Chapter 1: A Parallel
"He helped Black escape! I know it!" Snape pointed an accusing finger at Harry.
Dumbledore tried to calm Snape as Fudge looked on in alarm.
Harry couldn't concentrate on what they were saying. The feeling of being pulled somewhere was so strong that he clutched at the infirmary bed sheets. He looked around desperately, but no one seemed to have noticed anything. Snape was staring resentfully at Dumbledore, and Fudge was shaking his head sadly. He turned to Hermione, but she was watching the three men with rapt attention. He opened his mouth to cry out.
Just then he felt an odd shift. He was slipping, as easily as water over rocks, and with a jolt he landed. There was a moment of blackness.
He opened his eyes, and the scene was the same. Snape was shaking his head angrily as Dumbledore led Fudge out of the infirmary. As the door closed, Dumbledore returned to the foot of Harry's bed and gave Snape a reassuring pat on the shoulder. He accepted it grudgingly, turning his head to glare at Harry. But his eyes widened when he saw Harry struggle to a sitting position. He strode to the side of the bed and grasped Harry's chin in his hand. Harry's head was jerked to the left and he found glittering black eyes boring into him.
Harry had the violent urge to rip Snape's hand off his face. Instead he gritted his teeth and tried not to flinch. He'd already attacked Snape once tonight and gotten away with it; twice would be pushing it.
"How do you feel?" said Snape, his hand still holding him in a tight grip.
"Like I can't move my jaw," Harry mumbled.
Snape narrowed his eyes and then dropped his hand. "That's the fifth time you've fainted this year."
"I didn't faint," Harry said hotly. Then he paused. Had it really been five times? How mortifying. He prayed Snape wouldn't say anything to the other Slytherins, especially Malfoy.
Snape was smirking as he sat down on the empty bed next to Harry. He wished the man would go away.
"It's been a difficult night," said Dumbledore. He glanced at Snape. "Perhaps we should leave you alone to get some rest. The effects of a dementor attack can be quite debilitating."
"Is that what that tugging was?" said Harry. "I've been feeling it all year, but especially after the dementor attacks, and then the—" he stopped. He didn't want to mention the time-turner in front of Snape, but it was after he'd used that device that the pulling had been impossible to resist.
"Tugging?" repeated Dumbledore.
"Like I went through a crack in the wall…" he stopped, not sure he was explaining this well. "But then I opened my eyes, and I was still here…"
Snape had pulled his wand from his sleeve and murmured an incantation as he held the wand over Harry's heart. He stopped and turned toward Dumbledore. "Magical phenomenon. Very recent and localized."
Dumbledore's brows knitted together. "You think this was caused by the dementor attacks?"
"Well…that and…" he jerked his head slightly toward Hermione.
Snape stood, slid his wand back into his sleeve and glanced at Hermione. "You mean the time-turner?" he asked.
Harry gaped at him. "You know?" He turned an accusing glare at Dumbledore. "You told him."
"Of course he told me," said Snape irritably. "Although I wish he'd told me sooner. Before you went ahead with that ill-advised plan."
"But I couldn't let the dementors do that to Sirius!" He looked from Snape to Dumbledore, who were both staring back at him blankly.
"What are you talking about, Harry?" said Snape.
"I couldn't let them kill Sirius. It was Peter Pettigrew who betrayed my parents…" Harry felt like he was babbling, and a niggling word at the back of his mind was telling him that something was off. "If you find Pettigrew, you'll…" the word that had been bothering him surfaced, and he trailed off, looking at Snape. "What did you call me?"
Snape frowned. "Harry. Is there some other title you'd prefer?"
"No, it's just…you always call me…you know…Potter." He couldn't help throwing in a little derision with the last word. It was as much a part of how Snape said his name as the vowels and consonants.
"Potter," said Dumbledore, his eyes troubled. "Harry…Potter."
Harry saw a flash of black to his left, and Snape's hand was again at his chin, forcing him face to face. "What is the last thing that you…" Snape paused, the clammy sweat of his fingers pressing against Harry's jaw. His face was even paler than usual. "Recount the events of tonight. Every detail," he demanded.
"But I just…"
"Now," Snape breathed.
Harry wriggled a little in Snape's grip, but it was clear he wasn't going to let go. So Harry described everything that had happened from the time he, Ron, and Hermione had entered the Shrieking Shack to the time they had returned to the infirmary after using the time-turner. Neither Dumbledore nor Snape said anything during his tale, but by the end, Snape had dropped his hand from Harry's chin and Dumbledore was looking grim.
"And then I was being pulled, and then…" he gestured toward the infirmary walls.
