Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter
Here it is guys! The last chapter to this fic, and what I thought might possibly be my last HP fanfic to write. I left a couple of challenges on the board, but it looks like I'll have to write them. Til then, we conclude.
What Remains Left Behind
There seemed to be far too much rubble to clear away. Far too many things ruined to ever be repaired again, and that was by magic. Harry sauntered through it without really seeing it. It was far too much to look at closely. The castle, his school, his home for so many years had been damaged, seemingly irrevocably. But the students had stood up within it. They had fought using all their courage, all their strength, all their magic. They had fought, and they had won. There was nothing left to do now except gather up the pieces. There was still that hollowness within Harry as he watched the staff make the effort. Bodies were being moved and sorted out. In little time, there would be plans for their funeral; plans to dictate them as heroes of Hogwarts. He, on the other hand, would be classified as hero of the whole wizarding world.
Harry sat down and smirked when he thought of the person who would love to hold it over his head.
'Famous Harry Potter. Hero of the wizarding world. I suppose you expect us to bow down to you now? I think not Potter. Fifty points from Gryffindor!'
He could hear Snape saying those exact words. It was something he cherished, making a fool out of him. In the beginning, before he understood, it came across as cruel, but now it was a near joke. It was his personality, and if he was going to respect him, he had to understand that he was that way for a reason. No more hating without understanding. Harry had taken things for granted. He had been quick to judge. The war had changed all that. He had been forced to learn so much more; forced to learn things he didn't necessarily wish to learn, but had to for the sake of others.
Harry looked out across the grounds. The ended battle felt like the end of his school days. He had skipped his seventh year. There were things he could still learn, but now it was the farthest thing from his mind. He couldn't be sure if he would return to conclude his seventh year learning experience. A few people passed him, and all of them patted his shoulder or congratulated his efforts. Harry barely heard them. He was thinking of the one body that would not be considered a hero. The one that still lay forgotten. His focus and his thoughts drifted across the grounds to the boathouse. There, in his opinion, a real tragic hero lay, alone.
Harry did not want it to end for him like that, not after everything he'd gone through.
Harry stood and clutched his newly fixed wand, then he took a few shaky steps forward.
He turned to see his faithful companions behind him, along with Ginny.
"Where are you going?" Hermione asked. Harry frowned. For a second, he had the image of how they looked in their first year when they were all so inexperienced and immature (possibly not counting Hermione). Now, they were adults, with great knowledge on magic, war, and death. Harry turned away as the hollowness deepened. Would they understand why he needed to do this? He didn't much feel like explaining his reasons for defending the most hated teacher of all times.
"To the boathouse," he said simply.
Ron and Hermione traded a look.
"What for?" Ron asked suspiciously.
"To get Snape." They acted as if an electric shock had gone through them.
"But, Harry..." Hermione was looking desperate as she tried to find the right words. "I don't know what you saw in his memories, but he's-"
"A good man," Harry interrupted. Neither of them looked strong enough to argue the words against his feelings. That gave Harry the opportunity to explain. "I saw it. I saw a lot of things in there. Look..if you come with me..I can explain."
Ron and Hermione traded their looks again. Ginny didn't know what to make of it. When Harry looked at her, her eyes fell to the ground. He could tell she couldn't take anymore sudden news breaks. The one where his death was announced had sent her over the edge, and she had yet to fully mourn her brother. Slowly she shook her head.
"I'm sorry," she apologized.
"Don't be," he said gently. "You belong with your family right now. But, Snape's out there alone."
She didn't try to pretend she understood, but she assumed he required some privacy to his odd thoughts. She nodded and backed away to join the rest of the Weasleys'. Harry looked at Ron and Hermione, then turned away without saying a word. He didn't have to. Ron and Hermione fell in behind him, like old times, and Harry quietly told all he had seen. He explained about Snape's friendship with his mother which earned him a cry from Ron, which only became louder when Harry told him Snape loved her. He brought to light Snape's role as a victim in his dad's pranks. For some reason, it felt easier for him to discuss his school days with Lily as opposed to discussing his secret plans with Dumbledore. Ron and Hermione listened intensively and didn't interrupt once. By the end of it, Harry knew their opinion had changed. He couldn't be sure if it was in the same way as his own opinion. It was different since it had been his mother involved with Snape. It had been Dumbledore, the man whom he regarded highly, who never failed to believe in the man. And now Harry believed in him, but it came too late. It didn't come until after he had died.
