The Bravest Man I Ever Knew
A HariPo oneshot
Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. A little idea that occurred to me as I, yes, was listening to the Wrock song by the same name by Ministry of Magic. I wonder if such a discussion might have ever taken place... Read, review, and enjoy.
Harry Potter sighed as he walked the empty halls. He never much had the chance to do this anymore, just walk around Hogwarts. The school was constantly filled with students and, quite frankly, the last time the castle had been this quiet, it was the night Albus Dumbledore had died.
Harry shook his head as the sight of Dumbledore's body floated to the front of his mind. Despite seeing Dumbledore in the pensieve and in that place that had reminded Harry of limbo, two pictures stood out best in Harry's mind of his mentor: one was of the first trading card he'd gotten of Dumbledore in the Chocolate Frog package, and the other was of Dumbledore's cold, lifeless body after Snape had killed him and he'd fallen from the Astronomy Tower.
The Boy-Who-Lived cursed under his breath. This silent tour of Hogwarts was supposed to be therapeutic, not dredge up bad memories.
Harry walked past the entrance to the Great Hall and smiled. It was good to see the castle in such pristine shape. As always, the ceiling looked lovely, even if a bit stormy. Harry would always cite that as one of his favorite things about Hogwarts, whether telling Teddy or his own children or nieces and nephews.
Again reminding himself to stop walking down Sentimental Lane, the wizard walked much of the castle, trying not to stop at each and every thing that caused a surge of anecdotes to swim to the tip of his tongue. But his heart both sank into his stomach and jumped into his throat when he, at last, reached his destination and gave the password, the spiral staircase in response granting him access to a place he had once doubted he'd ever want to enter again.
Up in McGonagall's office, Harry called out for her. "Minerva?" Her bags and cloak were lying haphazardly on her desk, so he assumed she'd just arrived and had been called away by another faculty arrival. It made sense, since the new school year was starting next week. But he knew she had been expecting him, so he was fine doing what he had come here to do.
Behind her desk, Harry glimpsed Dumbledore's portrait. A small smile formed on his lips, for Dumbledore's portrait always seemed to be sleeping. It figured; now that Dumbledore had all the time in the world, his portrait was catching up on all the sleep he'd never appeared to collect when Harry and the others had known him. He nodded to the painting and moved to the corner of the room, searching for another image.
Hidden in the shadows was a different portrait, one done in blacks and other colors so dark one had to squint before realizing the frame was in fact not empty. Harry cleared his throat. "Hello, Snape."
Abruptly, a flash of white appeared as Snape's portrait faced him, his countenance as sallow and thin as ever. "Potter."
The young man cleared his throat again. "Er…how are you?"
"I'm a painting in McGonagall's office. What do you think?" came the snarky reply.
Harry took a deep, steadying breath. Even in death, Snape was the same as ever. "I wanted to speak with you."
"Then what do you call this?" Snape smirked at him, and Harry fought the urge to poke the frame and tilt it.
"About your memories…"
"Ah." Snape raised an eyebrow. "You've come asking now?"
"Six years after witnessing them, yes."
Snape sighed and crossed his arms in front of his chest, lifting one hand to cup his cheek as he stared at Harry. "Weren't my memories enough?"
He'd asked so quietly that if anyone else had been making noise in the room, Harry would not have heard him. "I'm not sure…"
"You know exactly what I mean, Potter. Weren't my memories enough to satisfy you? My deepest, innermost emotions, queries, and ponderings—I gave them to you." Snape paused. "Only once did I ever feel the need to explain myself. Consider yourself lucky you were the recipient."
Harry nodded. "I'm just—I was hoping you might be able to answer some questions."
Snape continued to study him before replying, "Within reason."
Harry nodded again, feeling a little relieved. "It's just…I get the feeling that you left some things out. I—well," Harry groused, "did I really get the whole story?"
The Potions Master snorted derisively. "Good Merlin... Of course I left things out. You didn't really expect my whole life's story, did you?" Snape shook his head and finally sat in the dark silver chair in the painting. "I gave you a brief overview of what you absolutely needed to know."
"You loved my mother."
"You speak as though love is something that simple." Snape pursed his lips. "I'm not looking to explain myself…but I can tell you this: Your worldview can be severely messed up when you're looking for a reprieve from a reality that's just a little too non-fiction for you."
