A/N : This is it, the epilogue. 'here at the end of all things' is a quote from LLOTR The Return of The King.
Much thanks to Kristine Thorne for doing the beta on this chapter.
Much thanks to all those who have read and reviewed this story, thanks especially for the praise and constructive critisism. Hope you will all join me for the continuing adventures back at Hogwarts, more Snarry action I promise.
Chapter Summary: Harry lies on the ground consumed by grief and unable to fight. Who's going to kill the last Death Eater now? The epilogue where we find out who Alexian is. Not to mention the resolving of a few things including that evil cliffie.
Chapter Twenty Six - Here At The End Of All Things
Flashback - July of previous year
Severus stepped into Albus Dumbledore's office for the last time, having been summoned by the Headmaster at very short notice, even for him.
"While you are on your travels I need you to teach Harry and get him ready for battle," Albus began without formality. "You aren't to just go wandering around the countryside, the Dark Lord will have to be faced sooner or later."
"Because that went so well the last time, just him and I," Severus interrupted.
"We have little choice," The headmaster carried on unperturbed, he reached into the pocket in his robes and removed a small velvet pouch. He held it out to Severus.
Severus took the bag and opened it up, removing the small object that it contained.
"In addition to all we have discussed so far, I need you to take that with you," Albus instructed Severus.
Severus looked at the tiny Talisman with undisguised horror. "You can't give me this," He protested.
"But I know how to open the portals, I can't carry the Talisman as well."
"In the past, I think even I have failed to trust you as much as I should. I know how to open the portals too, but they would expect me to have it, you must take it."
"Nobody trusts me," Severus said feeling defeated already, closing his hand around the talisman. "So I must take it."
"Yes," Albus answered. "The same is true with Harry."
"I can't think which is worse."
"Oh Severus," Albus said smiling. "Don't pretend to be angry about it. I know what you wanted."
"Don't imagine you know what I want," Severus snapped with anger, beyond any reverence he might feel for the old man. There had been a time in the past when he had wanted to ask Albus for Harry, but that time was passed.
"But I could see it in your eyes, even if you didn't say the words," Albus persisted.
"I would have brought him up as my own, don't hand him to me now, as if it can be some happy substitute for that time," Severus said bitterly remembering what he had just seen in Harry's Pensieve.
"You will thank me one day," Albus continued, unruffled by Severus' anger.
Severus turned to go, his cloak swirling around him to catch up with the sudden movement. He made for the door.
"Oh Severus," Albus began in a singsong voice, as Severus nearly reached the door. "Just one more thing."
Severus turned knowing that any other reaction was pointless, despite his anger, Severus was curious to know what Albus could spring on him next.
Albus took a box out from one of the secure drawers of the desk and placed it on the ink blotter. Albus waved his wand over the box and the lid sprang open.
Severus approached the desk and peered down into the box. He froze at what he saw, the contents of the box had once been his, and Severus had never expected to be allowed to see them again.
"You have got to be joking," Severus said staring down in horror at the open velvet lined case sitting on the desk, particularly the two paper knife like objects resting in the case.
"I am afraid not," Albus said grimly. "I never thought I would see the day, but this is what we have come to. Go find yourself a Kin, Severus."
"You have finally gone mad!" Severus responded, not caring much any more if he offended the headmaster.
"This may be our only hope, you know how strong you were."
"You forget that these swords operate on genuine regard, I cannot find a new Kin, I leave tonight to go undercover with Harry Potter in case you hadn't forgotten. Will you join with me Albus? Because I know of no other person who doesn't want me gone from this earth, Potter included I am sure."
"Such strange swords to be in Dark hands, all their power fuelled by love," Albus added in a dreamy contemplative way, purposely drawing Severus out in his argument.
"You mistake the nature of the power if you think it strange," Severus snapped. "I would have thought you would remember better than that."
"Harry," Albus said simply.
Severus could feel his face going a sickly ashen colour. "There are no words."
"I know how you feel towards the boy, let him become friends with you, that may be enough to make the Bond." Albus added.
