Room of Requirement
"Good morning, class. My name is Professor Lastoel. Some of you may have heard that Professor Ilen was killed over the holidays…"
The students, especially those who hadn't known, flinched at the bluntness of his tone.
"…So I'll be starting where she left off. If I call on you, please tell me your name." He strode to the chalkboard and wrote "Boggarts." Then he called on a student to explain what a boggart was.
Harry glanced at Remus. It was in Harry's third year that they learned about boggarts in a way that would eventually teach Harry's class to overcome their fears.
"It so happens that I was provided with a boggart to use today for a demonstration. I'll need a volunteer…" Lastoel scanned the room, then gestured at Severus, who hadn't raised his hand.
"Severus Snape, sir."
"Mr. Snape, if you'll come up here…okay, now, I'm going to release a boggart, and you'll follow my instruc—"
"I can't, Professor." Severus' face had turned pale.
"Oh, come now, don't be afraid. It's really quite simple—"
Severus shook his head.
Lastoel, his authority threatened, became cold. "By failing to cooperate you are undermining the hours upon hours Professor Ilen spent educating you. Now please, or I'll be forced to take points from your house."
Severus looked between the Professor and the cabinet that contained the boggart. Then he turned and hurried out of the room.
"Five points from Gryffindor. Honestly, you'd think this is a class of first years—"
Harry cut him off. "Professor, did you consider that he's seen his boggart before? What if it became the thing that killed his mum, or had turned into his father's corpse? How does it make us children to not want to see that?"
It was an extreme example, but effective; Professor Lastoel faltered. "Well, he could've said—"
"Can I go to see if he's alright?"
Lastoel was taken aback. "Right, sure. Of course."
Lily stood. "May I go, too, Professor?"
Lastoel waved them on. "Fine. But that's all." At this, Raven reluctantly lowered her hand. Lastoel checked his pocket watch. "You have five minutes."
"Thank you." Lily glanced at Harry, then the two of them left the room. Before exiting, they heard Lastoel say over the sarcastic cries of concern from James and Sirius, "Now. Who thinks their greatest fear is something trivial? Like spiders, perhaps…"
Lily and Harry found Severus sitting a ways down the corridor, his hands pressed over his head.
Lily quickened her pace and knelt at his side. Harry approached more slowly. Unlike Lily, he knew what was wrong.
Severus shook uncontrollably and his breathing was staggered. His eyes seemed glazed over, fixed on something they couldn't see.
"I'm here for you, Sev. I'm not going anywhere." Lily put her arm around Severus and rested her head on his shoulder.
Severus' head lifted slightly. Still shaking, he reached into his cloak with a stiff hand and pulled out a vial. After he struggled to get it open, Lily uncorked it and handed it back, brow furrowed.
Severus tipped the contents of the vial into his mouth. He swallowed, coughing a bit. After a moment, he wiped his eyes and stood. He began to walk back to class, stumbling at first, then continuing on.
Lily gaped at him. "What was that about?"
Severus stopped, turning halfway toward her. "What?" His eyes were relaxed, but tired.
"You just freaked out, with no explanation, and—and what did you take to calm down?"
Severus blinked slowly. "A calming potion, obviously. Draught of Peace. I took a little too much, I think." He was slouching, his voice high-pitched.
Lily went to him. "Okay. Can you tell me what's wrong?"
Eyes closed, Severus shook his head, smiling, acting almost as though he were intoxicated.
"Wait for us for a minute before going back, then." Lily quickly kissed his temple, then turned to Harry, voice hushed. "I know he didn't see either of his parents, who are still alive, but you seemed to know what his boggart would've been."
Harry lowered his voice. "Lily, I can't tell you. He doesn't want you to know what happened. He told me expressly."
They noticed Severus had drifted back into the classroom. Lily sighed. "We'll talk on the way to lunch."
Toward the end of class, when Lastoel let them get started on their essays, Sirius tapped Severus on the shoulder. Severus turned around drowsily; the potion's effects were still in full force. "Yeah?"
Sirius was taken aback by the absence of annoyance in Severus' expression, but he recovered. "Gryffindor house doesn't take cowards, Snivellus. You may have Jacob to stand up for you—"
"Just drop it, Sirius." James flicked a scrap of paper off of his desk, his other hand propping his head up.
"Leave him alone. Look, he's on something. It doesn't matter what you say."
"What's he on?"
Harry turned around, impatient. "He's not, he's just tired. And why do you think he's a coward? Your idea of bravery seems to be harassing someone simply because it's what you've always done."
Sirius turned to James, waiting for him to defend himself. But James simply studied Harry.
After class, Severus told them he was going to go take a nap. Raven decided to walk to lunch with Remus.
Lily and Harry, then, were left on their own. "So why would Severus not want me to know what happened? We're best friends!" Lily realized how that sounded. "I'm not saying that you and him aren't, or anything…"
"He doesn't want you to know because he doesn't want you to pity him."
"Why does he think I'd pity him?"
"When you weren't friends, and he'd left the Dark Arts, and this happened, he didn't want you to befriend him again just because you felt sorry for him."
Lily thought of how to respond, eyebrow raised. "Oh, you mean feel sympathetic."
"No, I mean, and I'm speaking for him here, but he doesn't want to be someone you feel the need to protect, or fix."
Lily stopped walking and pulled Harry to the side.
"You're one to talk, Jacob. Since you met him, you've—"
Her aggression caught him by surprise. "He's my friend. I'm just—"
"Looking out for him? You care about him?" Lily softened her tone, searching Harry. "Well I care about him, too."
Harry sighed. "I know. But still…he told me not to tell you."
Lily mulled this over. "Fine. Tell me what happened, and he won't know that I know."
"If I tell you, you can't treat him differently. And you have to promise not to tell a soul, especially Dumbledore or a professor."
"Deal." Lily offered her hand, and they shook on it.
Harry waited until the pre-lunch rush had made its way through the corridor before telling her what had happened.
"…Then they used a boggart to torture him. It turned into you, only—you were dead. And he didn't know it wasn't real."
