A/N: So, I wrote this intending it to be a fairly short little one-shot about Harry being in Snape's quarters years after his death, but it took on a life of its own and ended up being much longer than I expected. I know it doesn't say it anywhere in the story, but this all takes place five years after the final battle and Snape's death, which would make Harry 22 years old. It doesn't exactly follow canon – meaning the horrid epilogue. Please bear with my imitation of a French accent later on in the story; it's my first time trying that out! Anyways, enjoy and let me know how it was in a review!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Harry Potter series or anything affiliated with. It belongs to J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. I am not profiting from my writing and no copyright infringement is intended.
Remember My Last
It was musty and damp, the cold almost bone-chilling, but not entirely from the temperature alone. Shelves upon shelves of large, dusty tomes took over the cramped dungeon quarters. The hearth still smelled of burnt cedar. A large chintz arm chair, reupholstered in emerald green to cover the original garish design sat in front of the hearth, a half glass of firewhiskey still sitting on the side table underneath an open potions journal.
The bedroom seemed even quieter than the sitting room. The bed was unmade, a dressing gown thrown across the pillow, two soft black slippers sitting at the edge of the bedside. A candle, burnt almost all the way down to the metal wax catcher, sat unlit and collecting dust on the nightstand. A small black journal lay open beside the candle, a large eagle feather quill abandoned for a muggle fountain pen.
Harry was afraid to disturb the room that had stayed untouched for so many years. When he received the owl from Minerva asking to help clear out Snape's old quarters, he hadn't known what to expect. Seeing the rooms so...lived in, was definitely not what he expected. Obviously Harry knew that Snape had lived in these dungeon quarters for years, but seeing everything so human, so normal...it set Harry's views about the late Potions Master off kilter.
With a deep sigh and a heavy heart, Harry conjured box after box, preparing to first pack all of Snape's expansive book collection. Minerva had agreed that the least harmful books would be donated to the Magical Library of London, while the darker ones would either be disposed of, or kept in the restricted section of the Hogwarts library.
As Harry summoned the books and magically arranged them to fit into the boxes, he caught sight of a strange looking panel, almost like a hidden compartment of sorts. Feeling wary of anything Snape would have deemed worthy of hiding, Harry waved an unlocking spell at the small hinged and latched door in the back of the bookcase. Standing from at least five feet back, Harry couldn't exactly tell what was packed into the small opening, but he could tell there were numerous rolls of parchment, a broken picture frame, and something that looks oddly like a lock of hair.
Running a spell to check for wards and curses, Harry approached the bookshelf carefully and reached into the hidden alcove. He pulled out three scrolled parchments, the picture frame and was about to pull out what looked like a lock of hair when he noticed its precise colouring. The slight curl gleamed a fiery red against the faint candle light in the dim room, reminding Harry not only of every Weasley he knew, but someone else – his mother. Deciding not to disturb the lock of hair, Harry took the parchment and frame over to Snape's bed, where he sat on the edge and lit the nearly useless candle with his wand.
The first scroll he examined had the name 'Draco Malfoy' written in Snape's cramped, slightly spidery writing. Harry set it aside and reached for another parchment, refusing to read someone else's letter from a dead man. This scroll nearly made Harry choke on his gasp and sent the picture frame cascading to the floor, where the last remnants of glass shattered into a million pieces. Harry bent down to remove the picture from the shards of glass and broken wood. Moving closer to the candle light, Harry's heart skipped a beat as he recognized his mother, only she was very young, and standing beside her was not James, but a wiry looking boy with greasy black hair that Harry also recognized from someone else's memories; Snape. The two children in the photo couldn't be older than ten or eleven, and the stationary state of the picture gave away that it was taken by a muggle camera. Harry set the picture on the bed and sat back down, pulling the scroll that he had abandoned before towards him.
The name scrawled on this particular scroll read 'Petunia Evans-Dursley', which made Harry's head hurt as the two worlds that had been so separate in his childhood blurred and melded together. He knew Snape has known his aunt from his childhood friendship with his mother, but he couldn't figure out why on earth Snape would have written and left a letter for the horsey, up-tight woman. He couldn't decide if he should open the scroll and read it, or leave it untouched like Malfoy's. Setting it aside for the time being, Harry picked up the last scroll, and felt his heart drop. 'Harry Potter', it read in Snape's familiar hand. Without much hesitation this time, Harry slit open the scroll with his wand and flattened it out, scooting closer to the candle light so he could better see.
If you are reading this, that means that I have failed to live through the war, and someone has found these last missives amongst my belongings. Along with the three scrolls, there should also be a picture frame, and a small lock of hair. If you've seen these, there's no doubt you've figured out who is in the picture, and who the lock of hair must belong to. These two things I am leaving to you, as they should rightfully belong to her son.
