Yes. Yes. The usual one. I'm just borrowing the characters. (Let's face it, if I owned them, Severus would certainly not end up dying alone in that shack!)
Nevertheless, the plot here is mine, so if you want to work on it yourself, please PM me first!
Enjoy reading! :)
A sharp pain surged through his body. His knees gave way. Severus Snape crumbled onto the floor like a broken rusty tin soldier. This is it, he thought. The end of my pathetic life. Dying alone in a shack like a dog. Unwanted. Unloved. A failure through and through.
Bitterness crept to his mouth. I didn't even get to tell the boy that horrible truth. Dumbledore… Oh that manipulating bastard. The boy… Lily's boy..
His thoughts became more and more incoherent. He didn't know whether the pain had subsided or he just simply grew numb to it. Severus knew it wouldn't be long before he'd finally found peace.
Suddenly, the stacks of boxes just in front of him moved silently. For a moment the dying man thought he had imagined the strange scene in front of him. The boy? I must be hallucinating. How can he be….here?
Severus stared blankly at the figure that had given him so much misery: Potter and Lily's son. The sole eternal proof of his failure. The boy in question knelt down, looking at him yet afraid to reach out.
"Take…it", gasped the wizard hoarsely. His hands grasped tightly on the boy's collar. He mustered all his strength left in his withering life and forced the words out more loudly. "Take…it".
A flask was conjured up and shoved into his trembling hand. Still looking at the boy, Severus gave a long sigh. Warm unshed tears ran through his frozen heart, slowly melting away every mask plastered onto his face. Silvery threads of memory escaped freely, filling up the flask to the brim. Your son needs to know, Lily. He needs to know what his precious Dumbledore has actually expected of him. He needs to how I had failed you. He needs to know…why I hate him so…
"Look.. at.. me". A mere whisper now. The veteran double agent knew he didn't have much time. Those three words muttered had taken all the strength left in his dying shell. The only wish he held on tight in his slowly dimming conscious was the chance to see them one last time: her mesmerizing green eyes that had long been the sole source of solace for his hollow life. His Lily…
Locked in those emerald eyes that had haunted his every waking moment, the wizard found his grip on the boy's robe slackened. His last breath slowly escaped from his body. I've done my best, Lily. Please forgive me. How I wish I could right my lifetime of wrongs…
Welcoming the release from his torturous life of lies, Severus Snape closed his tired eyes and drifted off into nothing but darkness.
Severus didn't know how long he had drifted into peaceful darkness. Suddenly he felt cold breezes caressing his skin. Hell freezes over? And I have always thought hell was all about fire.
Then he heard a familiar squeaking, like some metal chains swinging back and forth. The sound, somehow, tugged him violently at his heartstrings. And then he realized with a start. His heart.. It was beating. What...in the world is going on?
"Open your eyes, Severus," came a voice he knew by heart. The same voice that had ordered him about. The same voice that had consoled him in his darkest hours. The very same voice that had begged him for an unspeakable favour. And that voice… had betrayed him. Please, don't tell me this is one of his schemes again. For Merlin's sake, I died completing his cruel task already. What more could he possibly want from me! To haunt the Malfoy and scared them to death?
"Tempting, but no, Severus." the voice replied as if it could read his mind. "I'd just like you to open your eyes, please."
With great annoyance that he still felt compelled to do Dumbledore's bidding even in the Afterlife, the Potion Master opened his eyes. He was nowhere near prepared for what he saw.
It was his sacred spot. The swing where she had spoken to him for the first time. He found himself perched on one swing; the wise old wizard on the other. The place had not changed much. Things just looked…smaller. Or perhaps, he had just gotten bigger than his 9 year-old self.
"Hello, Severus," greeted Dumbledore cheerfully.
"You being the last person on earth I'd like to see. So, I presume this is Hell and you are painfully assigned as my personal guide," sneered the grumpy spy irritably.
