Severus and Harry Apparated to the gates of Hogwarts, then approached the castle. Severus walked much more quickly than Harry, who felt a twinge of annoyance at the way Severus' cloak billowed behind him. Severus was still trying to put on a haughty act to distance himself, despite everything that had changed. The memories, Harry hoped, would at least begin to mend Severus' misguided anger and dismissal of close relationships.
"Why not just use Legilimency?" Harry asked, quickening his pace.
Severus sighed, as though Harry had asked where the sun went every night. "The Pensieve focuses the memories. Although I am an experienced Legilimens, I only see flashes of thought. Had I not taught you that in your time?"
"We didn't get along. I hated you. You hated me, at least it seemed. Because of it, I never really learned Occlumency, and…I let Sirius die."
"I suppose I need not have tried to teach you, then."
Harry reddened with anger. "Look, I saw firsthand what Sirius did to you. He was protecting his beliefs with little consideration of the consequences. If you're going to come back from the dead, though, you're going to have to put the past aside. He'll do the same for you, if he believes you've changed."
"I have no intention of getting along with Black."
"You don't need to prove who's more stubborn, it's obviously you. Who else would pretend to be a criminal for two years as some sort of twisted self-punishment?"
"I did what I had to do. He has done nothing."
"Most people have done nothing. You hate most people?"
Severus was silent for a moment, then said, "Your judgement is clouded because he was your father's friend."
"How can you say my judgement is clouded when you base your opinions on your childhood? During which, I might add, is when you were in the Dark Arts. Besides, you two are more similar than you think."
"Oh? And how is that, Potter?"
"You both eventually turned away from Voldemort, even though it made the most sense, given your backgrounds. You both were widely accused of a crime you didn't commit. You both were dedicated to protecting me. You were both in the Order, both glutton for punishment. And both of you loved someone who never loved you back…"
"What was the last one?"
Severus whisked his wand to open the front doors.
Harry knew if he continued talking about Sirius he'd make things worse. He had to change the subject to let Severus think about what he'd said. "Listen, when you're using the Pensieve, I hope you see what you could've done to change things, not because you'll have the chance, but so you can see how you need to be in the future."
Severus said nothing, so Harry stopped trying to give advice. They walked up to Dumbledore's Office, which now, Harry realized, would be Professor McGonagall's Office.
"Fizzing Whizbees," Harry said.
"How do you know the password?" Severus asked as they walked upstairs.
"Raven and I came here. That's how we knew you were alive. She's looking for you now, actually." Harry searched Severus for a reaction, but there was only a flicker in his eyes to indicate he'd heard.
Upon their entrance, some of the painted depictions of former headmasters stood up, Dumbledore included. "Severus. Welcome home."
"Albus." Severus nodded at him.
"And hello again, Harry." AIbus turned toward Severus. "I did not imagine you would remain a double agent for this long. You never cease to surprise me." His gaze moved pointedly along the distance between Severus and Harry, before resting on the former. "Though I can imagine you do not want to return."
"I agreed to return if Potter showed me his memories."
Albus raised an eyebrow. "Tit for tat, I see. Severus, you will find Harry's memories are still in the Pensieve. And Harry, have a look in the very back cabinet for me."
By the time Harry reached the back of the room, Severus had immersed himself in the memories.
With a glance back at Albus, Harry opened the cabinet doors, then stepped back. Inside was the Mirror of Erised.
Harry searched his reflection. Though it was just himself staring back, something was still different. Just when he thought he'd figured it out, his reflection reached under his shirt and pulled a pendant out from underneath. Then he dropped the pendant into his pocket.
Harry, remembering the Philosopher's Stone trick, reached into his pockets. In his right, he felt glass brush against his fingertips. He pulled out a vial, which he held up to study more closely. The liquid inside was clear, but when it caught the light it flashed reddish gold, like Fawkes.
Harry looked back into the mirror, now truly seeing his own reflection, then turned to the portrait of Albus.
"What is this, sir?"
"They are tears from a phoenix, Harry. Although my death was unexpected, I knew I was risking my life by facing Voldemort. I said farewell to Fawkes and collected the tears that followed; he might've known the fate that faced me. The tears are one of the few things I have hidden in the Mirror." Albus drew a long breath, then exhaled slowly. "Raven told me you had to watch Severus die…Think of this as a testament to your faith in this time. You still have the power to change, but in the present. I hope it will make you feel more secure."
