Summary:Harry uses his unique connection to death one more time, to give peace to the man who needs it the most. Harry/Severus, at Kings Cross. Because Snape still suffers the sins of his past, and Harry wants to set him free.
Harry settled back into his bed and allowed himself to relax into the thick mattress. It was nice to have the luxury of a real bed, after so many months of running and camping, with a wizarding style bunk.
He was exhausted, and he wanted to sleep for a week. However, he couldn't shake the thoughts that continued to plague him.
He'd separated the Deathly Hallows. The wand was in Dumbledore's tomb again. The Stone had been lost in the forest. He had the cloak, but it was only one of the three.
Still, he'd been the Master of Death, even if only for a little while. He wondered if the title existed only as long as he held the Hallows together or if, like being Master of the Elder Wand, it was something that would stay with him until he died or passed the title on to someone else.
He thought about that. On one hand, the idea of being Master of Death was interesting. But...even if he'd had the Resurrection Stone, it wouldn't have allowed him to bring anyone back to life. The best he would get were temporary shadows. Like the dreams of the Mirror of Erised, it was hardly comforting in the end. And it certainly wouldn't help him. Much as his heart ached for the dead, for his godfather, for Lupin and Tonks, for his parents, he knew dwelling on them, much less calling them, would only lead to more sorrow.
On the other hand...he still remembered the feel of the in-between place. That place had been warm, comforting. He wouldn't mind visiting it again, as long as he didn't have to get hit by the Killing Curse again. And it would be nice to be able to say goodbye properly to everyone.
A slight frown crossed his face. There was one person he wanted to talk to above all others. One man he needed to finish things with.
He was still turning things over in his mind when sleep overtook him.
Harry's eyes blinked open to brilliant, yet somehow mellow, white light. He blinked a few more times.
The familiar white-washed walls of Kings Cross surrounded him. He was warm, not aching, no wounds and no glasses. A small smile crossed his face.
He turned. Dumbledore stood before him, his eyes warm and proud and kind.
"Sir." Harry held his eyes a long moment, then gestured. "This...am I dead again, or is this..."
"You are not dead." Dumbledore smiled at him. "As you have guessed, this place is yours to access now."
"Because I'm the Master of Death, or because of Voldemort and I."
Dumbledore held out his arms in a wide, sweeping gesture. "That is entirely unknown. You have united and separated the Hallows, which certainly qualifies you. However, I think it is safe to say that you and Voldemort crossed many boundaries that no witch or wizard has ever crossed before. Perhaps, this is simply a place that can always be accessed, once one has been here before."
Harry nodded. He moved closer. "You know...what happened."
"That you defeated Voldemort? Indeed." Dumbledore's smile widened as he laid his hands on Harry's shoulders. "You did a brave thing, Harry, and you've done very well indeed."
"Thank you." Harry swallowed. "Sir, I was wondering...this place...does it have to be King's Cross?"
"This is entirely your own place, Harry. It will always be exactly what you wish it to be." Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling.
Harry nodded. "I guess...what I wanted to know...can people access other people's places? I mean, I know there was a piece of Voldemort's soul here the last time I was. But... is it possible, for me to get to someone else?"
"Many things are possible." Dumbledore's expression turned somber.
Harry nodded. "I...there's someone I want to find. Do you know if it's possible?"
Dumbledore studied him a long moment. "What you ask is indeed possible, however, you must realize that the outcome of your search will depend on the individual you seek as much as yourself."
"I know. But...I feel like I need to finish things with him." Harry swallowed, something uncomfortable in the pit of his stomach.
Dumbledore nodded, then turned to point. Harry saw a sidewalk running into the distance. "You'll find the person you seek in that direction. And Harry...be careful. And good luck."
Harry nodded. "Thank you, sir." He took a deep breath, and began to walk.
He hadn't walked long when the light began to fade, from bright and welcoming to a gray, heavy twilight. The path under his feet turned rough, broken, less like a sidewalk than a ragged, barely maintained mountain path. He kept going.
The ground got rougher. In the distance, something reddish appeared. Harry moved faster, heading toward that sullen glow. And then, quite suddenly, he was there.
