Summary: After the Battle, the only thing that Harry wants to do is rest, but he notices that there is something that he needs to do first: bring Snape's body back to Hogwarts. Ron and Hermione will be there to help him, while they deal with the effects of the war and learn to find hope where there seemed to be none. Once they find out that certain Potions Master is not as dead as they thought he was, things will start to change. (Snape!Lives)
Categories: Teacher Snape > Trusted Mentor Snape, Misc > Strictly Canon Universe, Parental Snape > Guardian Snape Main Characters: .Snape and Harry (required), Ginny, Hagrid, Hermione, McGonagall, Pomfrey, Ron
Snape Flavour: Canon Snape, Comforting Snape, Depressed Snape, Kind Snape, Mean Snape
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Canon, Drama, Family, General, Hurt/Comfort, Tragedy
Tags: Depression Recovery, Injured!Snape
Takes Place: 7th summer, 7th Year, 8 - Post Hogwarts (young adult Harry), 8 - Pre Epilogue (adult Harry)
Warnings: Panic attack
Chapters: 7 Completed: No
Word count: 31974 Read: 3661
Published: 13 Oct 2021 Updated: 01 Jan 2022
1. Something left to do by CleganeSnape
2. At the infirmary by CleganeSnape
3. Waking up by CleganeSnape
4. A good day by CleganeSnape
5. A crazy idea by CleganeSnape
6. Getting closer by CleganeSnape
7. A comforting presence by CleganeSnape
Something left to do by CleganeSnape
Hi, I'm editing the story to change the format from - to "".
It might take a bit but bear with me please :)
Everything that Harry wanted was to rest. His biggest desire was to lay down in his bed, upstairs, in Gryffindor’s common room. But before doing that, there was something else he had to do. He could not sleep until then.
“I must go find him.” He said out loud, causing Ron and Hermione to look at him without understanding.
The three of them where in the middle of a hallway destroyed during the battle. They had moved the wounded and the bodies of the fallen, but Harry could still see the holes in the walls and the stains of blood. He tore his eyes from a particularly big stain and forced himself to look at his best friends.
“Harry?” Asked Hermione. “What…?”
“Snape. I have to go find him.” He repeated. “He can’t stay there, all alone.”
Hermione and Ron shared a look. The two of them were as exhausted as Harry, but they understood what he must have been feeling.
“Alright, I will inform Professor McGonagall and ask her to send somebody.” Said Hermione. “You go to sleep, it’s clear that you need it”.
“No! No, I can’t-”
Hermione opened her mouth to reply but Harry was quicker.
“You don’t understand. It has to be somebody that believes completely in his innocence. I can’t risk it!” He noticed that he had raised his voice and he forced himself to calm down. “There are a lot of people that still want revenge for Dumbledore’s death and… well, not everyone has believed me as fast as you guys. I cannot risk them cursing the body or doing something to it.”
“Okay, I understand.” Hermione put her hands up, trying to calm him down. “You are right.”
“I need to bring him back.” Insisted Harry. “He has to be at home.”
He said, and his voice broke.
His mind could not stop reminding him of all those people they had lost in the battle: Remus, Tonks, Fred, even poor Colin Creevey. But they rested beneath the starry sky of the Great Hall, surrounded by their families. Snape, instead, was alone in that horrible place and Harry needed to do something about it.
“We will go.” said Ron firmly. “You go get some rest, Harry. Hermione and I will bring him home.”
Ron wore the pain of Fred’s loss in each centimetre of his face, and Harry looked at him without knowing what to say.
“I can’t ask you that.” He said. “If anyone deserves to sleep it’s you.”
“Harry is right.” Said Hermione softly. She put a hand on Ron’s shoulder and squeezed, showing her affection. “Besides, if you don’t want to sleep, you should be with your family. I can take care of this on my own.”
Ron shook his head, maybe with too much energy.
“No, I don’t want to. I can’t right now.” He closed his eyes and tried to control himself. “I’m not strong enough to be there with them. I can’t handle looking at my mum’s face or see George with those empty eyes that he has and…”
Suddenly, he felt out of breath and started breathing fast and shakily. A heartbeat later, Harry and Hermione were there, hugging him both at the same time. Inside that safe place, Ron could finally let himself go and started crying silently. It took him a while to notice that they were crying too, and in a way, it made him feel better. If he wasn’t in that situation, he would probably remark how crazy they looked: three teenagers alone in the middle of a hallway, hugging and crying in silence.
They stayed like that for a few moments in which they said with the strength of their arms what they couldn’t say out loud until, finally, they let go. They all had tears on their faces, but they felt better than before.
“I’m okay, I’m okay.” Said Ron, breathing deeply. “And I know. I know that at some point I will have to face this. But… But I’m not there yet. I don’t want to sleep. I don’t… I don’t want to think about it.” He confessed, lowering his voice.
He averted their gaze, ashamed and scared that they would judge him, but Harry understood.
“I went through something similar with Sirius.” He told him. “If what you need right now is to keep busy, I get it. You are not a bad person for it.”
Ron swallowed and nodded slowly.
“So, do you trust me to bring Snape back?” He asked.
“Of course, I do, but…”
“But let me at least go with you.” Intervened Hermione, smiling gently at him.
“You don’t have to babysit me.” said Ron. “Really, I can handle it.”
“I know. And that’s not why I want to come.” She explained, calming him down. “The truth is that I don’t want to sleep either. But if you prefer that I don’t go, I will understand. Just say it and I will stay here.”
Hermione didn’t want to leave him alone, but she knew that it had to be his choice. That’s why she felt better when, after a few seconds, Ron nodded.
“If you want to, that is okay.”
“I want to.” She told him, closing the topic.
The look of affection that Ron was giving Hermione, told her that she did the right thing by coming with him. He shouldn’t be on his own during those moments.
“Go to sleep, Harry.” She added, turning towards him. “We will take care of it.”
Even though Harry knew that everything was going to be okay, he was nervous to be away from them after all that had happened. He was going to say something about it when a yawn interrupted his words. After that, he was sure that Hermione was going to do her best Mrs. Weasley imitation and send him to bed without the possibility to argue. So, aware that he had no other option, he nodded.
“Alright but take with you the D.A. coin.” It calmed him down to know that he could communicate with them in an instant.
“Don’t worry, I always have it on me.” Promised Hermione, pointing at her purse.
Then, softly, she gave him a pat in the arm.
“Really, try to get some rest, okay? We will see each other when you wake up.”
Harry nodded again and looked at Ron before walking up the stairs towards his room.
“We will be there.” He assured him.
And, with that, they finally parted ways.
“Everything is so quiet.” Hermione said, breaking the silence. “It’s weird.”
“It is. But I prefer it to the explosions and the screams.” Ron was aware of how depressing his words sounded, but he couldn’t help himself.
“Yeah… That’s true.”
From that point, Hermione decided to not say anything else. She knew that Ron would need time to be the same as before, if he ever would be the same. But she was going to be there for him for as long as he needed, helping him heal.
“Look, there it is.”
The boy’s voice took her out of her thoughts.
Ron was pointing at the huge tree that guarded the entrance to the Shrieking Shack. The Whomping Willow didn’t look good: it had lost some branches fighting Death Eaters and its bark had burn marks and cuts.
“I’ll take care of this.” Said Hermione, taking her wand out. "Wingardium Leviosa".
In an instant, a branch flew from the ground to the point of the tree that could paralyze it. Hermione shook her wand and the branch touched it, freezing the Willow in its place.
“Okay, that’s it. Ready?”
Ron nodded and together they started descending through the tunnel. When they reached the end, a sombre and unpleasant scene greeted them. Snape, laying on his back, with a puddle of blood around his head.
The two teenagers became paralyzed when they saw it.
“Merlin…” Whispered Ron. “It’s worse than I remembered.”
“I guess we didn’t see it clearly when it happened.” Said Hermione, approaching slowly, with her eyes more open than normal. “We were in the middle of the battle. And with the adrenalin and everything…”
Ron nodded, distant, and then moved his eyes to any other place of the room that wasn’t Snape.
“It’s weird to see him like this.” Continued Hermione, without knowing exactly what to feel. “So many years and I had never seen him so vulnerable.”
Ron returned his gaze back to Snape’s body. Then he swallowed, studying his face.
“It makes you realize that he was only a man.” He said, finally.
There, laying in the darkness, pale and bloody, Snape looked more human than he had ever looked when he was alive.
“It’s weird, to know the truth about him.” Said Hermione, that until that moment hadn’t really had the time to think about it. “Bittersweet.”
“Yeah… You are right.” Ron shook his head. “Seeing him like this… It’s hard to think of him as the greasy and evil Potion’s Master.”
“I can’t believe that he was on our side this whole time …” Whispered Hermione, with shaky voice.
Ron couldn’t believe it either, his exhausted brain still wasn’t able to assimilate everything that had happened.
“Well...” Sighed Hermione. “Let’s get this over with.”
She cleared her throat, uttered some words, and waved her wand. In a moment, a white bed like the ones in the infirmary appeared.
“Go to his other side, Ron. I stay here and between the two of us we pull him up.”
“Alright.” He nodded and went to Snape’s left.
Suddenly, he noticed that his eyes were open, and he crouched down to close them. He rested on his knees and put a hand over the professor’s face. He had just closed his eyes when he felt something that made him gasp in surprise.
“What? What happened?” Hermione said, scared.
But Ron didn’t seem to be listening to her, his eyes went from Snape’s face to his own hand. He moved it again towards the dead man, slowly. This time, he positioned his hand under the hooked nose. He felt it again. It was there, a breeze of air. Snape was breathing.
Ron’s blue eyes met Hermione’s, who was looking at him with her mouth open. She also fell on her knees next to Snape, and took her fingers towards the professor’s neck, careful to not touch the wounded area. There, very weak but undeniable, she found the heartbeat that she was looking for.
“Ron.” She said slowly. “Ron, do you know what this means?”
The boy’s lips formed a smile for the first time in days, filled with incredulity.
“He is alive.” He whispered, without believing it fully.
He let go a shocked laugh and, suddenly, he was crying. The faces of Fred, of Remus, of Tonks, appeared in his mind and Ron couldn’t stop. He released everything he had been accumulating, all the fear, the desperation and the sadness disappeared with his sobs until the only thing that was left was hope.
“You are going to live.” He promised, helping Hermione put Snape on the bed. “You stupid greasy bat, you are going to live.”
They had lost a lot of people, but Ron wasn’t going to allow anybody else to die. At least, that was something that he could achieve.
“Come on, Snape, come on. Don’t you dare slip away.” He said, running through Hogwarts’ grounds with Hermione next to him and Snape floating in his bed. “We are almost home.”
Harry was about to fall asleep when something vibrated next to him. When he noticed that the thing making that noise was the D.A.’s coin, he immediately sat up and took it in his hands. His heart skipped a beat when he read the words written on it:
Harry, he is alive
He jumped out of bed and started running towards the infirmary, with the cold stone floor touching his naked feet.
To be continued...
At the infirmary by CleganeSnape
Hi, everyone! I wanted to say that English is not my first language so please let me know if there is anything that doesn't sound right or I made an mistake somewhere.
Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoy this chapter! :)
His lungs were burning, and he was beginning to pant from the effort, but Harry kept running. So intent was he on reaching his destination that when he opened the door to the infirmary he almost ran into Hermione, who had come out to meet him.
“Harry. Harry, wait!”
“Where is he?”
“Hold on, take a breath for a second.”
“Where is he, Hermione?”
She put her hands on his shoulders, trying to calm him down.
“He's here. It's all right, Madam Pomfrey is taking care of him.”
“In the emergency area.” She said, pointing to the back of the infirmary. “But wait, Harry, you can't go in there.”
Hermione had to pick up her pace to get to him.
“Madam Pomfrey specifically told us not to disturb her until she's finished. He's in critical condition, okay? And whatever she's doing to save him needs her full attention. If you distract her, you could kill him.”
Those words stopped Harry, who looked at her in fear.
“What can we do?”
“Nothing, for the moment. But come on, Ron is in there.”
Harry followed her to the back of the room. They left the beds with the less serious patients behind them and, after passing through a door, they reached the emergency area. In the waiting room stood Ron, crestfallen and with signs of fatigue on his face. He looked up when he heard them enter and it was then that Harry saw the bloodstains on his friend's clothes.
“Ron, are you alright?”
“Yeah, just a bit tired.” He said, forcing a smile. Then, he followed Harry's gaze down to his own shirt. “Oh, I hadn't noticed. Don't worry, it's not mine. It's Snape's.”
As he said that last sentence, the smile disappeared.
“Okay, that sounded really bad. I did not mean it like that.”
“Don't worry” Hermione said, sitting down next to him. “We got it.”
Harry followed her lead and took his place on the other side of Ron. A few seconds passed in silence, and Harry couldn't help but think that at any moment Madam Pomfrey was going to come out of the door and tell them that she was sorry, but that there was nothing else she could do. He remembered seeing similar scenes in the medical soap operas his aunt loved so much. They always ended with the patient's relatives crying, while sad music played in the background. Harry wondered who would be crying for Snape, if it came to that. Professor McGonagall, perhaps. Or maybe Draco Malfoy. And Harry himself? Even he didn't know. He'd lost so many people that he wasn't sure if he had any tears left to shed.
“Ron?” Harry asked, breaking the silence.
“Tell me what happened. How did you realize that he was alive?”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance. It was obvious that Harry was simply looking for a distraction, but the two friends decided to give him one. They told him all but the grimmest and most unpleasant details, such as how much blood was on the floor, how faint Snape's pulse sounded, and how long the journey felt from the Shrieking House to Hogwarts.
“...then Madam Pomfrey told us not to disturb her under any circumstances, and that's when Hermione alerted you. He hasn't been in there for more than twenty minutes.”
Harry, who had been listening intently, nodded. Silence fell over the room again, but it didn't last long.
“Harry, listen to me.” Ron said seriously. “If anyone can survive this, it's Snape. We all know what he's like, there isn't a more stubborn, obstinate person on earth. And if he thinks that by surviving, he can annoy us a bit more, he will.”
Hermione gave him a shocked look, but Harry smiled and, in doing so, found it a little less difficult to breathe.
“You're right. It would be just like him.”
“Exactly. We just have to give him time. You'll see, he'll turn up with his bat cloak and his ‘ten points less for Gryffindor’ as soon as you least expect him to.”
Harry's grin widened, imagining the scene.
“Thank you, Ron.”
His friend gave him a squeeze on the shoulder.
“Don't worry,” he continued with a small smile, “it will be fine. My father was bitten by that bloody snake too, and he recovered, remember?”
Harry nodded more calmly, but a thought filled him with anxiety again.
“But Ron, your father started to be treated right after the attack and he still was in a very bad shape, how could Snape have survived for almost a whole day?”
Ron and Hermione looked at each other, not knowing the answer.
“I should have gone to look for him earlier. I should have checked to see if he was still alive before I left him lying there for hours on end.”
“Harry,” Hermione began, “it's not your fault. We had things to do, like defeating Voldemort, for example! Besides, we didn't even know he was on our side!”
“I did. I knew after I saw his memories. I knew, and instead of going after him or telling anyone, I went straight for Voldemort. If I had died... If had died no one would have known everything he did. Whose side he was really on.”
“You had other things on your mind! You were going to sacrifice yourself to give us a chance. Anyone in your situation would have forgotten.”
“But nothing.” Hermione said firmly. “If Snape gave you those memories, it was so that you would do what you did. So that you could take down Voldemort. And if in the end...” Hermione took a deep breath, but the air came shakily into her lungs. “If in the end the worst happens, and Snape doesn't make it... I don't think he'll regret it, Harry.”
Hermione's eyes were red, but her gaze was determined.
“Okay?” She asked.
From then on, the conversation went relatively normally, until Hermione explained that she was planning to go to Australia to look for her parents as soon as things calmed down.
“Obviously, I miss them. But I'd rather not see them for a few more weeks than have them come back and be in danger. We have become known faces, and there are still Death Eaters out there. I don't want some bastard to use them for his absurd revenge. If they were smart, they'd hide and try to keep a low profile or flee the country, but…”
“If they were smart, they would not be Death Eaters.” Ron said.
Harry listened to them without really participating in the conversation, except for a few nods. He didn't feel much like talking, and though he tried not to think about it, his mind kept wandering back to the possibility of Snape's death. The uncertainty was strange to him. He had lost many people in his life, but always quickly and brutally. One moment they were there and the next they were gone. This state of waiting and not knowing was different. He didn't know how to deal with it.
Half an hour had passed since Harry had entered the infirmary when the door opened. Madam Pomfrey emerged from it, sweat on her brow and exhaustion on her face. All three got on their feet in an instant and Harry braced himself for the worst.
“How is he? Is he...?”
“He's stable.” Said the healer, smiling slightly. “I won’t lie to you, there's still some risk. But the worst is over. And without any complications, he is more than likely to recover.”
Harry was so relieved that he had to sit down. He exhaled, and in doing so let out all the fear that he had accumulated. As he inhaled again, the air felt more pure and fresh.
He wanted to get up and go into the room, to check that Snape was really there. That he was alive and breathing. But he could only bury his face in his hands and close his eyes. Was he going to cry? He wasn't sure. If someone had told him he would be crying for Snape less than a week ago, he wouldn't have believed it. After hating Dumbledore's murderer with all his being, that would have seemed impossible. But here he was. In the waiting room of the infirmary, his hands over his eyes, silently weeping for the Potions Master. They were tears of relief and joy, but they also carried sadness at the thought of all those people who had not made it.
“Harry.” Hermione said softly.
Her friend was crying too, but there was happiness on her face. And next to her was Ron, one arm around her, and on his lips was the first sincere smile Harry had seen in a long time.
He got up from his seat and starting walking towards the room when Madam Pomfrey offered him something as he passed her.
“Here.” she said.
It was a handkerchief.
“He's asleep. It will take him some time to wake up, but you can see him if you like.”
“Thank you. Thank you very much, Madam Pomfrey.”
“Don't just give them to me. He has done his part, too.”
The three friends stared at her blankly.
“I will explain. Come along.”
She opened the door she had just left and gestured for them to enter.
Harry's mind had prepared him for the worst. He had imagined Snape lying in a pool of blood, grimacing in pain and with a sickening hole in his neck. But what he saw was the exact opposite of that scene, and perhaps that was why it shocked him so much.
Snape lay with his eyes closed on the infirmary bed; sheets pulled up to his chest. Madam Pomfrey had exchanged his usual black clothes for a pair of white pajamas that looked strangely out of place. His face had been cleaned of blood and his neck was bandaged. Nothing seemed to indicate that he had been at death's door only a couple of hours before. Only the extreme paleness of his face betrayed the amount of blood he had lost.