"Yes, I think it will…" A picture of the original Order on Albus' desk caught his attention. "Hang on, how many people can this heal?"
"It depends on the circumstances, but at least two."
"Is there anything it can't heal?"
"I have not had the opportunity to try it on problems inherited at birth, but any injury sustained since, I believe it can."
Harry sat down, thinking. If he acted on his idea, he would use up the phoenix tears. He would no longer have their security, though he'd demonstrate he could still help others. As he considered how to go through with the plan, he let his eyes close, and gradually fell asleep…
"Harry, wake up."
Harry stirred from his sleep and turned to Albus, who had also appeared to've dozed off. Then Harry noticed what was wrong; Severus had disappeared. Harry turned and immediately saw that the Pensieve was glowing green.
"Professor—sir—what's going on?" Harry hurried over, peering into the water.
Albus moved between paintings to get a better look. "It appears to have taken him. If I had to guess, he wanted to stay in your memories. Go in after him, quick, before he is trapped."
Harry nodded and submerged his face in the basin. When his surroundings sharpened, he found himself in the Gryffindor common room.
"Save your breath, Potter. I'm tired of your excuses. I told you before that I wanted to wait." Lily turned away from James.
James stepped towards her. "I thought you loved me."
Adult Severus was shadowing young Severus. He hadn't noticed Harry arrive.
Lily rolled her eyes. "You're such a fucking child. Yes, I thought there was something between us—"
"There is!" James cut in desperately.
"…but I was wrong. You only wanted to get up my skirt."
Harry began to approach the adult Severus, whose eyes flickered in his direction before focusing again on the scene.
"That's not true. Lily…I do love you." James gazed into her eyes for what seemed to be his perfect, pre-determined time, then leaned in and—
"LEVICORPUS!" James was flung into the air by his ankle. Lily turned to see who had cast the spell. When she saw that it had been Severus, her brow furrowed and she turned toward James.
Harry stood next to adult Severus, hoping his presence would bring him from his trance. Harry let Severus watch himself stand up to James, and when the scene dissolved, he said, "If you don't leave now you'll be stuck here. You want this too much."
Severus seemed to register this, but he was too focused on his younger self, who embraced Lily.
Tears of relief and regret ran from Lily's eyes to his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry."
Young Severus gripped her tightly, not wanting to lose her again. "No, it's my fault."
Lily smiled, though he couldn't see it. "I couldn't have imagined you saying that until now."
"I promise, I've changed."
Lily let go and tucked a strand of his hair behind his ear. "I know. I would've believed it at the beginning of the year, but I didn't know if it would last, I was hurt, and I didn't want to risk going through that again." She took his hands and studied him. "You probably think I'm pathetic. I was protecting myself when I should have been protecting you, too. You're so incredibly strong, and Jacob and Raven are the best friends you could hope for." She studied their entwined fingers.
"I shouldn't have said what I said. I—I didn't mean it then, and I don't mean it now, not about anyone." Young Severus bit his lip, eyes reddening, but still dry. When he opened his mouth to speak again, his breath shook. "I missed—I missed having you around."
Lily smiled, and this time he could see. "Me too, Severus."
The scene disappeared. They were back in the Headmaster's office.
Severus stumbled over to the desk, barely supporting himself. "Why did you let me see that," he managed.
Harry waited for him to continue, unsure what Severus would say or do next.
Severus straightened, fingers at his temple. "Why bother trying to improve my childhood? There is nothing you can change that far back without bringing significant consequences."
"Even if it didn't work, haven't you learned why things were better in that time?"
Severus narrowed his eyes. "I already knew she would have improved my life. And it does not matter if it was better so long as it is impossible. Anyone's life would be better with someone to give them the answer to every problem, to prevent every mistake, but it is not within our power to have that luxury."
"That's not what I meant. You had people who cared about you—"
"Spare me the torture of having to listen to more of your drivel, Potter."
Harry gritted his teeth. "It's not better to live your life on your own. I know from experience. I lived with the Dursleys for most of my life, and they ignored me. I grew up sort of how you had—neglected, angry, miserable. I was ready to be alone at Hogwarts, but thanks to Ron, who wanted to be my friend despite who I was, as well as Hermione, I was happy. And, like you, I pushed my friends away many times, because I knew if I distanced myself, we'd all be better off." Harry blinked, realizing he was straying away from the point. "It seems easier to be alone, and I know for you it seemed to be because you didn't have the confidence, and you didn't think people wanted to be around you, except out of pity. But look at your parents. They were alone as adults, and probably alone as kids, and they had miserable lives. You know how you felt after Lily died? That pain is a whole lot more tolerable when you have other people in your life."
