“That wand’s more trouble than it’s worth,” said Harry. “And quite honestly,” he turned away from the painted portraits, thinking now only of the four-poster bed waiting for him in Gryffindor Tower, and wondering whether Kreacher might bring him a sandwich there, “I’ve had enough trouble for a lifetime.”
Harry, flanked by his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, left the headmaster’s study and walked through the silent castle halls for several minutes. “No,” Harry said wearily as he stopped, “there’s one more thing I must do before…” He glanced toward the passage leading to the Tower then down to the entrance of the castle, “…before I can rest.”
Hermione looked through the glasses into the green eyes of the young man beside her. He was clearly exhausted; his face was covered with dried sweat and mud; bits of leaves and dirt clung to his clothes from his fall onto the forest floor; dust from the shattered masonry of the castle was in his unruly black hair; scratches covered his arms and hands. “What?” she asked softly.
Harry’s emotions were warring inside him. It was hard to let go of the six years of the bullying, hatred and unfairness he’d experienced at the hands of the man who lie dead in the Shrieking Shack. The image of Dumbledore being struck by the green light erupting from the end of Snape’s wand and the sound of his voice as he uttered the Killing Curse would always be with him. “I’ve got to bring Sn…Professor Snape’s body into the Great Hall.”
“Why?” exclaimed Ron. His older brother, Fred, lie among the dead on the floor of the Hall. Each time Ron saw Fred’s identical twin, George, with his ear missing due to a curse cast by Snape, he would be reminded of this night. To think of the hated Potions Professor beside Fred was more than he could accept.
“Because he spent almost half his life working to protect me…working to allow me to fulfill the destiny that was thrust upon me after my parents…after I lived. He wasn’t the most lovable…” Ron gave a snort of derision and Harry smiled weakly, “…person, and he did do some terrible things to us, but I now know he had as much to do with my being able to defeat Voldemort as anyone, even Dumbledore.”
“Yeah, but still,” insisted Ron.
Harry looked up at his red-headed best mate. He understood Ron’s hesitation but he had to make them understand. He glanced at Hermione, and then turned back to Ron. “You didn’t see what I saw in Professor Snape’s memories. You didn’t see his disgust when he realized Dumbledore had been protecting me, training me, raising me for sixteen years so I could be a sacrifice.” Harry saw Hermione pale noticeably but continued. “You didn’t see Snape’s revulsion when he realized Dumbledore had been using him to keep me safe so that I could walk calmly to my death at the right moment. Professor Snape may never have liked me, but he gave his life so that I could…”
“…save the world,” interrupted Hermione with a laugh. “Let’s go.” She put her arm around Harry’s waist. A few seconds later, Ron placed his arm across Harry’s shoulders. An overwhelming sense of warmth overcame Harry and he knew it was completely unrelated to the bright early summer sun that surrounded them as they walked across the grounds to the Whomping Willow.
“Blimey, Harry, how are we going to get him into the castle?” asked Ron. “We can’t take him through the passage under the tree. It’s too narrow.”
They looked down at the cold, stiff, black-clad figure on the floor of the shack. His straight black hair had fallen forward covering the puncture marks in his neck where the snake’s fangs had pierced his flesh. His blood was dried upon his neck, the floor, and his hands. Harry looked down at the front of his own shirt and realized some of that same blood was still on him from when Snape had grabbed him in his dying moments.
“Maybe,” Hermione said hesitantly, “just maybe.” She popped out of the room and then back into it almost too quickly to be seen. Ron and Harry blinked at her. “Yes! The enchantments that prevent Apparation at Hogwarts are broken. I’m sure all the protections are gone after the battle. We’ll be able to get him to the castle easily.” She pointed her wand and said, “Wingardium Leviosa”.
“Wait,” Harry whispered as Professor Snape’s body rose off the floor. “We can’t take him in like this.” Harry conjured a small white cloth that he settled gently over the fixed, blank, empty eyes that stared at them from the white lifeless face.
“No.” Ron raised his wand and transfigured the cloth from white to Slytherin green. He met Harry’s eyes. “It’s what he would have wanted.”
They Apparated to the steps outside the main entrance of the castle. One door was completely gone, the other hung crazily on what was left of the hinges. Harry looked at the body floating between them. “I want to carry him.” Harry staggered under the weight as Hermione lowered the body into his arms. He didn’t notice when she murmured a spell that lightened his load.
The noise in the great hall had subsided some since they’d left earlier but Harry didn’t think very many people had gone. All the tables were still lined with intermingled parents, students, teachers, ghosts, centaurs, and house-elves. The bodies of the dead were lined upon a raised platform at the head of the room where the teacher’s table normally stood. With a wave of emotion Harry saw that the blankets that covered them were not made of individual house colors, but were striped with the blue, yellow, green, and scarlet of all the houses. The Hogwarts Seal, emblazoned at the top of each blanket, rested over the faces of the men and women who’d given their lives on this day.
