PLOT – This story takes place directly after the Battle of Hogwarts, and Hogwarts is being restored to its former glory. Severus Snape survived but disappeared in shame and remorse after the battle. Harry finds him, and they both discover that they have more in common now, more than ever. At the same time, Harry is trying to deal with his trauma from the course of the events of the war and struggles to confront it, along with trying to manage his grief. How does one move on from loss and war?

NOTES: Hello readers! It's been a very long while since I have written a story, and believe me, it's been on my mind for a while! I've recently revived my love for the Potterverse again, once I read all seven books and their film counterparts. So this story was born. I would like to point out, that my story is an odd blend of both book and film. So, don't be alarmed at some of the differences that may arise from that. Regardless, this story has quite a dark theme – I wanted to delve more into the trauma and mental health side of dealing with the aftermath of the war, as I believe it is quite an interesting and very real topic, and it is fascinating to explore how each character deals with their own issues. I'm no psychologist, but I hope this proves an interesting story for you Potter fans. I do try my best to place my mind into those of these characters and keep them as in character as possible.

Disclaimer: I own nothing of the world of J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter.

CHAPTER 1 – Hollow

How does one move on from the loss and pain of war?

Voldemort was finally defeated three days ago, and yet it felt like the war was still going. No one can fully describe the inner torment one was feeling when the loss was simply too much to bear. For three days, Hogwarts was in a state of purgatory. Some students departed for home, completely distraught from the events that plagued them not too long ago. Some students remained with the adults and teachers in order to help with restoring Hogwarts' former glory. The castle fortress did its duty and protected all within its walls as best as it could. Now it was time to repair the damage inflicted on the ancient school; memories of its halls buried beneath the rubble.

Sometimes the wailing from the eldest students of age was too much to bear. Even after the battle was won, students were still being found, clinging to each other in a desperate bid to stay alive. And yet, so many were injured and lost. It was as if everyone was stuck in a daze, unaware that the greatest threat had now perished. But starting anew was no easy feat – not after the horrors that just took place.

The Ministry did its best to round up the Death Eaters that were disarmed in battle, and yet many fled for their lives. Some simply gave themselves up, ashamed of what they had done. The Dementors were finally banished back to Azkaban to await their fates, and the darkest of creatures sent back from whence they came.

Clearing the dead was the most difficult task of all. So many were lost – students and teachers. Order members and family. Aurors and Ministry officials. How does one move on from this?

Harry Potter refused to leave Hogwarts until it was completely restored. For three days following the defeat of Voldemort, he wandered around the crumbled walls of the school, assisting the elders in repairing the damage. Minerva McGonagall assigned the other teachers sections of the school to help rebuild, while the remaining Order members assisted to repair the damaged wards which initially shielded the school. Minerva frequently persisted in sending Harry away to recover, but Harry constantly refused. Ronald Weasley stayed for a day assisting with the post-war efforts but eventually left to be with his family following the death of his brother Fred. Hermione also stayed for a few days but decided to make her way home and restore the memories of her parents, who had since returned from their impromptu trip to Australia.

They all did what they could.

Harry had never felt this empty before. He just lost Remus Lupin and Tonks, leaving behind their only son Teddy. He lost Fred and Colin Creevey. Over fifty people were lost that day during the Battle of Hogwarts, and yet Harry felt responsible for each and every one of them. Each loss was a blow to his soul, and that very thought crushed him. He refused to feel victorious. He refused to feel any kind of joy. Not yet. Right now Harry felt hollow, and for the first time in a long time – painfully alone. A pit of nausea arose in his empty stomach.

On the fourth day, Harry found himself wandering to the edge of the Black Lake and sat down beside some of the burned-out trees caused by several wayward emIncendio/em spells. Plagued by insomnia, the calming sounds of the water instilled a new strange peace within him. Harry had been so preoccupied with the clean-up efforts within the walls of the damaged school, that he never truly found the time to sit with his own thoughts. Perhaps that was why he chose to keep busy because he didn't trust himself with those thoughts – too long with them could be dangerous.

Harry brushed away a tear from his dirt-stained cheek. His wand already repaired, still gripped tightly in his hand, not ready to part with it just yet. Too many thoughts running rampant in his mind. Maybe he should borrow Dumbledore's Pensieve? Harry gave a small chuckle at the thought. The Pensieve. The place where he last viewed Snape's memories. The memories that ultimately, won him this war.

