Title: Always

Author: Woodland Goddess

Rated: M

Pairing: None.

Warnings: Mentions of dark themes.

Disclaimers: I own nothing publically recognisable. All known characters and settings belong to J K Rowling and her various publishers; I am making no profit from this.

Summary: Albus-Severus Potter goes on a midnight stroll, encountering a shocking apparition.

Albus Severus Potter lay still in his four-poster bed, listening closely, ensuring that the others in his dorm were asleep, before carefully and quietly pushing his blankets aside. He shifted the drapes surrounding his bed and quietly climbed out of bed, slipping his feet into his warm, fur-lined slipper-boots. He pulled on his Slytherin-green dressing-gown, tying the sash securely, before opening his trunk at the end of his bed, searching for the silvery, silken fabric of the Invisibility Cloak, which his father had given to him when he turned eleven.

By rights, the cloak should have passed on to James, as the elder son in the family, but his father had explained to him that he felt he could trust Albus to use it more wisely than his rascal of a brother would have. But Albus had found a quick use of the cloak, that enabled him to break a minor school rule on a nightly basis; the rule that declared students were not to be out of bed past curfew. In fairness, Albus really did not see the harm in it, as he was hardly doing something nefarious with his time.

Once Albus had the cloak in his hands, he closed the trunk, and swirled the cloak around him, making sure he was covered from head to toe – like his father, he was rather short for his age, unlike James who had sprouted several inches this past summer, due to his Weasley heritage. Albus had inherited the Prewitt Creativity Gene, or so Nana Molly had called it. It was what his Uncle George and his late Uncle Fred had had – just like the late Gideon and Fabian Prewitt before them. Rose and Louis had it, too...but they did not know he had the cloak. He had kept that titbit of knowledge to himself.

His father had entrusted the cloak to him, which meant that he could not encourage the others to be mischievous by informing them of the cloak's current whereabouts. As far as they were concerned, his father had the cloak in his pocket at all times – just in case he needed it at work. His father had a dangerous job, after all, what with chasing down Dark Wizards and upcoming terrorists on a regular basis, putting fear in everyone's hearts when he and Uncle Ron were late for dinner or some family gathering – like the traditional Weasley Quidditch Match during the summer.

Besides, with him in Slytherin, and the others in Gryffindor, it would have been rather difficult to share the cloak with them anyway. It was better off in his hands; he would be able to keep it safe, even as he used it on his nightly adventure. Albus glanced surreptitiously at the other beds, where Scorpius Malfoy and the other boys were curled up in bed, some of them having forgotten to pull their curtains closed. Albus shook his head in mild exasperation and left, closing the door gently behind him.

Moving on quick and silent feet, Albus was soon making his way across the school grounds, heading towards the lake, where the statues of the War Memorial circled that vast body of water, standing sentinel over the grounds. Without even conscious effort, Albus found himself standing, for the first time this school year, in front of the same statue he had stood in front of, every school night, for the past six years. Albus stared up at the alabaster statue before him, the features of which he had long since memorized. The scowl that knitted the eyebrows together, the large nose, the thin lips, the way the stone eyes seemed to glitter darkly at him; it was all familiar to him.

"Hello, Professor," Albus said quietly as he pulled off the Invisibility Cloak, settling it on the ground, before taking a seat, making himself comfortable as he stared up at the man for which he had been named, the man without whom he would not have been born, because the Dark Lord, Voldemort would have purged the Wizarding World of blood like his...the impure blood of Muggleborns and Half-Bloods. The statue did not say anything in response, but Albus had not expected it to. It was only a statue, after all, but even so...Albus felt the ever-present urge to talk to it.

"It's a beautiful night, tonight. The moon's crescent-shaped and the stars are in full view – a number of the constellations are visible," Albus said softly, shifting around so that he could rest his back against the base of the memorial statue of Severus Snape. "I think you'd like it tonight, if you were here." Albus gazed up at the sky as he spoke. "Dad mentioned you a lot this past summer. It was very unusual for him...he usually never speaks about things...and people that cause him pain..."

Albus sighed quietly, and took the moment to gather his thoughts. "I think it was because of that Skeeter woman, working for the Daily Prophet. She was saying horrible things about you in an article during the summer...saying that the only reason that Dad fought so hard to have your name cleared was because you were...were...taking advantage of him at school...and...that...he...mistook it for love. But I know that wasn't how it was. He doesn't talk about the past often, but when he does, it's always to tell us something important...you were Nana Lily's school friend...her best friend. You loved her."

Albus pulled a fistful of grass away from the ground in a fit of anger, before throwing it away in frustration. "Minister Fleur Weasley punched her in the face for saying something so nasty about you. I'm glad she did. You didn't deserve what Skeeter wrote about you. Not only was it horrible, it was completely untrue and I...I was just...so...so..." Albus fell silent, wrapping his arms around his legs, hugging his knees to his chest, resting his chin against his knees. Albus closed his eyes, trying to ignore the sting of his tear ducts.

