Snape and Potter
Voldemort was dead. Now that the war was over, everybody was suddenly a hero, using his name with faked ease and pretending not to remember ever doing otherwise. Those who had been brave (or foolish) enough to have called him Voldemort even before his fall now looked at such people with a mixture of pity and amusement, or, in some extreme cases, scorn.
Harry Potter belonged to neither category. After all, what did a name matter? He had seen these people fight in the Battle of Hogwarts as if there was to be no tomorrow, and if the simple avoidance of a name helped them to keep their fear at bay, what business was it of his? Every person was allowed a little oddity now and then. He of all people should know; he had been considered one big oddity all his life. He was the one who made weird things happen. He was the one with the scar. He was the one who could talk to snakes. He was the one whose mind was connected with Voldemort's.
But no more. No more would he be the one the whole wizarding community either looked up to or condemned. He would finally start an ordinary life with Ginny, have normal, everyday worries, which was all that he had ever wished for. Of course he would remain famous for a while, people would stop him in the streets, books would be written about him. He was prepared for that. But he also knew as well as anyone that publicity did not last forever. People needed new heroes, new events to gossip about. Sooner or later there would come a time when he would be forgotten, and there was nothing that he looked forward to more.
However, for that to happen there was still one thing that he had to do. He had already taken care of the Elder Wand, returning it to Dumbledore's grave and putting protective enchantments around it to deter any potential thieves, but despite what he had told his old mentor, he was not entirely happy about his decision regarding the Resurrection Stone. True, there was nobody besides himself who knew exactly where he had dropped it in the Forbidden Forest (even he was not quite sure), but there had been countless cases of people finding things by accident, had there not? Who could tell for certain that one day somebody would not find it and perhaps even be foolish enough to use it? The mere thought made him shudder.
And so he went back to look for it. It took him the better part of the morning, but at last he saw it, glittering black in the forest undergrowth, simply begging to be taken. An irresistible temptation for anyone who ever happened to pass this way, that was for sure. If he had had any doubts about the rightness of his decision before, they certainly dissolved now.
Walking slowly back towards the castle, he thought about the best place to hide it. Somewhere nobody would ever think of looking for it. Somewhere nobody would ever come across it accidentally. Somewhere...
And then suddenly he had it. The Room of Requirement. Voldemort had hidden one of his Horcruxes there, so why should he not do the same with the stone? If he phrased his words carefully, if no one saw him at it... Yes, it was the perfect place.
Entering the castle and starting to make his way up to the seventh floor he wondered whether perhaps there was not something he could do with the stone first before he hid it for good. He had fixed his old wand with the Elder Wand, after all, so maybe here it would be enough to just find somebody whose beloved had died so suddenly that they had not had the chance to say goodbye properly. So many people had perished in the battle, but Harry somehow felt that although nobody had ever spoken about it, every single fighter had, in their heart of hearts, known that they might not live to see the next day, and had therefore not joined the fighting without telling their near ones things they would otherwise never have dared to utter. Bringing them back to life would only mean rubbing salt into the wound, then.
In fact, the more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that of all the people he knew he himself had been the only one who had actually needed the stone. Luna's mother had died, but the girl seemed to have accepted it as a fact and gone on. Neville had lost his grandfather, his parents had been tortured into madness, but even he appeared to be taking it rather stoically now. On the other hand, he, Harry, would never have found peace had he not had the chance to talk to his parents, Remus and Sirius for one last time. It caused him to feel distinctly uncomfortable. Once again he was made to feel different, even in a thing such as this.
Dejectedly pondering over it, he finally reached the seventh floor. The two gargoyles guarding the entrance into Headmistress McGonagall's office were sneering down on him, as if hoping to make him feel even worse than he already felt. He quickly made to turn away from them and start heading for the Room of Requirement which was still two corridors away when it suddenly dawned on him. It was so obvious he did not understand why he had not thought of it before.
"Dumbledore!" he shouted to the gargoyles, who both scowled at him before springing aside to reveal the spiral staircase behind them. He stepped onto it, letting himself be carried up until he was finally standing in front of McGonagall's door. He knocked and entered.
McGonagall was sitting behind Dumbledore's old desk, poring over what looked like a huge map of Hogwarts, but she rose upon his entrance and came towards him, her features lighting up with a smile.
"Potter!" she exclaimed. "What a pleasant surprise! What can I do for you?"
"Actually, I was hoping to speak to Professor Snape," said Harry, nodding his head at one of the portraits behind the Headmistress's desk. "In ... in a private matter. Of course I'm not asking you to leave your office now, I can come back at dinnertime or whenever it's convenient for you, just tell me when-"
But McGonagall merely shook her head. "Nonsense. As it happens, I was just on my way to the Entrance Hall to supervise the reconstruction work going on down there, so you can stay here for as long as you need to. Although I fear you may just be wasting your time; I have not seen Professor Snape awake ever since his death. Then again, maybe it could just be that he has nothing to say to me. In any case, I wish you luck with him." She gave him an encouraging smile and left the office.
