I'm sorry you don't remember your mum and dad in person. They'd be very proud of you. You'll see that you're a spitting image of James, and you've got Lily's smile. You're as bright as they were, too. Anyhow, I hope this helps.
2 June, 1998.
Harry closed the photo album and sighed, looking around his room. He felt particularly empty today, more so than he had over the past few weeks. It was understandable; he had killed Voldemort a mere two months ago and was still recovering from the shock of the War and the loss of the people he had grown up with.
His life had jolted in a new direction. He was no longer always bent on killing Voldemort and no longer had his home, Hogwarts, which had taken over such a huge portion of his spirit, and his time.
Harry didn't have a problem finding other things to do, however. No, that was not the issue at all—for the first two weeks after the battle he toured locations around the country that had been devastated by the War. He visited those who struggled the most, distributing food and supplies while also giving the wizarding community hope for the future.
Harry managed to avoid the press for the most part, but that didn't stop him from dominating headlines and news articles about every aspect of his life, which became increasingly dramatized. He got hundreds of letters every day: the thanks of people all over the globe. Some were from girls professing their love, others from children who saw him as their idol. He thought the most heartfelt ones were from those orphaned by Voldemort. From parents whose children fought at the final battle at Hogwarts. Those who lost their homes to Death Eater raids. And Muggle-born witches and wizards who lost their jobs, or had to go into hiding.
While Harry did appreciate the thanks he received, he disliked the attention—just another example of his modesty. The letters and newspapers gave him a larger perspective on the huge role he had in the war, but he always redirected praise to the others who had helped. Everyone from Aberforth to the Weasley family were credited for their contributions, as they should be. Still, Harry was considered the hero of the war; the Boy Who Lived had a whole new meaning, one of victory and peace. His name was everywhere. There had even been a broomstick designed in his honor.
This renewed popularity easily earned Harry an apprenticeship as an Auror. He could probably even run for the Minister for Magic in fifteen years or so, and win—but that didn't interest him. For the time being, he had enough money, and wasn't recovered enough to have a job anyway. On days when he wasn't traveling, he was up in his room, poring over letters, newspapers, old photographs. Sometimes he would just sit at his desk or lay in bed, turning a childhood possession over and over again in his hands. Harry knew that he wasn't moving forward, but it was impossible for him to do so. He had been striving for what was normal; a simple life, where every day was not a battle between life and death. Now that he had reached his goal, it seemed as if he was doing nothing fulfilling. The bright side of things should have compensated, if not overcompensated, for the bad side. Harry was still alive. He had saved many people, wizarding and non-wizarding folk alike. He still had a great deal of friends who survived, including Hermione and Ron. This in particular should have been enough for him. Maybe it was the actuality that the three were growing apart that made him more pessimistic than he should be.
For the first month, the trio had remained inseparable, but soon it became clear that it was not the same while Hermione and Ron were together. Harry attempted to bring Ginny into their group, to balance things out, but the dynamics were still different. It was like having a double date, and they would immediately pair off. And just one month after the war, Harry was becoming distant from the new couple. After seven-odd years of being with them constantly, it created a significant gap in Harry's life.
The Weasleys had moved into a new, much larger home with the help of thousands of gifts from the wizarding community to everyone who now lived there—Harry, Hermione, her parents, Luna, her father, and Neville (as well as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, and Ron, of course). It was a temporary home until everyone got back on their feet and provided emotional support to anyone who needed it.
There was a knock on the door, rousing Harry slightly from his thoughts. By now he could recognize who it was just by the simple rhythm. The sound was even more delicate than usual: it was nearly midnight and everyone else was most likely asleep.
She knew, by now, not to enter if Harry didn't answer. Though, currently, he felt like he could use some company.
"Come in," said Harry, absentmindedly rolling the pencil on his desk with an effortless flick of his wand. He used a quill rather than the pencil to write with, but kept the pencil to remind him of his Muggle upbringing. He had received it from his Aunt and Uncle for his birthday and it was probably the nicest gift they had ever given him.
Ginny slowly opened the door, hesitating a moment before she closed it carefully behind her. Harry couldn't tell what she was thinking by her unusually blank expression. If she had come with good news she would have been smiling. What could be so urgent that it couldn't wait until morning?
Ginny remained unreadable as she walked to his bed and sat down. Harry had the instinct that she was an impostor by the way she was acting, but dismissed the thought. He had problems being too wary sometimes, just one of the lasting effects of the war. Even so, he couldn't help tightening the grip on his wand.
He was just about to ask what it was she had come for when she started shaking and buried her face in her hands.
"Ginny—" he began, taken aback. Her crying was stifled in the effort she was making to be quiet.
Harry had rarely seen Ginny cry, even recently with the deaths of her brother and many others she was close to. She was an incredibly strong person. Because of this, Harry felt weak, knowing that if she continued for too long he would also break down with her.
He pulled Ginny into a firm hug as she continued to cry, wishing he could do more to help, wishing he could say something comforting. Nothing came, so he just patted her on the back, trying to express that he was there for her.
They sat like this for a while—Ginny's flowery-smelling hair pressed into the side of his face, her shaking hands tightly gripping his shirt—until she had mostly recovered. She moved gingerly out of his arms, and wiped her wet eyes with her sleeve.
