It came in waves.
Other times he was just numb.
What were the stages of grief? He wasn't sure. He should remember. Hadn't he already been going through it? What stage was he at? Did that process continue or did this just hit the reset button?
He could only think of silly things. Pointless things. Nothing of consequence.
When did he start letting them call him 'Sev'?
Where was that little freckle he liked? Her left side? Her right?
When was the last time he heard her laugh?
What was that look Regulus gave him before he walked out the door?
Why hadn't he stopped him?
Why had she cried? He couldn't remember.
He only remembered her walking out the door.
Why hadn't he stopped her?
"Severus Snape. Are you even listening to me?"
Listen to me.
Did he ever listen?
The clues had been there. For months.
How many hints had Regulus given him? Was he asking him for help?
And Lily. He never listened to her.
"That was nothing. It was a laugh...What about the things Potter and his mates get up to...I just don't want to see you made a fool of..."
His own words mocked him.
"Do you understand the seriousness of your situation, Mr Snape? If you do not cooperate –"
"The Dark Lord is interested in meeting you...just make sure you cooperate...whatever is asked of you..."
He would never have dreamed he could find himself in a more wretched position than he had when he was eighteen. Seventeen. Sixteen.
How many times could you lose a person?
He'd lost count how many times he had lost her.
To James Potter.
To Harry Potter.
Severus slowly raised his eyes to the man facing him. His hands were bound in his lap. His wand was in another room somewhere. He didn't look when they had taken it. He hadn't cared.
"Do not think that Dumbledore's statement guarantees your release. If you do not cooperate with this investigation you will be held in contempt."
Severus didn't have the energy, nor did he have the desire to even respond to him.
Did this man dance in the street with the others the night she died? Did he toast to freedom and righteousness and good conquering evil? Did he hail the 'boy-who-lived' and drink to Potter's name?
"Have you ever used an unforgivable against those who opposed You-Know-Who?"
"Do you understand that the very act of using an unforgivable, and that act alone, is enough to send you straight to Azkaban?"
"You do not appear at all concerned with this charge, Mr Snape."
"I was not aware that I was being charged."
"It is up to myself to make that decision."
"Then make it."
Silence filled the room. Silence. Emptiness. Nothingness. How appropriate.
"Mr Snape, many of those who are currently facing the same charges have offered your name in exchange for leniency."
Severus held the man's gaze, unflinchingly.
"Perhaps there is a name you wish to put forward?"
"You would betray us all..."
Severus suddenly remembered the confrontation he had been having with Lucius the night Lily had died. At almost that exact moment; they had been on the verge of argument as the Dark Lord had made his way to her; as he had killed her.
He had lost her.
He had lost them both.
Had lost them all.
Lucius would never forgive him.
He thought of Harry Potter; the baby who had survived. The child who had defeated his master. A child who would grow up without his parents; whose parents had died for him.
And then he thought of Draco; another child who would grow up without a father. Hadn't Lucius also been charged? He was sure he had heard that whispered as he was brought here.
Severus drew in a breath before he made a choice. Foolish, perhaps. But what else did he have to lose? He truly had nothing left to give.
Severus didn't think he had ever seen the old man so angry, as he paced the floor of his chambers. He hadn't been charged; he hadn't cared either way but he supposed some good come of it. At least to him. Dumbledore's reaction reminded him that the sentiment certainly wasn't shared by all.
"How dare you take advantage of my testimony; I truly believed that you had changed after seeing your remorse over Lily's death."
Severus raised his glass to his lips.
"I ought to contact the ministry this minute and retract my statement."
"Do as you wish."
Dumbledore looked at him sharply at that; Severus stared into the fire, refusing the meet his eyes. He hadn't looked at the old man since he had confirmed what he had most feared. The old man stepped into his line of vision, his expression thunderous;
"Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater. A racist and a murderer. How many innocent lives has he taken? You know very well how many, I am sure. And yet you exonerate him with your statement; destroy any evidence - concrete, true evidence - and have him released."
Severus only continued to stare into the fire. He didn't regret it. He didn't regret telling that insufferable auror that he had been the one responsible for imperialising Lucius Malfoy. That the other man's testimony was true.
"What if your statement had not matched that of your friend? You would have ended up in Azkaban yourself; and my testimony would have destroyed any credibility I have with the ministry."
The statement was met only with silence.
Dumbledore strode by him; "I shall contact the ministry immediately."
Severus flicked his eyes over the picture of himself and Regulus, sitting upon his desk. Remembered Lily glancing at it. Hadn't Lucius been nearby when the picture was taken?
He swallowed thickly. A new wave preparing to crash.
"Really, Professor?" his voice was quiet and broken and the older man halted in his steps, turning back to look at him; "I don't even get to save one of them?" He was looking in the fire as he said it however when the old man didn't respond, he allowed himself to raise his eyes to his.
For the first time Severus saw something in the old man's eyes that he never had before; a look that the man had never before directed at him. Compassion. And understanding.
But even that didn't matter anymore.
Severus didn't go to the funeral.
He couldn't face another goodbye.
How many times had they said goodbye?
Later Dumbledore had told them that very few people who had been personal friends of the Potters had been there. But the service was overflowing with those who hadn't known them. Those who wanted to pay their respects to the parents of the infamous child who had saved them all.
What if that child had never been born? Would things have been different? Would the prophecy still have been made? Would he have still delivered it? Would it have been Neville Longbottom who had destroyed him?
Dumbledore had explained to him what Lily had done. Had said that Harry would not have survived had it not been for her sacrifice. Had it not been for love. And had attempted to convince him that that choice would not have been given, had it not been for his request that she be spared.
As if that made it any better.
The Boy Who Lived.
The boy who she died for.
Ten years later he would see him for the first time across a crowded room, as the Sorting Hat bellowed out its verdict. As children laughed and sang and ate and talked and marvelled at the wonder of Hogwarts Castle.
Ten years later he would look upon Harry Potter; and he would see only James Potter's face.
Seventeen years later he would lie dying in a shack and he would think about how everything he had ever done had been for nothing. That even after devoting himself to Dumbledore for seventeen years he would still fail to find absolution for his sins. And then he would see Harry Potter, the boy she had died for, and he would finally put an end to what he had started.
Seventeen years later he would look upon Harry Potter; and he would see only Lily Evans' eyes.
Well, after three years this story has finally come to an end! Thank you to everyone who has stuck with this story and for all your kind reviews, alerts and favourites. I hope you all enjoyed it and how it has turned out – I know there were some of you adamantly against the story following canon but this was always intended to be a story that we could imagine as actually having happened to Severus and Lily before the books.
For anyone who is interested in a more hopeful resolution for our couple, I have another story that has been started, 'The Long Road Home'. That story focuses on a relationship between the two of them, Post-War, had Voldemort chosen Neville as the threat, rather than Harry. It also capitalises on the characterisation I made of Regulus in this story (I couldn't help reviving him!); he is featured heavily throughout the new story, as are little Harry, Sirius and Remus. I know some of you have already read and asked about that story, and I do intend to continue with it now that this one is complete.