching down, Lily began to move the leaves and soil carefully, determined not to miss the small, black stone. Smiling more than she ever had before, Lily grasped the stone tightly, stood up and turned it over three times in her hand just how her father had told her, Albus and James all those years ago.

Lily felt a gentle breeze behind her and spun around to see none other than Severus standing there looking back at her.

"Hi Severus," Lily said, her tone completely different, the sight of him brought tears of happiness to her eyes- to see that Severus was okay, happy and smiling brought such a relief to Lily.

But Severus did not return the relief; while he was happy to see Lily and knew how much he meant to her, he did not approve of her actions.

"You should have told your father," was the first thing Severus said which made Lily's heart sink.

"I know, but-"

"The forest is still a dangerous place, especially this late at night. He is worried sick- we were expecting you to enter via the floo network in your father's office."

"I know, but when I saw my Patronus- your Patronus, I had to see you face to face. I just- I wanted to make sure you were okay," Lily protested, trying to justify why she lied to her father.

"Very well, but are you aware that my portrait resides in Harry's office? In coming via the floo network, you still would have been able to talk to me," Severus informed her gently.

Lily paused in shock. "I can't believe I forgot," Lily whispered.

"You were grieving, Lily," Severus consoled her; he knew what it was like to lose someone and forget everything else but the one you lost.

"But I was so desperate to see you- to talk to you. When I heard Dad mention the Resurrection Stone, I thought it was the only way…"
Severus didn't reply and allowed Lily to ponder silently- not a sound was made in the office. Suddenly, Lily's expression changed from disbelief to concern.

"How are you?"

"I am well and I am happy Lily as your father told you in the last hour or so."
Lily looked ashamed.

"I know, but I just wanted to see you for myself," she whispered, however childishly. "I'm glad you are okay," she continued.

Severus smiled to reflect just how 'okay' he truly was.

"So, if you have been in your portrait did you see my Patronus?" Lily asked with wide, eager eyes.

Severus stopped smiling and looked into Lily's eyes as he replied gently:

"Yes, I did."
Lily turned pale.

"Why is she with me? All she is going to do is remind me how much I miss you, Severus! What is wrong with me? Will I feel this wretched forever?" Lily cried, begging Severus for answers. In truth, Severus knew why his doe went to Lily, but was hoping she would figure it out herself. However, Lily's distress was so apparent that Severus saw no hope of her discovering what he already knew.

"There is nothing wrong with you," Severus persisted.

"No, I just have your Patronus following me- it's almost as if she wants to haunt me!" Lily exclaimed- ever since she saw the doe, Lily couldn't keep her mind off it.

"The doe isn't there to cause you pain Lily and let me remind you that that Patronus is no longer mine, she is yours now," Severus said gently.

"But I don't want to see your beautiful doe every time I produce a Patronus Severus!" Lily cried, tears in her eyes. "I want my old Patronus back, my Tigress, I wish I could just have that part of me back so I don't completely lose myself through all of this!" she cried hysterically.

"You know who you are Lily, you are strong-"

"I don't feel strong! I feel weak and helpless. Your death has changed who I am and I cannot see how I am going to ever be happy again! The fact that my Patronus has been replaced with your doe just proves how much your death has changed me- how am I ever going to get through this?" Lily begged, looking at Severus with pleading eyes.

"It will take time Lily, but I know you will find a way to move on- you are much stronger than you think," Severus encouraged her.

Lily paused, contemplating the idea that had been swirling around in her mind the last 5 minutes or so.

"Well… now that I know I can talk to you, that will make things easier, I hope," Lily thought out loud.

"No," he replied, staring avidly into Lily's eyes as he momentarily entered her being and determined what she was planning.

"But…" Lily was faltering under Severus' gaze; he had never looked so determined- so concerned. "I thought that I could come to Hogwarts every now and then and just talk to your portrait- make sure you are okay…"

But Severus didn't reply nor avert his eyes and continued to stare at Lily, not with aggression but with concern.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" Lily asked, tears of panic in her eyes.

"I will not let you do this to yourself," Severus said with care and authority.

"Well as long as Dad is able to let me in the castle you can't really do much about it…" Lily trailed off, wondering if this was in fact true.

"There are several things I can do-"

"And even if that is so, why would you want to stop me? Why does everyone want to prevent me from being happy?" Lily protested, half angry, half desperate for answers.

"It will not make you happy," Severus retorted back.

