Chapter 16

A/N: I reckon this is the last chapter, so before I begin I would like to thank everyone who has been following this story (I'll mention specifics at the end). It took a while to finish it, but finally it's done.

Oh, and it's a fairly long chapter, so bear with me.

*****

Lily did not sleep that night. Nor did she go to lessons the next day. She simply did not see the point. Every time she thought about getting up, Snape's words last night resounded in her head: 'I die.' These two simple syllables brought together the whole focus of her fear and anger, and whenever she thought about them, she became paralysed with emotion.

Professor Elevra, as her head of year, came up to see Lily at lunchtime. Her eyes were worried and wary, and she spoke with the careful hesitation of a first year. Lily was reminded, even in her state of distress, how young the teacher was, and warmed to her.

'Professor Snape has notified the staff about the … situation at hand, Miss Potter. He … he is looking very tired at the moment.'

Lily did not respond. She was trying to connect the words with some other trivial, fictional event, trying to block out the memories from the previous evening, not daring to allow herself to believe that Snape might die.

'Dumbledore's taking the whole thing very seriously … he's looking for a new Potions teacher. Oh! I almost forgot … Snape wants to see you.'

Unable to stop the words piercing her awareness, Lily looked at the professor. She blinked for a few seconds, digesting the information, then wearily began to get out of bed. 'I suppose I'd better go down, then,' she murmured.

She dressed and made her way down to the dungeons. Snape was teaching a class of second years, and they all greeted her enthusiastically as she walked in. Snape himself gave her a tired smile, which she returned warily, her eyes darting over him. Professor Elevra was right: he did look exhausted. His normally sallow skin was almost white, and there were dark lines on his face. He was speaking so quietly that his pupils had to strain to hear him, and Lily had the feeling that he was not just doing it to be dramatic. It really did sound as if he could not force his voice to go any louder.

Lily felt a sudden burst of sympathy. He shouldn't be teaching, not when he was this ill. She walked to the front of the classroom. 'Would you like me to take over?'

He swallowed, and then nodded gratefully. 'That'd be nice,' he whispered. 'They're doing low grade poisons.' He waited only until she smiled in acknowledgement, and then disappeared into his office. Lily suspected he was going to sleep for a while.

She studied Snape's notes for a while, and then began to talk to the students. They seemed a little distracted at Snape's strange behaviour, so Lily attempted to reassure them. 'He's just tired, that's all. We've both been rushed off our feet lately.'

The class accepted her words, and the rest of the lesson passed quietly, Lily doing her best to fight the rising panic in her stomach.

When she had dismissed the class, Lily went into Snape's office. He was not asleep; he was sitting at his desk, his head resting on his hands, starting into space. When he saw Lily, he asked: 'Do you want me to help you tidy up?'

'No, it's ok,' Lily replied. 'You look dead on your feet.'

It was only when she saw the fleeting shock and despair pass across Snape's eyes that she realised what a stupid comment she had made. 'I – I mean …' she stuttered hastily.

'I'm fine,' Snape muttered, then rose, swaying slightly, before swallowing again and following her back into the lab.

They worked in silence, Snape because he was obviously too tired to make the effort to talk, and Lily because she could think of nothing to say that would not sound patronizing. She was watching Snape like a hawk, noting with alarm how much his hands were shaking.

Suddenly his right hand, which was holding a small flask of liquid, shook particularly violently, and the flask slipped from his grasp and smashed on the floor. Snape groaned softly and stooped to begin picking up the pieces of broken glass.

'What are you doing?' Lily yelled, and rushed to him, pulling him away. 'That's poison, Severus!'

Snape looked at her blankly. 'Oh, yes,' he said vaguely, then slowly toppled over and hit the stone floor with a smack, unconscious.

*****

The news that Snape had been taken ill was announced at supper that evening. Lily sat on her own, not speaking to anyone, unable to dislodge the nausea that ate at her insides. She had stayed as long she Madam Pomfrey would let her in the hospital wing, but after a few hours had been thrown out and made to go down to supper. As the rest of the Great Hall buzzed with voices, mostly discussing Snape, the lead weight in Lily's body grew heavier.

