The Thing with Feathers
Severus Snape opened his eyes to see an encompassing white mist swirling around him. Confused, he twisted quickly to the side and rose to his feet, clutching for his wand. As the mist dissipated, he saw himself to be standing in the dungeon hall outside his classroom. The castle was entirely silent, which was strange, as he recalled that the siege of the castle had begun hours ago. He had wandered the grounds, attempting to stall and impede the Death Eaters or aid the Order members where he could, but the battle was inexorably turning toward the forces of the Dark Lord. The giants had stormed the castle, turning the tide and allowing Death Eaters access to the higher halls.
How had he gotten here? He thought for a moment, finally recollecting how Lucius had come to call him to the Shrieking Shack to face Voldemort before he had been able to find Harry Potter. Inexplicably, Voldemort had ordered the snake to attack him. He could not remember leaving the Shack or coming here, but he realised he had not yet delivered his message; he still had to find the boy.
Snape walked forward toward the steps, wand up, intent on finding Potter before it was too late. As he climbed cautiously upward his puzzlement grew. Why was it entirely silent? Where were the students and faculty, the defenders and attackers? Surely it was not over yet!
He stepped into a brightly lit front hall to find it was entirely deserted; no one could be seen or heard. How many hours had passed since he was called to the Shack? He had a sinking feeling inside, which told him he had undoubtedly failed in his last mission, and the boy had been killed without taking the Dark Lord with him. If the Dark Lord had tried and failed to kill Snape, Snape would have to hide, and quickly. If others had escaped the final calamity, maybe they could still form a resistance.
Scanning the Entrance Hall from the top of the steps, he saw a single figure sitting on the bench near the door. From his position, Snape could see it was an old wizard, staring blankly at the wall opposite the front doors. He appeared to be waiting for something. Weren’t those blue and gold robes familiar? He approached the man slowly, not aware of any particular danger, but cautious nonetheless. As the man turned his head, Snape stopped suddenly.
“Albus,” he whispered hoarsely. “Is it you?”
At that, the wizard smiled brightly and rose to greet him.
“Severus, yes, I am here.” Albus Dumbledore walked toward his Potions Master smoothly, with his arms outstretched. Snape stood immobile as the Headmaster grasped him briefly by the shoulders, but stopped short of embracing him.
“Tell me, what has happened?”
“Am I . . . am I . . . dead, then?” asked Snape hesitantly.
“Yes, I fear that is so,” replied Albus. “I am not pleased to see you here. I was waiting for Harry.”
“Potter was still alive, as far as I know, when I-” Severus paused. “Nagini!” He was beginning to recall more vividly the last moments of his life. Perhaps not all was lost.
“Yes, Severus, go on.”
“I did manage to give Potter my memories; if the fool has the sense to view them in time, all may yet go according to plan.”
Albus visibly relaxed. “I knew you would do it, my boy. You always have,” he added in a whisper.
Severus suddenly felt tired. It appeared he had done all he could. At least it was over for him. “What do I do now, Albus?” he murmured. “Do I wait here too?”
“No, Severus, I think you must go on.” He gestured toward the main doors of the castle. “I have a special reason for staying here, but I will join you later.”
Severus stared at the huge castle doors. What lay beyond them for him? Could it be any worse than his life had been? Maybe, if he only had another chance. . .
He looked at Albus, who seemed to know what he was thinking.
“No, Severus, we have to do the best we can with the time we were given, I fear. Do not be concerned; go on with hope.”
“Hope,” sneered the Potions Master. “There is no hope for me.”
Nevertheless, he moved forward toward the giant doors to face what lay beyond. As he reached them, he turned back toward the man who had been his master. “What makes you think we will see each other again, Albus?” he queried. “After what I have done . . .”
“My dear boy,” boomed the Headmaster, “whatever you may have done was on my orders. No matter what happens, I am sure that we will be in the same place.”
Smiling slightly, the Potions Master touched the doors with his wand and they opened inward, revealing beaming shafts of golden sunlight that streamed across the marble floor as far as the hem of the Headmaster’s robes. Severus Snape passed on into the grounds of Hogwarts, disappearing into the light.
Author's note. The title is from a poem by Emily Dickenson. Hope is the thing with feathers.