The following story is set in the Harry Potter universe, which belongs entirely to JK Rowling.
I will include Author's Notes at the beginning and the end of each chapter for specific purposes. If there's an Author's Note at the beginning of a chapter, it is either a content warning (which is very unlikely to happen unless I'm prompted to include it), or some form of explanation of what to expect. If there's an Author's Note at the end of a chapter, it is to give relevant and meaningful information to the chapter.
In addition, I have no plans on including explicit adult content, but I will include warnings in the event that I do.
ACT I: AWAKEN
Chapter 1: The Gestaltation of Severus Snape
"Look… at… me…." Those were the last words of Severus Snape before he fell silent.
Harry's green eyes… Lily's green eyes… were the last thing Severus Snape saw before everything faded to black….
…and then everything was white.
Severus was blinded by the intensity of the light as he sat up, gasping for air as he swiveled his head. Everything was white. The ground. The sky. Severus's robes. Everything. He looked down at himself and began touching his arms, chest, stomach, and legs to make sure he was awake. Everything felt real. He had always assumed death was a peaceful slumber, but it very clearly was not.
He stood up, going over his body once more, looking down his shirt to see that the scars inflicted by his father were gone. His breath caught. This was the first time in his life that his body was free from those horrid markings, or it would be if not for him being dead. No doubt the scars on his back and sides were also clean and pure. He looked around, running a hand through his long, non-greasy hair- wait, his hair was clean? He ran a second hand through his hair to be sure.… It was clean! He felt his teeth, feeling that they were perfectly straight. He felt his nose, which was unbroken. Was this real, or was this some sort of Limbo playing out in his dying head?
Severus looked around once more, trying to find anyone or anything, only to find a familiar face staring back at him.
"Of course," Severus sneered. "Of bloody course you're here."
"I take it you're not happy to see me," Dumbledore replied calmly.
"Well," Severus said, "considering I'm dead because of you, you would be correct."
"I'm sorry, Severus."
"I don't want pity," Severus said coldly. "I want peace."
"I know," Dumbledore said. "I'm not apologizing to you out of pity. I'm apologizing because of my own actions, regardless of who was affected by them."
"Right," Severus said. "Your bloody 'Greater Good'. I imagine you're not apologizing for sending the boy to his death."
Dumbledore was silent.
"How about we go over a long list of things you've done regarding me, shall we?"
"Very well." Dumbledore nodded slightly. "Please do."
"Potter and his friends, particularly with the incident in the tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow."
"If you mean when James saved your life-"
"Saved my life?" Severus was shaking. "I see, you mean after Black had tricked me into going into that bloody tunnel to be mauled to death by a werewolf."
"I was unaware-"
"Because you refused to listen to me! No, instead, you took Potter's testimony at face value and blackmailed me into holding my silence to protect a Dark creature!"
"Surely, you wouldn't blame Remus for something out of his control?"
"I can blame him for the company he chose to keep! I can blame him for his weakness when it came to fulfilling his prefect duties and reining those rogues in! I can blame him, Albus, believe me; I can!"
"And what would have happened if you had revealed his secret? You would condemn an innocent boy?"
"And you would risk an entire school for the sake of one student? That doesn't sound very 'Greater Good' to me! Then again, I suppose it makes sense if you were intending on coercing him into joining your Order through 'compassion', another pawn for you to use, and a particularly useful pawn at that! I imagine that's why you were so lenient on Potter and Black; you wanted to give them free rein to hone their talents by targeting students they viewed as Dark!"
"That sounds similar to your treatment of Remus."
"A werewolf, whom I never targeted aside from trying to uncover his secret! A highly volatile Dark creature with resistance to magic, for whom you bent over backwards to accommodate!"
"And yet you chose to go down that tunnel, Severus, believing he was a werewolf."
"Are you suggesting I deserved to die then?"
"No, but forgive me if I find you hypocritical. You would suggest exposing Remus's secret after almost killing you, ensuring his execution, and yet you demand that I value your life over his because you were victimized. When I made my decision, it was because you had survived. I needed to choose a path that would lead to the fewest deaths possible."
"And what of Black? You left him unpunished because it was a risk to his life?"
"My hope was that Sirius's love for his friend would make him see the error of his ways, as his negligence could have condemned Remus. In hindsight, I see I should have been more strict."
"You should have punished him! But instead, as previously stated, you chose to blackmail a student who had only just suffered a near-death experience!"
"What did I threaten you with?"
"Knowing you, you would have had me expelled for revealing his secret, depriving me of a world of magic."
Dumbledore paused. "I cannot deny that."
"And then, you have the gall to overlook the incident by the Black Lake!"
"Any disciplinary action would, in that case, be up to Minerva-"
"Yes, I know that! And she did nothing!"
"She wrote to their respective families, as it was nearing the end of the school year."
"I see; so in essence, neither of them were punished?"
"If you recall, Sirius ran away from home and began living with the Potter family. I believe it to have been the result of whatever punishment was bestowed upon him."
Severus scoffed. "You're demented if you truly believe that. According to his brother and cousins, it was that he was a Gryffindor who repeatedly targeted members of Slytherin out of disdain for his own blood. It had nothing to do with rights and wrongs committed during our fifth year."
"I see." Dumbledore's expression had softened slightly. "But I don't see why James should have been punished for saving you."