In front of him stood a ragged, jumbled mound of sharp-edged rock. And bound to it...
Severus Snape lay there, chained against the stones. He wasn't lying flat, like a victim on an altar, nor standing. Instead, the heavy restraints pulled him hard against the side of the slope, at an angle that Harry could not possibly imagine as remotely comfortable. Particularly not in the Potions Professor's position.
Snape had been chained spread-eagled, tight to the rocks so that the rough edges cut into his flesh at every movement. The rocks appeared to be glowing slightly, and even from where he stood, Harry could feel the slight heat, as though the ground around Snape was red hot. Even more, the professor was unclothed, and his hands had been spiked to the stone to further fasten him there. Upon his breast, an ugly gaping wound bled, the blood trickling over his ribs to hiss into nothing against the rocks. His eyes were closed, expression contorted in pain.
It looked like torture. Even without the two years of symbolism that Divination had subjected him to, and the stories he had inevitably heard growing up in Surrey, it reminded him of hell, or at least purgatory. It shocked him, to think that anyone would come to this.
Then he remembered that this was Snape. Snape, who had forced Dumbledore to swear he would never reveal the better side of his nature. Snape, who had wept over his complicity in Lily Potters death over a decade and a half later. Snape, walking the line between Voldemort and Dumbledore, forced to kill the one and serve the other, forced to reign over Hogwarts in it's worst year. He revised his thinking. If there was ever a man who would consign himself to torment for eternity, whether deserved or not, it was Snape.
A year ago he would have left the man to it, and been savagely delighted in his suffering. But now...now he had Snape's memories, all the anguish that had led to this point. Now he knew the truth. Now he had the memory of Snape's body dying in the Shack, a last desperate sacrifice. He had no doubt that, had Snape found him and been able to talk to him before then, he would have let Harry defeat him, even kill him, to obtain mastery over the Elder Wand. As long as he'd been able to give Harry the necessary information first.
He remembered the odd feeling that had driven him to Snape's side, there in the Shack. He recognized it now. Compassion. Even with all he'd thought Snape had done, that kind of death hadn't been one he'd wish on anyone. And this wasn't the kind of eternity he'd wish on anyone either. Especially not this man, whom he now knew had already endured far too much.
He stepped another pace forward, and his foot kicked a stone, the sound harsh in the oppressive place he now stood.
Snape's eyes snapped open, fury passing through the pain as he spotted Harry. "Potter."
"Yeah." Harry didn't know what to say to the man. 'I'm sorry' was not going to cut it. He couldn't think of anything that would.
A sneer twisted Snape's features. "Of course. My...punishment...would not be complete without a Potter to revel in my downfall."
"That's not why I'm here." Harry swallowed hard, against the sick feeling that filled him at the thought of even considering mocking this man.
"Ah. Perhaps, then, you think this is not enough." Snape's eyes burned. "Saint Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, come to punish the damned traitor. Come to punish Dumbledore's murderer, avenge his headmaster and his parents. Of course, being the downfall of Voldemort and the Master of Death is hardly enough. Being a hero, you will see justice done." Snape flexed against the chains, then fell back. "So then...what treatment shall I expect from the great Harry Potter?"
"That isn't why I'm here." Harry swallowed again.
"Indeed. Then what? To demand your answers? To judge me?" Snape's eyes were hot with fury, but all Harry could see was those same eyes, hours ago, weeping tears of memories as blood flowed from the ruined throat. "Well Potter? What have you come here for?"
Harry shook his head. He knew that things were unfinished, that he had to say or do something, but...here and now, looking at Snape, he didn't know what he wanted to do. He'd somehow expected a meeting like he'd had with Dumbledore, or with the ghosts of his family and friends in the glen. Not this.
"Idiot boy." Snape snarled the words. "Enough. Do what you came here to do and leave me."
Harry swallowed. "What?"
