His Greatest Wish, by AndromedaMarine
A/N: Main story to which "Forgive Me" is prologue.
Severus Snape woke feeling far different than usual. For one, he felt very refreshed, which hadn't happened in twenty-two years. Recently, he hadn't slept at all. Two, his body somehow seemed...smaller? He felt sure his bed had to be bigger than this. This certainly did not smell like his quarters at Hogwarts, but it was a familiar scent nonetheless. Severus blinked and then frowned. The ceiling looked strange, until he recognized a few pockmarks from spells gone awry in his childhood. Wait...his childhood...why was he in the shabby house of Spinner's End? He tried to recall his last conscious memory, but found that the only thing coming to mind involved Voldemort and a magically bound Nagini floating through the air towards him. And her eyes. Lily's eyes seemed to be seared into his mind...but why?
He shifted in the bed to sit up, marveling at his thin, young, unblemished hands, and with a tremble of uncertainty, he pulled up the left sleeve of his pajamas. He nearly fainted when he saw that the Dark Mark was gone. As he looked around his old room his last memories came flooding back: his pleading with Voldemort, the realization that he would die by Nagini...the pain, the willing of his memories to leak away, and then...Harry Potter? The eyes. He had seized Harry's robes and spoken in a deep rasp, "Look...at...me..." and found forgiveness in those eyes he loved so much. And then the flood of memories gave way to a multitude of images from an interim, seconds, years, spent in a place where he had observed the life of Harry Potter, had promised himself that if somehow he managed to earn a second chance he would take it...take it to fix the things he'd destroyed.
Severus's hands shook. His body felt eleven, looked eleven, but the eyes that looked back at him in the mirror showed thirty-seven years of life, twenty-two of regret, and sixteen of pain. But somehow...somehow he had gone back. With every bit of knowledge he needed to secure himself to Lily Evans. The realization hit him. Lily. Lily was alive! He wildly looked at a calendar and realized it was August 31st, the day before the start of term—the day before he would travel to Hogwarts with Lily. A memory from his previous, darkened life came back: he and Lily had been at the park today, and she most certainly would be there again. These thoughts spurred him to dress in the least-shabby looking Muggle clothes he owned, and for good measure clipped his Hogwarts cloak over it, sans the pin with the school crest on it. He looked around his room once before spotting his brand-new wand lying on his desk; he picked it up and felt a familiar warmth before smiling at it and tucking it beneath his cloak.
The former potions master had long since forgotten who was at home on this day; he found his answer when, while descending the stairs, he heard the raised voices of Eileen and Tobias Snape shouting in the kitchen. With a pang Severus realized he had not seen either of his parents in over twenty years, but he was content to start his second life by avoiding them as much as possible. When he stepped outside, he felt fresher than he had in all his thirty-seven years.
Severus knew the path to Lily Evans' house by heart, having burned it to memory during his first life at Hogwarts. He walked with a suffocating need to see her, to touch her, to know for his own mind that she was safe, not dead. He speed-walked for a while and stopped when the Evans's house came into view. For a moment he ceased, swaying on the spot. After twenty-two years, he could finally make things right with the woman he loved...although at the moment she was eleven and he looked eleven. The more serious things would have to wait, but he needed her to know how much she meant to him long before she ever met Potter.
When James crossed his mind, Severus grimaced.
He was standing a hundred yards from the Evans's front door, when it opened and a young girl with red hair flew out of it in his direction. Severus quite forgot to breathe when he saw her. Lily ran right up to him, grinning, but the smile faltered when she saw the expression on Severus's face. She was standing only a few feet from him. He lurched forward quite suddenly, and drew Lily Evans into a tight, warm embrace, his thirty-seven year old mind sobbing in relief that she wasn't dead and didn't hate him.
Lily returned the hug with equal fervor, but when they pulled apart he kept his hands on her shoulders and she looked at him curiously, confused. "Sev? You all right?"
Severus's mind raced at the sound of her voice, the shimmer of her emerald eyes... "Yeah," he managed to say. But he could not stop a small tear from appearing at the corner of his eye. Lily's expression softened and she brushed it away. Severus closed his eyes and the skin of his face burned where she had touched him. He blinked and her face swam into view. He smiled, genuinely, for the first time he could remember. "Yes, actually, I'm better now than I have been in years."
