Not Too Late to Live
Part 1: Memories
Two-shot (possibly three-shot) Severitus-ish. I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know what you think!
Harry Potter belongs to J.K.
Please R&R~! Thanks so much!
The battle was in full swing, within the walls of Hogwarts and without. As Harry raced up the main staircase, he felt the telltale whirl of magic that was a hex heading straight for him. It never connected, though, and as he continued barreling through the hallways, he couldn't help but notice the number of hexes which seemed to be missing or glinting off of him as if he were high on a bottle of Felix Felicis. Not for the first time, particularly this harrowing and frustrating year searching for the Horcruxes, he had the feeling that someone was watching him, protecting him, from the shadows.
But as usual, when he turned around, there was no one to be seen. He blinked. For a moment, he could have sworn he saw the hem of a billowing black cloak sweeping out of sight. But he had no time to follow up his suspicions. He had to get the Diadem. He could worry about this enigmatic protector of his later.
Harry stared in shock and horror at the fresh, gouged wound in Snape's neck, absently accepting the vial Hermione conjured to collect the silvery miasma spilling from the man's pores.
The always intimidating, and often cruel, man he had hated at times more than anyone save Voldemort lay there on the dirty, rotting wood floor of the Shrieking Shack, and he was very clearly dying. And Harry didn't know what to feel, but disbelief.
"Look…at…me…" Snape's voice was quiet and raspy, with a desperation Harry had never heard in it, and without its usual malice. Green eyes met black for a long moment and then one shaky, potion-stained hand reached up and artlessly brushed Harry's cheek.
Severus Snape then fell into dark unconsciousness, collapsing limp on the sullied ground.
"Harry. Harry!" Hermione tugged at his arm, but Harry felt numb, unable to move or believe what had just passed…
"There's nothing you can do, mate," came Ron's voice.
"We can't leave him," Harry whispered, still staring down at the still figure of his most-hated professor.
"Harry, I'm sorry, but if we don't leave soon, then…" Hermione's voice was quiet but filled with a frantic plea.
Harry, still not moving his gaze from the sallow, blood-coated face below him said, in a surprisingly steady voice, "We're taking him up to the Hospital Wing, Hermione. There's more to this-and him-than we know. I can feel it." His voice was a whisper now, but then, without hesitation, he draped his invisibility cloak over Snape and levitated him up and out of the shack and towards the school.
Harry's memory of their trek to the Hospital Wing was spotty at best.
Ron and Hermione, aware of their friend's singular focus on the body floating invisibly alongside them, managed to keep stray hexes from hitting them and they hurried along and before long, they burst into the familiar white-walled ward.
"Mr. Potter!" Madame Pomfrey shrieked, "What-?"
With a quick movement, Harry snatched his cloak to him, revealing his Professor, and levitated him into a bed. "Please do what you can for him, Madame Pomfrey," he said, ignoring her exclamation at seeing Dumbledore's murderer in her ward. "He was bitten by Voldemort's snake and if there's anything you can do…"
He trailed off, eyes still glued to the still figure but becoming conscious of his friends pulling at his arms. Harry's fist grazed against his pocket and with a surge of renewed purpose he remembered the vial he had stuffed there in the miserable little shack.
Satisfied that Madame Pomfrey had gotten over her momentary shock and was now in full Medinurse mode, Harry cast a meaningful glance around before pulling his father's invisibility cloak over his shoulders and running out into the hallway, heading for the Headmaster's office.
The Gargoyle jumped aside when Harry panted out "Dumbledore," a fact which he stored in the back of his mind to examine further later, but he vaguely wondered if someone truly loyal to Voldemort would have chosen such as his password. Unless, of course, Snape had just been gloating over his murder of the man, but his uncharacteristic behavior of minutes prior had spurned a slough of new possibilities in Harry's mind, and the only thing he could think now was that he needed answers.
Pulling out the old, heavy Pensieve, he shakily poured in the memories and, taking a deep breath, plunged in.
And then Harry saw the man who had taught him for six years, but without the deceit and facades. He saw him as he was before Voldemort and Spying and the bitterness that had so clearly beat him down for years.