I suppose you could call these letters my last will and testament, though that was not my intention when I began writing. The real purpose of this letter is simple; I write to you in the days before my impending death to apologize, Harry.
Your mother was my only friend, and the only thing that kept me sane for most of my Hogwarts years. Your father was the bane of my existence, and the reason for my savage attitude towards you. In an attempt to distance myself from the reminders of Lily, and a foolish fit of revenge, I treated you like the lowliest creature – I hated you out of spite for someone who was long dead, and grief for another. I blamed you for your mother's death for the longest time, when really, it was my fault all along.
You're more like Lily than I think anyone could adequately explain to you. Though you may mostly look like your father, your personality is much closer to that of Lily's. It is cruel that I was able to know her, spend time with her – love her – when you were stripped of the chance to experience those things yourself. Her spirit is clearly with you, which made it all the more difficult to hate you over the years.
I write these things with a heavy heart, knowing I should have said them when I was still alive, and you were still an innocent child. However, as you've established before quite passionately, I am a coward, and no match for your Gryffindor bravery.
I am deeply sorry, Harry, for what little – if any – it may be worth. The way I treated you, and the hate I transferred from your father to you, was a foolish mistake, and I can only hope that my sacrificing my life for you will redeem me a little in your eyes. An old man knows not his mistakes until it is too late. I'm sure you can understand this concept, as Dumbledore was your mentor as well as mine. My deepest sympathy for my actions towards you could never be properly conveyed in a simple letter, so I am doing something that will hopefully settle the score and help you to forgive a foolish man for his stupid mistakes.
I leave to Harry James Potter half of all the gold in vault 1904 of Gringott's bank, to do with what he will, as well as my cottage in Bristol, and my extensive collection of defence books.
As an expert on it, I know grudges can be held for years and years, even for as long as you live, but I offer now this advice to you; though I may not deserve your forgiveness, it is not healthy to live with a grudge so firmly placed against a dead man. It will weigh you down, tear you apart, and never let you go, if you do not first let it go yourself.
Please be safe, Harry. I write this letter under the assumption that you've already defeated the Dark Lord, and perhaps it has been so long that you may have your own family now. I wish you the best in life, and urge you to live free and open-minded; something I failed to do myself.
Yours truly and most apologetically,
Severus Tobias Snape'
Harry read this over twice before letting it curl in upon itself, re-scrolling in his palm. His heart was beating double-time against his ribcage, making it increasingly harder to breathe. Harry didn't even realize he was crying until he tasted the salty tears that had dripped onto his lip. He didn't know what he had expected out of the letter from Snape, but a heartfelt apology was something he had never considered. Thinking of all the lost time, the useless hate and burning anger over the years that had accumulated between himself and Snape frustrated him beyond his ability to explain. If things had been different, maybe Harry could have had that support he needed from an adult, maybe he could have had the father he'd always wanted...
Harry's uncontained curiosity could not be ignored as he lifted the scroll addressed to his aunt and slit it open magically as well. This letter was much shorter than his own, and made very little sense, to him, at least.
As little as you'd be willing to admit it, you loved Lily just as much as she loved you. The person you have become would have disappointed Lily, and your treatment of her only son would have fired up that classic temper we're both very familiar with. I hope in time you can learn tolerance and have a better relationship with your nephew. There's much to be proud of when it comes to Harry, and Lily would have felt the same way.
Remember my last, and remember your sister, and we shall both not have died in vain.
Severus Tobias Snape'
Harry could not decipher that last sentence, no matter how he read it or thought about it. The only part that clicked in his mind was 'remember my last', which had been what the Howler sent to his aunt in his fifth year had bellowed at her. Back then, he was positive that had been Dumbledore's voice, but could he have been that seriously mistaken? Maybe it was a coincidence and not remotely related at all, but he doubted it. Sealing it once more, Harry set the scroll to the side next to the one addressed to Draco, still unwilling to read the letter Snape had written to his godson.
"Harry, are you alright?" a voice rang out from the doorway, making Harry jump nearly out of his skin and brandish his wand at the figure. He took a deep breath and lowered his wand as Minerva moved into the candle light.
"Professor, you frightened me. Yes, I'm alright. I, er...I was just packing this bookshelf here when something caught my eye. Snape had a hidden compartment behind the bookcase, in which he left three letters and a few mementos," Harry said in explanation for his lack of work done in the last hour and a half.
"Letters from Snape? To who; can I see them?" Minerva asked as she looked down at the three scrolled parchments on the bed.
