Snape's Worst Memory
Classes had finished for the day, so everyone set out toward the lake. Lily and Raven were a few minutes behind; they'd gone to drop off their things. Severus was clutching the book Lily got him for Christmas: Advanced Potion Making.
Harry and Severus sat down in front of a tree by the lake to relax. Harry took out his journal and began to write; Severus took his other book to begin the assigned Herbology reading.
After fifteen minutes, Harry peered into the distance. "There's Lily and Raven." He said it matter-of-factly, tying not to sound as though it was a heads up for Severus to be careful of what he said. His friendship with Lily was on the rocks, though no particular event had put it there.
"What the hell?" Severus said, picking up the Potions book from where he'd set it down.
"What is it?" Harry asked, waving at the two girls.
"This isn't mine." Severus took out his wand and stood up. "There." He strode over to the three Marauders, who stood twenty meters away. Peter leaned over James' shoulder as James held up a copy of Advanced Potion Making.
Severus aimed his wand in their direction and began, "Acci—"
He was cut off by James' shout, "Langlock!"
Harry had barely pulled out his wand when Sirius' voice behind him whispered, "Petrificus Totalus." Sirius then draped James' Invisibility Cloak over Harry, who slumped against the tree trunk. Harry still had a view of the scene, but was invisible to everyone and unable to act. Something about this situation was horribly familiar; he may as well have been in the Pensieve.
"We've been reading up on some of your little spells, Snivellus. I hope that, for your sake, none of them are dangerous." James, Sirius, and Peter guffawed; Remus avoided Severus' glare.
Severus stopped, fists raised, and fell to his knees. Harry could tell, even from his position, that Severus' skin color had changed; it was now an inflamed red. The effects of the spell kicked in and Severus began to scratch himself as though his whole body itched.
"Ooh, James, try this one!" Sirius pointed to a spot in the book. "It says, 'Sectumsempra: For enemies.'"
Harry squeezed all of his muscles, willing something to shift, to move, so he could stop them.
"Leave him ALONE!"
James and Sirius turned. Lily stormed down the slope, Raven trailing slightly behind.
"Is there a problem, Evans?" James ruffled his hair and took a step toward Lily. "Look, we're just showing him how horrible his spells are. He made these up." Sirius nodded in agreement.
"His own spells?" Lily's eyes flickered to Severus, who was moaning in pain. His skin was now raw from the areas he scraped with his fingernails. "That doesn't matter. Leave him alone. YOU'RE HURTING HIM, STOP IT!" Severus met her eyes, seeing the pity there, and with a heave of breath resisted the spell. He managed to shoot a weak hex at James.
James' face erupted in boils, but the spell didn't stop him from retaliating.
Severus was whisked up in the air by his ankle. He struggled as fresh laughter rolled from the sidelines. Rotating slowly, Severus scanned the area as if he was searching for something. Someone. Someone he expected to save him.
Raven caught up. She glanced at Lily, who was frozen, then turned to James. "Stop it, you prick!" By now, a small crowd had formed.
"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Lily shouted again, shocked out of her daze. Harry's muscles screamed as he tried to budge.
James seized his opportunity. "I will if you go out with me, Evans. If you do, I'll never bother him again."
"Finite Incantatem," a voice behind Harry whispered. Harry sprung forward, leaving the cloak behind, and turned to see Remus, who crouched behind the tree.
"Took you long enough," Harry muttered, then ran to the scene. "LIBERACORPUS!" Severus fell face-first into the grass.
James sneered and poked Severus with his foot, trying to provoke Harry. "Walker. Isn't Snivellus lucky. Now he has two girls to protect him—"
Severus spat grass out of his mouth. "I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like them!"
Harry blinked. It happened. Two years early. Why had it happened? No, it was too fast. My chance to change things can't be gone. Not like this.
Severus stared at the ground, mouth ajar with horror. Lily took a step back. "Fine. I won't bother in the future. I knew this wouldn't work."
James was dumbfounded, then angry. "Apologize to Evans!" It was all so familiar, the reactions, though more childlike, were so much like what Harry had seen.
Lily turned on James. "It's none of your business, Potter, and you're just as bad as he is."
"What? Those were his spells, I was just—and I would never call you that!"
"Your arrogance amazes me. You think you're so great at Quidditch and that you could make anyone fall for you. You bully anyone who doesn't meet your standards. You're a sick and twisted toerag." Lily turned and ran in the other direction.
With a slightly confused glance at Harry, Raven hurried after her.
"Evans, don't be like that…EVANS!" James' efforts to act tough were breaking down.
Harry extended a hand to Severus, who ignored it and got up shakily on his own. Harry had fit all of their possessions in his bag.
"What have I done…" Severus gasped, staring after Lily.
"Let's go to the common room."
