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The Most Powerful Magic

Chapter Text

The first thing he became aware of was an odd, cottony feeling in his head. It wasn’t pain exactly; it was more like a strange inability of his mind to turn, an inability to process what was going on around him. This was compounded by the corresponding weakness in his body; everything felt heavy, from his arms to his eyelids, which had to explain his apparent inability to even open his eyes. He couldn’t help a groan from escaping his lips, but it came out a gravelly almost inhuman sound that he could barely recognize as coming from his own throat.

“Scorpius! Scorpius, he’s waking up!” he dimly heard, but the words didn’t seem to make sense to him. “Get a Healer!”

There was rustling in the room followed by hurried footsteps as Severus tried to process what was going on. Healer. That was a familiar word. He felt like he should know it, should understand the connotations. It took a few long moments muddling through his cottony brain before he seemed to grasp onto something. Healer…he was in the hospital, somewhere. St. Mungo’s? The Hogwarts Infirmary? Memories filtered in slowly as his mind supplied the words, and finally, finally he was able to pry his eyes open.

All at once, his eyes were assaulted by a bright light, and he snapped them shut immediately, feeling as though the brightness was burning his eyes. “Oh Merlin, I’m an idiot,” a voice murmured, seemingly not to him. Which was good, Severus thought, because for the life of him, he couldn't identify the voice. There were more footsteps then the sound of something, metal sliding along metal. Footsteps again.

“Sorry, sir, you can try opening your eyes again,” the voice offered, deferential and a little uncertain. Severus was almost tempted to refuse just on principle; he still had no idea where he was or who was speaking to him. But there would be no way to remedy that save to open his eyes as directed, so after a long moment, he did.

The room was dimmer, the curtains closed and only one small light on, giving off a soft orangey glow. And Severus found himself looking into a pair of frighteningly familiar green eyes. But the thin, almost effeminate face was all wrong, nothing like either face in which he’d seen those eyes before. But still it was unmistakable; he was looking into the face of a Potter.

Severus closed his eyes and groaned again. He must be in Hell. There was no other explanation.

“Sir?” the voice asked again, soft and uncertain. Severus had no time to respond before there was a bustling sound at the door and another voice—also unfamiliar but definitely female this time.

“Mr. Malfoy, if you are playing a prank, then I swear your father will hear about it,” the voice chastised, and Severus felt his eyes snap open before he even considered what he was doing. He found himself staring at an unfamiliar brown-haired Healer in a familiar lime green robe and a small, pointy-faced youth with blond hair and grey eyes. Severus felt for a moment as though he had been transported back in time and was looking into the face of young Draco Malfoy.

What he was able to gather was that he was in a hospital—St. Mungo’s?—with a young Potter and young Malfoy. This clearly wasn’t Hell; this was somewhere infinitely more perplexing.

The Healer, still entirely unrecognizable to him, surveyed him was a distinct look of surprise. “Well isn’t this a surprise!” she said, striding across the room to stand beside Severus’ bed, on the opposite side from the young Potter. “It’s nice to see you awake, Mr. Snape.”

The words sounded strange to Severus, and it took him a long moment to realize why. He’d been called many things over the years—Professor, he remembered distinctly, and Headmaster, he remembered with a pit of guilt in his chest—but it had been many, many years since anyone had referred to him as Mr. Snape.

Severus stared at her warily as she took out her wand, but she simply cast a diagnostic spell that Severus recognized easily. “Remarkable,” she murmured to herself as she studied the results. “Simply remarkable.”

Severus opened his mouth to ask her what, precisely, was remarkable, but he couldn’t find his voice. What came out instead was another gravelly croaking noise, and the young Potter began flapping about agitatedly. “Water!” he exclaimed breathlessly. “He needs water.”

The Healer looked at the young Potter indulgently and waved her wand, and a pitcher of ice water and an empty glass floated rather merrily in the room, settling on the table next to him. She waved her wand and murmured another incantation and the bed shifted so Severus was in a partially sitting position.

Severus watched the young Potter—definitely a Potter, there was no doubt about that. He, unmistakably, had Lily’s eyes and James’ jet black hair. Unlike James and Harry, though, he kept his hair long, just past shoulder-length, tied back at the base of his neck. The young man carefully poured a glass of water—of course, he would be legally unable to use magic outside of Hogwarts—and settled on the edge of the bed, offering the glass to Severus.