"Well, I only read the one addressed to me, so the other two are still sealed," Harry lied, not really wanting Minerva to read the letter addressed to his aunt. "The other two are for Draco Malfoy and my Aunt Petunia."
Minerva blinked in confusion and surprise at this news. "Your Aunt Petunia? Why in Merlin's name would Severus leave a letter for your aunt? And what is in these letters; are they his will?"
Harry nodded and shrugged at the same time, answering all the questions at once. "They knew each other as children, Professor. That's my only guess as to why he would have written to her. I guess they are his will, as he stated that he left a few things to me in the letter he wrote to me. I'm sure he left some stuff to Draco in the letter addressed to him."
Minerva pulled out her wand and conjured up a Patronus, sending it up through the castle floors to contact Draco, who was in his office grading Arithmancy papers. Fifteen minutes passed in complete silence as they waited for Draco's arrival.
"Headmistress, you wanted to see me?" Draco said as he walked slowly into his godfather's old room. It felt eerie and extremely wrong entering Snape's quarters so many years after the man's death.
"Ah, yes. It seems that Harry here has made a discovery while packing away your godfather's belongings. He left something for you." She gestured for Harry to hand over Draco's letter, looking just as curious about it as he was.
Draco took the scrolled parchment and studied his name written in Snape's all too familiar hand writing. Using his wand to slit it open, Draco began to read the letter.
'To my godson Draco,
I hope this letter finds you well and not too much in grief for me. I have no idea when or if anyone will ever find these letters, so I hope whenever you read this letter, you can read it with a more mature and open mind.
I loved you like you were my own son, which I'm sure you knew. Having helped raise you more than your real father, I am very deeply fond of you, strange as that may seem. I've always been proud of you, even when you made horrendous mistakes, which do not bear repeating. The things I did in life, I did to help protect not only you, but countless others. I was perhaps not glad to give my life for the cause, but willing to take the risks.
I blame myself for your mix up with the Dark Lord. If I had been able to tell you the truth about my loyalties, if I had raised you a bit differently, maybe things could have been different – maybe you would not have to forever bear the same mark that haunted me my entire life. You were foolish and impressionable, which was not your fault, but the fault of the people who raised and influenced you. However, you are not a bad person, Draco; not by nature, nor by nurture.
I leave to Draco Abraxas Malfoy half of all of the gold in vault 1904 of Gringott's bank, to do with it what he will, my home in Devon, and all of my possessions in my Hogwarts quarters, excluding my collection of defence books and my collection of Dark Arts books.
I'll miss you terribly, Dragon, and I hope your life after the Dark Lord's downfall has been more prosperous and enjoyable than it was during His reign. Never forget that I will always be proud of you – in life, and beyond the veil.
Your loving godfather,
Severus Tobias Snape'
Draco had to struggle to keep the tears in as he rolled the parchment back up and took a deep breath to gather his emotions. Not willing to look so weak in front of Potter, he said the only thing that came to mind that displayed no emotion. "He only left me half of his vault."
"That's because he left the other half to me," said Harry, who was twirling his letter from Snape lazily in his hand. His eyes locked with Draco's for a long time before the Head of Slytherin blinked and looked away.
"This is all he left, nothing else?" Draco asked, more out of something to say than real curiosity. He knew everything except for some books now belonged to him.
"Just two other letters, a picture, and a lock of hair," Harry answered, trying to get some sort of reaction out of the stoic blonde.
Draco made a face and glared at Harry. "A lock of hair; surely not his own?"
Harry laughed and shook his head before sliding off the bed and moving back towards the bookcase. "No, it's a lock of my mother's hair. I don't know how he got it."
"I do. It was during a potions class during their fourth year. The potion they were making required you to use some of your potions partner's hair; Severus and Lily were partners. I remember you father coming to me and complaining that Severus had kept the lock of your mother's hair, saying it was 'creepy and just wrong'. But Lily didn't mind, even gave Severus permission to keep it so he could do something called 'cloning' in the future, whatever that is," Minerva said from her position beside the bookcase.
Harry laughed as he reached in and lightly touched the still silky curl of hair. "Cloning is a muggle practice. Well, not really, just a theory they've been trying to put in place. It's kind of like the doppelganger spell; it allows you to make a carbon copy of someone using their DNA."
"Even if the person is deceased? Not even a doppelganger spell can manage that," Draco pointed out, clutching the scroll close to him.
"Well that's the point of cloning – to make a copy of someone after they've passed away so that they can essentially 'come back'. They've not figured out how to actually go about doing it, really, and even if they did, the copy would only be genetically and physically the same, not mentally. It's a long time in coming, so I wouldn't think too much on it. I'm sure my mum was only joking when she suggested it."
