Summary: In Book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, what if Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore had arrived back at the castle an hour earlier the night of the headmaster's pre-arranged murder? What if Harry wouldn't have met Death Eaters on the stairs and would have had time to seek out Severus Snape in his rooms like Dumbledore asked him to?
Songfic named after "In Noctem" by Nicholas Hooper from the soundtrack of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Partly inspired by the deleted scene of the same name.
Warnings: AU, Slash, Lemon.
The Lightning-Struck Tower Revisited
Carry my soul into the night
May the stars guide my way.
I glory in the sight
As darkness takes the day.
"Go and wake Severus," said Dumbledore faintly but clearly, "Tell him what has happened and bring him to me. Do nothing else, speak to nobody else and do not remove your Cloak. I shall wait here."
"You swore to obey me, Harry - go!"
Reluctantly, Harry left the maimed headmaster at the top of the Astronomy tower and made his way down the serpentine staircase. He wondered why Dumbledore wanted him to go fetch Snape. Why not Madam Pomfrey? She would surely know how to heal the headmaster better than the surly Head of Slytherin. Perhaps Dumbledore had assumed that the hospital wing would already be buzzing with Hogwarts students and staff wounded in the ongoing battle and did not want to add to the medi-witch's burden. Harry felt emboldened by Dumbledore's selfless attention to detail.
But how did Dumbledore know that Snape had not already joined the Death Eaters who were presently storming the castle? Indeed, would his Defence Against the Dark Arts professor even be in his rooms like Dumbledore had said? Harry puckered his brow at the thought that the old man might have erred in his judgement. For a moment, he considered disobeying Dumbledore's orders and seeking another professor's assistance. But then he remembered what Lupin had told him on Christmas Eve at the Burrow about trusting Dumbledore, and about inheriting his late father's prejudice against Snape. Moreover, he had sworn to follow the headmaster's orders. Harry really had no choice but to rouse Severus straight away, and so he carried on, skulking through the ransacked corridors under the cover of his invisibility cloak, watching helplessly as his classmates scurried away in terror under the pall of the Dark Mark.
A lump rose in Harry's throat as he arrived outside Snape's dungeon quarters. Adrenaline pulsed through his veins, making him nervous and jittery. If his professor were indeed inside, would he believe him? Harry remembered only too well Severus' pitiless treatment of him during his fourth year, when he had gone to tell Dumbledore about the strange reappearance of Barty Crouch Senior. Snape had laughed at him and prevented him from seeing the headmaster, resulting in the patricide of Mr. Crouch. Go and wake Severus, indeed. How did that hard-hearted wizard even sleep at night?
Virtually trembling, Harry slipped off his Invisibility Cloak and knocked twice on Snape's door.
Ferte in noctem animam meam
Illustre stelle viam meam.
Severus had been standing by his opened window, watching darkness fall on the castle when he heard the soft knock on the door. Go away, he thought miserably. It couldn't be Albus. He wasn't due back from the cave for another hour. It couldn't be the Death Eaters, the knock would have been louder or they would have forced open the door. Most likely, it was a student playing an ill-timed prank on him. Snape had no more time left for castigating errant pupils. Surveying the harrowing scene before him and contemplating the pivotal role he would soon have to play in it, Severus quickly began to lose all his pretences. Tonight was the night he would fulfil his unbreakable vow to Narcissa and his tall order from Albus. He would soon go from a lowly Hogwarts professor to the Dark Lord's right hand man. Tomorrow morning, all newspaper headlines in the wizarding world would bear his name. Yet, for the first time in his life, fame and glory were of no interest to the Half-Blood Prince.
Outside in the hallway, Harry exhaled furiously. Snape wasn't answering his door.
He knocked again, louder this time. He jiggled the door handle.
This made Severus turn around. Someone was clearly desperate to speak with him. Maybe it was Draco. Warily, he approached the large wooden door and unbolted it. Only with his wand drawn did he dare to let it swing open.
"Potter," Snape breathed in a hoarse whisper. This was not who he had been expecting at all. The boy was supposed to be gone with Albus. The pair was not due back until later. The last of the Death Eaters would not be through the Vanishing Cabinet for another forty-five minutes.
Harry was also startled. He hadn't been expecting Snape to open the door to him. In fact, he was surprised to find his professor in his rooms in the first place. That's why he had tried the doorknob, so as to not waste anymore time waiting on the absent spy.
"In here, quickly," Severus unceremoniously ushered Potter into his quarters and barred the door behind them.