To say Harry was surprised to see his mother, as a little girl no less, featured in Snape's childhood memories would be a great understatement. He watched in shock, joy and fierce regret as he really saw his mother for the fist time-and saw her happy, and full of life and innocence.
And she and Snape had been friends!
Then came the memories of Hogwarts, and he couldn't suppress the twinge of anger and disappointment as he saw the way the Marauders greeted Snape and his mum on the Hogwarts Express. James and Sirius acted far too much like Draco Malfoy had that day for Harry's comfort.
He vaguely wondered whether he would have made a different choice under the Sorting Hat if he had met two arrogant prats boasting about Gryffindor rather than one all for Slytherin on his train-ride to school? Had James and Sirius been partly responsible for Snape ending up in Slytherin?
Unbidden empathy welled up in Harry's chest when he saw the look on Snape's face when Lily was sorted into Gryffindor, but according to the memories, they had managed to stay friends regardless of the fierce rivalry between their houses. Snape didn't really seem to have many (or any) friends in Slytherin, either, but his whole demeanor and expression changed whenever he and Lily would talk or study together. It was hard for Harry to reconcile this shy but hopeful young man with the bitter, cruel adult he had become.
And then came the memory Harry had seen, unintentionally, in Snape's office. Suddenly, it made a whole lot more sense-not least of all, Snape's violent reaction to the bullying, and Lily's attempts to defend him. He also noticed, with great clarity, what he hadn't before: foremost in his mind the look of deep, painful remorse and horror and self-hatred in Snape's eyes after he said that word. And the way he looked after Lily as she stalked away almost made Harry blush.
In the next memory, Severus tried to apologize, but Lily wouldn't hear it. When she slammed the portrait hole shut, Harry actually found himself feeling frustrated with her. Couldn't she see the vulnerable position he was in? And how sick he felt about what he'd said?
The next memory seemed to take place a year or so later, and Harry found himself standing beside Snape, who was watching Lily surreptitiously as she walked through the streets of Hogsmeade, laughing and talking to the tall, handsome, outgoing James Potter. Snape stared from the shadows, and then, fists clenched, he turned around and ran away, not noticing how Lily pushed James away when he leaned down to kiss her.
The next memory took place at night, and it might have been a little less than a year later-they would have been seventh years, then, Harry noted. Lily was out on the Astronomy tower, staring at the grounds, when a hesitant voice, finally having cracked to the familiar low and silky tones Harry knew so well, though much softer and gentler than Harry had ever heard the present day Snape speak, said, "Lils?"
She turned around, and tears were rolling down her cheeks, glistening in the moonlight. She gave him a watery smile.
"Lily, what's the matter?" Severus ran forward, only just managing to stop himself from reaching out to grab her.
"Oh, Sev," she said, softly. "I'm so sorry…"
Severus looked gob smacked. "Sorry? For what? You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for! I'm the one who…who…" He grimaced, looking ill, and a haunted look returned to his eyes, but he looked back to meet her gaze earnestly. "I've regretted what I said that day from the moment it left my lips. Please believe me, Lily. I would never, and have never, thought of you as anything less than wonderful, and I-"
He trailed off, blushing, looking shocked at his own admission, but Lily was smiling widely now, a brightness in her eyes overtaking the sadder qualities of her expression. "You mean that, Sev? You think I'm…wonderful?"
"Well, uh…yeah, I mean…of course you are," he said softly. "And I have been sick that I ever hurt you…I…I'm so sorry."
"You've already apologized, Sev. It's my turn, now. I'm sorry…sorry that I never told you I accepted your apology."
Severus' head snapped up at her at this, and he frowned in confusion.
"I forgave you a long time ago, you know…actually, there wasn't really anything to forgive. I was angry, sure, but I knew you would never purposefully hurt me…but even though I knew that, I guess I was…well, scared."
"Scared? You, Ms. Gryffindor?"