As soon as supper was over she sprinted back up to the hospital wing. Snape lay very still between the crisp white sheet, and for a moment Lily's heart snapped in terror. But then he took a great shuddering breath, and Lily relaxed.

But there was still no escaping the fact that he was dying.

She was amazed at how quickly Rowena Ravenclaw's spirit worked. When he had first told her he would die, she had assumed that he would just slip away gradually as if from old age. But it was less than two days since Lily had first noticed the absence of her potions' voices, and Snape was withering away like the lilies he loved so much, was already unconscious. The thought made her throat go dry with fear as she gazed at her sleeping teacher.

He would never make a potion again, she knew that. Would never gaze into a swirling cauldron, feeling and knowing the delicate liquids as well as he knew himself …

But you will, the strange voice reminded her. And can.

Lily started. How could she of been this stupid? She could sustain him with potions, perhaps. They almost certainly wouldn't keep him alive forever, but she only needed to talk to him.

Immediately she left the hospital wing, dismissing the idea of sitting by him for hours as she had planned. The students stared at her as she ran full pelt to the dungeons, reminding herself with every stab of pain in her lungs that this was for Snape, for Severus, that she had to hurry.

She had not made a potion since the previous evening. Would it be different, could she indeed command the potions as Snape had suggested? He had never shown her a different way of doing it, but if she was their mistress …

Standing in front of the cauldron, she whispered tentatively: 'Life force.' But the voice was not hers, rang strange and discordant and powerful in the misty dungeons. And there, in the cauldron, grew a Life Force potion, pure white and shimmering and potent, bubbling up and swirling with its energy. Lily could feel her own energy being sucked out of her, and smiled grimly as she realised why Snape did not make potions this way.

She only needed one dose of the potion, she knew: he was so far gone that it wouldn't do very much anyway. But still she firmly scooped out a large measure into a flask and corked it, and then started to make her way back to the hospital wing. Everyone was in lessons now, and only the teachers smiled comfortingly at her through the open doors of their classrooms.

Back by Snape's bed, she asked Madam Pomfrey to give the sleeping man the potions, admitting to herself that she would probably end up giving him the whole bottle in desperation.

Once the silvery liquid had been tipped down Snape's throat, Lily and Madam Pomfrey waited anxiously for some sign that the potion was working.  Then slowly Snape stirred, and the lines on his face seemed to fade a little. His eyes flickered open, and Lily's heart leapt for a moment at the prospect of seeing those beloved eyes in their original glory. But although his body looked fully refreshed, his eyes betrayed that it was not real.

'Lily?' he whispered, then slowly lifted himself into a sitting position. Suddenly he looked annoyed. 'What am I doing here?' he demanded. 'I'm supposed to be teaching!'

'Severus, you are staying in here from now on,' Madam Pomfrey told him kindly. Lily tried desperately to ignore the 'until you die' implicit in that sentence.

Snape was obviously thinking fast. 'Then fetch Dumbledore,' he ordered finally.

Madam Pomfrey looked slightly put out at this bossiness, but appearing to accept that they did not have much time, went to the fire and threw a handful of powder into it. 'Albus,' she called softly.

Immediately the headmaster appeared in the flames. 'I wondered how long it would take Lily to work that out,' he said, stepping out of the fireplace.

'What do you mean?' Snape asked suspiciously.

'Severus, she woke you up with a Life Force Potion.'

'But she's never made one before! How could she have possibly made one this effective first time?'

'I didn't make it,' Lily said quietly. 'I can command the potions now, they made it for me.'

Snape leaned back into his pillow. 'So I really am dying,' he said flatly.

'I'm afraid so, Severus,' Dumbledore said sadly. 'I don't think any of us can do anything to prevent it. Rowena Ravenclaw is very powerful, and I think she would have placed restricting charms on this, especially regarding potions.

