The Final Horcrux

Main Pairings: Severus Snape/Harry Potter, Lily Evans Potter/Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley/Hermione Granger

Major Characters: Harry Potter, Severus Snape, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Lily Evans Potter, Remus Lupin, Voldemort/Tom Riddle, Albus Dumbledore, Original Characters.

Tags: Drama & Romance, Lily is alive, Horcrux hunting, Creature Lily and Harry, Master of Death Harry, Potterwatch, Temporary Ron bashing-He eventually grows up. Art, Softer Severus, More mature Harry, Dumbledore is a scheming sociopath, Creature Dumbledore, Grey Dumbledore, Brief M-Preg, No Hallows, Fluff-fest!

Description: Headmaster Snape is discovered as a spy and stumbles into the Golden Trio's camp injured, and carrying nothing but an old, bloodstained journal, a map of the UK with strange dots on it, and the clothes on his back. Oh, and the Sword of Gryffindor? He demands Sanctuary from Harry, an old wizarding custom that forces Harry to give the man food and shelter for one month while Severus pleads his case. Harry reluctantly agrees, and so begins the maddest month of his life. Between finding out the truth about Severus, translating Voldemort's twisted journal, and discovering even his own life is nothing like he thought, Harry has to rebuild his world from the ground up, all while knocking the pieces from Voldemort's soul one by one.

Harry finds his wings, his mother, his mate, the mentor he believed dead, and his true destiny all in four short weeks.

Warnings: Brief M-Preg, Slash, OOC, Violence.

Notes: Severus is much softer in this fic and Harry much more mature. It's damn near impossible to write a Snarry fic without altering their characters at least a bit, unless you want to glorify abuse. As a survivor of domestic violence with C-PTSD from my experiences, I can't write anything approaching it without causing myself flashbacks. Hence the lack of interpersonal angst. My fics are ridiculously fluffy with most conflict coming from misunderstandings and other sources outside the main pairing. Don't like, don't read.


Chapter 1

"I don't know why I agreed to go on this mad goose chase with you, Potter."

Harry stopped his perusal of an old map of Blackpool long enough to roll his eyes at his surly companion. "Because being tortured as a traitor sounded less fun than traipsing around the country with your favourite student, remember?"

Severus muttered something about poor choices and the dangers of concussions, and Harry broke out into laughter.

"Oh, come on. I admit we snarled at each other for a good little while there, but aren't you happy with me now?"

Severus sighed as if greatly put off and tapped the edge of Harry's map. "Yes, but we are here for a purpose, Potter. Have you forgotten already?"

"Yes," Harry returned.

Severus met his eyes, his expression sharp. "Yes?"

"Yes, I've forgotten everything and I won't remember until you remember to call me Harry, like I've asked you now at least a hundred times."

Severus jabbed the map and snarled, "Potter, stop dawdling! We haven't the time for your shenanigans!"

Harry snorted. "Shenanigans? That's a new one."

"Harry, please. We are out in the open on the full moon, and I do not wish to meet a fully transformed Greyback!"

Harry sighed. "Sev, I was only trying to lighten the tension. It's okay now. We're safe. Can't you feel the wards? The entrance to Godric's Hollow is just ahead."

Severus gaped. "What in Merlin's name gave you the idea that we're safe simply because we have found the rough location of the entrance? We have perhaps ten minutes before the moon is high and we still must locate the entrance precisely and find lodgings."

"But once we're in Godric's Hollow—"

"We will be in a wizarding village and thus more likely to meet werewolves or Death Eaters, not less. Please, Harry. We have no time."

Harry nodded and jerked the map open, his hands shaking in fear and shame. "S-sorry. I forgot."

Severus nudged his shoulder. "Never mind it. Does the map give us an exact location?"

Harry nodded. "It's right there." He pointed to a ramshackle barn, lonely and grey against the backdrop of a starry sea and quiet countryside. He hadn't seen a house for miles, so the run-down barn seemed like the perfect way to draw in wizards and drive away Muggles, who would likely find themselves forgetting important appointments when they saw it anyway.

Severus stared at the shed, his face twisted into a scowl Harry recognised as a cover for pain and fear. "There." The sarcasm could have cut steel.

"Mm-hmm. Bit suspicious, isn't it? An old barn just hanging about when there are no houses here for it to belong to?"

"Don't be ridiculous. There is a house just … ah, well …." Severus scanned the seaside cliffs and came up as empty as Harry had. "How exactly did you notice that when I did not?"

"You're in pain, Sev. It's okay. Here, lean on me." Harry freed his hand from Severus' and braced him up around his waist. "Is your chest—does it hurt like before?"

Severus wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders, leaning on him for support. "No, it is not like before. I am only still recovering and a bit sore. That awful coldness is gone." He pressed a light kiss to his companion's hair. "I apologise, Harry. You are right that I'm afraid and suffering. Please, let us hurry. I am … not fond of werewolves."

Harry winced at the thought of Remus and that horrible prank so many years before. "No, I'd say not. Let's go home then, yeah?"

Severus gave him a wry look as they walked towards the barn as briskly as they dared. "This was never my home, and I hardly think yours will protect us from the elements, what with the gaping hole in the second storey."