Lily was pale. Her shock allowed Harry to slip in the worst details, almost without her noticing.
"Wait…what did you say they did?"
"I don't know all of it, that's just what he told me."
"That's—" She gaped at him. "Why? How does that make sense?"
"I know that it's horrible, but why would they beat him, either? They're cruel."
Lily looked away, then her eyes widened, and she met Harry's gaze. "Did his dad do that to him, too?"
Harry nodded. "I don't know the details, but he told me about his dad the summer he ran away from home."
"I didn't realize—I never would've thought…" Lily, choking back tears, slowed and sat down at a nearby bench. "He doesn't always want to be touched, you know. Sometimes, when I hug him, he sort of shrinks away…If I'd known the reason, I would've asked if it was okay first…" Lily fell silent, lost in thought.
Harry sat down next to her. "They haven't messed with him much since then. With the exception, of course, of last month."
"Has he ever broken down like that before, because of what happened?"
"Not that I've know of. He's better, but he hasn't had to deal with it. Since you two became friends again, it's easier to deal with. He's happier."
Lily nodded, eyes fixed on the floor. "I know. I can tell. He cares about things more. He even smiles like he used to when we were kids. I do get the feeling, though, that he's not holding himself together easily. He's just motivated to try."
Harry studied Lily, surprised. She had never seemed to understand so acutely what Severus was feeling.
"Does Raven know about what happened?"
Harry hesitated. "I had to tell her eventually. She was still friends with him then, and she knew everything that'd happened before—"
"Oh." Lily's voice cracked. "Why is it just me who doesn't know anything? Do you think he ever would have told me?"
Harry motioned for them to start walking again. "I think he would have. And maybe it means he cares about your opinion of him the most."
Something flickered in Lily's eyes. She didn't ask Harry anything more.
That evening, James approached Harry, looking oddly…insecure.
"Can we talk?"
Harry exchanged a look with Raven, then stood and followed James upstairs.
As Harry sat down, James closed the door and began to pace. "The Sirius in your time, was he with anyone?"
Harry squinted at James. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, did he have a girlfriend?" James' fingers twitched. He tried to stop them by putting his hands in this pockets.
"No. I'm sorry, why does this matter?"
James faltered. "I—is he…"
"Is he what?"
"Does he fancy me?"
"I don't know, I just sometimes think, well…"
Harry shook his head, baffled. "Why couldn't you ask him yourself?"
James turned abruptly. "Because we're friends!"
Harry put his hands up. "For Merlin's sake, alright, I get it."
James started for the door, voice hollow. "Never mind. I'm sorry I brought it up. I thought you might know something." He left.
Harry stared at the floor. Was James starting to have feelings in return for Sirius? It seemed like a joke fate had pulled. Both of his parents were being fawned over by their respective childhood friend, who was also blamed for killing them in the original timeline. Both friends had to live for over a decade without the only person they loved…
That was how Harry reasoned he shouldn't favor one situation over the over. However, he did have a haunting feeling that the timeline had diverged too far for it to last.
On a Friday night in May, Harry wrote in his journal, the lamp beside him casting a warm glow on the paper. He glanced at Severus' bed. Severus had been gone for over an hour; he'd told Harry it was just to take a bath.
When Severus finally returned, he moved delicately, beelining for his dresser. He bent down, opened the bottom drawer, and pulled out something that was shielded from Harry's view.
Harry heard the muffled turning of pages and realized it had to be a book. He cleared his throat. "Where were you for all this time, then?"
Severus started. He put the book back in his drawer and stood. "Where you said to go; the prefects' bathroom. I used some potions I made—"
"What kind of potions?"
Severus blushed. "Nothing that wasn't, er, cosmetic."
"What, like skin softener, or something?" Harry was joking, but Severus' face reddened and he shrugged sheepishly.
"Oh." Harry put his journal in his lap, his attention focused on the nervous way Severus rubbed his hands. It was as though he'd stopped using Occlumency; his movements were less calculated. "So, what's the occasion?"
Severus blinked. "There's no occasion. I was just stressed. Y'know, the O.W.L.s and everything."
"Well, I hardly go to that bathroom, so at least you're making use of it." Harry thought back to Moaning Myrtle and shuddered.
Severus gestured at Harry's journal. "You're writing? It's been a while, hasn't it?" He rubbed the back of his neck, eyes fixed on something Harry couldn't see.
Harry nodded. "I suppose, yeah. I'm…I'm writing about the differences between this timeline and mine." Harry looked back on his writing. "You know, in less than two weeks you'd have called Lily a Mudblood."
Severus flinched at the word, then adjusted the collar on the black pajamas Harry had given him for his birthday. He turned, hesitant, then sat down across from Harry. He seemed to wait until his breath was in a steady rhythm before he spoke. "I…probably should've said this a long time ago, but thank you. For everything you've done."
"Without you, I'd've lost her. And myself. Even though they'll be after me when I graduate, it'll be worth it. Doing the right thing, and all. I know I haven't been fair to you, even though you've stayed for so long, with little thought of yourself. So whatever happens, know that you did enough. To help me, that is. Whatever debt you thought you owed me—it's paid."
Harry blinked. Why is he bringing this up now? He didn't know how to respond. "You're welcome. And, er, I don't think anything will happen at this point, unless I went back—too much has changed already, what difference would anything else make? I think the scale's already tipped."
Severus looked away, lifting his tone. "Well, that's just it—it wouldn't be wrong if something did happen. It just would mean that this…" he gestured around him, particularly to the crimson and gold drapes by his bed, "…wasn't meant to be."
Harry furrowed his brow. He didn't feel like arguing, but he didn't agree with Severus. Besides that, though, something was off.
Severus looked in the mirror on his nightstand and ran a hand through his hair.
Harry sighed. "Okay, c'mon, you can tell me what you're doing."
Severus hesitated. He met Harry's eyes. "I'm going on a walk with Lily tonight."
"It's not what you th—"
"I don't think anything. Go ahead." Harry waited a moment, tapping his foot, before asking, "What time?"
"Midnight. Why? You wouldn't follow us, would you?"
