His life, it seemed, was pre-determined to be abnormal to the extreme. He was standing in the headmaster’s office, staring forlornly at the cracked time-turner he had been forbidden from using, when a part of the ceiling caved in. Reflexes polished from the barely day-old battle kicked in, and he found himself braced against the fireplace to escape the debris.
The time-turner’s chain though, had caught on a splinter from the mantelpiece and ripped out of his clutch. With a feeling of despair he watched as the tiny hourglass swung in a slow arc, only to be violently smashed back towards the fireplace as a stone clipped it on the side.
Despair turned to horror as the glass shattered and showered him in an amount of sand that should have been impossible for the tiny glass container to contain. Dark green flames sprung up then, and swept him away in the familiar sensation of flooing.
It was a decidedly awkward moment when he landed back in the Headmaster’s office. There was Snape – a much younger Snape, but unmistakably Snape – on his knees, robes torn and dirty and bent over Dumbledore’s feet with tears streaming down his face; and there was Dumbledore, hand stretched out in the process of offering comfort. Both men started at his arrival as he clumsily landed on all fours on the floor.
Harry recognized this scene though. He had watched it in a pensieve barely a day ago. This was the night his parents would die.
He was strongly reminded of a conversation he and Hermione had had following their escapade with the time turner in their third year. He had been filled with excitement over the possibilities that the time device had represented, and Hermione had systematically shot down every single hope he had fostered back then. She had explained how changing time forced magic to compensate for the changes, and how some people lost their sanity as a result. There was even the chance that the user could erase his or her own existence based on how much they interfered with ‘confirmed’ facts.
It was only because the headmaster had suggested that they go back in time that Hermione had even considered it at all. He wouldn’t have said anything if he hadn’t known, right? One would have to be transported to a different timeline altogether (theoretically, they do exist, did you know?) to make the kind of changes Harry had had in mind.
The memory he had watched had not been interrupted by a man covered in grime and blood though. Snape had said his piece, the headmaster had comforted him, and they had both left the office.
He could only conclude that time had already changed. Was he in that theoretical alternate timeline?
In a flurry of robes Snape was standing with his wand out and pointed right between Harry’s eyes. He radiated fury, no doubt at having been caught in such a vulnerable position. Even Dumbledore had his wand out and pointed at him.
Snape was the first to snarl a question in a slightly hoarse voice. “What is the meaning of this?”
Harry damn near cried at hearing that voice again. In the light of what Snape’s memories had revealed about their interaction, he had been resigned to live with excessive feelings of guilt.
He now silently vowed never to betray this man ever again. But how to gain his trust?
“Um. I’m not sure how I got here exactly, but I have a pretty good guess. Can I... May I sit down?” The prick of another mind intruding in his conscience registered with a shock of anger, and in a show of temper he instantly regretted he magically threw both men against the far wall of the office.
“I don’t know which one of you two did that, but I don’t appreciate the mind-probe, understand? If you can’t talk like the adults you claim to be, then I’m quite happy to leave.” He stood still as the two men picked themselves up off the floor; Snape with more difficulty that a flash of understanding instantly squeezed Harry’s heart with guilt. The man had just been pleading with Voldemort to save his mother, of course he is suffering the aftereffects of the cruciatus still…
“I probably shouldn’t have thrown you like that.” Harry sighed and dropped into one of the chairs in front of the desk. “I think I’m over tired.” Snape probably wasn’t an expert at legilimancy yet, which means the headmaster was the culprit. It certainly explained a lot about the man’s behaviour in the past. Old wounds bled anew as he added that information to the old man’s machinations.
Dumbledore held his hand out to Snape who refused to take it and rather struggled upright on his own.
“My apologies, young man. I wanted to ascertain your intentions before…”
Harry interrupted him. “Bollocks. You probably do that to everyone you meet, hence the world-wise pretence you’ve got going.” He directed his gaze at Snape. “I suggest you become a master occlumens sooner rather than later if you don’t want to be a pawn for both sides of the war any more than you already are.”
“And who do you think you are to show such disrespect?”
Dumbledore laced his fingers in front of him as he sat down. “I am also curious to know how you managed to floo into a fireplace that is not currently connected to the floo-network.”
Harry tilted his head back to rest on the tall backrest behind him. “I suppose I’m a time traveller. It was an accident, but I’m fairly sure I’m not in my own timeline anymore.” He rolled his head back to focus on the headmaster. “Thanks to a bookworm friend of mine I am aware of the consequences of messing with time, but the scene I dropped in on was shown to me in a memory and was not interrupted.”
“You expect me to believe that either the headmaster or myself willingly shared the scene of my humiliation?” Snape snarled from next to Dumbledore’s chair.
“You did, sir. You were,” Harry blinked away the lifeless memory of the potions master, “you were trying to gain my trust. You were entrusted with vital information you needed to share with me, but you weren’t able to communicate at the time.” He clutched his hands in front of him, haunted once again by the helplessness he experienced when Snape had died. “The memories practically bled out of you.”
