If Severus had known how cold it was going to be, he would have brought a heavier set of robes. Somehow, he had always envisioned the afterlife a bit warmer than this.
Wandering was never a habit that Severus Snape was good at. There had to be a purpose of where to go and when to be there. Punctuality. Reason. Those were just a few of the tenents that he had lived by. However wandering seemed to be the only activity he was able to do. Wandering in an alien sort of landscape, devoid of houses or schools or any sort of hint of human existence or non-existence for that fact. Mist and fog is all that surrounded him in a countryside that offered little more than a few rocks and stubble of brush. It was jarring to him. A boring eternity might be more of a punishment for a life squandered than the fiery one he had always thought in store for him.
Severus narrowed his eyes to focus in on a point on the horizon. What seemed to be a new rock formation had appeared. Barely visible through the mist, the rock stood out among the smaller items on the terrain. Hoping to break his boredom, he started to walk toward the large stone. As he neared his destination, he noticed the rock moved.
Severus froze and tried to determine whether to continue his trek. Although he had not met any monsters or demons in this world, the possibility still was there.
"Damn it," he cursed. "Better to hold a conversation with a devil than to persist in the tedium."
Nearing the rock, he could see that the form had a familiar look to it. But not until he was directly in front of the form could he tell what he was looking at.
"Albus," he said in an incredulous tone.
Albus Dumbledore looked up from the book he had been reading. A smile crept across his face as he recognized his former pupil and teacher.
"Severus," he said cheerfully. "Come sit down. So good to see you again."
Severus gingerly sat on a rock across from his old headmaster. Albus seemed to be in fine health, unlike the last few months at Hogwarts they had spent together. There was a rosy glow to Albus' cheeks and it looked like he had actually put on some weight.
"I am surprised that I have not seen you before this," Severus said cautiously. "Where have you been?"
"Oh here and there," Albus answered in a jolly manner. "I have been around."
Severus thought for a second. "I was rather disappointed that I did not see you at first. I thought that in the afterlife those who had passed before help usher in those who had just died."
"Well normally they do," Albus said. He closed the book he had been reading and placed it in his lap. "But when a person dies before their time or under strained circumstances we sometimes allow them time to adjust. Let them get used to the idea of being dead so that they can make the transition."
"I suppose I fit into that category," Severus mumbled sadly.
"Oh you did fine," Albus comforted. He patted Severus on the hand. "There are some that never make that transition. Oh, they return to the living and make a mess. Haunting houses they lived in, or chasing about after their widows and survivors. Sometimes they are caught and cannot return. The sad ones are the souls that get the exorcists or those damn psychics involved. Boggles them up, makes it almost impossible to settle down."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "What about the ghosts at Hogwarts? Did they muck it up and not make the transition?"
Albus shook his head. "No, they made the transition and then made the choice to go back. Nick, the Grey Lady, they were all here before. It is quite logical once you think about it. It is somewhat like orientation day at a school."
"A school for the dead," Severus sighed. "Yes, I suppose one has to learn how to be dead."
"Dying is a natural act. Staying that way and continuing on takes some instruction," Albus said shaking a finger in the air.
"So am I learning now?"
"You have been all along. There have been some actions that have been holding you back on the process."
"You having been asking one question all this time and not accepted the answer."
"Why? I have been asking why."
"The answer is?" Albus prompted.
"Because, I suppose." Severus folded his arms in front of his chest and shook his head. "I keep asking what would have happened if I had lived. For that fact, what difference does it make? I made no noticable ripple in life. I should have never been born."
"I could show you, if you wanted to see."
"Please, Albus. Don't bother with that Wonderful Life pap. I really don't need that. In fact, if you wanted to make me happy you could show me what my life would have been like if James Potter had never lived. Now there would be a story I would like to see the ending to."
"I am sorry, Severus, but it wouldn't change a thing. Lily would have never married you and there still would have been a Harry Potter."
"How could that be? If there was no James…"
"Maybe not Harry, although I dearly love the child. But there would have been someone to battle Voldemort. Perhaps someone we knew or more than not someone who we never knew. These forces are ancient and powerful yet they are balanced. Whenever there is evil so dynamic there will be a pureness of heart that will spring into action to keep it in check. It has happened before, and it will happen again."
Severus glanced down to the ground to avoid Albus' eyes. "This is not going so well, Albus. I was feeling better when I was alone. You seem to have the answer to everything."
"That is the marvelous bonus about dying," Albus cried out startling Severus from his ground gazing. "When the transition is complete, you do have the answers to all of the questions you ever had. We spend our lives searching for these and we get them the minute we die. It is bloody wonderful."
Albus picked up the book from his lap and thumped his hand on it. "See here. Einstein, the Muggle physicist, searched all his life for the answers to the universe. When he died, he was thrilled to get them all. So thrilled he writes a book a week on all the answers to all of the questions that are asked."
Albus handed the book to Severus. Timidly, Severus opened it and started to leaf through the pages.
"You surprise me," Severus said quietly. "Reading Muggle writers. Not quite what I expected. Besides, if you all ready know the answers why read the book?"
"I enjoy what Albert writes," Albus exclaimed. "Good trivia. Some questions carry more importance to some than to others. Good to see what is on everyone's mind. Besides, he always includes a Soduko puzzle or two which I enjoy solving."
Severus stared at Albus in amazement. "What has happened to you, Albus? Reading the Einstein book-of-the-week and solving Soduko puzzles is not what I expected you would be doing in the hereafter."
