Severus felt excruciating pain and then nothing at all. He was sure this was the end of his mortal life, and he wondered what he would see next: his hope had been for a reunion with Lily after all these long years, but the grimmer part of his rather expected to see the familiar "fire and brimstone" of hell.
Nothing like that happened, however. His hearing was still working, and he was picking up on muffled voices above him. He felt something wet and warm poured onto his neck that wasn't blood. He felt a gentle touch on his chest and heard more muffled voices. Severus wondered what was going on, and then his eyesight was briefly restored.
He was gazing up into the face of Hermione Granger, her large brown eyes watery with worry and her curly hair haloing her head in a messy array of confusion. Miss Granger must have seen something flicker in his eyes, for she spoke to him.
"Sir? Sir, can you hear me?" she asked, her voice tremulous.
Severus tried to speak, but his throat constricted. He blinked at her and gave the smallest of nods, which was beginning to hurt as the pain returned.
Miss Granger's eyes overflowed with tears as she smiled. Severus could feel something soft under his head and knew that he was resting on her lap. There was nothing he could do to protest physically, for his body was weakened to the point of feeling like lead, incredibly heavy and immovable. Then, his vision and hearing faded, and he fell asleep.
The next time Severus awoke, he was lying in a bed in the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey and several others were situated around various beds on the room, and Severus noticed that every bed was full. Was the war over, then? Were these the injured?
Severus tried, in vain, to sit up, but he was still too weak to prop himself up. Instead, he settled for turning his head to gaze around the room in the direction he could.
So I've survived, he thought morosely.
He hadn't expected that.
I wondered what became of Potter and the Dark Lord. Who won?
He decided to try to give voice to his thoughts.
"Who… won?" he asked in a raspy whisper.
Madam Pomfrey, who happened to be nearest to him, gave a small start upon hearing Severus's damaged voice.
"Severus?" she exclaimed, turning around.
She was at his side in an instant, waving her wand over him, checking his vitals.
"Holding up well, considering what you've been through," she remarked, and Severus thought he detected concern in her voice.
If she is upset over my condition, does that mean she knows the truth about me? Severus wondered, not sure how he felt about that.
"Who won?" Severus asked again, the need to know rising.
"Harry Potter defeated You-Know-Who," Madam Pomfrey said with a smile. "It's over, Severus. You are safe."
"And Potter… is he alive?"
"Yes, yes, he lives," Madam Pomfrey said, beaming. Her face turned somber once more almost instantly. "But so many were lost. We're lucky you weren't among them, although you almost were. When Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley brought you to me, you were in a very bad way, Severus. They simply told me you were on our side. Mr. Potter later explained everything. I would have treated you regardless."
Severus averted his eyes, feeling self-conscious. Why was Madam Pomfrey being so understanding? Why would she have wasted her time treating him if he had been evil? He left the questions unasked.
Madam Pomfrey didn't press Severus further. Instead, she handed him a glass of water and insisted that he drink, which he gratefully did, as she inclined the bed.
"You may not feel like eating, and it will be difficult with your injuries, but you need your strength. I'm going to order some soup for you."
Madam Pomfrey walked away, leaving Severus alone with his thoughts. There was much to think about, and as he processed all that had occurred in the past day, Severus was feeling overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. He had never expected to survive. Dying would have been easy, but now he was forced to live on, begging the question as to what to do with his life now. Potter had no doubt told everyone about him working for the Order and Dumbledore all along, and Severus hoped Potter had had the decency not to reveal anything else. When probed with how he could trust Severus, would Potter have given away Severus's deepest secret, that he loved Lily?
Severus's mouth turned downward in a frown, and he could feel the crease between his eyes deepening. His secrets weren't Potter's to give, and yet, Severus had wanted him to see the truth in the end, hadn't he?
That was when I was supposed to be dying, Severus thought darkly.
Just when he thought his headache couldn't worsen, Potter entered the infirmary. His damned green eyes locked onto Severus, and Potter smiled, of all the infernal reactions! As much as Severus mentally willed Potter to turn and leave, the boy traipsed across the short distance to his bed and stood there like an imbecile, the hundreds of unasked questions glittering in his eyes and on the verge of spilling from his lips.
"You're awake," Potter stated.
"Always the king… of pointing out… the blatantly obvious," Severus drawled, cursing his stupid throat.
If Severus thought his sarcasm would turn Potter away, he was sorely mistaken.
"I'm glad," Potter went on, having the audacity to take a seat. "How are you feeling, sir?"
"How do you think?" Severus asked, and he would have snarled if he were in full health. "Try having… your throat ripped out… and see how you feel."
Potter didn't seem deterred. If anything, Severus's retorts seemed to be fuelling Potter's happiness.
