A/N: I actually wrote most of this quite a while ago, but something seemed to be missing. After watching the final Harry Potter movie, I finally found the inspiration I needed to finish it up. So, long overdue as it is, I hope you enjoy this oneshot!
DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter and anything associated with does not belong to me. It belongs to J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros, and various publishers. I am not making a profit from my writing and no copyright infringement is intended.
Worth a Thousand Words
Sleep would not come, no matter how hard he tried. Tossing and turning for hours, despite his honest exhaustion, Harry could not clear his mind long enough to let the blessed blackness of sleep take over. No one had come to bother him, surprisingly. Harry wasn't sure if he considered that a good thing or not, but he definitely did not want to answer a million questions and be fawned over.
However, he felt very alone, and the creeping depression of realizing so many people had died for him was starting to take up all the room in his mind. Grief threatened to strangle him as he sat up quickly, willing the images of the dead lined up in the Great Hall out of his head. There was no way he was going to sleep any time soon.
Sighing resignedly as he pulled his jeans back over is boxers and slipped his trainers back onto his feet, Harry reached for his invisibility cloak off the back of the desk chair in his old dorm room. He wasn't sure yet where he was going, but a walk sounded like a good idea to help him clear his restless mind. He pulled the cloak over himself and checked that his wand was in his pocket before heading out of his dorm and through the abandoned Gryffindor common room. Setting off in a random direction, Harry began to walk the haunted corridors of Hogwarts, home to so many new deaths.
Harry tried as hard as he could to clear his mind like Snape had demanded of him, to leave all thought behind and just be. He concentrated so hard he gave himself a headache, and that was the last thing he needed on top of everything else. He encountered a few straggling Aurors and Order members, though he stayed invisible to them. They seemed to be assessing the damage and repairing what they could as they went. Harry felt a sense of guilt so strong that it made him nauseous. He knew all of the fallen stone, destroyed portraits, and damaged classrooms were his fault. He had led Voldemort and his Death Eaters here, to a castle full of innocent children, a few of which who died fighting for Harry.
His panic attack started to take control of him just as he stumbled into a stone gargoyle, and was surprised that his feet had carried him to the Head's office. He thought perhaps that Professor McGonagall might be in there as the new Headmistress, but perhaps she was taking care of other business around the castle, helping with the clean up. Harry stood there for about half a minute, thinking of what the password would be before the wall split and the revolving staircase beckoned him forward. He stepped on and rode it all the way up to the door, which swung open slowly before he could even catch the handle or knock.
Professor McGonagall was not there, nor was anybody else. It still looked much the same way it had when Professor Dumbledore had been the Headmaster, expect for a few of his spindly tables and whirring objects missing. The pensieve was there where Harry had left it, on the desk and swirling full of Snape's memories still. Harry approached the swirling liquid, feeling his chest ache with the memory of watching Snape sacrifice himself for the war, for Harry, all in the name of love for one Lily Evans.
"I prefer you not leave my memories lying about, Potter. Anyone could have traipsed in and watched them if they had wished," a silky voice sounded from behind the desk, making Harry jump nearly a foot in the air and grab his chest, his heart beating so fast he thought it would burst through his ribcage.
Looking up at the portraits behind the great oak desk, Harry saw that a new portrait hung beside that of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore's; Headmaster Severus Snape. Harry blinked as the Potions Master leaned back leisurely in an elegant emerald armchair, a snifter of amber liquid held in his hand as a warm fire roared in a hearth in the background next to a tall book shelf. Snape's portrait was more detailed and extravagant than all of the other past Head's portraits, but Harry found that that didn't really surprise him all that much.
"Professor Snape," Harry breathed, as if saying the name out loud would confirm that, yes, he was talking to his former Potions Master, the man he had watched die only hours ago. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when Harry saw this one, he was speechless.
"Yes, Potter, I did get a portrait as well. Whether or not anyone thinks I deserved to be Headmaster, the binding that comes with the position still states that I be forever commemorated as a former Headmaster. When I commissioned the portrait, I made sure I would have something to do other than sit and look pretty. I always thought the other portraits were much too dull," the paint and canvas version of Snape drawled, sipping at the firewhiskey before setting it aside.