"I know how you can change this," she said seriously through the aftermath of her tears.
Harry froze, chilled by her tone even though he didn't yet understand what she meant. What does "this" mean?
Ginny elaborated before he could ask to explain. "I mean, I know how you can change how you are. I know you more than you realize, Harry. I can see how lost you are. It's in your eyes. The way you talk—and move, even. How you've become separated from everyone, even when they try to reach out to you. And I'm no exception."
Harry was about to comfort her, tell her that wasn't true, but Ginny stopped him by what she said next: "Most of all, though, I know how to make you see how it should be like this."
"How?" Harry surprised himself at his immediate reaction. Did he know what she was talking about? Who's to say he wanted things to be different? Voldemort was dead. Things were getting better. Still, he found himself curious to know what she meant.
"Time travel," Ginny replied, her brown eyes still trained on his green ones. She searched for a reaction in his frozen face.
But he had no idea how he should react, what to think. How would time travel possibly help him? Was it even possible? The Time-Turners he knew only went back in time by the hour. And what would he do in the past? Would he see his parents before they died? If he went to his parent's time, he might never want to leave. Seeing his parents was such an impossible thought, it wasn't quite registering in his mind. Through all these years he wanted nothing more than to have them alive. The proof was there in the Mirror of Erised! He could literally get stuck in the past. But would that be that much worse than being stuck in the past as he is now?
"Except, Harry, I wouldn't be able to come with you," Ginny added quietly.
Harry stared at her numbly. He didn't want to lose her, too. "Why not?"
"Because I'm happy where we're at now. I think it would be better for me not to, and this is something you need to do on your own." She hesitated. Her hand found Harry's chest and she leaned in to kiss him. These were times when he really felt, where he remembered love, and it depressed him terribly.
They broke apart and Ginny looked away. She tried to wipe the tears that were running down her face before he noticed. "It won't be long for me to wait. I'm just worried about you. If you don't come back in a few minutes I'll find a way to stop you from leaving in the past, okay?"
Harry had yet to fully understand the whole time travel thing, and did not make an effort to now. But, if it followed the theory he already knew, he would end up changing nothing. Everything would end up the same, because the past had already happened—he's already been there. The only question is whether or not he would survive the outcome of the future. Then again, it would be easy to prevent his death. Just to go back a few minutes and stop him. And maybe, whatever he changed would actually change this reality. Which would end up being right, Harry didn't know, but he figured he would be okay either way it turned out. And Ginny must know that.
"I'll be fine. I think this is what I need to keep peace with everyone who's passed. I want to say goodbye." Even as he spoke, though, Harry was realizing how much more he wanted to do, to say, than to just goodbye. There was so much he wanted to change. Although he failed to see how he could change anything. Changing one thing could make the world too different to fix something else, upsetting the delicate balance they had achieved here.
Ginny pulled her gaze away from him and reached down into her pocket. She pulled out a Time-Turner and handed it to him. It had been a while since he had seen one. Except—this particular Time-Turner was different. It had six rings around the center instead of two. Harry, after briefly considering the rare object, could guess why: a regular one could just take him back by hours. This was made for traveling more easily by longer periods of time. The next rings could take allow him to travel by days, then maybe months, then years, then decades…
"How did you get this? I thought all of them were destroyed," Harry asked as he continued examining it. The sand in the hourglass was a bright red, like manufactured blood.
"This one's different. You can go back farther, and go forward within the past—so as long as it's not in the future. I'll tell you about it when you get back. Just…" For a moment, she seemed to debate what to say. "You owe me."
It was not the best thing Ginny could have said to him, because Harry misinterpreted what hidden meaning it might have had. He hugged her tightly.
"Don't worry. I'll find a way to pay you back." She didn't want anything in return apart from his happiness. "I'll be back before you can miss me," Harry added softly. She seemed to want to say she already did miss him. He had retreated into the dark recesses of depression and was so unlike his normal self it was similar to ghostliness. Perhaps she hoped within a few seconds or minutes of her time he would be back to his old self.
Ginny gave him a bag that he recognized to be Hermione's. It was the magical one they had used for their supplies in the woods earlier that year. She cleared her throat. "I—I figured you were going to want to go, so I packed some things for you."
Harry wondered how long she had been planning this. As she explained how to work the Time-Turner and gave him tips, he grabbed things from his room that he might need. Robes, trousers, books, gloves—virtually everything he owned. Luckily, he had both a small stack of Muggle money and a modest assortment of Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts. "…and I wrote down the date and time two minutes from now so you can return as close to when you left as possible." Ginny handed him the note and he dropped it into his bag.
"Anything else?" Harry asked, scanning the room to double check.
"Just this." She picked up the Time-Turner and handed it to him.
He gave Ginny one last look and put the chain over his head. Before he could start to turn the device, she flung her arms around him.
"Be careful," she whispered, and released him, blinking rapidly.
"I will," he replied, and began turning. Today was August 2nd, 1998. He wanted to go to August 2nd, 1971…
Harry appeared in the middle of a field. He jumped in surprise; thunder rolled in the distance and he was immediately immersed in pounding rain.
