Hi, here is the end. I hope I tied all loose ends together. If you enjoyed the story, you might want to leave me a review! Thanks for reading and sticking with the story!
Neville looked up in surprise at seeing Harry storm into his room. "Is something amiss?" He jumped up from his chair and checked his wand's whereabouts.
Harry realized his hurry had alerted Neville and quickly shook his head. "Nothing's wrong." He smiled apologetically. "Severus agreed to watch your memory, but insists you are present while he does. Otherwise it would feel like trespassing, he told me."
Neville nodded. "He does continue to surprise me." He understood why Snape might feel that way. He wouldn't feel comfortable either watching someone's memory without that person being present. "I will come with you." He fell into pace with Harry as they made their way out of the dormitory. "You look…" Neville paused in order to search for the right word. "Happy?"
Harry moistened his lips while recalling being finally intimate with the man he loved. "I am happy, Neville. Severus makes me happy." Neville arched an eyebrow a certain way, which caused Harry to blush. "Yes, because of that."
So they had finally done the deed. Neville didn't feel interested in procuring more details because he considered something like that very private and secondly because the thought Harry had done the deed with Snape was something he still had to get used to. It would have been easier if Harry had picked someone else. Anyone except Snape. They reached the office and the statue moved out of the way, allowing them to enter. "You no longer need a password?" Neville asked knowingly.
Harry shrugged apologetically. "Maybe Severus instructed the statue to let us in?" Though the truth probably was that the statue would allow only allow him inside without uttering a password and no one else.
Neville's gaze immediately settled on Severus, who stood in front of the window, his back toward them. He was under the impression the older wizard's shoulders were tense, which didn't surprise him. They might have called a truce, but both of them were still trying to figure out where the other one stood. "Sir," Neville said, feeling most at ease by calling him that.
Severus turned around and masked his feelings; at least, he tried. Lately he found it hard to hide his emotions like he had in the past. "Mister Longbottom, thank you for coming."
Neville inclined his head, appreciating the welcome. Maybe it was time to do away with some of the distance between them? "My name is Neville. You are free to use it."
Severus never expected the offer, but gratefully accepted. "In that case, call me Severus."
Now that was something Neville hadn't expected, but he quickly recovered from his surprise. "I will try to remember that. I must admit I am rather used to addressing you as sir."
Severus understood. Especially during the last year, Neville had faced the penalties for any insubordinate behaviour. "Neville," he said, trying to make an effort to show the young man that he was safe here, "Harry told me that you would not mind if I viewed your memory regarding… her death." He faltered briefly, unable to say the serpent's name.
"I am fine with that," Neville confirmed. "That's why I left that memory in your pensieve." Neville caught Harry's gaze and realized his friend was smiling radiantly, obviously pleased at the pleasant nature of their conversation. "You want me to watch it with you?"
Severus nodded. "I do not feel comfortable watching it without your presence."
"That's fine with me. Do you want to do this now?" Neville walked toward the pensieve. Harry followed at once, but Snape seemed hesitant.
Seeing them waiting for him to join them, Severus forced himself into action. His hands shook and he quickly hid them in his pockets. He didn't want them to see how the prospect of watching that memory upset him.
But Severus had miscalculated. Harry had kept a close eye on him and therefore noticed the tremors that shook his lover's frame. The moment Severus came to a halt, Harry moved toward him and wrapped an arm around him, ignoring the worried look Severus gave Neville.
Neville watched closely and realized Harry wanted to comfort the older wizard. It was eye-opening to see how easily his friend touched Snape. The fact that the older wizard accepted the comfort told him a lot about the relationship. "We can watch it now," he said, like Harry realizing this was hard on Snape. "We will go in with you."
Severus disliked the fact that Neville had noted his unease, but also realizing this couldn't be avoided. He had to do this. He wanted those nightmares to stop, or if that wasn't possible, he wanted them to lose their venomous sting. Locking gazes with Harry, and seeing his lover nod encouragingly, gave him the courage to follow them into the pensieve. He needed a moment to get his bearing once Neville's memory manifested around him, but then he recognized his surroundings. Hogwarts was already partly in ruins. So the battle must have been raging for a while. Severus watched in awe how Neville suddenly pulled the sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat. The young man was already charging the enemy. Severus found himself distracted by the battle surrounding him, but Harry tucked at his hand and it forced him to focus in the memory.
