A/N: Here we go, my first fanfic...actually probably the first piece of fiction writing I've ever finished as well. I would love reviews: anything to become a better writer!

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns everything Harry Potter, so obviously these characters aren't mine, as much as I may love them...I also want to note that words in bold within the story are either Rowling's writing or from the movie, but none of those words are mine (Snape is a part of/sees some scenes that happened in the book). If any dialogue seems to be her writing/the movie's and I forgot to bold it, please note that I meant to and don't want to take any credit other than my own ideas presented in this fanfic!

The pain was unbearable. It was a pulsing, living, writhing entity that threatened to consume him with every weak breath his body still endeavored to take. He was trembling uncontrollably, as if his body was trying to escape the sharp, agonizing pain that penetrated through his quickly dimming conscience. He was gasping, then choking on his own blood as it flowed out of his broken, mutilated body.

And then, miracle of miracles, he saw the boy: the boy who so resembled his father in looks and air of superiority, but who kept a living memory of his mother alive in his stunning green eyes. Mustering his remaining energy with great effort, Severus Snape thrust his bloody hand at the boy, grabbing the front of Harry Potter's robes. His throat gurgled in protest as he struggled to make Potter understand. The regret, the anguish, the sorrow…but most importantly, the love. The never-ending, invincible love he still felt for her. The love that had made him question everything else he had once thought important. The love that he knew he did not deserve. The love he had nonetheless carried in his heart, always. But alas, the love that would take an eternity to formulate into words, an eternity that was now reduced to bare seconds as the pain quickly reminded him. No time, no time, but how to tell Harry Potter? Oh, of course, the obvious answer: show him. You don't need your memories anymore; you don't need to remember, not in the black abyss you are heading for. And so Snape rasped and choked out the words: "Take…it…Take…it…"

And he could only thank the heavens that Granger was there to collect what he was giving, the memories that created the essence of his being, since Potter was too slow to comprehend. But Potter, as dimwitted as he might have been, had eyes that were every bit hers, and so Snape, his body fading fast, croaked his final words to the ungrateful boy he'd ultimately done everything for.

"Look…at…me..." Snape managed to whisper, as his vocal chords had long ago drowned and died away. Blackness was encroaching upon his vision, and soon all he could see were Potter's bright green eyes. Her eyes. Desperately trying to retain the image of her eyes, knowing the cause was lost, Snape succumbed to the blackness, his hand falling from Potter's robes to the ground. Lily, my love, I tried my best…

The next thing Snape knew was silence. He was completely and utterly alone…and lying in a cloud of bright white vapor with blinding rays of light shining from an unknown source in the distance. Too bright, thought Snape as he rose from the surprisingly stable, flat ground. How very strange. Stranger yet, he was naked. With a surprised shout, Snape glanced around for clothes. There were some robes (had they been there before?) folded neatly on a bench beside him. Desperate for clothing, Snape put them on. They fit exactly like his old robes had, only they were bright white instead of his customary black. Oh well, better than nothing, thought Snape as he glanced around his surroundings. Where am I? It looked like he was standing next to a playground. There was even a swing set. With a gasp, Snape realized, not where he was, but where the place resembled. This was undoubtedly the playground where he had first laid eyes upon her. Lily Potter. Snape's own eyes shocked him by welling up with tears, and he quickly brushed them away as he moved over and sat down on one of the swings.

No sooner had he sat down on the swing than he noticed a figure walking toward him. No, Snape thought, it can't be. But it was. The regal figure of Albus Dumbledore was walking towards him, Severus Snape, in this strange nether land. Snape stood up and pinched himself. What is going on?

"Severus," Dumbledore spoke, proving he wasn't simply an illusion. Snape was astounded to see tears in the eyes of the wise old man.

"My dear, dear Severus. I would welcome you here, but I'm so sorry your life had to end that way. After all you endured, I wish you could have had a second chance at life. You deserved as much. You went above and beyond anyone's expectations. You did more than even I could ever have imagined. I'm so proud of you."

"Dumbledore," Snape choked in shock, "How are you here? Where are we? What's going on?