"What would you know? I am the one who misses you and personally I feel that seeing you would help that recovery, don't you?"
"No I don't," Severus answered calmly.

There was silence as Severus and Lily stared at one another.

Severus was suddenly distracted, as was Lily. Both of them could hear the same thing- a rustling among the trees, someone was coming. Severus knew it was Harry and focused much of his energy, like he did with Lily, to lead him to where they were standing.

"What is it, Severus?" Lily asked, looking scared as she drew out her wand and was prepared to fight whatever it was approaching them.

"Your father," Severus replied seriously, even though most of his energy was still with Harry. Within a couple of minutes, Harry had joined them, but not before Lily kept continuing with their conversation- apparently she had thought of some way of defending her decision and determination to see Severus even if the man himself, disagreed.

"You're being a protective parent, Severus. I know what I'm-"

"You have no idea the damage it could cause!"
"Oh, but you do, do you?"
"Yes, from personal experience!"
"What, with Lily? Well I can truly say that never seeing her again really did you some good! Maybe if you had the opportunity to use the Resurrection Stone back then you would have been able to move-

"Lily, don't-" Harry cut in the moment he arrived, knowing that his daughter was doing too far. But Lily ignored her father's warnings.

"-on before you reached the age of-"

"You have no idea what I know and don't you dare bring my relationship with Lily into this!" Severus hissed.

"Then what is it Severus? Please enlighten me with your almighty knowledge!" Lily cried sarcastically, out of despair and desperation.

"I don't want you to make the same mistakes I made-"

"But they are my mistakes to make, Severus!"
"Be that as it may, I will not be responsible for your suffering-"

"Suffering? MY suffering? Exactly how much more do you think I am capable of suffering? Of losing?"

"Much more than you already have!" Severus yelled.

"What do you know, Severus? What makes you so knowledgeable about my feelings?"
"The mere fact that I am a part of you, that I know your thoughts and the fact that my Patronus is now yours should give some indication I would think!"
"Then tell me, Severus tell me what I will suffer!" Lily cried, clearly frustrated and upset.

Severus calmed himself down before continuing; his temper was getting out of hand.

"The fact that your Patronus is a doe is telling you something-"

"That I am useless and pathetic!"
"Obtaining the Patronus of someone you love is NOT pathetic Lily!"
Lily knew this and felt ashamed by her outburst. Harry could hardly believe what he was hearing- although he knew Severus' views on his Patronus changed drastically before he died; nothing prepared him for such a bold and moving assertion. Severus paused to gather his thoughts before continuing.

"Your Patronus indicates that you are trying to hold onto me and seeing me whenever you choose will not make things better, it will only encourage you to hold on still tighter, you will never let go and your Patronus will never go back to the way it was."

"So what are you suggesting I do?"

"Recognise that your Patronus will change back when you have moved on… when you have finished grieving. When you have let go of me, my doe will leave you."
"That's never going to happen Severus," Lily whispered, resigned.

"Yes, it will."
"But it didn't happen to you though- your Patronus was a doe until the day you died," Lily pointed out.

Severus nodded. "True, but the circumstances under which I obtained a change in Patronus is different to yours. Lily was my whole life. I lived for her, I would have died for her, I had no one else in my life BUT her. You on the other hand have a husband, a family who love you and a job you adore. Although I became a large part of your life, I was not everything to you. Your character, your very essence was built around your sense of self, your friends and family whereas my identity revolved around Lily and what she meant to me. My change in Patronus, the only Patronus I ever had was permanent, but yours is temporary. That doe represents your loss and your grief- not your identity. When you have moved on, your Patronus will became a tigress once more," Severus explained.

"But won't seeing you every now and then help me move on?" Lily asked, feeling hopeful.

"No, because my Patronus alone, should be enough- you shouldn't have the need to see me-"

"You can't tell me what I should and should not need to do! What if your Patronus isn't enough for me?"
"But it should be-"

"Well it isn't Severus!"
"Do you know what that Patronus represents?" Severus demanded somewhat aggressively.

Lily was taken aback by the man's outrage.

"It means that you meant a lot to me- that I am finding it difficult to let you go…" Lily whispered.

