Saturnine awoke with a gasp, sure that something was wrong—very wrong. Fighting for consciousness, she forced her eyes open—past the blinding light, past the pain. She needed to see; she needed to know.
The room she was in wasn’t one she recognised. And she fought through the many aches in her body for more: more information, more knowledge.
When? Where? Why?
Hospital. That one came quickly, Saturnine’s surroundings leaving little to the imagination. Not a complete room but a forlorn bed in a hallway. She saw that it was not the only one. A few students and two Aurors with minor injuries sat or lay on similar makeshift accommodations.
Glancing at herself, she found no severe injury. She had a few cuts and bruises down her legs and arms and a gash on her right temple that had left a dried-up trail down her cheek. It had stopped bleeding and clogged over, like the rest of her injuries. She found nothing life-threatening—nothing that a few nights of sleep wouldn’t cure.
Fighting off the dizziness, she pushed herself up into a sitting position and flung her legs over the side of the bed. Aches and pains shot through her from many different directions; it was impossible to catalogue them all. She felt as if she’d just gone a few rounds against half a dozen angry Bludgers. But the pain was just information, and she chose to disregard it.
Clamping her lips shut, she stood up and forced herself to walk away. There was a nurse station close by, and she needed to get there. She walked—slow but determined, her hands tightened into fists. She needed to get there; she needed to know. She had lost sight of Harry and Draco in the battle, and Severus had been hurt deeply. She needed to find out if they were okay.
Her stomach lurched, and she felt tears run down her eyes. It made her vision swim, or perhaps it was because the room was spinning around her. But still, she kept walking, seeking someone, anyone who could tell her what she needed to know.
Nothing had happened the way they had planned. Either Voldemort had grown impatient, or he had ascertained who had been stringing him along for months. He hadn’t waited for the museum’s grand opening, hadn’t fallen for the building they had set up like a gigantic mousetrap just for him. He had instead come to Hogwarts with the entire bulk of his army. An onslaught that took them by surprise one morning, and that made far more causalities than either of them ever wished for.
They’d been forced to split up and find the boys or the Horcruxes. Protect the boys or destroy the Horcruxes. Save all the children—or each other. In the end, the choice was taken from their hands entirely.
When Lord Voldemort’s sibilant voice resonated throughout the hallways, demanding a one-on-one duel with Harry Potter in the Forbidden Forest, Saturnine knew in her heart that her son would agree to it. No matter what she did, Harry would find his way to the Dark Lord so that he could face him. A Gryffindor through and through: courageous and selfless, a worthy reflection of James and Lily.
A glance at her brother had told her that Severus had reached the same conclusion. She saw the pain in his obsidian eyes and knew it was a reflection of her own. So, they had gone for the Horcruxes, hidden away in the headmaster’s chambers. And in a way, they had faced Voldemort there, too.
“You need to lie down, miss,” a woman told her, taking her by the arm to try and force her to sit down. She was dressed in a Mediwitch’s uniform, and a few grey strands had escaped her tight bun. She looked frazzled, tired, and it was no surprise given the number of wounded all over the place.
“Where?” Saturnine croaked out through parched lips.
The Mediwitch tried forcing her down into a plastic chair, but she squirmed from her grasp.
“Where?” she asked again with all the force she could muster. “Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy?” she asked, giving the witch the boys’ former names. She knew that if she had treated either of them, she wouldn’t have missed Draco’s platinum-blond hair or Harry’s scar. “My brother—Severus Snape?”
The Mediwitch turned to look at a door a little ahead, and Saturnine followed her gaze. She forced herself from the woman’s grasp and began walking again. Saturnine had no idea which one of the three she would find behind the lime-green door, but she knew she wouldn’t let anyone prevent her from getting there.
Draco slowly drifted back to consciousness. He tried fighting it, wanting to remain in the hazy limbo in which he had fallen, that quiet cottony place where everything was soft and warm, and nothing hurt.
