The Final Meeting
Severus didn't have time to stay for long, and before he could watch The Boy Who Triumphed any further, everything around him dissolved into shadows once again. He did not protest; for one thing he knew he couldn't, but he also knew that the boy was now safe, and though Hogwarts needed time to regain balance and pick up the broken pieces, the boy and his friends, along with those who had survived, were forever safe from the tyrannical reign of the Dark Lord. Lily had not died in vain.
But this time, instead of the white light Severus was used to, the world was suddenly cloaked in a startling emerald green. It swirled around him, dazzling and shimmering even when he closed his eyes, recalling memories of that particular hue, that verdant shade of blazing green. The mist settled before changing into another place, one that he did not recognize at first – a beautiful meadow covered in grass, white flowers dotting the edge of a river, a blue sky stretching into a horizon of wispy white clouds, and a large oak tree in the centre of it all, its leaves rustling in the breeze. Severus could not help but laugh. He was finally at peace, in a garden, of all places. What was so significant about this pastureland that took him here?
Then he realised. He was in the place where the magic had all begun for him, in the meadow where he had first met Lily Evans. So this was what Dumbledore had meant when he told him about deciding on his location; he had been unsure until now. He turned to the river and leaned down to smell the sweet scent of the flowers, hands caressing the water as it flowed through the gaps between his slender fingers. The air was alive with birds twittering and the sound of the water running along the river's winding path, the wind whistling as it made its way through the leaves in the trees behind him. The smells around him were a delightful mixture of fresh dewdrops, earthy soil and plants, teasing at his senses as they enveloped him in the sweet aromas of wildlife. The sounds were like music to him, almost as if he were alive again, experiencing the wonder of nature. But there was one thing missing…
It couldn't be. Severus told himself it was wishful thinking, that she couldn't be here, so he wouldn't disappoint himself if it were true. But then her voice came again, echoing towards him, clear as a bell and impossible to ignore, "Sev!"
He turned and saw his first and only love peeking at him from behind the oak tree, long hair flowing in the wind, the sunlight kissing her auburn locks, complete with her smile and her sparkling eyes. And Merlin, she was as young and beautiful as he remembered her to be. She emerged from the back of the tree and ran over to him with the childish, innocent grace she had always possessed, and he ran to her too, until they collided together in the middle and fell over, still laughing with joy and the disbelief that they had met again. "Lily," he murmured, as he held her in his arms, savouring how her name rolled easily from his tongue as if it had meant to all along. "My dear, sweet Lily." He felt like crying then, overwhelmed with emotion, but he fought back the tears.
"Severus," she replied, a smile gracing her lips as they embraced, her head fitting perfectly on his shoulder in a way both of them knew had never happened with James. "I'm sorry for everything."
Severus held her by the shoulders as he looked into her searching eyes. "You have nothing to be sorry for," he said softly. "I'm sorry for calling you…that." She shook her head and laughed, but it was not the melodic giggle he was accustomed to; this was a laugh of bitterness, one of regret. "I was too childish to realise you never meant me any harm," she said, leaning into him with a sorrowful gaze in her eyes. "I was unforgiving and narrow-minded; I did not care for your apologies no matter how genuine they were. I was too stupid to know I was wrong to refuse my first true friend, let alone go out with the one person he hated the most. I was inconsiderate and stupid and I'm sorry."
"Don't say that," Severus replied. "We are here now, and your son is safe."
She smiled at him and sighed. "Then I am thankful, Severus, that I had you to protect him from harm. Without you, Voldemort would have finished him off before he had a chance."
"Voldemort is dead," said Severus without remorse, and she laughed and hugged him again. Her hand brushed over his left sleeve, and he let him look at the bare skin that was there, devoid of the Dark Mark that had haunted both of them for so long, and his heart warmed as she smiled again. "I have been watching over you and my son for so long," she said in his ear, her breath tickling his neck as she spoke, but he didn't mind at all. "Thank you for protecting him, even though you didn't have to. Harry is as brave, kind and good as I imagined he would be; he used the Resurrection Stone so I was able to meet him in the Forbidden Forest… I could express to him how proud I was and how much I love him."
Severus began to cry in earnest; after all that had happened, all the trouble and misunderstanding he had gone through, he was safe with the woman he loved. She smiled, eyes shining too, one hand lifted to stroke his cheek and wipe away the tears escaping down his sallow cheeks. Severus closed his eyes at the simple affection she had always shown for him; her gentle hands were like the finest silk, the softest cloud, and his heart was bursting with the joy and the love he had had for so long. He had never told her that he loved her; the puppy love that turned into a childhood crush, before transitioning into a full-blown, everlasting rush of passion.
He opened his eyes to look into hers, those eyes that lived on through her son, and possibly for generations more, and said those five words he had been meaning to say all along, words spoken with a sincerity that could not have been truer.
"I love you, Lily Evans."
She kissed him then, leaning in to cover his mouth with hers, her lips as soft as he had always imagined them to be, full of love, friendship and care. Almost instinctively, his hands wrapped around her waist and hair, holding her close; all he could feel was her and nothing else. He responded to her kiss with fervour and long-awaited passion, expressing to her the tumult of emotions he had bottled up inside him for decades, and in his heart, he knew she would understand. He realised in that moment that Dumbledore's words were indeed true – this was all happening inside his head, but it was very much real.
Behind them, a beacon of light appeared, spilling in from the heavens as the clouds parted from above; one by one, images of people who had died in the war materialized, all dressed in white with smiling eyes and waving hands. Severus and Lily broke apart to smile at each other, and she took him by the hand, their fingers fitting together perfectly as her lithe, slender hand matched his coarse and calloused one. He recognized several faces; those of the Order who had fought to the death, countless students whose innocent lives had been lost with a flash of green and, behind them, Albus Dumbledore, who was smiling and nodding at them all. Lily led him on towards them, and before he made that one final step into the light, he heard her say, "Welcome home, Severus."