Severus Snape sat in his dungeon office, his fists clenched and the look on his face frightening. Minutes earlier, he had been in a towering rage, resulting in a few of his potion bottles being smashed. He was still panting from exertion it had been a while since he had allowed himself to lose control like that.
And it was all to do with a messy-haired, emerald-eyed, foul-mouthed boy. Harry Potter. Harry Potter was dead. Just like his father, he'd poked his nose where it didn't belong, and now he was dead. Gone. The fever resulting from the magical exhaustion he had sustained from his escapade the night before had killed him. He'd succeeded in saving the stone, but had lost his life hours afterwards.
And Severus Snape had lost his purpose. Hadn't the whole reason he'd even bothered to stay alive after Lily's death been because Dumbledore had implored him to protect Harry? But, just like his father, Harry hadn't wanted anyone's protection. He'd wanted to play hero, and look where that had gotten him.
Severus had known all along that the boy, Weasley, and Granger had suspected him of being the one who wanted the stone for the Dark Lord. They'd reminded him so much of Potter Senior and his gang the entire year, immediately looking for any excuse to accuse him of wrongdoing. To them, any problem that happened in Hogwarts was his, Snape's, fault.
Of course, when Severus had made the effort to save the pathetic boy's life on the Quidditch pitch, Potter had thought it was the other way around, that Snape was the one trying to kill him. The ungrateful little whelp was a complete replica of James Potter; there had been no Lily in him to speak of, all except for the eyes, the eyes which Severus would now never see again. The last link to Lily Evans, no matter how foul he had been in Snape's eyes, was gone.
And now, because those three arrogant little twits hadn't left well enough alone, the Headmaster was gone. Severus had just been informed that he had been taken to the Ministry, and Merlin knows what would happen now. There would definitely be an interrogation, and Dumbledore may not even be Headmaster anymore.
Where was Severus supposed to go from here? His reason for getting up in the morning, for even breathing one more breath, had been snatched away from him. What was there left if there was no more of Lily's memory to protect? What was the point of continuing to live?
You can keep atoning for your past mistakes, a little voice in the back of his head whispered. Because of last night, you now know for sure that the Dark Lord is not gone. He is biding his time, searching for a way to return. He may have been thwarted this time, but you know the Dark Lord, Severus. He will not stop searching until he has found a way to come back.
Why should I? a second voice argued angrily. All my efforts to protect the Potter brat were in vain. If I try to help with anything else, I'll fail. So I shouldn't even try. Just give up, Severus, give up on everything and hope to Merlin that if you end up walking beside Lily once more, she'll forgive you.
But the first voice retorted again, and for the next few minutes, the two parts of his mind warred with each other. God, what was he going to do? It would be so easy ... so easy to just end it all. After all, his cabinets were right near him, cabinets which were stocked with all kinds of venoms and poisons.
Slowly, he stood up and walked over to one of the cabinets. Muttering some powerful unlocking charms under his breath, he opened it and reached up to the top shelf, where he picked up one of the poisons he had brewed years ago as a potions experiment. After locking the cabinet again, he brought the poison over to his desk and sat down.
But as he uncorked the vial and was ready to put it to his lips, the voice, which sounded too much like Lily's for comfort, spoke in his head again.
You are a coward, Severus. After all these years, this is how you want things to end? Coward!
And to Severus, that was the worst insult that ever could be said about him. Still holding the vial in his hand, he violently threw it as far away from him as he could. It landed with a clatter, shattering into a million pieces. The contents of the potion leaked onto the floor.
"I AM NOT A COWARD!" Severus howled at the empty air. "I AM NOT A COWARD!"
Well, if you're not, prove it, Severus, spoke his conscience, still in Lily's voice. I may not be here anymore, Harry may not be here anymore, but there's still so much you can do. Help your Slytherins. Help Albus. And help defeat the monster who killed us both.
And so it was, that as Severus pointed his wand at the shattered vial and spilled potion, a new resolve became firm within him. "I will," he intoned, his black eyes taking on a fierce glitter. "I will."
And with this last statement, Severus Snape stood up from his chair. His first order of business was to go to the Slytherin common room and answer his students' questions. He needed to help as many of them as he could, needed to stop them from going down the same path he had walked down, and keep them from making the same exact mistakes he had made. In the end, joining the Dark Lord had not been worth it.
And using Lily's voice and face as an anchor, he exited the office, ready to make a difference.