Both men watched in stunned fascination as the young man in front of them seemingly aged beyond his years. This man had seen horrors most would never imagine.
“Do we win the war?”
Snape was incensed. “Headmaster! Surely you don’t believe this dirt-rag is telling the truth?”
Dumbledore only chuckled. “He has more respect for you than for me, Severus. I can only conclude that he knew me better than most.” He peered over his glasses at Harry. “He has also not once alluded that you are a death eater, even though that status only changed today.”
“I could also be an agent of the dark lord, you know.”
The headmaster shook his head and smiled. “No, I don’t believe you are. We have, however, done things slightly backwards today – why don’t you introduce yourself?”
Harry blinked, thrown by the thought. Introducing himself as a Potter would most certainly not work in his favour where Snape was concerned. He was fairly confident that he resembled his father very faintly at the moment, his hair cropped short and his face covered in three-day-old stubble.
And he was filthy from the battle. Had he really killed Voldemort less than a day ago?
“I’d rather not tell you my real name. My counterpart exists in this… timeline. I’d rather he not be judged in the future by my actions.”
“Very well, very well. Do you have an identity you wish to assume then?”
Harry had often toyed with the idea of taking on a new identity after the war (if he survived, of course). Given that the owner of the potion book he was slightly obsessed with in sixth year was in the room with him, he was fairly sure any alias he had dreamt up that used the Prince name was not an option.
That left him with Hurricane. As a lonely boy locked in a cupboard, back when he still believed his name was ‘Boy’, he had dreamt of hundreds of names some nondescript parents could call him by. Then he had been sent to pre-school and learnt that he did have a name – Harry.
It was like a dream come true. He had dreamt up elaborate schemes that explained why he had to stay with the Dursleys; in one of them his full name was Hurricane, and his parents were gods. It was soon thereafter that his aunt dropped the knowledge on him about his parents being abusive drunks and shattered his world.
He hated being a child, being naïve.
“Hurricane. Can I open a Gringotts account on an assumed name?”
The other two men in the room exchanged a look. Snape stared back as though he could force an answer out of the other man. Dumbledore shrugged.
“Honestly, I have no idea. Identity is a very vague concept in our world, I suppose. I suggest you make an appointment with the goblins to find out.” He gestured around himself. “Until then you are welcome to stay in a guest suite here in the castle.”
Harry held up a hand. “I’d rather not, thanks. I do have stuff I’d like to do in the castle, but first we have to do something about the Potters or they will die tonight.”
Next to Dumbledore, Snape's posture became rigid but he remained quiet.
“They are quite safe where they are, and they have taken additional steps to ensure that they remain hidden. What makes you believe that He-who-must-not-be-named will find them?”
“Peter Pettigrew is a deatheater.”
“Peter Pettigrew is a Gryffindor!” Snape exploded.
Harry cocked his head. “Oh, he’s brave alright. He has no qualms about chopping parts of his body off in the service of his master. It’s just his loyalty that is in question, because it certainly doesn’t lie with the marauders.”
The headmaster’s slightly wavering hand came to rest on Snape’s forearm. “Severus, we must warn James and Lily. Do you know where they are?” His last question was directed at Harry.
“I can apparate us there. Will you be coming with us?” He was already standing up.
Dumbledore shook his head. “No, I need to remain as a central contact for the order. You may need to use this…”
“What in Merlin’s name does Pettigrew have to do with anything?”
Dumbledore extended his arm to Harry, silvery material glimmering from his hand. He turned sad eyes to the other man. “They thought that Sirius would be too obvious a choice for their secret keeper, and changed it to Peter. If what Mr Hurricane says is true, then James and Lily are in terrible danger. Go with him, and protect them. And look after yourself as well – I look forward to your tenure here as our potions professor.”
Harry took the cloak from Dumbledore and stood up. “We’d best be on our way then.” He walked to the door. “Shall we meet at the gates?”
A curt nod later and Harry was gone.
Albus waited a short while for the grinding of the stone steps to fade away before addressing Severus.
“Take care, Severus. I don’t fully trust this man, but if his words are true then we cannot ignore their importance. Pay attention to what he says and does, and keep him within sight.”
The younger man walked towards the door, but stopped at the chair the self-proclaimed time-traveller was occupying a moment ago. His hesitation to speak was quite visible.
“Speak, child. What bothers you?”
Severus’ eyes narrowed at being called a child. “I am merely adding another to the long list of individuals who can inflict severe humiliation upon my person. You would think I would be used to it by now.” He fingered a piece of torn cloth hanging from his wrist, and crumpled it into a fist as it separated from his sleeve. “I will protect her at all cost, Headmaster.”
There was silence for a moment as the second man left his office, and Albus slowly exhaled.
“I know, Severus. I know.”