Severus was ready for Voldemort to kill Harry, or at least he thought he was. After all, he had been given plenty of time to prepare, much more than the boy standing in front of him had been given. And yet Harry faced Voldemort with a courage that Severus wouldn’t have expected even from a Gryffindor. He hadn’t complained, hadn’t tried to run, wasn’t even trying to fight back. Brave until the very end.
Voldemort raised his wand and time slowed for Severus. “Avada-”
Severus had a crazy urge to jump in front of Harry, to shield the boy whom he had begrudgingly began to like. If it wasn’t for the horcrux within him, Severus very well might have. Somehow, it might reconcile him with Lily’s memory. It was what she would have done. It was what she did.
“-Kedavra,” Voldemort finished.
For the briefest of moments, a look of terror was illuminated on Harry’s face in green light. Even the hero couldn’t stay brave until the last second. As Harry fell, something snapped within Severus. He had thought that he was prepared for this, but he wasn’t. Oh, Merlin, he wasn’t.
And suddenly, Severus felt an unchecked fury at Voldemort and the four Death Eaters that surrounded him. He was just about to act when Voldemort fell. He crumpled to the ground, much like Harry had. Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy immediately went to his side, and Nott and Mulciber looked down at their fallen master in concern.
Severus saw his chance. He pulled the wand that he had taken off of Alecto Carrow from his pocket.
“Sectumsempra!” he cast at Nott and Mulciber. In quick succession, he shot an incredibly powerful blasting curse at Malfoy and Bellatrix. Not expecting this, they flew backwards into the air and slammed against the stone wall, falling limp to the floor.
None of the Death Eaters moved as Voldemort struggled to regain consciousness and sit up. He barely managed to lift his arm when Severus strode over to him.
“Expelliarmus,” Severus said casually.
Voldemort smiled and laughed. “Well. The traitor truly has turned on his master. What are you going to do, Severus? Kill me?”
“That is exactly what I intend to do,” Severus replied coldly. “You have made a habit of killing off everyone that I care for. That ends here.”
“How sweet, you’ve begun to care for the boy. That really is darling, Severus.”
Severus’s jaw hardened. “He’s a thousand times the man that you are.”
“He’s also dea-”
There was a light cough behind Severus. Keeping his wand trained on Voldemort, he whipped around. Harry’s chest rose and fell in shuddering gasps. Severus blinked, momentarily stunned. He paralyzed Voldemort and wrapped him in chains before running over to Harry’s side.
“Harry?” Severus asked unsteadily. “How are you alive?”
Harry blinked, glancing around until his vision focused on Voldemort. “I’ll explain later. Give me your wand. I have to kill him.”
Severus offered his wand without hesitation.
Voldemort sneered. “Going to kill me while I’m in chains? How noble.”
“You don’t deserve to die fighting,” Harry snapped. “Avada Kedavra.”
In a flash, Voldemort was still. Harry lowered his wand. And just like that, it was over.
“Is he really dead?” Severus asked.
Harry shook his head. “The snake. Where’s the snake?”
Severus blinked. “I lost track,” he admitted. “It probably hasn’t gone fa-”
“dosssnesss uosss nesss!” Harry hissed in a eerily good approximation of Voldemort’s voice.
In seconds, Nagini came slithering around the corner.
“Avada Kedavra!” Snape shouted, striking the final blow this time.
Suddenly, the hall felt too quiet. Severus shot chains around all of the fallen Death Eaters and then turned to Harry. Severus looked Harry over as if he wasn’t really there. He still couldn’t quite believe his eyes.
“Care to explain?” he asked, but not harshly.
“I, uh, don’t really know if I can,” Harry admitted, voice distant. “Dumbledore was there, trying to explain. I think that when Voldemort killed me, it killed the part of him that was in me, not really me. Does that make any sense?”
“Actually, yes. Dumbledore was there, you say? Did he say anything else?”
Harry hesitated. “he said it was my choice whether or not to come back. he said I could go...on.”
Severus nodded. “And you chose to come back. That was very brave of you.”
Harry shrugged, looking down.
