Disclaimer: If I was J., I probably wouldn't be slashing Snape, or making it AU from book six. Then again, maybe I would. You never know.
Author's Notes: Incorporates book six and parts of book seven, but not a lot. Also, it takes the trio longer to destroy the Horcruxes than it did in DH. *** Mark time changes. The scenes in the past are in no particular order. (Because I like it that way.)
In the end, Severus Snape no longer cared.
This is why.
*** *** *** Draco's first school year, September 1st *** *** ***
There was no need to wonder what House Lucius' son would be Sorted into. The boy was a Slytherin, through and through. Sure enough, the Hat was barely on the blonde head before it yelled out "Slytherin!"
Severus clapped politely, albeit a little more enthusiastically than he would have for a student newly Sorted into any other House besides his own.
Lucius would be pleased. Severus would send him an owl later. The Mark on his arm didn't burn but it did itch and was darker that it had been in years. Lucius' son's Sorting could be used as a wonderful chance to get back in touch with him. He was a powerful ally, after all.
*** *** *** Draco's Seventh Year, March *** *** ***
"Promise me this will end."
Severus looked down at the young man whose head was on his chest. He didn't need to ask Draco what he meant.
"It will end one way or the other, someday."
"It feels endless, sometimes."
"I know." There was really nothing more he could say.
Draco nodded his head. "I still haven't made any progress with my father."
Severus hesitated. "Lucius had always been set in his ways. He's gone on more than forty years with no reason to wonder whether his beliefs are the right ones. It will take a lot to make him reconsider them"
Draco sighed. "I know. Thank-you, Severus."
*** *** *** Draco's sixth year, early October *** *** ***
"You were in love with her, weren't you? Lily Potter."
Severus stiffened, but was quite sure he'd managed to hide it. "What do you mean, Draco?"
The boy had claimed the seat closest to the fire and watched Severus closely. His face was guarded. "You loved Lily Potter."
"Don't be ridiculous, Draco."
"I'm not being ridiculous. You were in love with her, and for some reason, you turned into a double agent and work for Dumbledore."
"Wherever do you get these ideas, boy?"
Draco smirked. "Remember when I was in the Hospital Wing because of a small Quidditch accident? Pomfrey made me stay the night, and you came in after a meeting and talked with Dumbledore after Pomfrey patched you up. I wasn't as asleep as I pretended to be."
Severus cursed silently. That had been very careless indeed. He didn't want to Oblivate Draco, especially because Memory Charms were risky to begin with, let alone dealing with such an old and apparently often thought of memory, such as the one the boy was telling.
"Tell me, Draco. What do you plan to do with your suspicions? I assure you, black-mail won't work."
"I'm not going to do anything with what I know, Professor. You see, lately I've come to realize that my views differ from my Father's on some crucial matters."
"Oh?" Severus raised an eyebrow.
"Indeed. Telling you is much easier than telling Dumbledore would have been."
*** *** *** Summer before Draco's sixth year, early July *** *** ***
"Your father doesn't happen to be here, by any chance, Draco?"
"No sir. He won't be back for at least another hour. Would you like to wait here?"
Draco led Severus into the sitting room, after calling a house-elf and asking for tea for them both.
"How has your summer been, Professor?" Draco asked, and, recognizing the question as the required small talk, Severus answered. "Tolerant, though an improvement over the rest of the year only because there are no little brats disguised as students running around."
Draco put on a look of mock affront. "Surely you do not classify myself in that category?"
"Oh certainly not. After all, you are nearly of age now. Hardly a small brat any longer." Severus smirked, and realized he was well on the way to enjoying himself.
*** *** *** February of the year after Draco graduated*** *** ***
Severus could not be bothered to answer, but stopped walking and let Lucius catch up with him.
"Here. I've compiled information about the Dark Lord's plans that I know you haven't learned of yet." Lucius held out a full envelope.
As the meanings of Lucius' words sunk in, Severus took the papers, and said the only word he could think of. "Why?"
"For my son." In any other situation, Severus would not have understood Lucius' rather cryptic answer. But it wasn't any other situation, so Lucius' comment made all the sense in the world, and was all that Severus needed to hear.
*** *** *** June of Draco's sixth year *** *** ***
They were in Spinner's End. It was dark and cold, and Severus hated it, but could think of no other place that would reflect his feelings half as well.
"I'm so sorry, Severus." Draco's voice was choked with emotion and hoarse from the Crucios he had been subjected to, before the Dark Lord had granted Snape's plea to allow him to take Draco "as a reward."
"It's not your fault, Draco. We knew this would happen." Severus hated that his voice broke over the words.
"Oh Severus," Draco said, and suddenly Severus felt the young man's arms around him, and he wanted to lash out at the presumptuous boy, but his warmth broke down the last of Severus' barriers, and he started to cry for the manipulative old coot of a Headmaster onto Draco's shoulder.
They fell asleep on the couch that night, Severus' head pillowed on Draco's chest, Draco's arms wrapped tightly around Severus' frame. When they awoke the next morning, groggy and crusty-eyed, it was with the clear knowledge that a line had been crossed, so Severus didn't protest when Draco lifted his chin and tenderly kissed him.