"We are at a sort of crossroads. Severus, I'm sorry to say that you are no longer among the living. You are on your way from the land of the living to the land of the dead. No, no, don't look so terrified. Your destination is a better place than you think; I daresay you might even enjoy yourself."

"So I'm dead," Snape struggled to comprehend, "And I'm on my way to…to…"

He dreaded to say the name, for fear of making it a reality. After all the terrible things he had done in his life, how could he expect to go anywhere else? It was what he deserved, after all. Dumbledore must have guessed at Snape's conclusion, for he quickly corrected him.

"No, no, my dear Severus," Dumbledore gently amended, "You have redeemed yourself through the good you did in your life after you realized your errors. Now it's time for you to be rewarded, to be happy as you've never been before. Come with me, Severus. Let us leave your pain and suffering behind and look forward."

Reluctantly, as he hardly dared to hope for happiness for himself, Snape followed Dumbledore out of the vaporous landscape to the place that lay beyond, which he sensed was beyond the blinding white light.

Although the crossroads he had found himself in seemed endless, Snape and Dumbledore had walked for what seemed like only a few minutes before Dumbledore gently put a hand out to stop Snape. By this time, they had gotten so close to the light that Snape instinctively put his hand up in front of his eyes to shield them from the blinding rays.

"Close your eyes, my dear boy," Dumbledore murmured, "We are nearly there. Now all that you need to do is take a step forward."

But Snape hesitated, unsure of what he would walk into.

"Trust me, Severus," Dumbledore said. "Take a step forward. Your suffering is over."

Snape had always trusted Dumbledore, trusted that Dumbledore knew the way to make things right again. He had no reason to not trust Dumbledore now, just because he was "dead". Although speaking of death, Snape had never imagined himself in this sort of afterlife. With a deep breath to calm his sudden nerves, Severus Snape, with his eyes closed, stepped forward.

"Sev? Severus? Sev!" called an excited voice. A voice that Snape had dreamed of every night for sixteen years. He opened his eyes to see that he was surrounded by a wide expanse of green hills and valleys dotted with wildflowers, while a majestic chain of mountains filled the horizon. Everything around him seemed slightly indistinct, and the edges of the flowers and the grass stems seemed the tiniest bit blurred, as if the spacious landscape wasn't truly there. Then he saw her, Lily Potter, running towards him, looking every bit as real and beautiful as he had remembered. Her gorgeous red hair flew wildly behind her and her beloved green eyes sparkled as she made her way towards him. She slowed to a stop about five feet away, watching Snape with tears in her eyes that only embellished the green in them and made them more brighter and lovelier than Snape had ever remembered.

"Severus," Lily said.

"Is it really you?" asked Snape at the same time. Lily smiled.

"Yes, it's me, Sev," she whispered. There was a long, strained pause.

"Lily," Snape choked, tears springing to his eyes as he said the words he had wanted to say to her ever since the day he had found her cold, dead body lying next to Harry's crib in Godric's Hollow.

"I'm so sorry. I'm sorry for calling you that awful, awful name so long ago…I'm sorry for leaving you to go with them, Avery and Mulciber and the rest of them…I'm sorry for telling the Dark Lord about the prophecy…I'm sorry I couldn't stop your death…I'm sorry for the life your son has been forced to lead…" Severus's voice cracked as he sank to his knees. "I'm sorry for everything!" Tears dripped freely down his face, but he made no move to stem their flow. "I'm sorry, Lily, I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"

"Sev!" Lily was suddenly kneeling right in front of him, tears also beginning to fall from her beautiful green eyes. "Severus, no, stop, don't cry. Don't apologize either. You made a mistake, but look at what you did once you realized! You did so much to make things better! Look at what you did for Dumbledore! For the Malfoys! For my son! Severus, look at all you have done to make the world peaceful and good again!"

"It was all for you, Lily," Severus interrupted in a whisper, "Everything I did was for you. I could care less about the good of the world and the fate of Lord Voldemort. I helped your son because I love you. I've loved you since I first laid eyes on you."

Lily smiled at him through the tears that now flowed freely down her face.