Severus froze when he saw Harry and inhaled sharply. "I see it again. I see James…"
James stormed toward them. "Where do you think you're going, Walker?"
Harry turned to him. "If you speak to any one of us today, I promise I will take you off the Quidditch team."
"You can't do that!"
"Well, you can risk it, if you want." Harry pointed his wand threateningly before striding off.
Hardly a minute later, when the scene of the incident was behind them, Severus broke down. "I can't—we need to stop—"
No one was around, but to be safe, Harry led him to a place off the path, where a passerby's view would be blocked by the trees.
Severus sat down and sobbed as Harry scouted the area, thinking.
My plan to change the course of Severus' life is in shambles. Either I couldn't do anything, no matter what, or I could've done more to stop this. Is this how I repay years of protection? Years of being against someone who gave up his life to help me? I could go back home.
I guess things are meant to be. Meant to be fixed. Unchangeable.
Harry touched the chain around his neck, the chain that held one of the only Time-Turners to survive the battle at the Ministry. One of his thoughts stuck out to him.
I could go back home.
Unless…there's one thing I haven't done. If there is any good time to tell Severus who I am, it's now.
"I owe you the truth," Harry said quietly, when Severus' sobs petered out.
"I don't want to hear it…" Severus moaned, revealing his splotchy face as he wiped his eyes.
"But you need to. I don't look like myself, right? Is there a sort of…haze around me? Do I look like James?"
Severus turned his head toward Harry, as if it physically pained him. "Yeah."
"How good are you at Legilimency?"
"What does that have to—"
"I want you to go into my mind." Harry reached under his shirt and pulled out his Time-Turner.
"You've never seen a Time-Turner? It's…how I traveled back in time."
"What? When?" Severus stood up, scared, suspicious.
"Just…go in, and start from the beginning, okay? It won't hurt you. I'll concentrate on the memories." Harry closed his eyes.
It took a while for Severus' curiosity to exceed his weariness, but eventually he muttered, "Legilimens."
Harry watched the memories appear behind his lids. He concentrated and found he could direct the flow of information.
It began on the night his parents died. James gave up his life, Lily was hit by Voldemort's curse, and Harry lived.
Severus pulled out of Harry's mind, eyes wide. "What's going on? How did you do that? Why…"
"You saw Voldemort kill Lily."
Severus shook his head. "No, that's impossible—"
Severus dove in this time. Harry was left on a doorstep, grew up with the Dursleys, found out he was a wizard, and stepped onto the Hogwarts Express. Harry showed his scar to Ron, he was sorted into Gryffindor. He hated his professor, Severus Snape, from the very beginning. In his first year, Harry thought Severus was after the Philosopher's Stone. Quirrell, whom Severus suspected, was found guilty. In his fourth year, Harry suspected that his name had been entered in the Goblet of Fire by Severus, an assumption that was later disproved. In his fifth year, despite Severus' help on numerous occasions, Harry continued to loathe him. In his sixth year, Harry was suspicious of Severus' involvement with Draco and assumed he was solely responsible for the death of Dumbledore.
Through the years, Harry saw the return of Voldemort, was called "The Boy Who Lived" and "The Chosen One," he was ignored and suspected. He watched his friends die in the time leading up to the final battle.
Harry couldn't hold back the other connections to Severus. Snippets of conversation flew by, too fast for the settings to develop, leaving just fragments of voices. "Or he might have been sacked! I mean, everyone hates him." "Snape knew more curses when he arrived at Hogwarts than half the kids in seventh year." "Kill me then, kill me like you killed him, you coward!" "I should have shown the book to Dumbledore. All that time he was showing me how Voldemort was evil even when he was at school, and I had proof Snape was, too." "No! You'll do no more murder at Hogwarts!"
The barrage of voices dissolved to show Severus, dying, saying, "Look…at…me…", then giving his memories to Harry. Harry dipped his face into the Pensieve. Severus took the O.W.L.s and call Lily a Mudblood. The relationship between he and Lily changed.
Severus saw his older self go to Dumbledore and beg for help, saying he relayed the prophecy about the one who would face Voldemort: "He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down—kill them all—" "If she means so much to you, surely Lord Voldemort will spare her? Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?" The scene shifted. Dumbledore responded to a distant, echoing question. "She and James put their faith in the wrong person, rather like you, Severus. Weren't you hoping that Lord Voldemort would spare her?…Her son lives. He has her eyes, precisely her eyes. You remember the shape and color of Lily Evan's eyes, I am sure?" The following events accelerated to the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, when Harry revealed to everyone that Severus had been a double agent, all for love: "Severus Snape wasn't yours. Snape was Dumbledore's. Dumbledore's from the moment you starting hunting down my mother. And you never realized it, because of the thing you can't understand…he loved her for nearly all of his life."
