Title: All That Glitters
Disclaimer: I don't own anything
Summary: He sighed, and said slowly, "I would prefer to hear that… that Voldemort… does not have control over anything anymore, not even a single person's life."
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
Epilogue: A Light From the Shadows
Some years later…
The two wizards moved slowly through the forest, their eyes sliding back and forth as they searched for any signs of movement. There was nothing but the continual drip of rain that slid through the canopy of leaves overhead and the occasional snap of a twig breaking under their feet. And yet the suspect had gone this way, and all the evidence, every tip, had lead them to this damp and dismal forest.
The taller of the two wizards, a blonde with narrow blue eyes and a perpetual scowl, held up a hand. His companion, a dark-haired, green-eyed wizard, came to a stop, a questioning look in his eyes.
The blonde frowned, and then shook his head. "Thought I heard something," he muttered gruffly.
"He's not here," the other one answered. "Should we head back? Maybe Smith and Delacota have had more luck."
The blonde lifted his wand with one hand and scanned the woods directly surrounding them. "No. He is here. Keep pushing forward, Potter. I was to find this scum before he slips through our grasp… again."
The dark-haired man, Potter, shrugged and obliged with the request. He continued walking forward, his whole body tense. His blonde companion hurried along as well, his movements sharper and filled with anticipation.
And then they heard it.
It was small, just the tiniest of noises that anyone else might have missed. The drizzle of rain almost covered the noise, and it was gone as quickly as it had come, fading into a still silence. But they had heard it.
The faint snap of a twig.
They both reacted at exactly the same time. The blonde spun his lanky form in the direction of the sound and waved his wand, a silent spell causing a protective shield to sprung into place, surrounding himself and his companion. The dark-haired wizard also turned, but he jabbed his wand forward and said his spell aloud, casting a stunner towards the noise.
The spell was parried by someone they couldn't see, and rebounded back towards them.
The blonde instantly crouched on his hands and knees, reacting almost instinctively to his companion's cry of warning. The spell passed harmlessly overhead, but it was followed almost immediately by a burst of flame that illuminated the gray forest in a sudden rush of red and yellow. The fire raced forward, decimating Travis' shield as though it was not even there, and Travis just barely avoided the flames.
The fire, too, passed overhead. But sparks caught the trees, and even the rain could not stop this strange magic. The fire grew, burning the branches, sending smoke billowing into the air.
Another jet of light broke through the gray of the forest, and hit Travis in the chest. He cried out and clutched at his robes before tumbling to his knees. His face went slack, then his eyes closed and he landed face down in the damp earth, unconscious.
The dark-haired wizard rushed to his companion's side, at the same time pointing his wand upwards and sending a flurry of red sparks into the air. That action was followed by the conjuring of another shield that glimmered in the air around them. Once that was accomplished, he grabbed Travis' hand and checked quickly for a pulse. It was there, faint but steady, and indication that he was still alive.
There was a popping noise, and two others appeared out of thin air. One, a woman, instantly dropped to her knees by Travis' side and ran a few diagnostic tests with her wand, her eyes narrowing as worry suffused her expression.
"He's alive, but he needs help. Now," she said sharply, "before the damage to his internal organs spreads."
"Where's the suspect?" the other said, looking over his shoulder into the forest, then lifting his gaze to the flames that licked the branches of the trees above them.
Potter pointed towards the source of the attacks. "That way. I'll go after him. Smith, can you transport Travis back to St. Mungo's?"
The woman nodded, took Travis' hand in her own, and disappeared.
"I'll stay here and take care of the fire. The last thing we need is for it to burn down the forest and then get into the surrounding Muggle villages. They're bound to notice that these flames aren't exactly normal. Potter, send up sparks if you get into trouble. Otherwise I'll join you when I'm done here."
"On it, Delacota," Potter replied, and took off into the woods, in pursuit of the suspect.
It did not take him long to pick up the trail, and as he made his way through the woods, he focused all his energy on finding the fleeing wizard. Although worry for Travis and concern about the spread of the fire lingered in the back of his mind, he couldn't think about those now. Not unless he wanted to lose the suspect, and after all the months of tracking him, failure just wasn't an option.