"No, you care for more than me, Sev, and more than you admit. You have cared about Harry since you met him as a little first-year in Hogwarts, and you want Voldemort dead as much as the rest of us do. Truly, deep down, you were as devoted to freeing the world of that evil wizard as any of us were. You risked your life over and over again to aid Dumbledore and protect Hogwarts and its students.

And Sev, I'm so touched that you love me. I am honored to have the love of one of the bravest wizards in history. And after all you've done, Sev, how could I not love you back? Maybe not as a husband, but as a beloved friend."

With that, Lily wrapped her arms around Snape as he embraced her, almost desperately, as if to prove to himself that she was really, tangibly there. He buried his face in her glorious red hair and breathed in her beautiful scent, more fragrant than he had ever remembered. They stood that way for a long, long time.

"Oi, Snivellus!" came yet another familiar voice, but this time Snape stiffened. Lily released him from her embrace and stepped back. Snape quickly wiped his face with the sleeve of his robes, anxious to appear less of a target for James Potter to tease. As Potter, looking uncannily like the son Snape had just left, approached however, Snape noticed his walk was devoid of the arrogant swagger Snape had always associated with James. He looked almost humble as he approached Snape, but Severus, after years of bullying, took a step back and attempted to draw out his wand…which was no longer in his robes.

Then, upon closer inspection, Snape noticed James's face was looking at him with something he had never, ever seen directed at him before: a genuine smile.

"Snivellus," James began, "I can't begin to thank you, mate. You're- You're by far one of the bravest men I've ever had the honor of knowing. And I-"

At this point James ran a hand through his untidy head of hair. "I want to really, truly apologize for acting like a git to you all those years ago."

"Duh..wha…" Snape stuttered uncomprehendingly.

"Yeah, and me too, Snivellus," called the unmistakable droll of Sirius Black, although his words had the same ringing sincerity that James's had had. Severus nearly fell over when Sirius gave him a friendly slap in the back.

"Had I known what you did for the resistance, for Dumbledore, and for my godson, I would've said something before we died."

This was too much for Snape. He'd lived his entire life being scorned and ridiculed. No one had ever been kind to him, with the exception of Lily, whose friendship he had lost long ago, and perhaps Dumbledore, who had still been disgusted with Snape and had used him like a puppet in his master plan. And no one had ever, ever apologized to him. Especially not his childhood bullies. Stammering excuses, Snape retreated away from the suddenly large crowd of apologizers. He broke into a run as he fled from them, robes swinging around him in the bat-like way he'd always been teased for. Not possible ,thought Snape as he finally slowed to walk, this is ridiculous. I'm dreaming. No way, no way…the Dark Lord is messing with my mind.

"Care to walk with an old man?" Dumbledore's voice broke through Snape's reverie.

"You're not real," Snape snarled. "None of this is real. It's just another trick. I don't know what you are, but you're just trying to hurt me more!"

"Nonsense, Severus," Dumbledore solemnly replied. "We're all dead, same as you now. You killed me, and Voldemort killed you and them as well. This is the afterlife for us, and those people, Lily and James and Sirius, are all real. Or as real as we dead can be," Dumbledore chuckled to himself before growing serious again. "And they all love you, Severus. They've seen your actions against Tom Riddle from here, and they know the sacrifices you have made. They are all willing to forgive you for wandering down the wrong path for a while. Even James forgives you, and I must say he needed quite a bit of persuading from Lily to accept your love for her." Dumbledore chuckled again, but Snape was not amused.

"I didn't do anything worth forgiving, Dumbledore. I am responsible for the deaths of Lily and James, and ultimately Sirius," Snape said bitterly. "They were my hated enemies, and I would've killed them gleefully once. Then my misconceptions led to their deaths and I hate myself. I let the Dark Lord kill them and wreak havoc on the next generation of wizards. I even bullied Potter's son." Snape seemed to be talking to himself more than Dumbledore now, "I felt I could get even with Potter by being as cruel to his son as he was to me, and now Harry Potter hates me too…" Snape snapped out of his reverie and turned to Dumbledore. "The fact is, I don't deserve to be here, Dumbledore. Nothing I did in my life warrants this kind of heaven."