The scene faded. Ginny said to an older, sadder Harry, "I know how you can change this." She gave Harry the Time-Turner, kissed him, and watched him vanish. Harry was shown changing his appearance, meeting Severus, introducing himself as Jacob Walker.
Severus gasped and left Harry's mind. His face was red, and tears leaked down his face. Harry could tell the pain was now much more real. Harry realized at once that he'd made a mistake.
"Take it back. I don't want to know. How could you? How could I?" His breathing was rapid, distressed. "Erase it, or kill me." Severus could no longer speak.
Harry shouldn't have shown him. Even the strongest person would break down after seeing the deterioration of their life. Severus was only fourteen; how much could he really change or want to change by knowing his future? Why would Harry have shown Severus how everyone came to hate him? That James got Lily? That even by changing sides, his life remained just as terrible?
Severus muttered unintelligibly under his breath until he managed, "You're their son. Lily…with Potter…" He stood up, and the grass around his feet shriveled.
"DON'T TALK TO ME! I—I HATE YOU!"
"Why do you think I came back?"
Severus kept flipping between despair and anger. "I don't know or care, maybe because your own bloody conscience was suffering."
"Well, yeah, I suppose. But I wanted to prevent things like today."
"Oh, right; you knew something like this was going to happen and you let it happen!"
"They petrified me, I couldn't help."
"That's not what I meant."
"Maybe in my first year as 'Jacob,' I would've stopped them. But even if I hold your hand the whole way, you're still going to make the same mistakes."
"Then why did you show me this? Why did you come here? My life is horrible. Meaningless. Everyone ends up dead…you've made everything worse!"
Harry would have been angered at this if he didn't believe what Severus was saying. "Do you know now why I'm always telling you to stay away from the Dark Arts? Because that's what happens. She dies. You die."
Severus rested his forehead against a tree, folded his arms and dug his nails into his skin. "So that's why you came back? To save Lily? So she can live to be your mother?" He couldn't stop himself from sneering.
"Yes and no, it was mainly so you could have a chance with her. To repay you." Severus' guess, however, was closer to the truth.
Severus let out a shuddering breath that turned into a hysterical laugh. "You're a bloody idiot. Firstly, you just showed me that she ends up with James. Secondly, even if she did choose me, you wouldn't exist."
"If that happened, no one would miss me. My reason for being alive has ended. I was only protected so I could kill Voldemort, and I have. If I was never born, someone else would do the job; maybe even the son of you and Lily. C'mon, Severus, it doesn't matter if you understand why."
"I'm going to apologize to her. Then everything'll be fine. But can you please just—leave me alone?"
"No. You gave your life to help me, so I'm going to do the same for you."
Severus shut his eyes. "Stop talking, please."
Harry nodded, then followed Severus out of the trees. He thought, for a moment, that he'd heard a twig snap out of place with his footsteps, but decided he'd imagined it.
Severus collapsed into bed as soon as they reached the dorm. Harry let him be and went back downstairs to join Raven.
"She won't talk to me. Or anyone." Raven studied Harry. "I can't tell if you're upset."
"I am. But don't worry about it. Are you?"
"Of course." Her eyes moved to the portrait hole. "But also…while they were doing all that awful stuff, Remus did nothing."
"That's not entirely true; after Sirius Body-Bound me, Remus lifted the spell."
"Listen. Remus is friends with them because they accept him. I know what you're going to say, that we accept him, that should be enough, but it's different. We don't fit in. James and them are a different sort of friend because, I'm guessing, they make him feel good about himself. Just imagine thinking you're a freak for your whole childhood, then people come along who don't think that at all." He realized this probably applied to her, and was about to apologize when she continued.
"They ruined Severus and Lily's friendship."
"What Severus did was wrong, and what they did was wrong. But this was going to happen eventually. You remember being with him and the Slytherins. I'm sure you talked down about Muggle-borns all the time."
"I didn't like to, but yeah." Raven turned her gaze away. "Once again, you're right. Why are you right? And not freaked out—"
The portrait hole opened and the Marauders came through. James was grinning, back straight, eyes bright. Harry had no doubt that he'd been given a long pep talk to see the bright side of the fight with Lily.
Raven stared at Remus, who glanced at her, then away, the skin between his brows creasing. Sirius and Peter smirked at Raven and Harry, while James' gaze settled on Harry for longer than he felt comfortable with.
"What's with them?" Harry asked Raven, unnerved.
"They're idiots. Best not to pay attention." Raven glanced once again at Remus.
Harry noticed this and said, "You should talk to him. Not now—do it when they're not surrounding him."
"Yeah, I will." Raven brought her feet up on the couch. "Can we talk about Severus instead? What are we going to do about him?"
"I don't know yet. See what happens."
"'See what happens'? Don't you usually have a plan?"
"I just don't want to get involved anymore." Because I seem to only make his life more miserable. And I can't change the inevitable.