He felt the charge in the air change, the sign of a spell being cast. The jet of light came from the left, and he just barely ducked to the side. He could make out the silhouette of the other man, half-hidden among the trees. And even as he moved, he was casting another spell, one which his opponent easily parried.
The battle continued, a fast and furious exchange of spells, several of which collided midair and burst into sparks and sputters of electricity. Both opponents were bloodied, Potter had a long gash on one arm and he could see the other man holding his side where a spell had caught him. But the battle didn't even slow, despite Potter's increasingly labored breaths as the pain began to radiated out of his arm and through his chest.
The spell came unannounced from the right, and struck the silhouetted wizard. Potter gaped in surprise, watching as the man fell to the ground, his eyes closing, his wand sliding from his suddenly limp hand.
There was an eerie silence, then Potter turned and watched as the person who had fired the stunner emerged from the trees. His eyes widened, and in a strangled voice, he managed to gasp out a name, a single word.
In the past several years, Harry had given little thought to Snape. It had been hard, at the beginning, not to dwell every day on the haunted memories of the past, but time had passed and the recollections had started to fade. Percy's prediction had come true, the world had forgotten about Snape. Not entirely, of course, but there were other problems to be dealt with, other enemies to battle, other stories to be told.
He had a home now. He had a job that he loved, even – or maybe especially – when it brought danger and risks. He had friends who cheered him up when he was depressed and teased him when he was being too serious, and a family that celebrated every joyous occasion with him.
He had Ginny.
He was content. Content to let the past be in the past, to move forward with his life. Not everyone succeeded at that, he knew, and he was lucky. One of the lucky few who had survived the war, survived Voldemort, and come out stronger on the other end.
So when he found himself gazing at Snape, he was stunned by the lack of hatred, of anger, of resentment. No emotion flared in his chest. No rapid beating of his heart, no uneasy draw of breath. Just the silence, just the complete and utter shock and stumbling across the last person he had expected to see.
"Potter," Snape said, inclining his head. He let his gaze wander towards the man he had stunned. "It would have been better for you to think through your attack instead of rushing blindly after your target. But I suppose you are still too much of a Gryffindor to have thought of that."
Harry smiled slightly. It would have been almost a disappointment had Snape opened the conversation with anything other than an insult.
"Thank you. For… uh… your… you know…" He gestured with one hand towards his unconscious enemy.
"Eloquent as always, Potter," Snape said with a sneer.
"What are you doing in these woods?" Harry asked, ignoring the comment as he waved his wand and watched he ropes burst forth and bind his fallen captive. He glanced at Snape, and saw the potion Master frown.
"My business is my own," Snape answered simply.
Harry nodded. "I suppose," he agreed, and did not push the issue. He didn't really care enough to ask more questions.
He had not expected this. Occasionally, in the dark of the night when there was nothing to distract his mind from unpleasant thoughts, he would think about the past. It was rare, and rarer still that those thoughts would focus on Snape. But they did, every now and then, and somehow he had never really believed it would happen quite like this.
He'd always assumed that if he ever saw Snape again, he would feel something. Anything, whether it be good or bad, but not this emptiness, devoid of emotion. He was so unprepared for it, so unused to it, that it took him a moment to realize it wasn't indifference.
It was acceptance.
Ginny had been right. Once he took the time to step back from the issue, to divorce himself from the painful emotions that surrounded it, to see it in a different light and from a different angle, everything seemed to make quite a bit more sense.
"You had better leave," Snape said coolly. "I presume your superiors are waiting for you."
Harry nodded again. "They are." He pointed his wand at the suspect and summoned the body to his side. Placing his hand firmly on the man's chest, he prepared to Apparate away.
But something stopped him.
Before he could stop himself, before he could even figure out why he would want to ask the question, the words had stumbled from his lips, "Are you happy?"
Snape scoffed, "What would you prefer to hear, Potter? That I am ecstatic or that I am miserable?"
