Chapter 1 : In My Dying Breath
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He was mildly aware of an approaching figure from the tunnel. The footsteps were much softer than the powerful stride of Voldemort or the spineless, heavy-footed drudge of the Death Eaters. Glancing through tired eyes, Snape saw Harry kneeling before him, a look of regret strewn across his face. Snape briefly wondered if Harry was there to finish him off, but the pained and desperate gaze in his eyes revealed that his intentions were not malicious.
Blood continued to spurt out of the puncture wounds, covering his body with the warm, sticky liquid. His trembling fingers could do nothing to stem the steady flow of life from his neck. Glancing downwards, Snape saw that he was now a crimson mess of sweat and grime. There was no glory for him in his dying moment. The coppery smell overtook his senses as his mind flew back to all of the blood that had been shed by his own wand. It was now his turn to face a pitiful death.
His eyes fluttered and squeezed shut, the pain that had clung to a crevice in his mind for the last 17 years finally catching up with him. Snape dove deep into his memories and pushed aside those damaged by the stinging pain of loss. He waded through the clusters of death, suffering, and torture until he came across the pocket of his most cherished moments. The memories rushed before him quickly like flashing scenes of a movie, the filmstrip moving far too fast through the projector of his mind. Suddenly a pang of terror hit him as he realized his life had amounted to a puddle of used film strips on the cutting room floor. He pictured the orchestrator pulling at the film quickly, ripping it through the machine and abandoning the film like useless trash. He had not thought of the muggle invention in years, though suddenly he was drawn deep into the memory. The sounds around him rushed through his ears like a wicked wind as he was thrown into the array of glossy scenes.
Severus sat cross-legged on the damp grass, tentatively holding a brown, translucent band. He held it up to the light and saw shaded graphics in each of the tiny squares. The images were not moving as he expected they would, nor were the colors as vibrant and lively as he had usually seen in pictures. Still perplexed, Severus questioned the silliness of muggles as he continued to stare at the strip.
“So you can put these in a machine to make the video show up?” he questioned Lily who was kneeling beside him. She nodded in affirmation and smiled at the curiosity evident on his face.
“We have a lot of old things like this lying around in our attic. You should come over and watch a movie with Tuney and I sometime. I think you would love it,” Lily replied, smiling at her new friend.
“I don’t think my Mum would like that much,” he murmured uncomfortably. “You won’t need this stuff when you go to Hogwarts anyways. Wizards have pictures that move all on their own, you know. You don’t need to thread paper through some contraption either.”
Lily shrugged and shook her head at Severus’s stubbornness. She took the film strip back from him, brushing her fingers against Severus’s hands as she did so. His eyes darted down as he tried to hide the mixture of shock and joy growing inside him. Severus watched intently as Lily threaded the glossy strand through her fingers, inspecting the film as the colors of each image changed. She spotted pictures of her parents among the images, young and booming with happiness. Severus watched her closely, mesmerized by her dancing fingers as they wound around the strip. She was gleaming, and her innocent smile electrified his own lips as he found himself grinning as well.
The scene shifted and soon Severus was surrounded by thin tree trunks and deep emerald foliage. He spotted Lily sitting alongside the pond, her feet dipped into the cool water.
Swinging her feet below her, Lily watched the distorted image of her pale skin glide through the water. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a long braid that Severus seemed to be entranced by. The shiny strands were drawing him towards her as his eyes snaked their way down the braid. Severus gingerly took a seat next to Lily and watched as the faint ripples reached the edge of the pond and bumped into the rocky edge.
“You’re positively blossoming today,” Severus said lightly, keeping his eyes on the water. Lily threw her head back and laughed before pushing Severus with her shoulder.
“Don’t flatter me, Severus,” she replied grinning. “It’s not my fault my mum has a thing for gardening.” She paused and took in his upturned lips. “You’re happy to be going back to school tomorrow I assume? Either that or you got a new potions book in the post.”
