Walking away from the Headmaster's office, an unsettling fact popped into Harry Potter's mind. How could he have forgotten? The night had been filled with pain and sorrow, but this was something that had to be done. This man, more than anyone, deserved his respect and gratitude. Harry knew that he could not leave him where he was.
"Harry, are you all right?" Hermione asked, as he stopped moving in the middle of the hall.
"I'm fine," he replied, "but there's something I need to do. Can I meet you and Ron in the common room?"
Reluctantly, both of his friends agreed. They knew something was bothering him, and he hated to worry them after all they had been through, but he didn't want them coming with him. This was his debt. He owed this man his life. Ron and Hermione owed him nothing. They could never really understand. To bring them along would be disrespectful, which was the last thing he wanted.
Striding quickly, he left his friends behind. His footsteps echoed as he hurried through the once beautiful school. It would be hard to repair this building after the damage they had inflicted upon it. However, he hoped that it would be repaired. This castle held many wonderful memories for him.
Stepping into the Great Hall, he saw that many people were still there. No one seemed ready to return to their homes. No one wanted to admit that all the horror was real. He couldn't blame them. He would give anything to find out that it had all been a dream—that Voldemort was a figment of his imagination.
Walking further into the room, he was met by the sounds of sobbing. So many people were in pain. So many lives had been lost to a battle that shouldn't have been started. But it was finally over. Those who had survived could live their lives—free of fear.
Trying to ignore the cries and whimpers, he headed towards the door. His mission lay beyond the castle. Just before he could slip into the cool evening, his eyes landed on the Malfoy family. They hadn't moved since he'd left the Great Hall. Briefly, he wondered what would become of them. Surely, Lucius' previous actions would'nt be ignored.
However, Lucius' fate was the least of his concerns. The man had certainly done some horrible things. He was far more interested in the young blonde man seated beside him. A young man who owed a debt very similar to Harry's. Perhaps, he wouldn't have to do this all alone, after all.
Slowly, he approached the blonde family. They were so wrapped up in each other that they didn't notice him. He hesitated slightly, wondering if this was really the best time to interrupt. A few short hours ago, these people were horrified that they'd never be together again. But he could find no way to avoid it. Draco deserved the chance to accompany him, and the task simply couldn't wait. It had already waited too long.
"Draco?" he said softly. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but could I please speak with you?"
Harry saw Narcissa's hand tighten on her son's shoulder. She turned to him with obvious fear in her eyes. "What do you want from my son?" she demanded.
"Its fine, Mother," Draco told her, squeezing her hand and rising to his feet. "I'll talk to him."
Narcissa looked as though she wanted to argue, but she remained silent as the two boys headed towards the main exit. Stopping beside the door, Harry turned to face Malfoy.
"What is this about?" Draco asked. "You're scaring my mother."
"I'm sorry about that," Harry told him sincerely. "I know she was very worried about you. But I thought you might like to join me. Snape's body was left behind. I need to retrieve it. He saved my life countless times, and I have never even shown him the slightest amount of respect. Now this is the only thing I can do for him. I know he helped you, too. I thought you might like to bring him back."
"He's really gone?" Draco asked, not meeting his eyes.
"I should go with you," Draco muttered. "He saved my life, and I was a prat. I can't believe I was afraid he'd steal my glory. How childish I was then."
"We all were," Harry told him. "This year has changed us all."
"Do you want to talk to your parents before we go?"
"Not unless you want my mother tagging along," Draco told him.
"No offence," Harry replied, "but I really don't."
"They'll understand," Draco told him, pulling open the door and stepping into the night. "Where is he?"
"In the Shrieking Shack," Harry replied, strolling along beside him. "He was killed by that damn snake."
"He deserved better," Draco muttered, looking at the ground.
The remainder of their walk was silent. The simple truth was that Harry and Draco would never have much to say to each other, but they both had a lot to think about. The sounds of nature were enough to keep them company as they wandered over the familiar grounds.
Upon reaching the Whomping Willow, Harry retrieved his wand and froze the flaying limps so they could safely pass. To his surprise, Draco didn't question him and simply followed him into the narrow tunnel that would lead to the Shrieking Shack. Maybe Draco decided he was trustworthy, after all.
The tunnel was no more comfortable then it had been earlier in the evening. However, they ignored their discomfort and pressed forward. This was something that truly had to be done.
Finally, they emerged into the small room where Snape's body remained. Nothing had changed since Harry had been there a few hours earlier. He was relieved to see that no one had disturbed the body. He wanted to give this man as much dignity as he could.
A few seconds later Draco stumbled into the room after him. The newcomer gasped at the sight of his bloodied protector and looked away. Clearly, he had not been prepared for the grisly truth.
Stepping forward, Harry kneeled beside the body. He reached out and closed Snape's eyes for the last time. He couldn't help but remember the way the man had stared into him as he took his last breath. Harry hoped his mother's eyes had brought Snape some peace.
"I'm sorry I couldn't see who you really were," Harry whispered. "I never realized what you did for me. And I hope wherever you are, you know that I really am grateful. I'll make sure the whole world knows that you were truly Dumbledore's man—a true hero."
Rising to his feet, he glanced towards Draco. The young man was still loitering in the doorway, refusing to look at the body of their previous Potions Master. His face was paler than Harry had ever seen it.
"Are you ready to take him back to Hogwarts?" Harry asked.
Draco shook his head, and he stepped into the room. Harry watched as he kneeled beside Snape and began to speak, "I'm sorry that I didn't trust you. Maybe you would still be alive today if I had. But I know that I owe you a great deal. If Dumbledore hadn't died that night, I would have. I owe you my life. And all I can do is hope your afterlife is more peaceful and rewarding than the one you lived here."
Slowly, Draco got to his feet and nodded at Harry. They had both said their goodbyes. It was time to return Snape to the one place he considered a home—Hogwarts.