Temporarily muted by fear, Harry stood silently inside Snape's gloomy living room. The place was in darkness. The fireplace was empty except for a pile of ashes. The only source of light came from the full moon, shining in through the small dungeon window.
"What brings you here at this hour?" Severus wondered aloud, his eyes darting furtively to the grandfather clock in the corner.
"Professor Dumbledore, sir. I left him in the Astronomy tower. He's badly hurt. He told me to go find you and tell you what happened. I wasn't supposed to speak to anyone else," Harry explained anxiously.
"So, both of you are back from the cave," Snape fathomed, avoiding eye contact with the younger wizard, "And Professor Dumbledore sustained an injury while there?"
"Yes, sir. He was weakened by the potion he had to drink, from the basin, in order to salvage the horcrux."
"And were you successful?"
"Did you or Professor Dumbledore successfully destroy the horcrux?"
"Yes, and no. We have the horcrux, but we haven't had a chance to destroy it yet."
"Where is it now?" Snape interrogated him coolly.
"Dumbledore has it, sir. In the Astronomy tower."
"Please, sir. We have to hurry. Professor Dumbledore is waiting for us in the tower. He's too weak to walk. And there are Death Eaters overrunning the castle," Harry pleaded.
Instinctively, Severus reached down and touched the dark mark emblazoned into his arm beneath his thin black robes. They couldn't leave just yet, he knew that. He needed to wait for Greyback and Amycus. For that matter, Draco wouldn't be scaling the tower until closer to midnight, as planned beforehand. What had Albus been thinking by coming back so prematurely? And sending Potter to fetch him on top of that? Now he would have to stall the boy and he wasn't quite sure how.
"Has anyone been killed, sir? Professor Dumbledore and I saw the Dark Mark from Hogsmeade. We came straight away."
"Not that I am aware of," Snape admitted quietly, "Though I am sure there will be some causalities before the night is out."
Harry was horrified by this prediction, and it only increased his sense of urgency to run to Dumbledore's aid.
"Then please, professor! We must go to Dumbledore at once! I'm not sure you understand. He was badly hurt. I'm really worried he won't survive if we don't hurry!" Harry raised his voice to demonstrate his insistence.
"Do lower your voice, Potter!" Severus admonished him, aware of the mounting commotion in the hallway, "I will summon the Aurors."
"But Professor Dumbledore specifically stated that he wanted you, sir. He was quite adamant on that point. Believe me, I wanted to go to someone else, but –"
"Silence," Snape hissed, "If the headmaster is gravely injured, then I shall do as I see fit."
Indignant, Harry watched Snape summarily disappear into an adjacent room and shut the door behind him. He hoped he wasn't simply absconding from their conversation in order to finally join the Death Eaters. But a few minutes later, his professor returned and took a seat in a ratty wing-backed chair by the darkened fireplace.
"The Aurors are on their way," Severus lied, "We should wait for them here. Professor Dumbledore would not want his Golden Boy to be put in harms way."
Harry glowered at the nasty man. When would Snape realize that his life wasn't all rainbows and butterflies?
"Sit," Severus enjoined him curtly.
Grudgingly, Harry sat down on the firm settee facing his least favourite professor.
Time passed without either of them saying anything. Harry bit his fingernails. Severus turned to look outside as clouds obscured the moon, painting the castle grounds in a sinister light. Baneful cries pervaded the crisp mountain air. Somewhere, a werewolf howled.
Harry caught Severus brooding in the moonlight. What was he doing, looking so mournful? Something was off about him. It was weird.
"What, have you run out of base insults to the memory of my dead father?" Harry sneered, "Go on. Say something, at least. Otherwise, I think this is going to be a long night."
"I have nothing to say to you, Potter."
"If I didn't know any better, I'd think that you're under the Imperius curse. I can't understand why it is you're here sitting with me instead of looting the castle with the other Death Eaters. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you're just not in the mood."
Maybe he's right about that, Severus thought bitterly, recalling his recent conversation with the headmaster, Maybe I just don't want to do this anymore.
"The Aurors aren't coming are they?"
Snape kept his silence, preferring not to dignify that question with an answer.
That's it! Harry stood up, Something's up and I'm going to find out what it is. Dumbledore is in danger and I don't have time for this.
Aspectu illo glorior
Dum capit nox diem.
Consumed by angst and misery, Snape didn't even have time to build up his defences. It was one of the few times Potter would have been able to feasibly probe his mind, and he had capitalized on the opportunity with a degree of slyness Severus never would have expected coming from Gryffindor's poster boy.
