"Snape was a little harsh wasn't he?" Al mused.
Younger versions of his father, uncles, mother and even aunt as well as James and Hugo, gave him an incredulous look. Sirius also gave him a baffled look.
"Err, Al? He hates everyone. Especially Potters."
"Speak for yourself Jimmy" Lily smirked at the glare her brother gave her. "I think he just hates dunderheads, myself."
She merely smiled at the indignant glares she received in return.
"And you think I will allow you to try and meddle with my mind Potter, you have obviously been more spell damaged than I thought."
Harry stifled a sigh.
His memory wipes with Dumbledore and McGonagall had not been nearly as difficult. Minerva had never changed in all the years he had known her; the hard exterior belying the warmth and softness inside. For all her sternness, she was an absolute softie at heart. Harry could still remember his utter amazement when he witness her actually cooing at James days after his birth.
So it hadn't been a surprise to him when she gave him an awkward but heartfelt hug, whispering to him about how proud she was of him. That she was so happy to see him happy and healthy with beautiful children. She wished him the best and smiled a watery smile when he kissed her cheek, before laughing at his wry comment about how the younger Harry in the kitchen would have likely passed out before attempting this.
His conversation with Dumbledore had been equally heartfelt and brief. He had long ago come to terms with the powerful elderly wizard and bore him no ill will. For all of the man's meddling and actions to himself, Dumbledore had been acting solely for the good of the Wizarding world. Harry's life, while unpleasant in his early life and treacherous during his teens, was truly blessed.
For the first and only time, Harry Potter had been able to stand in front of Albus Dumbledore, his mentor and guide, as an equal. He was able to clasp the weathered hand of his old Headmaster and look into brilliant piercing blue eyes that he had not seen in over twenty years, seeing nothing but fierce pride and happiness. The older man was livelier and more energetic than he had ever seen; buoyed by the knowledge that things were on the right path. He had been all too helpful in ensuring his memories would stay erased, knowing better than anyone the need for secrecy.
Snape of course, was the hold out.
"I am not the child you have to deal with in school Professor Snape" Harry said politely, stifling his weariness and the urge to retort. It was amazing how quickly old habits re-emerged.
His perception of Snape had changed dramatically over the course of his life, but he had forgotten somewhat just how annoying the other man really was. It's not as if he could forget how acerbic and malicious the older man had been during his school years, but the man's sacrifice and his service to the Order had tempered that image.
Now unfortunately, the Professor was reminding him strongly why he had disliked the man as a teenager. Absence makes the heart grow fonder…..
Snape's lip curled as his glare deepened. His posture screamed aloofness while the sneer was something Harry had been fortunate not to witness for many years, a look that struck fear into the hearts and minds of many first year Gryffindors.
But Harry was no longer a first year Gryffindor.
"Professor you know as well as I that what you've seen today cannot be allowed to reach Volde-"
"Do NOT say the name!"
"-The Dark Lord then" Harry refrained from rolling his eyes; it would not help matters. "I highly doubt you would prefer Ron or Ted to wipe your memories, so that leaves me."
"You haven't changed Potter" Snape sneered in disgust.
"I can say the same" Harry responded dryly.
"And your foolish arrogant children, flaunting their complete and utter disregard for the timeline, recklessly endangering the lives of countless individuals. Clearly the apple has not fallen far from the tree."
Harry's mouth tightened.
"Like father, like son. It is astounding" the dour man hissed "how the very name Potter is involved with something so exceedingly dangerous and can be swept away so easily. I have no doubt there will be nothing more than a mere slap on the wrist for this. Never mind the foolish brats could have erased themselves from existence by merely dropping in for tea, but they will not be punished for it because they're Potters."
It was not just his children, but Harry bit his tongue, his temper quietly simmering.
"Believe what you want Professor but I am aware of the dangers and consequences of my children's actions. While it was an accident they will be punished for their carelessness."
"Punished" Snape sneered. "No dessert or taking their brooms away, or something similar. It's not as if you would know the meaning of the word discipline, Potter."
