A/N: Some of the well-known phrases are from DH and GOF. You'll recognize that clearly. :D I believe I've explained everything and wrapped it up nicely. Enjoy, my lovely readers. And thank you so much for reading it.

Here Comes a Lullaby

Harry's heart raced as he waited for the door to open. He felt his stomach lurch. Oh, Merlin, what was he doing? He was going to ruin everything. And for what? Really? For what? Because he thought that it'd make up for all the times Snape saved his pathetic arse? Make up for all the times Harry was convinced of Snape's guilt? All the times he wished Snape had died? Really? Is that why he was here? Out of some foolish attempt to make amends for a man who wouldn't even know Harry was trying to make amends? For a man they didn't even know where the hell was right now?

He watched the doorknob slowly turn and inhaled deeply. He had stood down the Dark Lord numerous times. With help from Snape of course, he added quickly. He couldn't forget that anymore. Snape had played a large role in Harry's life, and the young man hadn't even known it for the most part. This couldn't be as bad as choosing to die, though. He drew in another breath to steel himself as the door opened slowly. This was the right thing to do. He glanced up then and quickly took a step back, nearly falling backwards into the bushes. That was if it had not been for the quick hand that grabbed a hold of Harry and yanked him inside, the door slamming shut behind them.

"Potter!"

"Snape!"

"Oh, boy." Professor Sinistra cleared her throat quietly when the men's eyes darted to her. "I'll just be in the kitchen if you need me."

Harry watched her quickly leave before glancing back at Snape. Snape was the man he had heard laughing earlier? Snape was here? With Sinistra? His eyes narrowed. What in the world was going on?

"How did you find us, Potter?" Snape took several steps back from him, but still wore a dark glare as if he was mere moments from ripping Harry in two. "Answer me!"

"I put a Tracker on the owl and sent it to find Professor Sinistra, sir."

"Who knows you're here?" Snape demanded.

"Ron."

"Of course. Weasley." Snape scoffed, running a hand through his hair before shaking his head. He turned away and limped into the sitting room.

Harry hesitated for a minute. Did that mean he was supposed to follow or not? The man wasn't exactly tossing him out onto his arse yet. But then again, the man wasn't exactly inviting him in either. So, he inhaled slowly and followed after a moment. They needed to talk. Maybe Snape knew that, too. They had a lot to work out. He swallowed when he took a seat on the sofa across from Snape.

"You don't seem that shocked to see me alive," Snape remarked with just a bit of bite to his words now. "Just that I'm here with her."

"The Ministry finally let us hang your portrait, only you weren't in it, sir. Wasn't hard to figure it out after that," Harry replied respectfully, staring at the man.

So many questions. Where would he even begin? Silence clearly, he noted a moment later as they just looked at one another for a long while. The awkward silence was sheer murder on Harry. Why wasn't Snape talking? He frowned inwardly. If the man wasn't going to talk, he would then.

"Still wearing black, I see, Professor," Harry said dryly, forcing an uncomfortable smile to his face as he noticed the man's black shirt and trousers.

"Still a complete pain in the arse Gryffindor, I see," Snape returned with his familiar sarcasm. He leaned back in his recliner then, his arms crossing slowly. "Why are you here?"

"Honestly, sir?" Harry laughed shortly, shrugging. This whole thing was ironic. Really. "I was going to tell Professor Sinistra that you were alive."

"As you can see, she already knows that."

"Yeah," Harry replied quietly. "Obviously, sir."

"Why you, though? Why not McGonagall? Or Flitwick? Clearly the others are involved and likely are aware of your attempts. So, why is it you, Potter?"

"Because I was the one—"

"Quit being an idiot and answer me," Snape snapped. "The truth, Potter."

Harry stared into the black eyes, frowning. Snape was likely using his Legilimency on him again. Or maybe he just saw the guilt written all over Harry. He sighed, shaking his head.

"Because after your funeral, I was there when she resigned, Professor. After Sinistra left, Professor McGonagall told me that Sinistra loved you."

"So? Why do you care?"

"I care because you protected me all those years, Professor, and I-I was an idiot. I thought the worst of you. I was wrong. So, I thought that telling her now would somehow help. Make up for every crap thing I did to you."