"Can you not pay attention for even the simplest of instructions?" Snape's mouth twisted in a bitter line, his head flung back defiantly in spite of the chains and rocks that raked his flesh. "Do what you have come here to do, and get away from me." Another sneer crossed his features, warped by the pain as the spikes in his wrists tugged, as the rocks lacerated him. "Deliver you judgment. Take your vengeance. I am not a fool. You wish to repay me for your years in Potions, for the death of your parents, for the death of the Headmaster. Do so, and have done." He laid his head back against the stones, throat bared, eyes sharp and bright with angry defiance, under which moved a thread of agonized fear.
If it had only been the anger, Harry might have been tempted to leave him. But Snape's fear and his pain, his obvious suffering, held him there. He stood a long moment in thought, then looked the man in the eyes. "Whatever I do, you'll accept it?"
"I am hardly in a position to fight you." There was acid in those words, so sharp Harry almost checked himself for burns.
"But you'll accept it? Whatever I decide to do, you'll take it?" He didn't know why it mattered, having Snape say so, only that it did.
"Yes Potter. Do what you came here to do, and quit stalling. You are not a child anymore, so stop behaving like one." Snape closed his eyes, resignation on his features.
Harry set his jaw. "Fine."
He stepped forward, and laid his hand on the stones. They were hot, as he'd suspected. He remembered how things simply appeared, or reshaped themselves for him, in King's Cross. This wasn't his place, but Snape had said he'd accept whatever Harry did. Harry pressed his fingers against the rock in a silent wish.
Seconds later the stones cooled, now nothing more than rock. Just the absence of that heat seemed to lighten the air a little.
Harry took a deep breath, then turned his attention to Snape's arm, inches from his face. He hesitated, uncertain about touching the man, then grasped Snape's arm above the wrist and wrapped his other hand around the spike that secured the man to the stone.
Snape stiffened, his whole body flinching as Harry touched him. "Potter, what are you doing?"
Harry tightened his grip on the spike, then wrenched it free in one smooth movement and dropped it with a thud to the ground. Snape made a strangled sound of pain or shock. Harry ignored him for a moment. searching through the robes he wore. He was completely unsurprised to find a cloth in his pocket. He pulled it out and wound it around the professor's arm, though he didn't seem to be bleeding.
"Potter..." There was a hint of steel in Snape's voice.
Harry straightened so he could look the man in the eyes. With a start, he realized he was almost Snape's height. Somehow, he'd always seen the man as taller. He held Snape's black gaze for a moment, then spoke softly. "I'm doing what I came here to do, Professor."
He reached out, seized the chain next to the wrist he'd just released, and pulled.
The chain disintegrated into dust, and Snape's eyes widened, unfathomable emotions in the black depths. Harry didn't give him time to speak further. Instead, he stepped to Snape's other side. He wrenched the spike and chains away from that arm as well, bound the wound, then looked at the Potions Master again, considering the chains that wound across his body, shoulders, upper arms, and legs. Then he reached out and began methodically shattering them, tearing them away, starting with the arms and upper torso.
He'd just broken the fourth chain when Snape's hand caught him roughly by the shoulder and shoved him away, sending him staggering backward. Snape was glaring at him, his chest heaving, though Harry wasn't sure either of them really needed to breathe. "I do not need your pity, Potter!"
Harry shook his head and straightened his robes. "It's not about pity." He looked to the ground at his feet, then bent and picked up the black robes he had known would be there. Then he returned his gaze to the man still half chained to the unforgiving stone. "It's about respect." He set the robes carefully on a slightly flatter stone to one side, then reached for the next chain.
Snape's hand stopped him. "Enough. I will not be subjected to this...this travesty." The man's teeth were clenched, his whole expression tight with fury that did nothing hide the shadows of humiliation.
"It isn't a travesty." Harry stood still, waiting. He had a sense that he could have overpowered Snape, forced him to yield, but it wasn't what he wanted. "You asked me what I came here to do. I came to do this. To set you free."
A bitter, strangled laugh choked it's way out of Snape's chest. "Of course. Saint Potter. So...merciful." The sarcasm in that statement would have hurt, at any other time, in any other place, or if he hadn't understood the bitter pain behind it. "Just like your father."