Minerva pulled her robes a bit closer to herself, feeling a strange chill that was even too cold to be the natural dank temperatures of the dungeons. "I certainly hope she was only joking. That's...not right, not natural. Kind of sad, really..."
Draco walked over to the bookshelf and stood beside Harry, looking down at the rusty red curl. "Why would Severus have any desire to clone your mother, Potter?"
"Because he loved her," Harry said with a soft smile, surprising both Minerva and Draco. After all the things he'd been through during the war, all the guilt caused by the death and loss that had consumed him for years afterwards, the most horrible memory Harry possessed was looking directly into Severus Snape's eyes as the man drew his final breath. In that instant, Harry did not see an embittered dark man, capable of murder, but a man who had sacrificed everything – even his own life – to protect Harry, all because, once upon a time, Snape had loved his mother. Even with Lily's blood-sacrifice protection upon Harry, she had given him so much more in the way of such a loyal, brave man like Severus Snape to watch over him, even though it was never obvious.
Harry would always remember that night, the night he saw the bravest man he'd ever known die to protect him. All at once, everything seemed to come full circle, expect one thing – the note to Petunia Dursley. That was the final piece of the puzzle, and Harry desperately needed to find out what it was so he could finally put it all behind him.
Coming out of his reverie, Harry stepped away from the bookshelf and scooped the letter to Petunia up off Snape's bed. "I guess I better deliver this, just to make sure he didn't make any other bequests, though I can't imagine what he'd want to give to my Aunt Petunia other than a good swift kick in the arse." Harry smiled indulgently as Draco chuckled.
"Well, don't be too long, now. These quarters have to be cleared out by Tuesday for the new Professor. I just haven't the heart to clear his things out myself...I wouldn't know what to do with any of it. It seems wrong to dispose of it, but what else – ?"
"He left everything in here to me, except for some of his books, and whatever he listed as being left to Potter. I'll help out, since it's my stuff. I guess the best place to store it would be my new home in Devon."
"He left you a house too? How many houses did he have?" Harry asked, wondering at the mystery that was still Snape, even so many years after the man's death.
"Four, but one was seized by the ministry following Dumbledore's death, and properly destroyed out of spite, and the other was just a safe house he used to hide out in when he was too afraid to lead Voldemort or his Death Eaters to his real homes. He had the other two so that people couldn't predict a pattern to where he lived. I didn't even know about the house in Devon until my fourth year," Draco explained, looking around the room at all the knick-knacks that once belonged to his godfather, his mentor.
Harry nodded, still finding himself curious about the man, and wanting to know more. "Well, I'll be quick with this, then I'll be back to help," he said as he held up the letter. He walked into the sitting room and over to the hearth, where he pulled down a ceramic pot still containing floo powder. He flooed to the nearest hearth to the Dursley's new home in Manchester, then Apparated the rest of the way, landing at the foot of their winding drive.
Harry walked slowly up the drive, looking around at the neatly pruned garden, wondering if Petunia actually did it herself, or if she had another orphan nephew who was ordered to do it for her. Trying to push away those bitter thoughts, Harry approached the shiny blue door with a clear head, and an open heart. Maybe Petunia would heed Snape's words, in which case Harry would be obligated to return the favour, not only to honour Snape, but to be the bigger man, in a few words, and forget his bitter hate of the woman who supposedly raised him. Lifting his hand, he knocked gently on the door one, two, three times, and waited.
The blue door opened slowly to reveal an older version of the Petunia Harry had last seen, drying her hands on a flowery apron. Her movements stopped as she recognized her nephew, and promptly let her apron fall to rest against her knees once more.
"Harry? How – why...What are you doing here?" she stuttered, not sounding unkind or accusatory, only shocked and highly curious.
Harry smiled lightly at his aunt, shocked to receive such a – well, not exactly warm, but decently neutral welcome. "Hello Aunt Petunia. I know it's been awhile, but something's come up that I need to discuss with you. Would you mind terribly if I came in? Only, this could take a while of explaining."
Petunia automatically opened the door wide enough to allow Harry entry and waved her hand, as if to welcome him in. "Of course, come in." She led the way down a long hallway off to the side of the foyer, which was fairly large. The house in general was much larger than number four Privet Drive had been, but Harry imagined that Vernon's retirement funds had something to do with it.
"You're just in time for a spot of lunch. Dudley and Veronica just arrived a few minutes ago," Petunia said pleasantly as she moved to another door, which presumably led to the kitchen and dining room.
Harry stopped in his tracks, making Petunia turn to look at him curiously. "I didn't mean to intrude on your plans. Perhaps I'll come back at a later date, when you're not busy," Harry said, not really keen on seeing his cousin or uncle again, not to mention what sounded either like Dudley's wife or girlfriend.
