Author's Note: This is a little duet I've been toying with in my mind for quite some time. Spoilers for all the movie watchers: if you haven't read book seven, don't read this. Anyway, let me know what you think. Your feedback may influence the next chapter, although it won't directly involve the same characters. Let me know if there are any changes I can make to better this. Thank you for reading! Please review!
Disclaimer: Of course, I'm in college, that means I own nothing.
Beyond the Veil
Severus Snape had seen enough of death to know that, without the killing curse, it rarely came quickly. He knew now that his own passing would be agonizingly slow. He supposed he deserved it. Perhaps now, with this final torment, the last of his pittance would be considered paid.
He struggled to look into the Potter boy's eyes for as long as he was able. Those crystalline green orbs were the only reminder he had of her,… of Lily. He could have happily spent eternity gazing into Lily's emerald eyes.
He felt his own eyes grow weary. His sight was quickly fading into a dim nothingness. His lids were heavy, far too heavy for him to withstand their weight a moment longer. Releasing a slight sigh of relief, he allowed them to close for the final time. His part in this fight was over. He had protected Harry until the last. There was nothing more to be done. He simply waited for his passing, wondering if it would be more painful than what he had already withstood, or if it would come as a sweet release from the agony at the nape of his torn and bleeding neck. The pain was not so consuming now. It lapped at the edges of his consciousness, coming in dull, throbbing waves, rather than in torrents as he had felt it before. Severus was amazed that he still retained his faculties. He had assumed that they would fade along with the beating of his heart. He was even more in awe of the sensation, the depth of feeling now within his grasp.
Severus could sense the blood ebbing though his veins and seeping slowly now into the ground. He could feel his feeble heart struggling to pump the last of his blood through his dying body. That, he realized was very painful, even more so than the gaping puncture in his neck. It felt like an empty scrapping, a pathetically slow, wringing squeeze. Still, he was able to push past the pain, shoving it aside to experience other sensations.
He could quite literally feel the pressure his body put on the ground. He was aware of the insignificant dip in the earth around his sprawled form. Severus could feel the touch of the soft cotton of his robes and the caress of the air as his moved in lazily drifting currents around him. Severus was aware that he no longer breathed. The pain was becoming less and less by the instant, finally succumbing into nothingness.
Suddenly he did not feel as heavy and as weary as he did during his passing. He supposed that it was finally finished.
He could feel his orientation change, as if he were standing up rather than lying sprawled on the ground. Severus dared to visualize the scene around him, vaguely wondering if he even had eyes to see it with now.
Apparently he did. The lifting of his lids felt the same as it always had. He looked down, realizing that he did have some sort of a corporeal form that greatly resembled his own self as he had remembered it. A hand subconsciously went to his neck, searching for the wound that had sealed his fate. He could not find it. Removing his hand to a position in front of him, he realized it was not covered in blood as it would have been if he still inhabited his old body.
Severus realized that although he was not walking, he was indeed moving, floating toward some unknown destination. It felt dreamlike to be hovering inches above the grass, trees, and streams, drifting away without even the slightest effort on his part.
No sooner than he was able to process this, Severus felt himself come to a halt. His booted feet came into contact with the land as if he had been traveling this way for ages. He swiveled his head, quickly scanning the view.
He stood on the edge of a clear, slow moving river now. In front of him was a meadow, sprinkled with wildflowers and two gargantuan oak trees. In the distance a figure approached him. Perhaps it was Lily, he allowed himself to hope. Perhaps she had come to greet him and welcome him to his new existence.
Severus was no longer content to wait. If it truly was Lily, he could not stand to be parted from her a moment longer. He willed his legs into a run, bringing him swiftly and easily toward the figure at the edge of the meadow.
Severus stumbled to a halt as he realized the person before him was not whom he hoped.
Indeed, it was no other that her husband, James Potter.
Severus briefly wondered if this was a cruel joke. Did his creator, whoever it was, really hate him so much as to send his enemy to greet him?
He stood dejectedly, not trusting himself to attempt speech.
James looked no different than that fateful day by the lake, when he had hurled hexes at Severus. Perhaps he seemed a little older. Something was different about him, Severus realized as James came closer. The James Potter he knew never had such an aura about him. The man seemed almost weary.
