Unresolved Matters

Severus and Lily

Meanwhile Snape continued to gaze transfixed at Lily as at least a hundred emotions crossed his face. Pain. Guilt. Regret. Suffering. Awe. Joy. Love. Before he knew it his eyes were full of tears and his throat constricted so painfully that it took him more than one try to form the words he had been wishing to say for so long, but because Lily was dead a wish was all they ever remained.

"Forgive me..."

Lily's eyes were full of warmth as she shook her head and smiled. "I have forgiven you long ago, Severus."

Snape let out a quiet sob. "You are ... you always have been ... too kind," he said, his voice thick with tears. "I do not deserve it... You ... you must know that it was I who had brought the Dark Lord to your doorstep. It was as if ... as if I had killed you myself."

"No, Severus. You merely made a mistake," said Lily simply.

But Snape no longer heard her, for he had already gone back in time in his mind, back to those fateful events that had led to Lily's death.

"If I had known ... if I had had the slightest idea that the prophecy would lead him to you, I would never ... never have gone to tell him," he ploughed on, suddenly feeling a pressing need to vindicate himself. "You must believe me that. I regretted it for the rest of my life ... every single moment ... it was always there, always haunting me. When I eventually learned that the prophecy referred to you, I asked Dumbledore to protect you, but it was all in vain. I could not ... could not save you." He almost choked on the last words as he was once again overcome by tears.

Lily gazed at him with compassion, and only spoke after he had collected himself enough to take in what she had to say. "Your biggest mistake was joining Voldemort, Severus," she said levelly. "No good was ever going to come of that. But now the time has come to forgive yourself. You have suffered enough."

But Snape only shook his head. "I will never be able to forgive myself," he declared with feeling.

Lily gave him a scrutinizing look, as if trying to understand what exactly was going on in his mind. "Why?" she asked finally. "Don't you think you're being unnecessarily harsh on yourself? You have atoned for your mistake many times over. No man has been brave enough to put their life on the line as you have. No man has saved as many people from certain death as you have. Even as you lay dying you had enough wits about you to aid my son by giving him your memories. Had it not been for this, he would most probably have died ... as he would have on countless other occasions had you not been there to protect him. What more could you have done? Yes, you could not save me, but you did save Harry, and through him the whole wizarding world. Isn't that a big enough achievement for one man alone?"

Unable to find any further arguments against this, Snape opted for a change of topic, masochistically seeking another area where he could continue belittling himself. "It is true that I gave Potter protection," he said slowly. "But I also gave him six years of hell while he was at school. I humiliated him whenever I could. I insulted him. Even as he came here to thank me I could not help it. And all because he is the son of his father. Whenever I look at him I see James. And yet – he is not like him. It appears he has a kind side to him, inherited from you. I was so blinded by my prejudice that I had never noticed it before."

"It is not too late to make amends," said Lily with conviction. "I know your pride will suffer, but if you acknowledge your mistake, I'm certain Harry will understand."

"I would say my pride hardly matters, given the circumstances," said Snape with a wry smile. "After all, I am but a portrait."

"And a very good one, at that," added Lily, grinning.

Snape's smile became more pronounced, yet it was the sad smile of someone for whom kind words came a moment too late. Silence ruled the room for quite some time as he stared unseeingly at the hem of Lily's robes, gathering the courage to ask the one question that had been plaguing his mind for as long as he could remember. Finally he raised his eyes and, in a voice that was as shaky as a schoolboy's, asked, "Lily... If you had not married James Potter, would there ever ... ever have been any hope for us?"

"I was expecting you to ask that," sighed Lily. "We chose different paths, Severus. You insisted on going over to Voldemort, but I preferred to stay on the side of the Light, and so did James. That's why I married him, and eventually came love him."

"So," Snape's deep voice was cracking with emotion as he tried to discern the meaning behind her words, "had I not joined the Dark Lord, you would have ... chosen me, over him?"

Lily nodded, and even her expression was grave now. "I was only waiting for you to say the word."

