Disclaimer: I am not J. K. Rowling and I own nothing except my imagination. JKR (and her affiliates) own everything "Harry Potter" and make all of the monies from it's various copyrighted ventures. I make nothing from this except more disclaimers. she sadly sighs
A/N: This story is being written strictly for my own pleasure, freely given, in the hope that you will enjoy reading it just as much as I'm enjoying writing it.
Anything that you may recognize within the following story was "borrowed" from JKR with my most humble gratitude for it's loan. Thank you Ms. Rowling, wherever you are.
Anything that you do not recognize begins the fuzzy "grey area" that is the borderline into my very own Alternate Universe.
Author's Warnings: AU; revolving POV format; non-canon compliant with HBP/DH; canon-character deaths; lemons in later chapters; rated "M" for obvious reasons, although the primary ones are Coarse Language, Violence, and Adult Content.
That being said, I hope that you enjoy your visit here in my world and your read through it.
Every Form of Refuge Has Its Price
The long, gaunt, white-haired, form of the old dying wizard lying on the massive antique rosewood bed shivered once more as the living warmth crept further out of him.
The single word querulously rasped from between his dry lips, seeking her out in his darkness.
"I'm here, my love," the elderly witch sitting vigil beside him anxiously replied. She leaned forward, and firmly grasped the trembling hand her long-life's partner had blindly thrust out.
A singularly beautiful smile curved the ancient wizard's thin lips, and he peacefully sighed. He fastened his milky, now unseeing, eyes where he sensed her gaze to be, and asked her, "Has it all been worth it, my pet? Do you have any regrets?"
The rich timbre of his baritone had grizzled with age, just like the rest of him, but his witch still never tired of hearing it.
She tenderly kissed the gnarled hand she held tightly, and rested his dry palm against her wrinkled cheek so that he could feel her smile.
Very softly, so softly that the elderly wizard had to strain his ears to hear her, she gently said, "No, my love. I have no regrets. You've made my life full, satisfying, and most of all, happy."
"Do you remember what you told me, all those years ago, on that night when I thought my world was over and I begged you to kill me?" the elderly witch continued.
She eased her frail old bones over onto the bed to curl up just one more time next to the wizard that this old crone still loved with all of her heart.
The old wizard sucked in a sharply pained, raspy breath at the uncomfortable shaking of the bed.
He'd have endured far worse to have her join him for what would most likely be the last time in this, their marriage bed. He closed his now sightless milky eyes and waited for her to speak again, just as he knew she would.
She snuggled more closely against him, and rested her head one more time against his chest.
His once strong virile heartbeat was now unevenly thumping under her ear as he struggled to remain with his witch, and to live just a little while longer for her.
No louder than any of her others, her next words reverberated with a shout of recognition deep within his brain, "Remember, my love? You told me, "Every form of refuge has its price, you foolish silly girl."
"You've been my refuge ever since that night. When was it? Nearly a hundred and twenty years ago now, I believe. So in answer to your other question, my husband, yes; it has all been worth it to me. Has it been worth it to you as well?"
Had it all been worth it to him?
Where to begin his search for the answer?
A million memories, some perfectly wonderful, some absolutely terrifyingly horrible, suddenly flooded through the old dying wizard's mind.
Too many images, all blurring together; so many atrocities; so much death.
Too little love and no forgiveness for his soul to be found anywhere.
No absolution for the many black sins staining his life except for the one bright and shining light gleaming in his long hard life.
She'd had to remind him of that night and that other man that he'd been so very long ago.
That 'Other Man' who'd been praying for some form of refuge that could somehow save him from drowning in the utter darkness that was himself.
His witch had dared to remind him of that terrible, bloody, deadly night over a century ago.
Of that horrific night when Fate had so neatly, so utterly, and quite so completely, delivered this wonderful witch's life into his most unworthy and undeserving hands.
The beginning was as good of a place to start his introspection as any, he reckoned; so that was the moment his still razor sharp brain pulled forward first.
He began to relive his lifelong memories as if through a Pensive.
His many memories of her.
CHAPTER 1: WAR!
The turmoil of the deciding battle was raging terribly on all around Severus Snape.
He'd barely managed to get away from Nagini with his life still intact after allowing Potter to retrieve Dumbledore's final message. He thanked the gods that the boy had hung back just long enough for him to ingest his lifesaving potions before coming out of his hiding place.
Did the Dark Lord actually think that Severus Snape's skills with (and his knowledge of) potions and poisons were truly that sadly lacking?
Merlin's Balls! Even First year students knew what bezoars were used for! The dark Potions Master had absolutely meant it when he told his beginner's class each year that he could brew a potion to put a stopper in death.
It hadn't been an idle boast.
The dark Potions Master never went anywhere without both a bezoar and a tiny vial of the Elixir of Life hidden somewhere in the many pockets of his black robes.
It had simply been dumb luck that he'd also had a Blood Replenishing potion on him.
Severus still wondered why the Dark Lord had set his familiar, and his only known living Horcrux, out to kill him. Had the snaky old bastard finally discovered that he was a double agent?
It couldn't have all been about that bloody fucking wand! A simple "Expelliarmus" would have achieved the same purpose, if the wand's mastery were all that old Snakeface had wanted.
He had to get back out onto the battlefield. Now.
He had to make an appearance and attempt to help protect Lily's son, if it was at all still possible.
More importantly, which way was the tide of the battle turning now?
That was an answer Severus Snape needed immediately, if not sooner.
Severus paused for just a moment, and wiped a fresh streak of blood from his black eyes. No longer knowing or caring anymore if it was his own blood or someone else's, he fought his way across the battlefield as best as he could.