"But there is something else too. More than anyone alive, you have been most affected by my death. This is not a weakness, Lily but it does mean that you have inherited my Patronus. This signifies to me that although I continue to live on in your family members, the individual who I am most strongly connected to is you. Although this means that you will find it harder than most to move on, you have that beautiful doe, something no one else has, to remind you that you do not need a magical stone or a portrait to know where I am. Seeing my Patronus form from the tip of your wand- by your magic shows where I truly live, not in a painting, nor a stone but within you," Severus spoke gently, as he watched a few tears cascade down Lily's cheeks.

"But it's just so hard to accept that you're not around anymore- that I cannot see you everyday," Lily whispered, softly crying.

"I never said it would be easy," Severus muttered back.

"You said that you didn't want me to make the same mistake you made… I don't understand what you meant…" Lily questioned, wondering if she missed something.

Severus averted his eyes and stared somewhere deep into the forest.

"When Lily died I truly felt she was lost forever- that I was completely alone- that she left me. Even when I saw that I also had her doe Patronus, it didn't even occur to me that she was still with me- that she still cared for me. I did not have the opportunity to talk to her after her death- I had no idea if she was well, if she was still with me or if she even cared. But you do, Lily. I am telling you right now that I will always be a part of you. If I had had the opportunity to talk to Lily all those years ago I would like to hope that I would have not been so terrible towards your father when he arrived at Hogwarts and I believe I would have recovered much better had I been able to accept that although physically absent from this world, Lily was always with me. I held onto her too much, I wanted her to come back, I wanted to bring her back- as your father witnessed that night in the forest- but it was only after that experience that I realised that I don't need her to come back because she is always with me, she's a part of me and that alone made me content. Although it took me a good while to move on, with the help of your parents, I managed it- I truly understood that not only was Lily a part of me, but that I never truly lost her to begin with."

"But knowing that I could see you everyday, knowing that your portrait is here and the Resurrection Stone is in the grounds, it's so hard to be content with the fact that you are a part of me- seeing you means so much more," Lily protested, she truly didn't think she had Severus' courage, regardless of what he may believe.

"My portrait would be like the Resurrection Stone to you, Lily. It's addictive. When I saw Lily for the first time in god only knows how many years, I couldn't take my eyes off her- I didn't want her out of my sight and as you know I wanted that moment to last forever. I feel that you will continue coming to my portrait to see me and talk to me, which I do not have a problem with- it takes no effort on my behalf. But I fear that you will begin to feel like I was- was still… alive."
Lily stared at Severus a while before protesting: "I know you are dead, Severus!"

"Yes, you know, it is fact, but there is a fine line between knowledge and acceptance, Lil-"

"Do we need to be philosophical now, Severus? Seriously? Why are you making this so complicated?!" Lily interrupted.

"Better complicated now than later!" Severus fired back.

"That is not for you to decide!" Lily cried back, tears in her eyes. "I am not a child! I can make my own decisions!"

"I know, I know," Severus said quietly, slightly ashamed of himself. Maybe he should let Lily do as she wishes, but inside Severus knew, he knew that her constant coming to visit him will not allow her to move on.

"I just really want you to get through this, Lily. I am dead and unfortunately no matter how many times you see me, that isn't going to change. I feel it is better if you do not see me at all until you have grieved a little more-"

"So you want me to suffer for longer?"

"Lily, you know that is not what I meant! Muggles go through many losses, never seeing or hearing from their passed love ones and as much as I treasure the portraits commemorating those who have left us and as much as I desired the Resurrection Stone when I was alive, it doesn't do us any good to dwell on them. To know that such instruments exist and yet ignore the opportunities they give us shows great strength-"

"Stop suggesting I am strong, Severus- I'm not like you, I can't do this!" Lily cried, exasperated.

Severus felt his face soften a little- he wished for nothing more than to be able to give Lily a hug. This wasn't easy for him either; he knew it would be so easy to give Lily what she wanted, but he also knew, having watched Lily these last couple of weeks and having entered her mind a few times, she will only suffer more if he let her fulfill her plan.

"I know this is probably the most difficult thing you have ever had to do in your life, Lily, but I am asking you to trust me- to have faith in me-"

"I do, Severus, I do- it's just-"

"Know that I am okay, KNOW that I am always with you and know that if you ever want to talk to me, just say whatever it is you wish to say and I will hear you. One of the most amazing things about this fourth dimension is that we are greatly influenced by those still living- we KNOW where our loved ones are and if they are thinking of us. It is strange and gets confusing at times, but it is a true gift for me and for you. Have faith in me Lily, I would not be doing this if I didn't believe it was worthwhile," Severus said, attempting to convince Lily of his sincerity.

