DISCLAIMER: I don't owns 'em. I just steals 'em away in the dead of night and gives 'em back when they're all tired and cute and no more fun to play with without bringing in the dreaded Mary Sue.

Author's Notes: Part of the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest (Second Wave, scenario #138: Someone Snape cares about dies).

Archiving: The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest Archive, and Slugs and Jiggers (if desired). All others ask. Bribes happily accepted.

Huge, huge thanks and much chocolate to Rhys Gwynbones for beta reading this little nugget of pure angst. All hail Rhys!

Ex Iustitia

The epilogue to "In Academia"

By Sushi


Harry stared. The still, humid air around him clung to his skin, the silence broken only by the harsh, shallow rasp of a dozen throats. He tried to take a step forward, but his limbs were frozen, his feet seemingly embedded in the razed, blood-soaked earth of the battlefield. Black-cloaked corpses littered the ground - only one of their number remained standing and silent - but they were of no consequence.

Lord Voldemort was dead.

In the yellow light of dawn his bleached, serpentine face looked almost peaceful. With his eyes closed, the stiff sneer Harry had come to associate with him lost to the final relaxation of death, there was finally something distantly human about him. For the first time (although he wasn't sure why) Harry truly realised that the hated Dark Lord was at one time human. He had lived, he had suffered, he possibly had loved. It made no difference to Harry, or to anyone else gathered, but it was a strange fact that he noted in ironic memory of his vanquished enemy.

He managed a step forward. Mechanically, his right arm rose, wand still clutched in his fist like the source of all life. "Im-"


Harry froze. The solid calm in his chest shattered and made way for a panicked flutter. It felt like butterflies fighting desperately to escape a vacuum before they succumbed to the cold emptiness. The last hooded figure stepped forward. His mask was gone. Long shadows obliterated half of Professor Snape's face; the other half was gilded in the light.

Snape stopped just beside the spindly corpse. Buckles glinted from Voldemort's neck to the hem of his strange robe. Harry had never seen anyone else wear a robe like that. It reminded him of a priest's garb for some reason. Or a mad scientist's. Snape's eyes traced the outline of the Dark Lord, what remained of the Dark Lord. They were cold and dispassionate, and his face was stern. As always, he kept his shoulders stiff and his back aristocratically straight. Slowly, he lifted his wand and whispered, "Immolatio."

Light burst from the body, white and blinding. It swallowed the dawn, and Harry had to shield his eyes lest he be consumed. All around he heard soft, sharp cries of the living. An instant later, the world turned black, and it was several more moments before the sun made its presence known again.

Lord Voldemort was gone. All that remained was a pile of blackened ash. It held the shape of a fallen human, its arms flung wide as if it were embracing someone. Or something. The fact that the fallen was no longer human and hadn't been in a very long time turned the whole display into a mockery.

Professor Snape still stood there. His eyes were fixed on the ashes just starting to be carried off on the morning wind coming to purify the ground and reawaken Hogsmeade from its stupor. Harry's mouth grew hard and thin; Snape had no more reason, perhaps even less, than anyone else to glut the Dark Lord's defeat. He'd lost no more, and far less, than Harry, than Sirius, than the Weasleys minus three sons, than Dumbledore minus his life, than any of those who had died to end the conflict for light or dark. Harry tightened his grip on his wand. Seven years of loathing seemed very distinct in the sunlight breaking free of the horizon. He'd killed that day; there was no reason the last surviving Death Eater shouldn't join his brethren.

He had just started to lift his wand when something shimmered. He shook his head, trying to dissipate the glare on his glasses. It shimmered again, and he realised with empty horror that a single tear was sliding down his hated teacher's cheek. The barest moment later it was followed by another, and another, and yet another. Snape fell to his knees. Clutching desperately at the oily ash, he screamed. It was shearing, sexless, metallic, borne of anguish and purified in the fires of impossible sacrifice. His rigid back tried to bend, couldn't bend, and he drew handfuls of ash to his chest to clutch them like the last fraying threads of his existence.

Gingerly, aware of the stares from all sides and the ceaseless, wracking howls of the man before him, Harry took a step. He realised he'd taken another, and another, and another, until he slipped his wand into his belt and reached down to stroke oddly brittle black hair. There was no reason for him to do this; it was simply a disgusting display by a traitor-twice-turned. For some reason, Harry couldn't quite believe that. "Professor, it's okay now. He's dead."

Reddened black eyes blinked up at him. A strained mouth tried to move, to speak, but only trembled. Tears spilled. Suddenly, Harry found Snape's face pressed tight against his stomach. Desperate hands clutched at his robe, smearing it with Voldemort's ashes. "Tom," Snape choked into Harry's belly. "Mere sanam... mujhe tumse pyar hai..."

Harry stood, frozen, for a moment. The plaintive sobs ripped him from stomach to soul. Torn between compassion and violating shock, he did the only thing he could, and stroked the brittle hair, stroked the hard, irregular lumps of skin he found through the fabric of a robe. Muscle twitched beneath them, like it wanted to crawl away in pain but couldn't find the strength. The sunlight swallowed them whole and wholly, immolated the world until nothing remained but Harry and Voldemort and the man he'd once known as Severus Snape. Harry wasn't quite sure what Snape was anymore, or who. Some small part of him wondered exactly whom he'd destroyed in the name of justice.


Hindi As Far As I Can Tell:

Mere sanam: my beloved
Mujhe tumse pyar hai: I love you

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