Luna opened the front door to find the last person she ever expected to visit this house standing on the threshold.

"Harry!" she exclaimed before his arm had time to drop from where it had been knocking a second ago.

"Hi, Luna," he said, smiling.

"What a surprise! I thought you'd never want to come here again."

It was an understandable assumption, Harry thought, given the welcome he'd received last time he'd paid a visit. He had never told Luna what her father had done; Mr. Lovegood must have told her himself. He hoped it didn't trouble them too much – Harry understood how broken-hearted Mr. Lovegood must have been over the loss of his daughter and had long since forgiven him for the rash, desperate attempt to get her back. Harry was grateful that he could confidently expect things to be less awkward and strained among the blunt, artless Lovegoods than he could have among any other people.

This wasn't the time to discuss his last trip here, however. "Sorry I didn't send an owl first," Harry said, "but I have something important to ask your father, and I couldn't wait, so I just Apparated over, and..."

"Important?" Luna repeated. "Did you spot a Crumple-Horned Snorkack? The Quibbler's preparing a new list of possible sightings for a future issue..."

It may have been rude, but Harry had to interrupt her: "No, sorry, but it is about The Quibbler, actually. When I saw your dad at Fred Weasley's funeral, he said..." Harry paused as he saw Mr. Lovegood himself slowly enter the room behind his daughter, looking ashamed and even, Harry thought, slightly afraid. Harry waited until the man looked him in the eyes, hoping he could read in them that Harry didn't hate him, before half-turning back to Luna and continuing. "... he said he owed me a favor and, if I ever needed help with anything, to let him know straightaway if there was anything he could do." Mr. Lovegood nodded, and a look of relief and hope sprang into his eyes.

"How wonderful!" Luna said, beaming. "That'll make Dad feel so much better! Come in!" She grabbed Harry's arm, pulling him inside, and gestured for her father to come closer. Harry held out his hand; Mr. Lovegood hesitated briefly but then reached out and shook it.

"Good to see you again, Mr. Potter," Xenophilius said. Harry could tell he meant it.

"Good to see you, too, Mr. Lovegood," he replied.

"What can I do for you?"

Harry explained, "I need you to print another story for me – a story that needs to be told. I've gone to The Daily Prophet, Transfiguration Today, Witch Weekly, everyone. They've all refused; they say nobody wants to hear it, and they're probably right – nobody does want to know the truth about this, but everyone needs to know it. It probably won't change anything, but if it can help even a little, it'll be worth it. If I tell you what..."

"Anything you want, Mr. Potter, consider it published," Mr. Lovegood said instantly. "You know you can always count on The Quibbler to expose the lies spread by the Ministry and The Prophet."

"Yes, I do know," Harry agreed. The Quibbler seemed to be the only source of information in Britain that wasn't afraid to tell people what they didn't want to hear, that was more concerned with saying what it wanted to say than in conforming to popular opinion; in spite of Hermione's criticisms of their factual errors, Harry could feel nothing but admiration for that – admiration and gratitude that was about to double.

"Shall we have some tea while we discuss the details?" Mr. Lovegood asked as he waved his wand and lit the stove.

"Thanks," Harry answered simply.

"Aguamenti." As Mr. Lovegood filled the kettle, he asked, "Is Rita Skeeter writing your story again, Mr. Potter?"

"No," Harry answered. "I am."

Two weeks later, after some revisions by Xenophilius Lovegood, The Quibbler ran the story:

The True Hero: Harry Potter Expresses His Thanks To A Fallen Ally

Every day since the fall of Voldemort, you've read a new story about the acts of heroism, bravery, and sacrifice performed by the resistance who fought against the Chief Death Eater and his regime. It has been my honor to tell many of them personally, to ensure the stories of those who believed in me, supported me, protected me, and fought alongside me, many paying the ultimate price, will not be forgotten. It's been difficult to talk about how Fred Weasley, Alastor Moody, Remus and Nymphadora Tonks Lupin, Colin Creevey and others gave their lives for our freedom, but it's the least I can do to repay them, and I thank you for always being willing to listen.