Harry narrowed his eyes and took a step forward. Snape held his ground, but there was a flicker of defensiveness in his posture.
Harry was ruthlessly employing Occulmency techniques learned in Auror training not to hex the man. He was the same age as this man, had fought through a war, and too many Dark Wizards to mention; he was not about to let this man speak to him as if he was still the student in the kitchen, a hero of the war be damned.
"Do not presume to criticise my parenting Professor" Harry whispered. He was mildly surprised to realise he was actually taller than the Potions Master. "Whatever grudge you hold against me and my father, you will not take that out on my children. Yes they were foolish and I have no doubt they can't fully comprehend the situation they landed themselves in; but I will make them understand."
"Just like your father" Snape whispered. "Arrogant, conceited, believing the rules don't' apply to you"
Harry bit back some choice words. Merlin he had forgotten how infuriating the man was! "I have been told I am more like my mother" Harry kept his voice even. "I hope so too; there are far worse people to be like."
Snape's face became a little pinched.
"I learned a lot after the war" Harry said quietly. "I know about you and my mother"
"You know NOTHING"
"I also know that you helped protect me. You sacrificed a lot for the war Professor" too much as far as he was concerned "because of that promise. You were braver than most of the Gryffindors I know and that is why I named my son after you."
The man's face was bloodless, it was too like his last moments, bleeding out on the floor of the Shrieking Shack "It was not" he rasped, chest heaving. "It was not for you." The man's face was twisted, an angry red flush staining the sallow cheeks.
"Listen closely Potter" Snape hissed dangerously, black eyes blazing. "I did not do those things for you. I did it for Lily. For your mother" his face twisted with anguish, emotion so uncharacteristic for the man. "Everything I did-and will do-it was for her. It was not-for you."
Green eyes met black and Harry nodded slowly.
"And because of that, my children were born" Harry said quietly. "And for that, I thank you. And I think my mother would as well."
Snape's eyes narrowed in hate, his countenance one of utter contempt.
"Do your spell Potter and be done with it" Snape whispered. "I have no desire to recall this afternoon and would have erased it myself undoubtedly. I have no desire to recall you or your obnoxious offspring."
Harry closed his eyes. "Very well Professor and-goodbye."
Harry sighed and rested his head against the wall.
Why was he so surprised? Snape was exactly he had remembered. He didn't know why he was so disappointed.
Well he did actually. He had hoped to find closure with the sharp, cunning head of Slytherin house. His view of Snape had been rose tinted for the last twenty years. He had not forgotten the man's hatred of his father and by extension him, but…he had loved his mother and died protecting him.
Harry sighed deeply. Severus Snape was a bitter man, too entrenched in his hatred and pain to let it go and didn't want to let it go. Granted he had his reasons hating his father and he suspected Snape hated him because he was a reminder that his mother chose James instead of him, but…he had hoped…
He gave his head a shake and straightened himself.
"Are you done lurking in the shadows Padfoot?" he asked.
There was a pause and then movement as his godfather slunk over, hands in his pockets.
"Have fun with Snivellus?" his godfather jerked his head at the door.
"Don't call him that" Harry frowned reprovingly.
"Sorry" Sirius looked a little embarrassed. "Bad blood, too many things to be civil with the bat" his nose wrinkled at the very thought.
"I know" Harry sighed.
"Speaking of-you named your kid after him?" the incredulous note made Harry roll his eyes.
"I named my firstborn after you and dad."
"And don't get me wrong I'm beyond honoured, but-Snape?"
Harry sighed and looked fully at his godfather. "I wouldn't be standing here-my children wouldn't be in the other room-without him. It was the least I could do-and I wanted to end the bad blood between us. Not" Harry said ruefully "that that happened."
Sirius considered that.
"You are a better man than all of us Harry" Sirius sounded….well serious. "Me, Snape, your dad, Remus…you're better than us all. Your parents would be so proud of you."