"Saving me?!" Severus was fuming. "He 'saved' me to save his friends from being punished; believe me when I say it wasn't out of the goodness of his heart!"
Dumbledore sighed. "I realize that you and James were at odds. I won't defend what he did to you."
"I should hope not."
"If it's any consolation to you, which I certainly hope isn't the case for your soul's sake, James's fate is… less than ideal for him."
Severus felt his eyebrows raise involuntarily. "I don't… pardon?"
"Simply put," Dumbledore explained, "the Afterlife has a type of Sorting. You may think of some of the 'Houses' as Heaven, Hell, or any number of names."
"Of course." Severus folded his hands in front of him. He was relieved, not because Potter had been condemned, but because there was some semblance of justice. "So… I take it you're here to ferry me off to Hell too, then?"
"Hell, Severus?" Dumbledore looked horrified, and Severus felt uneasy at the expression. Dumbledore was not one to express such a face. "Why… why would you expect to be sent to Hell?"
"You do recall my actions when we were alive, yes?"
"I do, but if you deserve Hell, then I deserve it more."
"Really? Albus bloody Dumbledore, deserving of Hell?"
"I've done many things," Dumbledore said. "Things that make your sins look minor. And yet my punishment is not Hell."
"What is it, then?"
"Because of my many deceptions in life, I am unable to lie to those who come here. My role is to ferry those I've wronged to the afterlife, with two exceptions."
"The first is Harry," Dumbledore answered. "Harry has a choice to return to the land of the living, as the piece of Voldemort's soul residing within him took his place. When two souls inhabit the same body, only one has to pass on. As Harry's soul was stronger, Voldemort was the one who had to die."
"... so the boy lives?" Severus was stunned. "You knew this… and withheld it from me?"
"I could not risk Voldemort finding out through you."
"Through me?!" Severus was too angry to shout. "Me?! Your perfect bloody spy?! Me?! The one who deceived the greatest Legilimens of living bloody memory?!"
"In hindsight, I regret not telling you," Dumbledore conceded. "Your dedication is unyielding."
"Don't." Severus was nearly shaking with rage. "Don't you dare speak to me of dedication."
"Forgive me," Dumbledore said. "I won't make any excuses. I couldn't, even if I wanted to."
"Who was the second?"
"The second exception."
"Ah." Dumbledore's eyes lit up. "The second exception… is you, Severus."
Severus was rendered speechless.
"But let me explain what I mean, before you develop your own ideas on the matter. You see, when a soul crosses over, the Powers That Be sort the soul into its House. For example: someone like Harry would most assuredly go to Heaven, if he were to die properly. Meanwhile, someone like Voldemort would absolutely go to Hell. In your case… the Powers That Be cannot decide. You're a Hatstall."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "... is that supposed to mean something to me?"
"Very rarely does this happen," Dumbledore replied. "The last time it happened was with Merope Gaunt, Tom Riddle's mother. However, it was more out of pity than out of being moved, and she ultimately went to Heaven, despite her sins. In your case, it is out of inspiration and mourning."
"If you mean to flatter me," Severus replied, "I can assure you, it is definitely not working."
"This isn't flattery," Dumbledore said. "They were inspired by your dedication to Lily. But they mourned, not because of your life, but because of the life you were meant to live."
Severus was confused. "What do you mean?"
"Did you ever consider your role in all of this, Severus? In the life of Harry Potter? What your choices have led to?"
"I am aware." Severus was growing more uncomfortable by the minute.
"Not nearly. Severus, before I explain in full, I will begin with this: you were meant to destroy Voldemort. Not Harry."
Severus was stunned. He opened his mouth, but words refused to come out.
"Allow me to explain," Dumbledore said. "First, we begin with the role of 'the Chosen One'. The Chosen One is simply an individual who is destined for heroism, not necessarily by fate, but by the individual's choices combined with what has already come to pass, resulting in a prophecy if the proverbial ball has already started rolling; hence, that is why they have such a name. Let me give you an example: I alone defeated Gellert Grindelwald, but I was not meant to; I was originally meant to guide another."
Severus's legs felt weak from the revelation, but he remained stoic. "Voldemort?"
"Not Voldemort. Tom Riddle. Tom could have been meant to defeat Grindelwald, but… he chose a darker path. Had he chosen the Light, he would have been in a similar situation to Harry. I don't know when Tom had reached the point of no return, but it was definitely before he murdered Myrtle Warren."
"So…." Severus didn't know how to approach this. "You mean to tell me… that I was the original Chosen One? And that my choices resulted in Harry becoming my successor?"
"Yes." Dumbledore nodded. "That is correct."
"But Potter's prophecy-"
"-only exists because of you. In more ways than one."
"What do you mean?" Any animosity Severus had toward the old wizard was gone.
"Let me begin with your fall from grace. When do you believe you fully embraced Voldemort's cause?"
"... maybe the summer of '76."
"I don't want to talk about it." Severus was barely able to keep himself calm.
"Come; let us sit." A table and chairs appeared between the two of them. "You seem uneasy."
Severus sat down.
"I won't push you to answer," Dumbledore said. "Let me continue with the explanation. Your turning point was possibly the summer of '76, according to you. That was when you rejected your path in favor of darker things. When did you officially join the Death Eaters?"