Harry shuddered. "I'm afraid to see it. Maybe … we can wait until tomorrow? I'm not sure if I can after … Blackpool."

Severus nudged Harry closer. "Of course. For now, we will focus on finding lodgings and getting some sleep. It has been a hard day."

"Yeah." Harry looked up at Severus and gave him a gentle smile. "But a good one too, at least parts of it."

Severus leaned his head briefly against Harry's. "Yes. It would have been much harder had I faced it alone. Thank you for staying by me."

"Anytime, Sev."

Harry led Severus to the abandoned barn with warmth in his heart. He so enjoyed this gentle side of Severus the former spy had hidden for so long. Severus had practically become a new person in the three short weeks since the then beaten, miserable mess of a man had cornered Harry, Hermione, and Ron in the Forest of Dean and begged—er, demanded—sanctuary.

Had Hermione not stayed Harry's hand, he might have killed Severus instead.

Harry clutched his wand tight and stared at the bedraggled man who had dared to crawl into their campsite. They glared at each other, the tension between them creating literal sparks in the air. Must have been the force of their hatred, thought Harry as a pink spark ignited next to his ear and forced him to take a step back. The sparks died, but their standoff carried on.

Snape looked like hell. His hair was greasier than ever, probably hadn't seen a wash in a week judging by the dirt and blood on the git's face. A clump of white hair had started growth all at once, forming a sort of ghostly finger among his coal-black locks and stretching from his left temple to the top of his ear. His cheekbones cut like knives across his face, and the bags under his eyes had bags. A cold sort of dullness had clouded the once-sharp gaze, and the man's hands trembled despite his iron-hard stare.

What the hell had happened to him?

Sanctuary. What the hell was that supposed to mean? And why would Snape think Harry would give him anything except a two-fingered salute?

Harry shook himself out of his shock and raised his wand. The git deserved to die, no matter what had happened. He was a murderer.

With a gasp, Hermione grabbed Harry's wrist and jerked it down. "No! Harry, sanctuary is an ancient wizarding custom with laws and rules. You can't attack him now!"

Harry pinned her with a sharp gaze. "And why not? I watched him murder Professor Dumbledore, you know, or have you conveniently forgotten that fact?"

Hermione's hurt expression had him repenting of his words immediately.

"Sorry, 'Mione. This, this … git brings out the worst in me."

She gave him a solemn nod. "And you're wearing the locket today. Come, give it over."

Harry shook his head and clutched the locket, pulling it away from his chest. The icy December wind ruffled his hair and snuck under his robes, raising gooseflesh wherever it touched, but somehow the locket was colder.

"No. I'll be okay. It's not your turn to wear it yet." He cast Ron a nervous glance, ignoring the way the redhead's snit of the day hurt him.

Ron scoffed at Hermione and trudged into the tent, eyes full of indignity and disgust. "No, it's mine, isn't it? Oh joy. I'll just go make up a new bed for our visitor, since we aren't to be allowed to off the git. Welcome to our humble abode, Headmaster." His voice was cold enough to cut Harry from the backlash. Ron cast Snape a hateful glare, muted it somewhat for Harry, and stormed into the tent.

Harry moved as if to go after him, but Hermione laid a quelling hand on his arm. "Let him go. We really will need to make room for Professor Snape, and Ron will only make this more uncomfortable than it has to be right now. He could use a little time-out anyway."

Harry stared after his friend for a moment, the dull ache in his chest turning sharp, then gave the shaking, dismal-looking Snape a cold look. "I'm still waiting for an explanation as to why we're making room for him and why I shouldn't just off him and be done with it."

Hermione sighed. "If you had ever bothered to read Hogwarts: a—"

"A History," Harry finished in a teasing tone. "I'd find every answer to every question ever posed within its pages, if I could only muster up the will to get past dryness that could out-desert the Sahara. Yes, we've established that. Often. Now, about the custom?"

"What Miss Granger is trying to tell you, Mister Potter," said Snape in a less-lofty-than usual for its broken wheeze tone, "is that sanctuary in wizarding terms is sacrosanct. If you attack me before the contract ends, your curse will rebound and hit you, and double in intensity. Particularly since you owe me several life debts at this time, I would not advise testing it."

"He's telling the truth, Harry," Hermione murmured in his ear.

Harry growled. "Damn wizarding contracts." He fixed Snape with a steely glare. "And if I should decide that a wand is too easy a punishment for you and just stab you instead?"

"I would not recommend trying that either, Mister Potter, unless you are even more of a fool than I had become accustomed to expect. Although I might at first find the consequences to yourself amusing, I fear the wizarding world may never forgive me for allowing their dear saviour to meet a rather nasty demise before he could fulfil his grand destiny."

How the man had the gall to be sardonic when he was bleeding, bruised, and looked like he had seen neither bed nor bath in a solid week astounded Harry. Granted, Harry likely looked little better, what with living off bark and stolen farmers' eggs the past two months.

"You're awfully confident for a man who's begging sanctuary right now," Harry said with a snarl. "And what's to say I don't off you the moment the contract ends, hmm?"