Harry smiled at his godfather, unable to say anything. Shrewd eyes noted something that looked an awful like a battered journal in his godfather's hand, obviously what he had been getting from upstairs during his memory erasing.
"What have you got there?"
"Just something I copied for my pseudo great nephews and niece" Sirius said brightly, before shuddering. "I am way too young to be a great uncle."
Harry snorted loudly and was about to say debunk the idea when his godfather sobered and pinned him with a serious expression.
"I'm not around in the future am I?"
Harry narrowed his eyes.
Sirius smiled self-deprecatingly. "I was an Auror at one point-one of the best naturally. Your kids are good but they're not criminals. They're not very good liars. I've noticed how they act around some of the people in there-naturally with some and then carefully around others. I didn't call them out on it, but I want to know." Sirius's expression turned sad. "Do I die soon?"
Harry looked away.
Sirius closed his eyes and clenched his fist.
"I really failed you as a godfather, didn't I?" Sirius asked rhetorically. "James let slip about that cupboard in the Dursleys." His lips peeled back in a snarl. Harry looked a little uneasy.
"Oh yes. Cupboards, housework starvation….you were treated like a bloody house-elf because I was a moron and went after Wormtail instead of looking after you. I talked to you-our Harry-about his home life. Hence the little trip to Privet Drive. Great pranksters you have by the way, clever kids. They're the reason I didn't"
He trailed off.
"I never told you" Harry said softly, looking over the other man's shoulder. "I was afraid you really would come down and turn them all into fruit bats if I let you know just how bad things were."
"Didn't turn them into bats" Sirius muttered, mouth twisting into something resembling a smile. "Turned your uncle into a walrus, Tuney into a horse and your fat cousin"
"A pig?" Harry finished hopefully before he started to laugh before he could stop himself. Sirius grinned and chuckled.
"You weren't a bad godfather" Harry said quietly, calming down. "You were reckless don't get me wrong, but…you cared. I loved you like a father and a brother and I knew you loved me. That means a lot to me."
Sirius swallowed hard, blinking hard. Without thinking, he crossed over and pulled his older godson into a rough hug. Harry returned it without hesitation, feeling more like the boy in the kitchen than a battle hardened Auror.
"Moony and Tonks don't make it either do they?" Sirius said softly. "That's why you brought them along with you."
Harry sighed and tightened his grip. "They die a few weeks after he was born" Harry murmured, ignoring his logical voice, sounding a lot like Hermione chastising his rash decision.
Sirius's grip tightened and he shut his eyes tightly. God Moony….and Nymphy, doomed to never know their child, just like Prongs and Lily….it made him ill.
"Ted has it better than you did" Sirius said quietly.
"Yeah" Harry said softly, pride shining through his voice.
"I was a lousy godfather" Sirius gently broke away from the hug. He spoke quickly when Harry was about to protest "don't try and argue. I know that you're going to Obliviate us but I'm not-I'm not going to stop it. I failed you and I'm not going to try and change it. I won't be responsible for making you lose your children because I didn't want me or Moony to die."
Harry hugged him again tightly, and pressed his head against the other mans. "Thank you" he whispered. "I love you Padfoot."
Sirius sniffed and tightened his hold. "I love you Prongslet" Sirius whispered.
It took them a while to re-enter the kitchen.
It was nearing nine o'clock in the evening when the reluctant members of the future began the painful process of preparing to return home.
"Oh be careful dears" Molly sniffled as she engulfed her grandchildren in her arms.
"We'll see you soon Nana" Hugo said earnestly.
"Yeah Nan" James hugged her hard. "Pretty soon you'll be sick of us."
"There's not a chance of that" Arthur said shakily, as he hugged Lily tightly.
Ted bit his lip hard as he hugged his mother, savouring the cinnamon and citrus smell of her. God he'd only just met her; he didn't want to let her go.
Harry had told him about the battle of Hogwarts, how he had seen his parents, his godfather and Ted's father before he died with the Resurrection Stone. He had envied him and often daydreamed of finding the stone himself to use it one day.