"The summer of '79."
"You waited a full year after graduation to join them?"
"I wanted to hone my abilities during that time."
"I see." Dumbledore looked Severus in the eye and said, "In any event, you joining the Death Eaters was what set the prophecy into motion, even before its utterance."
"It's rather curious how the prophecy you overheard and delivered to Voldemort was a prophecy involving Lily, is it not?"
"Have you stopped to consider what would have happened had you not been eavesdropping that night, of all nights?"
Severus shook his head. "Not particularly."
"The prophecy would have been brought to Voldemort by other means, believe me. And had that been the case, Voldemort would have killed Lily without giving her the chance to step aside, leaving Harry without her sacrificial protection. And with Harry's death, the prophecy would have been false, and therefore paradoxical in nature; in essence, it would have never existed to begin with."
"Would Longbottom not be the Chosen One?"
"Neville would not, no. For Voldemort would have never been vanquished by Lily's love, and so would remain in his prime as he hunted and killed the boy."
Severus was, once more, confused. "So, what are you suggesting?"
"Simply this: had you not loved Lily and overheard the prophecy, Voldemort would have never been destroyed the first time. And as someone who has spent his afterlife studying time and prophecies, I can only come to the conclusion that you were the intended audience of the prophecy. You alone were meant to hear it."
"But why not you? Were you not also meant to hear it?"
"Whether I had heard it or not, you would have told me anyway, and I would have most likely believed you."
"You would believe the word of a Death Eater?"
"Well, it would be silly for me not to, as this particular Death Eater's request was to hide Voldemort's intended victims. And if we both recall, not once did this particular Death Eater ask for their location, not until it was too late and the Fidelius Charm had died with Lily and James. If he had been attempting to pull the proverbial wool over my eyes in an attempt to isolate Voldemort's targets and lull them into a false sense of security, it would have been a poor attempt."
Severus took a steady breath. "So, without my presence… the prophecy-"
"-would never exist. Assuming you never stumbled across a Seer prior to Harry's birth. I confess that I don't know who or what forms prophecies, but whomever or whatever it was, it wanted you, and specifically you, to hear it. Because it knew how you would use the information, not because you were destined to, but because of who you are as a man."
Once more, and probably not for the last time, Severus was speechless.
"Now then," Dumbledore said, folding his hands onto the table, "since I've adequately explained your role in this, at least I hope I have, it's time for me to deliver a message from the Powers That Be."
"A message?" Severus was having trouble believing Dumbledore had more to say, but then he remembered he was speaking with Albus Dumbledore.
"Yes, it would seem as though I've been chosen to be a messenger, for the time that I am allowed. The message is this: if you so choose, you will be sent back in time to destroy Voldemort, as was intended."
"... back in time? Like a Time-Turner?"
"Not exactly." Dumbledore's expression became more focused. "You will be sharing a body with your younger self."
"I see," Severus said, nodding. "So I would- pardon?" The last sentence had only just registered.
"You will be sharing a body with your younger self."
Severus, unsurprisingly, was speechless.
"Yes, I thought that would be your reaction. If you were to travel back in time with your own body, you would run into the danger of the time paradox, as running into your past self or accomplishing your goal would drive your past self mad, if not erase you and undo everything accomplished. Meanwhile, if you were to simply possess your past body, you would erase your past soul, and therefore your present and future soul, which would result in another time paradox and undo the damage. Therefore, the solution would be to simply tie your soul to your past soul, to anchor you from the effects of the time paradox." Dumbledore smiled. "I must confess that this is one of my better plans."
After a few seconds had passed, Severus asked, "What exactly would sharing a body entail? That I would simply watch myself interacting with the shadow of the world I used to know?"
"Ah," Dumbledore replied. "There are two separate issues here. Let me begin with the assumption that this is the shadow of your world; it sounds as though you believe it to be different to the world you came from."
"No, it isn't. You see, when a Time-Turner is used, any changes made will change the world instead of creating a branching timeline. In essence, should you choose to go back to when you do, I will never have died to begin with, and thus I would have no memory of this conversation, for this conversation would never exist."
"And my memories-"
"-would remain intact, as you would be the one to travel back in time."
Severus nodded. A thought came to mind. "... and what of those conceived and born after the time I return to? Would I not be killing them?"
"No," Dumbledore replied. "See, you would not simply delete the future. You would be reversing it back to the point where you wake up. In the case of souls, they would revert to their earliest state of being, alive but unaware, waiting to come into the world."
"I see." Severus was beginning to put the pieces together. "And regarding sharing a body?"
"Your younger self would have full control of your shared body, for a time."
"What do you mean?"
"There is a process that will occur when you and your younger self begin to align with one another. I have named it 'gestaltation', as it has no name and I'm the one who came up with the idea. For every part of you that aligns with the other, you will form a new thread that ties you together. With each thread formed, your soul will slowly, but certainly, become one. Neither of you will dominate or vanish, for there would be no 'neither': only one. From your perspective, you would be in control. From your younger perspective, he would be in control."
Severus considered Dumbledore's words. He had no intention of replacing his younger self, depriving him of a second chance, and Dumbledore's words were, for the first time, genuinely reassuring. "I understand…. I assume I will be given the proper knowledge, for once, on how to destroy Voldemort?"
