By Nenya Entwhistle
Beta'd by Ziasudra, Lesameschelle, and Irishgirl12000.
Note: This story has been rearranged from last time and will remain strictly PG-13.
Time is a tricky thing,
It ebbs and it flows,
Where it goes, who knows?
August 16, 2005 (Harry is 25)
Harry: The world is in chaos. Spells are flying, singing through the air while wizards and witches fall, crippled or dying. I stand in the middle of all this, countering and cursing, and yet still seeing every bit of destruction and desecration around me. My sense of time has simultaneously slowed and sped up. It no longer means anything. Time is but time. Who cares when love transcends it?
"Potter, watch your back!" Moody yells when he sends a Disarming Spell at the wizard who was about to cast a Cruciatus Curse on me. I nod at him almost imperceptibly, something unnoticeable unless you're an Auror trained by him. He inclines his head once grimly before turning his attention to the others that need help.
I see the pain and suffering all around us, and I know we haven't done enough to stop it. It has been ten years of fighting and bloodshed, and still this war goes on with the loss of more and more promising youths. How many newly initiated Aurors are lost every time we step into the battlefield? Hundreds, at least. The numbers have blurred in my mind, much as time has. Only numbers are important. They're our dead.
We cannot forget them.
September 17, 1998 (Harry is 18, and Severus is 38)
Severus: "Potter," I sneer.
"Snape," he says and inclines his head. "May I come in?"
This politeness is unlike him. I narrow my eyes slightly, not enough that the witless Gryffindor that he is would notice. There is something different about him but I cannot pinpoint what it is. His manners have improved, and I have heard Auror training does teach respect for elders. Obviously Potter has learned.
I step aside and allow him to enter, though he hesitates before doing so. It's easy to see he dislikes this house, but then Grimmauld Place is detestable. It is a pity that it's one of the few remaining unplottable places. If it wasn't, we would not be here.
"How are things at Hogwarts?" Potter asks in an attempt to break the silence.
Why he is trying to make small talk with me, I have not the faintest clue. I could do without his inane endeavor, though. His voice grates on my ears, creating noise I would rather not be forced to listen to. If I must work with the dratted idiot, at least let him be silent!
"Must you speak?"
Potter looks like a gaping fish with his mouth hanging open, until he finally realizes that he ought to shut it. I stifle the urge to roll my eyes and pointedly start walking away. Of course, Potter being who he is, doesn't understand. He follows along like a good little godson of a mutt. I grit my teeth and walk faster, hoping to rid myself of his presence. Alas, no luck.
At least he doesn't speak. Potter may have gotten the point. Too bad the silence will only last until we reach the meeting place, which winds through many long hallways and up several staircases. The pathway is deliberately tricky and to become lost would be perilous like the Cretean labyrinth—another tactic of Albus' to safeguard the Order. It will certainly confound those who try to breach the Headquarters.
I hear Potter's footsteps behind me, not as close as they once were but close enough that I know he won't get lost. At the real entrance I stop and wait for him. "I hope you realize," I snap, "that you should have paid attention to the path we took. It is complicated for a reason. You—"
"It's for security, Albus already told me," Potter answers in a neutral voice, though he was much more like himself in cutting me off. Such impertinence. "You took three rights, then a left, then two rights, then two lefts, then one right. We went up three different staircases, two flights for one, one for the next, and three for the last." He pauses and actually looks into my eyes. "Is that right, Snape?"
Moody has sharpened his perception; I am mildly impressed and annoyed. I purse my lips briefly then snarl, "I would keep paying attention, Potter. Albus' sense of security only gets stranger."
Potter only nods and continues to watch carefully when I mutter the complicated unlocking charm, which then opens the door to a portrait of Fawkes. The painted phoenix, newly made for this purpose, flies around the frame aimlessly until he catches sight of us. He then flutters to his perch—an elegant beech—lands and aims his discerning golden eyes at us.
Password? Fawkes requests.
"Judica fidelitatem meum."
"Judge my loyalty," Potter whispers from behind my back. "How appropriate for Albus."
His Latin has also improved, I note grudgingly. Auror training has done him some good, though there are many things that Potter needs to know that he won't learn there. The limited Dark Arts they teach the trainees is pitiful compared to the knowledge the Death Eaters wield. If the Aurors expect to win this war, they can't afford to be squeamish about a little darkness. They need to embrace it.
"Snape," Potter calls, jerking me out of my thoughts, "are you coming?"
I feel some heat underneath my cheeks, not enough to change the sallow pallor of my skin, but more of a reaction than I should have as a spy. I curl my lips back into a sneer, but hold back my tongue. After all, it would hardly be nice for me to snap at him when he was only trying to inform me the entrance to the final stairway has opened.
However, I am not nice. "I would watch your step if I were you, Potter. The stairs, like those at Hogwarts, have a tendency to change."
