Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns everything related to Harry Potter.
A/N: This story picks up after March Out of the Darkness. It's going to center mostly around Snape and the fallout after Voldemort's downfall.
Dark storm clouds surrounded the massive stone castle overlooking Black Lake. The wind whistled through the numerous scary trees in the Forbidden Forest. Creaks and moans echoed all through the grounds with the opening and closing of the front gates. All was quiet with the massive Whomping Willow. For once even the Shrieking Shack was hushed. Then again, the castle's inhabitants should have expected all this silence. The terrible darkness that had once descended on the castle had lifted that very night with the defeat of the Dark Lord, Voldemort, or You-Know-Who depending whose side a person was on. After years of torment, the war was over, and the Light was victorious.
However, it had cost them all dearly in one way or another. Charity Burbage, the Muggle Studies professor, lost her life during the summer when Death Eaters murdered her. The inhabitants had lost their beloved leader, Albus Dumbledore, the prior year. The year before that, the Boy-Who-Lived lost his godfather during a battle in the Department of Mysteries. And the year before that, the school suffered a serious blow when one of their own, Cedric Diggory, died at the hands of Voldemort. Each death was harder to swallow for the poor souls of Hogwarts. However, light always ascends after darkness, which for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry it was no different for them. The light just would take a bit to reach all of them fully.
For Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, he was able to break free of the darkness thrust on him at such an early age by the Wizarding society. He now was able to live his life actually. Also, he had a chance to salvage at least part of his childhood since Voldemort and Dumbledore had stolen most of it.
For Severus Snape, former member of Voldemort's Inner Circle, he was finally free of the heavy bonds of slavery embedded into his skin by the black Mark on his soul. He was a free man once again. Though, in his heart, he didn't feel like one. Victory had cost too much for him.
Snape had known since the beginning of his spying days for Dumbledore that his likelihood of surviving the war was near zero. Yet, here Snape was, still very much alive, but that had been his choice in the end. Truthfully, he didn't know why he chose to come back. It wasn't as if anything really was there waiting for him. Well, perhaps his sentence to Azkaban, but he knew he deserved that. He had done terrible things as a Death Eater. If anyone deserved Azkaban, it was truly going to be him. And when the Aurors would come, he'd surrender willingly to them. It was long overdue. He should have gone to Azkaban the first time.
That wouldn't fit into Dumbledore's master plan at all, though, so it was not to be. No, no, Snape was to spy for the old man. He was to protect the poor boy, Lily's son, his lovely Lily's son. He did all this to the best of his ability and then some, making sure that Harry never learned the truth. Well, until Snape had to inform the boy so he didn't stupidly kill him before the plan could be finished.
Snape closed his dark eyes as he stood in front of his bedroom window. Normally, he would have the heavy emerald curtains closed, ensuring that he maintained his usual dark brooding atmosphere in his quarters, but not this night. He kept his curtains drawn back and stared out into the shimmering water of Black Lake. The moonlight refracted just right into the water that the light appeared to be dancing across his face.
His shoulder-length black hair hung loosely around his face with no traces of its usual grease in it. There was no smile on his face, but there was no sneer either. In fact, he looked rather resigned about his fate. Then again, he had been for years. There were numerous visible deep wrinkles etched into his pale face, but his black eyes were a shade lighter than usual.
Snape sighed heavily before glancing towards his nightstand. The forgotten silver wedding band rested silently on top of it. It sat in the same place since that fateful June night that changed his life forever, which was approximately four months earlier. He made a point never to disturb the ring and made sure that the house elves knew not to either. The house elves even knew well enough not to disturb any part of his bedroom, lest they suffer his severe wrath.