'I see.' Snape thought for a moment. 'Albus, may I have a private word? There are a few things I need to sort out with you … my will, for example.'

Dumbledore nodded briefly, and Madam Pomfrey took Lily through to her office to wait.

Lily sat in silence, her head resting in her hands on the desk, her heart pounding. She could think of nothing that would distract her from the dying man in the next room.

Madam Pomfrey smiled at her reassuringly. 'Don't worry, dear, it'll be all right.'

'How?' Lily replied bitterly. 'He's going to die. I don't … I can't …' She let out a low cry and collapsed onto the desk as the sobs finally overcame her.

Madam Pomfrey patted her easily. 'There, there, Lily, shh …'

Lily continued to let the tears flow from her eyes, accepting no comfort and not bothering to restrain herself, not pretending that Snape was just another teacher to her. 'Severus …'

Madam Pomfrey's eyes narrowed. 'Is there something I should know about?' she asked sharply.

Lily looked at her. In all appearances Madam Pomfrey looked dependable, but Lily did not trust her not to go straight to Dumbledore if she found out. Still, if Severus was dying …

Slowly, for the first time, Lily began to talk about the last seven years. She told Madam Pomfrey about her first potion, what she'd learned about Snape's past, about the Auroras, her evening Potions lessons and finally how she and Snape had fallen in love. She knew it was a bad idea to let the secret out, especially to a teacher (of sorts), but the prospect of Snape's death found her a recklessness she could not shake off.

Madam Pomfrey sat, listening with only a slightly stony face as Lily's voice wavered through the room.

When Lily had finished, she waited for what seemed like hours, watching the old witch carefully.

Finally Madam Pomfrey sighed. 'I suppose you realise I'll have to tell Dumbledore? Although I suspect he already knows, quite frankly.'

Lily nodded. 'It doesn't matter now, anyway,' she said softly. 'He's as good as dead.'

Madam Pomfrey stared at her for a long moment, measuring, calculating. Then the door opened, and he two women broke their gaze to look enquiringly at Dumbledore.

The headmaster smiled. 'You can go back in now, Lily. I assume Madam Pomfrey wishes to speak to me now?'

Lily promptly left, her heart sinking as she told herself that it was over, that she had to say goodbye. She knew that when the effects of the Life Force potion wore off, when the day broke … he would die.

Her feet heavy from exhaustion and dread, she walked back to Snape's bedside. He nodded slightly in greetings, then with what seemed like a tremendous effort raised his hand and offered it to her.

Lily grabbed his hand and held it tightly, now fixing every memory with Severus in her memory, not ever wanting to forget what it was like to be loved. Slowly she settled in his arms, resting her head on his shoulder. She heard him whisper in her ear, had to strain to make out the words: 'I love you.'

For the rest of that evening she started by Snape, occasionally going back into Madam Pomfrey's office when the other teachers came in to say goodbye to him. Lily was touched when even Professor McGonagall visited him from her retirement, and found it very difficult to keep her composure when she saw tears on the old teacher's face. Evidently more people still harboured affection for him than Lily had originally thought.

At half past midnight Lily's father arrived, and Lily flung herself into his arms as she sobbed out to him the story of hers and Severus' love, how she could not leave him. Harry was shocked, of course, but after speaking to Severus he seemed to decide that it was not worth it to scold Lily.

'I wish you'd told me, Lily …  well, I suppose it doesn't matter now … you're staying here then, I take it?'

'Yes,' Lily replied nervously. 'I'll leave you, then. Come and get me when you're finished.'

'Wait.' They turned; Snape was sitting up in bed, looking at them very directly. For a moment, Lily was caught by the gaze, sinking slowly as his eyes bored into her. Then she shook herself sternly.

'Harry, I know this probably isn't the news you wanted to hear when you arrived … but I do love Lily, very much. I think … well, if you don't like it, there isn't going to be much I can do, but my intentions are completely honourable … nothing of that kind has happened, if you get my meaning. We are in love. But you have been my best friend for … I don't know how long exactly … it's strange, I remember loathing you at school, and then when we started working together … Anyway, I'm sorry I kept this from you.'