"Impervius," he muttered, and immediately the rain around him was repelled. He had chosen to visit his mother's home so he could see her—and Snape.
One thing that constantly ate up Harry was the relationship between Snape and his mother. How Snape loved Lily more than anything in the world, until the day he died, and was willing to give up everything he had for her. Not only that, but she had never known. Harry wished Snape had not died, or at least that he'd had the opportunity to die happy.
Harry no longer trusted his character judgement. If he had been wrong about Snape, who else could he have misjudged? He wished he had not been so quick to hate Snape. He wished things were different.
Harry Apparated to Lily's front lawn, which was in an orderly, symmetrical neighborhood that reminded him strongly of Little Whinging.
Harry stood in front of the house, considering his options. He cast a spell above him to block the rain as he thought. He needed to find shelter, and soon. The nearest place was, of course, Lily's home. It was pretty close to impossible for anyone to discover him if he was invisible, so he figured it would be safe to stay. Harry pulled out his Invisibility Cloak from Hermione's purse and pulled it over. He walked up the front steps, unlocked the door with an effortless wave of his wand, and went inside. He was in his mother's living room, which seemed pretty conventional. Only the fireplace was familiar to him—and a few of the pictures on the mantle. Harry quietly stepped over to pick one up. Immediately, he identified one as the very same picture that was in his album.
It was a Muggle photo of a girl standing in a field of flowers. She looked about five from what he could tell, with dark red hair that flowed past her shoulders. She was bending down to pick a flower that matched her white dress. Obviously, the bright, gentle girl he saw in the picture was his mother.
Harry dug around in his bag for the album that held the very same picture. Eventually, after overturning everything in the bag, his fingers grazed the plastic cover of the book. He pulled it out and started searching for the picture. It was near the beginning of the album, among others of her laughing and smiling as a toddler. Harry slid it out of the cover and held it up to compare to the photo in the frame. He was not sure if he had expected something strange to happen, but anyway, nothing did. His version remained the same yellowed piece of print it had been before.
Harry tucked the picture back in its slot and dropped the photo album into the bag. He stood, slowly surveying the simple living room. To his left there was a door, most likely a closet, ahead of him was the kitchen, and next to the kitchen, a flight of stairs going up.
He remembered where the basement had been when he visited—just around the other side of the kitchen. Even now there was almost nothing downstairs, save for a couch and a few boxes full of junk. Harry cast a charm that would alert him if anyone came into the room and settled down in the couch. He pulled the cloak over him as a sort of blanket as well as a disguise. He felt his weariness immediately wash over him. Thoughts vied for his attention in his mind; he couldn't concentrate on one long enough to be distracted. But before long, he found sleep overpowering them…
Harry woke up on his own. The summer sun illuminated the basement, rousing him, so he managed to get up and out before anyone else could do the same.
He decided the safest place he could go was the small forest near their house. As he walked under his cloak, he searched for a book he brought that would help him with an important part of his plan. Eventually, he found Deceiving the Eye: Charms and Transfigurations to Disguise Oneself, which changed colors as he looked at the cover. Harry flipped through it, trying to find spells he could use.
For him to safely meet anyone in his past, he would have to appear his parents' age, (eleven years old). On top of that, he could not look like his father.
Changing one's appearance was easier than copying someone else's. Although, it wasn't exactly legal if one went overboard. Changing small things, a few at a time, like hair style or eye color wasn't as deceptive. And since the spells were not permanent, they were easier to perform. But Harry doubted he could pull a disguise off well enough to be able to attend Hogwarts with his parent's generation. He had not quite ruled it out, as the possibility had tugged at him since he saw the Time-Turner, but it seemed unlikely.
Harry knew that when a witch or wizard is born in the United Kingdom, a magical quill at Hogwarts detects their ability and writes their name down so they can later receive a letter inviting them to the school. Harry would not be on the list. As he came upon a river alongside the forest, he toyed with the idea of fixing the issue. He would either have to find a way to cheat the quill, or—well. That is what he would have to do. To see if he could go back in time to eleven years ago and enter his name. He knew little about it, but if he needed to write the address of somebody's home, do what he needed to do to get the letter.
Harry crossed an old, rotting wooden bridge even though there was another, newer one about a hundred meters ahead. The wood creaked threateningly underneath his feet and he walked faster. Harry thought he heard it splinter by the time he made it safely to the other side, but he figured he had just imagined it. His thoughts quickly were redirected when he found a spell he could use.
It was a simple one—he had to tap his wand against the color he wanted his hair, say, "Mutare Colorem," and it would change to be the chosen color.
The book provided different shades for him, so he spent some time debating the various choices. Finally, Harry decided on dirty blond. He wanted something that would not stand out and was not close to his natural color. He reread the spell and practiced muttering the incantation a few times. Then he took out his wand. On the first try, nothing. On the second, he felt a tingle, then a rush of warmth. He pulled out a mirror to see if his hair had transformed. It worked perfectly—it looked completely real, and his eyebrows had changed, too, which saved him some effort.