Severus glanced sideways and shook his head at Lily while withholding a grin. “I’m ready to get the hell out of here. I’m sure you are as well.” Severus cast away the memories of broken doors and shattered possessions. He was going home tomorrow and nothing would ruin that for him.
Lily nodded in understanding and sighed, resting her head against Severus’s shoulder. He looked down at her and smiled to himself, happy with the peace and calm of the moment.
With a flash the water turned icy white, the air chilled, and the mighty Hogwarts appeared in the distance, its great peaks reaching upwards toward the sky. Severus was now standing alone at the edge of the Great Lake, his eyes stinging from the cold as he attempted to hide the bottom of his face under his collar. His hollow cheeks stuck out above his coat, and his messy hair whipped around in the wind violently.
Severus soaked up the solitude of the grounds. The rest of the students were enjoying the warmth of the castle, gathering around the crackling fires and bundling up in warm jumpers. Not wanting to return to the cool dungeons or face the other students in the halls, Severus took cover in the frosty atmosphere of the Great Lake. Clenching his teeth together, he forced himself to shake off the humiliation he had just endured at the hands of Potter. The prick was always out to get him and make his life miserable.
Severus squinted at the solid lake before him and shivered absentmindedly. He felt comforted by the isolation of the oasis and by the fact that Potter and his friends wouldn’t be brave enough to stumble out into the winter air to get to him.
Without warning, a hand grasped the back of his arm and tugged him into a hug. He could smell perfume wafting through the hair of the person and knew that only Lily would hold him so tightly in a warm embrace. She pulled back and glanced up at his face, noticing the sullen expression.
“I’m sorry, Sev,” she whispered. “James is a jerk, and he shouldn’t have cursed you out of turn like that in Defense. I doubt very many people even saw it.” Severus nodded, though clearly he was unconvinced. Lily didn’t realize that he was mostly embarrassed because he had let himself get taken down by Potter right in front of her.
“Was he talking about it in the common room?” he asked forcefully.
“You know James. He always has to brag about something, even if it’s for getting a detention and clearly hexing someone that wasn’t prepared.” Lily could see the anger growing in Severus’s eyes, the narrowed gaze and steely expression revealing that he would not be letting James get away with it. “Don’t go after him. Don’t stoop down to his level. We all know he just likes to show off.” The anger had flared up inside his chest and was soon spiraling up through his trachea and out through his mouth.
“But he deserves it, Lily!” Severus spat out, hoping that she would be on his side.
“Even so, it will get you nowhere to go after him at this point,” Lily explained practically. No reply was granted by Severus as he imagined what it would mean to finally embarrass Potter in front of Lily. He would be able to prove himself to her and shut down any ideas Potter had of trying to take Lily away from him.
“Sev, come on. It’s too cold out here. We’ll find somewhere quiet to study in the castle,” she told him, trying to break through his brooding face. She pulled on his arm and dragged him back up to the castle quickly, fighting to walk against the bitter wind. The arrangement of their intertwined arms made Severus’s heart thump loudly in his chest. He may not have bested Potter in Defense, but he certainly couldn’t complain at the reward of having Lily on his arm, far away from the boy in Gryffindor Tower.
Behind Severus the foliage turned to beautiful golden tones and deep reds. The leaves scattered the ground and the crisp air felt refreshing in his lungs. Large rain droplets began to fall quickly onto Severus’s face, soaking his hair and covering his cloak. Lily walked instep beside him as they hurried inside to take cover from the impending storm. Severus grumbled as they passed the threshold into the entry hall. He shook his hair in front of his face and then slicked it back as Lily watched him and laughed.
“I love that look, Sev,” Lily said as she smirked at him and his slight frown.
“Sure you do,” he responded gloomily. “Let’s head to the library to get started on that potions essay. I have some ideas we can use to draw out the effects of the potion.” Lily nodded and shifted her bag on her shoulder before picking up her pace. They arrived at the library quickly and scouted out their typical table before settling in for their study session.
