Much thanks to my editor, Gwen McCormick, and to my dear friend DUJ. All mistakes are mine. Obviously, I am not JKR and am making nothing from this.
The Course of True Love
Friday, May 1, 1998 – Just before midnight
Severus Snape resisted the urge to pace. His death was imminent. He knew it, and there was no need to fight it, not now when everything was so close to being over. Everything had been perfectly timed.
If only Dumbledore had not waited until moments before the confrontation in the Great Hall to reveal himself! The great fool! Thinking he could handle everything alone!
Albus and Poppy, too, had plenty of time to disclose their secret to him during the past year. The old man should at least have let Minerva know! But they'd both kept quiet. Leaving those three children to –
He broke off at that angry thought and sighed, releasing his tension. There was no help for it now. He needed to contact Potter, get the boy to return to the castle, but he'd been summoned by the Dark Lord. And here he stood waiting for what he knew to be his death.
A tiny movement and slight noise near the tunnel's exit caught his eye. Wheeling around, Severus thought he saw the reflection of light on eyeglasses. "Potter?" he hissed in the darkness. A scuffling noise came to his ears.
No! Not now! The Dark Lord is coming! They cannot meet yet!
A soft pop of apparation sounded behind him, and he froze. Without warning, Lucius Malfoy hit Severus Snape with his own signature version of the Petrificus Totalus causing Severus to slam face first onto the filthy floor of the Shrieking Shack. The hollow thud was followed by a billow of rising of dust that nearly choked them both. In shock, Severus lay there, perfectly still, his eyes wide open, and with Lucius' special twist on the spell, he appeared completely dead.
"The Dark Lord is coming," Lucius hissed as he knelt over Snape, "and he plans to kill you." Malfoy leaned over his friend of many years, rolling him onto his back. "Mastery of the Elder Wand came to you when you killed Dumbledore, and he wants that mastery for himself. He plans to kill you for it."
Lucius whispered urgently, his voice thick with emotion, "Because you saved my son's life, I owe you a life in return. Draco would never have been able to kill Dumbledore." He laughed low and bitterly. "And if Draco had succeeded in killing the old man, our lord-" He spat the word. "-would have killed my boy in an instant for mastery of the wand. That bastard set my boy up from the first!"
Lucius leaned forward. "Instead, I will turn the tables on him! If the Dark Lord kills me instead of you, you'll retain mastery of the wand. I want you to kill him. I don't care how just so long as he is dead and my family safe."
A dark vapor materialized in the room, and suddenly Nagini and the Dark Lord were there. "Lucius, I did not send for you," Severus heard Lord Voldemort stated icily. "Why are you here?"
The tall blond wizard stood quickly, placing himself between Snape and Voldemort, and turned to face the Dark Lord. From the corner of his eyes, Snape could see the back of his friend's robes.
"I was exacting a father's revenge, my lord," Malfoy declared. He twisted slightly and pointed towards the prone Snape with this wand. "You honored Draco with the task of killing Dumbledore, but Snape took it upon himself to step forward. He snatched victory from my son, his own godson!" Lucius, playing the part of the angry parent, announced loudly, "I killed him. He dared interfere with your directives and, by doing so, made my son look weak in the eyes of our comrades."
"You killed Severus?" Voldemort's voice asked.
"I did, my lord," Lucius replied boastfully.
Severus could hear the dry scraping sound of Nagini as she slithered across the dusty floor. The Dark Lord spoke. "Do you know what this is, Lucius? It is the Elder Wand. And do you know who possessed it?"
"No, my lord," his friend answered, feigning ignorance. "I don't see how its previous owner could be relevant, as it is you who owns it now." There was a step and a quiet thump.
The Dark Lord replied, "Dumbledore owned it." Now, came the wet chuckle of the Dark Lord. "Yes, I can see you're surprised by that, and when Severus killed Dumbledore, mastery of the wand transferred to him."
"Well, then, now that Severus is dead, the wand is freely yours."
"Not so, my faithful but foolish follower," Voldemort said. "Now that you have killed Severus, the wand's loyalty has transferred to you." There was another step. "If I wish to claim its loyalty, I must kill you." Again, the Dark Lord laughed softly. "No, Lucius, do not try to escape. Think of the glory I will achieve with the wand's power. If you accept your fate, I will see that you suffer no pain."
"My, my lord," Malfoy began. "Please, if you could only-"
"I am disappointed, Lucius," the Dark Lord stated. "It seems you do not accept this, and so I cannot grant you a painless death. Nagini, kill!"
Severus could only listen to the death of his friend. Through the floorboards, he felt the vibrations each time the snake struck, slamming Lucius back and back yet again. He dared not even breathe loudly as he heard the gurgling rattle of Malfoy as he drowned in his own blood.
"Come, Nagini," Lord Voldemort commanded, "we have worlds to conquer." There was a flicker of darkness, and the sound of both apparating away.
Severus knew the instant that his friend died. It was the moment the Petrificus Totalus broke. Heaving a giant breath, Severus rolled onto his hands and knees and crawled across the floor, his wand, gripped tightly in his fist, clacking against the wood. The knees of his trousers and his teaching robes were saturated with Lucius' blood by the time he knelt over his long-time friend.
"Oh, Lucius," he murmured. Quickly, he removed his Headmaster's robe and tossed it to the side, freeing his arms. He set his wand on the floor beside Lucius, wishing there were something he could do. But he understood the sheer futility of it. Lucius Malfoy was dead.
