AN: Happy New Year! I owe everyone a huge apology for not posting a story when I'd initially said I would. I know that I promised s new story by October, but moving was a lot more complicated than I thought, grad school ate up more time than I thought it would, real life attacked mid-October, and to top it all off, I got writer's block. The old story was not salvageable, so I had to stop, until I can find a better way to write it, which at the moment I can't. I know those are just excuses, but I do feel terrible. So, over break I decided to work on a story I'd been kicking around for awhile. I hope it was worth the wait, and again, I'm very sorry for the delay.
Some of you may know that I usually post daily. I will not do that for this story. I am currently writing a thesis which is taking up considerable time, and classes are, well classes. I will regularly update though. I'm aiming to update twice a week at least, perhaps more if I get the chapters written (I have quite a few already). So yeah, sorry I can't update everyday.
In other much more exciting news, I now have an editor, Heartmom88, and a Britpick, Marianne Le Fey. I thank both of them for all their time and help. I couldn't have written this story without them. Also, thank you for reading! I appreciate it!
For the record, I don't own anything you'd recognize. If I did, I would be considerably wealthier than I am at the moment.
The pain had eased.
His muscles had stopped convulsing.
Potter's footsteps and those of his friends had faded into the night.
A bright light swept over, then suddenly through him, filling him with a curious sensation…
Could this be peace at last?
If he had arrived at the afterlife, it certainly was a busy place. Severus Snape awoke to the slap of sandals on stone and the swish of white togas bustling past to take a seat in one of the marble thrones encircling him. Eyes peered at him with interest, but oddly enough, not curiosity. It was as if they recognized him… and had expected him… although nothing about this place or these people was familiar to him. Hushed murmurs of conversation relieved the brittle silence but all eyes remained focused on Snape. Discomfited by the weight of their stares, his gaze turned to the podium in front of him. He swallowed with uncharacteristic nervousness before reaching out to touch the marble surface, desperate to feel something tangible.
A sharp tattoo of heels on marble broke his concentration. He turned to see an imperious woman in royal purple robes approach, her lips drawn in a smirk, her eyes bright with triumph. She stood to the right of Snape and snapped her fingers, summoning another stone podium from the smooth marble floor. She folded her hands and placed them on the podium as though the display of power was nothing. Severus fought to keep his composure. What sort of place was this? The others nodded a welcome to the newcomer, but otherwise took no note of this turn of events, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to summon stones.
A second woman with long billowing blond hair and a soft smile was the last to take her place in the circle. She stood beside Snape, never uttering a word to him.
The sky suddenly darkened and a bolt of lightning plunged to the ground, scorching the stone a few feet from Snape. Those assembled rose silently as a wisp of smoke emanated from the scorch mark, coalescing into a majestic figure dressed in scarlet. His beard was unnaturally white and trimmed short to frame his regal features. His eyes blazed with authority. Muscles rippled beneath the toga that only partially concealed their strength.
"The mighty Zeus!"
A short nod acknowledged the announcement. "Why did you call us here, Demeter?"
Snape suppressed a shudder at the sound of his voice, which vibrated the stone beneath him.
"Hades has failed," Demeter declared, her face aglow with triumph. "The terms of the wager were that he must successfully seduce my daughter in order to live with her forever. See! He has died and Persephone remains untouched!"
Demeter? Hades? Persephone? Who were these people? What was this woman going on about?
The blond woman with the serene smile demurred. "The wager is to be settled upon the surrender of Persephone's womanhood. The termination of Hades' life changes nothing."
"How can a dead man seduce a woman?" Demeter argued. "You are dead, are you not, Hades?"
"My name is Severus Snape. I haven't the slightest idea who any of you are, nor what you are discussing. I can assure you that I have been trying to seduce no one."
"He's lying…." Demeter frowned.
"Silence!" Zeus interrupted.
All eyes turned to the deity. "There is an explanation for your confusion, but I cannot disclose it until a decision has been reached concerning your destiny."
"What destiny?" Severus responded. "I am dead."
"If you were truly dead, you'd know who we are and what we are discussing," smiled the blonde, her soft locks flowing in the breeze. Turning to the others she announced, "He still has some connection with his human body."
"Not for much longer," Demeter argued. "The serpent's poison needs only a few minutes to complete its task…."
"Since when do we mark time?"
"We will not rush this verdict, Demeter," Zeus said with finality. Aphrodite makes an interesting point. Death was not mentioned in the original wager."
"But it should be a mitigating factor. How can he form any sort of relationship with my daughter if he has no earthly body?"
"Your daughter lives in a world inhabited by ghosts, doesn't she?" Aphrodite reasoned. "He could begin to court her in the form of a ghost."
It appears that even the afterlife will hold no peace for me, Severus mused. Is there no end to the number of people who hold claim to my life?
"But he would have a much more difficult time seducing her."
"Perhaps not," a new voice cut in.