"Oh Harry," cried Hermione, once the story came to an end.
"There's something else too," said Harry as the boathouse came into sight. He stopped and the others stopped behind him. He turned and faced them with a serious look. "When I...died, I didn't only meet Dumbledore, I met with Snape."
"You saw Snape?" asked Ron who couldn't seem to decide how to feel about it.
"I went to Snape, after Dumbledore. I had to."
"What did you...I mean, what did he say?" Normally Hermione wouldn't have posed such a question. It was something expected from Ron, but now there were tears in her eyes from the sorrowful story of the potions master.
Harry gave a small shrug. "I just told him what I saw. I just...we kind of comforted one another. I really wanted to know why he never told me he loved my mother, but the way we talked...it was like I finally understood him."
Neither of them seemed to need a more detailed explanation. They understood that it was a private affair, one Harry wanted to cherish for himself.
"You know they're not gonna believe it," Ron pointed out.
"And why not?" Hermione challenged. "After what Harry's done? They'll have to listen to him now. Look how long it took them to believe Voldemort returned. If he tells them Snape was a hero-"
"I won't have to prove it with his memories," Harry said suddenly. "They're private. They'll believe me. They'll believe him."
With that Harry turned and walked away from them, straight to the boathouse.
Nothing had changed since he left it behind for the castle. Still, it was a sight he could barely cope with. There, by the bloodstained window, lay the body of Severus Snape; one time potions master, part-time headmaster of Hogwarts. Harry had felt so ready to return to him, but now, after everything, after the truth had been revealed, it felt like the second hardest thing to do next to defeating Voldemort. He stood with his hand barely slipping off the door knob, and stared down at the crumpled body. The blood from the neck wound had run all down to his chest. A simple hand against his neck hadn't been enough to stop it, to save his life. The air was cold in the room. Harry glanced back at Ron and Hermione. Their faces were blank, but solemn. Now that they knew, they cared more. A few tears still trickled down Hermione's cheeks. She had always come to the defense of the professor, in the best way that she could. She had been under the impression that she must always respect a Hogwarts' teacher, no matter how greasy they were. Ron on the other hand had always sided with Harry's negative beliefs about the man. The number of times he called him the worst names, Harry couldn't count. They were on the same level of despising the man, or so Harry thought. Upon learning of his hatred for his dad, and the way he told Voldemort about the prophecy had left Harry to feel a great rage against him. It had only worsened after the demise of Dumbledore, and that had caused Harry to see him no different than the Dark Lord himself. But in the magical world, things weren't what they seemed, and that included Snape.
Harry stepped forward. Snape's head was turned away from him to the side. He felt it was a shame he couldn't turn and bare his cold black eyes into his own, the way he'd done all year long. They had been full of loathing, and now they were lifeless. There were no more insults, no more curling lips from him. All Harry was left with was the vulnerable side of the man. The one that had cried in the limbo he visited. Harry gulped and sank to his knees next to him. He was reliving a moment from not too long ago. It was the same scenario; the only difference was that Snape had been struggling to remain alive.
Harry lay a hand on his chest. He felt something warm on his cheek.
"You had me fooled professor," he said quietly. He had done his job well. Voldemort had never found out his true allegiance.
"What do we do now?" Ron asked in the silence following.
Harry sighed. He wasn't thinking about that. He was imagining an alternate scene. What would have happened had Snape lived? If Voldemort had decided to spare him? Would their relationship be as clean, if not cleaner than it had been when he visited his ghost? Try as he might, he could not picture him softening up to him. He could not see the man treating him as kindly as he had his mother. Snape would always be Snape. The man Neville had been most scared of. An image of darkness within the warm castle walls. Harry did not particularly want to change that character. He was simply glad only his opinion changed.
Had Snape lived, Harry would have been forced to defend him, and he would. Perhaps he would go back to teaching potions. But would he have been whole after everything? He wasn't so sure he would. If anything, he hoped he had found peace, whether in the limbo of Hogwarts or beyond.
"We take him back up to the castle, then, we have him arranged for burial next to Dumbledore."
It felt odd making such a bold decision, but it also felt right. It was something he was sure he might want. Without a word, he raised himself up and brought out his wand.
"If only..." Harry started to say. He fell quiet when Hermione approached him with old blankets she'd found. They weren't exactly clean, but she took care of that with a wave of her wand.
