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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 9]

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Author notes: only the epilogue to go. Sniff!

I suppose you are wondering what happened to all these people, in the end. As for Jane and Severus, I could simply say “they lived happily ever after,” because (though Snape was loathe to admit it), that is exactly what they did, and for a long time. There were certainly surprises and adventures in store for them (some of which you will hear about in the epilogue), but “happily ever after” does seem to cover things in general. I’m sure you find this quite a relief, as I do.

As to their circle of friends, family, well-wishers, and other odd assorted characters that have graced these pages, well, each one deserves their own book, really, but I don’t think there is time enough in the world to write all they are worthy of, so perhaps it would be best to just sum up.

The Boy Who Lived married Luna, of course, almost as soon as it was humanly possible for them. Harry in fact did become an Auror, eventually heading up the entire department, and so he made himself very useful indeed, and even if he never did get to defeat the Dark Lord there were other challenges awaiting him, one of which actually involved an alliance with his former Potions professor. But that is for another tale.

Remus Lupin stayed with Winslow Oxbox, whom he loved, and by whom he was much loved in return. And Lupin stayed by the side of Severus Snape as well, who was as dear a friend to him as any he had in youth. For Remus Lupin, whose best friends in youth were the remarkable Sirius Black and James Potter, that was something indeed.

The fates of some others that have graced this tale were a bit more…complicated, and will take a bit longer to explain.

As for Roland Gash, to everyone’s surprise, he actually divorced his wife. With her went half his fortune, which was quite a blow (as he was now no longer twenty times as rich as the richest of his peers, but merely ten).

In part, he divorced her because he wished to marry Eva Pellarin. Gash was quite shocked to find himself still capable of love, shocked to find himself free of the bitterness that had so enveloped him, and he began to think he could see nothing for it but to marry the remarkable woman who had managed to so surprise and delight him.

Eva was initially quite opposed to the idea. She had much preferred the less demanding role of mistress, and in truth she was concerned for him. What would Roland think once this gushing madness of feeling passed? What would everyone else think if he married the infamous Eva Pellarin? She knew he had feelings for her, but she did not expect him to make such a sacrifice. She had never expected any man to sacrifice for her. This, of course, only made Gash more determined to prove to her that at least one man would, willingly, and eagerly.

Still, she refused.

It was Snape who proved himself most useful in persuading her, though he did not know at the time that he was doing anything of the kind.

Eva had come to visit her daughter and her new husband a few days after their wedding, again on Sunday morning, so that she could be sure to speak with Snape alone. She wanted to let him know that she approved of him, and she was not merely flattering herself to believe that her new son-in-law wished for her sanction. He did, most earnestly (though of course he would never have asked). He believed that Eva might be the only person in the world that valued his wife even more highly than he did, and her approval was very important to him indeed.

He did not expect Eva to bestow upon him any sort of gratitude for marrying her daughter, and this he did not get. He was hoping only to avoid her scorn for abandoning Jane for months, and then, of course, not inviting Eva to the wedding.

Eva Apparated while Snape was fully clothed this time, thank goodness, and enjoying a pot of Jane’s tea, which was quite as good as her coffee. Snape did jump a bit when she heard the crack of the spell, but settled himself immediately, so that when Eva entered the kitchen he merely gave her one calm nod, and gestured to the tea.

Eva Pellarin glanced at the pot, then looked at him rather sternly, during which time Snape tried not to fidget under her stare.

“It took you long enough,” she said at last.

Snape knew this for the blessing it was, and looking down he smiled and nodded silently.

He watched Eva prepare herself a cup of tea, after which she gave him a cigarette, and they sat together for a long time, saying nothing, smoking and drinking Jane's Earl Grey.

“Lucius Malfoy is beside himself, you know,” Eva told him at last. “Roland says he can’t think for the sound of all the sniveling.”

Snape chuckled. “The bowing and the scraping must be quite annoying as well,” he said. “But I would advise Roland not to punish him too severely. In his own way, Lucius can be of use.”

Eva smiled mysteriously, but did not meet his eyes. “Mercy for your adversary?” she asked.

Truthfully Snape had not thought of Malfoy even once since he married Jane, but now that he did he realized all his antipathy toward the man was gone. Antipathy towards Malfoy seemed now a moot point, and a useless waste of energy. Snape shook his head slowly.