Lily's father stared at Snape for a few moments, and then slowly tears began to trickle down his cheeks. 'Severus, the age difference … you understand there's no way I can approve the match.'

'I know. Anyway, Lily, would you let us have a few minutes?'

'Of course,' she replied. 'Come and tell me when you're done.' She went out of the office, crestfallen. Her father wouldn't give them his blessing now, even when Severus was about to die.

Half an hour later, her father came to tell her that he was staying the night at Hogwarts and that he would be in the guest quarters. Lily guessed that he couldn't bear to be present for Severus' death, but also suspected that he was harbouring a little jealousy. After all, Severus probably felt more affection for her than he did for Harry now.

Her father was the last visitor Severus had, and after that Lily was forced to sit while Severus slipped in and out of sleep, hypnotised by the second hand of the clock as it swept past the markers.

At four o'clock Dumbledore came up wit Fawkes, his phoenix, and sat with Lily as she wondered how she was going to live with Severus gone. She had made no plans for her future; perhaps she would be allowed to stay at Hogwarts, where she was safe with her potions. But every time she pictured the bottles and phials and cauldrons, she saw Snape, his dark hair hanging either side of his pale face where his eyes burned like candles, his voice murmuring through the dark stillness of the dungeon, instructing, making her shiver.

As she watched him, panic began to rise in her throat. She knew she would not be able to escape the grief she would feel, not ever. When he was gone his memory would torment her, forcing her to remember everything about him, every little detail of his face, his voice, his habits, the way his hand had stroked her hair years ago … her life would be a ruin after this night. The thought scared her: she would have nothing to live for, no teacher, no lover …

Suddenly Dumbledore stood up and went to the window of the hospital wing. He stood for a moment, studying the sky, then turned to Lily. 'I estimate it will be about half an hour until dawn, Lily,' he said softly. 'Perhaps we should wake him up so you can say goodbye properly.'

Lily nodded, emotionless, then shook Snape's shoulder slightly. 'Professor,' she called, and then after a quick glance at Dumbledore, said: 'Severus … Severus, please … wake up …'

For a moment Snape did not move, and Lily's eyes flew to the window as she wondered desperately whether she had been wrong, whether the potion had worn off and he was already dead.

'Severus!' Dumbledore's voice, far more intense than usual, rang in the tense, still air. Snape's eyes suddenly flew open, and he stared at the two standing figures blankly.

'Severus, its -' Dumbledore's voice shook for the first time since Lily had been at the school –'it's nearly time. I suggest you make your farewells. Lily, you have ten minutes.' He stepped out into Madam Pomfrey's office and closed the door.

Severus looked at Lily, pain shimmering in his eyes. 'Lily …'

'Severus, I don't want you to die!' Lily burst out, flinging herself onto him. 'You can't die, please … I love you, I always have, please, you can't die …'

'Lily, hush,' Severus said quietly. 'I don't want to die either, of course I don't. But I will. You know that. I've got less than half an hour left on this earth now … I'm scared of death, Lily. I'm scared of leaving this world. I feel safe here … and I'm scared of leaving you, Lily. I love you, too. But Rowena Ravenclaw had the strongest will of all the founders, and she's ruthless. If she wants someone to die, they will.'

He laid a gentle, lingering kiss on Lily's neck, and she was lost, pressed her lips against his, embraced him madly, trying to keep him, to hold him back from death.

'Oh … and you're staying here after I die, Lily, if it suits you. Dumbledore has allowed me to bequeath the dungeons to you. You're going to be the new Potions teacher, there's no one else for the job … you weren't planning anything else?'

Lily shook her head numbly, dumbfounded that he had thought of her future while he lay on his deathbed, and she, alive and healthy, had neglected to.

There was a quiet knock on the door, and then Dumbledore came back in. He wore a slightly satisfied expression, as if he knew something that they did not. 'Severus,' he said, 'would you like to see your mother again for a few minutes?'

