Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Angst, time travel
Summary: Traveling back in time is safe. All you have to do is keep away from people who affect time, who are pretty rare. It's just Horcrux-collecting Harry Potter's luck that Severus Snape is one of them.
Author's Notes: A late Advent fic for thebookivore, who gave me this prompt: Harry/Snape. Time travelling Harry. As an unspeakable explains to Harry, time travel is actually very safe, because most people cannot affect the time stream except a rare few. You can tell who can affect time because they can see time travelers, otherwise "it's similar to how most Muggles cannot see magic, their minds naturally shy away from it and come up with the most incredible explanations for what they have seen". Harry knows to hide out from himself but doesn't realize that Snape can see him ...
I meant to complete this fic on time for Advent, but it got too long for me to finish on time, so I'm posting it as a chaptered story. The title is Latin for "maker of rings."
Chapter One—The Thunder of the Past
The Unspeakables were standing in a ring around Harry at first, all their wands pointed at him, chanting. Harry shut his eyes, and hoped that he didn't look as terrified as he bloody well felt, with the magic vibrating through him and concentrating itself in the small golden cross, ornamented with golden rings and rubies, that hung at his neck.
Well, they would look like rubies until you got close, anyway.
"Trans tempum," Harry made out from the chant, and then everything blended back together in a mushy mess of consonants, vowels, and Latin words that remained frustratingly just at the edge of intelligibility.
Harry closed one hand into a fist and fought to remain calm. His breathing made his chest ache, or maybe that was the magic. The spiral of force above him had hopefully turned indigo and green by now, the colors that would indicate he was safely traveling back through time, but he didn't dare open his eyes and look.
If you're going to find that last Horcrux, you have to be bold. Hermione's voice echoed in his head.
Harry snorted to himself, or he would have if he'd had the breath for it. Who would have thought Harry Potter would have problems with boldness?
But he did. The Unspeakables had reassured him that it would be safe for him to travel back to the early eighties and hunt for the last Horcrux, the one that they'd only known Voldemort had when a shadow of him had popped up against last year, because few people were the sort who mattered to history. Harry would have to stay away from his younger self, of course, and he would have to stay away from Dumbledore and important Ministry officials, but he could walk openly in Diagon Alley and Hogwarts around students and anywhere else that Voldemort might have hidden the bloody thing.
Harry's hands closed harder around the cross. The Unspeakables hadn't been as easy about the prospect of him getting back to the present.
And it was still just a guess what the Horcrux was, or where Voldemort had hidden it.
Hermione was the one who had got suspicious. The shadow of Voldemort hadn't been recognizable as the man himself; instead, it had to do with a smudged shape on the walls in the houses of those who had Dark Marks, a trembling and troubling of dreams, a murder that had ended with the name MARVOLOscratched in blood on a wall. Harry had been a little shocked when he heard about that, but after all, other wizards had the name Marvolo. And someone could even have meant it as a tribute to Voldemort without it actually meaning that Voldemort was back.
But Hermione worked in the brand-new Department of Magic's Shadow, which was a division of the Department of Mysteries that was trying to bring some of those mysteries into the light of day. It also did plenty of education programs, like "Why Werewolves Aren't As Dangerous To Your Health As You Think They Are." So Hermione knew lots of spells that were uncommon and potentially dangerous if used to put information into the wrong hands, but weren't dangerous in and of themselves. And she'd used one of them to ask a question that could be answered with knowledge from the past alone, and then peered through time.
Harry had woken from a hard slumber one night to find Hermione pounding on his door. He'd opened it and found her standing there, shaking, her hands clenched in her robes.
He would never forget the words she had uttered, looking at him. "Voldemort had an eighth Horcrux."
She had said that Voldemort's spirit, drifting around after his confrontation with Harry as a baby, had latched onto an object sometime in the eighties, somewhere in Britain. That object had apparently counted as a Horcrux because it had held a piece of Voldemort's soul.
Not that that revealed what it had been, or where, or why exactly it had continued to function as a Horcrux after Voldemort's spirit left. Hermione could have pushed the spell further to try and answer her questions, but that would probably have killed her. Harry wanted his friend alive more than he wanted the exact answer. At least he had a set of parameters.
And he was the only one who could make the journey. While he had no Horcrux left in him, he could use a kind of-echo, was the best that Harry could describe it to anyone else. Hermione said it sounded to her like the way a dolphin hunted, bouncing sounds off things. Harry could feel a slight, distant echo in the destroyed remains of the diary in Dumbledore's ofice, and the same thing in the Sword of Gryffindor, although it had been the bane of Horcruxes instead of an actual one.
So he had to be the one to go back, to find the Horcrux, and then return it to the present where they could destroy it, which would be easier than hunting down where it was in their time. Hermione was even afraid that it had been destroyed physically but not in the proper way sometime in the past, and so they might be hunting crumbled pieces instead if they let it go-
Then the pain squeezed and clamped down on him, and Harry couldn't hide from what was happening anymore in thoughts of what he wanted to happen. He opened his eyes, and the light blazed through them, and he felt as though someone had picked him up and shaken him out like a rag, and he knew nothing more for a very long time.
