A/N: Some of this text is taken directly from Deathly Hallows.
7. The End
I sit at the headmaster's desk, not mine. I am merely holding it for the time being. Someone must protect the students from the Carrows. Two cups of tea are set out just as they are every Wednesday. Just because the old man is dead doesn't mean we must break with tradition.
"I hope you weren't too hard on Ms. Weasley and Mr. Longbottom, Severus," says the late headmaster's portrait.
I scoff. "Sent them to bandage up monsters with Hagrid. Should be one of the most pleasant detentions they ever experienced, I daresay. Do you suppose they knew what to do with that sword?"
"I'm guessing they merely knew that Harry wanted it and that was enough for them. Ms. Ginerva is brave, is she not? Rather reminds me of another fiery redhead who wasn't afraid to risk all for love."
I shake the comment off. "That Longbottom is glutton for punishment. I try to keep the Carrows from using their idea of discipline on the students, but they rise to new levels of cruelty each day. They'll use that wretched boy's hide to frighten the others into submission. Revolting."
"You'll do what you can, my boy."
"I always do!" I shout. "It's never enough."
Where is Harry? What is he doing at this moment? Somehow the rumors of breaking into Gringotts and a dragon do not surprise me. Just more arrogant attention-seeking from my son, a determined rule-breaker.
Those Carrows and the other Death Eaters. The rest of the staff. The students, even. They are all against me now; I see it in their faces, united by their abhorrence of me. I am The Man Who Killed Albus Dumbledore. I shall not survive this. I wouldn't want me sharing the same planet as them either.
It will not be long now. Caring about my popularity has long since passed. All I care about is keeping that wretched boy alive. I turn my old potions book over and over in my hands. Strange how this object has allowed me to be closer to my son than anything else. The same book that bound me to Lily. It was a part of all three of us now.
I remember when I had discovered that the boy had not only found the book but was performing some of its nastier spells. My son using Dark Magic of my own creation. How perfectly fitting the irony is. Merlin! After all I had gone through to pound into his thick skull to stay well clear of Death Eaters and their methods. I have made so many mistakes in my life and now they have found a way to my son.
And how he fought to keep the book with him, like it was his best friend. I could almost feel that it was me he wanted to protect. How pathetic is that?
"Where is Harry?" I'm not aware that I say it out loud.
"He is where he usually is in these matters," says the old man. "In the thick of things, preparing to save the day."
Suddenly we are joined by the portrait of Phineas Nigellus. "Headmaster! They are camping in the Forest of Dean!"
I turn my head slightly and hope to all that is holy the Dark Lord does not notice. There, just as I feared, was the idiot savant, hiding just beyond the shack's room. All it will take is a well-placed curse from Voldemort and the wood shall be reduced to splinters, and the boy reveals himself. There is no time to plan.
Harry! For once in your life listen to me! Stay where you are and do nothing! I mentally shout to him as best I can. I can feel the boy's shock. Is it more from my fear or that I just called him by his name, I wonder? Too late. The angry red eyes are back on me.
"My Lord!" I say, louder this time, desperate to keep the attention on myself. "Let me go out and find Potter. Let me bring him to you!" My inner walls are as strong as I've ever built them and yet I can never recall being so afraid in my life. If I live I'm going to kill my son!
The snake is upon me in a flash. I had been prepared for this, but not for my son playing the goddamned hero once again. So I let the snake tear at me. Voldemort will leave once I am done and Harry will remain undiscovered. He will live a little while longer.
I am barely alive when Harry comes to me. Amazing. The boy must hate me more than any other living wizard, and yet he stays with me. He has compassion enough even for a murdering Death-Eater.
That's my boy. So much like his mother.
I give him everything. All my memories, all of my truth at last for him to see. My life, my mistakes, my regrets, my love, my love, my love….
"Look at me…."
I love you, Harry. I'm sorry.
A warm hand closes over mine. Lily. My beautiful, dearest Lily. For so long I've waited for the moment that I would see you again, and now I do not care. All I can feel is fear for my son. I've failed him, again, for the very last time.
"Lily, I have to go back! Who will protect Harry now? He is alone!"
Lily smiles at me in that wonderful understanding way she does whenever I take things too seriously. "You did everything a loving father could do for his child, Sev."
"How can you say that? I should have done more. He will die now and it will be my fault."
She touches my cheek. "You always did take too much blame upon yourself, my love. Come now. Harry is Calling us and we must go. Can you hear him?"
I can and suddenly I see him standing there. Tall and proud. So much like a man and yet still just a boy.