"I do have faith in you Severus…" Lily trailed off.

"Thank you, Lily. I think it amazing that I could have formed such a close bond with you- with all of your family and your trust means a lot to me," Severus said graciously.

But Lily wasn't listening, her mind was elsewhere. "So if myself, Dad and Mum are all thinking about you at the same time does that mean you are in fact in 3 places at once?" Lily inquired, whether out of curiosity or to devise another plan, Severus wasn't sure.

"No, I can only truly be in one place at any one time. For example, if I were to go to Grimmauld Place to be with your mother, my portrait would still be here but the conversation you would have would simply be an echo of my character- no new thoughts would be produced and my knowledge would be restricted to what I knew before I died," Severus explained.

Lily nodded her head in understanding.

With all the kindness and gentility he could muster, knowing the reaction he was about to receive, Severus suggested: "It is getting extremely late, perhaps you and your father should get some rest."

Harry looked more than willing to obey, but Lily wasn't so keen and remained stationary in front of Severus' revived form.

"Can I come and see you tomorrow?" Lily asked, but she didn't sound hopeful- in fact, Severus felt she only asked to show Severus just how much she wanted to see him- how much pain he was causing her.

Severus shook his head. "I think it would be best if you didn't come and visit me until you have-"

"But you cannot stop me Severus!" Lily protested, but sounded as though she only half believed it.

"It is true, you could come to see my portrait and no, I couldn't stop you, but if you do, I will not be here when you arrive," Severus replied gently, but firmly.

Lily looked as if she had been slapped across the face; how could he be so cruel?
"Then I'm not going to let go of the stone!" she yelled, clenching the black stone tightly in her hand.

"Lily-" Severus began gently.

"Dad gets to see you everyday! Why can't I?" she demanded, interrupting Severus.

"Because your father will not be talking to me to live in the past. He has moved on and I daresay he will be asking me for advice about the running of Hogwarts," Severus replied smiling a little, glancing over at Harry briefly before Lily screamed:

"THAT'S UNFAIR!"

Severus was taken aback, but kept his ground.

"I know Lily, but it's important-"

"To you maybe!"

"I'm so sorry-"

"No you're not!"

Severus felt his blood begin to boil- did she really think he took pleasure in this?

"Do not believe for a second that this is easy for me, Lily," Severus said through a clenched jaw.

"WELL THIS MAY BE HARD FOR YOU, BUT THIS FEELS LIKE TORTURE TO ME!" Lily cried hysterically.

Harry didn't know what to do. He wanted to comfort his daughter- he could only imagine how hard this would be for her, but at the same time, he knew his daughter would probably push him away if he made the attempt- she seemed beyond consolidation.

"I do not wish to torture you Lily, I am trying to help-"

"Then help me by letting me do what I want- stop trying to control my life!"
"I am only doing this because I care for you- I love you-"

"IF YOU LOVE ME SO MUCH YOU WOULD BE HAPPY TO SEE ME EVERYDAY, EVEN IF IT IS AGAINST YOUR BETTER JUDGEMENT!" Lily shrieked.

"YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH I WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOU EVERYDAY- TALK TO YOU- BE WITH YOU- THIS ISN'T EASY FOR ME EITHER, LILY!" Severus yelled back as he felt tears forming in his eyes.

"Then make it easier for both of us and let me see you, please!" Lily begged as she fell to the ground and sobbed.

"I can't Lily, because I know that this will work and one day you will understand that the only thing that matters is that I am always here if you need me, that only place you will find me is in your heart, in your memories, in your soul. I am always with you," Severus reminded her, allowing his tears to fall.

"Please don't go," Lily begged, staring up at Severus, shocked to see that he was crying.

"Well I can't, until you let go of the stone," Severus said cautiously, wondering if the stone was going to possess Lily as it did him all those years ago.

Lily looked momentarily at the little stone on her hand and then back up to Severus. Harry was feeling apprehensive, preparing himself to prise the stone out of his daughter's hands if it came to that, but he truly hoped it wouldn't.

"Please let go, Lily," Severus said gently.

But Lily was silent, staring avidly at Severus but evidently thinking.

"I will never leave you. You know where to find me," Severus continued, hoping it may encourage Lily to let go of the stone. Using his energy to focus his love onto Lily, who jumped a little and gasped as she felt her body- her heart, fill up with Severus' love- the same love she felt not long before.

