The Deathly Hallows has rendered this story, at least in part, spectacularly AU. You will not see Snape’s indelible love for Lily here, because their relationship, and his feelings for her, are the stuff of tragedy, and I did not want to compose a tragedy. I wanted to compose a comedy. It seems to me clear that after Lily, and most especially after Lily’s death, that even had he survived, Snape could never have attained happiness. Not that this matters, of course, as Snape does not.
As for this story, a story in which he (to his own pique) does actually survive, as well as Lupin, Tonks, Fred, etc., I will quote the Doctor: “Everyone lives! Just this once, everyone lives!” (Well, save for Voldemort and Wormtail.)
For those of you that admire Snape but wish for a happier ending for him, something a bit sunnier, and a bit funnier (and, er…sexier), here’s an alternate 1997-98 in which he not only survives, but finds his greatest friend, Remus Lupin, and even (against his own will and his better judgement) somehow manages to find love, and happiness, something that Rowling could not (for her own good reasons) grant him. If that’s the kind of alternate universe that you might find a tonic, read on and (I hope) enjoy.
Prologue: Hogwarts, September 2, 1997
The dark man was staring out over the lake when he more sensed than saw his student approaching from behind. The boy was tall, with a shock of black hair, and attractive in that rangy way boys on the edge of adulthood often are. With a sigh, the man touched something in the inner pocket of his robes. A small blue flame danced suddenly in front of him, illuminating his sallow face and his black eyes. He carefully put the tip of a cigarette to it and inhaled deeply.
The boy stopped a full ten feet away from him, staring at the man for a moment, his expression one of profound distrust and reticence. Then he cleared his throat.
The man made no sign at all, but his second pull on the cigarette drew the ash down to the filter. He flicked the butt towards the lake and it hit the water, making a faint, aborted hiss.
Another blue flame. Another cigarette. Something sinuous moved under the surface of the lake as the silence spun out between them.
“He sent you out here,” the man said at last, not turning around. A simple declaration of fact.
The boy said nothing for a bit, carefully considering his words. “Not sent…”
There was a ghost of a smile on the man’s face then, a knowing, bitter smile. “Suggested,” he said.
The boy nodded, a nod the man felt rather than saw. His mouth found the cigarette again, and took another pull. “In time you may find that his ‘suggestions’ have an odd way of becoming compulsory.”
The boy seemed to think on that, but did not know how to respond. At last, with doubt in his voice, he said, “He told me you didn’t want to kill him.”
The man laughed softly now, a melodious yet somehow brittle sound. “That’s what he thinks.”
The boy’s body stiffened, then, and he turned slowly towards the castle behind him. He squinted as a vaporous form crossed behind a high tower window. Then he looked back at the dark man, his eyes narrowing.
“He also says you’re to be Potions master again. That must be a nasty knock, especially considering who he’s hired…”
At this the man’s shoulders hunched slightly. It had been a nasty knock indeed, at the time, but he could not let the boy see that.
“You’ll have to try much harder than that, boy.”
The boy smiled grimly at the man’s back, and turned away from the lake then, saying nothing, heading back towards the castle. He had only gotten about twenty feet when the man spoke his name, just loud enough for him to hear.
The boy stopped. Waited. He did not turn around. A finger of light escaped from under the low clouds, and for a moment the two stood as still as stone, illuminated from behind by a dying sunset.
“Yes, Professor Snape,” said the boy.
The man grunted, grinding his second cigarette into the grass with the heel of a heavy black boot. “Remember that this year your Potions book will not come equipped with my notes.”