Title: With our Fortunes Change.
Word count: ~14,000.
Prompt: Over the rainbow.
Summary: Sent to an uncertain future by a faulty spell, Harry and Severus find themselves back in familiar territory – at Hogwarts. Now, they just need to work together long enough to figure out how to get back to the lives they were torn away from, which may be easier said than done.
Disclaimer: I'm not making any profit from this story.
A/N: Thanks to atypicalsnowman for beta work on the first portion of this story, and to my lovely (now somewhat scandalized) husband for looking over the rest. Originally written for Severus Sighs' Grand Challenge.
"'Tis not strange that even our loves should with our fortunes change."
Shakespeare. Hamlet, Act III Scene ii
Harry scowled at the tower of indignation swooping into his classroom.
"What are you doing here? Can't you see I'm in the middle of a class?" Harry snapped, waving his arm in a wide arc to encompass his nineteen students. They were spread throughout the room, squaring off with magical dummies and studiously ignoring their angry instructor and his visitor.
"Oh, your time is too good for me, I see!"
"I have office hours, you git!" Scowling, he resumed his path around the room, watching closely for imminent disasters. He wasn't sure the new recruits were quite ready for this lesson, but he had to follow the syllabus. Usually it wasn't a problem, but this group seemed to be struggling. At this rate, he'd never make decent Aurors out of them.
Not exactly a good time to be accosted by greasy bast– colleagues.
He was distracted from his thoughts by several apples popping into existence and falling to the floor. "Stevens!" he cried as one rolled between his feet. "Get rid of those before someone trips, would you? I assume you were going for Mala appareant with that? Watch your pronunciation, unless you're planning to make us all dessert."
"Potter, you will listen to me when I am speaking to you!" Snape bellowed.
Harry whirled to face him, fists clenched at his sides. "No, I won't. Not when you come storming in here in the middle of a lesson!" He took a deep breath and strove to achieve a reasonable tone. "Unless it's an emergency. Is it an emergency, Snape?"
"That depends," he answered with a sneer. "Did you actually think you could get away with holding back vital research simply because you are a Ministry sycophant with more luck than brains, riding the crest of a wave in whose momentum you had almost no part?"
Harry felt his face twist into a rictus of irritated confusion. "Look, I have no idea what you're talking about, but I want you out of my classroom right now," he said, one finger pointing at the door.
"Do not presume to dictate to me, you little twit!"
"It's for your own good, you bloody prat! We're in the middle of a very delicate lesson!" He kept his fists clenched in an effort to keep from brandishing his wand. Honestly, they hadn't seen each other in months! How did it always manage to degenerate into a shouting match so quickly?
"You think I cannot defend myself against these… these cretins?" Snape snarled, gesticulating wildly.
"Merlin, you are such an arrogant bastard!" Harry grabbed his arm and started dragging him toward the door – or trying to, at least. "Get out! Out of my classroom!"
"Get your hands off me!" Snape hissed, grasping at Harry's arms.
"Not until you get out of – "
The brat was cut off when a flash of spell-light enveloped them. Before Severus had a chance to be properly grateful for the reprieve, the classroom dissolved around them and he found other things taking precedence in his mind.
In fact, his mind seemed to be all he had at the moment. Where had his body gone? He cast about for sensations to analyze, but all he got was a vague sense of floating through the ether. The desks, the students, the very air seemed to have vanished. Perhaps if he concentrated harder?
After a brief interval – at least he thought it was brief – he also sensed bright bursts of magic coming and going, flitting about. Sensed, because he was certain he was not seeing them with his eyes. Somehow, he was perceiving these… things with his mind.
Severus considered that he should, perhaps, be panicking, but all he felt was weightlessness and an intense curiosity as to his surroundings.
His contentment waned when he perceived an irritating buzzing sound, like a mosquito darting around his head. Except, of course, he did not currently have a head – at least he did not think he did. What was that?
He felt something grab onto him, something that felt solid in a wispy sort of way, and the buzzing coalesced into a steady stream of "Oh Merlin, dear Merlin, sweet Merlin, where are we, dear Merlin…" Oh, of course. The Potter twit.
He tried to tune out the grating noise and focus on their environment. One swirling ball of magical light swooped close to him, and he could have sworn it had a familiar aura to it. Could it be…? Yes! It felt just like Hogwarts' wards! Fascinating.
Another came sailing by, and he recognized the distinctive overtone of a Fairycake Preservation Spell. Quelling his sudden craving for sweets, he catalogued as many as he could.
Swirling masses of magical energy darted about randomly, most of them too quickly for him to make any sense of them. He did, however, recognize a few. There were tiny, blue balls that smelled of Levitation Charms and slightly larger, diffuse masses reeking of hasty transfigurations. One immense, bright white burst of light felt distressingly like reality. He snatched at it, but it darted away from him.
Frustrated, Severus tried to concentrate harder. The next bit of magic he zeroed in on reminded him intensely of Draco as a toddler – he could practically see the downy blond hair and pointy little chin covered in drool. Another screamed, 'Legilimency!' and he shied away from it instinctively. The next seemed distinctly house-elf flavored. Was there no rhyme or reason to these things?
Amidst the Cheering Charms and bursts of broomstick magic, just at the edge of his perception, he felt something extremely familiar, something he had experienced recently. The spell that had sent them here? The caster, perhaps. Still, it seemed like a logical step toward finding their way out of here.
The incorporeal mass of Harry attached to him seemed to protest, but Severus nonetheless swam through the ether after the faintly pulsing ball, anxious lest it get away from him. It was almost within his grasp when he felt another reality-colored mass float close. Torn, he reached out with both hands, ignoring the buzz of Harry's 'No, no, no!', and grabbed onto them simultaneously.
The next thing he was aware of was a vast whiteness, filling his vision.
Ah, the ceiling.
He sat up and resolved to close his eyes until his head stopped spinning.
"Snape?" exclaimed a vaguely familiar voice, and he forced himself to open his eyes again.
"Potter?" He was certain it was Potter, but something was… different.
"You look ridiculous."
Severus scowled. "Look here, you little – "
Potter cut him off. "How old are you?" he asked, his face suddenly falling into a mask of terrified confusion.
"What do you mean, how…" Severus trailed off as he began to register some rather radical changes in himself as well. When was the last time he had not felt the aches in his hands? Most peculiar. "How old are you?"
"Erm. Thirty-four?" Potter offered, squirming a bit.
"Shite, do I look like a kid, too? I told you not to grab that one!"
"Then perhaps you should have done something yourself!"
"I was… Look, this isn't going to get us anywhere. We need to figure out what in the name of the founders is going on here! How old do I look? Because you look, like, sixteen."
Severus pressed his lips tight together for a long moment, then finally rolled up his sleeve. His arm was unblemished. He fought to keep his voice steady. "Well, presumably not yet graduated from Hogwarts. You look exactly like the unending publicity photos of you after the battle. Seventeen?"
Potter groaned. "Wonderful."
Severus gingerly rose to his feet, but thankfully the dizziness had all but gone. He stepped over to one of the artificial windows to look at his reflection. The face that stared back at him was like something from another lifetime, and he held back a shudder. "I believe I am approximately seventeen as… Oh."
"It is… January, is it not?"
Potter scurried over to join him at the charmed window and peered out at the bright blue sky and leafy trees. "Oh, Merlin. Well, it was." He glanced behind them and scanned the room. "All the students are gone. Desks, too. Looks like this room is hardly ever used. Think we landed in a different room?"
"No." Nothing so innocuous. He gave his wand a flick and incanted, "Tempus totalus." He could feel his heart racing as he read the words that flashed in the air before them.
'16 August, 2048.'
Potter gasped. "No… That's… that's…!"
This was too much. How could this have happened? Severus forced himself to think rationally, as far as he was able. "Thirty-three years," he supplied. "And eight months."
"Fucking hell," Potter whispered.
"Indeed?" Potter parroted. "Is that all you can say? This is your fault, you know!"
"How is this my fault?"
"You grabbed that ball! That purple one, and it took us to the future!"
"How was I supposed to know it would do that?" Severus demanded, waving his arms about for emphasis. "It was your incompetent student who sent us there in the first place!"
"Well, if you hadn't walked us right into her spell – "
"You pulled us into it, you little beast! What was she doing casting spells like that anyway? You are obviously an incompetent instructor."
