Yes, yes, I know it's a few days late! Once again thanks to all my reviewers. This story is now AU if you haven't already guessed too.
Okay, I read the sixth book in a day and was very disappointed. I felt that her writing style was completely different and that it was terribly rushed; did it seem that way to you?
This is the very last chapter of 'The Secret' so enjoy!
Epilogue- The Strangest Year
Damien Snape stared out onto the vast grounds of Hogwarts from his position in the Astronomy Tower. A mist had settled over the grounds, giving the air a chill despite the rising sun. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, resting his head on his knees as he gazed longingly out into the Quidditch Pitch where the Gryffindor team was currently practicing. He had finally returned to school a few weeks ago, but still couldn't help feeling detached from those around him.
The constant whispers continued to follow him and he had realized that no matter what he did, or who he was, they always would. It was with great relief that things were finally getting back to normal…for him that is. As if a weight had been lifted from his chest with the final revelation of he being Harry Potter, Damien felt he could actually breath again. No more secrets; no more lies, thank God.
At least….for the time being.
But alas, he was Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived and he knew that his life could never stay calm for more then a couple months. Hopefully, the rest of his sixth year would be better then it had been. Ever since Christmas his school life had gone straight down the hole, and he was almost to the point of begging for everything to be quiet again.
Gryffindor, Damien thought vaguely, seemed to have a more relaxed atmosphere to it then Slytherin. He hadn't even realized how much he had missed the comfortable chatter of the common room. His housemates were still very weary of him, with an exception of a few of his close friends, Neville included.
Dumbledore had pulled him out of the Slytherin house and placed him back into Gryffindor, much to his father's displeasure. But even Severus had to admit that Damien would probably be much safer in Gryffindor, though Damien hated leaving Draco alone with no one else but Pansy (who wasn't on very good terms with any Slytherins lately either).
Sometimes he couldn't help but hate the world, with its closed-minded, shallow people that lived within it. Draco was being treated five times worse despite the fact that Dumbledore had admitted under veritaserum that he was a spy for the Order along with Lucius Malfoy, which had taken a good portion of the last week to convince the Wizengamot of his innocence. The Order only had one spy left, and that was Cho Chang, who still hadn't returned to school. Damien felt a touch of sympathy for her, and had to admire her bravery; she should have been a Gryffindor.
"Damien!" Ginny called, hurrying up the stone steps to him. Damien jerked out of his daze instantly.
"Is Quidditch practice over already?"
"Yeah, luckily," Ginny said breathlessly as she sat down beside him. Her red hair was in a mass of curls, giving her a windblown look. "I'm trying to convince Katie to let you rejoin the team," she went on, looking rather sour. "But…well, you know people…"
"Yes," Damien murmured absently as his eyes glazed in thought. To many Gryffindors, and more then a little students from the other houses, he was still a Slytherin, and a Death Eater despite what Dumbledore had said. Damien couldn't help but shiver at the thought that almost no one seemed to trust Dumbledore completely anymore; it was a terrifying to think of what would become of the Wizarding World now.
"You okay?" Ginny asked gently, her dark eyes staring at him calculatingly.
"Yes," Damien repeated in the same tone of voice as he continued to stare out into the grounds of Hogwarts.
Ginny sighed mentally, but said nothing. She knew, as much as it pained her to admit this, that Damien's mental state was very fragile. Madame Pomfrey had informed the headmaster of that after she had healed him from his incident with the imposter-Dumbledore. Her heart ached for the boy beside her. He had been through so much and the year wasn't even over. They still had almost half a semester to go.
They were supposed to be cautious about what they said around Damien, and Ginny hated how the nurse had stated it. Madame Pomfrey seemed to be treating Damien like a ticking bomb about to go off, or flare out completely, both which could be very dangerous.