He crinkled his brow deep in thought, trying to think back to the day of the Battle. Severus Snape died in his presence, shortly after he gave Harry his dying memories as a crucial weapon and fuel for their victory. Or so he thought. After Harry left the corpse of his Potions Professor in the boathouse, unknowing to him, Draco Malfoy had come to his aid, and procured an anti-venom, and the healing spell that saved his life a year prior. Harry had not known this at the time, but he was shocked to find Severus Snape join him in the final battle once again, barely alive, but ready to finally end this fight. But after Harry defeated Voldemort, Severus Snape fled without a word. No one had seen him or heard of his whereabouts. Not even Draco knew. Harry still had so many questions, and only his childhood nemesis could answer them.

Plagued with exhaustion, he rose up from his perch by the water's edge and began to make his way back to the school. He decided to make a small detour and wandered by Hagrid's hut, which was still un-restored from when it was set alight by Bellatrix Lestrange the night Albus Dumbledore was killed a year ago. He stopped and stared at the charred remains of the hut, where he would visit Hagrid several times during school with Ron and Hermione. He couldn't help but dwell back on those fond memories, but he will be sure as hell determined to ensure this home will be restored for his friend.

Turning back to the castle, Harry glanced at the infamous old Whomping Willow located at the top of the hill and made his way towards it. He felt it necessary to scout the Shrieking Shack for anyone using it as a refuge. Not that many people knew about this hidden entryway, but he didn't want to rule out the possibility of someone finding out or witnessing someone using it. He liked the idea of it remaining a secret, but he would feel gratitude if it kept anyone safe.

He hastily entered the tunnel beneath the dangerous tree and lit his wand up to illuminate the path ahead. The air was suffocating with dust and cobwebs which hung down from the ceiling, obscuring his path. After walking a short distance, he reached a set of stairs leading up to the old abandoned house and slowly ascended. The house itself was dark and run-down. Unlived in for decades. The floorboards felt so brittle, and he was worried that they would collapse with each step. The air was thick like fog – he wondered if the windows had ever been open to release its staleness, and yet the rooms seemed untouched by natural night. Eventually, he reached the room he and his friends encountered Sirius Black in human form, and with the shocking reveal that Ron's rat – named Scabbers – Was actually his parent's traitor Peter Pettigrew in Animagus form. That moment was so long ago, and yet it felt much too recent. Harry lowered his head, in memory of Sirius and Remus. Both who very much family to him. Harry sniffled several times, as his eyes started to prickle with tears again. He doesn't know if he'll ever truly get over their deaths. It hurt too much to let go.

He heard movement in the neighboring room, and immediately snapping out of it, he raised his want instinctively. Harry drew in a few shallow breaths, waiting for more sounds to follow. One step at a time, he edged slowly forward, attempting to make his way back out to the corridor. He listened closely, but the creaky sounds of the floorboards allowed neither person to be stealthy. Harry was slightly amused by this. But just as he turned the corner, a Lumos-lit wand was thrust into his face and caught him slightly off guard. He squinted painfully through the harsh light and took a few hasty stumbling steps back, still with his wand outstretched. It took a few moments for either to register, but as both wands lowered, he was able to finally make out their face within the shadows.

Severus Snape.

"What - " Harry frowned.

"- Leave, " Snape whispered.

Harry shook his head, trying to summon the right words to use. Instead, he glared at his ex-teacher, taking in this almost shocking new disheveled appearance. Snape's face was paler than usual, and his face much gaunter than he had ever seen. Dark bags under his eyes so prominent, he swore it added another twenty years to his life. His hair a mess and seemingly unwashed. His blood-stained white shirt appears to be the same one he wore when Harry attended to his wound four days ago. His usual black attire untidy, and a few of his top buttons on his vest undone, and an old horrific wound evident on his neck where Voldemort wounded him. Harry observed further blood stains and puncture wounds from where Nagini had savagely attacked him. He couldn't even believe the man was alive and standing before him. He looked just as lost as he was. His eyes glistened and appeared slightly red. Had he, too, been crying?

"But…How?" Harry managed to speak and lowered his wand completely to his side. "How did you survive that? I saw you die – " He was never able to ask him about that before he fled.

Snape winced when he saw that Harry was staring at his wounds. Uncomfortably, he shifted his vest and clasped it at the open gap in his shirt in an attempt to hide it from view. "I said leave."