The first memory Harry saw was of his mother, Lily, when she was a little girl. Snape, only a young boy, had been spying on her and Petunia on a playground in Spinner's End.
"You've got loads of magic," Severus said to the red-haired witch, "I saw that. All the time I was watching you…"
And then later, when the pair were older…
"…thought we were supposed to be friends?" Snape was saying, "Best friends?"
Then Harry witnessed Snape calling his mother a "Mudblood" in a moment of weakness. And later, saw him beg in vain for her forgiveness.
A series of scenes between Severus and Albus followed, shocking Harry even more.
"Everything! Everything I heard!" said Snape, "You know what I mean! He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down – kill them all… Keep her- them- safe. Please."
"But never – never tell, Dumbledore! This must be between us! Swear it! I cannot bear…especially Potter's son… I want your word!"
"Why did you put on that ring? It carries a curse, surely you realized that. Why did you even touch it? If you had only summoned me a little earlier, I might have been able to do more, buy you more time!"
"The Dark Lord does not expect Draco to succeed. Are you intending to let him kill you?"
"Certainly not. You must kill me."
"I have spied for you, lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you tell me you've been raising him like a pig for slaughter-"
"But this is touching, Severus. Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"
"Enough!" Snape uttered a low roar, throwing Harry out of his memories, "Enough."
Thunderstruck, Harry fell back onto the chesterfield. This was most certainly Severus Snape standing before him, but up until now he saw that he had had a very poor understanding of who the man truly was. And Dumbledore's betrayal…it was all too much to process. He sat there with his head between his hands.
"I don't understand," Harry finally spoke, his voice shaky.
"Nor do I," Severus intoned threateningly, "understand why you, Potter, constantly feel the need to meddle in my private affairs."
"I'm sorry, sir," the boy said quietly, "I had no right."
"You most certainly did not! You insolent little-" Snape affirmed testily.
Harry interrupted him, "All this time, you were trying to protect me. But Dumbledore…he's dying? And he wants you to murder him? And what does it mean he's been raising me like a pig for slaughter?"
"It means that, in the end, the Dark Lord must kill you and you must kill him. Your infamous scar is a –"
"Horcrux," Harry finished Snape's thought soberly, "I should have known, I suppose. After everything that's happened."
"Correct," Snape confirmed his suspicions noncommittally.
"And you, you loved my mother, didn't you? That's why you're doing this. I can't imagine that you actually care about me like Dumbledore suggested…"
"Potter," Severus began softly, "I didn't want it to come to this."
Cantate vitae canticum
Sine dolore acte
"I don't think you're a bad person, you know," Harry said quickly, looking at the dungeon floor.
"You don't know the half of it, Potter," Snape sneered, "I am hardly a saint. I am the reason your parents are dead."
"No," the Boy-Who-Lived whispered, "When you really think about it, sir, I am the reason my parents are dead."
"I suppose we could debate the causalities of it all night," Severus huffed, "The fact is that she had no reason to forgive me for what I'd done. And neither do you."
"I disagree, sir," Harry rejoined, "You're obviously on my side and that's more than I ever could have imagined before I stole a look at those memories, tonight. If there is anyone who can't be forgiven, it's me, for not trusting you."
"Whatever do you mean?" Snape replied angrily, "You are only a child. I, on the other hand-"
"Professor Snape," Harry cut him off, "I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm not the little boy you always had to keep back for detention anymore."
Severus stole a look at the sixth-year. Potter was right. He certainly wasn't the impish twelve-year old who had flown his best friend's car into the Whomping Willow, or even the awkward teenager he had caught snooping in his pensieve late last year. Almost overnight, the Boy-Who-Lived had grown into a young man. His shoulders had broadened and he had nearly reached Severus' shoulders in height. He needed to shave.
"I've done loads wrong that I'm ashamed of," Harry continued on, "So I know what it's like. I never meant to hurt Draco with that spell, Sectumsempra. I didn't know what it did."
"Yes, clearly, you didn't," Severus snapped, "Exactly my point. You never meant to –"
"You never meant to either," Harry remarked with surprising benevolence, "Not any of it."
"And my vindictive behaviour toward you all these years? I tormented you in class. I marked you unfairly. I gave you detentions when you didn't deserve them," Snape barked, "I made your life hell."
"I've been through worse," Harry whispered, searching his professor's black eyes for a hint of recognition.