"By telling a woman who loves me that I'm not dead after ten years of thinking that I was? Once again, Potter, you surpass even my lowest expectations of your intellect."

"It sounded better in my head."

"Oh, I'm quite certain of that." Snape scoffed.

Harry couldn't stand it anymore. The questions were just bubbling up out of him. He had to get them out before he exploded. "I don't understand any of this, sir. How did you—"

"What, Potter?" He stared at Harry with a dark look of amusement. "Wondering how I managed to survive after you and your little friends left me there to die? Alone?" He smirked at Harry's flinch. "Hurts to hear the truth, doesn't it, Potter? To know that you and your friends—the Golden Trio of Goodness—were as heartless as the Dark Lord himself?"

"I tried to stop the bleeding, Snape, and you damn well know it, you greasy git!" Harry snapped. His words reverberated around the room, making Harry's insides clench. It had been a decade since he had uttered an insult towards Snape. Lately, all his words about the man were praise.

"There's the Potter we all know. Much better than this pretender in his place."

"What?" Harry's frown deepened. "I'm not lying, sir."

"Oh, stow it, Potter. Anyone who ever knew you knows this whole respect crap you're doing with me now is pure show. You don't respect me. You pity me."

"I don't, sir! It's not pity. I swear! I respect—"

"Lies."

"No. It's not! Snape, I respect you! I do! Merlin, I tell my kids every day how you're the bravest man I ever knew, sir. It's the truth. I respect you. It's why I tried—"

"No, Potter. You don't respect me. You pity me."

"You're wrong, Professor. I don't pity you," Harry argued, shaking his head. Why wouldn't the man listen? Why did he have to be such a stubborn git?

"Then, tell me, Potter. Truthfully. Why do you respect me? What did I do to earn that?"

"You protected me all those years and kept me safe."

"Self-serving actions that were merely to repay a life debt to your father and keep a promise to your mother. Nothing more."

"You put yourself in harm's way and spied again so the Order knew when he'd come after me. What the plans were and relayed it to them."

"As I said before, it was merely to keep a promise to your mother."

"No. I mean, you're right. Of course. My mother played a large role in everything you did." Harry paused before glancing at the man. "But the Forest of Dean? You led me to the Sword so I could destroy the Horcruxes."

"As per Albus's orders," Snape replied with a shrug.

"The memories you gave me? The begging to find me when the Dark Lord called you to him? The keeping the students safe from the Carrows?"

"Following Albus's orders so you would know do what needed to be done. Wanting to find you so I could relay that and to get back to my wife. And doing my duty as not only a decent human being, but as a Hogwarts' professor. None of that is a sign of bravery, Potter. Merely me following orders and being human."

"Wait. What? Your wife?" Harry's eyes darted to the direction Professor Sinistra had left in. "You were married before the Final Battle?"

"Perhaps you're not as hard of hearing as I thought you were, Potter." Snape nodded slowly. "Yes. We were married before then."

"But you loved my mother." Harry hadn't meant it to sound so accusatory, but he had thought the man had been solely devoted to her. He was convinced of it based on the memories he saw. It was strange to hear otherwise.

"The keyword in that being 'Loved,' Mr. Potter. I moved on. Obviously."

"But I saw—"

"You saw what I wanted you to see, Potter."

"But." Harry frowned. "I don't understand. Your Patronus is a doe. Like my mum's."

"Yes. And your point is what exactly?"

"Unrequited love or whatever. It's deep and powerful and unending and—" Harry stopped abruptly when Snape chuckled loudly. Wasn't that true? "What?"

"So you would rather I had remained alone, miserable, and bitter the rest of my life?"

"Well, no. I just—I don't know. I thought—well, from what I saw from your memories, my mum was like your life. I didn't—I thought that you didn't—like it was—" Harry sighed. He couldn't explain what he thought.

"You saw what I wanted you to see, Potter," Snape stated, leaning forward in his chair with a relaxed look on his face. "There was no need for you to see anything about my life with Aurora."

