Title: Moving On
Age-Range Category: Four
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape, Luna Lovegood, Lily & James Potter
Beta Reader(s): keladry_lupin, iulia_linnea
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Canon-compliant, character death.
Note: 5078 words.
Summary: Severus Snape awoke on his thirty-ninth birthday in surprise . . . because he was most certain he'd died in his thirty-eighth year of life.
Severus Snape slowly rolled onto his back and peeled his eyes open, only to find himself dressed in his favourite night shirt, bundled up in an unknown bed, located in a space with questionable lighting and no other discernible features. Sitting cross-legged at the end of said bed, on top of the duvet, singing to him with a surprisingly adequate voice, was Luna Lovegood.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday Professor Snape, happy birthday to you! You're thirty-nine today. Isn't that exciting?"
Not especially, he thought to himself. Sitting upright, Severus closed his eyes, waited a moment and opened them again. She was still there. Humming that infernal song. And she didn't have shoes, which was a semi-normal state for her.
Closing his eyes firmly once more, he stated softly, almost more to himself than to the hallucination currently occupying the foot of his bed, "This isn't possible. I remember that godforsaken snake. I bloody well remember dying after I gave Potter my memories. You can't be here because I'm dead, and I'm more than certain that even if you've managed to get yourself killed, you wouldn't have landed in whatever Hell they've sent me." Opening his eyes once again, he added, "If you are dead, I find that quite disappointing. I worked rather hard that last year to keep you alive."
Luna smiled. "Oh, I'm quite alive, Professor."
"Ha! Then you can't actually be here. That's not how this works. I'm dead and should be guided by someone who's passed on and meant something to me in life." Severus smirked. "You are not it. Besides, I am dead and last I checked, the dead do not have birthdays."
Luna's smile grew larger. "Well, that would be true, Professor, except for the fact that you're just mostly dead, which makes you slightly alive, which isn't the same as being all dead, you know. Which means you still get a birthday."
"I'm fucked." Severus muttered, looking on as Luna frowned, idly twirling a bit of hair about her finger.
"Really, Professor, there's no need to be crude about it and just why does everyone believe they know how this is supposed to work?"
Severus took a deep breath to fight off the headache that was making its presence known. He was certain he'd regret it, but still he asked, "And just how does this all happen to work, Miss Lovegood?"
"I thought you'd never ask! You see, I can be here, or anywhere and when I want because Harry is Master of Death. He beat Tom in the end you know. Well, you didn't know, but I'm telling you, so now you do, and that's the important part." She tilted her head to stare at him — a personality tic that had always exasperated him.
"Anyhow, Harry said I could visit when I asked, even if he really doesn't believe he's Master of Death, because he got rid of the Stone and gave up the Wand, which didn't change anything that really mattered, although it's what they all believe. I know he just wanted to humour me, but that doesn't make the fact that he's still the Master less true. So, when I asked, he just nodded and said yes, and Bill's your uncle!"
"That's supposed to be Bob."
"But I like the sound of Bill better."
Severus leaned back onto a large pile of pillows that manifested, pulled the duvet over his head and muttered, "Just kill me now."
"Sorry," Luna sang. "Nagini tried that already. I thought you understood? Now, I'm confused." She folded forward and rested her elbows on her knees, chin cradled in thought.
"Harry said that when he was In Between, it was only moments, a decision, and then he was back with us. Obviously, you've got Wrackspurts and you've got them bad, otherwise, you would already know that all your debts have been settled and you've made peace with all your past actions, which means you can move on. Instead, you're currently stuck in Purgatory, which isn't where you'd be if things were otherwise."
Luna studied the lumpy silhouette in front of her. Fishing about in the bag that hung from a strap like a long necklace about her neck, she pulled out a cord that was strung with small radishes before moving from her spot to pull back the duvet and expose her quarry.
Satisfied to see her former professor's glare, she reached around him and tied the cord loosely about his neck. "There. Now things should make more sense." Finished with her immediate task, she settled back into her spot at the foot of the bed.
Severus was about to argue, but it was obvious that his thoughts were rapidly clearing. He looked down at the radishes hanging about his neck. Glancing back at the girl, he lifted a hand to the ridiculous string of charmed vegetables and sighed. "I could have used this during that last year, you know."
Luna shrugged. "I wanted to, but I could never find the right moment…," Severus looked on as her voice trailed off and her large eyes narrowed. "You are trying to change the subject, Professor."
"What was your first clue?"
He was more than a bit surprised when the normally placid girl hopped off the bed and marched around to the side, only to poke him repeatedly in the chest with her finger as she spoke.