"Maybe. But I'm like my mother too. And a bit like Sirius, and Lupin and Dumbledore. Maybe even a bit like you, even." He swallowed, thinking of all things that made up his character now, all the memories and things he would carry with him, that now shaped his perception of the world.
"You are nothing like me." The sentence was hissed out between clenched teeth once more, and Snape's eyes were blazing.
"You think so? I can think of a few similarities." Harry took a deep breath. "Reckon I can also think of a few things about you I wouldn't mind being like."
Snape's jaw clenched. "Do not mock me, Potter."
Harry felt his own jaw clench. "You said you'd accept whatever I chose to do or say to you."
Snape flinched at that, and released him, turning away so that the black curtain of hair hid his face. "Speak then, and leave me to my fate."
Harry took a breath, to still his nerves. He wished Snape had let him pull away more of the chain before having this conversation. He wished the professor weren't still unclothed. To see him like that felt disrespectful.
He hesitated a moment, then reached into the bundle of black robes and withdrew the long cloak Snape always wore. He shook it out, then moved closer and draped the black fabric over the man, covering him. Snape stiffened, but didn't move beyond that.
Harry swallowed, moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue, then spoke, slowly, softly. "I hated you, for years. Ever since that first class. I didn't know what I'd done wrong. At least, at home, I knew why my aunt and uncle hated me. But you...I hadn't had time to do anything to you. I didn't know that my being there hurt you worse than anything else in this world could possibly do."
Snape shuddered, but gave no other sign of hearing Harry's words.
Harry waited a moment, then continued speaking. "I know the truth now. You gave me that. And now that I know...I don't hate you. In fact..." He paused, swallowed. "In fact, I think you're one of the bravest, most loyal men I've ever known."
Snape flinched again and his hand, exposed by the edge of the of cloak, tightened into a fist. Harry could see the rejection in Snape's stiffness, in his posture. He spoke faster, trying to get the words out before Snape cut him off.
"You loved my mum, even after she turned her back on you. Even after she married my dad, your worst rival. That had to have hurt, but you still...you still cared for her. You risked everything for her, gave up everything, just to try and protect her. You were willing to protect the person you hated the most, just to keep her safe. I can't imagine a greater loyalty than that." He had Hermione and Ron, and they came close. But still...Snape was a whole different level.
He kept talking. "Being a spy, having to watch over me and give Voldemort information...that can't have been easy. I can't even imagine trying to walk that kind of line. I can't even guess how you managed it, not even with Occlumency. And...killing Dumbledore...not telling anyone what was going on...keeping everything to yourself like that...honestly, I don't know how you survived it as long as you did. I could never have done it. I mean, I thought it was hard, just being Harry Potter, the 'boy-who-lived'. And I had Ron and Hermione and loads of other people to help me."
He stopped, swallowed, and continued on, his voice softer. "Killing Dumbledore...I couldn't even kill Voldemort. I hated him, and he deserved to die, if anyone did, and really, all I did was get lucky with a curse ricochet and the Elder Wand. But you and Dumbledore...even if you weren't close, you'd known each other a long time. I think you respected him, at least, whether you liked him or not. Knowing what you'd have to do, actually doing it, that must have been terrible. I'm actually surprised you didn't curse the hell out of me that night, especially after I called you a coward."
Snape flinched. Harry felt the urge to reach out and touch him, try to offer comfort, but he knew Snape wouldn't accept it. He took another deep breath, and finished. "I didn't know any of that, last year. But I do now. So...I came here to apologize, and to help. Because, the truth is, you're not a coward. You're not even the git I always thought you were, even if you did treat me like rubbish sometimes. You might have a bit of nasty temperament, but...you came through when it counted. And doing all that stuff...you really are the bravest man I've ever known."
There was so much more he could have said. An apology for blaming Snape for Sirius's death. An apology for thinking the worst of him in first year. Apology for looking in the Penseive, and for his part in the disaster of Occlumency lessons. Thank you for all the times Snape had saved him, starting with the Quidditch incident in his first year, and all the times since. Gratitude that Snape had done his best for the students at the school. He had no proof, but he had a sneaking suspicion Snape had helped far more than anyone knew. But he knew it would only embarrass them both, if he rehashed all the things that he needed to say to Snape. Besides, for a great many of them, it was too late. Too much time had passed, for the words to seem real.