Damien rarely spent any time with anyone other then Ron, Hermione, Draco, Pansy, Neville, his father and her. It was strange; Damien seemed so different and yet he still acted like the same person. It was as if he had matured twenty years overnight and she almost felt like a little girl around him again, gazing into those emerald green eyes filled with such a wisdom that one so young should never have the ability to posses. He was much quieter, that was for sure, and his laugh was different, most of the time sounding rather forced. She couldn't think of one time that his smiles had reached his eyes since he had returned to school.
Remus Lupin's death still weighed heavily upon Damien's conscious, and she knew that he blamed himself for the werewolf's death. All throughout the memorial the school had held for him the day before, Damien had said not a word to anyone, not even his own father. He had remained especially taciturn since then. She briefly wondered if it was because of the werewolf's death that he was so delicate, or if it was because of the time he had spent with You-Know-Who (she just couldn't bring herself to say that name regularly). She suspected the former though, since Draco wasn't nearly as remote as Damien had been lately.
"There's going to be a party in the common room for the upcoming Quidditch finals," she told him, unable to keep the hope that filled her eyes. Maybe Damien would actually go; maybe he would start to heal a little if he started talking to his other classmates again. And maybe they wouldn't be so shallow about him if he spoke to them.
Damien frowned. "I don't know," he said uncertainly and her heart sank.
She shifted, trying not to look too disappointed or worried. "Why not?"
He continued to look out onto the grounds, and Ginny fought the urge to grab his chin and force him to look at her. "I've just…..got a lot of homework to do," he said sheepishly.
Ginny arched an eyebrow. "Homework?" she repeated in a disbelieving voice. "You are using homework as an excuse to not go to a party."
"It's not an excuse," Damien murmured absently as he watched the proceedings of the Whomping Willow, which was currently trying to squash a few owls that were teasing it. "I really have a lot of work to do. There's a transfiguration essay I have to finish."
"You, Hermione, and Ron finished it with Draco and Pansy in the library the day before yesterday," Ginny said coolly. "Try again."
Damien shrugged, but looked a bit uncomfortable. "Well….I'm re-checking it."
"And that is going to take hours?" Ginny asked bitingly.
"I've also got a potion's essay I need to do," Damien said defensively, chewing on his lower lip nervously as he turned his eyes to the sky.
Ginny scowled and clenched her right fist tightly. She was surprised to feel sadness mixed with her anger as she observed the once outgoing and vivacious young man beside her. "You don't have potions until the day after tomorrow," she spoke in a very quiet voice though it shook with silent distress.
"Dad asked me to come over and do my homework with him in his rooms since I haven't really talked to him lately," Damien replied with a sigh.
"If you don't want to go, Damien, then please just say so," Ginny snapped, standing up. "I just thought it might be nice for you to actually converse with the rest of humanity before you went insane and walled up your heart like Snape once did."
Damien's brow furrowed in bewilderment. "What-"
"By the way," Ginny interrupted, heading for the staircase. "It was Professor Snape who gave us permission to have the party; he thought that it would be good for you to try and open up to people, something you haven't done since Valentine's Day." She turned and headed down the stone steps, straining her ears to hear any protest or complaint from Damien as she left. He didn't, and her heart gave a painful twinge.
She noticed that during their whole conversation that he hadn't even looked at her once.
"I suggest that each of you at least try and take the time to do something to raise your pathetic grades in here," Snape glowered at his sixth year NEWT class. "Next year is your final and last year. You will be taking the NEWT's, which, as far as I can see, will not go well with you lot." He paused as his eyes fell on Damien, who was staring down into his cauldron with a contemplative look on his face.
"Then again," he struggled to go on. "I was rather surprised that some of you have improved rather well this year."
The class stayed silent. No one seemed at all fazed by the Potion Master's rather out of character complement. They knew that if they showed any surprise whatsoever, it would probably lead up to a rather scathing comment that would immediately sour the rare commend.
