The snake's venom was cursing through his veins, making his body burn and him feel more pain than the Cruciatus Curse ever could. Blood was gushing from his wounds and as the pain intensified he felt weaker and weaker.
Suddenly Harry Potter was in front of him. And those green eyes. Lily's green eyes. They were staring intently into his own.
The boy tried to staunch the bloody wound at his neck but they both knew that it was pointless – he, Severus Snape, was dying.
He tried to speak, wanted to speak. He had to tell the boy but he was afraid he had failed. It was too late. He was supposed to share one last important part of the puzzle with the son of the love of his life so he could die to survive and safe them all, but he had failed.
But then memories started to pour out of him. He produced a terrible rasping, gurgling noise as his lungs filled with blood. "Take…it…Take…it…" he managed to whisper. He felt the cold glass of a potion's vial pressed against his face. He felt relieved. The boy would know what to do and he could die. Finally he could die.
He wasn't sure if he had managed to redeem himself but it didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered anymore now.
But he wanted to see her eyes one more time before he left this world forever. They were the last thing he wanted to see so he fought against the pain and the blackness one last time and said:
He wasn't sure what he saw in those eyes, what the boy felt. He didn't even know what he himself felt anymore. But it wasn't important. It would soon be over and the green eyes of his long lost friend calmed him. They were what he had on his mind when he slipped out of consciousness and darkness surrounded him.
He lay facedown, listening to the silence. He was naked and lay in a bright mist. He felt no pain anymore. He had expected darkness but instead everything was bright. Was this the afterlife? He had hoped that his miserable existence had finally come to an end. A long time later, or maybe no time at all, he accepted that he existed and looked around. His surroundings seemed to invent themselves before his eyes. A wide-open space, bright and clean. He was in a deserted playground and a single huge chimney dominated the distant skyline. Then it dawned on him: Cokeworth, the playground – the place he had first met Lily.
He wished he had clothes although he wasn't sure why it mattered; he was alone and dead. But as he thought of it his usual black robes materialized in front of him. He put them on and watched his surroundings more carefully.
In the far distance he could make out a figure moving into his direction. Albus Dumbledore was walking toward him.
"Severus, my dear, wonderful boy. You brave and loyal man. It is good to see you again. Let us walk."
Stunned Snape followed as Dumbledore strode away.
"Can you forgive me?" Dumbledore asked after a while, "I crave your pardon, Severus."
"What are you talking about?" startled by his mentor's tone and the sudden tears in his eyes.
"I failed you my boy. You were a very loyal friend over the years and I should have helped you out of your misery but I fear I only added to it. You once said that I did not trust you, but that is not true. There was never a person I trusted more, never someone who knew more about me. It was selfish of me to use you like this, even if it was for the Greater Good."
Snape didn't know what to say. "Did he survive?" he asked instead and wasn't even sure to whom he was referring.
"Thanks to you the boy will survive and win this war once and for all," he smiled as he said this.
"Let me tell you one thing Severus. I believe it is important that you understand. You did redeem yourself. A long time ago, too. You felt remorse, you saved many lives and protected Harry Potter as well as you could. And if you don't believe me, I am quite certain that Lily and James will tell you the same thing if you choose to move on."
Snape felt happier and more at peace than ever when he heard this. But something bothered him. "If I choose to move on? Do I have a choice?"
"Yes, it means you have a choice. You can either move on, like I did, or go back and do things differently, do them right."
"I don't quite understand. Am I not dead? Why would I want to go back to the bloody war? Haven't I done enough already?"
"Who said anything about going back to the war, Severus? Look at yourself."
And he did. He was shorter than he was just an hour ago, and maybe thinner. He looked like a younger version of himself. He touched his face which felt longer and it was covered with stubble. He guessed himself to be around 15 or 16.
"I told you that you redeemed yourself. But you did way more than that and in the eyes of the Fates you deserve a second chance at life. One in which you are not a pawn in the plans of two fools fighting a war but one in which you can live your life and try to be happy. One in which you can make the right choices and decisions. I believe you deserve this. But as I said, it is your choice; you have to choose."
He had a chance to go back. To see Lily again. To do things right and maybe even change the course of history.
