Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
- Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)
"Albus Severus," Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, "you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."
His youngest son looked up at him curiously.
"What do you mean, bravest man?"
Out of his depth, Harry knelt down and gave the boy a hug, attempting to avoid the awkward conversation.
"Who was he? I want to know more about him," Albus rambled on, a little too enthusiastically.
Harry grimaced as he saw Ginny stiffen next to him. She had never been partial to naming their third born after the controversial Potions Master.
"Severus Snape worked as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix," Harry explained shortly, "It is partly thanks to him that I survived the war."
"Wow," the eleven-year old remarked, amazed, "But dad, if Severus saved your life and he's the bravest man you ever knew, how is it that my first name is Albus? Why didn't you call me Severus Albus?"
"That is another story for another time," Ginny stepped in, visibly narked, "We wouldn't want you to miss the train, Al. Hurry up and board, dearest."
"Okay, but I want to hear all about Snape when I come home for Christmas!" the raven-haired boy yelled as he hopped on the train.
"Well, that's embarrassing," Ron snorted, casting Harry an amused glance.
"Shut up, Ron."
"I still can't believe you named your son after that greasy git, regardless of whether or not he was on our side or whether he fancied your mum. He was still a right jerk to you, Harry."
"While I appreciate your confusion Ron, you really don't know the half of it, and now is really not a good time to impart the rest," Harry said under his breath.
Ron's eyes widened silently. The rest?
"I swear, Harry, you had better be taking good care of my sister," Ron grunted, "If I get one more 3AM phone call… Let's just say you'd better start putting out, mate."
"My marital troubles are none of your business," Harry said heatedly, "And weren't we discussing Snape? What does my sex life have to do with Snape?"
Ron quirked his eyebrow just as Ginny returned from seeing the children off.
"Snape? You're still talking about him? Honestly, could we please have one day where we don't discuss Severus Snape?" Ginny rolled her eyes, "If I would have known that by naming our son after him…"
"To honour the dead," Harry interrupted her snappily, "To honour the two headmasters of Hogwarts who died fighting Voldemort, I wanted to name our son Albus Severus. Was that too much to ask?"
"You know it wasn't," Ginny retorted, "If that's all it had been."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry replied defensively.
Ron shrugged his shoulders and then opened his mouth as if he were about to say something.
"Ron, stay out of it," Harry cut him off, "You two go on without me. I need to cool down."
Ginny snorted, "Has this spat about Snape got you that hot and bothered?"
"Ron, you best escort your sister to the car," Harry instructed his friend testily, "I'll see Hermione home."
"Fine. But she's my wife, you know," Ron reminded him, "If you so much as –"
"Stop, Ron. Just stop. Hermione's been my friend and nothing more since I was eleven. I'm not about to start making advances on her now. Merlin."
"I'll be home for dinner," Ron warned him, "Hermione's waiting in the Anglia. Tell her I want chips and sandwiches. No corned beef, though. Remember to tell her that. Tell her to have it ready for 5 o'clock sharp."
"I'm not sure what's worse. Having a male chauvinist for a brother or having a poof for a husband," Ginny huffed.
Glowering silently, Harry turned away and started walking towards the Ford Anglia.
Hermione greeted him with an empathetic smile as he knocked softly on the passenger's front side window.
"It's all a bit anticlimactic, isn't it?" she observed thoughtfully as she opened the door for him, "I remember when I used to think that the fight against Voldemort was the war to end all wars. Now we spend our days quarrelling over bills, child care and foodstuffs."
Harry nodded soberly as he got situated, "A different kind of hell."
"I often wonder if adult life has to be like this," Hermione continued, starting the engine, "If married life has to be like this. Back at Hogwarts, everything seemed possible, if only I could finish my studies and if only you could defeat Voldemort. I also remember feeling so–"
"Feeling, yes," Harry agreed, "I miss that too. I almost long for the nights my scar used to burn. Merlin. If only I could… go back in time."
"You know you could, actually," Hermione reminded him in jest, "Magically speaking, that is…."
Harry looked at her expectantly, desperation in his eyes.
"Not that you could change anything… or save anyone," she added quickly, realizing she had fallen into a trap.
"I know you said you handed it in, but you don't happen to still have that old time turner, do you, Hermione?"
"What if I do? You're not seriously thinking of going back there, are you?"
"Hermione, please, I have to go back. Lately, I've been feeling as if that's what I'm meant to do, you know? As if I've already done it. You know how those things work, right?"
"What do you plan to do?" Hermione queried him, "What time do you want to go back to?"
"I want to attend my seventh year at Hogwarts," Harry blurted out, as if he had been planning it for ages, "It's ingenious. I'd never risk running into myself until the end of the year."
"You want to go back to the darkest year in Hogwarts' history? But why? Is life with Ginny really that bad?"
"Do you have the time turner?" Harry ignored her questions.
"Yes, but, Harry – I don't know," Hermione worried aloud, "It seems rather dangerous to send you back there."
"How so? Voldemort is dead. I'm alive. Nothing can change that. You said so yourself."
"You'd see Snape again," Hermione mused, "He'd be headmaster."
"I know," Harry said quietly.
"It would be different, knowing what you know now," she continued pensively.
"Yes," Harry said shortly.
"Strange. You never did complete your seventh year," Hermione realized, "And yet somehow you're an Auror… How did you swing that exactly?"
Harry snorted, "You know how, but hand over the time-turner, already. It would do me good to revise my Potions."
Hermione summarily landed the Anglia. Through the thick fog, Harry noticed a grey castle looming in the distance.
"We're…at Hogwarts? 'Mione?"
"Rose forgot her broomstick. I thought I'd deliver it to her personally," Hermione explained, popping the trunk, "Oh, and – here."
She tossed the time-turner to Harry, who had followed her outside into the chilly late summer evening.
"I knew it was only a matter of time before you'd ask me for it, though I thought it would be years ago. Ginny is always telling me how you seem to live in the past."
"Whinging, more like."
"Is it true, Harry? What Ginny says?"
"That I live in the past? Well, that is the plan," he smirked, donning the time-turner.
"You have to come back, Harry," Hermione intoned seriously, "You have to go back to her and face the music at some point. It's inevitable."
"That remains to be seen. Unless you have some newfound appreciation for divination, Hermione, I think you'll agree that you can't predict the future," Harry replied puckishly.
Smirking despite herself, Hermione started off towards the castle.
"Be safe, Harry!" she called to him, mildly exasperated.
Harry was already turning the time-piece, watching the flurry of seasons pass before his eyes.
Relief flooded over him as he found himself staring up at the castle on that late twentieth-century September night before Voldemort's fall from power.
All that mattered to Harry now was that somewhere in that enduring fortress, Severus Snape roamed, his black robes billowing: alive.