DH Spoiler Alert! Do not read any further if you have not read Deathly Hallows!
Harry stepped into the headmaster's office and stood on the threshold. Drawn here by the need to know, yet strangely reluctant, he was torn by the desire to turn and leave.
"Harry, my boy! We had hoped that you would return for another visit."
The portrait right behind the headmaster's chair showed the delighted face of Albus Dumbledore. The blue eyes were twinkling typically and the old wizard wore a gentle smile. Several of the other portraits called out greetings to the savior of the wizarding world.
Harry walked closer, trying to scan the walls for the portrait he had come to see. Dumbledore noticed and said softly, "He is not here. There is no Headmaster portrait of Severus Snape."
Harry slumped into the chair behind the desk, a feeling of loss washing over him. "I really wanted to talk to him … to ask him about my mother."
"You viewed his memories, Harry. You know how he felt about her. I doubt that he could or would tell you more."
Harry nodded silently. "I know. But he knew her, you know? Really knew her. I guess I just wanted to see if he would tell me more now. Now that all the pretending is past, I thought maybe he would be able to see just me." He hesitated. "I wanted to know if he could accept my apology."
"You owe no one an apology, Harry. It is we who should apologize to you. You have been a pawn in the war. I do regret that you were made to endure so much." Dumbledore peered over his half-moon glasses, shaking his head apologetically.
"I know, Professor. But I understand now." His own eyes were bright with some deeper emotion that he kept tightly reigned. "Hermione told me about a Muggle book, The Tale of Two Cities … she told me one of the people in it says that 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'".
"Smart girl, Miss Granger. Even so, it was still very difficult to put the needs of the many above yours. Severus was right when he said I had been raising you to send you to slaughter like a pig." His eyes were sorrowful as he shook his head in remorse.
Harry sighed and tried to bring the talk back around to his purpose. "Why is there no portrait of Professor Snape? He was the headmaster, even if it was so brief."
"Usually, portraits are magically done on the one-year anniversary of a headmaster's term. Severus did not hold the position long enough for the commission to be accomplished." He looked at the bowed head of the boy; no, the man in front of him. "Perhaps a portrait survives in his home," he offered.
Harry's head came up in surprise. "Where is that?"
"Severus kept a small home in Spinners End. I must warn you, though, he never held with expressions of artifice. He didn't care much for his own appearance, so it's unlikely that he ever had a portrait done. It would be like him to spurn the doing of it."
Harry nodded his understanding. Then his expression turned pensive. "I saw him die, you know. Nagini killed him. He didn't have a chance to defend himself. Voldemort just sacrificed him, so he could have control of the wand …"
He drifted away in the memory of the scene in the Shrieking Shack, Snape lying in an ever-growing pool of blood, unable to staunch the flow of the mortal wound. Silver, vaporous ribbons flowed from his eyes, ears and mouth. Hermione had conjured a flask and Harry had obediently captured the strands. Harry didn't think he would ever forget the last rasping breath of the man he had always hated. "Look—at—me", he had said.
The horrifying thump of his knuckles hitting the floor when he let go of Harry in death replayed itself whenever he contemplated the events. Harry had hurried to look at the memories Snape had imparted, and only later, after it was all over did he think about the man who had sworn to protect him. Even though it had all been for Lily and not for Harry, he could no longer bring himself to despise the man. He needed to make peace with having left him there, forgotten.
When he went back to the Shrieking Shack, after telling Ron, Hermione, and Ginny that he needed to be alone, the body was gone. Only a drying pool of blood marked the spot where he had lain. Harry sat there in the floor, listening to the groans of the wooden walls and rafters. He had not planned what he would do with the body, but he was at a loss when it was already gone. No one seemed to know who had retrieved it; no one knew whether or not it had gone with the other Death Eater bodies. It wasn't with the ones laying in dignified rows in The Great Hall. There was no one to ask, and when Harry had tried to ask McGonagall, she had patted him on the head and told him it was high time he relaxed for a change.
He looked back up at Dumbledore's portrait. The old wizard's face was kind, but Harry now knew that behind the kindness had lain a ruthlessness borne of necessity. He resented having been manipulated, but at the same time, now that it was over he did understand. It would likely always be difficult to wrap his head around the idea that he had been the only one who could destroy Voldemort. No matter how convoluted all the pieces of the puzzle had been, Dumbledore had made them fit in the end. He could have simply let Harry's life end when the time came, but he had let Harry know he still had a choice. He had expressed his own regret and remorse. The least Harry could do was to forgive the man.
Dumbledore seemed to be able to see Harry's thoughts, even from behind the dimension of a painting. "Your capacity for forgiveness and love is what has set you apart. Even now, when you should resent me and even hate me, I see your acceptance."
