The First Meeting
At first, he thought he had gone blind. When he opened his eyes, all was white as snow around him, stretching far and wide into a nonexistent horizon. It seemed as if he was bathed in a pool of white light, or a hazy mist that had yet to settle. The floor on which he lay was neither warm nor cold; it was merely a blank, stable surface upon which he could rest.
Normally, he would have panicked to be in such an unfamiliar place, but he was strangely calm. He was clothed garments which were obviously not his own; a white cloak or tunic of some sort was wrapped comfortably around him, looping over his shoulder and tying loosely at the back. He did not feel compelled to find out whom this belonged to. Somehow, he already knew that he never would.
He looked over himself and was pleased to find that he had not changed much. His skin was as pale as he had always been, but then there was something different about him, a slight change; a distinct, tingling feeling. He checked his arms and gave a sharp intake of breath. His left arm was clean and completely devoid of the hatefully ugly Dark Mark that had scarred him for most of his short life. The skin was clean and pale, unblemished and soft as a newborn baby's. He caressed it with his right hand with bated breath, then felt his neck. He noted in surprise that there were no signs of any snake bites or even blood. What had happened to him?
Before he could question any more, a figure appeared and materialized in front of him. It was a young woman, dressed in a black gown that accentuated her paleness. Her hair fell loosely about her shoulders, lank and thin, much like his, her eyes dark and downcast. He probed his memory, trying to recall who that face belonged to.
The woman looked up. "Severus?"
Severus knew that plaintive voice. He stared at her, suddenly lost in hazy memories of that voice pleading to another, the sound of her crying in anguish as that same woman before him stumbled to the floor, clutching at her face, "Please, Tobias, you're drunk, don't…!"
His thoughts clicked into place, and his mouth fell open, the words escaping them a scratchy, disbelieving whisper.
Severus remembered little of her; she had not cared much for him during his growing up, constantly holed up in her room crying over her drunken husband and his alcoholic ways. Severus had not liked his father very much either, and did his best to avoid him as much as possible.
Eileen Prince stepped towards him and held her arms out, somewhat awkwardly, as she had never done this before. He had no choice but to come forward and hug her with the little affection he could muster. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he stiffened at the unfamiliarity of it all. All the while, Severus said nothing; he had never been one to talk if he had nothing to say in the first place. He had always had mixed emotions about his mother. He had been constantly angry at her during his childhood, as she had never lifted a finger to help him when his father was home. Severus remembered those dark, lonely nights when his father locked him in the cellar with nothing to sleep on except shattered glass shards, the remains of broken bottles of brandy and vodka his father downed on his daily binges. He vaguely recalled curling up to cry in his solitude, thinking that no one cared for him, and that no one ever would.
He had grown up mostly alone, and had become independent at a fairly young age. When his letter came from Hogwarts, there were no congratulatory accolades, no pats on the back, no proud expression on her face. He had assured himself that he didn't need praise to feel confident, but he couldn't hide that he had been disappointed by the lack of excitement shown by his family. He had gone to Diagon Alley with Lily and her parents instead to get his things, and had gone to the platform with his very silent parents. Lily's parents were like the family he never had, but he had never let himself grow close to them. He didn't trust adults, not after what his own parents had done to him.
Summer after summer he returned home, but he spent most of his time over at Lily's house, especially when his father returned from another of his drinking sprees at the nearby Muggle pubs. She didn't care that he had made friends at school, had been Sorted into Slytherin just like her, was top of his class in Potions. She didn't know who Lily was and what she meant to him. When he joined the would-be group of Death Eaters with his Slytherin friends, she had said nothing. The pride and satisfaction he felt at the time was short-lived, as there was no one to share it with him, not even Lily, who had never approved of his group of Dark wizard friends.
When he received a letter of her death in his sixth year, he had felt no remorse, no regret for any words unsaid, nothing whatsoever. He had merely shrugged it off and continued with his life, crumpling the letter in his hands and dumping it onto the breakfast table before burning it with a simple spell. He couldn't admit that however little she had mattered to him superficially, deep down beneath the surface, he knew he cared.
He had lived his life for attention, like most other children did before realizing that the world did not, in fact, revolve around themselves. He worked hard at school and earned perfect scores, especially in Potions where he was a constant favourite of the teacher. But his mother had not shared in his happiness. He could never gain her approval. She had slowly faded away as he grew older, and anything that had been between them had been completely severed by the time he was fourteen.
