Time had returned to its normal pace once more, but to Lily it was dizzying. She saw the Death Eaters flee, their loyalty apparently as dead as their leader. She could see that there were casualties on both sides, but her head was spinning too much to notice much else. She stumbled back into the castle, almost unnoticed, eager to escape the chaos.
She returned to the abandoned room where everything was hidden. She wandered among the stacks of discarded possessions and hidden evidence of petty crimes. Once she was fully immersed in the room, far from the exit, she pulled the Stone out again. She inhaled deeply and turned it once. Nothing. She turned it twice. The familiar yet ghostly outlines of James and Harry faded into existence a few strides in front of her.
Lily smiled in relief, but then she realized something was wrong. They hadn't been solid before, but now they were even less substantive. They seemed to fade in and out of focus as she watched them.
"James?" she whimpered. "Harry?"
She could see their lips moving, but the sound was distorted as if they were speaking to her from underwater. She could feel the hot tears beginning to fall from her eyes. She twisted the Stone again and again, watching in desperation as James and Harry got clearer and more definite in from, only to fade out to near nothingness again.
Letting out a frustrated scream, she began to pound the ring on the floor. "Useless thing… Doesn't even work…" She quieted for a moment. James and Harry, flickering in and out of clarity, gave her curious and slightly amused looks. "Please," she pleaded, looking back and forth between them rapidly. They didn't seem to be able to hear her, as they continued smiling. Harry stood up on his tiptoes and whispered something in his father's ear and they both laughed. "Please," she repeated. "Just five more minutes. Just one minute—just thirty seconds! I'll do anything. Please."
A gentle hand on her shoulder made her jump. Her heart now pounding, she whirled around to face the last person she'd wanted to see. She sighed; she hadn't heard anyone come in. How much had he witnessed of the last few minutes?
"Lily," Severus said softly.
He sat down next to her on the floor and didn't say anything else for quite some time. She stared at the ring in her hands, wishing that he would leave.
"What's wrong?" he asked in such a kind voice that she forgot her previous decision to be distant to him.
"They won't come back," she muttered, fresh tears burning in her eyes.
"Ah," he said, his gaze falling to the Resurrection Stone in her hand. "You were amazing, Lily," he told her. "You did it. I can't believe I ever doubted you. You really did it."
She smiled faintly. The magnitude of what had just happened hadn't yet sunk in, and she honestly didn't want to think about it. "Why won't they come back, Sev?" she asked, looking over to where the barely visible James was ruffling Harry's hair. They didn't seem to be able to see Lily, and Severus wasn't able to see them—he'd just known what Lily was talking about.
"Well," Severus said, leaning back against a shelf. "I think it's because you don't need them anymore."
Lily glanced up in shock. She hadn't expected an answer beyond 'I don't know' and she couldn't make any sense of the one she'd gotten. Severus looked back at her evenly.
"But…" she began, "…but I do need them. I need them so much it hurts."
He seemed to consider her words, weighing them in his mind. "I think you know that you can't have them back forever. I think you know that you'll be able to move on with your life—that you've known this for quite some time. But seeing them again brought back the memories and you thought about what could've been, and you're aching for that. But you don't need them back in order to survive. You've done what you needed to do and you know that you have to move on now and that hurts." He paused for a moment, giving her a searching look. "At least, that's what I think."
She nodded, still letting everything register. "I think that you're probably right," she said after a while. "Thank you for that and for… everything."
He grinned. "The pleasure is mine, I assure you."
She bit her lip, not letting herself smile as she remembered the first time he'd said that to her—in the midst of the Hunt, in the tent, right after Sirius had left… a lifetime ago.
"Are you going to be alright?" he asked her, leaning over to catch her eye.
She nodded again. "Yeah, I think so. Eventually, anyway. Do you mind… giving me a little… time alone?"
Severus stood up immediately. "No, not at all."
He left the room, leaving her alone again. She made a few quick decisions. She would give the wand back to Dumbledore—he would just have to disarm her when she wasn't expecting it—and she'd keep the Cloak. But the Stone… It was terribly tempting to her, but she reminded herself that it had once played host to a portion of Voldemort's soul. This was disgusting enough to convince her to carry through with her plan.
She turned the Stone a final time. James and Harry disappeared completely. Then she closed her eyes and lobbed the ring as high and as far as she could. She heard the distant sound of it landing somewhere in front of her. It took all her willpower to turn away; therefore, she had no willpower left to stop her from running in desperation to where she had thrown the ring. She began tearing through piles of books and furniture until her fingers bled.
Then, all at once, she stopped herself. She held her head up high, retaining some degree of dignity, and turned on her heel. She marched out of the hidden room without a backward glance.
She didn't turn around until she was back in the corridor just outside the room. Then she allowed herself to stop and watch the door to the secret place close up behind her and then disappear into the wall.
"I can't go back," she told herself firmly.
But, in truth, she could go back if she wanted to. She could go back into the same room and search for hours until she found the ring. She might even get a chance to speak to James and Harry once more.
But Lily didn't allow herself to be tempted by the past. The door had closed.
A/N: Super short epilogue :P What did you think of the end? Do you think Lily and Severus might happen in this AU? To be honest, I don't know myself… And what did you think of the story over all, from start to finish? What was your favorite part? Thanks to all of you for reading this all the way through! It means a ton to me :) If you're interested, and you probably aren't, I will be taking an indefinitely long break from dark-AU-novels, so you can expect some rom-coms and short stories coming soon! (Marauders and NextGen!)
One last: THANK YOOOUUU!