"Nonsense, there's plenty of food to go around for us all. Let me just show you into the dining room, then I'll nip into the pantry and get another place setting," Petunia said as she proceeded through the door to the dining room. Harry followed, prepared for a massive explosion from both his cousin and uncle.
Vernon was sitting at the head of the table, chatting happily with a shockingly fit Dudley, who sat beside a pretty and petite woman with dark hair and dark eyes. They all three looked up as Petunia and Harry entered, and all conversation ceased as a sort of staring contest occurred between Vernon, Dudley, and Harry. Petunia left through another door, Harry assumed to get the other place setting.
"H-Harry...Mum didn't say you were coming," Dudley said, finally breaking the unnerving silence in the dining room.
Harry smiled nervously at his almost unrecognizable cousin, shoving his hands deep into his jeans pockets. "I wasn't exactly invited, actually. I just stopped in to talk to Aunt Petunia for a minute, but she insisted I stay for lunch."
Dudley nodded distractedly, still in a dazed stupor. Finally he shook himself out of it as Veronica elbowed him, a curious expression on her pretty face. "Oh, right! Harry, this is my fiancée, Veronica de Jeannette. Veronica, this is my cousin, Harry Potter."
Harry moved to sit across from Dudley at the medium sized table, placing himself perilously close to Vernon, who still hadn't uttered a single word about his arrival. He reached across the table and took Veronica's hand, giving it a gentle shake. "Nice to meet you, Veronica."
Veronica smiled at him and pulled her hand back after he had released it. "Zo, you are 'Arry Potter, zen. I've 'eard a lot about you," she said in a pleasant, but thick French accent.
Harry frowned slightly and just managed not to look around accusingly at his uncle and cousin. "I'm sure you have," he said in a carefully neutral voice, hoping against hope that his words didn't instigate an explosion, which still felt impending as Vernon remained speechless.
Veronica let out a tinkling laugh and shook her head of full, bouncy black curls. "Oh, don't sound zo fright-ened. Dudley's only 'ad good zings to say, as well as uzzairs, I assure you."
Harry's eye brow rose slowly as he failed to not look curiously over at Dudley, who blushed faintly. "Oh, uh, well...that's good to hear," Harry said with a tentative smile.
Just then, Petunia came back into the dining room with a place setting of brilliant blue china, which she sat in front of Harry before taking her own seat at the end of the table opposite Vernon. With a ring of a small bell, a butler walked into the room, carrying three massive trays of delicious smelling food and setting them in the centre of the table.
"Don't let Pierre fool you, now; I cooked this whole meal myself, he only has to carry it out here," Petunia said with a little laugh and a warm smile, directed surprisingly at Harry. The woman had definitely changed, making her much more pleasant not only to look at, but be around, which gave Harry goose bumps. He imagined this was how his own mother would have been. "Vernon, can you pass the parsnips, please? Vernon...Vernon!" Petunia snapped, effectively getting her husband's attention.
Vernon looked around the table as if he had only just noticed the food had arrived. He picked up the bowl of parsnips and passed them down the table to his wife, then turned his eyes onto Harry. "So, what was it you needed to discuss with Petunia?" he asked, his voice not as welcoming as Petunia's had been, but definitely less hostile than Harry had expected.
"Well, it's uh, kind of complicated. Um...how open am I allowed to speak?" he asked, glancing over at Veronica warily. The last thing he wanted was to scare off Dudley's fiancée by talking about magic.
"Oh, Verny knows you're a wizard," Dudley said with a reassuring nod.
"I have an aunt 'oo iz a witch. She iz ze only one in ze 'ole family, but I 'eard zat iz quite common, to 'ave magic randomly among mug-gles," Veronica said with a light smile. It was a wonder such a pleasant woman had agreed to marry Dudley, but Harry was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he had changed drastically since the last time Harry had spoken to him, and not just by his waistline.
"Yeah, it's very common in the Wizarding world. They're called muggle-borns; my mother was one, actually," Harry said, smiling back at the French woman. "Anyways, I have a letter for you, Aunt Petunia. I'm not sure if you remember him, but my mum had a friend in her childhood, Severus Snape?"
Petunia's fork dropped loudly to her plate, making Veronica jump slightly and Dudley choke on his tea. She blinked a few times before wiping her mouth on a serviette and setting it beside her plate. "Yes, I do remember Severus. Why do you ask?" she said, her voice strangely neutral.
"He died, during the war. Well, let me back up a little, actually. Severus was my Potions Professor at Hogwarts, an eventually my Defence teacher. We...never really got along. We essentially loathed each other, actually, but I digress. Severus helped protect me and win the war, even though we weren't the best of friends, and it was all because of the never wavering love he had for my mum," Harry explained.