That was when Severus discovered the next rather alarming fact. The fact that, no matter how much he tried to tell his arms to move, he couldn’t get a response out of them. He tried to move anything—his arms, his legs, even his fingers—and his body refused to respond in the slightest. He tried to fight a moment of panic, but the Potter boy—apparently more perceptive than either clueless James or Harry had been—seemed to notice his distress immediately.

“You’re having trouble moving—that’s okay,” he said, and Severus resented the way he spoke as if trying to soothe a frightened animal. He was not an animal, and he wasn’t frightened. Much. “You’ve been immobile for a long time, and muscle-strengthening potions can only do so much. Here, drink.”

He held the glass to Severus’ lips, tilting it softly—and as much as his pride objected to it, Severus had no choice but to drink the water in slow sips, the Potter boy not allowing him much more than that as he tilted the glass slowly. It seemed to take an interminably long time, but Severus slowly managed to down the water, the cool liquid soothing to his aching throat.

When he’d finally finished, the boy took the glass away and placed it back on the bedside table, regarding him eagerly. Severus cleared his throat while three expectant faces looked on. “What—?” he croaked out, the voice coming from his throat sounding nothing like him. He cleared his throat once more and tried again. “What happened?”

The young Potter and Malfoy exchanged a meaningful glance before the young Potter spoke. “What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked carefully, with a sense of regard well beyond his years. The boy couldn’t have been more than twelve, thirteen at most.

Severus searched his memories, trying to make sense of everything. There was Hogwarts, his year as Headmaster, the Carrows, and—

It all came back to him then, the attack, his desperate attempts to find Harry Potter and impart Dumbledore’s final message about the Horcrux inside Harry—then Nagini, the pain and the blood…

“Potter—!” he forced out, the word sounding thick in his throat—and the two boys exchanged another glance, the Healer seeming to take a back seat while they spoke with him. The dark-haired boy bit his lip thoughtfully.

“You must be talking about my father, Harry?” he ventured slowly—and that at least answered one question about who this Potter boy was. But if enough time had passed for Harry Potter to have a teenage, or nearly teenage, son…he refused to think of the consequences of that, not yet. “He’s alive, he’s fine. You gave him your memories during the Battle of Hogwarts…do you remember that?”

Severus did, during the desperate moments as he lay dying. He remembered using his last reserves of magic to force his body to expel the memories, a last-ditch effort to get Potter to see what needed to be done. He took a deep breath.

“The…Dark L—” he forced out.

“Is dead,” the Malfoy boy said definitively. “As are most of the Death Eaters, if they’re not in Azkaban.”

Severus regarded the Malfoy boy for a moment. If the dark-haired boy was Harry Potter’s son, then logic told him that this tiny carbon-copy of Draco must be Draco’s son. But Draco had the Mark. Draco was a Death Eater.

“Dra…co?” he managed softly, and the pointy face took on a pinched look before he seemed to understand.

“Oh! My father, Draco, he’s alive. He’s not in Azkaban. Al’s father got him pardoned,” he said softly, quirking his head in the direction of the Potter boy. It took Severus precious long seconds to decode that. Harry Potter had gotten Draco Malfoy pardoned for any crimes he had committed during the war. He looked at the Malfoy boy imploringly, and the Malfoy boy looked startled, glancing helplessly at the Potter boy—Al.

“Scorpius, he probably wants to know about your grandparents too,” Al intoned with a roll of his eyes. The Malfoy boy—Scorpius, really, Draco?—looked a little sheepish.

“Oh! Grandfather, he…went to Azkaban,” he breathed with a flush coloring his delicate, pale skin. “Then he…died, a few years ago. Grandmother is fine. She lives in France with her new husband.”

Severus closed his eyes slowly. Lucius was dead. He didn’t know how he felt about that—whether he was saddened or relieved was something his brain wasn’t quite ready to ponder. But Narcissa and Draco were both alive and seemingly well, and Severus had no problem deciding he was relieved about that.

The seemingly definitive death of the Dark Lord was also a source of relief, but not something he’d feel at ease about until he spoke to Potter—Harry Potter—himself. He wasn’t sure who else knew about the Horcruxes, and unless he knew for sure they’d all been destroyed, he knew the Dark Lord could still come back. Slowly he forced his eyes open again.

“How long?” he managed, his voice still raspy but gaining strength as he used it. He’d gotten the impression that it had been a long time since he’d last spoke. Years, certainly. Long enough for both of his former students to have Hogwarts-aged children. That was unsettling.

