In Time, Once Again
New Timeline. 22 September 1996, Sixth-Year
“Again, Mr. Potter.” He stands over him, wand drawn, as the boy pushes himself up onto his knees.
Potter’s glasses are askew, and Snape can see a faint sheen of sweat on his forehead. His fringe is plastered against his skin, covering the scar.
“Just give me a moment,” the boy snaps, but he’s breathless, and Snape knows he’s tired.
“I assure you,” Snape says slowly, “the Dark Lord will afford you no such respite.” Still, he does not cast the spell again.
Potter takes a deep breath, climbing unsteadily to his feet. He’s shaky and flushed; they’ve been at this for hours. They have no choice; they are running out of time.
The boy takes another breath, looks at him, and nods. “Okay.”
Snape raises his wand. In the flickering light of the dungeon, Potter’s green eyes look nearly black. They are so intense, so dark, Snape thinks he could get lost in them. And, if he were honest with himself, he would have to admit that it’s been ages since they reminded him of Lily.
Later, Snape will think that this, perhaps, is the moment when everything began to fall apart.
* * * * *
1 May 1998, The Battle of Hogwarts
When Harry Potter dove into Dumbledore’s Pensieve, he did not know what to expect. He only knew that immersing himself in someone else’s thoughts (even Snape’s) would be a relief, a temporary escape from the chaos of battle, the overwhelming grief of loss.
Still, Harry did not expect to find a Snape who had loved his mother, who had remained loyal all along, and who committed murder only once Dumbledore had forced his hand.
He did not expect to find that he would have to die.
And Harry Potter did not expect to find a Snape who had also loved him.
‘Look at me…’
Now the battle is over, Voldemort is dead, and Harry, miraculously, is alive. The halls are eerily quiet as he walks back toward the Headmaster’s office; everyone is gathered in the Great Hall. The gargoyle admits him without protest. As he ascends the staircase, he feels a sense of resignation and resolve similar to what he felt walking into the Forbidden Forest just hours before.
The portraits are still empty, and Harry is strangely disappointed. Dumbledore would disapprove of what he is about to do, and he thrills at the thought. For once in his life he is not falling into line, not blindly following the man’s every order.
Harry knows exactly where to look.
Headmaster Snape is dead. The small box is no longer warded, and it opens at his touch. Still, he feels the prickle of latent magic under his fingertips, subtle, dark, and…familiar. Though Harry knew the object would be there, he still sighs in relief when he sees it (a whoosh of air, a shiver across his skin).
The Time Turner is cold and oddly heavy against his palm.
* * * * *
New Timeline. 1 October 1996, Sixth-Year
Severus Snape keeps memories stored away in the corners of his mind, folded like origami swans. Some are jagged and crystal sharp. Others are worn smooth, like stones in a riverbed. He remembers eyes the colour of mint and lips kissed blood red. He remembers fingers (slim and pale) tightening, tightening around his biceps and small hands that clutched at his shoulders, his hips. And he remembers skin like milk, like snow, marred with bruises the colour of mauve.
And there is nothing he can do about it.
When Potter arrives at his door, his jaw is set and his hands are clenched. The boy dumps his bag unceremoniously on the floor, then turns to face him, wand drawn.
He’s never lacked for determination.
Still, when Snape murmurs the spell, Potter’s mind parts easily, readily under the subtle force.
The pretty Ravenclaw Seeker, her dark hair glinting in the sunlight of the Quidditch pitch, her mouth a muted pink. The Diggory boy, shirtless and smiling before the second task. Voldemort, in the graveyard with blood-red eyes and lipless mouth.
Potter pushes back hard; he’s learned to gather his concentration and focus, but Snape presses in, harder still. More memories rush to the surface, fluttering wildly across his field of vision.
Black falling through the Veil; the mad gleam in Bellatrix Lestrange’s eye. A horridly overweight boy twisting Potter’s arm behind his back so hard it snaps. Draco Malfoy breaking his nose on the train, smearing the blood with his foot.
Snape withdraws. The boy staggers a few steps and falls to his knees.
“I see, Mr. Potter,” he says, “that this is, yet again, an exercise in futility. Another semester where you are determined to waste my time.”
“No… No, I practiced,” he says, getting up from the floor. His voice wavers, and Snape is pleased. He wants the boy to fear him, hate him, learn from him.
“You must try harder.”
Potter winces when Snape raises his wand again, but his eyes narrow in focus.
His vision blurs with the boy’s once more, but then with a surprising burst of unexpected raw power (a sensation not unlike falling underwater) Potter breaches his shields. Snape can feel Potter’s emotion, his magic (sharply sweet, tinged in blue), and suddenly his own memories are skipping like stones across his mind.
Himself as a boy, too young for Hogwarts, cowering in a corner of a small shabby kitchen. A man with dark, unwashed hair yells at a plain woman, grabs her wrist, raises his arm.
Older now, and dressed in ill-fitting Muggle clothes; he picks flowers with a pretty red-haired girl, smiles a warm and open smile.
His eleven-year-old self, eyes narrowed in concentration, following McGonagall to a stool at the front of the Great Hall. The Hat yells 'Slytherin!' after considerable deliberation.
Potter’s technique is unrefined, unpractised, and crude, but he is incredibly strong. And though these are things the boy is not meant to see, Snape can’t counter the flood of emotional power quickly enough. He’s lucky, he supposes, that the Dark Lord doesn’t understand pure emotion, or else his skills as an Occlumens would be worthless.
He’s older now but still too young (sixteen, three months, eight days), bowing at the feet of a younger and somewhat more human looking Tom Riddle. He holds out his arm while Lucius Malfoy looks on.
The vision shifts once more, rearranging itself inside his rooms. Something sickly and warm uncurls in his stomach; he realises what images they will see before they even begin to spill (like water, like blood) from the crevasses of his mind.
Himself on his knees (long straight line of pale spine). The slim boy beneath him arches his back, parts his thighs wider (‘Oh, oh God…’). He hears himself laugh, but it’s not his laugh; it’s too high, too breathless…
Snape knows what’s coming. He slams his shields back in place, forces the memory away before the boy can see his own hopelessly dishevelled hair, hear his own name on Snape’s lips.
He takes a deep breath.
Potter is flushed and shaking. A bead of sweat slides down his temple to the smooth curve of his cheek. There are a hundred cutting, scathing things Snape could say, a hundred things he should say.
But instead he finds himself sheathing his wand and dismissing the boy. “I think that’s quite enough for tonight, don’t you, Mr. Potter?”
Potter’s eyes widen, clearly relieved. He nods once and gathers his things before Snape can change his mind. But before he slips from the room, he turns back, ducks his head, scuffs his toe against the floor, and murmurs, “Goodnight, Professor.”
The door clicks shut before Snape can be sure he’s heard the words at all.
(Memories, white hot and brilliant, flutter behind his eyelids when he sleeps.)
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 1 February 1983, Hogwarts
Harry lands with a jolt. The sensation is similar to Apparating, and it takes a moment to regain his bearings. The Shrieking Shack looks the same, if slightly less decrepit. There has been no battle yet; no one has died here.
(Blood pools under his hands, red and sticky and sickeningly warm.) He shakes his head to force the image away, takes a deep breath, and heads toward the castle.
The night is damp and quiet, colder than he remembers. The white pale crescent of moon provides little light. A few tower windows are illuminated against the night sky, but otherwise, everything is dark.
Harry draws his wand and walks up the hill toward the castle; damp grass crunches beneath his shoes. When he reaches the entrance, he feels the wards thrum over his skin (like a heartbeat, a rush in his ears), but something feels different, off somehow.
The hallways are empty, and Harry is not sure if he should find that odd. Though, according to his calculations, it should be two weeks before the final battle. The castle is not yet under siege; the students should be in bed, and Snape should still be at Hogwarts.
From what he has heard, the man still spends more time in his old rooms than in the Headmaster’s office, so he casts a weak Lumos and heads toward the dungeons.
It is difficult, even knowing what he now knows. He’s spent so long hating Snape, hating the man more, perhaps, than even Voldemort himself. And that hatred hasn’t dissipated; it still simmers in his stomach, coils round his tendons, and jars at his spine. After all, he watched the man murder Dumbledore.
But Snape is a hero in his own right; Harry sees that now. And no matter how much he hates him (hates him), he does not deserve to die the way he does.
His heart is jerking painfully against his ribs by the time he reaches Snape’s office. Harry knows it’s ridiculous; he has died and come back to kill Voldemort. There is nothing to be afraid of now. Still, it is all he can do to raise his hand and knock on the heavy wooden door.
A moment later, the door opens, and Harry’s heart stops pounding. In fact, he’s quite certain it stops beating altogether.
Severus Snape stands in the doorway, but it’s not Snape at all. Or, at least, it’s not the Snape Harry expects to see.
This Snape is still too thin, his skin is still too pale, and his nose is still too big. But his hair is not as long as it should be, the lines on his face are not as deep, and he is not nearly old enough (three, maybe five years older than Harry at the most).
“Professor—” he stops mid-breath, presses his fingers to his eyes (panic like ice water in his veins), but when he opens them again the wrong Snape is still standing there, wand drawn, mouth slightly agape.
The colour drains from this Snape’s cheeks (sallow skin, waxy white), and he gasps, echoing Harry’s own thoughts, “it can’t be…”
Harry does his best to swallow back the terror rising like bile in his throat. There must be some mistake; that, or something went gravely wrong when he spun the Time Turner.
“No…no, it can’t be,” the man repeats. “You’re dead.”
But before Harry can open his mouth, Snape has him up against the wall (cold stone digging into his shoulder blades); his forearm is across his chest, wand pressed to his throat. “You have five seconds to convince me not to kill you,” and already Harry can feel the rush of Snape’s magic, the push of his mind.
I am not James. I am not James, he repeats the words like a mantra in his head. My name is Harry. I am the son of James Potter and Lily Evans. I came to find you. There are some things you need to know.
The pressure on his chest eases slightly, but Snape does not lower his wand.
“Look at my forehead if you don’t believe me,” Harry manages to gasp.
Slowly the man raises his left hand and brushes the fringe off his face. Snape’s palm is cool against his skin, and Harry feels him tense, hears his quick intake of breath.
“How?” Snape asks after a moment, and his voice is too low, too rough.
The man’s brow furrows slightly and Harry adds quickly, “The cord around my neck, under my shirt.”
Snape’s fingers slip to his collar, tug the chain free. His eyes widen slightly when he holds the small hourglass in his palm.
“You haven’t seen one before,” Harry ventures because he’s not sure what else to say.
Snape shakes his head. “Such devices are heavily controlled.” For a brief moment, the man’s menacing persona falls away, replaced by curiosity and awe; he clearly recognises the implications of such magic.
Harry uses the momentary distraction and reaches out, catching the man’s wrist in his hand. His fingers press into soft skin; he hopes they’ll leave bruises.
“Let me go.” Snape’s voice is deadly calm; the tip of his wand presses painfully to the hollow of Harry’s throat, but he does not release his wrist.
“Take me into your office and listen to me.”
“And if I don’t?” Snape’s sneer is back.
“Then you’ll be making a grave mistake.”
The curve of the man’s lip reveals both scepticism and clear disdain. “And what, Mr.…Potter, would this mistake be?”
Harry looks around; though the hallways are empty at this hour, there is no way he will discuss anything outside the privacy and wards of Snape’s office. “Not here,” he says, voice firm.
The man’s eyes widen at the demand. Two spots of dull colour appear on pale cheekbones, and he clenches his wand tightly. The shock of seeing Harry at his door must be as severe as Harry’s own at apparently being thrown back too far in time. He knows this, and he knows Snape must be livid at being ordered around in this way, but he hasn’t a choice.
“How dare you arrive at my doorstep like this.” Harry can feel the man’s breath warm against his cheek, but he doesn’t flinch. “I have no idea who you are or what you want, and yet, you demand entry to my private quarters as if it’s your right.”
“I am Harry Potter, sir,” he tries, “there is no other explanation.”
“Harry bloody Potter is less than three years old. He is no doubt still soiling his nappies in whatever clandestine location Dumbledore secreted him away to when he was only an infant.” Snape lowers his wand slightly but does not step away. “You cannot be that Harry Potter. It simply isn’t possible.” The man is shaking now, but his voice is as low and threatening as ever
“Regardless, you have to listen to me.” Harry remains perfectly still, back pressed against the wall. This Snape is unpredictable; he knows that. And unpredictability is dangerous. “What can I do to convince you?” he asks after a long moment.
“Show me.” Snape’s wand traces the curve of his neck; he feels his magic prick across his skin. “Show me what is so important. Show me why I should listen to you.”
It isn’t as though he has much of a choice. “All right.” Harry takes a deep breath, focuses his magic, his memories. But rather than pulling them inward, burying them behind emotion and lies, he forces them to the forefront of his mind. (Fragments of his life flash across his vision, golden-streaked, blood-tinged, positively horrifying.) “Okay, I’m ready.”
Snape nods. Harry feels the spark of magic before the press of the spell.
Harry in the graveyard trapped against a monument to Tom Riddle, Senior. ‘Bone of the father, unknowingly given…’ Cedric lies dead; his eyes are still open. Wormtail slices off his own hand to add to that sickening cauldron. ‘Flesh of the servant, w-willingly given – you will revive your master…’ Voldemort, hairless, skinless, naked, rises once again.
Snape pulls back slightly; Harry can taste the revulsion like blood, like soot on his tongue. But he pushes on to the next image.
Himself in the Department of Mysteries, surrounded by children, fighting off wave after wave of cloaked, masked Death Eaters. The Hall of Prophecy glows sickly green; the Room with the Veil smells of charred skin and gasoline.
Snape’s magic wavers, and Harry feels rather nauseous. “No,” he manages, “keep watching.”
The Ministry foyer shimmers into view. Dumbledore fights off Voldemort but not before Harry is possessed. Magic burns like fire in his veins. Then it’s sixth-year and students dressed in nightclothes fight off Death Eaters in the halls. Harry is on top of the tower, bound beneath the Invisibility Cloak; curses flicker like lightning in the night sky.
He carefully conceals Snape’s role in Dumbledore’s death; that detail would serve no purpose now. His stomach churns with the memories, and he thinks he might be sick.
Snape pulls away forcefully, ripping his mind from Harry’s. He leans forward, palms pressed to the wall as he struggles to catch his breath. Harry feels pale and shaky, but it won’t do to show weakness. Not here, not now.
“When?” The man gasps after a moment.
Snape nods and moves back. Harry follows him into his office.
“When?” Snape asks again as he waves his wand at the door.
Harry feels the tingle of wards as they slide into place. “Fourth-year. Voldemort returns my fourth-year.”
Snape winces a bit at the name, but, for the first time Harry can recall, he does not correct him. Instead, he sits down heavily in his chair. Harry takes the one opposite without invitation. Snape does not seem to notice. They are quiet for a long time, as Snape works to make sense of what he's just seen, heard.
Then he waves his hand and wordlessly summons two teacups and a kettle.
Snape pours himself a cup and drains it in one long swallow before refilling it and sliding the pot across to Harry. The teacups are delicate; at one point they must have been quite beautiful. The white, bone china is so thin it’s nearly translucent, painted with intricate sweeps of gold and blue.
“It’s not possible,” Snape says after a long moment.
“It is,” Harry says, cradling the teacup between his hands; it is warm against his palms. “It will happen. He will come back.”
Snape pales considerably.
Harry takes a sip of tea. It is strong and bitter against his tongue. He grimaces slightly at the taste. There is no sugar on the table, but it doesn’t matter. After a year on the run hiding from Voldemort, tea itself became a luxury. He rarely takes sugar anymore.
“But he’s gone,” Snape says after another long moment, “I know he’s gone.” He touches his left forearm subconsciously, fingers brushing against the white fabric of his shirtsleeve, but he pulls his hand away when he notices Harry watching and tucks his arm into his lap.
“I know about the Mark, Severus,” Harry says slowly. The words feel scratchy and foreign on his tongue, but his knowledge of Snape’s past puts him at an advantage; using his given name presses it.
The man’s expression darkens. “You know nothing.”
“I know what you were,” Harry continues slowly, “and I also know why you came back to Dumbledore.”
Snape swallows but sits very still.
“And that is why I know you will help me.” Harry traces the lip of his cup with his thumb and waits for the man to say something.
Shock twines like panic round his limbs. His stomach feels like lead, and it’s all he can do to choke down a few more swallows of tea and appear calm. This is not his Snape; something went terribly wrong, but he still needs the man’s help, and perhaps (perhaps) this Snape will be willing to listen.
Snape looks down. In the dim light of the room, his skin is deathly pale. “And what, exactly, do you think you know?” His voice is calm, level, but Harry can hear an undercurrent of concern.
“I know you were a Death Eater.”
Snape looks up again but otherwise does not react.
“I know you overheard the prophecy Sibyll Trelawney made to Dumbledore about my birth. And I know you passed that information on to Voldemort, not knowing that he would then target my mother and her newborn baby.”
The man takes a sip of tea; his expression remains perfectly blank.
“I know you loved Lily Evans – my mum -- and will always blame yourself for her death. For that reason, you vowed to protect her child -- even though you’ve never liked me much.” Harry wipes at the lenses of his glasses. “And I know that you will help me now because you have no other choice.”
Snape takes a deep breath and waves a hand; he Summons a crystal decanter from a side cupboard, holds it up to the candlelight as if measuring its contents. Slowly, deliberately, he pours a generous splash into his cup. He sets the decanter down again and looks at Harry. “Let’s say I do believe you,” he says after a long moment, “that I believe you are who you say you are.” He speaks softly, each word carefully measured, and it does not sound like he believes Harry at all. “Let’s say I actually believe that you come from the future to warn me, or save us all, or whatever it is you claim. Then tell me, Mr. Potter,” the man continues, pausing to take a sip of doctored tea, “what it is you intend to do? What exactly do you expect to accomplish by coming back here?”
Harry takes a sip of his now cold tea instead of responding; he waves a hand over the cup to warm it. Snape watches the display of wandless, wordless magic with interest, though it’s certainly nothing more than he himself has done since they entered his office.
