The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to. – Dodie Smith

She had gotten very good at concealing her emotions, and just plowing ahead with what needed to be done. Growing up in the Snape household, that had been a bit of a given: learning to depend on yourself and yourself only, not showing any weak or unstable feelings. She had become very adept at these concepts – or, at least, she liked to think she had. And so that was what she was she was doing at this very minute as she trundled up the hill towards the castle, holding up the hem of her robes in one hand so as not to trip and clutching the newest copy of the Daily Prophet in her other hand.

She went through the open front doors of Hogwarts and entered the school. People had still not cleared out entirely from the battle even though it had taken place nearly a day ago; some were clustered at the House tables, and others were milling around, some looking as though they knew where they were going, others looking as though they did not. She continued on past them, her eyes seeking only for one, whom she located a little farther down the corridor.

"Hello, Selena," McGonagall said quietly, and they both stopped several feet from each other.

Selena Snape nodded once jerkily, then she held up the newspaper next to her face, staring levelly at the woman opposite her as she pointed a thin finger at an article. "Is it true?" she asked tautly.

Minerva McGonagall peered closer at what Selena was indicating, and Selena knew the older woman was scanning the words 'Death Toll for Final Battle With You-Know-Who' and reading the names underneath. Understanding flooded McGonagall's features as she quickly read it over, and then drew back. "All true," she replied, adjusting her glasses in a fidgety manner.

Selena's grip on the paper tightened, but she gave no other sign of pain as she nodded once again.

"I'm sorry, Selena," McGonagall offered gently, reaching out an arm towards her companion.

Selena wrenched herself away before the kind fingers reached her. "Never mind that now. I just wanted to – just wanted to confirm its truth, you know, since the Prophet isn't always the most accurate of news bearers . . . "

"Unfortunately," said McGonagall softly, "this time it is."

"Right," said Selena, not able to meet the other woman's eyes anymore. "Well, thank you for your time."

"You're leaving?" McGonagall asked, as Selena turned away.

"That was the general idea, yes."

"Selena, stay here, you're welcome to just. . . . We're all mourning, no one will think any less of you . . ."

"I have work," Selena said, although she was not due at her job for another two hours. "I – I should be going."

McGonagall frowned slightly. "Very well. I can't make you stay. You must do as you need, I suppose, although I'd have thought your needs at the moment would be a little different."

Unexplainably, Selena's eyes suddenly stung fiercely, all that she had been holding back since the early hours of the morning rushing forward at these words. She stood stock-still for a long, drawn-out moment, facing the woman. Making a quick – and possibly rash and pointless – decision, she said through numb lips, "On s-second thought, maybe I'll stay for a little while. C-could I possibly g-go up to the H-Headmaster's office? Or, Headmistress, I suppose, as that job has fallen to y-you now."

"I suppose," said McGonagall slowly. "I'm afraid I can't come with you right now though, I have other things to attend to."

"No no, that's fine," said Selena hastily. "I – wanted to go alone anyway. If that's all right."

McGonagall nodded her assent, although she looked as though she had reservations about the idea. Selena muttered a hasty 'thanks' before the woman could change her mind, then hurried off down the corridor, still holding the newspaper in a steel grip, blinking rapidly as she went.

The stone gargoyle that usually allowed or denied entrance was lying in several pieces on the floor. Selena hopped over its rubble and moved up the narrow staircase, pushing gently and quietly on the door, as though expecting to be scorched if she did not open it slowly or softly enough.

The office looked much how she had remembered it from the days that Dumbledore had occupied it. The noticeable difference was the empty perch where his phoenix used to sit, but as she stepped closed she could see other changes: several of the strange instruments on Dumbledore's desk were absent, in their place an abundance of paperwork and a few more sinister looking items. Selena scooted closer until she stood behind the desk. She felt a moment of hesitating guilt, then plunged her hands into the papers, rifling through them. They seemed to be the routine enough; various things about the school and such. She wasn't snooping, she told herself: she was merely searching for the facts her brother had long denied her. She removed her hands and started thumbing through another pile.

"Continuing to pry into my business even after my death, Selena?"

The papers dropped from her hands and fell, scattering and fluttering madly, onto the table. She whirled around towards the wall which held portraits of the former leaders of Hogwarts. She had not noticed upon coming in, but two new pictures had been hung since she'd last visited the office, including one of Dumbledore. The other one, the one she was gawking at, currently seemed to be sleeping. She knew instantly he was feigning his deep slumber, and took a step towards him.

"Severus," she said in a low, commanding voice.

He continued to 'sleep'.

"Severus," she said again. "Severus."

No response.

"I know you're not asleep. Look at me."

He gave a not-at-all-convincing half-snore.

"We need to talk, and if this is the only way it can happen now, then so be it. Open your eyes." The portrait went on faking sleep. Her nerves reaching their last chords, Selena closed the distance between she and the picture and rapped it hard with her finger twice. "Open your eyes, Sevy," she growled.