The two boys—Al and Scorpius, his mind supplied—exchanged another look, seeming to communicate silently before Al turned to him with an apprehensive look. “It’s 2019,” he remarked slowly, and Severus closed his eyes again, trying to take that in. Twenty-one years since he’d last opened his eyes. He’d expected death, been prepared for it, but he’d hoped that he’d be able to help take the Dark Lord down with him. What he hadn’t been prepared for was to lose another two decades of his life to the Dark Lord, to this war. To his youthful indiscretions.

Dimly, he heard Al’s voice again, but it didn’t seem to be speaking to him. “Can you call our fathers?” he intoned softly. “There are some questions only they’ll be able to answer, and they’ll want to know that he’s awake.”

There was some more murmuring and the sound of footsteps exiting the room. When Severus next opened his eyes, he was staring again into the green eyes of the young Potter boy, but he was otherwise alone in the room. Al looked as uncomfortable as Severus felt.

“Do you want some more water?” Al finally asked in a shaky tone, and Severus managed a nod. He watched, feeling somewhat detached from the whole situation, as Al poured another glass of water and hesitantly held it to his lips, helping him drink it. He finished about half before Al seemed to sense that he was finished and set the cool water aside.

“I know this is a huge shock,” Al said slowly, gnawing his lower lip nervously. “I…I can tell you what happened to you, if you think you’re ready to know?”

Severus sighed softly and nodded; what else did he have to do, after all? His limbs remained stubbornly unresponsive and he could barely get a few words out of his unused throat. The throat that hadn’t spoken a single word in over twenty years.

“Well…most of this happened before I was born, but I’ve heard the stories,” Al began softly. “You remember the snake?”

Severus closed his eyes softly as the memory assaulted him. Nagini lunging, the pain in his throat as blood began seeping out. He had been taking anti-venin for months, had blood replenishers and more anti-venin in his robes, had been prepared for this kind of attack from the Dark Lord. But when the time had come, imparting a message to Potter had been more vital than trying to save his own life. After all, if Potter failed, then Severus’ life was forfeit, anyway. Then there was only blackness.

Slowly, Severus managed to nod.

“Well my father and Aunt Hermione found potions in your robes—anti-venin and blood replenishing potions—and they managed to give them to you. They did what they could for your wound, but they couldn’t close it,” Al recited the words as if they’d been told to him frequently—and maybe they had. Severus had no idea what children of the next generation were told about the war—especially not what Harry Potter’s son had been told.

“After my father killed Vo—” Severus flinched, and Al stopped immediately. “You-Know-Who,” he amended after a moment, and yes, this new generation Potter was certainly more perceptive than the last two had been. “After he killed You-Know-Who, they went back for you. Draco and Uncle Neville went and harvested venom from Nagini to make a more powerful anti-venin for you, but you’d lost so much blood that the Healers weren’t able to do much. Even though the Healers here had figured out how to combat the snake’s venom when he’d attacked Granpa—Arthur Weasley, I mean—it didn’t seem to work on you because your body was so weak.

“Your blood wasn't clotting and all they could do for years was give you more and more Blood-Replenishing Potion. The Healers thought they should just let you go, but my dad refused to let it happen. Threatened to arrest any Healer who even thought about stopping your treatment. After about seven years, you finally started getting better. They’re not sure why—the Healers tried dozens of experimental treatments on you, so it could have been the result of any of them, or maybe all of them…or that’s what they say anyway.

“They managed to clear all the venom from your system and get your blood to clot, and your wound finally healed, but you never woke up. They were afraid that all the blood loss might have damaged your brain, and that you’d never wake up. They tried lots of treatments, but nothing worked.”

Severus sat silently, considering the story. It tumbled around in his brain as he tried to make sense of the details. Harry Potter threatening people for him. Draco and Longbottom working together to try to save him. A lot of things didn’t add up, but then Severus was missing over twenty years worth of events. Events that led to him waking up to two young—and seemingly friendly—sons of boys who had hated each other when he’d last been awake and aware.

It seemed he had a lot to catch up on.

“You are quite…” Severus coughed slightly at the effort of speaking. “Knowledgeable…on the subject.” Severus eyed the boy carefully. He was small, like Potter—Harry—had been when he was that age. Severus would guess twelve, but perhaps he was older than that. His father had still looked twelve when he was in fourth year.