"Hey, it's not my fault!" Potter yelled, balling his hands into fists. "They were just practicing. If we hadn't come between her and the dummy, everything would be fine. Besides," he continued, looking the slightest bit sheepish, "I don't think she meant for this to happen. She was probably just trying to send her opponent out of the room or something, but I guess the spell took 'elsewhere' to mean… well, nowhere. That weird void."
"I still say this is your fault," Severus snarled, crossing his arms over his chest and scowling out the window.
Potter sighed. "Can we forget about whose fault it is for ten seconds and concentrate on getting back?"
Severus looked up at that and raised an eyebrow. "Getting back? What makes you think we can?"
"Well, I… I…" Potter sputtered. "Oh, Merlin."
"Yes, quite. Our first course should be to ensure our safety. Namely, we should probably continue this conversation… elsewhere."
Potter cocked his head to the side. "Why? We should just go find someone and ask them to help us."
"Have you lost what little mind you had? We need to find someplace safe!" Severus glanced toward the door and couldn't help thinking someone might burst in at any moment. "They would cart us off to Mysteries, for research and experiments and whatnot. That's if they even believe us – we would likely spend the rest of our days strapped to beds in St. Mungo's!"
"Oh." Potter blinked. "Erm, yeah. I guess… Yeah, that would be bad. Let's get out of here."
After they left the bank, they walked along a crowded street, trying to find 'affordable but sanitary lodgings'. Harry had next to no idea what Snape meant by that, so he was hoping the man would know it when he saw it.
They walked several blocks in silence. Finally, though, Harry just had to say it. "You've got to be the most paranoid bastard alive."
Snape's stride quickened infinitesimally. "Why, because I was prepared?"
Harry scoffed. "For what? You had no idea this was going to happen."
"I was a spy, you imbecile. Of course I made contingency plans. It was only prudent."
"Well, yeah… But – "
"But what? I have enough money to see us through the next several months – for which I have yet to hear a 'thank you', incidentally – the requisite documents to establish an identity for myself, and enough healing potions to stock a very extensive medicine cabinet. What are you complaining about, precisely?"
"It's just," Harry protested, struggling to keep up, "what kind of bloke stashes a blank birth certificate in a secret Muggle bank account!"
Snape stopped abruptly and Harry nearly ran right into him. His eyes flashed as he turned them on Harry, and Harry automatically took a stumbling step back.
"The kind of man who leads a very dangerous life. The kind of man who might find himself hunted with very little notice. The kind of man who would need to keep himself safe long enough to relate any vital information he might have gathered. Me, Potter," Snape barked, thumping his palm against his chest, "a man like me!"
Stunned, Harry could only stand there gaping. He stared at Snape's young, barely recognizable face scowling at him, and realized he'd been an idiot. What kind of life must Snape have had back then, during the war, that he felt the need for a back-up plan like that? He must have lived in constant terror. Of course, he was still a git, but…
He realized he must've been silent too long, because Snape whirled around and started walking again. Harry jogged to catch up. "I'm sorry! I didn't… I wasn't thinking."
Snape gave his head a little shake. "You rarely are."
They were finally settled into a room. Severus sat stiffly in the single chair, staring out the window. He liked to think of himself as a resourceful man, but he was still somewhat in disbelief about the entire situation. How could they have lost over three decades?
He was torn as to what to be angrier about: their traveling to the future, or their sudden de-aging. What cruel twist of fate had dangled the magic of the caster in front of him and, instead of reversing her spell, simply transformed his and Potter's ages to match hers? He had not enjoyed being seventeen the first time, and he did not imagine the experience would improve upon repeating.
Still, however thin and gangly he may be, he had to admit it was nice to be able to move however he pleased with no ill consequence. He could not say he missed the horrible tattoo that had blemished his arm for so long, either.
His thoughts were interrupted when Potter gracelessly exited the loo, stumbling against the doorframe and into the side table. "Bloody hell!" Potter grumbled, "I don't remember being this clumsy as a teenager."
Severus made no answer.
Potter flopped down onto the end of one of the beds. "So, what do we do now? You've got all those papers, right?"
Severus turned slightly to face him. "I see no immediate means of returning to our own time, so yes, it would behoove us to establish our identities. I have three sets of identification documents, so you may use one."
"Er, thanks. You've got three?"
"Yes," Severus answered with a glare, daring the brat to comment further, "I have."
"Ah. So, should we… do that now?"
Severus wondered if the boy was completely incapable of making independent decisions. "I certainly intend to. You may do whatever you please."
Potter scowled. "You don't have to be snappy about it."
"I know," Severus answered, dividing up the documents and giving a set to Potter. "Choose your new vital statistics carefully – I have no wish to be discovered," he admonished preemptively, and snatched up a biro to fill out his own forms.
Several minutes later, when they had both put down their pens, Potter ventured, "So, what's your name, then?"
"John Severus Prince," Severus announced.
Potter chuckled. "Bit obvious, don't you think?"
Not bothering to temper his derisive sneer, Severus explained, "The surname Prince allows for my resemblance to Severus Snape – I shall be a distant cousin. John is innocuous enough. However, I have no doubt that you will be incapable of referring to me by a pseudonym, so you may call me by my middle name, which is comparatively common in the Prince family: Severus."
"You want me to call you Severus?" Potter asked, brows raised, incredulous.
"Is that unacceptable to you?"
"No, no, that's fine. Severus it is." He gave his papers a wave. "My new name's Sam Harrison. That way people can still call me Harry!" he declared, clearly of the opinion that he was the cleverest man alive.
Severus scoffed. "Just Sam? Not Samuel?"
"Er, no. I guess not. Just Sam."
"I see. And you have no middle name?"
Potter glanced down at his paper. "Will."
Severus' eyes widened in disbelief. Was he being purposefully stupid?
Potter sighed and scribbled something on his piece of paper. "Fine. William."
"Very well. I trust you have included all the requisite information?" Severus asked, letting his sneer convey just how likely he found that.
"Of course I did," Potter answered with a petulant scowl.
Severus knew better than to take him at his word, but decided to let that matter drop in favor of more important things. "We need to discuss our plans."
"Oh… Well, erm," he began, eyes wide, "well, obviously we need to get back."
"'We need to get back'. Yes, Potter, that is a marvelous plan indeed," Severus retorted, shaking his head at the boy's naiveté. "How do you suggest we go about that? You and your band of merry men destroyed every last Time-Turner the Ministry had. As of 2015, as far as I am aware, no more had been created. Whom would you like to ask whether any new ones have been fashioned since then? Or shall we go directly to the MLE and turn ourselves in?"
Potter clenched his hands in the fabric of his trousers, much too large on his teenager's frame, and huffed a breath out through his nose. "There's not a spell, or something?"
Severus barely resisted rolling his eyes. "If there had been a spell, why do you imagine all those Time-Turners were created?"
"Well, then… But… What are we going to do?"
Merlin, it was as if the idiot had turned back into a seventeen-year-old, simply because he looked like one. "You have been an Auror for the last ten-odd years, have you not? You are capable of rational thought?"
"Oh, shut up," Potter snapped, shooting a scowl at him. "Forgive me if I'm a little freaked out by all this, all right?"
Severus did not deign to reply to the outburst. Instead, he went back to staring out the window, waiting for Potter to regain control of himself. Finally, just as the rapidly fading twilight gave way to darkness, he spoke.
"What do you suggest we do?" he asked, arms crossed over his chest and shoulders hunched.
"We should go to Hogwarts," Severus answered. At Potter's questioning look, he explained, "We are seventeen years old. We have no credentials, only identification. If we are unable to find a way back to our time immediately, we will need to be able to live in this world until we do." If ever we do, he added silently. "That course will also give us access to one of the most extensive libraries in Wizarding Britain."
"You think we'll be able to find the answer there, then?"
Severus pursed his lips. If Potter needed to believe they would find a way to restore themselves, he would humor him for now, if only to keep him from panicking long enough to come to grips with the situation. "Not necessarily, but we will at least have a chance."
"Yeah, okay. Hogwarts it is, then."
Three days later, Harry was having second thoughts about the whole Hogwarts thing. They'd already worked out a whole story, about how they'd been home-schooled, but wanted to make sure they did well on their NEWTs, so they were coming to Hogwarts for their final year. How they'd been living in Australia for the last ten years because their do-gooder parents had gone to help with relief efforts after the tsunami (which Snape had read about in one of the many newspapers he'd been poring over), fallen in love with the place, and just stayed.