"Hard to believe, huh? But yeah. I was terrified, actually, and I was a coward. It did hurt, your words, and even if I knew, deep down, you didn't mean them, even the possibility that you might turn on me like that… I cared for you too much. I still care for you too much…I guess I was scared of having my heart broken."
Snape stared at her, and slowly, disbelief faded to be replaced by hesitant, rapturous understanding. "I would never betray you," he whispered. "But…what about Potter?"
She smiled fondly at him, but with some exasperation. "Oh, well…he likes me. And I do like him, I have to admit it…but, it just isn't…" she trailed off, suddenly blushing.
Then, with a show of bravery Harry would not have credited the man (currently young man) with, for all the years of his being a spy, Severus Snape closed the gap between them, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her on the lips. And she responded.
Harry blushed horribly and quickly turned away, trying to do a detailed study of the moon…it continued on like this for several minutes until he heard a gasp, and then a sound like a wounded animal. He turned, and felt himself going cold.
Lily was clutching Severus' arm, and staring in shock and terrible hatred and betrayal, at the very visible tattoo on his upper arm.
Snape ripped his arm away, hurriedly rolling his sleeve down to cover it, and he looked up to meet green eyes fierce and devastated. He flinched.
"You…liar!" She hissed.
"No, Lils, you don't understand, this isn't-"
"Don't call me that." Her voice was cold, now, and she stepped back. "You're one of them, Snape, just like I feared you were. Didn't you tell me, oh, five minutes ago, that you would never betray me?"
Snape's face was frozen in shock and pain, and he wrung his hands, saying, "I wouldn't! I would never hurt you, Lily!"
"But other muggleborns are fair game? Good sport? Is that what you were going to say, Snape? You and your death-eater friends…"
"Please, Lily…just let me explain. I-"
"There is nothing to explain. I thought I could trust you. I was wrong. If you care, at all, for what we once had, never speak to me again. I would rather not spoil and rot my childhood memories even further."
And with that, she was gone, and to Harry's astonishment, Snape folded into himself, collapsing in wracking, painful sobs, pulling at his hair, and punching and rubbing fiercely at the spot on his arm where the dark mark had been visible just moments ago.
After that, the flow of memories sped up, and the timeline became what Harry was familiar with-Lily and James had gotten together, but Harry could no longer bring himself to feel the sense of them as the perfect couple that he had from all the stories and pictures that had been provided him over the years. And suddenly a new, and crazy thought occurred to him…that if things had gone differently, Lily might have married Severus Snape and the man could have been his…dare he say it…father!
Suddenly, the man's fierce resentment of Harry made a lot more sense, though it also hurt him more, knowing that he could have loved someone so much and hated her son despite (or perhaps, in spite of) that.
But Harry watched as the holes in his understanding, and his questions of why Dumbledore trusted Snape were finally revealed. So Snape had been the one to overhear the prophecy…and then, realizing about whom the prophecy was written, had practically prostrated himself in front of Dumbledore.
The man had pledged himself, his loyalty-everything-to keep Lily Potter nee Evans safe.
And then the horrible memory came of that Halloween night, and Harry watched and listened in astonishment as Snape pledged that he would continue on, Spying and teaching and living, so that he could protect him, Harry, when the time came that he needed to.
Moments of Harry's time as a Hogwarts student, but from Snape's perspective, then flashed by, and Harry could see, besides just the stubborn refusal the Potions Master had to see him in a positive light, just how much Dumbledore was clearly manipulating him, asking him to do things without giving him all the information. So it hadn't just been Harry being pulled along, then. Not that he could say he was surprised.
But he couldn't help but wonder if Dumbledore could have done something more to convince Snape that he wasn't just like James Potter? The headmaster seemed to have been rather vague when he spoke of him to Snape after all, spending more energy simply chastising the man like a bad little boy…and as that was something that had always infuriated Harry, he couldn't imagine it working any better on Snape…perhaps if Dumbledore had given him some more facts, or specifics… or perhaps Snape was truly too bitter and closed-off to have listened regardless.
As Harry watched Dumbledore ask that Snape promise to kill him in Draco's stead, Harry felt guilt worm up in his chest for the words he had shouted at the man that night. Severus Snape was no coward. But perhaps Dumbledore, who had asked for a moderately guilt-free and painless end, was?