"Let him? You have little idea about either of us. I have just spent seven years making him hate me, and I know he does." Severus argued back.
"If I am right about the swords, they want it, as much as I want it for you both. They have motive, you told me once."
"They do," Severus answered sadly. "I take it you remember what this means for him, what the consequences are, if this mad scheme succeeds and he lives? You do recall what will happen if I don't survive?"
"Yes," Albus replied simply. "You have a better plan Severus?"
"I will not do this to him," Severus tried to persist.
"You had better try to stay alive then," Albus said, remaining unaffected by Severus' glower.
Severus reached out to pick up one of the paper knives and Albus allowed him, his action admitting his defeat. Severus took it by the hilt and watched the sword enlarge to a full size battle sword, the dull colourless serpents slithered lazily around his wrist.
Emotion caught in Severus' throat with painful memories as he held the sword displayed before him, remembering his former Kin, the feeling of grief still raw within him despite the passage of time.
"Keep them both securely amongst your things, don't let Harry see them unless you've managed to heal your differences enough for him to take one," Albus instructed.
Severus picked up the other sword just below the hilt and put them both in his robe pocket, the swords obligingly shrinking in size as he did so.
Severus approached the door to go.
"Farewell and safe journey," Albus said as he watched Severus turn from him to leave.
"You ask to much," Severus said as he passed over the threshold and down the stairs.
"Yes," Albus agreed sadly, once he was sure that Severus would not hear it, "But I ask as much of myself."
the present – aftermath of battle
Strong hands were hooked underneath Harry's arms and he was being hauled to his feet. He felt dizzy and his legs didn't seem to want to support him. He had no idea how long it had been since he had fallen to the ground. His arm was put around firm shoulders and he tried to hold on, not thinking of whom it could be, he didn't care, he had said that he would go too and he meant it. 'Blissful Death', as soon as he could, no problem, he didn't care, the Dark Lord was gone, and he didn't care. The tears streamed down Harry's face and he lurched to the side and onto his knees to wretch into the grass. Harry collapsed onto the ground as soon as he was empty, shaking and shivering with cold.
The world still spun and Harry felt as if he would vomit again, if only there was anything left to bring up. He rolled onto his back and closed his eyes in an attempt to calm the world before him. He thought that he should probably turn onto his side, so that he wouldn't choke but then decided against it, choking would save him having to take the 'Blissful Death' later. Harry was pulled up again and suddenly his feet left the ground. Whoever it was had lifted him up and he was being carried, to where he didn't know and didn't care, they could have him now.
"Will?" Harry asked weakly, finding that he could speak again, not knowing why he thought it might be him, all evidence pointed to the enemy.
"How the hell do I find two bloody rucksacks in the dark when they are covered by a bloody invisibility cloak?" Harry heard what he thought was a familiar voice complaining with irritation not far from his ear.
"Sev? Is that you?" Harry whispered hardly daring to believe it, thinking that he must be dreaming or hallucinating.
"I suppose it must be, since I refuse to answer such a silly question," Severus answered gruffly. "Although I just did, see what you have brought me to, Harry bloody Snape."
"Is he dead?" Harry asked.
"I presume you mean the Dark Lord. I would say so. Another silly question." Severus answered with a grim smile, remembering the pile of indistinguishable blood and guts Harry had been relentlessly hacking away at when the last Death Eater struck. Harry had really lost it at the end, but who could blame him.
"But I couldn't feel you, you were gone," Harry said.
"You let go of your sword, that's all," Severus explained, softening his tone at the sound of Harry's distressed voice.
"Where is it? How could I?" Harry asked panicking, "I thought you were dead."
"You thought I was dead! You were the one lying on the ground, face as pale as snow and your clothes soaked in blood, silly boy." Severus scolded, succeeding very well in hiding the panic that had gripped him again as he remembered the sight.