Severus tore his eyes away from Damien and turned to Neville Longbottom instead, who shifted under his scrutiny. In all honesty, the boy had surprised him this year. Obviously, he had had some tutoring from Granger or someone, possibly Damien. Not to say that the boy received grades on the ranking of Damien or Granger, but he had been passing with adequate potions.
"You are to review all of the sleeping draughts that we have studied this year including Dreamless Sleep, Draught of Living Death, Sleep-Restorative, the Eternal Rest, and the common Sleeping Potion. I want a three-foot essay on the similarities and differences between these five potions. Due Monday, class dismissed," he barked and they scattered, the majority complaining about the enormity of the assignment he had given.
"Mr. Snape," he called as Damien attempted to leave with Draco, Granger, Weasley, and Longbottom, each who seemed to almost be forming a wall around him as if to protect him from the scornful comments they knew he would receive as soon as he stepped out the classroom door.
Damien didn't seem to notice his friends' actions as he wearily told them to go without him. Hermione and Ron seemed especially cautious to leave him, but, with a glare from their Potion's Master, they unwillingly left as well.
"Sit down, Damien," Severus told him wearily after the last student had filed out. Damien sat obediently.
"It has come to my attention that you are not going to the party tonight," Severus began as he seated himself at his desk and observed the boy in front of him.
Damien was looking at his hands with vague interest and nodded slowly. "Yes, sir," he murmured properly.
Severus winced at formality and sighed. "I told you that you didn't have to call me 'sir' in private," he reminded Damien almost gently.
"Of course, Professor."
Severus closed his eyes and massaged his forehead, taking in a deep breath. He looked up to see that Damien was still observing his hands silently.
"What is wrong with you?" he asked bluntly, not bothering to warm his voice.
Damien flinched and flicked an invisible piece of lint off his robes. "Nothing," he finally raised his head to meet his father's inscrutable gaze. "Why?"
"Why?" his father repeated softly.
Damien stared at the man in confusion. "Is something wro-"
"Don't try to play innocent with me, Damien," Severus snapped unexpectedly.
"What are you talking about?"
"You know exactly what I am talking about, young man." Severus narrowed his eyes at Damien. "What has happened to you?" he asked in a weak voice. "Why are you acting like this?"
"Acting like what?" Damien looked genuinely confused, but Severus knew too well when his son was lying.
"You know what!" Severus snarled, slamming his fist onto the desk.
Damien jumped and stared at the man in surprise.
"Why have you been so indifferent lately? You have barely talked to anyone since you have gotten back to school and when you do, you are so closed up! What is going on? You weren't even acting like this at your trial. What has changed since then? What?"
Severus demanded, leaning across the desk to look his son in the eye.
Damien tore his gaze away from his father and remained silent.
Severus scrutinized the boy in front of him before his obsidian eyes softened. "Listen," he began gently, making his way around the desk to kneel beside Damien's chair. "You need to open up more, Damien. I have no idea why you are acting so cool to everyone-" Damien arched an eyebrow, "-but you need to talk to someone…..anyone."
When the boy continued to remain soundless, Severus huffed exasperatedly. "I know that you just lost Remus but, Damien, if you keep this locked up inside of you; if you isolate yourself from your friends and your family then it will eat you up. You have to talk to someone," Severus told him expressively. "It will kill you if you let these feelings consume you. Remus wouldn't want you to separate yourself from your friends and I. He wouldn't want you to think of his death as being your fault. And neither he, nor Lily and James, died just so you would let yourself suffocate under the pressure of their deaths."
He gripped the boy's chin and forced Damien to look up at him. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but please do something with your friends; cut classes," Severus pleaded softly. "Pull pranks," he shook his head violently and exclaimed, "Get into trouble for all I care! Just do anything other then sit here and drown yourself in your homework while your friends move on without you. That's what I did, Damien, do you want to end up like me?"
Damien lowered his head and mumbled a silent reply.
The boy closed his eyes and murmured in a small voice, "No."