“Not mercy,” he told her. “Pity. There is no greater punishment for Lucius Malfoy than to remain Lucius Malfoy.”

Eva laughed, and then they were silent again for a long time, and Snape could tell that Eva was beginning to grow a bit uneasy. He waited.

“Are you going to miss what you gave up for her?” she asked Snape, after he had tamped out his second cigarette. She was thinking not of Snape as much as she was of Roland. He would lose some face, marrying her. Not to mention money. He had insisted to her that losing the money meant nothing to him, nor the threat of gossip. She did not quite believe him. Money and status seemed to be all that was important to Slytherin men.

But if Severus Snape could relinquish them for love, perhaps she could hope for Roland as well. Perhaps she could hope for Slytherin itself. She was, of course, afraid to hope. It was not in her nature.

Snape considered this question for awhile. It deserved consideration. He had not thought of Lucius Malfoy, nor of what he had “given up” in the few days since he had married his wife. He thought only of the sound of her voice, the feel of her eager body against his, the way she could mingle affection and recrimination that made him want to kiss her and spank her all at once.

Yes, he had given up status, and wealth, but he knew in his heart that nothing and no one could ever compare to the quiet of a summer afternoon in Jane’s garden, spent reading as his wife lay dozing with her head on his lap.

He could not say this to Eva, of course. He could not even say this to Jane. But he admitted it to himself, and that was something.

“I only gave up what I thought I wanted,” Snape told Eva Pellarin finally, after which he took another cigarette, and they smoked again in silence. Then Jane came home from church, and after berating the both of them for their nasty habit, she set about making lunch.

Two months later, Eva and Roland were married.

Princilla had been quite relieved that her father had finally divorced, as she had only seen her mother a handful of times, and their perpetual union only seemed to make her father bitter and angry. She thought his improved mood was a result of the divorce, and credited it as well to her belief that he had made his peace with her relationship with Draco.

She had no idea that her father’s sudden happiness might be related to his own relationship with a woman. Children do not ever seem to think such things about their parents.

And indeed, in the end Gash got some small measure of revenge on his daughter for the grief she’d caused him. He invited her to the wedding (telling her as well to bring Draco, the first time he had done any such thing), but not telling her it was a wedding, nor to whom.

When she and Draco realized that the address they’d been given was a church (because though Eva Pellarin disliked church, Roland Gash was a determined follower of certain traditions), she asked her father, archly, if he was there to be ordained.

Her father laughed. But when he informed her of the real reason, Princilla didn’t believe him. Her one mention of Eva Pellarin before that day (in response to one of her columns in the Prophet) was that she seemed far too audacious, and a tad common as well. Princilla could not fathom that her father would want to wed such a person. She thought it was an elaborate joke.

That is, until she saw Jane and Severus nodding to her from a pew, and Eva Pellarin herself appeared from behind a pillar, holding a bouquet.

“I hear you think I’m common,” Eva said to Princilla, extending her hand, as Roland Gash suppressed a smile.

Princilla merely stared, thoroughly abashed.

“This is a good thing,” continued Eva. “One must not be too fond of one’s stepmother, I think. It’s unnatural.”

It was, as you might guess, a bit much for Princilla to take. Her mouth hung open throughout the ceremony, something that amused Jane to no end, though she bit her lip (and clenched her husband’s hand tightly) to hide her amusement. After the wedding Princilla found herself the step-sister of the Squib Runes professor whom she had loathed, the step-sister-in-law of Severus Snape, her former almost-betrothed, and the stepdaughter of the most infamous woman in recent Slytherin history.

It was quite a shock to her system.

Draco, however, found himself incredibly pleased (though he did not share this with Princilla). The whole situation was quite to his liking, for he was nothing like his father in the end, once he knew who and what he really was. He had been through a purging fire, and come out whole, and better than he had been before. Not, he realized, that this would have been hard, because it was not difficult to improve on the perniciously malevolent boy he had been. But improve he did.

He married Princilla Gash on her twenty-first birthday, with the slightly grudging blessing of his new father-in-law, who by that time decided that the boy was not quite as bad as he had believed him to be after all (it would take two grandchildren before he trusted Draco entirely). The ceremony was lavish, and attended by twenty five hundred witches and wizards, Squibs and Muggle-borns and Muggles.