"Zat iz ze sweetest think I 'ave evair 'eard! What a wond-airful man..." Veronica said with a soft sigh, her accent growing thicker in her passionate little declaration. She didn't even waver as Dudley tsked and glared slightly at her.
Petunia's sharp gaze had softened as she raised the serviette to her mouth and coughed into it, hiding her emotions, Harry was sure. "I always knew that boy was pining for Lily, I just didn't realize he never stopped. So, this letter...is it from him?"
Harry nodded and pulled the letter out of the inner pocket of his coat. He pulled out his wand, and was shocked that Dudley didn't flinch or try to hide, as he slit the scroll open for his aunt and handed the letter to her. "I'm afraid I already read it, as I was extremely curious and confused as to why he would have left you letter. I had been cleaning out his old quarters at Hogwarts of his possessions when I found it and two other letters. I'm afraid it makes little sense to me, but I was hoping you could shed some light onto its meaning."
Petunia reached across and took the scroll from Harry, unrolling it so that she could read it. Her eyes narrowed and her eye brows knit as she read, conveying that she didn't exactly like what the letter had to say. When she finished, she looked up at Harry and they locked gazes. It was a few seconds before Petunia could speak, as she was seeing her nephew in a whole new light. "Well...I'm not exactly sure which part of this letter was not plainly obvious to you – ?"
"The last line, 'Remember my last, and remember your sister, and we shall both not have died in vain.' What does that mean, 'remember my last'?" Harry asked, shocking Petunia by having the last line memorized.
Petunia took a deep breath before standing from the table and leaving the dining room without warning. Harry was worried he had upset her, and was about to go after her when she returned, carrying a small wooden box in her hand.
"I'm sure you remember the summer when you and Dudley were attacked by those horrible Dementors, yes? That Howler that I received was in fact not from Dumbledore, but from Severus. He masked it as Dumbledore's voice so that you would not suspect, but only I truly knew the meaning behind it." She sat back down and placed the wooden box in front of her, flipping the filigree clasp and opening it. Inside was what looked like old letters and pictures, folded and tossed in pell-mell. She riffled through them for a few seconds before pulling out a particular letter, which was written on parchment – a dead giveaway that it had come from someone magical. It looked fairly old, and like it had been unfolded and refolded many times over. "This letter came shortly after you were left on our doorstep. At first I didn't remember who Severus even was before I started reading it. It became painfully obvious as I read." Petunia handed the letter over to Harry, who took it gently from her grasp.
Harry unfolded the letter carefully, and recognized Snape's writing immediately. He also realized he was shaking as he began to read. This was it, the final piece to the puzzle.
'Mrs. Petunia Dursley,
I'm sure you probably don't remember me, but I indeed remember you. Lily was always very fond of you as a child, though I could never figure out why. You were always so domineering and demanding, often hurting Lily's feelings when she was only trying to be helpful. You often tormented me as well, but I'll not bore you with bitter feelings from so long ago. To this day, Lily has remained the only friend I have ever had, and the only person I ever loved, so I must do as she would have wanted and treat you with respect, little as though you may deserve it.
It is with great trepidation that I am telling you what I am about to say, but I trust that your fear will keep you properly tight-lipped.
Your nephew, Harry Potter, will save the world one day. I don't know how, and I don't know when that day will come, but what I am sure of is this; the Wizard who killed Lily and James Potter will be back, and Harry will be his main target when he does. So, you may wonder why I am telling you this, other than the obvious reason that he is in your care now.
I believe Dumbledore has already explained and emphasised on most of this, but I feel it is my duty to reinforce these precautions after my hand in Lily's death. When Lily died, a warding of protection fell over Harry, but only if he resided in the home of his mother's blood. Meaning, he is only safe while living with a blood relative of Lily. Considering you are the last Evans, now Dursley, this means Harry has nowhere to go but your home. Without that protection, Harry is in grave danger, and by extension, so are the rest of us.
So, my point is this, and I do have one: you must never, ever take Harry to live with anyone else, or take him to an orphanage. The blood that runs in your veins is the blood that Lily sacrificed to protect her son, and you must do your part of giving him a home until he comes of age. When Harry turns seventeen, the protection will wane. From then on, I'm afraid he'll be on his own, but with protection of another kind; the Order of the Phoenix, including myself and Albus Dumbledore. One can hope that perhaps he will fulfil his destiny before his seventeenth birthday, but I fear that's too much to ask of a child, even one who's destined to save the world from certain evil and death.