"Yeah, but what you did show me made me think your whole life sucked, sir," Harry replied with a sigh. "All this time I thought you suffered so much for us. I mean, we were all gits to you, always adding on top of all the other crap you had to deal with already. Me especially with all the stuff I pulled, thinking that I was better. I didn't see anything in your memories that showed that you received the respect, the honor, the whatever, you deserved. And what you did show, leave as a memory for all of us to remember you by was just—well, people would just remember you as a snarky git who hated everyone, me especially." Harry shrugged. "But I'm clearly wrong."

"You made an assumption based on what you saw. An assumption that anyone would make based on the memories I gave you."

"But why? I mean, I understand why you didn't let me see that part of your life. It's private, but why those memories, sir?"

"Because you've always wanted to know more about your mother," Snape answered softly. "Lupin and the others could only provide some of the story, Potter. They could never give you the back story. Before she came to Hogwarts. I could at least help you with that. And in doing so, you would gain the understanding of what you needed to do, the difficult choice you had to make." Snape sighed. "Willingly sacrificing yourself for others while not knowing the end result? If you would live after making that sacrifice? Now that is brave."

"But you didn't know your end result either, though, sir."

"If I didn't know the Dark Lord would try to kill me that day, then I was clearly a dunderhead then. Of course he'd try to kill me. I killed Albus Dumbledore. So he made an assumption. An incorrect one, but based on what facts he knew, he jumped to the logical conclusion—I killed Albus Dumbledore, ergo I mastered the Elder Wand. Had he ever bothered to ask Mr. Malfoy if he had disarmed him before I and the others had arrived, he'd have known that Mr. Malfoy had. The Dark Lord, however, was too gleeful about Dumbledore's death to ask that question."

"You knew?"

"I believe I just stated that, yes." Snape stared at Harry for a few moments as the young man mulled over that statement. "I'm a Slytherin, Mr. Potter. We're cunning and self-preserving."

"How, sir? How did you survive?"

"As it seemed inevitable towards the end there that he would at sometime try to kill me, I dosed myself frequently with anti-venom potions before I left Hogwarts whenever he called me."

"So that took care of any poisoning that would happen." He watched Snape incline his head. "The wounds to your neck? The moving no more? The lifeless appearance? You really looked dead, Snape." He caught the other man's faint smirk.

"Glad to know I brewed a perfect Draught of Living Death."

"But that's instantaneous, though."

Snape chuckled. "It would seem I was mistaken. You did actually manage to learn something in Potions." He shook his head. "I'm impressed, Mr. Potter." He then drew in a slow breath before speaking with clear pride in his voice. "I made numerous modifications to the potion, namely including a trigger release—something that hadn't to my knowledge been done before. I needed the potion to work at precisely the right moment, you understand. After I had given my memories to you in other words, Potter. None of this would have worked if I hadn't."

"What was the trigger?" Harry quickly thought back to that day after asking. Snape hadn't said a spell or even tried to reach for his wand that had rested beside him. The man frankly was too weak for that. For good reason of course. So, what was the trigger?

"Originally, it was going to be when my systems started to shut down. However, I had changed it during the bottling process." He sighed. "It would be too easy for my systems to have shut down after that massive of blood loss. So I changed it to your eyes meeting mine."

"Look . . . at . . . me . . ."

Harry felt a chill sweep down him as he recalled the ghostly rasp from that day. He still to that day would sometimes relive that moment in his dreams. It was so heart wrenching, and Harry didn't even know at the time how much more it would hurt to know the truth. He nodded numbly. Up until that point that day, he had been so focused on trying to stop the gushing wound to Snape's neck that he hadn't met the man's eyes. He had been too horrified and shocked. If it hadn't been for Snape telling him to take something, he'd never have noticed the memories pouring out of the man in fact.

"Even I knew that you would be your usual idiotic Gryffindor self and strut up to the Dark Lord, so that part was a given clearly. So it was logical. I just needed to make sure that I stayed conscious long enough for you to get the memories."

"I didn't strut," Harry grumbled.

"Well, you didn't necessarily walk all that silently upon finding me."

Harry frowned. This was why he hated the man. Snape always had to find one more thing to insult him about no matter what it was.

"So how did you wake up then, Professor?"

"A week before my supposed death, I had ordered one of Hogwarts' house elves to revive me by use of Wiggenweldpotion upon hearing of anyone mentioning my death."