Snape said nothing. After a moment, Harry reached towards him again. He could see where the chains joined the rock. He set his hand on the next one, the one he'd been reaching for when Snape had shoved him, and pulled. The chain disintegrated, and Snape's shoulders tightened. "You are a fool, Potter. To aid someone who destroyed your life."
"Yeah well, I'm pretty sure it was Voldemort, not you, who did that. You just screwed up and told the wrong person the wrong thing. I've done that tons of times." He swallowed against a lump in his throat. "I mean, that whole thing in Fifth Year, with the Ministry and all...I screwed up that. But Sirius never blamed me for getting him killed, so I reckon I can do this."
Snape tensed again, and Harry kept speaking as his hand found another chain and broke it. "You might have screwed up, and you were a bastard to me in school. But if you hadn't been there, I wouldn't have lived long enough to see my first decent Christmas. And I can think of people who are higher on my list than you. I mean, my uncle's a git too, and I actually protected him and my aunt. Not to mention the Malfoy's." He smirked a bit. "I gave them a pass too, and I'm pretty sure Draco and his dad have both tried to kill me at least once. You might have been a right arse, but you never did that."
He paused, then straightened, and moved until he was looking into Snape's eyes. "I don't feel like torturing every person who I think did me wrong. To be honest, I just want to put the whole thing behind me, get on with my life. And if that means forgiving everyone and setting them loose, then fine. I can think of worse things to do."
"Indeed. You could become like me." Snape spat the words out.
"If you want to see it like that. It think it's more that I'd become like the worst part of you, the part you wanted me to see." he hesitated. "Really, I wish you had let Dumbledore tell me the truth. I wish I'd understood you better. I wish I'd known who you really were, before it was too late."
"I do not. Things were difficult enough as it was." The heat had gone from Snape's voice.
"I suppose so. But it's done now, and if this is the only time I'm ever going to get, then I'd rather make the most of it, if it's all the same to you. Besides...there isn't really any reason for us to be enemies any more." Harry held Snape's gaze.
Snape looked away. "If you must. That was, I believe, the condition I...agreed to. If you wish to waste your time and your mercy here, then I have no power to stop you." The words were edged, but not with anger. Perhaps with pain.
Harry nodded, and dropped to undo the last chains from around Snape's legs. The last chain fell away seconds later, and he stood and offered Snape his hand.
Snape didn't take it, but he did push himself to his feet, clutching the robe to him. Curiously, all the wounds save the one to his chest seemed to have healed. Harry reached out to touch it.
Snape's hand knocked his away. "Do not touch that!"
Harry nodded. "Right. Sorry." He thought he understood. That wound wasn't one he could heal. Whether it was his mother's death, or Dumbledore's or something else altogether, it was something that only Snape, and whoever the wound was associated, with could mend.
He looked away as Snape reached for the pile of clothing on the rocks. He knew, somehow, that Snape wasn't just going to vanish on him, and it seemed disrespectful, humiliating, to watch the man dress. Bad enough that he'd seen him without the robes in the first place. He remembered all too clearly that one of Snape's worst memories had been being disrobed in front of witnesses. Even if it hadn't been the worst part of that memory, it was still bad.
Finally, the shuffling sounds and whispers of cloth on stone stopped, and he risked turning his head back.
Snape leaned against the stone, clad in the dark garments Harry had seen him wear throughout his school days. It should have made him almost impossible to spot, in this bleak place, but somehow he was just as clear as he had been before.
Snape regarded him a moment, then spoke. "Now what, Potter? You have freed me. We have spoken. What now?"
"I think we need to go back."
A sneer twisted Snape's lip. "Perhaps you are capable of returning from death, but I have no such...privilege."
Harry shook his head. "Not...like that. But...there's a sort of...in between place, where I started. I think that's where we need to go next."