They'd bickered and yelled over the details for hours. Harry had wanted them to have been in France, and Snape reminded him that he didn't actually know French. Harry had wondered aloud why they needed to be out of the country at all, and Snape had said in that case, he hoped Harry had a good explanation for why they weren't on the list to receive Hogwarts letters. Harry had suggested they pose as cousins or something, since their parents were palling around the world together, and Snape had made it clear that if he even had to pretend to be related to a Potter, he was going to kill himself, or maybe Harry.
Snape had even written to the school already, asking for permission to enroll and book lists and all that, so it seemed like a shame to scrap the idea now.
But it had finally occurred to Harry that this meant they'd really have to be seventh year students. They'd have to go to classes and do homework and pass their exams. They'd have to hang out with teenagers all day long. They would have a curfew!
"Are you sure we have to go to Hogwarts?"
Snape sighed. "What now?"
"Well, it's just… how much do you remember from your last year of school? I didn't even go that year!" Even if he had, he doubted he would remember anything useful.
"Surely you cannot be a worse student than you were before. And I remember quite a bit, I'll have you know."
Harry scowled and picked at the hem of his shirt. Merlin, but it was nice to be in clothes that fit properly again. "Well, that doesn't exactly help me, does it?"
Snape just shrugged. "We were taught by our parents. We were raised almost entirely in another hemisphere. We have ready excuses for any gaps in our knowledge. Within reason," he added.
"Do you have an objection that does not stem directly from laziness?" Snape asked with a sneer.
Harry struggled not to seem as if he was pouting. "Well, you can't tell me you're looking forward to it either."
"Of course not," Snape scoffed. "But I see no other choice. It is necessary, and complaining about it will not change anything."
"Bloody wanker," Harry muttered.
"I heard that."
Severus neatly folded the letter and placed it with his other important documents.
"So we're in, then?"
Severus nodded. "Indeed."
"Who signed it?"
"Headmistress Stella Fawcett." He paused a moment to think. Should he not know that name?
"Hey, I think I went to school with her. Ravenclaw, right?"
"I believe so." Another, somewhat disconcerting, thought occurred to him. "Did you know her well?"
Potter shook his head. "Nah, we weren't even in the same year."
That was a relief. The last thing they needed was one of Potter's long-lost fans running up to him and squealing.
"Oh, I wonder who else is teaching!"
Severus wondered as well. He had no doubt they could fool their fellow students; it was the professors they would need to worry about. "Kevin Whitby had just begun teaching Astronomy in 2015, so it is likely he still will be. Vector might be teaching still. The rest will probably be new. Except for me."
Potter's head jerked around to gape at him. "Except for…? Whoa. That did not occur to me."
"Hardly surprising," Severus said with a sneer.
"What are we going to do?" Potter asked, eyes wide.
"Obviously, we will not be taking Potions. We must also take care not to be sorted into Slytherin House." Other precautions would need to be taken, of course, but Severus had not quite worked out what those should be yet.
Potter scoffed. "No kidding."
One brief, if heated, discussion later, it was decided that they would attempt to be sorted into Ravenclaw. They both felt that Hufflepuffs would be too apt to try and befriend them, and Severus would not hear a word of Potter's insane wish to return to his beloved Gryffindor.
Surely if they concentrated on their plans to research a remedy to their situation during their Sorting, all would be well.
"So Ravenclaw, huh? I guess that's not so bad," Potter said, shrugging. Suddenly, he grinned. "I can't imagine you going long without brewing any potions, though. Sure you'll be able to make it?"
Severus scowled fiercely enough to wipe the amused smirk right off Potter's face. "Why should you be so concerned? I seem to recall you being most adamant about thwarting my efforts in that vein."
Potter's brow furrowed. "Huh?"
"Do not give me that innocent face!" Severus clenched his fists, his sudden anger intense enough that he had to fight not to draw his wand. "I know very well what you did."
"What I…?" Potter blinked, wide-eyed. "What are you so pissed off about? I didn't do anything!"
"You thought I wouldn't find out? That you could get away with anything, just because of who you are?"
"Wait a minute. Is this what you came swooping into my classroom for? We got sent to the future and turned seventeen because you were in a snit about something I didn't even do?" the boy cried, waving his arm about, then running a hand roughly through his hair.
"You did!" Severus rejoined. "When I asked Butterby why my proposal had been denied, he told me, and I quote: 'Because Harry Potter said so.'"
Severus was livid, just remembering it. He had swept out of Butterby's office and immediately made for the MLE in search of Potter to wring his scrawny little neck. The nerve of the twit, denying him just for spite!
"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Butterby? Is that the bloke from Potions Research Oversight? He… he asked me about…" He looked away, muttering, "What was it? Oh! That's right, blue stellati – he wanted to know if it was dangerous. I told him it could be, yeah."
Severus looked at him skeptically, accusingly, waiting for the rest of the story, because surely there was more to it.
"I swear! I didn't know it was about your proposal. Hell, I didn't even know you'd submitted one." Potter paused and tilted his head to the side, considering. "Wow, did he really deny it just because I said that? If I'd known what he was really asking, I would've found out more. Just because it's a controlled substance doesn't mean it can't be used in legitimate research. He should've known that."
Merlin help him, but the boy looked perfectly earnest. Could this be so? Could he have pinned the blame for his professional embarrassment on the wrong man? His heart pounded in his chest as his fury rapidly faded and he cast about for purchase, anxious to regain his mental footing.
Potter rolled his eyes. "Trust you to just barge in and interrupt my lesson, all to tell me off for something that wasn't even my fault. Just like you always do, assuming the worst about me. And look where it got us!" he snapped, sweeping his arm around their hotel room in a futile attempt to encompass their bizarre situation.
Severus' eyes narrowed. "The fault was not mine, and I will not engage in this argument yet again!"
"Well, it sure wasn't my fault. I didn't do anything wrong!"
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Severus heaved a sigh. "Shall we agree to disagree on this topic? We have other concerns at the moment."
"Oh, yeah? What exactly are we supposed to be doing right now?"
Anything, Severus thought, that would keep him from examining their conversation. Anything to avoid the realization that Harry sodding Potter was sodding right, that he had jumped to conclusions on limited information, that he had taken action with no plan in mind beyond putting the presumptuous prat in his place.
Anything to stop him feeling like a fool. It was inevitable at this juncture, but he would much prefer to do it alone.
He picked up a scrap of parchment and waved it in the air. "We should be buying our books, now that we are able." Severus stood and reached for his outer robes. "Come along, then."
Potter followed with a huff.
In the end, Snape made them buy the books for every subject, even Potions, because they didn't know for sure what subjects they'd be taking.
So far, Harry had successfully resisted Snape's none-too-subtle suggestions that he read through as many of the bleeding things as he could before school started. Snape was persistent, but Harry was confident he'd be able to hold out.
Honestly, though, if he didn't find something to occupy his mind soon, he might seriously consider resorting to reading.
His thoughts were turning more and more to the life he'd left behind. He wondered what Ron and Hermione were up to, how little Rose was doing, both back where he'd left them and here, where he didn't really even know them. There was so much he wouldn't be, hadn't been there for.
He missed having lunch with his colleagues, just joking around and complaining about the boss, their students, and the abundance of petty thieves. His fellow Aurors had all been great chaps – especially Steve, who'd been his partner. They had been paired for the last four years, and they worked well together. Harry hadn't realized how much he depended on that easy camaraderie until he didn't have it anymore.
More than any of that, though, he missed a good shag. By his reckoning, it had been over four weeks, a bloody month, since he'd been laid. He and Adam hadn't exactly been close, but they'd had good enough chemistry. As long as they didn't really try to talk to each other, they got along great.
He didn't miss the hurried hellos before their clothes started coming off or that awkward spell after getting them back on again, but he definitely missed the scratch of Adam's beard against his thighs and the sensation of tight, pulsing heat around his cock and that burning, stretching, throbbing that spoke of hasty preparation radiating up from his entrance. The sex wasn't usually terribly inventive or earth-shattering between them, but it was good.
Just thinking about it was getting him in a right state. If he weren't stuck in the future, he could call Adam up and probably get that taken care of with very little fuss. Unfortunately, he was seventeen years old in a world where everyone he knew was old and grey, and he was smart enough to know he couldn't just go down to the local and pick up some random bloke.