Al looked sheepish, examining his hands that were twined in his lap as he sat in a chair beside Severus’ bed. “I suppose, yeah,” he admitted softly. “I’ve spent a lot of time here. Dad still swears my first words were, ‘St. Mungo’s.’”

Anything further that he said was cut off by young Scorpius walking back into the room. He hesitated at the door, as if unsure of his welcome.

“They fire-called both of our fathers,” he said slowly, shuffling uncertainly in the doorway. “Yours will be here in a few minutes. Mine’s stuck at work for awhile longer. Your mother is coming to pick us up and bring us home—to the Manor.”

At the words, Severus got his first glimpse of Al’s resemblance to his father in his irrational temper.

“They’re making us leave?” he demanded angrily, and Scorpius’ eyes widened, taking a seemingly unconscious step away from the other boy. “Just because we’re kids doesn’t mean—“

“Al,” Scorpius implored.

“—we need to be protected from everything. And we were the ones who were here every day—every day—“

“Al!” Scorpius yelled again, and Severus’ eyes trailed back and forth between the two boys, wondering again if maybe he wasn’t in Hell. Losing twenty years of his life and then waking to a room of petulant teenagers might be Hell after all.

What?” he hissed angrily. Scorpius recoiled almost imperceptibly.

“Our parents said we can come back tomorrow,” he intoned softly, and Al deflated perceptibly. “You might have read every book ever written about the war—and about Professor Snape—but our parents were there. It’s different.”

Al sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his familiar green eyes with a sigh. Severus watched the exchange in silence, wondering at this new world he’d woken into. Twenty-one years and a new Potter and Malfoy on his hands.

He was saved from having to reply by a sweep of Auror robes into the room, and Severus Snape found himself looking into the eyes of Harry Potter for the first time in over twenty years.

Time had changed him, but some things had stayed the same—he had a few threads of grey in his hair, a rather visible scar over his right cheekbone. He still wore the same round glasses and his black hair still stuck out at odd angles, much unlike the way his son’s long hair was carefully tied back. He wasn’t as skinny as he’d been as a boy, and he’d clearly grown a few inches, though he still wasn’t tall by any means. He still managed to tower over Scorpius Malfoy, who remained uncertainly in the doorway.

Potter—Harry, Severus settled on saying in his mind, because there was more than one Potter in the room—stared at Severus blankly, as if he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. He wondered what Harry was thinking, because for once, nothing of his emotions showed in his eyes. Maybe he’d learned a thing or two about schooling his expression in the intervening years. Severus did the math; Harry must be thirty-eight or thirty-nine—had he had his birthday yet?—around the same age Severus himself had been the last time he was conscious.

Severus closed his eyes at that thought, surprised by the unexpected pain that hit him. That meant he, himself, must be nearing sixty. He’d been unconscious through all of his forties and most of his fifties.

“Hi Mr. Potter,” Scorpius said softly as Harry came to settle beside him. Severus opened his eyes; Harry looked frazzled and disheveled, as if he’d rushed straight from the Auror office when he’d heard the news. Maybe he had. Harry settled a hand on Scorpius’ shoulder—familiar, as if it was something he’d done often—but still didn’t say anything, just continuing to stare at Severus until Severus felt uncomfortable.

“Twenty-one years and you…still haven’t learned any manners, Potter?” Severus managed, proud at how even his voice sounded, if still gravelly.

And then Potter did the last thing Severus would have expected. He laughed. And it wasn’t just any laugh; it was a full-bodied, all-consuming laugh that seemed to go on forever, until Harry was holding onto the doorframe to keep himself from falling over, tears of mirth gathering in the corners of his eyes. Scorpius and Al exchanged yet another look.

“I think he’s finally cracked,” Scorpius said with widened eyes, taking a few steps away from Harry. That just made the man laugh harder.

After an indeterminate amount of time, Harry seemed to gain control of himself.

“I could kiss you right now,” he said breathily, and Severus’ eyes must have widened at the proclamation, because Harry laughed again. “Oh no! I won’t; I promise. I’m just…I’m glad to see you’re awake. And that you’re still…you. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear you insult me.”

Severus thought he managed to raise an eyebrow, although with the lack of control he seemed to have over his muscles at the moment, he wasn’t sure. “I could do it again…if it…means so much to you,” Severus breathed out, and that just set off a new round of giggles. Al looked over at Severus, seeming positively mortified.

“I’m sorry,” he said immediately. “My dad actually hasn’t gone crazy. At least…I don’t think so.”