Harry realises now, sitting in front of Snape, that he doesn’t actually know what to say to him. After all, this isn’t the man he knew; this isn’t the professor he thought he hated. Though this Snape might one day become that man, he hasn’t yet done any of a thousand things that will shape him into the man Harry can trust.
Once again, the realisation of what he’s done, of what’s gone wrong, hits Harry like a bludger. It settles cold and sickly in the pit of his stomach. He can taste it on his tongue and feel it in the tips of his fingertips, the soles of his feet. He risks destroying everything.
“What year is it?”
Snape’s eyes widen; he regards him incredulously. “You mean you don’t know?”
“Obviously not.” Harry doesn’t mean to snap, but the words slip out before he can stop them.
Snape drums his fingers on the smooth surface of his desk. He looks calculating, though Harry doesn’t think he quite realises how much power he has over him at the moment. “It is February, 1983,” he says finally.
Harry nods and tries not to reveal his alarm. Somehow fourteen days turned into nearly fourteen years.
“I take it, that is not what you expected.” Despite the circumstances, Snape still manages to sound rather smug.
“When I spun the Time Turner, I intended to go back two weeks – enough time to warn you, to tell you what you needed to know without the risk of disrupting my timeline too severely.” He runs a hand through his hair. “Obviously something went wrong.”
The man’s mouth curls into what might be considered a smile, but it looks sinister and out of place on his lips. “I can’t say I’m surprised,” he says, “that James Potter’s son…if you truly are his son…would rush into such an endeavour half-cocked and without a plan. Like your father you have no regard for consequences.”
That sounds like the Snape Harry knows; such words are meant to bait him, and in the past they would have – they would have infuriated him. But there is too much at stake now. Harry cannot let the man get to him.
He shrugs but says nothing.
“So, you do not deny being like your father?” The man’s disdain is clear.
“I never knew my father. I haven’t a clue if I’m like him.” Harry refuses to play into Snape’s pettiness and prejudice. “And,” he continues, “I admit to…miscalculating slightly.”
“Yes, slightly,” Harry laughs. If he doesn’t laugh, he might cry. “But that doesn’t change the fact that there are things I need to tell you. There are things you need to know.”
“Are you going to tell me how the Dark Lord comes back, when I know for certain he is dead? He was killed by his own killing curse. You, of all people,” Snape continues, eyes falling on Harry’s forehead, “should know that.”
“He never really died.”
When Snape makes to protest, Harry holds up a hand. “Part of him did, but only a part. Voldemort created safeguards against his own death, and until these are destroyed, he cannot truly die.”
If Snape is surprised by this information, he does not show it. “So I take it, in your time, you were unsuccessful. You were unable to defeat him.”
“No. I killed him. Voldemort is gone for good.”
At that, the man’s eyes widen, but he smoothes his expression again instantly. “Then tell me, Mr. Potter, why are you here? Why risk so much if the Dark Lord is dead?”
“Because the price was too high. We lost too much. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
“And you’re so certain?”
Snape eyes him critically for a long moment. “We must tell the Headmaster.”
“No!” Harry nearly shouts. Snape raises an eyebrow at his outburst.
“No,” he repeats, quieter this time. “Dumbledore is the reason I came back. He cannot know. You must understand that.”
Snape crosses his arms over his chest; somehow he manages to look defensive and intimidating all at once. “By all means,” he says, “please do explain to me why the most powerful wizard of the time, my employer, and the Headmaster of this school, should not know that you’ve set out to change history.”
Harry takes a deep breath and sets his cup down again. “Dumbledore means well. I know that. But he is, by his very nature, utilitarian.”
The man does not disagree with the assessment.
“Above all, Dumbledore seeks his own ends, regardless of means. And, though I readily accept the necessity of sacrifice in times of war, I do not agree with his methods.” Harry leans forward, rests his elbows on his knees. “My entire life he has done nothing but manipulate me, and I played along, fell in line, followed his every order because I believed there was no other option. But now I see that he was wrong. The cost of his game was too high, and I will not make the same mistakes again.”
Snape pours more tea into his cup.
“You understand,” Harry says slowly because he is certain Snape does, but he is not sure he’ll ever admit it.
“Dumbledore always has his own agenda,” the man says over the lip of his teacup. “The moment you realise that his motivations, his goals are rarely the same as your own, then you are better off.”
“Yes. But you know as well as I do that we often have little choice but to go along with his plans.”
Snape nods but says nothing.
“We cannot tell Dumbledore,” he repeats. “When he knows the rules, he always wins.”
Snape tilts his head to one side. His dark eyes are calculating. “What exactly did you lose, Mr. Potter?”
“All right,” the man says after a long moment, “for now I will keep your secret.”
Harry sighs in relief; he hadn’t expected Snape to agree without further protest.
“But,” he continues, “only for as long as I am certain it’s for the best.”
Well, it’s something, at least. They sit silently for a few minutes after that. Harry does his best not to fidget as Snape looks at him appraisingly. He feels very much like the errant schoolboy – no doubt the man’s intention. But he sits up straight and does not flinch under Snape’s critical stare.
Harry hasn’t a clue what to do next. He has no money, aside from what’s in his pockets (and he’s quite certain he won’t have access to his Gringotts account in this timeline); he’s not sure what he needs to tell Snape (or what he actually can tell Snape without disrupting too much), and he no idea how to get back to his own timeline. He hopes the Time Turner works both ways – that it can send him forward in time as it sent him back. But he has no knowledge of its true capabilities, and, since something clearly went wrong the first time, he’s certainly not eager to test his luck with it again – at least until he can do some research and determine what actually happened.
He takes a deep breath and goes to stand. He has a few Galleons in his robes. Surely it’s enough for a room in Hogsmeade for the night. He needs time to think, time to figure out what to do next.
“You’ll have to be Sorted.” Snape’s voice startles him from his thoughts.
“Sorted. Surely you remember from your other time here.”
Harry frowns. “I… No. I won’t.” Certainly not. He didn’t come here to be a student.
The man’s smile is truly sinister (the corners of his mouth curving just so). “What do you expect to do, Mr. Potter? Bunk in my rooms until you find a way back to your present? Or perhaps find board in Hogsmeade? Shall we meet over pints to discuss the future of the world as we know it?” Sarcasm drips from the man’s tongue and sours in Harry’s stomach.
He opens his mouth but closes it again. He hasn’t thought that far ahead. After all, he intended to travel back two weeks; he certainly hadn’t planned on this happening.
Snape’s eyes practically glitter with amusement. “You have no identification. No N.E.W.T.S., no record of qualifications.” He takes another sip of tea and crosses one ankle over his knee. His posture is casually arrogant; Harry knows he is enjoying himself. “You can tell no one of your alleged…accomplishments. No one can know who you are or where you come from. And without documentation, you will be unable to stay in the castle.”
“No,” he says again, “there must be something we can do. There must be some other way. Maybe—”
But Snape is shaking his head. “Only staff and students are allowed at Hogwarts, Mr. Potter. There are no exceptions.”
“How much money did you bring with you?”
And already he knows Snape is right. Harry tries to smooth the no doubt mulish expression on his face.
Still, Snape looks undeniably smug as he blows steam off his cup and takes another slow sip.
“Fine,” Harry says, voice a bit sharper than he intended. “What do we do?”
“You will go to the Headmaster and ask to be admitted as a transfer student.”
“But I have no identification. You said so yourself. And, I have no letter.”
The man waves a hand dismissively. “Transfer students do not receive a traditional acceptance letter, as they select to enroll here – pending approval, of course – rather than the school choosing them, as with the first-years. The Headmaster will confirm your age and ascertain your magical abilities and determine whether to admit you.”
Harry nods; the process sounds reasonable.
“I assume you have an explanation for your sudden appearance?”
“I…no.” He looks down. He hasn’t a clue what to say to Dumbledore.
“Then I suggest you figure it out.”
Harry stands. “Assuming Dumbledore doesn’t throw me out of the castle, we’ll need to talk tomorrow.”
Snape nods. “You cannot begin to understand my excitement.”
Harry rolls his eyes and turns to go, but Snape stops him.
“I suppose you’ll be sorted Gryffindor.” (Disdain laced with prejudice oozes like honey from his lips.)
“Now that wouldn’t be terribly conducive to our working together, would it?” Harry’s voice is sharp, but he doesn’t care. Snape in any time irritates him to no end.
The man laughs, a harsh, ugly sound. “And just what do you intend to do? Convince the hat to place you elsewhere? Like your father, you’re a Gryffindor to the core.”
At that, Harry smiles, “Just leave the Sorting Hat to me, all right?”
* * * * *
New Timeline. 16 October 1996, Sixth-Year
When eleven-year-old Harry Potter first appeared at Hogwarts (for the second time), Snape allowed himself to think he might be sorted Slytherin. After all, it had happened once before. Why couldn’t it happen again? Never mind the fact that Potters had been sorted Gryffindor for generations. This Potter was different; Snape knew that, regardless of what he led others to believe.
McGonagall laughed when he suggested that the child might do well in his House. (‘Nonsense, Severus, he’s the spitting image of James. Where on earth did you get such an idea?’)
But this boy (who was and was not his Harry all at once) was nothing like his father. And no one seemed to remember that there once had been a Potter in Slytherin.
But Harry Potter went to Gryffindor, and everyone cooed over his perseverance, his tenacity, his charm. And Snape decided that it was probably better that way. After all, with Potter in Gryffindor, he could hate the boy in peace.
Now, Snape thinks, perhaps, he’s always hated him (and with good reason too).
Snape tortures the boy. He knows this. Tortures him for taking away everything he had ever wanted, for reminding him of what he would never have.
But somewhere along the way (after challenging dragons, battling basilisks, and facing down Dark Lords), the boy grew up. Death, loss and suffering will do that to you – Severus would know. And he despises himself for seeing more and more of the Harry he once knew behind that defiant stare (eyes so green he could get lost in them).
He is twenty years older than the boy this time around. (Not five, which even then seemed an insurmountable gap.) He is still Harry Potter’s teacher, and the child hates him, hates him, hates him.
So Snape is petty and cruel. He does nothing to betray his secret, and he refuses to show any weakness at all. But still, he remembers slender hands, an eager mouth, and green eyes that could pin him to the wall, rip him open, slice his heart clean out.
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 1 February 1983, Hogwarts
Regardless of his feelings (all the reasons he came back), seeing Dumbledore alive and well is quite a shock. Harry’s breath catches (fingers clenching against his lungs), and it’s all he can do not to throw himself at the man, not to embrace him and hate him and love love him as he always used to.
Instead, he must tuck these thoughts away deep inside his mind beneath layer and layer of murky ambiguity and fabrication. Still, his fingers itch to reach out and touch the man – to feel him alive and magic and strong flesh and bone.
Dumbledore looks younger now (if someone that old can ever look young), but his eyes are just as blue and his robes are every bit as ghastly (purple striped with vivid pink). Somehow, Harry manages to stand completely still as Dumbledore looks him over. He knows the man sees far more than he ever lets on, but there is nothing he can do about it.
“Ah, Mr. Potter,” he finally addresses him directly, “what a pleasant surprise. I did not realise we’d be receiving a transfer student midterm.” His eyes are calculating. Harry feels the subtle press of magic on his mind, but he’s filled his head with mundane images of studies and books and apprehensions of starting fresh at a new school. (That part is genuine, of course. Starting seventh-year in 1983 is quite a new experience indeed.)
“So it seems you are related to our own beloved James and Lily Potter.”
“Yes, James was my cousin.” He’s considered the possibilities, and it seems the simplest explanation.
“Of course, and I am so sorry for your loss. Did you know them well?”
Harry looks down. “They were older than me. I only met them once or twice.” That part, at least, is true, though his parents had long been dead each time.
“I see. And yet, they named their child after you.” Dumbledore steeples his fingers and peers at Harry over his spectacles. “The boy who saved us all.”
Harry laughs a bit nervously; he’d hoped the man would not make the connection between their names. “Well,” he tries after a moment, “it’s a family name. I’m quite certain they didn’t name their boy after me specifically.”
Dumbledore takes a sweet from the bowl on his desk but does not unwrap it. “Of course. And now, I must ask, why would you like to enroll at Hogwarts for your final term? Surely your home-schooling has been adequate.”
“Yes, but now that the war is over, now that Voldemort is gone, sir, my family agrees it is best for me to complete my N.E.W.T.S. in a formal setting.”
The man’s eyes widen slightly at Harry’s use of Voldemort’s name, but Dumbledore does not say anything. He wonders if perhaps he should have been more careful. After all, very few wizards are comfortable saying the name aloud, but it is too late now.
Dumbledore nods, eyes still appraising. “All right then,” he says finally, “I’ll just need to run a few diagnostic tests, confirm that your magic, your abilities are suitable for our rigorous course demands.”
“Of course, sir. What would you like me to do?”
“Just stand there, my boy,” he says, directing him in front of his desk. “Good, that’s perfect. Now, this might feel a bit odd, but it’s perfectly harmless, I assure you.” Dumbledore runs his wand back and forth over Harry’s body, much the same way Madam Pomfrey would for a medical evaluation.
He feels the wash of the man’s magic seeping into his skin (innocuous, virulent, soothing, and white-tinged); it feels familiar and different all at once. Harry must again remind himself that this is not his Dumbledore – not yet at least. Maybe not ever.
“All right, then,” the man says after a long moment. “Your magic is quite strong, even for a seventh-year. But your power is raw.”
Harry nods; he knows this. And he knows the events leading up to and during the final battle did things to his magic he hasn’t even begun to explore. He only hopes Dumbledore can’t sense something of Voldemort lingering in his blood.
Dumbledore passes his wand over him once more. “Yes, so much potential power, but you’ve barely tapped into it.” The man furrows his brow, as if considering, and Harry holds his breath. “Perhaps your lack of formal training,” he says after another moment, almost to himself, “but I do imagine you’ll fit in swimmingly here.”
“Now there is just the small matter of your Sorting.” Dumbledore takes the Hat from its stool in the corner and shakes the dust from it rather brusquely. The Hat grumbles at the rough treatment, and Harry tries not to laugh.
“Your House will serve as your family during your time here,” Dumbledore explains. “Just be honest with yourself, and you will be Sorted appropriately.”
Harry nods. Of course, be honest.
“Sit here, my boy,” Dumbledore says, motioning to the straight-back chair in front of his desk. “This will only take a moment.”
Harry focuses his thoughts, concentrating on why he’s here and what he’s come back to do. Then he takes a seat, resisting the urge to cross his fingers as Dumbledore places the Hat on his head. Its magic is familiar, old and timeless all at once. He closes his eyes and waits; it doesn’t take long.
“You again!” the Sorting Hat begins, surprise and something else entirely colouring its voice. “Though, not quite yet, as it seems.”
Then you already know why I’m here, Harry thinks. And what I need.
“Yes, yes, perhaps what you think you need. And Gryffindor always suits you, but I suppose this time you want Slytherin.”
* * * * *
New Timeline. 2 November 1996, Sixth-Year
Potter is watching him. Snape is certain of it. And he’s not sure why this unnerves him so much. But he can feel the boy’s eyes on him (a prickle just beneath the surface of his skin), and he wonders what Potter is looking for.
“You’ve been watching me,” he tries a direct approach the next time the boy is in his office.
“What? No, I… Of course I haven’t,” he stumbles over the words, and Snape might find it amusing if the less than subtle deflection wasn’t so concerning. After all, he hardly denied the accusation. Potter looks down at the text he’s supposed to be studying, but Snape knows he hasn’t read a thing this evening.
Potter makes a show of turning a page.
Snape rolls his eyes. “You have, and I’d like to know why.”
The boy bites his lip and scowls. It’s a disturbing reminder of just how young he still is.
“Don’t lie to me.” Potter looks up at his harsh tone, expression petulant. Snape does not find it remotely appealing.
“Fine. Maybe I have been. What’s it to you?”
Snape sighs and presses his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose. The child is still infuriating at the best of times. “It concerns me, Mr. Potter, because apparently I am the subject of your latest fixation. I merely want to know what I’ve done to earn such attention.”
Potter grimaces at his tone but says nothing.
The boy’s eyes narrow, but he’s clearly considering a response; it’s nearly comical how obvious it is when he’s thinking. “It’s just, I, well…”
“Your eloquence, as always, amazes me.”
Potter has been practicing his glare. Anyone else might be taken aback by it. Snape merely sneers in response.
“It’s only that I… I won’t tell anyone, you know? If you were worried I might.”
Snape has to control his expression; that wasn’t what he expected the boy to say. “Pardon?”
“About what I saw the other week. During Occlumency. I won’t tell anyone.”
Snape’s sneer is back in place. “As our lessons are entirely confidential, Mr. Potter, I would certainly hope not.”
“No, that’s not what I meant.” The boy is flustered, and he looks down, biting his lip again. “Of course our lessons are secret. Remedial Potions and all that.”
Snape nods, confused now as to what Potter could possibly be going on about.
“It’s just that, well, it was another man, wasn’t it?”
He frowns; the boy’s forwardness surprises him, though, he thinks perhaps it shouldn’t. “I hardly see how that’s any of your concern,” he keeps his voice stern, yet Potter’s comment worries him.
“It’s not, of course. That it was… that you were with another man in your memory – the one I saw,” he adds, as though he needs to clarify. “I don’t care who you were with. That’s the point. It’s not any of my business, and I don’t care. I won’t tell anyone.”
“I can’t tell you how much your apathy in this matter eases my mind.” He hopes the sarcasm adequately masks his unease.
“Sometimes, I think I might like boys better too,” the boy’s voice is barely a whisper, but Snape hears the words clearly. Something cold unfurls in the pit of his stomach.
“How delightful. What will The Daily Prophet say, once they learn that their precious Saviour fancies such depravity?” But the words cut like glass on his tongue, and he sighs.
The boy bristles and closes the book; Snape finds he enjoys the way colour seeps onto his pale cheeks.
“If you don’t mind, I think I’ve had quite enough for tonight, sir.”
Snape nods once, and Potter begins collecting his belongings, slamming things about with typical overdramatic flare.
“Harry,” he stops him before the boy can stomp through the door. Potter turns around, expression wary. “I do…appreciate your discretion in these matters.”