"Balderdash, Severus," replied Dumbledore yet again, "As soon as Lily was murdered, you realized Voldemort was wrong. The Death Eaters were wrong. And so, by helping me prepare Harry to defeat Voldemort, which, by the way, I would never have been able to accomplish without you, you came to understand one of the hardest lessons a person can face: you were wrong as well.

And don't forget that you saved Harry's life many times. You stopped Quirrel from jinxing Harry off his broom. You summoned the Order to the Department of Mysteries, and you can't blame yourself for Sirius's death. If anyone, I am to blame for forcing Sirius to remain cooped up in Grimmauld Place. And most importantly, Severus, you paved the way, more than any other person besides Harry himself, the path to destroying Voldemort once and for all. No," Dumbledore raised a hand to stop Snape's protests, "I barely did anything. I merely created plans from the vital information you gave me, which you then carried out without fail. And now, Severus, I think you need proof of the good you have done. Let me show you the result of your valiant efforts. The right amount of time has passed, I think, since I last talked to Harry," said Dumbledore to himself.

"What? You talked to Potter? Does that mean…" Snape questioned worriedly, "…we failed? Potter's…dead?"

"No, no," Dumbledore said, "He was given a choice and bravely chose to turn back from the crossroads to finish his mission."

Snape looked at Dumbledore confusedly.

"Another time perhaps," said Dumbledore gently. Then he gave a satisfied sigh.

"See, Severus? You do care about what has become of the boy. Not only because you care for him, I daresay, but also because you have grown devoted to destroying the evil that Tom Riddle brought into this world. But come, Severus, we are off again."

Snape blinked in confusion as he found himself in Dumbledore's office at Hogwarts. Everything looked much the same, although Dumbledore's Pensieve was sitting out in the center of Dumbledore's desk and the edges of every piece of furniture, including the Pensieve, retained that slightly blurry look that the outside landscape of the afterlife had had.

"What kind of magic is this?" Snape sneered, reverting back to his cold and forbidding demeanor in an attempt to control his emotions.

"Well, my dear Severus, we are not actually in my former office. This is a place where the dead, such as ourselves, can see into the lives of the living. What you see resembles my office because that was the place you associated with home the most. Admit it, Severus, you loved Hogwarts. You still do, and you respected my office most because, I am touched to say, you respected me most. And we are in a place that can let us see the living, a place that all of the dead must respect and cherish as well. If you don't believe me, and I can see you still don't, step up to the Pensieve. Take a look inside."

Although Snape was feeling terribly insecure about everything that was happening to him, he curiously approached the Pensieve and gazed into the swirling liquid within. As his face came closer and closer to the surface of the shimmering liquid, he began to see hazy images. In an effort to make out the pictures in greater detail, Snape leaned closer into the Pensieve. Then his beak-like nose touched the surface of the strange liquid, and he was falling.

He landed in the Great Hall and was shocked to see the piles of bodies and numerous wounded lying scattered about. One of the young Creevy boys was dead, as was one of the twin Weasleys, not the one Snape had accidentally cut an ear off of, so Fred Weasley…and, oh no, Snape's throat constricted and he swallowed painfully at the sight of Lupin's and Tonks's bodies lying side by side. The bodies of the fallen lay strewn everywhere about the Hall as the wounded groaned in pain, but no one alive was tending to them or crying over the dead. Where is everyone? thought Snape. Then he heard sounds of what must have been the battle outside of the walls. Suddenly, the war reached the Great Hall. Once again, Snape reached for his wand, but to no avail.

It didn't matter though, since nobody so much as glanced at him as they flew into the Hall, brandishing wands and deflecting curses. They can't see me, Snape realized, I'm not part of their world anymore. Snape still instinctively moved out of the many witches' and wizards' ways, watching as some carefully and gently moved the bodies in the Great Hall to the walls, clearing a space in the middle. Then the spells and curses whizzing through the air increased, and Snape saw familiar faces enter the Hall. Longbottom, McGonagall, several redheaded Weasleys…and finally, the Dark Lord and Harry Potter entered, circling each other cautiously, engaged in conversation as neither had attacked the other yet.