Harry approached him slowly, expecting Snape to snap his eyes open and start yelling at him. He knew he wouldn't want anyone to see him in such a vulnerable state. Especially if that someone was Harry.
But he walked to the foot of the bed and nothing happened.
Then Harry looked up and met Ron's gaze, who nodded.
“He looks much better than he did before.” He assured him.
“Looking worse would be difficult.” Madam Pomfrey whispered. “Anyone else would have been dead in a matter of minutes, but Severus is no ordinary man. For all his faults... He's a brilliant man, always has been. And that is exactly what saved his life. He must have taken some potions I don't know about before the attack. Probably his own invention.”
Harry could see out of the corner of his eye that Hermione had raised her eyebrows with interest.
“From the tests I have done and the simple fact that he is alive now, I have certain theories about what kind of potions they are. An anti-poison, no doubt about it. Otherwise, it would have spread throughout his body and I only found traces of it in the area of the bite.”
“He must have started taking it when he saw how Voldemort used Nagini.” Said Hermione, remembering her encounter with the snake. If she'd had to spend time around the thing like Snape had, she'd probably want to have the antidote at her disposal as well.
Madam Pomfrey nodded.
“What I don't understand is where he got the samples from in order to create the potion.”
“Voldemort extracted poison from it sometimes.” Harry said, remembering. “He ordered Wormtail to do it. I think he drank it to make himself stronger or something like that.”
The grimaces of disgust on the faces of the others were a reflection of Harry’s own feelings on the matter.
“So gross…” Ron whispered.
“Yes, but that explains how Snape got the venom.” Said Hermione. “It mustn’t have been hard to keep some of it.”
“Did you say he took other potions, Madam Pomfrey?” Harry asked, trying not to think about the huge snake attacking the Professor's neck over and over again.
“Yes, I did.” She nodded. “Even without the effect of the poison, the blood loss caused by the wounds should have killed him.”
Harry flinched visibly at that sentence.
“I suspect he must also have taken something that regenerates the blood at a faster rate than normal.” Continued the healer. “I suppose it must still have been in the experimental stage and that's why he never mentioned it. He always brought me any new potions he created that he thought might be useful. If he took this one without being sure whether it would work or not, he must have been very desperate.”
Madam Pomfrey's voice trailed off and her eyes fell on Snape's face. Even if she didn't show it, it was clear that she was worried too.
“So, you're saying that Snape knew that V-Voldemort was going to attack him?” Ron asked.
“I can't say for sure. But why else would he take that second potion?”
“Oh man...” sighed Ron, admiring the professor's bravery despite himself.
Harry felt sick all of a sudden. He remembered how Snape had asked Voldemort to let him go and get him. ‘Let me go get the boy’, he had said. But now Harry knew the truth. Snape had wanted to find him so he could tell him what he needed to know. That he was a Horcrux and that he had to sacrifice himself to bring Voldemort down. Or all would be lost.
Snape had taken those potions and gone to meet his master, even though he knew he would most likely try to kill him. All to avoid arousing suspicion and to keep Voldemort from distrusting him. And all so that Dumbledore's plan would run its course.
Harry had forgiven the Headmaster; he had understood the reason of everything. Of all the manipulations, sacrifices, and hidden truths. But at the thought of what Snape had given for the cause without anyone knowing, the anger returned. The Potions Professor had lived for and to bring Voldemort down. The eternal spy, always between two sides. Unable to trust anyone. It was unfair, Harry decided. Snape had made many mistakes as a young man, but as far as Harry was concerned, he had more than made up for them.
“That's my theory, at least.” Madam Pomfrey continued. “I hope I can ask him about it when he wakes up.”
Harry liked the sound of that ‘when’.
“Anyway, I'll leave you guys alone now. I have set up charms that will alert me in case there are any changes, so there's no need for someone to be with him all the time. I will be back in a few hours to change his bandages, but there are other patients who need me and there is really nothing more I can do. We'll just have to wait.”
“All right.” Said Hermione. “Thank you, Madam Pomfrey.”
She nodded and headed for the door.
“Oh, and one last thing. I think it would be wise not to proclaim to everyone that Severus is alive and here. There are still people who will want to make sure he doesn't wake up. On both sides.”
The three friends nodded gravely, and with that, the healer left the room.
“Harry” said Hermione after a while.
“I think you should go and get ready, and also get something to eat. We can stay with Snape in the meantime.”
“Thank you, but I'm fine.”
“I don’t mean to contradict you,” Ron said, ”but you're not even wearing shoes, mate.”
Harry looked down at his feet in surprise. He had completely forgotten that detail.
“And even if Snape is on our side now... He's still Snape. I don't think he'll be too thrilled to see you in your pajamas and barefoot when he wakes up.”
Hermione smiled, agreeing with Ron.
“He'll think it's disrespectful or something” she said.
Harry looked down at the black soles of his bare feet, uncertain.
“Look, you don't even have to leave the infirmary.” Hermione explained. “There are showers around here that I'm sure Madam Pomfrey will let you use. And Ron can get you some clothes from your dormitory.”
The boy nodded, but Harry still didn't look convinced.
“I don't know, Hermione…”
“Let's do one thing. I'll get us something to eat and Ron can get you some clothes. You stay here in the meantime, okay? And when we get back, you go have a shower and we'll stay with him.”
“That's a good plan.” Ron supported her.
Harry sighed, knowing, despite himself, that his friends were right.
“Perfect.” Hermione smiled, getting to her feet. “You'll see, after you eat something and get cleaned up, you'll feel better.”
Harry doubted that the uneasy feeling he had inside his stomach would fade away, but he said nothing. Ron and Hermione moved towards the door and, after a last glance in their friend's direction, they left the room.
Once he was alone, Harry was aware of the silence in the room. He could hear Snape's slow breathing and, suddenly, he felt out of place. What was he doing there? He should be with the Weasleys, mourning Fred. Or with Andromeda Tonks, who had come to Hogwarts to make funeral arrangements for her daughter and Remus. They had been his friends and had died for him, to defeat Voldemort. Harry should be standing next to their families, supporting them. What was he doing sitting by Snape's bed, suffering for the man? He had always treated him with contempt and hatred. He didn't deserve Harry to cry for him.
‘But he also saved your life many times’, a voice in his head reminded him. ‘He put himself in danger, he spied and fought for Dumbledore. But also, for you, to keep you safe’. That much was true, but Harry had not yet had time to assimilate it. And there was also another thing. The fact that his own mother had seen something in Snape. Something good that had made her his friend for five years. It was all strange and confusing, and Harry didn't have the energy to deal with it at the moment. The only thing he knew for sure was that he didn't want Snape to die. That should be enough. At least until the professor woke up.
The minutes ticked by, as Harry sat quietly and deep in thought. After a while, the door opened, and Ron came in again.
“Hello,” he greeted him, “I have brought your clothes.”
He placed them on his lap and Harry looked at them for a moment. They were Muggle clothes, simple and comfortable. One of the outfits Hermione had kept in her beaded bag in case of emergency, along with pajamas for the three of them. When the battle was over, she had left them in their rooms in the Common Room and, upon seeing them, Harry was thankful for his friend's planful nature. It would not have been very nice to still be wearing the clothes he was wearing during the battle, full of sweat, blood and dirt. It might have seemed like a small thing, given the circumstances, but it wasn't.
“Hermione's not here yet, is she? Well, there must be a long queue. Everyone's hungry and the house elves have only been back in the kitchens for a little while.” He explained. “I suppose it must feel strange for them too, returning to normal after everything that's happened.” He sighed, and his gaze lingered on the floor for a few seconds longer than usual.
Harry noticed but didn't say anything. He wanted to tell Ron how sorry he was about Fred’s loss, but he couldn't find the words.
“Well, while we are waiting, you can go take a shower if you want. Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on Snape.”
Seeing that Harry didn't move, he insisted.
“I mean it, I don't care. I've almost grown fond of the bat.” He joked.
But Harry still wouldn't get up, so Ron said:
“Harry, listen to me.”
His voice had suddenly deepened, and when he looked up, Harry could see him giving him a serious look.
“You heard Madam Pomfrey, he's stable. We just need to wait. You don't need to be with him permanently.”
“I know.” Harry said slowly, gathering his thoughts. “I really do. But... I'm afraid to leave him alone. What if something changes while I'm gone and... and he dies?” He whispered the last word, afraid that it might come true if he said it out loud.
“It won't happen, I promise. And if it does... It will happen even if you're here.”
“I just don't know why I suddenly care so much about what happens to him.” He admitted, embarrassed. “I guess... I don't want to lose anyone else.”
At that, Ron closed his eyes tightly.
“I understand.” He said, his voice heavy with pain. “But that's not up to us anymore.”
He sat down next to him and squeezed his knee, giving him his support.
“And now, come on, go and get changed. We will be here.” He said, pointing to Snape and himself.
Harry looked down and was silent for a few seconds, thinking about everything Ron had said. When he looked up again, he seemed convinced. He nodded to himself and gave a small smile.
“Thank you, Ron.” he said with warmth in his voice. He gathered up his clothes, took one last look at Snape, and stood up.
“You're welcome.” He replied as he was opening the door to leave. “And don't worry. If Hermione comes in and you're still not here, I promise not to eat your food.”
Harry couldn't help but chuckle softly.
“Oh, I will hurry up,” he said, teasingly, “I'm not going to take any chances with your appetite.” And closed the door before Ron had time to reply.
Once out of the room he found the showers easily, he just had to follow the signs that indicated each of the different areas of the infirmary. Grabbing one of the clean towels at the entrance, he noticed that the place was empty, something Harry was grateful for. After leaving his clothes in a cupboard, he stepped into the first shower he could find. He had told Ron that he would go as quickly as possible, but once he was under the hot water, he began to relax and changed his mind. The heat made him feel clean and caused his muscles to stop being stiff. He was there, enjoying the warmth on his skin when suddenly something broke inside of him and he started crying so hard that he didn't know where his tears ended and the water began.
He didn't know how long he spent like that, sitting on the floor, crying like a baby as the water washed him clean, but there came a point when it was over. He felt better, as if he had let go of what had been pressing on his chest. He realized that he had. Amazed by this new sensation, he got out of the shower and wrapped himself in the towel. Evidently, what had happened at the battle at Hogwarts still hurt. But at least now, for a moment, he could look at the facts, face them. It was liberating in a way.
After drying off, he began to get dressed. As soon as he reached his shoes, he smiled to himself. Ron was right. If Snape had seen him in his pajamas and barefoot, as soon as he woke up, he probably would have killed him. It was nice to know that some things had not changed.
He walked back to the room, enjoying the silence, and realized how hungry he was. He hoped Ron had kept his promise to save him some food.
Luckily, he had. Opening the door, he was greeted by Hermione, who placed a plate in his hands. Harry thanked her for it and then sat down next to her.
“I ran into Ginny when I was in the Dining Hall.” He explained as Harry chewed. “She had gone to get food as well. She said she would take a plate to Mrs. Weasley and then she would come here.”
Harry nodded, not quite sure what to think. He still hadn't really spoken to Ginny after the Battle. She had been supporting her parents after Fred and helping Neville with the wounded. Harry had wanted to lend a hand too, but every time he appeared in public a crowd came up to thank him. The last thing the injured needed was noise and people pilling up around them. And the Weasleys had to deal with their loss as a family. For that reason, Harry had preferred to retreat to more discreet places. There would be time to talk later.
“Well, if she comes, I'll go and keep my parents’ company.” Ron said, suddenly very serious. “I wanted to go earlier, but I wasn’t ready yet. And besides, with everything that has happened…” He gestured vaguely in Snape's direction.
“Of course, Ron. You don't have to explain yourself.” Harry said sincerely. “You belong with your family.”
“I know. That is why I've been here all this time.”
He said it so naturally that Harry didn't know how to react. He looked at his best friend and saw in his eyes what must have been in his own. Sadness for what was lost, yes, but infinite love and affection for those who were still there. For his family. And that included Harry and Hermione too. They had been through so much together that something as insignificant as blood did not matter.
“Thank you.” Harry murmured.
Ron smiled at him, while Hermione watched them with unshed tears, moved.
“Okay, you are making it really hard for me not to cry.” She said, her voice trembling but still smiling.
Ron opened his mouth to reply but before he could, the door opened, and Ginny walked in. Seeing the sight, she stood still and watched them, undecided.
“Hey... Am I interrupting something? I can come back later if you want.
“No, that’s all right.” Ron said quickly. “It’s okay. We were just... eh...”
“Don't worry, Ginny.” Hermione reassured her, wiping her eyes discretely. “It was a bit of a sappy conversation, but it was coming to an end.”
Ginny bit her lip.
“Oh, I'm sorry...”
“It's all right.” Ron said, making a nonchalant gesture. “I was just leaving anyway. I wanted to go and see Mum and Dad.”
“I left them with George in the Great Hall. I suppose they'll still be there for a while.”
Ron got up from his seat and looked around. He saw Ginny watching Harry intently and realized that Harry hadn't said anything yet.
“Hey... Hermione, do you want to come with me?” He shared a glance with the girl, and then pointed with his head to the other two.
Hermione understood instantly.
“Oh, yeah, sure.” She nodded. “I am actually a bit hungry still. I'll come with you and get some more food.”
She stood up and opened the door, Ron at her side.
“We'll see you guys in a bit, okay?” She said as a goodbye.
Harry and Ginny looked at them in surprise but nodded. It was lucky Hermione turned to leave at that moment, or they would have seen the satisfied smile on her face.
As soon as the door had closed, Ginny sat down on the chair next to Harry.
“I'm sorry for interrupting the moment.” She said, filling the silence.
“Oh, don't worry about it.” Harry replied. “In fact, I appreciate it.”
“Well, you know how much Hermione likes it when Ron behaves in a mature and sensitive way. If you hadn't come along, they would probably have started making out.”
He made an exaggerated grimace and got what he was looking for, a smile on Ginny's face. The truth was, he had been dreading being alone with her, that it would be awkward or uncomfortable. But now that he was in the situation, everything was so much simpler. He had forgotten how easy it was to talk to her.
“You're right, she does like it... So, they really are together, aren't they?” Ginny sighed. “I never thought I'd see the day. It had to take a war to get those two to confess their feelings.” She shook her head.
“We never had that problem.” Harry said, more bravely than he felt.
“No, we did not...” She whispered; her eyes fixed in some point of the white wall. “Rather, it was the war that drove us apart.”
“Ginny, I... I don't...” He took a deep breath. “Look, I don't want screw it up, okay?”
“Screw it up? What are you talking about?”
“I'm talking about this, about us.” He pointed at himself and then at her. “I... the time we spent together I was very happy. Happier than I've ever been.” He admitted. “But now... I never thought I would have a future. And now it's here and I don't know what to do!”
He realized he had raised his voice and looked at Snape, suddenly remembering that he was there.
“We didn't pick the best place to talk about this, did we?” Said Ginny sarcastically, as she waited for Harry to collect his thoughts.
Harry sighed and then said what he really wanted to say.
“Listen, you... You've had a really hard time. You have spent a whole year fighting from Hogwarts, holding on. You've... you've lost your brother and a lot of other friends.” His voice trembled, and Ginny winced at the reminder. “That changes you as a person. You need time to come to terms with everything that's happened. And then to decide if you want to keep going with it, with us, or not.”
“I don't want you to feel some kind of... obligation to be with me. Or that you do it just so you don't have to think about everything that's happened. It's not fair to you.”
“And it wouldn't be fair to you either, Harry.” She said firmly. “Listen to me: I'm aware of all this. I have also been thinking about us. And everything you've said about me applies to you too. You've changed too, you've suffered too. That is a fact. We are not the same people we were a year ago. We will never be again.” For an instant, the reality of those words silenced her. “But, despite all this, I still have feelings for you. You're my friend, you're my family. And... and you're probably something else. I'm not telling you to... ‘get married tomorrow.’” She snorted, shaking her head. “I just want to take it slow. Get to know each other again and see what we want. There's no rush. We have all the time in the world.”
“Get to know each other again.” Repeated Harry. “Yes, I would like that. I would like that very much.”
Without intending to, a smile spread across his face. He looked at Ginny, his eyes bright with relief and hope. She looked back at him, and Harry lost himself in her brown eyes. He had missed them so much; he had missed her so much! When he realized that, he was no longer afraid to say or do the wrong thing. Now he knew what he wanted.
Instinctively, he found Ginny's right hand and took it in his left. For a moment, he waited for her reaction, fearing he had crossed a line. It was merely the length of a heartbeat. The next, she ran her thumb over the back of his hand, where the words ‘I must not tell lies’ were marked on his skin, and gave him a firm squeeze.
“I've missed you.” Ginny admitted.
“I've missed you too.”
She brought their joined hands to her lips and placed a kiss on Harry's, before letting him go.
“I have a confession to make.” She said after doing so, causing Harry to listen carefully.
“If Snape wasn't in front of us, this kiss would have probably been on your lips.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief. “But being in the same room as him is a complete turn-off.”
Harry couldn't help but laugh softly.
“Bloody Snape.” He said, amused. “Very like him to screw me over even when he’s unconscious.”
Ginny's laughter did not take long, and Harry soaked in it. He realized he wouldn't mind spending the rest of his days listening to it. Being the cause of that sound.
“I'm glad we're okay.” He confessed.
A few moments passed in silence, until Ginny stood up. She slowly approached Snape and looked at him curiously.
“Hermione explained everything.” She said. “How Nagini attacked him and how she and Ron found him. And I also remember what you said while you were fighting Voldemort. About his loyalties. I suppose it must be true or else you wouldn't be here, worried about him.”
“It is true.”
“At least now it makes sense of all the things he did last year.”
“Sending Neville and me to Hagrid as punishment, for example. Instead of with the Carrows. I didn't understand how he could be so stupid as to think Hagrid would treat us badly. Turns out he was smarter than I thought... It was his way of protecting us.” She said, quietly. “I never liked him much, but if he wakes up, I'd want to thank him. Not only that, but all the things he must have done as a spy that we didn't even realize. All of the times his information kept us safe.”
“That's one of the reasons why I'm here. I feel like I owe him, in a way. I wish... I wish that when he wakes up, he can have a second chance. A better life than before.”
“We will make sure he does, Harry.” She said, sitting down next to him. “No one will ever suffer because of that monster again. You made sure of that.”
“Not just me.” He told her, with seriousness in his eyes. “We all did.”
Ginny nodded and then they stayed together in silence, enjoying each other's presence. Minutes passed and Harry's tiredness began to take its toll. He slowly closed his eyes, resting his head on Ginny’s shoulder. Just when he was about to fall asleep, the door opened for the umpteenth time that day.