There is, however, one ally I have been unable to thank as of yet, one whose story no paper nor publisher has let me tell you, whose contribution to the war has been either widely disbelieved or denied by some and artfully concealed by others, who it is the fashion to hate and condemn as strongly as Voldemort himself. He is the man who, my friends and I strongly agree, did the most, gave the most, and endured the most for the cause, without whom we could never have defeated Voldemort. I can safely say that he won the war for us, and you owe your freedom today to his courage, cunning, perseverance, and strength, as I owe him my life. He deserves to be remembered as the hero he is, not as the conniving, backstabbing villain you've only been allowed to know him as until now. Today, you will hear the truth about him. Whether you choose to believe it or not is up to you.

This is the true story of Professor Severus Snape.

You're now wondering, Are you mad, Potter – wasn't Severus Snape a Death Eater?! Yes, yes he was. He befriended many other future Death Eaters while he was still a young student at Hogwarts, embraced the Slytherin concept of pure blood superiority, willingly joined Voldemort's ranks, bore his mark, and did his bidding. He was the one who informed Voldemort of the prophecy of a Chosen One who could cause his downfall, whose report of said prophecy led directly to my parents' murders.

Even before I learned about his role in my parents' deaths, I loathed Severus Snape every day that I knew him. He did his best to make my life at Hogwarts miserable and seemed to savor every minute of it (I was hardly the only student he went out of his way to torment unjustly, either). Every year, my hatred for him only increased, as did his towards me, it seemed. Every minute I was forced to spend in his presence was torture – he insulted me, insulted my father, humiliated me, persecuted me and any student who wasn't Slytherin, demanded respect he never gave, and terrified his students so badly that we were incapable of learning what we needed to satisfy him in class. Outside the classroom, he outed my favorite professor Remus Lupin as a werewolf, leading to his resignation, he interfered with our attempt to bring Peter Pettigrew to justice and tried to have my godfather Sirius Black sent back to Azkaban for the crime he never committed, and spent his first year in the new Order of the Phoenix constantly taunting Sirius until he drove him to recklessly follow me to the Department of Mysteries, where he met his death.

I already blamed Severus Snape for the death of my godfather long before I learned he was the one who told Voldemort part of Sybill Trelawney's prophecy and watched him kill Albus Dumbledore. I never trusted him once and fully believed that he always wanted me dead as badly as Voldemort did, and I always hated him, in a way I never knew it was possible to hate. Had anyone told me how I would regard him today, I would not only have been utterly incapable of believing a word of it, I would have attacked them in a rage for putting such a disgusting image of myself in my head.

Just the memory of the intense hatred I once felt for Professor Snape is painful now; my only consolation is that it serves as a testimony to the success of his deception. His hatred for me was not an act, but the apparent reasons behind it were. I was not alone in thinking he was loyal to Voldemort all along, helping him to return to power, and hated me because I was his master's enemy and destroyer, the Chosen One, whom he couldn't wait to see defeated. I misjudged him, as has everyone, as he intended.

Severus Snape succeeded all too well in his goal of convincing the world of his allegiance to Voldemort when, in reality, he was no longer a Death Eater. He turned his back on Voldemort and his followers and became Dumbledore's most valuable spy, bringing him vital information about the Death Eaters and simultaneously feeding the Death Eaters false information in both of the wizarding wars. He protected me from Voldemort and Quirinius Quirrell when I was eleven. He underminded many of Dolores Umbridge's plots against me when I was fifteen. He unwittingly taught me more about potions in less than one year when I was sixteen than I've ever learned about any subject in my life, things I have no doubt will enable me to achieve my ambition of becoming an Auror, including an antidote that saved my best friend's life.

All that time, he played his part as a loyal Death Eater spying on Dumbledore so perfectly that Voldemort never had the slightest suspicion he was actually spying on him for Dumbledore. Because of his flawless performance, he was made Headmaster of Hogwarts once the Ministry fell and was in a position to protect the students as best he could from the Carrow siblings' cruelty. He protected the Sword of Gryffindor by giving Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange a fake copy and gave me the real one when I needed it to destroy one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. Without the Sword of Gryffindor, without Snape, we might never have been able to defeat Voldemort, certainly not as soon as we did.