"This whole avoidance thing stops now. The fact that you won't decide is affecting more than just you, Severus Snape! It's been a little over eight months and it's your birthday. Professor, you need to decide what you want to do, you've been here long enough. If you don't decide today, you'll wind up as a ghost and I believe you deserve better than that."
Severus looked down at the finger that still rested on his sternum before looking directly in Luna's eyes for the very first time amidst this farce and gently removed the offending digit from his person. He would not shout at her, his head hurt too much for that. Still, raising one's voice was not the only way to get a point across. A genteel bit of malice could serve as well. "Miss Lovegood, if you would just bloody well tell me what it is that I've to decide, maybe we could get somewhere."
He watched as Luna straightened and blinked. And blinked again.
"They made it sound as if you'd been purposely stalling, but you really don't know about your choice," she said.
It was Severus' turn to blink as he watched Luna slowly lower herself to a floor that hadn't existed until that exact moment before looking up at him.
"You have to decide whether you want to go back to the life you were living, take another turn on the Wheel in a new life, or take your final rest."
Severus snorted in amusement. "Well, that's an easy one, I'll —"
Luna sprang to her feet. "NO, you need to understand first!"
Severus rolled his eyes but waved permission for her to continue as she sank back to the floor.
"Professor, Harry made everyone understand what you'd done. You're a hero. Even the students who hated you have spoken up for the times you protected them without seeming to. The remaining members of the Order have spoken as well. You could start again, do something different. Mrs Malfoy recovered your body before others thought to look because she wanted to provide a proper burial for the man who saved her son. You haven't died though — you're in a coma, so she's secretly had you cared for all these months.
"If you don't want to go back as Severus Snape, you've earned another turn on the Wheel to be birthed to a much more advantageous life, which you've earned. And, finally, if neither of those options appeal, you can remain in this realm and take your rest with those who have gone on before you. See your mother, if you like," Luna stated quietly, while looking at her hands.
"It's still an easy choice — I'm not going back."
Luna looked up. "But I don't understand," she said, the confusion plain on her face.
"Let me help you." Severus held out his hand to Luna and lifted her to her feet and patted the duvet next to him. When she'd made herself comfortable, he continued, "It's easy for everyone to forgive a dead man, as you have seen. If I were to reappear, that forgiveness would be short-lived. Eventually, there would be those who would want answers from me as to why things were done a certain way, why I saved this person while letting another in the same situation come to harm or die. I've made too many enemies and I don't fancy having to watch my back for the rest of my life. I only have a meagre amount saved, and little else to commend me. I refuse to go back to Hogwarts, even if they would have me. I don't want a life as a Muggle and I would be infamous no matter which magical community I joined. Before, I wasn't trusted for the most part and now, no one would truly trust me. Don't you think I couldn't have saved myself if I'd wanted to continue? Saved my money, created an identity elsewhere for after the war? No, I am done."
Luna slowly nodded her head in agreement. "I see. Yes, you've got a point. Rita Skeeter published a book about you, you know. Snape: Scoundrel or Saint. It wasn't very flattering but it was better than the one she wrote about Dumbledore. But what about taking the new life? You've been promised a better one this time."
Severus smiled before answering. "Would you believe I've done the "better life" bit before? I'm starting to remember things," he finished, lifting the radishes in salute. "As a matter of fact, that better life was so privileged, I asked to be sent back to something more challenging when it ended, and look where that got me. In short, Miss Lovegood, I am tired."
Luna surprised him by leaning over and giving him a hug. "I've been wanting to do that for ages. You've always looked as if you could use one." Leaning back, she continued, "If that's truly how you feel, I guess this is goodbye then. I will help Mrs Malfoy place your body in the empty plot that has your marker. They gave you a memorial with honours."
Severus watched as she hopped off the bed and headed towards a door that hadn't existed before, opening it and calling out, "You were right, he's all yours now," before two figures stepped past her to enter the room.
"Bloody Hell. Miss Lovegood, I thought you said my debts were clear?"
She smiled, stepping onto the threshold. "Oh, they are. But these two must finish off their debts and you are the last of them. They will help you out now. Goodbye!"
Severus glared at the traitorous chit as she pulled the door shut behind her. Crossing his arms defensively, he looked at his newly arrived aides. "Mr and Mrs Potter. Charmed." He looked down and was startled to find himself fully clothed and sitting behind a desk that was much like the one he used in his private quarters back at Hogwarts. Looking back at the two who stood before him, he waited.
Lily was the first to speak. "Hi, Sev. It's been a while, yes?"