Harry walked quietly, quickly, through the middle of a rain-splattered Diagon Alley. He hadn't seen it rain this hard there in a long time. The water leaped and skipped from the top of his head onto the cobbles, and ran in such puddles along the gutters that Harry thought even stepping into one of them would ruin his boots.
He'd made it.
He'd come to in the middle of a back alley near Diagon, and although things had seemed so much the same when he stepped out of the alley that he'd trembled a bit, the softly glowing rubies on the cross had reassured him. He only had to touch them, and they would tell him the time, whirling golden numbers that rose up in front of him and crossed the air.
7:16 PM, August 3rd, 1983.
Harry had still taken five minutes to adjust his breathing and straighten his shoulders before he stepped out of the alley, but if that was the worst he had to do on this trip back in time, he would be stunned.
Most of the people in Diagon Alley seemed to be in the same state he was in: anonymous in huddled, hooded cloaks, their steps sloppy and their hunch resigned. Harry had no trouble fitting in as he steered through them, although he slowed as he approached the mouth of Knockturn Alley. Once he stepped into that, he could become the focus of dangerous attention, no matter how much he wanted to avoid it. Magical traps wouldn't be fooled into ignoring him the way other people were.
But he needed to get as close as he could to Borgin and Burkes. He thought it at least as likely a hiding place for the last Horcrux as Hogwarts. Tom Riddle had worked there; his spirit might have gone back to it as a familiar refuge. And surely Voldemort, even as a drifting ghost, would have wanted to hide in an object that had some worth or value, not any common stone or tree.
Harry cast a few spells that deepened his shadow until it seemed to consume him and shade his face and added feelings of familiarity and bored contempt to the general unconcern most people regarded him with. The Unspeakables had told him most people should ignore him, based on the general ignorance of time travelers, but Harry couldn't help feeling paranoid.
He moved slowly down the side of the alley towards Borgin and Burkes, his feet stomping along as if he had an errand that he hated. The spells or the circumstances of time travel or both worked out for him; eyes slid past him, and one woman who did look at him for a minute turned her head away with a visible yawn. Encouraged, Harry halted by the window of Borgin and Burkes, leaning one hand against the wall, and closed his eyes.
The ability to locate the "echo" of a Horcrux had taken him three desperate weeks to perfect, but it would now infallibly tell him whether something was there or not. Harry dropped slowly into the center of his mind, the place he had only learned to find with intense Occlumency practice after the war, and then sent out what felt to him like a pulse of darkness and hatred and anger, the most intense emotions he remembered feeling from Voldemort through the scar.
If this worked, he should feel an answering "call" of the same emotions.
It worked, to his shock. The emotions bounced blazing back to him, and he felt almost as if a cold hand had reached out and touched him. Harry opened his eyes and stared blankly at the front door of the shop.
He hadn't expected to find it on the first try any more than he had expected to destroy it with a touch. Harry shook his head in wonder and drew his wand. Well, he would have to go in and get it. And he would have to lay low anyone that got in his way, whether or not he wanted to. The object was near the door; it had to be to return such a strong echo. At least that meant he wouldn't have to go far inside, or cope with many traps that Borgin and Burke might have laid in.
Before Harry could enact his plan, the door opened, and a black-swathed figure came out with a small bowl in his hand. Harry's gaze locked on it like a magnet. The echo was still swimming around him, and had got stronger when the door opened; this had to be the Horcrux!
The bowl was shallow and made of tarnished silver, but Harry thought he could make out the heavy S of Salazar Slytherin on the side. Exultant, he muttered, "Accio bowl." It would fly out of the hand of the buyer, and he would be left to stare around for a moment, then come up with some explanation that made sense to him, such as that he didn't like the bowl and had taken it back to the shop.
Except, although the bowl began to move towards Harry, the purchaser spun sharply around and caught it. And he glared straight at Harry, and saw him.
Harry didn't know how that could be, and he didn't have time to waste discovering the answer. He went in low and fast, slamming his shoulder into that of the Ministry official or disguised Lucius Malfoy or whoever it was. They hadn't expected brute force, Muggle tactics, instead of magic, and they went flying to the ground in front of him.
Harry kicked out hard, striking the bowl from the figure's hand, and it bounced and rang on the cobblestones. Harry scooped it up with one free hand, ignoring the solid punch to his ribs from beneath him. He had borne worse pain than that.
But the brief struggle had knocked his hood back, and when he turned his head, he met the familiar, piercing glance of horrid black eyes. Severus Snape. Shit. I didn't think he could change history...but of course he did.
Harry leaped to his feet. But Snape had his wand now, and he lifted it, his gaze not even fixed on the bowl that Harry had tried to steal from him but on Harry's face.
"Lily's eyes," he whispered, and then he Stunned Harry.
As Harry keeled over with the bowl in his hand and no cushioning beneath his head, the only clear thought he had was, And here it was going so well.