This is all we've fought for

as the battle begins…

Things we thought, were not-

stars are not crafted of silver, but tin.

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Stars Not of Silver, But Tin

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Harry's hand shook as he grasped the tiny golden ball. He savored the caress of cold metal against his lips. It wasn't so easy to walk to your own death.

"But I want to go home! I don't want to fight anymore."

The words of the little girl rang in his ears, making Harry wince as a wave of despair washed over him. Every muscle, every nerve seemed electrified and beating with life; one that he would soon snuff out as well by his own hand as Voldemort's.

"I am about to die."

Gold cracked and dissolved before his eyes, revealing the ring that contained a solitary stone with a serrated fissure down the middle. A Deathly Hallow; the Resurrection Stone. Unbidden, his eyes drooped shut as they called to him. He knew they were coming. His family, the only family he'd ever know. But suddenly one harsh thought entered his mind. Harry scowled, his hands set firmly as his body's shaking stilled and harsh breath left his lungs.

With that thought, the new Master of Death called to the one person anyone, even himself, would have least expected.

"Potter."

Harry's eyes snapped open at the word and the familiar, but no longer biting voice. The ghostly form of Severus Snape stood before him, dark eyes boring into his own and losing no intensity despite the look of washed-out color of the man. To Harry the man looked almost younger, his face smooth instead of twisted in agony as it was during death. Instead, a bone-deep weariness seemed to settle in every line of Snape's skin.

"Potter, why did you call me here?" the words took on an acerbic edge as Harry stared silently. Feeling much younger than he was and ever-so unsure, the boy swallowed and spoke.

"I…wanted to thank you…for all you've done for me. I-I know I couldn't have gotten this far without you, sir. That's…that's all…" Harry fought the urge to shift about, combated his pervading anguish and desolation, battled the compulsion to throw himself at this dead man's feet and cry that all the potions master had done was for nothing. Snape's steely gaze did not lessen, but something seemed to grow behind it, bringing an expression Harry'd never seen on the man's face before, not even in the memories of his childhood.

"I did not do what I did just so you may die, Potter." I wanted Lily's child to live, his gaze projected.

"This is the only way," was all that Harry could think to say. 'Dumbledore's way…' The shaking had returned full force; shivers wracked his frame like a leaf blown about in the wind as the chill wafting from Dementors sought out his bones.

"But you are afraid," Snape's familiar sneer made itself known, ever so faintly. Even the forest behind him did nothing to soften the iron in his transparent gaze. Harry's hands closed about the ring and jagged remains of his golden snitch.

"Yes, I'm afraid, okay!? I'm scared of death and pain and what will happen is this plan doesn't work. I-I don't want to die!" Harry's vision clouded with tears that he couldn't fight back. Harry lost awareness of his surroundings, indulging in selfishness just this once; for just one moment.

"I want to go home!"

The abrupt sensation of hands on his shoulders startled him, and Harry's gaze cleared in a blink. Severus Snape's ghost knelt before him, his height ensuring that his crooked nose leveled barely below Harry's eyes. Faded black robes billowed out nimbus, more airy than he remembered and unsoiled by the man's death blood.

"Foolish Gryffindor. The Avada Kedavra that awaits you will not hurt nearly so much as a fatal wound in the neck." At the man's words Harry's eyes grew wide and he looked down, ashamed at his outburst. One ghostly yellowed finger tilted his chin back up, forcing Harry to meet Snape's dark eyes.

"And so you know, Harry, I never hated you. I could never hate Lily's son, exempting perhaps, the fact that you were not mine as well," Snape's soft, resonant voice left no room for doubt in his words as he sought to sooth part of Harry's unspoken grief. Harry was so caught off guard that his next plea tumbled from lips too surprised to connect full to his brain.

"Will you stay with me?"

The specter rose effortlessly, drawing away but keeping one hand on Harry's shoulder.

"Until the very end."

Harry didn't notice that his shaking had stopped, one sliver of hope taking hold in a sea of fear as he was guided along by a man he'd once thought his enemy.

"Thank you."

All would soon be well.

--

A/N: Not yet betaed. A new attempt to combat writer's block and an idea I've had a for a while, given to me by an icon from one of my dearest internet buddies. A short and sweet oneshot, though I know if I had more ambition this could have been a fully fleshed out, much longer oneshot.

Reviews feed my dying writer's soul.