"In a way, yes. I have the honour to be here to give you the explanation that hopefully you will find useful. And no, I can assure you that I, and certainly you, are not in Hell despite how much you wished me to be," said the most powerful wizard ever lived, looking amused.
"Am I dead? You are dead,… aren't you?" Severus couldn't help feeling slightly hopeful. He secretly wished that Dumbledore would just chuckle conceitedly and let him in on the tasteless joke that the man, in fact, was alive. That it had just been another cruel trick to fool the Dark Lord. That this guilt that had been eating him away…was not real.
"Unfortunately, my dear boy, I am. Dead, I mean," intoned the Headmaster in a satisfied gleam as if being dead is just another milestone in life. "But the question is… Do you wish to remain dead, Severus?" he smiled.
Yea.. right.. As if I have a choice, thought Severus, almost sure the old wizard had gone senile.
"Actually, you can," replied Dumbledore matter-of-factly. "You see, you had lived your entire life doing others' bidding. Mine. Tom's. And you were thrown into the life you did not wish to lead. The only thing that kept you going is your love, Severus. Your unconditional love for Lily. You knew you were played, yet you let that happen voluntarily for Lily's sake. You even risked your life protecting the only person who was the living proof of your worst nightmare." Dumbledore's smile had faded away. The sparkle in his piercing blue eyes was no longer there. "For that, I am truly sorry, Severus. I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me."
For a moment, Severus was lost for words. He couldn't believe the greatest wizard ever lived was asking him for… forgiveness. But the betrayal was too great. He had long come to terms with his doomed fate. He knew he needed to be punished and repent for his crime. His mistake had cost the life of the only person who had taught him how to 'feel'. But the boy… You were willing to sacrifice him too. The boy who trusted you.. Lily's boy. A surge of anger flooded his senses. Severus glared at the manipulative wizard furiously.
"I don't think you deserve forgiveness, Albus. You and your greater good have caused as much pain as the Dark Lord's scheme. Perhaps, even more. You knowingly send a mere child to death. Be a pompous attention-seeking brat he was, that Potter boy believed in you. Trusted you. Even loved you. And you handed his head on a silver plate to the Dark Lord for the greater good?," snarled Severus. "Even I do not possess such cruelty to fool him like you did."
The late Headmaster looked as if he had aged a hundred years in a split second. "You're absolutely right, Severus. I have no excuse for my action, which I still believe to be the best solution. Only one thing I will say for myself. I believe Harry will succeed. He has his mother's heart. And that kind of love, Severus, can change history, or even a prophecy. I believe he would let Voldemort take his life, defenceless just as his mother had been. And that, eventually, will save him, I believe".
"Oh Please! Spare me your scheming speech!," roared Severus. "I've heard one lifetime's worth of your manipulative excuses. Spare me this! What is it that you're here for? Speak it out and leave me be!" Severus jumped out of a creaking swing and stood towering over the wise old wizard. His hands were trembling. He summoned every ounce of restraint he had to stop himself from shaking the life out of the man who had played him like a pawn. He turned away. Arms folded across his chest. Readying himself of what bad news to come. Maybe he'll say that I need to go back to Hogwarts as a ghost to keep on teaching Potion. I'll take Hell over that any day.
"Your guess is half right, Severus," Dumbledore smiled again. This time, there was sparkles in his blue eyes. "Before you die, your wished to right all your wrongs. Somehow, your wish is granted." Severus stopped dead in track. He looked dumbfounded.
Dumbledore continued, "There are many ways and no way to explain this. Perhaps, this is just a dream. Perhaps, this is how the Afterlife works. Perhaps, your last thought was so powerful that it had altered time and space. Or perhaps, and I believe in this one, considering what courage and selfless love you had shown in your past life, you just simply deserve a second chance."
There was no reply from Severus. Silence fell upon them. There was no sound but the rustles of dried leaves dancing to the wind. Severus opened his mouth, but then closed it again. He did not know where to begin. That was when he heard her. Lily's sweet voice drifted from afar. She was…singing?
