A/N: For those of you who have followed me from Unsaid, thank you! And for everyone else, welcome! I appreciate all comments and support, even if I don't get around to responding. I am once again joined by the lovely beta LadyDunla, who helps make this all readable for you.
I hope you enjoy this first chapter, even though it is quite short. Hopefully I will get to posting the next one very soon!
Thank you for reading!
Something within was crying out, or maybe just dying. The serpent's venom felt like fire raking through his veins. He couldn't think of how to stop it or what to do. He knew this was the time that people usually had their life flashing before them, so they could analyze all their memories and experiences and learn something profound. But he couldn't even think on his life, what it all meant, or if he had made the right decisions. All he could think, hope for, desire was the one person he had always desired. The one person he want to see with everything that pulsed and burned inside him.
Green eyes were looking at him and Severus Snape closed his eyes to see them again.
The world was dark and empty. Severus was dark and empty and he would have felt relieved if he could feel anything. He was traveling somewhere, he knew it. When he realized that he was moving, he began to feel his legs, then his hands and arms. Suddenly, he had a body again and he wondered if he had eyes.
Severus Snape looked to see to a rusty swing-set and a woman with sparkling green eyes waiting for him.
"This isn't Hell," he commented, finding it odd that his voice worked, despite being bitten in the neck by a giant snake. He remembered that he was bitten by a snake then. He also found it odd to think that he must be dead. For no other reason than that he was staring at Lily Evans.
She smiled, leaning slightly backward. "No, not really. I hear Hell doesn't even have a slide."
He wondered what she meant by that, but the park began to appear more clearly around him. It wasn't as if the slide and merry-go-round just sprung into existence, it was as if she needed to tell him to look, and then he would see. Severus Snape rubbed his neck, finding this all very confusing and yet he hardly seemed to mind. "But I'm dead, right?"
"Yes, of course." Lily folded her hands in front of her and he noticed that she was wearing an old pair of jeans and a saggy jumper. He wondered why she wasn't in some pure white dress or why her hair looked un-brushed and hastily put into a ponytail. He was sure that Lily would become a beautiful angel; perfect and immaculate. But as soon as the thought came to him, he immediately found it to be absurd.
"So..." He found his next words to also be ridiculous, but he had to confirm. "I'm not in Hell?"
She laughed, that same bubbling laugh that he hadn't heard since he was fifteen. It made his chest hurt with an ache he remembered from living. Lily pushed off the ground slightly, letting herself swing back and forth slowly. "No, Sev, you're not in Hell." She paused, chewing on her lip. "But you might not like this anyway." She motioned to the swing beside her. "Come on, sit down. I need to ask something of you."
Severus carefully approached the seat, even though his body felt perfectly healthy and the nerves undamaged by the snake bite. He sat down slowly anyway, noticing he was wearing his teaching robes and he suddenly felt overdressed. "Where are we? Is this real?"
"We are at an in-between place. And does it matter if it's real?" Lily grinned, but it faded quickly. "These kinds of places are only temporary. It's a place to move forward or backwards."
He frowned, shifting uncomfortably in the swing. It fit his body, but it felt strange, like he was playing at being a child again. "You mean to die or to live?"
She shrugged. "Living and dying are only concepts, you know. Being one or the other just depends on your frame of mind."
Severus rubbed his neck again. "Lily, I've just been killed by a sadist's giant snake, I'm not in the mood to talk philosophy." He closed his eyes. "Didn't you say that you had to ask something of me?" He was beginning to hate the strange paradox of being utterly confused, but not being alarmed by it. It was as if his emotions were dampened, almost unattainable.
She kicked her foot again, swinging back and forth. "You know, I've gone back hundreds of times."
"What?" He stared at her ponytail slapping the back of her neck.
"Yes, I've relived my life many times over. And I've seen you relive your life many times over, though you wouldn't remember that."
Severus didn't know what to say. He could still hardly understand why he was sitting in a swing, talking to Lily Evans like twenty years didn't separate them. Like she had never died. Like he wasn't dead. He felt mesmerized by the way her lips moved and hair flipped and eyes glinted in the soft light.
But she didn't notice, or just didn't comment. Instead she kept talking. "And this time, I think we need to work together." She put her foot in the dirt, stopping abruptly. She looked straight at him, those green eyes scrutinizing him in a familiar way. "We need to save my son."
A few, sharp conclusions hit Severus very fast. Harry Potter was her son. He, Severus Snape, had been trying to keep her son alive ever since she died. And if Severus' sacrifice wasn't enough to save the boy, what had happened?
"He died?" Severus was suddenly outraged. All those years of effort ruined. Sleepless night and tortured days after days for nothing. His own self-sacrifice in vain. But as suddenly as those emotions came, they quickly left. He felt drained and deflated.
Lily cocked her head, her eyes staring past him in thought. "No, Harry doesn't die."
He snorted. "Doesn't? As in he never dies?"
She shook her head, laughing gently. "Of course he dies eventually, but he survives Tom Riddle. It's one of those set things."
Severus found it odd hearing Lily say the Dark Lord's name, but he decided to ignore it. "Set things?"
She nodded, swinging again. He wondered if she was nervous. "Yes, there are many things that can be changed and many things that can't. Tom Riddle will be born to become Voldemort. Then Harry will be born to defeat him. Evil and Good. Unbalance to balance. All to keep the universe from imploding."
Severus didn't understand half of the things she said, but he was beginning to realize it might take him years to know what Lily was telling him. "Wait, if Pot-" He stopped himself. "If... your son survives, why do you need to save him?"
She smiled at his amendment. "I've told you that living and dying are relative. Harry doesn't die, yes, but he still needs something to live for." He opened his mouth to question more, but she continued to talk. "My son is meant to live through unthinkable trials, all before the age of eighteen. It damages him, Sev, in ways that break my heart a hundred times over. And that damage festers within him for so long, far too long." Her voice broke and she suddenly stood, wrapping her arms around herself. "Harry will always live, because I will always die for him." She looked to Severus, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "But I didn't die so he would live to suffer. Can you understand this, Severus?"
He felt numb, wishing he could stand and hold her, but he couldn't feel his legs. "I tried my best to spare him." His voice felt hollow.
Lily knelt in front of him, taking his hands in hers. "You can do more. I know it. Please, you must help me. I know we can save him."
His hands felt hot. "You want me to go back, don't you?" At once the idea repulsed him. As much as he didn't want to die, it meant an escape from his duties and from the weight they put upon him. And then, a second, more alarming thought hit him. "And you won't be there either. You'll be dead again."
Her hands gripped his so tightly that it almost hurt, but he didn't know if he could feel pain in this place. "Yes, I will be dead. But I'll be still with you, like I am now. I want to succeed this time and I will give you all the help I can."
Severus still didn't know where he was, why he was there, or why Lily wanted this of him. Perhaps this was his second chance for redemption. Perhaps this was only a dream in his rotting mind. "Promise to not leave me again." A childish thing to say, but they were at their old neighborhood park after all.
She nodded, closing her eyes. "I never left you."