"Harry," Hermione whispered. Harry turned to see her staring at him openmouthed. "That's not what happened. I mean, we saved Buckbeak, but…we never helped Sirius escape."
Harry stared at her in confusion. He wondered if Hermione was trying to stay out of trouble by denying what happened. Personally, he felt the cat was out of the bag at this point.
"Sirius escaped earlier tonight," said Dumbledore, "without help from anyone. "Your—" Dumbledore paused, looking at Snape. "Professor Snape observed a black dog running toward the forest a few hours ago. Of course, he did not realize the implication until Professor Lupin explained." He held a hand up as Harry opened his mouth. "I do believe you are correct about his innocence," he said. "But I am more interested in the Patronus you described casting. You said it was a stag?"
"But it wasn't!" said Hermione. "It was a doe! I saw it myself!"
Harry stared at Hermione. How could she not remember? "But there were antlers, and…"
"It's quite alright," said Dumbledore. "I think perhaps Professor Snape and I should talk to Harry alone. If you're feeling up to it," he nodded at Harry, "would you get dressed and meet us in my office? I shall clear it with Madam Pomfrey."
Harry nodded. Dumbledore gave him the password to the gargoyle and went into Madam Pomfrey's office. Snape stood, but remained at Harry's bedside, staring down at him with an unfathomable expression on his face.
Avoiding his gaze, Harry crawled out of bed and gathered up the clothes that were folded neatly on a chair near him. Someone had put him in starched hospital pajamas, and he'd be happy to get out of them. He moved to a curtained area to dress, and heard Dumbledore call, "Severus," in a firm voice. Their footsteps receded as the infirmary door closed behind them.
Harry emerged from the curtained area as he finished putting on his robes. He glared at Hermione. "I don't know why you had to say that," he said. "I know you don't want to admit to what we did, but why lie about my Patronus?"
"But I didn't lie," said Hermione, tears springing to her eyes. "Oh, you must have seen that it was a doe."
Harry shook his head. He didn't want to argue about it now. "Just don't tell Ron this rubbish when he wakes up. I want to be there to tell my side of the story."
"You want to tell Ron…?" asked Hermione, but Harry was already walking toward the infirmary exit.
The gargoyle leapt aside at the sound of the password. Harry hopped on the stairs and, at hearing the headmaster's invitation, opened the door. Dumbledore was sitting at his desk. He glanced around the room and spotted Snape leaning against the wall near the window. No one spoke, but the air vibrated slightly, as though the echo of a shout was still reverberating against the walls.
He seated himself in front of the desk, angling himself so that he could see Snape out of the corner of his eye. It made Harry's skin prickle when he knew Snape was lurking somewhere behind him.
"What do you know," Dumbledore began, "of planes?"
Harry was reminded of the sucked-out-of-an-airplane sensation he'd felt. "I've never been on one," he said. "The Dursleys don't travel…with me," he said.
Dumbledore blinked, and then chuckled. "No, no, not those type of planes. I was referring to planes of existence."
"Oh," said Harry. He knew less about that than he did about Muggle planes.
"There are, of course, the planes of life and death," said Dumbledore. "But there are far more realities than that." He plucked a roll of parchment from a stack of essays on his desk and unrolled it, holding it up. "Imagine that this paper represents every event of my life, every choice I made…it's all here, laid out like this bright student's essay. But what if I'd made different choices?" He picked up another scroll from the stack and held it alongside the first. "The result would be different, just as no two student essays are the same. Each sentence leads to the next, just as each of our choices leads us to the next."
Harry remembered the moment he met Ron. If he had arrived at King's Cross station slightly later, or chosen a different seat on the Hogwarts Express, they might never have become friends. "I think I understand."
Dumbledore nodded and replaced the scrolls onto the stack. "Now imagine that one could travel from one plane to another. If the planes were similar, one may not even know the trip had happened…for a while. It would be rather like getting one of your essays returned to you, only to realize you were handed another student's paper. There might be so many similarities that it would take you a few sentences before you realized it was not your own."
Harry was getting an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach. "What does this have to do with me?"
Dumbledore leaned forward, clasping his hands on the desk, his gentle eyes resting on Harry. "Professor Snape and I noticed some…irregularities in your tale of this night's events."
"Everything I told you was true," muttered Harry, not wanting to contradict the Headmaster but not wanting to be called a liar, either.
"Oh, I don't doubt that," said Dumbledore. "The thing is, Harry…I'm afraid the essay you wrote and the essay you're reading right now don't quite match up. You appear to have jumped."
"To…another of these planes? But how?"
"It is not your body that has traveled, but your soul. Normally souls are quite firmly planted in their bodies, until death. But the dementor attacks loosened your soul's moorings, and then the jerking of your body through time and space with the time-turner…"
"Didn't help any."