Harry continued looking through the book, changing his eyes to a flat gray and extending his eyelashes (this was easier than changing his eyes to an entirely different shape). He changed the pitch of his voice to something more realistic for an eleven-year-old boy. He made his lips slightly larger, his nose straighter (which was significantly harder than the other spells to accomplish), and his hair shorter and more controlled. Once he was satisfied with his new appearance, he prepared for the next step.
This was by far the most difficult part. The charm was toward the back of the book, along with the more advanced spells. It basically took age-reversal transfigurations and combined them to alter one's appearance as a whole. It could not extend life, however. Additionally, more difficult, permanent adaptions were as plastic surgery would be to Muggles: frowned upon for wizards to do, and overuse could make it obvious the person had gone through it. Also, the charm was similar to the Polyjuice Potion in the way that it changed only the outside of the person, leaving health issues intact, or in Harry's case, his poor vision.
Harry could still perform spells outside of school because he would still be technically seventeen—the spell would not reinstate the Trace. It also would not make him immature; his maturity could give him away. But he figured if Barty Crouch, Jr. could pass as Mad-Eye for a whole year with no one noticing, he could pretend to be a kid for just as long.
Another risk with de-aging himself was that if he made even the slightest mistake, he could be permanently disfigured. As he glanced at the risks, he saw that even the incorrect emphasis on a syllable could affect the outcome of the spell.
After studying the multiple steps involved, Harry prepared to perform the enchantment. He would need to do it six times, one for each year he intended to de-age himself. Harry dug through his purse and pulled out a mirror, then took a long, steadying breath.
"Aetas recipere," he murmured, making complicated movements with his wand. Instantly, he began to change. His face gained a little more baby fat, and his skin cleared slightly. Harry felt himself lose some muscle, and the ground lurched a bit closer. "Aetas recipere," he repeated, then over and over until he looked like a typical eleven-year-old. He felt sore all over, as his skin had been pinched and bruised. He had a rounded face with a simple expression, smooth skin, and young, sparkling eyes. He felt he must have shrunk about a tenth of a meter, though it was hard to tell.
Finally, he could remove his cloak. He looked down at his now ill-fitting clothes. At least now he seemed more modest, even poor. He wanted to appear as to Snape he could relate to his situation while not warding off those he meant to impress. In that case, Jacob Walker's (the name he decided for his remodeled self) moderately good looks should make up for his clothes.
Harry also decided both of Jacob's parents were Muggles, that he should identify as a Mudblood (after the war, Mudblood became a two-sided term: wholly offensive or inoffensive and more casual. It definitely depended on the person and the context). He didn't have a choice, really; any wizarding family could be easily traced and he wouldn't stand a chance of fooling anyone. He would wait to tell Snape about his bloodline until he was directly asked; otherwise they probably wouldn't be able to form a solid friendship. And if it worked out well enough between them, he would go to Hogwarts.
As the idea began to grow on him, Harry realized he needed to figure out how to deal with Dumbledore, the Sorting Hat, and Apparating. Dumbledore's magic was far more advanced than his; he would likely be able to tell if Harry had been altered by a spell. The Sorting Hat could read his thoughts, so what would prevent it from announcing that he was an impostor? And if something life-threatening happened he wouldn't be able to easily escape.
Harry at least knew it was possible to get to the Hogwarts grounds through Hogsmeade; it was mostly how he could get into the castle itself.
But he would have all the time he needed to plan it—he had to focus what to do about his mother and Snape.
He wanted them to at least die as friends. Not the broken dislike-versus-obsession it became. At the same time, if his mum didn't end up with James, too much would be different. Harry would have never been born, or he would at least look different. He probably would have been born on a different day, so the prophecy might be about someone else, and—it was too complicated. Harry cursed himself for having the desperate hope that it would have been the same if they had been together. Harry could not kill Voldemort, either, especially not before 1980. The only way everything might still work would be to kill Voldemort before his parents were killed. It would be difficult and time-consuming, even knowing about all of the Horcruxes. Too much of time could change, and he knew very little about time travel to assume everything would work out.
Harry decided it would be easiest if he figured it out as he went along, the way he seemed to go through the rest of his exploits.
He reached the small river that would eventually lead to Snape's house on Spinner's End. Harry just wanted to see it; he wasn't going to see him, he would wait until the right time to do that. He walked alongside the water, occasionally glancing at his reflection. It was strange—each time he saw his now unfamiliar face his adrenaline rushed, as if someone else was right behind him. This distraction delayed his realization that he had reached the town.
Harry saw the sign that read Spinner's End from where he stood, across the street. He knew Severus' house was on the end, so he walked quickly down the road until he reached recognized it. It was lucky the he had some significant detail about Snape's house—all of the homes were identical. This part of town was worn-in, obviously lower class, and the smog from the factory hung in the air. On their particular house, the chimney was worn down at the top, and the window at the top level of the house was dark and cracked. The whole house had a dusty, abandoned look. The only signs of occupancy were the barely audible sounds of arguing and the dim light coming through the blinds of the front windows. Maybe he would have been surprised this was the place Snape had grown up before the fateful night of the 2nd, when he thought Snape was as cold and unfeeling as any other Death Eater. Now he understood how this place must have corrupted Snape.