"Tell me about it," Harry grumbled, thinking of the Dursleys. Though, every once in a while, he did wonder how they were doing. Messed up or not, they were still family. He shook his head and got back on topic. "Is that why you gave her and my dad up? Because your 'worldview' was iffy? Is that how you justified giving them up and then protecting me?"
Snape snarled at him. "There was nothing easy about my life."
"No, I s'pose not. But you could've made some bits of it easier. Why'd you join Voldemort anyway?"
"Didn't you ever wonder what it was like to have a real family? Of course you did—you saw them in the Mirror of Erised."
"How did you—"
"Dumbledore, who thought it was good to remind me occasionally of my guilt over Lily's death." Snape shook his head. "'He sees his family, Severus, a family he will never know.' That man was more torturer than gentle soul," he hissed.
A pang of sympathy surged in Harry's heart, for he understood Dumbledore had been both a great and fearsome man. But just because he knew new things about Dumbledore did not mean that it was not Dumbledore who had been there for him before. Harry, just as much now as in the past and forevermore, was Dumbledore's man through and through.
"But my guilt and love were tied together, a sordid two-for-one deal," Snape continued without urging. "You sacrificed yourself, did you not, for those you loved?"
Harry nodded and rested his sight on the frame. Though he did not talk of what had happened in the Forbidden Forest, loads of people had seen him in the castle's debris, thinking him dead—only to watch him fight and fell the Dark Lord.
"That's nice. But come back and talk to me when you've sacrificed the only thing you've ever loved and find you cannot, for once, rectify what you've done."
"You called her a Mudblood."
"That, I remember much too vividly for my own good."
"But you still loved her. How?"
Snape locked eyes with him, black on green, and told him the only other true thing Harry felt might ever come from those thin lips: "It was never about giving my life to make up for what I had done. I lived each day thinking that when I met my end, I would see her again. The line between love and devotion is an obscure one for most. For me, no line existed, for the two ideas are one."
"That's why you wanted me to look at you. My eyes weren't a last-minute reminder of your mistakes made right. They were a reminder of what you hoped to see in the afterlife."
"And so, a little after two decades, the Boy-Who-Lived came to possess a spot of intelligence."
Harry paused. "And James Potter…"
"Oh, sweet Salazar, does everyone think I might be your father? Trust me, that horrid man is your flesh and blood. Good grief, Dumbledore hounded me about that, too."
Several quiet minutes passed as Harry stood there and fidgeted on his feet. He had a multitude of other questions, but he understood they'd never be answered. Snape had taken some secrets to his grave, and Harry…well, he was okay with that. He knew he'd take some secrets to his own grave someday. Harry picked his head back up and gave Snape a friendly grin. "In light of all I did, I still am in awe of you. You, more than anyone else I knew, were the bravest."
Just like that, the trademark fury Harry had come to learn and receive for six years reappeared on Snape's face. He thrust himself off the chair and came right to the edge of the frame. For one frightening minute, Harry honestly thought Snape might try to come out of the picture. However, though Wizarding pictures moved, they did not—to Harry's knowledge—release their subjects and showed no sign of doing so anytime soon. But he couldn't blame Snape for lack of trying, especially when he yelled at him next: "Don't you tell me I was the bravest man you ever knew! You never knew me, Potter. And you never will."
Snape huffed, his face flushed with the most color Harry had ever seen in it. Frankly, the former headmaster was right. Harry didn't know Snape very well and never would and probably had no right to say what he'd said, but one thing was certainly true. "But I do know that without your help, I doubtful would be here."
Even if Snape did not want to hear anyone calling him a hero, Harry felt he should be privy of that fact, and he did not wait for the slack-jawed expression on Snape's face to disappear before he said goodbye and left the office. Harry exited the castle before McGonagall even saw him, and he headed home, feeling that maybe he didn't need to have all his questions answered. But he also felt that, in the end, Severus Snape deserved to be recognized as a hero. And he'd make sure that was so.
And as we know, he goes on to name his second son "Albus Severus," which is a nice thought after writing this little piece. I think it was a hint at the inner workings of Sev's mind, but—I'll admit—we'll never fully understand Snape unless he expresses himself. Will we ever know Snape like we think we should? Perhaps not. But we will always have his portrait around to ask. ;]
A kind of follow-up piece to this is "Tea with Snape," set some time after this, so feel free to hop on over to it after.
Thank you for reading and please review!
P.S.—To mew fans: Isn't it weird that I wrote something like this? It's so different from my other stuff, *lol*….