Author's Note: I tell you now, and I hope you'll forgive me for this, but I've cut out much of the actual Final Battle. Unless otherwise stated or implied, assume it happened similarly to the original book. I see little point in repeating things you've already read, or things you can just as easily deduce for yourselves.
A reader has done a lovely fan art for the previous chapter. The link is in my profile.
And finally, a Hagrid-sized thank you to BorgPrincess, my wonderful beta and encourager extraordinaire. This story would probably never have been completed without her endless kind words. Anyone who enjoys this story has her to thank for telling me at the beginning that it was worth anything at all.
That's everything. So with no further ado, I hope you enjoy the final chapter of The Professor's Discretion.
Chapter 22: The End
"Look," Harry began. "I just wanted you, both of you, to know that erm… well… you don't have to do this."
"Harry…" both Hermione and Ron interrupted.
"No, just listen. I know you're going to say you'll stay with me, and I know that you really mean it… and you don't know how much that means to me, but I want you to really think before I do this. Think about your futures…"
"What about yours, Harry?" said Ron.
"Mine wasn't my choice to make. Yours is. And I want…" Here Harry had to stop and swallow very hard. "I want you both to have a future. Very much. And that might not happen if you come with me."
Unable to stop the tears from falling, Hermione gently pulled her hand out of Ron's and took both of Harry's.
"We all of us stand a better chance of having any sort of future if we work together, Harry."
"I think we'll need all the help we can get," added Ron, a nervous, sheepish, boyish grin on his face. Hermione loved Ron, but she also pitied him almost. He looked so, well, nauseous. Granted, Hermione's own stomach was turning over and over and her heart was as heavy as it had ever been, but she did not doubt even for a minute, what her course of action must be. Ron would stand by Harry because it was the right thing to do, despite how terrified he obviously was. And wasn't that what made him a Gryffindor?
Hermione didn't feel fear for herself. Not anymore. Whether it was all that time with Bellatrix Lestrange or if it was the conviction she felt for the cause, but the thought of dying wasn't frightening. No, the only thought she worried about was that Harry and Ron might not make it through, or, even worse, that they wouldn't succeed and Voldemort would win.
A consolation was that no matter what the outcome, her parents would be safe, happy, ignorant of the fact that they may have lost their daughter.
Looking back now, at the pivot point, she didn't regret what she had done. She only regretted that it had been necessary. Perhaps it had been bad form, or even morally wrong. But if it meant her parents were safe and happy, well, that made it worth it. It would always be worth it. She couldn't choose between the love of her parents and her devotion to the cause. She just hoped that, despite what she'd done to them, that someday, somehow, they would be proud of her.
"Please," Harry begged. "Just think about it? You know I won't think any less of you. I just… I couldn't stand it if something happened to one of you because of me."
Hermione, who had heard this speech at least once every year for the last seven years, had expected this, and already had her response prepared, though it varied greatly from previous years. This wasn't just about friendship. Though she would stick by Harry to the end in any case, this was much more.
"Harry. This is my fight just as much as it is yours. More so. Yes, you were chosen, but I'm a muggleborn. This is my battle. Voldemort is against me, and my kind. If anyone has the right, the duty, to stand by you and fight, it's me. And you won't take that away from me. Not when it means so much."
Harry smiled, though a little grimly, and nodded, finally accepting. As one, they both turned to Ron.
"Well," he said, shrugging awkwardly. "I figure, as You-Know-Who is an absolute nutter, I have a vested interest as well. Can't have him as next Minister for Magic, can we? I mean, it would erm…. ruin my chances, wouldn't it?"
Harry snorted. "Didn't know you were planning on standing for office, Ron."
"Well, I might. You never know! Need a Plan B in case I don't make it onto the Cannons, you know."
"You know if you do make Minister, I'm not writing your legislation for you," said Hermione with mock sternness.
"Ah," Ron countered, raising a finger. "But if you do then you can implement rights for House Elves."
Huh. Hermione found herself actually considering that future. Once she'd finished fighting for muggleborn rights that didn't mean the fight was over. Others needed help too. They had been her first cause, after all. She couldn't simply give them up.
But one thing at a time...
Severus rubbed the coin between his thumb and forefinger, knowing that every moment he wasted in the stupid act meant a moment lost for her, he was robbing her time to plan for her friends, for the Order. And yet, he couldn't deny himself this one self-indulgence, this one minute of calm… before the storm. Once he sent her the message, it was officially the beginning of the end. Illogical as the sentiment was, he had to acknowledge within himself, the desire to keep Hermione Granger off the grounds, where she would be a priority target, second only to Harry Potter. But, it was the plan; they had both of them agreed to it, and Severus had known, as well did the girl herself, the risk involved when they had initially discussed it.
