Written for the LJ challenge community RomancingWizard.

Title: The Way Home

Pairing: Severus Snape/Minerva McGonagall

Rating: G/PG


Word count: Exactly 750

Prompt#44. Freedom

Summary: Snape's gift proved that he was alive but had he forgiven her for doubting him? Minerva had to find out.

Minerva turned the Aperdor over in her hand. She'd been carrying it around with her for a week, ever since an owl had unexpectedly dropped it into her morning porridge. Creating one was a lot of work, but opening a stable doorway and stepping through it was certainly a much nicer way to travel than the gut wrenching disorientation of a Portkey. It was a thoughtful gift. Surely he wouldn't have gone to all the trouble of making and sending it unless he'd forgiven her?

But how could he forgive her? She hadn't believed in him when he needed her to. They'd been lovers once but had spent the last year as enemies living uneasily in the same camp. Albus's death had destroyed the intimacy they'd once shared. Yet what she'd believed about that had been a lie. It was past time to sort out the lies and beg his forgiveness, though she wasn't sure she deserved it even if he offered it.

Squaring her shoulders, she placed the small, flat disc with its winged snake engraving against the surface of her full-length mirror. Immediately the disc irised open, and Minerva found herself peering into a large room filled with books, glassware, and the smells of a stillroom.

A cauldron of liquid simmered gently on a hearth. Sunlight dappled the walls and made pleasant patterns on the warm wooden floor. She stepped through the opening, irrationally disappointed that the room was empty. Not that she was likely to find him waiting, he could hardly have known when or even if she'd come.

She turned to examine his books when the rich tones of his voice froze her in place.

"So you finally decided to use the Aperdor. I'd begun to think I'd wasted my time and you didn't want to see me again after all, Minerva."

Minerva looked up to see Snape standing in the doorway to the next room. The intensity of his dark gaze sent a shiver down her back.

"Hello, Severus. I'm sorry I took so long to come. I wasn't sure what to say to you when I saw you again, and I was afraid of what you'd say to me. When I received your gift and knew for sure that you were alive, it opened a door in my heart that I'd thought closed forever."

"You were happy to discover I survived then." A note of relief filled his voice.

She smiled, tears glistening in her eyes. "Oh, yes. I'd been praying that you were alive ever since we discovered your body was missing from the Shrieking Shack. No one knew what happened to you. Despite your disappearance, most people think you're dead."

"Good. They're quite welcome to that belief."

Minerva took a hesitant step towards him. "I owe you an apology. Harry told us everything, but I shouldn't have needed to hear it. I should never have doubted you."

Snape shook his head. "Of course you should have doubted me. Every action I took was meant to make you doubt me. Everyone had to believe I was a loyal servant of the Dark Lord. Even you. Especially you. If the Carrows had suspected anything, they wouldn't have hesitated to kill you. I couldn't take that chance."

"But you shouldn't have had to go through all that alone. If only Albus had trusted me enough to tell me the truth."

"Albus trusted no one, not even me. And he was right. No one could know the truth. It wasn't worth the risk."

"He used you."

"I was willing to be used. The debt I owed was enormous. More than I ever thought I could repay. The mistakes I'd made and the pain I'd caused consumed my entire life for years, but it's over now." Snape smiled one of the first truly genuine smiles she'd ever seen on his face. "I'm finally free. I have a new life, and the only thing I need to make it perfect is you."

Quickly he crossed the room and took her hands in his.

"You've been the best thing in my life, Minerva. You understood me, found value in me as no one else ever has. I need you now. Please say you'll stay with me."

Overwhelmed, she whispered, "Oh, yes…"

Before she could say another word, he slid his arms around her and pulled her against him with sudden ferocity, pressing his lips to hers in a kiss of passionate desire, and she knew she was finally home.