Harry wasn’t sure that he could go through with it. McGonagall was standing there, waiting for him to follow her into the Headmaster’s office. All he had to do was put one foot in front of the other. Simple, right?
This wasn’t just any meeting. He wasn’t even meeting with McGonagall herself. This would be far, far different. He hadn’t laid eyes on Severus Snape for two years, and even though Harry himself had campaigned to get Snape’s portrait in the office with the rest of the Headmasters, he had never once thought about what he might say should their paths cross.
And that time was there. That day. That moment. Harry could not help but feel the familiar nervousness that he’d felt as a child when he was around Snape. He had never feared the man as Neville had, but he had been immensely aware of the intense dislike that had emanated from the former Potions master.
But did Snape still hate him, even after everything that happened? Did he still resent him because of who his father was? Furthermore, was this all just a monumental waste of time? These questions broiled in Harry’s mind as he woodenly followed McGonagall up the winding staircase.
At the entrance, McGonagall stopped and smiled thinly. “I shall leave you to it, then. If you need me, I will be in Greenhouse Four, reviewing Herbology curriculum with Professor Sprout.”
As Harry nodded and McGonagall’s form disappeared around a bend in the steps, he felt more alone than he had for a while. This was his last chance to back out, but he knew he wouldn’t. Something inside of him reminded him mercilessly that he owed a lot to Snape, and it would behoove him to make sure he didn’t forget it.
Finally, Harry opened the door, hoping that the portrait frame would be empty and that he could just leave without completing this transaction. He knew that he had no such luck; Snape was staring right at him. It was unnerving, and Harry closed his eyes to it.
“Come closer, Potter,” Snape drawled. “Hiding won’t work in this room.”
When Harry opened his eyes, Snape had moved from his own frame to the one right next to Harry, which belonged to someone who Harry didn’t recognise. He started and backed away from his former foe.
“I told you that hiding wouldn’t work.” Snape’s face was incredulous, which made Harry feel like he was eleven again. “Sit down.”
Though there was no earthly way that a mere shadow of a man could make him do so, Harry complied nonetheless. He felt a familiar surge of annoyance when Snape’s lip curled in triumph.
“Still yourself, I see,” Harry said dryly.
“Still the impertinent little whelp with delusions of glory,” Snape retorted. “Some people are just incapable of being better.”
Harry glared at Snape, who had returned to his own frame. “You aren’t even talking about me, are you? You’re still bitter about my dad, and every time you look into my eyes, I can see it.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, don’t I?” Years of venom poured out of Harry. “I was there when you died, remember?”
“Your last action when you were alive were to look into my eyes. You never cared that I was going to die. You knew
that I was going to die. You just hated that your last connection to my mother was going with me. You just wanted to pretend for a little while longer that she ever really cared about you.”
Once the words left his mouth, Harry wanted to take them back. He hadn’t meant to be so cruel, but he couldn’t stop himself. He really did mean the things that he’d said, even if the method of delivery was bad. Snape had spent over a decade trying to keep him safe, and this was the thanks he got.
Snape said nothing in response to Harry’s jibe, as if it had been what he’d expected. That disappointed Harry a little, because he wanted Snape to think that he was a good man, worthy of the protection that had ultimately cost his mother her life. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“Sorry for what, Potter? Sorry for saying what you really think?” Snape rolled his eyes. “So long as I am afforded the same courtesy, I don’t care.”
Harry crossed his arms and leant back in his chair. “Let’s have it, then.”
“You’re arrogant, pretentious, nosy, and dim. Your father was of the same ilk, much to your discredit.”
With a shake of his head, Harry turned away. It was old hat for him, listening to Snape’s bile. However, his counterpart wasn’t done speaking.
“But you walked into your death a man, and your mother would have been proud of you.”
Mouth hanging open, Harry didn’t respond for several seconds. When he did, all he could muster was, “She was.”
Something released inside of Harry, almost like a Patronus, and most definitely like the feeling he got in the Forest when he went to meet Voldemort. All that pent-up bitterness toward Snape was gone, and every traumatic minute that he had spent inside himself after the War left him. It was that memory of his parents, Sirius, and Remus, walking along with him to meet his fate, like nothing else could touch him then.
With a renewed sense of calm, Harry sat and chatted with Snape on a variety of subjects far into the night. There was a newfound respect between the two, and though old spectres truly never really die, they do give way here and there if they’re asked to step aside.