Severus had turned to see Harry thrashing at the ground with his sword and the Death Eater easily approaching him. The Death Eater had struck and Harry had crumpled to the ground, his face cleared of all expression. Severus would never now be able to clear the memory of it from his mind. The rage for vengeance had been the only thing that had carried Severus through the fight with the last Death Eater, conventionally conducted, because he had lost the bulk of the Kin power when Harry let go of his sword, he hadn't had time to notice that the colour had not drained from the serpents.
"Oh Sev, I am sorry, I couldn't move." Harry answered, now realising what it must have looked like for him.
"I know." Severus said softly again, knowing that it wasn't a good time to sound like he was berating Harry, even if it was just to cover his fear. Severus could not survive losing another Kin and he had come too close to it that night.
"Where's my sword?" Harry asked.
"I've got it," Severus reassured. "Can you hold still while I find our things? You're not as light as you used to be."
"What happened? I feel awful," Harry asked.
"The last Death Eater managed to strike you with a disabling curse, while you were finishing off the Dark Lord, it was powerful enough to make you let go of the sword, there aren't that many wizards accomplished enough to do that. I made sure that he will not be able to do it again. It was that curse and the exhaustion from the battle that made you feel ill and confused, you would feel it the second you let go of the sword."
"Who was he?"
"I don't know, I don't know him, he may be foreign."
"Hey, you got to kill one," Harry said leaning into his Kin, feeling pleased for him and overwhelmingly relieved. "You saved my life again, he would have finished it, if you'd only been a second later."
"I did, again, I killed him for you," Severus said proudly and possessively.
Harry put a hand to his face, feeling the sticky, half dry blood. "This cut had better not leave a scar," Harry grumbled playfully, he didn't really care about it, they were both alive and they had their whole lives ahead of them.
Severus continued to edge round the clearing checking for their rucksacks with his foot, trying not to trip over them. Harry assumed Severus must have still been wearing his sword somehow because he was carrying him and Harry was sure it would have been too much for him otherwise.
Eventually Severus found an invisible mound and he laid Harry gently down beside it and peeled the invisibility cloak off.
"Lay still for a while love," Severus spoke softly.
Severus lifted Harry up so that he was leaning back against his own rucksack, then Severus pulled everything out of the other one, trying to reach the potion case.
Severus applied a salve to the cut in Harry's cheek, it was looking a lot messier than the wound size seemed to warrant, Severus was glad to see that it was not serious. He taped a piece of dressing over the wound to keep it clean using his muggle supplies. The cleaning charm that was still in operation for them both took care of the rest of the mess. Soon neither of them had a single trace of blood spoiling their clothes.
Harry lay back obediently, allowing the curse to wear off, letting Severus do his work and feeling infinitely glad that Severus was still with him. It didn't feel like it was all over, not yet, he had only just started to wonder what they were going to do with all the dead bodies that lay around them. Harry closed his eyes as Severus placed a hand to his face and he could feel the warm healing touch.
As the warmth receded and Harry could only feel the normal touch of Severus' hand, he brought his own hand up to cup around Severus'. Harry brought Severus' hand to his lips and kissed the palm gently, still lying back with his eyes closed. Harry was pleasantly surprised, when Severus suddenly scooped him up into a tight embrace.
Severus crushed Harry against his chest, his head pressing down on Harry's, his hand entwined in his hair.
"I am so sorry," Severus said sounding choked with emotion, "For everything I did, I could never hurt you and I don't want to pretend or come close, ever again. I won't ever forget turning round and finding you falling to the ground, one minute you were grasping your victory, all too suddenly you seemed to have lost it."
"Oh, its all right, it's all a bit of a blur now anyway," Harry said reassuringly to Severus, he didn't really know what Severus was talking about, he presumed he meant the bit where he had made him angry. It had all passed so quickly and was now little more than a daze, first there had been fear, and then exhilaration, then wretchedness, but everything was all right now. Maybe it was the curse that was making his recent memories feel fuzzy and vague, Harry thought.
Severus was grasping Harry with such desperation that he couldn't do anything else but believe in his Kin, and try to keep breathing. Harry wondered what he had forgotten about deep in the heat of battle that could have caused this reaction in Severus, he was sure it would all come back to him soon.