His bedroom was the exact replica of how it had been the morning after that June night when he murdered Albus. He could even still smell her in his room. Then again, he had just brought her back to his bedroom a few days earlier, though, so perhaps that was it. He honestly didn't know why he kept his bedroom the same as that time. Perhaps because of her, because of what he had done to ensure that she would be safe. He wouldn't kid himself. He truly did love Lily, and he'd do anything to have her back. However, that night, that terrible night, he gave himself completely to another who definitely was not the one he wanted to spend his life with, his lovely Lily. He cared for this other witch just the same, though, and felt extremely protective of her. He hated himself for manipulating her like that, but he needed to protect her . . . to ensure that she didn't venture into the Tower that night by accident and be another who died because of him. However, any way he looked at it, though, he still to that day could not figure out why he asked her to marry him. He only wanted to protect her by using her affection towards him, not marry her.
Luckily, it wasn't legal, and only they knew about it. He was rather sure that she did her very best this term to forget all about him and his foolish impromptu wedding proposal. Though, the fact that she hadn't left her wedding ring next to his was a bit worrisome. He didn't really care, honestly, if she wanted to keep the ring. It wasn't as if he was ever going to use it anyway. The ring, however, was a family heirloom, which his mother had given him to give to his future wife. Really, what did family heirlooms from the line of Princes matter anyway? It wasn't as if any of them were alive to know he had given the ring to a witch after a one-night stand. It wasn't as if any of them would ever know that he had manipulated her into thinking that he reciprocated her feelings that night. It wasn't as if any of the Princes would ever know that he slept with her and subsequently later drugged her so she wouldn't venture out into the Tower when he murdered Albus. No Princes would know that, and neither would anyone else for that matter. Why should he bring up the past anyway? It wasn't as if he could just go back to living his life as he had before and expect her not to be spitting fire at him. He had murdered Albus only a few short hours after sleeping with her.
Sleep would not be Snape's friend this early morning. He had tried to sleep earlier, but only ended up waking a few short minutes later after a horrible remembrance of Lily stating that she'd always choose James Potter, Snape's childhood torturer, over him in the end. He knew sleep wouldn't come easy to anyone tonight, though. It was partly the reason that he had informed the staff that was to be on patrols for tonight to go to bed and allow the students to have their temporary freedom. Always being an outsider made him into a rather excellent observer so he knew that the students would need that group therapy time together, and he'd allow it so they could all heal. He didn't feel like being a bastard anymore. He didn't really feel like anyone anymore, truthfully.
Snape watched the school of fish swim past once more before turning around and walking towards the door. His brooding wouldn't help, but perhaps a rare indulgence in the kitchens might. He hardly ever snuck into the kitchens to grab himself a treat. Usually, he'd just have a house elf bring him something, but he didn't want to be in his quarters a moment longer. The entire walk there didn't take long, and he was rather glad when he saw the familiar décor. However, his dark eyes instantly narrowed on a dark curly-haired witch sitting at the island in the kitchens. Clearly, he wasn't the only one who snuck out. Though, it was dangerous for her to sneak out, since he knew that she should have still been in the hospital wing recovering from her head injury.
"Mind if I join you?" he softly asked as he quietly closed the door behind him. Inside himself, he winced as her head came up suddenly with a confused look in her dark eyes. He knew that had to have hurt her, but she didn't show any signs.
"I . . . um . . . sure," she replied, motioning towards an empty chair.
"Lemon meringue?" he asked with a pointed look at the slice of pie in front of her.
"Banana cream," she answered, sighing quietly. "Poppy would probably kill me if she knew I was down here, but . . ." Her dark eyes then glanced towards him again with a puzzled look. "Is something wrong, Severus?"
"Not as far as I know," he replied, summoning a house elf. When the pathetic droopy-eared creature appeared next to him, he ordered quietly, "Bring me my usual." A few seconds later, a large plate full of perfectly stacked bars of fudge appeared on the table in front of him.
"Fudge?" she quietly said, laughing. "I would have taken you for a dark chocolate type of man, Severus." She then resumed eating her slice of banana cream pie.