"I didn't doubt you would get a portrait, sir. It's just...you died not ten hours ago, and your portrait is already up and activated. It's just...strange to see you there, after watching you die," Harry said quietly as he pulled one of the chairs in front of the Head's desk around to the side so he could sit facing the portrait of the Potions Master.
"Yes, well, the binding states that as soon as a Headmaster passes, the portrait will appear and activate. Most of the time the subject of the portraits need a bit of time to get used to it, but I fiddled with the charms a bit so that I did not have to go through the required stasis of twenty-four hours."
Harry nodded, feeling very awkward to hear the man he had hated, who had hated him, explain things pertaining to his own death so nonchalantly. Harry was distracted by a thought as the glow from the pensieve caught the corner of his eye.
"Sir, even though you gave me all of your memories when you died, do you still have them as a portrait like the others?" Harry asked, pulling his wand out as he stood up, retrieving the swirling memories and placing them back in the vial before storing them safely in his pocket.
"Yes, I have all of my memories. The portraits are charmed to record every memory as it is made, making a duplicate copy so that the portrait's subject will still have all of it's deceased counterpart's thoughts and memories. And besides, I did not give you all of my memories, only ones I deemed important for you to see," Snape explained, crossing his legs as he watched the young man, who looked much too tired, retake the seat facing his portrait.
Harry tried to think of what he should say first, but there were so many questions, so many things he wanted to say that he couldn't organize his thoughts. The first thing that made any sense to him came out of his mouth unbidden, but he didn't take it back. "Thank you...for everything."
Snape shook his head slowly, leaning forward in his seat to meet Harry's eyes better. "There is no need to thank me, Potter. Everything I did had a reason behind it, a purpose, and there was nothing taken too lightly or not thought out completely. I did what I had to do for the war and for you, and I do not require gratitude for doing my part."
"But you did so much more, Professor. You sacrificed yourself, and I don't just mean by dying for me. You gave up your life to spy, to make sure the Order always had the information it needed. You served a Lord you didn't believe in anymore to help us understand his plans. Without your memories, I wouldn't have known what I had to do in the forest. I wouldn't have even known that I was a Horcrux.
"You saved everyone by giving me the means to defeat him, the Elder Wand, Gryffindor's sword in that forest clearing. A lot of people sacrificed a lot for this war, but none as much as you. And all because you loved my mum...I always thought you were heartless, incapable of something like love, but everything you've done, it was all based on love. Dumbledore was right, in a way. Love is the power that the Dark Lord knew not, because even you fooled him with it."
"What happened in the forest, Potter, after you viewed my memories?" Snape asked curiously. He knew the boy had had to die in order to destroy the Horcrux that had been living inside of him, but yet there he was, alive and seemingly healthy.
"I let him kill me. I just stood there, and took the Killing Curse willingly," Harry said quietly, looking directly into the older Wizard's eyes. His own emerald gaze was determined, and yet there was such a lingering sadness that, even as a portrait, Snape could feel.
"You died? The Dark Lord actually killed you, and yet here you are. How?" Snape asked, slightly bewildered. As far as he knew, and he knew quite a bit when it came to death and dark magic, death was permanent, irreversible.
"Because I didn't fight it, it was a self-sacrifice. I was dead, for a little while. I talked to Professor Dumbledore, and he explained things to me. I saw the piece of Voldemort's soul, dead along with me. But it wasn't my time, Dumbledore said. I had a choice. Pass on, or come back and finish the job. I'm not a Gryffindor for nothing; I had to come back. Narcissa Malfoy was asked to check for my pulse, and when she felt it, she asked me if Draco was ok, and then lied to Voldemort and told him I was dead after I told her that Draco was alright. Neville destroyed the last Horcrux, Nagini, and then my way was clear. I didn't even use a Killing Curse. His own Killing Curse rebounded off of my disarming spell and backfired. He essentially killed himself," Harry said with an amused smirk, feeling much lighter as the Potions Master allowed a smirk of his own.
"So that's it then. He's dead, for sure this time?" Snape asked, a teasing note in his voice as the Gryffindor laughed and nodded.
"Yes, for sure this time," Harry said firmly, letting a smile take over. It faded, however, as he caught a glimpse of his own reflection, his eyes reminding him of his mother. "Professor? Why did you love my mother so much, even after you stopped talking and she married my dad?"
