A/N: I don't usually do Harry Potter fanfic, as there are three hundred and some thousand of them out there, but I needed a bit more closure regarding Snape. Nothing new added, all respect to the cannon. MASSIVE DH spoilers.
More Like His Mother
Harry had been dreading this. It was only to be expected, they were his children. But he'd really rather expected it to be James. James was the bolder one, the mischievous one; Albus had a bit gentler nature. But then again, Albus looked exactly like him, right down to his mother's eyes. So there was more than likely that penchant for rule breaking to be lurking down in there somewhere.
He hadn't been in these halls since that terrible, wonderful day, when he'd gotten his life back. The repairs had been so well executed that Harry couldn't even tell where the damage had been. Sure, it had been nineteen years, but the Battle for Hogwarts had nearly ripped the place apart down to its foundations. That was magic for you, he guessed.
The gargoyle that guarded the entrance was the same one that had been there since time unremembered, and while Harry had that momentary lurch of wondering what the new password was, he had no real anxiety of getting past it.
"Dumbledore," he spoke with confidence. He swore he saw the gargoyle smirk before leaping out the way.
As he rose on the elevator-like stairs, he wondered why he had not done this sooner. Just as immediately, he answered his own question – Dumbledore was dead. Hanging onto ghosts was something he'd sworn to himself he wasn't going to do. If he did, well, there'd be no room in his life for living people. And with Ginny and his children, and Ron and Hermione and Teddy and all his Weasley relations, he had all the family he'd ever wanted, ever needed, and he knew, now in this thirty-sixth year, that was how it was supposed to be. The living was for the living, and the dead were for the dead.
It didn't stop the weight on his soul, though, and it didn't stop him from loving them or regretting them, but if he let it drag around his neck, like that Slytherin locket, it would surely choke him to death just as the locket had tried to do.
Upon opening the door, he saw what he had not expected to see. He had expected dear old Professor McGonagall to be sitting in the headmaster's seat, old and venerable, the beating heart of Hogwarts, looking at his son with displeasure, and his son sitting in one of the opposing chairs, head down and miserable, dreading his father's appearance. But instead he saw only Albus, and he wasn't sitting, but standing, his head raised in wonder and staring at a portrait Harry had never known was there.
Severus Snape's portrait sat off to the side of Dumbledore's, dressed all in black, the high buttoned cassock and batlike robes blending into his long black hair, with his white face – he looked like the Snape Harry had known when he'd first come to Hogwarts, not like the pale, death-faced man he'd seen in the last few moments of Snape's life. But then again, Harry had never seen Snape directly in Voldemort's presence, and only now had some inkling of what it had taken for Snape to hide himself under the nose of a man who could not be lied to. Now, he had the dignity of a Headmaster, as well he had the right to, as he had run the school with Dumbledore's blessing during that long, horrible year. Harry found he was not as surprised as he might have been, seeing that portrait here. But why shouldn't it be here? It belonged here.
Albus turned when he heard his father enter. Harry attempted a stern look, but just couldn't muster it. He had never seen so many expressions cross his youngest son's face – embarrassment at being in trouble, amazement at the wonders of the headmaster's office, and a burning curiosity that Harry wished he had had more courage to unleash in his younger years.
"Dad," Albus said in a tremulous voice. Not the least of those emotions was dread at what his father was going to say, clashing with the I-have-to-know tone of his voice. "Dad, I was talking to Professor Dumbledore – the one you named me after." He pointed at Dumbledore's portrait, who was looking at him with that same affection, that same love as the day Harry had defeated Voldemort. Then Albus' finger then turned to Severus, who drew back, a bit indignant, at being pointed at so casually. "And he knew my middle name, and introduced me to Professor Snape, too." Albus' forehead creased, almost in agony. "I told him the things you'd told me about him, but I don't think he believed me. Why doesn't he believe me, Dad?"
Harry didn't know what to say. He had told Albus all about Dumbledore from a young age, but only recently about Snape. It was mostly because Harry had only just come to terms with what Snape had really done for him before sending his firstborn, James, away to school. How did one explain that a man he had hated and loathed and held personally responsible for the death of his godfather had really been his greatest, his truest, his most fearsome protector? And ultimately, had been his key to truly defeating Voldemort, once and for all?
It had taken Harry over fifteen years to find those words. And now, here he was, practically face to face – or face to portrait – with that man.
Snape was looking at him with his typical cool disdain. Harry did not glare back defiantly as he would have nineteen years ago. He knew why Snape hated him and yet guarded him at the same time. He knew why Snape had asked him to look into his eyes at the moment of his death. And he understood why Snape had taken one look at him, upon his entrance at Hogwarts on his eleventh year, and dismissed him as a carbon copy of his father, with absolutely no redeeming features at all.
Harry had made his peace with Snape. Perhaps now it was time for Snape to make his peace with him.
He cleared his throat. "Um, Albus? Could you go wait in the corridor for a moment?"
Albus frowned. "But Professor McGonagall told me to wait here—"
"Just outside the door—" and then Harry looked down, putting a bit of glare into his eyes. "And no extendable ears, young man, do you understand? Or you'll be in twice the trouble."
Albus nodded quickly, and with a last, longing glance at the portrait of Snape, he slipped out the door.
Harry turned to the portrait. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dumbledore's expression – a knowing smile and a mildly apprehensive look. Harry had never been known too much for his brains, so there was little point in starting to think things completely through now.
"Severus," he said, using the utmost respect he could manage, "I never thanked you properly."
"No," Snape said, that drawling boredom evident in his tone. "But nor did I expect you to. I didn't do anything for you, Potter."