"Please stop," Lily whispered, for the feeling was overwhelming her.

Severus and Harry watched as tears fell down Lily's cheeks and both of them relaxed, believing- hoping that Lily would release the stone.

Turning away from Severus for a moment, Lily wiped her eyes on her sleeve, then turning back around she whispered:

"I hate you." and threw the stone into the forest before she fell to her knees and burst into tears.

Harry walked over to his daughter and bent down to help her up. But Lily didn't want to move and continued to sob hysterically. Harry had tears in his eyes as he knelt down in front of his daughter and gave her a hug.

"Why did he do this to me?" Lily asked her father, through her tears.

"He cares about you. Severus doesn't want you to suffer for the rest of your life, like he almost did," Harry tried to explain.

"I know, but it's just so hard- I know he is with me, that he loves me, that he will never truly leave, but it's so harsh- I just miss him. Is that wrong?" Lily asked, her cheeks tearstained as she pulled away from her father to look into Harry's eyes.

"No, Lily it isn't wrong at all. It just makes things that much harder for you, but-" Harry resolved, bringing his daughter close to him once more, "myself, your mother, your brothers and Severus- we are all here for you."

Lily managed to stand up and was immediately embraced by her father and together they stood in the forest for a while thinking about Severus.

"Did you see my Patronus?"

"Yes, I did," Harry said gently. "She's-"

"Beautiful," Lily finished for him, tears pouring down her face.

"Yes, beautiful," Harry agreed, nodding his head and kissing his daughter on her forehead as they walked up to the castle together. "Severus never truly left you…"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Once Lily had calmed down some twenty minutes later, Harry suggested she go home and have a good rest. Lily was too exhausted to argue, so said good night to Dumbledore and her father and disappeared into the fireplace.

Once she had left, Harry turned to look at Dumbledore, who was smiling at him.

"She will be okay," Dumbledore assured his ex- student.

"I know, but it will be so hard on her and I don't think it will be easy on Severus either. I never realised their relationship was so strong- Lily's Patronus- it's amazing…"

Dumbledore nodded. "The power of human love, faith and trust is tremendous… they will get through this," Dumbledore reinforced, surveying Harry over his glasses; clearly the man was very tired.

"I hope so," Harry said yawning, as he began to ascend the stairs.

"Have faith in her strength, Harry," Dumbledore called gently after him.

Harry smiled to himself as he continued to his sleeping quarters and collapsed onto his bed.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Severus watched as Lily left him only to be swallowed up by the light, white brightness that was the after life. But Severus did not feel free and happy like his environment suggested but a mixture of many things: anger, frustration, guilt… sadness. All Severus could see were Lily's wet, brown eyes staring so angrily back at him. Severus tried his best to push the image out of his mind, but couldn't. Why was it so hard to do what was right?

Sitting down in some place within the dimension he now resided in, Severus dwelled on Lily's last words to him over and over again: "I hate you."

The memory of it made Severus truly upset- he never wanted things to end this way, he wanted to help and now look what he had done.

"Severus?" a quiet voice came from somewhere behind him, but Severus knew immediately who it was and didn't bother turning around.

Receiving no reply, Harry's mother nevertheless sat down next to her friend and watched his tortured face.

"Are you okay?" she asked gently, putting an arm around Severus and hugging him close to her. Severus couldn't speak; he was so deep in thought. But the best thing about the after life is that they had all the time in the world, so Lily waited for Severus to be ready.

"Lily used the Resurrection Stone," Severus began in a whisper, tears falling slowly down his face.

"It didn't go well?" Lily asked sympathetically.

Severus shook his head.

"Did she refuse to let go like you once did?" Lily delved further trying to find out what was so terrible.

Severus shook his head again.

"No, she let go," Severus replied with a sigh of relief.

"Then what happened?" Lily pressed, interested to find out more.

"She threw the stone away, but before she did, she said she hates me... What have I done?" Severus asked himself as he stared at the ground.

"It sounds like she was upset, Severus. I know she doesn't truly hate you, she couldn't," Lily reassured her friend.

"You don't even know what I did- what I said-"

"Well what did you say?"

Severus turned to look into Lily's green eyes.

"Lily wished to go to Hogwarts every day to visit my portrait. I told her that she shouldn't because then she will never be able to move on, but she disagreed with me. In the end, I told her that if she did come to Hogwarts to visit me I would intentionally make myself absent."