And Harry had to agree with his potions master. Sure, Draco's soul-his innocence-were being spared, but what of Snape's? For Harry now knew he was not the heartless, soulless man he had once thought he was. He had had potential to be a good person…he had been a good person, and he still, despite everything, was. If only things had been different…If only he, Harry, had known…
They were in Dumbledore's office again, and Harry found himself riveted to the spot as he and Snape learned of one more betrayal. One more thing Dumbledore had been keeping from them…
[Dialogue taken from HPDH Chapter 33]
"So the boy…the boy must die?" asked Snape quite calmly.
"And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential."
Another long silence. Then Snape said, "I thought…all these years…that we were protecting him for her. For Lily."
"We have protected him because it has been essential to teach him, to raise him, to let him try his strength," said Dumbledore, his eyes still tight shut. "Meanwhile, the connection between them grows ever stronger, a parasitic growth. Sometimes I have thought he suspects it himself. If I know him, he will have arranged matters so that when he does set out to meet his death, it will truly mean the end of Voldemort."
Dumbledore opened his eyes. Snape looked horrified.
"You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?"
"Don't be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?"
"Lately, only those whom I could not save," said Snape. He stood up. "You have used me."
"I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter-"
"But this is touching, Severus," said Dumbledore seriously. "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"
"For him?" shouted Snape. "Expecto Patronum!"
From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe. She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
"After all this time?"
"Always," said Snape.
Reeling from the revelation of Dumbledore's betrayal, and of Snape's horror at learning of Harry's fate, he felt the tug of being pulled back into the real world, but then the world once again became blurry, and he found himself entering a new set of memories. He wondered if they had been added later…
Snape was staring at a parchment in the Headmaster's office, his normally stony façade overridden with more emotions than Harry had known it could express. Flashing in those coal-black orbs Harry saw shock, joy, regret, shame, pain, anger and then the usual hard lines returned as Snape continued to stare, unmoving, at the parchment. Intrigued, and wondering just what could have disturbed his professor to this degree, Harry approached the man, but froze when he heard him whisper, "Lily, why didn't you tell me?"
Betrayal and pain laced his words, and Harry bit his lip, suddenly unsure of whether he should look or not. Was it something about him? Or something private between Snape and his mum?
When he rounded the desk, and looked over Snape's shoulder, he froze, his throat constricting and he stumbled back in shock and horror.
It was a birth certificate. And it was his…
Birthdate: July 31st, 1980...
Name: Harry James Potter…
Mother: Lily Anne Evans-Potter…
Father: Severus Tobias Snape…
"No," Harry whispered. It can't…be…" Looking at Snape, somewhat fearfully, but fueled by some-parts anger and resentment, and, impossibly, some strange hope that the man might not look so opposed to the idea, he saw the man still staring numbly at the parchment, his hands shaking.
"It can't be…no…" Snape whispered, unconsciously echoing what Harry had just said, anger etched into his features, and Harry felt his heart drop.
Harry bit his lip and turned, not wanting to hear or see further proof of his utter rejection by the man who had clearly despised him for years, but then Snape continued, raspily, "You bastard, Albus. You knew, and yet you let me treat him like rot all these years?"
And when Harry looked back, heart fluttering in his ears, Snape's face was buried in one long-fingered hand, twin trails of tears visible pouring down his cheeks.
Unbidden, Harry felt his lips lift up slightly, and he felt a strange warmth in the pit of his twisting gut as he gazed at the man who was apparently…insane as it was…his father.
Harry felt as if he were invading a far-too-private moment, but the man had given him the memories to watch, so he figured he had the right to witness this uncommon display of emotion from the man. It was odd, knowing that had he received this information only earlier this evening, he would have been clawing his way up the wall, screaming and bursting in anger, disbelief and hatred for the man.
But after witnessing Snape's memories, and remembering how he'd asked for Harry's…forgiveness…in the shrieking shack, he could not call up feelings of disgust directed towards the man himself.