"No, I'm not leaving, " Harry could feel old tiring anger slowly bubbling up inside him, "You fled after the battle without saying a word, and then you expect me to forget the memories you showed me?"

The man pursed his lips, but something in his gaze softened. He looked exhausted and worn out, possibly too tired to argue. Much as Harry felt wandering the damaged halls of Hogwarts in the past few days. Snape stared into Harry's blood and dirt-streaked face for a few moments, and looked away, clearly overcome with hurt and guilt. The man gave a small sigh, "I gave you those memories – even the personal ones – as a catalyst for your…sacrifice. " Snape still refused to look at him at this point," I didn't expect to survive. Nor, you - As the prophecy intended."

Harry shook his head in confusion initially, but the slow realisation hit him. "But –"

"You've seen the memories, Potter, what more do you require of me?" Snape's gaze finally snapped to Harry's, and it was the first time the man had truly looked at his past student since his supposed death. Snape's voice seemed to quiver, and Harry noticed his wand hand trembling slightly. He knew the man was avoiding further discussion of these memories so dear, and yet painful for him to even recall. "Everything that happened to you was – and is - my fault. "

Harry gritted his teeth, trying to choose his words carefully. This was the same man who essentially bullied him since his first year at Hogwarts, but it was also the same man who saved his life each year despite the circumstances. Despite his seething hatred for the child of his tormentor. For years Harry believed this man to be his enemy, but over the years he had come to learn more about Snape's upbringing and childhood, and if fate would have it, seemingly matched his own through the years he endured with the Dursleys. But despite how much Harry's father had relentlessly bullied Snape during Hogwarts, Snape cared deeply for his mother – something Harry would have never foreseen. With that fact, it was clear as to the origin of Snape's bitterness towards him. It was an unpleasant thought, but it was a start.

Harry shook his head, "No one could have known, not even you. Not even Dumbledore. I know you were the one who overheard the Prophecy – But, you still wouldn't have known that my parents were the target. "

"I was a fool, Potter. Then and now. I've been a puppet in this charade since I was your age, " Snape hissed, "I meddled in the Darkest Arts, and it resulted in my ultimate downfall. I lost everything."

"You fought - You kept fighting. All this time, you kept fighting, despite the odds, " Harry responded, slight desperation in his voice.

"I don't want pity, Potter. Not even from you," Snape shook his head and limped his way over to the closed window. He raised his wand, grimacing in pain, and cursed under his breath, unable to complete the spell. Snape clutched his side as the Gryffindor walked over and pushed open the window, allowing the coolest breeze to waft through the old house. Sunlight finally poured through, instantly providing warmth. There was a serene silence between them for a moment. Possibly the longest time they've shared without them arguing with each other.

With a shuddered breath, Snape broke the silence as he continued to gaze out of the window, "Your mother would be proud of you." His voice was soft and calm.

"She'd be proud of both of us, " Harry said, staring at the little bluebirds fluttering by the window.

Snape gave a hmpf of disapproval and turned to walk away, back into the cold shadows of the room. Harry turned to face his ex-teacher and watched as the man sat himself down on one of the old armchairs in the corner of the room by the old dust-ridden piano. He looked weary and defeated. For a man who helped with this war, he looked worse off than he did. Miserable, even. It was as if suddenly, everything that had happened in the course of the man's life crashed down suddenly on his shoulders. Harry noticed his breathing turned shallow and irregular.

"Sir, how did you come back? You died right in front of me, " Harry finally asked, quietly, "Ron and Hermione were there. Then suddenly, you came back to help me end Voldemort. How?"

Severus Snape closed his eyes for a few moments, thinking back to his close brush with death. Gingerly, he opened his eyes again, "Draco had followed you to the Boathouse, fully intending to stop you from killing Nagini. On the Dark Lords' orders. Once you left, Draco found me and performed the healing spell I used on him after your… parlor tricks…using Sectumsempra last year, " Snape gave Harry a quick flicker of a glare, "He insisted I teach him that spell shortly after that incident. Albeit, not completely. My wounds are not fully healed – he did his best. Once I came to, he retrieved the anti-venom I had placed in my robe pockets, as a failsafe, since lately, I had spent far too much time near that bloody snake…" Snape clenched his jaw, "I just never foresaw that he would make that mistake when he accused me of becoming the new master of the Elder Wand. Speaking of which - whatever became of it?"