Harry was finally getting himself under control again when someone else appeared at the doorway, someone red-haired and heavily pregnant. Severus’ brain took a moment to identify this adult version of her. The youngest Weasley. Ginevra. She took one look at Harry and rolled her eyes before her gaze traveled over and met Severus’. Severus wasn’t sure what he expected to see in them, but it certainly wasn’t the caring light in them, accompanied by a soft smile.

“It’s good to see you awake, sir,” she said softly, and Severus was surprised at the words. He remembered the last time he had seen her—at Hogwarts, when he’d been making his best attempt to appear to be terrorizing the children while at the same time trying to protect them from the more sadistic Carrows. He wasn’t sure if he would be happy to see himself, if he were in her position.

“Ms. Weasley,” he managed softly. “Or…is it Potter, now?”

Severus didn’t quite understand her sadistic smirk until she spoke a few seconds later.

“It’s Malfoy, actually,” she said with a grin, seeming to delight in his doubtlessly shocked expression as she waved her hands at the two boys in the room. “Come on boys, let’s let these two speak in private.”

Mom,” Al whined at the same time that Scorpius said, “Ginny.”

Ginevra shook her finger at them in a maternal gesture Severus had seen Molly use on the twins when the Order had been meeting at Grimmauld Place. Severus frowned, feeling more confused than ever about what was going on.

“No arguments. You can come back tomorrow. Now come along,” she said, and the two boys made their way to the door, grumbling under their breaths. Harry placed a gentle peck on Ginny’s cheek.

“Thanks, Gin,” he murmured, and Ginny just smiled before waddling out of the room with the two boys in tow, one hand on her heavily distended stomach. Harry seemed to have calmed in the amount of time it took to get the boys out of the room; he was no longer fighting laugher as he came and sat beside the bed, his expression serious.

“I’m sure you have questions…or…are you too tired? We can do this another time,” Harry offered after a moment, suddenly uncertain. Severus just frowned.

“I think I’ve slept enough,” he grumbled, unsurprised at how disgruntled he sounded, even to himself. At least he finally seemed to have gotten control over his voice, though it still hadn’t lost the rough quality it had.

Harry ran a hand through his disheveled hair, messing it up even further. “Yeah…yeah, you’re probably right,” he conceded. “You can ask me anything you want—I’ll answer as best as I can. Draco can probably fill in any of the gaps that I can’t.”

Yes, Severus had questions, so many of them that he wasn’t even sure where to start. He decided to start with the most pertinent concerns.

“Horcruxes?” he murmured.

The younger man’s nervousness seemed to recede a little at the businesslike tone.

“All destroyed,” he said seriously. “Including the one in me. It’s a long story, but I don’t think you need to be bored with all the details just yet. He’s dead, and all the Horcruxes were destroyed. In no small part thanks to you.”

Severus coughed spasmodically a few times as he tried to speak again. Harry watched him uncertainly, as if poised to take action, but when he recovered a few moments later, Harry just waved his wand, lifting the glass of water that his son had discarded and holding it to Severus’ lips. Severus found himself glad of the use of magic; it made the gesture feel much less like charity, somehow, to not see the other man’s hand holding the cup. After he’d managed to drink the rest of the liquid, the cup levitated itself back to the table.

“Are you here to whisk me off to Azkaban, then?” he intoned, voice raspy. Harry seemed startled by the suggestion.

“What?” he demanded. “No! Why would you even—?” Harry stopped himself after a moment and stood up, shaking his head to himself. “Of course, they’d fill you in about the fact that you’ve been in a coma for twenty years but not give you any useful information.”

Still shaking his head, Harry crossed the room and picked up a box, carrying it over to Severus. He opened it carefully, almost with reverence, and held it up so Severus could read it.

Order of Merlin, First Class, read the medal inside. Beneath that was inscribed, Severus Tobias Snape.

Severus stared at the medal, blinked, and then blinked again, as if he expected the thing to disappear right before his eyes. He looked up at Harry questioningly, unable to form any words.

“You were exonerated of all charges, Snape,” he said seriously. “You’re a hero. There’s a statue of you in the Ministry atrium. You are in no danger of going to Azkaban. Trust me.”

There was a sudden thick feeling in his chest; Severus wasn’t sure what to do with it. He almost wondered for a second if he might cry, or perhaps keel over from shock. He hadn’t expected to survive the war, and if he had, he’d expected to be punished for his crimes. He didn’t expect the wizarding world to be able to accept the complexities of his double-agent role, expected to have to disappear or be taken straight to Azkaban. He didn’t expect an Order of Merlin—First Class, no less. And he certainly hadn’t expected a statue.