Rather, he felt his heart filling with anger and regret that they had never had a chance. Their relationship had always been one of purest animosity, but maybe, just maybe, if they had known earlier…things could have been different, and they could have had a real relationship. And why the hell had he had to live with the Dursleys if he'd had a perfectly good (well, for the most part) father around, ALIVE, the whole bloody time? Dumbledore, the bastard. Why hadn't he told them? What was he playing at?
Harry noticed another piece of parchment, slightly rumpled, on the desk. It was in an unfamiliar, slightly feminine style.
Dear Albus, Harry gasped as he noticed the little lily insignia at the top of the page…could this have been written by…?
I write you now to ask you to do something which pains me more than I can say, and I know it will be no picnic for you either, dear friend.
As you know, I have just born a son, Harry. He is absolutely beautiful, and so brilliant, innocent and full of life, I can hardly believe he is mine. He just seems too good, and makes me question my choices and yet, for him, and for those others I love, I must push on and do something impossibly cruel.
Albus, James doesn't know…no one knows but I… but Harry isn't James' son. I knew the instant the Medinurse put him in my arms. He looks nothing like James, save for his dark hair. His aquiline features are so unmistakable, there can be no doubt as to who the father is, though of course, I know there is only one other possibility anyway.
Albus, Harry's father is Severus Snape. I'm sure you remember our friendship. Around the end of our 5th year, I realized my feelings were escalating and deepening past friendship for Sev, but when we fought after our OWLs, I decided to run rather than really make a go at it.
One night, at the beginning of our 7th year, we expressed our feelings to each other, but then I found he had taken the dark mark and in anger, betrayal and fear for both of us, I cast him away utterly, and ran to James Potter.
What even Severus doesn't know, and this is one of my greatest regrets, is that we did make up. I wandered into Knockturn Alley one day when I was feeling out-of-sorts, and he whisked me away before I could land myself in any trouble. We spoke for hours, and I confessed that I was not as happy in my marriage as I let on…and that I still loved him, despite everything.
He told me the same, and told me that he regretted ever joining Voldemort's service-that it was something he did out of loneliness, bitterness and anger at the world-in a last-ditch desire to belong somewhere he would be appreciated for his talents…he told me how quickly he realized how wrong he was, but that Death Eaters did not simply leave.
The only escape for him from the Dark Mark was death, and he confessed that he had considered that possibility many times…but for that night, that one, wonderful, delirious night, we pretended that we were free, and that there was no Voldemort, that I wasn't expected to return home to find James and Sirius wasted on the couch…we just saw each other, and then spent every wonderful moment of that night in each other's arms.
But when I woke up, I realized that if Voldemort were ever to break through Sev's shields and see what we'd done together, and what he'd confessed to me, that he would be tortured and killed. I couldn't risk it, and so…I obliviated him, leaving him to think we were still at odds, and that I was blissful in my picture-perfect marriage.
Oh, Albus. I've regretted doing this so many times…I can't tell you how often I've been close to up and leaving, running to Sev, and running off with him to Timbuktu, but I was pregnant, and now I have Harry, and he needs to be safe…and now, with not just Sev, but Harry at risk, too, I just can't let anyone know. And so, I have cast a series of charms over Harry's appearance which will make him take on James' traits, indefinitely, until they are removed. Only his mother or father-Sev or I-can remove them, with our own blood used in a Familia Revelia Potion. But I ask you , Albus, not to let this come to pass. At least not until our world is free of Voldemort. I write you only because I fear I may not make it, but I need you to watch over my boys for me if I cannot.
Sev would make a wonderful father, and keeping him from his son is unspeakably evil. That I know, but it is to protect them both that I do this. But please, Albus, if I don't make it, make sure they can discover the truth someday. They need each other. They deserve each other. Severus has been through far too much, and I fear that he, and my little Harry, may both be in for more trials and injustice in the future.
I have attached Harry's true birth certificate. I had a fake made right after his birth.
Please watch over my boys, Headmaster. I love them more than life itself.