Disbelief was etched on Snape's face as he stared at her, her words still ringing in his head. "And I ... never knew," was all he managed to say, before all the implications of her simple statement finally sank in, making him bury his head in his hands. Only after some time had passed did he raise it again to look at Lily through tear-rimmed eyes. "All those years I believed you only saw me as a ... friend, nothing more," he proclaimed dejectedly. "I was ... such a fool."

"Well, it hardly matters now," said Lily comfortingly. "Stop dwelling on the past, Severus. It isn't helping anyone, least of all yourself. You cannot undo what has once been done."

"I wish I could. My entire life had been a waste."

"Now, now, please don't start on that again," said Lily firmly. "I have already told you that you have achieved more in one lifetime than most people do in a hundred. But all right, if you still think you haven't done enough, you can do something for me."

"Of course. Anything you ask." The mere prospect made Snape's spirits lift as if by magic.

"I wouldn't agree in such a hurry if I were you," laughed Lily. "You see, what I'd like you to do is try and befriend my son."

Snape's eager expression froze. "I beg your pardon?"

"You heard me. I'd like you and Harry to become friends. I have a feeling it might do you both good."

"I seriously doubt that," opposed Snape. "The boy despises me. He may have come to thank me and all the rest of it, but I do not believe for a moment that-"

"Oh, come now, Severus," Lily cut in impatiently. "Do you seriously believe he would've used the Resurrection Stone to call me for you if he despised you? No, he came to thank you because he wanted to and you know it."

"Perhaps," admitted Snape grudgingly, but quickly went on in case Lily should get the impression that she had convinced him. "Still, how am I to befriend a boy his age? I never had any friends at school besides you. I am old enough to be his father. We have nothing in common."

"I suspect you will find you have more in common than you think," said Lily knowingly. "For a start, you can talk to him about me, the way you knew me at school. I'm sure he'll like that. And as for you being old enough to be his father, all the better. He has enough friends his age, but he has never had a fatherly figure to look up to. Only Sirius, whose death he has never fully recovered from. Please help him fill that empty spot in his heart, Severus."

Gazing into those beautiful green eyes of hers, Snape knew he was fighting a losing battle. After all, had he not complained only a moment ago about his wasted life? Had he not promised to do anything Lily asked? He was not one to go back on his word. And if it made Lily happy... He sighed. It looked like there would be no peace for him, not even after death.

"All right," he said exasperatedly. "I shall see what can be done in the matter."

Lily endowed him with a dazzling smile. "Thank you, Severus. I knew I could count on you."

"You knew I would never refuse you, you mean," muttered Snape mutinously.

Lily giggled. "Well, that too, I guess. But please, Severus, if it is at all possible, don't do it for me. Do it for Harry. Try to understand him, don't be afraid to grow fond of him. I think that once you come to accept the idea you will see it won't be nearly as hard as you expect it to be."

Snape, however, merely glared at her. "I am a wizard, not a magician," he snapped.

Lily let out a short, ringing laugh. "I see your sense of humour hasn't left you, even after all these years. Well, suit yourself. We'll see how it turns out in the end."

Snape said nothing, and so the room remained silent for quite some time, until Lily finally suggested that she take her leave. "Harry will already be wondering what became of us," she explained. "So unless there is anything else you'd like to say to me..."

Her words had an immediate effect on Snape: his slightly defiant expression disappeared in an instant, only to be replaced by one more suited to a funeral.

"I wish you could stay here with me, forever," he said quietly.

Lily gave him a sad smile. "I wish that, too. But you know I can't." She sighed, then crossed the distance between them until she was standing directly in front of his portrait, and before Snape realized what was happening she had placed a soft kiss on the canvas where his lips were. "Goodbye, Severus," she whispered. "Take good care of Harry for me." And then she was gone, leaving Snape to grieve her departure to his heart's content, and also to wonder if he was only imagining things or if his lips really felt cold where she had touched them.

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