Severus uses his final breaths to apologise to Harry, and that tenderly-worded request for forgiveness sets in motion a chain of events that will change both men's lives forever. Unwilling to let Severus go, Harry performs a dark healing spell in a moment of desperation, unwittingly tying himself to Severus forever. When Bellatrix curses him five years later, he finally learns that all dark magic comes with a price.
Fandom: Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling
Main Pairing: Harry Potter/Severus Snape
Other Relationships: Hermione Granger/Draco Malfoy; Katie Bell/Ron Weasley; Parvati Patil/Ginny Weasley
Characters: Harry Potter, Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Regulus Black (Spirit), Sirius Black (Spirit), Parvati Patil, Padma Patil, Percy Weasley, Ginny Weasley, Bellatrix Black Lestrange
Tags: Slash M/M, Romance/Drama, Graphic Violence, Non-Con Dreams (I'm not sure how to tag them), Soul Magic, Dark Magic, Soulmates, Madness, Curses, Auror Harry, OOC, AU, Severus Survives, Implied/Referenced Torture, Implied/Referenced Murder, Epilogue What Epilogue | EWE, Squicky crime scene situation, Softer Severus, Good Draco, Sirius is an arse, Internalized Homophobia, Obsessive Behavior, Unbalanced Sirius Black, Hate Crimes, Submissive Severus Snape, No actual BDSM-Just light submission
This is not an angst-fest, people. Once they save Harry, it becomes a story of PTSD recovery and healing. Severus is much gentler and more accepting, and Harry isn't going to pick fights. Fair warning, it's fluffy. REALLY fluffy.
SEVERUS is going to be really OOC. He's that way at the get go, so just don't expect him to go all harsh and mean later. In this AU, Severus never hated Harry. He just had to pretend to in order to keep him alive.
SIRIUS is NOT a good guy in this fic. While Harry is suffering from Bellatrix's curse, Sirius shows his true colours as a homophobic, anti-Slytherin bigot and hurts Harry by his intolerance. If you're a fan of Sirius, be warned. He does NOT redeem himself in the end. He's very much the secondary antagonist of this fic, and frankly a bit creepy, with Bellatrix starring as the big bad.
REGULUS is not the pureblood arsehole he's painted as in canon. He's what I imagine he might have been after realising the dark and Voldemort were evil. He ends up being a sort of friend to Harry while he's under the effects of the curse and is a significant character in the fic, or at least his spirit is.
DRACO is a good guy in this fic. He's grown up and become a friend to Harry since the war, though they still snipe at each other. It's a playful kind of sniping these days.
PERCY has also grown up since the war and losing his little brother. He helps Harry while he's recovering from the curse and is not the irritating pedant he was in canon.
Everyone else is as close to their original character as I can make them.
Everything goes according to canon, excepting the epilogue, Severus' distinct lack of hatred for Harry (though he hid it well during the war), and the fact that Severus and Bellatrix survive the final battle. Ginny and Parvati are gay, as are Harry and Severus. Teddy lives with Andromeda but stays with Harry sometimes.
Warnings for this Chapter: lot of blood, bit of gore, impending death but no one actually dies. Canon for the last battle is followed to the letter, save for that Bellatrix and Severus survive and there is no love scene with Ginny (can't remember if that part happens during the battle or not).
Summary: When Severus apologises to Harry and treats him with care in his final moments, Harry decides to save him at all costs. He has no idea what those costs may be.
Never Too Late
This was it—Severus was dying, and it was too late to complete his mission. He had failed. Blood poured out of his throat and the venom burned a path into the core of his soul. Even his hair felt as if it would burst into flame from the agony. He hadn't wept since Lily's death, hadn't had the luxury of tears for Albus, but now they leaked from his eyes and soaked his ears and hair, though it couldn't hope to wash away the blood.
Fuck, this hurt like hell. But the knowledge that it had all been for naught, that he had spent twenty years of his life spying and acting the arsehole just to take the Dark Lord down, all for nothing? His physical anguish paled in comparison to that pain.
A rustle sounded on his left and forced a desperate plea from his mangled throat. Words wouldn't come, but as small as the chance that there was a single soul in this world who still cared enough to help him, as astronomical as the odds were that the person who had found him was that kind soul, in the face of death—and worse, of failure—Severus had no choice but to beg for help. Terror and pain blinded him, and he reached a shaking hand towards the sound. Searing anguish ripped down his fingers and up his arm, but he had to reach out. He had to try.