"Which happened when I told McGonagall." He watched Snape nod slowly. "But your neck, Snape. It was all . . ." Bloody. Sliced open. Pierced. Utter hell. "you know."

"After drinking Draught of Living Death, your body is in suspended animation. You do not suffer any more blood loss in other words. You just stop living temporarily. You can be, however, healed during this time. Which I was by the house elf tasked with reviving me. However, the idiot thing didn't know which potions it was forcing down my throat, just that I had three vials of some sort of potions. Thankfully, I had the foresight of having two Blood Replenishing vials on my persons."

"But the wounds!"

"Dear Merlin, Potter, I'm getting there," Snape hissed rather exasperatedly—more annoyed with being interrupted than angered. "In addition to the Blood Replenishing, the house elf gave me a vial of Felix Felicis."

"Liquid Luck."

"Precisely."

"But you were on the ground bleeding to death, though. How would it help you?"

"State the effects of taking Felix Felicis, Potter. Aloud."

Harry frowned. What was he playing at exactly? He thought back on his experience with it and his learning it from Professor Slughorn before answering.

"All of the drinker's endeavors will tend to succeed. It gives the drinker confidence and a tremendous sense of opportunity." Harry's voice trailed off as keywords flashed in his mind. "All of the drinker's endeavors . . ."

"My wishing to survive clearly succeeded," Snape finished.

"Tremendous sense of opportunity . . ."

"My magic instinctively healed me upon my revival."

"But the burned body, though."

"A Death Eater who stumbled upon the Shrieking Shack in an attempt to gain access to the castle through the use of the secret passage."

"You killed him?"

"He'd have gained access to Hogwarts otherwise."

Harry swallowed back the bile that gathered in his throat. He felt sick again as he stared at the man across from him. He didn't want to ask the next question. But the question left his mouth.

"You burned his body?"

"It was necessary," Snape replied calm and collected like always.

"That's—"

"Would you rather I have left him in the Forbidden Forest for the wolves to eat him, Mr. Potter?"

"You burned his body, Snape! You desecrated—!"

"Do not go thinking that he was some helpless victim, Potter. Had he gained access to Hogwarts, he'd have slaughtered as many of your peers as he could find. And if that didn't satisfy him, he'd have defiled young ladies like Miss Weasley or Miss Granger. His so-called desecration was too good for him frankly, Potter. If I hadn't needed a way to ensure that you all believed that I was dead, I'd have done a hell of a lot more than just burn the Shrieking Shack down with him inside."

Harry glared at him. How could he be so calm about this? Snape had burned another man's body. Why didn't he find his actions sick and disgusting at all? Why was it just Harry who was horrified by it? The younger man then thought more on everything. Maybe Snape wasn't the only one who had played everyone like a damn fiddle.

"When did Professor Sinistra know you were alive? After your so-called funeral? Before? Hell, is she that good of an actress like you are, Snape?" Harry snapped. He ignored Snape's eyes narrowing on him. "Was everything I saw in the Headmaster's office pretend? Did you two plan to run off together and make all of us think you were dead all along so you two could play house with one another?"

"No."

"When did she find out, Snape?" Harry didn't know why he was so upset. Well, maybe he did. Everyone had at one time or another played him like a damn fiddle, and he was tired of it.

"So much for showing respect," Snape remarked quietly.

"When did she find out?" Harry repeated.

"What does it matter, Potter?"

"It matters because it means yet another person lied to—"

"Always has to be about you, doesn't it, Potter? Nothing can ever be about anyone else."

"She knew, Snape! She knew that damn day that you were alive and she didn't—"

"She didn't know anything, Potter! She didn't know until she arrived at the cottage that I was alive. I kept it hidden from her as well." Snape scoffed. "Merlin, Potter, you're even more self-absorbed than your father was. Not everything in the world is about you."

Harry blinked, staring at Snape. He ignored the man's trademark insults as Snape always had to get another barb in at him. Instead, he focused on what Snape had said.

"You didn't tell her?"

"I believe I just said that, yes."

"You didn't tell your wife that you were alive until after she left Hogwarts? After she left your funeral? You didn't tell her?"