Harry flushed. "No, why would I—no, I won't. So you'll need the cloak, then?"
"Yeah, that would help."
Severus stood, and so did Harry. Then Severus hugged him. And he truly embraced him, not as though he were reluctant or obligated. He gripped the back of Harry's shirt.
"Er, what are you…" Although taken aback, Harry returned the hug, feeling a tingling in his gut.
After a moment, Severus pulled away, lips pressed together. His eyes might've watered, but it was hard to be sure. "I'm sorry. Common room?"
Harry didn't reply, but began to follow him downstairs. Then he stopped. "Actually, you go ahead, I just have to put my journal away." He waited until Severus had gone before he went to Severus' dresser. The bottom drawer was still ajar. Harry assumed that meant any protective spells Severus typically used wouldn't work.
Harry slid the book out from under the potion supplies that partially hid it. He studied the cover of the book quickly as he went to get his purse. The cover was worn, but the lettering was clear; A Collection of Essays on Mysterious Magical Conundrums. Harry put the book in his purse, which he put back before going down to the common room. He wondered if Severus was hiding something from him.
Lily and Severus were already sprawled out by the fireplace with Raven and Remus. Lily dealt cards for Exploding Snap.
"You all know how to play the Classic way, right?"
Remus glanced at the other Marauders, who were still trying to study for the O.W.L.s. "We always play 'Patience.'"
"I find that hard to believe." Severus nodded toward James, who was complaining about Peter's inability to understand the Potions essay.
Remus smirked. "You're right."
They played a few rounds, but when it became clear that Lily was bound to win every time, they stopped.
It felt good to just relax after their time had been consumed by schoolwork. After some second years went up to bed, the group moved to the couch and armchairs in front of the fireplace.
Raven and Remus curled up together on the couch. Harry wondered, watching the pair from the corner of his eye, if anyone had loved Remus before Tonks in the original timeline. Had Remus not believed he deserved Tonks because he fell for Lily, who ended up with his best friend? Had that made him give up on finding love?
Harry tuned back in to what Lily was saying.
"…after the O.W.L.s, we just have the N.E.W.T.s, and before you know it—we'll be graduating."
Severus considered Lily, expression hard. When she looked back at him, he forced himself to smile. "Yeah. Then we'll be fighting in the Order, right?"
Lily smiled. "Yeah. We will." Harry had the feeling that she was no longer talking about all of them, just her and Severus. Lily shook herself from her thoughts and peered over at Remus and Raven. "Are you two joining the Order after Hogwarts, or will you have a job?"
Raven lowered her hand from the the side of Remus' face. "The Order. But that's a long time away, isn't it?"
Lily shrugged. "It seems far away now, but…" her attention was caught by Aluria, Florence, and Cheresse. She smiled at them. The trio glanced at each other before returning the gesture.
Remus took Raven's hand. "I know what you mean. James wants to leave school as soon as he turns seventeen. Sirius would go with him, of course. I'm not sure if I want to; it's only a couple months before we graduate."
Severus couldn't hide the loathing from his voice. "What about Peter?" He glanced at Harry.
Remus shifted, glancing over at Peter. "I'm not sure. I think he'd come, too."
There was a moment of silence. Severus watched Remus as he wrapped his arm around Raven. Harry thought it would be fitting if Severus had a pad of paper to take notes on, judging by the intensity of the boy's gaze. There might've been jealousy in his eyes, but his expression was hard to read.
"Walker!" James called from across the room.
"What?" Over the past years, he'd learned to respond to Jacob Walker more quickly than to Harry Potter.
Harry glanced at Severus and Lily, then got up and went over to the studying area.
"Right, can you help Peter with Potions? He's trying so hard, but—" James dramatically lowered his voice, "thinking is not his strong suit."
Sirius leaned back in his chair. Harry hadn't noticed how close he was getting to his adult self. Granted, at sixteen, he was more toned, less marked by age, and his facial hair remained out of laziness rather than intention. "Aw, give the bloke a break. Who gives a rat's arse if he can't make a—what? Why are you laughing?" He sat up in his seat, genuinely concerned.
"Mate." James bit his tongue, eyes locked on Sirius'. "Rat's arse?"
Sirius blinked. "Oh. Ohh!" He grinned at Peter.
Harry rolled his eyes. "So do you need my help or not?"
"Oh, yeah. Peter, you tell him what you need help with."
Harry made no effort to be nice to Peter, but was forced to be helpful or else he'd be stuck with Peter for hours.
"Do you get it now?"
"Yeah, thank you." Peter smiled up at Harry, who tried his best to return the expression. Maybe Harry could have made an effort to be friends with Peter, solely for the purpose of preventing Peter from betraying James and Lily. But it wasn't a good idea to consciously prevent someone's death, especially his parents'.
"Hey, Aluria." Sirius had leaned back in his chair again. Aluria, Florence, and Cheresse hardly glanced at the three of them as they went up to the room.
"What gives? They used to love us."
James, noting how Sirius had come to terms with what had happened on Valentine's Day, explained, "It's you, Sirius. They don't think you're into girls."
"I wonder what gave them that idea." Sirius' tone was light, but still shadowed with nervousness.
James smirked. "I have no clue."
"Oh, get a room, you two," Peter muttered as he started his essay.
"I think we've broken their hearts too many times, maybe that's why…" James said as Harry walked away.
"…C'mon, at least give me a hint!" Lily said to Severus as Harry sat down on the chair across from her.
"Er, not now," Severus said quickly, eying Harry.
Harry sat down. "A hint about what?"
"It's nothing," Severus cut in quickly.
Lily tilted her head. What could she know that Harry couldn't?
Harry only pretended to fall asleep that night. The Marauders, who'd stayed up late the day before, had retired early. At five minutes to midnight, Harry heard Severus slip out of bed. He heard the slight whoosh of fabric of the Invisibility Cloak, then careful footfalls as Severus approached his bed. When Severus felt satisfied that Harry was asleep, the feet padded away. The door closed.
After waiting for several minutes, Harry cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself, retrieved Severus' book, then left the dorm. He also cast a Muffling Charm to be certain he wasn't discovered.