Without a need to explain, he, Ron and Hermione set about covering the professor in what had become pure white covers. When it was secure, all three lifted their wands and raised his body. If it was odd to plan his burial, it felt more odd to move his body without permission from anyone.
They backed out of the boathouse. They guided his body as gently as they could. Harry tried not to think about the corpse under the covers. He just tried to think about his living soul. The times he'd shared with him, even though they were dark. He was sure the others were doing the same thing.
The sky was darkening as they made the trek back to the castle. It was also silent. All of it was befitting the professor.
The new Headmistress professor McGonagall was awaiting, along with a crowd of worried students and staff members.
"Potter? Where have you been? We were starting to worry?"
Her scolding voice could never compare to Snape's.
"I went to fetch Snape's body," Harry told her matter of factly.
"You, you what?"
After setting his body down, in the place they probably felt he didn't deserve to be, Harry explained. It hadn't been easy since he left out the personal information from his memories. No one else would learn about his love for Lily Potter. When he had finished retelling them what he had learned, she stepped aside and allowed him to bring the body in, to be dealt with along with the others. Everyone respectfully parted as Harry, made his way with the body behind him. It was not about Harry in that moment. It was all about professor Severus Snape, the second hero in the struggle.
Twenty years later
Harry made what felt like a long journey to meet up with the man that had protected him all the years of his youth. A man who hadn't meant anything but pain for the longest time. Now he meant something else. On that day, after everything was over, Harry felt like he was in the man's debt. But what could he have done but make sure the truth was known? Harry had found a way, but to him it hadn't felt like enough.
After ensuring the professor had a descent burial, Harry set to work on having his portrait installed in the Headmaster's room. There had been some conflict over the matter as some still sided with the idea that Snape was a traitor. That he had intentionally become a headmaster to harm, yet train young students as a favor to his master. Harry blamed the outcome on good faith alone. If so many people hadn't had faith in his abilities or ideas, he was sure Snape would remain as a cowardous traitor to the wizarding world. But his word, along with some proof, had given Severus Snape a chance to return to his old home. He would no longer be insulted, but even if he was it was only as a joke and not as a remark for his allegiance to Voldemort. He had built up quite a reputation for being a slimy, cynical, criticizing git who stalked the halls of Hogwarts like a bat and towered in a threatening manner over his students like a poisonous snake.
Harry hadn't expected any change from him when he encountered his portrait for the first time. It was a perfect likeness of the man he had known. There were no tricks done to make him look like a kind brave hero; his lips curled, his eyes darkened, and his arms were folded as if he was awaiting his students to foul up in some miserable way with a potion. Harry couldn't help feel an ounce of regret, knowing the students would never have to endure another one of his torturous lessons. His days tormenting his students were over. His days as a Headmaster hadn't lasted long enough for judgment, though Harry and many others agreed it would have been no different from the way he ran his potion's class. He was no Dumbledore. There was only one of that powerful wizard, like there was only one Severus Snape. Any potions master following to take his place would not compare.
Harry remembered thinking all those things when he had stood before the newly hung portrait. He had been trying to think of something to say while Snape stared down at him with his cold black eyes. He hadn't bothered to say anything, let alone move. Minutes had gone by before Snape had broken the silence.
"Stand there any longer Potter, and you'll collect dust."
Harry had felt a warm shock at hearing his cold drawl. It was almost like old times, Snape insulting him like he normally did. Harry had hid a smirk.
'Good morning to you too sir,' he had told him. Snape had sneered in disgust at his happy expression. Harry was sure he wouldn't want it any other way. It would be unnatural if Snape had suddenly smiled and congratulated his efforts. It was the Snape he had known, but only as a portrait. It was only a two dimensional example of what had been.
"I suppose you're deciding on what you can take from this office for your own personal collection?" Snape had said as more of a statement than question.
"No sir, I just wanted to say, thank you."
Snape merely stared down at him, with no readable expression on his face. It had been a sign of him trying to come up an insult for his sign of gratitude.
"You have much to be grateful for Potter. For if it wasn't for me, you would not be standing there."
"Now Severus," Dumbledore's portrait had suddenly said.
"It's all right sir. I know that's his way of saying you're welcome," Harry had assure him. He had kept his gaze on Snape's painted eyes, until it was time for him to take his leave.
Harry hadn't gone back up to the castle to visit the portrait. He hadn't gone back to explain that he had moved on with his life; that he had finally found a less chaotic life with his new family. And now he made his way across the grassy field to meet with an actual representation of the man. One that was not a painting, but a body left behind under a marble tomb near Dumbledore's. His name and his death were written in silver, along with a description that read: 'A reserved hero who's courageous efforts brought peace to the magical world'.