It’s the boy’s turn to nod before he slips from the room.
It is only much later that Snape realises he called the boy Harry.
(Memories, like water, slide through his veins to pool in his stomach, cold and pale.)
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 1 February 1983, Hogwarts
Late that night, when he’s finally tucked away in his new dormitory, Harry closes the curtain round his bed and collapses on top of the coverlet. Thankfully, he arrived in his room far too late for introductions; he will have to look forward to meeting his new housemates in the morning. He runs a hand over his face and sighs. For the first time he allows the exhaustion to seep over his body. He can’t even remember the last time he slept, but he thinks perhaps it’s been days.
It feels like a lifetime ago.
Oh God… Harry chokes back a rather hysterical sob. It was a lifetime ago. A lifetime since the final battle, since he left Ginny and Ron and Hermione in the Great Hall, since he went off in search of the Time Tuner.
Now he has to wonder if he’ll ever get back.
He squeezes his eyes shut; something like warm wetness gathers in the corners. For the first time in his life, he had the chance of living a life free from Voldemort, and he went and threw it all away. His chest aches at the thought of his friends (a puncture wound just beneath his ribs). Surely they must be worried about him.
He wonders what they must think, what Ginny must think. He didn’t even have a chance to talk to her, after everything. And now he might not ever have the chance.
He supposes they are searching for him. They probably think he was captured in the aftermath of the battle. He didn’t intend to hurt any of them; he never does, but now he’s sure he’s done so once again.
He closes his eyes, but it’s a long time before he falls asleep.
* * * * *
New Timeline. 19 November 1996, Sixth-Year
His mere presence seems to tap into something deep inside Snape’s very being. It is something Snape has worked hard to ignore, to bury down within the darkest part of him where he managed to convince himself years ago that it belonged. After all, he doesn’t like students, he doesn’t like Potters.
And Death Eaters don’t deserve Boy Heroes.
But here in class with the boy seated in the back row, his elbow propped on the desk, his head tilted to the side, Snape can’t help but feel it. It starts in the base of his spine and claws its way up without his brain’s permission. And he knows it is depraved and appalling. He is more than twice the child’s age, and this Harry will never be his Harry.
So he calls on Potter when he’s certain no one (not even Granger) knows the answer. He asks him to demonstrate the most challenging, the most painful spells. And he never forgets that the boy hates him, hates him, hates him.
Still, Snape cannot help the feeling that blooms in the pit of his stomach, curls around his hips, runs down his spine whenever he looks at Harry Potter. And he despises himself for wanting nothing more than to touch the boy.
That night, Snape lies on his couch, downs half a bottle of Scotch and remembers the slow arch of the boy’s spine, the way he furrows his brow when he's thinking, and the soft curve of that smooth cheek resting on the palm of his hand.
(Memories, strewn like petals, litter the blank spaces of his mind.)
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 2 February 1983, Hogwarts
The following evening, Harry returns to Snape’s office. The man admits him with barely a second glance and turns back to his desk. It’s covered with dozens of texts and scrolls. “I’ve done some research,” he says by way of greeting.
Even such an innocuous statement drips with pretention. It’s no wonder, Harry thinks, Snape hated Hermione; they’re too bloody similar. He doesn’t have time to respond before the man continues, “You’re either more of an idiot than I suspected, or you’ve a death wish and the desire to bring the entire Wizarding world down with you.”
Harry’s fingers clench into fists. “That’s not true. I came back to save lives. Don’t you understand?”
Snape does not lift his eyes from the parchment. A strand of inky hair falls into his face, and he brushes it away absently. Still, he does not look up.
“Don’t you want to know what I came to tell you?” Harry tries again, hating the frantic sound of his own voice.
“It’s you who clearly does not understand,” Snape speaks calmly and carefully, his palms pressed to the surface of his desk. “You can’t tell me anything. This is a very dangerous game, Mr. Potter.” When he lifts his head, a shadow falls across his face; in the dim light of the room, he looks very much like the Snape Harry used to know. It unsettles him slightly. “You are playing with forces beyond your comprehension.”
Harry shakes his head, “No, I…”
“You could rewrite history.”
“But that’s the point!” he yells; he needs Snape to understand.
“Time Turners are controlled for a reason, Potter. Many a wizard more powerful than you has attempted to manipulate time with disastrous results. What could possibly be so important that you would risk everything?”
“They are no longer just controlled. The Ministry had them all destroyed.” He’s not sure why he tells Snape this, but it does not matter.
Snape raises an eyebrow. “And how, then, did you come to possess one?
Harry shrugs, “Dumbledore.”
“Ah, yes, certainly Albus would not let such a powerful magical object fall to the wayside, should he be able to prevent it. Still, that does not explain why you are here. Why you have committed such a grave act of hubris, why you have chosen to condemn us all.”
Harry tries to relax, but his fingernails bite into his palms. Sometimes Snape makes things so difficult. “Because you die! Do you get it now? You die, and I can’t let that happen again.”
Snape says nothing. He closes his eyes and rubs one pale hand across his face.
“You die… Doesn’t that matter to you?” His voice catches, and Snape looks at him again; his expression is perfectly, carefully blank, but something flashes in his eyes at the words.
“And why, exactly, do you care? We all die, Mr. Potter. Surely this detail has not escaped your notice.”
“No, of course not. But this… Your death, it can be prevented.”
“Some things are not meant to be prevented,” the man suddenly sounds very tired.
“Surely you don’t want to die.”
Snape sits down, presses his fingers to his temples. “No. I do not want to die. But frankly, news of my death does not surprise me.”
“Just listen to what I have to say, please?” Harry runs a hand through his hair. “At this point, what more can it hurt?”
“Everything, Potter. You could ruin everything.”
He leans over the desk, hands on either side of Snape’s. The man doesn’t move, doesn’t do anything at all. “Or, I could save you. If you let me. If you listen to what I came to tell you.”
Snape sighs. “And if I do, will you promise to return to your timeline, before you do irrevocable damage?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And how, exactly, do you intend to do that?”
“The Time Turner.”
The man laughs, a harsh bark of sound, and shakes his head. “You truly are an idiot.” But the words lack their customary bite; Snape simply sounds a bit sad. “Time Turners only work one way, Mr. Potter. You cannot travel forward in time. Only back. Please tell me you have another plan.”
(Panic slides like ice along his spine; his heart pounds painfully against his chest.) “I, no, I assumed…”
Snape laughs again, and Harry hangs his head. “Christ, you really didn’t know.”
“I intended to go back two weeks! Fourteen bloody days and I would be back in my own timeline. None of this was supposed to happen.”
“And yet it did, Mr. Potter. And now what will you do?”
“I don’t know.” He feels sick to his stomach, shaky and out of focus. “But there must be some other way. A spell or a potion, something.”
“There are no potions that can alter the fabric of time.”
“Surely we can find something.”
He shakes his head again; a strand of dark hair falls into his eyes, but he does not brush it away. “I am not entirely certain, Mr. Potter, why you believe there is a ‘we.’”
“Because you need me as much as I need you.”
Later, Harry ensconces himself in a corner of the library with every text referencing time travel he can find on the shelves. But several hours of searching only confirms what Snape has already told him: Time Turners work one way, and there are no known means of travelling forward in time.
Of course the bastard was right.
Shakily, he puts the books back. Everything feels muted, disjointed, and dull (as though he’s looking at things from several feet underwater). His chest aches, but his body feels rather numb. He tastes blood and realises he has bitten his lip so hard he’s broken the skin.
Though it’s nearly curfew, he does not return to the dorm. Instead, he walks rather aimlessly through the halls. It’s cold in the dungeons, but he doesn’t care. He wonders why Snape prefers living in the depths of the castle. Perhaps he’s only used to it because he knows nothing else.
Harry misses the airy openness of the towers, but just the thought of Gryffindor common room makes him physically ill. He realises with sickening clarity that he might never get back to his own timeline.
He’s faced dragons and Horcruxes, Dementors and Dark Lords, and he has never felt as terrified as he does now.
* * * * *
New Timeline. 28 November 1996, Sixth-Year
Potter is also watching the Malfoy boy. Snape knows this because he, too, is watching Draco. He knows what the boy has been charged with, and he knows he is foolish enough and desperate enough to do something stupid. Though, nothing will change the end result.
There wasn’t anything he could do about Dumbledore.
The man shields his mind as skillfully as Snape himself, and the Headmaster informed no one of his intention to go after Gaunt’s ring.
When Dumbledore returned late that night, cursed and weaker than Snape has ever seen him, he did what he could. But nothing could stop the slow seep of poison.
Albus Dumbledore will die just as Potter predicted so many years before.
Snape refuses to think about what he will do when the man asks him to murder him.
It’s his own fault, of course. If it weren’t for his own arrogance and stupidity, his prejudice and foolishness, he would never be in this position. Snape knows this, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
Still, he understands how Harry must have felt, how furious he must have been, that he would risk everything to travel back in time to avoid playing pawn to Dumbledore’s manipulations.
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 7 February 1983, Hogwarts
Harry starts classes that Monday.
He falls into a fairly comfortable routine, all things considered. When selecting his schedule, he signed up for the minimum required course list, citing his desire not to be overwhelmed by the transition into ‘formal’ schooling. Dumbledore had smiled at his decision ("A wise move, my boy. A wise move indeed.")
Charms and Transfiguration pose no difficulties. N.E.W.T. level curriculum is similar to that of sixth-year, and he learned enough during his time hunting Horcruxes to make up for any gaps in his knowledge.
Both Flitwick and McGonagall seem impressed by his magical abilities, and, as long as he doesn’t think about what’s he’s lost, Harry can almost pretend that everything is okay.
Though McGonagall clearly resents the Hat’s decision to sort a Potter into Slytherin, Harry’s resemblance to James and Lily softens her prejudices, and she recognises his skill at Transfiguration quickly.
History of Magic is the same as always, and Harry wonders if Binns has ever changed his methods. He rather doubts it.
Potions is another story altogether. His fellow Slytherins are intolerable, and the Gryffindors are even worse. They seem impossibly young and helplessly immature; none are remotely interested in their studies. It's understandable, Harry supposes. After all, they remind him a bit of himself before his life was irrevocably altered by prophecies and Dark Lords, Horcruxes and wars.
And, if he were honest, perhaps they deserve time to just be students. The First Wizarding War has only been over for a few years now, and many of his new classmates’ childhoods were overshadowed by Voldemort as well.
He can feel Snape's eyes on him from the moment he steps foot in the classroom. And though he’s not sure the man will ever be able to intimidate him quite like he used to, his critical stare still fills Harry with unease.
Snape at twenty-three is every bit as threatening as he is at thirty-eight, and though he is not much older than the seventh-years themselves, the students still regard him with a healthy mixture of apprehension, loathing, and fear.
Harry tries not to smile as the man stalks to the front of the room, black robes billowing in his wake. With a wave of his wand, the instructions appear on the board. Snape retreats to his desk while the class files to the supply closet.
Harry is partnered with a rather unremarkable Slytherin named Edmund Beggins. Beggins is quiet, studious, and entirely mediocre at Potions.
He recognises the assigned Potion from the Prince’s book and, though he did not brew it in Slughorn's class, recalls Snape's appended instructions clearly. Harry instructs his partner to start the fire, while he collects their supplies. He grabs a stick of peppermint from the jar in the cupboard even though it's not on the supply list.
Beggins has set the cauldron to boil, and Harry casts a temperature charm to monitor the heat. Then he begins chopping the asphodel root, careful to keep the segments even, before adding them to the cauldron and instructing his partner to stir counter-clockwise for two minutes.
The rest of the class is busy cutting and stirring. By now, the entire room is filled with a hazy, bluish steam. Snape casts a ventilation charm as he walks between the tables monitoring his students’ progress. Harry puts the peppermint stick in the mortar and crushes it into a fine powder. Beggins raises an eyebrow but says nothing.
“It’s for the dragon’s blood,” Harry says by way of explanation. The other boy shrugs and continues stirring. If anything, Harry appreciates Edmund’s tendency toward silence.
Their concoction is now a clear, pale green. He measures out the powdered dragon blood carefully and stirs it together with the crushed peppermint. The mixture hisses slightly, emitting a faint plume of smoke. Once Beggins is done stirring, Harry adds the dry ingredients slowly, watching as the potion turns from green to lilac to icy blue. He turns off the heat just as Snape calls time.
The man walks from table to table inspecting everyone’s results. Occasionally he bends to dip a ladle in a cauldron; for the most part, he simply sneers.
When he gets to Harry’s table, he stirs their potion once, and then looks down his nose at them both. “I see, Mr. Beggins, that you’ve been cheating off Miss Munro again.
“I, no, I haven’t, sir…” the boy fumbles over the words and somehow manages to look extremely guilty. Harry sighs, and resists the urge to bury his face in his hands. He looks across the aisle at Eloise Munro. Though her cauldron is neither smoking nor gurgling, the colour is not as blue as it should be.
Harry assumes it is perfectly adequate, but it’s clear their work is superior. Snape obviously notices this too. The man frowns and glances from Beggins to Harry and back again. “What is the meaning of this?”
“It was Potter, sir,” Beggins says quietly; he does not look at Snape. “He added peppermint to the dragon’s blood.”
“I see. Mr. Potter, have you brewed this particular potion before?”
“No.” Snape, after all, will know if he’s lying.
“Then what, may I ask, prompted you to alter the explicit instructions I provided you?”
“The dragon’s blood, sir. I added the peppermint to temper the heat of the dragon’s blood.”
Snape raises an eyebrow and waits for Harry to continue.
“The text says that Calming Draughts are especially sensitive to temperature. Dragon’s blood often forces reactions at a higher heat. The peppermint mitigates that concern.”
The man’s eyes widen slightly. “A tolerable deduction, Mr. Potter,” he says after a moment. Harry thinks he sees the corner of his lips curve slightly (a hint of a smile).
* * * * *
New Timeline. 3 December 1996, Sixth-Year
Something has shifted. It is subtle at first, almost indefinable (like the presence of pain under a sedative), but it is growing stronger, becoming harder and harder for Snape to ignore. Potter is more focused than ever – both in Defence and Occlumency lessons. Although he will never be truly skilled at mind magic, Snape cannot deny that he is improving – improving to the point that he must now look to find flaws, to find reasons to criticise.
It’s tiresome, really.
In Defence, they are working on shield charms. Here, Potter has learned to use his emotion to his advantage. He is unmistakably the strongest DADA student of his year. Even Snape must admit this. Neither Granger’s technical expertise nor Malfoy’s natural elegance can match Potter’s raw power and skill.
Snape supposes it’s for the best. After all, the boy will have to face the Dark Lord someday, and he will most likely have to do it alone. The thought fills Snape with cold dread.
The class partners off to practice, and Snape selects Potter to work with him. The boy glares, indignation flashing in green eyes. No doubt he feels singled out. Snape supposes it’s true, though not for the reasons he expects. He simply doesn’t trust anyone else to pair with Potter. No one matches his abilities. Besting Ronald Weasley or (Merlin forbid) Neville Longbottom with a flick of his wand or lazy wave of his hand will do nothing to prepare him to survive.
So he forces the boy to duel with him, and he pushes him harder than he would push any other student.
Potter casts a stinging hex. It misses wide right.
“Focus,” Snape snaps, and the boy scowls, but he raises his wand, narrows his eyes.
Snape casts a binding spell, thin cords spiralling from his wand like snakes. Potter deflects it easily, wordlessly. Snape does not smile.
“Mr. Potter, please, tell me what we are working on today.”
“Er, shield charms?”
“Why, then, are you deflecting and not shielding?”
“What’s the difference?”
“The difference,” he says, drawing out the word, “is that I instructed you to work on shields, and I expect you to do so.”
Potter casts Diffindo before Snape is done speaking. His shield absorbs it, but the force of the spell knocks him back a step. Snape focuses his magic into a Stupefy, but Potter raises his hand instantly. Snape can feel the vibration of power as his shield snaps into place. The air shimmers visibly (magic sharp and silver tinged).
Snape quickly casts Incarcerous. Potter’s shield is still firmly in place; the spell bounces off and hits the Patil girl, the ropes cutting brutally into her skin. He grimaces and casts Finite Incantatem, but the boy is already at her side.
“Miss Patil, are you all right?”
She nods, rubbing the welt on her forearm.
“Do you need to go to the hospital wing?”
“Good. The rest of you, get back to work.” The class grumbles but resumes their spell work. He turns to Potter; the boy is still kneeling by the girl. “Mr. Potter, that includes you.”
“Yes sir,” he says, but does not stand.
“Professor,” he starts slowly, “I was wondering, is there any way to cast shields on other people as well?”
Snape narrows his eyes; it’s a good question, but he will not admit it. “Why do you ask?”
The boy bites his lip, but answers quickly. “Because I don’t see the point of defending myself if others are harmed in the process.”
Of course. Snape forces a sneer. “Mr. Potter, perhaps you should spend more time focusing on your own defence before you begin worrying about others. Your skills are far from superior. Regardless of what your ego may tell you, you are incapable of defending the world.” The words, derisive and cruel, spill off his tongue as they have a hundred times before. But it doesn't feel right; the words feel strangely empty now. Something twists in his chest – an ache behind his heart, just beneath his ribs.
“Yes, Professor,” Potter responds meekly, bowing his head. Snape doesn’t think he remembers when the boy stopped fighting back.
Memories (sometimes murky dim polluted, but often brilliant bright shining to the bone) line the dark places of Severus’s mind.
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 19 February 1983, Hogwarts
“The Dark Lord made seven of these?” Harry nearly laughs at the look of disbelief on Snape’s face.
They’re seated at a corner table in the library. Thankfully, the stacks are quiet on weekends. “We were surprised too. Dumbledore initially thought there were only six, but of course--” Harry taps his forehead, “--he didn't account for the final one.”
“I doubt the Dark Lord did either,” the man muses. “But I suppose his soul was far too decimated at that point for him to even tell the difference.”
“Most likely,” Harry nods in agreement.
“And I must speak to the Headmaster about having this book removed from the library,” Snape runs a finger along the binding of The Darkest Arts a bit fondly. “Even in the Restricted Section, it’s far too dangerous to leave about around children.”