Severus heaved a sigh, mentally thanking Merlin that he had gotten something out of the boy. "Then why do you continue to put yourself and everyone around you through this? You know how much it hurts your friends when you ignore them and they are just trying to cheer you up."
Damien's shoulders tensed. "I know," he whispered. "But, I just…"
"Just what?" Severus probed softly.
Damien let out a breath. "I dunno…I just feel separated from them." He raised his haunted green eyes to that of his father. "Nothing's ever going to be the same again….ever."
"Of course it won't," Severus agreed in what he hoped to be a soothing voice. "You have been through much more then they will ever experience, but that doesn't mean that you can't see them anymore."
"It feels so different though," Damien murmured.
Severus shrugged, silently wishing that there was more he could do for the boy. "Then you will just have to adjust to it. Just like you did in your fourth and fifth year. You are stronger then them, Damien. They wouldn't be able to handle what you've been through."
Damien nodded slowly. "No, they wouldn't." He flinched at the thought of Ginny or Hermione going through what he had. They seemed far too fragile and tender to experience what he had, as if they were porcelain dolls that could easily break.
"Then you don't want them to have to go through that would you?"
"No, of course not," Damien sighed. "They…they'd die; all of them. Even Ron and Draco. They couldn't survive it."
"Then you have to be strong. For them, Damien, be strong." Merlin he hated putting this on his son's shoulders but it needed to be said. Damien needed to go on with his life.
Damien nodded, staring down at his hands. "But….why me?" he pleaded softly, not at all liking how his voice sounded almost like a whine.
"Because you are stronger then the rest of us, Damien," his father responded with surprising gentleness. Damien stared at the man in surprise.
"Yes. Everyone. The Wizarding World, your friends, me, and even Dumbledore."
Damien slowly shook his head. "No. I'm not stronger then you, and certainly not Dumbledore. I could never duel the way you do."
"You don't have to, Damien," Severus told him, smiling slightly.
"What do you mean?"
Severus sighed. "Your strength is in your heart, Damien, no matter how corny that sounds. It does not matter how many spells you can cast or how fast you are, only the will to carry on, the determination you have to protect those you love; that is true power, Damien. Something that the Dark Lord knows nothing about, which makes him exceedingly weak to you."
Damien still looked doubtful. "If you say so…" He trailed off disbelievingly, sounding almost like his old self again.
This time Severus smiled completely. "In time, you will realize how powerful you truly are, Damien. And when learn how to wield that power, you will be stronger then Dumbledore and the Dark Lord," Severus told him confidently. He knew it to be true. Many times during Occlumency, or just in the presence of Damien, his son seemed to radiate with a power that simply amazed Severus. It was as if the boy was pure, untainted, despite all that he had been through. He knew that it was just a taste of the "power the Dark Lord knows not" that Damien possessed.
"Now, go to that party," Severus commanded, straightening up. "It should start right after classes if I'm correct. Merlin, I'm starting to sound like Albus."
Damien's lips twitched. "You should stop talking to me so much then, because I'm positive that I've never heard you sound so wise in the presence of others."
"I will do no such thing," Severus retorted. "You can't get rid of me that easily."
Damien smiled. "I wouldn't dare." He stood up. "Bye, Dad."
"Y'know Malfoy," Ron slurred, swaying as he sauntered over to the blonde. "You're one o' my beeest friends!" He declared as he put an arm on the boy's shoulders. "I love ya…" he sniffed, sounding touched.
Hermione looked highly scandalized as she stared over at her boyfriend with a disgruntled look. "Whose idea was it exactly to bring three bottles of firewhiskey?" she hissed furiously, careful to keep her voice low due to the late hour.
"Ron's," Ginny and Damien responded at the same time, watching, with amusement, as Ron tried to get a rather tipsy Draco to sing 'These Three Kings' with him.