That was the difference between his mother's death and Snape's death. He hadn't known his mum at all. He had fragments of knowledge of her, and had met her spectral form before he sacrificed himself to Voldemort. Whereas Harry had met Snape, and knew him. Or at least he had thought he had. Both deaths shared the question, "What if…?"
Harry was so immersed in his thoughts he almost failed to notice that an eleven-year-old Severus had run out of the house's side door. He just had barely enough time to pull on his cloak before Snape glanced back in his direction. Harry instinctively held his breath, even though he knew Snape couldn't have spotted him. After watching the skinny, poorly dressed boy awkwardly run along down the cracked sidewalk, Harry started after him.
They quickly reached the forested area by the town. Sun filtered in through the trees, illuminating the forest floor in patches of gold. Harry was amazed at the beauty that thrived in such an ugly place. The polluted air dissipated, transitioning from the bad part of town to the good side, of which Harry could just make out past the trees. It was clearly like a second home to Severus because, even at his quick pace, he could dodge every root and run over the uneven ground as though it were perfectly flat.
Just as Harry ran out of breath, Snape appeared to have reached his destination. It didn't appear significant to Harry—it was just a small space between the trees, just barely big enough for two people to lie out in. Nevertheless, it was clearly a special place to him. The place that the best times of his life would happen. Harry's chest constricted as he watched Snape pick up a few pine cones and twigs and carry them out of the space, obviously preparing for Lily's arrival.
Then Harry's mother came. No one had seemed to have accurately described her beauty, and none of the pictures he had seen could capture how she looked now. Her hair was soft in the sunlight, radiating like warm fire.
And her eyes. As tired of a topic it was, they were a perfect copy of Harry's.
It was no wonder the way Snape looked at her, his face flushed, shyly smiling. Harry wished that he could've known either of the small smiles they exchanged. His long-lived desire for a mother seemed to spike in intensity. Harry couldn't decide if his heart was breaking, or if it was repairing itself. He decided it had broken—these two children were destined to die miserable, pointless deaths.
It was not a good idea to come to here, Harry realized.
Harry thought of the expression, "Some things are meant to be." He now completely disagreed. Voldemort was not meant to be. He led to the death of thousands. He killed people, directly and indirectly—people who loved, people who were loved, people who never got the chance to love. He surely paved the way for new evil in the future. Voldemort was going to die. He hardly deserved to live. Why let one person live at the cost of others?
Harry was so absorbed in his anger he it took him a while to notice Severus and Lily were lying in the grass side by side. Lily was laughing, and Snape was watching her, smiling, with his head propped up by one hand.
"Sev, that is not how it happened, at all! It was the dog, I swear." She had a sweet voice that rolled off her tongue smoothly and deliberately, like honey. Lily rolled over closer to Snape, still facing the sky. Snape was frozen, at first, by the proximity between them. Eventually he relaxed and let his head drop to her level. For a while, they said nothing, just lying next to each other, enjoying the light breeze. Lily studied the sky while Snape studied her eyes. Harry watched them, a bit uncomfortable but curious.
Eventually, Lily turned toward Snape so their faces were mere inches apart.
"What if…" began Lily.
"What if…" Snape repeated quietly, then cleared his throat and repeated more strongly, "What if—what if what?" His voice was similar to how it was as an adult; soft and whispery. Harry moved a bit closer to hear, taking care not to step on any twigs.
Lily's eyes turned downcast, as if regretting saying anything, and she turned away from him.
"N-no!" Snape burst out, and she looked at him in surprise. "What is it?" he continued, more gently.
Lily sighed. "What if I'm rubbish at magic? Because I'm—I'm a…" She flipped onto her side, facing him again.
His face darkened as he realized what she was about to say. "Don't say it," he begged quietly, so inaudibly that only Lily could hear it.
"…Mudblood," she finished, choking it out, as if the word was too huge for her to manage. Then she started crying. For the first time, he saw his mother cry. How ironic, though. Snape didn't want Lily to call herself Mudblood when he himself would in a few years and screw everything over. Harry was surprised he had taught her the word.
"You won't—it doesn't mean…" Snape protested weakly. It was clear he was struggling between his opinion of them and his blossoming love for this girl. So instead of saying anything else, he offered his arms. Lily sat up and entered them.
Harry made the mistake of seeing Severus' eyes, which were determined, sad, and desperate. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to hold Lily in his arms and stay that way until day he died. Because that's what Harry realized he knew, deep down, past his ignorance of his own feelings. Snape would not end up with her, and these childhood moments would not last.
"Thank you, Sev," said Lily, hiccuping, and they broke apart. She looked startled to see that tears were silently running down his face.
Snape angrily brushed them away and stood up. "You will be an amazing witch."
Lily stood up, too, and stared at him until he met her eyes. "I can tell you dislike Mudbloods." He flinched at both her use of the word and the accusation.
"That's not—" Snape began, but Lily shook her head and said, "Don't lie. Please. Can you just tell me why?"
Snape, who seemed to have dealt with too many emotions within the brief time Harry had seen him, thought hard. Although Snape could not find the answer to her question, Harry found it obvious. His father was a Muggle, who was unfeeling and made Snape's life miserable. He was probably the deep-rooted source of Snape's prejudice.