His body wouldn’t let him. It had decided to wake up and made its intention quite clear. Painfully so. Moaning in discomfort, he sat up and immediately regretted his decision. Bile surged up his throat, and he had just enough time to lean to the side to avoid making a mess of the sheets. The tacky linoleum floor by his bedside table wasn’t so lucky.
Merlin, but he felt awful. Shivers ran up and down his legs and arms, even as he felt like he would suffocate from the heat. He caught sight of a glass of water on the small table and reached for it. That’s when he saw it: two tiny puncture wounds on his wrist—the memories tumbled back in, hitting him like a Bludger in the face.
The snake. The bloody snake had bitten him.
It had been a typical day—or so they’d thought. Professor Flitwick was in the middle of a long tirade about Healing Charms when darkness fell over Hogwarts Castle. The bright May sun disappeared beyond a thick veil of black smoke, and Draco knew. Without looking outside, he knew who was coming. The hostility and rottenness that seeped from that fog left no ambiguity as to who had cast it. The Dark Lord was here.
Harry was on his feet an instant later, rushing from the room with the rest of their quartet hot on his heels. More students poured from classrooms left and right, crying and panicking, while teachers tried to rein them in. They could try and pretend everything was under control all they liked, but Draco knew how wrong they were. There would be nothing but utter destruction and chaos in Hogwarts if the Dark Lord came through the front doors, for he surely hadn’t come alone. And Draco knew very well the kind of company he kept.
He hadn’t expected the snake, though.
Soon enough, the battle raged on every floor; teachers and older students alike fought off the masked attackers, banding together to try and protect the younger ones. Draco, who’d vowed not to take his eyes off Harry, fought side-by-side with Ron and Hermione to make it to the ground floor.
When the voice that was the source of many of his nightmares cut through the battle cries and the sounds of spells going off, Draco felt his heart stop at the words—Lord Voldemort’s ultimatum.
“Don’t,” he told Harry. “Don’t go.”
They were huddled together in a corner, hidden behind a fallen statue that was their only shield against two Death Eaters intent on killing them. A little further down the hallway, Ron and Hermione had ducked behind a gargoyle whose head had been blasted off.
“I have to, Draco,” Harry told him. “He’ll kill everyone otherwise.”
“I’ll come with you,” he said, brushing a sheen of sweat off his brow and leaning closer.
“You can’t,” Harry told him. “He’ll kill you, too.”
A blast of light flew past their heads and went straight for the gargoyle protecting their friends. A chunk of stone flew right off it, and they heard Hermione shriek in fear.
“I have to go,” Harry told him. “You keep Ron and Hermione safe for me.”
“No!” he said, reaching forward to stop him from leaving. His hands found Harry’s robes. Suddenly, Harry’s hands were on him, and they hugged each other like it was the end of the world—which wasn’t that far from the truth.
“I love you, and I don’t want to lose you,” Draco blurted out, feeling tears welling up. He hadn’t said it yet, and his timing couldn’t have been worse, but if he was going to lose his brother today, he wanted him to know.
“I love you too, brother. But you have to let me do this,” Harry said, pulling back. His green eyes shone brightly behind his round glasses. “Keep the others safe. Please.”
“You better come back alive, you prat,” Draco said through his tears. “I won’t forgive you otherwise.”
“Wanker,” Harry said with a wink. And then he was gone.
A fury Draco hadn’t known himself capable of feeling overtook him then, and he rose to his feet to send curse after curse at the two masked wizards at the other end of the hallway. Jets of lights blasted off his wand, shooting through the space between them with the speed of a seeker on a chase. They barrelled into their chests with enough strength to send them flying backwards a few paces.
Draco was still casting off spells when Hermione’s hand reached for his, forcing him to lower his wand.
“I think they’re down for now,” she said. “Come on, Draco. We have to get out of here.”
“We have to get to the Great Hall,” Ron added. “To make sure none of them make it up the stairs and into the hallways.”
Draco nodded, and they left at a sprint.
They were coming upon the first floor when a hissing sound stopped him in his tracks.