"But it not Chri'mas, Weasley!" Draco sounded highly affronted. "You….you can't just sing Christmas songs without it bein' Christmas!"
"For some reason, I never could imagine Draco Malfoy as being able to hold his drink well," Ginny mused, throwing a smirk over at the brooding girl in the corner.
"Oh, shut up. If you haven't noticed, your brother isn't exactly holding his," Pansy snapped, though she sounding merely irritated and tired. "Why did we even come? This is a damn Gryffindor party!"
"Though' you'd like the free firewhiskey," Ron said suddenly, stumbling beside the girl. "Don' you like firewhiskey?" he shook a half-empty bottle under her nose.
"Good Lord! You're breath smells terrible," Pansy shoved him away. "And don't hit me with that bottle!"
"Aw, Pans, why would 'e do that?" Draco asked, not slurring as much as Ron but still swaying dangerously. She stood up, narrowly dodging the empty bottle he was carrying.
Damien watched them quietly, simply content with being entertained. He himself held a small cup of the offending drink, which had come from the third bottle he, Ginny, and Pansy were sharing (Hermione was positively insulted when they offered some to her). He had stayed off to the sidelines with the other two Slytherins all throughout the party feeling as unwelcome, if not more so, as Pansy and Draco. They had only started to really have fun when Ron had revealed his stash of firewhiskey. Damien was clueless to how, exactly, the redhead had obtained it though he had a feeling that it had something to do with a certain pair of twins….
He took a small sip of the firewhiskey, nearly choking as it scorched his throat. At first when he had tried it, he had hated the burning, almost itchy feeling the drink gave him, but he was getting used to it and couldn't help but enjoy the unusual feeling.
A moment later, he spat out what he had left in his mouth when Draco broke into song. Apparently, Ron had finally convinced him that it was okay to sing Christmas songs when it wasn't Christmas. Ginny busted out laughing, and Pansy snorted. Even Hermione's lips twitched slightly. She was drinking a butterbeer.
Ron joined in after a few verses and the two seemingly 'best friends' clung to one another as they sang at the top of their lungs, sounding horribly in comparison to nails on a chalkboard, a beautiful pair of idiots.
Damien couldn't restrain the grin that filtered onto his face. Everything seemed perfectly peaceful as of now. Mainly because every Gryffindor had gone to bed, and they had the common room to themselves, but also because of his friends' rather sad attempts to cheer him up, though it was in a good way. He knew that Ron and Draco being drunk and singing together like old war-buddies probably wasn't part of the plan, but it worked.
He had been rather surprised when he had returned to Hogwarts to find Draco, shame-faced and abashed, muttering something about how Damien should have been originally sorted into Slytherin. Damien knew that Draco, as well as Pansy felt rather embarrassed, and more then a little angry at him. He was, after all, Harry Potter, someone they had hated for five years. But it had been strange, all Draco had said was that the Slytherin version of Damien suited Harry Potter better then the annoying, heroic, Gryffindorish Potter, though, unfortunately, the tendency to land himself in dangerous, life-sake situations was the same. They really hadn't talked about Damien's true identity that much. It was almost as if Draco saw it as a fair punishment that the whole school, once again, hated Damien. Or maybe it was just the fact that misery likes company, and Draco knew that Damien was one of the only people who didn't hate him.
He was torn from his musings when Ron burst into tears, bawling about how much he loved Hermione even though he was still clinging to Draco, who was looking a bit dazed, obviously starting to sober up. He turned away from the seen and snorted. His father had yet to teach them to brew a hangover-curing potion. Tomorrow was going to be rough.
"To Harry Potter!" Draco exclaimed suddenly. "The best damn rival in the wizarding world!" He stumbled over to Damien and seized his shoulders, pulling him into a bone-crushing hug. A moment later Ron joined in too.
"Get your hands off me, I have no reason to act like this," Damien hissed, shoving them off of him. They went tumbling to the floor in a mess of robes.