Severus felt a heat building up in his chest, flowing into the veins of his forehead. "... what?"
"Believe me when I say that, for once, I want to tell you everything I know." Dumbledore looked visibly frustrated, at least as far as Albus Dumbledore was concerned. "But alas, another punishment for my sins. While I cannot lie, I am quite literally unable to divulge any information regarding your quest, or at least in aiding you. At least, nothing you wouldn't already know."
"Explain." Severus was thankful he had mastered Occlumency, because he thoroughly believed it prevented him from leaping over the table to strangle Dumbledore with his own beard.
"There is knowledge you have learned in your life. That is what you are restricted to. However, there is a loophole, an intentional loophole the Powers That Be have allowed for. I can answer your questions by not answering them."
"What-" Severus paused. Of course, Dumbledore would take advantage of that, and for the first time, he was grateful for the old man's maniacal mind. "I see. So, hypothetically, if I were to ask you a 'yes or no' question, would you have different reactions?"
"In theory, yes."
"So, a 'no' may transform into a 'I can't tell you', while a 'yes' may transform into silence."
Dumbledore was silent.
Severus smirked. "I see…. In that case, I believe it would be my turn to speak. Let us begin with the boy. You mentioned that a part of Voldemort lives inside him, and that the boy must die for Voldemort to be vanquished. I assume this is relevant."
Dumbledore said, "It is."
"I thought you couldn't tell me?"
"Well, this knowledge is something you already know to begin with."
"Very well…. You mentioned that Voldemort wanted to protect his snake. Is the snake relevant?"
Dumbledore was silent.
"Voldemort has never come across as a loving pet-owner. Meaning the snake is important, not for companionship, but for a pragmatic purpose other than killing me. Perhaps as a means of surviving."
Dumbledore was silent.
"In that case… would it be safe to guess that the boy and the snake have something in common? And if they did, is it possible that the snake possesses a part of Voldemort's soul to anchor him?"
Dumbledore's eyes widened, but he was silent.
"Whatever it is, I imagine it to be fairly dark in nature. If so… when the Chamber of Secrets was opened, and the boy killed the basilisk and saved the Weasley girl, there was a diary. Tom Riddle's diary. It was stained with what looked like blood, and it was damaged. You mentioned the girl had been controlled by the diary to open the chamber. However, the Chamber can only be opened by speaking Parseltongue, something that the boy can also do. The reason he could talk to snakes… had to do with Voldemort's soul. Could Voldemort have placed a piece of his soul in a non-living object?"
Dumbledore was silent, but Severus could tell the old man was both unnerved and impressed.
"I'll assume I'm correct. Let me move on to a second item of note: that bloody ring. Can I ask you what you thought was going to happen when you put it on?!"
Dumbledore said softly, "There are some things that hurt to speak of, but since I can be honest with you in ways unrelated to your quest, I will concede…. I wished to speak with my sister using the stone in the ring."
Severus was surprised. A sister? "You had… a sister?"
"Yes…. Ariana. When Grindelwald and I fought for the first time, she was accidentally killed. It has haunted me ever since." Dumbledore looked at Severus and said, "This is one reason why I trusted you as I did, and why I regret concealing the truth from you. We both know of loss, especially when we ourselves are responsible for it."
"I see…." Severus was silent for a moment before continuing. "Albus… that ring. We were focused on protecting the boy from Voldemort and helping him destroy him. Why did you want that ring?"
"Do you know what that ring is, Severus?"
Severus shook his head. "No, what is it?"
Dumbledore was silent.
Severus understood what the silence meant. "That's why the curse was so powerful…. Voldemort's soul resided within- wait, how many pieces of his soul are there?! The boy, the snake, the diary, the ring-"
"Technically speaking," Dumbledore interrupted, "The boy and the snake are irrelevant. For the time being, of course."
"So… the diary and the ring. But both were purged of Dark Magic prior to you telling me to deliver the Sword of Gryffindor to the boy. A weapon you used on the ring. Meaning that the sword was necessary to destroy whatever it was. But the diary was stabbed with a basilisk fang, so basilisk venom also works. But for Dark Magic so powerful, it couldn't be a coincidence that two means of destruction were so close together. What makes the Sword of Gryffindor so special?"
"Goblin silver," Dumbledore replied. "Enchanted, naturally."
"Well, obviously it's goblin silver, but-" Severus paused as the pieces came together. "The boy used the sword to kill the basilisk. And goblin silver can only take in that which makes it stronger."
"Perceptive of you," Dumbledore commented, smiling.
"I'm a Potions Master for a reason," Severus replied. "It's my job to understand the nature of materials, even if they may not have an application in the art of potion-making."
"So the sword, impregnated with basilisk venom, is the key to this. Or basilisk fangs. Either way, less than ideal to acquire."
Dumbledore was silent.
Severus took a moment to go over what he had figured out, based on Dumbledore's silence. The diary and ring were tied to Voldemort, his soul residing in both objects, and the Sword of Gryffindor, or basilisk venom, would be essential to destroying both objects. Severus asked, "Do you know if this soul-dividing phenomenon has a name?"
Dumbledore was, infuriatingly, silent.
"Of course," Severus said, glaring at the old man. "Of course you would know and not tell me."
"Again, one of many things I need to apologize for."