Harry shrugged, "I broke it in half, and threw it over the bridge. No one else needs to kill each other over it now. Never again."

Snape looked at Harry, with a shocked expression. For a moment Harry thought he'd yell at him, but instead, Snape smirked, "Quite appropriate of you, Potter."

"Is that a compliment?" Harry said, amused.

Snape's smirked disappeared, "As close as you're ever going to get."

"Now it was Harry's turn to smirk. "Look, Professor- "

"EX-professor now. 'Sir', will do – "

"- Right, sir. Listen, I want to thank you for….for - Everything. For saving my life more times than I could keep track of and staying loyal to Dumbledore even when you convinced everyone that you were, well, bad."

Snape's eyes seemed to gloss over, and for once, he seemed at a slight loss for words. He glanced at Harry who finally made his way over to sit on the stool of the piano, adjacent to him. "Very touching, Potter. But I do not require your gratitude." His voice was soft and calm. "We are all capable of being 'bad'. There are no Saints or Devils. We are all somewhat, both - Disregarding the Dark Lord who was rotten to the core - But Potter, I have done nothing but terrible things, even before you were born. The Dark Arts pushed me away from Lily, and that was one of my…deepest…regrets. I lost someone who would have influenced me away from being 'bad', as you so eloquently noted."

"People can change. Dumbledore saw that, and that's why he gave you a second chance - "Harry responded.

"- Yes, after I practically begged him to save your mother…all of you. And then I killed him, " Snape looked away in disgust with himself, not daring to look at Harry.

"You had no other choice. I saw that memory, sir. He asked you to do it. If I had just known – "

"You could never have known. If you did, you would have tried to intervene, and I would have lost both of you, and myself, " Snape looked back at Harry, a look of bewilderment on his face. "These chain of events were necessary, don't you see?" He whispered. "We had to keep you alive, as you eventually came to realise."

"So that I could die at the proper moment?" Harry repeated the same words Snape used with Dumbledore in the memory he viewed in the Pensieve on the night of Snape's death. Snape winced and remained silent. Defeated. Harry felt a bit idiotic and hung his head apologetically.

"All this time I did everything I could to keep you alive, Potter. That was as much of a shock to me as it was for Dumbledore."

Harry glanced again outside the window and noticed the sun starting to dip low on the horizon. Harry drew in a shuddered breath.

"Time for you to leave, Potter. "

Snape remained seated, as Harry rose. "You're not coming? We could really use your help out there."

Snape gave a strange, unnatural laugh, "Do you really think they would be receptive of me, after all that I've done? Why do you think I've kept myself ironically locked up in this dreadful place?"

Harry shook his head, "But they all realise now that you've been on our side this entire time. If you just – "

"What, Potter? Stroll up to the front gates of Hogwarts with open arms? I've lied. I've killed. I've tortured. I am no better than the Dark Lord himself! I am no longer welcome. Many would want me dead, still. I don't blame them, really. I would, too."

"You are not Voldemort. You deserve to be there with the others...I'll make them understand."

Snape lowered his voice, barely a shaky whisper, "The only thing I deserve is death, Potter. There is nothing else left for me now. "

Harry shook his head, refusing to believe the words that were coming out of the man's mouth. "I don't believe that. Don't make me drag down Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall."

"Don't you bloody dare, Potter."

"Then, I'll see you tomorrow." Harry made his way to the door. He heard a shuffle and turned to see Snape standing up from his chair.

"Tell no one I'm here. Absolutely no-one."

Harry looked at his ex-professor and nodded in agreement. Without another word, Harry made his way to the exit stairs, and along the familiar path back through the Whomping Willow and straight to the crumbling walls of Hogwarts.

His little encounter with Severus Snape was unexpected, but somewhat a relief. He still had so many more burning questions, but he grew worried at the man's last words. For two people who actively put an end to the Second Wizarding War, they were both feeling as miserable as each other. Neither Harry nor Snape felt any kind of reprieve or resolution. Just…emptiness and mourning. How does one move on from this?

For someone who spent years despising Harry's existence, it was possible that Severus Snape understood the Gryffindor more than most people. He felt an odd kind of joy at this revelation. Perhaps finally, they could see eye to eye. But convincing him to return to Hogwarts was a task Harry never expected he'd ever undertake.