Harry heaved a sigh and reached for his Advanced Charms text.
Harry had been hopeful, but he was forced to conclude that he, in fact, did not like the Sorting Hat any better on a second fitting.
'What do you mean, Ravenclaw?' the hat asked, incredulous.
'What's so hard to believe about that?' Harry snapped.
'Nothing, nothing. Only that you are, without doubt, the most impetuous and plucky, brash and daring young man I have encountered in many a year. You can also be rather devious when you put your mind to it, and fiercely loyal… though I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call you diligent.'
'But studious? Excited about learning for learning's sake? Overwhelmed by intellectual curiosity?'
Harry screwed his eyes shut and concentrated on his plan to spend every waking moment in the library, how he'd pore over books until he was red-eyed and blue in the face. He'd be every color of the bloody rainbow if it would get him back to his life.
'My, you do want it rather badly, don't you?'
Clenching his teeth against the urge to tell the hat exactly where it could shove it, Harry just nodded.
'Well, if you're that determined… Make it Ravenclaw!'
He sagged in relief, his mission accomplished, and made his way to the Ravenclaw table. He soon found, to his surprise, that it was really no different from sitting at the Gryffindor table. The girl seated next to him shot him a smile and the guy across from him reached over and gave his shoulder a friendly punch.
Just like old times, except now everyone was staring at him wondering why he was only starting Hogwarts now, rather than gawking at his scar and whispering about 'The Boy Who Lived'. He took a moment to thank Merlin and all the founders that the scar had gone with the Horcrux.
His happy respite evaporated when he caught sight of Snape settling himself onto the stool. It would be just like the bastard to get himself put right back into Slytherin and leave Harry all by himself with a bunch of adolescent know-it-alls.
But, before Harry even had time to work up a proper snit, the hat was bellowing, 'Ravenclaw!' and Snape was coming toward him. Harry stared at him wide-eyed, mentally demanding to know how he had managed it so easily.
Severus settled himself into the empty chair at Potter's right and attempted to steady his nerves. In his rightful time, it had been Severus' duty as Minerva's deputy to escort new students into the Great Hall to be sorted. Thankfully, that duty now seemed to fall to Whitby, but it could not be long until he came face-to-face with an eighty-eight-year-old version of himself. He did not look forward to it.
Potter elbowed him in the ribs, and Severus turned to scowl at him.
"How'd you get it to agree so quickly?" Potter hissed.
Severus gave no answer but a sneer. Trust Potter to pester him with inane questions when they had more important things to worry about. Turning away, he glanced up at the High Table, trying to locate his older self. Several faces seemed vaguely familiar, and he assumed he had taught them at some point, but he did not see the man for whom he was searching.
But then he caught sight of an old man hunched at the far end of the table. His hair was straight and his nose was large, and for a moment Severus wondered if that might be him. The thought was soon abandoned, however, when he saw the man lean closer to the woman next to him and break into a grin at something she said.
"Oh my god," Potter whispered beside him, and he sounded so aghast that Severus turned and raised a questioning eyebrow at him.
"Oh my god," he repeated. "Is that…? Is that…?"
"What, Po— Harry? Spit it out."
Potter leaned closer, and Severus was disturbed to see how pale his face was. "Do you recognize that bloke all the way to the left? With the glasses?"
Severus turned his eyes back to the High Table and easily located the man in question. He was grey and balding, and the eyes behind his glasses seemed to be looking through his food rather than at it. He was thin, and held himself in a way that made Severus wonder why he was even teaching when it was clear he was completely apathetic.
He seemed like an old man, but Severus decided he could not actually be any older than seventy. It certainly was not the older Severus, as he had assumed when Potter pointed him out.
"Should I?" Severus asked finally.
"I think that's… Merlin's sake, he looks just like me!" Potter said in a frantic whisper.
Severus looked back at the man who seemed so lost in another world. Surely that could not be! There was a resemblance, but where was the defiance, the passion and verve, the spark he had come to associate with Potter? If that was truly the brat who had plagued him so long, where was the aura of energy that should have surrounded him? No, it could not be.
"He looks… hollow," Potter murmured, and Severus could do nothing but nod in agreement.
He was jolted from his perusal of the man when Headmistress Fawcett stood and smiled across the hall. "Welcome, boys and girls," she said, "to another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!"
Later that night, while the other seventh-year Ravenclaw boys recounted their summer adventures to one another, Harry and Snape sat apart from them – Harry on the end of his bed and Snape perched in Harry's desk chair. Every few minutes, one of the other boys would throw them a curious glance, but for the most part they were left to themselves.
"This is… not turning out how I expected," Harry said finally.
Snape just snorted at him. And it was fair, Harry supposed, after everything that had happened.
When their Head of House had gathered all of Ravenclaw in the common room and introduced herself as 'Orla Quirke, Mistress of Potions', he'd had a hard time containing his surprise. He'd thought Snape must have just figured a way to get out of attending the Welcoming Feast, but this would definitely explain his absence.
It would probably make it easier for them to keep up their new identities, Harry reckoned. If he wasn't at Hogwarts, though, where the hell was he?
And on top of that, the not-entirely-there old man really was him! Or would be him, or whatever. He was Professor Potter, Defense Master, and according to one of the Ravenclaw prefects, had been for twenty-five years or so.
It was more than enough to boggle the mind, and thinking about it too much sort of made Harry's head hurt.
"What are we going to do?" he asked.
"We're Ravenclaws now," Snape said, mouth twisting in a dark smirk. "Research, of course."
As expected, their research had not uncovered any useful information. Though his research would be a more apt term, as Potter's idea of it seemed to involve skimming through random books and bemoaning his woeful fate.
Either way, they were no closer to discovering a way to reverse the bizarre circumstances in which they found themselves. They were able, however, to lay a few questions to rest.
Harry Potter had indeed been a professor at Hogwarts since his retirement from the Auror corps twenty-three years ago. According to their fellow students, he had been 'hazy', as they put it, since before they'd started school and they neither knew nor cared to know the cause.
The issue of his older self had required a bit more digging. When he had questioned Professor Quirke, asking how long she'd been at Hogwarts and what had happened to her predecessor, she had answered, "Oh, I've been teaching Potions nigh on fifteen years. Not too sure what happened to old Snape, though. Can't say I particularly care to find out, either," with a 'who cares?' sort of shrug.
So that had sent him searching through back issues of the Daily Prophet, where he finally found a headline on page twelve of the paper from 2 July, 2034: "Former Death Eater Murdered?"
The article was short and contained next to no real information. He had looked for follow-ups, for articles in other publications, for official documentation, but as far as he could tell, there were no more details to be had.
It was all manner of frustrating.
Had he truly been murdered? He could not say he was especially shocked by the news, but the fact that there was apparently no indication of who or why or even how was most vexing. The official investigation had been closed over a decade ago 'due to lack of evidence' and there was, unsurprisingly, no one who seemed to care.
Just three weeks of blending in with a herd of teenagers, trying to keep up with his schoolwork, and spending all his free time in the library with Snape sneering at him, and Harry was already exhausted. He couldn't figure out for the life of him why the older Harry had quit the Aurors and come to teach. What sort of masochist would subject himself to this insanity?
And Snape had even made them take Potions! Apparently, now that they weren't in danger of being discovered by the professor, the subject was essential. He didn't know why he was surprised.
The weirdest thing was DADA class. Even after three weeks, it was still strange as hell to sit in the back of that room and listen to himself lecture. At first, he had been sure Professor Potter would recognize, if not both of them, at least Harry.
He shouldn't have worried, though, as Professor Potter never even looked at them. He never looked at anyone. In fact, it seemed to Harry that he was completely unaware of the world around him. He just read monotonously from his notes, gave his half-hearted spell demonstrations, and stared into space.
So, yes, DADA was most definitely weird.
Just because the professor didn't make the connection between them, of course, didn't mean no one else did. Harry'd been asked at least five separate times since school started if he was related to Professor Potter. Each time, he had just shrugged and said something along the lines of, "Nah. Uncanny, though, isn't it?" and they had laughed it off as strange coincidence.
No one had said anything about Snape's name or appearance, though. Especially after all Snape's preparations, the careful explanations he had thought up, Harry had a hard time not laughing at the fact that no one ever noticed a thing. Bit sad, of course, that nobody seemed to remember Severus Snape well enough to recognize him, but it was still funny. Not that he'd go telling Snape that, mind.
