The sound of hurried footsteps echoed in the corridor. Torches on the otherwise bare walls illuminated the darkness.
A slim, teenaged boy with raven-colored hair over his forehead rushed through.
Had there been any onlookers, they would have seen that his posture was stiff and his hands clenched. But nobody was looking. In fact, anyone having cause to think of him at that moment would assume that he was safe in his bed.
At the end of the corridor, he suddenly turned, at first looking around, then standing very still, listening. But whatever he was expecting wasn't there, so he continued on. After walking a few feet further, he turned again, his emerald eyes flashing with anger and a just touch of unease.
After a third length of the corridor in this manner, a door suddenly materialised on his right. Backtracking, he wrenched the door open, and without looking to see if anybody else had witnessed it, he walked through. The room he entered was similar in appearance to the Gryffindor common room, except that it had only one chair and a side table near the large fireplace.
He knew that this room could provide what he needed most, and right now, all Harry needed was to get away from everyone - and Snape in particular. The room he had entered, the Room of Requirement, was the ideal place to escape to.
Now, Harry remembered what had brought him here: Snape. He shook with rage at the very thought of the Potions Master as he paced back and forth. It was late and he was tired, but his emotions kept him standing.
What he had just seen confused him. It seemed that Snape had been submitted to just as much humiliation in his youth as he had.
Harry couldn't begin to count the times when Dudley and his gang had mocked him for having no parents, or for his over-sized clothes - clothes which had originally belonged to Dudley.
And now it appeared that - just like Harry's odious cousin - James Potter had really been as mean and arrogant as Snape had always claimed! After seeing the memory in Snape's pensieve, Harry found his father's actions hard to ignore.
He didn't like what he had just seen.
His mind whirled. How could his mother marry someone that humiliated people just because his best friend said he was bored? And what had Sirius been doing? Why didn't he stop James instead of encouraging him? At the very least, Remus should have said something! He was supposed to be the perfect prefect.
Everything he'd thought his father was seemed to crash around him, leaving Harry feeling very unsure of himself.
Sirius had said so many times that Harry was just like his father. But now...Harry wasn't sure he wanted to be like him at all. After trying so hard to emulate his parents, after so much asking...begging people to tell him more about them, he found this!
He stopped pacing.
A cold chill ran down Harry's skin, so he went to the fireplace and with one quick flick of his wand, he had himself a nice fire.
Satisfied with the warming blaze, Harry took a seat in the lonely chair, wishing he had some hot cocoa. No sooner had the thought occurred than a mug of cocoa appeared right beside him. It even had the little marshmallows that he loved and he spent the next few minutes enjoying its smooth, chocolate goodness,
A faint pounding started in his head and he set his cup down on the side table. Taking his glasses off, he rubbed at his eyes. Occlumency lessons with Snape had gone horribly. No, this was the worst 'almost' lesson Harry had ever had, for they hadn't even begun the real lesson.
It is your fault, though, he admitted to himself. If only you hadn't given in to your cursed curiosity!
He sometimes found it disturbing that his conscience sounded like Hermione. Then he realised that Hermione would be very upset when she found out his Occlumency lessons had come to such an abrupt end. Ron would understand, but Hermione…not so much. He could already hear her reprimanding him.
He would never hear the end of it.
Dumbledore would react even worse than Hermione. Harry could see him now, sitting in his high-backed chair, staring at Harry with deeply disappointed blue eyes.
He shifted in his seat. Maybe if Dumbledore had told him what he was planning - told him anything, for that matter - maybe he would have not felt the urgent need to look in the pensieve.
But how would you like it if somebody viewed your private thoughts? his conscience demanded.
Oh, honestly, this is Snape!
You think that he's so far from human that he doesn't have feelings?
Harry groaned, and suddenly felt uncomfortable. He was being put on the spot by his own conscience! He leaned back into the chair and ran a hand through his hair.
"God, I'm pathetic!"
The outburst sounded loud in the silent room, and the unexpected reply sounded even louder.