Still, knowing what must be done didn't affect the wish for her survival. More importantly, however, neither did his wish for her survival affect the knowledge of what must be done. The mission was paramount. She'd need to rally the Order, Dumbledore's Army, anyone else she could. Granger had assured him she'd planned for this eventuality, had spoken to the elder Weasleys and Kinsgly and Lupin; doubtlessly Minerva had been informed. They would all be awaiting Potter's call.
Therefore it was time to summon her, and Potter, into harm's way. He reflected a trifle bitterly that he'd been trying to keep them out of danger their whole lives, merely so they'd be able to die at the appropriate time. Which was now.
Severus let out a shuddering breath and forced himself to point his wand at the coin.
It is time.
He stared at the silver sickle she'd given him, unable to exactly classify what he felt about that being the last message he ever sent her. Somehow, it wasn't what he wanted to say…
But it was what needed to be said.
Not only would he likely never speak to her again, but considering that both sides would be bringing considerable numbers to the grounds tonight, would he even see her? A few spells revealed the hidden sword of Gryffindor which he'd taken great pains to steal from the Malfoys. How would he get it to her?
The hilt alone was heavy in his guilty grip. Far cry from a Gryffindor, he thought. Never had he before admitted even to himself that regret. He'd always been the paragon of Slytherin, the Head of the House itself. And yet here, now, at the end, he wished he were worthy to wield that sword.
"Better to die a Gryffindor than live as a Slytherin…" he said to himself; an aphorism that he'd have ridiculed at any other time in his life. He looked up suddenly, afraid that Albus might have heard. Severus' chest constricted painfully, seeing the painted pale blue eyes shine with unshed tears.
"I've always thought they sorted them too young," Albus said. No, the portrait said. Since Severus had heard the Headmaster say it in life, it was especially hard to remember that the old face looking down on him wasn't really Dumbledore. It was such an exact likeness, the voice recalled the man in every way, pitch, tone, timbre, and the words he'd heard were words Dumbledore had often said in life.
Not for the first time, Severus wished Albus were still alive, that he had the real wizard watching over him, as he used to, not just a painting on a wall.
Up until that moment, he'd never really spoken to the painting of his mentor on account of the other portraits in the office. All the past Headmasters and Headmistresses hung there with nothing to do but eavesdrop. Before that might have meant the difference between success and failure, between secrecy and exposure. What did it matter now?
"Albus," he croaked, wondering belatedly if he were even strong enough for this conversation…
Hermione stood, clutching the warm coin in her hand, holding it against her chest. She felt her heart pound against her closed fist. She knew she needed to get started but she couldn't stop herself from just taking a moment to hold this last bit of him she was likely ever to get. She wanted to respond, but not a single word in the language, or combination of them for that matter, could do justice to her sentiments just then. If she were with him, if she could see him, it would be different. She could show him; get her entire message to him through a hug, a handshake. Even simply looking him in the eyes would do it, perhaps better than any other way.
But that wasn't an option, and she couldn't stand around there all afternoon trying to think of the right thing to say that still wouldn't say enough.
Hermione put the coin in her pocket and went back downstairs to seek Harry and Ron.
They were sitting at the table, drinking tea and eating scones. She was trying to decide how she should begin to convince them that now was the moment they'd need to rally the Order when Harry suddenly gasped and put his hand to his forehead.
He hissed in pain as she, Ron, and Mrs. Weasley all gathered around him in concern, wondering what he was gathering through his connection with Voldemort.
In the end, Harry saved her the trouble of telling him; he already knew. He withdrew the phial of potion Hermione had spent so long working creating, and uncorked it. Ron's eyes went wide in understand, but Molly was incapable of interpreting the significance of the action. Stiffening his resolve, he downed the concoction, his eyes clenched shut. When he lowered the bottle they opened again and he reported through clenched teeth, "It's time."
That was the thing he loved most about potions. One always knew exactly what to do next, and if done properly, one always knew what would result. That was a luxury which didn't extend into any other aspect of his life.
Severus felt he was rushing, stumbling through problems guided merely by guesswork and gumption, hoping that things turn out all right.
In potion making he had agency over the outcome. In life, he had agency over nothing at all.