But all funniness and weirdness aside, Harry was a bit upset that they weren't making more progress in their research. Hell, he'd settle for any progress at all. He just wanted to get back to his life, for everything to be normal again. He just wanted to go home.
As it was, they were no closer to finding a way back than the day they'd arrived.
Potter passed him a note in the middle of Transfigurations. A sodding note! In the middle of a sodding lesson! If he did not know that he would be punished as well, he might have turned the little twit in to Professor Higgs. The Head of Slytherin was not quite the terror Severus had been, but he was known to be a strict disciplinarian.
He idly considered balling the scrap of parchment and launching it at the back of Potter's head, then glanced down to read it.
'Library after class?'
Severus did not roll his eyes, though he was sorely tempted. Rather than calming down as Severus had hoped, Potter seemed to grow ever more concerned about returning to the year 2015. Almost all he had spoken of since they came to Hogwarts over a month ago was 'getting home'.
He could understand Potter's obsession, he supposed – Potter had friends, a career he enjoyed, and probably an attractive lover waiting for him – but he could not say he shared it. After all, what was there for him to go home to?
Even seventeen years after the war, people still whispered, 'Death Eater,' and 'evil,' and 'murderer'. He still had to endure the Ministry's periodic questioning when someone with a grudge implicated him, the fine-tooth comb they used on every proposal he submitted, their restrictions on international travel. He still needed to block hexes nearly every time he showed his face outside Hogwarts.
Why should he wish to return to that existence? There was no appeal in that life, in the solitude or the thankless job or the watchfulness, no draw at all in the infamy. He needed only to consider that the murder of Severus Snape had gone unsolved – uninvestigated, practically – for fourteen years to understand the regard in which he was held.
In addition to that, Severus really had no idea what the consequences of them returning to 2015 might be. Other versions of them had clearly continued living after they were sent to the future; if they went back, they had no assurance their doubles would not be there waiting for them. With his luck, he would be arrested for impersonating a professor and spend the rest of his days in Azkaban.
He had tried to explain this to Potter, of course, but the brainless wonder had simply professed his willingness to 'take their chances'.
On the other hand, he could do without being a bloody teenager. If he thought there was any possibility of returning them to their proper ages without alerting the general populace as to their true identities, he would grab it with both hands. Slim though the chance seemed, he supposed it merited continued investigation.
So when Potter, after Severus had apparently been too long in answering, threw him an impatient glance, he nodded.
"You sure you were murdered?" Harry asked when Snape finally told him about the article.
"Of course I'm sure," he snapped.
"Well, how do you know you didn't just get tired of all the dunderheads and scarper off to be a hermit or something?" It certainly seemed like something Snape would do.
"Po—Harry. They found my… his… the body! It was buried!"
"No need to shout," Harry said, glancing around meaningfully to remind him that the study alcove might seem secluded, but it was still right in the common room.
"Yes," Snape said in a somewhat more normal tone, "I'm sure."
He might not like the prat, but Harry knew Snape well enough to know that if he said he was sure, then it was pretty damn likely. "Huh. So, murdered. And you don't know who did it?"
"It would seem no one does," Snape answered.
Harry looked at him incredulously. "Well, don't you think you ought to find out?"
"I admit to being curious, but I do not see that it is pressing," Snape replied, thumbing through his Herbology text like they weren't talking about his life here.
Harry sputtered. "But… but what if someone finds out who you are? What if whoever killed you the first time wants to do it again? They might come after you!"
Snape sent him a sidelong glance. "You seem disproportionately upset."
"Damn right, I'm upset! I don't want anyone killing you."
When Snape gave him an odd look he couldn't quite place, Harry added, "You're the only person I know here. How would I get home without you?" and the familiar sneer quickly returned.
"Of course," Snape said, rolling his eyes. "You would be concerned solely with yourself."
"Well… but… Think of it this way: when we do get back, don't you want to try not to get killed? If we solve the murder now, we can stop it happening. I was an Auror for nearly fifteen years, you know. I've got some experience with the whole crime-solving thing."
"Wonderful recovery," Snape drawled.
"Oh, shut up."
Severus did not know what was more humiliating: the fact that he was actually a little afraid of the scorpion dangling in front of his face, the knowledge that they'd taken his wand from him so easily when he had forty years of experience on them, or the déjà vu-like familiarity of being laughed at by a gang of sodding Gryffindors.
"What the – Bloody fucking hell!"
Ah, none of those, then. That it was all happening with Potter there to witness it was easily the worst part of the entire situation.
"What do you think you're doing, Anderson?" Potter shouted.
The one closest to him, supposedly Anderson, smirked. "Just teaching this ugly know-it-all a lesson."
Potter stepped closer. "You lot are just jealous because he's so much smarter than you. Let him go."
Anderson scoffed. "What is he, your girlfriend? Best run along before we find a poisonous little friend for you, too," he said, glancing at the scorpion he was Levitating inches from Severus' nose.
Forcibly turning his attention away from the arachnid, which was kicking its legs and striking at empty air with its stinger, Severus looked at Potter. He just knew that underneath his flashy display of Gryffindor honor, Potter must be loving this, seeing a man he hated being taunted for sport. It would be just like a Potter to get a thrill out of it.
Strangely, though, Severus could not find a trace of suppressed delight in his face, no matter how hard he searched.
Surely the twit was not actually concerned for him?
"I won't tell you again – Let him go!"
The boys just laughed, and Anderson inched the scorpion closer.
Then, with a rapid series of tight, controlled flicks of his wand, Potter Banished the arachnid, Disarmed the five Gryffindors, and Bound them before they even had time to stop laughing. In that moment, Severus finally understood that it was skill, not celebrity, that had given Potter such a formidable reputation as an Auror.
"You all right?" Potter asked as he handed Severus' wand back to him.
Somewhat shaken and more than a little embarrassed that he had just been rescued by a former student from a bunch of sodding teenagers, Severus answered with a curt, "Fine."
He spun to stalk away, eager to get out of there, but stopped when Potter laid a tentative hand on his forearm. "You sure?" he asked.
Something in his gut clenched at Potter's genuinely concerned tone. "I'm fine. Your actions are… appreciated."
Potter grinned. "You're welcome."
"Thank you," Severus bit out. "You didn't have to do that for me."
Potter just shrugged. "I'd have done it for anyone."
He should have been relieved, but something in him sank when he realized Potter was being completely honest: it truly had not mattered to him whom he was rescuing. It could have been anyone.
Bloody noble prat.
Just then a professor hurried up to them, robes flapping behind him, trailed by the panicked first-year who had probably gone to fetch him. "Someone care to tell me what's going on here?" he asked, eyebrows going up when he caught sight of the five Gryffindors bound with rope.
"I did that," Potter offered, holding out the five wands. "They were ganging up on my housemate here."
Professor Abercrombie tucked the wands into a pocket and eyed him. They didn't take Care of Magical Creatures and they weren't Gryffindors, so Severus supposed it made sense the professor might have trouble placing them. "You're Sam, right? Sam Harrison?"
Potter nodded. "I usually go by Harry, though."
Abercrombie turned to Severus. "And you?"
He nodded. "Anyone injured?"
"No, Professor," Potter answered.
"All right, then. I'll deal with this lot, and you boys go find Professor Quirke, make sure she knows what happened," Abercrombie instructed. "Best stick with the truth, because she and I will be discussing this later."
As they nodded and turned to go, Severus found himself unaccountably troubled by the thought that if Potter had ever had a modicum of respect for him, it was surely overruled now.
Blind to the rest of the game, Harry followed the twists and feints of the Seeker with rapt attention. He could almost feel his belly drop every time the girl made a nosedive.
"I should have gone out for the team," he muttered. The girl was good, but he was positive he had been better. She certainly hadn't been the youngest Seeker in a century.
Snape turned to him and raised an eyebrow. "It's been… what, fifteen years since you last played?"
"Nearly eighteen," Harry said, chagrined. Maybe Snape had a point. Still… "I did play pick-up with the Weasleys every now and then."
"Pick-up with the Weasleys!" Snape said dramatically. "Pardon me; you must be in top form."
"Oh, shut up and watch the game." Crossing his arms, Harry slouched into his seat and looked for the blonde-haired Seeker. What was her name? Judy? Julie? As long as he could vicariously chase the Snitch through her, he supposed it really didn't matter.