Those who’d lost family members and those who’d been spared were still joined together in their common grief and relief, their joy at victory tinged forever with the pain of loss. With a deep breath Harry took a firm grip on Professor Snape’s body and entered the room. Those nearest the door fell silent as he walked in. Quiet overcame the hall like a wave moving in the lake, and then whispers began to reach his ears. “Who…, Is that…, What’s Harry got…, Snape? It can’t be…, He’s a Death Eater…, Why….”
“What are you doing bringing that scum in here? Put him in the chamber with his Master!” Harry looked at the short man who had shouted and didn’t recognize him. Standing at his side was a small, red-eyed woman clutching a handkerchief in one hand and using the other arm to pull a young boy close as if she were afraid to let him out of her sight. With a jolt Harry realized the boy was Colin Creevey’s younger brother Dennis, and thus the adults would be Colin’s Muggle parents. With a glance between the small form under one of the blankets at the head of the room and then back at the grief stricken family, Harry continued his silent walk.
He lay Professor Snape on the platform, then turned to face the room. Ron and Hermione gave him a look of support, joined hands and walked back and sat at the end of the closest table. The stillness that overcame the room was so complete it could almost be felt. Even the ghosts seemed to become solider as everything living held their breath.
“You’ve all been through a lot tonight. Some of you were here when I…we defeated Voldemort.” With a look at Colin’s parents, he continued, “but some of you were not. It is important, not just to me, but to all future generations, that the whole Wizarding World know the role that this man…” Harry placed a hand on Professor Snape’s arm, “…had in this war. Historians will write about the events of this night. It’s already being called ‘The Battle of Hogwarts’, but the battle has been going on for years.
“Severus Snape was one of the men who was at the forefront of the fight long before anyone, especially me, knew we were engaged in a war. The details of his role and his accomplishments can wait for a later time. Tonight, however, it is important that he take his place among the honored dead we’re here to remember, all of whom died too soon.” Harry turned briefly towards the platform, scanned the row of more than fifty forever silenced warriors, bowed his head for a moment, and then turned back to the crowd.
“Professor Snape was not a pleasant man, nor was he an easy person to be around. Yet I am saddened that he died before he knew that the sacrifices he made throughout his life accomplished his goals of my survival and the defeat of Voldemort. And I’m very ashamed that the final words I ever spoke to him were to call him a coward.” Harry fought back the tears that erupted unbidden into his eyes. Placing his hand back onto Snape’s arm, he took a deep breath and said, “Headmaster Severus Snape of Slytherin House was a very brave man.” Harry took out his wand, conjured a blanket like those that covered the others, and then walked from the hall more quietly than any of the ghosts could have moved.
By two days after the battle all of the students and their families had left Hogwarts. Hermione had gone home with Ron and the rest of the Weasleys. Harry would be joining them at the Burrow in a few hours in preparation for Fred’s funeral. Harry knew he would be expected to attend the funerals of most of those who’d been lost. Though he didn’t enjoy the role of leader and savior, he accepted that he was the living symbol of the victory and as such it was his duty to be there for all who wanted him.
There was one, however, who was not wanted. Harry stood at the door of the Great Hall and looked at the single lonely figure that remained on the platform. Harry didn’t really feel sad about Snape like he did when he thought of Fred, or Tonks, or Lupin, or Colin or so many of the others. Severus Snape had never done anything to engender kind feelings in Harry. But Harry knew the man deserved respect and honor for his part in the War. With a resolve he’d not felt since that night in the forest, Harry made his way up to the Headmistress’s office.
Professor McGonagall had taken up the role as temporary head of Hogwarts until such time as the Board of Governors was reformed and made a selection of a permanent Head. The gargoyle in the corridor had let him pass with a simple request for entrance, and Harry knocked at her door. The tired voice within said, “Enter.”
Harry was taken aback at Professor McGonagall’s appearance. He’d always known she was getting up there in years, but now she seemed to be showing her age more than he would ever have thought possible. Her black pointed hat sat on a table to her right, her hair, greyer than he remembered, was pulled tightly back in a bun as always, and her lined face was drawn and weary. She seemed even smaller than she was as she sat behind the desk that Harry had known for so long as Dumbledore’s.
“Prof…Headmistress McGonagall,” Harry began hesitantly. He saw all the occupants of the portraits on the walls perk up when they realized who’d come for a visit. Dumbledore re-entered his portrait and sat down.
“Yes, Mr. Potter.” She smiled at him and gestured to the chair in front of the desk.
With a lump in his throat he realized that she’d addressed him as ‘Mister’, like an equal rather than as a teacher reprimanding a student. “I…I’ve come about Headmaster Snape’s body,” he said in a rush. When she said nothing, he continued. “Does he have any family?”
