A/N: Written for the Gauntlet challenge over at Mugglenet Fan-Fiction. Adversus Solem Ne Loquito is Latin for: Don't speak against the sun.
Had his nightclothes always been this itchy? Damn being poor. Were he richer, he could wear soft, gentle cotton pajamas instead of these thin, scratchy rags. Not that being a young man of the lower class was generally something that bothered Severus Snape; indeed, there were many more things about himself that bothered him more. But waking up with horrible tingling itches all over him was certainly not pleasant, which was why his hazy thoughts were currently directed in that course.
In addition to the terrible scratchy feeling all over his arms and legs, he felt dizzy and somewhat imbalanced. What had happened? Had he consumed too much alcohol again? He didn't remember doing so. Actually, he couldn't remember much of anything about what he had been doing yesterday.
Dazedly reaching over to scratch at one of the itches on his arm, he felt something odd and slightly prickly beneath his fingers. His bed sheets didn't normally feel prickly, however old and frayed they were.
Cracking open his weary eyes at long last proved that his bed sheets were not surrounding him. In fact, he was not even in bed, or in his pajamas. He was lying on his back in a grass field. The itchy material had not been his nightclothes, it had been the grass he was surrounded by.
Lifting his delirious head to get a better look around, Severus noticed a knapsack and his wand sitting several feet away from him. He pushed himself into a sitting position and reached over for the bag, pulling it closer to him and rummaging around inside. Inside rested an aged map, an unfamiliar textbook, a switch-blade knife, and a Time-Turner.
He was more perplexed than ever by the contents of the bag. What on earth had he been doing, to have been dashing around in an open field with these things? He sifted through the bag again to see if there was anything else, something that perhaps would give him more of a clue as to what was going on – and there was something else. A single sheet of parchment. He took it out and read it carefully, and immediately everything flooded back to him: how he had gotten here, and why he had come in the first place.
. . . unfortunately, with every victory comes a defeat. Though You-Know-Who and his reign have ended, and across the world thousands are rejoicing, even in these happy times we must not forget that James and Lily Potter lost their lives the night of You-Know-Who's demise . . .
It was a small clipping from a newspaper, and even though he had read it already several hundred times, his throat closed up tight upon reading it yet again, his breathing shallowed, his hand clutching the parchment shook.
No, he told himself, putting his left hand over his right to stop the violent tremor. It doesn't matter what this paper says. If everything goes right, this won't ever have happened. That's why you're here: to set things right.
To set things right. He took a deep breath through his nose, dropping his head to his chest for a moment to rest, to think. He knew how risky this was, Time Traveling. Of course, being himself, he had planned everything meticulously. But still, even one small error, one small slip-up, could destroy the entire course of the future. Was he truly ready to do this?
Yes. Yes, he was. He'd made it this far, hadn't he? Now was the time to act. Lily was not going to die, she was going to make it, she was going to live, she was going to run and skip and laugh and smile and dazzle and love and be everything that he adored about her. And he would not screw it all up for her the second time around. He wouldn't be around to screw it all up.
He was going to kill his past self.
He didn't think of it as suicide, really. Suicide meant killing yourself to end your own pain, to put an end to your own sufferings and sorrows. Which, he supposed, was one way to look at it. But really, he wasn't doing it for himself, he was doing it for her. This was the only way for her to go on living.
That was why he was here, back in March 1969. Long before he had told Voldemort the prophecy that had ended Lily's life, years before they had become friends, months before he had even had the courage to introduce himself to her. In this new future, Lily would never even know him. That was better for them all. She could go on living without him taking away anything from her. She would have the life she deserved. The perfect life fit for a fairy-tale princess, where she would live happily ever after with her prince, just as all fairy-tales went. And he, he would follow his own role of the fairy-tale: he was the villain, and therefore he would suffer a death that no one would care very much about.
With these thoughts in mind, he pushed himself off the ground, swung his bag over his shoulder, and started to stroll towards the town. It was a cool, breezy day, with gentle sunlight peering through the clouds; the soft grass crunched gently under his footsteps as he walked along.
Presently, he reached the town area, and was immediately struck with the thought that his clothes stood out quite a bit compared to the styles of '69. What had he been thinking, wearing such modern Muggle attire? That was the problem, though, he hadn't really been thinking, not about things like that anyway. With a sigh, he ducked into the nearest alleyway and Transfigured his clothes into more traditional garb for the times.
When he reemerged from the tiny street, he nearly stopped short at who was standing on the opposite side of the cobbled road. He collected his wits quickly, and without really pausing to think, he whirled around and dived into the nearest pub behind him.