Here I stand alone.
With this weight upon my heart.
And it will not go away…
In my head I keep on looking back.
Right back to the start.
Wondering what it was that made you change..
Severus' heart sank. Years of pent up tears threatened to rise in his dark black eyes. He looked up the sky, trying his best not to let them fall.
Well, I'd tried. But I had to draw the line.
And still, these questions keep on spinning in my mind.
What if I had never let you go,
Would you be the man I used to know?
If I'd stayed, and if you'd tried
If we could only turn back time…
But I guess we'll never know...
Registering what the song could have meant, Severus felt hot tears trickled down disobediently, burning his sallow cold cheeks. He turned to look at Dumbledore, no longer caring if the old wizard would see his most vulnerable self.
"It seems, Severus, that you are not the only one with regrets," Dumbledore's answer came even before Severus could muster a question. "What are you waiting for then, my dear boy? Isn't this what you had longed for your whole life?"
Severus' heart had already leapt to the source of that melancholic song. He found his feet moving on their own accord along the route so engraved in his heart that he could even walk there with his eyes closed. He whispered, "But, how… Lily's… I…"
"When you reach that door, you will be your twenty-year-old self again. And so is she," said Dumbledore, reassuring.
Severus stopped but did not look back. He merely whispered. "So, I did call her with THAT word? She still hated my guts." She's still with…Potter.
"In my humble opinion, I don't think anybody who hates your guts, as you put it, could stand there alone, singing this song with tears all over her face, Severus." The wise old wizard intoned. "She is not Mrs. Potter. Not yet. My humble advice, just tell her the truth. You had been living a lie all your life. It's time you did what your heart has told you to do."
Dumbledore stood up. His flowing midnight blue robe contrasted against maroon autumn leaves in the deserted playground where it all began. "Good luck, Severus. For what it's worth, you deserve everything this life has to offer. Lead it well." With that, the wise old wizard disappeared.
Severus could not care less for what Dumbledore had said. For he was lost in Lily's sad melody. She's alive. That's all that matters. And she's singing… for him.
Many roads to take.
Some to joy. Some to heartache.
Anyone can lose their way.
And if I said that we could turn it back,
Right back to the start.
Would you take the chance,
And make the change?
Pain seared through his body. His rushed steps became heavier and heavier. Blood trickled down his neck, soaking his black robe. But Severus couldn't care less. His only focus is on that door, and the woman behind it. The woman he literally went to Hell and back for.
Do you think how it would have been, sometimes?
Do you pray that I'd never left your side?
If only we could turn the hands of time,
If I could take you back, would you still be mine?
Cuz I've tried. But I had to draw the line.
And still these questions keep on spinning in my mind.
Closer now. He could see glimpses of her standing in front of the window. Her red long hair was still as bright as he remembered. Lily… you are here. He swallowed another set of sob, and quickened his pace as if he was afraid that this was merely a dream. That she would disappear again if he looked away. Her voice rang clearer. Her trembling voice. Her tearful longing voice. And he felt as if his heart would stop once more.
What if I had never let you go?
Would you be the man I used to know?
What if I had never walked away?
Cuz I still love you more than I can say.
If I'd stayed. And if you'd tried
If we could only turn back time..
But I guess we'll never know.
We'll never know…
The pain was almost unbearable now. He knew where the blood had come from: Nagini's fang. For a moment, he wondered if this is another cruel joke of Dumbledore. To put her within his reach… and snatch it away brutally. But Severus did not care. Just one look at her was worth the pain. He summoned all the strength left in his weakening body and knocked on her door.
The last thing he remembered was those mesmerizing teary green eyes, looking at him with an emotion he could not place; and her soft arms, wrapping around him; breaking his fall as his useless body gave way.
A/N: This is certainly NOT a songfic. But the lyrics of this particular song really got to me while I was writing so I couldn't resist adding it into the story.
(It's "What If" by Kate Winslet for "A Christmas Carol".)