"I am a wizard, Mister Potter," said a weary-looking Snape. "I defended myself quite well the last time you tried to—how did you say it? Oh yes. The last time you tried to off me. I highly doubt your duelling skills have improved since then. No? I can see that the result would be quite the same."

Harry growled and clutched his wand. "Shut it, before I decide a rebounded curse or two is worth it and see how fast you can dodge while looking like a dog used you for a chew toy."

Hermione stepped between them and stared up at Snape, looking dangerous despite being half his height. She crossed her arms over her chest and fixed him with a stern expression. "You aren't being honest this time, or did you think I wouldn't know? The terms of Sanctuary are clear. You are the accused, we are the wronged party. You have one month's time to stay with us, in whatever sort of accommodation we can provide—and that isn't much, Professor—and at the end of said month, if you have not proven your innocence to us, we have every right to enact justice upon you with no consequences, and with no escape for you."

She frowned and stepped closer, meeting his eyes with a searching stare. "Why, of all the people you could ask sanctuary from, would you place yourself in our hands? Harry watched you murder him. You are not going to convince us that you somehow … missed your proper target. You know you won't prove yourself to us, so why would you dare throw your life away like that?"

Snape lowered his head, and for the first time, Harry saw the weariness, the pain behind the man's ever-present scowl. Harry's grip on his wand loosened.

"It matters not," said Snape in a quiet voice. "My life, ultimately, is not important in this war. I ask Sanctuary from you not to prove my innocence. I have little hope you would ever believe me even if I told you that the scene Harry witnessed was arranged between Albus and myself beforehand—"

Harry snapped, "Liar! You killed him!"

Snape met Harry's gaze head on. "Yes. And you saw his hand, did you not? That horcrux you're wearing—yes, I know what it is—do you think, if it could curse you, that it would stop before you were a lifeless, desiccated husk? Albus was dying, Potter. I did what I could to slow the curse in Gaunt's ring, but I could not stop the curse entirely. Albus wanted a quick, painless death, rather than to suffer endlessly or be caught and tortured to death at Bellatrix's hands. He wanted his death to serve the greater good, and he believed that, if I killed him, it would catapult me straight to the top of the Dark Lord's ranks."

"Liar," Harry repeated, but with less force.

He remembered the cursed hand, remembered the pain in Dumbledore's face after taking the potion. And he had recently learned first-hand exactly how far Dumbledore was willing to go for his machinations. What if, when Snape had arrived that night at the tower, Dumbledore hadn't been pleading for his life, but for a quick death?

"You're … you're lying," Harry whispered, but it was more plea than honest belief.

Snape went on as if he hadn't heard. "I was given the post of Headmaster for my act of false loyalty, but …." He paused and rubbed at his eyes. "I … the cost … no. It matters not." He stood tall and glared once more. "We are wasting time. I care not whether you let me live at the end of this month or kill me. I have information and tools to pass on to you, and my life is of little consequence in the greater purpose of this godsforsaken war." He looked away, as if seeing into another time. "Once, I … for Lily … but it is of no purpose now. She is gone, as is everyone I ever …."

Harry had gone still, his heart frozen against his ribs. "What about my mum?"

Snape rubbed a hand across his eyes and sighed. When he spoke again, his voice had lost its sharp edge. "She was … my only friend once, long ago." He straightened and met Harry's eyes. "Mister Potter, all I ask with my request for Sanctuary is that you let me live long enough to speak and listen without prejudice to what I have to say. My role is only to present you with the rest of the story and the tools to act upon it. What you choose to do with my information once I have given it is up to you. If you choose to end my life at the end of the month, then I will not resist."

Harry only stared, half-furious, half-gobsmacked. His mum had been friends with Snape? Why? What had she seen in the twisted little shite? But gods, Snape's expression when he had mentioned her—he had looked … lost. Heartsick. And weary to his very soul. Harry had never seen the man wear such a vulnerable expression.

Though Harry didn't trust the man as far as he could throw him, he knew Snape would never offer his life like this if he were lying. He knew how much Harry hated him. To have a chance to kill the bastard who had made his life miserable for six years … would Harry take it?

Could he resist?

Hermione was right. Of all the people Snape could have requested Sanctuary from, why had he gone to the one most likely to kill him at the end of it? Did he want to die?

A tiny voice whispered in the back of Harry's mind, if Snape was truly innocent while everyone believed him to be a monster, it wasn't so farfetched.

Harry stared at the man, trying to see the truth behind the mask. Snape, the git who had mocked him for six years and murdered his mentor. Or, was he Snape, the lonely man who had lost everyone who meant anything to him and had nothing left to live for? Harry could not puzzle him out.

It was Hermione's touch that brought him out of his daze.

"Harry," she said in a soft voice, "I, I think we should listen. I think he's being honest."

Harry swallowed his confusion and met Snape's eyes. "All right. We'll listen. But I promise you nothing beyond that."

Snape bowed his head and stepped into the wards. "That is all I require."

"Good." Harry motioned him into the tent with a snarl. "After you, sir."

Snape scowled and limped inside.