"Missing? For how long?"
"Since Voldemort was killed. It's been—it's been a year and a half." Raven's face was hard to make out in the yellow wash of the streetlights, but it seemed splotchy. "So, I mean, he could be alive. I'm sorry, Harry."
"No, don't apologize…" Harry felt his chest tighten as he willed himself to lose hope. He was content with the survival of Remus and Tonks; more and he was asking too much.
"I looked for him, even in the camps. You might know this, but the Death Eaters had camps for Muggles, Muggleborns, blood traitors…anyone who went against complying Purebloods. The vast majority, if not all, of the camps have been found; there were hundreds of people."
Harry nodded. In his time, they hadn't yet come as close to finding everyone.
"Where was I? Oh, yes, so I met up with you in the Forest of Dean. When I told you about the Horcrux you harbored, and what had to be done, you were, of course, upset, to say the least. Ron was furious, while Hermione, it seemed, had suspected there was something Albus'd been keeping from you. They both refused for you to die, and you pretended to agree. We spoke alone, however, and you told me to do it while they slept. As much as I didn't want to, I didn't want your friends to have to do it, or Severus, least of all Voldemort. So I killed you.
"You met Dumbledore in Limbo, and he explained that the Elder Wand, coupled with your and your mother's sacrifice, would be enough to defeat Voldemort. When you came back to life, we had to tell Hermione and Ron. After everything calmed down, I had to leave. I was helping others who were on the run.
"You three decided to purposely trigger the Taboo curse and were brought to Voldemort. By some miracle, Harry, you defeated him. The witnesses fled, and the War was over."
Harry nodded. So there was nothing particularly extraordinary or consequential in the way Voldemort was brought down.
Raven cleared her throat. "Why don't you list off people, and I'll tell you if they're alive."
Raven nodded. "Alive."
Harry kept listing, continuing if she nodded. "Fred. George. The Weasleys. Luna, Neville…Hedwig." Harry paused, eyes prickling, before he felt ready to go on. "Er, Hagrid. What about Dobby? Grindelwald—"
"Dead. Grindelwald is, I mean."
Raven paused. "There were a couple that left school, I can't remember names, or if they're alive."
"Okay, and…Sirius Black?"
"Yes, he's alive."
Harry blinked, shock so great he couldn't manage a smile. "Thank you." His fingers, weak with relief, trembled as he took out the Time-Turner. Despite the assurance of the number of lives now saved, he could not yet bring himself to perform the spell to seal the universe. "Would you—would you say this time is good? You wouldn't change anything?"
Raven looked away, thinking. Or was she doing something else? Her eyes searched the space five meters in front of them.
"It's just…it's nothing." Raven took a deep breath. "Look, this time is probably better than yours, but it's not perfect. There are things I would change, if I could…" She cleared her throat. "But that doesn't matter. Severus died in your time, too?"
"Yeah. But obviously that's—that's something that can never change. Er, were he and I on good terms, before he d—" Harry caught himself. "…went missing?"
"Well, for your safety, and out of his stubbornness and coldness, not really. But even if he didn't express it, he cared for you."
Harry nodded and closed his eyes. He knew the positives outweighed the negatives. At the very least, in this time, Severus hadn't had to live with Harry hating him. At the most, the world benefitted because of it.
Harry was ready. He had tried—and succeeded—in making a better universe, though more changed then he expected. He never would've guessed that two letters could kill the (second) most powerful wizard in the world long before he had been killed before. The result paralleled the universe with teenage Severus; it was then that Harry's kindness toward, guidance of, and friendship with Raven, Severus, and even Lily improved their lives. In this universe, Harry became closer to Dumbledore, the Weasleys, Raven, Severus, Hermione, and Sirius. From Dumbledore, Raven, and Severus, Harry gained more knowledge and understanding of the Wizarding World and his personal role in it. From the Weasleys, Hermione, and Sirius, he had a stronger sense of belonging and love.
"What would happen if both of you—both Harrys—stayed?"
"This reality would end as soon as time caught up to when I traveled back, which is…" Harry checked his watch, "Two hours from now. If I perform the spell Dumbledore instructed, then this Universe will be final, and I will take the place of the other Harry."