"You don't get to call me Sev, we aren't friends anymore. Remember?" Severus said, raising an eyebrow for emphasis when she flinched. "But you are correct; it has been a while."
He leaned back in his chair, taking a moment to look at the painfully young couple before him. Luna said his slate was clear, but it truly wasn't until he'd done one last thing. "I am sorry for my part in your deaths. Neither of you deserved to have had Riddle pointed your way specifically. I know you were fighting him before, but it was my foolish, selfish actions that lead to the events —."
"No, Snape, it was my staying to fight when I knew Lily and I had a child on the way," James Potter said, with a grim look on his face. "Too busy being caught up in the glory of it all, I suppose. I didn't want to be a coward, leave my friends to shoulder the burden alone. I should have removed my family from the old man's chess board. Obviously, I wasn't thinking," he stated with a shrug. "I was just as selfish and foolish as you. We could and should have left and gone elsewhere, especially when we were told about the Prophecy and had warning from you that Voldemort was after Harry."
Severus looked at the other man and nodded. He, too, would have removed Lily and the boy — gone to America, Canada or anywhere that the war wasn't. "Still, I was a catalyst for events and for that I apologise." Pushing his chair back, he stood and walked around the desk to stand in front of two of the people who'd had so much effect on his life, even after their deaths. "So, I've said my bit. Shouldn't you two be moving on or whatever it is you do here?"
He watched the two fidget uncomfortably for another moment before Lily spoke again.
"We have our own apologies to make, um, Mr Snape, before our debts are discharged, so —"
"Oh, for the love of god, Lily, go ahead and call me Sev. Mr Snape makes you sound like Minerva and I truly have enough to be getting on with without that." He was inwardly pleased to see the bright smile he remembered being directed at him.
"Yeah, so, Sev, I'm sorry for not sticking up for you from the beginning the way I should have. I was well-liked and the professors would have listened to me if I'd spoken up to say that James and his friends started all those early confrontations — that they were actually seeking you out." Lily nervously pushed a lock of hair that had fallen forward behind her ear. "But I was a child and I wanted to stay well-liked. I was away from home and it was all so new. It's not as if I was blind, I saw how your House treated you."
"Big of you to notice. I bet it was easier for you to ask me to be the bigger person and walk away, to not engage, instead of standing up to your House," Severus said with a knowing look.
"Of course it was! My House already had issues with our friendship. It took some time for me to understand that you depended greatly on my support, but Sev, I was a child — that was asking too much. And then you started hanging about with the biggest bullies in your House. I was scared and I had every right to be. They wanted people like me dead and not just a simple death."
"You forget, I had to live with them for seven years. I had to sleep in the same room with them."
"I know that! I'm older now and have a better understanding of things, that it wasn't all black and white. But, they didn't even consider me a person. I should have said we were done when you blew off what Mulciber did to Mary."
"Yes, you should have done. It would have made more sense to have cut me off then, you had real cause," Severus snapped. He stepped closer. "Why didn't you?"
"Snape, don't you think you're being a bit harsh?" James said.
"Stay out of it!" Lily and Severus shouted, and James turned away in a huff.
Severus looked down at Lily and waited.
"I know we argued, but I just wanted things to go back to the way they were." Lily looked away and sighed. "I just wanted my friend back, but I didn't want to deal with more arguments and put in the extra effort it would have taken to see your side of things and look for options. Like I've said before — I was a child! You needed an adult to have made a difference in your life, not me. And then you called me a Mudblood and I just didn't care anymore."
Severus took Lily gently by the shoulders. "I'm intimately acquainted with that feeling, the not caring. Look at me."
When he had her attention, he said, "That was the one moment you could have demanded anything of me and I would have done it. You had that much power over me. I would have walked away from Lucius and all the others that were telling me that Voldemort was the only way I could get what I wanted. I would have endured the tormentors inside and out of Slytherin to have kept you. That one moment, I would have listened to you. You were my obsession, I admit it."
"Do you know how creepy that is?" Lily shuddered.
Severus nodded. "But it's the truth. And yes, I should have listened to you before and walked away from a lot of what was going on, however, I was just a child. No one ever wants to see that. I was just as afraid as you, but for different reasons. Until you repudiated me, you were the only bright spot I had!" He released Lily and started to pace.
"You knew I didn't have a good life at home. Mum was the queen of passive aggression and most of the time Da was a drunken bully. Great examples they were. I was powerless! Hogwarts was supposed to mean freedom for me, a chance to prove myself, a way to a better life. Instead, because my mother built castles in the sky instead of telling me the truth, I was dead set on joining her old House, Slytherin, the worse possible choice a poor half-blood like me with no connections could have made. My House hated my very existence — I was worse than a Mudblood as far as they were concerned."