Unbeknownst to both me and Voldemort, Snape was never helping Voldemort to kill me but watching over me and helping to protect me. His final act was, with his dying breaths, to give me the last pieces of the puzzle that showed me how to defeat Voldemort once and for all. It was because of Snape that I discovered letting Voldemort kill me, destroying his last, accidentally-made Horcrux, was necessary to destroy him. Snape showed me the way to victory, more concerned that I knew it than with his impending death – it was an inevitability he had knowingly and willingly accepted long ago.

Severus Snape sacrificed not only his life for the defeat of Voldemort but his conscience and reputation, as well. I know full well that he hated his job as a spy and what it meant he had to witness without raising a hand to prevent. I know there were times when the strain became so hard to bear that he tried to end the arrangement with Dumbledore, although, fortunately for me, he never did. The look of revulsion and hatred I saw in his eyes that night on the Hogwarts' Astronomy Tower was not directed at Dumbledore; it was directed at himself, for what he was about to do. The importance of his mission did not make pretending to be Voldemort's devoted follower any less distasteful to him, nor the things he was forced to do any less painful, and I can't help but believe that he welcomed death's release from his burden. Whenever I start to dwell on all the things Snape and I never had the chance to talk about and become foolish enough to wish that he had survived, I have to remind myself that living would have been the crueler end for him, that he knew that his actions would make friends, allies, strangers, future generations, everyone hate him (for killing Dumbledore, alone, if for nothing else), regardless of their necessity, that he would go down in history as a coward, a traitor, and an irredeemable scoundrel. I can't imagine how he had the strength to pay that price.

You notice that I don't deny that Snape killed Dumbledore. Yes, he did, as I saw firsthand, and now I'm going to tell you why. Dumbledore ordered Snape to kill him because he was already dying. He was slowly being killed by a curse Voldemort put on one of his Horcruxes (a ring); Dumbledore was able to destroy it with the Sword of Gryffindor, but destroying it did not break the curse. Snape's skill with antidotes could only buy Dumbledore a year, so he instructed Snape to kill him for three reasons. One was that he knew Voldemort had assigned an eager new protege of his, one Draco Malfoy, to assassinate him, and Dumbledore neither wanted his student to ruin his own soul by trying to succeed nor to see Voldemort punish him for failure. The second was that, if Snape killed him, it would completely cement Voldemort's trust in him; no one would ever question where Snape's loyalties lay – it would make his deception utterly foolproof. The third was that Dumbledore's inevitable death, either from the curse or at the hands of any Death Eater, would no doubt be a drawn-out, agonizing, tortuous experience. Snape ending Dumbledore's life for him quickly and painlessly was an act of mercy and the result of a plan Dumbledore himself crafted and ordered Snape to carry out. Their plan worked. I called Snape a coward that night – I now know that it was one of the bravest acts he ever did, and, if you believe me (I have no motive for lying about it), you must understand that, too.

But, of course, you don't believe that Severus Snape was really on my side and that everything he did was under Dumbledore's orders and to bring Voldemort down. You don't believe it for the same reason I didn't believe it for years – I didn't know why. Why did Snape switch sides so suddenly? Why did he start working against the man he used to serve? Why did he join the Order of the Phoenix and become their spy? Why did he endure years of such misery? Why was he willing to lie, kill, and die to protect me and stop Voldemort? Why – what was his motive all along, a motive strong enough to make Dumbledore never doubt a man who was, apparently, such a superb actor? Why did he do it? I asked Dumbledore this question for years and never got an answer, and because I didn't know the reason why Snape changed sides, I assumed there was no reason for him to switch sides, so I assumed he never really did.

I know the reason why now. I know why Snape left Voldemort's side, why he wanted to atone for his crimes as a Death Eater, why he agreed to serve Dumbledore in any way the great wizard asked, and why Voldemort never suspected him. I learned the reason why the day Snape died; I saw it in his own memories via Pensieve. I never intended to announce the reason to the world like this. Yes, I shouted it and cast it in Voldemort's face right before he died because I wanted him to know how thoroughly Severus Snape tricked and defeated him. I'm not surprised that no one in the crowd around us that day has mentioned it since – even if, in the midst of that day's chaos and horror, they were able to take in what I was saying to Voldemort, such information couldn't have been high on anyone else's list of concerns on or after that day. Yes, I desperately wanted Voldemort to know why and how Snape had fooled him (as it turned out, the why and the how in this case are one and the same). Snape himself never wanted anyone to know; Dumbledore promised him no one ever would and kept that promise, no matter how hard he was pressed, causing me and the Order of the Phoenix years of frustration.