The place he had ducked inside of looked oddly familiar, for some reason. Could it be the Leaky Cauldron? He hadn't thought that his home was ever that close to the Leaky Cauldron, but perhaps he wasn't as close to Spinner's End as he thought? But he couldn't be too bothered by this now. Weighing heavier on his mind was the fact that she was here, one of the very last people he wanted to see right now.
Severus ordered a Firewhiskey and slumped over a small table near the wall. Might as well settle here for a while, wait until she was gone before he continued on his way.
But what was she doing here? She didn't belong in this time period anymore than he did. True, she was some years his senior, but she was certainly not old enough to have looked exactly as she did in the present back in 1969. She would have been a teenager, not a twenty-something woman.
So why had she come, then? Had she perhaps followed him? But how would she have known what he was doing, how would she have found out? It wasn't as though he had broadcast the fact that he was going to go Time Traveling to all of his fellow (former?) Death Eaters. He hadn't broadcasted it to anyone, in fact.
He suddenly heard clicking footsteps behind him against the wood floor surface, and even before she spoke, he knew it was her who was standing right behind him.
"Well," she said slowly, and he could hear the sneer in her voice, "look what the Kneazle dragged in."
Cringing slightly, he slowly turned around in his seat to face her. "Hello, Bellatrix. What are you doing here?" he asked listlessly, masking his rising panic at her appearance.
"I could ask you the very same," she returned sharply.
"I – I am here on a personal matter that does not concern you in the slightest."
"On the contrary, it concerns me quite a lot," came the swift reply. "I know why you're here, Snape – and that's why I'm here."
Before he could stop it, his brow naturally creased in confusion. "What?"
She sneered, her gaze on him condescending and angry. "Oh, you think you are so crafty, so clever, so secretive," she said, drawling out the adjectives with disgust as though they were something nasty in her mouth. "You think you are so good at concealing yourself, and that no one can see past your little shell." She chuckled then, the sound low and dark, coming deep within her throat.
"You think you have me all figured out?" As he said this, his tone was mocking and sardonic, yet her words had caused his mind to race a little faster. She knew why he had come here? She had come here because of him? Why? It didn't concern her if he wanted to kill his past self – in fact, he would have thought that she would be pleased with the idea. The dislike he felt towards her was most certainly reciprocated on the other end.
"Yes, I think I have you figured out quite well," said Bellatrix, her eyes flashing dangerously, rolling with cold waves of unforgiving gray.
With effort, he repressed the urge to swallow anxiously, and instead got to his feet – he didn't like having her tower over him while he sat at the table. Now he was looking slightly down at her, and though this didn't make him any less nervous or uncomfortable, at least he felt more in control. "So, tell me – why did I come here?"
"For the same reason Lucius is giving millions of Galleons to the Minister, for the same for the same reason MacNair has decided to chop off the heads of animals for a 'noble and good cause', for the same reason Avery and the Carrows and so many others are pleading forgiveness with all the Aurors: you think our lord is gone, and have therefore decided to hide away and pretend like none of it ever happened." The blaze in her eyes intensified; he had never seen her quite so incensed. "Granted, your method is rather unconventional, and it seems a bit extreme to go travel time just to avoid Azkaban, especially since your precious Dumbledore seems very happy to have you sitting on his arm . . . but, to each his own."
She leaned in closer to him. "Well?" she breathed in an angry hiss. "I'm right, aren't I? You're scared of what will happen to you, and so you decided to run away from it all, pretending as though the Dark Lord means nothing to you."
"Of course he meant something to me," he objected quickly. It's just that another person meant much more.
"Meant? He meant something?" Her volume began to rise in her temper. "Meant – as in that was in the past? As in he doesn't mean anything to you anymore?"
"I didn't say that, but since he has been killed, it's technically correct to speak in the past tense about the matter – "
"He is not dead!" she spat. "He is not! It is the ones like you who will be shunned from his services when he returns – and those few of us who remained faithful will be rewarded beyond all measure."
"Mmm-hmm, yes, I'm sure." He checked his watch; she was holding him up. True, he did technically have all the time he wanted quite literally in his hands, but he didn't really want to have to Time Travel again. It would be preferable to get things over with now. "So, you followed me because . . ."
"Because I am tired of watching all of those who called themselves 'loyal' run away and hide under rocks!"
"I see. Very interesting. Well, you will have to excuse me, Bellatrix – it might come as a surprise, but I do have better things to occupy my time with than conversing with you." He began to push past her.
"You coward," she threw at him. "Just running away from our lord."
He stopped, looked at her hard. "What did you call me?" he snapped.
"You heard me, Snape, I called you a coward."
"You don't even know," he seethed, "you don't even know what is going on, what I'm doing here – "
"I know plenty well what's going on – you're a spineless git who would rather live in the past than confront his present, living proudly with the fact that he supports the Dark Lord."
