A/N: If you have not yet read Emancipated Minor, this story being a pseudo-sequel may leave you feeling like I've glossed over important background information. So, of course, I'd recommend reading the original EM first, and then come back to EM-E.
Chapter 1 - EM-E - Rewind - Part I
Severus Snape paced around the living room area of his quarters at Hogwarts, struggling with the convoluted thoughts that were running rampantly through his mind. It was December twenty-third, and the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, had not yet publicly acknowledged his own eye-witness account from five days prior that Voldemort had indeed returned. He curled his lip as he thought of the overinflated wizard politician going to such lengths to one-up The Boy Who Lived's claims of Voldemort's resurrection from last summer. It was clear that Fudge still had it out for Potter, and Severus suspected that his lack of effort to reassure Wizarding Britain that their safety was the main priority for the Ministry of Magic reflected an off-the-record vendetta that took precedence. Fudge is still hoping to hide behind his denial and lies. That put Severus in a very precarious position while babysitting Potter for a two solid weeks. He would be guarding the headstrong nuisance from both Fudge and the Dark Lord, all the while spying for the Order, and keeping an eye on the castle as Minerva recovered from her Umbridge-instilled injuries at St. Mungo's. Oh, and he also needed to act as Deputy Headmaster while he was at it. And the icing on this proverbial cake of his? Severus had to manage all of this in the worst possible set of circumstances he could imagine: while Harry Potter nursed intense grief and guilt over the loss of his godfather.
He stopped pacing for a moment as that really sank in. He'd seen for himself that the boy was depleted and depressed. This was something he was truly not prepared to deal with, nor could he imagine Potter wanting his help with his emotional dramas. Severus resumed his pacing, replaying their confrontation from earlier this afternoon, and the way the idiot boy had described his outrageously risky floo call to Grimmauld Place to confront his godfather some weeks back. That was the type of nonsense that Severus would absolutely not tolerate. He'd threatened Potter with corporal punishment, and truly hoped the reckless little fool had taken him seriously, because although he'd seen sides of Potter today that revealed a very vulnerable young wizard, Severus' own sense of self preservation would induce him to deliver on his threat. It was clear the boy was keeping significant secrets, and the idea of Potter keeping secrets put Severus on edge, more than any other factor.
He once again recalled Albus' accusation that he, Severus Snape, had been predatorial in his treatment of Potter, and the defensive rage leapt right back to the surface, still raw, and still ridiculous. However, Severus was going to have to improve the communication between himself and the boy. Hmmm. Where to begin, in that regard? Simple logic dictated that he earn the boy's trust, and the easiest way to do so would be to become Potter's confidant. He'd been genuinely shocked by the boy's admission that he'd not been wanted at his aunt's home. Admittedly, there was still a small part of Severus that suspected Potter was just being difficult. He was an adolescent, after all. But even as that very thought formed in Severus' mind, a nagging what if kept prodding at his conscience.
So, that is where I will need to begin, he acknowledged. Tomorrow, he thought, after Petunia Dursley and her obnoxious walrus of a husband, and ham hock of a son had settled into their new dwelling at the Order's only safe house in Somerset. Albus wanted Severus to discover why the wards had failed on Privet Drive. And so he would, and he had a suspicion he would also find a correlation between Potter's secrets and those supposedly unbreakable protective spells.
At ten past six, Severus stepped through the floo into the Gryffindor common room to find Potter sleeping, curled up in the large, overstuffed armchair that sat several feet clear of the hearth. His glasses were off, set somewhere out of view, and his face was relaxed, and looking very youthful and innocent. The boy had kicked off his shoes and one threadbare sock, and there were angry red rub spots on his exposed foot that looked like they hurt. Severus noticed how large the shoes were, compared to Potter's smaller feet and frowned in confusion. Potter was still in the oversized dress shirt and jeans from earlier, but the blazer was nowhere to be seen. He turned to glance back into the fireplace and saw the unburned remains of a sleeve of the blazer as the only surviving remnants of whatever demons setting it ablaze was supposed to have released. Severus narrowed his eyes, wondering what was behind that action.