Snape knew he had to answer or Lily would be mad at him. "Well?" Her tears were now completely gone as she pressed him for an answer.
"Trust me. I don't dislike Mud—Muggle-borns."
"Yes you do. You're ashamed to be my friend."
"That's not true! I…" He drifted off, uncomfortably trying to explain himself.
"Prove that you don't hate—"
"Muggle-borns," he half corrected, half finished for her.
His opinion was faltering for her sake, Harry could tell. But saying things, doing things for her sake wouldn't be enough until it was far too late.
"Trust me, I don't," was all he said in response.
Lily considered this. "Fine, I trust you. I just want you to think of this. It's not where or who the person came from, it's the person. Right?"
This could not be closer to how Snape felt about Lily and her being a Mudblood.
"Right." He looked like he wanted to say more, but Lily was getting ready to leave, and he had missed his chance. "You're leaving?" he asked, disappointed.
Lily sighed. "Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Promise?" Snape stood up, too. Lily hesitated.
"Pinkie promise?" Snape held out his pinkie.
"Of course. I promise." She smiled and they shook on it. Then she turned and ran toward home, only looking back once.
Snape watched her go, expressionless. After she had disappeared into the trees, Snape let his face scrunch up in frustration. His fist tightened and he looked around for something to punch. He cocked his hand, preparing to strike the trunk closest to him, when he stopped. His lips pursed and he lowered his hand.
Harry decided that the sooner he could befriend Snape's, the better. He had at least a few weeks to befriend him. He guessed that in order for Snape to like him, he would have to take it slowly and carefully.
Harry still didn't quite know how to orchestrate his plan, so he decided to play it as he went along. As he tried to figure it out, Snape went past where Harry was standing, invisible, to the river. Harry was right by the wooden bridge that he had crossed before, Snape now just a few meters away. He watched as the boy seemed to spot something on the other side of the river. Snape tried to use magic to pull whatever it was toward him, motioning with his arms, but was unsuccessful. Finally, he scrunched up his face in determination and set off to get whatever he had seen.
Snape had only reached the center of the bridge when there was a loud "Snap!" and he fell through the bridge into the water below. Harry stood frozen in place as Snape struggled to swim. There was only a gentle current, but he was already heading downstream. His untrained magic was only keeping his face above the water, keeping him alive, for now. Snape flailed his arms about, but it was no use.
Harry finally got to his senses and quickly decided what to do.
He left everything but his wand by the riverside and jumped in, swimming easily with the gentle current to the drowning boy. He wrapped his arms around Snape's middle and slowly pulled him to a small beach downstream. It was strange; Harry had never helped Snape directly, let alone held him.
Snape stopped thrashing and lay limp as soon as he was safely on the shore. Harry rolled him onto his back, noticing how unusually still he was. Since Severus' eyes were closed and unable to witness it, Harry coaxed the water out of him with his wand. He let him cough out the rest and regain normal breathing as he pocketed his wand.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked as Snape sat up, still breathing raggedly. Snape jumped in surprise and looked wide-eyed at his rescuer.
"Who—why—" he stuttered as Harry stood up.
"My name is Jacob." It felt odd, lying about something so fundamental about himself. Then, realizing that he probably needed to say something else, he added, "That bridge was bound to collapse any day."
Now that he thought about it, had he already altered the past by walking on it earlier? Maybe it had been that Severus was going to walk on it last, and a storm was going to deliver the last blow. Did that mean whatever he changed here could alter the future?
"Well, I guess I'll see you around," Harry/Jacob said, and walked away from the stunned boy. After he had retreated back into the cover of the forest, he looked back to see what it was that Snape had seen.
His heart lurched when he realized the love-struck boy had seen a water lily, which he now was pulling out of the river. He had unintentionally risked his life to pick a flower that shared the same name as the girl he had a crush on. Harry turned away, feeling extremely intrusive for watching this meaningful, personal moment. He got over it, though—he was only going to need his invisibility cloak a few more times.
He came to the spot where he had jumped in, picked up his things, and headed into the sanctuary of the woods. Harry, as he walked, dug around in the pits of his bag for the Time-Turner. Eventually, his hands closed around the cold rings of the device. He pulled it out and, after tinkering with it a bit, jumped ahead to ten in the morning the next day. Instead of the sparse, white clouds from yesterday, the sky was gray and the air was heavy with the imminence of rain. Despite the weather, when Harry went to their meeting spot, Snape had showed up. Hadn't Lily pinkie promised that she would come, too? The fear of being caught in a storm might have forced her to stay inside. Or maybe her mum wouldn't let her leave the house for some other reason.
Harry could tell Snape was starting to wonder if she was coming, too, because he started looking around awkwardly. He shouldn't have worried, though: it only took another minute before Lily showed up. She was well prepared for the weather, comfortably buttoned up in a rain jacket, a hood pulled over her head. Snape, however, had a baggy shirt and pants.
"You came!" Snape couldn't keep the relief and surprise from his voice.