“Dumbledore removes it at some point,” Harry says. “After his death, my friend is able to summon the text from his office. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had a clue what we were up against.”
“Still...” Snape says, opening the book once more. “This book describes in explicit detail some of the darkest spells I've seen. And—”
“And you’ve seen a lot of dark magic,” Harry finishes for him. “I agree. The book shouldn’t be on the shelves. Voldemort undoubtedly learned what he needed to know about creating a Horcrux from that very source. He made his first before he left school.”
Snape pales a bit at that, but says nothing.
“So now what do we do?” Harry asks after a long moment.
Snape runs a pale hand through his hair, leaving it mussed and out of place. He looks so young. It’s odd, and Harry must work to disassociate this Snape from the one he used to know. The man leans forward slightly, resting his elbows on the table; his expression is thoughtful, and it softens his features markedly. “Tell me what happens.”
* * * * *
New Timeline. 11 January 1997, Sixth-Year
In all honesty, it is not terribly difficult to kill the snake.
The Dark Lord had not taken to keeping her perpetually by his side, as the boy assured he would one day do. And, as Basilisk fangs are highly potent in their own right, it was short work to incorporate them into a suitable poison. Snape appreciates the irony of using Riddle’s original lethal pet snake to murder the second.
The Dark Lord is not pleased.
His resulting rage is quite terrifying, though no one (aside from Snape) appears to know what Nagini actually was. He supposes he would be quite upset, too, if a piece of his soul were destroyed.
Snape took precautions to assure that the poison would be undetectable, but the Dark Lord punishes indiscriminately. He considers himself lucky; he’d be dead were anything other than natural causes suspected in the snake’s demise. After all, he’s the resident Potions Master. Who else could concoct a Horcrux-killing poison?
Still, he barely manages to make it back Hogwarts. Apparition is brutal, and the walk from the castle’s boundary is torturous. Once inside, he heads straight for the dungeons. He can report to Dumbledore in the morning.
Potter is waiting for him. Snape nearly groans in frustration; all he wants to do is take a shower and collapse into bed. The boy is sitting crossed-legged in front of his door, textbook open in his lap. He looks up when he hears Snape’s footsteps. His glasses reflect the flickering torchlight.
Snape sighs. The boy looks dreadful. There are dark circles under his eyes, and his skin is paler than usual. It’s clear he hasn’t been getting enough sleep. “Mr. Potter, why aren’t you in bed?” He refuses to be concerned about the boy’s appearance. He wants nothing more than to be left alone.
“I fail to see how this concerns me.”
“It’s Voldemort – I’ve been Occluding!” he adds quickly, “but I can’t get him out of my head.”
“Then you’re not trying hard enough.”
“No, no, that’s not it.” The boy scrambles to his feet. “I am, but there’s something wrong. I’ve never felt him like this before. Something’s happened.”
Snape presses his fingers to his temples. Of course something has happened; his bloody snake is dead. “Come inside,” he says after a moment, unwarding his door. Potter follows him into the office quickly. Snape leans against his desk; his entire body aches, and he is excruciatingly tired.
When he looks up, Potter is staring. He knows he must look horrible. It’s been two days since he’s showered. His lip is split, and he can feel a bruise purpling his cheek. His robes are disheveled, unwashed, caked with blood and God knows what else.
Potter brings a hand to his mouth to cover a gasp. His pity infuriates Snape; it twists in his stomach like nausea.
“I see, Mr. Potter,” Snape sneers, “that your manners are as delightful as always. Please, do sit down.” Sarcasm drips from his tongue, but he doesn’t stop him as he brushes past to perch on the edge of the sofa.
“You... They... What did they do to you?” Potter stumbles over the words.
“Tell me what you’ve seen.”
The boy exhales loudly and looks like he wants to protest, but he answers, “I haven’t seen anything. I’ve been Occluding. But I can feel him.” He taps his forehead. “And it’s never been this bad before.”
“What do you mean?”
“He tortured you, didn’t he?”
Snape opens his mouth to deny it, to say something appropriately cruel, to tell Potter to mind his own business, but the look on his face stops him. His expression is soft and wholly unfamiliar; all the scathing, critical remarks simply die on Snape’s tongue.
“What did they do to you?” the boy repeats in almost a whisper. Then Potter is standing in front of him, holding his hand up to Snape’s face; his touch is warm, gentle.
The tingle of the young wizard’s magic in his blood, underneath his skin makes Snape shudder, but he doesn’t lash out, doesn’t offer any of a dozen scathing remarks. Instead, he brings his fingertips to his now healed cheek and finds himself saying, “Thank you.”
Snape realises that they are standing very close, not touching (not quite) but close enough. The boy notices too, blushes becomingly, but does not step away.
His eyes flicker just briefly to Potter’s lips; they are shiny and moist and parted just so. Potter’s own gaze drops to Snape’s mouth before he ducks his head guiltily.
Snape closes his eyes. Coldness (tinged with something else entirely) floods his stomach. He’d been thinking about kissing a student.
And not just any student: he’d been thinking about kissing Harry Potter.
And it seems as though Harry Potter had been thinking about kissing him, too.
Suddenly the Boy Hero sways forward, rocking slightly on the balls of his feet. Snape jerks back, knocking his hip painfully on the corner of the desk. Potter scowls but doesn’t move. Snape quickly moves around the desk, so it’s between himself and the boy.
“You could feel it,” Snape says slowly, understanding. “You could feel what he did to us.”
The boy bites his lip and nods. “That’s why I can’t sleep. I can’t even think.” He shakes his head slightly as though trying to clear it, then touches his fingers to his lips. His eyes widen slightly; they look owlish behind his glasses. “Oh God…I…”
Snape holds up a hand, forestalling whatever realisation the boy is about to come to. “I killed the snake.”
Potter looks up again, startled. “You what?”
“The Dark Lord’s pet. I believe he called her Nagini.”
The boy opens his mouth and shuts it again rather comically. “But…”
“She was a Horcrux, was she not?”
“She, I… How did you know?”
“There are three more now, right?” Snape says by way of answer.
Potter nods. He looks rather dazed. “The locket, the cup, and something of Ravenclaw’s.”
Oh. Snape suddenly feels ill. Of course Potter doesn’t know about the seventh Horcrux. The one Dumbledore refuses to talk about. The one inside the boy. “Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem was destroyed, years ago.”
“What?” Potter’s eyes widen in surprise, but he looks rather suspicious.
Snape sighs; sleep will have to wait. He sits down on the sofa and motions for Potter to join him. He is a bit wary, but does, taking a seat at very end, as far away from Snape as possible.
“We need to talk.”
(Memories, silver streaked, slip before his eyes. A flash of skin, a twist of lips, his fingers twined in dark dark hair.)
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 28 February 1983, Hogwarts
“I’m not certain you should tell me the locations of the Horcruxes.”
They are back in the library. It is well after curfew, so they are alone. Snape agrees; it’s the only time they can discuss matters privately.
“Why not? We’ve been over this.” If Harry is truly trapped here, he’s going to accomplish something, whether Snape likes it or not.
The man runs a hand over his face; he looks very tired. “Because, if I am truly…required to go back to the Dark Lord in the future, then I do not believe it is wise to know such information.” Snape bites his lip.
Harry recognises the nervous gesture and realises than the old Snape would never show such weakness. It’s oddly appealing. He looks down at the text in front of him, though he’s got it memorised by now. “Voldemort trusts you until the very end. He never once believes you’re anything but entirely loyal.” He looks up again; Snape’s expression is troubled.
He isn’t used to the man looking so unguarded. It’s disconcerting.
“And yet, you are so quick, so willing to trust me?” Snape smoothes his hand over the surface of the table, then tilts his head to one side, “Foolish, really.”
Harry refuses to react to the comment. It’s only a defense mechanism, after all. “Perhaps. But that’s how it needs to be.”
* * * * *
New Timeline. 20 February 1997, Sixth-Year
Potter is sweating; his fringe is plastered to his forehead, obscuring the scar. He takes his glasses off and presses his fingertips to his eyes.
“Better, Mr. Potter,” Snape admits finally. “But still, it took you far too long to block my advances.” He pauses, folding his arms across his chest. “And, when you did, it was only through your inability to control your emotions. You left yourself too vulnerable.”
The boy nods but says nothing in response. Snape frowns. It’s unlike him not to talk back. “Is something wrong?”
“What? Oh, no.”
He raises an eyebrow, and the boy blushes and looks away.
“It’s just, there’s a lot I don’t understand right now.”
“And do you care to enlighten me?”
Potter bites his lip and glances at the door rather anxiously, but then he looks at Snape again, “I want to hate you, Snape. I really do.” His green eyes narrow dangerously. “And I used to. It was so easy. I used to loathe you, and I blamed you for everything. For Sirius, for my parents, even for Voldemort.” His fists are clenched now. “But I just can’t do it anymore, and I don’t understand why.” He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.
The admission unnerves Snape, and he doesn’t know what to say. But the boy opens his eyes again, and the intensity of his gaze sends a chill down Snape’s spine.
“I don’t get it, but I think that you do. There’s something going on between us. And someday you’re going to have to talk to me about it. You—” he stops short, voice choked and ducks his head; a strand of dark hair falls into his face.
Memories crowd the spaces of his mind, but Snape is at a loss. Yes. I knew you once. I was twenty-three and you were everything. You were headstrong and foolish and charming and intolerable. We brewed potions together. You wanted to save my life, and I think… I think I might have been able to love you. But you left. You left and there was nothing I could do about it.
Snape takes a steadying breath, presses his fingers to his temples, and says nothing at all. For weeks, he’s ignored the tightness in his chest, the flutter and twist in his stomach whenever he’s around Potter. He tries to tell himself it’s just a natural response to working so closely with a boy whom reminds him of what he used to have.
But deep down (base of his spine, core of his lungs), he knows that’s not the case. He recognises that illicit appeal, the attraction he will never openly acknowledge, and he hates himself for such weakness. He hates that Potter’s mere presence in his classroom, in his office each day, continues to gnaw away at what little resolve he has left. Forces him to question what kind of man he must be to want such an unspeakable thing. And he despises himself for not having the strength to overcome it.
And yet, the way Potter looks at him sometimes thrills him no end.
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 3 March 1983, Hogwarts
“We need to tell Dumbledore,” the man says with absolutely no preamble. “I simply cannot condone keeping this information from him any longer.”
Harry takes a deep, hopefully calming, breath. He is back in Snape’s office, ostensibly for detention, but he realises now that Snape just wants to rant. Not five minutes had passed in Potions that afternoon before the man found a reason to chastise him. Harry, admittedly, said something rather inappropriate in response. He was tired, and he’d done nothing wrong.
Snape’s eyes practically glittered as he doled out the punishment.
The man needs to be in control; Harry realises this. Snape at twenty-three is perhaps more petty, more controlling, and more in need of personal validation than he ever was at thirty-eight. Harry hates that about him, but he thinks, perhaps, he understands. Snape has always been self-conscious and insecure, but here he is not yet so jaded, so cynical that he’s stopped caring what others think.
The man has taken off his robes; he looks strangely vulnerable not draped in layers of black. His shirtsleeves are rolled to the elbow, revealing wiry forearms and a hint of the Mark. Harry is careful not to stare (he’s seen it before, after all), but he wonders if Snape allows anyone else to see him like this. He doesn’t think so, and the thought is strangely endearing.
Snape paces back and forth behind his desk. His hair is unwashed, and Harry watches as he runs a pale hand through it. It’s an agitated gesture, and Harry can literally feel the tension in the room. “What changed?”
The man stops moving and looks at Harry like he’s a particularly noxious potion ingredient. “Excuse me?”
Harry sighs, “I asked you what changed. You agreed not to tell Dumbledore. What’s different now?”
“It’s far too dangerous,” Snape says in a frustrated huff. “Simply your presence in this time has put our entire world at risk. I can no longer stand back and allow you to play God.”
“Right,” Harry takes another deep breath. “And what, exactly, do you plan on doing about it? Have you figured out a way to send me back? Because if you have, by all means, please tell me about it.” He’s shouting, but he doesn’t care; Snape infuriates him on the best of days.
Snape’s shoulders sag slightly. “There is nothing. You know that. But if anyone can find a solution, it’s the Headmaster. And we can no longer afford to keep him in the dark.”
“I’m sorry, Snape,” Harry says after a moment, “I simply can’t do that.”
The man’s glare is bone-chilling, and for a brief moment, Harry thinks he might actually go for his wand. But Snape turns his back instead, smacking his palm down on the surface of his desk. “Those are the words of a childish, selfish, foolish little boy. Though, I do know that Gryffindors operate on another code of morality. Perhaps you find this course laudable?” He turns to looks at Harry again, face cold and cruel.
“I’m not a sodding Gryffindor!”
“Close enough,” Snape practically spits, and Harry can see something like loathing in his eyes. For some reason, the expression slices like a knife, though Harry knows he shouldn’t care.
“No,” Harry says, horrified to hear his voice crack. “We can’t. We can’t tell Dumbledore.”
“And what, exactly, do you have against the Headmaster?” Snape yells. “This is far more important that some schoolboy grudge, Potter. Do you honestly not realise that?”
“Of course I do! I know it’s bigger than that. It’s always been bigger than that.” He closes his eyes, then opens them again, willing away the tears he feels pricking behind his eyelids. “He makes you kill him. Now do you understand? Dumbledore forces you to murder him. And I cannot let you talk to him.”
Snape pales considerably; Harry watches as his body goes completely rigid. Then, he turns without a word and strides from the room. The door clicks shut behind him.
* * * * *
New Timeline. 6 March 1997, Sixth-Year
Potter is waiting for him again when Snape returns from his rounds. It’s well past curfew, but that does not surprise him. The boy has always had a callous disregard for the rules. Snape sighs. “Is your scar bothering you again, Mr. Potter?”
“What? Oh, no. I haven’t felt anything in a few days.”
“Then why, might I ask, are you sitting outside my rooms in the middle of the night?”
Potter looks down. Snape thinks he sees a faint blush seep across pale cheeks. It sends a flutter of something vaguely familiar through his stomach, and he forces himself to look away. “Go to sleep, Potter.”
“I, no…” he scrambles to his feet as Snape turns to unward the door. For some inexplicable reason, he does not stop the boy from following him into his office.
This time, when Potter stands too close, when he can feel the heat from his skin, can hear his breath exhale in a soft whoosh, Snape knows he will touch him. So, when Potter reaches out, brushes a fingertip hesitatingly along Snape’s wrist, the back of his hand, he does not pull away. Instead, he watches as the boy turns his hand over, traces the lines on his palm slowly, then twines their fingers together.
And when they kiss, Snape is surprised he doesn't combust. Surely, the press of the boy’s lips (dry and chapped and perfect, perfect) is enough to tear him to pieces. At the very least, it changes something fundamental in his very being.
Everything seems sharper now, clearer.
His entire world is poised on a single point: his mouth on the boy’s. His tongue slips against Potter’s, and he’s certain he feels him shudder as he gasps, clutches at his shoulders, slim fingers clenching hard enough to bruise.
Snape grows hard so fast he thinks he sees stars.
But Potter is pressed against him, and he can feel his erection, even through the layers of robe, as he rocks forward. Snape’s breath catches. Nothing has felt this good in a very long time.
He doesn’t think, can’t think. After all, if he did, surely he would pull away, take points, kick the boy out of his office once and for all. Because he doesn’t kiss students.
No, Snape doesn't want to think. All he wants to do is feel Potter’s body moving against his.
He is intensely aware of Potter's size, the smallness of him, of this thin slip of a boy who is clearly driving him mad. He is also aware of the extraordinary amount of power thrumming just beneath the surface of the boy’s skin, his lips.
The wash of Potter’s magic over his skin is familiar (though he hasn't felt it in a very long time). But it's not the same. It is not as strong as he remembers (not yet); it is not yet tainted, and it is not yet tinged with dark.
“Oh, oh God, Professor…”
“Call me Severus,” he breathes because, for some reason, that makes this better.
“Christ, Severus…” and his name on the boy’s lips is the most decadent, debauched, divine thing he's ever heard.
“I could come like this,” Potter says after a moment, mouth against his throat.
“Yes, yes,” Snape hears himself say, pushing his hips hard against the boy’s. “Make yourself come. I want to feel you.”
But then someone knocks on the door, and Snape jerks away, presses his hand to Potter’s mouth to cover his moan.
They remain absolutely still.
Snape doesn’t breathe. He's not certain he can. He feels the familiar tingles of the wards, and it is like a stone dropping into his stomach. “It's Dumbledore.”
The boy steps back, tugging on his robes; he looks very pale.
“Sit down. I have to let him in.”
“But what will we say?” Potter’s eyes dart nervously toward the door. “He can't know.”
“Obviously,” Snape pinches the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, feeling a headache threatening. “Just sit down, Potter, and let me talk to him.”
Dumbledore is waiting patiently when Snape opens the door. His hands are clasped in front of his stomach, his eyes benignly speculating. “Severus,” he says, stepping into the room. “Oh, and Harry, my boy,” he raises an eyebrow, “I certainly did not expect to see you here. Is everything all right?”
Snape speaks before the boy has a chance to respond. “His scar was hurting, Albus. He was concerned about his Occluding.”
“Ah. Of course. And naturally you came to Professor Snape.” Dumbledore strokes his beard calmly, but his voice indicates that he knows far more than he is letting on. Snape can only hope Potter has his meager Occlumency shields in place. “How are you feeling now, Harry?”
“Better, sir,” the boy manages, looking everywhere but at Dumbledore.
“Good. Though, I imagine your scar would be hurting at this time. In fact, that is why I've come to speak with Professor Snape. But I’m afraid we’ll need our privacy. Can you make it back to your dormitory? Or do you need to visit Madam Pomfrey?”
“No. I'll be fine.” Potter stands a bit awkwardly, still not looking at either of them. He walks around the sofa as far away from Snape as possible on his way to the door, only pausing briefly before slipping out to murmur, “Goodnight, professors.”
That night, Snape remembers the press of the boy’s body against his own (jagged and cutting straight through flesh and bone). When he wakes, he is flushed and aching. He cannot help but question how he could be so devastated by the smallest brush of skin, the slightest breath against his lips.