Even if he knew it was hopeless.
Warm, gentle fingers closed on his own and a silvery cloak dropped away, revealing messy black hair and wide eyes bright as emeralds behind a pair of familiar round frames. Damn it! Of all the people to find him, it had to be Harry Potter. There was no way Harry would save his life. Harry hated him—and he didn't know enough about healing even if he did care—
A calloused hand covered his wound and pressed hard, attempting to stem the blood flow, and horror-dazed green eyes held his own. Severus could not hold back a little whine of anguish at the touch directly on his injuries. He hated looking weak, but damn it, that had hurt like hell. And it was all for nothing. Such a crude measure of healing wouldn't save him, but the fact that Harry was willing to do even this much for him when he thought Severus a traitor and murderer still made him prouder of the boy than he had ever been.
Gods, Harry deserved so much better than the world had given him. It had used Harry for its chamber pot, but the boy always rose above the mess to fight another day, and all for the ones who shat on him. And, though he had only wanted to protect Harry, Severus had been the worst of the lot.
Harry really was a hero.
And maybe, just maybe, if Harry was willing to try to slow Severus' descent into death, the boy would listen to his last message as well. Severus couldn't talk much, not with his throat half ripped out, but perhaps if he just ….
"T-take … it …."
Granger plugged the phial containing Severus' dying memories and he exhaled a bloody, bubbling sigh. He would die in mere moments, leaving no one to mourn him. He would perish, lose his life for a cause that had never wanted him, no matter how much he had sacrificed. He would die alone and unsung, cold on the dusty floor of the shrieking shack.
But at least he wouldn't die a failure.
There was only one thing left to do, and he had best start on it before he lost the ability to speak at all. Already, each word sliced through him like a sword, searing him from stem to stern and frothing on each syllable, but still, he had to speak. He owed it to the boy.
With great effort, Severus lifted his hand and laid it across Harry's, the one holding Severus' throat closed. "H-Harry … sorry … hurt you … so much."
Harry's eyes went wide and tears wobbled at the edges of his lashes.
"Blimey," Weasley choked out. "You apologise now?"
Granger shushed him. "Let him speak. It hurts him."
Understatement of the year, that. More like gouged out his soul with every breath. Still, Severus had to make Harry understand, no matter how much it hurt.
Harry placed firmer pressure on Severus' wound and searched the dying man's eyes. "Why?"
Tears slipped into Severus' hair. "War … spying. Had to … be cruel, but … never wanted … hurt you. So s-sorry." Gods, what a butchery he had made of that. Still, it seemed Harry had gotten the message. Eyes wide as two galleons, he leaned closer to Severus and blinked hard.
"You … you don't hate me, Snape?"
Despite the pain ripping white-hot through his arm, Severus lifted his arm and gently caressed the young man's gaunt, but velvety cheek. The feel of Harry's skin soothed his anguish a little. The fact that the boy didn't turn away healed more.
"Always cared. Was trying … to keep you … safe." And Merlin, what a difficult task it had been, but they had gotten there in the end. He had kept Harry alive.
Just long enough to send the boy to his death like a lamb raised for slaughter.
Another wave of tears blinded Severus. "Sorry … Harry. So sorry."
With a broken cry, Harry pressed his other hand against Severus' cheek. "Hold on, sir. It's going to be okay." Determination and tears filled his eyes. "I'm going to save you."
"H-Harry … too late."
"Ssh." Harry gently wiped his tears away. "Don't speak. Hermione, get the dittany!"
Granger winced. "Harry, I … I don't think dittany is enough for an injury like this. You need antivenin and—"
Harry wheeled on her, keeping pressure on Severus' neck. "I don't care! I can't just … I have to try. Just get it, 'Mione. Please."
The girl nodded and rummaged in her bag, tears streaking the ash on her cheeks. The redhead rubbed her shoulders, his expression dumbstruck and eyes full of horror.
Severus whispered, "Harry … don't. Dangerous."
Harry rubbed gentle fingertips over Severus' lips. "Ssh. It's going to be okay."