"Jacob, Severus taught me Legilimency."
"What?" Harry's attention snapped back to her. "Why are you bringing that up?"
"Because…" She dropped her voice to a whisper. "I think that's why you look different sometimes. To me and him. Because it shows what you're really like."
"What I'm—what I'm really like?"
"Your personality is a little like Lily's, a little like James'. You're similar to them."
Harry leaned back, relieved. "That's it?"
"It's just a theory. What do you mean?"
"Nothing. So all you're saying is, Legilimency helps you see who I'm like?"
"Yeah." Raven's certainty faltered.
"Raven, can I talk to you?" Remus had appeared by the side of the couch.
Raven hesitated, then nodded. "Jacob, do you mind…"
"No problem." Harry took out his journal and found a seat on the other side of the room. He pretended to be absorbed in what he was writing when he was actually trying to catch what the two were saying. After a minute of straining to hear, he found they were being careful to keep their voices down.
Harry saw Lily come partway into view at the top of the stairs. As if he'd been pulled out of his trance by her presence, Severus materialized on top of the other staircase. The Marauders hadn't noticed either of them yet.
Lily drifted down in her cream nightgown, matching Severus' pace. Her hair was up, except for her bangs, which hid her face from James' angle. She lifted her head just as Severus reached her.
"Oh," Lily said. She folded her arms to brace herself and studied him.
"I'm sorry," Severus said quickly.
"I'm not interested."
Severus reached toward her, eyes pleading. "Please, Lily—"
"Save your breath."
Severus took his hand back and crossed his arms, looking sick. "I didn't mean to call you a—a Mudblood."
"Then why did you say it?"
"Because I was—embarrassed, I suppose, and—"
"Embarrassed? That's great. Of course it's healthy for to be embarrassed of your friend. It definitely shows where your priorities are. Right at the top of your list is 'Dark Arts' and 'Creepy Slytherin friends.' And your precious 'Dark Lord.'"
The Marauders were silent, and Raven and Remus had stopped their conversation to listen.
"I want to be friends with you. I'm sorry if I—"
"It doesn't matter if you're sorry, or if you want to stay friends, because I can't stay friends with you. We're just going to keep having these fights. I'm never going to think what you're doing is okay, and it's tiring to ignore it."
"Don't you get it? I'm studying the Dark Arts to protect you—and everyone."
"No, you're studying it to protect yourself." Lily shook her head, biting her lip to hold back tears. "I wish you well, Severus. Goodnight." Her voice cracked at "night," and she hurried back up the stairs.
Severus walked, ghostlike, to the dorm. Harry wanted to go after him, help him feel better about the situation, but he couldn't. Harry pretended to write in his journal, when really, he didn't know what to do. He was stuck in limbo; he messed things up too much to leave, but there was nothing left he could change.
In the first week of May, before dinner, Harry handed Raven his journal."Raven, can you hang on to this for a few days? Don't let anyone see it."
"Uh, sure. Can I ask why?"
"You'll find out." Harry knew Raven's curiosity would lead her to read his entries, that's why he gave it to her, but he didn't know how long it'd take before she finished it.
As it turns out, it took only a little more than a day. "Jacob. Harry. Wake up."
"Hn?" He sat up, dazed, and she was there, holding his book, standing beside his bed.
"Common room," Raven whispered. There was a sharp snort and inhalation of breath from someone's bed. When the room was silent again, Harry followed Raven downstairs. They both sat on the couch in front of the fireplace.
"So you read it? All of it?"
Raven nodded. "And now I can see you. The real you. Otherwise, I would think what you wrote was just some—some fantastical story, too crazy to be true. But I see it. The eyes like Lily's, and James everywhere else. I still can't believe it. How can one person do all of that as just a kid?"
Harry knew she didn't expect an answer, so he continued. "So you read that I told Severus about myself the day he called Lily a Mudblood."
"How did he react? I mean, he's not the only reason you came back—everything about how you felt after the war—but he's in the middle of it. He's not entirely stable, either."
"That's why he's not talking to me. He freaked out. I don't blame him; he thought I was his friend, I lied to him about a lot of things, and I suppose I'm proof he didn't make it with Lily. Anyway, how do you feel about it?"
Raven's gaze pulled away from him and off toward somewhere in the distance. "Kind of overwhelmed. You're sure you weren't at school with your parents in your timeline? You wrote about that theory, how time can change."
"Yeah. In the 90s, I was the first Seeker in a century to be a first year. Since I'm a first year Seeker in the 70s, I would've been the first Seeker in twenty years to be a first year. And I also know Severus'—"
"…memories, right." Raven fixed her on her lap, tearing up. "So I guess he loved her forever, huh?" She nodded to herself and scoffed. "I'm such an idiot. You knew all along how I felt about him, too. How I still feel."