Severus turned pale, and his eyes grew very wide. For a moment Lily saw in him a small boy, scared and timid. Then he swallowed and nodded, and the image was gone.

Dumbledore smiled, and then raised his and, his face growing intent. Then he muttered a few words in Latin.

Immediately the room grew dark, except the tip of Dumbledore's wand, which was growing a blinding white. A tall figure began to appear at the foot of Severus' bed. As Lily watched, she began to make out the figure's face, her hair, her long emerald cloak, until in front of them stood Severus' mother, exactly like a real person save the glimmer of Dumbledore's magic that shimmered under her skin.

Severus watched her, his face anguished. 'Mother,' he whispered.

The woman walked forward to his bedside, and knelt down by Severus. 'My son,' she said formally.

'Mother, I'm dying.'

The woman's expression did not alter, but Lily's experience gave her ability to find the pain in her voice when she spoke. 'I know. I sensed it.' She turned her face towards Dumbledore. 'Headmaster,' she greeted.

'Vivienne.'

Vivienne turned to Lily. 'And this would be Lily Potter.'

'Yes,' Lily replied. She decided she could not lose anything now, and continued. 'Um … Mrs Snape … Vivienne … I'm in love with Severus.'

Severus' mother smiled. 'Yes, I know. And he loves you.'

'You're not … concerned … about it?'

'Lily, I believe you have done more for him than I ever did. Of course, the age difference is … unfortunate … well, I suppose it no longer matters.' She turned back to her son. 'Severus, know that I love you with all my heart.'

Dumbledore made a strangled noise, and taking her eyes off Vivienne, Lily saw that he was pale and sweating.

Vivienne also looked at him, her shining form fading slightly. Then she stepped forward to Severus, leaned down and kissed him on the forehead, her raven hair falling either side of her face. 'Sleep well, Severus.' Then she motioned to Dumbledore, who smiled weakly and raised his wand. The image of Vivienne Snape evaporated, and Snape was left staring at the spot where she had been, tears running down his cheeks.

Dumbledore collapsed into a chair and again looked at the sky outside. Faint rays of sunlight were beginning to emerge from under the horizon, and Lily watched them in revulsion and disgust at the witch who would take away the life of a man loved by so many.

She looked at Dumbledore, and he nodded grimly. Then she bent down and planted a final kiss on Severus' lips. 'I love you,' she murmured. 'Goodbye.' Then she turned away, eyes haunted and terrified, shaking with the fear of being left alone. She did not hear Dumbledore's farewell, did not see the two men embrace briefly, only stared at the sky, waiting numbly for the dawn.

Then, with such purpose as Lily had never thought the day possessed, it came. Just as she held her breath and prayed that she was wrong, that Severus would not die, she saw the sun rise. At the same moment she felt a terrible wrench in her chest, suddenly felt the green awareness that had before disappeared from her mind flare and go out, felt the whole of Severus' personality, his past, his soul, disappear into the utter silence of dark … knew that he was dead.

Dumbledore let out a small noise, and Lily, turning mechanically towards him, saw tears glistening in his eyes at the loss of the man who had worked at the school faithfully for so many years, who had pledged his life to Dumbledore's service.

She stared at Severus' body, his face white, his eyes shut with a dreadful finality. He was gone. Gone forever … they would never again laugh over their cauldrons together, would never talk sadly about Snape's past, would never embrace and kiss each other. He would never again tell her he loved her.

'Are you sure?'

Lily started. For surely this was the voice who had been talking to her since she had become an Aurora, that quiet, almost motherly voice who had advised her what to do. But it sounded outside the caverns of Lily's mind, sounded within this very room.

She turned. A tall, dark-haired woman stood imperiously in front of her. For a moment Lily thought it was Vivienne again, but the face of this woman was wiser, and her eyes were green, not black, telling of potions and spells … and of founding a school for magic, a school so great it would produce the two wizards who would fight and destroy each other.