Lily gasped.

"Please do not tell me I am a terrible person," Severus whispered, staring at the ground.

Lily lifted Severus' face up so that he was looking at her.

"You are not a terrible person, Severus. But Lily is grieving-"

"I know! I know! But if she will always live in the past if she talks to me everyday and I do not want her to be holding onto me like that, because the reality is that I am dead and no matter how many times she sees me or wishes for me to be alive, it will never happen. Living in the past is not worth the time, the energy, the pain!" Severus protested.
"And you would know wouldn't you?" Lily asked gently, giving Severus a hug.

Severus hugged her back, relieved that she thought no less of him.

"I do not want her to suffer like I did. I was trying to protect her but I think the only thing I have done is made her hate me."
"She does not hate you Severus; she's upset-"

"But you didn't see the way she looked at me, Lily! I've never seen her so angry and disappointed. I feel terrible," Severus admitted.

"I remember the night you resurrected me. The last thing I saw was you so upset, angry and traumatized. I knew how much you had already suffered- that life was difficult for you and all I could think was that resurrecting me was the worst thing for you. The stone had control over you and it was so scary and I feared that your memories of me would torture you forever. Although you agreed to try to get past your grief and while I trusted you, I was so scared that the rest of your life would be plagued with your past. Until Harry was able to help and succeed in taking the stone off you, I had to be strong, but the moment you let go, I dropped the façade and before I knew what was happening I found James and was sobbing on his shoulder." Lily paused and saw that Severus had turned away from her. Resting her hand on Severus' leg, gaining his attention for a moment, Lily continued.

"It was only at that moment that I truly realized how much you had suffered because of me. While it is one thing to feel your love and grief- which I have felt since the day I died- it is another to see it and Severus, it was very difficult for me to watch you struggle like that- I wanted so badly for things to be easy for you. I never wanted that for you, I loved you and wanted you to be happy. I told James what happened and admitted to him that I feared you hated me because I forced you to let go- that I couldn't sacrifice my after life to be with you if that's what you wanted. After all you had been through, didn't you deserve at least that? I felt terrible, guilty, sad and worried because unfortunately I was dead and could not do anything to help you and that was what pained me the most. But James calmed me down and you know what he said to me?"

Severus shook his head, but was intensely curious as to what James would have said.

"James said to me: 'Lily, look at what Severus had been through in his life- look at how much he has risked for you, everything that he has suffered and experienced because of his love for you. Severus has loved you his whole life- he won't stop now'." Lily recited, smiling.

"He was right," Severus reinforced, amazed that James would say something like that.

"Sev, I know you do not want her to suffer, but no matter what you do, she will suffer either way. I know how difficult it is, it was terrible to watch you everyday being so unhappy and feeling so empty. But I had to have faith that you would get through it without me and you did. Lily is strong, just like you and she will be okay. She has Harry, Ginny and her family to support and love her. She's not alone, Sev."

"I know, but I miss her and I care about her too, but no matter how many times I told her how much she means to me, she couldn't see nor accept that through her anger."
"But one day she will understand, give her some time," Lily resolved, rubbing Severus' back.

Severus nodded his head and hoped Lily was right.

"Lily's Patronus is a doe," Severus whispered, whilst savouring Lily's touch.

Smiling, Lily replied: "And you thought she hated you? Oh Sev," Lily said, kissing Severus' forehead as she stood up. "Lily is no different from you. No matter what she says, no matter how much she suffers, she will always love you," Lily whispered as she squeezed Severus' hand, stood up and left Severus to dwell with his thoughts a little while longer.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Thankfully the following day was a Saturday and even though the students would have been expecting Harry in the Great Hall for breakfast, Harry slept in until 10am.

After waking and getting dressed, he walked down stairs, hoping to talk to Severus to see if he was okay before having a late breakfast.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs, Severus was not in his portrait. Looking towards Dumbledore, the latter knowing immediately what was on Harry's mind, said:

"I have not seen Severus since he left last night," but didn't sound at all concerned.

"Would you be able to look for him, for me? I would really like to speak to him," Harry asked, knowing that it wouldn't take Dumbledore long to skirt in and out of the portraits throughout the castle.

"Certainly," Dumbledore nodded and disappeared.

30 seconds later, the man returned, telling Harry that Severus was in an empty classroom on the second floor and did not wish to be disturbed.