"I didn't want to tell you. I'm only telling you the story now because I need a second plan and it wouldn't make sense if just Severus knew. And I couldn't tell you just part of it. And, look, it's not like there wasn't hope for you and Severus." Harry took her hand in an attempt to comfort her. "There's one weird thing. I don't think you were around him in my time. I'd never heard of you before coming here."
Raven wiped her eyes. "I wonder what my life is like in your time, if it's different. It's probably. You're the one who talked me into going into Gryffindor—"
"What, you didn't know? Well, most importantly, you got me out of the Dark Arts. If Voldemort was defeated in your time, I'm probably…" Her lips tightened.
"It doesn't matter; time can change."
"How can you be sure? It's not like anyone has written about the rules of time travel, Jacob."
"I know. Never too late for someone to start, though."
"It'll be too late if you don't exist anymore."
"I'll be careful."
Raven sighed. "Well, it may be stupid, what you're doing, but you're pretty brave. I'm assuming it's not the first time you've done something…reckless."
Harry smiled slightly. "You have no idea."
Raven remembered something else, a distraction from her lost hope. "And you wrote about Remus. You think he still likes me, even after I said I just wanted to be friends."
"It's kind of obvious."
"I guess if it were anyone else, I could tell, but I didn't imagine he would like me. I couldn't imagine."
They were both silent for a minute.
"Have you decided when to go back?"
"I've wanted to go back a few times before, but obviously never did. If nothing changes, this will be my last year."
The next evening, Raven knocked on the door frame to the dorm. "Severus?"
Severus glanced up from his schoolwork. "What are you doing up here?"
"I just wanted to tell you that I know. Jacob—Harry—told me."
Severus blinked and his face scrunched up. "Oh."
Raven stepped into the room and sat on the edge of Severus' bed.
"So you've come to…what? Offer your pity? Or lecture me?"
"Neither, really. I just want to talk."
"No one ever 'just' wants to talk to me."
Raven took a deep breath. "I know. I should just get straight to the point; you have to make a decision on what to do next."
"Yeah? I have to?"
"You can't be in between like this forever. Harry shows you how it all ends, and you decide you want to lay around and ignore your friends."
"So you did come to lecture me."
"No, no, no." Raven got up and sat on the other edge of the bed, next to Severus. "I wanted to tell you that we care about you. I care about you. And how can any of us help if you won't let us in? Just tell me what's wrong, please."
"I mean, obviously it's what Jacob told you. That's not what I mean. Specifically, what is it?"
Severus turned his head to Raven, lips tightened. "I don't…want to talk about it."
"Yes or no questions, then. All you have to do is nod or shake your head."
Severus hesitated, then nodded.
"Okay." Raven pulled her legs up onto the bed and faced him. "Do you think Harry should've come back in time?"
Severus shook his head.
"And do you think this is all his fault?"
Severus shrugged, then shook his head slowly, reluctantly.
"Would you do something to change what may happen in the future if you knew you could?"
Severus began to shake his head, but seemed unable to contain what he had to say; "I can't change anything." He realized he had opened up to her and snapped his mouth shut.
"Wait—yes you can." Raven leaned closer to Severus and placed a hand closer to support herself. "You leave the Dark Arts, or you don't. It's your choice."
"It's not that simple." Severus didn't meet her gaze.
"Well, that may be true, but it certainly doesn't have to be as complicated as you're making it out to be. It's not that you're afraid of what they'll do, is it?"
"Of course not. They don't scare me."
"I don't want to leave. I'm good at the Dark Arts. The best for my age, better than most older than me."
"It's not a bloody hobby, Severus. I know you've heard this before, but it's torture, and soon it'll be murder. It'll eat you alive. Did you see, in Harry's memories, that there was anyone close to you it didn't kill? Harry wrote that Dumbledore was killed by Dark Magic. You'll die, too. It's suicide."
Severus stood up and glared at Raven. "You don't think I know what it is?"
There was silence. Severus sat back down, this time a little farther away from her.
"Maybe you've realized this, but I know now how you feel about Lily." Raven's voice wavered and she closed her eyes to steady herself. "So maybe it's not a question of leaving the Slytherins or not. You just have to decide what's most important."
Severus rolled over to lie on his stomach. Raven relaxed a little; he could no longer see her expression. "You know what happens. If you stay with the Dark Arts, you'll lose Lily." Raven's throat tightened and her face burned. It was the right thing to do to help Severus, but the pain tried to convince her it was wrong to push him toward Lily.
"If—if you leave the Dark Arts then you—you have a chance with her."
Severus turned over on his back. "I don't even have that. She chooses James, in the end." He glanced at Raven after she didn't respond. Raven was struggling to blink away tears that wouldn't stop. Severus watched her, confused, then looked away when she recovered enough to wipe her eyes.