“Nagini,” he muttered through clenched teeth. He’d recognise that snake’s hissing anywhere.
“Not a good idea, mate,” Ron said, reaching for his arm to hold him back.
Draco shook himself free and ran down the last two steps to the first-floor landing. “I’ve got to kill it,” he said. “Harry can’t kill the Dark Lord otherwise.”
Hermione was at his back a moment later. “We’ll come with you,” she said. “You’ll need help with that thing.”
He heard Ron mutter, “Bad idea, bad idea,” in a high-pitched voice, but the sound of his footsteps indicated that he was coming, too.
The snake hadn’t been alone, and it hadn’t gone down willingly. The glass of water shook in Draco’s hand as he remembered the piercing pain that shot through him when Nagini plunged its fangs into his skin. But Draco had always been the kind of guy who gave an eye for an eye. And as he scrambled backwards on the floor to escape the slithering monster’s reach, one of his hands had found a shard of broken glass. And with a vicious smile, he gave the dark creature a taste of its own medicine.
Everything that followed was a blur. Draco vaguely remembered Hermione pressing her wand to his wound and Ron cradling his head while he convulsed on the floor. The world had gone dark soon after that.
He had made it out of Hogwarts alive, but he had no idea what had happened to the others. Alone, he did not know the outcome of the battle. Had Harry won or lost? Was he even still alive? What of his parents? He hadn’t seen them at all in the battle, and he didn’t know if they were—
His mind couldn’t even finish the thought.
Forcing some water down his parched throat, he wondered where he would ever find the courage to open the door of his hospital room. For as long as he remained here, they could all be alive—his brother, father, and mother. If the door remained closed, he had hope.
Someone pushed the door open from the other side, and Draco tensed in fear. If it was some bad news, he didn’t want to hear it, and he closed his eyes against the possible ugliness of the truth.
“Draco!” a voice that oozed relief shook him from his self-imposed isolation, and his eyes flew open.
“Mom?” The word, he had never said before, was out of his lips before his mind had the time to form the thought. And Saturnine smiled through the pain that lined her face. She was a mess—battle-weary and covered in minor wounds and scratches. But she was also alive—very much alive.
Draco threw himself at her when she was close enough to do so, hugging her with all the strength remaining in his battered body, clearly intent on never letting go.
Severus knew pain; they were old friends who went way back. He’d learned from a young age how to wake up with a battered, bruised, and abused body. Minimal exertion was the key: small, measured movements done with care and precision—an equal weight distribution to avoid putting too much strain on a single muscle group.
He rolled off his bed with barely a grunt and waited for the expected dizzy spell to pass before opening his eyes. He frowned at the sight that met him. He didn’t have high standards, but he’d expected better than an empty hallway. Looking down at himself, he discovered that whoever had brought him to St. Mungo’s hadn’t bothered doing much more than dumping him on a bed. He wasn’t wearing one of those ugly lime-green hospital gowns. But his clogged-up wounds hurt like hell when he started moving about. Well, he’d had worse.
He walked down the hallway on stiff legs and entered a larger room filled with a cacophony of sounds and motion. It wreaked havoc on his poor head, but he pushed through nonetheless. He couldn’t have said what drove his steps, why he chose to go in one direction rather than the other—sheer instinct, maybe. But he crossed through the lobby to enter another hallway, aiming for a half-opened door.
The Dark Lord had been wrong. He knew it in his heart, in his guts. His mind, his soul, simply refused to believe otherwise. Riddle had been incorrect; they weren’t gone—weren’t leaving. And he wasn’t alone.
Rushing through the corridors without encountering much opposition, he and Saturnine had made it to the Headmaster’s Tower in record time. Knowing what they had to do, they’d gotten to work with barely a pause. Saturnine levitated the Horcruxes out of their hiding places, behind the old headmasters’ portraits, and Severus went to retrieve the sword.