Severus let out a sigh. "Now, what else…?" He was coming up blank. "... are those all the anchors Voldemort would have at the time I return to?"
"I couldn't tell you."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a louder sigh. "Of bloody course. So… aside from those two… I have to find others of the same nature. Are you aware of any others?"
Dumbledore was silent.
"How many- is there one other?"
"I couldn't tell you."
"... are there two others?"
Dumbledore was silent.
"I'm going to assume that's all you know of, as opposed to how many there actually are."
Dumbledore was silent.
"Out of curiosity, how long am I going to be here for?"
"As long as you need; we're both dead, after all."
"Right." Severus thought to himself of how to find more information. "Albus… since you knew about this particular phenomenon, as well as its name, you must have learned it from a source. Did someone tell you?"
Dumbledore was silent.
"... do I know this person?"
Dumbledore, once bloody again, was silent.
"If I were to travel back to my designated time, would I be able to interact with this person?"
Dumbledore remained, as ever, silent.
"Is this person at Hogwarts?"
"I couldn't say."
"That's a start," Severus said. He felt he could figure it out once he went back in time. "Was it easy to learn?"
"Hardly," Dumbledore replied. "In fact, I didn't find out the full truth until the year of my death."
"... and this person held the key to destroying Voldemort for… twenty years? Possibly longer?"
"That is infuriating."
"That's putting it mildly," Dumbledore replied. "Why it took as long as it did eludes me, even after learning the motivation behind it."
Severus narrowed his eyes. If shame was the reason…. "Professor Horace bloody Slughorn."
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "What makes you think that?"
"Shame relates to self-image, and that man's modus bloody operandi is self-image, him with his Slug Club and-" He stopped himself. "Apologies."
"No, don't apologize," Dumbledore said. "I've known you feel strongly about certain individuals, but never Slughorn. I would have thought you respected him, as he was your Potions professor and Head of House."
"Everything I learned about Potions was self-taught. If anything, Slughorn set me back. And he wasn't exactly an ideal Head of House; the man had as much favoritism as you do with your bloody Gryffindors."
Dumbledore looked at Severus thoughtfully, making Severus feel uncomfortable. Finally, Dumbledore said, "Now that you've gone over this, and you have an idea of where to start, I wish to ask you something. When you return to the past, what do you want to do with your life?"
"Protect Lily from Voldemort and the Death Eaters." Severus's answer was so obvious, he had barely let Dumbledore finish his question.
"Interesting…. I would have thought you wished to repair your relationship with her."
Severus was confused. How far back would he be sent? "Why do you say that? How far back am I being sent?"
"The morning following your Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L."
Severus's veins were ice. "... of course…."
"I pushed for an earlier date," Dumbledore said, "but the Powers That Be insisted on this particular one. In fact, they were so adamant about it, they threatened to switch it to the night of Lily's death if I continued."
Severus felt his breathing quicken, but he controlled himself and settled down. "Did they explain why?"
"They feel you deserve a second chance, but they never said it would be easy. Which is odd to me that they would specify, until they explained the significance of the date. I believe it to be too harsh, but then again, I am simply a messenger."
Severus looked down at the table, knowing the kind of hell he would wake to: the first morning that he would wake up, knowing Lily had completely ended their friendship over the word 'Mudblood'. In hindsight, he knew that wasn't the reason; in fact, he was entirely sure that their friendship had ended before the incident by the Black Lake. He recalled her shouting at Potter, not even looking at Severus until the latter was dangling upside down with his pants pulled off, and when she finally looked… she smirked. Seeing that smirk had been the tipping point for him, and it was the first and last time he had ever completely despised Lily; when he had called her a Mudblood, he knew he had meant every single syllable. And then, she spoke to him for the first time during that incident, and had called him 'Snivellus'.
After the incident, Severus had been fuming for hours, and after calming down for another few hours, the realization that he had ruined his only good relationship had hit him. He remembered begging Lily to forgive him, and being completely rejected and remaining unforgiven. That had been the last time she had ever spoken to him, and that was the last time he had dared speak to her. When he had seen her the next Monday at the Gryffindor table, she had looked completely unaffected by the events that had previously transpired. She even looked happy, happier than she had been for some time as she laughed with Mary MacDonald and her other friends whose names he didn't know or care about.
Severus looked up at Dumbledore and said, "Yes, I would agree. However, at least it's before the summer break."
Dumbledore looked at Severus with concern. "I don't want you to tell me what happened during that time, but I will ask one thing regarding it: if you could avoid it, by any means, would you?"
"Yes." Severus almost surprised himself by how quickly he replied.
Dumbledore nodded. "As you were not yet in your majority, I assume it was related to homelife."
Severus was silent.
Dumbledore nodded again. "I understand. I realize I ask too much of you, even in death, but when you inhabit your younger body, have him come to me."
"For what purpose?" Severus was on edge by what he believed Dumbledore was suggesting.
"You are to reveal yourself to me," Dumbledore answered. "First, show him your memories in the Pensieve, specifically the ones regarding that summer break-"
"NO!" Severus roared and slammed his hands into the table. "NEVER THAT!" His veins flowed with the venom that had brought about his demise.
Dumbledore stared at Severus warily. "Don't do it for me, Severus. Do it to protect your younger self from whatever torment you endured."