In a moment of last minute urgency, Severus had chanced to break away from the bedlam happening on the Hogwarts grounds, clutching the old sorting hat desperately in his one hand. The other hand clutching even more desperately to his wand.
How to get them the sword? His mind bellowed at him. Even if he did find her, she'd doubtlessly be with Potter, forcing a confrontation instead of a hand-off. He could leave it somewhere and have them retrieve it, but any location safe enough for a drop-off would be impossible to describe accurately enough on the limited space on the coin. He didn't even bother wondering how she would explain to her friends she knew it was there.
There really was only one option. He knew that it might not work. The Dark Lord was looking for Potter, and therefore the boy wouldn't likely follow a strange patronus, but what choice did he have? If Potter failed to get the sword, then he'd simply have to use an unforgivable.
A loud boom sounded from the forest, followed imminently by a shuddering of the earth beneath his feet. There was no time for further debate. He dropped the Sorting Hat that contained the sword and didn't even spare a glance at (or a thought about what memory he used to conjure) the patronus he fired off before flying back to the Dark Lord.
It was pandemonium. Students, teachers, Order members, Death Eaters, Hogsmeade Villagers, forest inhabitants of all shapes, sizes and species, had joined the fray. The dead and dying lay twitching or inert on the ground, ignored until there was time to heal or collect them. He'd made only cursory glances at the fallen. He knew most of them, but none caused him to rejoice or despair. He'd fired off curses as well, dropping Death Eaters with now reckless abandon. Potter and Granger were nowhere to be seen, despite the Dark Lord's search.
Even from a distance, it was impossible not to notice Ginerva Weasley. She fought so fiercely, her curse-light shone so brightly it was difficult not to notice. It was only after following her spell fire that she saw whom she was cursing.
No, he thought, afraid that the fiery girl might destroy her opponent. Pettigrew was his; Severus had claimed it… 17 years ago.
Pettigrew, ever the coward, knew he couldn't defeat his opponent. Not for the first time, he transformed into a rat and ran away, frustrating Potter's lover by disappearing into the mad press of bodies and wild flashings of curse-light.
While the Weasley girl was immediately pressed to defend herself from other quarters, Severus was determined not to lose sight of the rat. Several times some obstruction blocked his view, or Severus he had to defend himself or take down a fellow Death Eater, but the further Pettigrew got, the more certain Severus became about the pathetic pests destination.
It was no surprise when Severus spied the rodent scurrying into the Shrieking Shack…
"Time's up, Pettigrew," he announced as he crashed through the door. "No more running. No more hiding."
"Almen Revelio!" Quickly he cast the spell he and Granger had devised in the endeavour to search for horcruxes, one that revealed a soul, rather than a human (as Pettigrew wasn't currently a hominem.) He quickly found him and changed him back into a man, or at least the pitiful excuse for one that he was.
There was no real struggle, no effort, no challenge in overpowering Wormtail, but Severus didn't feel cheated. Disarming the traitor, snapping the wand he wasn't worthy of before his eyes and knocking him flat on his back was a matter of seconds.
"Severus!" he squeaked. "Why? We're on the same side!" Severus didn't bother to answer.
This was his chance, his moment, something, the one thing, he'd been looking forward to. Killing Pettigrew with his bare hands. As he strangled the life from the little rat, Severus glared down at him, enjoying every moment.
"Any last words, you miserable coward?" He didn't really give the rat much time though, he'd already started squeezing and he knew nothing could now stop him from completing the course.
Severus read resignation in the other man's eyes.
"Do it," Peter croaked. "I deserve it."
That might have moved another man to mercy, but not Severus Snape.
"For Lily," he growled, tightening his grip even more.
Wormtail's eyes, already bulging, flickered wider in understanding. Yes, Severus wasn't doing this because he was a traitor to the Dark Lord; this was personal vengeance. "Even though I reported the prophecy, you could have kept her safe! You could have protected her but you betrayed her! She trusted you and you…" Severus was too furious to finish his sentence. Pettigrew had started flailing in any case, the last death throws. Severus held on as if for dear life, an ironic reverse parallel, considering.
Despite knowing Wormtail was now well dead, Severus didn't want to let go yet, didn't want this moment to be over. He'd been yearning for it for years and it had lasted but a moment.
But perhaps if he'd let go sooner he would have been able to reach his wand in time, but then again, perhaps not.
"Expeliarmus!" Bella cried.
Severus spun round and stood, knowing by her expression that she'd been there, watching, for some time. She hadn't stopped him from killing Pettigrew though. She hadn't seen the need.
