White. Blinding white, but something else too. A warm summer breeze? The scent of wild flowers and mud in the air? No. It couldn't be. Or could it?
Severus sat with his legs extended in front of him on a gentle grassy incline. It seems, he noticed, that he was leaning against a large tree that very much resembled an oak. It also appeared that this tree had been growing along a riverbank, its roots stretching towards the water.
He would not have questioned the land except that the colors that were normally present seemed to be sucked from it leaving only a stark blankness. In fact, the only color in the place was Severus himself. He wore his usual black robes, and could feel the warmth of the day seep through them.
The river was peaceful, and Severus could hear the waters' currents roiling about. Severus recognized this riverbank. Oh yes, he knew it well. This was the one place in Severus' life that held nothing but good memories. Memories of auburn hair and flashing green eyes, that were just the color of the grass, of gentle kisses that he had always felt he never deserved, and caresses that made him wild with longing. With a hint of a smile on his lips, Severus recalled these memories with infinite pleasure, and the usual ache in his heart that accompanied them surged through his being.
Severus took a moment to take in the pureness of this riverbank (for he knew this white one was surely not his own), and began to wonder where exactly he was. Uncharacteristically, he was happy and content in not knowing for he had a feeling all he needed to do is wait here for someone.
The warm air tousled Severus' long black locks which, strangely enough, were not their usual lank greasy selves. In fact, all of Severus seemed to be unmarked and clean. He even seemed several years younger, for many of the creases that had lined his face had mysteriously vanished. On a sudden whim, Severus pulled up his left sleeve and inspected his arm. Nothing. The Dark Mark had vanished. This was a complete surprise, and even the peace of this place could not keep out the shock of the thoughts that arose to his mind. The only way the Dark Mark would be gone was if….
No, Severus doubted that could ever happen. Then he remembered. Voldemort , speaking to him. Saying he had been a "good and faithful servant", but that only he could live forever. Severus remembered the snakes' cage crushing him, and Naginis' fangs piercing his neck. He remembered lying on the floor, the feeling of hopelessness that he had failed his final mission to both Dumbledore and her. Then, Severus remembered the boy with the grass green eyes staring at him, the fingers that tried in vain to staunch the bloody wound, the flask that took the memories that gushed from him as swiftly as his blood did, and the compassion that stared into his own black eyes as Severus….. Oh. Now he understood.
Just as this revelation came to him however, a figure appeared from the other side of the oak. The man was tall with strikingly blue eyes, half moon glasses, and a long beard almost as white as Severus' surroundings,
"I'm glad to see our final arrangement did not seem to damage your soul in any way," Dumbledore said. Severus got to his feet, and stared hard into the blue eyes that greeted him with nothing but cheeriness. "I can honestly say I'm quite relieved."
"Such relief implies possibility. Had you fear it would? For I was under the impression I was in no danger of that," Severus replied in an iron tinged tone.
"I had quite convinced myself that your mercy on me would save you, but there is always room for doubt." Dumbledore looked steadily at Severus. "If Greyback had been given me it would have been a much messier affair."
A moments' pause, as the men stared at each other.
"I gave him what he needs," Severus said suddenly.
Dumbledore looked kindly at him.
"Thank you, Severus." Something flitted across Snapes' face, but quickly disappeared again as Dumbledore continued. "It seems you died the death quite fitting of a Gryffindor. You were brave, Severus. A quality so many of your house lack. Perhaps, future generations will look upon your example and see what a true Slytherin was like. Cunning, and ambitious, oh yes, but also loyal, and brave." Severus stared at Dumbledore, for once at a loss of words. He regained his composure quickly, however, and gave Dumbledore a tight lipped nod. Dumbledore looked at Severus with a look of calm. "Are you not going to ask?"
"What?" He was taken aback by the rapid change of conversation. Severus, of course, knew what Dumbledore was speaking of, and was almost certain his hunch was correct.
"Where you are," Dumbledore explained. "Most tend to wonder about it."
"I do believe, Headmaster, that I am in something like Purgatory," Severus said.
"Yes, of course Purgatory, but I mean where does this place look to you? I am merely curious for it is usually different for every person." Dumbledore looked expectantly into Severus face.
"A riverbank," said Severus quite simply. Surely it's best not to give unneeded details.
At this, however, Dumbledore lit up. "Ah," he said. "She had hoped as much was true." At that he promptly turned and walked away.
She? What the bloody hell was he talking about? Severus was tempted to call him back. Have him explain. Instead, he sat back down and watched as Dumbledore faded into the stark land. Severus covered his face in his hands, trying to escape the blinding whiteness, when all of the sudden he felt a gentle prod in his back.
"Sev?" A pause, then a sigh. "Come on Slytherin, now is not the time for a nap."
Severus immediately removed his hands and, forgetting his dignity, threw himself in the direction of that sweet voice. He hit his mark too, for he landed quite heavily on its owner. He didn't care though. All at once Severus was running his fingers through her hair, laughing and sobbing. She was doing the same and he held her so close that their rapid heartbeats were as one. She kissed him on the tip of his nose, and it was as if that small action was the trigger. Suddenly he was kissing her, running his hands up her lithe body, kissing a trail up her neck and along her jaw. He wanted her. He wanted make sure that she was all there, that this wasn't just another of his dreams. This was different than that though, he knew. It had more substance than all of his memories, fantasies, and dreams combined.