Death, the dead, and the dying (from both sides) littered the gory blood-slickened ground all around him. He'd almost been caught by a rogue 'Avada' as he'd frozen for a split-second when he'd had to step across the sprawled mutilated body of Narcissa Malfoy.
Order members didn't cast that kind of curse; it was as close to an Unforgivable as possible without being officially declared to be one.
She must have been caught in and killed by "friendly fire." Not for the first time, Severus deeply regretted ever inventing the 'Sectumsempra' curse.
The palely beautiful Narcissa had already grown blue and cold in her stillness. There were limits to the healing abilities of even the Potions Master.
He could work with "almost dead"; for "completely dead", the only cure remaining was a shovel.
"Oh Sweet Merlin, save me!" Severus groaned out as he tripped over little Colin Creevy's camera, and came face to face with the werewolf that had killed him. The cursed creature was growling his territorial lupine snarl between wickedly sharp teeth over Creevy's already mangled and half-eaten corpse.
"Sodding little bugger won't ever snap my fucking photograph again," Severus whispered under his breath as he slowly backed away from the his Boggart made horrific reality.
He personally cast the 'Avada' that snuffed out the werewolf gnawing on what little was left of Creevy.
Severus swiped at his eyes again, but it wasn't blood blurring his vision this time. It was hot, angry, bitter tears for all this senseless, useless loss; this terrible waste of human potential littering the smoking gore-slimed ground all around him.
There was no better word to describe the smell of the battlefield than 'hellish'.
Severus choked on his own bile, and forced himself to swallow it back down.
He was still sick from the lingering after-effects of Nagini's poison, and now from the variety of odors assailing him via the smoke-filled air. Thick drifts of a nauseating mixture of excrement, both human and animal; the thick coppery aroma of spilt and drying blood; and that rotten-egg smell of the sulfurous dark curses flying through the air all around him.
Still Severus fought on, whipping and slashing curses, counter-curses, and hexes as fast and as accurately deadly as lightning bolts with his ebony, Dragon's Heartstring-centered, wand.
The Potions Master was struggling with all of his considerable might to simply survive this awful bloody night of endless horror.
Then he saw Potter fall. Oh sweet gods, NO!
Severus Snape suddenly knew. Dumbledore had already discussed it with him, but Severus had clung to the forlorn hope that he'd be able somehow to still save Lily's son.
The lad had the power; of that fact there was no doubt in his mind. What Potter had lacked had been the proper training and a lifetime of experience.
It was all over now, even though the Battle still raged on around them.
They had lost.
Severus made his choice. He chose life.
He slid his silver Death Eater's mask back down into place over his face, and fought his way over closer to Voldemort's side. He personally managed to deflect an 'Avada' that had been aimed at the Dark Lord's back.
It had caught Voldemort completely by surprise! It was fired off at him by none other than Draco Malfoy, the only son of one of his most powerful (and formerly most trusted) Death Eaters.
Severus' frantically cast "Protego!" had rebound the curse on young Malfoy. Now his godson lay dead by his own curse.
Severus' defense of him instantly restored Voldemort's confidence, and his trust, in the obviously wrongfully accused Potions Master.
Severus Snape couldn't possibly be a blood traitor; not if he'd just saved his Master's life.
It also meant that the Dark Lord now owed Severus Snape a Life Debt; and just exactly how had his Potions Master managed to survive Nagini's poisonous attack?
Perhaps the snarky Potions Master was worthy of keeping in his Inner Circle, after all.
With so many of his elite now dead and dying all around him, Voldemort really couldn't afford to throw away such a brilliant, loyal, obviously powerful, dark wizard as Severus Snape.
The Potions Master definitely deserved a worthy reward as his prize, that is if he was still alive at the conclusion of this battle.
Voldemort suddenly decided to personally see to that just as soon as he had things neatly wrapped up here at Hogwarts.
The Dark Lord rather nonchalantly fired off another swift 'Avada Kadavra' at yet another of those damned infernal red-haired Weasley's.
He'd already slain two of them. Voldemort thought he'd proved his point when yet another of them would suddenly pop up from another quarter, just like a damned weasel from a hole.
Sodding Weasley's certainly were a most prolific and fertile brood of Purebloods; even if they were all Blood traitors almost down to the very last Weasel.
END OF CHAPTER 1
A/A/N: I would like to dedicate this story to the following three people:
Firstly, to J. K. Rowling; for gifting the world with the creation of her "Harry Potter and" series:
Thank you JK, wherever you are right now, for your immense generosity in allowing all of we fanfiction authors to so freely use your world and characters as a springboard for our own imaginations.
Without your beginning, many of us would never have attempted to write a single word.
I am one of them; my most humble thanks for a loan that I will never be able to repay.
Secondly, to Alan Rickman; graphic artist, actor, director, author, lyricist, and teacher of the dramatic arts:
With a single expression or simple inflection of his voice, he manages to magically transform ink-and-paper characters into three-dimensional, real, human beings.
Not satisfied to simply rest on his well-deserved laurels, he is also a true philanthropist; generously giving of his energy and time to help the oppressed.
I stand in awe of his talent and greatly admire his giving heart.
Sir, you have inspired me. Thank you.
Third, and finally, I'd like to dedicate this story to a dear Friend who has finally agreed to beta for me:
She diligently works "behind the scenes" making me think and re-think; the improvement to my work speaks louder than I can as to her invaluable services.
She is also teaching me to be proud of myself, and to take pride in my work; lessons that she wasn't even aware that she'd been teaching me. Both are lessons that I desperately need to learn.
In all of this, she absolutely wishes to be left as "anonymus", and will accept NO credit for everything that she does for me. How many others would want their name loudly praised for all of the time and energy that they've invested in a project?
Thank you my Friend. As I've said before, "You are a treasure, my dear; an absolute treasure."
Victoria Prince, Author.