"Potter," he said in a low voice. The boy did not stir. He stepped over and wrapped his hand around the teen's upper arm and gave it a squeeze, this time saying more loudly, "Wake up, Potter."
Harry's entire body jerked, as if he'd slammed onto a hard surface, forcing him to suck in air as he opened startled eyes that could not see clearly. "Wha-?"
Someone had a firm grip on his arm, which didn't make sense because he'd been falling… through the cavernous underground that constituted Gringott's access passages to all of the vaults. His arms instinctively circled his middle in delayed response to the sharp blow of magic that had hit his left side. His entire torso was sore, as if he'd been punched. Hard.
Worse, Harry was blinking rapidly, trying to clear his vision to no avail, as a feeling of panic overcame him. Why can't I see?
"It's after six o'clock, young man," Severus was saying to him in a tone he had not used with Harry in ages.
His grip on Harry's arm wasn't particularly kind as he tugged a bit, as if expecting Harry to jump to his feet. "Where are-" Harry sputtered. "Severus, what's going on?"
There was a long silence. He could see his guardian's white shirt and black trouser-clad form through the familiar blur of poor vision that he'd been so fantastically free from, for nearly three weeks now. Severus' tall, lean form was standing slightly off to the side in front of him. While his befuddled brain delayed its processing of the stony silence from his guardian, Harry was also recognizing the Gryffindor common room, and the squishy chair he had spent a lot of time in over the holidays…
Blurry Severus stepped closer, slowly bending forward, placing blurry hands onto the arms of the chair, on either side of Harry, as he leaned in to coldly say to Harry's face, "How dare you address me so casually? You will call me sir, or Professor, or you. will. regret it."
Harry's stomach plunged at the sound of Severus' threat. He opened his mouth to protest, but quickly shut it. Something was very, very wrong. "Sorry, sir," Harry said automatically, already falling back into the shutdown mode he used to escape into when around his nasty potions professor. This was not Severus in front of him. It was Snape.
What is going on?
Severus glared at The Boy Who Lived, who still sat in the armchair, blinking dumbly, emotions masked in his usual manner, and his tone of voice dull and indifferent. Trigger-fast anger was pulsing through his veins at the boy's audacity and he quickly included Black and Lupin in his resentment. Those two had allowed Potter license to be on far more familiar terms with them than was appropriate. Potter had much to learn about boundaries and manners.
"I told you to be down in my quarters for dinner at six o'clock. You have rudely kept me from my own meal," Severus said tersely. The boy was continuing to avert his face, not acknowledging or responding to Severus. "What. Have you. Got. To. Say. For yourself?" Severus demanded.
"I'm trying to wake up, sir," Potter said in a small voice. "I think I'd better go splash water on my face."
"Go," Severus said with an audible sneer. "I'll wait."
Potter started to rise, but then seemed to realize he'd see better with his glasses and felt around for them. Severus sighed harshly and bent down to snatch them from the floor and thrust them toward the groggy teen. Potter put the glasses on with shaking hands, hastily grabbed his rucksack, the shoes and the one sock, and scooted up the staircase to his dorm.
Severus was a tad bothered that the boy was shaking.
Harry stood in front of the sink, staring at his reflection in shock. The running faucet forgotten, he pulled Dudley's white dress shirt out from the confines of his waistband and lifted it enough to expose the sore part of his torso where Bellatrix Lestrange had hexed him a little while ago… His breathing began to come in gasps as he took in the appearance of the already black and blue mark along his left side. It looked like an overly large shoeprint, but next to the heel was the unmistakable impression of a time turner, which he recognized because he clearly remembered the one McGonagall had leant to Hermione in third year.
I've been sent back in time! The realization made his stomach plummet so far downward he nearly vomited. He thought about third year, when he and Hermione had gone back to change the outcome of the Dementor attack on Sirius. Hermione had told him how dangerous it was to time travel, and how the person from the future could easily destroy himself or the lives of others by being careless… that the simple difference in a seemingly minor dialogue could alter the future dramatically. She'd said that terrible things happen to wizards who play with time.