The common room was deserted. Harry sat down on the couch and lit the candle next to him. He opened A Collection of Essays to the inside cover. The publishing date was 1948, the author, Zaria Ademola. He flipped to the Table of Contents and traced his finger down the page.
There. "The Complexities of Time Travel" by…
Harry's stomach leapt. It couldn't be a coincidence. He turned to page 98 and began to read.
Meanwhile, Severus and Lily shuffled around the seventh floor corridor, concealed by the Invisibility Cloak. A door appeared. Severus reached out, twisted the handle, and pushed the door open. After closing the door, he swept the Invisibility Cloak off of them.
Lily walked further in, tentative. "What is this place?" She seemed to be waiting for something to happen, something to explain how serious Severus had been when he offered to show her.
"It's called the Come and Go Room, or the Room of Requirement. I discovered it in fourth year." Severus hung back, watching her. "It's supposed to give you…what you need. So if you needed the loo—"
"It'd give you the loo." Lily smiled and looked around the room with a new interest. It was empty, except for candles floating overhead, and a partially hidden object in the opposite corner of the room, which was covered in a gray sheet. Lily seemed to disregard the object as her gaze passed over it. "What did you need, then?" Lily turned back toward Severus, eyebrows up.
Severus met Lily's eyes, more earnest than she, and opened his mouth to reply.
Then Lily heard noise from outside and the question was dropped, but not forgotten. "It's raining, I think. Can you hear it?" Lily went to one of the windows and peered through the blackness.
While she was distracted, Severus drew closer to the Mirror. He pulled the covering off and looked into the Mirror for the first time in over a year. Lily stood in the glass, appearing exactly as she had always had appeared in the Mirror; dark red hair in waves around her face, her body slight in a white nightgown.
Severus realized, with a jolt, that it was how she appeared now.
"What's this?" Lily came from behind him.
"It's called the Mirror of Erised."
Lily's puzzled eyes searched the glass. She glanced around, confused that her reflection didn't match her environment. Then she looked to the words for an explanation. "'Erised…stra ehru…oyt ube cafru…oyt on wohsi.' Do you know what that means? It doesn't sound like Latin."
Severus studied her and chewed his lip, his breathing light and fragmented. He breathed in carefully. "It means—Well, if you reverse the letters, it says, 'I show not your face…but your heart's desire.'"
Lily looked back at the inscription, then into the Mirror. She crossed her arms, bracing herself. When she spoke, her voice was quiet and cracked a little. "Heart's desire…what would that mean, more specifically? Your best friend?"
Severus' heart pounded. "No, it's what you want more than anything. Something you'd don't have, and if you did have it, you'd never need anything else." He thought about Harry. "If you miss people you lost to the Dark Lord, you might see them. Or, say you wanted to be Minister of Magic—"
"What do you see?" Lily didn't look at him; she was focused on the Mirror.
"Me?" Severus shut his eyes. "I see—I see you." Then he opened them, preparing himself for her reaction, though he didn't know what to expect.
Lily's eyebrows were furrowed. As though she's panicking, Severus thought. Finally, Lily replied, "But I see you, too. You're standing there…safe." She turned to him. "Why—"
Severus leaned in and kissed her. He was hesitant, his lips hardly grazing hers; their lips parted after only a second. Severus kept his face just an inch from Lily's, their breathing uneven. Lily held her breath in shock, eyes locked on his mouth.
Severus had run through this opportunity hundreds of times in his mind, but in his imagination, he always commanded a mysterious sort of confidence. Now, he averted his eyes and straightened, blushing. How could he have been so foolish? It seemed to make sense at the moment, but now…now Severus wanted to run.
Harry, back in the common room, began to read.
I finished school in 1899, the same year experiments in time travel were brought to a close. I remember the days after Eloise Mintumble traveled back in time five hundred years, when time bended, and years of research were at once slowed. Time travel was banned from being involved in the Second Great Muggle War…
Harry, used to skimming, moved past the history and to the first quotations he found.
Saul Croaker has said that "just as the human mind cannot comprehend time, so it cannot comprehend the damage that will ensue if we presume to tamper with its laws."
If I could amend this quote, I would say, "…if we presume to tamper with its laws, which we also do not understand." The wizarding world knows very little about time travel. Some may think that the Ministry is hiding what they know, but their knowledge is also limited.
I should start with the law introduced by Eloise Mintumble's incident. Twenty-five people were un-born as a result of her existing in the past. A Time-Turner, if one goes back far enough, can cause people to be un-born. Unless, for example, the Time-Turner they use splits their reality. If that were the case, realities could develop on their own and not affect the original reality.
The use for a Time-Turner with this ability could be to test hypotheticals (what would happen if a particular event was different). The alternate realities would be disconnected until any changes between the time of entering the alternate reality and returning to the original were set in place by a spell. Think of it like a bubble on the fabric of time. When it's popped, a soapy circle is left in its place. If, however, time is damaged, the alternate timeline could be rubbed away. Time traveling within an alternate reality causes little divots, but the overall shape is maintained.
The most significant paradox of time travel is: what if the time traveler himself is un-born? This is an unusual instance that can only be possible if the time traveler goes back in time before he was born, which is very risky. The traveler will fade from existence. In the present, being un-born is like a jolt, as sudden as Apparition. In the past, being un-born is like cracking a whip; the paradox rolls closer like a tidal wave until it snaps on the person who could not exist in the new reality.
When the time traveler disappears, the alternate reality stops, waiting to be either destroyed or assimilated. This would be nearly impossible to do, unless the time traveler acts before, or could get the Time-Turner to someone else for them to act. The only way to restore the time traveler's existence is to keep him from traveling in the first place, which would also erase the alternate universe.
Another phenomenon is the Time Traveler's Guilt; even if the time traveler makes improvements to his reality, he would prevent a number of specific people from existing, a number that would grow into the thousands over the course of centuries.
Harry, fearing the power of the words, skipped to the end.
