Chapter 6: Moments Lost and Found

Six Years Later: Christmas Eve 1981

Soft snow drifted outside the windows of Hogwarts as a merry fire crackled in Dumbledore's office. Dumbledore himself was seated in one of the armchairs in front of the fire, swishing his finger cheerfully in the air as he listened to the Christmas carols that were floating from various parts of the castle.

After a few moments, he turned to his companion who was sulking, rather than sitting, in the opposite armchair. A young, twenty-one year old Severus Snape was staring dully into the fire with absolutely nothing cheerful about him.

"Ah, come now, Severus," Dumbledore said as he put down his finger momentarily. "It's the holidays, a time to be grateful, if not happy, isn't it?"

Snape did not take his eyes off of the fire. "What have I to be grateful for?" he said bitterly.

Dumbledore considered this with a fair amount of thought. He understood why it seemed to Severus that all hope was lost. Lily Potter had died a little less than two months before and Dumbledore feared that a part of Severus had died with her. Not that he had been a lively, outgoing individual before but now, he hardly seemed alive at all. Dumbledore had watched him closely and noticed with sadness in his heart how Severus merely went through the motions of the day, hardly caring anymore.

But something more seemed to be bothering him tonight.

Dumbledore carefully chose his words. "I would say you are grateful to be alive, Severus, and grateful to have a home and an occupation."

Snape said nothing.

Dumbledore hadn't wanted to even mention Lily, but he knew that was the only thing on Severus's mind.

"And grateful that at least Lily Potter's son survived," he said softly. "We know that's what Lily really wanted."

Dumbledore hadn't expected an outburst of positive emotion and so he wasn't at all surprised when Snape's lip merely curled and he said bluntly, "She died thinking I was evil. She died without knowing how I felt for..."

He stopped suddenly, not bothering to finish his sentence, but that last word seemed to vibrate through the silence of the room: her.

A spark ignited in Dumbledore's mind, a memory of something long forgotten and buried for at least six years. Something that he had meant for Severus to see at a later date, but perhaps, on a night like this…

He once again looked over at Severus, who was still staring into the fire with glassy, black eyes and a set jaw. He was upset, Dumbledore knew it, but he hardly ever showed much emotion anymore…

Standing slowly, Dumbledore wandered over to his desk and unlocked a drawer at the very bottom. In it were two small vials, marked very clearly; one said Lily Evans and the other said Severus Snape. Dumbledore stared thoughtfully at them. He had forgotten they were there until recently when he had been doing a bit of winter cleaning. But now, perhaps, they would come in use.

"Severus," Dumbledore said rather loudly as he took the two vials and made his way over to the Pensieve. "There's something I'd like you to see." As Severus got out of the armchair, Dumbledore uncorked both vials and poured them into the Pensieve together.

Snape approached it and looked at it suspiciously. Dumbledore waved his arm invitingly to it, and without another moment's hesitation, Snape bent over it.

Dumbledore stood back, watched, and waited. He knew that Severus had entered the combined memories and would now witness what had happened that day. He had often wondered to himself if he were ever to show Severus, would he use Lily's memory or Severus's own? He had decided to use both because it would provide him with a full, unbiased view of what had happened.

It was a day in 1975, a day of exams, a day of sunshine. But furthermore, it was the day that both Lily and Severus had chosen to tamper with time. Dumbledore remembered the day well and how at the very end of it all, when he was standing on the wrecked astronomy tower with them, he had given Lily subtle hints - hints that she had to go back again. He had mentally given her wisdom and strength to set back the time-turner twice over (a usually difficult and rare task), so that they would go back to the very first incident, before they had tried to change it. The very original, where Severus had called her a "Mudblood" and she had stormed away.

Lily had enough sense to come straight to his office after she had turned the time-turner, dragging a befuddled Severus with her. Dumbledore had then taken those specific memories away from them, for their own good. He hadn't wanted to – it had pained him more than anything - but he had no choice. And so he took it all from them – the moments they had gone back in time, the re-lived accident, their confrontation on the astronomy tower, their near death experience, their rescue at the hands of James Potter and Sirius Black…all of it was gone.

And the only thing that remained was the original memory, in its pure brutal form.

Dumbledore knew if he had allowed those other memories to remain, the very course of the future would have changed and an important prophecy would never come to pass. But he had always had the intention to keep the vials and after certain important things had happened, to one day show Lily and Severus, so that they could become friends again later in life…

When Snape finally emerged, wet, from the Pensieve, he fell back in shock onto the floor. If Dumbledore had thought he had been grieving in front of the fire before, it was nothing compared to what he looked like now. Obviously grief-stricken, Severus looked up at him in disbelief, breathing heavily.

"That!" He said in a quiet, strangled voice. "That happened?"

"It did, Severus," Dumbledore told him, sitting next to him on the floor.

"Why did you take that memory from us?" Were Severus's hands trembling? "She had forgiven me, we could have stayed friends…"

Dumbledore nodded. "I know it seemed as if things would have been quite bright and cheery after that. But Severus, time was never meant to move in that direction. Time was never meant to be changed or twisted. If that memory had remained with you and Lily, the future would have changed dramatically and certain events would have never come to pass."

"What events?" Severus asked desperately.