And the Gash estate in Cumbria, and the House-elves, became the property of Draco Malfoy, who appreciated them with the cool appraisal of a young man raised in wealth. His wife, however, he treasured with the jealous euphoria of someone who has been taught not to believe in love, who by some strange and wonderful chance discovers that it did exist, after all.

As for what happened to Hermione and Ron, well their story is slightly more upsetting, though it did turn out well for both of them in the end.

You might be surprised to find out that they never did marry. Or maybe you would not be surprised. Hermione was and is and would always remain headstrong, and to be happy with such a woman, a man must be energized by that, even in awe of it. Ron, unfortunately, was not. It was not that Ron wished to be Hermione’s master. He just wished for her to at least consider his feelings about things before she rushed headlong to do whatever she wanted. That is a fine and even admirable tendency in a friend. In a significant other, however, it can be wearying.

He was reminded of this tendency when, just before they graduated, Hermione was asked stay and work at Hogwarts for the summer as Madame Pince’s assistant, helping Madame Pince reorganize the entire library for the next school year. The understanding was that if both she and Hermione worked well together, Hermione could remain on staff in the fall as her assistant full-time. Unspoken but understood as well was that Hermione might even be asked to take over when Madame Pince retired.

Hermione had never thought of being a librarian, though in all the Wizarding world she was the person most suited to that avocation. There was not one person that treasured and respected books more than she did, or was more protective of them. However, she and Ron had planned to spend the summer together, splitting their time between the Burrow and her parents’ house. Still, all of a sudden she felt like staying at Hogwarts and spending all her time in the library was the rightest thing in the world. Bubbling over with anticipation and flushed with happiness, she found Ron in the Gryffindor common room, and told him about the offer.

Ron had frowned. He asked her what she was going to do.

It was when she told him she had already accepted it that he knew things would never work out between them. There wasn’t much of an argument about it really. Ron realized that in her heart of hearts Hermione wasn’t capable of making him a priority, and after a bit of wrangling, and some tears, Hermione had to admit he was right.

It was not as painful as you might expect. They had been friends before, and they remained friends after, after a bit of a cooling off period. Ron in particular felt something of a weight lifted off of him, realizing that he had spent a good deal of time worrying about Hermione, attempting to herd her, when no amount of worrying or herding would change who she was. It would just vex him and make him controlling.

And he did not become an Auror after all. For the first summer after graduation, he worked with his brothers, managing their books (because there was something of an Arithmancer in him, despite what you might think). Summer eased into fall and winter, and he was still working with Fred and George, (mostly George) out of their Diagon Alley store. It was Ron that insisted Fred and George keep both joke shops open simultaneously. The twins had been resisting this idea, as it required that they be separated, at least during the week. But in the end they saw its merit. Fred stayed at Zonko’s. George worked Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

Ron thought about going into Auror training, but kept telling himself there was time for that. And of course he missed Hermione, but he thought their parting of ways was for the best. Then he met a Muggle girl named Celeste, and he knew it was.

Hermione took it a bit harder, actually, though she realized Ron was quite correct. Ron was her first, the only boy she had ever loved. She had been very comfortable with him, and as well had grown used to regular (or at least semi-regular) sex. She was not flirtatious, and in fact was precisely the kind of woman that many men found intimidating. Smart. Driven. Independent. As such she realized that it might be awhile before another suitable beau crossed her path, especially since there were no eligible males at Hogwarts.

Complicating things was that during her first months as Madame Pince’s assistant, Hermione nurtured something of a crush on Severus Snape. She began to watch him from under her lashes when she thought he wasn’t looking. She had always found him intriguing as a person, but now she found him intriguing as a man as well. She knew firsthand of his passion for his wife, but the forbidden nature of her attraction only seemed to make it stronger.

As he was a Legilimens, Snape knew of Hermione’s feelings almost immediately, as you might guess. But he was neither flattered nor titillated by her attention. Like any man of good conscience he was grieved to be the bearer of emotions he was in no position to return. In some other story devoid of Jane, he might have grown to appreciate Hermione in that regard. But Snape’s bone-deep devotion to his wife crowded out even the pricklings of curiosity.