Author's Note: Albus Dumbledore has revealed very little about his research. Other scholars have tried to duplicate his findings, solely using the few publicly released experiments the Ministry of Magic has conducted, but to no avail…
Harry looked through the contents for something more about time travel, but there was nothing. Nothing, that is, until he noticed he'd dislodged a note out of the back cover. He pulled it out.
I, Albus Dumbledore, give Mr. Severus Snape permission to read A Collection of Essays on Mysterious Magical Conundrums, which I also recommended to him.
It was signed with the previous day's date.
In the Room of Requirement, Lily stood very still, face as red as Severus'.
Severus swallowed. "Lily, I'm sorry, I thought…"
Lily opened her mouth to say something, but the right words escaped her. Then, she reached up and touched his cheek. Severus' eyes pulled back to hers. Lily traced her thumb in circles on his skin, making him shiver and close his eyes. She still appeared to be confused, as though her touch was to make sure she wasn't dreaming.
Then she kissed him. Severus' shoulders relaxed. His hands drifted up to meet her, unsure. One weaved into her hair, the other settled on her shoulder. Severus didn't know what to do with his mouth, not at first. He was too aware of his posture, leaning back from Lily's force, of the months of experience on her lips, and her knuckles digging into his chest as she gripped his shirt.
Fortunately, Severus learned quickly, and he pushed back. They were pressed so closely, their foreheads connected. Severus breathed in, filling his lungs with the familiar scent of apples, which was faint in her hair. With every contact, Lily's hands changed position in Severus' hair and on his neck, on the skin he'd hated for most of his childhood, a part of him that he'd felt was dirty, like he believed he deserved to be. Now, he felt as though he were in a bath; her hands were like steaming water rushing over him.
Severus' lips worked their way down, tasting the side of Lily's mouth, her cheek, then the gentle curve of her face. His hands ran down her sides, settling on her waist, where he dug in his palms, pushing to the rhythm of his mouth. Lily inhaled, then exhaled as a soft moan, her breath hot on his neck. His mouth lingered at the back of her neck, at the line of her nightgown.
Lily's leg pressed momentarily against Severus, and shock coursed through him. Severus pulled away, memories shooting up like thorns.
"I'm sorry," Lily said immediately. She pretended not to understand the reason for his reaction.
Once again, Severus didn't dare to meet Lily's eyes, fearing he'd crossed a line. Applying his expertise in Occlumency, Severus forced any harmful memory into the recesses of his mind, trying to separate his past from this moment with her.
"Sev," Lily said. After a deep breath, she corrected herself. "Severus." She wrapped her arms around him.
Throughout the years of knowing each other, Lily had hugged Severus hello, goodbye, good morning, good night—as best friends. She had held him and cried, laughed; held him for her own comfort, or his.
This time, Lily held him differently. But Severus, confused, believed she was hugging him out of pity. He thought she either didn't feel the same way about him and regretted kissing him back, or he'd kissed her poorly, clumsily. He buried his head in the arch of her shoulder, defeated.
Lily titled her head toward his ear. "How long have you fancied me, Severus?"
"'Fancied you?'" Severus pulled away and took a step back, black eyes on her green ones. "James 'fancied' you. But I—since we were kids, since the first day I talked to you, I think, I've—"
"That long? Even in third year, when you called me a Mudblood?"
Severus stepped forward again. "I didn't know what was important then."
Lily took his hands in hers, securing her warm fingers on his cold ones. Severus tried not to tremble.
"Lily, I've always fancied—No, I've always…" Severus searched for the words, but it was hard to string them together. He faced the borrowed memories of the original timeline; permanently destroying their friendship, watching her end up with James, overhearing the prophecy, giving his life to protect Harry, dying with no other thought than—
"I've always loved you, Lily."
Harry's breathing stopped. The world spun. At first, his brain shut down. Then, a loud ringing erupted in his ears.
He looked at the note again. There was something else written at the bottom—"Jelly Slugs."
Harry heard someone yawn and looked up; Raven was walking down the stairs without any particular urgency or purpose.
Harry took off the Disillusionment Charm and stood, causing Raven to start.
"Merlin, you scared me. I couldn't sleep, so…What are you doing up?"
"I haven't got much time." His body was numb, and he had trouble breathing.
Raven looked at him, confused. Harry remembered he'd put the Muffling charm on, and removed it. "I said, I haven't got much time."
"Why? Are you all right? What's going on?"
"I—I have to go back to my own time."
Raven's expression froze. "Why—why now?"
"Because Severus is going to confess his feelings to Lily, and I'm—" Harry looked at his hands. He could move his fingers, but they were losing their feeling. "…being un-born."
Raven took a step toward him. "So all of this will go away? We're going to die?"
"It won't hurt. And you'll still exist, just…not here."
Raven squeezed her eyes shut and breathed deeply. When she opened her eyes, they were steady, serious. "You have to find me in your time. If I'm alive. You have to do something. It can't end like this." She was speaking quickly. "Our lives were so much better with you here. At least two fewer Death Eaters." Raven took his hands, tearing up again. She was desperate, and her hands trembled. "You—you have to try something else."
"I'm sorry." Harry, feeling a numbness spreading through him, hurried to the portrait hole.
"Wait!" Raven caught up and hugged him. "Thank you. You were an incredible friend." She let go.
Harry looked at her one last time, then climbed through the portrait hole. He broke into a run. Dumbledore knew. He wanted Severus to know what would happen. And—and Severus read the book, so if he's going to confess his feelings, like I think he is, and Lily returns them, then it's over. He must know that. If he knows, then why do it?
Harry was face to face with the gargoyle. "Jelly slugs."
It swung open. Harry draped his invisibility cloak over his arm and leapt up the stairs.
Dumbledore stood his with his back to Harry, but didn't start when he heard Harry shut the door behind him. "Please sit, Harry Potter."
Harry's mouth went dry. Dumbledore knew who he was.
"I was not expecting you so soon. Perhaps Mr. Snape wanted to be done with it, to see if what I wrote all those years ago was true. I assume he figured out that there was no escaping fate." Dumbledore turned, smiling. "I have been able to see through your charms for the past year, I am afraid. The Sorting Hat broke its promise to you, Mr. Potter." Dumbledore sat down at his desk across from Harry. "He told me a facet of your goal was to bring Mr. Snape and Ms. Evans together, is that correct?"