His other self appeared out of nowhere, pulling off his invisibility cloak, after Raven gave the cue. That Harry started to speak, but was cut off by the flash of the Sealing Spell.
Hours later, Harry woke in an unfamiliar bed. Blinking in the bright light of the morning, he realized he must be at an inn.
He had expected to remember at least something from his old self. While he didn't gain any memories, he felt he had retained schoolwork.
He was still dressed from the night before, in his own clothes, and not the other Harry's. He freshened up, his own things mixed with Ginny's. He was about to leave the room when there was a knock at the door.
"It's us," came Ron's voice.
Harry opened the door. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny marched immediately in and sat on his bed.
"Tell us everything."
Harry wasn't phased by their directness; just struck by emotion. He pulled Ron into a hug, tears rushing up despite his best efforts to suppress them. He then hugged Ginny and Hermione, who were also wary of him. "Er, let's get something to eat first, this'll take at least the whole day."
As he first started describing life without the letters and listened to Ron and Hermione's responses, he could tell there was a significant rift between he and his friends. They had been closer to the other Harry than he had ever been to the versions he'd known, and it didn't help that he hadn't seen them in several years.
He finished his story at midnight that night. They had changed into their pyjamas, with Harry, Hermione, and Ginny on the bed, Ron in the chair.
Ron folded his hands, eyes distant, thinking. "So, you're like 23 years old in your head?"
Harry blinked. "Yeah, I suppose I am."
"Why help Snape, though? Why not Sirius, or Lupin?" Ginny asked, studying him.
Hermione nodded. "And why not kill Voldemort as a baby?"
"I helped Snape because his death didn't affect the outcome of the War. And Sirius' childhood was the highlight of his life, whereas Severus became how he was because his childhood sucked. I thought if I made that better, everything else would fall into place from there. And I didn't understand how time worked, so I assumed he could have a chance with Lily."
"I could've talked you out of it, you know," Hermione said. "I would've known what would happen from the start."
"I don't regret going back in time. It might've been hopeless, but it led to this."
Ron spoke gravely. "If 'this' means the Harry we knew has been replaced by a stranger."
"If anything, I might be a bit more serious than that Harry. But now that so many people are alive, I'll be…" Harry trailed off. "Can you tell me what's happened since the War ended?"
Ron and Hermione glanced at each other. Ginny noticed this and said, "I'll do it. You guys should get some rest."
"Alright." They stood, hugging Harry a little awkwardly on their way out. "See you in the morning, Harry."
"Goodnight." Harry sat back down on the bed.
After the door closed, Ginny glanced at Harry, then entwined her fingers in his. "We used to have years of life in common. And now…every word we've exchanged is gone. I don't know if I should consider it like you've died, or just lost your memory."
"The second one is much less intense."
Ginny smirked. "You're right. Oh, and be prepared for me to start every sentence with, 'Did I tell you…' because I'm gonna have to catch you up on a ton of stuff…"
"Y'know, I think I need to take you all to the Pensieve, to see what I experienced. Not soon, exactly, because there's a few things I have to do first, but before the end of the summer. So you…" Harry yawned. "…can understand me better."
Ginny yawned too, then rested her head on his shoulder. "Good idea."
"Okay, before I fall asleep, tell me one thing that happened."
"Lupin and Tonks are getting married next Sunday."
"You're serious?" For the first time, Harry felt as though he hadn't missed that much of the timeline.
"Yeah. It's on the anniversary of the end of Second War, so it's a big deal. Oh, and Tonks already had her baby, Edward—the same name you told us—and Sirius is the godfather. He's also their best man. You're a groomsman, I'm a bridesmaid."
Harry closed his eyes, emotions heightened by his weariness. "Do I have dress robes already?" He stood, pulled back the covers, and gestured for Ginny to join him.
"Close—you have a dress. You wouldn't know this, but your other self was much more fabulous."
"Ginny, one time you're gonna say something like that and I'll believe you, then I'll be going about completely misinformed."