Okay? What a joke. Severus was dying and Harry was taking too much of a risk like this. Still, Harry's touch against his mouth was sweet and reassuring, and he placed the softest kiss against those calloused pads. A blush tinted Harry's cheeks. He pulled his fingers away, but the way they brushed a lock of hair from Severus' face the next moment told him his too-late gesture of reparation hadn't been refused.
It was only a shame that he would never get a chance for another. In a few moments, they'd both be dead. Even now, the poison was already shutting down Severus' systems. He was going cold. Colder. At least Harry's gentle touch gave him peace in his last moments. The boy's forgiveness kept him warm inside, if the poison was freezing him without.
How bitterly ironic that Severus had apparently needed to die to find the kind of caring acceptance he'd lacked his entire life. Ironic and sad.
Harry swept Severus into his arms and held him close, carefully rubbing dittany on the wound. It was too little, too late, but the feel of Harry's embrace relieved some of Severus' pain. It was pleasant, to be so comforted. Pleasant and warm and safe. If he'd had the strength, he would have turned into Harry and shielded his face in the younger man's chest.
Severus wished he had been able to experience this, this gentle feeling of being held, just once when he had been well enough to enjoy it. Gods, he wanted to cry out just from the relief, the aching-sweet relief of finally having a human touch upon his skin after so long without so much as a brush of a caring hand.
His vision dimmed and his chest went icy cold. He was out of time.
Still, if he had to die, at least he had learned what it felt like to be cared for, if only for a moment. He would be grateful to Harry for that gift for the rest of his existence, if there was anything more than sleep waiting for him beyond the veil.
He hoped his death didn't hurt Harry too badly. He had tried his best, had given his all, and now … now it was time to rest. He was done.
"Harry … f-forgive me."
His strength gave out, and Severus sank, dying, into Harry's trembling arms.
Harry choked back a sob as Snape fell unconscious and slumped against him. He felt as if his heart had been ripped from his chest, still beating and raw. Like someone had carved out his insides and left them to bleed.
No! It couldn't … it couldn't end like this. If Snape's dying words were to be believed, he had been working to save Harry all this time. To keep him safe, but behind the scenes. A gallant knight to save him, but wrapped in shrouds of darkness instead of shining armour. A hero in the guise of a villain, bat robes and all.
And he was dying in Harry's arms.
"No," Harry sobbed. "No … I can't—we have too much to talk about now, sir. I won't let you—I have to …."
"Harry," Hermione said in a gentle voice filled with sorrow, "I think he's gone."
"No. He's not, I feel his heartbeat, but … gods, what do I do?"
Hermione sniffled and blinked tears down her face. "I don't think—we don't have the supplies to treat him. And we can't take a known Death Eater to St. Mungo's. I don't think he'd survive the trip even if we could." She laid an arm on Harry's shoulder. "It's awful, but I think we just have to let him go."
Harry wasn't ready. He couldn't let Snape die. Maybe before they had walked into the shack and seen it, watched him fight for his life, before he had heard Snape's dying apologies, felt his care in the touch of his hand and a feather-light kiss—then he might have been able to live with it, but now?
Merlin help him, no. He couldn't let go. He had too many questions, and some basic part of his being keened for Snape, screaming to bring him home before all was lost, but how? Harry wasn't a healer and the dark magic in Nagini's fangs—wait.
Dark magic. Oh.
Wasn't there a spell in that godsawful horcrux book? A healing spell? He racked his brains for the incantation and warnings, and a tiny flicker of hope sparked to life in his chest. He remembered from the text that the spell would definitely destroy them both if Harry left it too late, but as long as Snape still had a heartbeat—
The pulse under his fingertips stuttered and Harry froze. No! A weak thump pulsed against his hand, and another, and another—that was good enough. Snape was dying, but he wasn't dead yet. Harry had no time to waste. He would consider the consequences later—unless he acted right now, Snape would die and there would be nothing Harry could do to save him.
He sucked in a sharp breath, built his power up until the next heartbeat, and called, "Oblatus Salva Anima!"
Searing agony ripped through him from head to toe, tearing, cutting, shattering him right down the middle, but no dark magic came without a price, and Harry was willing to pay. It hurt like bloody hell, but if he had to suffer for a time to save Snape, then so be it. They weren't done yet, and Harry would be damned before he just sat there and watched the man die.
Hermione cried, "Harry!"
Brilliant white light surrounded Snape and Harry, easing the torturous, tearing pain. He held on to consciousness long enough to see a light linking his body to Snape's, to feel the wound knit under his palm, and then he collapsed upon the injured man, overcome.
