Severus Snape opened his eyes slowly and realized immediately that something was wrong. He was no longer at the Shrieking Shack. Exactly where he was, he was quite unsure. He struggled to stand and as he did so he began to recognize his surroundings as a place he once knew a great many years ago. The river bank on which he stood was the very same one that he had escaped to many times whenever he had needed to escape from the madness of his childhood home.
The memories that came flooding back to him threatening to overwhelm him. It was here that he used to meet up with Lily Evans as she tried to help him forget about his father’s cruelness. They had spent hours sitting on the banks of the shore while he tried telling her all about the wizarding world. He remembered those times as being the happiest he had ever been.
Out of habit he glanced across the field in the direction that her house had been and was shocked to see Lily walking towards him. It was not, however, the Lily that he had known as a child, but Lily as she was when her life had been taken so cruelly from her.
As he rubbed his eyes hard, he began to understand what was going on. He was dead. Voldemort and Nagini had killed him. The last thing he could remember was Harry appearing at his side. What had he been doing there? He remembered Harry trying to help him, but Snape had known that he was beyond any help. Yet the boy had been willing to try anyway.
Foolish as it had been for Harry to have allowed himself get distracted from the more important task of defeating Voldemort, Snape could not help but marvel at the unmistakable worry and concern that he had seen in those green eyes. Snape shut his eyes hard at this memory. Harry had tried to help him despite his hatred for him and despite everything that Snape had done and what Harry had thought him to be. He knew that he had not deserved this kindness from Harry. For the first time since he had set his eyes upon Harry he realized that he may have been wrong about the boy and that Dumbledore had been right. He had been so determined to hate him because of his old prejudices against his father, that he had failed to see how much more like Lily rather than James, he truly had been.
Snape’s eyes snapped open. Lily now stood before him looking just as beautiful as he dared to remember her to be. He found himself not even daring to blink in case she disappeared. “Lily,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t please,” Lily said quietly. “Albus has already explained everything. I know how much you have suffered every day since then. I know how you struggled and sacrificed to keep Harry safe. If Harry is successful at killing Voldemort for good, it will be because of your help, Severus. You have been there for him when we could not be.”
“It is because of me that you could not be there for him. I failed you. And I failed Harry too. I promised Albus that I would keep Harry safe and I could not do that. I made him hate me because I could not see past him being James’s son. I couldn’t let go of the hate that I felt. I never even gave him a chance.” Snape admitted gloomily.
“I can’t fault you for that. I know how much James tormented you and I wish I could take it all back. He can admit now that his treatment of you was what helped force you down the dark path that you chose. But, you were strong enough to back yourself out of it, Severus. You were able to see the wrong in what was happening and help in ways no one else could!” Lily insisted.
“But at what cost?! It took you getting killed for me to come to my senses! At that point it was hardly even worth it!” Snape barked painfully. He turned himself away from her to conceal the burning in his eyes.
Lily touched his shoulder. “If it saved you from that evil then it was worth it to me.”
“You can’t mean that!” he said as he spun to face her once more. “What about Harry? What about the life that was stolen from you?”
“I have come to accept things for what they are, Severus. Everything happened as it should have. There was a purpose for all of it. Yes, all of it,” she said at his doubting look. “It’s true that I have hated the pain that Harry has been put through, first with my sister and her husband, and then with everything that he has had to face since. But it has made him into such an amazing man that I couldn’t wish for anything different for him.”
They stood together in silence for a long time while Snape considered her words. He had lost countless hours imagining what we would say if ever he count talk to Lily just one more time, and this was nothing like what he had pictured.
“You have to go back, Sev.”
Snape looked up at Lily in alarm. “What do you mean ‘Go back’?
“It is not your time yet. You have a life to get living. Hogwarts needs you and Harry needs you,” Lily stated.
“Harry hates me. Everyone hates me. Dumbledore saw to that,” Snape spat bitterly. “You know that he plans of having Harry killed don’t you? That was his plan all along. Harry had no idea. I was kept in the dark right up until it was too late to do anything about it. It was all pointless.” The defeat that he was feeling was apparent in his words and the slump of his shoulders.
Lily smiled at him. “You must have faith, Severus. Harry is strong and is capable of so much. I think he will surprise you, and everyone else.”
“I don’t deserve to go back.”
“You do more so than anyone else. You may not believe so, but I can only hope that it is enough, for now, for you to know that I believe that you do. There will be so much healing to be done, Severus, and your strength will be needed. I have to know that Harry will have you there should he need you. It will not be easy for anyone, but I think that the walls that were once built have crumbled leaving open pathways that will lead to a much happier and healthier place,” Lily replied.
“I think you have been spending too much time with Albus. You are speaking in riddles,” Snape said dryly, but with a small smile. He sighed heavily before saying, “I don’t even know how to go back. I think it may be too late.”