If that had been Harry, Ginny would have hexed his arse to Australia. And if it wouldn't have been Ginny, then surely Hermione or Luna would. He stared at Snape, who merely stared back at him.

"You git!"

"I don't believe you have any right to call me names about something that is a private matter, Potter. Or something that happened years ago," Snape pointed out.

"I hope she hexed you for putting her through that."

"And here just a bit ago you were all but singing my praise and spouting how much you respected me, Potter."

Harry glared at him, knowing that Snape was right.

"All because I thought for years now that you were all alone, treated like crap by others, and miserable. Clearly all lies," Harry remarked.

"And obviously you showing that you do, in fact, pity me," Snape replied with a shrug.

"I don't pity you, Snape."

"Oh?" He snorted. "You thought I was all alone," Snape mocked. "That everyone in my life treated me like crap, and that I was miserable as a result." He shook his head, scoffing. "That is pity, Potter. You felt sorry for me. So you decided to take up the cause of being Saint Potter again and get my portrait hung in the Headmaster's office." His dark eyes bore holes into Harry. "Pity and guilt, Potter. Those are what drove you to do all this for me. To make yourself feel better."

"No!" Harry argued.

"Yes, Potter. That's all this is. When you found out that I'm not the miserable bastard you believed I was—not the lonely tortured soul who was hopelessly devoted to your mother, you became angry. Because I'm not fitting with your image of me anymore. Again. Once more you were wrong. And you don't take failure well."

"Does anyone?" Harry snapped, clenching his jaw. He wanted to punch Snape in the nose. Badly. The git.

"Depends what they fail, I suppose," Snape replied with a listless shrug.

"So, what is the real story about you, Snape? Since I have it all wrong according to you."

"I suppose I can divulge that. I have nothing better to do anymore after all," Snape drawled. "I was friends with your mother until I lost my temper one day and snapped at her after she tried to help me. We went our separate ways then obviously. She went to your father. I went to the Death Eaters. I overheard Trelawney's prophecy and relayed it to the Dark Lord. I did not think that it would mean her, though. Had I known before that he'd assume it was her, I'd not have told him. I never wanted Lily to be hurt. She was my best friend. Much like Granger is yours, Potter." Snape frowned, shaking his head.

Harry watched him silently. He knew most of this already, the memories matching up with Snape's words. Well, Harry had assumed that Snape had loved Lily a bit more, like one of those romantic novels Ginny always read—about the tortured man secretly loving a beautiful woman from afar too shy to tell her but loved her so deeply and passionately. Harry frowned. He really shouldn't have listened to his wife's summaries of her novels. They were utter crap.

"I begged the Dark Lord to spare her," Snape continued. "I admit that I told him that I didn't care what happened to you and your father. Because at the time I was still bitter for losing her to him. I came up with a plan b just in case the Dark Lord didn't keep his end of the bargain, and I begged Dumbledore then, too. Saving your mother was my ultimate goal, Potter. I didn't want her to die."

"I didn't think you did, Snape," Harry softly said.

Snape ignored him, though. "The Headmaster had offered me the Potions Master position, so I was at Hogwarts when the news broke out. I couldn't breathe when he told me. I felt as if I had no reason to live anymore. And I told Dumbledore as much. You heard his response to that."

"And what use would that be to anyone?"

Harry glanced down as he recalled Dumbledore's cold, heartless reply. It was something he had snapped at Dumbledore over. For saying that to a man who clearly was devastated.

"It was the right thing to say. Harsh but necessary. My feeling sorry for myself would not make up for my sins. Would not help me redeem myself."

"He didn't care, Snape."

"Is that what you thought every time I said something harsh to you? That I didn't care?"

"Well, it's not exactly a nice way of showing you care, Snape."

"Since when have I ever done things the nice way, Potter?'

Harry shrugged. He supposed the man had a point there. Snape rarely did. He sighed. He was losing this argument again.

"Do you recall when you screamed every spell you knew at me after Dumbledore's death?" Harry nodded slowly. "What did I say to you?"

"Don't call me a coward," Harry replied, frowning.

"No. Before that." He sighed, running a hand through his hair when Harry only stared at him blankly. "Fine. I'll enlighten you." Snape recited from memory, 'Blocked again and again and again until you learn to keep your mouth shut and your mind closed, Potter."

