Disclaimer: I don't own anything recognizable here.

A/N: As I said in the summary, this story is canon-compliant except that Snape survives Nagini's attack. I attempted to convey the relationship that would have grown between Harry and Snape if that had happened, given the respect that Harry shows for Snape after viewing his memories.

They sat in that room together, one man and one boy. The man was not yet old, yet seemed much older than his years. The boy was not yet grown, but had already lived more than most men do in a lifetime.

The first week there were no words. There could not be. The man lay still on the bed, his softly rising chest the only sign that he was still alive. The boy sat on a stool pulled next to the bed, his feet pulled up to the first rungs of the chair's legs, his back straight. He did not speak or even move, only watched the steady rise and fall.

There were visitors that week. a girl and a boy, one with brown hair and one with red. They came twice to sit with the boy on the stool. A few words were exchanged then, always in whispers, as though they were afraid to wake the man in the bed. The exchanges were terse and brief, and then the two others left, leaving the boy alone.

It seemed that he liked to be alone. It seemed that he preferred the silence.

The man woke halfway through the second week. He came to slowly, and then slipped back into sleep, like a person pulled from a deep dream in the middle of the night. When he moved and opened his eyes, the boy started, his foot sliding down to the floor to catch himself as he rose up off the stool. But he did not try to speak, to call for the Healers, anything. He was just watching, just sitting with him, just protecting him. He resumed his post, a solitary sentinel waiting for the crack of dawn.

The dawn came, and with it the man woke for good. He looked around him and saw the boy, green eyes wide with apprehension and hope. Though the man did not speak, did not move his mouth, his eyes acknowledged the boy. The green eyes and the black ones exchanged an understanding as they had once before. The man knew why the boy was there. The boy knew that the man didn't mind.

The Healers said that the man might never speak again. At one point, that might have bothered him. Now, he found he had nothing to say anyway.

The boy could not stay as frequently in the next weeks. He was forced away from that silent room and out into the world, where cameras flashed and people screamed. They wanted the boy to speak, to comfort, to advise. Yet he always returned to the silent room, where safety was found in simple trust. He began to write in that room, in a small notebook with a Muggle pen, writing out long stories of danger and adventure and bravery. Stories that the man knew were true.

He wrote of a wedding and funerals, of children and parents, of house-elves and lockets and cups. He told tales of hunger and friendship and anger. One night he wrote a story of a silver doe guarding a frozen pool. When the boy returned the day after writing that one, he found the man's eyes filled with tears. He smiled slightly, and swore he got a small one in return.

Every night, when the boy shut the heavy door behind him, he left behind that notebook, on the bedside table, where the man could pick it up and read it. In return, the man took up the Muggle pen, and slowly, with enormous care, began to write his own stories, underneath the ones the boy had written that day.

He wrote about his childhood, along the shores of a muddy river, following a long sheet of bright red hair as it bounced and ran and played.

He wrote about his Hogwarts years. Of Slytherin alliances, and love and hate, but most of of all, of choices.

He wrote of Death Eaters and spying and teaching, of love and fear and pain and bravery. On a night in the fourth week, the man noticed that he had almost reached the last page in the notebook. When he arrived the next evening, the boy dropped a brand new notebook and a small packet of six pens onto the bedside table. The first five pages were already full, of a story describing a robbery of a magical bank. The man smiled. He had heard a bit of that story before. He was eager to know what had really happened.

The man couldn't speak and the boy didn't want to. They weren't writing letters; they weren't communicating to each other. It was almost as though they were speaking in turn, telling two parts of the same story, blending it into a seamless whole. Perhaps they hoped that together, the story would find meaning.

They understood each other, that man and that boy. They knew that they were the two sacrificial lambs for the saving of their world. They were the two hearts who were now beating past their time, the two souls that should have long since departed.

Yet they had both survived.

Perhaps there was some meaning in that.