When Nagini finally appeared, Severus swayed. His first reaction was to pull out of the memory, but Harry still had a tight hold on him and forced him to stay. He had to do this. He had to find a way to deal with the way he died. He shuddered violently at seeing Nagini slither after Ron and Hermione. The snake was about to strike at them and Severus flash backed to the shack when Nagini had thrown her repulsive body at him. He felt the impact of that first bite all over again. His arm throbbed with remembered pain and he unwillingly reached for his throat, trying to protect himself from the bite he knew was going to follow.
"Look at the memory, Severus. Try to stay with us," Harry whispered imploringly.
Harry's voice anchored Severus to the present and his own nightmarish memory faded. Instead, he saw Neville lift the sword and strike at Nagini. The snake's head was severed from her body and flew through the air. The large body convulsed several times before finally settling down and becoming motionless.
"Look, Severus. Do you see it? Do you see she's dead? Neville killed her. Nagini is no more."
Severus clung to Harry's words. Yes, it was true; Nagini was dead. Her head had rolled out of his sight and the heavy body that had knocked the air out of him at the shack, lay unmoving and still. "She's dead," he whispered, afraid to believe the truth, but at the same time desperately holding onto Neville's memory.
"Yes, she is dead," Neville said, addressing Snape while they still remained in the pensieve. "And she isn't coming back. I made sure of that."
Severus continued to look at her remains. He almost expected her to slither toward him, re-growing her head so she could bite him again, but nothing happened. The body didn't move.
Harry, realizing Severus needed to return to the present, pulled his lover with him as he left the memory. "Severus?" He felt relieved upon seeing those dark eyes fill with awareness once more. "Nagini's dead. She can't hurt you anymore." Harry was unprepared for the impact when Severus flung himself at him. Harry instantly wrapped his lover up in an embrace and held him, rocking him slightly and crooning reassurances into the older man's ear.
Neville felt like a voyeur watching them, but what else could he do? It also reminded him that he didn't really know Severus Snape. He would never have believed it possible that the Potions Master could possibly experience a break down, nor that the wizard would ever clung to someone for support. But that was what was happening right now. Severus Snape would have completely fallen apart hadn't it been for Harry supporting him. All of them had suffered, Neville realized. Harry had been through his personal ordeal while hunting for the Horcruxes and then he had died. Snape had been forced to live a lie for twenty years and had died while everyone had believed him to be a coward and a traitor. He himself had suffered too, but compared to those two, Neville felt he had gotten off easy.
Severus finally started to calm down, and with that, came a sense of shame for letting go in front of Neville. He pulled away, or tried to, for Harry didn't want to let go. In the end, the younger man settled for holding his hand, but his lover refused to let go completely. Embarrassed, he noticed that his face was wet with tears. He had cried and angrily wiped at those tears.
Neville wanted to reach out to the older wizard. During these last few moments he had realized something important about the Potions Master. Snape, the bullying bastard, was gone. The wizard standing next to him was someone completely different. "It's fine, Severus. I have cried too. It helps to let go of the pain."
Severus froze at hearing those words, but then he sagged against Harry. "I apologize," he whispered, addressing Neville. "I didn't plan on becoming emotional."
"It doesn't matter," Neville reassured him. "I am glad I could help. I will leave the memory here. That way you can watch it again – and again, until you finally believe that the monster is dead." Something told him that Severus needed to view that memory quite a few times before the older man knew peace.
After Neville had left, Harry made sure to stay close to his lover. Severus seemed unbalanced after facing both Neville's memory and the fact that he had died at the shack. Harry suspected Severus hadn't expected the memory to trigger that particular trauma. But in retrospect, Harry was grateful it had. Severus needed to find a way to move past his death, even though that sounded cruel to his own ears. Maybe Severus would have found that easier, hadn't his death been so traumatic. Harry decided to distract his lover from his brooding and picked up Arthur's letter, which Severus had forgotten to open. "You should open it."
Severus blinked at hearing Harry's voice unexpectedly. Mentally, he had been sorting through Neville's memory and he was trying to memorize the second the young man had beheaded Nagini, hoping that recalling the moment would chase away any nightmares sneaking up on him in his sleep. "You are right. I should." Severus accepted the letter, broke the seal, and opened it.
"And?" Harry walked over to Errol, who was dozing sitting next to Fawkes. The phoenix didn't seem to mind the company and continued to munch on his seeds.
"Arthur accepts," Severus told Harry, relieved. Another burden had just been lifted from his shoulders. "One problem less to worry about."
