Title: All That Glitters
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, including the lines from The Lord of the Ring trilogy at the beginning of the chapter.
Author's note: I was a little disappointed by how quickly Harry accepted that Snape was good. I thought that since he had spent seven years hating Snape, he might actually have to struggle a bit with this revelation, but he didn't at all. So I decided to write a "What if?" scenario.
As always, please read and review.
Summary: What if Snape survived the final battle but his innocence was never discovered?
All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost
Prologue: Of Life and Death
All he felt was pain.
There was blood everywhere, spreading out from him in deep pools, turning the floor a dark crimson red. The Dark Lord was turning away from him, the great snake slithering on the floor her master's side, and the world was fading in and out of existence as his vision blackened at the edges.
The pain was almost unbearable. He had been tortured many times in the past, brought to the brink of death and languidly pulled back into the living, all for the amusement and enjoyment of the twisted man who called himself Lord Voldemort. But this pain… this was something more than that. It was the pain that came along with the realization that there was no one to pull him back to life this time, no one to bear witness to his final moments, no one to listen and understand why he had done what he had done.
And then the Dark Lord and the snake where gone, and he was alone.
The irony of this situation was not lost on him. He had been directed by Dumbledore to kill the Headmaster, all in the hopes of keeping him alive and in the Dark Lord's graces long enough to help Harry Potter during the final battle. And yet it was that very act that now brought about his own downfall as the Dark Lord attempted to wrest true ownership of the Elder Wand from him.
He heard it. So soft, so sudden. Footsteps. His life was almost gone, there was nothing there now but blood and dust and soon his body would be an empty shell. He turned his head slowly, and found himself looking up into those same green eyes that he had once fallen in love with, now on the face of the boy he had once so greatly loathed.
Harry Potter had come to visit him as he died. He would have laughed, had he enough energy to do so.
For a moment, the two looked at each other, and then Potter said in a low voice, "I wanted it to be me who killed you." There was something in his tone, a mixture of confusion and disgust and anger that Snape recognized so well. It was the feeling of not knowing what to do now, of hating every decision you've made but knowing if you had it all to do over you'd still make the exact same mistakes, still walk the exact same path, still end at the exact same place.
Potter turned and left, and the room was silent once more.
His shallow breathing echoed off the walls, and he closed his eyes, feeling the last of everything slip away. He wondered what the afterworld was like. He wondered if there was an afterworld.
She hurried into the room.
She had seen both You Know Who and Potter emerge from the base of the Whomping Willow, and she couldn't help but wonder what had happened there. The former did not seem to know of the latter's presence, and that alone gave her relief. It meant the Boy Who Lived was safe for now, safe enough to save them all.
But she had been curious, and she had entered the base of the tree after the other two had left and she had rushed to the Shrieking Shack, and she had found…
She rushed to his side, kneeling down to find him near death. Pulling out her wand, she began the countless spells that might stem the flow of blood, might give him strength, might buy him time, might save his life. All pretenses dropped now as she focused everything on him, on the one man she knew had always been on their side.
Silently, she cursed Dumbledore for everything he had done, everything he had made his spy do. Silently, she prayed for a miracle.
He watched, hidden deep within the shadows of the Forbidden Forest, as the Dark Lord called Longbottom forward and praised his bravery. Watched as Longbottom threw the praise back in the other wizard's face, refusing to join his ranks.
He touched the two marks on his neck, reminders of how close he had come to death. Had she not come when she did, he would be dead now, his body decaying on the floor for someone to find, weeks or months or years later.
He was weak. His body was not completely healed, but he still had a task to complete. It was not over until the Dark Lord was dead, and he had given so much to keep Lily Potter's son alive, he would not fail now.
He was not a fool, he knew the Potter boy to be alive. How, he was not yet sure, but he had watched from the trees as Narcissa Malfoy had realized that Potter's heart still beat steadily within his chest, watched as they exchanged quiet communications, watched as the blonde woman had lied to her Lord.
So perhaps Narcissa had some bravery left in her after all.
He was pulled from his musings by the Dark Lord's silky, dangerous voice.
"Very well. If that is your choice, Longbottom, we revert to the original plan." The Dark Lord paused, as though almost regretful that he would be forced to lose such a promising young wizard. With a sigh, he added, "On your head, be it."
He waved his wand at the school, and something flew through the air, a dark shape, twisted and turned about in odd directions. It took a moment for the shape to become clear, and then the Sorting Hat itself appeared in the Dark Lord's outstretched hand.
The Dark Lord contemplated the Sorting Hat for a moment, staring at it with a thoughtful expression in his eyes. "There will be no more Sorting at Hogwarts School. There will be no more Houses. The emblem, shield, and colors of my noble ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, will suffice for everyone. Won't they, Neville Longbottom?" He waved his wand lazily at Longbottom, and the boy stiffened like a wooden doll.
From his hiding place in the shadows, he could see the boy's face. He was still staring up at the Dark Lord with fury and distaste, and the hidden man thought wryly to himself that perhaps this boy had more bravery than he had given him credit for.
Just like Narcissa.
People really did surprise him, sometimes.
"Neville here is going to demonstrate what happens to anyone foolish enough to continue to oppose me." The Dark Lord walked forward and placed the Sorting Hat on Neville's head and then…
The flash of light, the burst of screams, the pandemonium that broke out. The shouts, the cries, the screams of fear and rage and terror.
He took his wand and crept forward in the shadows, pointing it directly at Longbottom. There was only one way for this to work, one chance to save the boy and the world all at once. If he could free Longbottom from the Body Bind curse…
The snake had to die. He knew this now, knew it stronger and surer and firmer than anything else he had ever known.
Silently, he thought the spell and waved his wand and watched in grim satisfaction as Longbottom sprung free from the Hat, pulled the long, ruby-encrusted sword from the remains of tattered cloth, and sliced the head off the giant snake.
And in the midst of all this, he let his gaze wander and found himself staring across the lawn, through the mass of churning bodies, and into the bright green eyes of Harry Potter.
Harry sprung to his feet as the snake fell, seizing his Invisibility Cloak, prepared to fling it over his shoulders. His sudden resurrection went unnoticed by those around him and he was able to safely scramble away from the fight. He felt relief and pride for Neville well up within him as he saw Nagini's body fall with a heavy thud. The relief was followed soon by fear as he saw Voldemort howl in fury and turn snake-like eyes towards the boy.
He was about to cover himself with the Cloak when his eyes caught a movement across from him, and through the trees he saw it, clear and unmistakable.
The two held each other's gaze for a moment, their face's wearing matching expressions of surprise and disgust. Then Snape melted back into the trees and Harry through the Cloak over his shoulders, spun around, and lifted his wand in time to raise a shield between Neville and Voldemort. He threw himself back into the fray, never forgetting what he had seen.
Author's note: So then the final chapters of DH happen, but nobody ever learns that Snape was good. The rest of the story will take place a few years in the future.