Summary: As Snape lay dying, his soul passes into an unearthly plane, where he is able to contemplate his achievements and regrets, and what could have been had he done things differently. What he doesn't know is that there is someone out there listening, willing to give him a second chance.
A/N: So I know this 'traveling back in time' concept has been done before but I've been wanting to write a Snapefic for forever and this seems like the only thing I can do that is semi-canon. B/c I love Snape's story and it would be weird to change it completely. I'll reveal more of what it's about in the next chapter.
A Lion Inside
He fought for breath, the last of his dying memories spilling out of him like water, mingling with the pools of blood spreading quickly around his neck. He fought the urge to close his eyes, beating off the coming darkness with as much strength as he could muster. He wasn't finished yet, and he prayed he wasn't already too late.
He watched his memories fill the glass phials; memories that would explain everything and clear his name. But he cared not for the reputation he would leave behind, as some men close to death tend to do. He cared only for what was to come, to know it was alright; that what he had done these last several years was enough to make up for the mistakes he had made in his past.
He felt his grip loosen on Harry's cloak, and gasped.
"Look... at... me..."
As if in slow motion, emerald eyes found him and he plunged forward, through the iris and into the black it surrounded. His breathing halted, his hand fell, and Severus Snape died quietly and humbly on the dusty floor of the Shrieking Shack.
It was as if he had fallen into a light sleep and awoke in the dark. After a time of rest, Snape was becoming more and more conscious of floating in a space of nothingness, where darkness filled everything and hugged him from all sides. At least, it seemed that way. He wasn't quite sure if he had a physical body to be hugged. He seemed to be nothing more or less than a ghostly vapor. He could neither see, hear, nor speak; but he could think. And that is what he did.
He thought of Hogwarts, which had once been his home and refuge. And of the dungeons where he had taught generations of untalented, ungrateful children that mocked him behind his back. He thought of his colleagues- some of the few people he actually respected- and how bitterly they had hated him in the end. He thought of the Dark Lord, for whom he had served loyally (as far as the Dark Lord knew) and it was the Dark Lord who had disposed of him like a piece of dirty parchment.
And then there was Albus Dumbledore, considered to be the greatest wizard of the century. But Snape knew about his other side- a manipulative side that Snape served and worked for as a triple agent for the Order of the Phoenix, protecting the Potter boy from every horrific device Voldemort had deployed. And for what? So that Harry Potter, like himself, could be sacrificed for the "greater good"? What a sick and twisted plan for Dumbledore to keep to himself.
He continued to float there in the black abyss; a ghost trapped in the world between life and death. He could do nothing about it, but feared that he would be stuck here; his sins keeping him from passing on, his efforts for redemption saving him from what he assumed was an eternal hell. If he had a mouth, it would have smirked in self-deprecation. His whole life had seemed to be an eternal hell. But there was a time when he was happy. When he had had someone to care for and who had cared for him right back. Had this love been his downfall? Had it been his weakness? Or had it been his strength? These questions had plagued him constantly for the past seventeen years, but now in death he was sure it was the latter.
What was left of his mind wandered to the memories of a woman with dark red hair and shining emerald eyes, and he thought of nothing else for a long time. Then the silence was shattered by a voice:
"Ahh, what a life you have lived, Severus!"
Snape snapped to attention in the empty vastness.
"Living and loving in secret," it said. "Being despised for what you were not. You are quite the anti-hero."
"Who's there?" Snape wanted to say but could not.
"For years you have harbored such terrible grief that would have crushed a lesser man. It almost seems unfair; even downright cruel when you think about it. And I have for some time."
Though the voice filled his ears and rebounded in his mind, Snape found it very difficult to concentrate on what the voice was actually saying. Even more confusing was that he could have sworn it was a voice he had heard somewhere before. As he racked his memory, it continued:
"There is so much here inside your head, Severus. Cleverness, even genius. An accomplished Legilimens, a master of Occlumency, a natural at potion brewing... And the loyalty! Dumbledore's man through and through, you were. If not quite for the reasons one would think..."
The voice was so familiar and yet he could not place his finger on it. It was a distant voice, perhaps an echo somewhere from childhood. And it didn't seem to be a human voice at all. Snape tried to remember...
"Courage. Yes, you have plenty of that. Fiercely brave but not to the point of recklessness... Yes, yes. Courage is your most admirable quality isn't it, Severus? You could have gone far with it. Very far, had you been given the chance..."
He felt the darkness wane and a new resistance coming from above. It was almost as if he were feeling a sense of gravity again, though how could there be gravity in an unearthly plane?
"You could be great, you know. It's all here in your head. You've proved it time and time again with your actions. Yes, I think that will do very well. Better be... GRYFFINDOR!!"
Then the darkness lifted- quite literally- as if a curtain was being raised, and Snape was met with a brilliant sight as noise erupted all around. Before him was a mass of hundreds, clad in traditional black robes and sitting at four long, familiar tables laden with golden plates and goblets. Countless eyes were staring at him and even more hands were clapping encouragingly. Candles floated above their heads, illuminating the large room up to the ceiling, which faded into a night sky peppered with stars. And Snape was sitting, with all body parts intact, upon the exact same stool he had sat on twenty-seven years ago as Professor McGonagall gently pulled the Sorting Hat from his head.