Snape's silence was, unfortunately, short-lived. "Are your lessons coming more easily, then, that you wish for something to fill the idle hours?" he asked with skeptically arched eyebrow. "Or have you given up on our… special project."
"Oi, I'm doing just fine in class! Better, anyway." Merlin, but he hated it when Snape was right. "Hey, you're one to talk! How's Transfigurations going for you, then? Managed a clock that actually ticks yet?"
Suddenly, he heard the ding of a goal scored, and Snape gave a start and raised his hands as if to clap. Thankfully, it seemed he heard the booing of the other Ravenclaws around them and stopped himself.
Harry laughed and leaned closer. The crowd was loud and no one was paying any attention to them, but it wouldn't do to be overheard. "Still cheering for Slytherin, Professor?" he murmured.
Snape just scowled. "Certainly not. I cheer for no one."
Moments later, Slytherin scored another goal and Harry saw Snape's face light up for a split second before he schooled his features back to impassivity.
"Sure you don't," Harry said, chuckling.
"As Head of House, I had to give the appearance of unwavering support for the Slytherin team," Snape quietly insisted. "Some habits are difficult to break."
"Uh-huh," Harry said to placate him, "right, whatever you say."
"Watch the game," Snape huffed.
"What do you think his problem is?" Potter asked as they filed out of the Defense classroom.
"To whom do you refer?"
"Oh, don't be stupid. You know exactly who I mean," Potter answered, hefting his bag higher on his shoulder. "Professor Potter."
"How should I know?" Severus asked, weaving his way through the throng of students in the corridor. Really, what made Potter think it was a good idea to discuss this now?
"What, you don't even have a guess? It just doesn't make any sense!" Potter groused. "I could never be like that."
"All evidence to the contrary," Severus pointed out.
He wished Potter would just drop it. He preferred not to think of Professor Potter at all, and he especially disliked comparing him to his younger counterpart. Potter was right: something drastic must have happened to leave the Professor like this, an empty shell of a person that in no way resembled the spirited young man walking next to him.
The thought alone was disturbing, and Severus shied away from it. "Stop dawdling. We'll be late for Herbology and Cottonfoot will give us detention."
Potter scoffed. "Cottonfoot never gives anyone detention."
True enough, but Severus was not about to agree with Potter. He made it general policy not to, if it could be avoided.
"Library after class?" Potter asked.
"As ever," Severus answered, increasing his pace in an attempt to hurry Potter along.
"Bit nippy today," Potter said as they stepped outside.
"Brilliant observation," Severus said. "Terribly shocking as well, given the fact that it's sodding November. Any other insights you'd like to share?" he asked, scowling as he pulled his gloves out of his pocket.
He turned his glare on Potter as he tugged the gloves on and, to his surprise, found the twit smiling at him. He was not at all comfortable with how gratifying he found that, but he could not bring himself to turn away.
"Not at the moment, no," Potter said, eyes sparkling in amusement, "but you'll be the first to know."
Harry found it very reassuring how little Hogsmeade had changed. Some of the shops were owned by different people and one or two of them had been replaced by something new, but the town still felt just the same as it ever had.
There were still kids roaming around, exclaiming over this or that window display, trying to figure out how they could sneak Zonko's products into the castle, wondering whether it was a date or not when their best friend said to meet at the Three Broomsticks at one.
Best of all, walking down the high street as the snow fell softly, just dusting his shoulders, and watching the lights twinkle around the doors and windows still gave him that wonderful feeling of Christmastime.
He sighed. "Don't you just love Hogsmeade in December?"
"It's cold and it's crowded," Snape answered, burrowing further into his scarf.
Harry just smiled fondly. "Yeah."
"Can we go somewhere indoors?" Snape grumbled.
"We should probably split up for a while, don't you think?"
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Why?" he asked, then quickly added, "Not that I don't welcome the respite."
"Christmas shopping," Harry answered. "I don't trust you to look the other way."
Snape stopped walking and turned an indecipherable look on him. "You're buying me a Christmas present?"
Merlin, you'd think he'd never had a gift before. "Of course I am, you git. You'd better be getting me one as well."
"Right. Of course."
"Okay, off with you, then."
Snape scowled when Harry made a little shooing motion with his hands, but he went.
Later, after half an hour of fruitless wandering, Harry finally figured out why he was feeling so strange: he didn't have Snape with him. Now that he thought about it, this might be the longest they'd spent apart since they'd come to the future, if you didn't count studying or sleeping, and even then they were in the same room. Apparently, all it took was five months of being stranded together to start missing even a man he had hated all his life.
He shook his head, trying to get these weird thoughts out of his mind. After all, it wouldn't do to go getting attached to Snape. He'd probably just sneer at Harry for it, anyway.
Bloody hell, this was getting ridiculous. He needed a distraction.
Someone in the universe must have heard him, because when he looked across the street, there was that Hufflepuff prefect. John or Jack or James; Harry couldn't really remember. Whatever his name was, he was definitely gorgeous.
He had light brown shoulder-length hair that begged to be touched; clear, guileless blue eyes; and high cheekbones in a face that was just a touch too masculine to be considered pretty.
Taking in the narrow shoulders and innocent face, Harry winced slightly. Why couldn't the bloke be twenty years older, or even ten? Even after spending an entire term in a seventeen-year-old's body, he still felt a bit like a dirty old man when he noticed his classmates. Just because he looked like a teenager didn't mean he was one. He certainly didn't feel like one, and he expected that dirty feeling would not go away anytime soon.
Tearing his eyes away from the tempting Hufflepuff, Harry tried to focus on finding the right gift for Snape.
Potter groaned and let his forehead fall with a thud onto the open book on the table in front of him. "We're not getting anywhere."
"Did you expect to absorb the answer through your skin?" Severus asked.
"What, you don't think osmosis will work?"
"Only if you're trying to absorb water."
"Don't be an arse," Potter mumbled against the book.
"Then don't be an imbecile."
With a groan, Potter straightened himself up. "I'm trying, but I'm beginning to think there's nothing to find."
"I warned you that might be the case."
"I know." He sighed. "I wish we could just craft a spell to fix everything."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "I thought I told you not to be an imbecile? You know very well how dangerous it is to use spells before they've been researched, tested, fool-proofed. That little twit in your class told us to 'be' elsewhere rather than to 'go', and her spell took that as license to duplicate us! I do not even wish to contemplate all the ways your harebrained scheme could go wrong."
"Damn, calm down. I know all that, all right? I was only teaching the bloody class, so I think I'm well aware of the dangers. I was only saying 'I wish'."
"Good. That would only be a disaster in waiting."
"You don't have to tell me that. I'm not ready to give up completely, though. We have to keep trying." He dragged a hand through his hair. "It's just… it's almost Christmas, and I miss my friends. I never thought we'd be stuck here this long."
Severus couldn't help but consider the way he habitually spent Christmas: shut away in his quarters until he was forced to emerge and engage in festivities with colleagues he was indifferent toward and students he barely tolerated, after which he returned to his quiet, empty rooms to brew or drink… or both. All things considered, this was looking to be his best Christmas in a long while.
"This is going to be the worst Christmas ever," Potter grumbled.
"Is it really so terrible?" Severus snapped, suddenly irritated.
Potter scowled. "Well, it's not exactly ideal, is it?"
"Nothing is ever ideal, but the situation could certainly be a good deal worse. I realize you would not choose to spend your holiday with Ime/I, but…" Severus trailed off as he realized just what he was saying and pinched the bridge of his nose with a sigh.
"Well, I guess I don't completely hate you anymore," Potter conceded begrudgingly.
"High praise, indeed."
Potter ignored him. "We at least have to get back to our right ages. Seriously, I have got to stop ogling teenagers."
Severus' eyes widened. "Just whom have you been ogling?"
Cheeks flushing slightly, Potter answered, "No one."
He sighed. "That Hufflepuff prefect… What's his name?"
Potter nodded. "Him."
Severus pictured the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy with his sweet, angelic face and suddenly, inexplicably, hated him.
"Though I would like a chance to figure out what's up with him before we solve this."
"What?" Severus asked, still categorizing all the reasons Finnegan irritated him. "Who?"
"Me… him. Professor Potter."
"Are you still obsessing over that?"
"I'm not obsessing!" Potter protested. "I just don't want to end up like him. And I don't want to leave here without figuring out who killed you, either."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "You seem oddly concerned about the murder of a man you like so little."
