He saw the green flash of light, and the shock of it made him stumble on his feet as he Apparated outside the Potter house in Godric's Hollow. It blinded him, and he stood there for a few seconds collecting his thoughts as his sight became a mass of purple-white spots, blinking until he could see again, eyes stinging all the while. The trees loomed over his dark, solitary figure, swaying in the wind like ghostly silhouettes. As he opened his eyes, he told himself it was only his imagination; the green light had to be another spell, not the one he dreaded. He reassured himself that she was still alive, waiting for him, that the Dark Lord had spared her and she was there in the house. His hair fell over his face like a curtain, and he decided he would keep it that way. He didn't want to be seen, not now, not tonight.
He walked to the front door and found it open. He pushed it, wincing when it creaked. For a moment he wondered whether he really wanted to go through with this. He could easily run away now, run and forget that this had happened. But he had to find out, even though he knew he wouldn't be able to live with himself either way.
One step into the house confirmed his worst fears. The floor was covered in a fine layer of dust and debris, crumbling under the soles of his shoes as he took his next step. he heard a muffled whooshing sound from upstairs and looked up, fearful; where was the Dark Lord? She was here, he knew it. He had to find her.
A few steps down a hallway and his stomach lurched. James Potter was lying, unmistakably dead, at the base of the staircase, his eyes wide and unseeing, his glasses discarded and snapped in two, the glass shattered into splintering pieces by the wall. The colour had barely left his boyish face, and his clothes were torn, as if he had attempted to put up a fight before he fell. But no one could win a fight with the Dark Lord. At least no one he knew of.
Stepping over his nemesis' still figure, he trudged up the stairs, careful to avoid the third step where Lily had told him once was particularly weak and didn't withstand much weight. He reached the top of the staircase and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes, noticing how his breathing became more ragged and harsher with every step he took. All was still, uncomfortably so. She was there, he told himself. She had to be; she was inside the room, and all it took was five more steps.
Five. He wondered if she still remembered their childhood together. The memories were almost dreamlike, their sweet innocence and how they played together like the naïve children they were. He shook the fog from his head as he remembered how late it was, telling himself to move on.
Four. Then they had received their Hogwarts letters, and he remembered their immense excitement as they hugged each other in their happiness. They had gotten their letters on the same day, and they had celebrated for days on end. They went to Diagon Alley together, showing off their wands and, in Lily's case, her owl familiar.
Three. They had grown up together at Hogwarts, spent all their time together during the summer, reading their books and chatting just like they always had. He didn't want it to end, but their friendship grew strained over the years, what with his Slytherin housemates and the complications of her being a Muggleborn witch.
Two. His heart leapt. Perhaps he could apologise to her again, and perhaps this time she would forgive him, because he had asked the Dark Lord specially to spare her life. If not for him, she would have died too. What was she going to say? More importantly, how was he going to phrase his words?
He stepped into the room.
A glance was all it took.
At first he felt blank, numb shock, an unbearable disbelief as his mind tried to cope with reality. Then he was screaming so loudly he couldn't hear himself. The scope of what had happened crashed all around him; his eyes were squeezed shut, thinking that this couldn't be happening to him, not here, not now, not after all that had already happened. He fell to his knees, still screaming in utter denial. He would not look again, he didn't think he could take it, but he forced them open. He let out another colossal wail as her body, once so vibrant, so happy, so alive, lay still on the floor, her beautiful head tilted to one side, a single lithe arm tilted upwards. A hand reached out to touch her hair, soft and fine as silk, and when she didn't react, he began to cry. It was the kind of crying where he made choking noises but no tears escaped his eyes, not even when he blinked to see if tears fell from his lashes. He was in too much pain to really cry.
He crawled towards her fallen figure on his hands and knees, not caring how the splinters on the floorboards dug painfully into his palms. His voice had gone hoarse, but he called her name as he held her hand. It was still warm. He grasped it between his, lifting it up and kissing each finger in turn, hoping it would revive her out of her slumber. For it was slumber, wasn't it? But then, how could it be slumber when her eyes were open?
Then he stared into her lifeless eyes and cried with renewed anguish. Her eyes had been reduced to a pale, dull green, which glittered and glowed no more. His Lily was gone. The fire in her, which kept not only her, but him, alive, had been extinguished. How could it have done so? How did the Dark Lord snuff her life from her body in an instant like a burning candle, without impulse, without reflection? Had she been able to defend herself at all? It seemed too simple to be comprehensible; she could not have just gone in all sense of the word.