"Sorry. Where was—oh, right. Well, maybe she chose James, or chooses James, I guess, because you weren't there. At least you know she won't die as early if you don't get involved. Or you could protect her, since you know about what happens. I don't know, I feel like however it turns out after leaving the Dark Arts, it'll be better."
Severus studied the ceiling for a few minutes before responding. "I'll think about what you said." He sat up and met her eyes, black on brown.
"Thank you." Raven hugged him. She pulled away, then touched Severus' cheek. He looked toward her fingers, brow furrowed. "I just want you to be happy." Raven placed her other hand on his left cheek and kissed his forehead, unknowingly where Lily had kissed him before. She studied him, then lowered her hands and stood up. "G'night."
"Night," replied Severus automatically. He already had a lost expression, a frown that showed he was deep in thought.
Raven told Harry about the conversation as soon as she got back downstairs. Harry realized, after being filled in, that this had been Raven's way of saying goodbye. He also thought that, for the first time since the incident, there was hope for Severus.
Over the next two weeks, James, with the Marauders' help, terrorized not only his usual targets, but a few new people. He started a rumor that he'd caught Gilderoy Lockhart snogging a boy in a supply closet; he added magical tablets to the Slytherin's drinks so they grew tails or forked tongues; he set various creatures loose in the school corridors.
Harry was at first concerned, then annoyed, then angry at how his dad was acting. James never got back to the dorms earlier than midnight each night from detention. He rarely showed up at Quidditch practice, and the last match was only a couple days away.
Harry stayed up, waiting for James to get back to the Gryffindor Tower. His dad came in at one, bleary-eyed and pale. He only noticed Harry when he nearly ran into him.
"Sorry," he mumbled, starting to move past.
"Oh. It's you."
"Yeah, it's me. James, this needs to stop. You owe it to me and you owe it to your team to make it to practice. You can't do that when you're getting detentions constantly."
"I'll be fine. I don't learn anything at practice anyway."
"That's it. You do one more stunt with the Marauders and you're—"
"How do you know about that?"
"I—what? Know about what?"
"We haven't told anyone that we're called the Marauders. I came up with it yesterday." James was calm, expression cold. Somehow, though, he didn't seem surprised.
"I overheard you talking about it."
"Okay, then where were we when we were talking?"
Harry was at a loss for what to do. He could lie and say Remus told him, but that would fall through eventually. "I don't know." He made toward the stairs.
"Then is it because you already knew?" James' posture was slouched, but he was still with tension. Weariness had left him.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you've known since before meeting us."
"How is that possible?" Harry forced a laugh, sliding his hand into the pocket that contained his wand.
"You're my son." James' hand shot down and grabbed his wand before Harry could pull out his. "Expelliarmus!"
Harry's wand flew to the other side of the room. Defenseless, he gave in."How did you find out?"
"I overheard you talking to Snivellus nearly two months ago." Harry flashed back to that time and remembered the twig that had snapped nearby, which he'd dismissed. "Since then, I could tell, and I overheard you and Raven."
"I was lying to them. Anything I said, it wasn't…"
"It's no use, I know you were telling the truth. It all makes sense; how good you are at Quidditch, your grades, how you talk. You're my—you're my son, aren't you? Snivellus had his little breakdown in the forest because of it."
Harry sighed and rubbed his temple. He hadn't intended James to find out, especially so soon. "Yeah, I am."
Now that James' suspicions were confirmed, he relaxed. "Merlin, I'm sorry for, well, everything." James paused, processing what this meant, what Harry knew. He grinned back at Harry, an idea alight in his eyes. "You should join us, then. Be one of the Marauders."
"No, that's your thing. I appreciate the offer, but I shouldn't."
"But you're my son."
James crossed his arms. "Why did you come back here, then? And why have you been so against me?"
"I guess I'd like the adult you more than the teenage you."
"And I'm dead in your time? You didn't get to know me?"
"You died to protect us."
"Us?" It took a moment for him to realize what that meant. "Right, Lily, too."
Harry nodded and, as James was absorbed in thought, casually walked across the room. His wand had rolled under one of the tables. Harry bent down and shot a memory erasing spell at James, who cast a protection spell just in time.
"I learned that from you," James said, wand still raised. "And I wouldn't try that again. What if you screwed up? People would ask questions. I could erase your memories, too."
Harry lowered his wand. "Sorry. I don't want you to know."
"So I can't know, but Snivellus and Raven can."
"I owe Severus, but I don't owe you."
"How could you owe Snively? He practically breathes Dark Magic—I wouldn't be surprised if his nose is huge from inhaling it."
"You shouldn't bully Severus. After you died, he spent the rest of his life battling Voldemort. He protected me."
James was taken back. "Why?"
"Because he's not evil, contrary to what you believe."