“Not that I’m aware of. His parents died many years ago, he was an only child, and I never heard him speak of any aunts, uncles or cousins.”
“What about friends?” Harry asked, though he already knew the answer.
Minerva McGonagall remembered the young boy whom she had taught so many years before. All his friends from that time were either dead or in Azkaban. For sixteen years his fellow teachers had tolerated him in large part because of Dumbledore’s absolute faith in his loyalty. But after Dumbledore’s death at Snape’s hands his colleagues had been antagonistic and sometimes were openly hostile during the prior school year. While the staff now knew he wasn’t a murderer and he wasn’t really in the service of You-Know-Who, the hatred ran deep and she didn’t know how many would be able to forgive. “I’m not sure anyone would come for him,” she said softly blinking back tears. Pushing the regret for things not said and done from her voice, she asked, “What do you want to do?”
“Do you think he could be buried here?” Harry saw McGonagall frown as he quickly continued, “Professor Snape was a lot like me.” Her frown deepened and she sat up straighter. When she started to speak Harry cut her off. “The only place he felt at home was Hogwarts. He, Tom Riddle, and I all belonged nowhere else; we had no one who cared about us until we started school here. This was his…our…best home, our best memory.”
McGonagall studied the young man before her. He was so different from Tom Riddle and Severus Snape, yet as he himself realized, so much like them too. Riddle had turned to the ultimate evil, Snape was ambiguous, and yet Harry, though not perfect, had embraced all that was good. As the full story came to light of what had transpired in the forest the night of the battle, Minerva had marveled at the strength of will it took for the seventeen-year-old boy…no, the man before her to choose to die in order that others might live. Harry was so young to have had such a fate thrust upon him. His life had never been easy and now she couldn’t give him this one simple thing he wanted. “No, Mr. Potter, Headmaster Snape cannot be laid to rest at the school.”
Harry wasn’t really surprised, but he couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“You probably never knew, but when Albus died,” she glanced at the smiling portrait behind her, “it took special permission for his tomb to be placed on the grounds. He’s the only Hogwarts head to be buried here in the thousand years of the school’s existence. It just wouldn’t be possible for a man who held the office for less than a year to be buried here.”
“I understand, but I had to ask.” Harry sat for a moment looking around the room. It had changed in the year of Snape’s leadership. It was more austere, reflecting the stern, no nonsense personality of its last occupant. Gone were all the fanciful, delicate musical instruments, gone was the hominess he’d come to associate with the place. Looking into the attentive faces of the prior headmasters and headmistresses in the portraits, Harry noticed something for the first time. “Why isn’t there a portrait of Headmaster Snape in here?”
McGonagall coughed, and said, “Because he left this office under irregular circumstances.”
“Minerva,” Dumbledore said from his portrait, “you and the other teachers were chasing him, trying to curse him. He fled for his life.”
“Well, yes,” she confessed. “But all the prior leaders either retired or died while serving. They didn’t abandon their post.”
Harry remembered the scene and thought of something that pierced his heart. He looked into McGonagall’s eyes and spoke softly, “You called him a coward. The last word you said to him was to call him a coward…just like me.”
The elder witch and young wizard continued to look at each other but said nothing as several seconds passed. All the occupants of the portraits were watching the scene, and had they had breath, they would have been holding it. Dumbledore seemed about to say something, but then kept still.
“Yes…yes, I did,” McGonagall admitted, “and I was wrong.”
“We were both wrong,” Harry whispered.
McGonagall blinked rapidly to keep away the tears that still threatened to fall. “I’ll contact the ministry and make sure Severus’s portrait is authorized without delay.” She looked up at Dumbledore who nodded in agreement. “Now, Mr. Potter, let’s get back to the original reason for your visit. What is to become of Severus’s remains?”
“I want to take him to Godric’s Hollow. He’s not family, and he certainly never liked me or my father.” A wry grin flitted across Harry’s face before he sobered. “But he loved my mother from the time they were small children. I think she would be pleased with how he changed his life, how he denounced blood purity and how he gave up the Dark Arts for the Greater Good.” Harry saw Dumbledore wince at his use of the old slogan which had at one time held dark connotations. Harry shrugged and continued, “I know she’d be happy that he worked for all these years to protect and help me.”
“I think that’s a fine idea, Harry,” said Dumbledore. “He should have a black marker etched with silver letters. He was a very dark man, but his soul was edged with a silver lining. Perhaps with a little more clarity than most, he epitomized what is true of all of us, that none of us are all good, and none of us are all bad.”
Harry looked over his preparations and decided there was nothing more he could do. The cemetery in Godric’s Hollow was hidden from the Muggles with enchantments. He’d opened a plot beside his mother and the casket sat over it. Harry had debated long and hard about where to place Professor Snape, but finally decided that no matter how Harry felt about him, he deserved to be next to the one person he’d truly loved in life.