Then it came back at him all over again, hitting him like a freight train, and he felt like he was falling even though he was already on the ground. An all-consuming rage filled his body, burning and scalding him from the inside out. He felt as if he was melting from his pain. He had killed her. Lily was dead, her green eyes staring at the ceiling, looking but not seeing; her ears deaf to the world, hearing but not listening. He screamed then, a scream that released the pain he felt inside, but it did nothing to stop it; the pain intensified with every strangled yell that spilled from his lips, tearing at his soul. What had he done to deserve this? He asked himself this question knowing that it was all in vain, that the answer would never come to him. He stared around him, at the debris on the floor and destruction of the room, all of it meaningless to him as his mind went blank and numb in confusion. He realized it was all for nothing, because the Death Eaters all killed people whose blood looked just like theirs. There were no Mudbloods, or half-bloods, or purebloods. There were only people, innocent people brave or stupid enough to risk their lives for a cause that didn't even exist.
A shadow fell over him, over her face and the rest of the room; a cloud had passed over the moon. The darkness was palpable, reaching into him, grasping at his soul and twisting it till he was writhing on the floor in regret. How could he have been so stupid? He should have known that the prophecy was referring to her son. Moments later, the moon had appeared again, but it was pale, bathing the room in an eerie glow which further accentuated the harsh angles of her face, and he shuddered slightly. The colour had already disappeared from her face, as if it had never been there at all. She was paler than anything he had ever seen, and the sight unsettled him.
And to think he had caused it. He, Severus Snape, who had considered her to be the love of his life, who had ventured to protect her every move and give up his life for her, had killed her. If only he hadn't told the Dark Lord in the hopes of pleasing him, when all it did was feed a new obsession until it was all his master thought about. Say it again, he could hear his snakelike master hissing in his ear, powerful and expecting him to obey. You must repeat it, word for word. I must find out what this all means. The memory from only a few hours before played and replayed in his mind like a broken record, taunting him. he thought that he had meant something to the Dark Lord, but he had only been needed for the prophecy, nothing more. He should have known that the Dark Lord cared for no one but himself.
He pondered going the same way as his love for a moment; pointing his own wand at his chest and saying those two words to spit out an Avada-green ribbon of death, choking him and taking his soul to be with her. It would be so easy. The notion of this calmed him a little, but as he took his wand out of his pocket to do the deed, he realised he was being irrational. Lily would not have wanted this. He hurriedly shoved the wand back into his pocket before he could do anything rash to himself.
If only he hadn't heard the prophecy on that night, spying on Trelawney and Dumbledore without permission. If only he hadn't joined the Death Eaters out of the fact that it would make him more popular than he was, in hopes of gaining more friends. If only he hadn't called Lily a Mudblood. His mouth tasted foul with a bitter tang, and he spat to the side, but no saliva would form; his mouth was dry.
Only then did he notice a baby, its chubby hands holding the bars of its crib as it cried silently, tears rolling down its pudgy face. There was a strange mark on its forehead, shaped like a lightning bolt. He recognized it and started; it was the mark of immensely Dark Magic, it could not be anything else. The boy had come out unscathed. Was it true, then, the prophecy? Did this boy alone have the power to defeat his master once and for all?
He looked at the rest of its face, and his stomach clenched. It felt like a stab in the back, a punch in the gut, a blow to the chin. Of all the features fate and destiny could have chosen… this had to be some kind of sick joke. Instead of Lily's beautiful cascading wave of auburn, it had a black tufty mass that was unmistakably Potter's. The thing had his nose, his mouth, his angular chin…but then, he noticed its eyes. He gasped despite himself.
Those almond-shaped, green eyes – it was as if Potter himself had been reborn and stolen his love's eyes to replace his own. It was an abomination. He had to stare into the eyes of a person who resembled the man he hated to find the one he loved.
It was as if the world was mocking him with such a combination of features arranging themselves onto this innocent face. Inexplicably, inevitably, he already hated the thing, before it had even come to think for itself. He was not going to give it a chance to prove itself to him. It had James' face and the thought of it tortured him; that was all he needed to confirm his hatred for it. The thing opened its mouth and began to wail, a weak, pitiful cry that made him want to strangle it and hold it in his arms all at once.