He cannot fall back asleep. Potter is everywhere.
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 24 March 1983, Hogwarts
There are not many Slytherins. Harry knows there are highs and lows in Wizarding population. But Slytherin numbers are noticeably disproportionate to the other Hogwarts houses. Including himself, there are only five seventh-years (three boys and two girls). His own time had been a period of low enrollment, but even then there had been at least ten members of each house.
The First Wizarding War, Harry supposes, had its price.
One night, over a chess match, Harry asks Edmund Beggins about it. The boy looks at him for a long moment, his castle suspended in midair above the board. Apparently, he decides he can trust Harry with the information because he sets the piece down again and leans back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest. “What do you want to know?”
“Why there are so few of us, for one.”
Beggins looks around. There’s a cluster of third-years playing Exploding Snap in a corner and a few first-years at one table, huddled around an old issue of Quidditch Monthly. The other seventh-years are by the fire. Aria Taylor is reading Apollo Chenet’s future, Tarot cards spread out in front of her. Violet Pendergrass looks on, one foot dangling off the edge of the sofa.
“Many parents pulled their children out during the war,” Beggins says after a moment. “From every house. Some chose not to return. There are fewer students here in general than there were ten or fifteen years ago.”
Harry nods. “That makes sense, but it doesn’t explain why we have less than any other House, why there are only five seventh-years.”
“No,” Beggins says noncommittally, picking up the castle again. “But, I imagine you already know the answer to that. After all, some stereotypes are true.”
It takes a moment, but Harry understands. “Children of Death Eaters.”
Beggins inclines his head. “When You-Know-Who was defeated, most of his followers disappeared. Some were arrested, of course, but most were just never seen again.”
Harry grimaces. He knows how many of Voldemort’s followers are still out there, biding their time, waiting.
“Obviously, their children didn’t return to Hogwarts at start of term,” Beggins finishes with a shrug, “hence our low numbers.”
Harry nods, as Beggins, clearly done talking, moves his rook, taking one of his pawns.
He should have known the answer all along. After all, Harry wondered at not recognising any of his housemates’ names. Aside from faculty, he knows no one from his own time. He supposes it’s better this way. There is less chance of someone remembering when he returns. And, at least, he knows he’s not currently rooming with any Death Eaters, past, present, or future.
Harry thinks it’s best to take comfort from what he can.
They finish their chess game in relative silence. Neither Harry nor Beggins is particularly skilled and, as a result, their matches are usually quick and decidedly unremarkable. Still, he enjoys the company. He’s wretchedly lonely. He misses his life. He misses his friends. Though, he tries not to think of them too often, or else it would be overwhelming.
He hasn’t spoken to Snape since he revealed the man’s role in Dumbledore’s death.
The man has stopped calling on him, stopped looking at him in class. And when Harry knocks on his office door, he refuses to answer, though Harry knows he’s there.
After a week, he stops trying to get Snape to talk to him. It’s pointless. And, for some inexplicable reason, Harry misses him, misses the time spent together in the library, in his rooms researching Horcruxes and arguing strategy.
Harry knows that missing Snape’s company is sure sign of insanity or, at least, of severe depression, but there isn’t much he can do about it.
He’s taken to spending time on his own in the library, poring over every text with even a mere reference to time travel. So far, he’s found nothing of use. Still, he keeps searching because he has no other choice. To stop looking would be giving up, and he’s quite certain he can’t handle that.
* * * * *
New Timeline. 22 March 1997, Sixth-Year
He looks up from his notes. Potter stands in the doorway. His cheeks are pink with heat, his robes are open and his white school shirt is un-tucked. One rumpled shirttail hangs out over pressed navy slacks.
“Professor Snape,” he reminds the boy, turning back to his essays again.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Professor,” he says with a bit too much emphasis on the word.
Snape nods and does not glare; after his recent behaviour, it’s no wonder the boy is taking liberties. He sets his quill down again and motions toward Potter’s disheveled appearance. “Uniform, Mr. Potter.”
“Right. Sorry,” he apologises again and proceeds to yank the rest of his shirt out of his pants, exposing a thin slice of pale stomach. He’s not wearing a belt. His trousers hang far too low on slim hips.
Snape’s breath catches, and he knows he should look away but he can’t help but glance at the boy’s waist as he redresses. His eyes follow pale hands as they slide inside his pants and back out again, smoothing down the fabric.
He swallows thickly. The room shouldn’t be this warm.
When Snape looks up again, the boy is watching him, a smile playing at pink lips.
He feels his skin heat, and Potter raises an eyebrow. "Acceptable?"
“Yes, yes, of course,” he manages, more flustered than he has any right to be. “Now, I assume you came to see me for a reason?”
“I, oh, yeah,” the boy looks down awkwardly. “The cup.”
Ah, yes. He promised Potter he would tell him what he knew about the Horcrux. “A few years ago, before his death, the Dark Lord gave Hufflepuff's cup to Bellatrix Lestrange for safekeeping. Of course, no one, not even Bella, realised what the treasure was. I believe she secured the Horcrux in her vault.”
Potter bites his lip when he’s thinking. Snape is not drawn to the sight of soft, pink flesh caught between straight, white teeth. “No place is more secure than Gringotts,” he muses as if to himself.
Snape cannot help but agree.
“How will we get it?”
“I’ve an idea that just might work.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 1 April 1983, Hogwarts
“Help me find a way back.” Harry hates the desperate sound to his voice, but there is nothing he can do about it. It’s been eight weeks. He misses his friends, and he knows that every day he remains in the past, returning to his life becomes more of an impossibility.
The idea terrifies him more than he’ll ever admit, and he can’t take much more.
Snape says nothing; his expression is perfectly blank.
“Please,” Harry tries again.
“And why,” Mr. Potter, “do you believe I should help you?” The man’s voice is silky smooth and completely devoid of emotion. The cool disregard slices like a knife (could cut muscle and tendon clean from bone).
“Because I need you.” He sounds pathetic, but he doesn’t care. His chest aches and his eyes burn, but he does not know what else to do.
Snape crosses his arms over his thin chest, eyes narrowing dangerously. “You have not answered my question. Why should I help you?”
“You’re the only person who can. And, I imagine you’ll be pleased to get rid of me.” Harry tries to smile, though he’s certain it doesn’t fool Snape.
The man purses his lips as though considering the matter. “All right,” he says after a moment, “but only because your continued presence is getting rather tiresome.”
Snape nods. “Come inside.”
He follows the man through his dark office and to another door Harry assumes leads to Snape’s chambers. They emerge in a brightly lit sitting room. A fire burns in the hearth. Snape’s desk is cluttered with books and stacks of unmarked essays. Half-drunk cups of tea litter practically every available surface. The man’s school robes are draped over the back of the worn sofa.
The room is…comfortable, and for some reason this surprises Harry. Though, he’s not sure what he expected.
“I’d start with Pyrramus Clark’s A History of Matters Light and Dark. Then move on to Cuddyer’s On Time and Place, if I were you,” Snape says, sitting down at his desk and picking up a quill.
When it’s clear he’s not going to offer any additional instructions, Harry walks over to the overstuffed bookshelf shoved against one wall. It’s crammed full of texts and scrolls, and Harry must search for a moment before he locates Clark’s title. The binding prickles with old magic when he touches it, but it allows him to pick it up.
He sits down on the sofa with the book in his lap. It is obviously very old. Harry begins searching the index for any reference to time, pulling out a scrap of parchment to take notes. They work in silence for a while. At one point, Snape summons a fresh pot of tea and two cups. The drink is warm and bitter and a needed distraction, but Snape says nothing, so Harry turns to the next chapter. Although time travel is mentioned several times, the magic is theoretical. Nothing is readily useful for practical application. He keeps reading.
Harry takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. He is suddenly very tired. Snape is still bent over his desk, quill scratching furiously; Harry wonders what he’s marking. He has no idea how long they’ve been working, but it must be hours.
He wakes to Snape’s hand on his shoulder. “Come on, Potter. It’s well past two. You should go back to your dorm.”
“I, oh, sorry…” he says, fumbling for his glasses. Snape does not move his hand. His touch is surprisingly gentle.
“It’s all right. You were not asleep for very long.”
Harry stands up, aware that Snape is still very close. “Thank you, again.”
The man shrugs, one shoulder rising and falling. “I’ll expect to see you again tomorrow evening. Seven o’clock.”
* * * * *
New Timeline. 14 April 1997, Sixth-Year
They are curled together in front of the fire. Snape watches the flicker of flame play across the pale gold skin of the boy’s cheek, his neck. He is still fully clothed, though he’s removed his robes and rolled his shirtsleeves to the elbow.
And though this is nothing they haven’t done before (in one lifetime or another), Snape still wonders when this -- this frantic press of bodies, this groping like teenagers in secluded corridors -- became all right.
Though he’s never (will never) take the boy to his bed, no one in his right mind would approve. Depravity coils like nausea in Snape’s belly (sometimes he thinks touching the boy could make him physically ill). Imagine what they would say: Saviour molested by Death Eater teacher man twice his age. It's sickening, really. But he won't stop (worth it, worth it).
Snape has touched Potter exactly four times (since before). Each time he swears he will never do it again. Yet, he has never been able to resist the boy (in any time).
Potter arches his back, presses against Snape’s arousal. Snape groans, and the boy stiffens and rocks back again a bit hesitantly. “You like that?” he asks softly.
“I believe that should be obvious,” he says, curling his fingers around Potter’s hip, holding him in place. His other hand creeps down Potter’s chest. He can feel the hard peak of one nipple under the fabric of his school shirt. The boy hisses, leans into his touch.
Slowly, Snape’s fingers move to the line of buttons. He undoes one, then another, allowing the pads of his fingertips to trail down the boy’s chest. His skin is warm and soft and smooth under his touch; Potter sinks back against him with a sigh.
Snape thinks about what Dumbledore would say. The thought fills him with a perverted sense of satisfaction. After all, he will soon become the man’s murderer. Dumbledore can ask nothing else of him.
“What do you want, Potter?”
The boy groans and rocks back again. “Touch me.”
“Touch you, hmm?” He slips a hand lower, feels Potter’s stomach muscles tense under his palm as he strokes his fingers back and forth along the waistband of his trousers. He can see Potter’s erection straining against the fabric of his slacks. “Do you want me to take your prick out, rub it until you come all over my hand?”
“God, yes. Please,” he moans, pushing his hips forward, “won’t take long.”
“No, I don’t suppose it will.” His fingers tug at the boy’s belt. Potter’s own hands join his to fumble with the zip. Then his cock is out, framed by the white cotton of his pants. It is short but thick and flushed and warm (so warm) as Snape curls his fingers around it. The boy’s entire body trembles as Snape strokes him up and down, sweeps his thumb over the smooth pink curve of cockhead, catching the moisture there.
“Oh…oh,” he gasps, twisting his head around to press his lips to Snape’s. The kiss is clumsy and awkward (all teeth and tongue), but it doesn’t matter because the boy’s mouth is sweet and wet and perfect, perfect… He tightens his grip, moves his hand faster, enjoying the way Potter squirms and arches and hisses under his touch.
“Oh, God…Snape, just a bit more.”
But suddenly, Snape doesn’t want him to come like this. He pulls his hand away, and Potter’s eyes, hazy with arousal, blink open behind his glasses. “Here, sit up a bit.”
The boy looks unsure but complies readily. Snape slips off the end of the sofa. His knees protest a bit as he settles between Potter’s legs, but the look on Potter’s face is well worth it. “Christ, yes…” he says, head thudding back against the sofa’s cushion.
Snape puts his hands on the boy’s thighs, leans over to take him in his mouth. Potter moans, a breathy rush of sound, and jerks his hips up. His cock hits the back of Snape’s throat and he swallows around it. Within moments, the boy is shaking and gasping and coming all over Snape’s tongue.
Snape’s own cock is so hard it aches. He presses a hand between his legs to stay the spiralling wash of pleasure that threatens to overwhelm. It would be so easy to thrust against his palm, to come hard and fast into his trousers like he is a teenager again, like he is twenty-three again.
The thought sickens him.
Snape stands up, adjusting himself, smoothing his hands down his thighs. Potter wets his lip and opens his eyes. His cheeks are flushed pink. He looks positively debauched. It is all Snape can do not to pull him into his arms and take him to bed. He fights to quell the impulse immediately.
“He wants me to kill him.”
“I’m sorry?” Potter’s voice is softly slurred.
“Albus. He’s asked me to murder him.” It is all Snape can to do keep his voice flat, emotionless; the words taste like ash on his tongue. He isn’t sure why he decided to tell the boy (why he decided to tell him now), but it’s probably best that he knows.
Potter closes his eyes again and laughs lazily.
Snape frowns; it certainly isn’t the reaction he expected.
“That’s funny, Professor.”
He doesn’t think it’s the least bit funny. Something cold curls in his stomach, and he suddenly has the urge to hurt the boy, to make him feel as wretched as he does.
“And I’ve agreed, of course,” he injects the words with a carelessness he does not feel. “He’s dying, you know. This way he can – how did he put it? – make sure his death serves the greater good.”
Potter looks rather confused; his expression darkens slightly. “You’re joking.”
“I won’t let you.” Potter scrambles into a sitting position. His glasses are askew, his shirt half buttoned, and his trousers undone. He looks ridiculous.
Snape laughs, a harsh sound even to his own ears. “Oh? And how do you intend to stop me?”
“I, I…” the boy’s hands fumble with his flies; he hisses as he tucks himself back in, zip rasping over sensitive skin.
“That's right. There is nothing you can do.”
“But you can’t.” Potter’s voice is pleading. He sounds helpless and pathetic. And, for some reason, Snape takes pleasure in it. He cannot hold back the impulse to be cruel.
“Did you forget you were fucking a Death Eater?”
“What? No. I'm… You're not.”
“Oh. That’s right. Excuse me,” Snape practically hisses, “not fucking. You’re quite content to let me touch you, suck you off, but -- I forget -- we haven't actually fucked.” The word sounds loathsome and dirty on his tongue, but that’s all right. It should.
“No! God no.” The boy jumps to his feet; his fists are clenched and his jaw is set. “You just don’t get it, do you? I’ll happily let you fuck me. You’re the one who won’t. But you're not a goddamn Death Eater Snape. You haven’t been for quite some time.”
Snape’s mouth twists into a sneer. “Have you forgotten, Mr. Potter,” he practically spits, pushing his sleeve up, “the Mark on my arm?”
“Of course I haven’t. But that's not who you are. And killing Dumbledore won’t change that.”
Snape’s anger seems to bleed out at that. He suddenly feels very tired. “I don't want to be Albus's murderer,” he admits after a moment.
“Then don't do it.” Potter’s conviction is so clear, so innocent that Snape recoils. The boy knows nothing of how war works.
“I haven’t a choice.”
“You always have a choice.”
“No.” He shakes his head, “I stopped having choices a long time ago.”
Potter goes to protest again, but Snape holds up a hand. “The Headmaster is dying. You know that as well as I do. Regardless of how we might wish to deny it, he has three, maybe six months left. He wants to die on his own terms. To have his death mean something.” Snape turns away, stares into the flickering flames of the fire. “And I am in no position to deny him.”
“But he doesn't have the right!” Potter yells.
Snape looks over his shoulder at the boy; his green eyes are nearly black with anger.
“He has every right.”
“To make you a murderer?”
Snape laughs again mirthlessly. “I am already a murderer, Potter. Surely even you realise that.”
The boy pales. Snape takes cruel delight in shattering whatever absurd illusions he holds of him. “Believe me, this will not be the first time, or the last I imagine, that I kill in one of my masters’ names.”
Potter looks like he might cry. Snape tells himself he’s pleased, that it's better this way. After all, it’s not as though they have a future, or something so ridiculous. He never should have got himself involved with Potter (in any time period), but now that he has, a clean break is best. The boy will want nothing to do with him once he’s carried out Dumbledore’s plan (nor should he), and he's already taken more than he ever deserved.
It’s deplorable really. Nausea churns in his stomach, and he thinks he might be ill. “Get out, Potter.”
Anger spikes in Snape’s blood (sickly and warm). “I said get out.” His voice is cold, harsh, but he can’t look at the boy anymore.
“But I…” Potter looks down, something like wetness sparkles in his eyes. “But what will happen to you?”
“To me?” Snape is caught slightly off guard by the question; frankly, he hasn’t considered what will happen to him…after. It is irrelevant. “What do you think will happen to me? To the man responsible for murdering the great Albus Dumbledore?”
“I...I don't know,” the boy sounds very small and very young. It sickens Snape.
“I will most likely be cut down by Aurors before I even manage to leave the grounds.”
“What did you expect?” He folds his arms across his chest and glares. “If, by some chance I do manage to make it back to the Dark Lord's side, I will be the most wanted man in the Wizarding world. My life will be forfeit.”
“No,” the boy says again rather pitifully. “I won't let that happen.”
“Get out, Potter. There is nothing left for you here.”
“I said get out.” He’s certain the words slice the inside of his mouth, but he keeps his voice carefully measured. “You are no longer welcome in my rooms. I don't expect to see you again.”
Snape thinks, perhaps, the boy is crying when he slips from the room. He tells himself he doesn't care.
(Memories, like glass, sharp and jagged, red with blood.)
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 26 March 1983, Hogwarts
A few evenings later, Snape is working in his lab. Harry takes the text he is reading and curls up in the armchair in the corner, but he can’t concentrate.
Instead, he watches Snape. The man’s movements are graceful and controlled as he prepares ingredients, chops, and stirs. He has three cauldrons simmering in front of him. He holds his wand over the first one, moving his hand in a precise and intricate loop. Harry hears a murmured incantation. He doesn’t recognise the language. It isn’t Latin, but the measured intonation of unfamiliar syllables is soothing; Harry enjoys the way the sounds slip over his skin.
“What?” Snape startles him from his thoughts. The man sets his wand down on the table. He’s covered the cauldrons. Harry can see steam collecting under the glass lids.
“The incantation. The ancient Egyptians had great healing magic.”