"Snape!" Harry Potter hissed as he stormed into the room. "I ought to kill you right now!"
Severus Snape rocked back on his heels and twisted to face the Boy-Who-Lived. No, he was no longer a boy. Harry Potter had grown into a man, and his face was that of a hard, determined man. Severus reached for his wand and had barely touched it when he felt a tangle of magical cords wrapping around him.
"Incarerous!" Hermione Granger's wand shot forth shimmering ropes that bound Snape hand and foot. "That will hold him," she said, but still she held her wand trained on him.
"Hold up, Harry," Weasley urged. "Don't kill him just yet. He might have information."
Weasley, too, had grown over the past year. The young man now towered over Potter. His arms showed a wiry strength as he grabbed Potter by his wand arm, holding him back. He stepped in front of Harry and snatched up Snape's wand.
"I do. Dumbledore is alive," Snape told them quickly. "He's waiting for you in the Headmaster's office. He'll explain-"
Harry rushed forward and grabbed the bound man by the front of his frock coat. He thrust his face into Snape's, and Severus could see the bits of premature grey in the young man's stubbled cheeks. Harry shook the older wizard. "How dare you speak his name? You killed Dumbledore. I saw you!"
Severus clenched his teeth. "He is alive," he hissed. "Use the spell quickly before anyone notices magic coming from here. Use the spell and see for yourself." He pulled back his shoulders, shook his hair out of his face, and looked Potter dead in the eyes.
Potter frowned at those last words. He released his hold on the older wizard, and he raised his wand. "Legilimens!"
Severus opened this mind fully to the younger wizard, showing him the scene in the Headmaster's office just before he was forced to confront Minerva McGonagall in the Great Hall.
"Potter has been seen in Hogsmeade," Amycus Carrow told him. "I've called the staff and student body to the Great Hall."
"Thank you," Severus replied coldly. "Dismissed." He cradled his head in his hands. "Oh, not now, Potter," he muttered. "There is still much you do not know."
"It's perfect timing, Severus," the familiar voice of Albus Dumbledore declared.
"Oh, so now you decide to wake up?" he asked sarcastically of Dumbledore's portrait. He swiveled around in his chair only to find the portrait of the former Headmaster still asleep.
"I'm over here, Severus," Dumbledore called out. "Get up, boy, there's much to do!"
Severus Snape wheeled around and bolted upright from his seat. "Is it? Are you?" He trained his wand on the specter before him. "You're dead. I, I killed you."
Dumbledore hurried forward. "It was a ruse, Severus. Poppy and I planned it. You 'killed' a dummy." Slowly, he pushed the younger wizard's wand down.
"But, but how have you been hidden all this time?"
The old man shook his head. "Later," he said, "there's a secret room behind my portrait with a secret password." He thrust a slip of parchment into his hands.
Snape quickly read it. "Yes, I know the quote."
Dumbledore nodded. "You must go get Harry, the others, too, if you can. Get them and bring them here –"
"Minerva, the Order-"
"I haven't time to call them," Dumbledore told him. "Once you've left, I'll have Poppy explain to Minerva and give her the password too.
The scene shifted then as Severus offered the boy more. He gave him the reason Harry needed to believe him.
A much younger version of the man sat on the floor of a nursery. The body of a beautiful woman in his arms, her long, red hair fell limply over his black clad arm. Snape rocked back and forth cradling the dead woman, sobbing aloud. He told her of his love for her, his regret at not telling her sooner, and his bitter remorse at being unable to protect her. In the background, an infant Harry Potter cried.
Silent tears slid down the older man's face as he allowed the boy to sense a part, only a tiny part, of the love he felt for Lily. And, then, like a prison door, Severus slammed his mind shut. "You have Lily's eyes. You have your mother's eyes," he said softly.
The two wizards silently faced one another for what seemed like ages to Ron and Hermione. Slowly, then, Harry lowered his wand. Tears filled the young man's eyes, and he bowed his head with respect to the older wizard. "Thank you, sir," he said softly.
"Harry? Harry?" Ron asked suspiciously. "What is it?"
Harry's eyes never left Snape's. "I think he's telling the truth, Ron," he answered carefully. "I think Dumbledore is alive and waiting for us at Hogwarts."
"Still alive?" Ron cried. "But we all went to his funeral."
Snape wiped at his face with his bound hands, trying to brush away the tears. He turned the full intensity of his gaze on the Boy-Who-Lived. "You should hurry. Time is of the essence, and there is still more vital information that you need. Dumbledore is the only one who can explain."
"Yeah, so you say," Ron growled. "Harry, what he's saying, it could be true, but, Harry, what if he's lying? Look, you and me, we'll go back to Hogwarts through the tunnel. Hermione, you stand guard on Snape. We'll send you a patronus with news."
"Give me his wand," Hermione said. "If he's telling the truth, he'll need it to help us fight."
"Potter," Snape called out, "when you get inside the castle, find Minerva. She should know about Dumbledore by now. The password to the Headmaster's office, the one that will get you into see Dumbledore is two-fold. You are to say, 'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.' Minerva will know the next line."
"Anything else?" Harry asked.
Snape swallowed hard. "Just one thing if you will," he said softly. He jerked his head towards Lucius' body. "Find Draco if you can. Tell him about his father."
"You can tell him yourself," Ron declared. "We'll let you know something as soon as possible, Hermione. C'mon, Harry, let's go." Taking Harry by the arm, he pushed him forward, and together they ran from the room.