But Lily was not afraid. She stared at the woman with nothing less than hatred in her eyes. 'Rowena Ravenclaw,' she said coldly. 'How nice to be introduced to you at last. In the flesh.'

Rowena Ravenclaw's eyes flared. 'You wait, you just wait …' Her voice was different to that which had spoken in Lily's mind. It was cold, and angry, but not actively threatening and did nothing to provoke fear in Lily. Evidently she had been hearing the nicer side of Ravenclaw.

'Now, Rowena, no need to be nasty,' scolded another voice, softer and patient. Then another tall woman appeared next to Ravenclaw, golden-haired and smiling.

'Helga, she insulted me!'

'That is irrelevant. It detracts from … you know. Our task.'

As the women talked, Lily sneaked a quick look at Dumbledore. He was gazing uncertainly at the two women, looking as if he wished this was a danger that could be banished with a wand.

Lily suddenly felt a stab of annoyance. 'I presume, ladies, you are aware that Severus Snap has just … passed away?' she said icily.

'Which is exactly why we are here, Miss Potter,' snapped Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff looked at her co-founder in irritation. 'I'll do it, then,' she said finally. 'Lily, let me tell you of the conditions under which Hogwarts was founded.

'You see, each founder had a task. Salazaar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor hated each other so much that we knew the school would not be able to function properly as long as their feud existed. And they could not have fought it out; they were the most powerful wizards in the world, they would have destroyed it. So they left it o their heirs to sort out.

'In the end, we decided that each founder would have a task they would pass down to their heirs. Gryffindor's and Slytherin's was to fight and, most likely kill, each other. This was the most important task. Britain's wizarding community would be at peace after that had been achieved.

'Being women, Rowena and I didn't have much say in this, we didn't have enough power to persuade the boys -' Ravenclaw snorted –'to let us do anything. So we sort of wrote ourselves into the contract. We were fairly impartial, though, so in the end we figured that we could help both sides. Rowena could assist them with potions – which, by the way, was a Ravenclaw subject originally – and she did. Well, Severus helped Voldemort at one time with his potions, Voldemort obviously being Slytherin's heir. And you helped your father, Gryffindor. So her task was complete.

'My task was slightly different. I was simply to reward those who did good deeds, who made good choices. The reward wasn't specified, I liked my free will at the time. So I've been helping various people. Your father was rewarded after he defeated Voldemort – he was supposed to die, really, but I didn't think that was completely fair. And I couldn't let everything he'd done just go to waste. I rewarded Snape, too, for having the courage to do what he knew was right.'

'How – did -' Lily whispered.

'Oh, his reward was easy. All he wanted, all he'd every wanted for the past fifty years or so, was a second chance for love. So I gave him you. Someone to talk to, someone to help him forget his terrible past.

'Anyway, there were various others whom I rewarded, some of them on Slytherin's side, but I only have one last reward to give now. And then our tasks will be complete, and we can rest.'

Suddenly Lily's heart thumped in her chest. She had a feeling she knew was Hufflepuff was going to say.

'I'm here to reward you, Lily. For helping your father.'

'And for helping Severus,' Rowena Ravenclaw added quietly.

'Yes … so let's not delay, shall me?' Helga said to Rowena, who nodded.

The two witches stepped forward to Severus' bed, their wands raised. 'Vita!' they cried, lowering their wands together straight at Severus.

'Et iunior!' added Helga Hufflepuff, smiling.

As Lily watched, trying to translate the Latin words in her head, Severus' body faded, became insubstantial, ghostly, and then disappeared altogether. Lily was ready to turn away, sickened that she no longer had a body to mourn, when something caught her eye.

Another shadowy form was slowly gaining solidity in the place of Severus' body. Soon Lily could make out pale skin, long black hair and dark, tunnelling eyes, staring blankly. She looked at the two Founders in confusion. For surely this was Severus again, the same Severus she had known when he was alive?

