For a moment, he wondered if all there was to the moments after dying was a grey and invidious mist. He had never really believed in the afterlife, nor the darker legends of hell; however it had to be said that his apprehension over what would happen next had held him in the realm of the living for five whole years.
When the backlash caused by his interference with Potter's blood wards had hit him, Severus Snape had expected to be killed immediately. Instead there had been an agonising wrench, a sense of dislocation that he had fought against. It was not in his nature to go quietly – Albus could have testified to that. After a seemingly endless moment of dislocation he had perceived in the blurred distance a young child, one that was hauntingly familiar, running for his life.
He had done his best to interfere of course, both with the tracking spells his former colleagues cast as well as attempting to cast spells of his own to impede them. Some worked, though they were very weak, but they were sufficient to allow his three-year-old self to stay ahead of his pursuers.
Then Potter arrived.
Then Potter recognised him.
Then Potter saved him.
He'd lost track of them the moment the boy was taken onto the Knight Bus, and found them again after what seemed like a lifetime of searching. Potter and Weasley were teaching the little boy to fly. Albus arrived and Severus had been so shocked at the realisation that the three-year-old had been adopted by the brat that had been the bane of his existence that Severus had once more lost his focus and his younger self.
He located them again at Hogwarts and spent a month realising that he was neither ghost nor shade. By now his younger self was calling Potter 'Daddy'. The boy was healthy looking, well cared for and fed nutritiously. Albus was playing at grandfather, something that had always secretly warmed his cold heart when the old man had tried it on his adult self.
Potter's training was impressive. With the adoption of a child, the brat had finally steadied down into the young man that Severus had always sensed he could become – provided he'd stop messing about and wasting a first class mind. Severus had to admit that he was impressed by the brat's efforts. He was not surprised to discover that the brat was a living Horcrux, though he was appalled at the notion that the Dark Lord had split his soul so many times.
There was a faint stirring in the greyness around him, and Severus was distracted enough to lose focus on the brat, finding himself watching Narcissa Malfoy instead as she manipulated the Fertility Orb to conceive a second child for Lucius. That meant that Lucius had finally been killed; he was instantly on his guard lest the other man find him somehow, though Severus had never sensed any other presence in his grey and distant existence. Narcissa was successful and Severus wondered how he could alert Potter to the danger even as he returned to his vigil at Hogwarts.
Then Potter fought with his son.
Then his son ran away.
Then Voldemort came.
Once again Potter surprised him. The brat's tactical decisions were sound and swift. Weasley had evidently recognised that the teen beside him was a leader of men, for the red haired twerp never once protested or fought against the decisions being made. Potter had destroyed the second last Horcrux and then sacrificed himself in a distraction to allow his lover and son – and by now Severus could recognise that whatever their relationship had been in the past Potter truly saw the now four-year-old boy as truly his – to escape.
At the moment the Killing Curse had been cast Severus had found himself calling out, as if to summon the boy's spirit to him. A half life such as his was no great pleasure, but the boy would at least be able to watch over his loved ones. Something else called out louder though, and Potter went to them. Albus' arrival distracted him and once more he attempted to aid the Headmaster in finding the body of the Boy-Who-Once-Lived.
Of course Potter survived the killing curse. The stubborn brat even insisted that they take the better tactical option of tracing Voldemort now, while he was at his weakest. The subsequent explosion of magic tried to send Severus away from the world again but he hung on grimly, using Albus as his anchor. He even went so far as to hold the mans spirit in place, struggling with all his might to keep the old coot alive until the search party from Hogwarts caught up to him.
He would have followed to Hogwarts had there not been a faint pulse of a familiar magic.
Every time that Harry touched his son, Severus had felt a corresponding brush of magic. All the books he had ever read upon the subject – something he had never allowed anyone to catch him at – had spoken of this phenomenon. Parental magic brushed over the magical child with each touch, often helping to restrain some of the more outrageous outbursts of accidental magic. He had never been able to control them as a child, which had resulted in many harsh punishments from Mother and Father. He had always wondered if he would have been in better control of himself – and therefore received less punishment – had either of his parents ever touched him from time to time. It was a warm and soothing touch, one that had reassured Severus that the child 'Sev' was fully recognised by Potter as his.
He had followed that faint pulse to Potter's inert body. He had been unable to aid his adoptive 'father' in any way, the magical taints lingering in the air had prevented him from doing more than hovering above Potter. The Ministry had arrived of course – he was unable to attract their attention either.
He found Sev in the Hospital Wing, being soothed by Weasley. He was never sure what had prompted him to kneel beside the two of them and shout as loudly as he could that Potter was alive. Over and over he called his message – finally Sev stirred and asked to go and fetch his Daddy.
The effort exhausted him and he relaxed, knowing that Potter would survive once again.
He watched the next five years with interest. Potter adopted the Malfoy sprog, giving Sev a little sister to watch over. Potter and Weasley and Granger made a formidable team of Unspeakables, their decisive actions preventing the rise of several replacement Dark Lords before they had time to do more than stir a little trouble.