And in truth he was at a loss as to what to do. He respected Hermione, and she was a colleague now, not merely a student. It was Lupin that helped him navigate this minefield, for though the werewolf was in general a rather sodden supporter of love and lust in all of its manifestations, he knew as well as the Potions professor that the situation was impossible. As such Lupin advised a hard but necessary course. When practical, Snape was to avoid Hermione entirely. He would speak to her as little as possible, never in private, only when necessary, and with as few words as feasible. And he was never ever to meet her eyes.

This Snape did, though it brought him no pleasure. And it might surprise you to know that by doing so he facilitated yet another happy union. This had become something of a habit for him, albeit an unintended one.

For, one night in winter, depressed over her obviously impossible and fruitless little crush (for Snape was being, of course, more dismissive and remote than he ever had been toward her), Hermione decided it would be a fine thing to get drunk. She had no love life to speak of save for an unrequited infatuation with a married professor, and she still missed Ron as well, especially since word had leaked to her that he had met someone else. She loved her job and wouldn’t dream of leaving it, but she suddenly felt quite pathetic indeed. Too depressed for the Three Broomsticks, she headed towards the Hog’s Head, not even bothering to walk there across the grounds, but using the secret passageway in the Room of Requirement.

When she arrived, the Hog’s Head was, of course, deserted save for Aberforth, which suited her just fine. She ordered rum, and said “keep them coming,” whereupon Aberforth simply put a bottle on the bar and set beside it a dirty glass. Then, seemingly annoyed at having an actual customer, he left the bar entirely.

Hermione looked at the filthy glass. So out of sorts was she that she didn’t even charm it clean before she started to drink.

She was about a third of the way through the bottle when the door to the bar opened, and in came the last person she wanted to see. George Weasley. She squinted at him. No, it was Fred. She thought, anyway. Hermione frowned. Fred was even sillier than George, and adding to that he was also a wee bit too smart for his own good. He was the brainer half of the twins, which irritated her no end because she found his silliness combined with his intelligence a frustrating incongruity.

He had always gotten the better of her, for which she also resented him.

But there he was, saying, “Ah, Her-MY-on-ee,” exaggerating every syllable, and making himself comfortable on the barstool next to hers.

She thought him, at that moment, the most bothersome person in the universe. Not that she had met every person in the universe, but even considering that he had to be in at least the top three.

Hermione's frown deepened. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

Fred looked around for Aberforth.

“Not getting served, apparently. Care to share?”

“No,” she said primly. The rum was making her a bit grumpy.

This only seemed to amuse Fred, which she found even more annoying. Then one side of his mouth quirked up, and he looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “If you’re willing to give me a swallow or two I’ve got something you might like to see…”

Hermione poured herself some more rum. “I have no interest in exploding pencils or talking soap,” she huffed.

Fred’s face was suddenly inscrutable. He was wearing a small, mysterious smile.

“Oh, I save those for people with a sense of humor,” he said blandly.

This vexed Hermione even further. Of all the intolerable, insulting…

“Daltry’s Book of Charmed Amusements,” Fred Weasley stated suddenly. “A first edition.”

Hermione goggled. Ballantine Daltrey had been dead for nearly a hundred years, but before he died he had been known as the Wizarding World’s greatest toymaker. A first edition of his book was rarer, far rarer, than anything in the Hogwarts library, that was sure. Not Guttenberg Bible or Blott’s Bestiary rare, but very, very rare indeed.

“Still want to keep that rum to yourself?” Fred prodded.

Narrowing her eyes, Hermione pushed the bottle towards him, and he took two healthy swigs. Then he cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Well, you’re not going to get a look at it if you keep your pretty arse in that chair,” he said.

Hermione pursed her lips, not knowing what to say. Obviously he was goading her. But the word “pretty” was in there as well. Even if it was in reference to her arse. What to say? So she said nothing, just slid wordlessly from her stool and followed Fred.

Now, the truth is that Fred Weasley had been harboring a secret crush on Hermione for the better part of two years. Hermione had no idea, nor had Ron. Even Fred thought himself only mildly curious about her, until Ron broke up with her, and all of a sudden Fred was more than curious. He had been thinking on and off what to do about it for months.

And Fred Weasley finally decided that he would have to woo her. As he was a clever sort, and as he had been paying attention, he had already figured out exactly how. With a book. Getting the book was easy. All it took was money and connections, and he had a fair amount of both considering that business was so good.