As a personal favour, and a favour to the rest of the world, I implore you to make sure Harry is well taken care of, and kept in residence with you until his seventeenth birthday, at the least. Lily died to save her son; hopefully she will be the last to have to do so.
Never forget that Harry is your blood, your family, and treat him as your own. Do not fail your sister's last wishes.
Severus Tobias Snape'
Harry lowered the parchment and folded it back up, still shaking slightly. Snape had written this letter long before he knew Harry, and yet the man was already determined to help protect him in any way he could, going so far as to personally ask Petunia to care for him. It made Harry's heart ache even more that he could never discuss such things with the man, or thank him for all that he had done for him. He handed the letter back to Petunia, but she shook her head and pushed it and the entire box towards Harry.
"No, you should have these, Harry. Most of them are letters I found amongst Lily's belongings between her and Severus. A few of them are between her and I while she was away at school. There are a few pictures as well."
Harry picked up the small stack of pictures and felt his heart leap as he laid eyes on his mother again. The one on top was of Lily by herself, dressed in a golden sundress and laying in a field of daisies. The next one was of a very young Lily and Petunia, their arms thrown around each other with wide smiles on their youthful faces. Harry smiled as he traced his mother's face in the picture, before looking up at Petunia and handing the picture to her. "You keep this one."
Petunia took the picture and gave a watery smile as she clutched the picture close to her chest. "Thank you, Harry. I hope those will help bring you more closure. I never liked the boy, or man, even, but it's obvious that he cared about you by extension of Lily."
The rest of lunch passed with quiet conversation of cheerful topics, such as the colour schemes and flower arrangements for Dudley's and Veronica's upcoming wedding. After they had all finished eating, they decided to retire to the sitting room for some tea, but Harry declined, as he had to be back to help Draco finish packing Snape's belongings.
"Oh, but wait! We need your add-ress, 'Arry! Ze wedding invitations should be going out next week, 'opefully," Veronica said with a warm smile as she leaned in and kissed Dudley lightly on the cheek.
Harry smiled, actually happy to see that Dudley had found someone like Veronica. She was obviously good for him. "Oh, right, well, I live at a magical address, so muggle post is often very delayed in being delivered," Harry said with a frown.
"Oh, zat iz right! I forgot, silly of me, really. I know! You can come to ze luncheon next week wiz my par-ents and ze rest of ze wedding party! I can give you ze invitation zen, no? It iz at ze Café des Amis in London, right next to ze Covent Garden, you know ze place?" Veronica asked excitedly, bouncing slightly in her seat.
Harry smiled ruefully and nodded, feeling slightly apprehensive about being included in the Dursleys' lives again. However, if they wanted to turn a new leaf and start over with him, Harry would do them the honour of going along with it. "Yeah, I've been there a few times myself. What time?"
"Friday at noon. We're all meeting at eleven for tea, as well. Oh, I 'ope you can make it, 'Arry!" Veronica said with an earnest smile, making Harry even more nervous.
"I'll try my hardest. Well, I must be getting back now. I'm sure they could use my help. Thanks for lunch," Harry said, accepting a hug and kiss on the cheek from Veronica, which made Dudley frown a bit. Harry was about to turn to leave when Vernon stood up from his armchair. Harry had to use all his willpower not to flinch when the man suddenly raised his arm, but then he realized he was only offering a handshake.
"It was good to see you again, Harry. You're always welcome over for dinner or what have you, just try to phone first to let us know. Or wait, you don't exactly have a telephone, do you...?" Vernon asked, looking slightly confused and far out of his comfort zone. Something told Harry that Petunia had put Vernon up to this, as a sort of peace offering.
Harry released his uncle's hand after shaking it firmly. "I do actually have a mobile. My friend Hermione is muggle-born and uses one like it's going out of style, so I got one to make sure I can get a hold of her, though sometimes it goes wonky if you use magic around it. Anyways, what's the number here?" Harry asked as he pulled out his sleek mobile phone and flipped the top to reveal the screen and keypad.
After exchanging phone numbers and saying their goodbyes, Harry finally made it out of the house and back onto the street. He decided to take a short walk down the street before finding a building to Apparate behind, trying to clear his head of all the oddness that had ensued today. It felt weird, being civil with the Dursley's, yet Harry was glad that it hadn't gone as he had originally expected it to; lots of yelling, maybe a few punches thrown, and possibly having to pull his wand.
As Harry walked from the Apparation point to a floo node, he couldn't help but feel a swell of nostalgia as he wished he could speak to Snape, just one last time. He stopped walking and changed his mind about flooing straight into Snape's quarters. Instead, Harry decided to Apparate to Snape's quiet little grave, just on the edge of Hogsmeade on the border of a small forest. He'd only been there once before – during the actual funeral. As he walked closer to the large marble headstone, Harry saw that someone had place charmed roses all around it, spelled to live forever more. It was an extremely difficult spell to pull off, and Harry had the strongest suspicion that they had been placed there by Hermione.