"Years...?" she trailed it off as a question. "Sev, I saw you only yesterday, and you seemed fine then. You sure you're all right? Not in a tizzy about going to Hogwarts tomorrow?" Her green eyes gleamed.
"I know you're excited," Severus said softly. "I—I had a lot of time to think last night. About some things..." Like how I'll never, ever call you that horrid word in this lifetime. He looked around and suddenly remembered the park. "Can we walk to the park?"
"Sure, silly, and you can tell me all about whatever's changed you so much since yesterday."
Somehow, Severus seriously doubted it. He would tell her in time, he was sure, but with all the thoughts running through his head right now he needed to choose one, focus on it, and figure the rest out later. Later? What is later? At Hogwarts later, or after Hogwarts later? Without really thinking about it he reached down and grasped her hand in his.
Lily felt her stomach float when Severus took her hand, and she felt the blush creep up her neck. She hoped Petunia hadn't seen who she was running towards (or seen her running at all), but as the two eleven-year-olds strolled towards the park of Spinner's End she found herself feeling comfortable with their hands clasped.
Severus sat on the swing, reluctantly letting Lily's hand go when she sat on the one beside him. He found that he could not stop looking at her. "You're my best friend," he said so quietly he wasn't sure if she'd heard him.
But the light in her eyes told him otherwise. "You're my best friend too, Sev." She seemed to be thinking hard about something. "I know you've told me hundreds of times, Sev, but tell me again about Hogwarts," she asked him quietly, her voice suddenly betraying her nervousness about the impending journey to their school. "About the Sorting."
Severus swallowed. "Well, there are four houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Each house has certain criteria for accepting any one student; for example, Slytherins are cunning and ambitious." Not to mention a few other things. Like being the main House from which Voldemort has gathered his Death Eaters. How Pettigrew was Sorted into Gryffindor is beyond me. "Gryffindors are brave and courageous." Although a select few have been utter fools in some situations. Harry, for example. "Ravenclaws are marked for intelligence and logic." Though judging from Xeno and Luna Lovegood, madness as well. "And Hufflepuffs are loyal and just." Loyal to a fault; it got Diggory killed.
Lily looked at him with a defeated expression on her face. "I—I'm none of those things, Sev, not one! How will they know?"
Did I really never tell her about the Sorting Hat? "Er—Lily," he said, and they stopped rocking back and forth on the swings. "Lily. You may not think you're brave or logical, or just, but you don't have to know, because the Sorting Hat does it for you. It looks into your heart and your mind and it decides." But you will always have a choice, in the end, Severus thought bitterly, still angered over the idea that had he been aware that he could've chosen to ignore Lucius Malfoy and the Death-Eater-Wannabes, and perhaps Lily wouldn't've died the first time.
Lily seemed surprised. "A hat? A sorting hat? How clever!"
Severus had to give her credit for immediately understanding the Sorting Hat to be a magical, sentient object. "The four founders created it to Sort the students after they had died."
She nodded in agreement, understanding. "What House do you think you'll be Sorted into?"
The question caught Severus off-guard. He thought it over. He would never willingly set foot in the Slytherin common room again. Too dark it was, too tempting, and too dangerous. He had changed a thousand-fold since his last encounter with the Sorting Hat, and somehow Severus had no doubt in his mind that if it was really necessary, he could imitate Harry and repeat the phrase, "Not Slytherin," until the Hat put him somewhere else. He considered the remaining Houses. Hufflepuff was, unofficially, for "the rest" of the students; the ones who had shown no remarkable talent favored by any of the other founders. Gryffindor, Severus had to admit, was a distinct possibility, considering his massive changes and his growing of a spine somewhere between the time of the Prophecy and his life-altering meeting with Dumbledore. Ravenclaw was the most likely, because he had been returned to his eleven year old body with every ounce of learning and magical power he had left life with. He could easily out-perform the seventh years, and probably a few teachers as well. "Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, I expect," he said honestly.
"What about me, Sev? Where do you think I'll be Sorted?"
It took a great deal of self-constraint to not laugh out loud at the apparent absurdity of her question. "Gryffindor," he said immediately.
Her eyes dropped to the pea-gravel beneath their feet. "You're just saying that."