"Hey Sev, leave some of me for the Dark Lord." Harry joked as he often had, before realising the whole new slant on the joke that made it even more amusing, "Oops, no point, he's dead." Harry added.
Severus wasn't in a mood to think anything was funny though; he continued to hold Harry but relaxed a little. Severus stroked Harry's back with his hand and Harry was very content to let him do so. Harry's nausea had gone and he could see clearly as he lay in Severus' arms. Severus looked exhausted and Harry assumed that he didn't look much better himself.
"Take me home," Harry whispered.
"Harry…" Severus began mournfully.
"Don't give me that," Harry warned with limitless affection. "You know exactly what I mean."
"There probably isn't a school there any more," Severus commented not wanting Harry to believe in impossible dreams.
"True, though I didn't see it, the castle might well be little more than a pile of rubble. But I don't care, I want to go there."
"We can go there if you really want to," Severus offered. "But you have to be able to accept what you find."
"Don't think anything could shock me now," Harry said smiling.
"Hmm, yes," Severus responded feeling awkward, checking Harry for any reaction other than relief that it was over. "Are you sure?"
Harry nodded his head, "Yes, I'm sure. You look like you could do with a nice warm bed, if we can find one, and even if the castle has been destroyed, we should be able to find somewhere new to pitch our tent."
Severus pulled Harry closer to him again and smiled grimly, "This is true, there always was a nice view."
"In any case," Harry added, "Where else are we going to go?"
Severus nodded, "All right." He said. "I'll make up a portkey, if I can remember how, we might be able to get back before morning."
"Even if there were just one of the cabins left in the grounds, that would do," Harry suggested.
Severus smiled down at Harry. "If all else fails, Will can have us back."
"Yes, I like Will," Harry replied closing his eyes. "Sev?"
"What are we going to do with the bodies?" Harry asked.
"Don't worry about that, just rest for a while," Severus answered. "I'll collect as many of the wands as I can once I've finished the portkey, then I'll get rid of them. We can use our wands now, it won't be a problem."
"Hmm, no details please."
Harry smiled in admission of how preposterous it was. "Shut up."
Severus merely smiled to himself and went back to his work.
"Do you have Lucius' wand still?" Harry asked.
"No, I gave it back to one of the Death Eaters, who then escaped with it, I always was kind like that." Severus deadpanned.
"Very funny, keep it separate from the others," Harry continued.
"Why, do you want it to go with the cloak?" Severus teased, starting to feel in himself that it was truly over.
"No." Harry said sighing. "Didn't he seem a little strange to you?"
Severus sobered his attitude, realising that Harry actually wanted to consult with him on something serious. "He looked shocked." Severus responded.
"He didn't go for his wand, he hardly said a word." Harry continued.
"He came, expecting to find Harry Potter and got Severus Snape back from the dead and you swooping across the field like a vulture seeking its prey. Then there were the swords, he knew enough about them to be very afraid."
"And yet it was so obviously a trap, quite pathetic really, not one of my better ideas. Why would the Dark Lord send his most loyal follower alone, when I was blatantly calling them?" Harry analysed.
"Maybe Lucius was so arrogant in his power that he still thought he could take you on his own, that you were still alone and unprotected. He had to prove himself to the Dark Lord after all his recent failure," Severus offered.
"I want you to analyse that wand when we get back," Harry insisted.
Severus took out Lucius's wand and cast a simple charm with it. "This is his." Severus announced. "Although Harry, there's nothing wrong with having a hefty dose of paranoia," He added smiling at his Kin.
"Then you'll give it a thorough check tomorrow?"
"I might check them all, it might be as well to know exactly which Death Eaters we managed to kill and what they had been doing recently."
Severus chose an object from his rucksack to use as the portkey and got to work, Harry watching him with pride, as he didn't hesitate at any part, remembering it all.