A large black granite stone stood ready to place. It was two feet across, ten inches wide at the base, three feet high, and tapered to five inches wide at the top. Its smooth, shiny surface reflected the bright sunlight.
Harry had conjured a dozen chairs that set in the space he had expanded between the rows of graves. More people attended the burial than Harry thought would come so he had to keep expanding the space and adding chairs. All the surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix were there. All the Weasleys came except for Percy. He couldn’t get over Snape’s membership in the Death Eaters regardless of how he’d changed. Harry noted that none of the Malfoys were in attendance. Of all the people who’d known Professor Snape, Harry thought that at the very least, Narcissa would have come to his funeral. Severus had protected her son and taken over the task of killing Dumbledore when Draco couldn’t do it. Narcissa Malfoy owed Severus Snape as much as Harry did.
Ron sat with his arm around Hermione, her head lying on his shoulder into which she was softly sobbing. Neville sat beside Luna, and Harry sat holding hands with Ginny. Professors McGonagall, Sprout, and Flitwick, the three teachers who had driven Headmaster Snape from the school sat together. The Creeveys sat huddled with their remaining son between them. Rita Skeeter was flitting around in the back but Harry was sure she’d come for no reason other than to try to get a juicy story. The audience was rounded out with several other Hogwarts teachers, a few students, some of their parents and a number of Ministry officials.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, who’d just been appointed permanent Minister of Magic, gave the eulogy. “We’re gathered here today to remember a man that in many ways was an enigma. Severus Snape was fiercely loyal though never a friend. He was passionate but rarely showed emotion. He was skilled in many types of magic yet in his youth he turned to the Dark Arts. This caused him to make mistakes that would haunt him for the rest of his days.
“We must remember that above all, Severus Snape was one of the most courageous among us in the fight against Lord Voldemort. To have had someone on our side who sat at the right hand of the most evil wizard of our time was more than we could ever have hoped to have. I want to describe an incident that serves as an example of the impact this one man had on the course of the war.
“Two years ago while the Ministry was keeping a tight control over Hogwarts, young Mr. Potter and several other students were caught breaking into the office of a teacher.”
Harry looked down the row at the friends whom he’d put in danger that day. He wished that he’d had the chance to tell Professor Snape how grateful he was that Snape had risked so much to save them. Harry was ashamed that he’d been unable to see beyond his blind hatred to believe what Dumbledore had been telling him all along - that Severus Snape could be and should be trusted. With a glance at Ginny, he began to listen again.
“…called Severus to her office. When asked for Veritaserum, he lied and told her he had none even though the deception could have been easily discovered. As Professor Snape was leaving, a desperate Harry shouted a cryptic warning. Aware of Harry’s connection to Lord Voldemort, Severus knew instantly what it meant, yet he had the self control to show no reaction and to pretend to not understand. Furthermore, in order to keep up appearances, he ridiculed and taunted Harry.
“Severus was the one who figured out where the missing students had gone and as soon as he could he contacted the Order. His timely warning enabled us to stop the murder of the five young people who’d accompanied Mr. Potter to the Ministry, and prevented the capture or death of Harry himself. In addition, because Professor Snape passed along this one bit of intelligence, several Death Eaters were arrested, Lord Voldemort was seen by the Minister of Magic and the truth of Voldemort’s return was finally accepted, ultimately leading to the mobilization of the Ministry.
“It’s actions like this that over and over serve to show us what type of man Severus Snape was. Even during the past year when we of the Order broke off all contact with him, mistakenly believing that he’d always been loyal to Lord Voldemort, he worked to help Harry and to keep the students of Hogwarts safe. We lay his mortal remains to rest here today but his spirit will live on in all who continue the fight against evil and injustice.”
As Shacklebolt finished, Harry made his way to the front of the group and stood beside him. “You’ve all heard me talk before, and I don’t have anything to add to what the Minister has said. I would like all of you to stand and we’ll finish with the engraving of the stone.” As people stood, Harry took out his wand and used a charm to vanish the chairs. He lowered the casket into the grave, and levitated the soil onto it. He moved the stone into place at the head of the grave.
“Please, would you all arrange yourselves so you can see the marker?” While he waited, Harry looked over at his parent’s graves. He had wondered many times throughout the years what his life would have been like if they had never been killed. But his life was what it was. Nothing could change that. He was an adult now and would soon start to make his own way in the world. What he wanted most was to make them proud. Harry believed with all his heart that what he was doing today would do just that.
Once everyone had arranged themselves in a semi-circle in front of him, Harry raised his wand and carved brilliant silver lettering into the stone. After the name, date of birth, and date of death, he added this epitaph: “He worked behind the scenes for us all. He was the bravest man I ever knew.”