He almost wanted to tell Potter—Harry—to leave him in peace, but he’d missed twenty-one years of the wizarding world. He was hungry for any knowledge he could get, even if it was from Harry Potter. But he turned the conversation to a more neutral topic; he wasn’t sure if he could take any more revelations like that without an embarrassing emotional display, and in front of Potter, that would be even more horrible.

“Al,” he said after a moment, latching onto the first thing he could think of. Potter’s son seemed like a safe enough topic. “He’s an…interesting boy.”

Harry flushed, leaving the Order of Merlin sitting in Severus’ lap as he sat back in the chair, as if leaving it for the other man to look at.

“He didn’t bother you, did he?” he inquired sheepishly. “He kind of…idolizes you. My fault, I’m afraid.”

Severus stared at the other man blankly. “Your son. Idolizes. Me,” he remarked, managing to make it sound like three distinct sentences. Harry just shrugged.

“It’s a strange new world you’ve woken up to, Snape,” he supplied helplessly. “You have a lot to catch up on.”

He did indeed, he realized as he looked up into the older face of Harry Potter. Into a world where he didn’t immediately feel the need to sling an insult at the boy—no, a man now, his mind supplied. But Potter was clearly making his best attempt not to antagonize him, and Severus found himself lacking the energy to be angry or insulted. Not when he was so busy being confused.

They fell silent for a long few minutes, but where Harry would have tried to fill the silence with inane chatter when he’d been in school—and Severus remembered his inability to be still, be quiet, to focus from their Occlumency lessons—Harry didn’t speak, didn’t even fidget. Clearly time had changed the man. Severus released a sigh.

“Al…short for Albus, I presume?” he ventured after a moment, surprised to find himself genuinely curious. Harry had the grace to look sheepish.

“Guess I’m pretty predictable, huh?”

Severus let out a soft sound, almost a snort. “Perhaps not. I would have thought you’d name your son James. Or perhaps Sirius.”

Harry laughed again at that, and Severus was afraid he’d be subjected to another unending bout of giggles. This one, however, ended after a few brief seconds. “My first son is James Sirius,” he admitted, although he looked more amused than embarrassed this time. “And before you ask, yes I have a daughter, and yes she’s named precisely what you’d think.”

That raised a strange emotion in Severus’ chest—the thought that there was another Lily Potter out there, granddaughter of his closest childhood friend. He wondered idly if she looked like Lily, if she had Lily’s eyes. And if her mother was Ginevra Weasley—or was Ginevra Scorpius’ mother?—did young Lily Potter have red hair like her grandmother, too? 

Harry seemed startled after a moment, as if realizing what he’d just said. “Oh, I probably shouldn’t have said that,” he murmured suddenly. “You probably don’t want to talk…about her. I…”

“It’s fine, Potter,” Severus said, cutting off the younger man’s self-deprecating awkwardness. “Your mother has been dead for nearly forty years.”

Harry bit his lip awkwardly, and Severus managed to note that it was the same way young Albus Potter had done, a mannerism Albus had clearly picked up from his father.

“It wouldn’t feel like forty years for you, when you’ve missed the last twenty,” Harry murmured, and Severus closed his eyes against those words, against the welling of feelings that flowed up into his chest. The realization of all the years that he’d missed, the memory of Lily and his responsibility for her death. He wasn’t sure if Harry understood the significance of his children’s names to Severus—James, Albus, and Lily. Three people for whose deaths Severus had been directly responsible.

“I’m fairly tired, Potter. Perhaps you could come back later,” Severus managed with his eyes still closed.

“Okay,” Harry breathed, and Severus felt him taking the box carrying the Order of Merlin off of his lap, heard him set it down somewhere. Footsteps moved across the room, but then they paused. Severus found himself holding his breath, waiting to see what would happen.

“For what it’s worth,” Harry began after a moment, “I’m glad you’re finally awake. I know your life has been…not great up until now, and I know that you’ve done things that you aren’t proud of. But you are a hero, Snape, whether you believe it or not. We’d probably all be dead or being terrorized by Voldemort if it hadn’t been for you. You’ve more than redeemed yourself. I’d like to think that my mum would be proud if she could see you today.”

With that, the sound of footsteps resumed and Harry was gone, leaving Severus alone in his room.