Hello, and many, many apologies for the late reply! My life feels like it's on a laundromat spin cycle these days, and my fannish time only happens in fits and starts anymore.
I'm so glad you enjoyed this, because I loved writing it. Well, maybe 'loved' is the wrong word: it was one of those fix-it fics that gave me an outlet for my angsty feelings about the series' end. It allowed me to let loose my Snape-love and my Snape-redemption impulses all in one go. I enjoy playing with imagery -- maybe even too much -- and there's something about writing in a magical world that encourages my addiction to metaphor and the desire to tackle Big Themes; if there's a theme or a tasty bit of description around, I tend to make it All About Snape.
How interesting about your afterlife aversion! I'm an atheist, but for me the afterlife in HP is simply part of the magical continuum and just as malleable (vivid but full of plotholes and inconsistencies). It provides a useful context for examining character arcs and consequences and (this betrays my own slant on things) hypocrisy. I wrote another story last year, also heavily dependent on the afterlife, because I had a bone to pick with Dumbledore and his treatment of Snape and I wanted to follow their 'relationship,' its mixed messages and its effect on Snape's moral struggle, into a realm where Dumbledore owed Snape -- the man he'd trapped into murdering him, the man who'd sacrificed all hope. He owed Snape something beyond his usual prevarications, something that recognized Snape had grown up into a wizard worthy of a 'thank you.' In that case, the afterlife is even more abstract, a metaphor for the soul's condition or what-have-you, a place where there is no longer any reason to play games or favorites or indulge in manipulation for its own sake; and yet Dumbledore does, and it loses him Snape's faith and robs Snape of the moral purpose he'd achieved in life.
So I guess in fiction I find the afterlife a good plot device for commenting on canon; characters have to face who they are and what they've done, but they're helpless to change anything (although in this fic, Lily does what she can). Snape in particular is a character whose motives and development benefit from hindsight, and since I wanted to hew to canon as much as possible, the afterlife became a convenient platform for looking back.
Harry's willing surrender of his life bothered me, too, as did the narrative's struggle with the fact that Harry and Lily's sacrifice had to be treated as more meaningful and unique than other people's willingness to die for their loved ones. This skewed the books' attitude toward Lily and made her even less real to me than some of the other offstage characters. She was always too much the sainted mother for me until we finally got to The Prince's Tale, where in practically every memory she's shown scolding Snape or being pissed off at him. So I wanted to reconcile these two aspects of her, which was a challenge. She's under no obligation to forgive Snape for the mistakes that cost her her life, so it was tricky figuring out a way to bring that sort of reconciliation about.
Most of my fics stand or fall on my portrayal of Snape, IMO. He's my driving passion in fandom, so I'm really delighted that you enjoyed him here. Finding the right combinations of elements to make a relationship with Harry plausible is endlessly fascinating to me. It can run the gamut from transcendent to disastrous.
Heh, Dumbledore. You can gather from an earlier paragraph that I have issues with him, but precisely because he's darker than he seems, I find him compelling. After Snape/Harry, Snape/Dumbledore is probably my second favorite pairing, because the power imbalance is irresistible and their canon relationship is so complex and unsentimental.
Yay, you enjoyed the sprinkling of humor! I'm not a great wit, but I do like to vary the mood.
Thank you again for leaving such fantastic feedback. It's amazing to know that people are still reading this story years later. Receiving your comment on it made me glow for days afterwards. :)