"SHUT UP!" he yelled as the baby's wails intensified. He crouched over Lily's body, holding his hands over his ears. This was too much pain, too much suffering, too much injustice, too much. "SHUT UP!" he yelled again, but the crying did not cease; he had no choice but to cry again with it, mourning the loss of a person they both loved. He almost felt the compassion that should have gone towards the baby (Harry, he reminded himself, the baby's name was Harry) but realised that the love he felt for Lily was nothing it could possibly understand. He was alone, and with this knowledge he bent over Lily, wrapping his arms around her body, trying to keep it warm with all his might. But it was wasted on her; the heat from her body was already gone.
He could feel a pair of thin hands on his shoulders, under his arms, trying to lift him up. But he would not move, he couldn't leave her. He had to stay with her; why was this person pulling him away? But he was too weak to resist, too weak from all the crying and screaming and collapsing, and he felt himself being pulled away from her. "I'M SORRY!" he yelled, in a strangled cry that resembled nothing like what he normally sounded like. "I'M SORRY!"
He continued to scream the same two words over and over again, and when he was out of breath, he inhaled and screamed again. Inhale. Scream. Inhale. Scream. Inhale. Scream. It became such a regular pattern that he could almost lose himself in it, such that he didn't have to care about anything else anymore. He didn't want to care. He had given up on himself. What was the point of living, when the person he lived for was gone?
He was vaguely conscious of the fact that he was now out of the house, his feet sore from the fact that he had been dragged halfway down the staircase on the way, the soles worn and covered in splinters and dust. He felt his shoulders being shaken by a familiar pair of arms. A voice was speaking to him, an urgent one that was somehow calm at the same time. he knew that voice. He looked up. He stopped screaming. Staring him in the face was Albus Dumbledore.
His mouth opened again, but no sound came out. Without preamble, Dumbledore let him come closer to cry into his shoulder, comfortingly patting him on the back as he continued to wail. "I want to die," he said, over and over, the phrase quickly becoming a repetitive mantra as he continued to cry, his voice a monotone, flat and dead like his love. Dumbledore, at least, had enough sense not to say anything meaningless like, "It's all right," because it wasn't, not in the slightest. He could feel a cold trickle running down the back of his neck, and knew that Dumbledore was crying too.
He tried to comfort himself with words that he always heard from other people when they were suffering from a loss. That it was painless, quick, easy, even. But he couldn't bring himself to believe it. The people who had told him so hadn't been there, and they sure didn't know how it felt to die if they were still alive. Perhaps they thought it was easier to get over if they believed it didn't hurt.
He realised that it wasn't the fact that he had caused her death that hurt him the most. It was the unknown, not knowing what her last thoughts had been. Was she ever sorry for rejecting his friendship? Did she ever think of him? Was her last thought a fleeting memory of their last meeting, where they had hugged affectionately without knowing what was to come? Had she cared for him at all?
He couldn't accept the truth. He was fixated on his own stupid fantasy that she had loved him briefly, if only for a while, until Potter had taken her away from him, red hair and green eyes and all. He had envisioned her running towards him and enveloping him in her warm embrace, her scent of cinnamon and flowers tickling his senses and her tinkling laugh resounding in his ear. She would tell him that she loved him, and thank him for saving her from an untimely death. He would smile into her hair and whisper in her ear. Then he would Apparate the two of them to his home at Spinner's End and make love to her until it was light.
But that was not to be. The injustice rocked him to the core. Her last thought had not, in fact, been of him, but of the man she married, the man she supposedly loved. But did she love him like how she loved her? No, he thought. She didn't know the slightest thing about what real love was, and neither did Potter, and that was the unacceptable truth of it all.
It wasn't enough to be the first friend she had. He wanted to be the last one she loved.
This was based on my favourite childhood song "Bright Eyes" by Simon and Garfunkel, and I discovered quite recently that this song was in fact about death. It shocked me a little to know that I had been singing (and performing) such a morbid song all this time, but I found it to be a very acute description of Lily Potter. I really hope you liked it; I'm tearing up a little just writing this. And I hope you review as well, because that would stop my crying and I'll be all right then.
Want more angst and tragedy? I've also written Silhouette, which is another take on the same scene, along with reminiscing about old times. If you want to read tragedies about other characters, try Gryffindor At Heart. If you just want more Snily, there's a lot you could choose from – Four Seasons is one that I'm proudest of.