“Oh.” Harry stands, stretching his arms above his head until his back pops. Snape’s eyes fall to his waist when his jumper rides up, exposing a thin slice of skin. Snape looks away quickly but not before Harry notices two spots of colour on his cheekbones.
Something entirely unfamiliar twists in his stomach, warm and unnerving. “Er, what are you working on?” he asks quickly.
Snape turns back to the lab table and does not look at Harry. “Modifications for Wolfsbane. I believe there is a way to improve the formula to eliminate some of the adverse side effects.” He opens a small jar of iridescent powder and measures a portion into a silver spoon before adding it to the first cauldron. Three silver bubbles rise to the surface before the mixture settles again. Snape replaces the lid. To the second cauldron he adds a small scoop of a blue shimmery powder. To the third he does nothing. “Variations of dragonfly wings,” Snape says in explanation. “I believe their airy nature might counter the earthy quality of the aconite. An appropriate balance could mitigate negative reactions.”
Harry nods. It makes sense, but such a thought would never have occurred to him. He knows Snape is incredibly intelligent, and he can’t help but be rather amazed by his thought process. Potion making is clearly an art. It is one thing to follow instructions, to follow a recipe to completion. It is quite another to improvise, adapt, and improve on existing formulas, to invent and create. Yet, Snape has been doing so since he was sixteen.
Harry is not entirely sure when it happened.
He cannot pinpoint the exact moment his feelings changed. But somewhere in between seeing Snape’s memories in the Pensieve, travelling back in time to meet the man at twenty-three, and spending time together in this timeline, Harry stopped hating him.
In fact, at some point, he managed to disassociate this man from the Snape he used to know. Yes, this man still hated his father. This man is still petty and cruel and perhaps more prejudiced that the old Snape ever was. But this man is also awkward and open and even, at times, unintentionally charming. This man is funny and smart, and he isn’t as jaded or as closed off as he will be in twenty years. This man has made mistakes and is paying for them dearly, but this Snape still believes there might be hope for redemption.
This is not his hated professor, who picked on him because of his father, who goaded Sirius to his death, who Harry was certain never cared for anyone but himself.
It’s just Snape, with ink smeared on his fingers and dark hair that won’t stay out of his eyes. Snape, who is muttering under his breath, jotting down notes on scraps of parchment, and working to improve Wolfsbane because he knows it can be done.
This Snape is young. And though, like Harry, he’s far from innocent, his worldview isn’t yet perverted by nearly a decade of playing the spy. He hasn’t yet had to sacrifice himself in the ways Dumbledore will one day surely require. And he hasn’t yet decided that he’s seen everything the world has to offer (and found it sorely lacking).
“Mr. Potter, you are a surprisingly tolerable Potions student.”
The man’s voice startles him, and Harry can’t stop the short burst of laughter. “Wow, ‘tolerable’ coming from you is quite the compliment.”
Snape shrugs but says nothing. “I taught you...before,” he says after a moment. “Surely I noted your capabilities.”
Harry laughs again. “I was a Gryffindor. You hated me.”
“Ah,” Snape doesn’t deny the allegation.
“In all fairness, though,” Harry adds, “the feeling was mutual.”
“And I didn’t get decent at Potions until sixth-year anyway.”
Snape raises an eyebrow. “What happened sixth-year?”
“Well, you stopped teaching Potions for one.”
At this the man’s eyes widen considerably. “Dumbledore replaces me?”
Snape takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. His jaw is set; he’s clearly trying to control his temper.
“Eloquent as always, Mr. Potter,” he manages through gritted teeth. “Now, please, do explain.”
“Dumbledore manages to convince Slughorn to return as Potions professor.”
“Slughorn?” Snape’s voice rises in disbelief. “Horace Slughorn?”
“He’s the one.”
“He retired before I began teaching. He must be positively ancient.”
“Quite, I’d say.”
Snape’s expression is almost comical (a cross between scepticism and pure outrage).
“If it’s any consolation,” Harry says, enjoying himself immensely, “Dumbledore lets you teach Defence.”
“Defence,” he repeats the word slowly. “I’ve always wanted that position.”
“I know. But really, you don’t.” Harry rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet, savouring the look of annoyance on Snape’s face. He knows it’s all the man can do not to snap at him, demand that he explain already. “The position is cursed. Haven’t you noticed that it’s never filled for more than a year?”
Snape nods and waits for Harry to continue.
“Riddle cursed it years ago when Dumbledore refused to give him the job.”
“And I finally get the position your sixth-year because Dumbledore knows he’s dying, and I won’t be available to teach after…”
Snape trails off, and Harry reaches out as if to touch his arm but quickly drops his hand again. The man looks at him, the most peculiar expression on his face, then raises his wand and summons several items from the supply closet.
Harry watches as he prepares room on his workspace, his movements precise, methodical. “Here,” the man says after several minutes, “chop these roots, and do try not to blow anything up during the process.”
Harry chuckles and begins cutting, glad when Snape says nothing else about Dumbledore. “You’re funny.”
Snape doesn’t look up. “I most certainly am not.”
“Yes you are. I just never noticed it before.”
They work quietly for a while. Harry is suddenly intensely aware of the man’s presence close beside him. Though they are not touching, Harry can feel the heat from Snape’s body warm against his. He can hear the steady inhale exhale of his breathing. He can see the way the candlelight plays across the pale skin of his hands, his forearms. It sends a shiver of something not unpleasant down his spine, and his own breath catches in his throat.
“We didn’t…care for one another, before,” Snape says after a moment. The words are soft, uncertain.
Harry laughs rather awkwardly. “No. We positively loathed each other.”
“I see,” Snape almost sounds disappointed. It’s odd.
“I reminded you of my father.”
The man looks at him, dark eyes unreadable. “Yes, you do.” He reaches up tentatively and brushes the fringe off Harry’s forehead. His fingers are soft and warm, and suddenly Harry finds it very difficult to breathe. “But you are nothing like your father.”
Harry frowns a bit at that, and Snape’s hand falls away. “Well, you are stubborn to be sure. Arrogant. Foolish to a fault.”
He narrows his eyes, and Snape’s expression softens. “But you are capable of far greater things than your father ever was.”
“My father died protecting me.” His voice is harsh, but he’s never liked Snape talking about his dad.
“Yes, he did,” the man agrees simply, “and that is honourable, courageous to be sure. But it is nothing more than any parent would do for a child.”
Harry opens his mouth but closes it again. Snape is right, of course.
“But you,” he continues slowly, “you are capable of things James Potter never dreamed of. After all, you’ve travelled back in time, risked everything to save a man you admittedly loathe.”
Harry feels his cheeks warm slightly. “I don’t hate you any more, Snape.”
“I cannot begin to tell you the relief I now feel.” His expression is completely blank, voice flat, but then he smiles (a true curve of lips that looks out of place but rather becoming on his usually stern face).
Harry grins, and then Snape is reaching out, tracing a fingertip along Harry’s jaw line, cupping his cheek in his hand. “You have—”
“I know,” Harry cuts him off because he suddenly, desperately doesn’t want to hear about the woman Snape loves. “I know. I have my mother’s eyes.”
Snape frowns, thumb sliding along Harry’s cheekbone. “No,” he says, voice low. “You have lovely skin.”
That night, for the first night since he’s been here, Harry’s thoughts do not drift toward his old life, to the friends he’s lost, to the things he might never get back.
Instead, he slips a hand down his stomach, into his pyjama pants to palm his cock. He imagines what it would be like to taste Snape’s breath and feel his hands on his skin (sliding down his chest, over his hips, between his legs). He pictures him above him, sweat-slick skin sliding against sweat-slick skin, legs wrapped tight around the other man’s thighs. He moans, eyes shut tight in concentration, hips thrusting into his hand.
And he comes almost instantly.
Part of him thinks, perhaps, he should be disgusted. After all, it’s Snape. But, then again, it’s not – not really. And the man is interesting and intelligent and brave (even if he doesn’t know it yet).
When he thinks about Ginny, he misses her terribly (a space in his chest that’s been carved clean out), but he’s quite certain her touch never affected him the way a single brush of Snape’s finger against his skin did. And, even when they kissed, he knows his cock didn’t swell quite the way it did just standing next to Snape in the lab that evening.
Perhaps he should be more surprised. Surely he’s supposed to like girls. He liked Cho, after all, and he likes Ginny. Everyone expects them to get married and raise a family together. But with Horcruxes and Dark Lords and war, Harry has never really had time to think about what he wants. And suddenly, he’s not so sure anymore.
* * * * *
New Timeline. 7 May 1997, Sixth-Year
On 7 May, Potter nearly kills the Malfoy boy in the sixth floor boys’ restroom. It’s his own fault, Snape supposes. After all, he knew Harry had that bloody book. But in between Horcuxes and Unbreakable Vows and depraved infatuations, Snape somehow managed to forget the impending incident with Sectumsempra.
Snape saves Draco, but only barely. The boy will be scarred, but it is unavoidable.
He assigns Potter detention for the rest of the year. He certainly cannot ignore attempted murder, but he sets the boy to the most mundane task he can think of, always leaves the door open, and refuses to so much as look him in the eye.
After the fifth day, Potter stops trying to talk to him.
Something like ice cracks deep inside Snape’s chest (behind his ribcage, next to his heart).
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 2 April 1983, Hogwarts
They are back in the lab. Snape is allowing Harry to help prepare bases for some of the potions Madam Pomfrey needs in the Hospital Wing. He’s cutting ginseng root for Pepper-Up, careful that each movement is exact and precise. Snape stands at his side, using his wand to measure the ingredients needed for Draught of Living Death.
Harry is comfortable here, regardless of how strange it seems (God, just think what Ron would say). He enjoys the man’s company, and judging from how Snape tolerates his perpetual presence, he thinks the man must not mind being around him either.
“Did you love my mother?” Harry is not sure why he asks the question, but suddenly he needs to know. He saw Snape’s memories, of course, but there is still so much he does not understand.
Snape sets his wand down and turns to face him. “I did,” he says carefully, “very much.” He furrows his brow. “But not in the way I’m certain you’re thinking.”
Harry turns the knife around in his palm; the blade glints in the flickering light of the room. “What do you mean? Did you sleep with her?” He nearly claps his hand over his mouth. He can hardly believe his own nerve.
Snape goes rather red. His eyes flash dangerously, and for a moment Harry is certain he won’t respond. But then he takes a slow breath (a soft huff of air) and shakes his head, “No.”
“But you loved her?” Harry repeats.
“Yes. She was my best friend. I would have married her.”
Though Harry suspected as much, the statement still comes as a shock. After all, had Snape married his mother… He shakes his head as if to clear the thought; it’s too bizarre to consider.
“Our relationship was never romantic, though.”
“She wouldn’t go out with you?” Harry guesses, not terribly surprised.
Snape frowns. “No. I’m quite certain she would have done.”
“I don’t understand.”
The man rolls his eyes. Frankly, Harry is surprised he hasn’t hexed him.
“I was not interested in…that kind of relationship with Lily.”
“But you said you’d marry her!”
“And I would have. In an instant.”
Harry opens his mouth to question the man’s logic, but Snape sighs and closes his eyes, clearly frustrated. “Simply because I would have married her does not mean I was sexually attracted to her…or any woman for that matter.”
Oh. Oh. “You’re…” For some reason, Harry cannot bring himself to say the word.
Snape rolls his eyes again. “Yes Potter. I’m queer.”
“I had a girlfriend. In my own time.”
“Oh, do give me a moment to contact The Daily Prophet.” Sarcasm drips from the man’s tongue, and Harry elbows him playfully.
“Stop. That’s not what I meant. I mean, I like her, of course…”
“One would hope so.” Snape regards him as one would a particularly slow student.
“No, no,” he tries again, but his mouth won’t form the words. “I like her, but I’m not sure I really like her…like that, you know?”
“As elucidating as that explanation is, no, I am not certain I understand.”
“Bastard,” Harry says under his breath, and Snape actually laughs (a rich, warm sound). “You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?”
“I believe that would be conducive to our mutual understanding,” Snape says with a smirk.
“Fine. I like her, but she’s like a sister to me.” He runs a hand through his hair and looks at Snape; the man’s expression is unreadable. “Everyone expects that we will end up together, but I worry I like the idea of being with her more than I actually like being with her.”
“I see,” Snape says unhelpfully.
“And when we kiss,” Harry bites his lip, considering, “when we kiss, it’s more like…”
“Like you are kissing your sister?”
“Exactly!” he nods, hoping Snape understands.
“I don’t have any siblings,” Snape says after a moment, “but I am quite certain that’s not how the experience should feel.”
“No. I didn’t think so either.”
“Have you given any thought to what you might prefer?” Snape’s voice is tentative but laced with an undertone Harry can’t place. It sends a twinge of something fluttering in his stomach.
“No. Not really.”
Snape raises his eyebrow.
“But, I mean,” Harry picks at a thumbnail and does not look at Snape, “I’ve felt things, recently, that I’ve never felt before. Not with Ginny. Not with anyone.”
Snape’s fingers clench the edge of the worktable so hard his knuckles are white. Harry takes a deep breath and turns to face him. “I don’t understand what’s happening,” his voice sounds very small.
“Sometimes, I don’t think we’re expected to.” Snape reaches out, and Harry holds his breath as one finger brushes against his cheekbone, trails down his throat. He can feel his pulse pounding in his ears (a rush of blood that drowns everything else out). “Your heart,” the man says simply, and Harry nods.
For a moment, he does not think he’s really going to do it. He’s not actually going to kiss Snape. But then he’s tilting his head up, and soft, dry lips touch his own, and he is doing it. He keeps waiting for the rational part of his brain to kick in, to tell him to stop, that this is wrong. He doesn’t like men, and he certainly doesn’t like Snape.
But nothing happens, except the push and press of the man’s mouth as it moves against his own.
The kiss is hesitant. Harry can feel the uncertainty there, the caution, but it is tempered with want, a hunger building just below the surface (white hot and blindingly exquisite).
Harry moans, a hint of a sound, and opens his mouth, traces Snape's lips with his tongue.
Snape shifts, pressing his body warm against Harry’s. The edge of the table digs painfully into his hip, but he doesn’t care because Snape feels so good against him (hard where Ginny had been soft). His cock hardens in a way he’s certain it’s never done before, and he tilts his hips, pressing against Snape. The man groans, slipping a hand down to rest on the small of his back. He expects his body to register what he’s doing and be repulsed, but it doesn’t happen. Snape simply gasps into his mouth and slips a thigh between his legs, and the pressure and friction is enough to make him ache. “Oh, God, Snape, I…”
Then the man’s eyes blink open, and suddenly he pulls back, jerking his hand to his mouth. “I can't. We shouldn't,” he whispers after a moment that's stretched and stretched. Harry is sure his entire world is spinning wildly out of control. “It is wrong for me to touch you.”
"No, I—please…" he reaches a hand out as his tongue trips over the words.
“I am your teacher.”
“I was,” the man looks down, skin flushed.
“Yes, but not anymore.” Harry traces a finger across the line of Snape’s knuckles; he does not pull his hand away.
“I am too old for you.”
He laughs, “I’m nearly eighteen. Five years hardly matters.”
“Perhaps, but in your timeline…”
Harry presses his mouth back to Snape’s to cut him off. The man smells of cloves and spice. “We’re not in my timeline anymore.”
Harry ends up pressed against the wall, cold stone digging into his shoulder blades. His fingers clutch at the man’s shoulders. Snape’s stroke his face. But when the man slips a hand down to press at the bulge between his legs, Harry comes helplessly, shuddering and gasping against his chest.
Snape laughs softly. He looks rather smug, but Harry can’t help but notice how aroused his is. “I take it you’ve never done this before.”
“Now I have.”
Snape laughs again, and the sound sends shivers of want curling like ribbons through Harry’s limbs. “Are you up for more?”
He looks around. His hip aches from where it’s pressed against the wall, but his cock hardens slightly at Snape’s words.
“I don’t mean here, you derelict,” the man says, but his voice is soft. “I have rooms.”
“Dumbledore…” because as much as he wants to, he realises that the man always knows what goes on in the castle.
“Right,” Snape says, a genuine twist to his lips, “and you’ve suddenly come to care about what the Headmaster thinks.”
It’s nearly dawn when Harry returns to his dorm. Beggins rolls over when he comes in, looks at him blearily, but says nothing, and Harry is grateful he asks no questions. He lies down on his bed but does not sleep. Instead, he remembers the chills that slid down his spine as the man’s fingers traced lines along his ribcage. He remembers the feeling of Snape’s tongue in his mouth (his own back bowed, feet pressed into the mattress).
Harry’s face is hot, even in the chill of the dungeon room. A kiss pounds in his mind (white hot and painfully sharp).
* * * * *
New Timeline. 31 May 1997, Sixth-Year
It’s nearly midnight when Potter knocks on his door. Snape is not entirely sure why he answers it, but he thinks, perhaps, he never had a choice. “What are you doing here, Harry?” The word slips out before he can stop it, but it doesn’t matter.
“Dumbledore found the location of the next Horcrux. He plans to go after it tomorrow night.”
Snape exhales. He knew the man was close to its discovery. “And Draco has almost completed his task.” The boy’s eyes go rather wide at that, blinking behind his ridiculous glasses.
“It’s really happening, isn’t it?”
“I’m afraid so.” Snape scrubs a hand across his face; his entire world is falling apart (dissolving into pale threads).
“Please let me stay tonight,” Potter’s voice is soft and pleading.
“What on earth for?”
Potter smiles (pink seeping onto pale cheeks). “For someone so intelligent, you’re incredibly dense sometimes.”
“I don’t think that would be wise.”
Potter smiles again, “Of course it wouldn’t be. And I’m sure it breaks at least a dozen rules.” He steps closer; Snape thinks he can feel Potter’s breath against his skin. “But I don’t care.”
When he pulls the boy against his chest, Potter moans softly and presses his mouth to Snape’s throat. Snape threads his fingers through his hair; it’s soft against the palm of his hand.
When he cups Potter’s cheeks in his hands, tilts his face up to his, the boy wets his lips. The sight is so appealing, so erotic, Snape wonders how he ever managed to send him away.