"Yeah, you were being a git."

"No."

"What do you mean 'No?' That was you annoyed at me for trying to hex you."

"Oh dear Merlin. It's like talking to a wall," Snape muttered. "My four-year-old can comprehend things better than you, Potter."

Harry glared at him before his eyes narrowed as the words sunk in. His four-year-old? He stared at the man with his mouth gaped. Snape had kids?

"Potter, what had I taught you the prior year?"

"Potions." Harry watched Snape facepalm instantly. "What?"

"Besides, Potions, Potters. What was I teaching you on Dumbledore's behalf?"

"Occlumency," Harry answered.

"Correct. And what is vital to any good Occlumens?"

"The ability to close your mind." He watched Snape incline his head slowly before the man stared at him with a 'Well, come on, Potter. Figure it out' look. Harry frowned, but thought on it for a bit. He could see the annoyance slowly crossing Snape's features before he sighed. "Oh."

"For my benefit, please, do say it out loud, Potter."

Harry sighed. "You were telling me how you knew which spells I was using at the time."

"And?"

"And you were instructing me to close my mind so it'd not be so obvious what spells I was using, stop being so emotional in other words. You were helping me."

"Precisely."

"What about my first Potions class, though? You were a snarky git. What were you trying to teach me then?"

"That was me being a git," Snape admitted. "I had preconceived notions about you, and there was still clear bitterness for your father. However, I grew out of that as the year progressed. Frankly, after the Forbidden Forest incident, you were merely an annoyance to me."

"You didn't hate me?"

"No. You were clearly not your father. You had moments where you emulated him, but you took after your mother mostly with your kind heart."

Harry stared at Snape for a long time. Had Snape just complimented him?

"What's happening here?"

"We're having a conversation, Potter. Adults tend to do that, you see," Snape drawled.

"Must you always do that?"

"Honestly, yes. It's quite amusing to see you get your feathers all ruffled."

Harry frowned. "Okay, so after my parents' death, Snape, then what happened?"

"I carried on as a Hogwarts professor, promising to protect you if there was any danger. It, however, remained quiet so I attempted to make a life for myself." He glanced away then towards the unlit fireplace. "I hadn't noticed Aurora when we were students. I frankly was too enamored with your mother to do so. However, when Aurora joined the staff a year after I had, I was forced to work closely with her since she was the only other Slytherin on staff besides me."

Harry nodded slowly. Something in Snape's voice had changed now. The familiar annoyance Harry was accustomed to hearing in the man's voice had disappeared. Calmness had replaced it. A sense of peace possibly—Harry couldn't be certain. Snape always guarded his emotions after all.

"She was the only one in most cases to sit beside me willingly at the staff table. It annoyed me greatly at first. She should have been like the others and feared me. However, I soon grew to appreciate her presence beside me. She was the only one who treated me normally. Not as the Death Eater, Dark Arts lover, murderous bastard the others treated me as. We became friends. Or as close to friends as I would let her be."

"Because of Mum?" Harry asked quietly.

"Yes. Everyone I was close to had a habit of either dying or turning out to be another person in my life who wanted to use me. I was tired of both options. So I kept her at bay as long as I could. I had thought I would protect her by doing this."

Harry nodded slowly, recalling doing the same to Ginny once.

"Only Aurora doesn't know the meaning of the word no." Snape shook his head, snorting as he remembered something as well. "I pushed her away time after time. Every day that I pushed her away, she'd come back the next, telling me she wasn't taking no as an answer."

"Pushy," Harry remarked quietly.

"Stubborn as hell," corrected Snape, shaking his head. "A year before you arrived to Hogwarts, I finally gave up telling her no. I thought she'd lose her interest if I showed her just what a relationship with me would be like—the bastard she wanted to be with in other words. She accepted my faults and embraced my mistakes no matter how horrible they were. She returned it all with love and forgiveness and kindness."

"You fell in love with her."

"Obviously," Snape said with a snort. He sighed, shaking his head. "We agreed that we'd keep our relationship a secret from everyone. I didn't want her to deal with idiots making smartarse remarks to her about being with me. She didn't deserve that. So, we'd sneak around to be with each other. She'd go on the occasional dates to keep up appearances. I'd spend the weekend brewing to keep from punching the hell out of whichever loser she was with this time."