"Have the rest of my firewhiskey then, Harry," Ron demanded woozily, flinging the bottle at Damien from where he was sprawled on the floor.
Damien dodged the bottle and it hit the stone wall, exploding immediately upon impact and spraying a wave of amber liquid.
"Oh for goodness sakes, Ron!" Hermione snapped, yanking out her wand to do a quick repairing and cleansing charm.
"Relax, Hermione," Ginny said, grinning down at her brother, who seemed incapable of standing up on his own. "They're just having a bit of fun."
"Well they should have fun after exams are over!"
"Exams aren't for weeks," Damien said lazily. "Besides, this isn't an end-of-the year-party, it's a quidditch party."
"Besides, they will learn their lesson with the hang-over they'll probably get in the morning," Ginny told her soothingly.
Hermione bristled. "You should be studying for OWL's, Ginny."
"One part of preparing for exams is that you need to relax," Ginny said calmly, leaning leisurely over the arm of the couch so she was hanging off.
"I think you've had a bit too much firewhisky, Ginny," Hermione chided.
"I haven't done this in years!" Ginny giggled, teetering dangerously off the edge. Damien quickly grabbed her arm and jerked her back.
"Maybe we should call it a night," Hermione sighed.
"Not until Draco's sober," Pansy grumbled moodily.
"You're obviously not a night person," Ginny laughed. Pansy glared at her.
"You might have to sleep in the common room," Damien spoke up quietly.
Pansy arched an eyebrow challengingly. "Why is that?"
"Because Draco just passed out."
The morning sun was just rising when Damien woke up. He had no idea what had woken him up as he didn't have any classes and he had gotten to sleep probably around two in the morning.
It had happened quite often since he had arrived back to school. He'd simply wake up with a strange feeling of foreboding as well as an aching feeling of loss, in which he'd immediately think of Sirius and Remus, of the Marauders, of his mother. It was strange how he suddenly began to think of them so much.
It was as if every spare moment alone was spent thinking of them. He thought back to the pictures of his parents that his father had given to him for Christmas, as well as the photo album Hagrid had given him. And as he stared at them, so young and innocent, the exact same age as him, he began to realize that he, like his parents, could only have a short few years to live. It was odd to look at their cheery, laughing, and, in his father's case, brooding faces that had not yet experienced the horrors that awaited them.
How could it be possible that in a few short years, two of them would be dead, one would be in Azkaban, one a traitor, and the other two living as if they were dead? It made him wonder; would his children look back at pictures of Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and him and think the exact same thing in twenty years time? What if he wasn't able to defeat Voldemort; would the world simply fall into darkness for eternity if he was the only one who could defeat him?
Damien felt the warm spring breeze wash over him as he stepped out into the Astronomy Tower to watch the sun continue to rise. What if his own child would be the next destined one to defeat Voldemort if he couldn't? Damien felt a chill go down his spine at the thought. In his mind came the picture of an emerald-eyed young girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match it. Damien felt his lips twitch t the thought, but quickly sobered. He had to defeat Voldemort; there were no if, ands, or buts about it. He had to annihilate the monster without any source of regeneration.
It was probably the first time that Damien had actually accepted the fact that he had to kill Voldemort. He was no longer a little boy anymore, a far cry from the innocent little Gryffindor who had been determined to find adventure in Hogwarts that he had been in his first year. Those days were gone forever, and Damien felt an ache in his heart at the idea of never being able to be innocent again, never able to be pure, to be free! Without the constant pressure of the war on his shoulders, knowing that the Ministry, or the Order, would destroy the rising evil before he would grow into manhood…
Well, he had always wanted to be treated like an adult and now that he was, he just yearned for his youth again, for his long hours of exploring the castle after curfew with his two best friends by his side, for his hours he spent working into the night on a homework assignment, for the careless times he'd spend with Ron, making up predictions for Trelawney while Hermione huffed in the background. He briefly wondered, with amusement, what Hermione had done with SPEW.