“Are you still here, Mr. Potter?” It was Madam Pomfrey. “I told you there was no need for you to stay. If there are any changes, the enchantments I've placed around him should let me know.”
“Yes, I remember. But I didn't want to leave him alone.”
Madam Pomfrey's gaze softened.
“It's all right. If you want to stay, you can stay, of course. But now I've come to change his bandages.”
Seeing that neither Harry nor Ginny made any sign of moving, the nurse stared at them.
“Professor Snape's wounds are not very pleasant to look at.” She explained. “I recommend that you both leave the room in the meantime.”
The two exchanged a glance. After all he had been through, Harry doubted that anything could impress him, but he knew that Snape would not like to be seen in an even more vulnerable position, so, he decided to leave.
“All right.” he said, standing up. Next to him, Ginny did the same. “We'll be outside.”
“I'll let you know when I'm done.” Madam Pomfrey promised, though her attention was completely focused on Snape. She had his back to them and was making complicated wand movements as the clean bandages floated around her.
Harry hurried out the door.
“It's been a long time since Ron and Hermione left.” Ginny commented as they entered the waiting room.
Harry checked his wristwatch.
“I don't think they'll be back.” She smiled. “I guess they wanted to give us some privacy.”
“Oh, totally. I saw Ron nodding his head in our direction. I'm grateful he did it, but it was quite noticeable.”
Ginny laughed softly.
“Typical Ron.” Harry repeated, smiling warmly.
Ginny returned the smile but then a thought crossed her mind, making it disappear.
“I don't know if he told you. But we'll probably be going home for a couple of days.”
“Oh... No, I didn't know that.”
“Yeah, Weasleys are coming from all over the country, for the... for Fred's funeral,” Ginny swallowed and continued. “Mum wants to host them all at home and feed them... You know how she is. And I want to be there to help her and Dad too. I know they are the adults, but someone should look after them too. Make sure they don't work themselves to exhaustion.
Harry nodded, slowly.
“I wish I could do something to help you.”
“Your place is here, for the moment. Professor McGonagall told me you still have a lot to do. Explanations to give and hands to shake.”
“You know how much I like to be the center of attention...”
Ginny gave a small smile and looked up at him, the affection evident in her eyes.
“I know. But besides, Snape's here.” She reminded him. “At some point he'll wake up and he'll need someone to fill him in on everything. And there will probably be a trial. You'll have to testify on his behalf.”
Harry's eyes widened in surprise.
“I hadn't thought of that.”
“Don't worry. You're Harry Potter.” Said Ginny, as if that explained everything. “They'll listen to you.”
“I hope...” Sighed Harry. “But no matter what responsibilities I have here. If you need me, let me know.” He said seriously.
Ginny reached up and stroked his cheek gently.
“Thank you, I'll keep that in mind.”
Harry brought his hand up to hers and left it there. They spent a few seconds like that, looking at each other and giving each other affection.
“I should go check on my parents.” Ginny finally said, releasing his hand. “And George.”
“Is he still so quiet?”
“Yeah...” he sighed, looking away. “It's like... It's like a part of him has been ripped out of him. I can't even imagine how he must be feeling. If it's hard enough for the rest of us...” She breathed shakily, trying not to cry. “It must be awful for him.”
“I'm so sorry, Ginny.”
Harry wrapped his arms around her, and she felt safe against his chest. There, she was able to let go and cry quietly. They stayed like that for a few minutes, just holding and supporting each other. When she was a little calmer, she pulled away and looked into his eyes.
“Don't be sorry. It's not your fault.”
She ran the back of her hand over her cheeks, wiping away the tears.
“And we'll be fine. Someday. We just need time to learn to deal with it.” She cleared her throat, trying to compose herself. “Tell me something.”
“Anything you want.”
“Do you still miss Sirius?”
Harry felt a lump in his throat. He wanted to hide the reality and tell her that he didn't, that it had gotten easier with time. But it was Ginny who had asked him, and he would never lie to her.
“Every day.” He admitted. “I miss him every day.”
Ginny looked down at the floor and, after a few seconds, nodded.
“Wow, that's great.” She said sarcastically, with a sad smile. “But thanks... for telling me the truth.”
“I still miss him.” Harry said again. “But there comes a time when you are at peace with it. Some days it hurts more and some days it hurts less.” He shrugged, not quite knowing what to say. “I'm sorry, I don't have a formula for dealing with it. You just... do it. Because there is no other way. And because the people who are still here make it worth it.”
Ginny's lips trembled, but she nodded decisively.
“I'm glad to know that I'll never stop missing him, because I don't want to. I don't want to forget him. But the other thing you said about being able to bear it... It gives me hope, in a way. To know that together we'll be able to move forward.”
“That's what I wanted to achieve. I'm glad I've cheered you up, if only a little.”
Ginny smiled at him, still with traces of moisture on her cheeks.
“You always do. Thank you, Harry.”
‘Thank you,’ Harry wanted to say, ‘for so many things’. But instead, he remained silent and simply nodded.
“Well, I'm sorry to leave you in such a bad mood.” She said. “But I really do have to go.”
“It's okay, I understand.”
“I'll come by and say goodbye before I go home, okay? And I'll see you again at the funeral.”
The word still sounded strange to Harry, unreal.
“Do you want me say something to Ron and Hermione, so they can come and keep you company?”
Harry shook his head.
“Don't worry, I've got the coin from the D.A. I'll let them know.”
“Alright, then. See you later.”
She walked over to say goodbye and Harry raised his arms, thinking she was going to hug him. To his surprise, Ginny stood on her tiptoes and brushed her lips against his, before pulling away.
“Snape is no longer here.” She said as an explanation.
Harry couldn't help but smile, a little flushed, as Ginny winked at him and turned to leave the room. He wanted to say something but could only stare at her with an idiotic look on his face and his lips burning where Ginny's had touched him.
He stood there for a few seconds, staring at the door that had just closed, when he realized that Madam Pomfrey was still in Snape's room. It had been a long time and Harry feared that something had gone wrong.
He went in without a second thought and saw the nurse sitting in a chair, staring at the Potions professor, who was still asleep on his bed.
“Madam Pomfrey? Is everything all right?”
“Oh, yes, don't worry. I was just taking a little break. It has been a tiring few days. Besides, I assumed you and Miss Weasley had things to talk about.”
Harry could feel his cheeks burning.
Madam Pomfrey's smile was not long in coming.
“Don't be embarrassed, Potter. You are young! It's the right time for the dramas of the heart. And especially considering everything you have been through.” She shook her head and the smile disappeared. “Poor kids.”
Harry didn't quite know what to say, so he kept silent.
“Anyway,” sighed the nurse, “I should get back to work.”
“Is there anything I can do...?”
“Thank you, Potter, but I'm afraid not.” lowly, she got up on her feet, and Harry could see the fatigue in her movements. “I only have to hold on for a couple more days. Kingsley has promised me that when things are a little calmer at the Ministry, he will send staff to Hogwarts. Medical, mostly, but also people to rebuild the school.”
Harry remembered the havoc caused by the battle and nodded.
“As well as politicians and judges,” continued the healer, “who will have to deal with the Death Eaters who didn't manage to get away. Judge them for their crimes…” Madam Pomfrey shook her head and Harry could see the anger in her usually calm features. “Judge them! They would only have to spend five minutes in the infirmary to reach a verdict. The horrors committed by these... these people. Beasts, more like. They should spend the rest of their lives locked up. Now that would be justice. Anyone connected with V-Voldemort would deserve it.”
Harry said nothing, but he thought of Draco and Narcissa, even Snape, and realized that things were not so simple. He used to think the world was black and white, but he had learned that it was not.
“Oh... Merlin. I'm sorry, Potter. I shouldn't lose my temper like this.” She cleared her throat and smoothed down the white skirt of her uniform.
“It's all right. I understand.”
“Anyway… I'd better get back to work.”
“Okay, Madam Pomfrey. I hope it gets easier.”
“Me too, Potter, thank you” she said. And without another word she left the room.
As soon as the door closed, Harry took a deep breath. He had told Ginny that he would say something to Ron and Hermione, but the truth was that he wanted to be alone. He took the coin from the D.A. and, after fiddling with it for a while, decided to put it in his pocket.
His two friends deserved to spend some time together, without Harry hanging around. Besides, after all he'd been through that day, he was grateful to have some time to himself. To think about everything that had happened since he'd arrived at the infirmary. He reminisced about his conversations with Ron and Hermione, but also with Ginny and Madam Pomfrey. As he did so, he could feel his eyelids getting heavier and before he knew it, he fell asleep.
When he woke up again, his mouth was dry, and his neck was numb from the back of the chair. It took him a while to remember where he was. When he did, he realized two things. One, Snape was still asleep. And two, he was not alone in the room. He whipped out his wand and pointed it at the intruder, before realizing it was Professor McGonagall.
“I didn't mean to wake you.” She said apologetically. “It was clear you needed your sleep.”
Harry lowered his wand, still a little sleepy.
“Good morning, Potter.” She reached into the pocket of her robes and checked her watch. “Afternoon, rather.”
“What? Have I slept that long?”
“Yes, but don't worry.” She said, seeing the look on the boy's face. “Madam Pomfrey has already informed your friends that you were here. They have also decided that it would be best to let you rest.”
Harry ran a hand over his face, trying to shake off the sleep.
“Thank you... It’s true that I was tired.”
Professor McGonagall smiled, but then looked at Snape and that caused it to disappeared.
“Madam Pomfrey has explained everything to me... I couldn't come earlier, there's still a lot of work to be done. But I had to see it for myself.”
She moved to the edge of Snape's bed, her back to Harry. Then, she brought a hand to the man’s and gave it a gentle squeeze. Although he could not see her face, the shaking of her shoulders indicated to Harry that she was crying.
A few minutes passed in silence. Harry not knowing what to say and Professor McGonagall standing beside Snape, sobbing quietly. Finally, she turned away from the bed. Harry could see the remnants of tears on her face, but otherwise she had almost completely regained her composure.
“Merlin... I'm sorry, Harry.”
“Don't worry, Professor. It's quite normal. You were friends for years.”
“Friends.” She repeated. “That is a word Severus would never use. Workmates, colleagues... That was as far as one could go with Severus Snape. And now I understand why. He couldn't allow himself to form bonds with people. His role as a spy was too important.” She smiled humorlessly, sitting down on a chair. “And yet... I like to think we had something akin to friendship. All these years have got to be worth something, haven't they?”
Harry didn't know if she was talking to him or just out loud, though he didn't want to interrupt her. It wasn't like Professor McGonagall to open up like that. But he supposed that what had happened over the last few days and seeing Snape alive again would affect anyone.
“I hated him so much this year.” The teacher confessed. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to take it, that at some point I would explode and finish him off. Dumbledore's murderer, the traitor. The one who had betrayed our trust... But I held on. And then, to know that he was on our side all this time, only to find out that he was dead... It was quite painful.” Her face clearly said that word didn't begin to describe it. “And now, after all that, he's alive?”
Harry couldn't quite believe it either, even if he had known it all day.
“Yes, this is Severus’ style.” Professor McGonagall's sarcastic smile was full of affection, despite everything. “Dramatic to the end.”
Silence fell in the room after that sentence, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Harry was happy to share that moment with Professor McGonagall. The two of them sitting in front of Snape's bed, while the professor laid there, breathing slowly. He liked knowing that McGonagall's feelings for Snape were as complicated as his own for the man.
“He'll wake up, Professor.” He said, finally. “I'm sure of it. I am now.”
She smiled at him. It was a sad smile, but Harry could see a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
“I really hope you are right, Potter.”
To be continued...
Waking up by CleganeSnape
The rain pattered against the glass, accompanying Harry and filling the silence of the room. The storm that was falling was typical of the time of year, heavy but brief, so he closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying it while it lasted. It had only been a few days since the war had ended, since Ron and Hermione had brought Snape to the infirmary, but Harry felt as if it had been months.
The Weasleys, with the exception of Ron, had returned to the Burrow that morning. Harry remembered Mrs. Weasley's hug and the kiss Ginny had given him on the lips, promising to see him again in a few days at the funeral. But the farewell that had shocked the boy the most had been George's. Harry had approached him carefully, planning to give him a squeeze on the arm and a few words of encouragement. Before he could do so, however, George had wrapped his arms around him and squeezed him so tightly that Harry had run out of breath for a moment. He quickly returned the embrace with the same intensity, trying to show him everything he felt. When they pulled apart, both their cheeks were wet, but George's eyes were less empty than before.
And so, the Weasleys had returned home to prepare for Fred's funeral and to welcome all the family that had travelled there. Only Ron had stayed behind, which Mrs. Weasley hadn't been very happy about at first. Her husband made her understand that everyone deals with grief in their own way, and eventually Molly gave in. Ron was going to return to the Burrow in time for the funeral, after things had calmed down at Hogwarts.
Politicians, journalists, and celebrities had come to the school. But also, relatives of the victims, healers and people who wanted to help rebuild the castle. Because Harry, Ron and Hermione had played such an important role in defeating Voldemort, their presence was somehow required. They had to give their side of the story to various authorities in the magical world, as well as shaking hands and helping to boost the morale of the wounded. Of course, they could have refused, but all three felt responsible. Had they not returned to Hogwarts for the Horcrux, the battle would never have happened.
In this moment, though, Harry was back in Snape's room. The Professor had not yet awoken, but according to Madam Pomfrey his wounds were healing. As time passed, it had become easier for Harry to leave Snape under the watchful eye of his friends. Both Ron and Hermione had replaced him in his chair by the professor’s gurney so that Harry could sleep in a bed, spend time away from the infirmary, or attend to his responsibilities. Now, however, it was his turn to be there.
He didn't know exactly what time it was, but by the moonlight coming in from the window, it must have been late. Still, he didn't mind. He felt strangely calm and at ease, with Snape still asleep on his bed and the rain falling hard against the glass. He had checked out several books from the library and was reading them sitting cross-legged, the light from his wand illuminating the pages.
He knew that, if he so desired, he could start working as an auror at any time. But Harry didn't want to have any gaps in a knowledge that might one day save his life, so he had gone to the library to get several advanced books on Defence, Potions or Charms. Mrs. Prince had cleverly created powerful protections on the books at the start of the battle and thanks to that most of them survived the fight.
So, Harry sat there, next to Snape, reading in a silence broken only by the rain and the turning of the pages. He knew that when dawn came that quiet would be replaced by the coming and going of healers, the noise of the owls and the crowds of people wandering around the school. He was also aware that in the coming days he would be attending many funerals of loved ones, which would be painful. And that as soon as Snape woke up, he would have another fire to put out. But at that moment he felt strangely at peace.
He read on for a long time, well into the early hours of the morning, when suddenly the door opened, and Madam Pomfrey entered the room.
The healer was not surprised to see him, having grown accustomed to his presence over the past few days.
“Madam Pomfrey. Has something happened?”
“I'm not sure.” She approached Snape slowly and watched him for a moment. “The charms I placed have alerted me that a change is taking place.”
Harry got suddenly out of breath.
“A... a change?”
“That's right.” She said. “Give me a minute.”
She made some complicated movements with her wand, whispering different words in a language Harry didn't know. As the seconds ticked by, the boy began to worry. He didn't want to distract Madam Pomfrey, so he didn't say anything, but only the most pessimistic scenarios were running through his mind.
Just when he thought he couldn't take the uncertainty any longer, Madam Pomfrey turned around and Harry could see her face. She had a tired smile on her face and her eyes were shining with satisfaction.
“It will be all right, Potter.” She said, reassuringly. “His breathing, as well as his pulse, are quickening. That indicates that his body is preparing to wake up. I can tell you that he will do so shortly.”
Those words dispelled the anxiety Harry had carried with him since he had discovered that Snape was alive. The twinge of nervousness in his stomach disappeared and he had to take a deep breath to keep from getting dizzy with relief.
“Are you alright?” Madam Pomfrey asked, watching him closely.
“Yes, yes. Of course. This is fantastic news. It's just...” He hesitated for a moment, not knowing how to explain himself. “It's been so many days of nerves; I can't believe it's really happening.”
“It's perfectly normal, Potter.” She said, reaching over and patting him on the back. “Take deep breaths and it will pass.”
Harry did so, and slowly regained his composure.
“Okay, I’m good. I'm all right.” He said, more to himself than to Madam Pomfrey.
“I'm glad, because you only have a few minutes until Professor Snape wakes up.”
Harry nodded, suddenly nervous, anticipating the moment. He looked around and saw the mess in the room. He decided that the last thing he wanted was to upset Snape as soon as he woke up, so he set to work. He gathered up his books and stuffed them into his backpack, which he then left leaning against his chair. Then he folded up the blanket he had covered himself with and put it in a drawer indicated by Madam Pomfrey. When he was done, he sat down again, fiddling impatiently with his fingers.
“Potter.” The healer said when only a few seconds had passed. “I want you to listen to me carefully. I know you probably have a lot to talk to Severus about, but it's important that you don't upset him too much. He'll still be very weak and, considering your history with him... I don't want to have to throw you out of the room, do you understand?”
Harry nodded, though he couldn't help but to smile with humour.
“I understand, but don't worry. I don't mean to pick up a fight with Snape. I don't think I ever will again.”
Now that the war was over and Harry knew him better, he hoped to be able to maintain a cordial relationship with the man. Their days of childish bickering were behind them, at least as far as Harry was concerned.
“Good,” Was all Madam Pomfrey said.
The next few seconds passed in silence, as Harry's heart pounded. Behind the windows the rain had stopped, but he didn't notice, he was too focused on Snape. He watched his face, waiting for some change.
When it finally happened, it was as if time slowed down. Snape's eyelids fluttered and his eyes opened. It took them a few seconds to get used to the light, but when they did, they quickly went to rest on Harry.
Green met black, just as it had nights before, in the Shrieking House. Harry had thought it would never happen again, and so he shivered when Snape's dark eyes looked directly at him and, after a few moments, recognized him.
“Potter?” His name had only been a whisper, a sigh in the silence of the room, but Harry could hear it clearly.
He wanted to reply, but the lump in his throat was too strong, so he could only smile. Some part of him realized that this was the first time he had ever smiled because of Snape.
“Severus.” Said Madam Pomfrey, her eyes a little blurry with emotion.
Snape's head turned in her direction and the movement must have caused him pain, as a grimace appeared on his face. Then he seemed to realize where he was because his eyes widened in alarm, and he began to look around nervously.
“It's all right, it's all right.” Madam Pomfrey said quickly. “You are safe.”