Severus was shaking, but he couldn't tell if it was from rage or fear. That summer contained some of his worst memories. While Lily's death had been the single worst moment of his life, the summer break of 1976 had been a perpetual nightmare. If face-to-face with a Boggart, he honestly didn't know what he would see, Lily's dead body or….
"I ask too much," Dumbledore repeated. "I know this. I do this too often with too many people. But believe me when I say that I want you to have a chance. If that summer was a deciding factor for you… then your way forward is clear."
Severus felt tears pricking in his eyes, but they dried up through sheer force of will. He looked down on the sitting Dumbledore and said quietly, "For Lily. I'll do it for her."
Dumbledore stared up at Severus. "When you return to the past, will you attempt to repair your relationship with her?"
Severus paused. "I don't know."
"You don't know? Surely, you won't be content with her drawing closer to James."
Severus sat down once again. "It's too late."
"No, my boy," Dumbledore said. "It isn't. As long as she lives, you can make things right between you."
"No," Severus replied coldly. "My priority is protecting Lily from Voldemort and the Death Eaters, by any means. Even if I never speak with her again."
Dumbledore sighed and said, "A life without love is a tragic thing, Severus."
"Not if I choose it," Severus replied. "Do you honestly think I've been concerned with my own happiness ever since I lost her? I've lived an entire lifetime fueled by wrath and ruin, and believe me, it's given me plenty of motivation to do what I must, even at my own expense. You of all people should know this."
"I do," Dumbledore affirmed. "I know this. But you also loved, Severus. You loved more than you hated, and you loved unconditionally. Your Patronus is proof of this."
Severus was still. His Patronus… Lily's Patronus. He couldn't recall ever having his own; all his love was from her, not from his own heart. "My Patronus is a reflection of her, not myself."
"Your Patronus reflects something profound," Dumbledore retorted. "There are cases when lovers may have complementary Patronuses: James's stag and Lily's doe, for example. While they are of the same kind, they are clearly unique. Even Patronuses of the same animal and sex have unique features. But your Patronus… it is entirely Lily's. Not similar, but exactly the same in every way. Such a Patronus reflects a completely selfless love, something you may have developed over time, or perhaps something you've always had."
"I doubt the second case," Severus retorted. "I know myself well enough to recognize my feelings. I was possessive of her. It wasn't until her life was at risk that I changed."
"Better late than never," Dumbledore said. He stood from his seat. "Severus, I must go now, so I will need your confirmation. Will you go back to the allotted time and change the future for the better?"
"And will you do everything in your power to fulfill the task given to you?"
"And will you, whenever Lily comes to you, try to reconcile?"
Severus was silent for a moment, before saying, "I will."
Dumbledore nodded. "In this case… this is goodbye, old friend. I will never see you again. Or rather, I will not remember this conversation. Remember my request to come to me."
Severus ground out, "Only if you'll disappear forever."
Dumbledore smiled. "Oh, you won't need to worry. I can assure you, I will… for now, at least."
Severus Snape had cried himself to sleep at about 2 in the morning, only for him to wake up in a blindingly white void. His surroundings briefly distracted him from his grief at driving Lily away. Of all the stupid things he could've done, this was the stupidest. 1976 had been a bad year for him, from his near-death experience at the hands of Remus Lupin to the suicide of his mother. But those things had been, for the most part, out of his control; granted, he felt stupid for letting Sirius Black trick him into sneaking into that tunnel. But what made yesterday worse was the fact that, outside of Potter and Black, he was responsible for the words that came out of his mouth. 'Filthy little Mudblood'. Lily. And he knew, deep down, he meant every word of it.
"If you're quite finished moping about," a voice said, "let's get introductions out of the way."
Severus turned frantically and saw a thin man with sallow skin and a large hooked nose. When he spoke, Severus could see yellow, uneven teeth behind his curling lips. His penetrating eyes matched the color of his black, greasy hair. And it was only then that he realized this man… looked very similar to himself.
"Are you planning on gaping at me like a Confunded Hufflepuff?" The man's eyebrow raised up. "Then again, a bit redundant of a term."
Severus asked, "Who are you?"
"You have one guess, Mr. Snape."
"... are you… me?"
"Ten points to Slytherin," the man said sarcastically. "It seems I still have some modicum of intellect despite the vacant look behind those pathetic eyes."
"Where am I?"
"Inside your head," the older Snape replied. "Fortunately, not a proper manifestation of your mind. I would seek the Dementor's Kiss if that were the case."
Severus shook his head and began pacing. This had to be some sort of dream, but… hadn't he taken a Dreamless Sleep Potion before wallowing in his own self-pity? Wait, why was he thinking of his own grief as 'self-pity'?
"Because you're acting like a pathetic child, Snivellus," the older Snape replied. "And if there's two things we both hate, it's pity and children."
"How did you do that?"
"What? How did I respond to your mindset? I'm inside your mind, and in case you had forgotten, I'm you." The older Snape walked toward Severus and said, "Now, as much as I'd love to continue our riveting back-and-forth, I actually have an important reason to be here."
"... what do you want?"
"To fix my mistakes. Or rather, I want you to fix your mistakes. Even the ones that have not yet come to pass."