"Eh, I guess you're not so bad," Potter said, his furrowed brow melting away into a bright grin, and Severus felt his mood lift ever so slightly.
Not for the first time, Harry questioned his plan. Surely the Ministry was the worst place for him to be. Severus was right: if he gave himself away, they'd have him locked up in no time, thinking him either mad or criminal.
Still, he had to do something, and this seemed to be the only option open to him. Forcing himself to show no outward sign of his anxiety and just sidle up to the door, Harry asked the bloke behind the desk for permission to access the Hall of Records.
With barely a glance in his direction, the man waved him through.
Slowly letting out a breath, Harry stepped inside and took in the vast expanse of file cabinets. The room seemed to stretch on forever, and Harry remembered his panic at seeing it that first time as a young Auror gathering background information for a case.
This time, however, he knew all the tricks, and in no time he was seated at one of the many tables with every scrap of information he could find pertaining to the death of Severus Snape spread out in front of him.
There wasn't much. Just the Prophet article, his death certificate, and a copy of the official investigation report.
That was what the heading at the top of the scroll said, anyway; Harry thought it was a pitiful excuse for detective work. No one had bothered to check anything but the body for spell residue and there was no record of what had turned up in that scan, so he could only assume they'd found nothing. The contents of the crime scene – which was never explicitly named, forcing him to infer it was Snape's house at Spinner's End – had been catalogued haphazardly at best and there was no clear chain of evidence. The only reference to witness interviews was a statement from Headmistress Fawcett, saying she hadn't seen or heard from Snape since he left the castle for the summer.
There were no suspects, no clear cause of death, no leads at all. If the Aurors in charge of this 'investigation' had been under Harry's supervision, he'd have had them fired. As it was, all he could do was growl in frustration.
For Merlin's sake, a man's life had been taken, a war hero's, Severus fucking Snape's! It was utterly unbelievable how easily it had been dismissed.
Well, he wasn't going to just dismiss it – far from it. He would find out who had killed Snape; even if he was a colossal git, the world owed the man that much. Harry owed him that. The case might be fourteen years cold, but he had to try.
He had to.
Severus was torn. On basic principle, he felt he should be surly – irritated, at the very least. After all, he was at a sodding dance. A Valentine's Day dance, no less. There were hearts and sugar and pinkness everywhere, and fairies with tiny bows and arrows darted about shooting unsuspecting teenagers with their needle-like weapons. It was almost farcical.
And yet, he felt a distinct lack of resentment at being made to attend. He was, instead, very nearly pleased.
There was a possibility that this heretofore foreign emotion had some small connection to the fact that Harry Potter had spent most of the evening dancing with him, but he decided the notion did not merit much consideration. After all, he didn't even like the brat.
"Thanks for putting up with me so long," Potter offered as yet another song ended. "I just can't handle the thought of dancing with any of these… kids." He gave a little shudder. "You know?"
Severus nodded, as it seemed the thing to do.
Potter glanced down at his watch. "We'd better head out," he said with a wry smile. "People might start to think I'm trying to seduce you."
Suddenly, Severus could hear his pulse pounding in his ears; he felt very hot. Standing frozen, he swallowed thickly. "Are you?"
Potter let out snort of laughter. "Course not. Come on, let's get out of here."
With that, he turned toward the door and Severus let out a slow, measured breath. After closing his eyes for a brief moment, he cautiously followed.
"I'm trying to study," Snape said without looking up. "You should be, too."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Some things are more important than homework, you know." It was unbelievable how little Snape seemed to care about the fact that they were stuck in the future or that they were bloody teenagers or that his own future self had been murdered. He hardly ever suggested they go to the library anymore – unless it was to revise, of course. Harry suspected Ravenclaw House was beginning to affect him.
"All I'm saying is that you'd think the other me would have done some investigating. I don't care if he's not an Auror anymore – there's no way a homicide happens right under his nose and he doesn't look into it."
Snape shot him a sidelong glance. "Does he really seem up to it to you?"
Harry sighed and dragged a hand through his hair. "I know. He's not even seventy yet and he acts like he's practically dead. It's… well, it's just not right." Just thinking about it made him shudder.
"No," Snape replied, eyes on his parchment.
"Wonder how long he's been that way. Wait… Did you just agree with me?"
"It's a simple fact," Snape answered with a slight shrug. "Even a Bludger could see it."
"I can't believe it. You're agreeing with me." Harry gave a snort of laughter and shook his head. "I knew under that prickly exterior you must really like me."
Snape looked up sharply, eyes narrowed. He opened his mouth, no doubt about to pelt Harry with verbal rocks, but Harry didn't want to hear it.
"Oh, don't worry," he said, hands up in surrender. "I'm not deluded, or anything. We don't like each other – another simple fact I'm sure we'd both agree on."
"I… Ah. Yes, that's right."
"Right," Harry confirmed with a nod. "So, as I was saying… What was I saying?"
"You were whinging about your future self."
"Hey, don't say that," Harry rejoined. "I'm never going to be like him."
"How can you be so sure?" Snape asked, eyebrow raised.
"Well, I… You know, I'll…" Harry trailed off, uncertain. Snape was right, though he hated to admit it. How could he manage to keep from turning into an empty shell of a person if he didn't know what had caused such a dramatic change in the first place? Besides, he was having no luck yet finding a way back to his rightful time, and he was determined to have at least one of his many questions answered.
"We'll have to figure it out," he decided.
"Figure what out?" Snape asked.
"What made Professor Potter hazy."
Severus could not believe he was actually participating in this lunacy.
He'd been in similar situations, of course – skulking through an unfamiliar home, looking for the slightest indication of answers to his questions, half-distracted with checking his spells every twenty seconds for any suggestion that his presence had been detected – but this was ridiculous.
He ought to have seen it coming, of course. Potter was clearly a lunatic, and lunatics were, as everyone knew, prone to lunacy. He just couldn't believe the twit had managed to rope him into his scheme as well.
"So… What do we do now?"
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. Perhaps 'scheme' was too strong a word. "This was your idiotic plan. Are you saying you have not a single clue as to how to proceed?"
"Don't get tetchy," Potter whispered. "I was just checking to see if you had any suggestions."
Severus raised an eyebrow at that, but kept his thoughts to himself. Excessive talking on a mission like this would likely only get them into trouble, anyway.
"So, do you? Have any suggestions? I mean, I just figure you have more experience with this sort of thing than me. You know, spying on people and – "
"Harry! Would you stop gibbering and look around? Do some investigating? Weren't you supposed to be an Auror before – "
"Hey, did you just…? You just called me Harry."
Severus froze. "I… I did no such thing."
"You definitely did," Potter protested.
"It is your name, is it not?"
"So you admit it!"
Severus threw up his hands. "What would you prefer – 'Auror Potter'? Shall I cut to the chase and announce our situation to the world at large? Shall I…" Severus trailed off when he noticed the idiot was grinning like a loon. "What is it?" he barked.
"Not a thing," Harry – Potter, damn the smiling fool – answered. "Let's do some investigating, shall we?"
Harry's usual inspection methods were not working. He had no need to identify who had been in the rooms or what sort of spells they'd been casting or when they might have done it. There was no one to apprehend, no crime (that he knew of) to tie to the scene.
It was all manner of frustrating.
"Do you plan to simply stand there, turning in circles, all night?" Snape asked from his position leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest.
"Well, you've done nothing but stand there the last half-hour. Why don't you do something?"
"I am rather occupied ensuring our presence in these quarters is not discovered," Snape answered with a raised eyebrow.
"Uh-huh, right. You just keep on doing that, then. I'll be in here," Harry retorted, moving into the next room.
It was a bedroom, and quite as drab as the sitting room. The sole decoration was a photo of the two of them, the older two, sitting next to each other in the Quidditch stands. He had to admit that Professor Potter looked more alive than Harry had ever seen him, but he couldn't say he looked happy. Snape looked the same as ever, as far as Harry could tell. Older, but that was to be expected.
He poked around, looking for Merlin only knew what, for a few minutes but the room was pretty unremarkable. Continuing his circuit around the room, he made his way to the bedside table and pulled open the little drawer.
He was expecting to find the same things he habitually kept in his own bedside drawer – lube, condoms, a comb, some lip balm, maybe a few notes or dirty pictures – but it was bare but for a quill and a small, leather-bound notebook.
