Erised, by AndromedaMarine

A/N: This has been sitting on my hard drive since January, and I got the muse tonight to finish it. It does not connect to His Greatest Wish. To my readers who are awaiting the current (chapter 35) update of that story it should be up by September 17th.

How long had it been? Ten years? Ten years since he'd rushed to Godric's Hollow in the empty hope that she somehow managed to survive? Ten years since he'd collapsed in the room where he'd found her, and cradled her body in his arms as he sobbed. Ten years of anger, pain, misery, and depression compressed into the tiny space of his heart. What I would give…he often thought to himself…what I would give to have her back…

The young, thirty-one year old Professor Severus Snape swept through the dark corridors in the early hours of the morning, his cloak swishing dangerously about his heels as he made his quiet way to an unused classroom where, in a few nights, Harry Potter would see, for the first time, his parents, in a mirror unlike any he'd ever encountered before (and would likely never encounter again). Severus slowed his pace as he entered the classroom, sealing the door behind him with a flick of his black wand. The mirror was angled away from him as he approached it.

He knew what he would see, and despite how much he knew it would rip open old wounds…it would be worth it. He knew the sort of pain he was willingly putting on himself as he slowly stepped towards the Mirror of Erised. It was the first time he'd consciously sought out the mirror. Despite Albus's constant but veiled warnings that one must not dwell on dreams (and forget to live), Severus harbored an insatiable desire to see her again…even if it only be for one last time.

He frequently dreamt of finding her body inside Godric's Hollow. Sometimes he would wake up with a jolt, as if the Dark Lord had summoned him through the mark, only to realize that the image behind his eyelids when he blinked was of the eyes that haunted him almost every day. It was nights like those that made him hate himself ever more, nights like those that made Severus Snape wish for nothing more than to have had Lily's love in return.

Severus stepped tentatively before the Mirror, his eyes on the bottom edge of the ornate, elaborate frame. He let his gaze wander slowly upwards, until he met the haunting green eyes of his long-ago best friend, Lily Evans. Oh, how he wished she could speak to him through the mirror, how he wished he could tell her how deeply sorry he was, how…if the higher powers sought to give him one, he would have done things differently with a second chance.

His breath caught in his throat and the tears came to his eyes without any permission from his brain. Ten years since he'd last seen this breathtaking woman…but much longer since he'd looked into her eyes without hate and loathing looking back.

"Lily," he whispered to the mirror, his hand coming up to touch the reflection of her cheek, only to encounter the cold glass of the mirror with his fingertips. "If only…" he whispered, and received the shock of his life when the mirror spoke back to him.

"If only, what?" Lily replied, her voice soft and barely audible, but as perfect as it had been the last time Severus spoke to her.

Severus swallowed as he stared at her, not sure if it was real that she'd just spoken to him. He felt as though in a dream, but something in the back of his mind told him he was truly awake. For a moment he imagined he could feel the soft flesh of her cheek beneath his cold fingertips. "If only I hadn't driven you away," he replied, his fingers clenching involuntarily on the mirror. He let out an involuntary sob, and his hand slid down several inches as he unconsciously attempted to scratch through the mirror to Lily.

"What then?" she asked, her deep green eyes examining her old friend through the glass.

"You wouldn't be dead, for one," he said, closing his dark eyes for a brief moment to gather composure. The attempt failed, and when he looked back at the image of his only love in the mirror, he felt the prick of tears again. "I wouldn't have joined the Death Eaters." His left arm twitched. "I would've asked you to marry me." He lifted his other hand to wipe away the tears.

The Lily in the mirror raised her hand and pressed the palm against Severus's. Although he could feel nothing but the smooth surface of the mirror, the gesture of affection overwhelmed him.

"I never ceased loving you, Lily," he whispered, his cheeks becoming wet with freely flowing tears as he abandoned his attempts to staunch them.

"I know, Sev," she whispered back, using her childhood nickname for him.

Severus stopped trying to stop the tears and he felt pain stab through his heart. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "I am so desperately sorry for calling you that—that—"

"Shhh," Lily quieted from the mirror. "You're forgiven, Sev. It was not you who said that word. It was a Severus Snape twisted by anger and hate for James Potter and Sirius Black who said that word. I knew…you regretted it instantly."

Irrational anger flared in his chest. "Then why did you turn me away when I sought you? Why did you rebuff me, if you knew I truly felt remorse?" he asked fiercely.

Lily's green eyes saddened. "I learned from you, Sev, to be proud. It hurt to keep you away, and I—I thought that after I'd pulled myself together we'd be friends again. I needed time…and when I was ready you wouldn't look at me anymore." He saw her tears welling up.

"Only because I knew that if I looked at you I would be powerless to stop myself from being a fool again. You were my only hope, Lily. My only hope to have some semblance of a normal life, and now—look at me, caught in the middle of a stagnant war of which I wanted no part…I would've been yours, you know. I would've been yours, for you I would've done anything—even if you asked me to cut out my own heart, for you I would do it."

The image in the mirror flickered for a moment, and Severus clenched his fingers over the glass again.

