Severus' eyes snapped open the moment he awoke. It was the same every morning- he wasn't the type of person to carry on dozing, he was a busy man. But this morning wasn't just any morning, it was the morning of the final battle. It was, quite probably, the last morning of his life. Which was why he had allowed Granger to sleep over for the first time. Normally he fucked her and then told her to go, but last night when she had asked if she could stay, he had relented. If it was to be his last night on earth, why the hell not? It didn't mean anything; she was a warm, willing body and he was a man with needs.

Severus had been fucking the Granger girl regularly for the past month. They had been cooped up in Grimauld Place with the rest of the Order, planning and preparing for the final confrontation with the Dark Lord. There hadn't been much to amuse him and he hadn't been able to slip away and visit one of the Knockturn Alley whores to satisfy his needs as he normally did. Granger was a relatively pretty girl, and intelligent enough, although he would never have admitted it to anyone. And she had offered. No strings attached.

Severus could remember the first time she had approached him. She had stood there, in front of his couch in the library, her eyes big and her curvy figure hugged by her jeans and jumper. The jumper had been green. Snape wasn't sure if that had been in an effort to please him, or if she simply liked the colour. "I want you." She had said, surprising him into remaining silent. She had spoken with a quiet confidence he wouldn't have expected from her. "I know that you could never feel anything for me, and I don't expect you to. But I'm probably going to die soon, and I don't want to deny myself any last pleasures that are in my reach. I'm twenty and no longer your student. No one will know." As she had said all this, she hadn't wavered once. She had looked him square in the eyes. Severus hadn't seen the point in resisting; she was offering something he wanted, and he was going to take it. God knew, he needed to find a way to release the tension which suffused his bones in the daily meetings with the Order. Each member was more insufferable than the last.

And so they had started a routine. They ignored each other during the day, as they had always done, and she would come to him in the night. And they would fuck, and then she would leave. That's all it was: fucking. He would always take her from behind; he didn't want any extra intimacy. And she hadn't minded. At least not at first. But then she had tried to kiss him, had suggested that they try a more traditional position, had asked if she could stay the night. Each time she had proposed something along these lines, he had refused. He wasn't looking for any intimacy, any emotional attachment. He just wanted physical release.

It wasn't that he didn't like her. She was pretty, some might say she was beautiful. She was magnificent in bed, although he didn't require much participation, but she was incredibly responsive. More so than any other woman Severus had been with. She was smart- her contributions in the Order meetings were often the only ones worth listening to. But his heart had been taken a long time ago. And it had been taken to the grave, along with Lily Evans.

And with that thought, Severus removed Granger's arm from his chest, and got out of bed, methodically pulling his clothes on. He was almost glad that this day had come. No more waiting around. The time to act had finally come. He would lead the Order into the "ambush". The Dark Lord would never expect them to be prepared, he trusted Severus implicitly. But Severus wouldn't turn around and fight by the Dark Lord's side, as was expected. He would help the Order defeat him, thereby finally paying his debt to Lily in full. And then he would be released from the one thing that had been his sole focus for the better part of his life. So he might as well die, Severus thought, there would be nothing left for him. The thought of dying almost filled him with a sense of relief.

Perhaps, just perhaps, he would even see Lily again.

As Severus reached for the door, Granger's voice stopped him. "Severus" she said. It was the first time she had spoken his first name. "I love you." Severus didn't turn around. She continued. "I know you don't, you can't, feel the same way. But I just wanted you to know."

Something seemed to twinge inside Severus. Nobody had ever said that to him before, as tragic as that was. But she was just a girl, what did she know? And he was probably about to die, and so was she, so what did any of it matter? And so he didn't answer her, didn't turn around to look at her. He simply left, prepared to face the day ahead.

...

The battle was over.

They had won.

Potter had killed the Dark Lord.

He had survived.

Severus didn't feel anything. He simply sat down on the dirty, bloody ground of the Great Hall and stared blankly ahead. His eyes saw images, but his mind didn't register them. A group of Weasleys hugging and crying. Mediwitches bustling around people on stretchers. Hermione Granger running towards him, with a determined expression on her face. He felt like he should somehow respond to the last image, but he didn't know how. He didn't feel anything.