He stares at those he's Called to him. James Potter, his hair untidy and ruffled as always. Sirius, tall and handsome and a grin on his face. Lupin, ever shabby but possessing now a peace he never felt in life. Gentle, sweet Lily, whose smile is the widest of all. They greet Harry and praise him and stare at him as if they would like nothing more than to stay there forever.
I remain in the distance, just outside the circle, as I always have. Finally he looks at me.
"So," he says.
"So," I reply.
"You're my real dad, then?"
"I gotta tell you, I never saw that coming." He scratches his hair. He looks as nervous as I feel.
Lily seems like she wants to join me but does not have the strength to leave our son's side. So I walk over to her. She smiles and wraps her arms around my waist. I expect Potter to poison me with his displeasure, but he merely nods at me as if saying, "if you must." Being dead has changed the Marauder.
Living my life has changed me as well.
"I never intended to hurt anyone," I say and not just to Harry. "Everything I did was—"
"Because you loved mum," Harry finished.
"Yes. I loved her since I was a boy. Then when things went wrong I tucked away that love, forever I thought. Then she came back and it was like a knife pierced my heart and I was bleeding out love and it would not stop no matter what I did. Have you ever felt like that? Like you loved so much you were bursting with it?"
Harry regards my words. "A time or two."
"Then you came and you made the gap in my heart even wider, but I had to hide it. To the world I had to be bitter and cold and wicked to keep you safe. It was very difficult because I cared about you, Harry. And I was so afraid that He would see past my lies and know my corruption, for it was love that corrupted me, not hate."
He frowns. "You were the one who wrote me those notes as a kid. Weren't you?"
"I thought that you left me with the Dursley's because you didn't want me."
"I wanted you to be safe," I say coldly. "I didn't need you to understand."
"You were a right fowl git to me, you know?"
I nod. "So long as it kept you alive, I gave you someone to hate so you would never go down the same path that I once did. But I never left you alone."
"I saw your Patronus." Harry looks away, his voice softer. "Somehow I knew… I just knew it was you, the guardian angel from my youth, I mean. I saw the silver doe and it felt safe." Harry scowls at me once again. "You could have told me all this a long time ago."
"No, I couldn't! You wear every emotion upon your face like a fluttering snitch. It might be part of why others are so drawn to your openness, but makes for a lousy spy. Yet another skill I could not properly teach you."
He cracks the tiniest bit of a smile. "You taught me loads, though. That bit about the bezoar at our first meeting. That saved Ron's life, you know? You were the first one who taught me the Expelliamus spell and that's saved me a bunch of times now. And all the stuff in the Prince's book, your book, that was great." He stops and frowns again, angry that he has forgotten that he hates me.
I want to hold my son in my arms, like I did when he was just one year old. I cannot expect him to ignore seven years of hatred, seventeen actually, now that he knows I am guilty of much more than he ever suspected.
Neither of us moves from our spot.
Harry bites his lip. "How did you handle it? When you knew that you were about to die? How did you face it like that? Weren't you afraid?"
"Of course I was. However, I was more afraid for your life than I was for my own. I knew that my death meant that you would live. It did not seem so difficult after that."
"Does it hurt?"
"Dying? Not at all," said Sirius. "Quicker and easier than falling asleep."
I am grateful to Black for the lie. He looks at me and gives me a wink. I hope that this does not mean we are to become friends. A man can only tolerate so much.
"You'll stay with me?" Harry asks.
"Until the very end," says James.
Harry looks at Lily and myself. "Stay close to me."
I tightened my arms around Lily. She is here with me, at last. Can she feel any prouder of our son as I do at this moment? She smiles at me and puts her head on my shoulder. We did good. I actually did something worthy with my wreck of a life.
"There is one thing," I say. "I would have liked the opportunity to apologize to Ms. Granger for that remark about her teeth in fourth year. It was necessary for the cause, but I think that might have gone to far. You'll tell her, won't you? If you see her again."
"That's not likely, is it?"
"Merely a last regret, that's all. Are you ready?"
"Yes," says Harry. He grins at me.
That's my boy.
A/N: And that's it. The rest is how it played out in DH. I apologize to everyone who wanted Snape and Harry to end up together, but I found that it just wouldn't work out this time. Snape's death had to mean something more than it did in DH. So he would have to make a similar sacrifice as Lily did to save his child. I hope that no one is sad, Snape definitely isn't. He's home at last and Harry know the truth. They come to some sort of understanding, even if they didn't do the big father-son hug. It is still Snape and Harry after all and they don't always like one another, like most families.