And so it was that Snape anxiously witnessed the duel between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. After the many long years he had spent protecting Potter, Snape almost couldn't bear to watch the Dark Lord kill Harry, which he believed would most definitely be the end result of this ill-matched duel. As Snape listened to their conversation, he involuntarily flinched when Potter screamed to the world the secret that Severus had kept hidden for so long: "Snape was Dumbledore's…Dumbledore's from the moment you started hunting my mother…he loved her for nearly all his life, from the time when they were children..."

Who else but Potter would announce Snape's most precious secret to all of Hogwarts? Thank goodness I am dead, thought Snape, or else I would never have been able to look anybody in the eye for the rest of my life. In fact, Potter's audience must be laughing at me right now, Snape thought as he reluctantly turned away from the duel to quickly glance at the reactions of the other bystanders. Their expressions made him glance back a second time. Lo and behold, there was no glint of malice or laughter in their eyes. They were watching the duel with anxiety and terror, of course, but also…could it be compassion in their eyes? Compassion for me, Severus Snape? Surely the tears in McGonagall's eyes were simply due to the stress she was undoubtedly feeling from the battle. There was no way Granger was dabbing her eyes at the fact that his Patronus had still been a doe after all those years. And Ron Weasley had always had a Confounded and slack expression on his face.

"I am the true master of the Elder Wand."

Snape whipped back to the duel taking place. Potter and Voldemort had stopped talking and both raised their wands to duel at last.

"Avada Kadavra!"Voldemort screamed.

"Expelliarmus!" Harry shouted.

Really, Potter, thought Snape, of all the spells at your disposal, you decide to use Expelliarmus?

As shocked as Snape was at Potter's choice of spell, he watched with wide eyes as Harry Potter, the Chosen One, the Boy Who Lived, cast Voldemort down to his death. Snape was as silent as everybody else as the Dark Lord's death finally registered in his brain. Almost simultaneously, everyone around him comprehended the death of Voldemort at last and burst into cheers and sobs and all around hubbub. Snape allowed himself a small smile. Voldemort is dead, thought Snape triumphantly…and then he realized, with a shock, the implications in the world of the dead. Is Lily safe from Voldemort? Snape desperately closed his eyes and wished himself out of the world of the living, back into Dumbledore's office in the land of the dead. I have to warn them, he thought as he raced out of the former headmaster's office, leaving the door swinging open behind him.

"Lily! Lily!" Snape called frantically, "Dumbledore! James! Sirius! Anyone!"

Snape had walked straight into the now familiar green fields after leaving Dumbledore's office. Unsure of where he was or where anyone else was, but desperate to find someone, Snape broke into a sprint, running in a random direction that he hoped would lead him to Lily or any of the Marauders. Then he heard Lily calling to him from a distance. The strange afterlife he found himself in would take some getting used to.

"Severus? Sev? What happened?"

"Lily, he's dead! Voldemort's dead! But that means he will be here any moment!"

Snape ran towards her, noticing she was with someone else. "Careful, Lily! Your son killed Voldemort and now he's coming to the land of the dead! Here!"

"Relax, Sev," said Lily as she and James calmly walked up to Snape. James's arm rested on Lily's shoulders and she had her arm wrapped casually but affectionately around his waist. "Do you really think Voldemort, of all people, would be allowed here? After all he's done?"

Her words echoed Snape's previous thoughts of his own right to be in this afterlife, and he once again had trouble comprehending that he had done enough good in his life to be granted a place in heaven. He couldn't believe his actions warranted a place in heaven, while Voldemort's actions warranted hell. Had he really been that different from the Dark Lord?

"I'm here, aren't I?" Snape said quietly. "After all I've done."

"Yes," said James, not Lily, "After everything you've done to undermine Voldemort and care for Harry, you've more than earned your place here."

"But I hated you," Snape blurted out. "I hate you still. I despise your son. I bullied Harry Potter to no end. He is an arrogant toerag whom I would have gladly left to die in some tragic accident. Harry Potter is living proof that you chose him over me!" Snape directed his words at Lily, who flinched and drew closer to James as he held her protectively, as if shielding her from Snape's harsh accusations. Snape immediately felt remorse over his cruel words.

