They said time healed all wounds but Severus was certain whoever it was that said that lied. Over two weeks after the battle on the grounds of Hogwarts and he was no longer in St Mungo’s, but he was also not healed and there were at least some wounds that time would not heal. His leg had suffered permanent damage the mediwitch had said, and the healer had said that he would be likely to feel mild to severe pain on and off for the rest of his life. Nerve damage, and a million other things that he would likely wish he’d paid better attention to later on. Agatha had been there though – listening intently – and Severus was certain he could trust her to remember.
Today Severus Snape stood on the edge of a children’s park near Manchester. Time did change things that much was certain. One swing drug in the mud under the swing set, the chain had fallen victim to time or bored teenagers which was unclear without closer inspection. The merry-go-round was rusted around the edges. No children played here today – leastwise any of Lily’s calibre.
To Muggle eyes he no doubt made equally strange a figure at twenty as he’d made at eight: a too-skinny man in the place of the too-skinny boy: wizarding robes in place of the crazy smock: his hair still long and somewhat unkempt. But there were changes too. He had just a hint of being cared about now, and to a wizard, he’d have looked perfectly normal. No longer stuck between two worlds Severus Snape had found one corner of the world in which he belonged.
But that finding had come at a cost.
He skirted the edges of the park, sliding between trees that looked as if they had seen better days, between a half a hedgerow, into what had seemed as a boy to be a forest on par with Sherwood. As an adult it held a different feel not nearly so magical after all. The creek was smaller and less sparkling and the trees lower and less ancient -- it was infinitely lonelier. He sat down on the bank with his back against the tree and he closed his eyes as sunlight filtered through onto his face. As a child he’d always felt this place held magic. As a child he’d known that Merlin had once walked there – long before the Muggles had come – and that he’d blessed the place and what ever happened there would be sacred. In a bizarre at the time unrecognised mix of his father’s Muggle religious terminology and the tales of Magical history from his mother, he’d counted this place as special. As an adult, he noticed things that he’d never noticed as a child. How there was a slight odour from the stream that no doubt came from industrial England, or how the ground was damp and soaked through his clothing, and it was cold – so cold.
The truth was that the place held nothing magical. There was no special charm about this location that made it magical – rather just the hint of a memory: a warm summer’s breeze, stunning red hair and a whisper of a breath on his cheek. The warmth was only imagined because there was no warmth left.
Twenty years of his life and the only things he had to show for it were those things he had taken hold of so strongly within the past year and determined he would never let go. Within the last year he had lost everything from his first nineteen years of life. His parents were dead and his childhood home a pile of ashes and Muggle ‘Keep Out’ signs. Memories from Hogwarts held no joy to him now. Two of his closest friends were dead or might as well have been and Lily...
His breath hitched in his throat and he opened his eyes. Lils.
The tears came and Severus wept. The tears on his cheeks were warmer than the sunlight and far warmer than the breeze that came through the leaves hinting at autumn. He had done everything he could think of and it hadn’t been enough. Worst was the voice in his head that if he’d just done something more – something different – she’d still be alive today. It was what if’s and should have done’s that were ten times worse than the actual reality and it was the longing that things had been different that was perhaps most painful.
He would have done anything for her. He would have gone to the moon, fought dragons, the darkest monster you could throw at him – he had fought the darkest monster you could throw at him although Severus wondered if in reality the darkest thing he’d had to fight hadn’t been the Dark Lord, but had been himself. After all he’d been the one to push her away for a dream and a foolish naïveté that he would make the world a better place. That was the dream of his first nineteen years as well. No, there was nothing left of those years. And Lily was a painful reminder that this was all too true. He had lost so much in this past year and no amount of time would heal those wounds any more than they would heal his leg or the scars along his right side.
Time was no greater a magician after all.
Severus raised his head, wiping tears from his eyes that two years ago he would have been embarrassed to admit to – but this year he’d also learned how to cry, which was admittedly something he’d wished he’d never had to learn to do.
The autumn breeze dried his cheeks and Snape stood, turning his back on the magical grove of his childhood. He did not look at the playground as he strode past it, his gait uneven and his teeth gritting against the pain in his right hip. He would have to get used to it, he supposed. He had been steadily weaning himself from pain potions, refusing to become dependent upon something to make his life easier. His life had not been easy thus far and there was no reason why it should suddenly be so now. The war might have ended in name with the Ministry regained and the Death Eaters in prison or dead or on the run, but Severus was uncertain it would ever completely end for him.
Clear of the park he Apparated.
In the end, he had not lost everything had he? Even as he had nothing left from his childhood, he yet had much of what he’d started building the past year. Aberforth Dumbledore was still a friend and a mentor and a better father than Tobias Snape had ever been to Severus. Pepper had lived, despite all his certainty that he would die, and he’d been perhaps a truer friend than Aquila or Demetrius had ever been. There were relationships of mutual respect and perhaps in some cases the beginnings of friendships of a sort with Moody and other various members of the Order and although Severus would regret till the day he died those deaths he had been unable to prevent, the friendships he’d begun to make still stood.
And then Agatha had stuck with him tenaciously, with bravery and determination that had made him admire her in ways he wasn’t yet comfortable telling her, but the feelings were there nonetheless and although he would never have thought it all those months ago when he had stumbled awkwardly through an embarrassing dinner, he’d learned to consider her beautiful in her own right. And she cared and she was loyal to him and those two things alone were enough to make him grateful for her presence in his life, even had he not genuinely learned to enjoy time spent with his wife.
Truth be told, Severus wondered if anything would ever be normal for him. The Inner Circle and perhaps many of the Death Eaters knew that he killed the Dark Lord and while Severus knew that the blame for their lost loved ones should be placed squarely upon Lord Voldemort’s shoulders, it would be too easy for those who knew the truth to blame him and easier still when he would no doubt be asked to confirm identities and events and Severus knew that those things would make both Agatha and him a target for angry and embittered former members of the Cause. Their house would always be unplottable, always strongly warded, and perhaps always off the grid, because if nothing else during the past year Severus Snape had learned to be paranoid. But he would have a family, of sorts, and while it might have been nothing like the family he had imagined as a socially awkward eight year old boy, it was still family wasn’t it then?
The wounds would never truly heal, but while they might change him, they did not define him.
He walked unevenly down the hill towards the house, his eyes on the light in the kitchen: Agatha was waiting for him.