A while later the object sat on the ground between them, ready to go, the bodies had all been cleared away and Severus sat feeling regretful about the way the evening had progressed. Severus was very glad that Harry didn't remember much about it, he had only set out to frighten his Kin enough to make him fight to his true potential. Things had quickly got out of hand, however, he hadn't realised that the Dark Lord had known so much.
The information certainly couldn't have come from Valarius, if either Severus or his former Kin had been that sure about what had happened and who was responsible, Severus thought, James Potter would have been gutted like a fish, long before he had had a chance to father a child. It had to be Lucius again, exaggerating and lying just as well as the Dark Lord did, nobody else had known, not even Albus. Apart from those who were involved that long ago night at least, but they certainly wouldn't be talking.
James Potter had been guilty of many things that night, he had been the ringleader of the group, but Severus had been too drugged to tell one man from another, by the time the real evil began. Potter and his friends might well have been among those who ran off as things got more serious, there was no way of knowing.
Well Severus had vowed to do whatever it took to help them succeed in their mission and he had certainly given his all, Severus thought grimly. He could only hope that Harry would continue to understand that too.
Severus suddenly remembered the start of the battle, 'this one is for Alexian', Severus was sure that Harry had said those words, yet why?
Harry reached out a hand to his Kin. "Are you all right Sev?" He asked with concern at Severus' seemingly distant expression.
"I was just wondering who Alexian was," Severus replied looking up at Harry. "You said that your first strike was for him."
Harry didn't really remember mentioning it, but he must have done. Sev seemed a little hurt and jealous. An explanation was long overdue. "He's been in my head, helping me out. He showed me how to find the Lodge."
"You had a voice in your head telling you to do things and you didn't tell me all about it?" Severus said sounding a bit annoyed.
"You didn't seem to believe in such things," Harry responded. "And I did tell you sort of, we agreed not to say who. And he only ever told me to avenge his death, he asked me to kill the Dark Lord and I was going to do that anyway, I didn't see the harm."
Severus smiled grimly. "No, no harm," He answered. "My voice was Albus. He came to me after you had the vision where you saw Polyjuice me with the Dark Lord. I didn't believe it before then."
"Alexian seemed to be able to give me advice regarding my relationship with you, do you know him?" Harry asked.
"That was why I was asking about him," Severus replied looking sadly at Harry. "Alexian was my brother's second name."
"But it can't be the same man, Alexian said that the Dark Lord killed him because he was too powerful."
"He didn't like to be called Valarius because it sounds too much like the potion ingredient 'Valerian', which is commonly used in sleeping potions, he got teased mercilessly at school. 'Sleepy Snape' they called him; there are just too many 's' words in the world. Anyway, I digress. When he went to the Dark Lord as a Death Eater he had everybody call him Alexian. That's how I chose your name for our mission. Nobody outside of that circle called him by that name. As for his death, it would be no big surprise, I suppose, if the Dark Lord lied and I was fool enough to believe it, though if I recall it was Lucius who gave me the news."
"So they both had a hand in killing your brother and told you it was the Order, because they knew you would attempt to avenge the death."
"Thus breaking the power we held together and striking against the enemy in one go too," Severus said his head now in his hands. "I may have been a powerful Kin, but I was such a fool."
"But it was Lucius who told you, he would have been a friend at that time, it's only right that you would have trusted him."
Severus snorted with grim amusement. "Allegedly a friend yes. Though he had his sights on becoming my brother's Kin before Valarius chose me instead. Perhaps he was not so gracious in his disappointment, as we always thought."
"And I killed him for you, I told you there was something. I killed them both for you," Harry said.
Severus reached an arm round Harry and hugged him. "Yes, you did."
"Alexian knew about Sgoil Dhubh, he used the name there too." Harry told Severus, wanting to tell him all about it now that he had begun. "That was how we ended up there, he must have been the one who set the ward."
"So that was where he went to," Severus replied his face showing the remembering of fond memories.
"My brother ran away from school before the end of term one year. Nobody could find him and he just came back again one day. That was why nobody could find him it would seem, he must have been at Sgoil Dhubh."