"Don't worry, I'll keep trying. My next idea was to secretly replace your wardrobe with the ugliest patterns I could find, and I'd say you'd have to wear them so you wouldn't raise suspicion."
"D'you want to keep telling me this stuff? Because then I'll know how to protect myself."
"Sure, I've got loads of ideas. Let's see…you and McGonagall had a torrential love affair over the past few months, so make sure to tell her you love her more than anything, but you have to break it off because she's really let herself go…"
The next day, Harry thought of a way to help Severus move on, or at least to gain his trust. To carry out his plan, he met with Raven that evening at the Three Broomsticks. He told her a two-hour version of his story, then that he wanted to see Dumbledore's office one last time, and have a chance to talk to his portrait.
"…and I want to return the Time-Turner."
Raven sat back in her chair. "Shouldn't you destroy it?"
"Dumbledore wants me to, at least in the letter he wrote, but I think that it's too important to destroy. What if England is bombed? Or—"
"Or someone has a rubbish life, so you rewrite time to change it."
Harry crossed his arms. "What are you trying to say?"
"Look, what you did for Severus was noble, and yes, it changed the world for the better, but not everyone is going to be as lucky if they try the same thing."
"Well, that's why it's experimental. You choose to seal the universe if it works out."
"But it's not a power that should be given to people. Not one person, not the government, not anyone. No matter how pure their intentions are. Would you want someone else controlling your fate?"
Harry drank from his bottle to avoid replying right away. "I suppose not."
"And you might be tempted. I might be tempted, even. It's better to deal with life as it happens."
Harry stared at the bubbles fizzing in the butterbeer. "Maybe I was dealing with life as it happened."
"It's a part of growing up, I suppose, to learn to live in the moment. You don't think I want to stop myself from getting involved with the Dark Arts? We make mistakes, then learn to handle them."
"Fine. But your reasoning doesn't apply to me. I didn't go back in time for myself, I did it for you and Severus."
Raven sighed. "Alright."
Harry studied her. "It's strange, how time repeats itself."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, you and Remus were a thing when I knew you. Though, he might have been a way to get over Severus…"
Raven coughed on her drink. "What? I fancied him? Them, I mean? Merlin, that's…"
Harry brought it up to see her reaction. It must be true for both of them.
Raven was solemn now, though still embarrassed, as she avoided Harry's gaze. "I did fancy Severus when I first came to Hogwarts to teach. I was young, and lonely, without any of my old friends, Regulus in particular. Of course, Severus has always secluded himself, so although we got along well, it was impossible to do anything about how I felt, as you might imagine. But when you came with the letter…I truly realized how hopeless it was."
Harry averted his eyes and nodded. In the original timeline, no one wanted to befriend Severus, and now, even when people did, he still pushed them away.
Raven caught on to his knowing expression. "It's odd, sharing this with you, even if you say we were close. Well, anyhow, it's done with now. I just wish…You know, Severus didn't deserve to be miserable. That's the worst of it. The only one who could help him was himself. Oh, and if you don't already know; Severus had an unofficial will, only for those closest to him to see. He said not to reveal where his loyalty truly lay until two years after his death. It was hard for us to do at first, but he must've had a reason, and we have to respect his wishes…" Her voice petered out at the end.
Harry nodded, frowning in thought as he searched for something to say. He was about to spew some sort of consoling comment about life and moving on when Raven changed the subject—"So do you remember anything from this time?"
"Er, no, nothing. I wish I had a better sense of everything that's happened."
"If it helps, it's hard to tell there's any difference between you and the previous Harry."
"It seems that way on the outside, I'd think."
"It's just that you're more guarded than he was. More serious. That'll fade with time." Raven downed the remainder of her tankard. "You haven't seen anyone else yet, have you?"
"Not yet. I'm being filled in on the details of the past year. Then I'll be ready. Otherwise even anyone I'm not close to will know something's up, and I don't want anyone else to know, really. Except, well, I'm going to look for Severus. If I find him, I might tell him."
Raven didn't object, rather gave him a long look that conveyed her understanding.
"Is there anywhere I shouldn't bother checking?"