It was now the Head of Slytherin House that wielded Godric Gryffindor’s mighty sword. Despite any misgivings he might have had, he could not deny that it felt right in his hand. The weight felt comfortable; the lean hilt seemed to have been shaped for the length of his fingers.
The diary was already destroyed, and Severus ignored it. He chose to go for the ring first. Part of him loathed the object that had taken Dumbledore away from him. He slammed it with the edge of the sword and cut it into two clean halves—ring and stone alike. A plume of black smoke seeped from the stone, and he watched it wither to nothingness with a contented smirk.
He turned to the cup next, lifted the sword, and—
The walls shook. Severus froze in surprise, even as his eyes shot forward. Saturnine was ahead of him, nearing the windows to seek an explanation. Another blast blew the glass to smithereens, and a few shards cut into her before she could pull back.
“They’re onto us,” she said, pulling out her wand. The stones around the window morphed and grew under her will until there was no window anymore—nothing but bricks and mortar.
“Keep at it, Sev,” she instructed, turning back to face him. “I’ll hold them off.”
He returned to the table, and the Horcruxes laid out on it. Saturnine turned her back to him, feet firmly planted on the floor. She took a battle stance and seemed intent on not letting anything get between the door and him—and he loved her for it.
The cup suffered the same fate as the ring a moment later. And this time, more than the walls shook in retaliation: the entire tower, floor to ceiling. Whoever was on the other side of these walls was intent on blasting the edifice clear off the face of the earth. And this time, they weren’t stopping. Blast after blast shook the ancient tower, and a few of the portraits fell to the floor, provoking loud complaints from the headmasters within.
“Keep going, Severus,” Saturnine told him. “Whatever happens, don’t stop.”
He looked up to her to nod and saw her pull her wand away. Then she closed her eyes in intense concentration. When she reopened them, the walls exploded. Only, they didn’t blow inward but outward, blasted away by the sheer strength of the wind gales pulsing from Saturnine’s outstretched hands. They swirled at her command, spinning like a tornado until they formed a protective barrier around the two of them. But it wasn’t just the wind Severus saw. There were sparks of electricity in the air from the friction between conflicting, fizzling currents all but ready to ignite. Past the column of wind, he could glimpse the occasional jet of coloured light characteristic of battle spells. They ricocheted off the maelstrom like coloured marbles hitting a wall.
Severus returned his attention to the task at hand. There were only two more: the locket and the diadem. It was probably sentimentality that made him go for the diadem first. He rose the sword and readied to strike but froze at the pale ghost that filtered in existence ahead of him.
That smile, those eyes—he’d recognise them anywhere; they were Harry’s eyes—Lily’s eyes. His limp fingers almost lost their grip on the sword handle.
“Lily.” He said her name in a whisper, almost a prayer.
“You have to stop what you’re doing, Severus,” Lily said. Her voice was like music to his ears: seventeen years’ worth of pain was erased by her dulcet tones.
“Lily,” he repeated, unable to say anything else.
“Stop this; join me, Severus,” she said, stepping forward from the table and extending a pale hand. “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too,” he said, feeling tears well up in his eyes. “I miss you so much, Lily.”
She took another step towards him, her beautiful face angled up to look into his eyes, and he almost lost himself in hers. “I love you, Severus,” she said. “I’ve always loved you. Come join me, and we can be together for the rest of time.”
He wanted to say yes. Oh Merciful Merlin, but he wanted to say yes. Lily—his Lily. Finally, after all these years, she was offering him what he had always wanted: her love and acceptance.
“No more loneliness,” she said, smiling up at him with such longing and desire that he felt his own desire flare up. “No more lonely nights.”
She was everything he had always wanted, the only thing missing from his life. He wouldn’t be alone anymore. He’d have someone to talk to, love, and care for—someone who cared about him in return. Someone who…
Flashes of memories shot through him rapidly: his birthday party, filled with laughter and pleasant company. The evenings spent in the dungeons with Saturnine while they studied for their blasted N.E.W.T.s. The weekly dinners with the boys where they spoke of everything that had happened during the week. He tried holding onto the memories and pulled more of them forward. Then utter peace came over him as he saw himself waking each morning with the knowledge that he wasn’t alone in his room. It had got to the point where he didn’t even need to open his eyes anymore to know that Saturnine was asleep a couple of feet away; he knew it in his heart.