Harry considered this. "I know that you did it for my mother," he said. "And I've been wanting to tell you something."
Snape raised one eyebrow. Obviously, he didn't expect anything profound from Harry. Even in death, the man still looked at him and saw James.
"I want to tell you that I'm sorry," Harry said, the words coming to him before he knew what he was really saying. "I'm sorry for the way my father treated you. I'm sorry for the way Sirius treated you. As much as I loved them, I know what they did wasn't right. You didn't deserve to be treated like that by anyone."
He sighed, wondering if he was doing what Ron would call, "overkill." But he could see Hermione, in his mind's eye, nodding and smiling encouragingly.
"And I want you to know," he said, even as Snape's expression grew more and more deeply puzzled, "that I'm not like that. That I would never have done any of those things when I was younger. And I never wanted anyone to treat me special. That part about not caring too much about the rules, that's true, I admit it, but…" He struggled for just the right words. "I think that if my father had known about who you truly were, if he had seen what you've done, what you've sacrificed, he would have apologized, too. And he would have told me to be more like my mother. So I have."
Wrong words. Snape sighed, and perhaps if he'd had a little less dignity he would have rolled his eyes. "Potter, your father—"
"Was not a saint, I get that now," Harry pressed. "And I know whenever you look at me, you see him, a man who stole away the love of your life. But—" oh, the words, they had to be just right, and he'd done so miserably so far, nothing felt right – "I know how you tried to save them, and how wrong I was to judge you the way I did, thinking the terrible things I thought about you. And maybe you didn't care what I thought of you, but I did. And I know how wrong I was about you. I did tell my son that you're the bravest man I ever knew. I gave him your name so I'd never forget. So maybe…maybe you can admit…" he almost didn't want to say it, "that maybe you were a bit wrong about me."
Snape stared at him for a very long moment, his expression unreadable. Then, slowly, the white brow wrinkled into a deep frown of puzzlement.
"Why are you saying these things?" Snape finally asked.
Harry shrugged. "Because if my mother had known how much you loved her, she would have wanted me to. Because you deserve to know that your sacrifice…" he met Snape's eyes, "it meant everything."
The frown fell away, and Harry saw a look on Snape's face he almost couldn't read. Shock? Sorrow? Regret? It could have been any, or all three. And then, realizing he had nothing more to say, Harry started to turn away.
Harry felt a strange shiver. He'd never heard Snape us his given name before. He turned, and saw that Snape was not meeting his eyes, but was instead looking down, not quite at his hands, but at some invisible point on the portrait's frame.
Finally, Snape looked at him. It was unsteady, but their eyes met. "Thank you."
Harry nodded. At that moment, the door opened, and McGonagall's voice, nineteen years older than the last time Harry had heard it, was scolding Albus.
"—and not listening at doors in the corridor. Oh, Harry," she said upon seeing him. "Well, as much as I am pleased to see you, I'm sorry it has to be under these circumstances." She gave Albus a sharp glare and pointed to a seat, which he took, looking cowed. "It's about these things. I suggest you be much more careful about putting them where an overly-curious eleven-year-old can get at them in the future."
She produced the invisibility cloak and the Marauder's Map, and placed them on the desk. Harry almost wanted to laugh, but didn't dare.
"I called you here," McGonagall said, seating herself and gesturing for Harry to do the same, "because I wanted to be clear that in spite of your history with this school, we cannot allow ourselves to be seen as playing favorites. Both of these items are now forbidden on the grounds, and I ever see either one again, I will be forced to take drastic action."
Harry ran a hand through his hair, giving Albus a look he hoped the boy took as being frustrated. "You won't ever see them again, Professor," he said apologetically. "I'm going to put them in my vault at Gringotts."
McGonagall huffed. "A shame you didn't think of that sooner." Then she paused. "So they have forgiven you for breaking in successfully and stealing their dragon, I take it?"
"Some years ago," Harry said. "Well, we had to give them Ginny's Aunt Muriel's tiara, after she wore it at our wedding, to get them to let me back into my account, but I guess it was worth it."
"Yes, it was a shame to hear about Muriel's passing," McGonagall said, conversationally, and then scowled, as if to remind herself why she was really here. "Detention," she declared, "from now until the end of the term. Which by my account is the next two months."
Harry nodded. "I understand." He stood up, reaching for the cloak and the map, and then something occurred to him. "Professor, why did you send for me personally? I mean, you could have sent a Howler and mailed me these items."
McGonagall had looked up at the portrait of Dumbledore, who was looking back at her, and the look that passed between them was one that Harry didn't have to read too closely. "Just thought a proper visit might be in order, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said innocently, turning back to him.
Harry nodded, frowning a bit, and then jerked his head at Albus. "Could I see my son in private for a moment before sending him back to his dormitory?" he asked.
"Certainly," McGonagall said, twitching her wand at a quill. "Take care, Harry."
"You too, Minerva," Harry said, and before he left the room, Albus drooping miserably before him, he shot back a last glance at the portrait of Snape.
Severus had been looking away, puzzling over something, and upon seeing Harry looking at him, he caught his eyes, steadily this time.
His mother's green eyes.
Harry nodded at the portrait, and to his personal, concealed amazement, Snape nodded back, his expression more peaceful than Harry had ever imagined it.
The portrait of Albus Dumbledore waited until the door had shut behind his most prized and beloved student before murmuring to the portrait of Severus Snape. "I did tell you that he had more of his mother's nature than his father's," he said.
Snape paused before responding. "Yes," he conceded. "Perhaps you are right."