But Harry could see the fear on the Professor's face. Used to the man's impassivity, it worried him and made him take a step forward, approaching the bed.
“Professor, Madam Pomfrey is right: all is well. Voldemort has been defeated. The war is over.”
He hoped those words would calm him, but Snape continued to look at him, fear on his eyes, and shaking his head weakly.
“You're still... you're still alive, Potter.” Snape's voice was hoarse, Harry didn't know if it was from lack of use or from his injuries, but the panic in it was clear. “As long as... you live...” he had to pause for a moment to catch his breath, “… so will he...”
And then Harry understood.
“Oh, of course... You don't know.” The expression on Snape's face made him continue speaking quickly. “Eh... It's a bit of a long story, but basically, I did what Dumbledore wanted me to do. I let him... kill me. And that killed the part of him that lived in me. And I don't quite know how, but somehow, I survived. I was able to come back, to wake up again as if I had just fainted.”
Snape was still looking at him, sceptical, but a little calmer than before. Harry interpreted his silence as a sign for him to keep talking.
“And when I woke up again, I managed to... well, defeat him.” He didn't want to use the word ‘kill’. “There was a battle with a few Death Eaters that were left, but most of them tried to run away or surrendered. And... that was it. The war was over.”
He had been averting his gaze as he spoke, but when he finished, he turned his attention back to Snape.
Snape took some time before answering him. Although the fear was gone from his features, his gaze was lost somewhere on the ceiling and for a few seconds he didn't move from there. Still, Harry couldn't blame him. He could imagine what Snape must have been feeling at that moment. Probably something similar to what he had felt when he saw Voldemort's body touch the ground.
“He's dead.” Snape finally said, and Harry did not know whether he was asking or affirming.
“Yes.” He answered, anyway. “He is dead.”
Snape's eyes met his, once more, and Harry could see the relief in them.
“Good.” He said simply. Then, surprising Harry, he gave a small smile and closed his eyes, resting his head on the pillow.
A few seconds passed in silence until Madam Pomfrey approached the bed and softly said:
“Severus, I have a few questions to ask you, if that's all right.”
Snape's eyes were still closed, but Harry could see the irritation emanating from him.
“Alright.” He said finally, sitting up with Madam Pomfrey's help.
She conjured up a pillow and placed it behind Snape's back. Once he was settled, she moved aside to make room for him.
Meanwhile, Harry felt completely out of place, watching. It had been different when Snape was asleep, but now that he was awake, he felt like an intruder.
“Let’s see.” Madam Pomfrey began. “I have noticed that you are having some difficulty speaking. It's probably due to the wounds you received to your neck.” Snape tried to hide a slight shudder, but Harry saw it. “I'm not too worried about that, though. They are healing well, so you should be able to recover your voice without any problems. Alternatively, it could also be dryness from lack of use. Which reminds me...” She waved her wand and a glass of water appeared.
Madam Pomfrey took it in one hand and helped Snape drink. When he had finished, he thanked her with a slight nod.
“Okay.” She said, placing the glass on the small table. “Another thing I wanted to know is if you remember anything about the attack.”
She had asked it gently and carefully, but Snape was not amused.
“I remember.” He said dryly.
“I'm asking because sometimes losing a lot of blood or even trauma can cause memory loss and…”
“I said I remember.”
Harry could see Snape's right hand gripping the sheets tightly.
“Alright.” Madam Pomfrey nodded, putting the matter to rest.
“Yes, just a question.”
Snape sighed, but didn't complain. Meanwhile, Harry was trying not to draw attention to himself. He didn't know if they had forgotten about him, but he didn't want to be thrown out of the room.
“I would like to know how you're feeling. Are you in any discomfort? Are you in any pain? More than would be normal under the circumstances.”
“No, I'm perfectly fine.” Snape said sarcastically.
Madam Pomfrey pressed her lips together but nodded. She must have been used to dealing with difficult patients.
“Very well, then, that will be all. Now I will change the bandages and give you your potions.” Snape started to speak, but she silenced him, waving a hand. “Yes, before you start: they are potions prepared by you.”
That must have satisfied him, because he nodded and Harry could see something resembling a smile on his lips.
“Well, I'll get everything I need, and I will be right back.” Said Madam Pomfrey, heading for the door. “Mr. Potter, I think it's time for you to go back to your room, don't you think?”
Harry felt his cheeks redden and hurried to pick up his backpack. Madam Pomfrey left the room, and he was about to do the same when Snape spoke.
“Stay, Potter. At least until she returns. I have some questions.”
The surprise on Harry's face was evident, but he did as Snape had told him. He put his bag back on the floor and sat down in the chair he already considered his own.
Snape said nothing for a few moments and Harry began to get nervous. Clearly, he would have been more intimidated had he not been lying on the stretcher, wearing white pyjamas and bandages around his neck. But even so, Snape's silences were always frightening.
“Have you been staying here long, Potter?” Snape's gaze went to rest on his backpack.
Harry wanted to play dumb, to deny it, but he knew it would do no good. So, he nodded.
“Yeah, a bit... We've been taking turns since you were brought to the infirmary.”
Snape watched him silently, processing that answer. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but then changed his mind and instead asked:
“Turns? You and who else?”
“Ron and Hermione.” Said Harry.
“They were the ones who found you, sir. The ones who realized you were alive.”
Snape's sarcastic smile disappeared.
“I suppose I should thank them...”
He seemed to be speaking more to himself than to Harry.
“Tell me, Potter, how did you survive?” He said suddenly.
Harry tried to gather his thoughts, as even he was not sure.
“It's a bit of a long story...”
“I do not know if you've noticed, but I've got time.”
Snape seemed to be slowly regaining his voice, and though Harry was glad, it had also brought back his sarcasm.
“All right.” The boy sighed. “First of all, do you know what a Horcrux is?”
Snape's white skin paled even more, but he nodded.
“I thought you would know, after all…”
“I'm a former Death Eater who knows too much about the Dark Arts?”
Harry didn't know what to say to that, so he just kept explaining.
“Basically, Voldemort,” Snape grimaced at the name of his former master, “created seven of them.”
“Seven?” He whispered in horror.
“You didn’t know, sir?”
“Dumbledore never told me directly. Though after I knew you were supposed to die... Well, it wasn't hard to figure out. But I never thought there would be so many. Is that what you have been doing all this year? Destroying them?”
“But how did you...?” Suddenly something clicked in his mind. “The Gryffindor sword... That's what you needed it for.”
“It absorbed the basilisk's poison.” Harry explained.
Snape ran a hand over his face, looking very tired.
“Thank you for giving it to us, by the way.”
Snape pulled his hand away and watched him. It was a curious expression, as if he were looking for the trap in Harry's words. But the boy meant it with complete sincerity. Obtaining that sword had been key to their mission. Being able to destroy the Horcruxes had been a much-needed boost of positivity for the three friends. Besides, he still remembered Snape's Patronus and the feeling of familiarity he felt when he saw it. The doe had made him feel safe and secure, and though he hadn't known why then, he understood now.
“Actually,” Harry continued, “I wanted to thank you for everything you've done. For the magical world, but especially for me.” He had wanted to say that ever since he had looked at Snape's memories.
“Potter...” It was only one word, but it caught Harry's attention.
He had heard Snape say his name with hatred or anger, but never like this. This time, his voice was full of guilt and sadness. Looking into his face, Harry could see the weariness of a man who had lived for thousands of years.
“You shouldn't thank me.” He said finally.
“Of course, I should!” That had angered Harry. “You have put yourself in danger over and over again for years without anyone knowing about it. I've seen your memories, I've seen everything you’ve done, so I know perfectly well...”
“You know nothing!” Snape had raised his voice and it sounded hoarse and raspy. “If you have seen my memories, then you should understand why I don't deserve your gratitude. I killed your parents, Potter.” He spat, trying to hurt Harry, trying to make him hate him as much as Snape hated himself. “I've been a Death Eater, I've done horrible things. I still would be one if it wasn't for that stupid prophecy! Do you think I would have cared about you if you were not the son of who you are? Do you think I would have protected you if you weren't ‘the famous Harry Potter’?”
That hurt, Harry had to admit. He felt like snapping back, like shouting at him and agreeing with everything that he had said. Telling him that he was a soulless Death Eater and that he deserved everything bad that had happened to him. He wanted to flee the room and never see the man who had caused so much misfortune in his life ever again. Once upon a time he would have done it. But Harry had matured, he had grown up and learned a lot. And, above all, he had lost. And he had had enough. Snape may have wanted Harry to leave him alone, but he wasn't about to.
So, he took a deep breath, calming his heartbeat, and said:
“‘Lately, only those whom I could not save’.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Snape looked up at him blankly.
“It's something you said. Dumbledore asked you how many men and women you had seen die. And you replied, ‘Lately, only those whom I could not save’.”
Snape was speechless, and Harry took the opportunity to continue.
“I have seen your memories,” he repeated, “so I know that everything you have said is a lie. I do not believe it. Not for a moment. You tried to save Lupin and Charity Burbage. You protected Ginny, Neville and Luna this past year. You have kept me and my friends safe who knows how many times. You even stopped Draco from having to kill Dumbledore. And that's not even counting the number of lives you must have saved thanks to your role as a spy.”
Snape shook his head, trying to deny it. Any other time he would have answered, but he was tired. Tired of fighting and pushing people away. He was exhausted. So, he kept silent.
“Besides, no matter what kind of man you were twenty years ago, you have changed. I saw it in your memories. How you told Phineas Nigellus not to use the word ‘mud-blood’. And, for what it's worth, I also found out about Dumbledore, about his past. He, too, once believed in magical supremacy.”
Though he hid it well, Harry could see the interest in Snape's features.
“That's right.” He continued. “He did once, and then he became the Muggles' greatest advocate.”
“I am not Albus Dumbledore.” said Snape, frowning.
“No, you are not. But you both changed your minds. You both put your misguided ideas behind you, and in the end, you were instrumental in saving the magical world.”
Snape shook his head again and looked away.
“As far as I'm concerned,” Harry continued, “I think that even without the Prophecy, you would have given up on the Death Eaters in the end.”
“Potter... Do not talk about things you don't know anything about.” Snape muttered, very seriously.
“You're right, I don't know what you were like when you were young... But my mother did.”
That made Snape look him straight in the eyes, and Harry saw such pain in his that he had to look away.
“She saw something good in you, she was your friend for years.” he said, despite everything. “And even if I did not know her well, I trust her judgement.”
He finished speaking and waited. He was aware that so many years of loneliness, pain, and self-hatred had taken their toll on Snape, but he hoped that his words would resonate with the man.
Several seconds passed in silence, but Snape said nothing. So, finally, Harry decided to speak again.
“Look, I realize that our relationship has never been easy.” He said. “But now that I know the truth, I would like to.... I don't know, come to some sort of truce? Try to get along as amicably as possible?”
This caused Snape to snort sarcastically, but Harry took it as a good sign. After all, he hadn't shouted at him to leave the room.
“I'm here.” Madam Pomfrey said from the door, startling them both. Harry had almost forgotten about her.
She placed the potions and fresh bandages on the table and turned to Harry.
“Mr. Potter? I thought you had gone to your room.”
“I told him to stay.” Snape explained. “I had some questions.”
Madam Pomfrey's eyes twinkled.
“Has he answered them yet?”
“He has. Most of them, anyway.” Snape said, though Harry would have liked to say otherwise. His conversation with Snape wasn't over yet.
“Well, then I must ask you to leave the room.”
Harry alternated a hesitant glance between Snape and Madam Pomfrey. He had grown accustomed to spending hours in that place, and now that the Professor had woken up, he wasn't sure when he would be able to return.
“Severus will sleep until late with the potions I've given him.” The nurse said with a small smile. “It's almost dawn, Potter. Go to bed. You can visit Professor Snape again after lunch, once he's awake.”
The man wanted to reply, but before he could, Harry nodded. Knowing he could come back made him smile. He bent down to pick up his bag and, before heading out the door, he turned once more.
“We still have some things I would like to talk about, Professor. I'll come back later.” He said. “Good night.”
And he closed the door before Snape could answer.
“Don't think I don't know what you're doing, Poppy.”
“What do you mean?”
“You're no good at lying. You knew perfectly well that Potter was still here. I may still be weak but I'm not an idiot; it doesn't take that long to fetch a couple of potions and some bandages.”
Madam Pomfrey was silent as she removed the used bandages and applied the new ones. When she had finished, she stepped back a little and looked at Snape gravely.
“The poor boy has been here for days. It took his friends a while to convince him to leave you alone, even for a moment. I wasn't going to deny him the chance to talk to you for a few minutes.”
Snape said nothing.
“Look, Severus... We have known each other for years, but at the same time I get the feeling I don't know anything about you. Potter said something about your loyalties. When he was confronting You-Know-Who. He explained that you have always been on our side... I don't know how, but now he knows you better than most of us. And that has made him care about you. The boy has already lost a lot of people, it's only natural he'd want to hold on to the few he has left. Don't push him away, Severus.”
Those words caused Snape to close his eyes and turn his head in the opposite direction, ending the conversation. That was the last thing he needed. After all these years it was ridiculous to imagine a friendly relationship between him and Potter. Suddenly, something said by the nurse made him open his eyes and turn around again.
“Wait. You said: ‘he has already lost a lot of people’.” Repeating that sentence made his blood run cold. “Who? How many died in the battle?”
Before being attacked by Nagini, Snape had been able to watch the fight from the castle grounds. He couldn't tell the number of casualties, but from the explosions and the screams, he was sure there had been many.
“A lot, Severus.” Madam Pomfrey said grimly. “There's a list that appeared in the Prophet, I'll bring it to you later. It lists all the victims, both on one side and the other. Potter insisted.” She added, seeing the look on Snape's face. “And Minerva agreed. But I suppose you will want to know the names of those you knew best.”
Snape prepared himself for the worst but nodded.
“Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Fred Weasley...” Her voice trembled as she listed the victims, and with each name, Snape could feel a new stabbing in his chest. “I'm sorry, Severus...”
Snape didn't know how to react to that. He closed his eyes and swallowed, trying to undo the lump in his throat. He thought of Lupin, the young boy who had done nothing when his friends tormented him. The man who had thanked him time and time again as he brewed his wolfsbane potion. Another member of the Order, just like him. Always polite, even if Snape hated that politeness. The last of the Marauders. Someone Snape had come to respect. For whom he had almost revealed his true loyalties by protecting him from a Death Eater's attack.
Silent tears fell down his cheeks and Snape did nothing to stop them. What was the point? It no longer mattered to show weakness. A lifetime of hiding his emotions had brought him nothing but misfortune.
He kept thinking of the victims. Of Tonks, so young, who had been his student. Always joking, bumping into everything, so much that it was annoying. But smart and cheerful, trying to include Snape when the others wouldn't. He had heard that she and Lupin had recently become parents. That hurt him even more. Another war orphan, like Potter once was. History was repeating itself.
And finally, the Weasley boy. Snape had hurt the other brother without meaning to. He remembered it well. When he saw the blood gushing from George's head, he had to make an effort not to fall off the broom he was flying on. Back then, he had pictured the whole family gathered around the boy. Molly and Arthur worried and angry, the siblings looking after him and joking to make him feel better. And now one of them was dead. The lump in his throat tightened at the thought of what Arthur and Molly must have been going through. Lily had died to protect her son. He was sure that, if someone had given them the choice, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would have done it too.
“Severus?” Asked Madam Pomfrey, snapping him out of his thoughts. “Are you alright?”
Snape took a moment to answer, but finally nodded.
“Yes... Yes, I am.”
“I am sorry. “The healer said again. “It's not easy, I know.”
“I'm tired, Poppy.” Snape said suddenly, not wanting to talk about it anymore.
“Of course... It is normal.”
She picked up the first potion and held it to his lips.
“Here you go.”
Snape turned away.
“You don't have to give them to me, I can do it myself.”
Madam Pomfrey hesitated for a moment, but then nodded.
She put the potions back on the table.
“I'm sorry, Poppy.” Snape forced himself to say, immediately regretting his rudeness. “I did not mean to be ungrateful.”
“It's okay, I understand.” She smiled sadly. “When you wake up, let me know, all right?”
Snape nodded, as she walked towards the door.
“I'm going to lie down for a while too.” She said, opening it. “Rest, Severus. Merlin knows you have earned it.”
When Madam Pomfrey left the room, Snape let out a sigh. He had not been awake for more than an hour, but he was already exhausted. He had a lot to think about, and he knew that when he did manage to fall asleep, his dreams would not be pleasant ones. He picked up the potions from the table and looked at them carefully. He drank first the one that replenished the blood he had lost and then the one that helped his wounds heal. Then he took the last vial between his fingers. It was a potion that allowed him to sleep without dreaming, preventing nightmares for those who drank it. Though he was grateful for the healer's gesture, he could not drink it.
He bent with effort to pick up his wand from the table. He supposed they must have found it next to his unconscious body. He was glad he had not lost it.
“Evanesco.” he whispered, and the potion disappeared.
He placed the empty vial back on the table and lay down on the bed. He was aware that he had just condemned himself to an unpleasant sleep, but he didn't care. He owed it to those who had not made it. He didn't deserve to sleep peacefully while they had died, and he was still there. If he could trade his fate with any of the victims, he would do so without hesitation. Once the war was over, he felt he no longer had a purpose to follow. But Snape had learned, much to his regret, that nothing can change the past. So, he did the only thing he could do in that moment: close his eyes and, once managed to fall asleep, dream.
In the dormitory of the Gryffindor Common Room, Harry was still awake. Ron was snoring next to his bed, and Hermione was sleeping next to him. After spending so many months together, it felt strange for the three of them to be apart. So, Hermione had decided to break the rules and use the bed of one of the seventh-year boys who had come home after the battle. No one had noticed, or at least they hadn't complained, and Harry was grateful for it. He slept more peacefully knowing that two of the most important people in his life were safe. And he also felt more protected, lying next to them. In that moment, however, he was still awake. He was staring at the ceiling, lit only by the moonlight streaming through the curtains from the window. His conversation with Snape had given him much to think about. He replayed it in his mind, thinking of things he could have said and things he should not have. Finally, he realized that it didn't matter if it hadn't gone as well as he'd hoped: Snape was alive, and he could talk to him a thousand more times if he wanted to. That was if the professor did not finish him off first, he thought with a sleepy smile.
Slowly, sleep had begun to take its toll on him. Before he fell asleep, however, he realized that he felt safer and more optimistic than he had in a long time. For the first time he could think about the future, and though there were still many wounds to heal and a long road ahead, he was excited and hopeful for what it had to offer. He leaned back against the pillow and closed his eyes, letting his mind wander until he fell asleep.
To be continued...