Severus took a step back, and he raised Gryffindor’s sword again, ready to strike. Fear flashed in Lily’s beautiful eyes, and he felt his resolve weaken.
“I love you, Severus,” she said again. “Let us be together.”
“No,” he said, forcing the words out. “No, not like this. I can’t—I have a family now, Lily, and I can’t lose them. I won’t.” He brought the sword down, and the shade disappeared as the diadem was cut in half.
Quickly, he turned to Salazar Slytherin’s locket. And before he had the time to prepare his next strike, another shade appeared: a darker one, a more sinister one—the shape of a monster he knew well.
“Is this what you have now—a family?” the Dark Lord asked, his sibilant voice slicing through his eardrums like blades. “Severus, you fool.”
Lord Voldemort took a step forward, and Severus recoiled from the poisonous anger seeping from the dark wizard’s spectral eyes.
“Fostering lost children as if they were your own—contenting yourself with the love of your sister because no other woman ever wanted you,” Voldemort mocked, his words oozing from his pale lips like venom. “My poor Severus—you tricked yourself into thinking that you built something good. But you know the truth, don’t you?”
The Dark Lord kept advancing, and Severus kept stepping back until he ran out of room to retreat and froze in fear.
“Deep down, you know that none of them need you, Severus. Not like you need them,” Voldemort hissed, his forked tongue coming out to lick his lips. “Harry and Draco will leave you the moment they finish school, never to look back. You will become a black mark in their memories as they move on to bigger, brighter things. And Saturnine—well, your impetuous sister will leave again, as she has before; it’s only a matter of time. You know that to be the truth, Severus. You will say or do something that will be the final nail in the coffin of your friendship, and she will go without so much as a goodbye.”
The Dark Lord slithered closer, one of his pale hands reaching up to brush Severus’ cheek tenderly. His touch chilled him to the bone. “And where will you be then, my dear Potions Master? Alone once more—a forgotten child that no one ever wanted. No one but me.”
In an instant, the coldness that seeped from the Dark Lord’s fingers was replaced by a blazing heat as the spectre was engulfed in raging, angry flames. Severus had just enough time to step to the side to avoid getting burned.
He caught sight of Saturnine in his peripheral vision; the flames ran all the way back to her outstretched left hand. She still used her right hand to control the tunnelling winds protecting them. Fury danced in her face, and there was a steely determination in her gaze he had never seen before.
At that moment, Saturnine was her elements, the primal force behind them. She was the raging ocean, the howling winds and the voracious flames. Her azure eyes caught his, and he saw that she was something else, too. She was the nurturing earth; she was love and compassion—she was home.
Severus saw all the way down to her soul and realised it was for him that she burned so brightly—that the roaring seas and furious winds had been unleashed and mountains had been moved. Saturnine was bearing down her soul, offering herself up to protect him. And Severus decided he would do the same.
Tightening his hold on the hilt of the blade, he raised it once more. Then, looking at the Dark Lord, still engulfed in flames, he said, “You know nothing of family, Riddle. You never had one.”
He plunged the sword through the flames, through the spectre—straight through the middle of the locket floating behind the Dark Lord—before collapsing forward as if his body had given up on him.
Pushing the hospital door open, Severus already knew what he would find on the other side: love, acceptance—home.
It was Draco who caught sight of him first. He hugged Saturnine, and his eyes latched onto him when he stepped through. There was no missing the wave of utter relief that passed through his pointy face—nor the love that danced in his silver eyes.
Saturnine must have sensed the change in their son, for she quickly turned to look over her shoulder. Her left hand shot out for him, even as the other kept a secure hold on Draco. He gladly linked his fingers with hers and offered no resistance when she tugged on his arm to bring him closer.