"His home in Spinner's End. There was a spell on the house that made it look as though it'd burned down. That's why I thought he might be alive. But when I reversed the spell, the inside was dusty and cold. I followed leads, but it's been months now. Really, he could be anywhere, though I don't see why he wouldn't be in England."
Harry nodded, then set down his bottle and stood. They'd both finished their drinks.
Raven smoothed her robes and hugged him. "You're incredible, Harry, you know that?"
Harry dipped his head. "You're allowed into Hogwarts, right?"
"I could always pretend I needed some old papers if we're caught. Wear your Cloak, though, just in case."
Raven and Harry took the Hogsmeade path to get to the school. Apparently there had been some consideration of removing the Anti-Disapparition Jinx that had been cast on Hogwarts. Many people were tired of living in fear, but even more wanted to put higher security measures into place.
"How long will five years worth of memories last? Can you trim it down?"
"I'll do my best. Maybe Dumbledore can help."
They crossed the grounds and the halls of Hogwarts, eventually reaching Dumbledore's office.
"Fizzing Whizbees," Raven said. "Last year Albus gave me advice on searching for Severus. He told me to use this password." They reached the top of the staircase. Dumbledore's office was only slightly different from how Harry remembered.
"Ah, Harry, Raven. How are you?"
Harry turned toward the voice and studied the portrait, which was slightly more vibrant than he remembered from his own time.
"I'm all right, Albus." Raven nudged Harry forward.
"I'm fine, sir. Er, you?"
"Call me Albus. And I'm doing well, thank you."
Harry nodded, contemplating what to say.
"Something troubling you, Harry?" Albus asked, just as Harry took out the Time-Turner. Albus leaned forward in astonishment. "You merged the times. I've been waiting to meet you since we discovered who had written the letters. Please, tell me what happened."
Harry briefly filled Albus in, focusing on the original timeline and why he wanted certain things to change. "Now I'm not sure if the Time-Turner should be destroyed."
Albus steepled his fingers. "What do you think, Raven?"
"I think it's too powerful. Consider the Elder Wand. In Harry's time, it's why Severus was murdered. Generations of people died because of it, and that was enough to hide it. But this, the Time-Turner, could cause immeasurable damage, so more severe action should be taken."
"And Harry, why do you think it should not be destroyed?"
"We might need it, in the future."
Albus nodded. "Why not keep it hidden? That is a reasonable compromise."
"Because I don't want anyone who knows about it now to find it. Especially Severus."
"If you only trust yourself with its power, is it worth keeping?"
Harry considered this. Part of him didn't even trust himself to decide when changing time was absolutely necessary. There was a chance he would spend the rest of his life tweaking little mistakes; every sudden death of a friend, every wrong thing said to Ginny, every broken vase.
Raven rested a hand on Harry's shoulder, removing him from his thoughts. Nearly decided, Harry asked Albus, "Do you remember how to recreate this?"
Harry chewed his lip. "If something needs to change, I'll fix it after. I know now that I have the power to change things, but I have to focus on how I can change the future, not the past. And if something happens that cannot be changed without the Time-Turner, and the world suffers because of it, then we can make another one."
Albus nodded. "I am glad I—or rather, my other self—has been able to help you."
"Yeah. I can't thank him, so I'll thank you." Harry looked between Albus and Raven. "I'm not going to destroy it yet. I want to look for Severus, and see the others. Before that, though, Du—I mean, Albus, how should I show my memories to Raven? I have five years of memories…"
"The Pensieve will show her only the strongest memories. Also, time goes faster relative to the length of memories."
"Okay. Raven, are you ready?"
"I am." She crossed to the Pensieve. Harry drew his wand and placed the tip at his temple, then pulled out a long, silvery strand of memories, from leaving Ginny to turning back to the present.
"Before you see this, know that you—that we—can't have this back." Harry swirled the strand in the Pensieve. He exchanged a tight-lipped smile with Raven before she immersed her face in the basin.
Harry went to the Headmaster's desk and sat in the chair. He didn't know how long the memories would take, so he took of his glasses off and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, it was to Raven's voice.
"Harry, it's seven in the morning."
Harry rubbed his eyes and sat up. "I slept for that long?"