"Hey, there you are!" Hermione's voice floated through his ears and he smiled, not knowing why. "We've been looking for you, everywhere, you know," she said conversationally, sitting beside him to gaze out onto the sunbathed grounds.
"'We?'" Damien asked, turning around to see Ron slowly trudging up the stairs after Hermione with a pale face and an icepack on his head.
"Not so loud," the redhead groaned and Hermione bristled.
"You have no right to say that Ronald Weasley!" she snapped and Ron winced, grunting as he pressed the icepack harder onto his head. "You should have known not to ingest so much alcohol! Honestly, you're a prefect! You have people that look up to you!"
Damien smiled as he watched Hermione plow Ron into the ground, wincing for Ron's sake as her voice rose.
"She's got a point, mate," he said quietly, but Ron was too tired to muster up enough energy to glare at him.
"Just please give me a potion, 'Mione, please," Ron begged pathetically and Damien bit his lip to keep from laughing. Hermione sighed overdramatically.
"You need to learn you're lesson not to-"
"I have, I have!" Ron pleaded. "Come on, Draco got one!"
Hermione pinned him with a fierce glare before digging into her pocket.
Ron brightened. "Thank you, 'Mione! Merlin, thank you!"
But Hermione didn't pull out a potion. Instead, she held up what looked like a Filibuster Firework invented by the Weasley twins. Ron paled even more as Hermione gave her wand a small flick and lit it.
A small series of deafening cracks went off, followed by a blinding array of lights. Ron practically howled, clenching his eyes tightly shut with his fingers stuffed in his ears.
"Hermione!" he wailed piteously.
Hermione swept her bushy hair back smugly. "There," she said softly. "Now you've learned you're lesson." She dug into her backpack and fished out a violet potion and threw it at Ron, who caught it with the tips of his fingers and downed it immediately.
"When you get your first hangover, don't come running to me!" Ron snarled after the potion began to take affect.
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "I won't need to because I'm not stupid enough to drink that much and if I did, I'd make a Hangover-Curing potion before I got intoxicated." She sniffed indignantly. "And don't you ever try to make a potion when you have a hangover! Professor Snape would have a field day if he knew!"
Ron blanched again. "He…you're not going to tell him are you?"
"I should, you know! You only had to endure a hangover for a couple of hours; I should have let you suffer," Hermione said coolly.
"Give him a break, Hermione," Damien spoke up, and his two friends jumped in surprise, no doubt forgetting that he was there. He was smiling a true, genuine smile; one that he seemed to have forgotten how to do since Christmas. But he honestly couldn't help but feeling cheerful, feeling as if the old times were almost real again as he listened to his two best friends bicker.
There was something about Ron and Hermione that no one, not Ginny, not Draco or Pansy, not even his father could do. They had been there for him ever since the beginning, before the war, and had stuck by him during the rising as only true friends could. And he knew when he looked back on his childhood memories, his fonder ones would always point to Ron and Hermione. They had been with him when he had learned about the wizarding world, when he had learned about Lord Voldemort, when he had learned about Sirius, and finally, when he had learned about his father. He knew weeks, months, or years from now, when he was at long last facing Voldemort; he'd immediately remember the times before the war, remember how he had once been a child of eleven, twelve, and thirteen, Ron and Hermione with him, always with him. He knew that an unspoken, imperishable bond had formed between the three of them. They would follow him wherever he went, regardless of what anyone, even Dumbledore advised.
As they stared at him, waiting for him to say something, it suddenly hit him how strong their friendship was. This past year had proved that nothing would ever break apart their closeness, and Damien felt warmth blossom from within him. He would survive with the strength of the two people in front of him. As long as they were with him, he knew everything was going to be okay.
"My father's a bit harsh," he said after a moment passed. "Why don't we just feed him to the snakes?" He smirked at the oblique comment to Draco and Pansy.
