Who: Snape What: A graveside visit. Where: The churchyard in Godric's Hollow When: Tonight, after sundown Warnings: Much, much rambly introspection. Much.
The air was little different here than further north, sharp with the iron smell of cold, smoke and dry leaves, same as it ever was in mid-autumn. She was the same, too - twenty-two years had wrought no change that mattered. The only difference was that he was here now, standing between two uneven rows of headstones, dark and hunched and out of place - one more man in a cloak fueling the local rumors of hauntings. For a long time it had been too dangerous to come, and then too painful, and now so much time had passed that it had become pointless. Why was he there, if not to wallow? He doubted there was anything he hadn't already felt that he could feel; that part of him had been closed for so long that he would not have been surprised to discover that he could feel nothing.
Wishful thinking. He'd always been able to recall enough of her to cast that charm, to despise her son, to delude himself into thinking that he could follow her by taking his own life. The few pieces of her that he had allowed himself had sustained him now for longer than she had ever been alive. How much of it was really her, and how much something else, something invented ...?
He stopped that train of thought, grounding himself in the reflection that he did not, in fact, feel very much desire to dance on Potter's side of the grave. Exhuming Lily from the tomb he had shut her into in his mind would drag up all sorts of other muck that was better left undisturbed; it would mean bringing back the stinking remains of her husband, of Black, whom Severus would really rather have had in Azkaban. There were probably Dementors in hell, but one liked to be sure.
He should not have come. He stood to gain so little from cracking open this part of his mind and letting it bleed at long last. The past few months had come dangerously close to uncovering things he had striven hard to forget, and he hardly knew what he thought of it except that it was at once a great relief, a liberation, and a terrifying prospect, all thrill and hope and fear and pounding guilt, a guilt he should not have had to feel after all that he'd done. Hadn't he paid his debt to the woman - the girl lying here? Hadn't he given more than half his life, more than all of hers, and hadn't he avenged her? He'd failed her in some ways, but it couldn't amount to more than what he'd laid out over the course of the war. It couldn't mean that he was obliged to leave a part of himself for dead.
She had never put such restrictions on him, of course. She had never known to. She had never been his, and she was dead, had died so long ago that she might not even recognize him now; she existed nowhere and would not return. The thought brought on a pain so sharp that it made him want to claw up the ground and lie with her, and a relief so complete that he felt physically lighter. He was alone, but free to turn away, to begin to look to someone who could perhaps - well - someone who might -
- to Essery, whose name he was almost afraid to let himself think, sometimes. It still seemed beyond foolish to imagine that someone young, beautiful, good and brilliant and warm could give him any thought at all. He was so very accustomed to disappointment, and yet still so frightened of it - he had let the fear cow him time and time again until the one person whom he had ever loved before was dead and buried, and he had apparently learned nothing. The word coward sprang to mind.
It was the clack of a plastic sword on the gate and the boisterous laughter of a pack of children walking by wearing eye-patches and ruffled shirts that made him turn on his heel and leave, ducking his head further under his hood. He didn't know if he would come back. He felt that he had settled less than he had disturbed here. One thing that was certain was that everything he had any chance of having was far away - and that pulling away from this, from Lily and from everything that it had all meant to him, was something he had already proven that he could do.