"You know it will never be enough, don't you, Sev

Author: Meltha

Rating: G, but angsty

Feedback: Yes, thank you.

Spoilers: Through the entire series

Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and . If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary: Severus and Lily, after the fact, so to speak.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by J. K. Rowling, a wonderful author whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

Captive Audience

"You know it will never be enough, don't you, Sev?"

He looked at her, still twenty-one years old, forever young and perfect, her red hair glinting in the light from the torches that hung in brackets around the room. Her eyes held a sadness so deep that he felt as though he was falling into a lake of ice.

"I know," he said, and his voice shook slightly, something that would have stunned his students had there been any present.

"Do you really know what your sin was?" she said, and the sound of her voice was painful to him but addictive, like the bite of a needle to a morphine addict. "It wasn't following Voldemort, of course. That was just the outcome of the choices you made."

He looked at her, just stood, looking, watching the green of her eyes flickering in torchlight, knowing she would continue.

"You had too much pride, Sev. Half-blood pride, pride in your ability at Potions, and naturally I knew why you joined the Death Eaters. I knew you wanted to be at the top, and you certainly attained the spot, didn't you?"

"It—," he paused, uncertain how to continue. "It wasn't my intention. What happened."

"Oh, but it was," she said, and her face changed. The gentle glow that had suffused her cheeks became swallowed in a growing pallor born of anger. "You wanted James killed, didn't you? He and Harry. Not me, never that, I know. Your whole point was to put them both out of the way so that poor, distraught Lily would fall into your arms, weeping helplessly, and you could soothe me, take the pain away, even if it was pain that you had wanted to happen. Isn't that so?"

He stood, not moving, his eyes locked to hers, and truth spilled from him in a single word that splattered like blood on the floor.

"Yes."

"You never could lie to me, Severus," she said, her tone strangely tender, "never except that one time, and you never could take that back fully, could you? But you see, the secret was that I knew all along. How could I not know? I knew you loved me, even if you never said it."

Snape stared at the floor, the tips of her shoes barely kept in his field of vision, real and solid and resting firmly on the worn tiles of the floor.

"Isn't it so, Sev? Didn't you love me?" she said, and her tone was not like her own, just a shade too mocking, too cruel, but he didn't care.

"Yes," he said again. "I do."

"Still? I was murdered thanks to you, and you're still in love with me? I've been gone twelve long years, and you still love me? Even that much time, hundreds, thousands of days, and a gulf between us wider than any ocean, and you still love me? Do you know that even after death you've still done nothing to earn the right to be with me?"

"Yes," he said again.

"You're a greater fool than I ever was," Lily said, and a smile twisted her lips. "Remember how we used to tell each other everything? Hopes, dreams, stupid gossip and bits of things that could have spun into something more in time? Would you like to know a secret, Sev?"

He could do nothing but look at her.

"I actually loved you," she said, and the words froze him. "I did. I married James to hurt you, and if you had only waited, held your tongue for a few more months, a year, maybe two… But instead, you killed me."

She laughed, and the sound chilled him.

"Do you know what my last mortal thought was? I knew it was you. Somehow, in that moment of blinding, shattering pain, and if you've ever wondered, yes, the agony was indescribable, I knew that you were the one who had betrayed us," she said.

Snape looked away, but he couldn't stop listening to her voice, the sound of it, the cadence he had missed.

"So you're helping Dumbledore now, is it? An attempt at amends. Very nice. And then there's Harry. You've protected him, kept him from dying a time or two though you loathe him more than you loathe anyone except, perhaps, yourself. Tell me, Sev, does it make the knife go deeper each time you look at him, when you see my eyes in James's face, incontrovertible proof that he had me in a way you never could?"

She paused, and he looked up at her. Even like this, with fury pouring from her, she was beautiful. It had been so very long since he had seen her, heard her, been close to touching her.

"All that, and it's still not enough," she said, the green of her eyes sparkling Slytherin-emerald, cold and hard. "I would never forgive you."

He waited in silence for a moment, engraving the image of her into his thoughts, trying to smell her perfume, the one that had never smelled the same on anyone else, and despite tears pricked the corners of his eyes.

"I know," he said quietly. "I've always known."

Then, he drew his wand and shouted, the word ugly in his throat, "Riddikulus!"

The boggart shrieked, almost sounding like a banshee as it fled back into Lupin's wardrobe, the door shuddering closed behind it, and the vacant classroom was suddenly silent again, every trace of the encounter gone.

Snape stood panting in the middle of the floor, his wand still raised as though forgotten, glaring at his own pale, sweaty reflection in the mirrored door of the wardrobe. He let out one, single gasp, his backbone swaying from its rigidly held posture to a curve like a question mark, and let the pain wash over him for a moment.

But it was only a moment. Gradually, his spine straightened, his shoulders squared, and his wand arm dropped with control back to his side. His face became its usual impassive, haughty mask again, and he left the classroom.

Lupin never asked Snape why he felt the need to practice fighting a boggart, nor why he insisted the opportunity be given to him alone and at the dead of night.

Snape wouldn't have answered anyway.