Harry gave him a brief nod of acknowledgement, head bowed again. "I think I'll try Spinner's End, then." He turned to walk out. At the door, he stopped and turned back. All the portraits were watching him intently. "See you, Professor."
As the door closed behind him, Dumbledore murmured, "Please be kind to him, Severus."
If there was a more dreary place in all Britain, Harry could not imagine it. Even his existence in a dark cupboard paled in this place. The paths were muddy, hardly discernible from the bare ground on either side. Harry stepped to the side as a battered Muggle car clattered by, throwing up mud from the potholes that pocked the questionable road. He stared around at the poor conditions of the backwards place. Surely Snape had not really lived here…surely he had lived in a better, more affluent place. Granted, the dark oppressive atmosphere probably suited the Potions Master well, but …
He walked on until he came to a rusted gate on a fence badly in need of repair. Opening the gate, he started up the uneven walkway. He felt the wards, sensed the disallusionment charms that attempted to turn him back. They were probably highly successful with all Muggles and most wizards. The charms closed in on him, making him feel the urge to flee before some unseen spectre emerged from the looming house.
Shaking off the heavy hand of the charms, he stepped up onto the porch. He gripped his wand in his pocket, but left it hidden. Closing his eyes, he could see that the house was not as in as bad shape as the eye would believe. The door was locked, so he was forced to finally withdraw the wand and whisper Alohamora.
Another strong tingle of magic passed over him when he crossed through. He frowned in consternation. How could the wards be so strong still? Wouldn't they have failed afterwards?
He moved into the main rooms of the house. The silence pressed in, making him listen harder for what he was not hearing. In the house it was gloomy, dust a thin layer of padding over everything. Harry walked further in and looked up the stairway, listening for any sign of … anything. Not even the furtive scurry of a mouse could be heard. The silence itself was almost too loud.
Furniture was covered with white cloth in all the rooms. So used to the sight of the ghostly, shrouded shapes, he stopped abruptly when he came to a room where the furniture was bare of it. The room, a library, was clean. He took in the sofa, an open book laying face-down on the cushions. A half-empty snifter sat on the low table beside it. Before Harry could process this, he felt the point of a wand at his throat.
"What are you doing here, Potter?" a deep voice growled.
His stomach dropped as he blanched. "Professor? Y-you're alive?"
The wand dropped. "Don't be an idiot, boy."
Harry spun around and gaped at Aberforth Dumbledore. "What are you doing here?"
The blue eyes were flashing. "Not your concern, Potter. Now, I asked you, what are you doing here."
Harry stuttered in his attempt to get his bearings back. "I c-came to see if Professor Snape h-had a portrait."
Aberforth grunted. "No. There is no portrait. So you can just go away and enjoy your new life of freedom."
Harry started to nod, then felt the unmistakable twinge of the Imperius. He looked up at the gray-haired man with a clenched jaw. "Your brother probably never had the chance to tell you how I can throw off the Imperius." He looked at the man intently. "Why are you so set on getting me away from here? Are you stealing from Snape's stuff?"
A harsh laugh as the man threw his head back in amusement startled Harry. "Stealing? Why would I need to do that? I have no need of the poor blighter's possessions." He shook his head as he leveled a glare at Harry. "I am merely carrying out my brother's request. There was no one else to settle Snape's affairs."
Harry glared back for a moment before nodding. Looking around the room again, he asked, "So, no portrait? Are you sure?" It may have been a small one, maybe one that was done long ago?"
"I told you—no portrait is here." He watched the boy in front of him as the shoulders heaved with a heavy sigh. He softened his voice marginally. "What would you have said? Why do you want there to be one?"
Harry walked slowly around the room's perimeter, examining the titles of books. "I needed to tell him … I needed to say I was sorry for it all."
Aberforth frowned more. "What would you have to be sorry for? Seems my brother was the one who needed to be sorry. For what he put you through. Even though it was the only way, he was a right bastard. I knew what he was doing, you know. It didn't endear him to me, you can be sure."
At Harry's incredulous look, he nodded. "We didn't see eye to eye about a lot of things. But the need to get rid of Tom Riddle, we did agree on that. I hated Al even more when he told me what he was doing to get you into the position to 'do your purpose'." He picked up the snifter and took a hefty sip, grimacing at the taste of whatever was in it.
