Title: The Prince
Author: vashsunglasses
Rating: K
Fandom: Harry Potter
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related books, characters, locations, situations, and quotes belong to JKRowling.
Summary. Deathly Hallows. -SPOILERS- OneShot. Set a few hours after Chapter 36. Harry wakes to realize that he has some unfinished business with Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape.

It was the middle of the night, and Hogwarts was resting deeply in the wake of Voldemort's demise, but in Gryffindor tower Harry Potter shifted sleepless in his bed. He thought it had been done, he had been sure that he had said everything that needed saying in the Headmaster's office earlier, but now he wasn't so sure.

"So the boy… the boy must die?" asked Snape quite calmly.
"And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential."
Another long silence, then Snape said, "I thought… all these years… that we were protecting him for her. For Lily."

Harry sat up in bed and slipped from the bedcovers. In the heat of battle and the flush of victory all dark thoughts had been banished, but now in the stillness of the night they had come upon him with full force. He slipped on his battered shoes and covered himself with his invisibility cloak, his Deathly Hallow.

Dumbledore opened his eyes. Snape looked horrified.
"You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?
"Don't be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?"
"Lately only those whom I could not save," said Snape.

Softly he made his way through the corridors of Hogwarts, keeping silent and to the shadows through long habit and instinct. He passed the Great Hall where the final battle had taken place, and the rooms where the wounded rested. He passed the room where Voldemort's corpse lay abandoned and alone. He passed the broken gargoyle and the entrance to the Headmaster's office. The place he needed to be was not inside the castle.

He stood up, "You have used me."
"I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you tell me that you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter—"

Harry left the castle and made his way to the Whomping Willow, stopping only once to face the direction where Dumbledore's ruined grave lay, "I understand why you did what you did, Professor, but I can no longer call myself 'Dumbledore's Man'. From now on, I will live my own life in the way that I choose."

"But this is touching Severus," said Dumbledore seriously, "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"
"For him?" shouted Snape. "Expecto Patronum!"
From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window.

Within the Shrieking Shack, past the tunnel that seemed so narrow now, lay the body of Severus Snape. Pale and still, a sprawl of black within a lake of spilled carmine, hair fanned out and not nearly as greasy as he remembered. Where Dumbledore had looked broken and small in death, Snape looked larger than life, an angel in the fall of sacred. The dark eyes were empty now, but Harry could still remember their feel, more real than the desperate grip on his hand, as they gazed deep into his own.

"Look… at… me…"

He was lighter than he looked, voluminous robes hiding how thin he really was, but Harry still struggled as he carried the Half-Blood Prince in his arms up the hill from the Shack to the dark outline of Hogwarts in the distance. There he would lay among the honored dead with Lily's eyes to keep watch, so as not to allow him to be defiled by those who knew not the truth.

"After all this time?"
"Always," said Snape.