A few days after the battle, they begin to bury the dead, side by side by side around the perimeter of the lake. Death Eaters, Howarts students, Aurors, Hogsmeade villagers, all are lain to rest in a single place, with a single memorial service. Harry insists on it, and no one denies him.

At Harry's direction, only two bodies are kept apart from the others. Voldemort's is one. Harry uses the Elder Wand to incinerate the remains and Vanish the ashes, remembering as he does so McGonagall's words outside the door of Ravenclaw Tower. Into nonbeing—into everything—that is Voldemort's immortality. Severus Snape they bury in a grey marble tomb beside the white one, now repaired, where Dumbledore lies. The Malfoys had asked that Snape's body be released to them, and Harry can almost believe they wished to honor him as a friend. But he wants Snape where everyone who sees him will remember his sacrifices.

Sunset the day after Snape's funeral finds him in his Invisibility Cloak, standing at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Harry hesitates for a moment in the shadow of the ancient trees, knowing what he will see if he closes his eyes for a single moment—himself, thronged by the dead in that other twilight. It is loss, not fear, that causes him to shiver. He keeps his eyes open.

It isn't hard to find the place where he fell beneath Voldemort's Killing Curse. Hagrid, blind with tears as he carried Harry to the castle, made a broad swathe through the trees, a trail easy to find and follow again. Harry moves to the edge of the clearing where Voldemort held court with his Death Eaters, imagining for a moment that he hears the echo of their whispering voices. It's only the wind, but still it seems to be saying, "Is he dead? Is he dead?"

"Not me," says Harry, his voice startlingly loud in the stillness, "Not yet. Sorry to disappoint."

He draws his holly-and-phoenix-feather wand and holds it aloft. "Accio Resurrection Stone," he says quietly, and from somewhere beneath the leaves at Harry's feet it flies upwards and smacks against his open palm.

He gazes down at it: There is one name, one face in his mind. He turns the Stone over three times, and immediately, black leather boots with pointed tips materialize on the ground before him.

Harry looks up.

There is a marked difference between the Severus Snape Harry knew in life and the dead one that appears before him now. He does not, perhaps, look very much younger than he was when he died, but he holds himself straighter, and his hands are loose at his sides, not clenched into fists.

When Harry meets his eyes, Snape returns the gaze steadily, without either heat or freezing emptiness, and this alone makes him seem like another person.

Harry has known this moment would come since he first told Dumbledore's portrait of his plans for the Stone, but now it has come he has no idea what to say. But like Lily before him, Snape speaks first, and Harry is glad to listen.

"I...lingered a little while, after the end," Snape is saying, in a low mild voice Harry has never heard from him before. "Only long enough to see you—to see the work finished. It isn't possible, normally, but I was permitted. My need was deemed to be great." The living Snape, Harry imagines, would avert his eyes, but the intense gaze bearing down on him does not waver. "Well done. Harry."

Unexpected heat pricks the corners of Harry's eyes. "I'm hiding the Resurrection Stone," Harry says. "So nobody can try to unite all the Hallows again. But I wanted to thank you first, for everything—everything that you did. I...really wish you hadn't had to die."

"Gracious of you, Potter," says Snape, the corner of his mouth twitching minutely. "For what it is worth, I would say the same to you."

Harry smiles back. The wind picks up behind him, and their cloaks dance around their feet.

"I hope you see her. My mother," Harry says. "She'd want to thank you too. I know you did it all for her."

Snape's nod is faint, almost imperceptible. "Mostly."

"Mostly?" Harry echoes.

Snape's strange smile returns, a little wider this time. "I watched you...so closely....for so many years." He gives a little shrug. "Perfect detachment was—not possible."

For some reason, Harry realizes, he had thought that seeing Snape, talking to him, would be easier than seeing his parents and Sirius and Lupin had been, that regret wouldn't tear his heart at the sight of him. He was wrong. "I wish I'd tried harder to understand you," Harry whispers.


"I wish you'd lived to see your victory."

"I did," says Snape, and the forcefulness of this assertion makes Harry look at him closely. There is a gleam in his eyes that is strangely familiar. "You were there, in the end. It was...enough."

It is nearly full dark now. Harry lights his wand and holds it off to one side at eye level. Snape's face is rendered in a delicate palette of white and greyish blue, but he looks nothing like a ghost.

Harry points his wand at the ground, creating a deep, perfect hole in the earth, a few feet in diameter. Then he draws the now-empty mokeskin purse from around his neck and pulls on the drawstrings to open it. He pinches the Stone between thumb and forefinger, but doesn't drop it in yet.

Instead he glances up one more time, and fancies that the look on Snape's face is one of approval.

"Goodbye, then," says Harry. "I hope you...rest peacefully, and all that."

In Snape's eyes there is a burst of something bright and intense. "Oh, I shall," he says. "And you, Potter. Make a life for yourself. You are...overdue for one."

And before Harry's fingers open to drop the Stone into the bag, Snape takes a step backwards and melts into the shadows. Harry is alone, but for the sound of the forest stirring around him. He closes his eyes for a moment; the silvery imprint of Snape's vanished form bright against his eyelids.

Then the moment passes, and the Stone disappears, first into the darkness of the pouch, then into the depths of the earth. Harry uses the Elder Wand to fill the hole again and eliminate any traces of disturbance in the Forest floor, casting a few Notice-Me-Not charms around the area. He takes a step back, regarding his work. It would, he is confident, take a wizard of Voldemort's power to find the Stone again. But then, wizards like Voldemort are never interested in the Stone.

Harry draws the Cloak high up over his head again and strides out under the night sky, away from the forest, away from the susurrus of the wind. If he strains, he can still hear what sounds like voices, whispering behind his back of his death, but he doesn't mind. They are easier to ignore now.