Disclaimer: Harry Potter and Company are wholly owned by J.K. Rowling et. al. I am making no profit from their work.

A/N: DH compliant, except epilogue. Slight AU from DH due to extra manipulations and extrapolations. The story beings sometime during Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts.

Chapter 1


Albus Dumbledore sat behind his office desk, deep in thought. Severus Snape slumped in a chair opposite the headmaster as he waited for the elderly wizard to speak. The two sat in uncomfortable silence. Finally, Dumbledore let out a long and ragged sigh.

"Severus, do you think, after all of this is done with, that the boy will be happy?"

Snape looked at the headmaster solemnly. "Do you want the comforting answer, Albus, or the honest one?"

Dumbledore smile slightly at his friend. "When have you ever given the comforting answer?"

"More times than you can imagine. You haven't answered my question."

"Hmm… perhaps you could give me the comforting answer first, then the honest one." Dumbledore said with a hint of a twinkle in his eyes.

"Very well. Assuming that the brat manages to succeed, something I find very unlikely, I certain that he will then dance on lilacs and mince about with the little Weasley brat popping out sprog after sprog after sprog." Severus gave a magnificent sneer. "Indeed, his happiness will be so great that a tidal wave of red-haired green-eyed arrogant brats will overflow Hogwarts making me very glad that I will be retired or dead. In fact, the instant that the Dark Lord dies, Potter will magically recover from every trauma you've forced on him, correcting all of those nasty flaws and tendencies you've shoved into his weak little mind, instead becoming a veritable fountain of joy and love."

Dumbledore winced. "That was your comforting answer?"

"It didn't comfort you?"

"It might have, if I didn't need an army of house elves to clean up pools of dripping sarcasm."

Snape raised an eyebrow. "What did you expect, optimism? Do you want the honest answer now?"

"It can't be that much worse than your comforting answer."

Snape scoffed a bit, quietly. He carefully schooled his expression into neutrality and stared deep into the headmaster's eyes. "You want to know if Potter will be happy, assuming he manages to finish the Dark Lord?"

Albus nodded.

"No."

"What?" The utter flat certainty in Snape's tone stunned the headmaster.

"No. Potter will not be happy. He may think, on occasions, that he's happy, but he'll be wrong. You've assured that."

"But… but… what about Miss Weasley? What about Harry's friends? Won't they make him happy?"

"The Wealey's?" Snape sneered. "Potter's friends? Albus I thought the senile thing was an act."

"It is." The headmaster harrumphed.

Snape waved his hand dismissively. "Never mind. The Weasley girl is following in her mother's footsteps. I know why you are allowing it. You want to give him something to die for, but you're counting on his nature to keep her far enough away that she isn't something to live for." Dumbledore nodded sadly, motioning Severus to continue. "I even understand why you are letting Miss Granger's youth and insecurity run rampant without the least bit of intervention. So be it, but do you really think that Potter will be happy in the end?"

Albus stammered, "but… but… they will have time afterwards to…"

"Please," Snape snapped, "don't be ridiculous. The Weasley children will capitalize on the pair's weakness and war-time exuberance to make sure they marry straight away. There won't be any time for the children to grow up before they find themselves trapped in a piss-poor marriage. And don't play the beneficent grandfather act to me," the potions master spat out, "it's quite obvious that you hate Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger. Look at your damn will. You gave the Weasley boy a deluminator that leads him back to Harry. How droll, saying that Mr. Weasley sucks all the light out of his surroundings and letting him know that you KNOW he will abandon his friends. How very astute of you. Miss Granger, though, I thought you actually were fond of the girl." Snape's tone softened. "She's so very much like Lily, you know. Even in her abysmal taste in men."

Albus looked at Severus inquisitively. "I thought you felt that Harry was like his father, not Ron."

Snape snorted. "An act, as you should very well know. Mr. Weasley acts far more like James than Potter ever has. Spoiled, selfish, always wanting things that he hasn't earned. The brat is malicious, impulsively cruel, disgustingly lazy, willfully ignorant, and jealous of his betters. Mr. Weasley even lacks the positive trait of consistency. No, Potter reminds me of…"

"You," Albus interjected with a soft twinkle in his yes.

Snape let out a shuddering sigh. "Yes. Me. I see my life in Potter's in far too many ways, most of them your fault. And now I've had to watch Lily choose a worthless man again; this time without the consolation that her suitor managed to grow half-way acceptable. You are a lucky man, Albus. It was by the slimmest of margins that Harry did not turn into something far worse than he did. You've gambled many, many lives."

"For the greater good," Albus said weakly, "for the greater good. Let us hope I am right."

"You had better be or the world is buggered. So tell me, Albus, why do you hate Miss Granger."

Albus shook his head slowly. "Why do you say that?"

"Albus, I'm not some naïve student," Severus spat, "what you are giving Miss Granger in your will is an insult of the highest order. You know as well as I that the book will impart absolutely NOTHING of use. The girl will pour over a children's book for uncounted hours trying to decipher a bit of knowledge that any pure-blood wizard would know by heart. You are mocking her, telling her that no matter what she learns she will never be a true part of our society, and all of her hard work and effort is utterly useless when it comes to helping her friends. Trust me, Albus, she WILL determine what you meant and it WILL devastate her when she does. For Merlin's sake, she idolizes you." Snape stared at the headmaster accusingly.

Albus faltered under the glare. In a small voice he said, "She's not right for the lad."

Snape threw his hands into the air. "For the last bloody time, Albus, Potter IS! NOT! GAY!"

"…but"

"No! No buts! I've been through his memories. Potter is NOT gay! You've buggered up his life regardless Albus. Do you think Miss Weasley would let Potter escape the marriage vows even if he were a Sodomite? The students say I'm a hateful man…"

The headmaster quirked into a grin, regaining some sparkle in his eyes. "They are right, you know."

Snape let the smallest of smiles escape. "Indeed. I've worked hard for my image, and I am quite proud of it."

Albus chuckled. "Yes, yes you have. Back to the matter at hand; are you certain about all of this?"

"I am."

The headmaster sadly nodded. "Alright, do you know how I can make amends? I've done such terrible things to the boy, and I will pay the price to save him. Can you tell me how to give the lad a future worth living, without harming what must occur?"

"I can. Give me a week."

"Very well, Severus, very well. You may leave."

Snape stood from his chair, and nodded tersely at the headmaster. He swept purposefully out of the office, cloak billowing. Albus shook his head at his friend's theatrics and then slowly lowered his head into his hands. "Harry, my boy, such a terrible burden I've placed on you, such terrible things I've done. Now I place your future happiness into the hands of one you hate only slightly less than Tom. May you never forgive me, for I will never forgive myself."