"What do you want?" Severus questioned impatiently. "If you think… I ought to be… grateful-"
"I don't presume to think anything for you, Snape," Potter interrupted hastily. "You have your pride and your self-preservation, which have served you all these years, although I would ask how well they served you, considering how unhappy you are. I'm not asking for your thanks or appreciation."
"Good, because you… won't be getting it," Severus whispered, looking away.
As Potter had spoken, his eyes had become more and more penetrating, and Severus felt like Lily was sitting there, sizing him up and judging him. Potter's little speech had been too spot-on, given only by someone who could have known him like Lily had. Against his better judgment, Severus secretly conceded what Dumbledore had said all along about the boy: that he really was a lot like his mother.
"Still," Potter went on, not seeming to care that Severus wasn't looking at him, "I'm glad you're alive and all right, at least physically. I think we both know that it will take a lot longer for some wounds to heal."
A stabbing sensation went through Severus's heart, and he whipped his head around, glaring at Potter.
"I thought you… weren't going to presume… to think anything… for me, Potter. If that's the case… then don't. You know nothing…"
"I know more than you think, so I'm not presuming, really, am I? Not if I understand what it feels like to lose her, too. You loved my mother, Snape, not just anyone. I may not remember much of her, but she gave her life for me. I never knew her; you did. To have known the Lily Evans Potter who many have told me was a brilliant witch and a kind witch, but I know so little else about her, but to have known her like you did and lost her, that would be like losing Ron or Hermione to me. I've lost enough people in my life and so have you. You didn't need to die, too."
"Stop babbling already," Severus said tiredly. "I tried… to give you… the memories. They would have… explained everything… but now, I suppose… you expect me to offer… such explanations… since I live."
"I don't expect anything of you, Snape, but to try and live your life as you see fit- to be happy for once," Potter said softly. "If you should feel you want to share what you know of her with me sometime, I would be forever grateful. You've already done more than I could ever thank you for, so I won't ask anything else of you."
Severus was growing more uncomfortable by the moment. Why hadn't Poppy returned with his soup yet? Why had he allowed his conversation to run as long as it had? He didn't want Potter's gratitude.
Severus's dark eyes shifted to the stand beside the bed and spotted a tiny vial there. He reached for it and picked it up, examining it. The silvery contents were his memories. He gazed upon the memories for a while and finally offered them to Potter.
"They are still here… as I left them," Severus murmured. "Take them… and look at them. I don't wish to… explain everything to you. If you have questions… ask them later."
Potter took the vial and pocketed it.
"Thank you, Snape," he said, standing. "I'll let you have your rest. You've been through enough, but I have one thing to ask, if it's not too much-"
"Out with it," Severus snapped, his eyes popping opening suddenly, as they had been drifting shut a moment ago. I thought you weren't going to ask anything more of me?
"I would like it if you would consider talking with me again… from time to time," Potter said boldly. "Not just for the sake of my mum, but because… because I want to get to know you better, sir."
Severus's brow furrowed in perplexity and mistrust. He had always been accustomed to being used by others for their gain, yet Potter wanted to know him better for the simply sake of doing so, of caring enough to do so?
"Your suggestion… sounds like…" Severus started, but couldn't finish. Who would want to be my friend?
"Friendship?" Potter offered. "Yes, I suppose that's what I'm asking."
Severus tried not to smirk when Potter's cheeks reddened, but were it not for the distraction in Potter's trouble in asking, Severus's thoughts would have gone down the road of self-doubt and destruction.
"I suppose… that might be permissible," Severus quietly admitted.
A part of him, the better part he had tried to keep buried for so long, couldn't be contained any longer. He was alive, wasn't he? Maybe instead of wishing to die and be rejoined with Lily, he ought to try to live, really and truly live, the life he had here, unburdened now of having to serve any master. If he were to be happy, didn't that mean he needed friends? But Severus had been alone for so long, he wasn't sure how to go about such a thing.
Potter smiled, and Severus held up a hand in warning. "Don't get your hopes up… I'm horribly out of practice. And you know… what I'm like."
"Yes, you're brave, brilliant, and loyal as all hell," Potter stated in that annoying Gryffindor bravado, "even if you are a Slytherin."
"Don't push it, Potter. Go and see the memories. Leave me in peace for now," Severus warned.
Potter stood and nodded, that ever-irritating smile on his young face. Now alone, Severus sighed and leaned back, closing his eyes, feeling the sunlight warming his face, along with a small smile.
Her love was stronger than his regrets.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading! Please review! Merry Christmas!
If you want to read a fic that is about a friendship developing between Severus and Harry post-DH, check out my other fic, Autumn Life. That's why I don't continue this here, as it's already been done.