"There were prophecies floating around at that time at the Ministry," Dumbledore explained. "Not that I was any expert. But I did know something of what was to come. I didn't know the boy's name at the time, but it was Harry Potter. He had to exist and for that to happen, Lily had to marry James Potter. And for that to happen, she had to move away from you."

Severus looked away with an expression of pure anguish.

"I'm sorry, Severus," Dumbledore said softly. "One day, it will all make sense. I can only say now that without the existence of Harry Potter, the world would fall to darkness. He is destined to make great things happen."

Snape nodded numbly and Dumbledore knew that although he didn't like it, he understood. Sometimes, personal sacrifices had to be made in order for the survival of the future world.

But the important thing was the small moment between Severus and Lily at the end of the memory. Snape's eyes shone with thick, unshed tears as he struggled with his emotions.

"A small Christmas present, if you will," Dumbledore said quietly, knowing the memory was devastating, but comforting.

For a half an hour, Dumbledore sat beside Severus on the floor, a gentle hand on his shoulder, while Severus trembled, a tear occasionally dripping from his hooked nose.

"Take it for what it was, Severus," Dumbledore told him gently. "And take the last moment and hold it with you. Know that Lily always cared for you and forgiveness was possible. Know that this can be a beacon of light for you in the dark."

After a few moments, Severus looked up. "Was that part of the memory mine or Lily's?"

"The very end?" Dumbledore said thoughtfully. "That was mostly yours. Strangely enough, Lily blocked part of that moment out of her memory. It was as if she knew what was going to come and she feared that it would stay with her. She couldn't bear being on rough terms with you and carrying that memory of pure friendship with her. Of course, she needn't have feared because I ended up taking the memory." Dumbledore bowed his head guiltily.

"Did you ever show Lily…this?

Dumbledore shook his head sadly. "I never got the chance. But Severus, wherever Lily is now, she will know your true intentions. She will know all the good you have done – and will do."

Finally, Dumbledore helped Severus to his feet and they sat in front of the fire once more, the memory dancing before them in the flames, the only thing on both of their minds.

1975. The missing memory from the vial.

Lily somehow knew that she and Severus would never remember any of this. She knew that Dumbledore had a plan and that when all was said and done, the original incident would play out just as it had been meant to, and she and Severus might never talk again.

She trusted Dumbledore completely – he was the Headmaster of Hogwarts and one of the best and most powerful wizards that the wizarding world had ever known. And so when he stared at her with his stare and she felt a different sort of magic running through her veins, his understanding crept into her. She knew what she had to do, how to do it, and the reasons for it.

In the few moments before she had flung the chain around her and Severus, she folded her arms around herself. "Sev?" she said softly.

Severus looked over at her.

"I want you to know that no matter what happens," Lily swallowed back burning tears. "You'll always be my best friend. Always."

Severus actually smiled. "You mean it?"

"Of course," Lily suddenly unfolded her arms and hurried over to him, knowing they only had moments left.

"And you'll always be mine, Lily," Severus said quietly. "Ignore any stupid things I say from now on."

Lily smiled, but that smile faded when she pulled out the time-turner.

Severus looked at it in alarm. "What are you doing?"

"We need to go back again, Severus," she said quietly as she flung the chain over the both of them. "We need to forget all that has happened. None of this was ever meant to happen."

"But Lily," Severus protested. "Things are fine now…"

"No, they're not," Lily said as she fumbled with the time-turner in her hands.

"Lily, please…"

"Dumbledore's orders, Sev!" And with that she hugged him tightly. Helplessly and hopelessly lost, Severus hugged her back, holding her tightly, as if she would disappear if he let go.

"Remember, Sev, always…" Lily gently kissed him on the cheek, still holding him, as her hands turned the time-turner behind his back…

… and they spun back into time.

A/N: That was it! The end! First, I want to apologize that it wasn't the happiest of endings. I hadn't meant for it to be, because I already have done a Lily & Severus forgiveness fluff fic. For this one, I wanted to experiment with something else and I believe it had to happen this way. If James and Lily hadn't gotten together, then Harry would never have existed and neither would the events of the series! So it's a little bit like the feeling in the last book - just bitter. I remember feeling so SAD that Lily and Severus could have never been more, but if they had, there would have been no Harry.

So I hope this makes sense. I know it's strange and confusing and totally would never have happened. I hope Dumbledore doesn't seem out of character and heartless. But when I think of it, if Dumbledore had known something important like a prophecy, he was only doing what he needed to do above and beyond all else - protect the future generation, even if it meant taking memories from Lily and Severus. And he felt horrible about it and one day, planned to make it up to them by showing them the memory, after Harry had been born and time had progressed a bit.

So I guess the moral of the story is that time just cannot be changed and everything happens for a reason. And to those who see Lily as such, I really didn't mean to make Lily seem stupid. I didn't want to portray her that way at all. But I would have listened to Dumbledore and have accepted his wisdom and a bit of his magic to make whatever needed to be done possible. She wasn't going to rebel against Dumbledore.

So thank you to all who read and reviewed, I really appreciate everything. I hope people aren't disappointed with how this turned out. I feel it's bittersweet, but I'm not disappointed. Like I said, I had already done a fluffy forgiveness fic and I wanted to try something new. It's still a bit hopeful :)