Dwelling on what Dumbledore told him, Harry considered whether or not he should talk to Severus. Perhaps he should just let it be? But at the same time, just as Severus had predicted, he also wanted to know how Lily was this morning.

"Perhaps I will visit him and if he truly doesn't want me to be present, I will leave," Harry thought out loud.

Dumbledore nodded, his eyes twinkling and Harry knew he approved.

Leaving his office, Harry descended the stairs, eventually finding the classroom that Dumbledore had indicated to him.

Harry slowly opened the classroom door and closed it softly behind him. But no matter how quiet he was, he could not be unnoticed by Severus. Severus was residing in a portrait, whose occupant was currently absent.

Harry walked up to Severus, eager to determine his expression.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked quietly.

"Yes," Severus replied simply.

Harry paused. "Why don't you come back to the office?"

"I prefer to be alone at the moment," Severus insisted, staring at Harry, clearly indicating he wanted him to leave. But Harry stood his ground.

"She doesn't hate you, Severus," Harry said gently. "I think you did the right thing," "She is still horrified by my actions last night and I am beginning to wonder whether I did the right thing," Severus admitted.

"So Lily is still upset?"

"Of course she is still upset!"
"But she is okay though? Michael is with her right?"

Severus nodded his head and Harry breathed a sigh of relief; the last thing he wanted was for his daughter to be alone during a time like this.

"She knows you were trying to protect her, Severus," Harry continued, in a comforting way.

"Yeah- well-" Severus said bitterly.

"I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to do that- to push her away from you- I can tell how much you miss her..."
Severus nodded at the bottom of the portrait which was covered with dark brown timber.

"Hey," Harry said gently in an effort to gain Severus' attention. Severus looked up and Harry could see he was clearly in pain. "She will be okay."

"I know," Severus whispered. "I just wish I could make it easier for her."
"You of all people should know that grief is the hardest, most draining experience that humans are faced with. It was never going to be easy for Lily and it still isn't, but you can't change that- you just have to let her be in despair... for a while…"
Severus was looking at Harry in disbelief.

"I feel her pain, her despair, it's not easy for her, but it isn't easy for me either and the fact she accused me of not-" Severus broke off as if he couldn't go on any more.

"Oh Severus, she was upset, she didn't mean those things," Harry insisted.

Severus remained silent.

"Everything will be okay, Severus. Please come back to your portrait," Harry requested of him.

"Maybe later," Severus replied.

Taking that as a reasonable answer for now, Harry made his way towards the door.

"Harry," Severus said suddenly, causing Harry to jump a little, but spun around eagerly nonetheless, to hear what Severus was going to say.

"I spoke to your mother last night."

Harry was silent for a while.

"Did that help?" Harry asked, knowing that his mother would have hopefully been able to provide Severus with some comfort.

Severus nodded.

"See you soon, Severus," Harry smiled, glad that his mother was still a part of Severus' life. Bidding his friend farewell, Harry made his way to the Great Hall for some breakfast.

After brunch, Harry returned to his office, but Severus had not yet returned to his portrait.

"How is he?" Dumbledore asked.

"He's just- I think he is just dwelling on what happened. I feel he will be okay- he said he may come back to his portrait later," Harry added, looking at Severus' portrait briefly to find it still empty.

"What Severus did was very difficult- I am actually quite proud of him," Dumbledore admitted, smiling a little.

"Me too," Harry laughed.

"It is something I would have done, but for a different reason; not because I loved them but because I knew it was right- not out of passion but due to knowledge." Dumbledore sighed. "Severus risked everything to show Lily just how much she means to her."

"Are you talking about my daughter or my mother?" Harry joked.

"Both," Dumbledore replied seriously. "He is a good man- a better man than I ever knew he could be."

"Thank you, Albus," Severus said and Harry laughed as he saw that Severus had returned to his portrait with a small smile on his face.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

5 years later

There was a huge celebration occurring in the Great Hall tonight. Like the previous Headmaster, Severus, Harry also received a huge farewell party from Hogwarts as this was going to be his final week as Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Although Harry had not been headmaster for too long (compared to Severus before him and Dumbledore before that), he had taught at Hogwarts for many years prior and couldn't quite believe that he was leaving the school again; he was truly going to miss it. Even though he had made a wonderful home at Grimmauld Place, he always remembered how much Hogwarts meant to him as a student- how it was his home away from the Dursleys and couldn't help getting a little emotional when his students and staff were telling him that Hogwarts would miss his leadership and presence- he truly hoped they were right.