Severus studied Harry, and somehow, Harry could sense Severus' Occlumency fade. The look Severus gave was skeptical, but not blank or hateful.
Albus cleared his throat, forcing Severus to look away. "The Ministry will need convincing of your innocence, Severus. I will visit my portrait in Kingsley Shacklebolt's office. There is a new fireplace that connects the Minister of Magic and this room. You can access it with a whiskey spell—the one from the annual staff party, Severus. Harry will go first."
Severus nodded and looked to where Albus pointed, then waved his wand in a sweeping motion, revealing the fireplace.
Albus nodded toward Harry. "I'll be right behind you."
Harry threw Floo Powder into the fireplace and crawled inside. "Office of the Minister of Magic." He felt himself spin, faster and faster, passing by room after room until he stumbled out of the Minster of Magic's fireplace.
"Harry! What were you doing in Albus' office? Are you all right?" Kingsley Shacklebolt helped Harry catch his balance.
"There's something you need to know; I met with Albus about it. Er, sorry if I surprised you. How are you, otherwise?"
Kingsley, already recovered, gestured for Harry to sit down. "Caught up in a great deal of work, but otherwise I'm well. What did you want to talk about? I don't mean to rush you, but I have a meeting in twenty minutes."
"Oh. Alright, I need you to trust us."
Albus entered his Ministry portrait. "Evening, Kingsley."
"Good to see you, Albus. What is this about?"
Albus gestured to Harry, who explained; "After Albus was killed, Severus Snape supposedly returned to Voldemort. Well, he only led everyone to believe that. He was working for Albus all along."
Kingsley glanced at Albus, who nodded. "If this is true, why not tell me after Voldemort died? It's been two years."
"Severus had an unofficial will where he said to keep this a secret for two years after he disappeared. I found him and he—"
"So he's alive?" Kingsley blinked.
"Yeah. He's spent the past two years pretending to help Voldemort's old followers regain power, but has actually been turning them in. Do you know anyone who's done that for the Ministry?"
Kingsley nodded. "But whoever it is has remained anonymous, for the most part. I am the only one to have seen the man, and he instructed me to keep his appearance a secret, which I have. But he looked nothing like Severus."
The fireplace blazed, and a stout man with gray hair walked through, wearing robes too tight and long for his frame. "Good morning, Minister."
"It's you." Kingsley reached out to shake the man's hand.
Harry had already made the connection. It was Severus.
The skin on the man's face bubbled and he stretched up, becoming taller and thinner. His hair grew and turned black, his eyes darkened, skin paled. Then Severus, back to his former self, said, "I took the form of a homeless man from London when I brought the Dark Lord's followers. I still have Polyjuice potion, and you will find I captured Lester Rowle. He is currently incapacitated, but alive, at my home."
Kingsley sat at his desk, shaken. "If you are—and have been—on our side, then how did you keep Voldemort's trust?"
"Of his followers, I was the most skilled at the Dark Arts. And you know before joining Albus I overheard the prophecy that led the Dark Lord to murder James Potter and Lily Evans."
"Hadn't they married, and she'd taken his name? Lily Potter?"
Severus frowned, ignoring the question. "I went to Albus and he agreed that in exchange for their protection, I would work as a double agent."
"But why did you care about them?"
Severus glanced at Harry. "I…had feelings for his mother."
Kingsley's eyebrow raised slightly, but whatever laughter and taunting Severus seemed to expect did not come. "But she still died."
"Yes. But her son survived, and I vowed to protect him. Over the following years, I passed on any intelligence I gained from the remainder of the Dark Lord's forces. When he returned, I used Occlumency to hide my thoughts, and told whatever lie I needed to in order to keep his trust. I led him to believe I was bound by several Unbreakable Vows, I stayed on good terms with the Slytherin house, I openly ridiculed Harry and other Gryffindors. If I was assigned a particularly terrible mission, I would complete it minimally, give scant detail, make him believe Albus was constantly on my trail, which only increased the Dark Lord's fear of him. I, as you know, gave the Order valuable information, and later helped kill the Dark Lord."
Albus noticed Kingsley's hesitation and cut in, "My own word will not hold much value in court, but Harry and his friends, as well as Raven Faralyn, will be most useful in testifying."