Harry smiled faintly. He recalled that jealousy too easily. He still had issues with it whenever Ginny would be meeting with Dean or Seamus. He hadn't thought he was that similar to Snape.

"It wasn't easy. But it was necessary. To keep her safe." Snape frowned. "When the Dark Mark started to grow darker each day, I knew I had made the right decision by keeping our relationship a secret. Too many times, men had been destroyed by the loss of a woman. I had thought frequently that year of ending our relationship, but I had grown to care for her too deeply by that time. When Mr. Diggory died, I returned several hours later to the Dark Lord as per Dumbledore's orders. Since I was one of the last to arrive, the Dark Lord was not in a good mood. He punished me for my tardiness. I don't need to go into detail with that I'm sure."

Harry nodded slowly. He could imagine how the man was tortured for that.

"When I returned to Hogwarts, I could barely move. Aurora was in my rooms. She had waited for me to return. She healed me to the best of her abilities. Shoved numerous potions down my throat to soothe my pain. Not once did she tell me that I was an idiot for going back to the Dark Lord. For letting Dumbledore manipulate me once more by bringing up my promise to protect you for Lily. Not once. Instead, she just held me and stayed by my side."

Harry remained silent as Snape was quiet for a bit. He could not even imagine the pain the man had gone through for him. He wanted to tell Snape that was brave of him to return, but he knew the man would argue fiercely.

"You were correct in your thinking that my legacy would only be that of bitterness and anger. I didn't want that to be all that was left behind if I died. So, when I woke up later with her in my arms, I asked her to marry me. She would be my one good thing in the world. Even if no one knew it." Snape paused again for a few moments before he continued. "We married in a small church in Cokeworth a little past three that following morning. She flatly told the priest that we were non-believers and asked him if his God would allow him to marry us. The priest likely thought we were drunk, but he married us straight away after Aurora promised a large donation for his God." Snape chuckled, shaking his head. "Since we eloped in the Muggle world, there would be no chance that anyone would know. We gave each other no rings. And you'd not have known we were married if you watched us closely. We wore our masks perfectly. Rooming separately most nights except for the rare occasional date nights when one of us would check into a hotel and the other would Apparate in later when it was clear."

"Did you two ever think about coming clean? Telling the others that you were married?"

"No. I'd have put her in danger, Potter. And she'd have faced scorn from the others."

"Did she care—"

"Of course not. She would have shouted how much she loved me from her tower if given the chance. She accepted all of me, Potter. The good and the bad." Snape frowned. "When Umbridge arrived, though, it became extremely difficult. Umbridge knew the staff was hiding something so she was always trying to catch us in a lie she could extort for her pleasure. That year I rarely saw Aurora."

Harry didn't know why he cared. It was Snape's business. Not his. Still, the question remained.

"Did you tell her that you were going to kill Dumbledore, Snape?"

"No. I couldn't risk her trying to stop me. She may embrace the bad, but she has an annoying habit of trying to save me as well." Snape sighed. "The first thing she did when she returned here for the summer after she saw me was hex me. Well, that and punch me."

"Ouch." Harry winced in sympathy.

"You have no idea." He shook his head. "She knew there was more to the story unlike you and the others," he pointed out. "She felt betrayed and hurt by my not trusting her. By my not letting her in."

"She forgave you, though."

"Eventually. I didn't tell her the whole story. Like you, I only gave her pieces. She could see the signs as clear as I could, though, as the year progressed. That war was coming. I made the plans about the hereafter in secret. I kept her in the dark again. I had told her that if anything happened, though, I wanted her to return to the house. It was mostly so I knew where she'd be afterwards."

Harry nodded. He could understand that.

"So, once I was finished setting everything up to make all of you believe I had died, I returned to our house. Here. I didn't contact her. Didn't even try. I needed her to believe I was dead so she'd act accordingly. So everyone would truly believe it. I knew she'd not be able to stay at Hogwarts after my 'funeral.' So I waited here for her to arrive." Snape frowned, picking at a loose thread on the armchair. "We didn't play house, though, Potter. Certainly we've had a better life away from the Wizarding World, but don't think we've had all fun and games now."