Making himself a presence at Hogwarts, however, was iffy simply because of the manner in which he had left, and the relative awe with which he and his brother were held by the students. It was no understatement to say that the tenure of both he and George at Hogwarts had rather become legendary. And most of the teachers, even if they had affection for him (some, anyway), considered him a bad influence. About that they were correct. So he could not go to Hogwarts. He would be trailed by students, and no doubt even by Severus Snape himself. He would have to wait until Hermione came to Hogsmeade, hopefully somewhere where he could talk to her uninterrupted.

The hardest part was charming a map of Hogsmeade to detect her presence, and emit an alarm to alert him of it. That took all of his spare time for three solid weeks. The second hardest part was waiting for just the right moment. Hermione visited Hogsmeade no more than a couple of times a month, and her previous visits were all to the Three Broomsticks in the company of either students or colleagues.

But when the map’s alarm went off that January evening, and he saw she was at the Hog’s Head, he thought his moment had come.

And indeed it had. Hermione followed him back to his flat, where he wordlessly gestured for her to sit, and then sat beside her, setting the book in question on the table in front of them.

She gasped loudly, and her hands began to tremble as she touched it.

Now Fred most certainly did fancy Hermione Granger, but until that moment fancying was all it was. But as he looked at her, as she gently caressed the book, running her fingers over it in disbelief, turning its pages, a flare gun seemed to go off in Fred Weasley’s chest, and in that moment of glorious agony he fell utterly in love with her.

Hermione, of course, had no idea. Hermione was in love with the book.

But when she turned to Fred to ask him where he obtained it (for she wanted the entire story of the book’s history, down to every last detail), she was brought up short by the strange look in his eyes, a look of reverence and awe she had never seen on the face of anyone before, especially directed towards her.

Then he looked down, and gently put his hand over hers.

As he did, something electric sizzled through Hermione’s veins. She had not been touched in months. Now Fred’s strong fingers were intertwining with hers. She felt her fingers clasping back.

To tell the truth, Fred had thought that he would simply hold her hand for awhile, and then perhaps let his lips brush hers softly before she exited his flat. Just knowing that she would consider him as a romantic prospect would have been more than enough for him that night. It had taken Ron years to win Hermione. Fred thought it would at least take him a few months. He imagined that she would be reticent and shy, that she would flit away from him like some delicate bird, that he would have to chase her.

Why he imagined that at all is the question, when she was so very forthright in other matters. But Fred was quite surprised indeed to find himself pushed back against his own couch as Hermione Granger threw herself against him and kissed him firmly on the mouth.

As she did, every single dendrite in Fred’s brain fired at once, and for a second he thought someone had set a torch to his groin. His cock surged hard so fast it felt like a living thing flooding to life between his legs.

When the kiss broke, he took a couple of gasping breaths. His whole body was taut as a wire.

“Don’t kiss me like that Hermione if you’re not going to…”

But his next words were swallowed by yet another kiss. And then another.

And then, Hermione Granger fucked the annoying Fred Weasley three times. And through it all Fred could see that she didn’t give a toss for what he thought of her. He could see that she was just using him for sex. Fred could see this, but he didn’t care. He would live on the memories of this night for the rest of his life, if he had to.

Hermione herself had a wonderful time, and felt quite recharged, and liberated, thinking a night of pure, unencumbered sex was just what she needed to get past her crush on Snape, and her nostalgia for Ron. She lay with Fred for a bit, stroking his hair, as they caught their breath, noting that from the time on his clock it had taken her exactly 37 minutes to completely ravish him. She smiled to herself, thinking that she had gotten quite a lot done that day after all.

After a few more minutes, she dressed herself and simply said, “That was lovely. Thank you.” Then she left his flat with nary a backward glance.

If she had looked back she would have seen the longing on Fred Weasley’s face, an expression that transformed slowly into one of patient resolution.

She would be his. That was all there was to it. He rose from his bed, showered, dressed himself, and carefully set about boxing up the book.

Hermione was in the middle of her porridge the next morning in the Great Hall when Fred’s owl swooped low and dropped its parcel.