Her assessment of the situation was rather off-point, and yet, he still found for some reason that his blood was boiling, his fury mounting. She knew nothing about what he had been through, what he was going through. And yet she still had the nerve to call him a coward. It shouldn't have angered him this much, but his nerves were frayed enough as it was, and so it angered him beyond all real reason.
"Ah," she said, after a reflective pause, her thin lips curving naturally into a smirk. "Have I touched a nerve?"
He forced himself to breath in deeply. He could not let her win this battle of wills, however riled he was by her words. He had something much more important to do than dilly away his time arguing with Bellatrix: he had a past to change, a future to correct.
So, without another word, he pushed past her and towards the door of the pub.
"Don't you walk away from me, Snape!" she called after him, and he could hear her shoes clicking rapidly along behind him, but did not bother to turn around. "Snape! Snape!"
He threw a few coins to the pub owner, and banged out of the bar, turning and striding quickly down the street, ducking into obscure alley after obscure alley.
He knew he could not out-run her forever. He needed to think, fast. Closing his eyes, he turned half-way around on his heel, and Disapparated.
When he opened his eyes again, he was in another alley, one that he had remembered distantly from his childhood. He leaned against the wall to pause for a moment, listening vaguely to the sounds around him. This, for some reason, was the first place he had thought of. It was a place that he had only been to once: when he was five, his father had taken him to this small but busy street of shops for some 'father-son bonding time', as his mother had so optimistically put it. Right. All he'd had to show for the event when he got home was the jeans he was wearing that'd been ripped beyond repair, and five purple marks on his arm. Bonding time, indeed. But none of that mattered now – he had escaped from Bellatrix (for now), and that was the important thing.
Severus checked his watch. Damn it. Bellatrix had delayed him far too long. He was completely off schedule now. He'd had it all planned out: at precisely ten past ten, his younger self had been wandering the streets near that old abandoned park. He remembered this all very well, for earlier that morning, his father had once again lost his temper. This in itself was nothing terribly unusual or upsetting, for it happened quite often. What had been unique about today, however, was that Severus had tried to stand up for himself and his mother. He had tried to defend the both of them using magic that he was only just beginning to understand. This plan, naturally, had backfired horribly; and to escape Tobias Snape's wrath, the young boy had fled the house to walk the streets. So the plan had been to grab his younger self while the nine-year-old was near that old park, go to some deserted alley, and kill him.
However, it was now past eleven, and Severus could not recall where the hell his younger self had been at this time. Swearing under his breath at both himself and Bellatrix, he massaged one temple wearily. What could he do now? He couldn't go back to the present – he'd made it this far, and he didn't intend to back down from his goal for any reason.
Though he knew his young self would eventually go back there, going into his old house did not seem like the best course of action. Severus knew very well that Time Traveling could be extremely dangerous, if not handled properly. How in the world would his parents react if their son showed up twelve years older than he was supposed to be? No, nothing good would come of that. He would have to just wander the streets, not interacting with anyone more than necessary, until he found his younger self.
So, with this vague plan of action in mind, he dragged his despondent feet out of the alley and onto the main street.
The shops looked rather different than he had remembered them, for some reason. In the blurry recollections he still had from the trip he'd made here when he was five, everything had been gray, dirty, and overall very unappealing. Yet here today, with the soft sun rays beaming down on the pavement and the rooftops, and the faint whistle of the wind in his ears, the place seemed much different, almost inviting. The colors of the shops were warm, the people both inside of the stores and outside of them seemed cheerful. Had this little area of town really changed so much within those years between '65 and '69? Or had this place merely looked so bleak at the time because of what had taken place there?
Oddly, the pleasant happiness in the air did nothing to soothe or calm Severus. Rather, it made him more anxious. None of it seemed fitting: how could one place be so different from memory? Little things in the surroundings unsettled him – things that he knew were inconsequential, yet that still bothered him. The squirrel eating a cracker someone had dropped on the side of the road. The sign on the window in large purple letters that declared 'two bracelets for the price of one'. The bowler hat on the old man's head. The bright red lollipop clutched in the toddler's hand. The initials 'Y.E.R.' engraved on the side of one of the buildings. The brunette woman's laughter at something her husband had just said. It was all so ordinary, and yet it wasn't – not now, not today, not like this.
And then, he saw something that brought him instantly back into focus; that made everything seem fine, that made the entire world seem fine; that made him realize clearly who he was and what he must still do; that made his breath catch in his throat, and the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, and his limbs tingle with happiness, and his heart thud against his chest with mingled longing and grief all at once:
The nine-year-old Lily Evans.