But at the same time, amongst the sadness was happiness too. With the best food being served at the tables made by none other than the house elves and with his family, Ron and Hermione's family also present, he couldn't help but be happy that everyone he loved were with him on this day.

After the formalities of the night had finished, which included Harry's farewell speech which he spent a week writing, not that he was about to admit that to anyone except Ginny, the students began to disperse to their dormitories or otherwise play games at their house tables. Harry turned to Lily who was sitting at his right.

"Have you seen him yet?"

"No," Lily whispered back so that no one else could hear her. "I couldn't see him in any of the portraits. I thought he would have come to hear your farewell."

Harry nodded. "Me too, but we know he's here in spirit," Harry smiled, knowing how true, however clichéd those words were.

Lily laughed. "Yes, I have no doubt he is here somewhere. Do you think he would be in your office?"

"Most likely." But then looking more serious, Harry continued. "I am really proud of you, Lily."

Lily smiled. "Thanks, Dad."

"You have waited a long time for this," Harry went on.

"I know, but at least now I know I am ready," Lily whispered.

Harry kissed his daughter and gave her a hug. "The password is 'Expelliarmus'" Harry whispered into Lily's ear.

Lily laughed. "Seriously Dad? 'Expelliarmus?'"

Harry laughed with her. "Yes, and don't laugh at me, that spell was very useful-"

"Yes Dad, I know the stories," Lily interrupted, sighing a little as a joke- she was just riling up her father.

"Off you go," Harry insisted, laughing as he said so.

Lily smiled in reply as she made her way to her father's office and the place she hoped Severus would be waiting for her.

Upon entering the headmaster's office, Lily closed the door, took a deep breath and walked up to Severus' portrait.

Sure enough, Severus was waiting for her and his smile could not be broader.

"Good evening Lily," Severus greeted her.

"Hi Severus," Lily replied smiling, taking in the appearance of her friend of whom she hadn't seen in many years.

"How was the party?"

"Greatly amusing; Dad wrote a great speech and some of the things said by the students were also truly worth hearing."

"I'm glad; Hogwarts will miss him; he has been a great Headmaster."

Lily nodded in agreement. "And I know he will miss it too- but I know how much Dad also wants to spend time with us as well, he is getting on in years."

"It is wonderful that he wishes to spend more time with you."

Lily nodded.

"How have you been, Lily?" Severus asked, surveying her closely.

Lily laughed. "Why do you even ask Severus? You and I both know that you already know the answer!"

Severus joined in the laughter.

"I'm really good," Lily continued. "Your plan worked!"

"It wasn't a plan Lily, I just wanted you to be happy and-"

"Not make the same mistake you did?" Lily finished in a teasing way.

"Correct," Severus replied, inclining his head.

"Well I'm very happy and seeing you now- I wish I was able to talk to your portrait all those years ago, but I suppose resurrecting you with a Deathly Hallow was enough," Lily said, with a dreamy sigh.

"You must have missed me a lot, this portrait is not much to look at," Severus asserted kindly.

"Why would I miss someone who is with me wherever I go?" Lily replied with sincere conviction.

Severus smiled, relief, fulfillment and happiness filling him up.

"Oh, I should probably tell Dad I found you; we weren't sure if you would be up here or not," Lily said, whipping her wand out.

"Expecto Patronum!" Lily cried as she watched her Tigress leave the room with a smile on her face.

"I knew you had the courage, Lily," Severus whispered, smiling at Lily and her Patronus.

Lily spun around. "Thank you for having faith in me, Severus."

"I've always had faith in you since you were a young girl."

"I know," Lily admitted.

"And thank you for trusting me, I know it was difficult for you originally…" Severus continued.

Lily smiled and looked into her friend's eyes. "I've trusted you ever since the day Greyback sought to impersonate you; it was just a little harder that day in the forest..."

Both Lily and Severus reflected on those memories, not quite believing everything they as well as Albus, James, Ginny and Harry had experienced together. But before they could continue with any further conversation they were bombarded with an army of people who entered Harry's office- the Potters and the Weasleys, intending to continue their celebrations away from the students who should be getting some rest.

Everyone continued to celebrate deep into the night so Lily and Severus did not have the opportunity to talk again. But it didn't matter; Lily knew where to find Severus if she ever needed him…