"No," Severus tried. "I really think you'll end up in Gryffindor."
He nodded, smiling slightly.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were Sorted into the same House?"
The thought had crossed his mind, yes, but he wondered...being in the same House would certainly help him keep James away from Lily, and that was part of his ultimate plan. "It would," he replied, and started to swing again. For some reason the motion helped him keep a handle on his thoughts. Something important sprung to mind. "Did Professor McGonagall tell you how to get onto the platform when she explained the letter to your parents?"
At this Lily's eyes lit up. "Yes! She said that if you lean against the brick barrier between platforms nine and ten you'll slide right through—onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters! Marvelous, isn't it?"
Severus only smiled, still wondering if at some moment his world would go black, if he would be wrenched back to that Afterlife of watching Harry Potter's life and children and reminiscing on how much he'd like to go back and fix things.
"Sev?" Her soft voice drew him out of the dark thoughts.
Their eyes met and for a moment he felt a twinge on his neck, where Nagini had sunk her fangs into him, killing him. Dumbledore had been right...Harry's eyes were precisely the same as Lily's. "Yes?"
"Were you going to tell me what made you...made you hug me?" She ended the question very quietly, and Severus saw that her cheeks had gone bright pink. He didn't doubt that his own were probably tinged as well.
He had known Lily would ask him. "I—Well, last night I guess you could say I had a...nightmare. When I woke up I thought long and hard about it, and I...I realized some things. Things that sort of go against the beliefs my ancestors firmly held. That it doesn't matter where we come from or whether our parents are wizards or not—because choice is the greatest influence."
Lily stared at him, dragging her feet in the gravel to stop the motion of the swing. Severus did the same. "But why did you hug me?" Her face was still red.
Severus knew he must be honest with her. "In the...nightmare...you died. And it was my fault. When I hugged you it was to convince myself that it really was just a dream—that you're still alive and don't hate me."
She frowned. "Why would I hate you, Sev?" she asked curiously.
He answered quickly. "Because Petunia is angry about me telling you about magic, and it made her hate you. You treasure her friendship, Lily...you could've hated me for putting that rift between you and your sister." Your horrible, stuck-up, good for nothing sister whose jealousy and cruelty could've been described as legendary.
To Severus's great surprise, Lily laughed. "I've gotten over it, Sev, I guess. I'll never go back to being...Muggle...again, and if Tuney can't deal with it, that's her problem. I'll always love her because she's my sister, but I think I can live with the idea that she'll never see me the same way she did before you called me a witch." She seemed to ignore the part about Severus dreaming about his being responsible for Lily's death.
Severus remembered Lily pleading with Petunia on the Platform so long ago, and wondered if, somehow, things had changed in a way he hadn't foreseen.
They sat there, swinging, for what seemed like hours, him telling her about Hogwarts and her confiding in him about her worries of acceptance. "It really doesn't matter, Lily," he said, "being Muggleborn. There are people in Slytherin who absolutely hate Muggleborns and don't believe they should even be allowed into the school, but those people are holding onto outdated, medieval ideals and it really doesn't matter what they think. They're the sort of blokes who end up with Voldemort."
Lily's eyes widened. "Sev, you said his name without flinching or anything!" It was only then he remembered that he had indeed told her about Voldemort, except at the time he'd referred to the Dark Lord as 'You-Know-Who.'
Hermione's wise words popped into Severus's mind. "Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself. But it's like I said—diehard purebloods see Muggleborns as an invasion and they think that by joining Voldemort they can help...exterminate...them. You don't have to worry, Lily. I'm sure you'll be the top in everything at Hogwarts." This time she beamed at him.
The day drew on and it was only when the twilight started setting in that they both realized they had skipped lunch. But Severus didn't mind.
"I'll meet you on the platform tomorrow, yeah?" The two had gotten up from the swings and were walking back towards Lily's house.
"I'm so excited!" she said when her house was in view. "This year will be so spectacular, Sev...learning about magic!"
Before she turned to go inside, he hugged her again, tightly, his heart going light when he felt her return it. He pulled away and smiled at her. Severus waited for her to disappear into the house before starting towards his own house, thinking about how best to avoid his father before departing tomorrow for King's Cross.