"I guess I'd hate the adult Severus less than the teenage Severus."
Harry glared at him. "Why shouldn't I erase your memory?"
"If you try again, I'll tell everyone. If you erase my memories, it'll be just like it was before."
"And if you keep your memories?"
"Then we'll be friends."
Harry's eyes flicked between his wand and his dad. At this rate, the whole school will know by the end of the year. And I keep breaking the basic rules of time travel. On the other hand, I just want to get along with James. I've wanted a real family my whole life, so I should be willing to do this. Harry made up his mind, pocketing his wand and crossing the room. He'd known James over the past few years, but now he knew his father. He hugged his dad for the first time.
Later in May, the Gryffindors managed to win the cup by ten points; Harry caught the Snitch thirty minutes in, but the Hufflepuffs had control of the Quaffle for the majority of the game.
James and Harry cleaned up after the match. "So we're working on a project. A map, actually."
Harry nodded. "The Marauder's Map?"
"How do you know about that? Have you seen it?"
"Yeah. But I can't tell you about it."
"Right, sure." James didn't take him seriously. "But really, do we get it to work?"
Harry hesitated. "Yes. That's all I'm telling you, though."
"Okay." James looked around. "You still don't wanna join the Marauders?"
Harry locked up the case with the Quidditch supplies. "You have Remus, Sirius, and Peter. Severus and Raven just have me. And I can guarantee that you would tell the others about me, or they'd find out."
James considered this, then nodded. "Okay."
"It's not just that; I know too much about the future. And you bully Severus. Also—"
James stopped him from continuing. "Why does Lily hate me now if she's going to end up with me?"
Harry felt guilty and mad at himself for knowing this kid, his dad, would die young. "Because you're annoying! To everyone and to her. If you give her space, maybe she'll be less cold. You realize, it's not her, it's you."
"Well, don't sugarcoat it."
They were almost to the school when James stopped. "I'm actually going to head back and work on my flying. See you 'round."
"What is it?"
"I've been thinking about it, and I really think we shouldn't talk to each other so much."
James faltered, shoulders sagging. "Oh. Why not?"
"I know, you're my dad, and you're part of the reason I came here. But I don't want you to keep affirming what Severus said about you."
"What he said about me? What right does he have to—"
"It doesn't matter. I don't want my opinion of you to be based off of you as a kid. On the other hand, I can't ignore how you're acting right now."
"I thought you wanted to be friends."
"I did, I do, it's just that right now, with everything that's happened, I can't."
"Fine," James said, already walking away.
June arrived. If it hadn't been nearing the end of the year, time would be moving slowly and painfully. An outsider looking in would be surprised to know that Harry and Severus used to be friends. They now seemed so separate. Neither of them spoke to or even acknowledged each other. Lily grew closer to Aluria Vane, even though half of Aluria's conversations revolved around James. At first, Lily changed the subject whenever he was brought up, but eventually she came to tolerate Aluria's dreamy rantings. Harry realized that Aluria and Lily must've been best friends since first year in the original time in which Raven, Harry, and Severus weren't in Gryffindor.
Harry was frustrated with Lily and Severus, so he spent more and more time with Raven. She asked him about the life he left behind, about Ginny and the War and the people he knew who died.
Exactly two weeks before the end of school, she asked, "How did Severus die? You didn't write about it specifically."
Harry put aside his homework. "I probably shouldn't tell you any more than what you read."
"Probably." Raven crossed her arms. "Then what about Remus? How did he die?"
"Why do you want to know? I mean, who said he's not still alive?"
"No one said anything; but you wrote about him like he's a ghost."
Harry sighed. "He died fighting on the final day of the Second War." He paused as the Marauders came down the stairs, carrying black bags, acting as though they wanted to appear suspicious. "He had a son—my godson. I wonder…" Harry watched them leave through the portrait hole. "…if he knew, if they all knew how soon they would die, if they would act differently."
"I don't think they should know. See how Severus took it; I wouldn't want to test their reaction. It's a horrible burden."
Harry nodded. "I know. If James hadn't overheard that part, I wouldn't have told him. So, why ask about Remus?"
Raven shrugged. "I want to know how much time we have. Er, I mean, we all have."
"Not enough." Harry thought for a moment, then asked, voice lowered, "How do you feel about Severus?"
Raven tensed and leaned away from him. "I don't know."
"I don't want to like him just because he likes me. Though, I'm almost positive he doesn't anymore."
"Ever since the Shrieking Shack, he's back to how he used to be. Anyway, even if he did, I don't want things to be any more complicated."
Remus and Sirius stumbled back into the room, laughing. Smoke drifted from Sirius, and he had soot on his face. "I'm gonna wash up. Meet you in a tic."
Remus grinned in reply and joined Raven and Harry on the couch.