"I'm sorry, Lily," said Snape, "I didn't mean to hurt you, but that's the truth. I'm not the man everyone thinks I am. I regretted your death, Lily, and only yours. I left the Dark Lord because he killed you, not because I realized his evil. Or maybe I did, but I didn't care about good winning over evil. I wouldn't have batted an eye if Voldemort had succeeded in destroying everything good in the world. I probably would have been right there beside him, helping him," Snape said bitterly. His eyes had been staring at the couple's feet, but now he forced himself to look up and meet Lily's shocking green eyes.

"I told you before, Lily, that I did everything for you, and that is because I am selfish and arrogant and corrupt. Just like him. Just like Voldemort. So don't you dare say that I deserve to be here and Voldemort does not. I would have stood alongside him as he conquered the world, so I should be alongside him in the afterlife as well, and certainly not in this utopia."

Snape's breathing had become labored and breathless after his speech, and he glared at Lily and James, daring them to defy him.

"All I can say, Severus," James spoke gently as he broke the silence, "is that you are wrong. You are very, very wrong about yourself. Yes, you may have felt that way before our deaths, but there is no knowing what would have happened if we had not died, or if you had not- loved Lily," James couldn't quite stop his voice from catching on the fact which obviously still disturbed him, "We could still be alive, but Voldemort would be as well. You could have been killed by one of us long ago. There is no point in mulling over what could have happened because it didn't. We died and you realized your wrongs. Maybe you switched sides for selfish reasons at first, but you succeeded in helping us defeat Lord Voldemort and protect Harry from him. Without you, Voldemort would still be alive right now and no one would have been able to stop him from destroying the good in the world. Stop agonizing, Snape. I can't tell you any better than Dumbledore can that you are a hero with a right in heaven if you still won't believe it. So think on it."

With that, James and Lily walked away, vanishing completely when Snape blinked. He was still reeling from the realization that James had called him by his first name for the first time in his life…and death. Then he slowly sank down onto the grass and absentmindedly yanked it out of the ground as he pondered everything that had happened since Nagini had ravaged his body.

Logic, thought Snape, what does logic tell me? Severus had always loved logic; he was proud to say he was good at it too. He had even designed an obstacle to the Sorcerer's Stone based on logic. Am I really a good person? Could I be? Was I?

Images floated through his mind: images of Hogwarts, meetings with the Dark Lord, Harry Potter, Dumbledore's office... Snape began to view his life as two separate people.

There was the person who bantered with McGonagall over the House Cup and taught Potions to students who gazed up at their teacher with comically nervous faces. The person who struggled everyday to avoid the pain Harry Potter caused him by simply existing. The person who had given Dumbledore more time to live by isolating the ring's curse to one hand. The person who had saved Draco Malfoy's life when ignorant Harry Potter had performed Sectumsempra. The person who had made the Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa Malfoy to ensure Draco's safety. The person who had killed Dumbledore at Dumbledore's own request and had been forced to grieve alone, where no one could see him or give him a comforting shoulder to lean upon. The person who did his best to keep the students safe from the Carrows but couldn't tell his fellow teachers that he was truly on their side. He was the person who was forced to suffer the anguish of losing his colleagues' respect and trust when they turned on him for killing Dumbledore and drove him from his beloved Hogwarts. Snape winced at the memory of McGonagall calling him a coward. If only he could have told her the truth…

Then there was the person who delighted in the Dark Arts and Occlumency. The person who did nothing but watch as Voldemort killed Charity Burbage. The person who bullied Harry Potter and his friends and despised James Potter and the other Marauders. The person who was feared and hated by nearly all of his students. The person who was feared and hated by most of the world. And most importantly, he was the person who had allied with the Dark Lord and was responsible for the deaths of James and Lily. He was the person who killed Lily!

"You know, I blame myself for their deaths. It wasn't entirely your fault," came a voice. Snape blinked as the face of Sirius Black came into focus, looming above him. Sirius sat down cross-legged in front of Snape. They faced each other like two preschoolers about to play together in a sandbox.