His eyes cracked open, and his painted features scowled at her in striking imitation of the actual human version. "There is no need to tap my picture, or to use that dim-witted childhood nickname," he said irritably.

"It got you to stop ignoring me, that's the important part," she said snappishly, a smirk toying at her mouth even as she half-heartedly tried to prevent it. "I have some things I want to ask you about."

Severus leaned back in his painted high-backed chair. "Does it matter if I don't want to answer?"

Selena paid this inquiry no attention. "My first question is – " and her calm, resolved manner suddenly evaporated; her tone turned furious and she balled one hand into a fist " – what the hell is your problem?"

"I had many in my lifetime," he said wryly, "do be more specific."

"Oh, honestly!" she raged, banging her curled fist on the wall (some of the other occupants in the portraits jostled slightly, and one exclaimed, "Now, really!"). "What side are – were – you even on, Severus?"

"From this point of view, Selena, I know neither north nor south. I suggest you find a compass."

She leaned in towards him, a part of her wishing she could throttle him. "I will phrase this as bluntly as I can, so you can answer with no more riddles," she snarled at him. "Did you truly support You-Know-Who, or the Order?"

Severus' lip curled, and he stroked his chin in amusement. "Didn't we have this discussion when I was alive, Selena? Many times, in fact, if memory serves correctly."

"And every time I thought I got an answer, you made me doubt again. I'll ask you once more: which side were you really on?"

"I was always working against the Dark Lord, Selena, surely by now it has sunk in to your thick skull. I had even made it plain to you, just under a year ago, when I so kindly helped you out of that – sticky spot with the dementors . . . "

"Yes, and that was before you were elected Headmaster of this school and started doing all those horrible things."

"I was doing horrible things, was I?" Severus asked with little interest.

"Don't think I wasn't paying attention: you've been shunning out all the Muggleborns from this school – "

"That was the Ministry, dear sister," he sneered, but she plowed on.

" – you turned this school into some sort of place to simply learn your beloved Dark Arts – "

"Which was only one subject, and I know for certain the more competent teachers continued on exactly as before."

" – you've been torturing the kids when they don't do as asked – "

"I assure you, I did not enjoy the fact that the Carrows were employing such methods. But you'll notice none of the students suffered any fatal or permanent injuries under my watch."

" – and whenever I came around this year to see you, you just shooed me off like I was some pesky moth flitting around your head!"

"I won't deny or excuse that one," said Severus in a quieter voice. "I was stressed and starting to be overwhelmed from serving two masters. But that was no excuse to push away one of the only people who still gave a damn about me."

That remark stunned Selena into silence, and she bit down on the inside of her lip. Lost for words, she turned away from her brother's portrait and stared down at his old desk.

"I know I was never the best person in the world, Selena, but you do need to believe that I never lied to you when I said my faith and loyalty lay completely with Dumbledore and the Order."

"You gave me false information," she told the desk. "You had told me that one of You-Know-Who's Horcruxes – that it was at the grave site of his father – and I was supposed to tell Harry Potter. I did my part, Severus, I told the boy – but there was no Horcrux there."

"My sources were mistaken," said Severus calmly. "A simple error, although I am sorry I put you through the trouble."

Uncertain what to make of this reason, she began fingering through another pile of papers on his desk, until one particularly old and crumpled one caught her eye. She withdrew it from the stack and read its short contents.

could ever have been friends with Gellert Grindelwald, I think her mind's going, personally!

Lots of love,

Lily

Selena turned back around to stare into his face, holding up the piece of the letter for him to see. "You loved her, didn't you?"

Severus gave a noncommittal jerk of the head, but his eyes, even though painted, were suddenly softened, weakened.

Selena nodded absently, her eyes drifting back down towards the parchment. "I thought so. At least, I always had my suspicions . . ."

"I made it that obvious?"

"I'm your sister, Severus, I saw how you were around her . . . not around her . . . but why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Clearly, you and your high intelligence were able to figure it out regardless."

It astounded her that, even in death, Severus Snape could indeed continue to mock and sneer at her. "I did always think it, but was never entirely certain – why didn't you tell me?" she asked again.

"Would there have been a reason to tell you I cared for her?" he inquired calmly.

"Yes, of course!"

"And what would you have done with the confirmed information?"

"I don't know – I could have helped you – helped you let her know or – "

"Oh, she knew, Selena. Lily was not unintelligent. She knew how I felt, she would have chosen Potter no matter what anyone said to her."

"Well, I could have supported you later on in life – someone for you to lean on when she didn't return the sentiments – "

"I needed no support systems, thank you," he said in a dry and brittle tone.

"Stop it," she snapped. "I'm your sister. We all need a little support now and then, and I would have always – always been there for you for anything – "

"Yes, well, it's a bit late for that. The subject is quite 'dead and buried', in fact."