Severus looked at the man, backing up slightly. He almost looked like his father. "If you mean what happened between me and Lily-"
"Don't be daft," the older Snape interrupted. "I don't care about that. I'm talking about you causing her death in five years."
Severus had no response. He knew this had to be a dream, but… the potion…. "What are you talking about?"
"Finally, the first intelligent thing to come out of your sniveling mouth. Let's begin with the present. Currently, you want to change your ways; good for you, very noble, ten points to Slytherin. That changes very quickly once you return home this summer to your father. In summation, the summer break of '76 will break you, to the point where the unicorn hair in your wand will die of shock and grief, and you will require a replacement at Ollivander's. In addition, you will ultimately decide to join the Death Eaters, taking an extra year after graduation to undergo extensive training before taking the Dark Mark.
"After becoming a Death Eater, you will overhear a prophecy on a cold evening, of some sort of 'chosen one' being born at the end of July. You will inform the Dark Lord, and the Dark Lord will deduce that the prophecy refers to the son of either Frank and Alice Longbottom or James and Lily Potter."
"Wait." Severus stopped his older counterpart. "Lily… Potter…?"
"Lily… bloody… Potter."
Severus collapsed on the ground, and his chest felt weak. "But… why him… of all-"
"Shut up and listen," the older Snape said, grabbing Severus by the arm and pulling him to his feet. Severus was equally gripped with fear. "Learning that you've put her in danger, you betray the Dark Lord and ask Albus Dumbledore to hide them all, because you decide you love her again. Dumbledore agrees, but you then have to act as his agent, which you agree to. Long story short, Dumbledore fails you, and Lily dies.
"You spend the remainder of your life protecting her son, who annoyingly resembles his blessed father, and Dumbledore decides to use his terminal condition to get you in the Dark Lord's favor by killing the old man. As it happens, the Dark Lord decides he wants Dumbledore's wand, and then kills you to claim it as his own. End of speech."
Severus stood there for a bit, before taking a deep breath and saying, "I'm… I think I understand. You said she has five years?"
"She had five years. With my mere presence, it's most likely altered your future. She could be killed by the Dark Lord in five years or immediately after graduation."
"But it sounds like it could be at any time she's not at Hogwarts."
"So you understand my concern." The older Snape let go of Severus and stepped back. "Now, since we have little time, I'm going to have to speed up your training."
"Well, I can't exactly fight. I'm a soul tied to your soul; as it stands, I am entirely at your mercy when it comes to physical movement. However, I can impart knowledge to you, so that you may accelerate your progress. And it seems my memory has become perfect… unfortunately."
"What do you mean?" Severus noticed the sallow man's face pale.
"One word of advice," the older Snape said. "Do not go home this summer. Never. Under any circumstances. Not until our father dies."
"Let me put it this way: do you recall what our father did to our mother?"
Severus tensed up. He was fully aware of the abuse his mother had undergone, and he had even been forced to watch. Despite his mother's cold, heartless treatment of him, he would never wish harm upon her. Especially not…. "I'm aware of it, yes."
"The second you return home, he does to you what he did to her. Every day. You will not leave the house until it's time to return to Hogwarts."
"Take your time," the older Snape said. This time, he sounded genuine. "And once you're ready, I will continue."
Severus could have spent one minute or one century, Petrified by the older Snape's words. He finally swallowed and said, "What do I have to do?"
"Go to Dumbledore… and reveal me to him. Tell him to view your memories in the Pensieve, to show him the hell you're trying to escape. Warn him first: it's a full summer holiday's worth of horror." The older Snape sounded reluctant.
"Won't he ask questions as to how I have memories of the future?"
"I hope he does. That way, he'll work with us to destroy the Dark Lord, and he'll have a twenty-year head start compared to the last time he went on his quest. He might even survive."
"Did you say twenty years?"
"Yes. Apparently, Professor Slughorn holds the key to the Dark Lord's demise. He's held onto it for God knows how long."
"Of course he would. Let me guess: protecting his image?"
Something snapped inside Severus's head, and he flinched as he felt something tie back together. He looked at the older Snape, who seemed to be mimicking his reaction. The older Snape asked, "... did you feel that?"
Severus nodded. "What was that?"
The older Snape was silent for a moment before answering. "Dumbledore told me of our nature. Our souls are bound by what we share, and each similarity binds us closer together, like threads. Once the final thread comes into place, we become one and the same. He named it 'gestaltation', or some nonsense."
"Gestalt, yes. I believe that was the idea. A wholeness greater than the sum of its parts."
Severus nodded. "Right… that makes sense. Maybe he thought we could learn from one another-"
"Stop being sentimental," the old Snape sneered. "We need to focus."
"Alright." Severus scratched his head nervously. "So, do we have a plan for defeating the Dark Lord, or are we working from nothing?"
"I have portions of a plan, but I'll first explain what we need to do. The Dark Lord has the ability to split his soul and place pieces of them into living things or objects. In this case, due to the date, he has no living vessels. We will need to find inanimate objects of great power. Sentient. I've surmised that the first two objects are his old diary and some sort of ring with a black stone embedded into it. I don't know its significance, but it must be enough for him to use it."
"Are there others?"
"Yes, but the exact number eludes me. I am aware of four in total, but two don't yet exist, so guessing a total number is out of the question. Dumbledore seems to believe there may be two additional objects, so that total could bring us to six, but he couldn't divulge what they were."