She opened it carefully, smothering a little gasp when she saw what it was. Tucked inside the book was a card, and on it was written:

For the astonishing Hermione,
from Fred, the astonished

And she looked at the card with its haphazard penmanship, something inside her melted just a little bit. Fred was most assuredly a jumbled sort of fellow, but there was obviously more to him. Underneath that mischievous, silly exterior was the feral edge she had longed for with Ron.

Still, it was an impossible situation. With a sigh she boxed up the book, and in the evening she walked dutifully to Hogsmeade, finding Fred just as he was closing down the store for the evening.

“I cannot accept it…” she said firmly, with her chin in the air. But the book never left her arms.

Fred only gave her another lopsided grin. “But you want to…” he told her.

“Yes, but I can’t,” she said, frowning. “You’ll have to…to take it back.”

But even as she said this, Fred watched Hermione hug the book even closer. He smiled to himself.

“All right then,” he said airily, “if you’re so set on it. Bring it upstairs and I can at least give you the old edition of the Prophet that came with it. It’s from 1899, and there’s a whole spread on old Ballantine. I forgot to give it to you. You can take that at least.”

Hermione nodded weakly. The century-old copy of the paper certainly sounded interesting, but the thought of returning the book was making her slightly ill. Still, she dutifully followed Fred up the stairs to his flat, and sat herself down on his couch once again.

Fred came and sat next to her, gently taking the book from her lap and placing it on the table. She looked at him mournfully.

“What if the book was officially a donation to the library?” he asked softly. “You could keep it then. You could put it in your own personal…restricted section.”

There was something low and seductive in Fred’s voice when he said the words “restricted section,” and Hermione felt a tiny thrum of excitement, and suddenly for the moment the book was forgotten.

There was a long silence, as Hermione simply looked at her hands. “We shouldn’t, you know,” she began, “do what we did, again…”

Fred nodded soberly. “’Course not,” he agreed, tucking a lock of Hermione’s hair behind her ear. She shivered deliciously, and made no protest.

“I mean it was just a one-off,” Hermione continued. “That’s all it can be. I hope you understand….”

Fred moved even closer on the couch, still nodding.

“It’s not like there could ever really be anything between us,” she said, “so obviously…”

But then Fred was kissing her, and she was kissing him back, and they wound up writhing ecstatically in his bed again. And again.

It became something of a habit. She told herself she was merely killing time with Fred, because he was so eager and so inexhaustible, and he really did look quite wonderful naked. He did push all her buttons so very well, even discovering ones she didn’t think she had.

Yes, she was just killing time with Fred. Just having fun. And Hermione Granger told herself that for quite awhile. She told herself that, until she couldn’t tell herself that anymore.

Then she married him. And she remained Hermione, bossy and headstrong, and Fred loved every bit of it, as he loved every bit of her.

(And yes, she kept the book.)

As for Albus Dumbledore, two weeks after his marriage, Snape received an owl. He was ensconced with Jane in Penzance, and in between scones and sex (so good he ached from it, most days) and long walks, he was putting the finishing touches on his paper for the Potions symposium in Belgrade at the end of the month, and mentally planning his work schedule for July, which he thought would involve just as many scones and just as much sex, but far less aimless meandering. Still, for June he was content to take things a bit easier. He was, after all, on his honeymoon, and for the first time in his life, he was content.

Until the owl, that is. Jane was there when he received it. She was feeding bits of raw beef to Napoleon, who hooted a warning to the large black owl as he swooped low over Jane’s garden. Snape was lying on a chaise, glaring at his ever-thumbed book on Ancient Chinese when the missive dropped on him. He read it for a few seconds, then sat straight up, his face filled with anger and concern. Then he threw it down and without one word to his wife, Apparated from the garden to Jane knew not where.

At least until she took it upon herself to read the letter. Jane read the first two sentences and gasped, and by the time she got to the third paragraph she was crying.


I do not like goodbyes, my boy, and our last farewell was painful enough for a thousand lifetimes. Please do not blame me if this time I take my leave of you a bit more quietly.

I believe it is time for me to make my way to the other side at last. I never thought I would stay past my time to begin with, but I found that I could not cross over so long as your fate weighed so heavily on my heart. I do not worry for you now.

