Disclaimer: Own nothing, don't sue.
Summery: Harry's traveling along the woods (dream) and takes a path that can change everything.
A/N: Not related to anything else of my work. It could be considered a one-shot, but it'll be a slightly long one-shot. It'll be a few more chapters, or less.
He was walking through the woods again, the leaves of autumn settling in on the ground in a calm laziness. A gentle breeze, arriving from the farthest reaches of the flat world, danced through the limbs, cascading gracefully onto his unruly hair. All around the sounds of the woods carried on, unperturbed by the crunching of his worn sneakers upon the crispy brown, yellow, and orange leaves.
On and on he walked, his fingers scraping the bottom on his pockets, digging for a tingling warmth from the brisk autumn air. His eyes, emerald green, shone through the darkest of shadows, as if looking into some dark sin of the shadowy knot in the tree crevice.
Puritans, the random thought ran through his head, had believed the woods were the devil. Oh, how wrong they seemed to be. The woods were calm, peaceful, anything but the devil.
Animals scurried away from his feet, crouching meters away until he passed by completely, before retreating to their former place. They didn't fear him; they just didn't want to be trampled to death. Not that he would do that, but he was so caught up in his thoughts, he wasn't likely to notice that the moment if in he did.
Forward was the only direction he moved. The only direction he wanted to move. There were notches in trees, the large oak ones that popped up every so miles now and then, ones he had passed a long time ago it seemed, if only a few night before, each one marked to show his passing.
He liked to pretend they were stages in his life: the first eleven years of his life wherein he was stupid to the wizarding world, and then a notch for each progressing year at Hogwarts. Why? He didn't know. Why he wondered these woods, dreaming of shadows and leaves in the autumn, he wasn't sure.
He knew they weren't Voldemort induced, for if they were...they'd be darker, creepier, nastier. But alas, for once, fortunately, they weren't from Tom Riddle, Lord Voldemort, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
His eyes linger on the third giant oak he passed. Three marks, marking his third year. When had he made those? Last night? The night before? So far in the past was his third year, but so late had he marked his passing.
He walked by, not pausing, knowing that it was useless to pause, it always was, living the past was frivolous.
Fourth year past, deeper, more aggressive marks, a darker year that lead to a darker time. Images flooded him, but he pushed them away, ignoring them, despising them, and he kept moving forward. For only moving forward would things be worthwhile.
Slowly, his heart began to pound faster, the fear of the known up ahead. Fifteen years he had worked and just walked through, now...it was his sixteenth year. The one year with gloomy promises arising on the horizon.
A year without his beloved godfather, Sirius.
He couldn't live the year without Sirius, could he? He had for thirteen years, could he do it once more? He shook his head, such wrong thoughts to think, at such wrong times.
He tried to banish them, and had he self-confidence of exiling them he would've done so too.
Then, he arrived.
The unknown year.
The woods heaved up, taking him over a hill, and down onto a fork in the trail. Two trails, he could choose either one and travel down it, marking his path for the year. Maybe forever.
One looked well-traveled by, as if others have followed the same trail he had and trek down the right path. His heart pounded; which path should he follow?
The giant oak in the middle lay un-notched. As if the previous travelers had been too preoccupied to notch up the tree that would lead them into the unknown.
He shook his head, peering down each path carefully, trying to figure out which one would lead to what. Both were dark, one was trekked up; the other was old and overgrown, but showed pervious signs of travelers. Snapped branches, crunched leaves, broken tuffs of dirt having been imprinted by shoe-prints.
He moaned, running his hand through his jet-black hair, his green eyes flashing with hope each time he looked down the paths.
Suddenly, there was a crack behind him, someone lightly stepping onto a twig. Harry didn't start, but he did turn, warily. And standing there was the man he last expected to stand there.
Professor Severus Snape.
What an odd sight the Professor was too. He had been so used to seeing his Professor constantly wrapped up billowing black ropes, tight black vest and every now and then seeing the white collar of his undershirt, always neatly pressed and fancy.
Now, however, his Professor appeared before him, the black vest hanging loosely, no longer snug, his black robes billowing in a more natural way, and his white, button-up, undershirt, splayed open tidily, fancifully, and properly at the neck, allowing the cool breeze to reach the neck.
He looked...bare, for some reason.
His black eyes, usually glistening with hatred toward the raven-haired boy, were now impassive, bored, and ever so slightly curious.
"Tell, me Mr. Potter, must you linger in the most inconvenient spots all day?" Professor Snape asked, his voice lingering on sarcasm, mockery, and true intrigue.
"I'm just trying to decide which way to go," Harry responded, rubbing his neck in an offhanded gesture. He eyed the paths again.
"Yes, but you're taking too long." Snape snapped, stepping forward, heading toward the giant oak. "You're needed, Mr. Potter, stop dawdling, you're almost late as it is." He shook his head, as if that disgusted him, but Harry thought he caught sight of something else, something he couldn't place.
Professor Snape made to walk into the tree and Harry for a spilt second was glad to see him go. A loathing, having calmed down since he last met the Professor, sparkled slightly, deep in his soul. The man shook his head, as if sensing that loathing and made to walk through the tree.
"Wait," Harry said, surprising himself. He reached forward, as if to grab Snape, to stop him, but thought better of it. Snape had frozen anyway.
"What is it Mr. Potter, I have things to do, places to be, people to see." Snape snarled, his voice not containing, however, it usual snarkiness.
"Which way should I go?" Harry asked, not pleading, but politely seeking another person's opinion. Why that of Snape's? Harry didn't know. Something inside him told him to do so, as if it were the right thing to do.
"Have you ever heard the poem by Robert Frost, 'Two Roads Diverge in a Wood', Mr. Potter?" Snape had turned now, staring deep in the boy eyes, uncaring about the barely lingering innocence in his eyes that was slowly seeping away.
"No," Harry responded, truthfully. Snape shrugged, as it were nothing. He turned and made to walk into the tree. "Wait! Sir!" Harry called out but this time Snape didn't, he just kept walking.
"He says, Mr. Potter,
'Two roads diverge in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'"
With that, Professor Snape was gone, having walked into the tree and out of sight. Harry sat on the ground after he left, trying hard to figure out what to do.
Why did it matter which path he took? The one more traveled by seemed to be the safest one, since everyone else traveled by it. Then there was Snape's suggestion, the one less traveled by. Should he trust Snape? Did the man know what he was speaking of, or did he like quoting poetry at times in an attempt to be a riddler like Dumbledore?
Why did he have to choice, he was only sixteen. Did it matter all that much? No?
Or did it...
Then, after a pause, he stood up, took a breath and walked down a path...