"He and Will were friends once," Harry added. "I saw a photo of them together. He didn't look like you did he?"
"No, not really," Severus said reaching out a hand to Harry's hair, twisting a few strands in his fingers. "You look very like him, but I am glad you are not." Severus added taking Harry's chin in the palm of his hand and leaning in for a kiss.
"Shall we go before it gets any later," Harry suggested. "I would like to get some sleep before daylight."
"Yes, I've made this thing, we had better use it," Severus said referring to the portkey, which lay in front of them both.
"It will be all right, whatever happens." Harry reassured.
Severus wasn't convinced and he pointed out the alternative scenario. "We must also consider what you are going to do if the castle hasn't been destroyed. I suppose it's also the case that we might meet people we knew from before, some of your friends."
Harry noticed that Severus seemed to be more worried about finding the castle intact and he could only share the worry. They were so changed and he knew that Severus had not been wrong when he had said that they all hated him.
"It could be Death Eater headquarters too," Harry pointed out. "Won't know till we get there."
Harry had only been joking but Severus paled at the possibility of it being true, he really didn't feel up to another war just yet. "Just as well we will be making our appearance just outside the front door. We'll check out the situation before we try to enter."
"Come on, let's go," Harry began, "And remember, whatever happens, whatever we find, however anybody else treats you. Remember, I will always love you." Harry reached out to stroke Severus' hair and found himself being pulled back into another crushing embrace.
Will stood on Culloden Muir as the sun rose in the East, it was still quite dark and the horizon was tinted with the redness of sunrise with only a few wispy clouds in the sky. It was a bitterly cold morning for April and he hugged his coat around himself tightly against the wind. In the early hours of the morning, one farm vehicle after another had pulled out in front of his Land Rover, impeding his progress; travelling with the painful lack of speed only a tractor was capable of. It was almost as if something hadn't wanted him to make it in time.
He must be going completely mad, Will thought, as he searched the ground, looking for he knew not what. Searching for some clue that several hundred people had been killed only the night before, all achieved by his two friends and housekeepers, recently departed from the Lodge. There was nothing there, just the familiar rough grass. It was all so ridiculous, all this just to prove that the messages he had received when he had read the two men, wasn't just his so called talent going haywire in his old age. What had he been expecting to find? Will thought, as he turned for the road where his Land Rover was parked up on the verge, dead bodies, blood?
Suddenly Will was forced to turn back as something caught his eye. A burgundy bandana, still tied as if it had just been pulled off the head that it had adorned, it blew across the field in the wind. The wind wasn't too strong and Will managed to catch it. It could be anybody's, Will tried to rationalise, but how many people in Scotland wore such a thing outside of the city, along with the readings, it could not be a coincidence.
Will returned to the Land Rover, the bandana still clutched in his hand. Hundreds dead on the battlefield of Culloden in April, how could it be true? Yet, how could it not be true, Alex had been at Culloden; Will had the proof of that, why would that be correct and not the rest. Will felt like he had entered another world and it was empty of everything that he thought he knew. When he got home, Will decided, he was going to lock himself in his bedroom and go to bed with a large bottle of single malt and he wasn't coming out for a very long while.
The first chapter of the sequel is now uploaded 'Tango At The End Of Winter' story ID is 1699321 or visit my author's page and link from there. :)
There ya go, didn't kill Sev AND he got to save Harry's life again, nice fluffy ending, all is right with the world.
And they all lived happily ever after? Err not quite, just wait till Hermione finds out what they've been up to in that tent!
Although Harry will always have the pivotal prophecy role I had to have Sev being the only thing between life and death for Harry, hence the cliffie, I wanted Harry to give up and be saved when all hope was lost. No scary crap like this in the sequel, promise.
The first chapter to the sequel will be uploaded next week. Title: Tango At The End Of Winter. Set author alert to get the URL in an email as soon as it is uploaded. I have the enhanced features so you can all set that, if you're signed in (I think that's how it works). In any case it will be showing up in my author's profile of course.