Kingsley nodded, then turned to Severus. "Why not give these details to the Order? We never fully trusted you, and it seems a waste to treat you the way we have."
Severus shook his head. "If anyone else in the Order had known, the Dark Lord would have known. The more ambiguous I remained, the more faith he would have in me."
The three waited for Kingsley to think everything through. Finally, he said, "The various factions that have emerged since the War have proved difficult to unite. There are those who are less forgiving of crimes committed in the wars. If I clear your name, I could seem too trusting. I have to hold a hearing with a few other important members of the Ministry to keep the peace."
"I understand. Do you really believe they will take my word?"
"Times have changed, Severus." Kingsley smiled slightly.
Harry spent the following fews days in and out of the Ministry. He, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny met Raven for breakfast every morning before each hearing, where Harry would learn anything he might need to know about what Severus did at Hogwarts, for and against them.
The final day of the hearing wasn't to take place until that evening, so at noon, with the phoenix tears hanging at his neck, Harry went to St. Mungo's.
"Hi, I'm here to see Frank and Alice Longbottom."
The man at the front desk looked up. "Oh, hello, Mr. Potter. You know, you're not the first member of Dumbledore's Army to see Frank and Alice today."
"Is anyone still visiting?" Harry couldn't be seen, in case his plan didn't work.
"I don't believe so. You'll be wanting the fourth floor in the Janus Thickey Ward. I'll have someone direct you over. Jaye," he said to a young girl in green robes, "d'you mind taking Mr. Harry Potter to Thickey?"
"Sure, sir." Jaye motioned him forward, "Follow me." Something about her was familiar. Her sharp eyes, the swish of her ponytail—
"I'm Jaye Rosquit," she said, pointing to her name tag. "This is my second summer interning, I'm going to be in seventh year next month. You know, I've seen you round Hogwarts. Well, how could I not? But I'm in Hufflepuff so I don't know if you'd have seen me."
Jaye Rosquit. So she must be…"No, I remember you." Guessing, and hoping the timelines were similar enough, Harry said, "Your mother, Violetta, played Quidditch, didn't she?"
"That's right!" They reached the fourth floor. "I can't believe the 'Chosen One' knows my mother. Wait'll I tell her. You a fan of the Wigtown Wanderers, then?"
"Er, yeah, they're good."
They reached the ward. Jaye became solemn in the quiet, still atmosphere. "Terrible about Neville's parents. It's not fair, what with the War ending and all, that they have to still be like this."
Harry nodded, peering past her as she unlocked the door.
"Will you tell Neville I hope he's well?" Jaye pushed the doors open.
They entered the room, Harry several paces behind, cautious.
Jaye approached Frank and Alice more comfortably. "Hello, you two."
They stared at her blankly, hair wispy, then almost robotically they extended their hands.
Jaye reached into her pocket and pulled out four toffees and handed them each two.
"Hang on, I have something as well." Harry emptied his vial into his palm, which now contained two hard candies, which he had created by solidifying the phoenix tears. "Here." He gave them each one.
Alice, eyes distracted and wide, dropped the toffees and put the tears in her mouth. Frank watched her do this, then, mouth a bit ajar, did the same.
"You know, my mum and Alice were best friends. Small world, isn't it?"
"It is. Do you mind giving us a minute alone?"
"Sure thing. I'll be right outside. Yell if something's wrong."
"Alright." Harry studied Alice and Frank's faces, waiting for something to change. Then he realized even if their condition did improve, he didn't want the miracle to be connected with him. "Goodbye. Get better," Harry told them, then left the room.
"Yeah, it just gets too emotional after a bit."
"Oh, I completely understand. My mother used to visit a lot more than she does now, because I think it got to be too much."
"When does Neville visit?"
"He was just here this morning. Do you want me to tell him you were here, if I get the chance?"
"No, that's alright. It's always been a private thing to him. If he asks, don't mention me."
"Okay. Though, he might want to know you care. Just a thought."
"I'll see him this Sunday, so I'll tell him then."
When Harry was back at the Burrow, he told Hermione, Ron, and Ginny what he'd done.
Ron had held the same piece of chicken for the past three minutes, too engrossed to eat as he listened. "So it could've worked, but you don't know?"
"Right. What do you think, Hermione? About whether or not it'll work, I mean."