I hope you are enjoying the story and that you liked that first interaction between Harry and Snape. Let me know if both of them felt in character or if they feel too different from canon.
Anyway, I hope you guys are having a good day! See you in the next update :)
A good day by CleganeSnape
“Harry, what are you doing here?”
The voice came from somewhere over his head, but to the boy, still half asleep, it sounded far away.
“Harry?” The voice repeated. “Did something happen?”
The tone of concern finally woke him up and made him open his eyes. The sunlight streaming in from the window dazzled him and caused him to close them again immediately.
“I asked you if something had happened. To Snape, I mean. You slept here instead of in the infirmary. And you didn't wake us up so we could go in your place.”
“Oh...” Harry sat up slowly, trying to keep the cold air out of the sheets.
Ron and Hermione stood beside him, looking at him with curiosity and a hint of nervousness. That set Harry's brain in motion, causing images of the previous day to flood his mind.
“Actually, something did happen.” He said, smiling. “He woke up. I didn't tell you because it happened in the middle of the night, and you guys needed to rest. But yes, he woke up.” He repeated, and his smile widened.
“Oh! That's very good news!” Hermione said, smiling. “I'm so happy for that, I really am.”
She had seated on the bed, next to Harry, and the boy could see her eyes sparkling.
“It is great news.” Agreed Ron, with a big smile. “Brilliant, I would say.” He had been waiting to hear that Snape had woken up since the moment he had found him laying in the Shrieking Shack. “So, how is he feeling? Is he all right?”
Harry nodded, moved by his friends’ reaction.
“Well, tell us what happened. Did you talk to him?”
“Yes, I spoke to him. Although I'm not quite sure if it went well or not…”
He began to explain what happened, while his friends listened in silence.
“... and well, that's all there was to it. It was late and he needed his rest. What do you think?”
Ron was quiet for a few moments, putting his thoughts in order.
“Considering this is Snape we're talking about,” he said finally, “I think the conversation could have gone a lot worse.”
That made Harry smile.
“Yeah, you're right.”
“I usually am.” Ron teased him. “But seriously, don't worry if it wasn't the perfect reunion. We all know what Snape's like... And I don't think living through a war has made him any nicer.”
“I agree with Ron. Besides, it was only the first conversation. Give it time.”
“Exactly.” Ron continued, confidently. “Just think that being bitten by a snake isn't a very pleasant experience. I'm sure his wounds were still hurting, and he was feeling a bit lost. Try going again today and you'll see how it goes well.”
Harry felt better after hearing those words.
“Thank you” He said genuinely. “Actually, I'd already thought about going again: Madam Pomfrey said I could do it after lunch. So, I hope you're right and everything goes better this time.”
“As I said,” Ron reminded him with a smile, “I usually am.”
Harry rolled his eyes at him, but the smirk stayed on his face.
“Now, can we get dressed and go have breakfast? My guts are growling.”
Hermione put up an arm like she used to do in class when she wanted to say something.
“I was actually thinking of going to Hagrid's.” She told them. “Would you like to have breakfast there?
“Hermione.” Ron looked at her in horror. “Have you forgotten his cakes that feel and taste like stone? We can't eat anything he cooks.”
“Of course, we can't” She said, like it was obvious. “Hagrid told me yesterday that he'd fixed up his hut and wanted to show it to us. My plan was to grab a couple of sandwiches from the kitchens before we went and eat them there.”
Ron weighed those words, remembering that Hagrid's house had been destroyed during the battle.
“Okay, sounds good. But let's make it more than just a couple of sandwiches, eh?”
Smiling at his friend's appetite, Harry finally got out of bed.
“That sounds like a great idea,” he said as he did so, “but I've got to take a shower. Meet me in the kitchens in twenty minutes?”
He began searching through his chest, trying to find all the clothes that he needed.
“Perfect. But make sure you take a jacket.” Hermione suggested, looking out of the window. “Even if it's sunny it's still cold.”
“Yes, you're right, thank you.” Harry picked up a coat from the bottom of the chest and turned around to face his friends. “Right, I think I've got everything. See you in a bit in the kitchens. Don't be late!”
After twenty minutes, already dressed and with his hair still damp, Harry joined his friends in the Hogwarts kitchens. He remembered how strange it had felt the first time he had entered them after the Battle: something as normal as the bubbling pots and the boiling of the oil felt out of place in the middle of the silent, shattered castle. Still, the survivors had needed to recover from the fighting and eat something urgently after the effort and energies expended during the battle. So, the house elves had quickly returned to the kitchens and had set to work to provide the food that everyone required.
Since then, Harry couldn't help but feel a rush of pain every time he watched them, remembering Dobby and all that his friend had done for him. If the war had ended well, it was largely thanks to the brave house elf.
“Do you want these from here?”
Ron's voice brought him out of his thoughts.
“The sandwiches, Harry. Would you like these ones here?”
His gaze fell on the tray Ron was pointing to. On it there were some ham and cheese sandwiches. They looked and smelled amazing, and his stomach growled at the sight of them.
“I'll take that as a yes.” Smiled Ron, taking and putting them in a paper bag that already contained his and Hermione's.
Harry wondered where she had gone, since he didn’t remember her leaving. Before he could ask Ron, though, he looked around and saw her.
“Would you like something sweet as well?” Hermione asked them, showing them what she had been carrying in her hands. “I found these chocolate muffins. They look good.”
“They look more than good!” Nodded Ron appreciatively, looking at the little pieces of chocolate on top of the muffin. “Would you like one, Harry?”
“Uh? Yeah, yeah, they are okay.”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a look.
“Is something wrong?” She asked. “You've been distracted since we came in.”
“No, nothing's wrong.” Harry lied, biting his lip. “It's just... I was thinking about Dobby. I can almost see him there, with the other elves.”
That caused Hermione to lower her head with sadness and Ron to get closer to Harry, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“It will probably happen to us for a while.” He said, his eyes filled with pain. “And not just with Dobby, but with the others as well. There are days when I keep seeing Fred out of the corner of my eye.” He admitted. “I know it sounds strange, but it's comforting. It's like a part of them is still here.”
Those words made Harry think of the Resurrection Stone. He had been able to see his parents, Sirius, and Remus, one last time. Even got to say goodbye to them. But Ron hadn't had that small comfort and, for a moment, he was tempted to tell him about it. He knew the stone was in the middle of the Forbidden Forest, near the place where he had given himself to Voldemort, ready to die. If he wanted to, it would not be too difficult to find it again. But he wasn't sure if that was a good idea. It might be unfair and even cruel, but Ron had never been known for his mental fortitude and Harry didn't want to risk losing him in the pale reflection of his loved ones.
So, instead, he swallowed and nodded slowly.
“I understand what you're saying. It's sad, but it helps in a way.”
“It happens to me too.” Hermione confessed. “The other day, one of those healers from St. Mungo's passed by me, the one with the pink hair. My mind automatically flashed back to Tonks, and I swear I could see her face in that girl's for a couple of seconds.”
“Merlin...” Ron ran his hand over his face. “We're a mess. Good thing we can at least understand each other.”
“That's true.” Said Hermione, the sadness in her eyes replaced by affection. Knowing that the others went through the same things as her helped a lot.
Harry watched them, still thinking about Dobby, but feeling a little better. Ron caught his gaze and gave a hint of a smile.
“Come on, cheer up, Harry. I don't feel like being sad today. I've had enough of it.” He said with determination, pushing away all the depressing thoughts that had being going through his mind. “Let's stop thinking about these things and enjoy the day. It's sunny and we have good food for breakfast.”
Hermione put the muffins inside the bag and nodded.
“I think you are right, Ron. I’m tired of feeling sad all the time too. So a bit of happiness and optimism would be nice.”
He smiled at her.
“I'm glad. Because you'll see: today will be a good day.” He turned to face Harry, who had been looking at them without saying a word. “What do you think?”
The boy could see the effort his friends were making, trying to boost their morale, and decided to not disagree with them. After all, if anyone deserved a bit of happiness, it was the three of them. Perhaps, for now, they could only get obtain it that way: by not letting sadness win for a few hours and by stubbornly trying to find joy wherever it hid. But Harry hoped that in time it would get easier.
So, he nodded and gave a small smile.
“All right.” He said. “Let's have a good day.”
To be continued...
I know this chapter is a bit shorter than the other ones but the next one will be longer, I promise :)
Please let me know if there are any mistakes, the characters don't feel like themselves or just your thoughts about the fanfic so far. I'd love to hear about them :D
Anyway, that would be all. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good day!
A crazy idea by CleganeSnape
Surprisingly, that morning was one of the best Harry had had in a long time. The familiarity of sitting in Hagrid's hut with Ron and Hermione, catching up and chatting about unimportant things, helped him relax and stop thinking.
The time passed quickly and pleasantly until, when it was almost lunchtime, Hagrid asked them about their plans for the future.
“I'm going back to Hogwarts in September to finish my remaining year.” Hermione explained. “But first Ron and I are going to Australia to bring my parents back. I erased their memories of me so that they would be safe from the Death Eaters.” She added, meeting Hagrid's questioning gaze.
The half-giant's eyes widened in surprise at that information, but he made no comment.
“What about you, Harry?” He asked then, looking at the boy.
“I hadn't given it much thought, to be honest.” That was a lie, of course. Harry had thought a lot about his future, but the truth was that he wasn't sure what to do with it. “For now, I'm going to stay at Hogwarts until most of the wounded recover and things settle down a bit at the Ministry. I don't want to leave and have to go back to talk to some politician or give my version of what happened during the Battle.” He shook his head tiredly. “And after that... maybe I could go back to Grimauld Place to tidy it up a bit. Or come back next year like Hermione, too. I don't know, really.”
“Don't worry about that, you've still got time.” He smiled. “And you know that, whatever happens, you'll always have a place in my hut. You could be my assistant if I ever teach Care of Magical Creatures again. You were good at it.”
Harry couldn't help smiling at him.
“We'll see what happens, but I appreciate it. By the way, is Buckbeak all right? I saw him fighting Voldemort's giants.”
After wincing at the name, Hagrid nodded.
“Yes, he's fine. I've left him free to come and go from the Forbidden Forest as he pleases. He's a clever Hippogriff and knows how to stay out of trouble. Besides, he and Grawp have become friends, it seems, and he visits him in his cave from time to time” He smiled warmly. “Poor Grawp suffered some injuries during the fight, but he's strong and has almost recovered. I've been to see him a couple of times since then and he is doing alright.”
“I was going to ask you about him too.” Said Harry, remembering Hagrid's huge half-brother. “I'm glad he's okay.”
“Yeah, we've been very lucky. More than most…” He muttered, then realized Ron was there and shut up immediately. “Anyway,” he said quickly, awkwardly changing the subject, “those are very good plans you've got going on. I hope everything goes well and that you enjoy your summer. You've earned it.”
The three friends thanked him for his words, but the reminder of Fred's loss lingered in the air. Harry couldn't help but notice that there was one part of their plans that none of them had mentioned. The reason why Ron and Hermione hadn't left for Australia yet, despite the girl wanting to join her parents as soon as possible. The reason the three of them were still at Hogwarts instead of back at the Burrow. That reason was that Fred's funeral had not yet taken place.
Only a week had passed since the Battle of Hogwarts, since that night when the young Weasley had been killed along with so many others like Remus and Tonks, but for Harry it had been much longer. In fact, it wasn't that much time had passed, but that somehow it had come to a standstill for the boy. Harry had built a small fortress in the infirmary, next to Snape's bed, and had taken refuge in it. There, focusing his energy on the concern he felt for the Professor's health and spending his time reading library books, it had been easy not to think about what had happened. However, now that Snape had woken up and Fred's funeral was closer than ever, Harry couldn't ignore it.
He was aware that both Ron and Hermione had been through something similar. Perhaps that was why Ron had decided not to return to the Burrow with the rest of his family. It was easier to be at Hogwarts, searching for a long-lost normality. Harry knew that, while he had clung to Snape like a lifeline to keep his mind off everything that had happened; Ron and Hermione were focusing on their new relationship, on those feelings of joy and affection that were so different from the wrenching pain of loss. But those shelters were slowly cracking, and reality was on the other side of them.
Lost on these thoughts, Harry was vaguely aware that Hagrid was still talking, and suddenly he couldn't stand it any longer.
“I have to go see Snape.” He said, rising to his feet.
The others stared at him in surprise.
“I told him yesterday that I'd stop by around lunchtime and finish explaining everything. I'm sorry...”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance but nodded.
“Don't worry, Harry; we'll stay here a bit longer. When you're done, let us know.” Hermione said, pointing to the D.A. coin.
Hagrid, who was still looking at him with some surprise, reassured him as well.
“It's all right.” He said genuinely. “I understand you have other responsibilities. It was good to see you, Harry.”
He leaned over to give him a hug and Harry hugged him back, feeling guilty.
“Say hi to Snape for me.” Added the half-giant. “Tell him I'm glad to hear he's awake.”
“I will.” Harry promised, opening the door and stepping out of the hut.
When he was at a considerable distance, he began to run.
And he didn't stop running, trying to outrun the pain and the thoughts that threatened to drown him, until he reached the infirmary. As soon as he entered, he felt a little better, although his heart was still pounding too hard. Almost without thinking, his legs carried him straight to the room where Snape was.
Madam Pomfrey, standing by Snape's gurney, was looking at him with confusion. Next to her, reclining on a pair of cushions and holding a bowl in his hands, was Snape himself.
“Potter, I said you could come after lunch.” The healer told him. “That means in the afternoon.”
Harry took a closer look and saw that Madam Pomfrey had a spoon in her hand and that the bowl Snape was holding was filled with what appeared to be pumpkin soup. One part of his mind wondered if the Professor was too weak to eat on his own. The other part was suddenly aware that he had entered the room without even knocking, that he was breathing heavily, and that his face was red with the effort of having run all the way from Hagrid's house.
“Poppy,” said Snape suddenly, “you can go. Potter will feed me in your place.”
Harry, still pinned in place, looked at Snape in panic but said nothing.
“You said I needed help to eat and, lo and behold, a volunteer has turned up.” Snape cut her off. “I am sure you have more important duties than watching me eat. I assure you Potter is fully capable of lifting a spoon. It's not that difficult.”
Madam Pomfrey watched him for a few moments, but in the end, she sighed with defeat.
“As you wish, Severus... But you'd better finish that whole bowl. Or I'll get really angry.”
“Of course.” He lied.
Madam Pomfrey set the spoon down on the bedside table and, with a final exasperated sigh, left the room.
“Potter, sit down.”
Harry stared at him, a little confused.
“Sit down.” Snape repeated, though his tone had softened slightly.
Still breathing heavily, Harry did as he was told. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as Snape placed the bowl of soup on the small table, next to the spoon, but his head was spinning so he had to close his eyes.
“Breathe, Potter. I don't want you to pass out on me.”
Harry felt he was about to do so, and he forced himself to focus on the feeling of the chair under his palms and Snape's deep voice as he continued to speak to him, even if he couldn't understand every word.
“...like this. Good. Take a deep breath.”
Seconds passed, until Harry's heart steadied, and he could finally open his eyes.
“Okay, I'm better now.” He said. “I'm sorry, I don't know what..”
His face turned red again, though this time in embarrassment.
“No, Potter. I don't want to hear an excuse. I'm not interested in that.”
Harry swallowed, not quite sure what to say.
“What I want to know is what the hell happened.”
“I don't know...”
“You don't know?”
“No... I mean, yes. But...”
Harry fiddled with his fingers, not quite sure what to say.
“I know what happened. But... but it's not something you need to worry about, sir.”
Snape raised an eyebrow.
“Considering you turned up on my doorstep, red and sweaty, I'd say it is something I need to worry about.”
Harry wanted to keep quiet, but he knew Snape required an explanation. One look at him was enough to understand that he wouldn’t stop until he got an answer. So, against his own wishes, he took a deep breath and said:
“We were in Hagrid's hut. Ron, Hermione and I. We were talking...”
He looked at Snape, unsure.
“I don't know what happened.” He confessed. “But I suddenly started thinking about things I didn't want to think about and... And, I don't know, I had to get out of there.”
“Did you run all the way from Hagrid's hut to here?”
Harry thought it was odd that Snape was asking him about that part of the story and not 'the things he didn't want to think about', but he nodded.
“No wonder you were about to faint.”
“I wasn't going to faint.”
“Of course not, Potter.” Snape cut him off. “Now tell me: why here?”
“The infirmary. My room. Why? Were you looking for Madam Pomfrey?”
Harry avoided his eyes.
“No... Actually… I was looking for you.”
Snape was speechless.
Harry kept his gaze on the floor.
“I don't know.”
“Why, Potter?” Snape insisted.
“I don't know!” Almost screamed Harry. “I know it's strange, but... I don't know, I feel safe here.” He admitted.
“You feel safe here.” Snape repeated, causing Harry to instantly regret saying it.
“Forget it, it was a mistake to come.” He said, standing up. “I'll get Madam Pomfrey so she can help you with the soup. Have a good meal, Professor.”
Snape looked at him with obvious confusion on his face.
“Potter, wait. Hold on a second.”
Harry turned to face him.
“Look, Potter. I'm... I'm a bit lost.” He confessed.
The boy stared at him in surprise. It wasn't like Snape to show his feelings like that.
“Sit down again.” He said. “We need to talk.”
Harry did as he was told and waited, while Snape sorted out his thoughts.
“All right,” the man began, choosing his words carefully, “it's clear that a lot has happened since I passed out. I'm not talking about the end of the war or the Dark Lord's defeat, though I am interested to know exactly what happened, and I hope you will finish explaining what you started yesterday.”
“I will.” Harry promised, not quite sure what Snape was getting at.
The Professor nodded and continued speaking.
“Well. What I want to say is that, obviously, a lot has changed since the Dark Lord... attacked me. And from what I've seen since I woke up, you've been assimilating the new information I gave you in the Shrieking Shack during that time, haven't you?”
“You mean your memories?”
That caused Harry to frown.
“You regret giving them to me, don't you?” He said, with pain in his voice.
“What? How on earth did you come to that conclusion, Potter? No. If I gave you my memories at the time, it was because I had to. And I don't regret giving them to you. It was crucial that you knew the truth about Dumbledore's plan.”
“But it wasn't just that truth that I needed to know.” Said Harry, still upset.
“What do you mean?”
“You gave me more than just the information I needed to defeat Voldemort. You also taught me about your own life. Because you wanted me to see the kind of person you really are.”
“Don't deny it.”
Snape closed his eyes tightly.
“I...” He sighed and opened his eyes again. “Damn it, Potter. I'm not good at this sort of thing.”