Dumbledore held up his hand. "We do not have adequate time to chat."
"Sir, am I going to disappear?"
Harry's urgency made Dumbledore meet his gaze. "Listen very carefully, and do not interrupt unless I ask you a question.
"You have the Time-Turner I created, which means I am involved in sending you here…which means that you must remember what has happened in order to fulfill the reasons for which I sent you. You need to get off the grounds and return to where you started. Tell your past self not to go back in time by giving him your memories."
Harry nodded, though it brought him pain to do so. He had so many other questions, but he didn't doubt the seriousness of the situation. They both stood.
Harry was overwhelmed with the same regret he'd felt after Dumbledore's death and while reading Rita Skeeter's book. He missed another opportunity to know the Headmaster out of fear; the fear of being discovered and being forced to leave.
He hugged Dumbledore, briefly. It was his last goodbye, the one he never got to have. He let go, then studied the Headmaster's blue eyes for a final time, which were fixed on his forehead. Harry normally hid his scar behind his hair and with a patch that blended into his skin. Harry had the feeling that Dumbledore could see the lightening bolt beneath.
"Love brought you here, did it not?" Dumbledore raised his eyebrow, and with that last look, Harry strode to the door and left the room. He clenched his jaw, hard. Somehow, though, he was incapable of producing tears.
It was true, what Dumbledore said. The Sorting Hat could only have read so much into nearly eighteen years of life when he sorted Harry in five minutes. But Dumbledore, who'd always found it easy to read people, had filled in the gaps. Harry'd wanted so much: an escape, relief, and to have a family—the latter was an irrational desire, as he could never bring back the dead. How stupid it was of him to think he could somehow be with Lily, the Marauders, Severus, and all of them. Why had he tried to make them get along? What was the point? He never would've stayed to see that far into the future. The prophecy would be different, and therefore Voldemort's life would be different, and the whole world. It didn't matter if things had changed for the better or worse, in the end, because the timeline couldn't exist.
He considered Raven's suggestion, that he "should try something else" and come back in time again. Maybe this time he could make Severus' life better while ensuring that he and Lily didn't end up together.
As Harry ran down the final staircase, however, he realized that Severus' childhood could only truly be improved with the kind of affection he couldn't offer, and how hard it would be to keep Severus from the Dark Arts while also apart from love. He could stop Severus and Lily from ever meeting…but that would also be a disservice.
The thing that disturbed Harry greatest was how well Severus and Lily could've worked. Their relationship, which might have seemed obsessive, one-sided, and fueled by Lily's kindness in Harry's timeline, actually turned out to be healthy, mutual, and meaningful.
Lily and Severus remained unaware that anything had changed.
Tears spilled from Lily's eyes. Severus kissed her cheek, tasting the salt against her skin. Lily laughed a little at Severus' concern. "I had no idea, Severus."
She examined his expression, which was the same calculating, intense look he'd always studied her with. "Well, on second thought—you treat me differently than Jacob or Raven. And…it's easy to make you blush."
On cue, Severus' face reddened. "You've never done it on purpose, have you?"
"No, of course not." The corners of her mouth twisted up. "Okay, sometimes, maybe. But only because you're so…closed off. I knew I could make you feel awkward, but you'd always be happier after, and although I didn't realize why that was the case, I liked seeing you open up. I wish I'd known that you felt this way about me. Because, I think—" Lily paused, surprised at what she was about to say, because she was now realizing it, "I think I've always loved you, too. I just didn't expect it to be like how it feels now."
They'd both given up on stopping the tears. Severus smiled, then his expression wavered. "So then the thing with James was…?"
"Was what I thought it was like. I shouldn't've been with him."
Severus studied her. "No, I think it's good you did…" Lily looked at him incredulously. He continued, "…because if you hadn't, you'd always wonder 'what if?,' right? And maybe you would've been with him later and…you would've stayed with him."
Lily shook her head. "I can't imagine that."
But Severus could imagine it. He wished he had a chance to see James' reaction when he found out Lily had chosen "Snivellus" over him.
"Did you love me then, too, when the Slytherins wouldn't leave me alone, and you—"
"Did nothing? I didn't know at the time, but it makes sense now, why what you said hurt me so much."
Severus hadn't thought of it like that. He'd thought that she should forgive him because they were friends, and he loved her, not that she would have trouble forgiving him because they were friends, and she loved him.
Severus glanced at the Mirror.
Lily still stood in the glass, but instead of the tearful, slightly smiling Lily standing before him, the Lily in the mirror was screaming, unheard. Her eyes were wide with panic, and she threw her fists at the glass.
"What is it?"
Severus snapped his attention back to the real Lily, ignoring the fear and pain in his stomach. "Lily, if you died, what would you have me do?"
Lily blinked. "I dunno. Why do you ask?"
"Because we haven't got much time. Something could happen to you."
Lily squeezed his hands. "If I died, I—I wouldn't want it to ruin your life. I'd want you to move on. To live; more than anything, I'd want you to live your life, really live it. Wouldn't you want the same for me?" She looked at him searchingly.
Severus forced himself to nod. He had to make their final minutes count. He had to do what his other self had never had the chance to do. That was the whole point, wasn't it?
Severus put his hands on Lily's shoulders and kissed her. He guided her to the windowed wall where he could no longer see the warning from the Lily in the Mirror. The back of his head pressed against the stone and he could hear the rain hitting the window next to him.
Severus studied the freckles that bridged her cheeks. He studied her striking, expressive eyebrows; and then her eyes. The eyes he'd seen on Harry since third year, the eyes he'd counted on since he first saw them. Lily's eyes, her beautiful eyes, the only shining thought he had when he was tortured, or abused, or bullied. He considered, briefly, that perhaps it'd been silly to put so much time and faith in her shade of green.
Her voice was still more powerful: "You have beautiful eyes, you know." Her voice—Lily Evan's voice—it was like the moon, commanding his tides.
