Title – The Price We Pay 12/12

Rating – PG-13/T

Disclaimer – I own none of this, it all belongs to Rowling. I just have the honor of using her creations in my story. No slash, sex or profanity.

Archive – Sure, just ask first.

Summary – The End

A/N – Well here we are folks, the very last chapter of 'The Price We Pay' (Sniffle Sniffle) I just wanted to say I loved writing this and loved hearing from all you reviewers, you have only encouraged me to write more! HUGE thanks again to everyone who has reviewed! Read and enjoy!

The Price We Pay


One Year Later

A tall man with raven hair and dark robes stood on the beach, deep in thought and watching the gentle waves with sharp black eyes. Everything seemed so peaceful and content here; it was one of the reasons he loved coming down to the shore. It was easier to think and relax while listening to the cries of the seagulls and feeling the wind in his hair. Taking a deep breath of the clean, crisp air he felt alive and completely whole once again. Life was beautiful.

He knew he should be heading back up to the house to pack the last of his belongings, but it really was a beautiful early August day and he wanted some time alone before he left. The last few weeks had been quite busy and he sought some peace and quiet before he stepped back into the chaotic world known as Hogwarts.

Cocking his head at the sound of footsteps walking down the dirt pathway from the house, he smiled and shook his head slightly. He should have known better than to expect his friend to stay inside forever. They had a few precious hours left before he had to leave and the other wizard would want to spend it together. Dumbledore came to a stop next to him and lightly kicked the sand with a boot.

"Nervous?" He asked.

Snape raised an eyebrow at the question and crossed his arms.

"Not at all." Was the calm reply.

"You'll do a great job Deputy Headmaster." Dumbledore said as his blue eyes twinkled and his lips curved up into a smile.

"Why Minerva offered me that position is beyond me. Surely Lupin or Sprout would be better suited for the post?" Snape replied with a nonchalant shrug, though the gleam in his eyes betrayed his delight at being promoted to Deputy Headmaster.

"Ah, but the staff wholeheartedly agreed that you are the best for the job. You are more than capable to handle all the duties and responsibilities. And just think Severus, after Hagrid you will be the first professor the first years meet. What better way to strike the fear of Professor Snape into their hearts than at the first encounter?"

Snape smiled then, a crafty, slightly evil smile, but Dumbledore knew there was not any true malice behind it. His attitude about teaching had changed for the better and Snape no longer felt the immense disdain and intolerance toward his students. Of course there was still a spark of dislike for everything and everyone Gryffindor that would never be erased from his heart. Snape would rather eat his own wand before changing his opinions about that House.

"Minerva told me the students, especially the Slytherins, are surprisingly anxious to have their former Potions Professor back."

"Yes, well, I'm not looking forward to melting cauldrons and reading dismal essays, but I do miss my Slytherins." Snape snorted, "Last year's Potions instructor was simply atrocious and I fear it will take me at least a whole year to undue all his pathetic mistakes and boneheaded lessons. And who knows what Sinistra has done with my House in my absence?"

"I'm sure you will do an excellent job with everything Severus. Teaching is like riding a broom, once you climb on, you never fall off." Dumbledore replied with a satisfied nod of his head, missing the perplexed look from Snape. They stood in silence for a while, watching the play of the seagulls when Snape said in a soft, hesitant voice,

"I'm going to miss all this. I'll miss Miel's meals and Fawkes's silly games. I'll miss the garden and our sailing trips. But I'll definitely miss you Albus." He paused and glanced at Dumbledore mournfully. Then Snape shook his head and groaned, "Oh listen to me, I sound like some sappy Hufflepuff! What would the staff say about me now?"

Dumbledore simply smiled and said,

"I'll miss you too my boy. But I will write you every week and you will come home for the holidays. As for the staff, I won't be there to break up your quarrels with Harry and Remus, so do try and be nice."

Snape suddenly laughed, "I will try my best." He said between chuckles, "But I can't guarantee anything when it comes to those two Albus, you know that. It will be interesting to be a colleague with Potter instead of giving him detentions and taking points. Do you think Minerva will still allow me to take points from him?"

"I don't think Minerva will appreciate her Professors taking points from each other and not students."

"I was just wondering Albus, no need to worry. I'm actually eager to return to Hogwarts. I never thought I would say this, but I want to resume teaching."

After a year of resting, enjoying life in general and working with his treasured potions, Snape felt like something was still missing. As spring turned over into summer he came to a sudden realization. He missed his Slytherins, his dungeons, his classes, even the interaction with his fellow professors. Talks with Dumbledore and McGonagall had helped him fill the hole in his heart. It was time to return to Hogwarts.

"You are a better professor than you give yourself credit for Severus." Dumbledore told him, patting his shoulder reassuringly. "Now, Miel has made a most delightful cake that you must try before you leave. I know it's still morning, but Miel was quite insistent on baking you a farewell present of sorts. Triple chocolate with dark chocolate frosting and white chocolate sprinkles. I think she spoils you too much."

They headed back toward the house as Dumbledore debated the merits between lemon cakes and chocolate cakes. Snape merely nodded his head and listened to the familiar ramblings with only half an ear. There would be time for teary goodbyes later and he appreciated Dumbledore's attempts to keep the mood light and merry.

Snape glanced back over his shoulder to catch one last glimpse of the white beach. The early morning sunlight bathed the land in a soft, golden glow and a peaceful warmth surrounded them. The light was his constant companion now and he basked in its love and tranquillity.

He smiled and turned to greet a new day.

The End

See I told you it would be a happy ending! The prequel, 'The Risks of Espionage' will be out in a few weeks, along with the first chapter of my new story 'The Strength of a Slytherin' about Snape's childhood! I would appreciate any last thoughts you have, so be sure to leave a final review! Thank you!