Bellatrix pointed both of their wands at him, a triumphant smile on her face and a mad gleam in her eyes. She didn't even give him time to rise from the floor. "Sectumsempra!"
Life had always been cruel to him. To narrowly avoid death in the Shrieking Shack two decades ago only for it to find him again now, on the floor next to his enemy, and by his own spell. This was not how he'd wanted to die, but there was no point in cursing the fates now. Flat on his back, he felt his life blood seep from him, wetting his clothes and the floor around him.
"I knew it," she hissed. "I knew you were a traitor all along but no one would listen. You've been helping that boy the whole time. I knew you were no longer loyal to the Dark Lord!"
"I never was," he said weakly, but with pride. A foreign, forgotten concept until that moment. Pride.
The furious, sputtering look on Bella's face was satisfying, despite knowing that she would take out her temper on his expiring body. He closed his eyes, waiting for it.
"Cru—!" Bellatrix began, but was cut off by another unexpected but familiar voice.
Severus' eyes few open at the sound of Granger's voice. Impossibly, she was there in the Shrieking Shack and had disarmed Lestrange. Actually, the spell had taken but one of the two wands Bella had been wielding. Quickly, she switched Severus' own wand from her left hand to her right, ready to kill.
That Granger might die by his wand was even worse than him dying next to Wormtail in the house of a werewolf. Far worse.
Granger was thrown off her feet by an angry explosion. Severus tilted his head back as far as it would go but he could not see her, didn't know how the girl had weathered the blast.
Screeching with rage, Bellatrix wheeled back to Severus, wanting to finish him off first, apparently. Severus anguished that there was naught he could do but lay there and die, no help to Hermione Granger. Then again, perhaps Bella would linger killing him long enough to give the girl the time she needed to recover and get away. In fact, he thought he heard her moving from behind him.
"Now you die, Snape!"
"Oh no you don't, you bitch!" Granger screamed back, music to Severus' ears; for all that everything seemed to be growing quieter and darker. "Sectumsempra!" Granger cried, but not alone. A trio of voices, hers, Potter's and Weasley's, cast his spell as one. Had the other two been there the whole time? Severus didn't care either way.
He watched as Bellatrix fell, and knew that with three times the wounds she would die. Even before he did.
"Good girl," he wheezed, glad. Now that Granger had ended Bellatrix, they had both got their revenge.
Unlike him, however, Granger didn't spend any time relishing in her kill. Instead, she dropped immediately to his side. It was with an odd sense of déjà vu that he listened to her babble about healing spells and blood replenishing potions; trying for the second time in her life to save him from bleeding to death.
She cast some ineffective spells, the wounds reopening as quickly as she healed them. Without the exact counter curse to Sectumsempra (the intricate process of which only he knew) she had no chance of success.
This wasn't how he wanted to die, but he knew that this was it. The least he could do, the only thing he could do, was give her peace of mind about it. She would certainly fail. If he didn't stop her trying, she would blame herself for not being able to save him and the guilt would forever plague her.
With the last of his draining energy, he reached up and grabbed her wand hand, halting her in her efforts. She didn't pay any more attention to the blood smears than he did. Her eyes were desperate but determined, panicked and pained.
"Not this time," he told her softly, which was the only way he could say anything at this point.
"No," he insisted. "It's alright. Please…"
Her eyes grew tearful in understanding, but she nodded all the same.
His hand dropped to the floor, unable to keep its hold on hers. Potter and Weasley's faces appeared above him, each with strained expressions.
His vision was darkening, the extremities getting numb, but he felt Granger take his hand, pressing his wand into his palm and closing his fingers around it. A useless gesture, but not meaningless. He took it gratefully. The familiar feel of the wood made him complete. He wouldn't die naked. Or alone, it seemed.
It was then he let them go. Occulmency walls he'd been constantly fortifying for decades fell at his will, and a flood of memories leaked out. He ejected them from his head, memories he no longer needed, nor clung to. He didn't need them. Not at the last. He let those remembrances go… to the boy who deserved them more than Severus did. The boy deserved the truth, something no one had ever given either of them.
It was bad enough watching the blood seep out from his body, it was quite another to see the thoughts seep from his mind. It was then that Hermione truly understood that he was dying. When Severus Snape willingly offered up his own thoughts, something he'd guarded so assiduously his whole life, then it was truly the end.
At the same time her mind was shouting 'No!' her hands collected his memories, these last remnants of him. Soon they'd be all that was left. She snatched them up as quickly and greedily as a starving peasant would fall upon a purse-full of dropped coins.