“I know. I've seen your memories, remember?” teased Harry, trying to help the professor relax. “But I didn't think you'd hate the idea of me knowing the truth so much. After all, it was you who gave them to me.”
Snape glared at him with his black eyes.
“It's not that I hate that you know the truth about me. It's just that...” He sighed, trying to find a way to explain himself. “The last time we saw each other before the Battle, do you remember when that was? About a year ago.”
Harry's mind took him back to one of the worst nights of his life: a bolt of green light striking Dumbledore right in his chest, the Dark Mark above the Astronomy Tower, hatred pounding in his temples as he screamed spells that were deflected again and again.
“Yes, I remember. The night Dumbledore died.”
“The night I killed Dumbledore.” Snape corrected him. “The night you chased me around Hogwarts and tried to hit me with the Cruciatus Curse. As well as using my own spells on me.”
Harry bit his lip, remembering Snape's demented, furious face as he called him a coward. The horror of discovering he was the Half-Blood Prince. It all seemed so far away.
“I'm sorry.” He apologized. “But in my defense, I hated you even more than I hated Voldemort that night.”
Snape tried to hide a grimace.
“I understand, Potter, but that brings us to my point. That was the last time we met. At least before the Battle. By the way,” he said with curiosity on his face, “tell me what you and your friends were doing in the Shrieking Shack.”
“What does this have to do with...?”
“Patience, Potter. I'm trying to explain my thought process. Or is it being too complicated for you?”
“No.” Harry sighed. “Alright. We went looking for Nagini because it was the last remaining Horcrux. As I told you yesterday, Voldemort created seven, but at that point only the snake remained.”
“And you.” Said Snape softly.
“And me…” Muttered Harry, somewhat uncomfortably. “The thing is, I could see where Voldemort was through our mental connection, so we went looking for him. Him and the snake.”
“That was completely stupid.” Snape reprimanded him, but with less malice than usual.
“I know. But Fred… It had just happened. And neither of us wanted to think about it too much.”
Snape said nothing, but there was a hint of sadness in his eyes.
“Anyway,” continued Harry, “we went all the way to the Shrieking Shack and got there just in time to...”
“To see it all.”
It wasn't a question, but Harry nodded.
“It was one of the most horrible things I've ever seen in my life.” the boy admitted, shuddering. “I'm really sorry that happened to you.”
Snape swallowed and brought a hand to his neck, brushing at the scars the fangs had left behind. He didn’t want to think too much about it, but he appreciated Harry’s words.
“It's all right, Potter. Continue. Tell me why you approached me. There was no rational reason for it. Though I’ll admit that it was lucky that you did.”
“I... I don't know why, really. I guess no one deserved to have that done to them. I hated you a lot this year, but I didn't want you to die like that.”
Snape blinked rapidly, trying to regain his composure. Remembering those moments was affecting him more than he wanted to admit.
“Well,” he said, changing the topic, “I suppose then you took my memories to Dumbledore's Pensieve and from there you knew what you had to do, didn't you?”
Harry nodded, thinking about what had happened that night.
“Yes, Voldemort gave me an hour to give myself up. That's how I had time to look at the memories and go meet him.”
Something in Snape’s voice made Harry stare at him with curiosity. He couldn’t quite make it out but, if it wasn’t impossible, he would have said that there had been a trace of appreciation in his tone.
“There was no point in not doing it. I had to die either way. And if I gave myself up, I could save the others. So… I did.”
Snape stared at him with a new respect. Potter had mentioned something similar the day before, but his mind had only just woken up, so it hadn't quite sunk in.
“I'm sure it wasn't easy, Potter. You did well.”
Harry stared at him in surprise. That was the first time Snape had ever given him a compliment.
“Thank you, sir. No, it wasn't easy.” He admitted. His heart, which had been filled with dread and beating faster than normal from thinking about that night, slowed down after listening to Snape’s words. If anyone could comprehend the weight of the sacrifice that he had been willing to make, it was him. “Although, you also did something like this.” He told him, trying to show him that he also understood. “When Voldemort called, you went without hesitation, knowing that he was probably going to kill you. And all so as not to arouse suspicion. And all so Dumbledore’s plan could end its course. That must have been extremely hard too.”
Snape looked at him in a strange way that made Harry feel slightly uncomfortable.
“This is why I said I was a bit lost.”
“What do you mean?”
He was still looking at him in that way that made him feel so exposed, like he was trying to solve a very complicated riddle or put together the pieces of a puzzle.
“Think about everything we've talked about, Potter.”
“I am, sir.”
“Well, unfortunately, it seems like I will have to explain it to you step by step” Snape said irritably, though Harry noticed a hint of nervousness in his voice. He knew that the professor wasn’t used to explaining his feelings to anyone. “Do not interrupt me and listen carefully. I won't repeat myself.”
Harry remained silent, waiting.
“The last time we met, you hated me and thought I was a coward. So that was going to be the way you would remember me in case I died. Which, being a double spy, was more than likely.” He said calmly. “In the Shrieking Shack, I thought I was going to die. And that's why I gave you my memories.”
Harry nodded; he knew all of that.
“But yes, you're right. I showed you more memories than absolutely necessary.” Snape admitted. “I wanted you to see me as I am, Potter. If I was going to die then, I needed to know that at least one person would know the truth. But” he added, “the plan was never to survive. I was convinced I was going to die there. I didn't think that I would see you again. And suddenly, I open my eyes and find you waiting in my room. And I discover that you don't hate me, but that you feel safe here? It's a strange situation for me, Potter. I have to admit it.” He confessed, with visible discomfort.
Harry was silent for a few moments, assimilating everything that he had said and choosing his words carefully.
“I understand.” He finally said. “The problem is that you haven't had time to come to terms with everything that's happened, right? And it seems strange to you that I don't hate you anymore.”
“Yes. And no.” Said Snape, for a moment sounding exactly like Dumbledore. “It's not just that, Potter. It's also that I don't understand you anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
Snape sighed, getting ready to expose his thoughts again. He was not used to it, and he didn’t think that it would get easier with time, but he needed Potter to understand what he was saying. He looked at him, stared into those green eyes to remind himself why he was doing it, and said:
“Look, Potter. My problem is that, for years, I have been able to foresee your actions, to know how you were going to react. Obviously, sometimes you acted so stupidly and recklessly that it was impossible to predict...” Snape added with irritation, letting go some of his frustration. “But, overall, I knew what kind of person you were and why you did one thing or the other. Now, however, I don't know what to expect from you.
Harry looked at him, unsure what to say.
“I've had a lot of time to think during this year.” Snape continued. “To reflect. I've gone over my memories hundreds of times, looking for something that Dumbledore or I might have missed. Trying to find a mistake in the plan or some miracle that would allow you to survive. And all of that has made me realize that maybe I didn't judge you as I should have.” He admitted. “I've seen so many situations where you acted in a way I never anticipated. So many moments where you didn't do what an arrogant, pampered kid was supposed to do... That I started to realize that I was probably wrong. And that I never really understood you at all.”
Harry's eyes widened in surprise. He would never have thought that Snape would admit something like that.
“That's another reason why I gave you my memories.” The Potions Master added. “But if you're not that insolent, spoiled brat, who are you?”
“I'm Harry. Just Harry.” Replied the boy, remembering a time seven years ago when he had said something similar.
Snape, to his surprise, smiled at him. And it wasn't a sarcastic or sinister smile, the kind Harry was used to seeing on the man's face, but one that reminded him of the boy he had seen in his memories. Harry returned it without noticing.
“But yes, I understand what you are saying, sir.” He continued. “You also weren't the person I thought you were. The difference is that I learned that watching your memories. That’s why I haven't found this situation so strange.” Those words began to form an idea in his head, and his eyes lighted up with excitement. “So, it's only fair that I should do the same for you.”
“What do you mean?
Harry stood up, too focused on his thoughts to be able to explain himself.
“Wait here a second.”
“Potter? What are you...?”
“It will only take a second, I promise. I'll be right back.”
Snape wanted to reply, but before he could, the boy had left the room.
He stayed for a few seconds in silence, staring at the door, still not understanding what had just happened. Finally, he looked around and saw the bowl of soup on the small table next to his bed. After hesitating for a few moments, he decided that he was going to need all his energy to deal with whatever Potter had planned. So, with an effort, he bent down to pick up the bowl and spoon, cursing under his breath as the movement strained his neck muscles, causing a sharp pain in the area.
Finally, breathing with some difficulty and gritting his teeth, he settled back on the pillows with the plate in his hands.
“Small victories, Severus.” He said to himself, lifting the spoon to his lips.
It wasn't the easiest process of his life, but Snape had been through worse, and he wasn't about to let a bowl of soup defeat him. He continued to eat, slowly and carefully, trying not to make any sudden movements, until he reached the end. He would not admit it in front of anyone, but at the sight of the empty plate he felt a strange sense of pride in his chest.
He put the bowl back on the table, with the resulting pain in his wound, and lay back down on the cushions. He noticed that at least ten minutes had passed, and Potter still hadn't turned up.
“Where the hell are you?” Snape muttered to himself.
Harry went up the stairs two steps at a time, anxious to reach his destination. The events at Hagrid's hut no longer troubled him in the same way: he felt much better after talking to Snape and was focused on carrying out the plan that had just occurred to him. He was so deep in thought that he almost didn't see the flight of stairs in front of him move and nearly fell through the gap it had left.
“Guess I'll have to wait.” He sighed to himself, as he saw the ladder move away. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the coin from the D.A. He turned it over a couple of times, unsure, before sending a message to Ron and Hermione.
"I'm fine, sorry I left so quickly."
He wrote, feeling guilty again.
"I'll stay here for a bit. Don't expect me for lunch. H."
The stairs were already back, so Harry climbed on them. When he did, the coin vibrated between his fingers.
"Don't worry. We're fine too, we're still at Hagrid's hut. We'll talk later. Take care of yourself. R & H."
Those words made him smile, even though he still regretted his actions.
"Thank you. You too."
He was aware that his friends deserved an explanation, but he knew they would wait for him to bring the topic up when he was ready. That was something he was grateful for.
In the meantime, the staircase had taken him where he wanted to go, so he hurried to get off before it changed direction again. He continued walking through the corridors of Hogwarts until he found himself in front of a door guarded by a gargoyle. A door he knew all too well.
“Dumbledore.” He said, hoping the password hadn't changed. Luckily, it hadn't, as the gargoyle moved aside, revealing the stairs that led to the Headmaster's old office. When he stood in front of the large wooden door that led to the entrance, he knocked and waited.
“Come in.” Said a voice from inside the room.
Harry opened the door to find Professor McGonagall sitting at the desk, a mountain of papers in front of her and a quill in her hand.
“Professor McGonagall, sorry to interrupt.”
“Don't worry, I appreciate it.” She smiled, getting up. “I needed a break from all this paperwork. Did something happen?”
“No. Well, yes. It's about Snape.”
“Severus?” Concern filled the teacher's face. “I went to see him this morning and he seemed fine.”
“He is! He is fine.” Harry hurried to clarify.
“Oh, thank goodness. Don't give me these scares, Potter.” She reprimanded gently, putting a hand on her chest. “So, what's the matter?”
“I need to borrow the Pensieve, Professor. If it's not too much trouble.”
“The Pensieve? Severus needs the Pensieve? He woke up yesterday and he's already doing Merlin knows what...” She shook her head.
“Actually, it was my idea.” Harry said, rather sheepishly. “I have a debt to settle with him.”
She didn’t ask what he meant, and he was grateful for that. He trusted Professor McGonagall but there were some things that only concerned Snape and him. She did watch him for a few seconds, though, in silence and, when she was finished, she seemed to have understood a lot of things.
“All right.” She finally said. “It's over there, in that cupboard.”
Harry opened the cabinet she was pointing to. Inside was the Pensieve that he had used to look at Snape's memories. Harry guessed that someone had put it there after he had used it during the Battle. Next to it was also a vial with a white substance inside.
“They were inside the Pensive when I entered the office.” Professor McGonagall replied to his unfinished question. “I can assure you that no one has seen them. Not even me.”
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Snape would have killed him if anyone else had seen his memories.
“Thank you, Professor.” He said, holding the vial against his chest. “As for the Pensive... I'll get it back to you right away.”
“Don't worry about that, Harry.” She said with a tired smile. “You can use it for as long as you need.”
Harry nodded, tucking the little flask of memories into the pocket of his trousers. Then, he bent down to pick up the Pensieve as well. He was surprised to find that it weighed less than it seemed.
“Do you need anything else, Potter?”
“No, that was all. Thank you.”
McGonagall nodded, sitting back down in front of the desk. Harry couldn't help but think of Dumbledore and how many times the old Headmaster had watched him from that very spot, with his half-moon spectacles and sparkling eyes.
“You know, Professor.” He said suddenly. “You are the only one who could fill his shoes.”
He didn't say Dumbledore's name, but she knew who he meant. She looked at him and swallowed; and Harry could see that there were unshed tears behind the glass of her spectacles.
“Thank you, Potter.” She said, with a sad smile. “He would be so proud of you. Of the man you've become.”
‘You wonderful boy. You brave, brave man.’ The words Dumbledore had said to him came to his mind, causing Harry to swallow, moved. He looked up at his Portrait but there was nobody there, he must have left to visit other paintings around the Castle.
“I want to believe he'd be proud of all of us” he said, his voice trembling.
“I'm sure he is.” She whispered. “After all, we achieved what he had worked so hard for. The end of the war.”
Harry nodded, a little overwhelmed.
“I wish he could have seen it.”
“Me too, Harry.” The teacher sighed. “Me too.”
They spent a few moments in silence, remembering. After a while, McGonagall straightened up in her chair and cleared her throat, trying to regain her composure.
“Anyway.... I'd better get back to work, Potter...”
“Yes, you are right.” Harry said, still holding the Pensieve. “Sorry to have distracted you.”
“Not at all, it's always a pleasure to see you.” McGonagall smiled at him sincerely. “You're welcome to come again whenever you like.”
“Thank you, I'll keep that in mind.” Harry replied. “Have a good day, Professor.”
She thanked him for his words with a nod, though her attention was already back on the pile of papers.
“You too, Potter.”
After a final glance around the room, Harry left the office.
Once outside, he held the Pensieve up to his face and looked at it carefully. Memories were something very important, personal, and intimate. Harry knew that, and that was why he appreciated the gift Snape had given him so much. The professor had shown him the key moments of his life, the ones that had transformed him into the man he was today. The happiest days, but also the darkest and most terrible. Harry understood how vulnerable he must have felt knowing that he had seen it all.
By giving him his memories, Snape was saying goodbye to him. He didn't think he would survive and that was why he had been able to show him all that. Now, however, that he was still alive and Harry knew the truth, Snape was in an awkward position. Too exposed for the reserved and surly Potions Master.
And that was why Harry had decided to show him his own memories. He wasn't quite sure if Snape would be willing to see them, but he felt an obligation to offer the same thing that the professor had given him. That way, Harry could repay his debt and Snape would be able to get to know him better and understand the man he had become.
“It's only fair.” He said to himself, running a finger over the magical runes on the Pensieve. “I just hope he doesn't loathe the idea.”
Wanting to find out, he grabbed the Pensieve with both hands, careful not to drop it, and started making his way back to the infirmary.
To be continued...
Getting closer by CleganeSnape
Hi! I've changed the format of the writing, from - to "". I hope it's easier to read now and more enjoyable too.
Anyway, have a good day and good reading!
“Potter, where the hell have you been?”
Snape was looking up from his gurney, a frown on his face and a hint of worry in his dark eyes.
“Sir?” Asked Harry, hurrying to close the door behind him.
“You can't just disappear like that, Potter." the Professor reprimanded him. “If we're having a conversation, a normal person would give an explanation before leaving.”
“I'm sorry, I hadn't thought of that.”
“That's obvious.” Snape muttered.
Harry watched him for a few moments, not quite sure what to say. Finally, he decided to change the subject to avoid an argument.
“I've... I've been to Dumbledore's office, sir. Professor McGonagall's, rather. To get this.”
Snape's eyes focused on the object in Harry's hands.
“That's right." Harry nodded, setting it down carefully on a chair. “And also, this.” He pulled the small pot containing Snape's memories from his pocket and approached the gurney, suddenly feeling a little shy. “I... I wanted to thank you again." He said, holding the vial between them. “And I also wanted to assure you that no one but me has seen these memories. Which makes me feel truly privileged.”
Snape stared at him for a moment. Then, he raised his right hand and picked up the flask carefully. For a few seconds he stood like that, not moving and with the vial in front of his nose, watching as the memories swirled against the glass walls.
“Is that why you brought the Pensieve?” He said, his voice cold as ice. “So I could show you more memories?”
“What?” Harry couldn't believe what he'd just heard. “Of course not! I would never ask you to do that. Unless... Unless you wanted to. But that's not the reason I brought it here."
“What for, then?”
Snape was still looking at him with suspicion in his eyes.
“Because I wanted to show you my memories!” Said Harry, offended. “I wanted to settle this debt I owe you!”
Despite those words, Snape continued to stare at him silently, his eyes narrowed.
“By Merlin... What image do you have of me?” Harry said in disbelief, trying to find an answer in the man's features, but they remained unchanged. “You know what? You're right, you don't know me at all. Did you really think that I believe myself with the right to demand more memories from you? After all you've done for me?” He shook his head, frustrated and saddened. “What I meant to say was that I was honored to have seen them. That was all.”
Snape continued to stare at him for a few more seconds, as Harry made an effort to control his emotions and not storm out of the room. He continued to stand there, trying to take deep breaths while holding Snape's gaze, until the professor raised the hand that wasn't holding the vial.
“Alight, Potter. I believe you. My reaction was... uncalled for, perhaps. I...” he took a deep breath, "I'd like to... apologize. I shouldn't have made that assumption. Okay?”
Harry almost opened his mouth like an idiot in shock. Did Snape just admit that he'd made a mistake? And he had apologized? That must have been a first.
The professor was waiting for an answer, though, so he hurried up to reply.
“Okay.” He said, feeling more surprised than angry.
“Good” Snape nodded. “Now give me a few seconds.”
He leaned over to the bedside table to pick up his wand, while Harry watched him, calmer than before. After leaning back against the pillow, the Potions Master sighed and muttered a few words. Instantly, the memories began to rise from the vial until they formed a silver thread that wrapped around the wand. For a few moments, Snape held them there, staring at them and not moving a muscle. Then he raised them to his temples, letting the memories flow back into his mind while he closed his eyes. It still took him a little longer to open them again, but when he did, it seemed to Harry that there was a gleam of pent-up emotion in them.