But as she studied the body carefully, she noticed a few differences. His hair was longer than before, coming down just past his shoulder. His face was smooth and clean, not sallow at all, and the weary lines were gone. His eyes, though still deadly black, were softer and shone, not with anger or hate or the lust for revenge, but with the joy of life and a slight reckless amusement. This Severus was simply younger, perhaps only twenty or so. Certainly only a few years older than herself, she decided.

Severus blinked a few times and looked at them. 'I thought – I thought …'

'That you were dead?' finished Rowena Ravenclaw, and Lily noticed that even she was smiling.

'Well … yeah,' replied Severus, and suddenly his voice was that of a youth (albeit a little confused), was happy.

'Severus, you've been given another chance,' Hufflepuff said softly. 'A chance to live without Voldemort, without that Mark on your arm. A chance to love and be loved.' She looked at Lily, who, unable to contain herself any longer, ran and threw herself on the two Founders in delight. Tears came, but they were not the anguished tears she had expected, were tears of utter and complete happiness.

Severus climbed out of bed quickly, wearing only a long black robe, and almost ran to Lily, sweeping her up in his arms.

'How much do you remember?' asked Lily through her tears.

'Everything … I remember it all, but it's faded, like it never happened. Like a sort of threat, it's what will happen if I make the same mistakes again.'

'You won't … I love you, Severus. I really, really love you. Oh … I can't believe this is happening!'

'I know … I love you too … so much.' Severus leaned down and kissed Lily hard. She wrapped her arms around him briefly, then broke away and looked at Dumbledore, who looked relatively unfazed by the whole thing. 'Professor?'

'I always knew anything could happen at Hogwarts,' Dumbledore replied contritely. 'Shall we leave you to it?'

'We were going anyway,' said Rowena Ravenclaw. 'We're done here.' The word 'done' held a peculiar familiarity for Lily, but she knew she had never known it to be anything significant before.

She turned to the two women. 'Thank you, both of you. I'd been dreading his death so much … well, I never dreamed this could happen … to me …'

The two Founders smiled at her together, then murmured: 'Done.' Their voices were very quiet, but they seemed to echo all over the castle, and suddenly Hogwarts seemed less mysterious, less hidden, less magical somehow. Then the figures vanished.

Dumbledore looked at Lily and Severus, his eyes filled with surprised glee. 'I suppose that's that, then! I will announce your death and rebirth at breakfast. It would be nice if you could put in an appearance – both of you – but after that I reckon you both deserve a day in bed.'

'Together,' Severus muttered, a smile twitching the corners of his mouth. Lily giggled, and even Dumbledore smiled. Severus certainly had not lost any of his lived-in, experienced humour. Age is only a number, Lily mused.

'Shall we?' Dumbledore asked, and the three of them walked, arm-in-arm, to the Great Hall.

Everyone was already assembled for breakfast, and there was an astonished silence followed by a deafening cheer when they saw the three of them standing in the doorway.

'I have the pleasure to announce,' the headmaster said, 'that Professor Snape, with the help of Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw, has been resurrected and transformed into a substantially younger man. Miss Potter and Mr Snape, who remains a Professor, are to jointly teach Potions from now on. They would also like to inform everyone of their … relationship … which, as I understand it, began in the dungeons a few years ago … among the potions.'

The students all laughed, and Lily smiled at Severus, grasping his hand tightly. She could see her father at the staff table, looking overjoyed at not having to wrestle with the importance of his daughter's happiness versus the impropriety of her 'boyfriend.'

'So,' continued Dumbledore, 'I invite you all to raise your glasses to Lily Potter and Severus Snape!'

'LILY POTTER! SEVERUS SNAPE!' roared every pupil in the school.

And Lily, glancing joyfully at her lover, knew that Severus could finally begin to live again.

THE END

*****

Well, it's been a long wait, but I finally got there! Please review, but don't ask me for a sequel or anything coz there won't be one. And I really cannot be bothered to go through it all and edit it. It's long enough as it is, and I'd probably just add more. Anyway, thanks are to be given where thanks are due …

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