Harry jumped out of the chair and spun around to where the voice had came from, upsetting the side table as he did so. He couldn't believe his eyes as he held his wand over the intruder.
"I hope your face doesn't get stuck like that or we'll never get married," the intruder said. Harry snapped his mouth shut, wondering for a second what the married comment was supposed to mean.
But really, there could be no doubt. Because standing right in front of Harry was a slim, tall replica of…himself.
At least, he looked like an older version of Harry. The only things different were his height, clothes, missing glasses and the way he held himself. The replica's hair was brushed over his forehead to hide the lightning bolt scar.
His hands were thrust in his blue denim jacket, and his aged green eyes and tired face spoke volumes for whatever he'd been through .
"Who are you? What do you want?" Harry was sure this was a Death Eater trick.
The replica stepped forward and Harry raised his wand threateningly. "I'm you," he replied, "and to answer your second question....I need you to lower your wand first."
Harry snorted loudly, a grim smile coming over his features. "You think I'm stupid enough to do that?"
The man's green eyes narrowed to slits. "You were stupid enough to look in the pensieve. Yes, I know about that, so pick your jaw up of the floor and listen to me, I--."
But before he could say anything further, Harry had jumped forward and poked his wand into the man's chest, right above his heart. " No, you listen to me!" Harry growled, he heart pounding. "I want to know who you really are, why you're here, and how you got here!"
If he gets nasty I can tie him in ropes and...
Quicker than anything Harry had ever seen, the man grabbed his arm and tossed him over his back. As he lay on the floor, the replica snatched up his wand, gathered the front of Harry's robes in one fist and pulled the stumbling teen over towards the chair he had been sitting in so peacefully before.
Roughly, the man pushed him into the chair. Harry tried to get up and to his utter surprise, the man slapped him! He gasped, for the resolute force behind the slap made his face sting horribly.
The stranger was panting slightly as he lowered himself to Harry's level, grabbed his chin, and stared straight at him. His eyes were deadly.
"You're in no position to make demands," he said. "You will listen willingly, or I'll make you. Which one is it going to be?"
Harry didn't say anything, but the man didn't need an answer. He straightened up and rubbed his left arm with his right, making a pained face as he did so.
Harry was scared stiff. Who was he and what did he want? Was he a kidnapper? One of Voldemort's minions? If Harry yelled, nobody would hear. The entire castle was asleep... This thought made his breath quicken.
The man shook his head in annoyance. He was looking at Harry as if he were a puzzle.
"What do you want me to tell you so you'll believe me when I say that I'm you?"
The teenaged Harry stared at the man incredulously. One second he was slapping him and now he wanted to be friendly?
The dark-haired stranger sighed at his look. With a quick wave of Harry's wand, a plain wooden chair appeared and he wearily sat down. Leaning back in the chair, he closed his eyes. Harry briefly thought of trying to get away.
"Move and suffer my wrath."
So much for that idea, thought Harry. He sat absolutely still.
"Let's see...something only I would know," the man muttered to himself. He stood a few second later and pulled the chair closer to Harry.
"In second year, Hermione stole the ingredients to make the Polyjuice potion while me and Ron created a diversion. When you told Sirius that you wanted to live with him, it was mainly because of the Dursleys. You like Ginny, but don't want to say anything because you think that Ron will disapprove."
The man took a deep breath and then continued.
"You slept in a cupboard before the Hogwarts letter came, and sometimes you miss it. You wanted to be a train driver, then a pianist, then a magician when you were younger. You used to do everything you could think of to make Petunia love you before you gave up. You used to wish that Professor Snape would learn how to like you. Now you think yourself stupid for ever wishing that."
Harry's mouth had initially fallen open at the revelations, but the stranger's final words made it snap shut.
"Is that enough for you?" The man - Harry - asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I...Why are you here?" demanded the younger Potter.
A short sigh. "We keep coming back to that don't we? I have come to change our future." Once again, Harry stared at his future self incredulously.