Raven's eyes were slightly pink. "I didn't want to wake you up an hour ago, when the memories ended, so I talked to Albus, and reflected on everything."
"Oh." Harry stood to stretch, but Raven pulled him into a hug instead. "Thank you."
After a moment, Harry asked, "What do you think about everything?"
Raven pulled away and held him at arm's length. "First off, I'm so glad you're here." She let him go and leaned against the desk. "At first, I went through what you had, undoubtedly—I was angry at the unfairness of it all. But I realized it wasn't all better in the new timeline, and, in the end, it was impossible for it to work out." Raven smiled a little. "I also realized what made the difference in the timelines."
"What was that?"
"Love," Albus finished, smiling.
Harry raised an eyebrow, a bit annoyed at how well they both seemed to be taking this. Surely it brought regrets to light. "What about you and Severus?"
Raven's composure faltered. "It doesn't matter anymore."
Harry saw her fingers tighten on the edge of the desk and, perhaps rudely, felt himself relax. She wasn't indifferent to or happy about the other timeline. She had to be move on to protect herself.
Harry stepped between Raven and Albus' portrait. "I know how we can find out if Severus is alive. Albus, sir, where is the Resurrection Stone?"
"Ah, I see…" Albus smiled. "Very clever. The Stone is in the cabinet beside my desk. Yes, there…Do you see it?"
Harry picked the Stone up carefully. If Severus was dead, he would be able to summon him. "You do it," he told Raven, passing her the Stone. "Just concentrate on him, and squeeze the Stone in your hand."
Raven closed her eyes and her hand tightened around the Resurrection Stone. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes. "Severus. Is he supposed to be invisible?"
No one was there.
Harry let out a sigh of relief. "So he's alive."
Raven covered her mouth with her hands, laughing out of shock. She embraced Harry, who gladly returned the gesture.
When they recovered from the discovery, Harry motioned as if he returned the Stone, but instead he discreetly pocketed it.
"I'm going to look for him. Raven, if I don't find him by Tuesday, I want you to join me."
Raven nodded. "I'll look on my own for now. If I had to guess, based on his will, we can't tell anyone he's alive. He might not want to come out of hiding."
"What'll we do if he doesn't?"
"I don't know."
Maybe Severus could be anywhere. Although, Voldemort could've put his soul in anything. Following the same line of thought, Severus' location may not be such a mystery.
When they left the grounds, Harry Apparated to Spinner's End. He adjusted the Cloak of Invisibility so it completely covered him, then stood back to study the house. Was there a more discreet way to get inside? Was it safe enough to go through the front door? Harry walked up the steps and—
CRACK! Someone Apparated right over Harry, knocking him to the ground. The pain was to great for him to get to his feet, he felt a wand press on the back of his neck.
A vaguely familiar voice—not Severus'—spoke into his ear. "Ah, Harry Potter. How long we've waited to—" Then there was a flash of light, and he fell to the ground beside Harry.
"Potter? What are you doing here?" But Severus' voice was lost to the ringing in Harry's ears, and his world slowly turned to black…
Harry's eyes opened. His head hurt tremendously for a moment, then the pain vanished. He sat up, realizing he was in Severus' living room. Lester Rowle, who had Apparated onto Harry, rested, frozen, on the floor. His eyes were closed, and his limbs were locked.
"I see you have recovered," Severus said, striding into the room. He checked Rowle, then poured himself a drink.
Harry was at a loss. Heat rose in his cheeks. "I thought you were dead. Everyone did. Why don't you tell me why you're here!"
Severus stared at Harry from his armchair.
Harry, shaking, continued, "You know, Raven came here. She said—she said there was a spell on the house, as though you were trying to protect yourself. What reason—"
"As much as I would like to chat, it would be best if you left," Severus interrupted. The casualness in his tone was forced, straining to seem reasonable.
"If I left? What's going on—"
Severus set his drink down and stood. "Fine. If you won't leave, I will. It is not your place to interfere."
"Interfere with what, Severus?" Harry rose, his face red. He had to clench his fists to keep himself from lashing out. How could Severus have done this to himself? Everyone outside of a select few still thought he was loyal to Voldemort.