Harry returned to the sofa Severus was sitting on and seated himself next to him. He pressed close and Severus raised an arm, wrapping him up in an embrace. Harry snuggled closer and savoured the intimate moment. "Are there any problems left we need to deal with?"
Severus nodded. He had wanted to discuss this with Harry anyway. "I have written a letter to the Board of Governess and the Quibbler." Catching Harry's alarmed look, he quickly added, "I haven't sent it yet. I wanted to discuss this with you first."
Harry nodded, feeling a bit reassured. "What's that letter about?"
"About you graduating from Hogwarts. By destroying Riddle you showed ample ability at spells, Defence, and all related subject matters. I also added that I will hire you as the new Divination teacher regarding the junior years. I will explain to them that I will tutor you and take on the seniors myself. They will eagerly accept that. The fact that you are willing to teach here will boost Hogwarts' reputation, which will reflect kindly on the Board. I don't expect any objections."
"I can live with that, you sneaky Slytherin." He pressed a kiss onto Severus' hand. "What else?"
"I want to keep our relationship private for a few more weeks, if that is possible. Since you told Ginny, chances are that the Daily Prophet might find out. If that happens, prepare for a wave of protest."
"What if Ginny keeps it to herself? I don't believe she will go to Rita and tell her. She hates that witch as much as I do."
Severus had also considered that. "Should we be successful at keeping our relationship a secret until Christmas, we will publish a statement ourselves. We will write the Board and the Quibbler that we are in a serious relationship and considering marriage."
Harry listened up at that. "You want to marry me?" It would be his greatest wish come true!
"The Board will demand we make it official – either we wed or perform a bond that will bind us within our relationship. I will leave that up to you." Severus felt tremendously relieved that Harry wasn't opposed to marrying him. Although, being honest with himself, he realized Harry would actually be the one to propose marriage or a bond in the future. The young man had hinted at wanting to marry him in the past. "I reckon this is agreeable to you?"
"As far as I am concerned, we can get married this instant," Harry purred contently. "I have no idea though what such a ceremony entails in the wizarding world! Does one of us have to wear a dress?"
Severus chuckled. "In such a case, you will be the one to wear it for I refuse to do so!" He felt relaxed now that their conversation was going so well.
"I don't wear dresses – not even for you," Harry said and kissed the tip of Severus' nose, causing his lover to look cross-eyed at him. "I still need to officially tell Ron and Hermione though. That is, if Ginny already hasn't."
"Why don't you invite them to the castle? I will be busy tomorrow. I need to make arrangements for the returning students, make last changes to the lessons plan, and meet with my staff." Which now included Harry.
Harry realized he had to get used to having to share his lover with the rest of Hogwarts. "But the evenings belong to us," he stated resolutely. "I don't mind teaching during the day or counselling Slytherins, since I will be their new Head, but promise me that weekends and evenings are ours."
"I won't be able to keep that promise," Severus replied honestly. "But I will promise you that we will spend all available time together."
That had to be good enough for him, Harry knew that. As Headmaster, Severus would be obliged to attend meetings during the weekends and evenings as well, but the fact that Severus wanted to be with him, told him that his lover would free himself from his obligations if possible.
Arthur had expected Errol to crash into the living room, but instead a large, black owl gracefully landed on the kitchen table. "Who are you?"
Molly looked up from reading the Quibbler. She frowned, as she didn't know the bird either. "And where's Errol? Hopefully the owl was well. She was rather attached to the old fellow.
Arthur removed the letter and read it. "Molly, it's from Severus – and Harry," he added, upon finding that the young man had signed as well. "I am about to start on Monday. And there will be a staff meeting tomorrow at two in the afternoon. Severus is fine with me returning to the Burrow each evening and flooing in during the morning." He studied the attached lesson plan."This looks doable." He had already let the Ministry know that he was taking a sabbatical for a year. Thanks to Kingsley, he had encountered no resistance.
Molly looked over the schedule at well. Arthur would be able to have breakfast with them and he would be home in time for dinner. She nodded contently. "This doesn't explain about the owl though."
"There's more written on the back," Arthur noticed.
Molly turned the letter around. "Apparently Errol crashed into the Headmaster's office and wasn't able to carry a message back home." Molly arched an eyebrow. "Severus says Fawkes has taken a liking to our bird. Apparently Severus wants to know if Errol can stay with them until he has recovered and he offers us this owl as a replacement. His name is Ostanes."