He looked at Dumbledore, "How do I go back?"
"Just close your eyes my boy. Everything will be alright."
Snape closed his eyes and once again darkness surrounded him.
He was laying facedown on the ground again, gasping for breath. Cold sweat ran down his face. He was laying on a cold stone floor and after some time he realized that he was in Hogwarts. He must have been on his way to Gryffindor tower.
He cast a quick spell to tell him which day, month and year it was and was shocked to find out that it was a few days after the horrible lake incident in his fifth year. He began breathing heavily and felt sick. He had indeed been on his way to the Gryffindor dormitories. He had been on his way to apologize to Lily. Even if he wanted to he would never be able to forget the conversation in which she would tell him that they had chosen different paths and couldn't be friends any longer.
What cruel trick of Fate was this? Would his punishment and misery never stop? Was this his personal hell in which he had to pay for his sins? He would understand that; even after Dumbledore's speech he felt like he deserved it; but why had Dumbledore said that he would get a second chance and that everything would be alright? Why was life so cruel to him? Why get his hopes up in the first place?
He panicked. He wanted to run and see Lily. See that she was alive and breathing. Hug her and beg for her forgiveness. He desperately wanted to see her after all this time. But he knew that she wouldn't listen to him and that she didn't want to see him. She didn't talk to him anymore. He was too late. Why couldn't he have gone back one week earlier? But he knew that even then things between them were far from being okay. They had been drifting apart for months and the incident at the lake was just the peak of the iceberg.
No, he couldn't go to her now. He remembered how he had wanted to jump of the Astronomy tower when she had told him what she did back then and he felt similar now. He sank down the cold stone wall as tears started to run down his face. He couldn't control himself any longer and started crying.
"Snivellus?... Are you crying?"
Well great. From all the people he would see again, that would be alive again, the first one he comes across had to be his worst enemy.
"What's it to you? Came here to kick me while I'm down?" he tried to hold back his tears but couldn't. He had never shown weakness in front of the Marauders. He wouldn't be able to live that down but he found that he didn't care anymore. Lily had left him and there was nothing James Potter could do to top that, to make him feel any more miserable than he already did.
"N…no. Is everything alright?"
"Does it look like everything's alright? You were the one who made sure I wasn’t alright," he screamed at him. "I tell you something. You and your stupid friends finally succeeded. You've taken everything away from me. Everything! I have nothing and no one left. Lily will never talk to me again. I hope you are happy now. She was the only thing that made my life worth living and now she hates me."
Shakily he tried to stand up. An angry outburst like that was what he needed to clear his head. He ignored Potter, who was staring at him with a shocked expression on his face and an open mouth, and made his way in the opposite direction.
He felt much calmer now. Lily was alive and breathing and that was all that mattered at the moment. He needed to concentrate on that. And he planned on her staying alive and being happy even if it meant that she didn't talk to him and was happy with Potter. He also knew now that it wasn't entirely the fault of the Marauders that they had split. It was mostly his own.
Dumbledore had said that everything would work out and he had no reason to doubt the man… Dumbledore! That was it! It didn't occur to him before but he was alive too now. He felt a sense of relief. He could talk to Dumbledore. He was alive and would know what to do. He always did.
He made his way towards his office and thought about what he could possibly say to the man. He had hated him when he was in school, like most Death Eaters did. And he was certain that Dumbledore knew that. He probably thought he was a Death Eater by now and he remembered how disappointed and disgusted the man who had been there for him when Lily died, the man who had been his mentor and guide, who gave him the second chance he hadn’t deserved, had been. Dumbledore had, at that time, looked at him like he had looked at Draco Malfoy during his sixth year. It took the headmaster a long time to really trust him after he had changed sides. Would he listen to him now? Would he be able to trust and believe him? He didn't know what he would do if Dumbledore didn't. But talking to him was all he could do right now. And he would be honest. He had to be. It was the only way he could set things straight, the only way to do things the right way this time around. No more secrets.
He was standing in front of the stone gargoyle now. He didn't know what the password was in this time but the gargoyle stepped aside anyway, revealing a spiraling stone staircase. He felt really nervous now.
Dumbledore's office looked almost exactly as it did in the future. Even Fawkes was there, looking at him.