"You need to leave the Muggle hating business out to pasture, my friend," Albus admonished. "If I were into the popular psychology of today, I would say it is a form of self-hate. Besides, Muggles are some of the more interesting people you will meet here. It is the wizards who I can hardly stand. All sitting about waving wands that don't work anymore. Talking about the good old days and what a big name wizard they were in life. BNW, we call them here. Bloody boring. They are always the ones who want to return and cause a ruckus in the living world. Now the Muggles don't care about going back as much. And the have a jolly good time while, let me tell you."
Albus stood up and walked over to a small bush. He pointed at it with his left finger and a small fire ignited.
"Your eternity is cold," he said. "I wish you would hurry up and decide to make your transition before I freeze."
"Sorry," Severus snapped back. "I just learned what I needed to do. I have been wandering about without one for awhile."
A short silence fell between the two wizards punctuated only by the crackle of the fire. Severus felt shame as he realized at how short he had been with Albus.
"I suppose you don't see much of the old crowd then," Severus said quietly hoping to break the chill between them.
"I see Moody once in awhile," Albus replied. "He comes over and we drink a pint or two. See the Lupins quite a bit. They are gone this weekend. Had a graduation at Hogwarts to attend."
Severus looked baffled at the remark and Albus laughed. "Teddy. He is graduating this weekend."
"Teddy was just a baby…" Severus' voice trailed off.
"Yes, he was just a baby when you died," Albus said softly as the realization crept across Severus' face. "He is a young man now. A handsome one that did well in school. Oh Dora and Remus are so proud of him."
Albus left the comfort of the fire and placed his hand on Severus' shoulder. "Yes, my friend. You have been dead for all this time. Of course, time does not have the same meaning to us as it does to the living. If you read that book, Albert tells you all about the differences."
Severus slowly closed the book and returned it to Albus. "I am ashamed of myself. It seems that not only have I wasted my life but I also seem to be wasting eternity."
"Not at all," Albus said. He returned to his rock across from Severus and sat down. "We all take our own time in these matters. You have not taken any longer than some to make this transition."
Albus leaned closer to him and motioned as if he were going to tell a secret. "You know, Harry has a family now."
"No, I did not."
"Named one of his sons after us. Told the child that he was named after two of the greatest wizards Harry ever knew."
Severus perked up a bit. "Really. So he is called Severus Albus?"
Albus coughed with embarrassment. "Not exactly."
"Oh, well then he is called Albus Severus then? Still it is a great honor, I suppose. Albus Severus Potter. Albus Severus Potter."
Suddenly Severus' face turned from its normally pallid color to a bright beet red of anger. He jumped up from the rock and raised his fists over his head.
"Albus Severus bloody Potter. A.S.P. Great Merlin swinging in a tree, the man mocks me to the grave!!!" Severus screamed in anger.
"Now, now I don't think there was any intent to insult you," Albus comforted. He grabbed Severus'arm and gently pulled him back down to his seat on the rock. "Please, calm down. This is a peaceful place and all this caterwauling is going to get others upset."
"You probably knew that," Severus said between panting. "I mean, you and all your cronies seeing you know all the answers."
"Well, it was discussed," Albus admitted. "But it was decided it was pure coincidence. The living are like that. I don't think any harm was intended."
Albus rose from his seat and patted Severus' back. "I think what you need is to meet some new people. I am having a small dinner party tonight and you should come. "
Severus' breathing was returning to normal allowing him to speak. "And who exactly is attending this soiree?"
"Oh, just a few friends," Albus said nonchalantly. "Maria Montessori. Edgar Allan Poe. Catherine the Great. Houdini and his wife. They need a good get away from it all after Halloween. Everyone trying to raise them up in séances and such. Louise Brooks. Robert the Bruce. Martin Luther. He is a bit of a bore but he does some wonderful card tricks everyone enjoys. We are having BBQ, quite casual."
"When did you start eating BBQ?" Severus laughed in spite of himself.
"Lots of good BBQ cooks are here," Albus said defensively. "I think it had something to do with their diet while they were alive. As it is, we are serving my favorite. BBQ goat."
Severus shuddered at the thought of eating BBQ goat and Albus noticed. He laughed and again slapped Severus on the back.
"We will see you then?"
"How will I find you?"
"The same way you did this time. You are slowly getting all the answers. Soon nothing will be will be a mystery to you. Come by at eight. And bring your own booze. I know what you like but I won't have that foul brew in my house."
Albus turned to leave and then stopped. He tapped the side of his head as if an idea had suddenly crossed his mind.
"And if it is not too much trouble, do try to clean up a bit. A comb through your hair would really make a big difference. Really, Severus it is not too much to ask. Maria, Louise and Cat are good-looking girls you know. Clean up a bit and lose the attitude and you might solve that virginity issue you had in life."
Severus gasped at the statement and turned crimson with mortification. Albus shrugged and pointed his finger at him.
"Eight. Don't be late."
Albus turned and walked into the mist, disappearing almost in an instant. Severus, now alone, looked about. The fire had died down, now only embers and some charred branches remained. Albus' book remained behind; obviously, the headmaster had forgotten it. Severus picked it up and began to flip through its pages again.
"Solve the virginity issue," he sulked. "Really Albus, I think I liked you better when you were not around as much. As far as that issue with virginity, at least I did not have to wait as long as you did to solve the situation. You and your boy toy, that is."
Severus shivered. "I must be getting the hang of this. I am getting the answers to some of my questions. Like it or not."