Snape watched her out of the corner of his eye as he quietly ate his bars of fudge. He could see the grimace she was trying desperately to hide. He wanted to snarl at her how foolish it was of her to sneak out of the hospital wing in her condition, but he didn't have the heart to do it surprisingly. He did, however, hold his hand out slightly and produce a pain-relieving draught, which he silently passed to her. He didn't even glance at her to see her reaction. When he heard the cork removed, he felt slightly relieved at the sound. At least she wasn't being that foolish tonight. The sound of the kitchen door creaking open instantly gained his attention. He glanced towards it and nearly scoffed when he saw the familiar messy haired Gryffindor standing in the doorway in his pajamas.
"Oh, um . . . sorry, Professors," the seventh-year Gryffindor softly said before taking a step back.
"What for, Potter? Sneaking out of your dormitory?" drawled Snape, "As if you haven't done that before, Mr. Potter." He then motioned towards an empty chair. "You might as well take a seat since we've already seen you."
Somewhere deep inside himself, Snape found this entire situation funny. He didn't really know why, though. Perhaps because he and Harry had been through so much that he could see the Gryffindor as Harry for once, not James. He wasn't even remotely upset with the boy for sneaking out, but then again, he knew deep down he had expected Harry to sneak out at some point. How many times had they been in this situation before where Snape had caught Harry late at night sneaking out to go somewhere? Why should this night be any different?
"How are you feeling, Professor?" Harry softly asked as he reached for one of Snape's fudge bars. The young Gryffindor didn't even notice the momentarily brief glare directed at him from the older wizard. In fact, Harry only ate his fudge bar with his gaze solely on Professor Sinistra.
"I've been better. Thank you for asking," she replied pleasantly. "I'd have thought you'd be up in Gryffindor Tower celebrating still."
"Don't tell them this, but it's getting a bit on my nerves with all this hero-worshiping stuff. I didn't really do anything, except jump in front of that curse."
Snape caught the violent jerk in Aurora's hand immediately. He'd have to speak with her about that. Obviously, he should have known Harry's sacrificing himself for a curse directed at her would affect her tremendously. She took things to heart a bit too much. He then grabbed another bar of fudge. It was perhaps the main reason for her insomnia. Yes, he would definitely have to speak to her now.
"How many students are still awake up in the Tower?"
"Everyone's awake, sir," Harry responded. "We even have some Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs over in our common room."
"I see. Well, go inform your housemates that they are expected to be in the Great Hall ten minutes from now." Snape watched Harry's green eyes widen. "There's no reason for the Gryffindor dorms to be leveled to shambles when there's a perfectly good hall in the castle not being used."
"Sir, are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Harry. Just do as I say," Snape replied in a tired and worn out voice. He noticed Harry glance at him briefly before quickly rushing out of the kitchens.
"You do realize that you just gave permission for a party, right?"
"Yes, Sinistra, I realize that. However, I doubt anyone can sleep right now. Therefore, since I don't wish to deal with having every student sneak down here, a party would be the most logical solution." He watched her slowly nod before sighing again. "Though, the thought of seeing some of our staff in their sleepwear is utterly frightening." He felt the corner of his lips curl upwards slightly when he heard her soft laughter.
"Oh, yes, I can see how that would be scary. I mean, look at you, Severus." He glanced up and stared at her. "The loose black sweatpants and black t-shirt," she said with a soft smile. "You almost look normal. The keyword in this case is 'almost,' Severus."
"What about this nightgown that you're wearing, Sinistra?" he responded, feeling a bit playful at the moment. However, since it was extremely rare to see him ever being playful, he instantly noticed that she took it to be an insult as her smile faltered quickly.
"I didn't have my wand with me when I left. Poppy also confiscated my clothes for the sole thinking that it'd deter me from sneaking out," she quietly admitted.
Snape opened his mouth to say something, but she quickly stood up and left before he could. Yes, they couldn't go back to that June night when everything was perfect up until the moment he killed Albus. Damn that man for making him kill him. He could have been happy now.