In his sitting room, he watches as Potter stands in front of the fire and undresses (small fingers fumbling with small buttons). He pushes his shirt off his shoulders; it puddles on the floor by his feet. The boy’s chest is smooth and pale. Snape’s eyes follow the flicker and shadow of flame as it plays on white gold skin. Potter’s hands pause at his waist, and he bites his lip, becomingly unsure.
Snape nods. “Go on. I want to see you.” Potter blushes and looks down, but his fingers tug at his belt, slide the worn leather through buckle and loop. He’s shaking as he undoes his zip, but he’s already hard when he pulls his trousers down.
Potter stands there for a moment, eyes glued to the floor, hands fluttering to cover himself.
“God, you’re gorgeous,” Snape says because he is. Potter looks up, cheeks pink and eyes wide, but he does not look away again as Snape stares. “Come here.”
The boy blushes a bit more but takes two hesitant steps forward and is standing before him, spine straight and muscles tense and beautiful, beautiful. Snape leans back against the sofa cushions and just looks, grateful for the coverage his own robes provide. Potter is trembling and so hard (cock flushed and damp and curving toward his belly), and Snape wonders for a moment if he might come even if he doesn’t touch him at all. The thought is incredibly tempting, but he does not think he has the patience.
Snape reaches out, curls his hands around the boy’s hips; his skin is warm and soft under his palms. He strokes his thumbs along sharp hipbones, enjoying the way Potter squirms under his touch. When he wraps his fingers around Potter’s prick, he gasps and cries out; Snape watches the ripple of his stomach muscles as he tenses, rocks forward on the balls of his feet, thrusts through the loop of his hand. His own cock aches as he strokes Potter off.
The boy’s head lolls a bit; his eyes are dazed and bright, his forehead damp with a faint sheen of sweat. “Oh, God, Snape…” Potter moans, rocking his hips forward once more, “I’ll come…”
“I know,” he says, twisting his wrist, stroking up and down. Then Potter is shaking and gasping and coming all over his hand and his own stomach and the floor. The boy’s knees buckle slightly, and Snape grabs his hips, steadying him, smearing come across the smooth swatch of his skin.
Potter leans forward, rests his forehead against Snape's. He can feel the ragged warmth of his breath (damp against his cheek) and listens to the inhale, exhale as his chest rises and falls again.
After a long moment, Potter's hand slips down his chest, pausing to feel the steady thump thump thump of Snape’s heart under his palm. Snape can hardly breathe as the boy slides his hand lower. He cups his erection through the layers of cloth, feeling its size and shape. The boy's hand is warm, and Snape groans as small fingers trace the outline of his cock, squeezing gently, pressing down against hardness.
“God, you really want me, don't you?”
Snape nearly laughs; after all, that is an exceptionally silly thing for the boy to say. He closes his eyes against the sensations (the boy's breath against his cheek, his hands stroking and rubbing), and thinks perhaps it could all be a dream. Surely, he has done nothing to deserve such a thing. And of course it's wrong -- he should send the boy away, back to his tower, back to his friends. But though Snape is many things, he is not strong enough (has never been strong enough) to do that. So he groans again and covers Potter's smaller hand with his own, lifting his hips, pressing himself against the boy's palm.
“I want...” he gasps, surprised he manages to say the words at all.
Potter straddles him, knees pressed tight to his thighs, and rocks forward. Snape’s hands clutch at his shoulders, the soft smooth expanse of his back (the boy's skin is perfect, perfect), and Potter sighs, mouth slipping along his jaw to suck at his throat.
He's hard again. Snape's own shirt is caked with his drying come, and that thought alone is so surreal, so breathtakingly erotic that he moans again, presses his hips to the boy's, and knows it wouldn't take much to rock them both to orgasm here in a tangle of limbs and clothes.
“Come to bed with me,” he whispers, and he's not sure if it's a question or a command. But Potter smiles, mouth curving against the shell of his ear, and scrambles to his feet.
Snape follows him to his bedroom, thinking it's been nearly fifteen years since anyone has been in here with him.
Potter sits on the edge of the bed (awkward, lovely, and aroused) while Snape undresses. His hands, his fingers move methodically on the laces of his boots, and he does not look at the boy as he stands to remove his robes (folds them carefully to drape on the back of his chair).
The fire burns low in the grate, and Snape is thankful for the darkness and shadow. He has never been beautiful; he knows this. And the years have not been kind. His skin is pale and scarred and nothing like the boy’s (skin the color of milk, of snow, of rosy cream). And Snape knows that Potter can see every rib, every knob of spine when he turns to hang his trousers in the wardrobe.
But the boy doesn't flinch, does not look away. Instead, he holds out his arms and whispers, “Come here.” And Snape complies because he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter.
He lies down beside the boy and allows him to touch, to slide his hands up and down his arms, to trace the length of his bicep, the curve of his elbow. And Snape knows the Mark is dark and ugly on his forearm, but Potter doesn't seem to mind. His mouth is everywhere, and his hips move restlessly. Snape can feel the boy's cock hard and damp as it slides against his stomach, leaves a slick smear against his hip.
“God, Snape, you feel so good,” Potter says, rather breathlessly, and Snape nearly laughs at how absurd that seems. But Potter arches again and cries out (mouth against his temple, the side of his cheek), and he can feel how hard the boy is as he rubs and rubs against him.
When they kiss, Snape thinks he might combust. Surely nothing should feel so good. And that simple brush of contact (his mouth pressed to the boy's) burns hot like fire up and down his spine.
He runs a hand up the back of Potter's head; dark hair is soft as silk between his fingers.
But now he can only suck in a sharp quick breath to keep from crying out, and the boy's mouth is on his neck, his jaw. Snape wants to run his tongue from shoulder blade to sternum, wants to slide his hands between pale thighs. He can almost feel how the boy would shudder at his touch.
Potter's skin is almost too soft, too smooth to gather in his hands, and he can't help but open his mouth, slip his tongue against the boy's (sweet, slow, honey slide). He sighs when he feels one leg slip between his.
“Fuck me, please,” the boy begs, “you have to. I don't know what I'll do if you don't.”
“I...all right,” Snape agrees because really there is nothing else he can possibly say. “Please tell me you’ve done this before,” he asks, though he already knows the answer. Potter blushes, presses his face to the curve of his neck. Snape had asked the same question once before.
“I, no. Never,” Potter’s breath is warm against the hollow of Snape’s throat. “Have you?” He tenses then, “I, I’m sorry…”
“You have a right to ask,” Snape says, pressing a kiss to his forehead beside the scar. “There was someone once. A long time ago.”
Potter’s expression darkens, but he nods once. “Did you love him?”
The question startles Snape a bit, though, of course, it shouldn’t. He’s seen the word thrown about often enough in the boy’s thoughts. “I’m not sure,” he answers honestly, and Potter frowns. “But it doesn’t matter now.”
“What happened to him?” Potter asks after a moment.
Snape fumbles in his bedside cabinet for the lubricant (he couldn't do magic now if he tried). The vial is dusty against his palm, but the boy's eyes are wide (so wide) as he uncaps the stopper, dribbles the shiny slick liquid over his fingers. It pools in the palm of his hand; some drips onto the white cotton of his sheets.
“Here,” he says in a voice that's not his voice at all. It's too rough, too breathless. “Roll over. It will be easier that way.”
“I, no,” Potter shakes his head, cants his hips, lets his legs fall open. “This way. It's better this way.”
And Snape recalls a similar scene from a lifetime ago. (‘No, I want to look at you.’ Though, for the life of him, Snape could not understand why. ‘All right,’ he agreed after a moment. After all, he’s never been able to deny him anything.)
Potter watches (propped on his elbows, thighs parted wide) as Snape traces a slick circle around his entrance. The boy’s eyes darken when he slips the finger in; he is as hot and tight as Snape remembers (memories like waves that crest and roil). For a moment Snape worries he might actually come just from the press and slide of his finger inside.
“Oh, God, Snape,” the boy gasps, tightening around him.
“Severus,” he presses the word to Potter's collarbone and does not think of what his cock will feel like inside. “Call me Severus.”
“Okay,” Potter nods seriously and tilts his hips up again. “More please.”
The boy's skin is slick with sweat, and Snape traces the coppery pink peak of one nipple, (salty sweet against his tongue) as he pushes another finger inside. Potter gasps and tenses beneath him, and Snape holds himself perfectly still, waiting for him to relax again, to adjust to the intrusion of his fingers inside his body.
“Okay,” Potter breathes out after a long moment (Snape thinks he can see his heart pounding in his chest). “I'm ready now. I want you.”
“Are you sure?” He gasps because he has to know, even as he slides his fingers free, slicks his cock with the remnants of oil.
“Yes, please,” Potter says simply, and Snape loves that it does not even occur to him to be ashamed of what they are about to do.
“God you're gorgeous.”
“So are you.” And Snape laughs because, really, that’s absurd. (‘Jesus you're hot, Snape. Not sure why I never noticed before.’ Potter's hands, his mouth were everywhere, and something like panic, like warmth, bubbled up inside. ‘I most certainly am not.’ But the boy just grinned and dragged his hand back to his cock. ‘Just fuck me, okay?’)
Snape steadies himself on one forearm, brushes the hair back from Potter's face, as he lines himself up.
“Oh...oh,” Potter breathes as Snape slides inside (one slow slick thrust), and he holds himself completely still, not trusting himself to move. But the boy wraps his arms around his shoulders and hooks one leg around his hip, pulling him closer. Snape cries out, sliding deeper into his warmth and heat. His hips press against Potter’s as he pushes up onto his palms, pulls back, thrusts in again.
Potter’s eyes are wide, lips parted and pink. His fingers dig into Snape’s shoulders; his legs tighten around him. And Snape cannot believe he has this effect on the boy – that he can make him feel this way. He slips a hand between them to curl around Potter’s cock, and the boy gasps and jerks, throwing off his rhythm. Already he can feel that spiraling rush of pleasure uncoiling in his stomach.
"Oh God, Severus, if you don't stop I'm going to…" Potter cries out, voice breathless and rough. His eyes are dark and wide and his fingers press nearly painfully into Snape’s arms.
“Yes, come for me. I want to watch you,” he says as Potter stiffens beneath him. Warm wetness spills between them, splatters on his chest, and smears across his belly. Snape closes his eyes, hips stilling as he comes inside the boy.
He rests his forehead against Potter’s, enjoys the twist and pull of fingers in his hair. The boy’s legs fall away, knees splayed wide. His breath is ragged and harsh against his neck.
“Wow,” Potter says after a few long moments, and Snape rolls over, watches the rise and fall of the boy’s chest as he struggles to catch his breath. Everything is about to change; Snape knows this, but for a moment, he allows himself to forget.
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 18 April 1983, Hogwarts
“Potter…Harry, stop. You must understand. You cannot change everything. I cannot think of a single wizard who has meddled with time and escaped without consequence. For each life you save, you might very well cause a death.”
They are in Snape’s office. When he arrived, the man pushed him against the wall and kissed him until he nearly came in his trousers. Now, they are curled together on the sofa. Snape has one hand on Harry’s hip, the other strokes at his hair.
Harry frowns. “But Cedric – he was only sixteen. And Fred Weasley…”
But Snape shakes his head. “Enough. There must be a balance. If we attempt to do too much, to change things that are not meant to be changed, then you risk destroying everything you’ve set out to save. I fear you have already told me too much. Already, you very well might not have a timeline to return to.”
He knows Snape is right, but he hates feeling impotent. It is excruciatingly difficult to know what will happen and be helpless to do anything about it.
“Since you’ve already defeated the Dark Lord in your timeline, which is,” Snape holds up a hand, forestalling Harry’s objection, “which is -- despite your absurd protestations – the singular essential result, I am loath to attempt to change too much.”
Harry twists in the man’s arms and looks at him. “But what if I were able to kill him sooner? What if fewer people had to die?”
“And what if, in changing something now, you impede or prevent your ability to defeat him in the future?”
Harry frowns, shaking his head, but Snape continues before he has a chance to speak.
“Harry, you must, for once, consider the potential consequences. You are already playing a dangerous game. Any one action in this timeline could directly impact your success in the future. What if he discovers what we’ve done? What if he takes further precautions -- if he safeguards the remaining Horcruxes so that you are unable to find and destroy them? What if he chooses to create more Horcruxes to replace those we eliminate? The possibilities are endless, and we cannot risk it.”
Harry sits up. “But what if we destroy them all? What if we do it now before Voldemort has a chance to come back?”
Snape sighs in exasperation and presses his fingers to his temples. “Are you so quick to forget the seventh Horcrux? The one Voldemort himself must destroy?”
Oh. Of course he’s right. Harry flushes a bit, embarrassed to forget such a crucial detail.
“The Dark Lord must come back, so he can kill you, and thus allow you to finally defeat him.”
“And, since you have already succeeded in that impossible task, I cannot and will not allow you to do anything to jeopardise it.”
“Fine. So the Snake and the Diadem. At least we can destroy those.”
Snape nods. “Yes. Nagini and Ravenclaw’s crown. The only two Horcruxes that resulted directly in…casualty,” he says the word as though it tastes foul on his tongue. Harry is certain he’s imagining his own brutal demise. “We will eliminate those.”
* * * * *
New Timeline. 1 June 1997, Sixth-Year
Harry and the Headmaster are conspicuously absent from dinner the next evening, and though Snape knew it was inevitable, the realisation still fills him with dread (like acid, like poison in his blood).
Draco has completed his task with the Vanishing Cabinet, and Snape wants nothing more than to wring the child's neck (‘You idiot, you foolish foolish little boy. Don't you know what you've done? To let those murderers into a school...’)
The thought makes Snape ill, but Draco has never cared for anyone but himself, and Snape has vowed to protect him. He'll alert the Order of the Phoenix. It's the least he can do, though he's nearly certain it will result in his own death the moment he--
No. What's done is done. There is no changing his path now.
Snape can't eat. Everything tastes of ash, but even though he has nothing in his stomach, he still manages to be sick all over his robes the moment he makes it back to his rooms.
(Memories, like brambles, twist and prick like thorns.)
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 28 April 1983, Hogwarts
Harry still has nightmares. (Heart pounding, twisted sheets, slicked with sweat.) He wakes shaky and out of focus as his mind races to piece together what's real and what's not.
Sometimes he dreams of Voldemort, still alive and terrible terrible.
Other times he's back on the tower. (Flash of green, Snape's wand raised, Dumbledore falling.)
And then he sees the faces of his friends. Ginny and Ron. Luna and Fred and Neville and Tonks. He sees them bloodied and broken, crying out for someone, something to save them. And it always takes too long for his mind to sort out what's real and what's nightmare. To sort out who's still alive even though he knows he might never see them again. It always takes a long time for Harry to fall back to sleep.
But his scar doesn't hurt anymore.
He wakes with a shout. The remnants of dreams flicker in front of his eyes; he runs a hand through his hair and tries to catch his breath.
Snape rolls over, brushes a fingertip along his shoulder. "You have nightmares."
It's not a question, but Harry nods his head anyway, wondering at why he doesn't feel embarrassed to admit such a thing to Snape.
"What do you dream about?"
"Voldemort, mostly. And my friends." He turns his head, presses his mouth to the curve of Snape's jaw. He smells of sweat and warmth and sex (raw and sour sweet against his tongue). "I miss them."
"I have them too," Snape says after a moment. "Nightmares."
Harry threads his fingers together with Snape’s. He doesn't shake him away. Instead he squeezes his hand once, thumb stroking back and forth over Harry's knuckles.
"What are yours about?"
Snape doesn't respond, and, for a moment, Harry doesn't think he is going to answer.
But then he says quietly, "the Dark Lord, at times. But mostly...your mother."
“I dream about that night too, sometimes.” He presses another kiss to Snape's throat.
Snape props himself on one elbow and looks at him; dark hair falls into his eyes but he does not brush it away. “How? You cannot possibly remember.”
“No. But I've seen it. In Voldemort's head, when he was still a part of me.
Snape tenses, exhales slowly. “I'm sorry.”
“I used to hear them scream. Whenever I was near a Dementor.”
Snape hasn't moved. Hasn't dared to breathe.
“But my mother's sacrifice enabled me to defeat him. Their deaths were necessary.”
“No,” Snape whispers.
“I don't blame you anymore,” Harry can barely hear his own voice, but he knows Snape does from the quick intake of breath. "For a while I did. But I know now that it was Pettigrew. He was ultimately responsible. I'm sorry for not trusting you sooner."
Snape shakes his head, “I, that's not me.”
“Yes it is,” Harry smiles, slips his hand along Snape's forearm. “Just not you quite yet.”
They lie together for a long time, Harry’s head resting on Snape’s chest. He’s comfortable, content, and (not for the first time) he wonders if, perhaps, it might be easier to simply stay here forever.
“What will happen to us?” he asks softly, though he’s not sure he wants to hear the answer.
Snape rolls over, leaving an ocean of rumpled sheets between them, and closes his eyes.
Harry suddenly feels very cold.
The man sighs. He sounds very tired. “There won’t be an, us, Potter. Surely even you understand that.”
Words can bleed, of course, and sometimes Harry wonders why Snape’s don’t leave scars. It’s been weeks since the man has called him anything but Harry in bed.
“But I’ll start Hogwarts in eight years.”
Snape laughs, a harsh, cruel bark of sound. “Yes. And you’ll be eleven. I’ll be thirty-one. When do you suggest I proposition you? After your first Potions Class, perhaps? Or should I wait a year or two until I try to seduce you?”
“No, of course not. That’s not what I meant. I just…”
“What?” In the dim light of the room, Snape’s eyes are black as pitch. “Be rational, Potter. There is nothing for us in your timeline. You will go back to your old life, play the Hero, marry the girl. And I… I will always be the Death Eater who murders Albus Dumbledore.”
“No…” Harry shakes his head; he feels warm wetness gathering in the corners of his eyes, but he does not care. “That’s not what I want.”
“Sometimes we don’t get what we want.”
Harry wipes his eyes, furious at himself for crying, but Snape reaches up gently and brushes a fingertip along his cheek, collecting the dampness there. It is a surprisingly intimate gesture. “Stop. We haven’t even figured out how to send you back yet.”