"I do?" He was about to say the same to her.
"Yeah. Has anyone ever told you that?"
Severus hesitated. "No." This was a lie. He'd been told this twice; once by Raven, and earlier, in his third year, when Lily was under the Love Potion. With this memory, knowing that the Love Potion could have a basis in actual feelings, Severus realized that Lily had been telling the truth when she said she'd felt the same way since childhood.
Now, he noticed, Lily was studying him as she cradled his face. She said, voice lowered, "I hate this stupid war. I hate that we'll both be targets. I wish You-Know-Who was dead, so the war could be over. I wish that we…"
Severus' voice was even softer. "You wish that we what?"
"I wish that we had more time." Lily brushed the hair out of Severus' face, put a hand on the wall beside his head, and kissed him. She assumed they had at least a few years of life to spend together, that she would be able to experience this feeling until they died.
For Lily, this marked their beginning. For Severus, this marked their end.
Harry's efforts were for naught. The Marauders, especially James, had started to become better people—much faster, he assumed, than they had in the original timeline. The tiniest changes Harry'd made, even giving advice to his Quidditch team, had made this world better.
Harry was going to die—though not completely—for a second time. He would live on in the memory of his other self. It would be as though these five years had been a dream, a cheap lie that was supposed to rouse him from his depression. If Dumbledore was involved in sending Harry back in time, did he consider that the journey would worsen his emotional state? Because it had. Why should he be happier to know that he couldn't change all the awful things that happened? Why should he be happier to know that once again, his destiny was out of his control?
He felt betrayed.
Harry reached the Whomping Willow. He could feel his body fading, separating from his mind. He levitated a branch to hit the knot of the tree, then slipped into the tunnel.
Severus, the boy he'd saved from drowning, had been weak, close-minded, in desperate need of a friend. James had seemed to be a mere troublemaker when Harry'd snuck a book past his dad. When Harry'd met Lily for the first time, they'd shaken hands, then eaten ice cream. Harry remembered when Severus and Raven were sorted into Gryffindor and the course of their lives turned in a new direction. Harry had expected that he and Lily would be close, but as Severus drifted apart from her, so did Harry.
They had made it through conflicts between the Gryffindor and Slytherin houses. They had made it through the endless pranks of the Marauders, from Love Potions to Hate Potions to hanging Severus by his ankle, bringing him to his worst memory. Harry had revealed himself to Raven and Severus, the former who had given up the Dark Arts, the latter who would become determined to do the same.
There was one thing Harry could say he accomplished, and it was, for the moment, the greatest cause of his distress. He had made a second family, a group of friends he'd known for only a couple years less than Ron and Hermione. His biggest concern about leaving had always been about leaving Severus, or messing up time. Now, as Harry pulled Dumbledore's Time-Turner out from under his pajamas, as he stood on the floorboards of the Shrieking Shack and checked the time, which made his body ache despite the little feeling he had left.
Harry was leaving his friends behind.
Two turns on the sixth ring.
Harry was leaving the Marauders: James, whom he had trouble getting along with; Peter, whom he ignored all those years; Sirius, whose confidence did not extend to his desire for James; and Remus, who had gained a friend, a protector, in Harry.
Two turns on the fifth ring.
Raven. The one who came upon him by chance, who turned away from the Dark Arts, who was loyal to her friends, who loved Severus perhaps until that day. She kept to the sidelines but had enormous potential to change the world. He had to find her.
Twenty-two turns on the third ring.
Lily. She was kind, though she said what she felt and stood up for what she believed in. She had lost her way a few times, but in the end, she returned to her friends. James had not been like a father in the least, even though he knew Harry was his son; but Lily he could believe was his mother. Harry saw himself in her.
Fifty-nine turns on the second ring.
And Severus. It was hard to believe the person who had hugged Harry earlier that day was the same person who seemed to hate him for so long. All it took was to care about him, and they had become best friends. By having someone to guide him, Severus could have gone on to live a life with the one he loved.
He would never see any of them again, not Dumbledore, Severus, Remus, Lily, James, Sirius—probably not even Raven.
Finally, fingers moving like a corpse's, Harry turned the center ring thirty-four times.
"I know how to make you see how it should be like this." Ginny gazed at the Harry from the original timeline with her soulful brown eyes.
Harry from the Marauders' Era Apparated with a loud crack on the floor beside them. Both Ginny and Harry flinched. The appearance charms had faded, so they saw his true form—about four to five years older, wearing pajamas, but definitely Harry. His form was transparent.
Present-time Harry stood, wand drawn, confused.
The other Harry pulled out his own identical wand and drew a long silvery strand from his head. He offered it to them, and as soon as the substance was transferred to present-time Harry's wand, the older Harry disappeared.
The original Harry stared at the tip of his wand. As if by instinct, he put his wand to the side of his head, letting the memories snake through his skull.
Ginny approached Harry and put a hand on his shoulder. "Harry, I know what—" She was cut off as he convulsed.
He had frozen, bent over. When Ginny touched his shoulder again, he straightened and turned to face her. His mouth was ajar, lips trembling, eyes streaming. He took her in his arms, though they were weak, and sobbed.
Ginny rubbed Harry's back, breathing unsteadily. "Sh, it's okay. Everything's gonna be okay. You're safe." They stood in embrace for a few minutes, then Harry went to his bed, lay down, and gestured for her to join him, unable to speak. She slid her slippers off and curled up beside him.
Harry shivered as he fell asleep. Ginny held him close, frowning in thought. An hour later, Harry stirred and awakened, and she spoke.
"Exactly a year after Dumbledore's death, I received a package from Fawkes. In it was a letter and a Time-Turner."
Harry sat up, Ginny did the same. "So it was definitely from Dumbledore, then?"
"What do you mean?"
"When I took on the memories…they became my own. I don't know how, but it's like I actually lived them. When I went to Dumbledore's office—"
"So you did go to Hogwarts."
"Yeah. Maybe I should start from the beginning…"
He told her the outline of the five school years he lived. When he said "Severus," Ginny blinked in surprise. "What happened to 'Snape?'" Harry decided to start with the cast of characters of the life his other self had lived.