He began gasping for air, his lungs desperately reaching for oxygen his blood simply wasn't providing.
"Forgive me," he rasped.
His eyes, for all that they looked in their direction, seemed to focus on a place far beyond them. Hermione wasn't sure to whom he'd been speaking. To her? To Harry? Or some other third party not even there; Dumbledore?
Lily Potter… for whom he had murdered Peter Pettigrew?
Snape hardly seemed aware of his surroundings anymore, but was desperate enough to repeat the request with his dying breaths.
"Forgive me!" he begged, gasping, eyes shut tightly in something far more excruciating than physical pain.
Unable to deny him, even if it wasn't her place to say, she whispered softly, "You're forgiven, Severus. You've been forgiven."
As if that had been permission he'd long been waiting for, he sighed and grew very still…
Hermione couldn't help the overflow of tears, or the shuddering of her breath, or the almost unbearable constriction of her whole chest. The pain of it overwhelmed her.
Through the shuddering and sputtering coughs of suppressed sobs, Hermione looked down at him, trying to gain enough control of herself to finally do something she'd always wanted.
Reaching out, she combed her shaky fingers through his hair before she leaned over and placed a kiss on his brow.
"Thank you…" she whispered.
It had been a struggle for Hermione to come to grips with the fact that Severus Snape was dead, and yet there still was a battle to be fought and won.
Which they did.
To Hermione, reflecting on it later, everything that happened after was a bit hazy in her memory. She couldn't recall the details with the vivid accuracy that she could those minutes in the Shrieking Shack. All that followed was just a phantasmagoria. Ron killing Nagini; Voldemort casting the killing curse at Harry; Harry surviving yet again as the horcrux within him was destroyed. People cheering, people weeping. Fawkes the phoenix reappearing after a year, soaring overhead, singing.
The extravagance of the collective celebration was matched only by the mourning. Those who had been lucky enough to have not lost any loved ones threw parties, sang songs, and wanted to honour the heroes. These sensible people who had stayed quietly in their homes, afraid, now had no need to fear. Those who had lost as much as they gained found it difficult to feel so triumphant on a public scale when they'd experienced such personal defeats, such painful losses.
The survivors of the final battle gathered in the Great Hall, ignoring the debris.
The Weasleys were grief-stricken having lost one of their own, and Ron went to be with them. Harry and Hermione, having no one but themselves to turn to, waved off the many people who wanted to talk to them, to Harry especially, and together the two of them retreated to now empty boys' dormitory in Gryffindor Tower.
They didn't talk, not about defeating Voldemort and not about what they'd seen in Snape's memories.
She didn't think she could talk about it, even if Harry had wanted to.
Thinking about what they'd seen in the pensieve broke Hermione's heart. All that time she'd spent with Severus Snape she'd never known, hadn't the smallest idea of all that was in his past. And yet in a way she wasn't surprised at all. She knew how deeply loyal he was. She knew how steadfast, how caring, how dedicated he was. The fact that all that devotion had been for one woman for several decades…
Hermione was aggrieved, knowing he'd been suffering from incurable heart-sickness for so many years. Hermione felt as if she'd taken in all his pain and loneliness, as if she'd inherited it from him upon his death.
Though she knew it wasn't really his pain she felt. She didn't mourn the loss of Lily Potter, she grieved for Severus Snape himself.
She hadn't realised just how much she cared for him, how painful it was to lose him. And to think this is how he must have felt ever since her death…
Hermione imagined his daily anguish, and cried. Cried for how miserable and unhappy Severus Snape had always been, and cried that he was gone.
The third day after the battle found Ron and Hermione sitting soberly in the library of Grimmauld Place as Kreature served them bacon sandwiches from a silver tray. Little by little, snippets filtered through the small everyday things. In between sips of tea, Harry casually thanked both Ron and Hermione for sticking with him to the end. They hummed, nodded and sipped in response. Not making a big deal of it. Hermione had casually praised Ron for his quick action in beheading Nagini when the giant serpent seemed to be going after her. He'd shrugged it off as if it were a trifle.
When both boys had thanked her... For going off and getting the sword to us. Or rather, having your otter show us the way... Hermione said nothing.
She hadn't given them the sword.
Strange; she only now thought to wonder how the boys had come to have it... Everything happened at once it was impossible to follow all of it. True, she had separated from the boys earlier on to retrieve the sword, but she hadn't succeeded.
She hadn't been able to find him in time.