“I’ll come back to you. In my own time.”
“I…all right,” Snape pulls Harry against him, smoothing a hand down his back, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. Harry knows he does not believe him, but he does not object. And that has to mean something.
* * * * *
New Timeline. 2 June 1997, Sixth-Year
Of course Snape warned Dumbledore not to go after the locket – told him he’d heard rumors and insinuations that it wasn’t in the cave at all. (‘Regulus Black, I believe, found it, secreted it away before he died.’)
But the man hadn’t listened to a word he said. (‘Nonsense, Severus. Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re on about. Sherbet lemon?’)
Instead, he leaves Hogwarts to take the boy on a suicide mission. He returns (as Snape knew he would) poisoned and half-dead already. So, when Draco finally succeeds in letting the Death Eaters into the castle, Dumbledore’s fatal plan (set into motion months before) finally comes to fruition.
Potter calls him a coward.
And Snape thinks, perhaps, he is. A coward for not standing up to Albus. A coward for not saying no. After all, the boy (idealistic brat that he is) always believed there should be another way.
And though Snape sees Potter cry for the first time in years, he hopes he will come to understand, will realise that, in the end, it was his only choice.
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 6 May 1983, Hogwarts
Harry is out of breath when he reaches Snape’s door.
The man looks ready to hex the student who has dared interrupt after office hours, but his expression softens slightly when he sees Harry there. “Oh, Potter, what is it?”
“I’ve found something!”
Snape takes the book from his hands and looks over the spell, one slender finger tracing over lines of text. “This has potential,” he admits after a long moment. “What led you to search for spatial magic, rather than temporal?”
Harry grins, taking a seat on Snape’s worn sofa. “It was something you said, once, actually.”
The man raises an eyebrow but waits for Harry to continue.
“That space and time matter in magic. So I figured that it the two forces are truly so interconnected, then I should broaden my search. Perhaps something that allows a wizard to break spatial laws – like Apparation, for example – could be used to traverse the boundaries of time, too.”
Snape nods, “I admit I’m rather surprised, but this could actually work. It’s quite clever, actually.”
“Aside from your complete lack of faith in my researching skills, thank you…I think.”
The man’s lips curve in what could be a smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.
“Great. So what do we do?”
Snape looks down at the book again. “You will do nothing right now. The next full moon is in three weeks. I shouldn’t have a problem completing this potion in time. Then you will drink it, recite the spell, and spin the Time Turner as you Disapparate.” He looks down at Harry over the end of his nose. “Even you, I believe should be able to manage.”
“All right, then,” he says raising a hand to brush his palm across the man’s belt, to curl his fingers in the loop, but Snape recoils as if scalded.
“If there’s nothing else, Mr. Potter, I’ve marking to complete.”
Harry frowns, “I thought we could celebrate.”
“What on earth for?” the man’s voice is cold, impersonal. Something clenches deep inside Harry’s chest.
“I…I don’t understand.”
Snape’s lip curls in disgust, and Harry feels as though he’s been kicked in the stomach. “Obviously,” the man continues coolly, “I fail to see any reason to perpetuate a liaison between us at this point.”
“B-but…” He is horrified to hear his voice crack. But I want to. I care for you. I… Harry swallows thickly, squeezing his eyes shut against the wetness pricking there.
The man laughs (a sound that cuts like a knife), “Surely, you didn’t think there was anything like genuine affection between us?”
“I… No, of course not.” Harry thinks he must be bleeding. Cruciatus never hurt like this. “I just thought—” but he stops short because that’s the problem, really. Thinking there could be something between them, that Snape could care for him beyond… He shakes his head and tells himself he will not cry.
“Now, if that’s all, Mr. Potter, I have work to do.” Snape turns back to his desk without another word. He does not so much as look at Harry again.
Harry tries to tell himself that it’s all right. After all, he never expected the relationship (if that’s what it truly was) to last. It’s Snape. And he is going home, back to his own timeline and to a Snape that is not this Snape at all.
Still, he sits awake and stares at the fire for a long time that night. He knows he will not be able to sleep. The man is everywhere. He is inside his skin, inside his mouth, and inside his mind. It is at once paralysing, devastating, and positively terrifying.
The Potions Master is not a nice man. Harry knows this, but still he feels shaky and dizzy and wonders if he will ever be able to catch his breath again. Everything is distorted, sharp edged, cloying, and almost too much to bear. And Harry knows he should hate him (more now, perhaps, that ever before). He’d been foolish, of course, to put himself in that position. To allow Snape to hurt him.
But even as he remembers the sting of humiliation (standing there in front of him, exposed, rejected, and embarrassed), Harry still cannot help but imagine him at night.
He cannot help but imagine his hands on his thighs, his breath on his skin, as he gasps with each jerk of his hand.
Everything was so much easier when he simply detested Severus Snape.
* * * * *
New Timeline. 26 December 1997, Forest of Dean
It is months before he sees Potter again. And though he has received periodic updates on the trio’s progress (slow and blundering), it isn’t until Phineas Black overhears them in The Forest of Dean that Snape has any confirmation of their whereabouts.
He takes Gryffindor’s sword, per Albus’s instruction, and has every intention of sending a message via his Patronus. After all, he’s not certain how Potter will react. Though the boy knew all along what he had to do -- had understood the arrangement, the Unbreakable Vow -- accepting something in theory and witnessing a murder first hand are very different things. And there are the other two to consider as well. Granger will certainly hex him the moment she sees him, and Weasley will no doubt try.
But Potter is alone, stomping about the forest and making more noise than an entire herd of hippogriffs. And Snape can’t help himself.
He steps out from his hiding place and lowers the disillusionment charm. The boy stops short; Snape hears the air leaving his lungs in one long whoosh. Potter stares at him, eyes wide, and Snape waits -- waits for whatever comes next. He doesn’t care if Potter attacks him or kills him or tears him open, leaves him broken and bleeding on the forest floor. This boy has always been his everything and nothing, it seems, has changed that.
But Potter doesn’t even draw his wand.
He only moves forward (three steps in the space of a heartbeat) and curls his fingers in the fabric of Snape’s robes.
Snape raises a tentative hand to cup the boy’s cheek (rough now with a few days of stubble), and Potter rests his forehead against his chest and exhales. Snape can hear his heartbeat pounding in his chest; he does not dare to breathe.
“You’re alive,” Potter says after a long moment, and his voice is soft and unsure.
“As are you, I see.” Snape brushes a strand of dark hair off the boy’s face. “No thanks to your caution or stealth. I heard you coming a mile away.”
Potter has the good grace to look ashamed. “We warded the area.”
Then the boy is kissing him, and his mouth is warm and sweet and exactly what Snape has been missing all these months. Potter grows hard so fast Snape thinks he must get dizzy, but he slips one thigh between his legs and allows him to rut against him until he’s gasping and shaking and about to come in his pants.
When Snape pulls away, Potter whines, breath wet against his throat. “Oh, God, Severus, I want you,” and the words slip like honey over his skin.
“Yes,” Snape manages, sliding a hand between them to cup his erection, feel the boy press against his palm. “But here is not really the place, don’t you agree?”
Potter looks around as though he might protest, but Snape puts a finger to his lips, cutting off his reply. “Shush. Come with me. I’ve got something for you anyhow.”
His tent is shabby and small, but the cot is warm and dry, and nothing else matters as they stumble together, clinging, clinging. “Get undressed for me,” Snape whispers, desperate to see the boy. Potter is cold and trembling, as he pulls his jumper over his head. Snape can see the goose bumps on his skin. He wants to trace them with his fingers, his tongue.
Potter pauses, fingers on his belt, and Snape nods. His mouth is dry. “Go on.” The command unfolds between them, twines round his hips, makes him ache. Snape can’t recall wanting this badly before, and that want slides like panic in his veins. He’s vulnerable, and it’s terrifying and exhilarating all at once.
Potter’s fingers fumble with his zip, but he jerks it down, tugging trousers and pants off at once, kicking them aside and onto the floor. He’s naked now, and Snape can’t take his eyes off him. The boy blushes, but reaches out, tracing a line down Snape’s jaw, his throat with one fingertip.
The feeling is both foreign and oddly familiar. Snape’s mind replays (in bits and flashes) scenes from months and years before (himself on the bed, naked and perfectly at home). “You're lovely,” he says, “and so hard for me.”
Potter nods. “I’ve been dreaming about this.” He presses his mouth to the curve of Snape’s shoulder. “About being here with you again. It’s the one things that’s kept me going, all this time.”
Snape’s breath catches; he leans over, and Potter tugs him toward him. He can feel the curve of the boy’s spine under his palm. He’s far too thin. But when his teeth slip down his neck, scraping his throat, Potter moans, “Oh…oh God. Do that again.”
Snape sucks on the soft skin above his collarbone, feeling his pulse flutter madly against his lips. When Potter looks at him, his cheeks are flushed, his lips are swollen, and he is beautiful. The boy (not a boy anymore) arches up, holds his body perfectly still. He's graceful and controlled, even as his heartbeat, his breathing quickens. He looks up, held down by the press of Snape’s body on top of his. They are connected by the weight, the scratch of his robes against that pale expanse of skin, and the swell of Snape’s cock settled in the narrow valley of his hips.
Potter’s eyes are dark and dilated and dazed.
Then he reaches up, rocks his hips, catches Snape’s mouth with his, and rolls over, straddling him. "Potter…" Snape gasps, but his robes are parted, trousers unzipped.
Potter groans and leans down, mouths his way along moist cotton. “Harry. My name is Harry.”
Snape nods, cards his fingers through dark hair.
"Lift up for me," the young man murmurs from somewhere near his hip, and he complies readily, gasping as his pants are tugged over his hips and down his thighs.
Snape reaches under the cot to fumble in his kit, searching for the vial of lubricant he knows is there. “Here,” he says, urging Potter up on his knees. Potter parts his legs wider, watching Snape drip clear fluid over his fingertips. He hisses at the cold and sting, but shifts, rocks his hips, sighs as he presses a finger inside him, twists it. The boy catches his lip between his teeth. He's flushed and trembling. A bead of sweat slides down his neck; Snape arches up to it with his tongue.
"God," he breathes, eyes cast down, watching Snape’s hand, fingers moving between his legs. "Look at that."
"You like that, don't you?" he asks.
"Yes... God yes,” Potter pushes down against him, cants his hips. Then Snape tugs him down, slipping his fingers free. Potter – Harry’s hands find his shoulders, pull him on top. "Now, Severus, now…" he gasps against his neck, spreading his thighs.
And Snape slides in with a groan. Harry is tight (so tight), and he thuds his head against the pillow, scrapes his nails down Snape’s back, and wraps one leg around his hip. "More..."
Snape holds himself above him, trying to stay still, trying to go slow, trying to stop himself from shaking. But Harry arches his back, presses his shoulders against the cot. "God, just fuck me," he demands, hips jerking up.
He pushes forward again, bending over, pressing his mouth to Harry’s. The kiss is clumsy, but Harry's hips are moving, lifting up off the bed to meet his thrusts. The boy flings an arm out to the side; his hand twists in white sheets, pulls them off the thin mattress as Snape reaches between them to curl his fingers around his prick. It's hot and damp and hard against his palm, and Harry swears, turns his head from side to side, as Snape strokes him harder.
His lips are slick and pink; Snape traces them with his tongue, and Harry whispers his name against his mouth over and over again.
With a sharp cry Harry comes, feet pressed into the cot, stomach muscles clenching as Snape’s fingers smooth slickly down his cock.
He thrusts his hips again, feels the ecstatic rush of pleasure, of euphoria spinning through his blood, twisting round his hips, pulsing through his body. He can’t help but cry out as he comes, falling forward into the boy’s arms, feeling his warmth beneath him. Harry presses a kiss to his neck, his cheek, strokes his fingers down his spine.
Snape pulls out after a long moment, and they lie side by side.
“Are you all right?” he finally asks, because he has to be sure.
Harry looks at him (his eyes are so green) and nods. “Yes.”
Afterward, they lie curled together for just a little while. Snape watches the rise and fall of Harry’s chest, feels his heart beat in time with his own. He thinks he could get used to this (skin pressed to skin, the boy’s body warm against his own).
For just a moment, he thinks, perhaps, he could even be in love. But no. He pushes the thought away before it has a chance to materialise. That’s not why the boy is here. And love isn’t for murderers and Death Eaters and spies. “How have you been?” he presses the question into Harry’s hopeless hair.
“Decent, I suppose. Hungry. Ron’s gone.”
He speaks like pulling teeth, but it doesn’t matter. He’s here and he’s alive. “And the Horcruxes?”
“We’ve got the locket, obviously,” he nods to the pile of clothes on the floor. “It was at Grimmauld Place just like you said it’d be. Haven’t been able to destroy it though. Nothing works.”
Snape rolls over and reaches for his trousers. Potter groans but sits up. He needs to get back to the girl before he’s missed. “I think I’ve something to help you with that,” he says, standing.
They dress quickly, and Snape waves his wand at the corner of the tent. The air shimmers briefly (white light streaked with magic), and the sword of Gryffindor appears.
“Brilliant,” Potter grins, reaching for it, but Snape grabs his wrist.
“No. It will only be yours to wield if you acquire it in an act of bravery and strength.”
He rolls his eyes but turns back to Snape. “And what do you suggest?”
Snape watches as Potter strips again (skin shivery and icy pale in the cold light of the moon), and before he can stop him, the idiot boy dives in, damn Horcrux still around his neck. But Weasley appears just as Snape is about to go in after him, and he has no choice but to disappear again, back into the Forest of Dean.
* * * * *
Past Timeline. 25 May 1983, Hogwarts
“Tomorrow is the full moon.”
Snape regards him warily but opens the office door and allows Harry inside. “I am well aware of that, Potter. The potion is ready. You have nothing to worry about.”
“That’s not why I’m here.” Once again, Harry feels as though his entire world is unravelling around him; he feels split apart at the seams, stretched too thin, and entirely out of sorts.
“I’m busy, Potter,” Snape says coolly. “I haven’t the time for—”
“No, please, you must listen to me.” He sounds desperate, but it doesn’t matter. Not now. Not anymore. “All those things you said about us, about our…relationship…” Snape raises an eyebrow at the word but says nothing, and Harry continues, “They’re not true. I don’t care what you think. But this…” he waves a hand helplessly between them, “this means something. I know it does.”
Harry takes a step forward, thrilled when Snape does not flinch. Slowly, tentatively, he reaches out, brushes his palm along Snape’s cheek. “When I am with you, I am happy. And it’s foolish, and I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true.”
The man raises a hand to cover Harry’s with his own, and he does not pull away.
“Sometimes, I think it would be better if I just stayed.”
Snape leans down, rests his chin on the top of Harry’s head. “That’s ridiculous. There is far too much at stake.” His hand strokes up and down Harry’s spine.
“I know. But I’m happy here. I’m happy with you.” His voice is choked, and his eyes sting, but Snape’s body is warm against his.
“Come to bed with me,” Snape says after several long moment. “If you want to.”
Snape’s sheets smell familiar, and Harry promises he won’t let himself forget how he feels now. He loves the press of Snape’s skin against his, loves the taste of salt on his tongue. And he loves the feel of the man on top of him inside him all around him. When Snape comes, Harry wonders if anything will ever feel this right again.
Afterward, they lie tangled together. Harry traces a line across Snape’s narrow shoulder and watches the shadows play on pale skin. “Sometimes I’m not sure if I can do it,” he says slowly, “if I’m strong enough to go back, to live through it all over again.”
Snape stiffens slightly, but presses a kiss to his temple. “You still don’t understand. If the spell works, if we do things correctly, you won’t have to live through anything again. You’ll return the moment you left.”
“But it won’t be the same,” Harry says needing to be reassured. “Things will be different this time around.”
“Yes. Now that I know, things will be different.”
“And the snake?”
“I promise to do something about that blasted snake.”
Harry tries to smile, but he can’t help the sudden rush of panic that rises (as fluidly as water) inside him, and he reaches out, needing desperately to feel Severus warm and flesh and blood beside him.
“It will be all right,” he whispers, hand in Harry’s hair, mouth on his forehead.
“But I’m happy here,” happy, happy…
And really, there is nothing Snape can say to that.
* * * * *
1 May 1998, The Battle of Hogwarts
Harry lands with a jolt.
The air hangs heavy with smoke. It clings to his skin, his hair in a way that is vaguely familiar. He can see figures moving through the shadows, searching for the dead, the wounded.
Harry ignores them and heads toward the castle.
The hallways look just as he remembers, but it still comes as quite a shock. It’s been so long; he’d nearly forgotten the extent of the destruction (the aftermath of battle). He takes a steadying breath and turns toward the dungeons. There is something he must do.
It takes every ounce of his strength to knock on that door. His heart is pounding frantically, painfully against his chest, and he thinks he might be sick.
But then the door opens and Snape is standing there, skin drawn, eyes dark, and looking every bit his thirty-eight years. But he is alive, alive, alive.
Harry stands there for a long moment hardly daring to breathe. He wants to reach out, to touch, to press his mouth to the man’s throat and feel his pulse under his lips. But all he can do is stand stock-still and listen to the rush of blood in his ears. After all, this is not his Snape; it might never be.
But then the man smiles (a true curve of thin lips) and holds out a hand. Harry follows him through his office and into his rooms. “You’re alive,” he whispers, and Snape nods.
“It appears, Mr. Potter, we both are.” And then he is in his arms, and Snape breathes against his face, his throat, his skin. Snape lets him wrap his arms around his waist and lean in close. Lets him stand there with his cheek pressed to his chest, his fingertips running up and down his back.
“When is it?” he asks just to be sure.
“1 May 1998,” Snape says into his hair. “I believe you’ve just defeated Voldemort.”
“And I did not get eaten by his snake.”
Harry laughs, all nervous anxiety, exhilaration, and relief. The reality of everything tightens in his chest, his lungs. It rests squarely between his shoulder blades and settles in the pit of his stomach. It is not nearly as excruciating as he thought it would be. Rather, it feels a bit like happiness, a bit like love.
“What do we do now?” he asks, and Snape cups his cheeks in his hands, tilts his face up to his.
“Now, I believe, we stay.”