All eyes turned to Apollo, a handsome figure wearing a crown of laurel and holding a golden lyre. He stood to address the assembly, "You forget, Demeter, that if you allow Hades to shed his human form, he will remember everything."
"She will believe him to be mad if he tries to tell her the full story."
"Not if he is allowed to assume his godly form," Aphrodite smiled. "You may remember that Hades can strike quite the seductive pose when pressed."
Demeter flushed in anger. "That would violate the terms of our wager. It was always assumed that Hades would be in his human form which, incidentally, is dying."
"From the bite of a snake you created," Apollo admonished. "It would seem that you have unfairly interfered in an attempt to sway the Fates."
"There was no such limit on my influence." Demeter protested, gaining little sympathy from the assembly. "Look, he had his chance with my daughter…"
"Who is only now of age," Aphrodite interrupted. "You knew that his hands were tied until she completed her schooling because of their age difference and her social position relative to his."
"Which is why the Quidditch athlete was a much better option," Demeter mumbled.
"The red-head?" Aphrodite smirked incredulously.
Demeter produced a scowl that even Snape had to agree rivalled the best of his own. "No one can accuse my daughter of having good taste." Demeter turned to face Snape. "Just look at him."
"Madame, I have no idea who your daughter is. I have only ever loved one woman, and she did not marry a red-head." Snape responded.
"As you say," Demeter replied cagily.
"If she did marry the red-head…." Aphrodite taunted mischievously.
"Allow me to deal with my daughter," Demeter cut in. "Right now we're discussing him!"
"Apollo, what do you believe to be just in this situation?" Zeus asked, his voice betraying his irritation with his former mistress.
"I believe that Hades deserves to prove himself without interference. Persephone has only now come of age and she is still untouched. The conditions of the wager did not stipulate that Hades had to be alive in human form, but even if they did, there is still a chance that his body can be saved. It is only just to send him back for the opportunity to complete his quest."
"No!" Snape roared.
All eyes turned to him. "No?" Demeter raised a haughty brow.
"No. I have tired of life and all the obligations that accompany it. I want to die. I want to be at peace. Please, I beg you, release me from your wager and let me die," Snape pleaded.
Demeter stared thoughtfully at the distraught man. "Should we not take his opinion into account?"
"He is not capable of making an informed decision," Apollo countered. "His memories were voluntarily surrendered as a condition of the wager. If he could see his memories, he might very well feel differently."
"Whose side are you on?" Demeter demanded.
"Persephone's," Apollo responded. "I wish her happiness, even if it results in being with him."
"He can't make her happy," Demeter argued.
"That is for her to decide," Apollo replied. "Not you."
Demeter glared at Apollo.
Zeus took a deep breath. "This was the original agreement, Hades."
"For the last time, I am not Hades. My name is Severus Snape. I have no knowledge of a wager and no knowledge of a young woman waiting for me. I have done all I can in my human life and I am tired. All I want is a little peace." Snape was shaking by the end of his speech.
"Would you reconsider if I told you this was about the woman in your dreams?" murmured Aphrodite softly.
Snape stared at her in horror. "How…?"
"You remember her, don't you…"
"She can't say that!" Demeter began.
"Demeter, be quiet!"
"She was just an illusion, a trick of my imagination in my despair."
"She exists and she is waiting for you."
Snape stared at Aphrodite, her eyes soft with compassion for him. "I know how poorly the world has treated you," Aphrodite quietly continued, "But I think you will find that your circumstances will drastically improve if you resolve to live for love."
"Living for love is what got me here in the first place."
"I can promise you an even greater love, if only you will choose to live."
"How is this possible?"
"It's what I do," Aphrodite winked.
"She can't promise you love," Demeter argued. "She just wants to prolong your suffering. You may find that woman and perhaps even hold her for a time, but she will release you just as Lily did."
"You speak quite harshly of our daughter," Zeus admonished.
"The truth is harsh. He kidnapped my Persephone, took her against her will and tricked her into marriage! If she had had the freedom, she would have chosen someone else. Even now as I speak, she is choosing someone else, just as I predicted! Send this one back if you must, but leave my daughter alone to choose her husband without interference."
Snape took a deep breath. "I do not know who you think I am, and I am past caring. I only want to be at peace."
"No one can make that guarantee in this world or the next," Zeus cautioned.
"But I can promise you a chance at happiness… a chance at love, if you are willing to accept it," Aphrodite offered, her voice a soothing balm to his frayed nerves.
"Fine." Severus sighed in defeat. "I will agree to return and complete this wager, whatever it is."
"You will not regret it," Aphrodite assured him.
Yes he will, Demeter thought, at least if I have anything to do with it.
"Eros!" Aphrodite called.
A winged man flew to her side, looking for all the world like a very odd Valentine decoration. "Yes, mother!"
"Escort this man back to his body, and please make sure someone finds him."
Eros smirked, "Yes, mother," and with a flutter of wings they were gone.
AN: The gods have an American speech pattern in order to distinguish them from the wizards, hence the lack of British spellings and terms.