"Good evening, Mister Snape," he said.
His emotions threatened to overwhelm him again at the sound of the voice of the man that he had seen dying, that he had killed.
"Headmaster," Snape mumbled, scared of looking the man in the eyes, scared of what he would see there.
"What brings you here, my boy?"
"I don't want to be a Death Eater!" he blurted out before he could stop himself or think of anything coherent to say. He hadn't been so full of emotions since Lily died and he saw no reason to hide anything from the man who had had faith in him when no one else did. "I don't want to be a Death Eater and I am in love with Lily Evans!"
He needed to tell him the most important things, get it off his chest, even if he didn't make much sense. It had been such a long time since he last talked to someone (alive) honestly, openly about his feelings.
"And Voldemort has created Horcuxes!" It was the first time he used this name and it made him feel… free. He wasn't scared of that monster anymore, even though he had been his killer in the end.
Finally he dared to look at the man in front of him. "Please listen to me. You need to help me. I know I'm not making much sense right now but you need to believe me, sir. I am not the despicable person you think I am, at least not anymore."
Dumbledore looked at him curiously with his trademark twinkle in his blue eyes. There was no sign of contempt or mistrust. Snape was looking at him directly now, gazing into his eyes, inviting the older man inside of his head as he had done many times in the past.
Dumbledore seemed to understand as he carefully entered his mind. Snape concentrated on everything that had happened that could be of any importance. The incident at the lake, him becoming a Death Eater, the prophecy, his vow to do everything for the man, Lily's death, Harry's time at school, Dumbledore's death at his hands, his own death and what Dumbledore had told him afterwards.
When the headmaster left his mind again, an hour had past and Snape had started to cry again. Without using Occlumency he found it hard not to at the moment. He had gone through so much, seen so much. More than his now young body could possibly handle.
"Very impressive. Would you like some tea perhaps?"
Snape nodded although he didn't feel like he could keep anything in his stomach right now.
"What should I do now? I don't know if the vow I made is still working but I am still your man. I want to join the Order when I'm off age."
He felt like he needed to say this.
Dumbledore looked at him with a smile, "Ah my dear boy. I am happy to hear that and lucky to have you. But you paid your debts and are a free man now. And you haven’t committed the crimes you feel the need to atone for yet. You are not here to fight a war but to live a happier life than you did the first time."
"But I want to. I want to be on the right side this time. I want to do things right!"
"Very well. If it is still your wish when you are old enough I would be happy to welcome you into the Order. But right now I want you to go to school and be a carefree teenager and not an adult who is fighting in a war. I will take care of the Horcruxes you have told me about and shown me in your mind. This might very well end this war a few years earlier than it did in your time and with less bloodshed. But I must also remind you that situations may no longer unfold the way that you remember them. Alterations to your timeline cannot be avoided because of what you know and they should not be avoided as you have been sent here to change the course of things and lead a better life. Do you understand all of this?"
Snape thought about what the man had said. "I believe I do."
"I have watched you for some time now and I have to admit the path you seemed to follow worried me deeply. I am happy that you see now where you have gone wrong and that you have the chance to make things right. I am sorry for what you had to experience and do hope that it will be easier for you this time. If you need protection from your old acquaintances or need help with anything else, do not hesitate to contact me."
"Thank you, sir." He wanted to leave but then he thought of something else.
"Sir? There is something else… There will be a potion invented in a few years that could help Remus Lupin with his uhm… problem. He could keep his human mind during his transformations and it would make the process less painful. The potion is rather difficult and expensive to brew but with your consent and help I could make some…"
Dumbledore smiled at him. "I am very happy to hear that and will help you where ever I can. But I would like to remind you that you have redeemed yourself fully and do not need to do any of what you are offering. This is not why you were sent back."
"I know sir, but I want to. I have to. I want to help people and do the right things for the right reasons this time."
"Very well, that's very noble of you. Tell me what you need and I will make sure that you will get it."
"Thank you, sir."
A few minutes later Snape left the office. He felt better after talking to the headmaster. He felt like he had already made a positive difference and he would continue to do so, with or without Lily. And maybe she would see then, that he really had changed and talk to him again.