So, where was his other self? Why was he dressed as he'd been that first day here, when Remus and Severus had come for him at his aunt's, instead of in the clothes he'd purchased in London with Severus? He looked at his sockless foot and remembered getting the blisters that were again visible. Yeah, I got those from the bloody dress shoes on December twenty-third. They were there now. So how come I've also got a mark from the hex from January twenty-first? he wondered. Because nothing will ever be fair or simple in your life. Tears were prickling the corners of his eyes as the now instinctive habit of reaching for his Lucius-made galleon to send a message to Severus or the others proved fruitless. He had no such galleon. It hadn't been created yet. He was not friends with Lucius Malfoy, and Remus was not yet here at the school. And Severus had never yet come to see him as anything more than a significant annoyance that needed to be put in his place. Harry cast a final look at himself in the mirror, rapidly succumbing to the feeling of futility about his life, a feeling that he'd believed to be gone forever, just this morning, when Severus had suggested that he adopt Harry and they become next of kin to each other.
"Potter!" Severus', no, Snape's voice barked angrily into the bathroom via a voice projecting spell.
Turning to rush back into his dorm and scrounge out extra socks and Dean's old trainers because his good ones were still in the cupboard with his jacket on Privet Drive, Harry was hit with another realization that literally made him trip and fall onto his hands and knees.
Voldemort is still alive.
Snape was waiting for him by the fireplace. The hostility coming off of the older wizard was palpable. Harry's already sunken stomach began to twist into knots as he walked over to his former guardian, growing more reluctant as he realized he would have to sit through dinner with this angry version of the potions master, as if there had never been a four week stretch of life-altering events that had broken down barriers between them. Don't think about it! he cautioned himself. He remembered this dinner, the last time around. Harry could not bear to repeat it. His mind raced as he stepped into the floo. He'd already changed the course of events by waking up and making Snape think he was being cheeky. Frankly, Snape was already exponentially more annoyed with him now than he had been then. I've already changed things. Harry went straight to the floo and dropped a pinch of powder, saying in a very strained voice, "Severus Snape's Slytherin Sanctuary!" relieved to be able to disappear from sight, if only for a moment.
He emerged into Severus' quarters and his eyes immediately went to the spot where the added-on door to his new bedroom should be. Nothing.
Severus emerged from the floo and gave Potter an assessing look before jerking his head toward the small kitchenette to indicate the boy should lead the way in. They each took a seat and served themselves shepard's pie from the large dish in the center of the table. Severus did not miss the greenish palor on Potter's face nor the still present tremble in his hands.
Potter seemed to be summoning courage, but kept his eyes cast downward as he said, "Professor, I honestly don't think I can eat, sir. I'll get sick."
Severus sighed in annoyance, summoning a calming drought and putting it on the table in front of Potter's plate.
The boy looked at the potion, clearly not convinced it would be of much help. He swallowed hard, raising pained eyes to meet Severus'. "I didn't mean to be disrespectful earlier. I was confused when I woke up and had been dreaming… an odd dream."
"Clearly, you were dreaming," Severus said, unyielding and not acknowledging the boy's apology. His thoughts were too consumed with the multitude of ways Potter's behavior could endanger them both. He watched the boy uncork the potion vial and drink it down. There was minor visible improvement, but he was clearly still an emotional mess. "You are being very tight-lipped about what actions of yours may have been the cause of the wards failing at your aunt's home," Severus said.
Potter's breathing began to grow labored as he poked at his food with a very distinct lack of interest. He kept his eyes cast away from Severus', but raised his head when he said, "I have no idea why they failed. My stay this time was no different than any other."
"Oh, come now, Mr. Potter," Severus said snidely. "You can do better than that. You have angst written all over your face. I would bet galleons that you know exactly why the wards failed today."