"Lead on then." Snape straightened. "You do not have all the time in the world, Potter, and I do not wish to spend more than I must in this mad association you seem bent on forcing upon us."
"Right." Harry turned, trying to orient himself. He thought he could see a faint track through the broken ground. He set his foot on it, then turned and gripped Snape's shoulder.
"Potter...let go." Snape's voice was sharp with warning.
"I'm not trying to push you or anything. It's just...I'm not sure what happens, if we try to move together. I mean...I've never done this before."
"Unhand me." Harry let go. Snape studied his face a moment, then reached out and gripped Harry's upper arm, as he'd often done in school when dragging Harry to his office for whatever reason. "Let's go."
Harry nodded. He knew he should have felt offended, being treated like a teenager caught out of bounds. But this was the way things had been between him and Snape for so many years. He supposed it was enough that Snape was letting him lead. He turned back to the barely discernible path through the terrain, and stepped forward, feeling the shift in Snape's grip as the man followed him.
It seemed to take no time whatsoever. Only a few dozen steps later, they were blinking in the mellow, warm light of King's Cross.
Snape released him, looking around the space. In the light he looked haggard, worn, but stronger than he had when he'd been chained against the rocks. "Where is this?"
"It's King's Cross, I guess." Harry rubbed his eyes, feeling his shoulders relax. "I mean, Dumbledore said it could be anywhere, really. I just felt like...King's Cross. It's where worlds always intersected, for me. It's where everything starts, and ends."
"Melodramatic as always, but almost appropriate, considering your mental state." The words were flat, but without the sneer that would have made them offensive. Harry suspected that Snape wasn't so much trying to insult him as simply following the patterns of speech and thought that had been established between them for so many years. Whether he did it because he wasn't thinking, or because he was using it to protect himself in some odd way was a different matter, but Harry hardly cared.
They stood in silence for a moment, and Harry caught himself listening for the sound of his heartbeat. He'd been here a while. He wasn't sure how time flowed, in comparison to the normal world, but he knew he'd have to get back eventually.
"Am I to guess that this is where you will leave me?" A spasm of emotion crossed Snape's face. "Limbo as opposed to hell?"
Harry shuffled. "This is where we separate, yeah. I've got to go back from here, and you've to go on. Professor Dumbledore said there'd be a train along, probably as soon as I leave." Although, he hadn't recalled that Dumbledore had taken a train. And the old man had implied that everyone had his or her own version of things. "Don't know if it actually has to be a train though. Dumbledore kind of hinted that it depended on the person. Just...something takes you...On."
"I see. As vague as could be expected. It has been years since I last took a train anywhere."
"Yeah well, then it might be something else. You'd probably know what you expect better than I would. An Apparition circle, a Floo grate, a portkey...whatever. You'll know." Harry swallowed. There was a little voice in his head telling him he needed to return. There was another little voice telling him there was something important still to do.
He paused a moment, sorting his thoughts, then spoke softly. "Professor...promise me you'll go on. That you won't...go back to where I found you."
Snape faced him, the expression on his face impossible to read, but full of emotions nonetheless. "And what business is it of yours, Potter? It cannot possibly matter to you whether I travel on, remain here, or return to my justly deserved punishment, once you are gone. You will be far too busy getting on with your life."
"It matters. Because...it isn't deserved, what you were going through. And because...I don't like to think of you like that. Believe what you want, sir, but I don't want you to suffer any more. I don't want you to be tortured, not even if this is all in my head." he swallowed again. "Besides...there are probably people waiting for you on the other side."
"I highly doubt it." A grimace twisted Snape's features. "I can hardly imagine anyone wishing to greet me, unless I do indeed return to hell, in which I imagine there are several Death Eater colleagues of mine who would be only too happy to 'greet' me."
"No. You won't go there. And...there are people waiting." He held Snape's gaze. "Dumbledore...I think he'd wait for you." Snape looked away. Harry hesitated a moment, then finished the thought in his mind. "I think my mum'd wait for you too."