There was, of course, an obvious, partly-practical reason for Dumbledore to keep Snape's motives secret: he had a cover to maintain, and the more grounds our side would have had to trust him, the more grounds Voldemort would have had to mistrust him. I say this only partially justifies the secrecy, however, because I still highly doubt his cover had much risk of being blown if I or certain members of the Order knew the truth all along; I can't picture us letting it leak to the Death Eaters. No, the security of his cover alone does not explain Snape's insistence that no one know his motive nor Dumbledore's steadfast refusal to reveal it, and, no, it was nothing for him to be ashamed of. It was something too personal and precious and painful to be shared with the world, a valuable pearl that it would have been sinful to cast before the public swine for them to gossip about and misinterpret.

Now that the war is over, Snape's secret can't hurt him – not anymore. Perhaps I still have no right to reveal it. I truly have no wish to reveal it... but circumstances have proven it must be done, and I'm the only one who can. It's the only chance I have to clear a man's name. It can either convince people, as it convinced me, or it will do nothing, but it cannot make anything worse. If the world is to accept the truth about Severus Snape, I see it must know the whole truth.

The truth is that Severus Snape left the Death Eaters and became a spy for the Order because he was in love with my mother Lily Evans Potter. The Slytherin who believed in the supremacy of pure blood loved the Muggle-born Gryffindor he'd known since they were children. Even after his years at school with other budding young Death Eaters taught him to destroy the best within him, he never stopped loving her. Even as they fought on different sides during the first war, he still loved her. He was in love with her when he managed to overhear part of the prophecy of the Chosen One, when he reported his discovery to his master, and when Voldemort decided his next course of action must be to kill Lily Potter's son. It was Snape's undying love for my mother that drove him to turn on Voldemort and tell Dumbledore about the plot against my family in a desperate attempt to save her. He failed, and I firmly believe his guilt meant he suffered just as much as – if not more than – I did for the next sixteen years.

It was because of his love for my mother that Snape spent six years protecting me, the son of his arch rival James Potter, that he was willing to do anything to bring down the man who killed her... and that he was able to do so. Voldemort's greatest weakness (and he had a plentiful stock of them) was his inability to comprehend love. He was thoroughly, utterly incapable of understanding Snape's motive for betraying him: his love for Lily Potter. Such a concept was completely beyond the grasp of Voldemort's knowledge; it never occurred to him that love could drive someone to do what Snape did. Just as I couldn't see a reason to trust Snape, Voldemort couldn't see a reason to doubt him. He was outwitted by the depth of Snape's love for my mother, outmatched by the strength and resolve it gave him. I killed Voldemort, but Snape defeated him long before.

And now you know the truth about Severus Snape. Even if you don't believe it is the truth, you know it. I had to tell you. Sacrilegiously casting a man's most treasured secret to the masses feels terrible, but keeping silent felt worse. I don't intend to ever write about this again. I've said all I need to say. It's a pathetic way of thanking the man who protected me for seven years and guided me towards victory, but it's the only way I have. Thank you, Severus Snape, for loving Lily Potter enough to do what you did for her son.

Those of you who are thinking (or expect me to think) that none of this erases what Snape did to me, to my parents, my friends, and who knows how many Muggles and Muggle-borns while he was still a Death Eater, you're right – it doesn't. But nothing Snape did to me, my parents, my friends, or anyone else can erase what he did, endured, and sacrificed for us, either. Someone once told me that the world isn't divided into good people and Death Eaters. No one exemplifies that sentiment more than Severus Snape. I don't care anymore how cruel and vindictive he was to me as his student – in the end, in every way that really mattered, he was on my side. In a way, this only makes me respect him even more. A man willing to do anything to protect someone he loves is noble enough, but a man willing to do anything to protect someone he hates because it's the right thing to do, because it's the only way to atone for his own sins and failures, because he values life and love more than his own petty personal prejudices, has courage and a strength of spirit I can't even begin to comprehend. Severus Snape had that courage and that strength, and for that he has my eternal respect and gratitude...


~ By Harry James Potter