"I was so angry...I wanted to hurt her...and I know that sounds terrible...but...I...you...she...she's just such a...bitch!" Albus growled and slammed his head back against the statue, but not too roughly. His father would kill him if he brained himself on Snape's statue...or if he damaged the statue with his head. "After everything you did for Dad...for the Wizarding World...how can she say that about you? It isn't fair! You don't deserve such foul treatment! If it wasn't for you, I...I wouldn't exist...because Dad...and everyone I hold dear...would be dead.

"You're the reason the Light Side won the war. Not Dad...not Aunt Hermione...not Professor Longbottom...not Dumbledore...you. Without you, everything would have been lost. Dad swore his magic upon that fact, but I know it myself without his telling me. I know it in my heart, the same way I know my own name." Albus' breath left him in a frustrated sigh, before he spent several long moments trying to get himself under control. When he was finally calm again, he continued speaking to Snape's statue.

"Dad says I'm a lot like you...even though you were long gone before I was born. He says it's in the little things like that when I'm thinking deeply about something, I run the tip of my index finger along the edge of my bottom lip, something he'd seen you do on several occasions. He also said that when I'm in a particularly foul mood, I sneer and scowl a lot. I never noticed until now that when I'm in a bad mood, Dad gets this distant look in his eyes, like he's seeing some other time...some other place...or something."

Albus released his legs, stretching them out again and lowered his arms, running his fingertips across the soft dewy grass. "Aunt Hermione says I have a flare for brewing the likes of which she hasn't seen in a long time and Ex-Headmistress McGonagall says she wouldn't be surprised if I got straight Os in my NEWTs. She said no one's achieved grades so high since you were a student – not even Uncle Percy, which surprises me really, because he's such an annoying prat of a nerd sometimes...hell...all the time."

Albus let out a breath. "This sounds like I'm bragging. That's not my intention, I swear it." Albus shook his head, and looked up at the school. "I should go, in case the others wake up." Albus climbed to his feet and picked up the cloak, dusting it off. "I'll see you tomorrow night, Professor." Albus had moved a few yards away from the lake when a light breeze eased its way through his messy black hair, but none of the trees were swaying in the breeze. Neither were the blades of grass at his feet, for that matter.


Albus froze midstride when a voice like crushed silk assailed his eardrums. "Don't be afraid; I have precious little time." Albus, his spine rigid, turned on the spot, to see the likeness of Severus Snape – more fog than real substance – almost flowing down from his statue. Albus could see through him the same as he could see through the Bloody Baron or any of the other Hogwarts ghosts, but he knew Snape was not a ghost. He was...something else...something Albus could not explain.

The man's pale face flickered in an out of sight, as his robes of fog billowed around, blown this way and that by a breeze that was non-existent elsewhere on the grounds. "You're dead," Albus said, taking a step backwards.

Fog-Snape snorted in derision. "Obviously." Fog-Snape narrowed his eyes at Albus, who had continued to take steps backwards. "Stop moving, boy; I want to talk to you, damn it, and I don't have much time. So, I'd appreciate some cooperation if you don't mind."

"What did you want to talk about, then?"

Fog-Snape moved until he hovered in front of Albus, and his dark eyes searched Albus' face for something. When the apparition found what he was looking for, his expression softened fractionally. "You have your grandmother's eyes..."

"...That's what you wanted to say? I already knew that."

Fog-Snape bristled, his expression hardening. "No, you dunderhead, that was just an observation." The apparition seemed to take a breath before continuing, his voice quiet and burning with intensity and severity. "Promise me that you'll look after Lily."

"I promise."

Fog-Snape looked off towards Hogwarts for a long moment, before looking back at Albus. "I won't make you swear upon your magic, because such oaths tend to do more harm than good. Can I trust you to keep your word, Albus, no matter what happens in the future?" the apparition demanded to know.

Albus nodded vigorously. "Always!"

Fog-Snape's expression softened again, and against everything that his Dad had told him the man smiled, almost sadly, as he acquired a faraway look. "I said that once..." the man murmured before he seemed to remember himself with a start. "I've moments only now. Stick to your word. Go on, now." Albus nodded again, turning on the spot as he ran towards the school. He stopped again when Fog-Snape spoke up again. "Oh, and Albus?" Albus whirled around once more to face the apparition.

"Tell Pot...tell Harry that it wasn't his fault. There was nothing he could have done. Tell him to stop tormenting himself over something he couldn't have changed. It's been twenty-six years since I walked the earth, but I don't regret what I did...because it meant that he could live."

Then, as if the breeze had blown him away, Fog-Snape was gone, leaving Albus alone on the grounds, staring at the place where his namesake had vanished.