She grabbed the edges of his frame and yanked, trying to pull him off the wall. However, it appeared that a permanent Sticking Charm had been applied, because her tugging had no affect whatsoever. Selena unclenched her fingers and took a deep, rattling breath through her nose, gazing at Severus vehemently.

"You're – despicable," she ground out.

He shrugged one shoulder in an uncaring manner.

"How did it happen?" Selena asked in a harsh, brutal voice.

"How did what happen? How did I become despicable?"

"No, I meant, how did this – " she gestured to his portrait " – happen. How – how did you die?" She glared, eyes hard, daring him to answer such a personal and most likely cruel question. To her mild surprise, he replied.

"The Dark Lord believed that I had possession of something he wanted that could only be taken by stealth: the Elder wand. You've heard the tale of the Elder wand, I'm sure."

She nodded mutely.

"The Dark Lord believed I had possession of the object, he believed I was its true master. He didn't realize that I did not, in fact, have rightful possession of it, but I was not foolish enough to contradict him. So he set his snake on me. Thankfully, Potter arrived before I died, so I was able to give him a stream of memories to explain my motives throughout the years." Severus recounted the events in a cool, bland voice, as though merely retelling the happenings of a typical day of his. "And then I was surrounded by blackness, deeper and darker than even the blackness my life had become."

Selena sunk into the chair behind the Headmaster's desk. "I . . ."

"There is no need to mourn, Selena," Severus told her, his frosty tone melting into something more human. "I had nothing much left to live for."

She could fight her prickling eyes no longer: tears gushed from her eyes as she stared into his face, pouring down her cheeks and leaving wet streaks on her face. "It w-wasn't your time," she blubbered. "Y-you didn't – I didn't – there was n-no reason – "

"There were many reasons, Selena: if the Dark Lord had not murdered me, I am sure someone else would have gladly stepped up to the plate quite quickly. I put in my part for the war, there was no more for me to do."

She shuddered under the weight of her sobs, managing to stammer out incoherently, "B-b-but you – you d-did – I thought – I-I-I – and t-then – w-why did this – damn it – I had j-j-just – "

"Come here," said Severus in a soft, pacifying voice, and she docily scooted the chair she was seated in closer, leaning her head helplessly against the bottom of his painting.

"I'll only ever be gone if you choose to think of me as gone," he said gently, as she continued to weep quietly, trying to stifle the noise with her hand. "But I'll be able to keep living if you keep me alive. Just remember me, and I'll always be there. I'll never really leave you, Lena."

"Bull," she whispered, wiping her eyes before she smeared his painting with the water drops.

"No, it's true," he said calmly. "Old words, and perhaps they are a bit cliché, but you must hold them as true, for only then will they be."

She pulled away from the picture, rubbing her eyes to stop her tears flowing. "I'm sorry," she said, not even entirely sure how she could put all the things she was sorry for into words. "For . . . for not believing you, and for always . . . causing you trouble and annoyance . . ."

"You're my sister," he said, amused. "What else would you have caused? Not pleasantries, surely."

She couldn't help it: she gave an odd, gurgling snort of teary laughter. Swiping her eyes hastily with the back of her hand, she grabbed the newspaper she had brought in, and stood up resolutely before she stayed forever, which she knew deep down she would if given the chance. "I . . . should go."

His illustrated face nodded.

Selena walked over towards the door and grasped the knob. Turning around fleetingly, she added, "Thank you."

Severus' lips twisted into a half-smile. "Thank you, Selena."

Her eyes twinged again, but she fought back the salty droplets and thrust open the door. Her feet carried her blindly back down the stairs and along the corridor. Dimly she thought she saw McGonagall try to beckon her over, but Selena did not stop for her, and burst right through the front doors, planning vaguely to travel to Hogsmeade and then Apparate to her work. Her legs, however, seemed to have different plans, for they guided her unthinkingly around Hogwarts' grounds, towards a secluded spot near the side. A graveyard had been erected here, for those who had lost their lives here at the school, tombstones popping out of the ground as abundant as pansies.

She moved forward into the thicket of the graves, stopping at the very end of the row. To the right of the marble white tombstone of Dumbledore sat another headstone; not quite as tall, but still grand in its black marble makings. She fell down onto her knees in front of it, reading the inscription.

In Memory Of

Severus Tobias Snape

Born January 9th, 1960

Died May 30th, 1998

Beloved Headmaster Of Hogwarts, 1997-1998

Never Forgotten By Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter

Despite herself, Selena found a giggle escaping her mouth at the words 'Beloved Headmaster'. The day her brother was beloved by the students she knew he always tormented would be the day the grass turned pink of its own accord.

Sobering, she ran her fingers gently over the engraved words. A lone tear fled her eye as she conjured a single red rose with her wand, laying it beside his grave, the red contrasting starkly against the pure black. She gazed at it for a moment, then impulsively summoned a sharp rock into her fist. Grasping it, she leaned closer to the grave, and next to 'Never Forgotten By Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter' roughly inscribed a comma and added the words:

Selena Snape, Lily Evans

Fin