Severus was dying.
He was dying free, a feat he’d never thought he’d manage, but he was most definitely dying. The poison from Voldemort’s cursed snake was pouring through him.
Of all the ways to die—
It was painful. It might have been, he considered, more painful than the Cruciatus curse. It might have been more painful than having the bones in his foot broken. It was — yes, excruciating .
And yet his lips curled into something of a smirk.
Because the Dark Lord thought he must defeat me. I died because a batty old man was wrong. Seems to be the story of my life.
He tried to laugh, but the poison turned it into a convulsion. Of all the horrid places to die, he was finally going to die in the Shrieking Shack. Free .
He hadn’t expected freedom. His only assumption, after the reading of Albus’ will, was that he had been left to someone who wasn’t yet of age — Potter , who might have been an adult but wasn’t yet old enough to hold properties or slaves on his own. It would suit Albus’ awful sense of humor to leave him to Potter.
But whoever it had been, they hadn’t come of age in time. Severus was dying, and there had been nobody to tell him not to. Nobody had controlled his actions for a whole year, a blessed year. He thought — if those tales of an afterlife that judged you on your actions were correct — that he may have done enough good of his own free will to mitigate what ill he had done.
A seizure wracked him, and his smirk became a shaking smile. He was dying. Almost, almost—
Power he didn’t recognize wrapped around him. Severus’ eyes opened wide in shock. Was that —
No, no, blast it, no!
A surge of magic shot across the field of battle. Here and there, the particularly sensitive shuddered or smiled. One or two Dark creatures fell.
Cursing, Severus hauled himself to his feet.
He was no longer dying. He was no longer free.
Someone had come into their inheritance, and that inheritance was him.