“Was there something else?” Severus prompted gently. He was suddenly feeling a rush of fondeness for the boy who rid the world of Voldemort.
Harry looked up, pained. He seemed ready to say something more when McGonagall, leading a host of Order members around the corner.
“Harry, Severus, wha-” she stopped. “Is...is he dead?”
She looked stricken. “Well, I trust you will explain later. As for now, there are still Death Eaters loose in the castle. Luckily, I informed the Order of your arrival beforehand. I’m sorry Severus, I still didn’t trust you, and they came and revived the teachers and some of the students,” McGonagall rambled. She took a breath. “We’d be much obliged if you’d help us clear the castle of the remaining.”
Severus glanced at Harry, before replying, “Of course.”
He was deeply curious about what Harry was about to say, but decided it could wait. After all, there were Dark Wizards to catch.
Harry wandered through the Hospital Wing, surveying the damage. In truth, they were lucky that most of the castle had been asleep when the Dark Wizards came, for that minimized the casualties. As it was, at least a dozen DA members were injured and the rest simply shaken. Miraculously, no one had died.
“Harry!” Hermione called, running up to him and embracing him. “I heard what happened! Oh, I’m so glad you’re okay!”
“Thanks, Hermione, you too,” Harry said, patting her on the back. Over her shoulder, he spotted Ron moving towards them.
Harry pulled away as Ron neared.
“Good to see you whole, Harry,” Ron said. He scratched his neck. “I, uh, heard that Snape helped you off Voldemort.”
Mouth set in a hard line, Harry nodded. “I couldn’t have done it without him.” Simply saying those words sent a pang through Harry’s heart.
Ron nodded. “I’m sorry, then. I should’ve trusted you. Tell Snape I’m sorry.”
Harry considered his friend for a long moment. “I will. It might not matter, in the end, though.”
Without explaining, Harry gave a quick wave to his friends and hurried from the Hospital Wing. He needed solitude and time to think. Without conscious thought, Harry headed to the Astronomy tower. He stood, looking out over Hogwarts’ grounds and wondering if he had the heart to do it. To kill Snape after all they had been through together.
Oddly enough, Harry had grown to like the man. There was something...certain about him. For as much deception as he practiced throughout his life, to Harry, Snape seemed open. There was never doubt about what he was thinking, for he made it quite plain. After so many years of being forced to guess at everything, there was something comforting in that level of candidness. Harry could actually see himself almost becoming friends with Snape.
That was, if he didn’t have to kill him. The weight of the unintentional spell that Harry had cast on this very tower was eating him away. He was bound to kill Snape. There was no way out of it, no matter how much Harry wished that there was. And how would he tell Snape? Would he, or would he just walk up to him and kill him? The thought made Harry sick. He couldn’t do that. He couldn’t do any of it.
Again his thought circled back to whether or not he should tell-
“Harry?” the very person of whom he had been speaking asked from behind.
Harry looked away, not finding the words to reply. Suddenly, Snape was next to him, hands on the railing and peering out in silence. He said nothing for what felt like an eternity.
“Would you like to talk about it?” Snape asked.
“About what?” Harry replied stiffly.
“Whatever seems to be bothering you a great deal,” Snape replied evenly.
Harry closed his eyes, embarrassed that they were suddenly burning.
“Harry,” Snape said in a voice more gentle than Harry had ever heard it. “I hope that by this point you have realized that you can trust me.”
The weight on Harry’s chest was nearly too much to bear. He blurted, “That’s the problem.”
“What?” Snape asked, caught off guard.
Harry tried to force down his churning emotions as he looked at his former professor. “You remember what happened last year on this tower,” he said. Though phrased as a question, it came out as more of a statement.
Harry took a deep breath. “I was so angry at you. I was...livid. Dumbledore had been the closest thing to a father that I’d ever known. And you took him away from me.”
Snape was silent.
“Well, I made a vow on that night that I’d make you pay for what you’d done,” Harry admitted, looking away, over the lake. “Without meaning to, I put some magic in it. That’s why I had to hunt you down when I got news about where you were. That’s why I couldn’t leave you behind at Bellatrix’s Manor, at Spinner’s End. Because I have to kill you.”