Dumbledore nodded. "Your soul slipped into a neighboring plane before it could re-anchor itself in your body."
Harry tried to wrap his mind around the concept. "That means what happened to me…happened somewhere else? And here…"
"A different series of events played out. Some quite different, I think." Dumbledore hesitated, glancing at the wall near the window where Snape was still leaning. "If you wouldn't mind indulging me, I'd like to ask about your parents. What's your earliest memory of them?"
Harry remembered the blur of images and sounds that came to him during the dementor attack. "I was just a baby when they were killed…" he stopped, because he'd heard a sharp intake of breath behind him. He glanced toward the window, but Snape was no longer there. His skin began to prickle. "But, er, when the dementor attacked me, I heard…screaming. I think it was my mum being killed by Voldemort."
Dumbledore looked grave. "And your life after that?"
"I was taken to live with my aunt and uncle. The Dursleys." When he heard a hiss from right behind him, he couldn't help glancing backwards and saw a hand clenching the back of his chair. Harry briefly went over the events of his life, then looked expectantly at Dumbledore. "So things are…different here?" He didn't really believe that he could jump to a different reality in the blink of an eye.
Dumbledore's expression, however, was not reassuring. "We will do our best to return you, Harry. We already have an idea of where to start."
There was a swish of robes, and Snape stepped forward towards Dumbledore's desk. "Are you certain, Headmaster? Isn't it possible that this is some delayed reaction to an attack on his mind? Harry is the only one claiming these events happened…"
"I'm not a liar, and I'm not crazy," Harry growled. "And you can't tell me this is another world just because you call me Harry."
Snape glared at the boy. "But it's not possible!"
"It's quite possible," said Dumbledore. "And as to your observation, Harry, there's a perfectly good reason why Severus would not call you Potter. It's not your name."
Harry heard Snape collapse in the chair next to him, but he was focused on Dumbledore's steady blue eyes. "But…what else could my name be?"
"Snape." Harry stared at him blankly. Dumbledore sighed. "Severus adopted you…or rather, our own Harry…a long time ago. You're his son."
Harry felt like he'd taken a hit to the face with a Bludger. His jaw moved up and down, but no sound came out. He stared at Snape, willing him to laugh derisively, to sneer at Harry's gullibility for falling for such a ridiculous story.
But Snape's mouth was turned sharply downward, a look of anguish on his face. "And what of our Harry? Are you saying his soul is out there?" He jerked a hand outward, toward the shadows in the room. "He's lost? Replaced?"
"A soul is quite strong, especially in one so young. They are drawn quickly back into their bodies, or at least one nearly like their own. I'm certain that if this soul was able to anchor so quickly to another body, your Harry must have done the same."
"You're certain, are you?" Snape spat. "How reassuring that this doesn't trouble you."
"Of course it troubles me. You know how much I care for him. But we must deal with the situation at hand before we can move forward." He turned toward Harry. "We will require your assistance in this, to return you to your home and bring our Harry back to his. Do you agree to do as we ask?"
Harry nodded, barely feeling the movement.
"It will take time. You may have to adjust to life here until we can find a solution. Become this world's Harry, for a while. I realize that may be difficult, but I would ask you to try your best."
Harry looked at him. He was trying to form the word, but his lips had turned to stone. "S-son?" he finally managed.
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and rubbed at the line between his brows. "Perhaps it would be best if you showed him, Severus. We can continue this first thing tomorrow morning, after Harry has had some time to adjust."
Snape was utterly still for a moment, one hand shielding his face. Then, with one jerky nod, he swept into a standing position and moved toward the door, gesturing for Harry to follow.
Harry glanced questioningly at Dumbledore, but the headmaster merely smiled at him under tired eyes. Harry forced his body to stand and stumbled out the door.
Snape led the way, and it became clear that they were heading for the dungeons. Harry dreaded whatever it was that Snape was going to show him. It would just prove that this was not a dream. He wasn't going to wake up and laugh with Ron and Hermione about it over breakfast. The thought of Hermione flitted through his mind. Did she know? That he was Snape's…he couldn't even think the word. He tried to focus on what Dumbledore had told him. What choices could anybody have made that would lead to this? Couldn't Dumbledore have adopted him? Or Remus? Or…anyone besides Snape? Why would the man even want him? He could barely tolerate Harry as a student.
When they reached the door to the Potions classroom, Harry paused, but Snape laid a hand on his shoulder and propelled him on, toward the end of the hall. They stopped at a door Harry had never encountered before.
"Where are we?" asked Harry.
"My chambers," replied Snape.
Harry's spirits sank. Snape's classroom was oppressive enough; he couldn't imagine what his chambers would be like.