Severus watched Lily from across the table as she scribbled furiously on her parchment, trying to get all the words on the page before she lost her train of thought. Suddenly she stopped writing and looked up at him. Severus looked away quickly, trying to hide the fact that he had been staring at her instead of working.
“Do you think it would be more effective to crush or slice the root to make the potion more effective? I think slicing might be better because…”
Severus cut in quickly, not giving her the chance to respond. “No, it’s crushed. That will make the juices flow better.” Lily paused to think about his response before nodding silently and continuing to write.
“They use this potion a lot at the ministry you know,” he added. “It would be really interesting to work on potions there and try to improve them. I’ve heard they have a whole department for that.”
Lily looked up at Severus with an expression of curiosity on her face. “Do they really? I would love to work at the ministry! We could even work there together,” Lily replied, smiling at the thought.
Severus’s eyes widened at the proposition, a smile growing on his lips. “Yes, we certainly could.” He tried to hide the excitement in his voice, but Lily’s mention of some sort of future with him sent his mind reeling. He pictured working side by side as partners with Lily, sharing their knack for potions. Lily’s precision would work perfectly with his instinctual knowledge of how to work with ingredients.
The library surrounding Severus dissolved and the dim lighting of Dumbledore’s expansive office appeared. Lily had faded from existence, and a noticeable pang of guilt filled Severus’s chest. The silver trinkets of the office gleamed softly in the candlelight and illuminated Dumbledore’s dark features. Severus stood stonily staring out into the dark grounds below. He tried to avoid the pained expression that was surely on the headmaster’s face behind him.
Severus closed his eyes and quickly found the memory stored safely in the pocket of his mind that safeguarded all of his most precious moments with Lily. He pictured her long auburn braid catching the sunlight, its golden strands illuminating the plait as a joyful laugh escaped from her lips. She smiled and then placed her freckled cheek gently on his shoulder. Severus harnessed the happiness filling his heart and pushed it through his body, into his fingertips, and through his core until he saw a silver doe spring out of his wand and bound through the office. The image was beautiful and comforting to Snape, just as Lily had been.
“After all this time?” Dumbledore questioned him, though undoubtedly knowing the answer. Severus wished he could explain just how fully his life had been affected by the tragedy of Lily’s death. His world was in a constant standstill, and he was stuck in a moment that he couldn’t escape. Despite the burden of emotions he felt running through his veins, Severus could only think of one word worthy of his love for Lily Evans.
After only a moment had passed, the backdrop of passing scenes vanished as the intensifying pain in Snape’s limbs became overwhelming. He felt warm tears fall from his eyes and sit heavily on his cheeks. The pressure that had been building behind his dilated pupils lessened as he released the memories from his mind and into the hands of the boy he had been protecting for years. He hoped the truth of his memories would carry his name to honor and explain to Harry everything that had happened since the end of the first wizarding war.
“Look…at…me,” he choked out to Harry, the pleading evident in his voice. He wished he could explain more and reveal everything that had been left unsaid over the years. Instead he had to rely on his memories of Lily and hoped that Harry understood the two men had something in common after all. Severus stared into Lily’s green eyes as he took his final breath and allowed his body to release his mind into oblivion. As his heart pumped one final time, Severus’s brain shut off and his neurons ceased to fire. His eyes remained fixed on Harry’s as the last image in his mind processed before fading into black.
Author's Note: Thank you for stopping by to read this one-shot! I hope I was able to do Snape justice with this piece. The complexity of his character really draws me to him and makes him an interesting character to try to analyze.Thank you to the amazing LovlyRita for doing a wonderful job betaing this for me. The inspiration for my summary came from the novel As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. There were two quotes that I borrowed from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The first, “After all this time? – Always” is from Chapter 33: The Prince’s Tale on page 687. The quote “Look…at…me” also belongs to J.K. Rowling and is from Chapter 32: The Elder Wand on page 658.