“Alright. One less thing." Said Snape finally, setting the wand and the vial down on the table. “Now, would you mind explaining this crazy idea you've had, Potter? Did you say something about showing me your memories?”
At that question, Harry's nervousness returned. Suddenly, he was transported back several years, and he felt again that insecurity that came over him every time Snape asked a question during Potions class.
Harry took a deep breath, reminding himself that he was a grown man, that he had defeated the deadliest wizard in recent history, and that his old Potions teacher no longer had any power over him. There was no reason to be intimidated. But then again, that wasn't so easy when Snape was staring at him with those piercing eyes. ‘Bloody dungeon bat,’ thought Harry, not without some affection.
“Yes." He said, despite everything. “That was the idea. It's thanks to your memories that I understand you better and... Well, considering that you said earlier that you don't really know who I am... I thought that, besides being fair, it might help if I showed you my memories. If... if you want to, sir, of course."
He looked up at Snape, worrying that he was going to laugh at him or throw him out of the room, but the teacher was just staring at him in silence, just like he did before. The difference was that the coldness in his eyes was gone, replaced by a curiosity that Harry knew too well. He was used to it because it had been there, in Snape’s eyes, since the moment he had woken up. He noticed that it showed up every time he did something that Snape didn’t expect him to do.
“If you'd offered me something like that a year ago, Potter, I'd have thought it was a joke.”
“Yes, me too.”
“But clearly, things have changed... And, I must admit, I'm a little curious.”
Harry's eyebrows rose in surprise, he couldn't believe that Snape was agreeing to his proposal.
“So, yes, Potter. I think it would be a good idea. But," he added, seeing the smile that had spread across the boy's face, "not today.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, not today. I'm tired, and trips to the Pensieve are always tiring. Besides, right now there is another matter that seems more urgent to me.”
“What happened at Hagrid's hut, Potter. I think we should talk about it.”
The joy Harry had felt at Snape's agreement with his idea diminished considerably when he heard those words.
“I don't want to talk about it.”
“I know, Potter. Neither do I.”
“Because we have to." Snape cut him off. “Sit down, Potter.”
Harry looked at him with some apprehension but did as he was told.
“There's nothing to talk about.” He said, swallowing with nervousness.
“If there wasn’t, you wouldn't have gotten so defensive.”
“I'm not defensive." Harry replied. “Besides, why do you care? It's not your job to worry about me anymore.”
Snape glared at him, and Harry had to avert his gaze.
“Make no mistake, Potter. I may no longer be your teacher, and we may have reached a certain cordiality. But I won't tolerate any disrespect from you. Understood?”
Harry pressed his teeth together, trying to remind himself that he had wanted just that, to spend time with Snape and to be able to talk to him about important things. He kept telling those words to himself until, slowly, he managed to regain his composure and nod.
“I understand, sir.”
“Good. Because, as I said, we need to talk about what happened this morning. Before, however, I want to make a couple of things clear. First, you're right, I know that it's no longer my job to worry about your safety, but somehow, I still do. I guess it's a hard habit to break after all these years" He said with a sarcastic smile.
“I suppose it is...”
“But it's not just that, Potter. You've seen my memories, so you know I didn't just want to keep you alive so you could defeat the Dark Lord.”
“No. No, it was for my mother, wasn't it?” Said Harry, remembering. “Mostly for her. The fact that I had to take down Voldemort only made things more complicated.”
“Exactly." Snape nodded; a bit uncomfortable with discussing the topic but knowing that it was important that he made himself clear. "For her sake, I have to make sure you're safe. Even now, after the Dark Lord is not a threat anymore. I can't simply ignore your existence. I hope you can understand that.”
“I do. And I'm glad you aren’t, sir…”
Snape looked at him with surprise and also a hint of discomfort. He wasn't used to anyone caring about his attention.
“Well," he cleared his throat, trying to regain control of the conversation, “as I was saying, I can't just ignore you. As much as that displeases me… So, my only alternative is to make sure you stay out of danger. And that means physical threats but also mental ones.”
Despite the taunt, Harry could sense that Snape felt real concern for him. He might conceal it beneath a surface of sarcasm, but the Professor cared about what happened to him. That comforted Harry: perhaps his relationship with Snape was not as one-sided as it seemed.
“I understand." He said, with a small smile.
“I hope so." Snape nodded, seemingly satisfied. “And now, back to what happened in Hagrid's hut…”
Harry wanted to groan but contained himself.
“You said that you 'thought about things you didn't want to think about',” continued Snape, “and that's why you came running here. Because here you feel, eh... safe.”
Harry blushed at those words but nodded with determination. That was the truth, he couldn't deny it. Besides, if Snape had devoted his whole life to keeping him alive, it was only natural that he should feel safe with him.
“Well," Snape continued. “I want to know what those 'things you didn't want to think about' were.”
Harry swallowed and gripped the armrest of the chair, trying to calm himself.
“I don't want to talk about it.”
“Obviously, Potter. If you don't want to think about it, you don't want to talk about it either. But it's important that you do.
“You know why." said Snape irritably. “So that you don't run away every time someone mentions something you don't want to hear. This is exactly like Occlumency. You need to learn to control your emotions, Potter.”
Harry frowned, suddenly remembering who was in front of him. This was Snape, his most hated teacher, and the least patient person in the Universe. What on earth was he doing, talking to him about feelings and the traumas the war had left him with?
“I don't want to control my emotions, okay? They're part of me. If I didn't have them, I'd be exactly like Voldemort. A being without love or any kind of remorse. Besides,” he said, raising his voice without realizing it, “I don't have to control them! It's perfectly normal to be devastated when you lose people you care about! It's normal to be traumatized when you or your friends are tortured! Or when you live in fear for months, looking behind you all the time because you have a psychopath after you who wants to kill you! Or when you...!
Harry realized he had been shouting and snapped his mouth shut. He looked at Snape, fearing he had angered the professor, but saw only concern in his gaze.
“Potter. I don't think you understood me. Or maybe... Maybe I didn't make myself clear.” It was obvious how difficult it was for Snape to admit that. “You see, I... I'm not saying that you must give up your feelings. But it is important that you keep them under control, so that they don't control you instead.”
Harry looked at him, still unconvinced, but appreciating the effort Snape was making in trying to explain himself. That had never happened during the failed Occlumency lessons.
“I think I see the problem now," Snape continued, "why you were never able to learn to close your mind to the Dark Lord. You are like an open book: you show every emotion and thought on your face. You show them in your actions and in your words.”
Coming from Snape, that should have been a criticism, but he had said it with such a tone of amazement that Harry wasn't sure if it was a reproach or a compliment.
“If a master Occlumens seeks to hide every feeling; you do just the opposite. And that's how you managed to defeat the Dark Lord at the Ministry. Yes, Dumbledore explained it to me.” He added after seeing the questioning gaze that Harry had sent his way. “You threw all your emotions at him, everything you were feeling at the time. With an intensity he could never have imagined. That must have hurt, no doubt. And that's why he never entered your mind again.”
Harry nodded; he knew all of that. Dumbledore had also told him after Sirius's death.
“It wasn't the traditional method, but it was certainly effective.” Snape continued, his lips curving into something resembling a smile. “But if it had been anyone else and not him, those feelings wouldn't have affected him at all. Or at least they wouldn't have stopped him from digging into your mind.”
“Where are you going with all this, sir?”
Harry had found out that Snape's thoughts were complex and that to follow them he had to pay attention to his lengthy explanations. It was relaxing in a way, and he enjoyed trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together with each new idea the professor added. Still, sometimes he got frustrated at having to wait so long to reach the final conclusion.
“Where am I going with this?” Snape repeated. “I’m trying to make you understand that, although you managed to prevent the Dark Lord from entering your mind, you never actually learned to control yourself. Your emotions were beneficial against him, but now you face an even more dangerous enemy. Those feelings that were once so useful could now drive you mad.”
Harry swallowed hard. He didn't like being told what to do, but Snape seemed to be speaking from experience.
“I... Maybe... Maybe you’ve got a point.” He said after thinking about it for a few seconds. “I don't want to give up my feelings, but it is true that it's not nice when they control me like this.”
“I'm glad you understand and agree with me, Potter. It's the first step. And now..." he said with a gentleness that Harry had never heard from him before, "… could you tell me what happened in Hagrid's hut?”
Harry fiddled with his fingers for a few moments. He wanted to open up to Snape, but at the same time the idea frightened him: talking about certain things could be very painful. Although, he reminded himself, if anyone could understand what he was going through, it was Snape. So could his friends, obviously, but Harry didn't want to worry them or make them suffer by forcing them to remember. No, if he was going to talk to anyone, it had to be the Potions Master.
He took a deep breath and looked up to meet the man's gaze. There had been a time when those black eyes had seemed cold and reminiscent of dark tunnels, but now Harry could see something else in them. Something that comforted him and made him feel safe. Like a Patronus. Like Snape's doe was in the room, calming him with its presence. He focused on those feelings and continued to breathe slowly, holding Snape's gaze. Finally, summoning up all his courage, he nodded:
“Alright, I will tell you.”
To be continued...
A comforting presence by CleganeSnape
Hi everyone, I'm back :) This chapter is quite long so I hope you like it and that it was worth the wait. I'm now settled in my new house so I should be updating a bit more often. At least let's hope so!
“Alright, I will tell you.”
The spark of pride that crossed Snape's features, gave Harry strength to continue speaking.
“Okay... As I said before, we were in Hagrid's hut. Ron, Hermione and I.” He took a deep breath, forcing himself to continue. “Everything was going pretty well until Hagrid mentioned his brother. Well, half-brother. Whatever.” Harry shook his head, impatient. “Grawp. I don't know if you know him.”
“Yes, I know who he is.” Snape replied, not wanting to interrupt him.
“Okay...” The boy nodded. “The thing is, Grawp was injured during the Battle. Fortunately, he's almost recovered and, obviously, I'm very happy about that. The problem is... When I told Hagrid about it, he said that... that they were very lucky.” He closed his eyes, trying to keep his composure. “‘Luckier than most’, he said and... And then I... I...”
Harry's voice had begun to tremble and both Snape and himself had noticed it.
“Potter, take a deep breath.” The professor told him.
His heart was racing, and he didn't like that.
“Don't focus on the emotions, just the facts.” Snape suggested. “Just tell me what happened, don't think about how it made you feel. It's just words and phrases. Nothing more. They can't hurt you if you don't let them.”
That made sense and Harry wanted to believe it was that easy to control himself. But he wasn't succeeding: his pulse kept increasing and his hands were shaking.
“I can't... I can't...”
“Potter.” Snape had leaned over from his gurney to grip his arm tightly. The effort was evident on his face, but so was the concern for the boy. “Look at me, Potter.”
Harry did as he was told. His green eyes met Snape's, and that made him feel better. It didn't quite calm his raging heartbeat, but at least he could hear something more than the pulse in his ears. He continued to breathe deeply, telling himself that he was okay, that he was safe. That they were both okay, that they were safe. Little by little, his hands stopped shaking.
“Words are just that.” He muttered, repeating what Snape had told him. “They can't hurt me if I don't let them.”
“That's right, Potter. That's right.”
As the seconds passed, he regained his composure. Though his body was still tense, bracing itself for whatever happened next.
Snape watched him for a few moments. Then, slowly, he released his arm and lay back down on the pillows.
“I'm sorry about all this.” Harry said, seeing that the man had remained silent. “I'm sorry for making this scene and...”
“Potter.” Snape cut him off. “I knew what I was getting into when I told you to explain what had happened. It is clear to me that this will not be the last time something like this happens... I am aware of that, and while it gives me no pleasure to see you in this state, I have seen worse. A child's panic attack doesn't frighten or impress me. So, stop apologizing.
Harry didn't know whether to frown at the professor's tactlessness or be relieved. It was somehow comforting that Snape didn't treat him like he was made of glass.
“Okay,” he said after thinking for a few moments, “I won't say sorry anymore.”
Snape nodded approvingly, but seconds passed and he said nothing more. Instead, he remained silent, watching him.
“What?” Harry asked, uncomfortable under his scrutiny.
Snape decided to ignore his lack of manners for once.
“I'm trying to find out if you're ready to continue talking.”
“And why don't you ask me directly, instead of just staring at me like I'm some kind of experiment?” Snape raised an eyebrow and Harry swallowed. “Sir.” He added, aware that he had crossed a line.
Snape narrowed his eyes but, to Harry's surprise, did not reply.
“Are you?” he asked instead. “Are you ready to continue?”
The answer was 'no', of course. Harry didn't want to keep talking. If it were up to him, he would never bring the subject up again. But Snape was being extremely patient with him and he felt, somehow, that he owed him the truth. So he took a deep breath, summoned all his courage and nodded.
“Well, go on then.” Snape indicated, waving his hand. “You were explaining what Hagrid said.”
Harry suppressed a grimace and nodded again. 'It's just words,' he repeated to himself.
“Yes.” He swallowed. “Hagrid said... He said they'd been luckier than most. And... And at that moment I... I thought about Fred.”
Snape tilted his head, indicating that he was doing a good job.
“Not just Fred.” The boy continued, taking strength from the gesture. “Remus and Tonks, too. All the people we've... we've lost, really. But especially the three of them. And... And it's been obvious that Ron and Hermione have been thinking about them too. You could feel it.”
“Good, Potter. You're doing well.” Snape was looking at him with those dark eyes, studying his face. “Go on. Tell me why you felt the need to run out of there. I imagine this isn't the first time you've talked about it between the three of you, so there must be something else. Was it because Hagrid was there too?”
Harry bit his lip, trying to keep control of himself.
“No.” He shook his head. “It's not that. The problem... The problem is that...”
He closed his mouth and swallowed, refusing to speak any further.
“I... I... I can't...”
“Potter, just say it and be done with it.” Snape was beginning to lose his patience.
“It's not that simple.”
“Of course, it is. You have the words in your mind, Potter, I could read them without any difficulty if I wanted to.”
Harry seemed to suddenly remember that Snape was a master of Legilimency. He averted his eyes, preventing him from being able to get the truth through his gaze.
“Don't even think about it.” He said firmly, avoiding those black eyes.
“If I wanted to dig into your mind, Potter, I could do it with the greatest of ease and you wouldn't be able to stop me.” Snape said, his eyes narrowed. That had annoyed him. “You and I both know that you have never been exactly brilliant at hiding your thoughts.”
Anger began to throb in Harry's temples, wondering once again why on earth he had decided to talk to Snape about that.
“Maybe not, but that doesn't give you the right to force me to tell you-”
“Force you?” muttered Snape in a voice as cold as ice. “Force you?” he said again, causing Harry to flinch and turn to look at him again.
The boy knew how to recognize the disappointment on Snape's face perfectly. He had seen it a million times in Potions class when a student blew up a cauldron or ruined a potion. His expression usually showed resignation rather than surprise, showing that Snape didn't trust his students at all and expected such things to happen. At that moment, however, Snape's features showed restrained anger mixed with a different kind of disappointment than Harry was used to. One he had never seen on the man's thin face before. A mixture of anger and sadness at the same time.
“I didn't force you to do anything, Potter.” Snape continued. “It was you who was sitting here every day since I arrived in the infirmary, even when I was unconscious. It was you who insisted on maintaining a relationship of 'cordiality'. It was you who wanted to show me your memories and it was you who came here when you needed to talk about certain things. So don't tell me that I forced you to do anything, because all I did was give you my memories so that you would know the truth. That's all.
With each new sentence from Snape, a new, increasingly intense shade of red had appeared on Harry's cheeks. The man was right, it had been him who had sought to improve his relationship with Snape and, now that he stopped to think about it, perhaps that wasn't what the Potions master had wanted.
“I... You're right. And I understand if you don't want to be a part of this anymore. I've been stupid. I'll leave you alone, Professor.” Harry started to get up.
“What the...? Potter, for Merlin's sake, can you stop being so dramatic? You don't have to leave the room every time we have a bit of an argument.”
Harry looked up at him and sat back down, surprised. Snape's words had sounded different from what he was used to. The Professor's way of speaking was usually poetic and complicated. Nothing like that simple, matter-of-fact phrase. It had reminded Harry a little of Ron, but obviously he wasn't going to tell Snape that. So, instead, he nodded and said:
Snape shook his head.
“Stop apologizing, too. I don't want that, Potter. I only intend for you to tell me what it is you're so worried about that you're not able to.”
Harry bit his lip.
“It's... It's hard.”
“Yes, I've noticed...” Snape said sarcastically, but without malice. Suddenly, he had an idea. “You may not like it, but... If you can't say it out loud, do you want me to use Legilimency?”
“No!” Harry said instantly. Realizing this, he forced himself to take a deep breath. “Thanks, but no.” He added trying to calm himself down. “I hate it when someone digs through my mind.”
Snape nodded, understanding perfectly.
“Alright. Then there's only one option left. Come on, Potter, it's getting late and I'm sure you have things to do.”
The sunlight streaming through the window was no longer as bright, and although there were still a couple of hours of sunshine left, Harry knew Snape was right. He couldn't delay it any longer.
“Alright.” He took a deep breath. “But... I don't want you... to think less of me.”
“Less of you? Why would I do that?” Harry shrugged. “Besides, you've never cared much about that from what I remember, Potter. I haven't had the best opinion of you over the years and you've been completely unbothered by it.”
“That's true...” ‘But things have changed’, Harry wanted to say, though he bit his tongue.
“Come on, Potter. What happened? Why did you run away from Hagrid's hut?”
“What are you afraid of?”
‘Nothing’, he wanted to say, but after all he had talked to Snape about, he couldn't do it. The man deserved better. Harry took another deep breath, feeling like the words were about to escape his mouth.
“What is the problem?” Snape insisted, with the last shred of patience he had left. He could see Harry's face and how the hardness and tenacity had been draining from it. Now, all that remained was a desperate need to be heard and understood.
“The problem...” Harry finally muttered, “...is me.”
“Why?” Snape asked in surprise, using all the delicacy he was capable of.
“Because... I'm... I'm a coward.” He admitted in a whisper. So quietly that Snape almost thought he had imagined it.
Harry didn't reply, but instead averted his gaze, embarrassed.
“Why would you say that?”
The boy swallowed, still not looking Snape in the eye.
“Nothing. Forget it.”
“I said forget it.” Harry's heart was pounding and he could feel the embarrassment begin to tinge his face red again.
“I'm not going to forget it, Potter.” Snape said firmly. “Basically, because it's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard you say. And you've said a lot of stupid things over the years.”