Harry took a deep breath as he knelt down in front of the headstone, releasing it in a solemn sigh. His heart ached as he read the inscription he had partially picked out himself.
Severus Tobias Snape
9 January, 1960 – 2 May, 1998
'The Bravest Man I Ever Knew'
'Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names'
At first Harry had fought wand and will against having a quote spoken by himself placed on the man's headstone, but after some thought on it, he decided that he cared not of what other's thought, but what he wished he could have told Snape himself. The other quote Hermione had helped him find, and even though it came from the muggle bible, Harry couldn't have picked a better quote. Severus Snape was still often thought of as infamous, but Harry, and many others, knew better than that. Harry had revealed the truth, and even testified in front of the Wizengamot about Snape's innocence. Harry had spent many long months, which eventually stretched into years, defending Snape from all the lies and bad press he received, even after Harry had shared bits and pieces of Snape's memories to support his defence.
The air had grown cold and stiff, a light breeze lifting at Harry's thin coat and ruffling his naturally tussled hair. It was getting late, as Harry hadn't realized how long he had dallied at the Dursley's until he noticed the sun was beginning to set.
Knowing his words would go unheard, and his guilt unmoved, Harry began to speak aloud to Snape's headstone, wishing that the man could hear him, wherever he was beyond the veil.
"I do accept your apology, Severus. I only wish I could apologize in return, as I'm just as guilty as you ever were. I always accused you of being the bad guy, when you were really always on my side. I wish things could have been different, that I could have known the truth about your loyalties, and even your feelings about my mum, before you died preferably. I know that you cared, even if you'd sooner come back to life and die all over again before you would admit it, but I do know that you cared. I want you to know that, now that I know the truth, I can't help but long to know who you really were, what would have happened if I looked like Lily instead of James. Even in death, you're still a mystery to me, Severus. I'm sorry...I'm sorry I never really knew you, and I'm sorry you never gave me the chance to show you that I'm not my father at all..."
Harry took a deep, cleansing breath, his lungs stinging from the frigid air. His knees were hurting from kneeling on the hard ground for so long, but he didn't make any move to leave. The orange and red hues of the sunset glared brightly off the dark marble headstone, making a curious pattern on the ground of the clearing. Harry was just about to call it a night and head back to Hogwarts when he heard a rustle of leaves behind him in the forest bordering Snape's lone grave. Harry slowly turned around, feeling a little more skittish than he normally would have been. What he saw made his heart leap into his throat, and hot tears sting at his eyes.
Standing at the edge of the forest, with the glow of the setting sun shining off its chestnut coat, was the most serene and beautiful doe Harry had ever seen. Harry slowly stood up so as not to scare her away and met her black gaze, trembling slightly in the cold breeze. The doe tossed her head and pawed lightly at the ground before taking a tentative step towards Harry. Harry stayed stalk still as the doe grew closer and closer, stopping just in front of him at arm's length. He slowly lifted his hand and touched the doe's soft fur, choking back a sob as the doe leaned into his touch.
"You can hear me after all. I miss you..."
The doe cocked her head, almost like a curious dog as Harry spoke to her. It gave the impression that she understood what he was saying, making his tears flow faster and freer. Her black, watery eyes reminded Harry of Snape's dark gaze, and for a second, Harry thought he was looking into the Potions Master's eyes once more. A sudden strong gust of wind blew through, lifting the fallen leaves up with it. Harry looked up at the sky as the leaves flew into a strange pattern, and it took Harry a second to realize they were actually spelling something out.
'Remember My Last...'
Harry smiled and choked out a sob, startling the doe, which ran off back into the forest where she had come from. Harry stood alone in the clearing, watching the leaves break apart and fly away, making him think that perhaps he had just imagined the words in the leaves. But as the wind picked up again swirled around him, Harry knew that he was not alone, and that he would always have the people he loved watching over him. He just had to make a small edit, and add Snape into those ranks. With one last deep breath and a glance at Snape's headstone, Harry Apparated away, back to the front gates of the place that he would forever consider his true home; Hogwarts.
A/N: So, what did you think? Good, bad, horrible, brilliant?? Review and let me know, please! Sorry about the French part too, I know it's annoying...Oh, and the quote on Snape's headstone is from Proverbs.
P.S. To Jean, an anonymous reviewer that I wish to answer: He was buried just outside of Hogsmeade at the edge of a forest. (Totally made that up, just so you know LOL)