A Long Time Coming
Part One: Harry
~o~ Prologue, May 1st 1998, 4:48PM ~o~
Sprawled on top of the duvet of the four-poster bed, Harry Potter slept the sleep of the just, the late afternoon sun highlighting his exhausted features. Except for his trainers, he was fully dressed, though bedraggled. The big toe on his left foot stuck out through a large hole in his mismatched socks. He still held a half-eaten sandwich in the hand resting on his chest. There were two wands lying next to his jeans-clad leg. The sounds of voices and activity drifted in through the open window but did not disturb his peaceful slumber. He was not even dreaming.
Abruptly, he sat up, his oblivion shattered, awakened (aghast) by a sudden mental picture of Snape’s corpse, lying forgotten in a pool of its own blood on the filthy wood floor of the dilapidated Shrieking Shack. Sick to his stomach at that image, he dragged himself out of bed, shoved his feet into his trainers and left the quiet dorms, resolved to retrieve Snape’s body and to bring it to lie next to those of the other fallen heroes, in dignity. He felt the need to do this it alone, out of some weird sense of obligation to his professor and, strangely enough, to his own mother.
He crossed the empty common room and took a circuitous route out of the castle and to the Whomping Willow, not wanting to talk to anyone or have to explain his errand. Using a long stick, he immobilized the flailing branches of the tree, and, his muscles aching from the day’s activity, made his way through the low and narrow tunnel to the Shack.
The body was still where they’d left it. Harry stopped in the doorway, surprised at the crushing sadness that hit him. The slanted afternoon shafts of light coming in through the boarded up window, filled with dancing specks of dust, put the black of Snape’s robes and hair in stark contrast to the awful paleness of his face and the brilliant crimson of his blood.
Harry rushed to Snape’s side. Though still seeping, the ragged wound on Snape’s neck was almost closed. Harry fell to his knees and lifted Snape’s head onto his lap.
“Snape! Professor Snape!” (Why hadn’t they checked for a pulse? They’d just abandoned him to die! Please Merlin, let it not be too late!) “Please Professor! Stay with me! Hold on! Kreacher! Kreacher!”
Snape slowly opened his eyes and stared critically at Harry. “About bloody time, Potter,” was his irritated comment, before he fainted dead away.
~o~ Alive and Sneering, May 3, 1998, 11:00AM ~o~
Harry stared at Snape’s sharp profile, at his stringy black hair, at the slow rise and fall of the grey blanket that covered his thin body. Why he felt compelled to sit here, watching over the unconscious man, he had no idea.
Snape would live. Madam Pomfrey had said so. He had apparently recovered enough after his faint in the Shack (when they thought he had died) to swallow the contents of a collection of small vials that he had prudently been carrying around: an antidote to Nagini’s poison, a tissue regenerator, and a blood-replenishing potion.
There had been more vials, left unused in the hidden pockets of his robes. He had apparently fully expected for Voldemort to attempt to kill him at some point and had prepared himself for a number of possible methods, some fairly gruesome if Madam Pomfrey’s shuddering reaction upon reading the labels on the vials was anything to go by.
Even so, the blood loss from the punctured artery had been much more than he had apparently prepared for. The blood-replenishing potion needed the presence of blood itself in the body to be of use, and there had been so little left and the wound had been so grievous, that it had only kept him on the very threshold of death for hours rather than heal.
Seventeen hours to be exact. Time enough for Harry to view the memories, die in the forest, battle (and defeat) Voldemort, commiserate with his friends and take a well-deserved nap. Harry was still appalled at himself for forgetting about him all that time.
From the Shack, Kreacher had whisked them both to the hospital wing, to the able care of Poppy Pomfrey. That was more than sixteen hours ago and Harry still sat in vigil, despite Pomfrey’s attempt to send him to his dorm and Ron and Hermione’s efforts to drag him away.
The sallow skin, the rattling breaths and the thin lips parted over yellow teeth filled him with revulsion. The hatred in his heart, cultivated over so many years, had not left him. But it was overpowered by so much anger, he was almost choking with it.
From the start, they should have been allies. From the start, Snape could have chosen to see him as Lily’s son, and… foster some kind of bond between them. Instead, he had only seen James Potter’s clone, assigning him all of his father’s worst traits without bothering to get to know him.
So much of the pain, the loneliness, the mistakes of the past seven years could have been avoided had Snape not been such an unforgiving, bitter, and cruel bastard. Even if, to protect himself from Voldemort, Snape had preferred not to befriend him, couldn't he at least have ignored him?
Why was Harry still sitting here? What could he possibly hope to gain from it? Snape would live, yes, yet he would still be the same unforgiving, bitter, and cruel bastard. Nothing would change that. Not Harry’s anger, nor his regrets, not the apologies he intended to make, despite his rage, for his own conduct. It was pointless. The man had nothing to give.
Harry got up. He carefully put the small vial containing Snape’s memories on the night table next to Snape’s beautiful ebony wand, and feeling utterly defeated, left the infirmary.
Snape’s eyes opened. With shaky hands, he dragged both his wand and the vial of memories underneath his pillow, sneered at the door and fell back asleep.