"You are still bitter," Lily observed softly, her bright green eyes never leaving his black ones.

"I will never stop being that way, not when I know without a shadow of a doubt that I could've saved you."

"You will go mad, if you do not cease blaming yourself, Sev. Nothing you do now can change what happened."

"I can watch over your son, I can protect him."

She gave him a soft, sad smile. "But you want me. You want me, not him."

Severus's vision was suddenly blurred by his own tears. "He's all I have left of you," he choked out, overwhelmed by the emotion brimming inside his chest.

"You will always have me, Sev…always."

But he shook his head at her image, disbelieving but reveling in the fact that he was finally speaking with her again, even though he had tears in his eyes. "I lost you, Lily, I lost you the moment I opened my mind to the Dark Lord's temptations. I lost you the moment I defended anything my Slytherin brethren did. I lost you that day in our fifth year. I lost you when we were sixteen, Lily. I haven't had you for half my life. Losing you has always been my deepest regret."

She was silent for several moments. "It was mine, too."

Severus looked up from the floor to his only love's bright green eyes, wondering if he'd misheard.

"Hardly a day passed after we left school that I didn't think of you at least once. I had to force myself to forget your scent, your smile, the feel of your hands, the way you lit up whenever we were together…you were always in the back of my mind. But by the time my wedding day came and you still hadn't reached out, at all…I walked down the aisle to James and left you behind for good. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done, the worst thing I'd ever done, and even now I regret it. I should have found you."

"I gave up. Do you know how badly I gave up?"

Lily's brow furrowed.

"I wanted to die. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never return, because to see the light of day was agony. To see you with him and smiling, to hear of your betrothal, to hear of your son…I was in mortal agony. I cannot count the tears I shed over us, over our shattered relationship. I cannot count the years I mourned it."

Lily Evans seemed to be leaning into the glass. Her body language clearly indicated she would give anything—anything—to hold this pained, sorrowful man once more…but she could not. "Severus…if I had known…if you had given me any indication…" she stopped, and searched her world for an answer. "I would have come. I would have held you."

He let out another sob of anguish. "I wouldn't have let you go."

"It would have been for the better."

Severus gave in to his barely-stoppered tears for a few moments. "I love you, Lily Evans," he whispered.

"And I love you, Severus Snape. If I could give anything to change our past…I would give it. You were my first and longest friend…to be with you again would be worth more than all the magic in history." She gazed at him and he saw the torment in her eyes. "My time with you is at its end, my sweet…when you speak with me again it will be in the afterlife. I will be waiting for you."

Something clenched around Severus's heart and he felt a dull, hollow pain in the pit of his stomach. "Don't go," he pleaded, the tips of his fingers numb with pressure. "Don't go, not yet. There's so much I want to say to you…so much that you need to know…"

Lily shook her head. "It is not my place to know the things of the mortal world any longer, Sev. I cannot interfere, and if I wanted to it would be impossible. I have lingered too long."

"Why did you speak to me?" Sev asked sharply as the edges of her form began to blur.

She offered him a sad, soft smile. "Because you needed to hear my voice one last time, even though the laws of where I am disallow it. And I needed closure…as much as you needed it, I did as well, because when we parted ways at times it felt as though my soul had been torn apart. I needed you."

"So if I come again, you would not speak?" he murmured hollowly, gazing into his dear Lily's eyes.

"I would be bound not to. I cannot speak to anyone ever again through this mirror. I chose you, Sev, you who has known me best my whole life." He wanted to stall her, keep her from fading from the mirror, but even as he opened his mouth to beg her to stay, she pressed her fingers to her lips and then to the glass, where Severus's hand was clenched. "You were my first and truest love, Severus Snape, but by the time I realized it you were already gone from my life."

A sob escaped his throat without any warning. "Stay," he begged, "please…"

A tear rolled down Lily's cheek. "I never really left you, Sev. I've always been in your heart. And you were always in mine."

With those parting words she shimmered for a moment, and when Sev blinked, all he saw was the smiling figure of his childhood best friend and love, but she was just a figure, not sentient like she'd been only moments before. It pained him more to see her silent, than it had to speak with her. He wiped his tears away and abruptly turned on his heel, knowing that if he lingered any more he would never leave.

Severus Snape loved Lily Evans with all his soul, and as he swept through the dark, empty corridors towards his chambers, a tiny warm glow sparked in his chest, to have learned that he'd been her first and truest love. He'd always known that if he looked into the Mirror of Erised he would see her looking out, but knowing that if their positions were reversed…that she would see him gave him strength. He would protect Harry. Not for James, and certainly not for Dumbledore…but for Lily…anything for Lily.

"Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi."

A/N 2: Inspired by a piece of fanart that can be found at tinyurl(.com)(/)8rwrul8 (remove parentheses). This is also a response to the Prince's Tale scene in Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Not strictly canon to either the movies or the books. More suspension of disbelief than usual may be required. But admit it. We all wanted to see this in the books and/or movies, and even more we wanted her to be able to speak with him.