Harry couldn't look at the bastard sitting across the table from him. He distinctly remembered Snape having the audacity to think that Harry would confide in him over this dinner the last time around. He was fearful of the outright danger he was in, that he could potentially be putting Remus, or Lucius in, or any of his friends. He struggled to recall when Lucius had made their galleons, and the memory surfaced with a rush of panic. He raised his eyes to meet Snape's, remembering now that the older wizard's compassionate side had emerged when Harry had cried over Hedwig's demise. She's still alive! he realized. Think, Harry! Think! "What do you want to know?" he asked the dark and cruel version of his guardian.
Snape raised a surprised eyebrow. "I want to know what you're keeping secret, of course," he said baldly.
Harry hoped he wasn't digging a new grave for his familiar as he said. "If I share something with you, can I ask you to help me on something?"
Snape contemplated him, obviously not having expected Harry to barter favors for information. "What is it that you want my assistance with?" he asked slowly, eyes narrowed with suspicion.
Harry pressed his lips together, stemming the surge of desperate hope that colored his voice when he admitted, "I'm really, really afraid for my owl. She's been hurt already by the Ministry monitoring, and with me being here, she could try to bring me mail, and-"
"Where is she now, Potter?" Snape asked tersely, clearly annoyed at finding himself persuaded to help Harry.
"I think she's in the owlery," Harry replied. "Sir, could you maybe let me go up there? If I stay under my cloak? I can tell her not to respond to any requests to bring me letters." The responding sneer on Snape's face made Harry's skin tighten, as much as his self esteem withered, along with his momentary hope to have begun the process of dismantling the wall between him and Severus. "Or perhaps you could just tell her on my behalf," he mumbled.
"I believe I will do the latter," Snape said coldly. "Now, as you are receiving the help you requested, I want to know what you are keeping secret."
"My entire life is full of secrets, sir," Harry said, anger rising. "I've had to keep them to survive." He glared at Snape, but the older wizard simply leaned back in his seat, arms crossed, eyebrow raised over an impatient expression. Harry sighed. "It's a good bet that the wards failed because my uncle believes I summoned the Dementors to Little Whinging last summer to show off my magic," he said angrily. "My aunt told me that I shouldn't have come back this time. That she couldn't protect me from my uncle." Harry shook his head, adding disdainfully, "As if she'd ever tried to protect me from anything."
Harry had his eyes on the table, fully expecting to have gotten under Snape's skin with that admission, but when the potions master responded, his unsympathetic tone was galling.
"So they also see you as a show-off?" Snape asked.
Harry's eyes shot up, and his face must have revealed the betrayal he felt because Snape's expression did actually register that he'd seen something. "Yes, they do. Just like you do," Harry said angrily. "I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when Aunt Petunia knew you today. I've often thought you must know my aunt and uncle, because you say the same sort of awful things to me that they do. Nearly verbatim, at times."
"What sort of things do we say that are nearly verbatim, Potter?" Snape asked dangerously.
Harry held his glare on Snape for as long as he dared, but when Snape's lip began to curl with a snarl of rage that was all for Harry, his bravado faltered, and he realized he was playing with fire. And to what end, anyway? He'd already lost everything.
"Answer me, Potter," Snape commanded.
Harry didn't want to say any more, but he did admit in a quiet voice, "They call me boy, and Potter, as if saying 'Harry' makes their skin crawl. They call me lazy, say that I'm full of myself. They say I'm just like my worthless parents, who cared only about themselves. They grow tense when I'm nearby, and blame me for things I don't do." Harry's voice tapered off. He was going to cry if he continued, and this time around, all of his instincts told him not break down in front of Snape.
"Continue," Snape pushed, still leaning back in his chair, expression unreadable.
Harry shook his head vehemently, clenching his jaw against the desperate rush of isolation that was being reawakened by these crazy circumstances. His eyes were filling as they darted up to meet Snape's, and emotion made his voice break when he begged brokenly, "There's nothing more, sir. Please may I be excused?"
"Oh, I find that very doubtful," Snape said without sympathy. But, after a long pause, he finally relented and said quietly, "You may go." He put a small jar on the table in front of Harry as the boy stood up. "For your sore feet."