Harry raised his head in surprise, stunned. Trying to make sense of Snape's words. They sounded like an insult, but there was something else amidst the sarcasm. He forced his eyes to meet the Professor's and saw something in them that startled him. A cold anger that reminded him of a night long ago when the sky showed the Dark Mark, Hagrid's hut was burning and Fang was barking in despair as Harry lay on the ground. ‘Don't call me a coward!’ Snape had said, looking at him with that anger on his features.
“Sir?” Harry said, somewhat confused.
“Potter.” Snape replied, gritting his teeth angrily. “You are one of the bravest people I have ever met, so don't even think about referring to yourself as a 'coward'. Do you understand me?”
Harry's brain stopped working for a few moments - had he heard correctly?
“Do you understand me?” Snape repeated, taking a deep breath.
Harry nodded, though a part of him wondered if he hadn't really died in the Forbidden Forest after all. That seemed more likely than Snape saying those words to him.
“Right.” Snape cleared his throat, suddenly a little uncomfortable. “I just wanted to make it clear...”
Harry nodded again. Feeling as if a Troll had hit him over the head with his stick.
“It... It was clear, sir.”
“I'm glad... And now, would you mind explaining to me why you said something so stupid? Why do you think you're a coward?” The word always left a bad taste in the Potions master's mouth.
“I...” Harry fiddled with his fingers, thinking quickly. He could try to lie to Snape, to avoid telling the truth, but he knew that, more than likely, he would notice. On the other hand, he could drag that conversation out even longer, delay the moment of his confession, but Snape wasn't going to give up and sooner or later he would end up telling him.
“Potter. I'm waiting.”
“Yes, I know. I'm sorry. It's just...”
“You don't know how to begin?” Snape sighed, wondering where he was getting all this patience from. Maybe, and just maybe, this boy traumatized by the war reminded him of himself. Just a little. “Let's recap for a moment. You were in Hagrid's hut, and he said he was luckier than most. That caused you and your friends to think about Fred and the others. This, while painful, is not out of the ordinary, is it?”
“Right, so the problem is that you need to get away from there because, quote, ‘you're a coward’.”
Harry nodded again, nervously.
“Why are you a coward, Potter? You've shown more bravery than most adult wizards I know. You sacrificed yourself to the Dark Lord, by Merlin! Why are you a coward?” Snape's voice had been filling with anger as he spoke and Harry could see a vein in his forehead throbbing.
“I don't know.”
“I don't know!” Said the boy offering the last bit of resistance he had left.
“Why are you a coward, Potter?” Pressed Snape.
“What are you afraid of?”
“The funeral!” Harry confessed, unable to take it anymore. “I'm scared of the funeral, okay? That's why I'm a coward.”
Snape narrowed his eyes, trying to understand.
“Fred's funeral.” Harry muttered. “It's just around the corner. We're waiting for a letter from Mrs. Weasley, but it shouldn't be more than a couple of days. And I... I can't. I can't go. Not his and not Remus and Tonks'. I can't because, if I go, then it will be true. It willl be true that they're dead and I-”
The sensation of shortness of breath in his chest was more than familiar to Harry by now, though he would never get used to it. His heart pounding, his hands shaking and the oxygen that never seemed to reach his lungs had become his faithful companions lately. And, at that moment, they had returned with a vengeance.
Snape was calling to him from his gurney and had leaned over again to grab his arm, but Harry didn't seem to hear him.
“Dammit...” The professor muttered, beginning to worry.
Harry was still gasping for breath, shaking like a leaf and his eyes had begun to fill with tears.
“Potter!” Snape repeated, shaking him. “Look at me, Potter!” But Harry wasn’t replying.
Thinking quickly, the Potions Master reached over to the bedside table to pick up his wand.
“Expecto Patronum.” He said firmly, waving it.
Instantly, the silver doe appeared from Snape's wand, filling the room with her comforting presence. She trotted delicately to stand directly in front of Harry and then laid her head on his shoulder. Harry blinked as he felt the contact, warm and familiar, and brought a hand up to her neck in a sort of hug.
Patronuses were not solid, but being made of energy and pure magic, one could touch them and not pass through as one would a ghost. In that moment, Harry was incredibly grateful for it. He couldn't explain it, but the warmth of Snape's doe reminded him intensely of his mother and the love that had saved his life seventeen years ago, protecting him from Voldemort's curse. Her mere presence calmed him, and he was able to regain control of his body, slowing his heartbeat and being able to breathe freely again.
He had closed his eyes at the start of the hug, so he was not able to see all the emotions that had crossed Snape's normally inexpressive face. Relief, sadness, and joy all at once. And also the strange feeling that he was watching something very intimate and special. Yes, it was true that the Patronus had been conjured by him, but Lily's essence, all that she had been, covered the doe from the tip of her ears to her tail. The Patronus was filled with the soul of Lily Evans, with all the good that she had brought to Severus Snape's life. Her friendship, but also her smile, her cheek, and her bravery. The doe was mostly Lily and that embrace between mother and son belonged only to the two of them. And so, Snape waited patiently for Harry to be ready to separate a little from her and, after petting her once more, turned his attention back to him.
“Thank you.” The boy finally said, emotion in his eyes.
“Don't thank me, Potter.” Snape replied, trying to regain his composure and control of the situation. But a part of him was still moved by what he had just witnessed, perhaps because the doe was still there, reminding him of the friend he had lost. So, without intending to, he added, “It's what she would have wanted.”
Harry's eyes widened in surprise, but he was glad that Snape had mentioned his mother without him having to ask about her.
Seconds passed, but neither said anything else, as the Patronus floated in front of Harry, transforming what might have been an awkward silence into a calm and placid one. Finally, Snape cleared his throat and said:
“Look, Potter... I... I don't know if I'm the best person for you to be having this conversation with. I'm not good at listening to people or helping them with their problems. By that I don't mean that I don't want to try.” He added as he saw the expression on Harry's face. “But I think it might be better if you went through this whole... uh... process with someone more qualified.”
“Qualified?” Harry repeated.
“Someone like a St. Mungo's healer, you mean?” Harry's voice was calm, but Snape could sense the anger in it. “Someone who doesn't know what it's like to be tortured, to watch the people you love die, or that horrible fear when Voldemort seeks you out to kill you?”
“I want to talk to you because you're the only one who can understand what I've been through. That level of terror when Voldemort wants you in particular, that responsibility when the weight of the war falls on your shoulders... Only you can understand.”
Snape swallowed, understanding, but said nothing. He wanted Harry to get all his thoughts out before answering.
“And yes. There's also Ron and Hermione, the other Weasleys, Andromeda Tonks... So many people who have lost loved ones and who could help me. But I can't ask them to deal with this on top of their own problems.”
Harry shook his head and then looked back at the doe; with her there it was easier to talk about such things.
“And, come to think of it,” he continued, “maybe it's not fair to ask you either...”
“You don’t need to concern yourself about that, Potter.” Snape said, reassuringly. “If I'm honest, I didn't have any plans in case I survived the war. I never thought I would still be here... So you're not interrupting anything.” He added sarcastically.
Harry frowned; he hadn't liked that at all.
“But that's not fair.” He repeated. “You of all people should be doing something that makes you happy; not standing here putting up with me. You deserve it. Especially after surviving two magical wars.”
Snape smiled with sarcasm.
“Ah, but that’s precisely the point, Potter. I have survived two magical wars, yes. But surviving is not living.” He said seriously. “This is what I meant when I said that I'm not the most qualified person to help you. My methods for dealing with the aftermath of a war are not...” Snape fell silent trying to find a suitable word. “They're not the best, one might say.”
“You've seen my memories, Potter. You've known me for seven years. Do you think the boy I was at some point was anything like the man I am today?”
Harry took a few seconds to answer, trying to put his thoughts into words, but Snape identified that silence as an answer.
“Exactly.” Said the Potions master. “The War changes you. It did with me and it has done the same to you and your friends. But the most important thing is how you deal with that change.” Snape's voice sounded deep and heavy, bearing the weight of experience. “You said I survived two wars, but the truth is I'm still stuck in the first one.”
If the doe hadn't been there at the time, Snape was sure he would never have confessed all that. But her presence, coupled with the boy's green eyes, made him feel as if there was someone else in the room. Someone he had always been able to tell everything to.
“But that's not true.” Harry said suddenly. “Maybe you haven’t dealt with it in the best way, but it's not true that you are stuck. I've seen your memories. There is an evolution in you. I told you that yesterday, but I'll say it again. You went from being a Death Eater to caring about saving everyone. My mother may have been the starting point, but as time went on you became the bravest person I know. Everything you did over the years was to protect the magical world. I can't think of anything more noble.
Snape, who had become speechless, listening to Harry's word, wrinkled his nose at that last one.
“I am not noble, Potter. Everything I did was out of guilt. It was not a selfless act.”
Harry shook his head.
“Maybe not, but you have to start somewhere. Call it guilt or a sense of responsibility. The point is you did it. Not many people would have put up with everything that you did if they were in your position.”
Snape still looked disgusted. He didn't like flattery, especially when he clearly didn't deserve it.
“Enough, Potter. Stop saying things that aren't true. And” he added when he saw that Harry wanted to reply, “we're getting off the point. What's important here is that you understand that I'm not a role model, quite the opposite.”
“But nothing. I'm not a nice man, Potter. I'm not a good person, or someone pleasant to hang out with or whatever it is people do with their friends. I'm a lonely, resentful man. And I'll stay that way until I die.” He assured. “As I said before, I'm not the most qualified to help you. I'll keep trying because, after all these years, I can't just look the other way. But it's important that you understand that you must not make the same mistakes I did. Alright?” He said, fatigue on his face. It had been many years since Snape had been so honest with another person and it was exhausting him.
“I don't want you to end up like me. Promise me, Potter. You have to be better.”
The desperation on Snape's face told Harry that there was only one possible answer.
“I promise.” He said solemnly.
After that word, there was silence in the room and the doe began to move again, approaching Snape. The Potions Master petted her snout, as she watched him with those big black eyes, so similar to his own.
“I'm going to keep the charm active for as long as we talk about these things, okay?” Snape told him, still stroking the doe. “It's obviously helping.”
The professor lowered his head, accepting them. Then he cleared his throat and, slowly, asked:
“Shall we continue with the conversation, then?”
Harry took a deep breath, trying to control himself. The doe seemed to realize this, because she moved away from Snape and walked back to the boy, resting her head in Harry's hands.
“Okay, I think I'm ready.” He said, feeling the warmth in his fingers.
“Good.” Snape said. “You were telling me you were scared of Fred's funeral. His and everyone else's, right?
Harry nodded, swallowing.
“Yeah... That's what I said.”
“Alright.” Snape said, watching him intently, but unsure how to continue.
Harry was silent for a few seconds, keeping his attention on the doe. Then, still stroking its fur, he said:
“I suppose you want to know what's changed. Don't you, sir? I mean, it's not like it's the first time I've been to a funeral, is it? Fred, Remus and Tonks aren't the only people I've lost over the years. I should be used to it, shouldn't I?” Harry's voice was full of sadness and bitterness.
“You shouldn't be used to it. No matter how many people you lose, you never will be.” Snape said, very serious. “But it is true that I would like to understand what has changed.”
Harry sighed, trying to put into words what he was feeling. Though he was having a hard time understanding it too.
“The truth is, I'm not really sure why I'm reacting like this.” He confessed. “I think... Maybe, what's going on, is that whenever I've lost someone the threat of Voldemort was still there. So I could focus all my grief and anger on him, instead of thinking about what had happened.”
The Patronus was still in Harry's lap, his fingers moving through the animal's fur, but the boy's gaze was pinned somewhere on the wall, not fully aware of what he was doing.
“When Cedric died, I had a very hard time, it's true...” He continued. “But Voldemort had just returned, and I had to worry about that. And the year after that, when... When Sirius passed... I don't know, I never got to go to his funeral. There wasn't a body to bury, of course...” Harry spoke on autopilot, trying not to focus on emotions, just facts, just as Snape had taught him. “And then, that summer... It wasn't pleasant, I have to admit. But, somehow, my grief was sort of... sort of squashed. Hidden, more like. I tried not to think about him, about what had happened. And then Dumbledore had so much to teach me about Voldemort that I couldn't allow myself to be sad...”
Snape listened attentively, as Harry continued to speak. It was important for the boy to externalize his thoughts, perhaps then he could find out what was going on.
“And last year... When... when Dumbledore died...” Harry continued. “I'm sorry, but I focused all my anger on you.” He said, sending him a remorseful look.
“Yes, I assumed that, Potter. But I understand.”
Harry nodded, relieved.
“Good... Because that is what happened... I focused on the hatred I felt towards you and Voldemort, and the mission Dumbledore had given me...” Suddenly he inhaled sharply, realizing something. “There's a pattern, isn't there? Whenever I lost someone, I always did the same thing.”
Snape sighed, mentally exhausted.
“Yes, Potter, but it's the most common thing. Most people tend to do it. They hide in some corner of their mind what they don't want to think about and focus on what they can control. After the first war, after your mother... after your parents,” Snape corrected himself, “passed away... I did the same thing for a long time.”
Harry looked up, seeking that support, that understanding, that Snape was offering.
“But, sir, now that the war is over, now that there is no one to hate, no threat to fight... There is nothing left.” He said, realizing that reality. “There is no more anger, no more fear, no more work to do. There is nothing left.” He repeated, his eyes lowered. The doe was still in his lap, but Harry was too absorbed in his thoughts to notice. “There's only me left. Me and this... this sadness. This horrible emptiness.”
Snape tried to keep his face blank so it wouldn’t reflect that same pain he could see in Harry's features. He understood perfectly well what the boy was going through.
“And I think... I think I know why the thought of going to the funeral scares me so much...” Harry continued, with the terrible suspicion that he had found the explanation he had been looking for. “It's as if... As if everything I've been pushing down over the years is finally coming up. All those deaths - Cedric, Sirius and Dumbledore’s, even my parents’... And now the rest of them: Fred, Remus and Tonks. So when... when I go to the funeral...” His voice was trembling again, but Harry took a deep breath and closed his eyes, concentrating on the doe's warmth and reassuring presence, drawing strength from it. “When it happens... It will be as if all those losses become true at the same time.”
That sentence made the hair on the back of Snape's neck stand up. Harry had just hit the nail on the head, he knew it, he could see it in the boy's face. For a few seconds he said nothing, he sat there watching him, trying to anticipate a change in the boy's face, a crack in the poise he was showing, but he couldn't find it. Despite that revelation, Harry was keeping his composure and Snape felt a flash of pride at the sight of it. Perhaps it was the Patronus in the room, or the relief at having finally discovered the reason for his fear, or probably the boy's mind was too exhausted to take it all in, but Harry was being able to control himself and that meant an improvement in the boy, an evolution. Even if it was only a small one.
“I think you're right, Potter.” Snape finally said. “It makes sense that, faced with a situation like a funeral, your mind would remind you of other painful moments. Especially when there are no longer any distractions present. The problem is that I don't... I'm not quite sure how to help in this case... But I want you to know that it's important to have identified the reason of your fear. And also the fact that you were able to tell me. I...” He opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it again. “You've done a good job.” He said instead.
“Thank you, sir.” Harry replied, still upset by what he had just discovered, but grateful for those words. “Honestly, I don't know quite what to do either... But as you said, knowing what's going on is important.”
Snape nodded, as an idea formed in his mind.
“That's right, Potter... And that's precisely why you should talk to your friends about this. Before you protest,” He added, seeing that Harry wanted to retort, “I know you don't want to upset them or make them sad. But I don't care about that.” Snape said, sounding again like the harsh professor Harry remembered. “The important thing here is that you deal with this situation. And your friends can help you in ways that I cannot. So explain to them what's going on. They've probably already realized that there's something wrong with you; they're not complete idiots. At least Miss Granger isn't...” Snape muttered under his breath.
For once, Harry decided to ignore that comment. He had more important things to worry about.
“But nothing, Potter. You know I'm right.”
He was. And Harry sighed, admitting defeat.
“Alright. I'll talk to them, okay?” He said finally. “But not now; I'm tired.”
Snape wanted to smile sarcastically but restrained himself in time.
“That makes two of us, Potter...” Between the injuries he was still recovering from, the draining conversations, and having kept the Patronus active for so long, Snape looked like he was about to pass out from exhaustion.
Harry stared at him for a few moments, realizing this.
“Sorry, Professor. It’s my fault; I shouldn't have stayed here for so long.” He turned his wrist to check his watch and discovered that he had been in the infirmary longer than he had thought. “By Merlin, it really is late... I'm sorry, sir. I'll let you be.”
Snape held up a hand.
“Potter, do you remember me telling you to stop apologizing?”
“Well, then stop doing it. It was vitally important to have a conversation on this subject. And, even if we still don't know how to fix it, I think it's a step forward.”
“I think so too.” Agreed Harry. “I know it sounds weird to say, but I feel calmer than I did before. Talking about all this stuff with you helps me a lot. So... er, thank you. I know it hasn’t been easy for you.”
The gratitude in the boy's eyes was evident and Snape, who in other times would have rolled his eyes at such a display of sentimentality, could not help the warmth that flooded his chest.
“It has actually been easier than I would have thought a couple of days ago.” He admitted, with a genuine smile, before realizing what he was doing.
Harry smiled back almost immediately, glad to see his relationship with Snape was slowly improving.
“Anyway...” Snape continued, clearing his throat. “Since it's gotten so late and we're both tired, I suppose we'd better conclude this talk here, don't you think?”
Harry nodded. His head was starting to ache after all those emotions and his bed in the Gryffindor Common Room was calling to him more and more. With those thoughts in mind, he gathered up his belongings and stroked the doe once more, before making his way to the door.
“Thank you again for everything, sir.” He said as he reached it. He had turned to look at Snape, who was currently waving his wand, making the Patronus disappear. Harry instantly felt the warmth of the room diminish considerably.
“You're welcome, Potter...” Snape said, placing the wand back on the small table. “Now go have some dinner and then go to sleep, all right? And talk to your friends.”
“I will, I promise. Have a good rest, Professor. I'll come see you tomorrow.” He assured him, with a small smile. He was glad to know that his daily visits to the infirmary had become part of his routine.
Snape merely bowed his head, accepting that fact. He knew that, at that point, he could not run away from Potter and his incessant chatter. So, he remained there, laying on his bed, watching Harry as he closed the door behind him.
His mind went back to the boy, and the improvement that their relationship had experienced during the last two days. It was incredible how quickly things could change. And even though he would never admit it, at the thought of Harry, a twinkle appeared in Snape's dark eyes that would have made Albus Dumbledore jealous.
To be continued...
That's the end of the chapter, I hope you liked it :) Please tell me if you saw any mistakes or if the characters are changing too fast. It's important for me to make it believable.
And that's all. Happy 2022 and see you in a bit! :D
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.