Now he realised just how difficult it must have been to let it-and his parents go.
"Take care of yourself kiddo" Tonks pulled away, her eyes sparkling and shinier than normal. She stood up on her tiptoes and very carefully kissed his forehead. Ted closed his eyes, repressing the tears with iron control.
"Live well baby" she whispered very, very softly. "Marry Vicky and have lots and lots of shape shifting babies. Just don't name any of them after me okay?"
Ted choked on a laugh, strangled by a sob and buried his face in her hair.
"C'mere Wolfie" Tonks ordered roughly. The emotional werewolf had been watching the scene his eyes shining. It took only an instant for him to wrap his future wife and son into a strong hug.
"Live a long and happy life" Remus choked out. "Promise me you'll live your life with no regrets."
"I promise" Ted whispered.
"Hey come here too honey" Tonks ordered the teary eyed blonde. "If I thought you were good enough to marry my firstborn in the future then that's good enough for a group hug now."
Victoire met her fiancées eyes and went over to the hug, wrapping her arms fiercely around him and his mother, hot tears spilling down her cheeks.
"Ready?" Harry asked his younger self.
"Yeah" Harry nodded nervously, too overwhelmed to be anything but.
It was so surreal today and now he was going to forget it all. How was he going to forget everything? It just seemed so strange expecting it.
He looked at his future self, standing at the foot of the bed. He was so-imposing. Strong and powerful and graceful, but with an unmistakable weariness about him. What was his life going to be like to turn him into this warrior?
"Strange huh?" the older him seemed to read his mind.
Ron was snoring in his bed, already Obliviated and sleeping thanks to a sleeping spell. Most of the other inhabitants in Grimmauld Place were already in the same state.
"Harry I want you to remember something" his older self said suddenly as Harry swung himself into bed, making him start.
His older person scrutinised him for an instant before he smiled, a real genuine smile that made him look like the pictures he had of his father.
"Your life is going to be painful; there's no other way to put it. You'll lose much and you'll face so much danger that things seem impossible. Sometimes you'll wonder if it's all worth it and if you'll succeed."
He paused and Harry stared, at a loss for words.
"It may not seem like it now or even two years from now but you do succeed" emerald eyes met emerald. "You win. You will defeat Voldemort. And your life will be more amazing than anything you can possibly imagine."
Harry felt a slow smile spread across his face. Quickly he stuffed his glasses onto the desk and wiggled into the bed.
"Everyone got everything?" Ron asked softly.
They were all standing in the hallway just in front of Mrs Black's portrait, its curtains closed. All of the inhabitants were asleep, their memories modified. All of the pranks had been cancelled, their belongings catalogued and with them, all evidence (hopefully) coming back with them.
"Yeah" Albus murmured, while the others murmured softly in agreement. James carefully tucked a worn leather journal that Harry pretended he hadn't seen his godfather slip his eldest into his back pocket.
"I don't really want to leave" Lily whispered, standing close to her god-brother, her head on his arm while Victoire had her arm wrapped around his shoulder.
"Neither do I" Rose agreed softly.
"We know kids" Ron wrapped an arm around his daughter and squeezed. "But we have to."
"Come on" Harry murmured, stepping forward. "Your mothers are waiting."
There was an immediate groan, carefully pitched not to wake the portraits. Harry chuckled, and fished out the enlarged chain and single glittering time turner.
"Group up" he ordered as the chain enlarged and floated around the large group of people. For a tense moment, he checked to ensure no-one was left out. He paused for a moment, nostalgia gripping him. He felt an ache at leaving behind all those loved ones again-Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Dumbledore, Fred.
But they were dead and gone and did not belong in their future. And their future was worth keeping.
He said a single word.
A little late-just watched the celebration fireworks. Happy New Year to all.
There may be an epilogue at some point, but for now, this is finished. And thank goodness for that.
Best wishes to all for the New Year.