"Severus," he greeted, his voice even and yet hinting at some other emotion. Perhaps it was a twinge of regret? Severus Snape stood completely still as James placed a hand on his shoulder. Never had he expected death's aftermath to unfold like this.
"Welcome, Severus," James greeted him again, this time with a softer voice. The man hung his head in shame and closed his eyes. It looked as if tears were threatening to fall. After taking a brief moment to compose himself, James continued. "Let me first apologize for being the one to greet you here," he sighed. "I know that this should be Lily's place, but there is something I must say to you before you see her here."
Severus could feel James' hand get a tighter grip on his robes. Whatever he had to say was extremely difficult for him. "I… I only came to tell you that you were her first choice, Severus. Deep down she always wanted to be with you." He only watched in shock as the man before him bit his lip and trembled with the weight of his emotion, stooping slightly and only facing the ground beside Severus's shoes.
Severus felt as if he were frozen. He could not move. "Wh-what?" he barely managed a whisper.
"Lily," James sighed, "Not long after we were married, I found her diary from school while I helped her unpack her things. I read it. I shouldn't have. She would have,… if not for the incident where I hexed you and you lashed out at her, she probably would have chosen you over me. I could tell by the things she wrote about you… She loved you, Severus. I think the only thing she could not forgive you for was breaking her heart, not calling her some slur. She told me she did not regret our life together, but I can't deny that you were still her first choice."
Severus blinked, still mostly unresponsive. He simply had too much to process. He had trained himself to never react to shock. His mannerisms still evidenced that training, even in death.
James continued, speaking with conviction.
"You don't have to explain what all you've done in my absence, Severus. I've seen it. If there's one thing I've learned up here that I never dreamed of during my time among the living, it was the gravity of my actions. I can't help but feel that I'm accountable for your pain. If Sirius and I had only let you be… " He paused again, trying to create semblance and order to his jumbled thoughts. "I caused Lily so much torment through my actions, and I never once realized or cared to think about anyone other than myself," he whispered. "I… I won't ask your forgiveness, Severus. That would be thinking far too much of myself. I only came to inform you that, when she arrives, well, I won't be getting in your way."
Severus continued to stand, dazed, staring at the broken man before him. This was all so much to absorb. He dared to hope that he might be able to actually spend time with Lily here. Now her earthly husband was clearly stepping aside to allow him just that.
He swallowed hard, inhaling the crisp air around him for the first time as he prepared to speak.
"James," his voice cracked almost immediately. "James, if there is one thing I did learn during my time on earth,… what ifs will get you nowhere. Are you implying, James, that you will simply go elsewhere?"
James wrung his hands together. "I wouldn't do that to her again, Severus. I won't let her see us fight over her. She had always wanted you. Who am I to be in the way of what she wants now that it can finally be realized?"
Severus took a step toward James, placing his hand on the man's shoulder in an awkward gesture of comfort. "Who would I be to make her chose between us, James?"
His once enemy was immeasurably more mature now. As much as he honestly loathed the idea, perhaps he could tolerate, maybe even befriend the man before him. For Lily's sake he would give it a try.
James only nodded, mumbling something which Severus recognized as a thank you.
Severus stepped away once more so James could stand properly and have his space. As he did so, he noticed Lily making her way over to them, following the same path James had taken at a run.
Severus always envisioned himself running to meet her. However, he was so shocked, and Lily was so swift that she nearly tackled him to the ground before he had to chance to begin moving.
"Sev," she half sobbed his name. "Oh how I've missed you!"
She clung to him, her hair falling in his face and her arms thrown over his shoulders, pressing him closely against her. Severus could only wrap an arm around her back as he trailed his fingers loosely through her hair. "Lily," he breathed. It was all so surreal. He had never expected to be able to feel her again and never had he allowed himself to believe he could ever be this close to her again. But there she was… crying into his chest.
Somehow no apologies were necessary between them. Lily had kept a close watch over Severus and her son during the years after her physical death. She knew of her friend's redemption. Somehow, it all the conflict between them seemed so petty now.
Eventually the pair broke their embrace and noticed James trudging back through the meadow alone, defeated, ashamed of the man he had been.
Lily's beautiful eyes locked with Severus, pleading with him.
Severus only sighed and tilted his head into a permissive nod. He would do anything for his Lily.
Lily clasped Severus's hand and together they quickly caught up with James, beginning a new journey full of possibility.