He had been little more than a boy when his mother had died; his father had taken him to church, at a loss for what to offer in comfort to the grieving child he barely knew, seeking perhaps the familiar routines of his own childhood in solace. Severus had found no comfort though in the austere, hallowed stone of the chapel, but he found something in the warm candlelight of the offerings to the souls of the departed. If it was not exactly comfort, at least it was more than emptiness. Religion had never permeated his soul, but the candlelight had. Now, as penance to the tattered shards of his life, he kept the traditions of his youth, but for the sake of a different soul.
Shadows writhed before him on the wall, looming large. They did not threaten him though; they begged him to dance with them, just as the owner of the soul he honoured once had. Their lithe grace stirred his memories. His palms, planted on the desk before him, convulsively curled into grief-stricken fists, sliding protectively towards his body, crumpling papers in their wake.
Christmas was the hardest time. It had been the darkest time in the Snape household, but the lightest in her presence. She had loved Christmas and she had shown him the briefest glimpse of its sparkling joy before she walked away from him.
Copper tones skirted the edges of the taper’s flame and, as he watched, coalesced into a shiningly familiar fall of russet at the heart of the glow. He saw her turn, her face shining at the heart of the blaze as she smiled.
“Merry Christmas, Lily,” he whispered, his breath extinguishing the candle and her life once again.