Harry frowned. Snape's life sounded good now. It was loads better than what the man had lived through in the Wizarding World. Going through hell for them and secretly being apart from his wife.

"She cut all ties to her family, her friends for this. For this one little slice of normalcy for us. So we could for once just be husband and wife. Not have to give a damn about anyone else but ourselves."

"We've been at peace for a decade now," Harry stated. "You both could come back. I've seen to it that you're seen as a hero by the public, Snape. Hell, we both know if it hadn't been for you, I'd never have made it past my first year."

"Do you think I've not thought about it, Potter? That I enjoy hiding her away from her family and friends because of me?" Snape shook his head. "I've never met my in-laws or even my sister-in-law. So, I hardly believe we'd be welcomed back with open arms with the amount of lies we've told."

Harry glanced down, frowning.

"You said you have a four-year-old," he said quietly. "How many kids do you have?

"Three. Two daughters and a son," Snape answered. "With another child on the way."

Harry chuckled before he glanced at him. "Sounds like you and the professor are becoming the next Weasley family, Snape," the younger wizard joked. He caught Snape's snort instantly.

"Hardly."

"I have three kids, too. Two sons and a daughter." He watched Snape nod once. "My sons love to hear me tell them stories about Hogwarts. My youngest son most especially. He enjoys hearing about the man he's named after." He caught a flicker of something in Snape's eyes before it vanished. "You, sir."

"Naming your son after me is rather foolish, Potter," Snape quietly said. "It's a wretched name."

"Well, Ginny only let me give it as a middle name to him. Not a first name. She didn't think it was right to name him after you."

"Bit of a controlling woman, isn't she?" he remarked before shaking his head. "You named him as to pay tribute to me?" He exhaled loudly when Harry nodded. "How . . . nice."

"He inherited my mum's eyes." Harry watched Snape nod stiffly. "He goes by the name of 'Al' mostly, though. For Albus Severus Potter." Snape nodded again. "He loves hearing about you."

"You have romanticized views of me that are incorrect, Potter. I'm not a hero."

"But, Snape, you—"

"I told you, Potter. Everything I did was either me following Albus's orders or was due to me attempting to redeem myself. I did nothing heroic. Nothing truly for the Greater Good."

Harry frowned. He wasn't going to win this argument with the man. He rarely won an argument with Snape ever actually. He shook his head.

"Fine, but you can still come back. We already know you're alive. Maybe it won't be that bad."

"Perhaps."

Harry's eyes narrowed. Did that mean Snape agreed? Or that he disagreed with Harry? The man's neutral look didn't help either. He frowned. He was never going to understand this man.

"I mean, who knows? Her parents could be really happy to find out their grandparents."

"After being lied to and kept in the dark for years? I sincerely doubt it, Potter."

"Yeah, but it's been years since they even heard from her, not to mention seen the professor. They might just be glad to see her, Snape."

"Perhaps."

Harry glared at him. He was getting rather tired of the man's 'perhaps.' Snape sounded like—well, Harry actually. That made the younger man pause for a moment.

"Why do you keep saying that?" He watched Snape glance at him.

"Because it upsets you, and I have nothing better to entertain me anymore."

Harry frowned. He'd say it again. That git. The silence settled around them for a while. It wasn't awkward anymore. Not after learning so much about one another. Harry wouldn't be an idiot and say they were friends, but they were like old comrades now. Or something. He didn't really know what.

"Snape?"

"Yes, Potter?"

"Are you happy now?" Harry turned his head to glance at Snape, whom he owed so much.

"Yes, Potter." Snape nodded slowly. "I think I finally am."

"Good." Harry smiled before he stood up. He held his hand out to Snape, noticing the man's brows furrow again. They shook a moment later. "Thank you, sir. For everything." Harry then glanced towards the kitchen before looking back at Snape. "If you ever think about coming back, you and your family are always welcome at my house, Snape."

"Call me Severus, Harry," the man quietly spoke as he caught Harry's green eyes.

"Good night, Severus," Harry said with a grin, nodding before he left. All was finally well.