Severus stopped and turned to face Lily and James. "Did you know I broke curfew on my second night there and as often as possible to get to the library and learn spells to protect myself? Lily, you know I didn't know any more magic than what we'd figured out between the two of us from Mum's books before Hogwarts. I might as well have been Houseless for all the support I had until I became useful to Lucius and the other upper years by doing the research for their homework and other menial tasks."
"I was obsessed with the Dark Arts because they were the most powerful of all the spells — when I had mastered them, my enemies would never be able to hurt me again — I could put them down and they'd stay down, or so I thought. But it never got better. Black and Potter will never admit it, but they singled me out because, just like all purebloods in good standing, they knew I had no one to speak for me. I was an easy mark. If I didn't give as good as I got, if I didn't find ways to retaliate, my House made things even harder for me. It's not an excuse — it's just the way things were. I had to work harder, do better and outshine the others of my year to gain a bit of credit."
Severus walked back around his desk and took a seat, crossing one leg over the other.
"By the time you were shut of me, I'd already faced Lupin-as-werewolf. Black and Lupin were protected. I was the one punished and threated by Dumbledore while your husband received an undeserved special award for services to the school, ironically, just like Riddle. It only proved to me that I wasn't worth anything to the people on your side of the war. And because I was a child, I went with those who would have me. Who could give me the power and protection I sought," Severus finished.
Lily moved closer to the desk and sighed. "I never could understand how you didn't see that the promises were a lie, but you never were this honest with me before. I can see how you might choose them now."
"Did you think I wanted the only real friend I had to see me as powerless and weak? It takes someone much more mature than I was at the time to say these things. I just need you to understand, I wasn't choosing against you, Lily."
"No, you were choosing against Black, Lupin and me," James said softly, as he moved to the corner of the desk and sat on the edge.
"Glad you understand that, although I wouldn't have expected you to admit it."
"Well, it's a part of my apology, to be honest," James replied, running his hand backwards through his hair until Lily reached over to pull it into her own. "I never should have called you Snivellus or embedded the damnable name in the Map. And you're only partially right about why we singled you out."
James pulled Lily closer. "Lily-Flower here is the reason that I never gave you a break. She was the most enchanting thing I'd ever laid eyes on and you had her friendship. I wanted that, and as we became older, I wanted more, but you know that."
"Well, you got what you wanted, Potter," Severus said with a sneer.
"But at what price? Do you know we were forced to watch the entirety of Harry's first thirteen years? How Petunia became increasingly frustrated with his accidental magic and moved Harry into a cupboard of all things to keep him away from her 'normal' child? How Dumbledore would just send the Obliviators out when things got out of hand, but never provided any real assistance to Harry?"
"There were so many times I wished I could have doused Dumbledore's lemon sherbets with a prank potion," Lily mumbled, as she leaned into James.
"And when Petunia allowed her son to bully and torment Harry, I knew then that my son was paying for the relentless way we Marauders tormented you. Dursley Senior only made things worse as Harry grew. Just as you had no adult you could trust or rely on, the same was visited on my son. He didn't get enough to eat at times, just as you didn't. Harry had things blamed on him unfairly, and he started acting out."
"And then he got his letter to Hogwarts," Severus finished for James, who nodded in agreement. "A place of wonder and magic. A refuge from his sorry Muggle existence, only to find it a place of trial and tribulation as well. However, your son gained real friends over time who supported him, unlike me."
"Did you have to be a total arse to Harry?" Lily asked.
Severus smirked. "Yes. I am petty and mean-spirited when I feel I am wronged. You know that. Besides, I didn't know how much of a bitch ole Tuney turned out to be until the boy's fifth year. At least I didn't relentlessly seek him out."
"No, he only felt like you did," James retorted. "But you also kept your vow to look out for him. There were so many times I wanted to throttle him, you weren't the only one — but I guess all parents go through that stage."
"I wasn't his parent and I didn't want to be, although I offered. To be truthful, I wanted as little to do with him as possible. The only years of freedom I experienced were those between the end of the war and your boy's arrival at Hogwarts. Now are you done apologising? We could be here forever, rehashing all the wrongs we dealt each other."
"Yeah, I guess you're right, Sev. So, do you accept our apologies, such as they are?" Lily asked.
"Yes. Anything to move on." Severus lowered his leg, sat forward and leaned on the desk.
They all sat in silence until a thought occurred that Severus wanted an answer to.
"Just out of curiosity, where are Lupin, Black and Dumbledore? I would have expected the whole gang, as it were."