The paint and canvas version of the Potions Master sighed heavily as he leaned back in his chair. He looked younger and healthier than he had in many years, and Harry wondered if the portraits reflected the subject's true appearance, or what their souls suggested they appear as.
"Your mother was my very first friend, and the only woman I ever loved. It went from a childhood friendship to much more than that as naturally as anything else, and despite our parting of ways, or Lily's marriage to James, I never once stopped loving her. I could not fault her for cutting ties with me after the way I treated her, nor could I begrudge her the chance to move on and start a life with someone else, despite who it was with. Lily and I didn't stop being friends because of any ill-willed action of hers. It was my fault, and I take full responsibility. But I never once blamed her for any of it, even after she married my rival and had his child. The better question to ask, Harry, would be why anyone would ever not love Lily as much as I will always love her."
Harry wasn't sure when he had began to cry, but he ignored the tear tracks tracing down his cheeks all the same. It was a powerful thing, thinking that if things would have gone differently, Snape may have been his father, not James. Of course he wouldn't be the same person and a lot of things would be different, but just the thought that a single action of Snape's had changed the course of history hit Harry harder than he would have expected.
"She'd be proud of you, sir. Even though you hated me, you did everything you could to protect me, and that's all she ever wanted. You both died to save me."
"I never hated you, Harry. I hated the idea of you. You were the product of Lily's love for somebody else; I can think of no torture greater than that. I owed both Lily and James for my mistakes, and I Vowed to protect you when you were still a baby. I'd like to think she'd be proud of me, yes, but she'd be more proud of her son than anything else. James would be too," Snape said with a gentle expression, bordering on admiration.
Harry let out a short laugh, knowing he was probably going insane when he ever considered the possibility of Snape admiring him. "I guess we had a lot more in common than we ever realized. I think she'd want me to say this, though, and I want to say it too. I forgive you, for everything you had to do that may have affected me in a negative way. I know it was for the best in the long run, and I don't blame you anymore for any of it. You're one of the bravest men I've ever known, and I'll never forget what you've done for me."
There was a long silence as portrait-Snape sat with his head in his hands. When he looked up, there was so much emotion in his eyes, emotions Harry had never seen from Snape before, that Harry felt like he had finally gained the closure he had been craving.
"Thank you, Harry."
"Thank you, Professor Snape."
They talked for what seemed like hours, portrait and student. Harry explained in as much detail as he could the final battle, and everything that had led up to it. He listed the dead, choking up a few times as the wounds were still very fresh, and promised the man that he would not try to get some ridiculous memorial set up for Snape.
"A simple funeral, Potter, and I don't want the whole world in attendance either. Just get my body out of that damn shack and in the ground as quickly and easily as possible."
Harry agreed, and made sure to copy down where the man had left his will so that he could retrieve it and make sure all of his wishes were carried out. He was surprised to learn that much of the man's possessions had been left to him and Draco Malfoy, the man's Godson. Harry had never known that bit of information either.
"I'll come and visit whenever I can. I'm not sure if Hogwarts will be open next year, but if it is, I'll come back to finish out my seventh year."
Snape rolled his eyes but acquiesced, telling the young man that he needed to go and try to rest again, as the dark circles under his eyes were distinctly unnerving. As Severus watched the boy walk towards the door, he distinctly felt the unnerving gaze of the portrait beside his, and scowled as Dumbledore leaned through his frame and stuck his head into Severus' portrait.
"I'm very proud of you both, Severus. I'm sorry you had to make the ultimate sacrifice, but you did not die in vain. Look at Harry, the wonderful boy who will always carry your sacrifice with him, and know that it was worth it."
Harry turned as he heard faint talking coming from the portraits behind him and paused when he saw Dumbledore's painted image leaning from his own portrait into Professor Snape's portrait. The Potions Master looked stoic as ever as Dumbledore whispered to him, but as Harry met Snape's eyes and smiled, Snape finally found it in himself to smile gently back.
"It was worth it, Albus, it was always worth it."
A/N: The last two paragraphs were all that was missing from this story, and now it feels complete. Please let me know what you thought, and thanks for taking the time to read!