Trigger warning; I strongly advise and ask people who have harmed themselves in the past, are considering doing so, or have intentionally engaged in self destructive behavior to please not read the following fan fiction because it contains graphic descriptions of a sort of self-harming behaviour and depictions of the mental state of someone who is self loathing engaging in a form of self-harming behaviour.
Author's Note/ This is a personal head canon of mine, and the following is how I imagine Snape reacting to the news of Lily's death. This is rated M, not because its smut, which it is not, but because the first half of the fanfiction contains what I consider to be disturbing themes. However, if you read this, please review it. I'd like to know what those of you who decide to read this think of what I've written & my intreperation of Severus.
After finding out that Dumbledore's endeavor to protect Lily had been unsuccessful, Severus met with Albus and avowed that he would help to protect the son she had died protecting. For once, Severus's attempts to seem in control of his emotions failed rather miserably. Albus tried his hardest to be as comforting and sympathetic as possible, but this only served to make Severus all the more uncomfortable. Severus had always been too prideful to accept pity and now, here he was, feeling as if he didn't even deserve it. Nothing could be done to ease the remorseful Slytherin's inner turmoil and as soon as he got the chance, he set off for his gloomy residence, a place that held too many unpleasant memories for him to ever truly consider home.
He unlocked the door of the dark and unlit house, only to immediately slink rigidly down into an old armchair with blue fabric that had long since become a faded grey color. Finally able to grieve in private, Severus let out a series of long choked sobs, which caused his chest to spasm up and down. He had grown so used to feeling lonely, but the world felt empty now that he knew she was in it no longer, which was a different feeling all together. He knew that he was inadvertently responsible for causing her death, despite his best efforts to prevent the tragedy. If he hadn't been so desperate to belong somewhere, so afraid of being alone, and so eager to earn the Dark Lord's approval, he would have never been in the position to relay and overhear the prophecy.
At the time, he hadn't the slightest idea that it would connect back to her. Had he only known then what he knew now, the whole calamity would have been averted. Severus felt as if his life had somehow ended with hers; he knew that he would continue to live only as a broken shell of a person. He was sure that he would never again experience true happiness. For him, life would only be a string of goals, a list of tasks that needed completing. He would find grim satisfaction in having a purpose to fill, and that was as close as he would ever come to actual contentment. Severus was angry with himself for letting harm befall Lily, for failing to shield her from it. Hadn't that been one of the things he'd told himself justified joining the ranks of Voldemort's Death Eater's in the first place? He had always thought that if he was on the winning side of the impending war, then he could use his connections to shelter those he loved from harm. He groaned as his chest tightened in pain, in reaction to the final heartbreak her death caused him. He had already lost her once before, and that wound hadn't ever completely healed, but now the smarting hole in his heart had transformed into a brutal and ragged gash.
'I don't even have any right to mourn her,' he told himself.
'We hadn't spoken in years. She made it very clear she no longer wanted anything to do with me,' he chastised himself, irritated that he was acting as if his feelings had any real significance or importance.
'I'm not the victim in this, unless I managed to victimize myself along the way. I should have listened to her back at Hogwarts, when she cautioned me against having anything to do with the Dark Arts. I was too power hungry to realize the truth in her words, to see sense,' he strongly castigated himself, his thoughts encased with the essence of hard bitterness, which caused another wave of guilt and self loathing to overtake him.
Then he stood up, his breathing still shaky as he planted his feet firmly on the floor. Severus was intent on punishing himself for the part he played in Lily's death. Like the man, haunted by shame and regrets, that he was, he began to gather up the books that were piled neatly by his chair and, as if possessed, tear them from their bindings. The pages began to cascade downward, papering the floor in white, as if fresh snow had fallen. He used a severing spell to cut vertical slashes across the chair in which he had been sitting, and intentionally dropped the bauble, which sat on his fire place mantle, so that it plummeted to the floor with a crash. The lone lamp that stood in the room was the next thing to be destroyed, and it shattered against the wall, pressing its indent in the sheetrock soon after he flung it across the room. After inflicting his rage upon the living room, he numbly made his way to the kitchen and clumsily swatted crystal vials full of various potions from the shelves on which they sat tidily positioned. His onyx gaze took in their steady descent through the air, and the eventual impact as they hit the kitchen counter. He watched the liquids trickle slowly from their containers down the sides of the countertops, as they ultimately splattered the floor with their sticky fluids.
He stood and surveyed the chaos that had overtaken his house, fighting the compulsion to clean up the mess he had created. If Severus had visited a Muggle psychiatrist or a Wizarding healer, they would have told him that his urges to make sure that his surroundings stayed immaculate were caused by obsessive compulsive disorder. Severus had never done this, and so all he knew was that it caused him distress and anxiety to see his quarters in such disarray. At the moment, he felt as if he deserved nothing but the worst unhappiness that he could impose upon himself, and so he forced himself to observe the sorry state of his possessions and do nothing about it.
He stood like this for what felt like a great expanse of time until he heard an intense rapping against his front door. He walked towards and unlatched the door. Minerva McGonagall was standing on his porch. "Hullo Severus. Albus was worried, so he sent me to come and check on you," she explained.
"Come in," he intoned in a voice that was fractured and full of tension.
"Oh my," she noted as her eyes fell upon the fresh destruction.