The young Severus Snape grew up. His Dad continued to shower care and attention upon him, though there was a fair amount of discipline involved. After five years Severus was sure that this time the child would grow into a better man than he ever had – the mistakes he had made would be avoided, simply because the role models in his were far and away superior to the ones he'd once had. The minor acts of rebellion that young Sev engaged in were put down firmly and fairly.
The study of Potions was introduced and Severus watched with no small amount of satisfaction as the young boy once again fell in love with the subtle and exact art. Potions should have been his salvation, in the past they had been his refuge: he was pleased to see that they would once more be his future.
The grey world that he had existed in for so long began to shift around him, condensing as he hovered over the boy and his chair. A faint sound at the door alerted him to Potters arrival… it was something of a shock to realise that after so long he was once more visible, somehow tangible in the world.
As always when surprised he adopted his best glare, attempting to intimidate the other man. Part of him wailed that his 'daddy' would never hurt him, indeed as he crossed the room Potter was smiling at him, pleasure visible in the green eyes. He was measured up against the boy in the chair and a small shock jolted through his viscera as he realised that he was not found wanting. Potter was pleased to be reminded of the man his son would grow into.
"Potter," the familiar sound of his own deep voice was a surprise, but Potter smiled. He had always been proud of his rich, dark voice, considering that the rest of him was so unlovely he had cultivated it into his best feature. Sev's young throat could not manage it now, but the boy would one day sound as he once had. That was a small comfort.
"Professor," Potter said respectfully, and managed not to add whatever inane follow up remark that sprung to mind.
"He's happy," Snape stopped in front of Harry and slanted a glance back at the engrossed child in the armchair. Sev was unaware of him still, as he had been since they had separated, "And he is still… innocent in the ways that matter. At his age I was already being primed in the Dark Arts. You have cared for him adequately, and his education is not hopelessly neglected."
Potter clearly expected to be given a grade; it was galling to admit that had he been forced to give one it would have been higher than 'exceeds expectations'.
"You will allow him to pursue the Mastery I once gained," the sentence was an instruction, though he wasn't too sure on this point. Harry nodded mutely and some of the tension left his frame at the confirmation. He folded his arms, looking down his considerable nose at his former student and current father. The grey world around him thinned even further and he hung on grimly, wanting the man to know so much more, needing to be sure that young Sev would be understood as he grew older.
"His sibling should be closely watched," he murmured, "I believe that there will be further trouble from her distant family. And he will not always be a biddable child…"
"I know," his father grinned, a familiar expression that inexplicably warmed some distant part of him. The boy Sev was often the recipient of that grin, he had never thought that his adult self would be, "He's got a temper and that will only get worse when the hormones kick in. Ron and I have discussed it, and we'll do our best for him."
He nodded, and turned to look at his younger self a final time. Sev was frowning and turning the leaves in his hand one way then another, a narrow finger prodding at them as he did so. He was completely engrossed in his task, the single minded focus something that the Potions Master had used as a survival skill. Here it was simply the sign of an inquiring mind, and it was clear that his father was determined it would stay that way. Something inside him relaxed at long last, a sensation akin to putting aside a burden that had been too heavy for too long.
"Then I shall go…" the words trailed off, and his fathers face clenched. He wasn't too certain about what waited for him on the other side. After all, he'd never truly believed in any sort of real afterlife…
"Thank you," he squared his shoulders and raised his chin, unfortunately bracing for derision and ridicule as he had once been taught so long ago by they who should have loved him better – who had never loved him as the man standing before him had.
"You are most welcome," Father said it gently; "I'll never forget you, Professor."
His breath hitched, and Father reached out automatically, pulling the taller man into his arms and holding him close. The warm touch of Father's magic engulfed him for the very last time, washing through his very soul. Thin arms wound their way about Father, much as he had seen Sev do on so many different occasions and a dark head sheltered in his neck. They held on to each other fiercely for a moment and then the world about him tugged, the body of his Father began to fade away. There was a moist brush at his cheek for a moment and a soft pulse of Magic and then Professor Snape was gone, a final comment lingering in the air.
He had been expecting complete dissolution, so the formation of Hogwarts in front of him was completely unexpected. This was not the school as he knew her, but the school as she was meant to be. There were people there of course, people that he recognised as dead before him. He wondered for a moment if his parents were here as well. He wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to meet them, especially with the final warmth of his Dad clinging to him.
"Severus!" the cry was a glad one and he turned in time to catch a glimpse of the woman who latched on to him in a thoroughly embarrassing hug.
"Lily?" he murmured into red hair. She let him stand at arms length, looking him over keenly before beaming and leaning up to buss him on the cheek. That prompted a blush and a scowl, but she laughed and squeezed his arms gently before letting go.
"Hello there," Potter Senior grinned from behind his wife, and he ratcheted up the scowl another notch, "Now, now Severus, is that any way to greet your grandfather?"
"Or your Uncle Padfoot?" asked a voice from the side, where Black was slouching with his hands in his pockets, also smiling.
Severus Snape blanched in surprise. Potter Senior clapped him on the shoulder and grinned even more widely. There was not a trace of malice or guile anywhere in the mans expression – nor was there any in Blacks.
The afterlife was going to be… interesting.
Written for the person who prompted me in a review
I hope you liked it!!