There was a deep unsettling silence from Snape. Harry snuck a glance his way and found him looking grim.
“Then kill me.”
Harry blinked. “What?”
“Kill me, if that’s what must be done,” Snape said. Harry was about to protest, but Snape cut him off. “It is the logical course of action. You don’t know if the vow you made was an unbreakable vow. If you fail to fulfill it, it very well might kill you. I am not worth that. You, who have rid the world of the Dark Lord, will not die on my account.”
“But I don’t want to kill you!” Harry burst out. “I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for you and by Merlin, you’ve begun to grow on me. You helped me kill Voldemort. Killing you would be poor payment.”
Snape replied, “It is the safest, all around. It might help me atone for the horrible things I’ve done. Please, Harry. This is my choice. I merely ask you to honor my decision.”
“You can.” Snape added softly, “I will get to be with Lily at last. She would be proud of you, Harry.”
Snape stepped back, putting room between himself and Harry. Despite his best efforts, Harry felt his eyes water.
“Please, Harry,” Snape said flatly. “Do it.”
Harry raised his wand, feeling as if he was watching himself from afar. He stared at Snape and remembered something that Bellatrix had said to him. You’ve never used an Unforgivable curse before, have you? You have to mean them.
Harry didn’t mean it. He couldn’t summon up the hatred that he had for Snape so long ago. Harry lowered his wand.
“I can’t and won’t do it. I don’t care if that breaks the vow or what, I won’t do it,” Harry said.
They waited a beat.
“Should something have happened?” Harry muttered.
“Since you consciously renounced it, I would have expected any repercussions on you to have happened by now,” Snape said with a furrowed brow. “Tell me, do you remember exactly what it was that you vowed?”
Harry frowned and thought back to the moment when Dumbledore fell from the tower. “I remember thinking that I wanted to make you feel loosing Dumbledore was like for me. What I was feeling in that moment. I wanted to make you hurt like that,” he said sheepishly, looking down.
“And you did,” Snape said, voice one of realization and wonder.
“I did?” Harry asked, looking up.
Snape nodded. “When you died, that is what I felt. I honestly do not believe I am admitting this, but I had begun to like you, Harry Potter. You made me like you and then died.”
Harry blinked. “So I did-don’t have to kill you after all?”
Snape cracked an inkling of a smile. “No, I don’t believe you do.”
Harry grinned. “Good. I really didn’t want to.”
“I did not particularly want to die today, either.”
Harry scowled at him. “So all that stuff you told me...?”
Snape looked at him. “I am fully aware of your penchant for guilt. I thought to give you anything I could to mitigate that.”
Harry felt a rush of gratitude. Before the moment was lost, he asked quietly. “Would it be out of line if I hugged you right now?”
“Under the circumstances, and seeing as you were about to kill me, I think it might be acceptable.”
Harry smiled and embraced his former teacher, pulling away rather quickly. “Sorry. I’m just glad he’s gone and that I didn’t have to kill you after all.”
“I share the sentiment,” Snape said, looking at Harry a bit softly. “Come, there are people looking for you.”
Harry nodded. “Thanks for everything, Severus.”
“No, thank you, Harry. You have done far more for me than I have for you,” Snape replied.
Harry didn’t agree, but he didn’t feel like arguing, not when everything was finally working out. They walked down from the Astronomy tower together, towards the people waiting to hear the details on how exactly Voldemort had been killed. With Snape at his side, Harry got the distinct feeling that he was walking toward a better, brighter life.
He took another step.
AN: Well, that's the end!! It's been an interesting ride. If you haven't noticed, I won the Writing Games, thanks to all of you wonderful people. Thank you!!! It means a lot to me. I hoped that lived up to the level of epic-ness that you expected and that the story deserved. Voldemort's death was a little anti-climactic, but I chose to focus more on the vow. It was a little more interesting and a less a repeat of the book.
Anyway, I hope you liked it; please let me know your final thoughts in the comments!! Thanks :)