"Strange, that threat once would have terrified me," Ron said faintly, shaking his head. "Merlin, this year's been strange."
Damien smiled wanly.
"Strange?" Hermione said incredulously. "Is that all you can say this year has been?"
"It has been our most changing year," Ron said with a small smile.
"Yes," Damien agreed. "It has been. The war is finally began to rise and I doubt it has yet to reach it's highlight." His eyes glazed momentarily as his thoughts wandered to the people who had sacrificed so much for him. James, his mother, Sirius, and Remus…
"There will be more deaths," Hermione stated quietly, gazing at Damien wonderingly.
Remus's death was still raw on his mind. He wouldn't let Remus die in vain. Bellatrix Lestrange, Damien felt an unmistakable loathing for her, even more then he did for Voldemort. She would pay. He would make her pay before she could get to his father. An alarmingly powerful burst of rage shot through him, leaving him feeling dazed and overwhelmed at the enormity of it. His eyes darkened for a moment before he could smother down the raw hatred. Last year he would have never felt this much hatred for one being.
Damien nodded jerkily. "Yes," he whispered. "There will be more deaths, many more…" He trailed off before turning back to look at them. "But we can't let them die in vain."
Ron grinned, finally sitting down on the other side of Damien. "Gryffindor true and true are you?"
Damien smiled. "There is a fine line between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and I have always been teetering on it." He grew serious again. "Remus…Sirius…everyone whose ever died in the first or second world; their deaths will not be futile, we'll make sure of that."
"Yes, we will," Hermione said solemnly.
Ron nodded. "Yeah…..but, you know the idea that you're Snape's son still gets to me."
Damien arched an eyebrow. "Are you ever going to accept it?"
The redhead made a face. "No," he said plainly. "But I'll endure it….for your sake."
Damien smiled and looked out onto the bright grounds of Hogwarts. His home…his only home. Hogwarts was almost like a best friend to him.
Hermione stood. "We've missed breakfast. Ginny and Draco are going to be rather angry."
"They'll deal with it," Ron said lazily, but he also stood up. "Come on, mate."
Damien smiled at them, taking the hand that Hermione held out. He turned to look at the grounds for moment. In his mind's eye he saw himself walking up the stone steps with a group of first years to make his first step into Hogwarts as Damien Snape; he saw Ron, Hermione, and himself talking quietly in a secluded part of the grounds to avoid being seen by Draco Malfoy; he saw Ginny and himself walking in the gardens, holding hands as they spoke about the future; he saw his father, Draco, and him sneaking away in broad daylight to apparate to a Death Eater meeting; he saw himself being drug into a Ministry carriage to be carted off to Azkaban; he saw Remus and his father bickering incessantly while he struggled to keep the Invisibility Cloak on them as they snuck to Hogsmeade; finally, he saw his father half-carrying him back into Hogwarts after being released from the Ministry with Ron, Hermione, and Ginny gazing at him anxiously, and Draco hurrying out to confront them.
"You coming, mate?" Ron's voice broke through his reminiscences.
Damien nodded slowly, turning back to his friends. "Yeah," he said in a calm voice.
His father's face flashed before his eyes. A year ago he had hated the man as much as he had hated Draco and Pansy. "You were right, Ron."
"This year has been strange."
He would have never thought that so much could have changed all because of one secret.
The End (for now)
A/N- Yes, it is over! It's finally over! #sobs!#
This story has been a pleasure writing. I thank everyone who has reviewed and if you haven't throughout this entire story, then would you review at least once to tell me what you thought.
There will be a sequel. I have plenty ideas but it won't start until after I get 'To be a Werewolf' back under control.
Thanks to everyone who has stuck with it. I will be re-vamping the earlier chapters with better grammar and more detail. Nothing big is going to change so you don't have to reread it or anything.
Anyways, so I take my leave for now.