July 31, 1998 (Harry is 18)
Harry: The walls are white, crisp and clean. I don't know what I expected the Department of Mysteries to look like during the day, but not like this—not so clinical and clear. It feels pure and light, not dark or mystifying like it should.
My guide, a white-hooded Unspeakable, gestures for me to halt in front of the last door at the end of this long corridor. "Knock and wait to be told to enter," he instructs and then bows. "Good day."
I watch him walk away and shimmer out of existence. It's as if I blinked and he is gone. This place, this level is strange and disorienting, but it doesn't make me uncomfortable. For some inexplicable reason, it reminds me of Hogwarts. It gives me the same feeling, the same comfort. It's as if I belong here.
I knock and wait for I don't know how long. I know it's more than a moment before a strong, sharp voice calls out, "Please come in, Mr. Potter."
My hand reaches for the doorknob, but it opens before I can touch it. The room, unlike the hallway, is a dark, slate gray. There is a darkness to this room, a forbidden feeling. I walk in and the door slams shut behind me.
It takes my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dimmer lighting. But when they do adapt, I see a tall, white-cloaked wizard standing in the middle of a large triangle with his back facing me. "Sir?" I say.
"Do you know what it is I am standing in?"
I begin to shake my head, but realize that he cannot see me. "A triangle, sir?"
"Are you sure?"
No, I'm not. The triangle, when I look at it more carefully, is distinctly unusual. The outline has been engraved into the marble floor and within the outline there seems to be an ancient script written in silver. I have no idea what it says, but it must be important.
"Shall I take your silence for a no?"
The man turns around, his face hidden by his hood. It should remind me of Death Eaters, but the white is such a contrast against the black that no ominous feelings come from him. "You are not as arrogant as The Daily Prophet has reported, nor as sure as a hero should be," he comments.
I feel his eyes on me, but I cannot see them within the darkness and I am unnerved. I lower my eyes back to the triangle, furiously studying the strange markings, trying to discern what language they might be in. But no matter how hard I squint, they do not make any sense to me.
"The markings are in a language no longer known to common people," the Unspeakable says. "But it has not been forgotten, merely kept hidden. This place, this gray space is different from the rest of the whiteness that surrounds it, is it not?"
I nod slowly. "Yes."
"The markings say this: Ichi nga khetei iso ghei iruwe dei ngagaso qwei mortento qi tei." My eyes follow him while he walks the borders of the triangle, chanting in the hypnotic, unknown, and guttural language. He stops at a point no different from the others. "In a language known to you, it would read: Time is an unknown; it is a past, a present, and a future all at once." His foot, clad in a white boot, taps the gold point. "Each angle represents one period, connected as they are into one shape, a shape wizards call tempus temporis."
"But why am I here?" I ask abruptly, looking directly at the cloaked wizard. "I don't understand why I was brought here. I'm not an Unspeakable, this doesn't concern me, I'm going to be—"
"An Auror, yes, I realize that."
"Who are you?" I demand, stepping toward him. "How do you know?"
"I am the Head of the Unspeakables," the wizard declares. "I know everything concerning those that are under me, those that are like me."
"But I am not under you nor am I like you!"
"Oh, but you are, Mr. Potter," he says. "There are some that are made into Unspeakables, but then there are those, like you and I, who are destined to be Unspeakables before birth. And you are one of the rarest. You have a power the Dark Lord knows not."
I flinch when I hear him say that. How does he know what the prophecy says? Not even the Unspeakable charged with watching the prophecy orb is supposed to know about it, unless…
"You opened the prophecy," I accuse. "You were supposed to guard it, not read it!"
"Mr. Potter," he begins in a deceptively airy tone, "I am your Unspeakable, and I know everything that regards you. I know you better than you know yourself. I know you more thoroughly than even your parents could if they were still alive. Do you understand?"
I know what Unspeakables are, guardians—I've heard—of people, things, and places. "If you are my Unspeakable, where were you that night when my parents were murdered?"
"I am only your Unspeakable, not theirs. I was there to protect you from Voldemort, to save your timeline so that you could save another's. You are a trigger person. Yet as important as you are, there is someone whose fate is even more tied to the future of this world than yours. This person is your sole assignment as an Unspeakable. Do you understand? What you do or do not do will determine whether this world can be saved from a reign of infinite darkness."
I should crash to my knees with the weight of the information he has told me. I still don't understand why I'm special, why I was saved and my parents weren't. But everything starts to makes more sense. I always thought it a bit extraordinary that a mother's love could save a child's life from certain death. It makes more sense if there are mysterious powers at work, magical forces like that of an Unspeakable's.
"Where were my parents' Unspeakables then?" I ask sharply. "Why did they not do anything to save them when you saved me?"
"Not everyone has an Unspeakable. We are only here to guide trigger people who would otherwise become lost and misguided. In your case, you are needed to help your pre-assigned life case along with the path he should take. He is a difficult one, and your part in his life has already been recorded and observed. This is the file," he says, taking out a tiny, thin rectangle from his cloak's pocket. "It only has vague details, but enough for you to know what you must do."