"Can't we just—" Harry began, but Snape had already unwarded the door and was pushing Harry through it.
Harry blinked as Snape lit a lamp. He couldn't see much in the dim light, but his eyes focused on a collection of photographs piled near a worn but comfortable-looking maroon armchair. Three fluffy pillows were piled on it. He stared at the pillows. They were so normal.
Snape gestured toward a door to the right. "That's yours."
Harry frowned but moved to open the door. Inside was a small room with a single bed, decorated with Gryffindor colors and Quidditch posters. He stared at it for a long time before it finally clicked. "My room." He turned and looked at Snape, who had taken off his outer robe and was loosening his cuffs. "That's what Dumbledore wanted you to show me? That I…he…has a room down here?"
"No," said Snape. He studied Harry for a long moment, as if trying to decide something. Then he beckoned Harry toward a door further back. With one hand resting on the latch, he turned and gripped Harry's arm tightly. "Say nothing," he hissed. "We will deal fully with this tomorrow."
Harry didn't understand what he meant, but turned and looked as Snape opened the door.
It was another bedroom, with a larger, four-poster bed and several vases of flowers. Many photographs decorated the walls, creating a kind of patchwork wallpaper. But the most unusual aspect of the room was a woman sitting cross-legged on top of the bed covers. Her head was bent over a stack of handwritten notes. She looked up at the sound of their entry.
The air was sucked out of his lungs. Harry gasped for breath. He knew that face. It was exactly as he'd seen it in the mirror his first year at Hogwarts.
"Mum," he whispered.
The woman's eyes unfocused for a moment, and then she smiled. "Harry," she said. Then she looked at Snape, looking happy but surprised. "I've been working on events for next year."
"You work far too much," said Snape, sounding like this was any other day.
Harry couldn't bear to stand still. He tried to move toward her, but Snape was keeping a vice-like grip on his arm. "Let go of me," he hissed. Instead, Snape slowly moved toward the bed, never releasing his hold, while Harry tried to pull ahead of him. He felt like a dog on a leash.
Lily flipped through her notes, a sad smile on her face. "Keeps me busy." She looked up at them as they reached the foot of the bed. "Are you two okay? You look a bit out of sorts."
Snape hesitated. "Long day," he said. "I'll tell you everything tomorrow."
Lily quirked an eyebrow at him. "Promise?"
Harry didn't hear Snape's reply, as he was breathing hard now. He reached out a hand, but Snape held him fast and he only managed to reach the tip of a note-ridden calendar.
Lily crinkled her nose at him. "What's the matter, Monkey? You want to help me work?" She smiled and patted the space next to her.
Harry turned to Snape, ready to fight him if he had to. But Snape slowly released Harry's arm. He felt a slight tingle in his hand now that circulation was restored. Then he scrambled up on the bed landed next to her in one bounce.
She smelled like lilacs and sage, with a sharp, acidic twang that was somehow familiar. Her red hair looked warm in the lamplight. The same scent of lilacs whispered through the room when she swept her hair over her shoulder.
He drank in the scent. With trembling fingers, he rested his hand on her pale one. It was warm and smooth. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and held on, counting the minutes by her heartbeats. His breath came in faster and faster gasps, and his face and hands began to tingle. He heard her say something and push against him gently, but that only made him cling more fiercely.
Cold, steel hands sank into his arms and pulled him away. Snape was murmuring something to Lily.
"No!" he cried, struggling, but he was pulled off the bed and out the door. The hands didn't let go until he was back in the smaller bedroom.
Harry spun to face Snape immediately, jerking his wand from his robes, a hex on his lips. Snape already had his wand in hand and deflected the spell with an effortless flick of his wrist.
"Get out of my way," Harry growled.
"You were beginning to frighten her," Snape said. "I'm aware that this may be overwhelming for you. But for her sake, you need to control yourself." He extended his other hand. "Your wand."
Harry stared at him, dumbfounded. "You can't be serious."
"I'm not handing over my wand to you."
"I won't ask twice."
"Fine by me."
Snape flicked his wand and Harry's wand flew from his hand and into Snape's outstretched one. "Next time I suggest you hand it over willingly while you still have the choice." He slid the second wand into his sleeve. "Try to get some sleep."
Harry blinked at him. "That's it? I get to see my long-dead mum for five seconds and now I'm expected to toddle off to bed? I don't see why I have to stay in here. She's in there, all alone. I want to see her."
"You'll see her tomorrow. And she won't be alone." He turned to leave.
Harry frowned at his retreating back. "What?"
Snape turned and looked at him, eyebrows raised. "I am her husband." With that, he shut the door, draping the room in darkness.
Harry spent the night painfully awake.