His roommates were already asleep and he was glad that he didn't have to talk to them just yet. He didn't know what he would tell them but he was determined to distance himself from them. Lily had been right all along. Mulciber, Avery and all the other would be Death Eaters weren't people he should be friends with.
Tomorrow he would try and talk to Lily and hope that she would at least hear him out. He knew they were a long way from being anything close to friends again but he would try his best.
With that thought on his mind he fell asleep.
He woke up early the next day and thanks to the stealth that came from years of spying he was able to shower, dress and leave for the Great Hall without anyone noticing him.
There were hardly any people in the Great Hall this early but Professor McGonagall was already sitting in front of the Hall. He would miss talking to her as an equal but maybe one day when he was older they could be friends again.
McGonagall wasn't the only Gryffindor present in the Hall. Lily was also there, sitting at the Gryffindor table. His heart jumped when he saw her red hair from afar. She was alive and so beautiful. He wanted to run over and hug her but she would probably hex him for that.
None of Lily's friends were there yet. He had forgotten what an early riser Lily had always been. It was one thing they had in common. She was reading a book while eating. He had almost forgotten that they were in the middle of their OWLS. He made his way over to her and felt his heart rate quicken. He hoped that this would work out better than it did the first time around.
"Lily?" he tried to approach her and saw that some of the other houses' early risers were watching them.
"Leave me alone." She didn't even look at him.
"I'm not interested."
"Save your breath."
"I never meant to call you Mudblood, it just-"
"Slipped out?" There was no pity in Lily's voice and the situation felt awfully familiar to Snape. She was looking at him now and it hurt him to see her beautiful green eyes so full of hate, betrayal and hurt. "It's too late. I've made excuses for you for years. None of my friends can understand why I even talk to you. You and your precious little Death Eater friends –"
"No!" he interrupted her.
"They are not my friends, Lily, they've never been. You were right all along. They are evil and dark and they want to join You-Know-Who as soon as they leave Hogwarts. But I don't want to. Not anymore!"
Lily looked at him, her arms crossed, trying to detect his lie. She clearly hadn’t expected him to react like that.
"It wasn't Mulciber or Avery or anyone else who got me into the Dark Arts. It was entirely my own fault. I thought I could protect myself from my father, at first. You know how he is. And then at school your Gryffindor friends. I wanted to protect myself… and you. I thought, if I became a powerful wizard, people would finally stop bothering me, pushing me around, and respect me… And then I became addicted to the Dark Arts. I was obsessed with them because that's how they work: it's what they do with you."
He looked at Lily to see if she was listening and she obviously was, although she didn't say anything. The look in her eyes had changed but he couldn't tell what it was that he was seeing now. The Hall was slowly filling with people and the Marauders were by now standing at the entrance of the Hall. It looked like James had kept them from coming over. Snape flashed him a grateful smile.
"The Dark Arts are dangerous but I never believed you when you tried to tell me. And I wanted to fit in somewhere so desperately. I've made a huge mistake and I see that now. I am sorry. So so sorry." by now there were tears running down his face but he didn't care if anybody saw. "I didn't mean what I said. You know I didn't! You are the most powerful, skillful witch I know and I was so humiliated… you know how I sometimes lash out at the wrong people when I'm hurt."
She wiped away a tear of her own now but still didn't say anything. He wasn't sure if she believed him but he could see that she wanted to.
"It was my fault that we drifted apart and I realize that now but I changed and I will do whatever it takes to prove that to you. I went to Dumbledore. I confessed, I told him everything. Everything I did and everything I know. He said he would protect me from You-Know-Who and his followers. I want to join his Order too, when I'm off age and finished with school. I want to fight for the right side. I won't talk to the other Slytherins anymore. I don't care if they start bullying me too. I only want you to forgive me. I would rather have the whole world hate and bully me than lose you. I don’t know what I’d do without you. You are the most important person in my life, Lily. Please…"
Lily had thrown her arms around him and pulled him into an embrace. He had missed her hugs so much and they way she smelled. She cried into his chest and he buried his head in her hair.
"I'm so so sorry…" he whispered into her ear again and again.
Maybe this time, he thought, he could protect her and maybe be happy too.