Nor had she sent her patronus…
The realisation that eventually dawned made the ever-present ache in her chest more acute and yet more tender than ever. The syllogism was simple and sweet. Snape had the sword. The boys followed an otter to find it. Hence, Snape's patronus was an otter.
The secret knowledge that Severus Snape had come to associate her with safety and protection was an honour she would always cherish, along with his memory. His patronus, in the end, had symbolised her. She had been his truest ally. His greatest source of comfort.
Out of everything she'd ever done, that seemed to be her greatest achievement, what most filled her with pride and accomplishment.
A knock sounded, not at the front door, but at the library door, indicating that the visitor was a member of the Order.
"Come in," Harry bade.
A busy and flustered looking Minerva McGonagall entered, begging pardon for interrupting but insisting that she'd just heard news that all three of them would want to hear before she went off to go see him herself.
"He's alive," she babbled. "Fawkes. Loyalty to Albus. Phoenix tears..."
Hermione didn't catch the rest of the hurried, stumbling speech, but she'd gathered all she needed.
Minerva. He had been expecting and dreading her visit. But he'd known she would come to him at Spinner's End, once she learned the truth.
Their conversation was awkward, stilted, forced. He knew the apology was imminent when tears formed in her eyes. She went on and on, as did her tears, as she spoke of how she found out he was alive (the portrait of him remained inanimate in the Headmaster's office.) She recounted what Dumbledore's portrait had said of him, his steadfast loyalty, of how much they all owed him, of how horrible she felt for the way she'd treated him. He'd listened to her weepy speech occasionally humming in agreement or denial, not really wanting to be any part of this conversation.
"When I think of you... all alone…" Minerva said, pressing the corner of a tartan handkerchief to her leaking eyes.
"I wasn't alone," he interrupted.
Severus realised he'd put more animation in that one line than he had all his other statements combined. No, he hadn't been alone, but he certainly was now...
Minerva blinked, utterly surprised. "Oh." It took another moment for her to compose herself. "I'm glad of it for you, Severus. But could you not have confided in me, as well?"
"Albus ordered me not to tell anyone."
"But you told at least one person…"
"I didn't confide in her, she just…" Believed in me. Severus didn't say that aloud though. In fact, he regretted revealing even her gender.
"I'm so sorry, Severus. I should have trusted you too," Minerva declared, having correctly assumed what he'd been about to say. "Instead I was beastly to you."
"You were meant to be." Severus would never admit that he'd secretly harboured the hope that Minerva, at least, would have seen through it all. But that hope had been crushed, along with any esteem he'd had for her.
"Can you ever forgive me, Severus?" she pleaded.
Yes. He could, simply because he hadn't the energy for grudges anymore. He would let everything go. "Of course," he replied. "All is forgiven."
Minerva tried to smile, but was all too aware of the coldness in his tone.
"In that case, would you consider coming back to Hogwarts? As Headmaster or professor. You could teach Potions or Defence Against the Dark Arts, as you always wanted."
"No. I'm finished, Minerva. Finally finished." Nothing could induce him to go back to Hogwarts ever again.
Minerva finally took her leave when he'd simply stopped responding to her questions.
He was all alone now; except his loneliness would be brought into sharper relief against all the happiness and celebration of the rest of the world. He couldn't be happy, only relieved that there was nothing left to live for. He'd been used and used, and now he was used up. He was no good to anyone anymore. Now that the war was over at last he could finally stop. Severus felt he deserved a rest.
He had many poisons, it would be simple. He'd put it in his wine, turn on the wireless, sit in front of the fire, drink it down and simply go to sleep and never wake up. That seemed just about perfect.
Severus had made up his mind. He went in search of just the right brew, the right wine, the right station.
He uncorked a bottle of vin rouge as gentle music floated in from the sitting room. He poured himself a single glass. His first in years. He took a sip then stood there a moment, savouring the taste as he caressed the smaller deadly phial. His reward. Peace.
Severus popped the cork and poured a sufficient amount of the lethal liquid into his wine glass. He swirled it, flaring his nostrils at the delicate bouquet, unchanged by the recent addition.
He felt calming warmth spread through him, though it was quite unrelated to the peace and satisfaction of knowing he was almost home. He reached into his robes. Withdrawing his pocket-watch he eyed the heated sickle, then the poisoned drink; looking back and forth between the two trying to make a decision. He could still taste the wine fresh on his tongue, tempting him to have more. Finally, however, he put down the glass, put on his cloak, and apparated back to the place he never thought he'd return. It seemed that he had one last thing he needed to do before finishing his wine. She alone was worth the delay.