Been through worse? Snape raised a skeptical eyebrow. What does he mean? This is highly unusual coming from Potter.
"Go on, then. Do what you have to do," Harry earnestly tried to let him go, "I forgive you already."
The Golden Boy was forgiving him in advance for bumping off Dumbledore? Snape never thought he'd live to see the day.
For the first time that evening, Severus lost himself Harry's emerald green eyes, which were brimming over with tears.
I can't do it, he thought, I can't kill Dumbledore, this boy's last remaining father figure. But I can't risk leaving this world tonight. I can't leave Lily's son here on his own. He's far too foolhardy and weak. He'll sacrifice himself all too readily, like any insufferably stalwart Gryffindor would.
"Professor Snape," Harry wept uncharacteristically, "Please. Just go. Do what you have to do. Don't make it any harder."
"We have time," Severus observed softly, "Come."
Dicite eis quos amabam
"Hush," Snape bade the crying adolescent as he pulled him close, wrapping his arms around the student's trembling frame. A few feet away in the hallway, there was a terrible din. It wasn't letting up.
Abandoning his own dignity, Harry nestled himself in his gruff professor's broad chest, muffling his sobs. Why isn't he leaving? Harry thought agitatedly, Why is he doing this? Why is he holding me in here when he should be slaying someone out there?
"We have time," Severus repeated calmly, "Draco isn't due in the tower for another half an hour."
"You made the unbreakable vow," Harry said quietly, still clutching onto Snape's robes.
"Yes," the older wizard acknowledged, "I did. I swore to protect him. But I also promised to look after you."
"But if you don't go to him, sir, you'll die," Harry sounded anxious, "There is no binding magical contract keeping you here."
"Astute observation, Mr. Potter," Severus remarked, not unkindly, "But did it ever occur to you that I'm here because I want to be?"
Rubbing his eyes, Harry let go of his professor's equivocal grip.
"But why would you want to be here with me?" he wondered aloud.
"Why, indeed," Snape observed ironically, "would I want to spend my final moments as a free man placating the saviour of the wizarding world?"
Harry felt his body temperature rising. His muscles grew tenser. Severus wanted him. That had to be it. He reached for his zipper.
"No, Potter!" Snape rushed over, irately, to stop him.
Harry jumped at his professor's sudden negative reaction. The green eyes found the black.
"This isn't right," Severus said in a low whisper, looking down at him.
"You said we had time," Harry insisted with renewed vigour.
"Not time enough to wait for you to turn seventeen," Snape corrected him snidely.
"But I am seventeen, eighteen in fact," the young man persisted.
"Really?" Severus queried guardedly, "And since when are you of age, Potter?"
"It might surprise you to learn that I know when your birthday is, Potter," Snape proffered angrily, "It's in July. You won't be sixteen for at least another month."
"And it might surprise you to know that I actually paid attention in Potions class," Harry countered, taking a vial out of his back pocket.
Severus forcibly pried the small glass bottle out of his student's hand and smelled its contents.
"Aging potion," he concluded, "But why are you carrying a vial of Aging Potion around with you?"
"Before Dumbledore and I set out to destroy the Horcrux, I took some of it," Harry explained cagily, "I wasn't sure what would lie ahead and I didn't know if I'd be strong enough to do what he wanted me to do."
"Nonsense," Snape barked, "Liar."
"But it's true, sir," Harry whispered, "You know that it's true."
"It still wouldn't be right. You're a student. I'm a teacher."
"Not for much longer," the young man murmured forlornly as the pandemonium in the corridor grew louder.
"I'm nearly twenty years your senior," Snape said quietly, "I could hurt you."
"You know I wouldn't be asking you to do this if I didn't think it was our last chance," Harry pleaded, "We have time, like you said, but just time enough."
Severus hesitated, but then stole another glimpse into Lily's wet jade eyes. There was a lustful need in them he could not deny. And who knew? Both of them might be dead by daybreak.
Ferte in noctem animam meam
Illustre stelle viam meam.
With atypical tenderness, Snape took the Boy-Who-Lived in his arms and carried him into his bedchamber, laying him on his black silk sheets.
In a final attempt at modesty, Severus looked the other way as Harry made quick work of undressing, tossing his Muggle clothing onto the dungeon floor in a slapdash fashion.
"Potter," the older man began, "I must ask you – have you ever…?"
"No, sir," the Gryffindor made a clean breast, "I'm a virgin. I want my first time to be with you."
"You're sure?" Snape inquired, still unbelieving, "When did you decide this?"
