Disclaimer: Not mine.
Reading the Will
The war had been over a little more than a year before Minerva could muster enough resolve to open up the dungeon quarters and prepare them for a new Professor of Potions that would be starting the next term. She took the wards down and opened the rough wooden doors, making a mental note to have Filch check and silence the hinges.
She pushed the door open slowly, feeling the stale air wash around her as it met with the cleaner, cooler air of the hallway and, closing her eyes, she could smell the potions in the air that reminded her so much of him. Shaking her head, she brought up her wand and uttered, "Lumos," then watched as the candles and fireplace roared into life.
She had worked with the man for seventeen years and was surprised at how little she knew about him. When she had been informed of his death she had no one to inform, no one to owl, no one to meet at the train station to offer support and understanding. She did not know if he had beliefs that she needed to honour at his burial, did not know what his family customs were or if living as a Muggle for the first part of his life had left any residual religious beliefs.
Now she stood and looked at the disarray of the room, and saw the books dumped from the bookcase to the floor, furniture tipped over, the bedding ripped off his bed and still lying in a heap. She sighed, remembering the day after Albus had died, how the Ministry had descended on these quarters looking for evidence and anything that would give them an insight into his mind, hoping to find where he had run, where he hid, and with whom. It had looked like this then.
They had found nothing that time, just as they had found nothing now. They discovered no letters or journals concerning his personal life. The only correspondence evident was that from the Hogsmeade apothecary and Flourish and Blotts in Diagon Alley. The Ministry had rifled through the pages of each book. They searched for sheets of parchment he might have hidden between the sheets of student essays and exams, and even ripped open the cushions on his chair and sofa.
She had restored the quarters as much as she could for his return that first time, putting everything back the best she could. She hoped to hide from him the fact that his personal life, or lack thereof, was dragged out and spoken of among strangers. The fact of no evidence being found of friends or lovers had fuelled the tongues and let the rumours fly. It was unbelievable to the rumour-mongers that someone could live in complete solitude.
This time Minerva did not have the heart to repair the broken dishes that lay on the floor, not wanting to see such clear-cut evidence of the last time Severus had sat in these rooms. He had come back to the school after his trial to act as Headmaster for a while, only to be pulled and pushed by not only the Dark Lord but also the Order and the student needs that were at odds and trapped him in the middle. He had once again taken his solitude in his chambers and shut himself away.
She started with the books, which she set right on the shelves with a flick of her wand, then turned and spelled the papers strewn on the floor sorted and stacked. She looked around and, like those before her, wished to find something personal. If she could find just one thing to ease her conscience, to assure her that the last seventeen years he spent had not been in the darkness of the dungeons, alone and unloved, she would feel better of this.
She flicked her wand at the bed, turned the mattress over, flipping it from end to end, and called the elves to fetch fresh linens and pillows. She had the elves remove his clothes and robes, capes and boots. She removed his soaps and shaving cups and ridded the chambers of half-empty whiskey bottles and old copies of the Prophet.
Ordering the floors to be scrubbed and the walls and ceiling cleaned, she walked slowly back to her office to sit and sip her tea and look out the window. She could still see him as a thin First Year as he sat under the Sorting Hat, fearfully twisting his head to look up at the rim, chewing his lip with worry. She smiled, remembering how proudly he would carry his essays back to his room after they were graded, not wanting anyone to touch them for fear of creasing them.
She turned to the sound of an elf popping into her office, bringing her back from her memories, and stood to walk to her desk.
"Master, Professor Headmaster," the elf said, not knowing how to address her yet. "I find this."
He reached up, slid a cigar box on her desk, and stood back with his ears flat down his back. "Under the mantel it was. In the old mantel, under the new."
"Mantel?" She raised an eyebrow and looked at the elf. "What new mantel?"
"Before Professor Snape comes here, the old mantel cracked. We put a new one over the old. I cleaning the mantel and it was there."
"Thank you," she said, sitting down and pulling the box over to her and dismissing the elf.
Opening the box, she saw a letter on top, written in his hand, neat and clearly defined. Picking it up and slowly unfolding it, she saw it was addressed to her by first name only.
I trust that if you are reading this I have not survived the final battle. My affairs are in order. I ask you to execute my last wishes.
1. Envelope included to Harry Potter.
2. Funds in Gringotts account to settle outstanding balance at Flourish and Blotts.
3. Transfer the balance of the account to vault number 1754.
4. The rest of the contents of this box I leave to you.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Severus Tobias Snape
She laid down the letter, so like its author, and put the Gringotts key in her pocket. She picked up the envelope and ran her fingers over it, pressing gently, feeling papers the size and hardness of old pictures. Laying that aside as well, she looked back to the sparse contents of the cigar box.
She put her hand in and pulled out a round medal of accomplishment she remembered tying around his mother's neck in her 6th year. There was the pin she had attached to his robes for being first on a Transfiguration exam, and a small whistle Albus had given him as a first year after he had become lost in the hallways for the third time. The last thing in the box was an old card from the "Places of Wizarding" collection, popular when he was a child, showing Hogwarts against a black sky.
She looked at the items in a box of childhood, hidden in the room of a man, and thought it was not much to show for a life. Then, she leaned back in her chair and ran her finger over the letter, pondering the meaning of vault 1754, and finally smiled, knowing he had not been alone. Putting all but the envelope back in the box, and placing the box in her drawer, she rose to send an owl to Harry in accordance with Professor Snape's last will and silent testament.