Lily grinned. "Of course I did. We pinkie promised." She paused, and looked up at the sky. "I felt a raindrop. I would've brought an umbrella, if I'd known you'd need one."
Snape shivered, unsuccessful in his attempts to hide his discomfort.
"Are you cold?" Lily asked.
Severus shook his head, silent, but she had already taken her jacket off.
"Here. We'll share." She wrapped it around the both of them, undoubtedly used to helping him.
Harry thought of his father. Was it right for to encourage the relationship between Lily and Snape? He knew there wasn't really a better way to improve Snape' life, if that's what he decided to do. If the two ended up together, would Harry still exist, or just look different? Obviously his father could find someone else (as far as Harry knew, James was popular, charismatic, brave) and there were many places he would be able to find love. Snape was a different story. But Harry knew plenty of people die without ever being loved. Why should Severus be helped over others? Without Harry, would the Dark Lord's reign be stronger, last longer? Still, he could at least make their relationship less rocky, perhaps try and lead Snape down the right path.
Rain started to fall steadily now, so the two retreated under a large tree, where only a few drops got through. Harry went behind a tree across from them, using a simple spell to keep dry. They stood side-by-side against the trunk, watching the rain crescendo into a downpour.
"Sev!" Lily whispered suddenly.
"What? What is it?" Snape looked around wildly.
"Shh, it's a doe…"
He followed her pointed finger and saw it, too—a female deer that looked surreal through the rain, still, ears perked up. After gazing at it for a minute, Snape turned to Lily. "I think it—it's kinda like you," he said quietly, face flushing.
Lily pulled her gaze away from the creature.
"What do you mean?"
"Because…" Snape, embarrassed, looked away from her quizzical green eyes. Harry saw her study him, realize what he meant, and give a small smile.
"You are too, you know."
Snape started and turned back to her. "Really?" He tried to hide his joy that she had returned his compliment.
Harry stared at them in shock. It had taken Harry a while to decipher what Dumbledore meant when he disagreed with Harry at King's Cross when he was in limbo. He now realized how it wasn't peculiar that they had the same Patronus.
At first, Harry had thought the Patronuses were the same because Snape loved Lily, but he could see how much deeper it was than that. Not only was it representative the happiest times of Snape's life—this moment specifically—but his true personality. He was incredibly gentle, cautious, delicate, and protective. Looking past the rough exterior and his nature in adulthood, it was reflected in his relationship with Lily. There were few people who served Voldemort and loved anyone as Snape did, who showed how much emotion he had.
Lily and Snape stood in the rain for a while, slowly soaking through their clothes. The rain washed out any color Snape's face might have held, giving him a ghost-like appearance. His hair looked wet instead of greasy, but still unusually long and unevenly cut. Lily's red hair stuck to her face and her shoes squished when she shifted her stance. Still, the two seemed to be enjoying just standing there in silence together, letting the rain wash over them.
Then the first rumblings of thunder began, and a hard breeze picked up.
Lily raised her voice above the noise. "We should probably go back home. I mean, I don't think…my parents want company. And probably the same for yours…" Even though she didn't say it out loud, it was obvious her parents wouldn't approve of the strange, poor boy she had befriended. And with Snape's family, they probably weren't fit to have company in general.
They said goodbye, and before they parted Lily added, "My parents and my sister are going to the movies tonight, and, well," she paused, as if embarrassed about the next part, "it's a horror movie, and…I still get a bit scared during them, so I told them I wanted to study instead, so of course they agreed…so if it's not raining, do you want to meet by the tree?"
This must be an example of the occasion where they met twice in one day—when Lily's parents were not around to be suspicious about her being outside too much.
"What time?" Snape asked, eyes glinting eagerly.
"I think they leave at seven and come back around nine," she responded, trying to remember.
"Okay. I'll be there early, just in case." Snape flashed a rare smile.
Me too, Harry thought.
At six o' clock, Snape was already waiting by the tree. It was the same one that Harry had seen in the Pensieve on the night of the battle. It was larger than most of the trees in the small forest, and stood alone at the top of a slope overlooking Lily's street, which was a five or ten minute walk away. The base of the tree had a sort of inward dent, like someone had molded it to have a perfect spot to sit. The stream that ran through the forest ended at a large pond that sat in front of their second meeting spot, and only a few other trees separated the big willow from the outside of the forest. The sparseness of the forest across from the pond gave a clear view of the horizon, where the sun was starting to sink. Harry decided to make another appearance.
Snape was currently reading, so he might not notice Harry if he went too far downstream. His plan just might work.
He went to where he determined to be Snape's edge of vision was, and starting walking from there. For good measure, he attempted skipping a few rocks. Harry failed on purpose, letting the pebbles plop into the water. He turned slightly to see if Severus was watching him. When Harry saw he had indeed captured Snape's attention, he continued his performance. Harry continued failing, letting himself seem more and more frustrated.
Finally, in pretend anger, he kicked a rock into the stream. It was simple, wandless magic to make the pebble skip across the water, bouncing in impossible directions. After it had finished skipping, it flew toward Harry, landing effortlessly in his outstretched hand. He rewrote his expression to be surprised and confused.
Continuing along the river toward the pond, he scrutinized the stone, giving himself an excuse not to notice Snape staring at him.
