Body wracked with agony, blood flowing from a dozen wounds, Severus Snape finally surrendered. The will to live was no longer enough. One year ago today, he’d traded everything he had, his very soul even, for Dumbledore’s faith in him, and it had landed him here—alone and reviled.
It wasn’t as though he hadn’t played his part. He’d acted the double agent for years, and when Dumbledore had demanded it, he’d committed the unforgivable crime so that here at the end there would be no question of his allegiance and the ultimate trap could be sprung. He’d stood beside the Dark Lord and, when the moment had arrived, he’d helped to bring him down. And then he had collapsed. Mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, he did not even move to defend himself when he looked up to find the boy—that wretched boy—standing over him.
Severus barely heard the query. Lost in his own misery, he couldn’t think there was much to say anyway. The boy had never listened to him and never seen reason before; why should he start now? The broken figure on the ground simply closed his eyes.
When he opened them again, two vibrant green eyes hovered before him, gazing intently.
“Why what, Potter?” Even poised between life and death and almost unable to speak, Severus managed to sneer. Surely the boy could be more precise, after all. “Why did I kill him? Or why did I help you here at the end?”
Severus simply sighed.
As he let his eyes drift shut once more, he glimpsed the boy settling down beside him, but he didn’t resist when he felt his wand slide from his hand, although he did taste the old bitterness rise up at the back of his throat. Can’t he just leave me to die in peace?
“Sir?” Even in his stupor, Severus was vaguely surprised at the respect in the boy’s voice, something he hadn’t heard since…well, had the boy ever treated him with respect rather than fear or loathing or, more usually, a combination of both?
Severus found he could no longer answer. Pity. It sounds like he might actually have been open to listening this time. Ah, well. Just as well to die a villain as a hero. Still, his mind suggested, it might have been nice for Potter to know that Severus Snape—when it came right down to it—was really neither of those things. He’d merely done what he’d had to do. Hopefully, it would mean something in the end, but really what did it matter to him? He was well shut of the whole mess. He felt mainly relief to finally find himself here at the end of all things.
But, good God, was the boy still talking? Would he never shut up?
“Professor, I know I’ve never been fair to you, never been willing to let go of my prejudice—not that you were either, of course…. But this time…this time, I want to know, and I’m willing…and, I think, finally able…to hear what you have to tell me.”
Severus strove to enjoy the irony of the moment, but even that took too much effort. Finally the little shit was going to hear him out, and Severus was simply too weak to speak. Hell, he couldn’t even offer the boy a condescending smirk anymore. What was the world coming to?
Potter seemed to understand his predicament, however, for he continued: “I know about you and my mother. Professor Slughorn just assumed that I knew. I didn’t believe him at first, but then I remembered how she stuck up for you...”
…in my memory, you little bastard.
“I don’t know the details, of course. It made me understand a little better, though, what Professor Dumbledore meant about you being sorry about Voldemort (here Severus felt himself flinch) killing my parents—well sorry about my mum anyway. Looking back, I can’t say I still blame you for not feeling too choked up about my dad. I guess that, until recently, it was always just easier to blame you than to think less of him.” He paused.
“Professor, can you hear me?”
In fact, that was the last thing Severus heard for a long time.
Suddenly, Severus awoke, snapping his eyes open and trying to focus on the boy, whose fingers he could feel moving gently along his brow with a cool, damp cloth.
A woman hovered into view. A halo of blinding white light shone around both her and the boy who tended him. For a split second, Severus wondered how the hell he’d ended up in heaven. Then the world came into focus, and he realized he was back at Hogwarts, lying in the infirmary. Madam Pomfrey leaned down to take his pulse.
“Severus, can you hear me?”
He tried to assure her that he could, but, as he nodded, pain seemed to rush through his entire body and his “yes” turned into an incoherent moan.
“O.k. Hold still. Harry and I are going to give you a potion for the pain.”
The process was too much for Severus. As the boy eased him up, he blacked out again.
When consciousness again returned, Severus noticed that Potter was still there, sitting beside his bed, reading. Severus didn’t speak for several moments as he tried to ascertain his own condition. He still felt weak and exhausted; however, the blinding pain was gone. Damn. I’m going to live through this after all. What wretched mercy. Won’t Potter be delighted to see me in Azkaban?
This thought stopped him, however. The boy by his bed didn’t seem all that eager to cart him off to prison. If anything, Potter had been positively—dare he even think it?—caring. Had the boy actually understood the significance of Severus’ actions during their final stand against the Dark Lord? The former professor found the possibility of Harry Potter understanding anything almost too much to hope for. The person in question, perhaps sensing that Severus had regained consciousness, finally looked up from his book.
“Are you in pain? Should I call Madam Pomfrey?”
“Such concern, Potter. I would have expected you to be out celebrating your great triumph, lording it over the wizard world, yet here you sit, asking after my welfare. To what do I owe such courtesy? Couldn’t stand to see me escape Azkaban even in death? I suppose you have your own personal squad of Aurors standing by, eager to hear of my recovery?”
The boy just stared at him. Severus could see the anger flash across the young wizard’s face, but for once Potter seemed determined to suppress it. It was satisfying to find that the boy had gained some control over himself during the last twelve months. It seemed that miracles did occur after all.
Finally the savior of the wizarding world deigned to speak.
“You’re still the same old bloody bastard, I see. However, I don’t have to like you…thank God for that. I did want you to know, though, that I’m grateful—grateful for what you did for me there at the end, grateful that you’ve been on our side all along. And I’m grateful—we’re all grateful—for all the sacrifices you’ve had to make for our cause. It took us awhile to see it, but now everyone knows what you’ve done for us.”
Severus needed a minute to process these words. Surely he’d misheard. Was Harry Potter actually thanking him? Did he truly believe that Severus Snape wasn’t the evil villain he’d always thought him to be? For once, Severus had no churlish comeback.
Harry smirked at his old professor’s speechlessness. Then Severus’ confusion deepened even further as he felt the boy’s hand clasp his own.
“I’m also grateful that I had the chance to tell you this. In fact, I’m glad you’re alive, sir. I truly am.”
A/N: This story is my contribution to S.P.E.W.'s Anniversary Challenge. Too bad JK Rowling owns it, and not me.