Title: If Only
Age-Range Category: Four
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape
Beta Reader(s): Mandi
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Summary: Dumbledore once told Harry that he must once again ask too much of him. I tend to think he once said that to Severus. If he didn't, perhaps he should have.
"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger."
—Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
"Oh, Lily," the thirty-one-year-old Severus Snape whispered as he knelt at the marble headstone and bowed his head in reverence. "I am so very sorry," he added, somewhat louder, but not enough for the couple standing on the other side of the cemetery, tending to another headstone, to hear him. A few seconds later, he lifted his head and traced his right index finger over the engraved letters that spelled out the name of the one person other than his mother Severus had ever loved. Two tears trickled down either side of his nose. "You deserved so much better than this, than me getting you murdered, but I promise that your death will not have been for naught," Severus said, his voice tremulous and his chin beginning to quiver ever so slightly. "I will protect your son, Lily, even as it will be more than I can bear to look at him sitting in my classroom. When I look into his eyes, I know I'll see you, and it will be as if you and I are nine again, sharing our most ardent wishes with one another. But what is that slight inconvenience when compared to what you did for him and for me? I never did deserve your friendship, yet you gave it freely. All you ever asked in return was that I be honest with you. This was where I failed you and myself, Lily. It is my cross to bear, and I do so daily. I wi—" Severus, his voice and soul too full of emotion, couldn't continue.
Unable to say anything further, and the reason for his journey to the cemetery in Godric's Hollow complete, Severus stood, but did not immediately step away. Instead, he closed his eyes and quietly allowed his tears to fall as he grieved for a love that burned with such fury within his heart that he thought he might die of the pain. A decade hadn't diminished his heartbreak and he knew if he were to live another century, his feelings would remain, as ever, unchanged.
When he left the cemetery, the compulsion to go see the house overwhelmed him, but time was not on his side—the Welcoming Feast would begin in two hours, and the staff were to meet a half-hour prior—thus, Severus Disapparated and told himself he'd return soon to see the place where his dream had died.
As Severus took his seat at the High Table, he ignored the consoling look and hello, Severus from Minerva McGonagall—he didn't need her pity—and chose instead to stare out across the Great Hall. Dread filled him and the small tremors in his hands that had begun as he'd left his rooms in the dungeons turned into an uncontrollable shaking that was beginning to spread to his other appendages. He swallowed and closed his eyes. He couldn't do this. Perhaps he should leave—he could tell the Headmaster he'd taken ill—yet Severus knew he must meet this challenge head on sooner or later and, although later would be preferable, Severus resigned himself to remain where he was. He had played many roles in his life, most of them not ones he was proud of, but if there was one certainty in his life, it was that he was not a coward.
Reopening his eyes, Severus did his best to forget that in less than five minutes' time the side door would open and in would walk the first years, including the son of the woman he had loved since the age of nine.
"He—hel—hello," stuttered a rather annoying male voice, interrupting Severus's solitude. "You must b—b—be Sev—Severus Snape?" he asked.
Severus's maudlin reverie broken, he looked to his left and the sight that greeted him—a strange looking man wearing a turban—momentarily caught him off guard, but then he remembered who the other was: the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor who hadn't been able to arrive at Hogwarts until today. Severus gave a curt nod and had to work very hard not to sneer. "Yes," was his acerbic reply that meant leave me the bloody hell alone.
Once the blight had turned his head, hopefully to mind his own business, Severus once again returned his focus to the quickly filling hall, hoping the man would say no more. Severus intended to do his best this coming year to be non-cordial to the dimwit who had taken the position he'd coveted for the past ten years. Doing so to the previous unfortunate professors hadn't failed him yet; although, such pettiness certainly hadn't advanced his personal agenda, either. Nevertheless, Severus reveled in his petulance. It was one thing he had control over in the miserable life he led, and no one would ever take that from him.
As he honed in on the Slytherin table and watched with mild interest as Marcus Flint worked his charm on a sixth year, Severus wondered if it were possible that James and Lily Potter's son might be sorted into Slytherin. Of course, the thought was a wasted one; there was no possible way the boy would end up in his house. Pity that. The boy being sorted into Gryffindor was an inevitability, one that would make Severus's task of making sure the boy didn't get himself into mischief that much more difficult and, being the son of James Potter, Severus knew mischief to be in the boy's future.
He watched with feigned interest as students made fools of themselves as they greeted fellow housemates they hadn't seen in two months. It was the same each year, and Severus wished he could skip this dreaded necessity. Even the staff were being insufferable, talking to one another as if they hadn't seen each other every day for the past two weeks.
When he heard the headmaster clearing his throat, attempting to get everyone's attention, Severus's hands gripped the edge of the High Table, and when the door opposite him opened, he could feel his heart rate increase as the first years made their way into the room. They all looked so young and innocent. Severus had once looked the same, but he had never been innocent.