Hermione considered it for a moment, then said, "It's a stretch, Harry. Some damage can't be reversed." Harry must've looked especially disheartened, so she added, "But we won't know until we know."
The next morning, Harry got up early to help set up for the Remus and Tonks' wedding, which was to take place at outside at Shell Cottage. There wasn't much room to stay overnight, so everyone helping had to show up early each morning leading up to the wedding.
As he sat down to eat his toast, he spotted an owl at the windowsill. He waved his wand to let the owl through. It dropped a letter on the table, then flew back out of the window.
Harry opened the letter, immediately spotting the signature; it was Neville.
You won't believe this, but my parents, who have been in St. Mungo's for years, have recovered! The Healers have no idea how, and neither of my parents remember anything that may've caused it. They're still recuperating, but they'll be well enough to go to the wedding, if that's possible. Could they also bring a couple guests? Violetta Rosquit, who is my mother's best friend, and her daughter, Jaye Rosquit.
Looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday,
Harry bolted upstairs, letter in hand, as everyone else was waking up. "Frank and Alice are better."
Hermione, already dressed and ready, hugged Harry. "Oh, I'm so happy for him."
Ron pulled on his shirt as he asked, "You gonna tell them what you did? I wouldn't, so you know."
Hermione nodded. "If anyone else found out, it might endanger the phoenixes. People would spend their lives hunting them. But still, Alice and Frank might want to know."
Harry shook his head. "I don't want anyone to feel like they're indebted to me."
As word traveled about Frank and Alice, the excitement for the wedding escalated. As the preparations bought them closer and closer to Sunday, Harry realized just how many people were attending; at least 300. Upon asking Ginny how they could afford it, he found out he'd donated a large portion of the funds toward the wedding on behalf of himself and James.
Meanwhile, the Daily Prophet ran multiple stories per issue on Severus, who they billed as the wizard who'd worked as a double agent for nearly twenty years. After being declared innocent, every writer wanted to cover his story. The articles were spun in three ways; most commonly by comparing the hardships he'd faced with the heroic things he did in his adulthood, others by detailing his relationship with Harry, and least commonly criticizing his treatment of Hogwarts students while emphasizing his service to the Dark Lord. Harry only gave one interview, to Luna, who ran a very generous article in The Quibbler.
Privately, Harry considered what Severus would choose to do with his life. With Harry now safe, Severus had fulfilled his promise, and was possibly alive to choose how to spend the rest of his days. He could, if he wanted, move on and start a life with someone else who knew, along with the rest of the Wizarding World, of his courage and sacrifice. She might have known for years. Or, Severus could hold onto the memory of Lily, to the point of not remembering her—not her passions, opinions, and ambitions, but the hollow shell of her; the way she asked how he was doing, or parted her hair, or how her hands felt on his back whenever they hugged. He would hang on to the feeling of being love because it was addictive, too familiar to let go. Because Lily was the first to see the good in him, she had to be last.
One thing was certain—Harry and Severus had to be friends. It would take years, probably, but otherwise, what had the letter been for? Harry had hoped he'd create a version of himself that didn't continuously suspect and hate Severus, but maybe the effects had been minimal. He wanted to ask Severus to help him with an idea he had, and if he agreed, Harry would know there was still hope.
Most people who knew Severus seemed particularly silent about the reveal of his true allegiance. After the shock subsided, the talk jumped to what would happen next. Mrs. Weasley asked Harry at least twice every day if he knew whether Severus was coming to the wedding. Eventually, Harry wrote Raven and asked her to bring Severus with her so he wouldn't feel so uncomfortable about going.
On the morning of the wedding, Harry woke up to find Ginny had already left. He glanced at his watch. 8:22. The ceremony was at three.
After eating breakfast with the twins, Harry brought his dishes into the kitchen.
Harry looked up. It was Sirius.
"It's been, what? Two months?" Sirius hugged Harry, then held him at arms length. "I think this is the first time you haven't grown."
Harry managed a small laugh. Thankfully Mrs. Weasley chose that moment to walk in, masking the emotions running through him.
"Good morning, you two. We've got our work cut out for us today. Sirius, what time did you and Charlie get in last night?"
Sirius poured himself a cup of coffee. "I dunno, after midnight."
Harry had learned from the others that Sirius had spent the summer training dragons in Romania with Charlie.
Mrs. Weasley charmed the cleaning supplies to clean the dishes. "Are you planning on returning to Romania this summer, or are you all dragon-ed out?"