"Sit," she demanded of Severus, her voice taking on a coaxing and maternal tone as she gripped his narrow shoulders and firmly guided him into the chair that sat just beside his barren fireplace. She assessed the chill that hung in the air and accioed a few scrawny sticks from Severus' lawn and magically transfigured them into logs for the fire. She used her wand to light the fire and smiled in approval as warmth began to spread outward from the source radiating heat.
Minerva ignored Severus' protests and set the living room to rights with a sequence of wand gestures and by murmuring "Repairo" multiple times in succession.
"Albus told me that I might find you like this," she admitted with a small sad sigh.
"He said that he wants you to participate in weekly sessions with a healer… for a while," she added, passing the message along. She inferred, from the look on Severus' face, that he found the idea distasteful and pressed on, hoping to soften him up to the idea.
"There's no shame in getting help; you've been through a lot," she acknowledged.
"I'll go to the kitchen to brew you some tea; when I get back I want to see the living room in the same state as when I left it. Madam Pomfrey has given me a calming draught, which I insist you take. It'll make the night more bearable for the both of us, since I plan on staying with you, at least until you fall asleep," she added.
"Do you think you'll have nightmares? If so, there is a Dreamless Sleep Potion I can give you as well," she informed him, matter of factly.
"Don't go into the kitchen," Severus advised, already embarrassed that she had witnessed what he had done to the living room. He hesitated for a moment and decided that he was too worn out to lie to Minerva when the truth was much simpler.
"I'm used to having nightmares. In the past I just avoided sleeping, but they are less frequent now that I've mastered Occlumency," he answered.
"You've been through much more than I ever realized," she muttered, more to herself than to him.
"I'll be right back," she promised as she set off in the direction of the kitchen despite his warning.
Minerva used magic to clean and repair the potion vials. After completing the first task, she began re-siphoning their contents back into them. Once the kitchen was fit for use, she brewed a pot of tea and poured some of it into two cups. Then she grabbed a plate from a cupboard and transfigured it into a tray, on which she sat the cups and two potions Madam Pomfrey had given her.
She brought the tray to Severus and took in his appearance, detecting that his eyes were puffy from crying. She really did feel bad for him. She had taught when Lily and Severus had been students at Hogwarts and she understood the sorrow that came with losing a friend. The Potter's had been a part of The Order, and Minerva, like many other members of the Order of the Phoenix would miss them greatly.
Minerva took one of the cups of tea, blew on it to cool it off, and began to take small sips from the glass, since she hoped to set a good example for Severus. Severus took the calming potion first, too exhausted to resist McGonagall's resolve for him to take it. He took a sip from his tea afterwards, more so to show that he appreciated the efforts Minerva had taken in making it than to wash away the taste of the potion.
They sat in silent companionship for a few minutes, since Severus wasn't quite ready to go to sleep yet. Minerva broke the silence first because she felt the need to say what she could to ease Severus' pain and help him get through the night.
"You shouldn't blame yourself; you couldn't have known, and you did what you could to keep them safe. The blame truly lies with the secret keeper who betrayed them," she reassured him. Severus appreciated her words and looked up from his cup of tea to give her a look that he hoped served to noiselessly voice his gratitude.
Soon after Minerva's words another hush fell between then, and Severus beceom engulfed in his thoughts once more. He paused for a moment and literally bit his tongue, before finally deciding to voice his internal inquiry aloud.
"Minerva, do you think there is an afterlife or is there just oblivion?" he questioned; his voice was full of vulnerability, which he was usually extremely careful to hide. Severus had never been a very spiritual person but now his thoughts had taken a spiritual turn. He had been at war with himself, debating internally over whether Lily's entire being had been extinguished or whether some part of her soul still lived on.
"I'm a half-blood. My father was a Muggle and a Minister," she prefaced, giving him a little insight as to what her upbringing had been like.
"So, I definitely believe in life after death. It doesn't make any sense to me that someone could simply stop existing. Besides, aren't ghosts, like the ones we have at Hogwarts, just the result of someone refusing to move on into the afterlife? If ghosts exist, then so must Heaven and Hell," Minerva explained to him.
"You should come to church with me sometime; religion can be a great source of comfort because, well, one knows that they have God, whom they can always turn to and depend on. And it's a good way to forge new friendships and relationships, which is healthy," she suggested, hoping that she wasn't overstepping her bounds with such a comment.
"We'll see," he responded politely, albeit in a tone that indicated he was not actually considering the idea. Though Severus was grateful to Minerva for taking the time to stay and talk to him, he had no intention of taking her up on her offer. Severus was typically one to shy away from social situations such as the one she had suggested he engage in, and not even her well intended recommendation could change that. However, Severus did take comfort in the wise witch's words about the afterlife. If Lily's soul lived on, then she would know if he dedicated his life to protecting her child and ensuring that her death was not in vain. If there was even the slightest chance that she might be able to one day forgive him, he could find peace within himself after all.
After his conversation with Minerva, Severus was soothed enough to take the Dreamless Sleep potion and go to sleep. Minerva decided to stay up all night and sat in the recently repaired living room, so that she would be nearby in case Severus needed anything. She made him breakfast the next morning and spent most of the following day with him, before departing for her own home. Things got easier for Severus with time -especially after getting through the traumatic night in which he had received the devastating news he had hoped not to hear- though not necessarily colossally so.