Severus was similar to how he was in adulthood—emotionally suppressed and wrought with problems, yet passionate. Lily, though at times unsure, was smart and headstrong and kind. Raven Faralyn—
"Hang on. Raven Faralyn. I recognize that name." Ginny glanced at a box in the corner of the room. "I know you haven't wanted to look in the things from Grimmauld Place, but Regulus Black's journal is in there. Kreacher had been hiding it. I saw her name is in there, I think. But, continue."
Raven was in a sense needy, but steadfast and impartial. The Marauders were inseparable and, for the most part, childish.
Harry went year by year, focusing on what had changed in the timeline. Even though it wasn't exactly he that did it, Harry felt ashamed to admit that he told Severus his true identity. Ginny let him explain how there was no other option. In a different way, he was forced to tell James. He'd had a choice with Raven, however.
"What about Lily? Practically everyone knew, why shouldn't she?"
"I guess I drew the line and…I didn't think it would've helped in any way. I didn't want her to see James or Severus differently. Severus needed to know to change his path in life, but Lily could eventually make the right decisions on her own…" Harry explained how Lily and Severus made up, how Severus acted before he went to meet Lily; then about Dumbledore's essay and meeting him in his office.
"You really did make it better, didn't you? Just by being there."
"Overall, I suppose I did."
Ginny studied Harry, then reached into her pocket and pulled out a letter. "On the back there are instructions, only as detailed as to explain how to use the Time-Turner and when I should give it to you. Anyway, here's the letter to you:
"'You should be reading this one year after my death. Though, for you, it may seem like much longer. Voldemort (I can only hope) is dead, and his followers are dwindling. In this new Era one could assume your life will continue brightly.'"
Harry could tell by the ease in which Ginny read the letter that she had pored over the words many times.
"'I know this cannot be the case. I kept too much from you and understood that when you found out about your destiny and Severus' role in your life you would become confused, angry, and perhaps depressed. You may have found out, somehow, that was my Time-Turner that you used to go back. I wanted to give you an opportunity to find closure, possibly to return to Hogwarts. I assume you wanted to improve Severus' life to repay a debt, much like Severus did for James. And I assume you accomplished that…to an extent that may have threatened your existence. Hopefully you have retained the memories of what happened.
"'The event that most likely sealed your fate was a kiss between Severus and Lily, or another act that consummated their relationship—'"
"And that's what the other Dumbledore predicted would happen."
"How did he know they'd do that?"
"No idea. Maybe he guessed that after they talked, Severus would want to get it over with."
Ginny continued reading, "'At some point over your journey, you must have wondered what normally happened to those who traveled more than a few hours in time. I invented the Time-Turner you used. After my sister's death, I learned all that I could about time travel, which led me to realize the complications of the Ministry's Time-Turners. The Time-Turner creates alternate timelines instead of taking the traveler back in their own timeline, making long-distance travel impossible.
"'This Time-Turner splits reality, and eventually an event something significant enough would undo your birth. A paradox formed; if you were to merge the timelines, you would be un-born, and therefore the changes you made couldn't exist.
"'So the impossibility that led to your fading accounts for the value of every death, mistake, spoken word. Even the tiniest change unravels the fabric of time.
"'Now that you are back and understand the consequences, I trust you see that things are meant to be. This was my reason for sending you back; I wanted you to realize that even painful and horrible events have a purpose in time—'"
"What about sending me and Hermione back to save Sirius?"
Hermione must've told her what happened with the Time-Turner, because Ginny seemed to understand his point. "It's different, I suppose. Let's see, '…a purpose in time so that, in their absence, we'd likely be worse off. I too found, years after my sister's death, after meddling with time to save her life, I could move on—'"
Harry cut in, "That's a lie. He didn't get over that day. To the day he died, he still regretted it."
"There's only a little left, let me finish—'…I could move on, because no matter how I tried to let her live, the alternate reality became warped. Even indirect contact makes a difference in time—leaving a letter for someone in the past, walking in a busy street, kicking a stone out of place.
"'Despite hundreds of hours of effort over the course of decades, the bad effects of the changes outweighed the good. Harry, I advise you not to return. I created a simple self-destruct spell that will destroy the Time-Turner; the Bat-Bogey Hex.
"'Stay with those you love, reflect on those you had a chance to know. Tell Ginny of your travels, and move on.' It's signed, 'Albus Dumbledore.'"
Ginny turned the letter over. "Oh, and one more thing: 'I'm sorry for keeping so much from you. You deserved to know about yourself as well as my past. Cowardice kept me from telling you more than I did.'" Ginny's eyes lingered on the words before she searched Harry's expression.
Harry felt numb. "So he knew how I'd feel because of his sister. How did he know I'd come back? Did he think I would stay as long as I did?"
"No idea. He always knew more than we assumed him to."
Harry rested his head on Ginny's shoulder; she put her arm around him.
Harry retreated into his thoughts. Because the integrity of the timeline depended on him actually existing, couldn't he change something after he was born? But what could he change? And how? An idea blossomed in his head, and he came back to reality. "Ginny, that other version of me missed everyone so much. But I can't see them right now. And…I missed you. But—"
"It's okay." Ginny kissed his forehead, then pulled away and stood. "Get some rest. I'll let you destroy the Time-Turner. It's yours now, anyhow." Before opening the door, she turned and asked, "You are better now, aren't you?"
"I think so. I will be, at least." But Harry didn't think he would get better, and he wasn't planning on resting. He needed an end-all solution. He knew Dumbledore wanted to convince him things were meant to be, but the rebellious spirit in Harry told him he still had control over his destiny.
"Well, good night." Ginny turned to leave once again.
"I love you," Harry blurted. It had been years since he'd last said those words.
Ginny paused to consider him, then she smiled. It was an easygoing smirk, but she somehow made it mean much more. "I love you, too. Welcome back, Harry."
Harry waited until he heard her door close before he went to his desk. He gathered some parchment, a quill, and an inkwell.
He began to write.