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Harry could not remember a time when he was happier, even the image from the Mirror of Erised seemed to be second to his feelings now. He was surrounded by people who loved him, truly loved him, not for being “the boy who lived” or “the chosen one”, but just for being Harry. After a hurried meal he received a note from Professor McGonagall asking him to meet her in the Headmaster’s study, immediately. He was not sure why she had called him there, as she had been the first to agree to abandon caution and fight when he entered the castle to search for the last horcrux. He excused himself, and after assuring Ginny he would be fine, went to the gargoyle.
“Password?” asked the gargoyle, and having been repaired, and Professor McGonagall assuming the role of interim Headmistress, it now was able to block the path. Harry hurriedly re-read the note, and when he reached the end he noticed that the final word was written differently.
“Tabby” Harry replied, and the gargoyle leapt aside to allow him to pass. Pausing only to knock, he entered the office to find Professor McGonagall in a heated argument with Professor Dumbledore’s portrait. Seeing Harry enter, his old Headmaster simply smiled.
“Harry, thank you for joining us. Minerva is attempting to remove the portrait of Severus, but I have persuaded him to refuse until she speaks to you.” Professor Dumbledore said, peering over his half-moon spectacles as he had so often done in life.
“I’m not sure I understand Professor, you can’t move the portrait?” Harry asked, but as Professor McGonagall was about to speak, Harry saw the familiar smirk and raised eyebrow on Professor Snape’s face in his portrait.
“Potter, I am rather surprised that Miss Granger has not educated you on ever minor fact about this castle, seeing as she can practically quote every book she has ever read.” Harry heard Snape’s normal derisive tone and were it not for what he had seen in the pensieve, he would have left right then, but he simply waited for Snape to continue. “You see, Potter, while the portraits of past Headmasters and Headmistresses are honor bound to serve the current Headmaster or Headmistress, their portraits can only be removed if they consent to it. Albus consented to have his portrait moved when I was brought here after my death. I would prefer that I not be afforded this place of honor, but Albus has seen fit to let you present some evidence, and I will not stop you from saying anything you wish to say in this.” And with that, both portraits fell silent, allowing Professor McGonagall to speak.
“Well, Potter, what say you about this?” Professor McGonagall asked, seeming to want Harry to simply agree with her, but after a few moments thought, he looked to Professor Dumbledore.
“Professor, I did not replace your pensieve last night after I used it. Is it where I found it, or has it been moved?” Harry asked, and after being told it was back in the cabinet, he retrieved it. As he poured Snape’s memories into the bowl, he looked to Professor McGonagall. “Until last night I would have agreed with you in a heart beat, Professor, but I cannot now. Professor Snape deserves the same respect and thanks that any other Headmaster or Headmistress now receives. Please, just view these memories, and if you still wish to remove his portrait, I am sure he and Professor Dumbledore will respect that choice, and I know I will.”
To say that Professor McGonagall was shocked would be an understatement, but she simply entered the pensieve to view the memories, leaving Harry alone with his two mentors.
“Professor Dumbledore, I would like a moment alone with Professor Snape, could you help me?” Harry asked, smiling at his old mentor.
“Certainly, dear boy, certainly.” As Professor Dumbledore looked up, he spoke to the other portraits in the room. “Mr. Potter needs some time in confidence with Severus, I suggest we all go to the Great Hall to congratulate those still here, and share their grief for the fallen.” With that, every other person walked out of their portrait, but not before surveying the young boy now standing behind the desk.
Phineus Nigelus Black spoke before leaving, “Potter, please do one favor for me, and ask Miss Granger to never defile any portrait again, especially mine. I still have a headache from bumping around in that blasted blindfold!” and he then left his frame.
“Professor, I am sorry for the way you have been treated. Until last night I did not know just how firmly in our camp you were. I have mistrusted you, and even accused you of crimes you did not commit, can you forgive me?” Harry seemed to be begging for some sort of sign that Snape would forgive, or at least think about it. How could the boy that was his sole torment for six years have turned around so quickly?
“I see that your year away from school has matured you, Potter, no small feat in deed, but you need not seek my forgiveness.” began Professor Snape, “I chose my path long ago, mere days after your parents were murdered. While I did not put my hands to them, nor did I tell the Dark Lord.”
“Please, sir, the only way we will be able to truly move past this war, and Voldemort’s crimes, will be to no longer grant him any title he chose. If you cannot call him Voldemort, can you at least call him Riddle?” Harry interrupted.
“Very well then, I did not tell Riddle where they were, but had I not told him of Trelawney’s prophecy, he would never have chosen as he did. I am the reason your parents are dead. It is I who should be seeking your forgiveness.” He stopped there, as Professor McGonagall had just come back from the pensieve.
“ called you...” spluttered Professor McGonagall, but Snape cut her off.
“There is no need to apologize Minerva, as I have told Potter, I chose my path long ago. I was able to turn from it, but even when I realized who Riddle was, and what he planned, I could not completely leave that world. Albus offered me a chance not only to live, but to aid in the fight. I took it, in the full knowledge that I might one day be seen as a traitor, but knowing what the end product would be. Do you still wish my removal from this office?” He surveyed her with the eyes of a man much older than himself, but he did not say anything else.
“No, Severus, I would be honored to have your company as long as this office is mine, as will the next Headmaster. Potter, thank you for what you have shown me. Now, we must simply convince the rest of the world of Severus’ redemption, although you and I making the case will, I believe, add more than enough weight to the argument.” she trailed off, still trying to apologize to Snape, as Harry slipped out of the office and back to the Great Hall.
“Harry, what’s going on?” Ginny asked, but he simply took her hand and led her out into the grounds.
“Ginny, I need to tell you something, something you aren’t going to like, but you need to know about last night.” he began, and seeing the fear and pain in her eyes brought tears to his. “Last night, after I watched Riddle order the snake to kill Professor Snape, he gave me some of his memories. I saw him as a boy before Hogwart’s, in his first year, and many other memories.”
“What did you see, Harry?” Ginny was looking him directly in the eyes, he sighed and then, taking a deep breath, continued.
“Ginny, I was a horcrux. I don’t want to go into details, but when Riddle told you all I was dead, he thought I was. I went to the woods and faced him, I didn’t even raise my wand, and he used the killing curse. Both of us were just knocked out, because of the horcrux part of me, and because he used my blood to come back, so as long as he lived, so did I, but I didn’t know that part. After that, when Neville killed the snake, well, you know what happened then. On my way into the forest, I passed you with the young girl, and for a minute, I thought you knew I was there. I couldn’t let it go on, I had to stop it, even if it meant dying.” Harry stopped, he couldn’t seem to speak any more, and Ginny just stared at him for a moment.
“YOU - COULD - HAVE - REALLY - DIED - YOU - INSENSITIVE - GIT! WHY - WOULD - YOU - DO - THAT?” Ginny punctuated every word with a slap to his arms, and after she stopped talking and slapping him, she collapsed in his arms. He led her to the shore of the lake, and they sat down together.
“Ginny, I couldn’t let anyone else get hurt, or die, knowing I could stop it. All this time, I thought I just had to fight him and win, but when I found out I could just end it quick, I did. I didn’t want to die, but because I had accepted it, and did not fight it, I was spared. I’m sorry Gin, but I had to.” Her sobs were stronger now, but she looked up at him through her tears.
“Harry James Potter, if you ever do anything that stupid again, I will make sure you live, just so I can kill you!” she said with a smile. Finally seeing that he made his point, he leaned in and kissed her. Holding her in his arms, kissing her as he never had before, he felt nothing could ever be more perfect than that moment.
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