"What!" he shouted. "What's so wrong with my future that you had to come back and change it?"
The older Potter ran a hand through his messy locks - just like Harry had a while ago. It seemed as if he was trying to work out what to say.
"Some terrible things are going to happen in your future," said the elder Harry, finally. "I came back to try and stop them."
"Terrible things? Like what?" Harry challenged. He was still having a hard time believing that this man was his an older version of himself.
The man stared at Harry so intently that the boy began to feel uncomfortable, then said, "I can't - won't tell you how they happen but..."
He took a deep breath. "...people you love die...your wife dies in your arms and you...turn bitter. You lose your friends because they're either killed or just can't stand to be around you anymore. Your children are murdered before your eyes…and when somebody comes and asks you for forgiveness, you throw him to the dogs."
He wasn't looking at Harry as he related his fate.
"I...woul...." began the boy, but was abruptly interrupted.
"Wouldn't do that?" The black-haired man didn't look sympathetic. "Oh, but you do. You turn your back on everybody you ever trusted and when they try to help...you tell them to leave and never come back - and they do leave. Ron dies trying to protect you and Hermione can't stand the wizarding world anymore after that, so she leaves. There's no Dumbledore to run to now...no, he's been dead for years."
Harry watched the man, hoping that he was bluffing, but his new 'acquaintance' was caught up in memories so terrible that he didn't even notice. There was a desperation in his eyes that reminded Harry of Sirius when they had first met in the Shrieking Shack, when as a fugitive he'd desperately tried to convince Harry of his innocence.
"Ginny…" he trailed off. "I never got to say goodbye."
Harry mouthed 'goodbye?' then realization came and he saw the man swallow hard, and he watched dazedly as his body slowly slid down the wall, emotional agony written all over his face. Harry himself felt numb. Ginny was going to die? In his arms no less! How would Ron die? Who did he end up throwing to the dogs?
Harry sat down on the floor. He didn't even remember standing up. Too much information in so little time.
If any of this happened... but no! Harry couldn't risk it happening. It would surely kill him. He didn't want to become bitter and angry at the world, didn't want to turn into the desperate figure that was the man now sharing the room with him.
He took a deep, shaky breath. Looking towards the corner, he saw his future self staring into space with a blank unemotional face. He didn't want that to be him one day. "What...should I do?"
Slowly the man turned to look at him and, after studying him for a moment, nodded to himself.
"This is going to sound really mad, but....I need you to trust Severus Snape."
As Harry gaped he continued in a stern voice. "You have to learn Occlumency and Professor Snape is the best person to learn it from. I know he's tough..." Harry snorted and the older Harry glared at him as he stressed the next word. "...but, he really is the best there is, besides Voldemort. So unless you want to be responsible for Sirius's death and many others, I suggest you learn it."
Harry was shocked but he still managed to choke out, "Sirius dies...because of me?"
The older Harry turned away without answering. "If you play this game right, you might still be able to live with him."
Harry was thinking this over when he felt his future self watching him. Green eyes met green.
"Professor Snape's not very happy with me at the moment," Harry said carefully.
"I wonder why," the man returned dryly.
"What do I do?"
"That's for you to decide. Just remember to keep your temper and...Harry?"
Harry regarded his older self warily. "Yes?"
"Severus Snape is a magnificent spy, but he has to keep up a constant appearance that he hates you. So don't hate him for that. He's just doing his job. And don't forget, you haven't exactly given him any reason to like you."
Harry thought that over before nodding. The older man suddenly shimmered. A pale light rolled over his skin before disappearing and Harry stepped back in alarm. After quickly checking his dirty watch, the grim-faced man looked at Harry.
"I've got to go now. I'll see you tomorrow. Same time, same place. Don't forget to apologise to Snape. Beg if you must. Do whatever you have to, as long as you get him to teach you Occlumency."
Before Harry could so much as reply to that, his older self disappeared. "Bye," he said to the empty room.
Edited by Kara's Aunty to make it more Brit, re-posted Dec 29th. Thank you.