“No. It’s not too late,” she said. “You just need to open your eyes.”
As Lily continued urging him to open his eyes the world around him disappeared into darkness and she began to sound as though she were walking away down a long tunnel. Snape wanted to call for her and tell her to come back, but could not seem to get his voice to work.
“Open your eyes Severus. Come on now. You need to wake up,” said a voice very near to him that was definitely not Lily’s voice.
Snape struggled open his eyes and was nearly blinded by the bright lights. He tried closing his eyes against the light, only to be prompted again to keep his eyes open. He turned his head to the side in an attempt to determine who it was that had been speaking to him when he was completely overwhelmed with an excruciating pain. The pain radiated over his body in waves making it hard for him to breathe.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and then someone spoke to him saying, “Drink this. It will help with the pain.”
Gratefully Snape quickly gulped down the potion which made him feel almost instantly as if he were being covered by a very warm and heavy blanket. He tried again to open his eyes and looked around coming to the conclusion that he must be at St Mungo’s hospital in London.
Further examination led him to discover the source of the voice that had been speaking to him. He was astonished to discover that it was his colleague Minerva McGonagall who was staring down at him looking worried. This confused Snape even further since the last time he had been face-to-face with McGonagall she had attacked him and her absolute hatred and anger were the only emotions she had worn. He closed his eyes once more to hide from her the guilty pain that he felt from the deceptive role he had been asked to play.
“Severus, Harry showed me the memories you gave him,” McGonagall said quietly. Snape’s eyes snapped open. “There was so much I didn’t know…I wish that you could have said something…Or Albus…Oh dear. I’m afraid I don’t even know where to start,” she said as if not able to form a complete sentence. “I do owe you some pretty serious apologies. I was so angry with you that when Aberforth had told me that he had found you and brought you here I wanted to curse him for not just letting you die. It was only at Harry’s insistence in your innocence that I found out the truth.”
Snape tried to speak to her only to find that no sound was coming out of his mouth. He looked at McGonagall helplessly.
“Your vocal cords were damaged. Healer Prewett has been mending them, but insisted on putting a silencing charm on your while she worked,” she explained patiently.
Snape sighed in frustration. He looked at her and very carefully mouthed the word that he been trying to get out.
“Harry?” she asked in clarification. Snape nodded. “Harry is just fine. Well more than fine actually. He did it. Voldemort is dead. Harry went to face him in the forest and when Voldemort used the Avada Kedavra on him, he only succeeded in destroying the part of himself and not Harry.” McGonagall shook her head. “I can only hope that Albus expected this when he set him on this task. That he knew Voldemort would be unable to kill him,” she finished quietly.
Snape found himself stunned and fighting against a burning in his eyes. It was really over?? Voldemort was gone AND Harry survived? It was all almost too good to be true. He wondered for a moment it perhaps he was still dreaming and unconscious. The twinges of pain as he tried to move made him dismiss that line of thinking quickly.
“Harry wanted to come here and see for himself that you were going to be all right, but I insisted that he stay and get some food and some rest. But I imagine that I will not be able to keep him away for long. Are you going to be okay with him visiting?” McGonagall asked.
Snape thought for a long moment about this before responding. He knew that he was going to have to sit down and talk with Harry eventually, but he was not sure he wanted to do so in a busy hospital ward. Not that he could even talk right now anyway. Snape shrugged his shoulders and then nodded painfully.
McGonagall smiled and patted him arm. “I understand. I don’t think he’s expecting much more from you than just knowing that you are going to be okay. He seemed pretty certain that you were dead and was pretty torn up about it.” She sighed heavily and then said. “Healer Prewett has insisted that you will need to remain here on the ward for about a bit in order to heal properly. She said that she was able to get most of the venom out of your body, but said that she wants to be sure that it is all gone before closing your wounds up properly. In case your body requires more time to heal and expel any remaining venom. But she has assured me that Hogwarts will have its headmaster back as soon as possible.”
Snape painfully shook his head. There was no way that he wanted to continue as headmaster. It was not a post that he ever rightfully should have held.
“No? No what?” she asked.
Snape tried pointing at her in an attempt to say that she should take over as head, but dropped his arm in frustration as she failed to understand.
“It’s no bother right now. Save your strength and we will have plenty of time to discuss everything once you are better. I just needed to come to see that you were indeed going to be all right, and to let you know that you are completely forgiven for everything that we all were led to misunderstand. I do need to get back to Hogwarts now, however. Things are a complete mess and we are still trying to sort out who and what we have lost.” McGonagall said as her voice caught in her throat.
Snape patted her hand and mouthed a thank you before she stood with a smile and walked away. He then allowed the exhaustion to sweep over him as he relaxed into his pillows and fell back to sleep.
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