I'm thinking fast, but I still feel like I'm falling behind. It's just too much at once. "But I am not an Unspeakable," I say through gritted teeth. "I will be an Auror when I'm done with training."
My Unspeakable laughs softly. "Harry," he says, "it doesn't matter what else you might be, but you have and always will be an Unspeakable." He tosses the file at me and I catch it instinctively, a leftover reaction from my Quidditch days. "Besides, you don't have much time."
"What do you mean?" I begin and then feel something strange taking over me, pulling at me even though I'm resisting with all my physical and mental strength. It's impossible to ignore; it's something greater than me. I can't fight it. I open my mouth and rasp, "What's going on?"
"It's time for you to go," he says. "You are of age and the power hidden within you is awakening." I almost think he's smiling beneath that infuriating white hood. "Do read the file, my boy. The instructions are especially important today."
I can't say anything else. He—no, I—disappear. I'm gone.
January 9, 1968 (Harry is 18, and Severus is 8)
Harry: I hold the blasted piece of metal in my hands. I have no idea what to do with it. Because I have no idea how to activate the bloody thing. Couldn't my Unspeakable have told me a bit more than to just read the file… like maybe explain how to use the stupid thing?
To make things worse, I have no clue where I am. I know I've gone somewhere, probably having to do with time because the vortex that sucked me in felt a lot like the time turner I used back in my third year. Also, my entire conversation had been highlighting time, so I'm guessing quite logically that I'm not in 1997 anymore. What year, I'd really really like to know.
I clutch the rectangular file in my hand until the sharp edges cut into my flesh. It's a miniscule pain compared to what Moody puts you through in Auror training. Good Merlin, I curse. Moody's going to have my arse if I'm late. And I'm definitely going to be, unless I can find a way out of here.
Flipping the metal thing between my fingers, I bring it closer so I can inspect it. I don't see anything particularly special about it. It's black, dull, and a bit slick to the touch. I tap my finger against it and wonder how I'm supposed to use the damned thing. Turning it around a few more times, throwing it, and picking it back up—I've gotten no where.
"Great," I mutter, not really caring because there's no one around anywhere I can see. The air is quiet and the grounds are a bit wet from a shower. I don't feel like I'm near Hogwarts, but I don't feel unsafe. "Just great, stuck in the middle of nowhere."
I stare at the metal file, which has absolutely nothing on it. "How do I use this shit—bloody hell!" I exclaim and drop the file when it starts to glow and heat up. I bend over and pick it up, noticing how it shimmers a dark, eerie green.
It stops whatever it's doing once I have it in my hands. For a moment, I think I'm out of luck but then it starts scrolling some words: Day 1, 9-1-1968, go to the clearing to the left. You will find your life case there.
Well I know the year now. I went back almost thirty bloody years. Merlin, this is unbelievable. I actually jumped many years to the past when time turners can only muster a few days at best. What is this power I have? A natural ability to time shift? Even more importantly, how do I use it to get back to my time?
The file beeps and blinks until I look at it. Clever device, I think when it starts to scroll another message: You must know who your life case is before you can go back.
Whoever wrote this knows me well. It's like this person can read my mind, knows what I want to find out when I need to. This whole situation is uncanny. And yet it fits, oh it fits with the prophecy and the past. I have the power, indirect as it is.
I clutch the metal file and start trudging to the left, walking a good way before reaching a vast and wide clearing. It's odd to see such a beautiful meadow flanked by craggy rocks and twisted trees. But it's a lovely sight. The only problem is that I don't see anyone here, at least not from where I am. Some of my vision is blocked by a small hill that flanks to the right and from what I can see, it dips down into a little valley of its own.
The wind suddenly blows in my direction and I hear a faint, soft voice singing: "Happy Birthday to me. Happy Birthday to meee…. Happy Birthday to me."
I don't recognize the voice, but it sounds like a child, a sad child. I feel my heart pull me instinctively in that direction. Whatever reservations I had about this life case, my life case, are ebbing away. He reminds me of me. The voice (for some reason I just know he is male) and the situation—though I never sang to myself—is far too similar to how I celebrated my birthdays.
I trek up the hill, stumbling when I catch sight of the boy. He's small, thin, and as alone as I was. There is something about his voice—the closer I get and the clearer it becomes—that I think I recognize. It's younger and higher than I've heard it, but I know when the kid looks up, turns around, I'll see my life case and it'll be Snape.
Suddenly the file burns in my hand and I yelp. I open my palm, about to drop it when I see a message: Time to go back home. It cools instantly and I yank my head up when I hear the boy—Snape—cry out. I withdraw my wand instantly, my Auror instincts making me think that there's danger nearby. But when I look into his dark, wide eyes I realize it's me that he fears.
How odd, I think as some weird magic swirls out of my wand and envelops me. Everything around me vanishes when I disappear. He's actually afraid of me.
A/N: Please review. This is the 2nd time it's been deleted. I'd really appreciate any support.