Severus narrowed his eyes. "You called me Severus. Who are you?"
Harry faltered. "Who am I? What do you—" And then Severus went into his mind. Harry saw flashes of memory from his childhood to the 70s and to the past few days.
Severus left Harry's mind and immediately rounded on him. "Potter, explain. I saw myself as a child." He pointed his wand at Harry's throat, eyes deadly. "You have thirty seconds to explain yourself."
Harry put his hands up. He had to make the most of his time, and hadn't he had enough practice doing that? "Thirty seconds…Okay, I'm from another time, or timeline, whatever. Well, I took this timeline over. Everything about my life is the same as you know, up until my first year. Er, in my original time, I didn't trust you. A lot of people died, and it took through the May of my seventh year to kill Voldemort. You died, too. He killed you. I felt indebted to you, so I went back to the 70s. Actually, Dumbledore left his personal Time-Turner to me. I became friends—"
"Thirty seconds is up." Still, Severus' eyes were dull with disbelief, and his voice was quiet. He wasn't going anywhere; Harry's story was too crazy to abandon.
"…I became friends with you, and Lily, and Raven, and my father, the Marauders, too…and I made things better. Too much better. You and Lily were going to be together, which meant I wouldn't've been born, so I couldn't merge the times. But I still wanted to help you, and now Raven, too. So I wrote the letters. Then I came to this time to see if things didn't get worse. And things…" He stopped to compose himself. "Yeah, things are better."
Severus noticed his wand had lowered slightly and raised his arm. "How do you expect me to believe you?"
"I can give you more of the story later. Now, though, I can prove it to you with something I'd only know if my story is true; you wouldn't eat toast at Hogwarts; you only liked the kind Lily made over the summer."
Severus froze. "Perhaps she had a diary, and that is how you know—"
"After Petunia read her diary, Lily refused to own one again."
"That may or may not be—"
Harry raised his voice. "I know about the List. That's why it was so hard to leave the Dark Arts."
"Any fool could tell you about—"
"I know you thought Lily would respect you if you were powerful. I know how depressed you were when she got together with James—"
"You want something more? I know your dad is the reason you don't like people touching you. I know you never told Lily what he did—"
"ENOUGH!" Severus covered his face with his hand. "That is enough, Potter."
"I'm sorry. I didn't—I crossed a line."
Severus closed his eyes. "I have been undercover since the Dark Lord was defeated. I did not want anyone to know my true loyalty because I became a part of the alliance of the Dark Lord's former followers. Despite the Dark Lord's absence, it was easy to prove my loyalty; I did not try to plead forgiveness, or my innocence. During my participation, I anonymously tipped off the Ministry, or set up others so it seemed as though they betrayed the Death Eaters. I gave away the location of their camps, faking my capture on more than one occasion. Rowle is the last I know to have served the Dark Lord and escape punishment, which he has done twice now. I planned to turn him in." He downed the rest of his drink to avoid continuing.
Harry didn't know what to say. He couldn't help but fill with pride and respect for Severus, which was taken over only by pity. "Er, well, I brought this." Harry slowly pulled out the Resurrection stone. He offered it to Severus, whose eyes flicked between the stone and Harry.
Severus didn't take it.
"Alright, I will, then." Harry gripped the stone, concentrating on his mother, and she appeared to him. Harry took a deep breath, then motioned toward Severus. Lily turned her relaxed gaze in his direction.
"Lily?" Severus didn't dare step closer.
"Sev." She smiled and approached him. If the look she gave Severus made Harry's chest tighten, he couldn't imagine the effect it had on Severus. Lily was close enough to take his hands, and she might've, had she been able.
"Sev, I'm so proud of you. It's too late to ask for forgiveness, I know, so I can at least say that we're even. My abandonment for your betrayal." Lily laughed a little, sensing how tense he was. She reached up as if to push away his hair, then drew back. "It was painful for me to see what you went through over these years, Severus."
"In your name," Severus blurted.
Lily nodded. "Yes, and I thank you for protecting Harry." She waited for a response, but Severus didn't know what to say. "But may I ask one last favor?"