When he reached the pond, Harry tried skipping the stone again, without the results he clearly expected. He continued walking, searching for more rocks he could skip, until he found one pretty much on the shore, thirty feet in front of the tree. He straightened up, sizing up his pick, when out of the corner of his eye he "discovered" Snape. Harry began walking toward him. When he was within earshot, he said, "You're that guy from before," recognizing him as the kid he had saved just yesterday.
"Yes…" said Snape cautiously.
"Are you alright?"
"Fine, thanks. Er, what was…what was that when you skipped the stone?"
Harry tried to look thoughtful, and he came back to where Snape was sitting. "I don't know…I just kicked it and…" He paused, biting his lip. "Can I tell you something? You might think I'm crazy."
Severus shook his head, most likely already suspecting that Harry was an undiscovered wizard.
"Well, recently…strange things have happened to me. Like—like, last week, I was up trying to work on schoolwork that I was assigned over the summer. My parents had wanted me to finish it by the next day, and I told them I had done it the week after school ended. I thought I could save it until last minute without them knowing. But then they said they were going to read it to make sure. So I had to do it that night. Only…I kept falling asleep.
"That's when it got weird. Just when I was about to fall asleep, I would feel something poking me. My pencil would roll down and hit my hand. Or at least that's what it seemed like. So it was thanks to the pencil that I finished my paper." The story was loosely based on a true experience, except he stayed up late because of the chores the Durselys had dumped on him. Harry searched Snape for his opinion.
"Jacob—that's your name, right?" When Harry nodded, Snape continued, "I…I think you might be a wizard."
"…like, from in fairy tales?" Harry was going against the "don't-tell-him-you're-a-Muggle-born" rule, but by not knowing he was a wizard he may as well be saying it straight out.
Sure enough, Snape looked impatient. "No, like in real life, stupid."
Harry was unfazed, since he expected the least. His acting had been a little too exaggerated. "Wait…are you…one too?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "Yes, I am. So is my mother."
Harry let himself appear confused. "Hang on…neither of my parents are wizards."
Snape was struggling to keep the fact that Harry was an obvious Muggle-born from affecting the way he acted.
"That doesn't matter," he managed. "Anyway…you should get a letter from Hogwarts soon."
"What's Hogwarts?" Harry asked, aware of the limited time that Severus be patient with him.
"A school for witches and wizards."
"Are you going there?"
"Yes. Of course." Snape crossed his arms and looked away.
This was Harry's cue to leave. He said suddenly, as if remembering something, "What time is it?"
"Uh…seven," Snape lied.
"Oh, I have to go!" Harry started back in the direction he came, and then turned back to the wizard boy.
"What's your name?" Harry asked.
"Severus…Snape." He had hesitated on whether to give his last name, which was either a sign of social awkwardness or that he thought it wasn't necessary to tell him.
"Okay, I'll see you around then, Sna—I mean, Severus," he corrected himself, and ran away from the place where he had discovered his abilities.
He took 45 minutes to search the neighboring town and choose one of the houses. Harry had stayed at a quaint little B&B there when he visited his mum's house, since he had other business the next day in the same area. With the memory and image clearly in his mind, he Apparated there to save an hour of walking. Harry explored the area and eventually settled on a small house surrounded by trees. Upon entering, he saw it had basic furniture and a few paintings, but no food or clothing, leading him to believe it was a summer cottage. Perfect. Now he had privacy, but could keep tabs on his supposed parents in case he ever needed them to pose as his mum and dad. He went outside, and by this time, the sun was starting to set.
Just in case he forgot, he recorded the address 509 Loyola Drive on a small piece of parchment. He made sure his stuff was out of sight, just in case, then apparated back to the tree.
The night was magical. As the sun set, Lily and Snape sat side by side, talking in quiet awe. A gentle orange blended into yellows, illuminating the underbellies of purple clouds. Blue was starting to push closer and closer toward the horizon as street lights blinked awake below.
Harry watched the sky rather than the other two, basking in the peace and stillness of the evening. When Lily and Snape got up and started to walk, Harry followed.
When they reached the open field, they started looking at the stars, which were just coming out. The two friends' eyes lit up as they saw a star shoot across the sky.
"Sev! Make a wish! Make a wish!" Lily whispered excitedly, nudging his arm.
Face illuminated by the moonlight, lifted toward the sky, Snape stopped in place. Lily might not know what he wished for, she might not ever know, but Harry did.
Lily watched Snape until he looked down at the ground and continued alongside her. "What did you wish for? Oh wait, you can't tell me. That was…really cool, wasn't it? I've never seen a shooting star, only in movies, but—"
Snape stopped her in mid-speech, looking at her with a surprising intensity. Then he blushed and looked away. The rest of their walk was in silence.
They reached Lily's house, and, thankfully, the driveway was still empty. "See you tomorrow, Sev…" she said, then walked up the sidewalk leading to the house. When she got to the door, she opened it, gave Snape one last smile, then went inside.
Harry leaned against the light post and watched Snape begin to walk slowly home. There was something worth saving in their lives, or at least knowing about their lives, and Harry now knew what he wanted to do.