But then he saw Granger falter, and stop. The Weasley's broke apart, identical expressions of shock on their faces. The air around them seemed to shimmer and then slowly started to solidify. Severus watched as shapes began to form, from nowhere. At first they were just outlines, human shaped silhouettes, but then they started to fill out- legs, arms, head. And then hair, eyes, nose, mouth. Recognisable faces. They were everywhere- Severus lost sight of all other Order members as people, lots and lots of people, materialised in front of him. Most of them seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn't quite place them. Until he saw Cedric Diggory. And then Fred Weasley, who Severus had seen die, only minutes earlier. And there was Charity Burbage, the old muggle studies teacher who Severus had seen floating above the dining table at Malfoy Manor, before Voldemort had killed her almost a year ago. All the people murdered by the Dark Lord were standing in the Great Hall. They didn't seem disorientated, or confused, as if they were conscious of all that had happened between their deaths and the present moment of time. And then there was uproar as people were reunited. Fred Weasley was suddenly being held by his weeping twin. Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang were locked in a tight embrace. Everywhere there were people hugging and crying.

Severus couldn't fathom how this was possible. He didn't try to. Instead, his mind was focused on one thing, one person who he knew was in the Great Hall, the one person he had been pining for, living for, for decades. He stood up, as if in a trance, searching. He moved forward through the crowd. Hermione Granger was before him, her face turned up toward his, hopefully. She was injured, her face was tired and dirty, there were tears leaking out of her eyes, but she didn't seem to notice them. Neither did he, not really. He knew they were there, but at the same time he didn't. He only knew one thing. She was alive.

He pushed past Granger, not sparing her a glance, not noticing the way her face crumpled, the way her whole body seemed to sag in defeat, the way she fell to the floor as if the life force had suddenly been drained from her, the way she looked around the Great Hall, realising that there was no one there for her, before apparating away.

Severus walked, his neck craning, his eyes seeking. And then he saw it. Long, red hair, draped across slender shoulders, draped over the arm that was around her back. The arm belonged to James Potter. There was another arm clinging to her waist. Harry Potter. The presence of the male Potters barely registered with Severus. He walked around the group until he could finally see her face. Lily. Her pale, beautiful face was covered in tears, which only served to make her seem more attractive. Her deep green eyes were filled with an intense emotion. But they were not directed at him, they were looking down at her son.

Severus felt as though his heart would beat out of his chest. His throat was constricting, he was struggling to breathe.

He walked over to the group of Potters and stopped so that he was facing her. "Lily." His voice came out choked. He wasn't sure he would be able to speak.

She looked up. Those green eyes, the very ones that had had haunted his dreams for years, looked directly at him.

And the warmth was gone from them. They were cold. The tears stopped, miraculously.

"Severus" she said, but she said it with no emotion, no joy at seeing him again. Nothing. "It is nice to see you again." It was clear that she did not mean it. She held Harry Potter's head to her chest. As if protecting him. From him. From Severus, who had spent the last two decades doing everything humanly possible to protect the boy. And she knew. She knew all he had done, all he had sacrificed. And nothing. Not even a thank you.

Her eyes were steely, icy cold, as she said "we must catch up some time" before turning her face towards her husband's and kissing him. Kissing. him. Kissing. James. Potter. In front of Severus.

And suddenly Severus' emptiness was gone, and he was angry. So. fucking. angry. He turned and walked away. He knew he wasn't welcome. And suddenly he didn't care. He had never been angry at her before, and it felt so good. This time, for the first time, he was in the right and she was in the wrong. He had no debt left to repay her. He had righted all his wrongs. He had protected her son, had helped destroy the Dark Lord, and had done everything in her name. For her. For her forgiveness. For her friendship. For her affection. And he deserved all those things. And she had treated him with cold indifference, as if nothing had changed since he had called her a Mudblood when he was a child.

Severus finally felt free.

He left the Great Hall.