Standing in the shadows of Diagon Alley, he spotted her. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her.
Don’t lie to yourself, Severus.
He remembered the last time he had seen her with perfect clarity. Dirt and blood clung to her body. Her hair was wild, hanging in the air and framing her young face with the aura of a warrior goddess. Her eyes, older than the rest of her by spades, scanned the burnt and barren grounds of Hogwarts. She surveyed the damage of the battle that had ended merely an hour ago.
What is she looking for?
Then they locked on him. He knew he was a horrid sight…holding soiled bandages to his neck and staring her down like a predator. She met his gaze with a fierceness that stilled him for a moment. Still locked in her gaze, he disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.
Severus amended his earlier statement. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her……so happy. Her first day at Hogwarts perhaps? The Yule Ball with Krum?
That was a child’s happiness, though, and she was a woman now. She had to have been at least 28. She carried a child on her hip. Long ginger hair twisted in the wind as the child laughed and squirmed in Granger’s arms. The Weasley boy’s spawn, no doubt.
Why does that bother you, old man?
He watched her for a few more moments. The smile that graced her face was genuine; the thin lines at the corners of her eyes spoke of many smiles over the years. It warmed him to see her that way.
Suddenly her body stiffened. Not enough to startle the child, but enough that he sensed it. He backed further into the alley, though he could still see her.
Someone walked through his line of sight, and in the time it took for them to cross, she was gone.
Before he could move an inch, he felt a wand at the back of his neck.
“Why were you watching me, Snape?” Her voice was gravelly, as if overused.
He spoke quietly, “Motherhood becomes you, Granger. I had hoped you wanted more out of life than to be the next Mrs. Weasley, though.”
The wand pressed harder into his neck as she responded, “That was Harry and Ginny’s girl, not mine. Now tell me why you were watching me?”
Slowly, he turned to face her. She backed away a few paces, still holding her wand firmly pointed at him. Still quiet, he spoke again, “I will answer that question when you answer mine. Why were you looking for me?”
Her face crumpled. He knew she hadn’t been looking for him over the last decade. He knew that she knew what he meant. Why was she looking for him on that day? Her arm shuddered and she lowered her wand, tears sliding down her face. “I had to know you were alive,” was all she said.
He considered her answer for several minutes, watching as the tears continued to flow. Finally, a question escaped his lips, “Why?”
She roughly brushed the tears from her face and looked at him in shock. “Why?! Because you deserved to live! You deserved happiness after everything that you endured! After everything you fought for, you deserved to enjoy it!”
The corner of his mouth lifted a little as he watched the fiery witch shout at him.
Huffing, she continued her tirade. “Now it’s your turn! Why were you watching me and Lily?”
He cringed at the name, but it did not stop his answer. “I had to be sure.”
“Had to be sure of what?”
“That you were happy.”
Her face fell at his answer. “And?”
She was no longer looking at him. Her eyes had gone somewhere else. Somewhere far away. A castle burned in the distance. Blood fell and friends never woke in that place. “Am I happy?”
Severus reached for her. Pulling her close, he wrapped his arms around her small frame. She clung to him fiercely. He was certain his cloak would be ruined, but that mattered little. He knew the place she inhabited and he knew that her question had no answer.