Sirius set down his mug and crossed his arms. "Actually, I'm going back this Thursday."
Mrs. Weasley accidentally broke the glass she had been in the process of charming, then sighed and repaired it. "That soon? You just came back."
"It's my job, Molly."
"I know, I'm only saying, you've…" she thought for a moment, then lowered her voice, "…you've hardly been around for Harry recently."
Harry was unsure if he should leave.
But Sirius didn't seem to care, and couldn't help defending himself. "Is that really what this is about?"
Mrs. Weasley hesitated, glancing at Harry, who got the cue and left the room. Still, he loitered in the hallway. No one had mentioned anything between Mrs. Weasley and Sirius, but it wasn't that unusual that they were arguing.
"You made it seem like you'd be a father to him."
"Harry's old enough to take care of himself, that's not what this is about. You think—" Sirius stopped and looked behind her.
Mrs. Weasley turned around, then beamed. "Charlie!"
Harry hung back, curious. After hugging his mother, Charlie smirked at Sirius and hugged him, too, a little longer.
Mrs. Weasley put her hands on her hips, sour. "We need to set up the tent. Charlie, why don't you get the kids to help, I need to talk to Sirius."
Charlie glanced at Sirius. "Alright."
Harry hurried into the other room so they wouldn't know he had been eavesdropping.
Charlie appeared a second later, nearly bumping into him. "Oh, Harry! Help me round up the kids so we can put up the tents."
Harry nodded distractedly. When Charlie was gone, he snuck back beside the kitchen.
"…between you and Charlie. You're much too old—"
"Molly, calm down, it's not what you think." Sirius held a furious stare. "If it were, though, Remus is just as many years older than Tonks."
"Don't tell me to calm down, Sirius! He's my son, and you can't go on confusing him, understand?"
Sirius shook his head in disbelief and pushed past her. "Completely."
Harry ran up the stairs to Ron's room and knocked on his door. "It's Harry. We have to go help with the tents." If Sirius and Charlie were in a relationship, well, it was surprising, but Harry didn't mind. Sirius never had the chance to love anyone after James, and Charlie had probably been too busy with dragons to love someone else. No one was losing anything.
"Just a tic," came Ron's reply from behind the door. Then he emerged, bleary-eyed. "How are you all awake? I reckon Hermione left before the sun came up."
"Ginny, too." Harry considered asking about Charlie and Sirius, but Ron had stumbled into the bathroom before he could ask.
They spent hours setting up chairs, putting out flowers, and attending to tasks so arbitrary Harry was certain no one would notice or appreciate the difference. He vowed he would keep his own wedding as simple as possible.
As the ceremony drew closer, Harry and the other groomsmen and the bridesmaids changed into their outfits.
Harry knocked on the door of the bedroom he shared with Ginny. "It's me."
Ginny opened the door, other hand attempting to put her hair up. Her mouth split into a grin. "You look dashing."
Harry kissed her. "So do you." Her dress, and Harry's tie, changed from purple to Tonks' signature bubblegum pink; the bridesmaids dresses had been enchanted to change color as her hair changed color.
"I'd better see if Tonks needs help."
Harry nodded, and kissed her on the cheek before they left the room.
On his way to the stairs, Raven almost rushed past him. "Hi, Harry, how are you?" Raven pulled him into a hug.
"Good, how are you?"
"I'm fine, thanks. Oh, and Severus is coming, he just didn't want to be here early."
Harry nodded, then studied her. "You look nice."
Raven chuckled, but it was true; even after aging twenty or so years, he could sense the youth in her. "Thank you. So you know, Severus took a bit of convincing to come. But it was nice to fight again. Verbally, of course." She cleared her throat. "And…I suppose I didn't fully realize that now he would suspect me of fancying him. You know, because of the timeline he saw."
"Is he right? To suspect you, I mean."
"No. It's merely his way of coping with the idea that people may actually care about him. A mad idea, apparently. Oh, right—I have to go fix a few last-minute problems with the set-up, but I'll see you before the ceremony." Raven made to leave. "Oh, when Severus gets here, try and seat him with the other professors. He's not particularly keen on socializing."
An hour later, Harry was relegated to greeting guests, which he soon found to be both emotionally exhausting and invigorating. While he was able to see people who'd essentially come back from the dead, he also had to pretend to remember countless people from the Ministry and experiences he hadn't had in the past timeline.