Floored, Harry noticed that tears were now running down his cheeks. It was a shock, though not entirely unsurprising, that he had a charm over his appearance. That explained his uncanny-almost unnatural-resemblance to James Potter, after all.
To be honest, Harry wasn't sure how to take this information, but he felt a fierce upsurge of compassion and remorse for Snape, knowing that he had reconciled with Lily but never knew it. He also had a fluttery feeling of relief in his chest at hearing his mum's words stating just how much she had loved Sn-his father.
"No more, Albus," Snape was talking again, in a voice just over a whisper. Harry turned to him and saw a fierce determination in the man's eyes as he stood up and clenched his fist. "No longer! Harry and I will not be your pawns any longer!"
And with that, the man swept from the room, and Harry felt a sharp twinge in his chest at hearing Snape say his name-his given name-for the first time, and passionately, without loathing. Harry's heart pounded in his ears as the scene changed, once again.
It was the Forest of Dean, and with a sudden shock of understanding, he saw Snape cast his Doe Patronus, the Patronus Harry now knew was a symbol of his father's undying love for his mother, that lead him, Harry, to the sword after so many weeks of dead-ends and wild-goose-chases.
He watched as Snape gazed fixedly at his memory self as he entered the water, and Harry winced as he remembered the painfully ice-cold water, and the knife-like pain on every inch of him for the duration of his 'swim.'
After about a minute, Snape was fidgeting and then, when near to another thirty-seconds had passed, Snape bounded forward, and without hesitation, dove into the freezing pool. Moments later, the tall, stern man emerged, drenched, clutching an equally wet Harry to his chest, Godric Gryffindor's sword in one hand.
Roughly, Snape undid Harry's shirt and after a moment of struggle, managed to pull out and cast aside the evil locket, and stared at the burned spot on Harry's chest.
He swiftly carried Harry to a soft area hidden behind a patch of trees and set him down, frantically checking his pulse and leaning down to administer mouth-to-mouth. Memory-Harry coughed out some water, and Snape let out a sigh of relief when Harry's breathing returned to normal. Carefully, Snape positioned himself so that Harry was sitting up against his chest, and he quickly muttered warming and drying charms on the shivering young man.
He then pulled out some jars from his cloak and gently began to rub some waxy, oily stuff on the burned spot on Harry's chest. After repeating the circular motion, Harry saw as the mark faded away, and Snape hurriedly buttoned Harry back up.
Harry's heart clenched painfully and in shock as he watched Snape continue to tenderly care for him, gently coaxing him to drink several vials, and draping his own cloak around him like a blanket. Harry had wondered at the time what had happened-who had saved him from the water, and why he felt so much better and healthier than he had in weeks after emerging from it, but he had put it mostly down to getting rid of the Horcrux…and then, he had began to suspect he had someone protecting him…well, now he knew the truth, and he only wished he'd known it sooner.
Harry knelt down beside his memory-self, staring as Snape gently carded his hand through the messy hair and said, in a soft, sad voice, "Harry, I'm so sorry…if I had known… if only I had known, everything would have been different. I'm such a fool. I've been so blind, and I've treated you reprehensibly. You don't have to forgive me. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't, but I promise you this, son, I won't let you die. You've been made to think you had to take the world on your shoulders. Well let me tell you…Albus may have played a good game of chess, but he seems to have forgotten that each of his little chess-men is a human being-an individual who may have hopes which extend beyond his great scheme. So I'll tell you what, son, we're going to prove Albus and the Dark Lord and their little Prophecy wrong. Mark my words."
And with that, Snape carried Harry back over to the lake and lay him down carefully, placing the sword to his left. The locket lay where he had cast it off earlier, and he made to approach it when he noticed Ron arriving. Disillusioning himself, he quickly ennervated Harry and whisked back to watch as the boys destroyed the locket.
For a long moment, Memory-Harry looked back into the dark trees where Snape now stood, hidden, and then gave a slight nod and a curious smile before following Ron away.
Thanks for reading! This is my first Severitus-type story, and there will only be one or two more parts to it. Hope you enjoyed it! Feedback is always VERY much appreciated!