James smirked and wrapped his arms about Lily. "Remus is off in a corner somewhere, beating himself up over leaving his newborn son an orphan and temporarily walking out on his family. I still have a hard time with the fact that it was Harry that set him straight on that issue. He hasn't even started dealing with all the times he should have pulled the rest of us in line. Remus is the most practical of us, so I reckon we'll see him in a couple of years. Sirius will be a while yet. He still doesn't want to admit that what we did at Hogwarts was wrong, mostly because he'd have to deal with the fact that he was truly a son of the House of Black."
"Azkaban wasn't good for him at all," Lily added.
"True, but just like I'd earned my hell on earth by shackling myself to two sociopaths, he'd earned the time spent there. His family would have been hard pressed to have kept him out if the werewolf incident had been handled properly," Severus said, treating both Potters to a glare that dared them to object.
"No arguments here," Lily said. "As for our esteemed Headmaster Dumbledore, I don't know if we'll ever see him. He's still hung up on his 'Greater Good', which justifies everything he's ever done. You wouldn't believe the reasons that complete tosser gave me for what was done to Harry. 'You have to see where I was right — it all worked out.' — I don't have to see anything. He's totally lost the plot. And then he expected me to forgive him!" Lily laughed bitterly. "My son is a much more forgiving soul than I. He gets that from James, I suppose."
Severus looked at James and decided to say nothing, which must have been the right decision because another, larger door appeared and there was an actual outdoors visible. He pushed his chair back and stood. "It appears that we've said enough. What happens now?"
"We need to take you to see your Mum. She's been stuck here all this time because she won't forgive herself for staying with your father instead of doing what was best for you," Lily replied. "You know, she'd probably take it better if you knocked off a few years. Maybe fourteen or so. You look old, Sev!"
"You might want to ditch the dungeon bat look and try for something less, um, bat-like?" James added.
"Ouch! What'd you do that for, Lils?" James complained, rubbing his arm.
"You promised to do better!"
"That was better."
"If that's your idea of better, then —"
Severus decided to interrupt the two before the situation deteriorated further. "Am I going to be forced to listen to the two of you bicker like twelve-year-olds for eternity?"
James and Lily looked at each other. "Pretty much."
Severus shook his head and walked past the Potters, deliberately changing his clothing and appearance to how he appeared as Slytherin Head of House when he was twenty-five. That was one of his best years. He was more than happy that circumstances would allow him to save his mother from herself this time, and he wanted her to see him at his best. Stepping through the doorway, he stopped and admired the scenery before him.
There were blue skies, rolling hills and small dwellings off in the distance to his right. To his left, a small stand of trees was bordered by a babbling brook. He turned around to see what was keeping the other two, but there was nothing but impossibly green grass as far as the eye could see. The door, and the room it was attached to, had vanished.
Turning about again, he noticed a ridiculously large blue and green butterfly which fluttered directly in front of him, only to fly off a ways and return. After the third time, he shrugged and followed it over to the stand of trees, where he saw a familiar figure seated beneath the canopy they created.
"Why are you still here?" he asked, watching as Luna sat on the impossibly green grass, patiently stringing a new cord with a combination of radishes and butterbeer cork tops.
The butterfly fluttered about a bit more before landing on her head, becoming a small hair ornament. She looked up from her work and smiled at him. "Did you really think I'd abandon you to them? The Potters are moving on, just as you must. Let's go see your Mum," she replied, holding up the now finished necklace. "Eileen's a difficult case, so you can give this one to her. She needs to move on as well."
"Or she'll end up as a ghost, I suppose," Severus said, taking the necklace and placing it in his pocket.
"Professor, if we were still at Hogwarts, I'd have to take points for inattention. Your mother is all dead, not In Between and slightly alive like you were before you stepped through the door. Purgatory takes as long as it takes for the all dead — they are never in danger of becoming ghosts. In this case, since she's fixated on you, you get to help your mum move on. Don't you think it's nice that perhaps you'll both be able to move on together?"
"I suppose so. However, if I'm all dead, as you say, then you can't actually be here now." Severus looked carefully at the young woman before continuing. "You are not Luna Lovegood."
"Who says I'm not? I am if you think I am, Professor. Just because this is happening in your head doesn't mean it's not real. Harry is Master of Death, and I did ask."
"I am not having this conversation again."
"I always knew you were one of the smarter ones. Let's go find your mother, shall we?"
Severus walked on with 'Luna' in silence. He was one of the smarter ones. He wasn't about to argue with Death.
Happy birthday to me, indeed.