Characters: Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Perhaps.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling. I just play here.

Potter left. Snape didn't see him leave, but he knew it had happened. Why would Potter stay? Snape had given his best and worst memories to the child of his best friend and worst enemy. He felt like a husk, emptied of that which drove him. It was all up to the Potter brat now. Wasn't that a frightening thought.

He knew he was dying. The pain at his neck should have been a sharp, tearing thing, but it wasn't. Pain was distant, noise was muffled, memory was faded. With closed eyes, there should be no sight either, but Snape wasn't that lucky.


The voice was familiar, and too sharp around the edges. It invaded, too bright to be tolerated in his colourless world.


He peeled his eyes open. "You're dead." His voice sounded odd, hoarse and whispery.

"That is not of the moment, Severus."

"I killed you."

"A wonderful job you did of it, Severus. I really must thank you for that." The old man smiled at him, his eyes sparkling.

"Then why are you hounding me? I'm done! I did everything you wanted. I took the burden on that you gave to me. I kept the students as safe as possible, given the circumstances. I threw our world under the Dark Lord's feet, and watched as his madness became real. I helped make it real!"

"Wouldn't you like to see the world you fought for? There is no need to give in now, my boy."

"If I'm not already dead, I soon will be. It's too late, Albus. Nagini's venom is strong, and no simple bezoar will cure it. Why am I even talking to you? You, Albus, are a hallucination."

The shack looked just as dingy as always, with peeling paint and grime. Dumbledore, however, was spotless, in his overly bright robes. He looked more real than the shack, which was fading into shadow.

"That is immaterial." Albus smiled at him.

Snape would have snorted if he had breath to do so. Albus was immaterial. He was dying, and the best thing he could think of was a bad pun.

"The question is, my friend, are you going to let Tom have this victory?"

"There is nothing for me here. Your great plan did not account for afterward."

"You are mistaken, Severus. I would not be here if I had not taken all the repercussions into account."

The thought pained him. He had followed the plan, not even knowing the whole of it, out of loyalty, out of trust, out of knowledge that there was no other way. He had known he would end like this. The details didn't matter, just the surety that he would be sacrificed to this war, and by his own consent. The thought that Albus had consented as well… He pushed the pain aside. Snape was a realist. He always knew Albus would do what was necessary, just as Snape would.

"You misunderstand me. Severus, do you want to live? Do you want to see the world you helped create?"

"There's no point in asking, Albus."

"Yes or no, Severus."

"Albus, why bother me—"

"Yes or no?"

"Yes, curse you! I am no Gryffindor—"

"Thank you, Severus. Thank you, my dear boy."

Severus was alone. Of course he was. It was all a fever dream. The distant aches of his body brought him to consciousness, unaware of how much time had passed. His eyes had never been open, his lips were dry and caked together. The conversation was all in his mind. There was no one to save him, no one to give him the choice.

It was Gryffindor heroes that got such care, not Slytherin spies. In this case, neither would survive, if the Gryffindor brat did as Albus had expected.

A whoosh of air disturbed his bitter thoughts, and a weight settled on his arm. Painful talons gripped his shoulder, cutting through his robes. A trill of song burbled close to his ear. He could not open his eyes, encrusted as they were with the remains of all he had given Potter, but he knew that sound. He had never expected to hear that song again, after Albus' death.

A splash fell on his neck, into the wound. He could feel it like fire, awakening all of his shock-dulled senses, burning through him. When he was finally able to move, he wiped the grit from his eyes and opened them. He was alone. The pain he felt was the pain of life. He had chosen, and been granted that choice. It had only taken a single tear.