*** *** *** Draco's sixth year, after Christmas *** *** ***
"He's going to make you kill him, isn't he? Draco asked, clearly outraged. "He's planning on you killing him!"
Severus didn't turn around. "It isn't quite like that, Draco. The Headmaster is already dying."
"And he's just going to get you to finish the job, is he? He's going to engineer a scene, play us like puppets, and make you kill him! The manipulative asshole!" Draco kicked the leg of the one of the student desks, not noticing the pain in his toe in favor of continuing his rant. "He's going to make me bring them here, isn't he? And I'll have to, what? Pretend to try to kill him, until you come and finish it?"
"Yes..." the word was a slow, painful hiss, and Severus found himself incapable of turning around and facing the boy.
"Oh Salazar." Suddenly, Severus felt arms wrapped around his waist and turned around only to have the boy burrow his face in Severus' neck. "I'm so sorry, Severus. You shouldn't have to do that! Merlin, I'm so sorry!" If possible, Draco managed to tighten his arms even more around the older man, and, just for a moment, Severus allowed himself to take the offered comfort, and hugged the young man back.
*** *** *** Late April of the year after Draco graduated *** *** ***
Severus saw the Dark Lord fall, saw his body collapse and disintegrate as though long dead. With a hoarse cry, Severus ripped open his left sleeve and held his arm high above his head, showing the Dark Mark, which had faded to pink, like a very old scar. Severus knew he must look mad, with his tattered and blood-stained robes, the wind blowing his hair about, a crazed expression on his face, and his raised arm, but did not care.
As if from a long way away he saw Lucius do the same, pale arm raised in triumph against the darkening sky.
The Dark Lord was completely gone. They had done it.
Now Severus could finally let himself go.
*** *** *** November of Draco's seventh year *** *** ***
"I don't want to talk about her, Draco!"
"Why? Do you still love her?" Draco challenged.
Severus sighed and wearily set his right hip against the table, running a hand through his hair. "Not in any romantic sense, Draco."
"What do you mean?"
"That I have spent the last twenty years of my life putting myself in mortal peril for her, out of guilt I suppose, and as a reminder of my mistakes and the affection I once held for her. I have been using her to make myself atone for my mistakes."
"Why do you feel guilt over her death, Severus?"
"Because I am the reason the Dark Lord started hunting them, I'm the one who told him of the bloody Prophecy."
Draco was silent, and Severus braced himself for rejection. "I've heard that the Dark Lord gave her a chance to live. Was that because of you?"
Severus snorted. "Perhaps."
"Then doesn't it follow, that you're the reason we're all alive?"
"Are you daft?" Severus looked like he believed the answer to his question was "Yes."
"No, I'm not. You once told me that Potter lived because his mother died while trying to save him, right?"
"Because the Dark Lord gave her a choice! Do you honestly think that he would have offered just any Muggle-born the chance to live? He wouldn't have. He only did it because you loved her."
"You are daft."
Draco shook his head exasperatedly. "You just don't want to believe that you're not as evil as you see yourself."
"Even if your ridiculous theory is correct, I am still at fault for their deaths."
"Perhaps. But I think you've atoned many times over."
Severus leered at him. "Not like you're biased, or anything."
Draco just smirked and moved to start preparing a potion.
It wasn't until several minutes later, when Draco apparently thought that Severus had thought about his words long enough, that he said "The Dark Lord would have gone after the Potters anyway, eventually. If you hadn't heard the Prophecy, everyone would be drones working for the Dark Lord. Or dead."
*** *** ***January Tenth of the year after Draco graduated *** *** **
The day Draco died started like any other.
Severus got up, remembering to try not to wake Draco. The other man had turned into a light sleeper, the last year before be graduated, so predictably Severus did not succeed, and Draco grumbled but got up to start his day.
It was the day after Severus' birthday. Draco had a slight hangover, but that was easily remedied by a potion.
They were both heading to an Order meeting later that day. Draco had, the year previously, renounced the Dark Lord to a few key Order of the Phoenix members. After gradually earning their trust through the information he'd given them, he had brought up the idea that Severus wasn't a traitor to their side. Two months later he'd succeeded in talking about what he knew to a few members. A month after that, Severus had accompanied Draco to a pre-arranged meeting place, to talk to the leaders of the Order and attempt to prove to them the truth of Draco's words. A week later he'd attended his first Order meeting since Albus' death. Some Order members still wouldn't talk to him.
Severus and Draco went separate ways, Severus to the Great Hall and Draco to his job, after convincing Severus to come to a Muggle restaurant for lunch.
Noon found Severus gladly escaping Hogwarts to meet Draco in disguise.
A quarter after noon found Severus fighting vengeful Death-Eaters beside Draco.
Twenty minutes past noon found the Death-Eaters killed, and Draco dead after blocking a cutting curse meant for Severus with his chest.
"They need you more," he'd explained. "Love you."
Severus had known going out for lunch was a bad idea.