"I am the last person Lily Evans Potter would wait for." Bitter pain laced Snape's voice, and the breast of his robes was suddenly stained darker with blood.
"She would. If for no other reason than to resolve what's between you. Like that." Harry reached out and brushed the place where Snape's wound was hidden under his robes. Snape jerked away. Harry continued. "Besides...the dead know what's happened, so...she'd know, how hard you tried. How much you sacrificed and everything, for her. For me. She'd know what you did. And I think she'd forgive you. I think even my dad would."
"You cannot possibly know that." Snape's voice was ragged, angry and hurt.
"Maybe. But even if I'm wrong, wouldn't you want to be able to talk to her one last time? Even if she hates you, don't you want at least one chance to say everything you wish you'd said before she died?" Harry kept his own voice soft, and even. "And if she really did forgive you, and wanted to mend things, wouldn't you want to know?"
Snape's hands clenched into fists, white-knuckled. Then he slowly relaxed, as if too weary to remain angry, to retain his masks. "Yes."
"Then promise me, you'll go on. That you'll at least try." The little voice in his head was getting stronger, urging him to wake, but he didn't want to, not yet.
"If it will get you to leave me in peace. Very well. Whatever ridiculous conveyance is provided for me, I will go." Snape turned back to him. "I believe it is time for you to get gone, Potter."
"Probably." Harry nodded. As if in answer to some unspoken signal, one of the columns seemed to grow a large fireplace out of nothing. "I think it's your time too."
"Indeed." Snape was watching the fire dance.
Harry watched him a moment, but he could feel the tug on his body now. "I'll see you on the other side, Professor."
"Only after many years, and never, if I am fortunate." Snape's voice was rough.
"We'll see." Harry turned away from the fire, towards the insistent tug in his mind.
He'd taken two steps when Snape spoke behind him. "Potter..." There was a definite pause, and then, spoken in barely above a whisper: "Thank you."
The words warmed Harry, like the finest chocolate after a Dementor attack. "You're welcome, sir." Then he stepped forward, following an unheard siren song...
Harry opened his eyes, to find Ron and Neville leaning over him. Ron sighed. "Thank goodness mate, I wasn't sure we were going to be able to wake you up."
"You were asleep pretty sound." Neville grinned. "But we figured you wouldn't want to miss dinner."
"Yeah. No, I could use a good meal." Harry sat up and fumbled his glasses on. Now that he was waking up, he was starving. "How are things?"
"Good. The Great Hall's been cleared. We've moved everybody." Neville raked his hand through his hair. "There's a lot of repair work that needs to be done, but McGonagall says the castle can handle a lot of it, and the teachers and the Ministry'll sort out the rest."
"Sounds good." Harry rubbed a hand over his face to scrub away the last cobwebs.
Ron was watching him. "You okay? I mean, you were sleeping like the dead there mate. I wasn't even sure you were breathing for a second or two."
"No, I'm fine." The memory of what had passed between him and Snape flickered through his mind. "Better, actually. I managed to sort some stuff out while I was...out of it." Maybe later he'd tell his friends what he'd done, but he wasn't sure they needed to hear about it, and he was certain that now wasn't the proper time.
"That's good." Ron smiled in relief.
"Yeah." He hesitated. "Ron...do you know if anyone's been out to the Shrieking Shack yet?" He'd meant to go, but there had been so much going on he'd simply run out of energy.
"I think Hermione led a couple people out there, earlier." Ron seemed suddenly hesitant. "If you're thinking about Snape, they brought him in. He's in one of the rooms with the other Death Eaters."
"We'll have to move him then. He deserves to be with the heroes."
Neville blinked. "Harry..."
"It was all an act, Neville. To make sure we'd make it this far." Harry caught his friend's gaze, willing him to understand. "I'll tell you the full story later."
Neville nodded. "Okay Harry. If you say so, then we'll move Snape after dinner."
"Great. Thanks." He ran a hand through his hair, then grinned at the other two. "Come on, let's get some food. I'm starving."
Author's Note: My brain just really wanted things resolved between these two. And that whole Master of Death thing has to be good for something. Aside from possessing the Elder Wand.