Severus Snape apparated into his dark, lonely house, heart pounding, wand still clutched in his hand. After hiding Draco Malfoy, he had apparated to retrieve his most prized possession. He was aware would most likely never see this place in one piece again. Both the Dark Lord and the Order would tear it to shreds. The only question was which side would get there first.
He strode swiftly across the living room, and reached to an uppermost shelf to pull down an old potions book, but froze as his spider-like fingers brushed against the spine.
He had heard a small pop and a gentle cough from a ratty old armchair facing the smoking fireplace.
Slowly, he raised his wand, his other hand still drawing the book from its place on the shelf. He knew that if the person had wanted to kill him, he would have been dead already.
'Who are you?' he demanded firmly. 'Reveal yourself.' Slowly, a hooded figure rose out of the chair, and turned, their face almost entirely hidden by the cloak. 'Show yourself!'
'Why did you do it, Severus?' a small, delicate voice asked him from under the soft black cloth. The figure then raised her head, and with long, graceful fingers pushed back the hood. Her auburn hair shimmered in the filtered moonlight, and her eyes bore holes into his.
'Elizabeth, I almost cursed you! What are you doing here?' Snape asked, fully pulling the book off his shelf and striding a few steps closer to her.
'I would rather death than betrayal, Severus!' she swore, her eyes narrowing.
'I had to kill him, Elizabeth,' he told her flatly, his eyes divulging no feeling. 'And if you don't leave now, I'll have to kill-'
'Oh, don't you dare try to make out what you did wasn't right. And you wouldn't kill me if you were under the Dark Lord's Imperious curse, with his wand pointing at your throat, threatening to kill you!'
Severus stopped in his tracks. Her fingers were wrapped around her wand, pointing directly at his heart. They stood in perfect duelling position, until he realized something. 'Wait… what do you mean, wasn't right?'
'I know why you did it, Severus. Albus himself told me. He at least told me goodbye!' He could see her eyes were beginning to glisten with tears. 'What I'm on about is the fact that you think you can just walk out of my life without so much as a farewell!'
He was momentarily speechless, so she continued, walking slowly towards him, her wand still outstretched.
'How dare you just leave me?'
'What is it you intend on doing to me, Elizabeth?' he asked warily, and lowering his wand slightly.
'I really, really wish that I hated you enough to cause you pain, Severus. To use Cruciatus on you. Because what you've done tonight is pain enough for a lifetime, and apparently you do not understand emotional pain, so perhaps physical pain would get through to you. I want to show you how much it hurts that you would leave without so much as a goodbye.'
Snape looked into her eyes, and saw that the tears that held on so strongly before were now falling uncontrollably down her cheeks. He stepped towards her, lifted her wand from her trembling, ghost-white fingers, and pulled her, for one of the few times in his life, into a hug. 'I'm… I am sorry, Elizabeth.' Her crying became choking, almost hysterical. She clung onto his slender waist painfully tight, and soaked his robes with her tears. He quickly added, 'I'm sorry, but I have to go. And so do you.' She pushed him off, and without looking at him, strode across the room to gaze into the empty fireplace. 'They will be coming for me, Elizabeth.'
'You know just as well as I that this house is unplottable,' she snapped at him, still not looking over in his direction. 'Save me the excuses, Severus. Why are you here, anyway? I thought you had to leave?' Her tone was mocking, but he could hear the choked back sobs behind her words.
'I came back for… something,' he said slowly, looking down at the book in his hand.
'For what? I doubt to leave a goodbye note.'
'No, no, nothing so… nothing as trivial as that.' He heard her snort, and he continued. 'It's a book.'
'A book.' She turned, her face now placid, though tears continued to fall. 'You decided to not say goodbye to me, but you came back here, risking you life, for a book?' She crossed her arms, and strode towards him once again. 'Give me my wand,' she ordered, sticking her right hand out to him. 'I want to get away from you. I want to go now.' He looked her over, and pocketed the wand. Shrilly, she cried, 'Give it to me, now, Severus, or I will forgo the wand and transform into something that could kill you in an instant!'
'You wouldn't kill me if the Dark Lord himself had placed you under an Imperius curse and was threatening you with death,' he told her calmly, holding the book out for her to inspect.
Her breathing was deep as she reached out for the book, and realized it was, in fact, a loose assortment of papers. Looking down, a new wave of tears sprang into her eyes. 'But these…'
'Yes, they are.'
In her hands she held a book of letters which she had bestowed upon him throughout her years at Hogwarts. She had sent them through the corridors, much like those which flew through the ministry. He had always asked her why she didn't just speak to him directly, but she had told him simply, 'This is much more fun.'
'You kept these… all these years…' Her eyes were glued to the worn leather cover, which she was running her fingers across gently.
'I couldn't very well throw them away,' he told her flatly, holding out his hand expectantly.
'Of course you could have,' she replied, looking up to meet his gaze. 'You could have burned them. Thrown them in a rubbish bin. But you... you kept them.'
'Elizabeth, please, give it to me, I need to go.' He was beginning to struggle to keep his voice placid. He would never concede to tears, especially in front of her.
He grabbed the book, and in the same motion threw her her wand. 'There. There is your wand. Now, please, leave. I… want to ensure you are safe before I go.'
Still holding his gaze, her eyes widened, and she lifted her left hand to his cheek. Pulling away, Severus saw a single tear resting on the pad thumb.
'Alright, Severus,' she whispered, turning her head to look out the dirty window. 'I… I'll miss you.'
She moved to change her shape, but Severus placed his hand on her forearm. 'I am sorry, Elizabeth,' he said, lifting a square of cotton out of his pocket and dabbing at her eyes.
She merely smiled forlornly, and muttered, 'Next time, maybe, you'll know better, Severus.'
She then morphed into the bright phoenix, and, with a crack, was gone.
Standing alone in his dimly lit living room, the scent of her tears and perfume quickly fading, Severus Snape whispered something to the silence that he had not said in a lifetime, and something, perhaps, he would never say again.'I love you.'