When they broke, those green eyes, and auburn hair that smelled so beautifully of the flowers along the river was enough to make him sob, but gentler than before. He held her in his arms, and his tears fell from his hooked nose and into her hair as he told her everything he regretted not telling her before that awful night all those years ago. Words of love, devotion, and regret he had kept bottled up inside for so long. She stroked his hair and tears rolled silently down her cheeks as well, but then, almost motherly, she rocked him in her arms until he began to quiet.
"Lily," he said and the name filled him with so much joy that his eyes threatened to spill again. Severus did not permit them, however, and he simply held her protectively, close enough so that if the Dark Lord himself wished to separate them he would not be able to do it. Severus would never let that happen again.
They sat in this way for a while, neither knowing how long, but neither wanting to break apart.
"Thank you, Sev," Lily said softly into his shoulder, stroking his hair. "Thank you for keeping him safe."
"Oh, Lily," was all Severus could manage. He could not think of anything to say. He had kept Harry safe only for her. To help repay his guilt. He never expected to get a 'Thank you' from her. It was almost too much for him to bear. "I'm so sorry." He looked into her eyes in earnest, waiting.
She stared back and said, "Oh, Severus. I had forgiven you long before I knew, before Dumbledore warned us. You broke my heart when you chose Voldemort over me, but I knew that you had warned Dumbledore. After that, I have always wondered why. " She looked at him expectantly, waiting for an answer to the question that had obviously nagged her for so long. Her words rocked him to the core. Firstly that she had truly forgiven him so long ago; secondly that she was disappointed he did not pursue her and thirdly that those feelings had stayed with her so long.
"Because I… I… loved you. I still do. I love you Lily." He expected her to grimace, or something of that nature. Instead, she simply looked up into his eyes. "I was never worthy of you, Lily. I never deserved you," he said quietly.
At this she stood up at once. He blinked at her in surprise. "How could you know what is worthy of me or what isn't?" Her eyes sparked green flames as she continued. "That was my decision, and I had chosen you." Severus stood up as well, and stared in disbelief at her words. Merlin! She had chosen him? "I thought you could see that," she spat out, "I thought I had made that much clear! You were always 'worthy'. Then you had the nerve to call me a... A…" She struggled with the offending word.
"Don't say it. Please." Severus cowered before her rage. He shut his eyes. "I'm so sorry. Lily, please."
He struggled to find the right words to explain his pain and regret of what could have been his life. He was sure, that with her, it would have been immeasurably better. He sat with his back against the rough bark of the oak. Her expression softened when she saw the pain etched in his features. She sighed, and sat against the tree beside Severus. He looked down at the small pink hand lying in the soft white grass. Cautiously, he reached for it and gently took it in his own. A question floated to the top of Severus' mind. One that made him sick at the thought of it.
"Why are you here," he asked gesturing to the river and tree, "Why are you not in your darling Potters' heaven? Why are you here with me?"
Surprisingly, a small sad smile flashed on her face. "James was a good man. Kind and sweet. He loved me, and he died trying to protect Harry and I," she continued and her brow creased slightly, "but I always felt that perhaps he was too self worshipping. He was too much in love with himself as well as me to be truly and wholly mine." She looked up at him, and her fingers tightened around Severus' hand. "Not like you. You loved me and only me even when I wouldn't speak to you, even when you became a Death Eater, even when I was gone," she paused, "You loved me. Right?"
He smiled at this, his soul full of joy in knowing that throughout her life he had stayed in her heart. He kissed her exposed neck gently. "Always, you silly girl. I will always love you." He squeezed her hand in his, then released it and drew his arms around her. The breeze tossed her hair and the smell of it was intoxicating to Severus. She laid her head against his chest, and Severus could not think of a moment in his life he had felt this much pure happiness. He wondered if he should kiss her. He didn't know how their relationship stood at the moment. Such a silly worry, he thought. After all, I'm only dead.
He didn't have much time to think on the situation; however, for at that exact moment Lily stretched up and planted a sweet kiss on his lips. All self control was lost, and Severus gripped her with all his might as he deepened the kiss. She lifted her hands and her cool fingers ran through his hair, making his scalp prickle against her cool touch. She pulled him closer, and swung her leg over his waist, straddling him. Severus opened his eyes and blinked in surprise. Was she serious? Could they really do... do that… here? She answered by touching the snow white skin of his stomach, and started to slowly lift the hem of his robes upward. Her touch sent shivers up his body, and he practically moaned,
He was kissing his way up her neck. She started to pull up the bottom of her white flowery dress when he moved over top of her and they kissed on the pure white grass. Severus finally had her. In the shade of that strange oak, in the strange grass, on this strange white riverbank, she was finally his. His and only his.
Afterwards, they lay beside one another; her curled up against his side, with him stroking her hair. She fussed with his rumpled robes, smoothing them against his chest again and again. "Thank you, Lily," Severus said after a few minutes, "Thank you for remembering me."
"It's not that I had to remember," She explained, "It's more like I could never forget my best friend, and the only man who ever unconditionally loved and understood me."