"They wanted me to be their Secret Keeper," Sirius continued bitterly, "But I was too much of a coward. I was afraid Voldemort would torture me and I wouldn't have the strength to keep their location from him. Ha! I was the one who convinced them that Wormtail was the right choice. I was the one who ensured that their fate would be death. And I regretted that every second I lived, Snape. Do you think I felt that I deserved to be here? In peace with Lily and James after what I had done to, put it simply, kill them and leave Harry an orphan? I was just as anguished as you, Snivellus."

"Yes, but you never thought your actions would result in their deaths."

"Neither did you!"

"But it's different," Snape retorted angrily, "It's a completely different scenario. I knew someone was going to die and I was okay with that." Snape's voice dropped to an anguished whisper, "But I never thought that of all the people in the world, the prophecy would be for Lily's son."

"You truly loved her," Sirius murmured with awe apparent in his voice, "You loved Lily so much that her death changed you. She changed your character and made you realize Voldemort was a corrupt and evil being. And did you know something? Dumbledore once, long ago, was tempted by the very same power that corrupted Voldemort and yourself. He was like you, in a way, and he ended up here too because the death of his sister made him realize his error, just like Lily's death made you realize yours."

"Dumbledore's not anything like me-," Snape began to argue, but Sirius stopped him with a hand.

"Do you know what really decides who comes here and who doesn't? A person's character at the time of his or her death. What a person did in his life doesn't matter because it's not about the past, but about how a person's changed for the better. When you died, Snivellus, you were a person deserving of this heaven, no matter the mistakes you had made in your past."

"Uh-huh," said Snape with heavy skepticism in his voice.

"Let me put it this way. Imagine you are working for Voldemort, and you learned a prophecy that Voldemort would be destroyed by…Albus Dumbledore. Would you tell Voldemort?"

"Of course not!" Snape snapped, offended at Black's suggestion.

"What if the person was…Draco Malfoy?"

"Most certainly not."

"Minerva McGonagall?"

"Never."

"Lupin? Myself?"

"I wouldn't."

"Hermione Granger?"

"I'd be condemning an innocent girl with one of the sharpest brains of the age."

"The Weasley family?"

"Even Muggle-lovers don't deserve to die prematurely."

"Harry Potter?"

"What have I been doing for the last seven years?"

"James Potter, then."

Snape hesitated before whispering, "No, not even him. I would never aid the Dark Lord in killing anybody who was innocent or intent on destroying him." Snape paused for a moment, then said, "I never want to be responsible for the death of anyone ever again."

"And there, Severus, is your answer to the reason you deserve to be in heaven."

19 Years Later...

Severus Snape had never loved his life more, and the irony of that truth amused Snape to no end. He had enjoyed the equivalent of nineteen years in heaven. Not only was he allowed to view the world of the living as the invisible apparition he had been when he witnessed Voldemort's fall, but Harry Potter had also given him a headmaster's portrait in Hogwarts. The happiness Snape felt at being able to converse with living people was immeasurable, and although he had thought Harry Potter an immensely intolerable boy, he felt extremely grateful to Potter for giving him such an honor.

One day, as Snape was walking back to his Potion's room (which his heaven had included for him) after spending an afternoon with Lupin and Tonks, he found himself drawn towards the portal that led to his portrait (by this point, Snape had successfully learned how to navigate around his new home for eternity). Upon entering the portrait, he glanced around the headmaster's office and was surprised to see a young boy, who must have been only a first-year, gazing up at the row of portraits.

Snape was shocked to see that the boy had the same vibrant green eyes as Lily Potter. Combined with the messy jet-black head of hair, Snape easily realized that the boy must have been Potter's son. After Harry and Ginny had married, Snape had thought it prudent to leave them alone, so he never spied on their lives as he could have done, with his ability to be an invisible ghost and all. After all of the many secrets he had kept during his life, Snape had learned to respect the privacy of others. So they have a son, thought Snape with a smile. A strange giddiness had overcome him upon learning this fact, though he had no idea why. He watched the boy alight on Dumbledore's portrait with an eager smile.

"Professor Dumbledore," the boy called softly, "Professor, are you there?"