Still turned in the opposite direction, Severus didn't see the younger man blush.
"I've always hated you, but then I loved you, you know," he replied bashfully, "But up until now, I thought my feelings were unrequited."
"You didn't trust me up until tonight, though," Snape observed.
"That didn't stop me from wanting to," his student reasoned, "All I needed was a reason. And tonight I found it."
Facing the wall, Severus felt a sudden rush of warmth wash over his tense body. This was all too good to be true. After all he had been through, after all he had suffered, Lily's boy had come to him on the eve of his downfall and unwrapped himself, like a gift.
With that, the professor turned around and was promptly horrified.
"Harry," Snape said sorrowfully, calling Potter by his given name for the first time in his entire life.
Not even counting the lightning bolt scar on his forehead, the boy was disfigured by cuts and contusions.
"What happened?" he asked softly.
"None of that matters now," Harry assured him valiantly, "Sorry, I forgot to cast a glamour spell."
"No," Severus shook his head crossly, taking a seat next to the abused schoolboy, "You do not have to be so brave. And don't you dare. I refuse to have carnal relations with you until you tell me how you came by these scars."
Harry looked down at the floor, naked and shamed.
"No," Snape refused to believe it, "No. Dumbledore told me you were safe at the Dursleys'. Blood protection-"
"Couldn't save me from my own flesh and blood," Harry gritted his teeth, "My uncle beat me when I came home for Easter a few weeks ago. My aunt watched. Burning breakfast seems to be an unforgivable sin in that house."
"Was that the first time?"
"Since I was five, I think. Before that I can't remember."
"Why didn't you tell Dumbledore?" Severus rebuked him, "He could have helped you."
Surely the headmaster would have taken measures to protect his favourite student against physical torture and psychological cruelty!
"Dumbledore knew," Harry said quietly.
"I put my trust, therefore, in your mother's blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative," Dumbledore tried to exonerate himself.
"She doesn't love me. She doesn't give a damn —"
"But she took you. She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, yet still she took you, and in doing so, she sealed the charm I placed upon you. Your mother's sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you."
"The bastard," Snape hissed dangerously. That little piece of information would make murdering the old man later that evening that much easier.
"I suppose I was just a pawn in his game, though," Harry reasoned aloud, "His inaction makes a lot more sense now."
"There had to have been another way," Severus reproved the absent headmaster, "I wish you would have gone to Minerva. She would have listened. We could have found you another place to stay."
Harry shrugged his shoulders. He hadn't thought of that. Dumbledore had brainwashed him into believing the Dursleys' treatment of him was normal.
"I need to know you're going to be all right," Snape heaved a sigh, subconsciously running his large hand through the eighteen-year old's dishevelled black hair.
"There's no way of knowing that, now is there?" Harry snapped, "I'm slated to be killed, remember?"
"Not if I can help it," Severus growled, "Now take your place on the bed. I'm going to give you everything you asked for."
Aspectu illo glorior
Dum capit nox diem.
Snape undid his robes and lay down next to Potter. Somewhere far away, outside the opened window, a killing curse was heard. A girl screamed.
Harry turned to face his naked professor.
"You too?" he whispered.
The older wizard's milky white body was also heavily marked.
"Yes," Severus replied hoarsely, "Compliments of the Dark Lord."
"You took this all for me," Harry observed reverently, running his hands over the constellation of scars, "I'm sorry."
Snape's heart ached, "You have nothing to apologize for."
"No, but I feel bad because of what you went through," the younger man explained seriously.
Severus smiled sadly.
"Thank you," he said strangely, kissing Harry gently on the forehead, then began to press his lips to every one of his student's bodily wounds.
"All better," Harry whispered childishly, cupping Severus' face and looking into his troubled onyx eyes.
"I hope so," Snape breathed before locking lips with the newly eighteen-year old wizard.
"You must tell me if it ever starts to hurt, or if the potion appears to be wearing off. I'm going to go slowly since this is your first time."
"You don't have to," Harry let him know, looking at the hourglass on Severus' bedside table.
"Yes, I do," Snape corrected him shortly.
Forget his fellow Death Eaters' murderous rampage outside. Forget Dumbledore dying in the Astronomy tower, indignant and alone. This single passionate act was everything, Severus thought to himself. Without it, everything both of them had suffered would have been in vain.
"We have time," he repeated, ignoring the pain shooting up his arm, emanating from his dark mark.