He blamed his mother for being so weak, for marrying such a horrible man. His mother was a witch, and he knew from the yearbooks in the school library that she had been a high achiever, scoring almost perfect NEWTs across the board. What had become of her was a complete mystery. She could have defended herself easily, taking out her wand and hexing her husband if he tried to advance on her, but he could never fathom why she had never done so. Perhaps she had given up on herself. He would have cursed his own father himself, if only he could perform magic at home without the Ministry breathing down his neck.
Severus's mother released him and gazed at him with a strange smile upon her face, like she knew something he didn't. It unsettled him a little, almost like the way he felt unnerved when his father stepped into a room, automatically making tensions run high. He made to turn away, to reject her like she did to him when she was still alive, but she said suddenly, "I should have taken more care of you… but I was too busy thinking of myself."
There was a pause in which Severus shuffled a little on his bare feet. He knew his mother had more to say, so he waited. "I was so proud of you," she said. "I was so happy when you came home with that Slytherin tie, because I knew you had found a family who you could belong to at school. I knew you would be taken care of. And you had always done so well. I'm just sorry I didn't talk to you about it."
"Why are you here?" he said, the words coming out sharper than he had intended.
"I think we're here to resolve unfinished business," replied his mother. "Every person in this place meets five people before moving on. I am your first, am I not?"
He did not answer. "I should have helped you," she continued. "Tobias was a horrible man, and I will never understand why I married him. I could have used my wand to banish him from our lives, but I couldn't bring myself to do it, because I was so scared, Severus, we both were."
Severus felt numb, but a part of him stirred. His mother had spoken exactly what he had wanted her to all his life. She was admitting her errors in her short life, and she knew precisely why he had never liked her or ventured to create a bond between them. Perhaps she really did care for him, even if she didn't know how to show it. "Joining the Dark Lord had been a bad choice for you, but by the time I found out it was too late for me to say anything," she said, almost pleading, sounding rather pathetic if not for the fact that she was speaking to him more seriously than she had ever done. "After I was gone, you continued to live under his power, and it hurt me to watch you follow such a tyrant. Thankfully you saw sense."
So she had been watching him, all this time? His heart leapt involuntarily, and he felt closer to her, all of a sudden, closer than he had ever been. The thought of his mother, a woman who had never seemed to care about him, watching over him like some fairytale guardian angel, protecting him from above, was comforting. "It may be hard for you, Severus, but I think…" His mother hesitated. "I must ask if I can be… forgiven."
He stared at her for a few seconds. Her expression did not change, she did not flinch in the slightest.
For what? He had never needed her. Sure, there was a little part of him that resented her for never helping him with his pain. He had spent his childhood asking himself why. He knew from Lily that most parents protected and took care of their children, and he would never stop questioning why his parents were so different. He stopped thinking about it during his teenage years, deciding to keep those thoughts at the back of his mind where they would be kept untouched. But now, he understood.
His mother had loved him, but she did not have the power to protect him because of her weakness. The two of them combined could never have faced his monster of a father. All those nights his father tormented him, threatening him with his slurred voice and wandering about the house off-balance. His mother had always stood to the side, too afraid to speak out, too pitiful to care for her own son. The two of them had suffered together, yet had never found comfort in each other in their shared fear.
But that was so long ago. He didn't have the heart to hate her; he couldn't. He knew some things had to be said, and this was one of them. He never thought he would be given the chance to meet his mother again – he had never been a great believer in the afterlife – but here he was, standing here with his mother before him, asking for his forgiveness after so many years of misery and misunderstanding. Severus had imagined the things he would say to his mother if he ever saw her again. But looking at her now, asking for forgiveness - he had only one thing to say.
"I forgive you," he said.
He suddenly felt as if a large burden had been lifted off of him, and his sight became sharper, or perhaps it was his surroundings which had a sudden burst of clarity. He felt even lighter than before, and knew that the first part of his task was complete. A part of him had left him for good, but not in a bad way, and the emotion he felt almost resembled… relief.
His mother nodded and in a sudden motion, threw her arms around him and hugged him with surprising strength. Severus felt a trickle running down the side of his neck, just below his right ear. He knew that she was crying, but before he could console her, she disappeared, leaving his arms encircling nothing but air.
I was reading a book by Mitch Albom, and thought back to one of his works called The Five People You Meet In Heaven. This story is based on that idea, and I know there are so many fics out there where Severus meets Lily again. But let's just say I'll leave the best for last.
Meanwhile, any ideas for who Severus will meet next? Leave a review in the box below!