"I'm gonna put my books away," Harry said, before they'd even exchanged hellos. He took his things and went up after Sirius.
In the dorm, Sirius was fixing his hair. The bathroom upstairs had plenty of mirrors, but he felt it necessary to have one nearby.
Harry had come up not just so Remus and Raven could have a moment alone; he wanted to see if Sirius seemed to know about his true identity.
"Hey," he said casually, before shuffling through his things.
Sirius muttered a response as twisted his slight, tanned hands in frustration. He left the room without another word.
No, he seems clueless.
To stall further, Harry burrowed through the purse he had borrowed from Hermione. He took out the books he may or may not need for next year, depending on his decision to stay or go. He noticed that an off-white corner stuck out from between one book's pages. It was an unopened letter.
Harry's heart raced in anticipation. Maybe Ginny figured he would have second thoughts, so she snuck in a letter to help him decide.
But no, it wasn't from Ginny. After opening the envelope, he scanned to the bottom of the parchment where "Miranda Daniels" was written.
I am writing you to thank you. My name is Miranda Daniels. I am almost thirteen years old and am going into my third year at Hogwarts.
My parents' home was destroyed in the war. They are both Muggles and didn't know I was a witch when they adopted me. When they found out, they were shocked, but if they were scared of me, they didn't let on. I hated myself for being different. That is, until I got to Hogwarts. When I learned your story, I began to believe that anything was possible, and anyone can bring change.
In July of 1997, my parents pulled me out of school. We went to America with a couple other families, including my best friend, Sam, whose mom was a Muggle. We didn't know that Death Eaters were following people out of the country. Anyone who got a passport was tracked by them. Out of our group, only my family survived. Not out of skill, or bravery. I thought back to you, how you wouldn't have run away, you would've stayed and fought and helped. Then I realized that I was fighting. I was doing what you would've done. Maybe I wasn't home, but I was where I was needed: with my family.
So thank you not only for saving the world, but for saving me. Every little action helps.
The letter trembled in his hand. He'd read thousands of letters, some of them probably like Miranda's. But somehow, close to three years after killing Voldemort, this one letter had an impact equivalent to one thousand.
Harry held his head between his hands, eyes squeezed tight. Was staying here the right thing to do? Or should he go back home?
Where was he needed most? Severus didn't want him, the Marauders had each other, Lily and Raven would manage. He could do both; stay then go back home. But he was no longer here to fill the void, he was here because of a moral obligation. Though, even that reason was timing out.
So, that's it. It makes the most sense to leave, Harry decided.
Severus glanced at Harry from his bed.
It was too early for Harry to be packing, but he wanted to make sure he had everything. With three people in Hogwarts knowing his true identity, all with access to his dorm, Harry had to be sure nothing had been stolen.
Harry knew Severus had looked his way, but he pretended otherwise. It would be less painful for both of them to part without making amends. That way, Harry could go on thinking Severus didn't want his help and Severus could think that Harry no longer cared.
The strongest proof of their stubbornness was their refusal to say anything to each other until the final day of school. Harry didn't think Severus had any idea that this was the last time they'd see each other until the nineties.
"Are you going?"
Harry tucked the Time-Turner under his shirt and turned around. Severus stood, with his things, by the King's Cross gate.
"Well, I'm not planning on living at the station."
"I have to go soon. Are you leaving or staying?"
Harry sighed. "Leaving."
Severus nodded. "I don't know if I'll see you when I'm older, then. Who knows how things'll work out."
"Probably about the same. Unless you're planning on leaving the Dark Arts…? No? I didn't think so. I wish you luck." Harry turned to leave.
"Er, Harry," Severus began.
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Yes?"
Severus pressed his lips together and looked anywhere but at Harry. "Why did you come here?"
"I told you, I thought I could help you. Now I know I can't."
"I mean," Severus began, lowering his voice almost urgently, "why did you come to fix things if you're going to leave? Why are you leaving when things are still…wrong?"
Harry didn't reply. He turned his gaze to Lily, who saw him and began to wave before she saw who he was talking to.
"I tried. I made things worse. And I'm unhappy. No, miserable. And also angry, like how I started. Nobody will care if I leave, at least not for long."
Severus bit his tongue. He couldn't say anything, even as Harry moved through the wall.
After a few seconds, the battle in Severus' mind ended and he pushed his cart through the wall. Harry was moving out of sight; soon he would Apparate and disappear. Severus quickened his pace and pushed through the crowd after his friend. "Wait!" he called, just as Harry turned the corner to an area free of Muggles. There was a loud crack, and then no one was there.
Severus stood rooted to the spot. He pushed his cart back around and had begun to head in the opposite direction when Harry Apparated again in front of him.
"What is it, Severus?"
Severus had to say something to get Harry's help, but he wasn't one for lengthy, emotional speeches. "Stay one more year. Please."