After treating Potter to a richly deserved session of fellatio and hearing him croon contentedly, Severus flipped him over on his stomach.
"Wait," Harry said, sitting back down, "Let me."
"You don't have to, Potter," Snape shrugged, "It's all right if you don't."
"No, it's not," Harry took a page from the Half-Blood Prince's book, "That wouldn't be fair. We have time."
"If you insist…" Severus' voice went up an octave as the Potter boy began to pleasure him, "Merlin. Are you sure you've never done this before?"
"You're a good teacher," Harry assured him playfully, and continued on.
As Snape came closer to climax, the highlights of the pair's tumultuous relationship flashed before his eyes.
Making eye contact with Lily's boy for the first time at the Sorting Hat Ceremony. Harry touching his lightning bolt scar at the visceral warning. Turning away to hide his disgrace.
Discovering at Duelling Club that Potter was a parselmouth. The boy looking to him frantically for some signal that it was normal to talk to snakes. Staring back in unbridled disbelief.
Telling Potter to turn to page three hundred and ninety-four. Assigning detention. Taking away points. Insulting his dead father. Again and again and again.
Looking into those scared green eyes as Harry joined the other three Triwizard champions. Accusing him of defying Dumbledore and tampering with the age line even though the boy clearly didn't want his fame.
Listening as Potter conveyed a coded message to him in front of Umbridge. They've got Padfoot at the place where it's hidden. Telling the interim headmaster he had no idea what the daft boy was talking about. Touched that the boy trusted him enough to tell him that.
Standing in astonishment as he had opened his door to find Harry standing there a few moments ago. In here, quickly.
Severus exploded. Caught unawares, Harry jumped back. He wasn't expecting his professor's response to be so intense.
"It's all right, you stupid boy," Snape breathed heavily, putting a hand on his shoulder to steady himself, "That's exactly what was supposed to happen."
"Not as poor as it might have been for a first attempt, I gather?" Harry said puckishly.
"Potter!" Severus scowled, cuffing him in jest, "Don't mock me."
"Sorry," Harry smirked.
Snape removed his hand from Harry's smitten cheek and kissed it affectionately.
"Make love to me, now," the young man begged, "Please, Snape."
"You're still sure that's what you really want?" Severus looked at the mistreated boy with reticent concern.
"Yes," Harry nodded, looking up at his professor with confidence, "That's all I ever wanted."
Cantate vitae canticum
Sine dolore acte
"Okay, then, I will," Snape said, caressing the young wizard's slender face, "Whatever you need."
"Don't you want to?" Harry wondered suddenly, "You don't have to if you don't want to."
"Didn't I already tell you there is nowhere else I would rather be than right here with you?" Severus reminded him.
"We were made for each other. Don't you think?" Harry commented, looking over Snape's battered body as if it were a mirror of his own, "I don't think I'll ever want to be with anybody else after you."
"I think you're still very young, Potter," Severus half-smiled, "I'd like to think you've still got a whole life of sexual conquests ahead of you."
And with that, Snape ravished him unhurriedly and delicately, coaching and consoling him all the way. When they had finished, Severus dressed the weary boy in a pair of his own pyjamas and tucked him into his large king-sized bed. The hourglass by the bedside hadn't quite run out.
"Severus?" Harry asked, half-asleep, "Do you have to leave now?"
"No," Snape replied, "Not yet. We still have a bit of time."
"Hold me until you have to go?" the worried teenager sat up in bed suddenly.
Without a word, Severus put his arms around Harry one more time and hugged him tightly in a paternal gesture. Snape held him like that until he fell asleep, then tucked him back in and gave him a final kiss goodnight. The hourglass had run out.
There was no more time.
"Obliviate," he cast the spell quietly, then turned to leave. He paused at the doorway, choking back on perilous tears. He hadn't wanted it to come to this. He wanted more time.
But there was no more time.
He had made the unbreakable vow.
"Goodbye, Harry," Severus said softly, then collected himself, and left without speaking another word.
Dicite eis quos amabam
One Year Later
Harry did not know why he was doing it, why he was approaching the dying man. He did not know what he felt as he saw Snape's white face, and the fingers trying to staunch the bloody wound at his neck. Harry took off the Invisibility Cloak and looked down upon the man he hated, whose widening black eyes found Harry as he tried to speak.
The green eyes found the black one last time. Harry bent over him, and Snape seized the front of his robes and pulled him close.
Sing a song, a song of life
Made without regret
Tell the ones, the ones I loved
I never will forget
Never will forget.