A powerful tang of stench jerked Harry awake. He groaned and rubbed his head, aching all over, particularly in his scar and down the midline of his body. Ugh. Such a strange way to hurt. It felt as though someone had grabbed him on both sides and pulled much too hard. Still, he seemed to be in one piece, just sore. He could live with that.
What had hurt him though? He couldn't remember.
Hermione jerked a foul-smelling handkerchief away from Harry's face and tossed it into a dusty corner. "Harry! Oh gods, Harry! Are you all right? Are you in there?"
Ron chimed in with, "What the bloody hell, mate? Have you lost the plot?"
Hermione sobbed. "He might have done, Ron. Dark magic—it always costs."
Dark magic. Oh, that was right. He'd done a healing spell to save Snape.
Ron cried, "What! You mean—oh shite, Harry! Mate, come on. You've got to get up!"
Hermione's shrill tones and Ron's bellowing cut through Harry's skull and jarred him fully awake. With a groan, he muttered, "M'here."
"Harry?" Hermione's voice dropped to a normal level, thank Merlin. "Are you … are you okay?"
"Mhn." He opened his eyes and whimpered at the pain behind his lids. Gods, what had that spell done to him to hurt like this? "M'here. Hurts like hell, but I'm … okay. Mostly."
"Oh, thank God!" Hermione covered a sob with her hand and rummaged in her bag. A moment later, she slapped a pain potion in Harry's hand and fixed him with a stony glare. "When this is all over, you bloody reckless idiot, we're going to have a long talk about using dark spells without knowing the consequences! Again!"
Her shrill reprimand pierced his aching head like knives. "Ow. Hermione, less screaming please. Hurts my scar." Harry gulped down the potion in one go and shuddered at the taste.
"She's right, mate," Ron said in a wobbly voice. "If Snape lives, he's going to kill you."
Harry's heart sputtered. "Snape!" His own pain forgotten, Harry rolled over and pressed a trembling hand into the man's healed, scarred throat, searching, searching—yes! A strong pulse thudded against Harry's fingertips and brought back a bit of life to the injured man's face.
"Bully for you," Ron muttered. "He's not the only one who's going to kill you for scaring us like that."
Harry, feeling much better now that the potion had taken effect and Snape was healed, gave a wry laugh. "Yeah? Well, you'll have to get in line behind Snakeface and his merry men. Seems everyone wants me dead today."
Tears brimmed Hermione's eyes. "Harry, that's not funny. Not after what we just went through."
Harry winced and hugged her. "You're right. I'm sorry. I know I was an idiot, but I was scared out of my wits and this really isn't the time to get into it, okay? You can chew my ears off later. Right now, we've got to go."
"What about Snape?" Ron prodded the man's chest. "We can't just leave him here or someone else will do him in."
Harry grimaced. "And we can't take him to the Infirmary either. Damn. I … maybe … oh, I know! Kreacher!"
The elf popped into the shack and reeled back, eyes wide. "Oh. Kreacher thinks master be needing help."
Harry snorted. "Understatement, Kreacher. But the blood isn't mine, it's Snape's." He motioned to the unconscious man. "Get him out of here and heal him. Take him somewhere secret and safe. He's wanted by the light and the dark, so make sure it's well-hidden."
Kreacher frowned. "Yes master, but why are you saving the traitor?"
"Because … I don't think he is a traitor. And because we have unfinished business—and I'm not sure we have the whole story about him anyway. He was kind to me now and—oh, just hurry, Kreacher, and treat him well. Please. We've got to go."
The elf nodded. "Kreacher be taking him to the elf house. No humans ever be going there."
"Good. Thank you. Just keep him alive and safe. I'll be back for him as soon as I can." He paused. "But if … if something happens to me before I can, make sure he's okay? Please?"
Kreacher cast a sorrowful look at Harry and gave him a solemn nod. "Kreacher will be doing his best, Master." The elf bowed low and popped Snape away.
Ron shook his head and jerked the cloak over them again. "Mate, you've got some serious explaining to do."
"Later. First we have a snake-faced bastard to kill."
Hermione nudged Harry forwards. "Let's go find a pensieve for these memories. Snape was trying to help us, I'm sure of it."
"Right." Harry took a deep breath and led them out of the shack.