When Harry reached it, he bent down and ran his fingers over the stone. Regardless of being under the sun, the stone was cold. Another aspect shared by Snape. He dropped his eyes to the tomb itself. Ginny had offered to come with him, but he wanted to come alone.
"Good afternoon professor," he greeted, although he was sure there was little chance Snape would be listening, whether such a thing was possible or not. He had never taken kindly to what he had to say to him. "I just finished visiting Dumbledore and...well, I told him how I was, and the family..."
He trailed off, knowing full well Snape would not appreciate small talk. He could almost hear him shouting 'Get on with it Potter!'
At that thought he gave a sad smile. Since his death, he had never met anyone with such a personality. He had been the last of the Snapes'; the last of the greasy haired gits. Though there may be gits out there that were just as greasy as he'd been, they would not replace the brave man lying under the earth. He cleared his throat and started again.
"There I go rambling, and I know it wasn't something you liked." He knew even more that he didn't particularly like chatting with his students if it had nothing to do with potions. Harry nearly grimaced at the thought of cauldrons. In the day following his burial, Harry had briefly considered perfecting the art of potion making as a sort of dedication to the man. He quickly gave up the effort when he caused his creation to explode, causing his skin to break out in ugly violet rashes. Perfecting potions wasn't a way to honor the man. It was simply remembering him as who he really was, but Harry had found another way to honor him.
"I never told you this sir, but, I named my oldest son after you. You and Dumbledore. His name is Albus Severus Potter. I don't know if you still felt hatred toward that name...I'm sure, after our meeting that day..." he paused as he thought of the unforgettable moment where he met Snape after death in his potions' class, "things changed between us. I'm sure you couldn't go on unless you, let go of some things, like my namesake."
Harry hoped with all his heart that he had moved on. Though he could understand his love of the dungeons, he did not like the idea of him being there all alone for the rest of eternity. He had been such a lonely figure in life. He unconsciously ran a hand through his hair, then grinned when he realized what he had done. It was not too unlike the way he had seen his father fuss with his hair in Snape's memories.
"Sorry about that...suppose parental habits come along later in life." He stared at the writing again, then his gaze drifted downward. He briefly regretted not bringing flowers, but knowing Snape, it was probably better that he brought nothing at all. The only thing he would have probably liked to have seen from him was a decent potion. He sighed as he tried to think of something to say. He had already thanked him, thrice. What was left? Nothing but the bit of news about naming his son after him. Then he thought about his mother and imagined her and Snape, reuniting as old friends. It hadn't been what Snape had wanted for long in life, but her friendship was worth just as much.
"Mom, I hope you're looking after him from time to time. He needed you. He had so much regret for your death, I saw it." He stooped down again and ran his fingers over the edge of the headstone. He wasn't sure when there would be another time when he'd visit the man. In the back of his mind, he had said all he wanted, yet it wasn't an excuse for him not to come back. Dumbledore had once said it wasn't good for him to dwell on dreams and forget to live. He had a family to look after. They needed him and he had to let go for good.
"Guess I've said all I can say," he said quietly. "Goodbye professor,...and thank you."
Harry stood and took a few steps back, staring at the name Severus Tobias Snape. Then suddenly, out of the blue, a cold wind came along and brushed against his immobile form, threatening to knock him down. After several seconds, it was gone completely.
A muggle forecaster would have found it extremely odd that such a wind would suddenly show up and then suddenly disappear. It didn't fit in the way normal weather worked, but somehow Harry just knew the wind hadn't been a sign of normal weather. It had been a sign of something far more important. He looked up at the sky and smiled. It would be the first and last time Harry ever had physical contact with his late professor. Of course he could have been completely mental for labeling the wind in that way, but it was too much of a coincidence, like his mother's friendship with a dark man. But now the professor had Harry's friendship, whether he wanted it or not. He was in his debt after all.
After one last look at the tomb, Harry turned away. In his ears, he could almost hear the words, 'Well done Mr. Potter'. For he had finally done something to impress the greasy git.
So that was the end of it. Nice and sweet. Severus went on his journey and moved on, and Harry was also able to come to terms with what happened and moved on. Hope you enjoyed it. If ever I have the time, I would like to create another fic concerning Snape. A very very weird one, but for now, this was weird enough.