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Death's Dominion

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Prologue: And the unicorn evils run them through
24 March 1997

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

Minerva's voice cracked slightly as she continued with the second stanza of the poem she and Dumbledore had chosen for the occasion, but then her voice gained strength as she began reciting the third:

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

When Minerva’s voice died away, the final words barely whispered, audible only because of the Sonorous Charm, Filius Flitwick, eyes filled with tears, raised his wand in a signal to the others. Together, the four Heads of House waved their wands in a well-orchestrated set of spells, creating a tomb over the shrouded body of Hogwarts most beloved Headmaster. With one final swish, Filius set white flames to dance about the tomb. They would remain flickering until the final mourner left.

“He was a fool, Minerva.”

“A fool who loved,” she answered softly. “And you should not speak of him that way.”

“No? He has left the boy to go on alone. He has left you—he has left you,” he continued more quietly at Minerva’s sharp look, “and not only to run the school without him. He would not even take his potions at the end. Not even the standard potions.” His voice seemed to crack. “He wouldn’t allow me to try anything new, nor even to brew for him. He … he might as well have slit his throat and been done with it.”

“Do not say such a thing. And he did it for you, after all,” Minerva answered coldly.

“I never should have said anything to you. He was right … I thought … I thought you should know, but then … Do you know that, after you confronted him about it, he came to me that very night? I was sure he would be angry. I was prepared for that. But he was sad. And I didn’t understand … but he said he would find another solution for me, if it meant so much.” Severus swallowed and narrowed his eyes. “He was a fool, but I was a greater one.”

“This is neither the time nor place, Professor. We will meet later.”

Severus nodded sharply. Whether either of them liked it—and neither of them did, though for wholly different reasons—Minerva was now to be his primary contact within the Order, regardless of who might become its leader. They would meet secretly, and Minerva would decide what, if anything, would be passed on to the rest of the Order, and she would direct his activities as spy. Severus had very strong reservations about the latter, in particular. She was not a tactician, nor was she, in his opinion, temperamentally suited to such a task. She felt things too strongly and allowed her emotions to affect her judgment, despite her controlled exterior. Although Severus could hardly expect that Minerva’s judgment would ever be clouded by her fondness for him … whatever fondness she had had for him, he had destroyed, and had done so knowing full well what he was doing, but willing to make the sacrifice of her friendship, believing he was saving something more important. As with so many of his well-laid plans, however, this one did not have the result for which he had hoped. Oh, one small part of his hopes had been fulfilled, but not at all in a way he had anticipated. He had failed to anticipate how others would react; he had fundamentally misunderstood their emotions and their motivations. And now he suffered for it, as did Minerva and the rest of the wizarding world.

The crowd was dispersing, the mourners having filed one final time past the flaming tomb, comforting one another, stopping to speak with friends—friends of the deceased and of their own. Aberforth had turned and left as soon as the ceremony was concluded, appearing stiff and emotionless. Scrimgeour and other Ministry officials were behaving as though this was their own great personal loss, and Umbridge, most distastefully, held a pink handkerchief to her eyes, dabbing at nonexistent tears. But few did more than glance at Hogwarts Acting Headmistress. Her friends had offered their condolences earlier, and there were no others who might guess that the Transfiguration mistress had suffered a loss greater than that of any other colleague who had worked beside Albus Dumbledore for decades. The new Transfiguration teacher, an old friend of Albus and Minerva’s from Amsterdam, stood a few feet away, looking on. But only Severus stood beside her.

When he saw Scrimgeour headed their way, no doubt to speak with Minerva, not with him, Severus took silent leave of her and began to walk back up to the castle. It was becoming overcast after the bright morning; the world lay now in the shadow of the grey clouds above, and it would likely rain before the day was out.

“You’re probably glad, aren’t you.” Not a question; a statement. From a familiar and extremely annoying voice.

Severus stopped. The person, who was behind him, stopped as well. Severus was not going to turn around to speak to him, so he began to walk again.

“Makes your job easier, doesn’t it? Whatever that might be.” The voice dripped with contempt.

Severus stopped again. “Potter, in honour of the Headmaster’s memory, on this day, at least, I will not argue with you.” He swallowed, a sudden wave of grief overwhelming the coldly burning anger he had felt for the last few days and weeks. “I know you grieve him—”

“What do you know about grief? What have you ever lost? You don’t know—”

Severus turned only slightly and, his voice low, only a mild edge to it, replied, “I would not speak of my losses to you, boy. But neither will I discipline you as I should; you may mourn the years you will not have with him, but do not believe that greater years make this loss any easier to bear for those who loved him longer, nor that others do not mourn more greatly or more deeply than you, though your own grief may be sharp and painful. Look to others, Potter. Not just to yourself.”

“And you loved him? Ha! And ‘look to others,’ that’s a crock coming from you, Snape.”

“I did not say I spoke of myself,” he replied sharply. “It was foolish of me to think for a moment that you might prove . . . less selfish. I will not be such a fool again, Potter. Now leave; go have your adolescent hysterics with your little friends!” Severus strode off, paying no heed to the derisive comments following him, whipped away by the cold March winds.