Finally, he realized he was shaking hands with Alice Longbottom. "Oh! I didn't realize—I'm Harry." Sure enough, Neville and Frank were right behind her. All three looked much healthier than they had before; Alice and Frank's hair had grown in, and their skin was no longer washed out. "I'm glad you all could make it."
Violetta and Jaye followed in their wake. Harry hadn't learned Violetta's fate in the war, but regardless, he was happy to see her, even if she thought it was his first time meeting her.
Minutes later, Harry spotted Severus, who was in his traditional black attire, from in the crowd. Severus was only inching through the mass of people who wanted to speak with him, but eventually made his way over.
Harry extended his hand. "Severus."
"Harry." Severus shook his hand, then realized, seeing Harry's expression, what he'd said. Harry, not "Potter."
Harry cleared his throat. "The other Hogwarts professors are at the back right."
Severus gave him the slightest nod, then spotted McGonagall's pointed hat in the crowd and let it guide him over to a seat.
After the ceremony, there was an hour of pictures and milling about, then everyone drifted to the reception. Harry was in a daze—he hadn't had the chance to talk to Remus and Tonks, or really anyone there, but he had been right beside them; hand at their waists, or around their shoulders. Remus had grinned at at Harry between pictures, made an inside joke that Harry didn't understand but pretended to. Harry wished more than anything after that moment to have the memories of the new timeline.
Although Harry didn't know Remus and Tonks as well as his other self had known them, he could tell the wedding and reception had been taken largely out of their hands. They would've preferred something small, private, but there was enough effort and money put in to make what most guests would consider the biggest event of the year.
Hermione pointed to the table at the end of the tented area. "We're all here." They walked past the thirty circular tables, which were all covered in white, and could seat ten people each. Thousands of tiny glowing lights bobbed overhead as Harry and the others reached their seats.
"Harry, here's your seat." Ginny lifted his name card. Severus had been placed to Harry's left, with Raven one more seat down.
Harry noticed Sirius and Charlie were slotted to sit next to each other and wondered if Mrs. Weasley would change their names before they arrived.
After only ten minutes, the space was filled with hundreds of people, all ordering drinks, their conversations inflating the room. Amongst the commotion, Remus and Tonks were able to slip in through the back, almost unnoticed.
Severus avoided conversations with either one word answers or disturbing, blunt stories that ended the interest in him altogether. Harry, partly because he felt the same way, could sense Severus felt disconnected in the warmth and openness of the group.
Severus' attention snapped to Charlie after he put his hand on Sirius'. When Severus noticed Harry was watching for his reaction, he said, "I saw what happened between Black and Potter." Amusement curled on his features. "You had said that we both experienced unrequited love. But I never guessed it would change my very perspective on life." He snickered, causing Raven and a couple others to turn and look at him.
Raven glanced between Harry and Severus. "What is it?"
Trying to keep his voice down despite his anger, Harry replied, "It's about James and Sirius."
"Sirius had years to mock me for my feelings for Lily. Now I can return the favor."
Sirius was just out of earshot, but he was bound to hear if they kept talking. Harry was caring less by the second. "You're alive because of me. If you spend the rest of your life getting revenge on the people I care about, we'll both be miserable, you especially."
"No, I believe I will be much better off."
"You don't understand what you have to change in order to be better off. Or, maybe you do, but it's just too hard for you to do. Lily told you to move on, that's a start."
"Enough, Potter." Severus glanced around to make sure no one was listening in.
"I know it's hard. But have you ever considered that it's only out of coincidence that you two were friends? What I mean is—if I'd been the one who befriended you as a kid instead of Lily, you would've fancied me. You don't believe me? Fine, Raven, then. If it had been her…well, what's the difference?"
Raven looked as though she'd been slapped. "Harry, you've made your point."
Harry pressed on. "You can't deny it's down to circumstance. With Sirius, too—James was the one who saved him, so Sirius chose him. He's learned to get past it, so—"
"Enough." Severus' expression was cold, but Harry knew better than to interpret his look as hatred. It was just pain.
Farther down the table, Mrs. Weasley scanned the attendants, then said, "It's about time for the dessert—"
"I've got it, Molly." Sirius stood.
"I'll help him," Charlie offered, a bit quickly.
Mrs. Weasley didn't have a chance to reply before they slipped away to the kitchen. The conversations picked up again, and after a minute, the two still weren't back. "Harry, dear, can you go help Sirius and Charlie with dessert?"