She stepped even closer. "I want you to live, Sev. The War is over. You have done more to help this cause, given up more than anyone else. You now have the chance to live honestly and freely. I would be at peace if you could do that for me."
"I…I will do my best," Severus managed. He hadn't lived that way since before his first year at Hogwarts.
Lily hesitated, almost nervous, tinting the ethereal image she had kept. "Am I right to assume you still love me?"
Severus almost glanced back at Harry, hyperconscious of his presence. "Yes," he replied quietly.
"If you can love me as deeply as you have, then you are capable of doing it again with someone else."
"I do not…"
"There's no more war, no more chances for heartbreak. You can love someone without the threat of Voldemort. That is my wish for you, if you desire to fulfill it."
"You are…asking me to move on."
"Not just from me, but from any darkness in your past. Sev, your happiness would ensure my own."
Severus averted his gaze.
"Don't be afraid to let others into your life. You can't live a happy life without sharing it. And just know…I love you both." Lily smiled at Harry, who took her cue and dropped the Resurrection Stone.
Her image vanished.
Severus kept his back to Harry. There were a few moments of silence before he said, "Hide the Stone. Please." Then he Disapparated.
Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Shit." He pocketed the stone before Disapparating.
Harry appeared in Godric's Hollow. It was a fitting place to end his journey. In the glow of street lamps he saw a form hulked over his parent's grave. He realized as he approached that it was Severus.
Severus started and drew his wand.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to follow you."
Severus dried his eyes and straightened. He said nothing, face heavy with weariness.
"Well, now that I'm here…you have to come out of hiding."
"Potter, this really is not—"
"Promise me. By the end of the week. Turn Rowle in to the Ministry. They'll publish your story, and you'll be a hero."
Severus stepped toward, face twisted in anger and grief. "It is not nearly that simple, Potter, there is no proof that I had not worked for the Dark Lord—Albus is dead. And I know that ultimately, despite scattered proof that may be found, my motivation for being a double agent is difficult to prove, and the humiliation…"
"You won't be humiliated. If anyone's laughing it'd be at the Death Eaters wasting away in Azkaban. And you, because you fooled everyone."
Severus scoffed. "Adorable, Potter. Your optimism is truly inspiring. But the last thing I want is to be remembered for the reason I turned from the Dark Arts. Black would never let me hear the end of it. If I returned to Hogwarts, I would have students pester me with questions about my life, which I have always kept secret."
"Look, it's never too late to change—"
"You really do seem to have an unnatural concern for my well-being, Potter. Your concern for me should have run its course, as concern for me tends to do. I am the one who controls my future, not you."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Harry muttered.
"What was that?"
"When I met you, you were meant to die in 1998. When you followed my advice, you left the Dark Arts and got my mum back, all under your own free will. Most importantly, because of my help, you're alive today. See, it was your parents, your school, your professors, Voldemort, Dumbledore; they controlled you, not me. I'm telling you what you should do, as a friend, just as Lily told you what you should do for her. You make the choice. If you stay in hiding, then maybe you'll be comfortable, since you've been alone all your life. But there are people who want you in their lives, and you'll be happier, better off, with them around."
Severus gritted his teeth and looked away. "Two people."
"What?" Harry realized what Severus meant. "More than just Raven and I. What about Draco? And every student you could have at Hogwarts, they'll want to be taught by someone as brave as you. If you'd read the paper in the past two years, you'd know; you'll be a testament to the—the duality of people, how there's more than what can be seen at the surface. Because of the War, everything is in black and white. You're the gray." Harry cleared his throat, then met Severus' eyes. "And there's something I realized I want to do, but I need your help. We—you could really make a difference."
The summer breeze sent a hiss through the trees, filling the silence. Finally, Severus said, "I will return on two conditions. First, you give me any memories that may convince me to return. Second, you agree to let me be after I reveal myself."
"Let you be?"
"I do not want you breathing down my neck. I can handle my own affairs, and you will only remind me of the greatest mistakes I have made."
Harry chewed his lip. Perhaps he was selfish to ask so much of Severus, foolish to expect they could be friends as adults. "Alright. Fine. We're going to the Pensieve now, though."