Harry hesitated before answering. There was no love lost between the two, and it did not bother him. He had not expected to become friends with Snape, not even after learning the truth about the potions Master's allegiances from Malfoy, not even after the article in which he supposedly proclaimed Snape's innocence, not even after the realization of just how brave the other man could be.
So why did he care about the answer to that question?
He sighed, and said slowly, "I would prefer to hear that… that Voldemort… does not have control over anything anymore, not even a single person's life."
"Bloody foolish Gryffindors," Snape muttered under his breath. Louder, he said, "That will never happen. The Dark Lord has left a mark on the world, it will not go away. Do not delude yourself into thinking otherwise." Then he paused and gave Harry a searching look, before adding, "I am content. Is that enough of an answer for you, Potter, or must I give an entire soliloquy before you will leave me in peace?"
Harry smiled slightly, closed his hand over the ropes that bound the unconscious wizard at his feet, and turned on the spot, disappearing with a loud crack.
Snape found himself still standing in the same place several minutes after Potter had left. The chance meeting left him with a strange sense of bewilderment, as though he could not quite figure out what had happened. But it appeared as though he might have actually had a semi-civil conversation with the infuriating Boy Who Lived.
Finally, after enough time had passed that he realized the light rain would soak him completely if he continued to stand unprotected in the woods, he turned and began to walk back in the direction he had come, back towards the place he called home.
He had left a potion brewing, simmering gently in the cauldron. It still had some time before it could be removed from the flames and bottled. But he was anxious to test it, anxious to see if it had the intended healing properties. He had spent so long perfecting the recipe…
There was nothing quite research to soothe the mind.
He stepped through the last line of trees and crossed the field towards his home. Beyond it, he could see the village of Muggles. With any luck, they would not note his presence. Lately a few of the more nosey women had made unannounced house calls, clearly attempting to draw him out. He had little desire to join in conversation with the annoyingly cheerful members of the village, although he could not deny that he did find their persistence amusing.
That is, when it was not absolutely maddening.
They care enough to continue their attempts and invitations, despite his continual refusals. He supposed their welcoming nature was also slightly endearing. Narcissa did often tell him that he needed to broaden his social circle, although he doubted she meant with Muggles.
He made it unseen to his house and stepped inside, closing the door tightly behind him and crossing to the armchair near the fireplace. Sinking onto the cushions, he glanced briefly at the clock on the wall. Closing his eyes for a moment, he pictures Harry Potter's face, and wondered.
Why didn't he feel hatred when he looked at the boy? Staring at him had always been torture, a constant reminder of James Potter, of everything the popular, handsome, perfect Gryffindor had taken from him. But now… he didn't feel that.
He didn't feel much of anything.
He didn't think about that often. He spoke to her occasionally, knowing she would never again answer him. It didn't matter, not really. If he truly needed an answer for his comments, he would wait until Narcissa or Lucius came to visit. They were his true friends now, not some long-dead ghost from the past.
Maybe that is why he could look into those brilliant green eyes and not flinch. Not be reminded of the past, of his hatred, his resentment, and his hurt. Of the times he had lost her, first to James Potter and then to death. He didn't dwell on Lily as much anymore, and life seemed more bearable because of it.
He still loved her. He always would.
But he had his own life, one that no longer included her.
He opened his eyes and rose to his feet, deciding to check on the potion. He knew it wouldn't be ready yet, but it would still be enjoyable to watch it simmer, to watch the silver vapor form at the surface and rise like a gentle mist or fog towards the ceiling of the house.
He had not been lying when he told Potter that the Dark Lord's mark would remain forever on the rest of the world. He had not created prejudice, he had only used what was already there to build a powerbase. He had cemented those beliefs into a cause, something to fight and kill for. And the war had destroyed too many lives for it to ever truly be forgotten. Even generations from now, the Dark Lord's influence would remain.
Life went on, and wasn't that a challenging lesson for everyone to learn? But it did go on, and he had finally learned how to go with it, instead of being stuck behind, trapped in the past. He had friends, even if there were only a few of them. He had a home, even if it came with annoying neighbors. And he had his potions.
It was true, what he had told Potter. He was content.