The thought made Severus detest these children all the more.
"You're staring," whispered a kind voice over his left shoulder.
Severus turned his head towards Albus Dumbledore, but just as quickly turned away and continued to watch as the first years made their way to the front of the hall. Harry Potter looked exactly as Severus had imagined. He was a complete mixture of Lily and James Potter, and Severus allowed himself a mere second or two to wish that the boy had a longish nose and pale complexion. "Wouldn't you?" was Severus's droll reply. He again turned towards the Headmaster, whose eyes focused on the boy whom Severus wanted very much to hate, but couldn't. Dislike very strongly? Yes, but hate? Never. Severus could never hate anyone Lily Potter had given birth to, no matter who had fathered the child.
"I dare say I would, Severus, however, the reasons would differ. It does not do to do dwell on those things we cannot change. You have taken on this responsibility and I expect you to keep your word. You can hate Harry all you want, but doing such will not bring his mother back."
Leave it to Albus to be the voice of reason, even if he was very wrong in his latter assumption. "Thank you, Headmaster, for that reminder," Severus retorted, sarcasm and years of unwilling servitude feeding his ire. "I'll keep that in mind."
And he had. For seven years, Severus had kept that statement in mind. He had protected the boy from himself and from others. He had fulfilled his promise to the Headmaster. Now there was only one promise to go and then he would be released from his bondage. All he had to do was wait for the right time to present itself, and as Severus stood in the forest with the other Death Eaters, he knew the time was quickly approaching. Now all Severus needed to do was figure out how he would accomplish this most important task. Regardless of the how, Severus had no doubt that he'd die for what he was about to do; it was inevitable—it was his punishment, or reward, however one looked at it—but he had no more than one regret, and for that, Severus was thankful. And if by some miracle he lived to see the sun rise on the morrow, Severus would go to Godric's Hollow and see Lily, then he would go see the house; he never had been back since that cold, blustery day in September of 1991, and he thought he'd very much like to see it. He didn't understand the why of this compulsion to return to the scene of such a sad event, but he didn't need to understand, even if he wanted to.
"Severus, the Dark Lord wishes to see you; he is in the Shrieking Shack," Lucius Malfoy whispered into his ear before he continued walking towards his wife, who was standing beside Bellatrix.
Not half an hour later, Severus lay almost lifeless on the filthy floor of the Shrieking Shack's former sitting room, colder than he remembered ever being, and bleeding to death from Nagini's fangs that had pierced his neck and severed his carotid artery.
Someone called his name. Again. Then again. Severus attempted to open his eyes, but he couldn't see. He knew the voice, though; no other voice had grated on his nerves over the past seven years quite like this one had, but now it was one of the most beautiful voices he'd ever heard, which made no sense, but Severus thought that possibly he didn't wanted to die alone, and even Potter would suffice to see to that end. Again, Severus attempted to open his eyes, and he did, but everything was blurry. All he saw where he thought Potter might be was a blob that looked like a head, but then the boy leant in closer and Severus focused on the green of his eyes. Lily's eyes. He tried to speak, but was almost certain he was unsuccessful; the blood in his throat would have seen to that. Then he felt himself drifting away and thought he heard another voice saying something about whispy strands escaping his head. Severus didn't understand, but then he did. His memories. HIS MEMORIES! He had thought he'd failed the Headmaster in his final request, but perhaps not. Just maybe Severus could share the memories he needed Potter to see. It was too much to hope for that it would work, but Severus had nothing to lose, did he?
"Take them," he tried to say, but Severus doubted the boy had understood, but then he felt the boy move closer, and something touched his head. It felt like manna; he hurt so badly and his head felt as if it was on fire, but the cool touch to his head gave Severus at least a brief moment of relief. Then whatever had been touching him left and Severus felt the loss acutely. He let out a small cry, but again, he doubted the sound had made it to anyone's ears. He reached out to touch the boy, but his vision was now even worse and he didn't know where the boy was. Fortunately, luck was on his side this moment and he got it right. He felt the boy's sleeve and pulled on it. "Look At Me," he attempted to say slowly so that his request would be understandable. He needed this. This one final request of his. He needed to see Lily's eyes.
Green eyes looked into Severus's black ones and, for the first time in seven years, Severus didn't see Lily in them. He saw a young man who had been given a rotten lot in life, just as he had been. Harry hadn't deserved any of this, just as Severus hadn't. If only Severus had realised this sooner. Perhaps the two could have helped each other keep the memory of Lily alive rather than loathe each other. But it was too late now. "I'm sorry," he attempted to say, but now he could feel the blood filling his throat and mouth, and he knew not one sound had reached Harry. Severus's hand, which had fallen away from Harry reached out to again touch the son of Lily, wanting to express to him how very sorry he was for everything, but, it was too late.
If only …