The Locking Charm disengaged at his touch, and he figured it must be some sort of journal. He tingled with anticipation – a record of the professor's investigation into the murder of Severus Snape would be ideal, but he'd settle for any sort of documentation of the man's activities.
What he did find was something quite different.
The first page, dated January 3, 2029, was addressed simply 'Severus'.
I finally tried it today. I shouldn't have. I brushed a finger along your face, and you looked at me like I'd turned into a Snorkack. I'm not giving up, though. Not yet.
Confused and more than a bit suspicious, Harry started flipping pages, reading snippets as he went.
Well, I told you. I told you, and you said, "I know." I guess I've been a bit obvious, eh? It doesn't matter, though. You don't love me back, and you told me so. Merlin, why did it have to be you?
Severus, where are you? Term starts tomorrow and no one has seen you. I'm worried. Are you all right? Please be all right. Come back to me, Severus. I'll stop pushing, I swear.
Fitzwilliam said you're dead, but I can't believe him. He won't even say if there was foul play. Whoever they found, it must not really be you. Some elaborate scheme to leave the Wizarding world and become a hermit, right? That would be just like you, you wanker.
I'm going to find him, Severus. I'll find the bloody bastard and I'll kill him. I thought by now people had put the crimes of war and revenge behind them, but they just couldn't let you rest.
Too late, he already did the job for me. I can't even have the satisfaction of justice. I miss you so much already – I don't know how I can keep going.
Harry let the book fall from his hands onto the bed. Dazed, he stared at it for a moment, a dark blotch against the cream-colored duvet. Brow furrowed, he scowled at the book, tempted to blame it for housing such outrageous words. For some inconceivable reason, he kept hearing Snape say 'Harry' over and over in his head.
Startled from his reverie, Harry looked up wide-eyed.
"Well?" Snape asked, "Are all your questions answered?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. I, um… No." He gave his head a shake. "No. Let's get out of here."
Harry… Potter, that is, had been acting strange for days. Ever since the clandestine events of Easter break, he had been subdued, more scatterbrained than usual, sneaking odd glances at Severus.
It was strange, but Severus found himself grieving the absence of the high-spirited young man to whom he had grown accustomed, who had been his constant companion these last several months, who never let him be for a moment. He was loud, irritating, overbearing, and Severus missed him.
"Enjoying the match?" he asked with a slight frown.
"What?" Harry asked with a start. "Oh. Yep, definitely." He nodded his head for emphasis. "Great match."
Severus stared, incredulous. The situation might be more serious than he thought. "It hasn't yet begun," he pointed out.
"What do you…?" Harry trailed off, looking around with wide eyes. It was the most engaged Severus had seen him in days. "Ah. Well. I was being… you know, sarcastic."
"Yes, as you so often are."
"Okay, now you're being sarcastic."
Severus shrugged. "It's expected from me. I would hate to act out of character."
At that, Harry laughed, clear and candid, and Severus thought it was the most welcome sound he had heard in years. The way his eyes lit up was no mean thing, either, and Severus found himself utterly unable to divert his attention elsewhere.
"What are you staring at?" Harry asked, still chuckling.
Caught out, Severus pressed his lips into a thin line then opened his mouth to say, 'nothing', but what he heard himself say instead was, "You".
Harry was still feeling somewhat at sea. Sure, he had a few things figured out: Severus Snape had been killed by some bloke with a grudge against Death Eaters, there was nothing to do about it as he'd offed himself soon afterward, and Professor Potter had seemingly lost the will to live because the man he was in love with was dead.
So yes, he knew things now that he hadn't known before. But there was also the problem that he knew things now that he hadn't known before, like the fact that Professor Potter was in love with Severus Snape, and that his affection had not been returned. For some reason, that second bit was tripping him up more than the first, and that was disconcerting all by itself.
On top of that, he still had no bloody clue how to get back to 2015, and he was beginning to wonder if he really still wanted to. Did he want to return to the life where he didn't discover the love of his life until returning to Hogwarts to teach at the age of forty-five? Did he want to go back to a time-line where Severus would get killed and he would wither away to nothing? Sure, he'd have his friends and his job and all that back, but what if he could do better, what if he could live this new life better?
His wandering thoughts were interrupted when Severus abruptly reminded him that Professor Potter's office hours would end in fifteen minutes, so if he still wanted to talk with him today, they had to go.
He was right, of course, so they hurried to the professor's office.
Standing outside the door, shifting his weight from foot to foot, Harry was still in turmoil. He turned toward Severus. "You mind if I go in first? I need to… Well, I have a…" He flicked his hand in a vague motion. "I've got to ask him something."
Severus waved him forward. "As you wish."
Just a moment later, he heard a frantic, "Severus! Severus, come here!" from inside the office. Immediately concerned, he threw open the door and hurried toward the desk where Harry was.
He was sure his heart must have stopped for a moment when he saw what had upset Harry – Professor Potter was slumped in his desk chair, stiff and obviously dead.
"What do I…? I don't know… He was just…!" Harry spouted in a semi-coherent frenzy.
Severus took a slow, deep breath and tried to calm himself somewhat, tried to think logically. "You're meant to be an Auror, are you not? What action would you take if this were just another crime scene?"
"Yeah," Harry said, nodding. "Yeah, that's a good idea. Right, okay." He gave his fingers a little stretch and set to casting spells, a few of which Severus recognized but most of which he did not.
"Oh, whoa!" Harry said suddenly, his eyes going wide. "He was hit with a curse, a little over twenty years ago."
"Just before he came to teach," Severus offered.
"The Obermann-Schmidt Spell," he answered. "And it finally killed him."
Harry simply shook his head.
"But… that's treatable!"
"It's easily, perfectly treatable! Did he…?"
"No," Harry answered. "He just let it go."
Severus paused, brow furrowed, and attempted to assimilate what he was hearing. Potter had been cursed, presumably in the line of duty, though perhaps not, left the Auror corps to teach, and never sought treatment for the curse. Instead, he allowed it to kill him slowly.
"Could that have anything to do with his… haziness?" he asked.
"Not likely. Obermann-Schmidt's effects are strictly physical from everything I've heard."
"Are you certain? What else could have brought about such dramatic change in his personality? It must have been a hex of some sort," Severus insisted.
Harry shook his head. "No, it wasn't a hex. It… it wasn't a hex."
"It must have… Wait. You know something," Severus accused.
"Well, I…" Harry swallowed hard. "Yeah, maybe."
"You learned something in that diary, something you haven't told me."
Harry turned his gaze to an empty section of stone wall. "He said… it said… Well, basically he was in love, and the person died, and didn't handle it very well."
In love? The thought struck him like a blow. Struggling to keep his footing, he pushed the horrible feeling that was accumulating out of his mind. "I should say not," he agreed, but he could see that there was more. "What else?"
"What? Well, I mean… I don't think he was doing so well even before that. The other bloke didn't… he didn't…" Harry turned and looked at him imploringly. "It wasn't mutual."
Shaking his head, Harry told him, "No, I don't think you do."
"Well?" Severus prompted.
"I don't…" Harry's expression was pained. "Severus, please."
"What? What more could there…" He trailed off as Harry suddenly started moving toward him. He looked desperate, but Severus had no time to wonder why before Harry's firm body was crashing into his, and his hand was sliding behind Severus' neck, and his warm mouth was pressing against his own startled, gaping lips.
Heart racing, Severus tried to think, tried to move, tried to do something, anything to keep Harry right where he was.
Much too soon, Harry pulled away. "You, Severus," he said. "It's you – for him, for me. But you didn't… you don't…" He turned away, biting his lip.
His breath coming quick and shallow, his heart pounding in his chest, Severus forced himself to speak. "Harry, no. I… I am not that man. Our fortunes have changed, and with them our experiences, our actions, our decisions. We are not bound to their destinies."
Harry let out a slow breath. "Okay. Okay, that's good. So, what do we do now?" he asked.
"We… go on. We take our NEWTs and graduate. We find acceptable occupations and live our lives."
Harry nodded. "Right. But what I meant was: what do we do now about us?"
"…Us? Oh, well…" Severus searched for words, but was still reeling enough that they did not come readily.
"What I was thinking was maybe we go someplace a bit more… private and, you know… well, you know. Get to know each other better," Harry said, dragging a hand through his messy hair.
"Oh." Severus blinked. "Oh. Well, I… Yes. Yes, let's," he answered, and anxiously, hopefully, took Harry's outstretched hand in his.