Author's Note: This was written for the harrypotter_las LJ community Round 1 / Challenge 3. The prompt was 'Reunion'. This fic was voted the winner of the challenge.

Disclaimer: This work of fiction is based on the Harry Potter series created by J.K. Rowling and owned by various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A Prison of His Own Design

When Snape opened his eyes, he was not lying on the floor of the Shrieking Shack. He was also not sitting on a bench in King's Cross station, standing outside a set of pearly gates, or mingling with white camels in the streets of a sumptuous city built of gold.

He was, instead, on a narrow bed in a small, dark cell, surrounded by cold, stone walls. The only light came from a small, barred window high above. This must be Azkaban.

It all came flooding back... Nagini's bite, disgorging his memories, and at the end, Lily's eyes; but it didn't stop there. The memories welled up in him, unreeling faster and faster: His tenure as Headmaster. The Killing Curse on top of the Astronomy Tower. Bellatrix and the Unbreakable Vow. He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes to stop the litany, but to no avail. Long, empty holidays, alone at Spinner's End. Overhearing the Prophecy. Humiliation at the hands of the Marauders. His father, raging through the house. His mother, crying. Finally, out of memories, he lay still, drained.

It was the Dementors, he knew. They were hovering outside, plumbing his mind, seeking fodder for their greedy maws. He smirked; they wouldn't get fat from him. He could count the happy moments in his life on one hand.

He was ambivalent about having survived, but admitted that the Healers did a good job on his neck. The skin felt smooth and whole. He wasn't interested in what he was charged with, nor whether he had already been sentenced or was merely awaiting trial. He quite welcomed the solitude, in fact. Finally, for the first time in his life, he was beholden to no one. He closed his eyes and drifted.

The days passed uneventfully. Food appeared often enough that he never felt hungry. He never saw or heard any jailers or other prisoners. They must have him in solitary confinement. So much the better.

Time passed. Whether it was days, weeks, or longer, he didn't know or care. He resigned himself to his fate.

One day a knock came at the door.

Snape started. He had quite forgotten that there were people - a whole world - outside his cell. He continued to lie where he was, his eyes closed. Whoever it was would either go away or come in. It wasn't like he had any control.

The knock came again. Snape frowned in annoyance. Did they think this was a hotel? Was it the cleaning staff, giving him time to 'get decent' before entering? Not that the cell needed cleaning. It was always in the same austere, empty state.

The knock came again, and a muffled voice that might have been calling, 'Severus'.

Snape sat up.

'Who's there!' he tried to bark, but all that came out was a dry croak. Cursing his disused vocal cords, he took a quick drink from the pitcher that sat, everfull, within arm's reach, and cleared his throat.

'What do you want?' he finally managed.

'Severus, it's me. Lily. Can I come in?'

Snape felt a momentary dizziness. Had the Dementors driven him mad after all? Did he know another Lily? Had parts of his memory been Obliviated? His first instinct was to deny the request, but he knew that would only prolong the conversation. Anyway, he was mildly curious.

'If you must,' he said, standing and smoothing down his robes. They were, he noted, clean and well-fitting, although he could not recall ever having changed them since his arrival.

'You'll have to open the door,' "Lily" said.

Snarling at the ridiculousness of the request - after all, he was the one who was locked in - Snape stomped to the door and yanked at the handle, not expecting it to yield. He narrowly avoided flattening his own nose as the door came flying toward him.

It was Lily. Lily Evans. All fiery red hair and freckles, twenty years young, as in his memories.

'Severus!' Her face lightened instantly.

'Who are you?' he demanded.

'It's me, Lily.' She smiled. 'May I come in?'

Snape stood aside, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. Polyjuice or Metamorphmagus? he wondered.

The woman stepped in and stood there, looking around sadly. 'Oh, Severus,' she said. 'You don't have to do this to yourself.'

'Do what? Sit in the dark and go mad? You can thank the Ministry for that, not me.'

She shook her head and reached out. Instinctively, Snape pulled back, but she wouldn't be put off, and took his hand.

'Severus. Do you know where you are?' she asked gently. 'iWhat/i you are?'

'I assumed this was Azkaban-' he began.

Lily shook her head again. 'This isn't Azkaban. At least, not the real Azkaban. Severus... you're dead. This is a place of your own design. The place you felt you deserved to spend eternity.'

In a flash, Snape knew she was right. He hadn't survived the snake bite. He sat down heavily.

'And why are you...?' he began.

'I wanted to see you. I hoped you'd come out. Then I realized you might not know... Oh, there are so many people waiting out there. Albus, Remus-'

'Remus? He was killed, too?' Snape asked in surprise.

'Yes, and his wife, Tonks. She's quite funny.'

'I am aware of her reputation,' Snape said grumpily. 'Their son?'

'Will enjoy a long and happy life with people who will take care of him. Just as you took care of my Harry. I want to thank you, Severus. I know it wasn't always easy.'

'Not with Potter as his father.'

'Oh, come on, Severus, don't you think it's time to let bygones be bygones?'

'I assume Black is out there as well.'

'Yes, Sirius, and lots of others. They'd love to see you.'

'Must I?'

'No. Everyone has their own eternity. I'd like you to be part of mine.' She moved toward the door. 'You know where to find me.' And then she was gone.