Severus, I would tell you that you have been like a son to me, but no father could have asked of you what I have had to ask. And for that, at least in part, you have rightfully hated me. Your love, and your loyalty to me despite that has been the greatest gift of my life. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you did not help save the world. And if not the world, you most certainly helped to save me. Because of that, in the end, I know you that you will find it in your heart to forgive me.

You have done your grieving for me. Do not revisit that agony. Be content, and know that we will see each other again, someday. For I am as sure of your place in the next world as I am now of my own, and for that I thank you as well.

Let your testament to me reside in your own well-lived life.



Snape was gone for two hours. When he returned, he would not look at his wife, or speak to her.

“Is it true, Severus?” she asked gingerly, for in this mood she knew not what to expect of him. “Is he gone?”

Snape merely nodded, still not looking at her, as he lowered himself into a kitchen chair and put his head into his hands. There was a crumpled sort of silence about him, and for a moment his wife wondered if he would recover. She herself had cried the two long hours he had been gone, knowing instinctively that he had fled to Hogwarts.

She did not know what to say to him to make things better, so she said nothing. But she slid herself into his lap, and quietly placed her lips to his neck, and after awhile Snape put his arms around her, seeming to decide that he could stand to recover after all.

Minerva McGonagall became the headmistress, of course. And in his instructions to her Albus asked her to make the Potions professor the Deputy headmaster. She came to Snape in Penzance one week to the day from which he received Albus’ last letter, both to tell him of Albus’ wishes, and to tell him as well that Albus had left her explicit instructions not to accept Snape’s resignation as head of Slytherin House (which he turned right after his wedding). This vexed Snape no end, and he and Minerva argued about it at length, as both Jane and Napoleon made themselves scarce. Snape fought against it, precisely because he knew the difficulties that he would have to endure as a result. The prevaricating protests. The muffled outrage. The polite and even blatant refusals to acknowledge his authority. He would be undermined at every turn. And in truth, he had made his choice, had chosen his wife over Slytherin, and he had made up his mind long ago that he could not have both.

But Minerva knew exactly what to say. “It was his last wish, Severus…” she told him, “his last wish.”

Snape turned angrily on her then. “His last wish to me was that I live my life well…then he decrees the very course that will prevent that! That old man makes me twist in the wind even from beyond the grave! This is just like him, this is just…”

“He loved you, Severus,” Minerva interjected quietly. “And it is just like him, to love you and as well demand that you tread a more difficult path. Albus knew that a well-lived life is a life that has meaning.”

“How is attempting to discipline and lead a group that will not recognize my authority going to provide any sort of meaning other than my humiliation?”

Minerva smiled, then. “You underestimate yourself, Severus. You are the only man that could accomplish this. The only one, living or dead, strong enough to command the respect of those that instinctively refuse to give it. Albus believed you could change Slytherin. That will not happen if you abandon them.”

“Go to hell,” Snape said weakly, shaking his head, but Minerva could see he was broken. He would stay the head of Slytherin House. And as well become Deputy Headmaster.

In the end in this regard Snape was aided to a great degree by the friendship of Roland Gash. When it became plain that Snape would remain as Head of House despite his marriage to “that mudblood Squib,” there was a secret meeting amongst some of the most powerful Slytherin in the Ministry. Gash was not invited, as technically he was not a member of the Ministry. But he’d heard about the meeting (of course, as nothing was secret from Roland Gash) and he showed up nonetheless.

The meeting was halted before it came to order. Gash stood up, and stated unequivocally, one lone and powerful sentence.

“Severus Snape will remain as Head of Slytherin House, and anyone seeking to oust or undermine him, including any Slytherin children under his charge, will answer to me.”

Then, because he had better things to do, Gash walked out, and the horror show that Snape predicted for himself never materialized. If anything, his Slytherins were even more obedient the following year, a fact which made him more suspicious than if they had been insolent. For more than a year he suspected that they were attempting to lull him into a false sense of security, until both Malcolm Praddock and Graham Pritchard began dating Muggleborns. Then to his great shock he realized that perhaps Slytherin was changing, after all. That the very world was changing.

This baffled Severus Snape. He was the greatest spy of his age, and the greatest wizard of his age (and probably the smartest as well), so it should not have baffled him, but it did. To his dying day, it baffled him.

And to his dying day as well, it never did occur to Severus Snape that he had helped to change it.

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 9]

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