Arthur read the note too after Molly handed it to him. "A gift?"
"Looks like it." Molly considered the offer. Ostanes was in the prime of his life and could easily carry their messages. "Errol is too old, Arthur, we know that." But they had lacked the funds to purchase a new owl as every Gallon went to their children's education.
Arthur nodded. "Maybe we can come to some agreement. Severus' offer at pay is rather generous. I would be able to pay him back in two or three month's time."
"I doubt he will accept the money." Molly had gotten to know Severus rather well, especially when she had helped Poppy look after him.
Arthur realized the same thing. "Shall I write back and thank him for the gift? I am sure we will find a way to repay him if he doesn't want our money."
"I like that. Yes, we will find a different way to show our gratitude."
Severus opened the window and Ostanes hopped inside. The owl looked well-fed and content. "Do you like your new master then?" Severus asked as he removed the note from the owl's foot. Ostanes hooted before taking off again. "I reckon that is a yes." Severus unrolled the paper and read the note. They thanked him for the owl and hoped Errol would return to them after he was rested. Molly especially seemed attached to him. Severus devised to ask Fawkes to take Errol to the Burrow once the owl had sufficiently recovered.
Another owl landed on the desk. He recognized this one. The Board of Governors always used her. His hands trembled slightly upon reading the note she carried. He felt relieved however at seeing the Board approved of his plan. Yes, Harry would graduate honourably and was welcome to accept that teaching position. Severus had expected them to take the bait. Now they had to lay low for two months and then they could announce their relationship. Everything was going according to plan.
Harry was nervous. In the end, he had decided against firecalling Ron and Hermione. He had thought it best to send his patronus, asking them to come to the castle. He had sent the stag off ten minutes ago and was now biting his nails because he was so damn nervous. A minute later, their reply finally came. Hermione's otter scrambled into the room and circled his feet before finally delivering his message.
"Of course we will be there! Expect us at the gate at one in the afternoon!"
To his relief, Hermione sounded calm and composed. He waited for Ron's Jack Russell to make an appearance as well, but nothing happened. Should that worry or reassure him? Whatever happened tomorrow would determine the course of their friendship.
"I do not believe you need to be nervous," Severus told Harry as they waited for Ron and Hermione to arrive.
"I hope you are right." Harry appreciated the fact that Severus had decided to accompany him to the gate, even though the Headmaster needed to prepare his staff meeting. Severus would unward the gate and then apparate to his office. Harry would join them after he had talked to his friends. Severus had reminded him he needed to attend such meetings in future now that he was their Divination teacher.
Noise coming from the other side of the gate told Harry his friends had arrived. He dreaded looking at them – their expressions would tell them all he needed to know.
"Go on, address them," Severus urged him on. In the past, Harry had been the one to support him and now their roles were reversed. Hopefully it was a sign their relationship was working.
Harry nodded and raised his head to look at his friends. His heart missed a beat looking at them. They had never been apart for so long. "Ron, Hermione, thanks for coming. Hermione was all smiles and Harry took heart. Ron was sulking, but then again, that was nothing out of the ordinary. Ron was good at sulking.
Severus opened the gate and allowed them entry. Then he looked at Harry, squeezed his lover's hand, and smiled. He didn't care if Ron and Hermione saw the love in his eyes when they looked at Harry. "You know where to find me, should you need me."
Harry nodded and drew in a deep breath before letting go of his lover's hand. Severus disapparated and was gone, leaving him alone with his friends. "Want to walk with me to the castle? We need to talk." He cringed. "I need to tell you some things. I probably should have done so before." Why hadn't he confided in then sooner? Probably because he had been so focused on Severus that he had forgotten pretty much around him.
Hermione walked up to him and hugged him. She disliked the defeated expression in his eyes. Harry used to have faith in them. Why was he about to give up on their friendship?
Ron walked toward Harry as well. He had noticed the same thing and was relieved Hermione and he had discussed what might happen on forehand. "Harry, what's going on? Why are you afraid to look me in the eye?"
Harry gave Ron a worried look. "You might not like what I am about to tell you."
Hermione decided to go easy on her friend. "About Snape?"
Harry's heart missed a beat and he stared at her. "What do you mean?"
"Ginny told us," Ron said. "She felt confused and needed someone to talk to. She didn't really need to tell us though; mum and dad talk about the two of you all the time. You might think your relationship is a secret, but it isn't. People who know you, know."