Harry waited for the door to close behind her before slowly approaching the portrait of the sleeping former Headmaster. He was not surprised by what McGonagall had said; he had already been to her office several times and never once had he found Snape to be awake. Which was a shame, as he had been hoping to speak to him ever since he had seen those unexpected memories in the Pensieve. True, he was a bit uncertain about what exactly he was going to say. After all, what do you say to a person whom you had wholeheartedly hated for the last seven years or so? But that was a thing of the past now. For how can you possibly hate somebody who had continuously put their life at risk to protect you? How can you hate a man who had loved your mother with a love that Harry would never have thought was even possible? No, all Harry felt towards Snape now was a mixture of admiration, gratefulness and pity. And – he glanced at the stone in his hand – also a curious feeling of shared experience, something only the two of them could understand. He had already caught a glimpse of it when he had looked into Snape's memories for the first time in his fifth year. Snape knew what it was like to be bullied, knew what it felt like to be so unhappy at home that one would rather spend the summer holidays at Hogwarts than go back. Then, in his sixth year, he got hold of Snape's old Potions book, and once again he felt a strange connection with the boy whose improvements had helped him win Professor Slughorn's respect, and later even save Ron's life. He remembered that for a short time, before learning his true identity, he had even suspected the Prince to be his own father. And finally, here he was now, toying with the Resurrection Stone, certain that Snape was the person he had been looking for, the person who, like him, had never been able to get over another's death. Well, with the help of the stone he would help him to finally put his mind at rest. It was the least he could do after all that Snape had risked to keep him safe. If he could get him to wake up, that is.
He took a few more tentative steps towards the seemingly sleeping portrait, for he rather suspected Snape of faking his slumber in order not to have to talk to anybody. After half the school had learned about his astonishing secret, he could not say he really blamed him. Still, he would have to convince him that while it was fine to continue feigning sleep in front of everybody else, he most definitely should talk to him. And so he squeezed the stone in his hand and, fixing his gaze on the portrait, said, "Look, Professor, I know you're not really sleeping. I completely understand that you don't want to talk to anybody right now, really I do, and if you continue pretending to sleep while I speak that's fine too; all I'm asking of you is to listen to what I have to say.
I suppose first of all I'd like to thank you for protecting me for all those years. I know you really did it for my mother and not for me, but it still counts. I must've been completely blind not to have seen how many times you've saved my life; instead there I was, always thinking the worst of you. So I'm sorry to have been such a prat. I'm also sorry to have shouted at you because of my father. He was a good person, really, but I admit that he treated you horribly when he had absolutely no reason to, and I can see why you would've hated him so much, especially after he got to marry the girl you loved. I know the feeling, believe me. Before Ginny and I got together she was dating Dean Thomas, and just seeing him holding her hand made me want to go and strangle him. So I-"
But there he was cut off in mid-sentence, for at that moment Snape opened his eyes and, gazing down his hooked nose at him with an expression of ill-concealed disdain, said, "If you have come for idle chit chat, Potter, then I regret to inform you that you have picked the wrong portrait. Dumbledore here is the expert on heartache matters, not me." And he looked pointedly towards the portrait on his right where Dumbledore was dozing peacefully in his chair, though Harry could have sworn he had heard him give a slight chuckle at Snape's recommendation.
Harry sighed; he could not say he had not expected such a response. But he still had an ace up his sleeve, or, to be exact, a Resurrection Stone in his hand. If that did not break the ice, then nothing would.
"OK, I'll cut it short, then," he said brightly. "I kind of expected you not to take my words seriously, so I've brought something that will hopefully serve as a better token of my gratitude than anything I could ever say.
You know I was in possession of the Resurrection Stone, don't you. I expect you were listening when I told Professor Dumbledore that I would leave it in the Forbidden Forest where I had dropped it. But since then I've changed my mind. I've decided to hide it elsewhere, somewhere nobody will ever be able to find it by accident. But not just yet. I was wondering if maybe I couldn't use it, for one last time. I tried to think of a person whose mind would not rest until they had the chance to talk to somebody who was dead, just like I would never have been able to go on with my life if I hadn't been given the chance to talk to my parents. And so finally I thought of you."
He looked straight at Snape then, and was satisfied to see that he had got his full attention now. And was it only his imagination, or was Snape really looking a little nervous, as if he suspected what he was going to say next? Sensing his advantage, he quickly went on before Snape could interrupt him.
"I know you've never really got over the death of my mother. I suspect there were things you wanted to tell her one day, but then she died so suddenly and you never got round to it. That's why I want to offer you something. I have the Resurrection Stone here now, in my hand. I can make my mother appear for you; you can talk to her for as long as you want. I'll leave you alone with her and only come back when you're done. But it's nothing but an idea, of course; you don't have to do it if you don't want to. I just thought it could make you happy."
He finished and looked up at Snape with expectation. The older man, however, was not looking back. He was gazing at an unspecified point on the floor and his expression was tense, as if he was barely containing his emotions. Harry could sense he was fighting an inner battle, so he thought it best to just stay quiet and wait.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour at least, the black eyes turned to him and a strangled voice said, "Do it."
Harry allowed himself an inward smile; he had not expected any other answer. On the outside, however, he merely gave a solemn nod, before turning the stone over in his hand three times, all the while thinking of his mother and how he wanted her to be visible for Snape, too.
And suddenly there she was, smiling brightly at him and looking just as beautiful as she had when he last saw her in the Forbidden Forest. He chanced a sideways glance at Snape, whose eyes had widened and he was staring at the apparition as if she were an angel come down to Earth. Not wanting to embarrass him, he quickly turned his attention back to her, too, and said, "You know why I have called you, and I thank you for coming. I'll be waiting outside. Come for me when you're done here." And with that he walked out of the office, leaving the door open a crack so that when the time came he would not have trouble getting back inside again.