"The bloody Powers That Be, that's why. In any event, six. Excessive, to be sure."
"Potentially six…. Do you think the Dark Lord would try for seven?"
"Why do you ask?" The older Snape looked sincere with his question.
Severus said, "Well, isn't seven a magical number?"
"The most magical-" The older Snape froze, but then let out a groan. "I could almost believe that egomaniac would pick seven."
Severus felt another snap inside his head, before something tied itself within. He and the older Snape shared a look. "So," Severus said, "I guess we're of the same mind, then?"
"Definitively," the older Snape nodded. "However, we should confirm it before we continue."
There was another snap and tie.
"I don't like that," Severus said. "Is it gonna-"
"Damn it! Is it just gonna keep doing that every time we agree?"
"Watch your fucking tongue- damn it!"
Eventually, the sensation stopped.
"Right," the older Snape said. "That will take getting used to. I noted that with each connection, the sensation dulled. It's possible that our mutual hatred of this phenomenon has bound us more securely to each other."
"Of course it would," Severus exasperated. "Anyway, I've decided on retrieving the information from Slughorn and bringing it to Dumbledore."
"Don't you mean 'we'?"
"You said 'I'."
The older Snape looked wary. "And it sounded like something I would say. It seems we've started overlapping already."
Severus was silent for a moment. "Odd…. I didn't notice a change."
"I didn't notice any difference, either. Hopefully, the process remains unnoticeable."
The two of them were quiet for a few minutes.
Severus asked, "So, are you going to train me?"
The older Snape nodded and replied, "Yes, I thought we should begin with Occlumency. You'll need it."
"Occlumency? That's a Mind Art, isn't it?"
"Ten points to Slytherin." The older Snape waved his hand, and a table and chair appeared. He sat down and said, "Let's review what it is. Maybe we can teach you before the night is through. If memory serves correctly, you should awake at approximately 4:45 AM."
"How do you-"
"If it's perfect, why did you say 'if memory serves correctly'?"
The older Snape paused. "Don't give me cheek."
That seemed to put Professor Snape on edge, but he pretended to ignore it. "As I was saying, you have time to learn Occlumency, despite you only sleeping for under 3 hours."
"I have one question."
"What is it?"
"I thought you couldn't teach Occlumency?"
"Correct; Occlumency is self-taught, based more on instinct, which would be hard under normal circumstances. However, as I am, in fact, you, tutelage under me would qualify as self-teaching."
"So, you'll be using Legilimency on me? I didn't think you could perform magic when you're in my head."
"The Mind Arts seem to be an exception, as it is entirely internal… or at least, Occlumency is. First, empty yourself of all emotions. Be as blank as virgin parchment."
Severus nodded, and he started with his first lesson. But as he started pushing his emotions down, they began pushing back. He remembered what it felt like when Potter had humiliated him yesterday, how Lily was smirking at his expense, the rage when he called her a M- that word. In the end, he only found himself angrier and more upset.
Professor Snape shook his head and said, "Don't indulge your base emotions. Emotion is the death of Occlumency if it controls you. The Dark Lord would read you like the Daily Prophet. All passion, no sense."
Severus held his tongue and took a moment to control his breathing. He tried again, trying to push the emotions down again, but they pushed back even harder.
"Was I really this incompetent at controlling my emotions at that age?"
"I'm trying to push my emotions down, but-"
"Push them down? Did I tell you to push them down, or did I tell you to empty yourself of them? You're as dunderheaded as Longbottom at Potions."
Not understanding what that meant, Severus tried following the professor's instructions. Instead of fighting his emotions, he relaxed his entire body and mind. He wasn't trying to empty his mind, because trying would mean using force. He didn't try. All he did was let go… and he felt blank.
The snapping and tying returned, this time sharp without pain. Severus jerked his head upright to meet the professor's gaze. Professor Snape asked, "Do you understand now?"
Severus nodded. "That connection… that one was intense."
"Indeed…. How do you feel?"
"You… don't?" Professor Snape eyed Severus. "I see. Yes, you seem more serene now. Less pathetic than before."
"... I admit, I feel much better. I haven't felt this calm since-"
"You've never been calm," Professor Snape interrupted. "You've been as passionate as a Gryffindor on a Love Potion. A disgusting thought, but accurate. However, with this new mindset, I think you'll find it easier to focus."
Severus thought about it. His temper had always been a problem, probably something he unfortunately inherited from their father. But now he felt cold and distant, something he imagined the professor had picked up from their mother. If only he'd learned how to control his emotions before now; he was ashamed of how simple it was. Although, it was possible that his current state of being had simply accelerated his prowess.
"Now then," Professor Snape said. "I would teach you more, but I believe we should do this gradually, so as not to raise suspicion of your sudden acquisition of brilliance."
"I imagine we won't speak until the next time I fall asleep?"
"I will speak into your mind during the day, as audibly as the voices of others. I imagine this should help you with your O.W.L.s."
"Wouldn't that be cheating?"
"Why would it be? You won't be receiving outside help. I'm you, after all."
Severus Snape (Slytherin)
-Date of Birth: 9 January 1960
-Hogwarts Years: 1971 - 1978
-Wand: pine, unicorn hair, 10", pliable