"Well hello, dear boy," said Dumbledore as he too walked into his portrait, smiling down at the boy. "How are your parents? Doing well, I hope?"

Snape wondered how Dumbledore and the boy could have known each other. It couldn't have been more than a week into the new school year, and the boy was obviously a first-year.

"Yes sir," replied the boy, "only they probably won't be so pleased when they learn I've been sent to the headmistress's office already, and I've only been at Hogwarts for three days!"

"Whatever did you do?" chuckled Dumbledore.

"It wasn't actually my idea. James said that if I got a book for him from the Restricted Section of the library, he'd eat a Ton-Tongue Toffee. I didn't think I'd actually get away with it, what with Madame Pince overseeing the library like a vulture, but I thought that it would be a way to either get to see the headmaster's office or make James look like the idiot he is, so there wasn't really a downside…"

Dumbledore chuckled at the boy's story before asking, "Why ever did you want to visit the headmaster's office? Not that it isn't an exceedingly pleasant place, but most students wish to avoid it when possible."

"I wanted to get into the headmaster's office to meet you, since after all, my name is Albus. And then there's this other headmaster I'm looking for. Do you know which headmaster is Severus Snape?"

Dumbledore glanced at Severus with a smile before focusing on Albus again, leaving Snape completely bewildered. Why would Potter's son be looking for me? Snape wondered. Potter hates me. Snape could still remember, all too vividly, the words Harry had shouted at him before McGonagall drove him out of Hogwarts.
"How dare you stand where he stood? Tell them how it happened that night. How you looked him in the eye, a man who trusted you, and killed him."

Snape could still remember the pain he had felt at those words, as they stabbed into his heart. He had barely been able to hold himself together. Combined with McGonagall's attack, Snape had chosen to flee into the Forbidden Forest, where he hid behind a tree and sobbed until Lucius had come to bring him to his death.

Dumbledore's voice snapped Snape back into the present as he said to the boy, Albus, "He will make himself known when he wants to. Why do you want to see him anyhow?"

It seemed to Severus as he watched the conversation that Dumbledore knew exactly why Albus Potter was looking for him but had chosen to let Severus hear more from the boy before revealing himself. This boy didn't seem as arrogant as his brother, James, and his father and grandfather had been, which pleased Severus. He would even daresay he could come to be friends with the boy…perhaps.

"Well," the boy answered Dumbledore's inquiry, "My dad told me Severus Snape was the bravest man he ever knew, but that he was a Slytherin. You see, I was scared to death I'd be in Slytherin. But after I was sorted into Gryffindor, I wondered why I would have been so ashamed to be in Slytherin, besides the fact that James and Uncle Ron would tease me to no end. I guess I just wanted to see what Severus Snape was like, being a Slytherin and one of the bravest men my dad knew, because that's saying something.

So Professor Snape," the boy shyly glanced around at the rows of portraits, "Um…if you are…in there...anywhere…maybe you could introduce yourself?"

Snape decided it was time to reveal himself at last: "I'm Severus Snape. Nice to meet you. Albus, was it?"

Albus grinned at Snape. "Yup. My dad named me after the two men he honored above everyone else. Professor Dumbledore and yourself, Professor Snape."

He laughed at Snape's suddenly slack expression. Albus's words were the last things Snape had been expecting. After nineteen years, Snape had still firmly believed that Harry Potter would not want to associate himself with a man who had bullied him during his entire time at Hogwarts. That was even part of the reason Snape kept his distance from Harry; he didn't want to invade Harry's life because Harry wouldn't have wanted him to. Harry's accusations still rang in his head, and for some reason, Snape just couldn't comprehend that Harry Potter would name one of his beloved sons after him, Severus Snape. Snape couldn't think straight, and his mind felt strangely foggy.

"You mean..you mean.." Snape muttered incoherently. A boy named after him? And not just any boy, the son of Harry Potter? Not possible…not probable…not logical…not possible…

Albus, with an amused smile on his face, responded cheerfully, "That's right. My name is Albus Severus Potter. I'm glad to meet you, sir."

Amid laughter from both Dumbledore and Albus, Snape learned that even if he wasn't alive, he could still faint dead away.