He didn't offer Harry anything, not that Harry would have accepted it. He kept looking at the books as he made his way around the room. At the unlit fireplace, he stopped. On the mantle, there were a few framed pictures. A dark-haired woman stared back at him and sneered, an expression Harry recognized with a surprisingly painful pang. He knew without asking that this must be Eileen Prince, Snape's mother. In another, the somber woman was a little older, holding an equally somber child on her lap. The black eyes of the mother and her small child stared back at Harry with dislike. The child clutched his mothers hand as she held him stiffly and protectively. The last picture was a Muggle photograph, a black and white grainy picture of an older boy with a happily smiling young girl. With a start, Harry recognized his mother as the girl standing beside an unsmiling Severus. They were probably in their early teens in the picture. Maybe it had been taken at a time when Severus and Lily had worked on homework at her house during the hols.
Harry picked up the picture and stared at it. His chest was tight with an emotion he couldn't name. It wasn't hate … perhaps regret? How often had Snape looked at this picture and wished for what might have been? Had he really wished that he and Lily would end up together? He knew the answer to that without further reflection. After what he had seen from Snape's memories, he knew that the man would have given anything to take back what had split the two of them apart. It was unsettling to think that had life evolved in another way, Snape might have been his father …
He turned to Aberforth with the picture in his hand. "Do you think I could have this? It has my mum in it, and if you're settling everything here …" He looked at the older wizard so beseechingly that the blue eyes clouded for a moment.
Hesitating for a moment, he waved a hand at the picture, saying gruffly, "Go ahead."
Harry looked so pleased to have it that it almost made the man weaken in his resolve. "Now be off. There's no portrait, so there's no need for you to dawdle."
Harry looked back at him, green eyes sharpening at the man's hurrying tone. "You wanted to know what I would say to him." He waited for the grudging nod before continuing. "I would have said I was sorry, but I know he would have sneered at it. He would have called me a foolish Gryffindor, for thinking I had to come here and try to make all things right.
"I would have told him I wished that I had listened to him more and hated him less. I wish that I had not been so set on placing my dad up on some pedestal. I would have told him I was sorry for how my dad and the others treated him. Snape would have barked back that I should have been a Hufflepuff for blubbering about what was past and done. But I would have reminded him that he let the past rule his present, too." A heavy overhead creaking of floorboards had them both looking up.
Aberforth murmured quickly, "Very old house, you know. Lots of noises."
Harry almost snorted. The silence before was what made the sudden lack of it so obvious. He didn't question it, but he only continued, "I would have said that I was sorry for all the times when I thought he was trying to kill me. He would have yelled that he actually did want to kill me on numerous occasions. I would have said that he could keep on believing that if it helped him feel better.
"I would have told him about how the battle ended … how your brother came to me at the end and told me I had a choice after all. I chose to live, even though I could have gone on to be with Mum and Dad, Sirius and Remus. They were kind of my Patronus, protecting me when I confronted Voldemort.
"I would have told him about how Neville killed Nagini with the Sword of Gryffindor. Snape would have probably been gobsmacked that Neville was able to do it, too. He would have hated to be in debt to the kid who regularly blew up cauldrons in class."
Harry stared at the silent man, willing him to say something. Aberforth had the grace to look uncomfortable, but he said nothing. Harry said softly, "I'm sorry for leaving him alone in the Shrieking Shack. He shouldn't have been by himself … without anybody to care. I would tell him that I cared, that I knew at last how brave he had been all these years. He should be seen as a hero and I intend to make sure of it."
The two stared at each other for a long time then. Aberforth finally cleared his throat. "I have a lot more to do to get this all packed up. If you're done …"
Harry nodded. "I'm done. I've said what I came to say." He looked at the picture in his hands. "Are you sure he won't mind me taking this?"
Aberforth shifted on his feet. "Why would he—of course he wouldn't have minded. He has no use for it now, does he?"
Harry gave him an exasperated glare. The man was a good wizard, but he was transparent. He had none of the finesse Albus had shown in hiding things from Harry. "Right, then." He walked back out of the library and headed for the front door. Overhead, he heard the creaking of floorboards again. He hesitated only a moment and then opened the door. When he turned back, Aberforth was right behind him. He looked into the eyes that were so like his brother's.
"Just in case… I'll be living at Number 12 for awhile. I've reset the wards. Any Order member can get in."
"I keep to myself and I do have a business to run. I won't be bothering you," Aberforth blustered.
"It won't be a bother, no matter who decides to visit." Harry glared at him again, wondering for a moment if the man really believed that Harry had been fooled. Heaving a deep sigh, he walked down the path and out the gate. Hearing the door close behind him, he turned and looked up at a window on the upper floor. He caught the tiniest movement of a curtain. Staring at the window, he whispered, "Good-bye, Severus."
A/N: I simply could not leave this story when DH was finished. There had to be some kind of closure for Harry with Snape. I hope that this satisfies some of you other Snape fans out there, as well as give you hope that perhaps it did not all end on the floor of the Shrieking Shack after all!