"As long as Rita doesn't get hold of it, I am can live with that. I am sorry, guys. I really wanted to tell you, but I got caught up in this thing with Severus."
Ron's facial features briefly contorted. "I don't mind you being gay, Harry, but Snape? Why the greasy git? Ouch!" Ron glared at his girlfriend, who had just kicked him. She glared at him and he recalled the conversation they'd had earlier. "Yes, you are right; he didn't look that greasy just now."
"It was an act! You know what your mum said about professor Snape having to pretend!" Hermione shook his head at him. She loved him dearly, but sometimes she wondered what exactly attracted her to him.
"Yes, I know that," Ron said and shuffled his feet. "Sorry, Harry."
Harry felt much too relieved to be cross with his friend. "It's fine, Ron. I understand why you're reacting that way. I found it difficult to believe that I could be in love with him – at first."
"So what's he like?" A wicked gleam appeared in Ron's eyes. "Anything we can blackmail him with when we return to school?"
Harry loved his friends for accepting he loved Severus. Apparently they were already done discussing his relationship with Severus and were back to normal. "I have to disappoint you," he told Ron and grinned. "I will teach Divination to the juniors. I will be a teacher – part-time, that is. Severus will take on the senior years."
That was bad news indeed as far as Ron was concerned. "You can't be serious, mate!"
"That's great, Harry! You will gain a lot of experience by teaching and tutoring the students. I reckon professor Snape will tutor you in turn?"
Hermione's enthusiasm didn't surprise him. "Hermione, do me a favour? Stop calling him that when we're in private? His name is Severus."
Hermione smiled. "I will. But this is wonderful, Harry! I am sure you will do well. You already gained some teaching experience when you trained Dumbledore's Army!"
"There's more," Harry hinted as they started their way to the castle. "I am the new Head of Slytherin." Ron halted in his tracks and stared at him – wide-eyed. Hermione had a sly and calculating look on her face. She knew why he was doing this – Ron however, was clueless.
"The snakes? Why would you do that?" Ron exclaimed horrified.
"To make sure Slytherin gets a fair chance in the future," Hermione explained to her boyfriend. "Do you really want having to deal with a new Riddle? Chances are another wizard will get fed up with the way they are treated and search a scapegoat. Riddle decided the Muggles had to pay the price because of the way they treated him. Do you really want another Slytherin to rise from that house to start another war? They must be redeemed – the House and its students."
"I knew I could count on you to understand." Harry smiled at her when Hermione looped her arm with his. "And I don't mind. I believe this is the right thing to do. With Severus being Headmaster, the Slytherins lose their Head of House. With me replacing him, no one will dare attack or slander them. Those students deserve a fair chance."
"I will help wherever I can." Hermione approved of Harry's decision and felt confident her friend could help redeem Slytherin. When Ron remained quiet, she elbowed him in the side.
Ron rubbed his side and briefly glared at his girlfriend. "If that's what you want, mate, you can count on me."
Harry wrapped an arm around Ron's shoulder and smiled happily at his friend. "Well, it seems, the terrible trio has reunited."
"Who calls us that?" Ron snorted. "Let me guess, Snape."
"I never heard him say it," Harry relented, "But I wouldn't be surprised if he calls us that in private."
Severus looked about the table and felt contented. His teaching staff was complete. Arthur seemed a bit uncomfortable, but that was to be expected as this was his first staff meeting. Horace was sulking because he had let Severus talk him into finishing the school year, but Severus knew his old teacher and former Head of house would manage. Minerva as his Deputy would support him whenever necessary and Filius was already making changes to his lesson plan, deciding their students needed to learn charms that would help defend them. Remus was practically beaming with health and happiness and continued to throw him happy looks, which was beginning to annoy Severus. He understood that Remus felt grateful, but did he really have to show that gratitude all the time? Thankfully Septima Vector was her normal, calm self and even Pomona seemed pensieve. Madam Hootch sat watching them and he paid her little attention. Hagrid was squeezing Harry's shoulder in a friendly manner, but Severus knew it had to hurt. Hagrid still had a hard time controlling all that power that resided in that large body.
"Welcome," he said eventually. "To this staff meeting." This was his life now. He was responsible for the lives and safety of his students and staff, and for the first time in his life it didn't feel like a burden; it felt like a precious gift. Locking gazes with Harry, who smiled at him, he knew his lover felt likewise. Both of them had been given a second chance at life and they were going to make the most of it.