Harry nodded, thankful for an excuse to take a break from Severus. But why didn't Mrs. Weasley go herself? Harry hung back as he approached the kitchen. Through the slit in the door, he could see them loitering by the cake.
Charlie pocketed his wand. "Look, I still want you to come back to Romania, Sirius. My mum—"
"She doesn't know what's best for you."
"She means well, Sirius." Charlie took Sirius' hands. "But I…I know what I want."
Sirius studied Charlie for a moment, then kissed him.
As his hands wove up into Charlie's red hair, Harry stepped back, trying to be silent, but his foot creaked on the floor.
Sirius and Charlie broke apart and looked at him, then at each other, unsure.
"I'm sorry, I saw." Harry realized, with a pang, that Mrs. Weasley might have meant for him to walk in on them.
Sirius let go of Charlie's hands. "Harry, I hadn't planned for you to find out like this…"
"It's okay. I'm happy for you. Seriously. I'll leave you to it, then." Harry shot them a small smile, then headed back to the party.
"Are they getting the dessert?" Mrs. Weasley asked as Harry sat down.
"Yes, they are." Harry didn't meet her eyes, and tried to jump into a conversation so it didn't seem like something had changed. He wished she'd see—and that they'd all see, when it was made public—how it was pointless to focus on Sirius and Charlie's relationship when it was enough for Sirius to be alive.
When Sirius and Charlie brought out the dessert, and after their discomfort with Harry subsided, Harry began to see how it made sense for them to be together.
Sirius had loved James, who had made life fun, exciting, different from the strict, miserable life he had grown used to in his childhood, and experienced again in prison. Harry could sense a similar dynamic between Sirius and Charlie. The last time he'd seen Sirius laugh as hugely as he saw then was when Sirius was in fifth year—so it wasn't just the dragons that led him to Charlie.
Most people took to the dance floor after dessert.
Sirius seemed to tell Charlie to give him some space, so Harry took the opportunity to approach Sirius.
The cover band began to play a Weird Sisters song, so Harry had to nearly shout what he wanted to tell him. "I couldn't care less that you're gay. You know that, right?"
Sirius started to smile. "Really?"
"I only care that you're happy. So go for it. Don't pay attention to Charlie's mum, or anyone."
Sirius was now grinning broadly, and swayed a little to the music. "You're better than your father in some ways, you know that?"
Harry did know, but he wasn't ready for Sirius to know what he'd done, so he joined in the dance with Sirius instead of talking.
When the song ended, Raven found Harry in the crowd. "I'm sorry for snapping at you earlier. I just don't want Severus to assume I…"
"No, I went too far. I should be sorry. I get carried away like that a lot."
"I realized that, in your memories. You just come off a little strongly sometimes." Raven smirked.
Remus came up to Raven, and motioned for them to dance.
Harry searched for Ginny, finding her with Tonks, then led her off as the song slowed.
"How is it, seeing everyone alive and well?"
"It hasn't quite registered as reality. I still feel as though this could all go away."
Ginny smiled, resting her hand on the side of his face. "It'll feel real soon enough."
Raven and Remus gradually danced closer toward them. Harry noticed Raven glance ever so often at the main table.
At the end of the song, Raven hurried over to Harry. "I had a feeling Severus would choose to leave now. I didn't have a chance to bring up your idea earlier, so you might want to catch him before he goes."
Harry Apparated beyond the main table and spotted Severus leaving through the makeshift gate.
"Wait, Severus! I meant to ask you something."
Severus stopped and sighed. "What is it, Potter?" Somehow, his tone when he said "Potter" had lost its bite.
"I have an idea, but I need your help."
Harry could feel Severus' patience fading, so he spoke quickly. "There're a lot of gaps in the Ministry programs. Now that I've been more involved, my other self, and now I, have realized we need a program, or new laws, or something within the Department of Health to deal with er, child abuse and neglect. It could just be over the summer that you help."
Severus blinked, mouth curling. "You think my childhood would bring me to help you?"
Harry faltered, suddenly unsure of his idea. "It's not just that. Hermione is doing the same sort of thing, except with magical creature rights, and Remus and Tonks are helping her. They're beginning to call this the Progressive Era." Harry fidgeted in the silence. "Look, I know we've had our—"
"I will consider it." Severus' eyes flickered away. "I…do not want to become your spokesperson."
"No, of course not."
"And you do realize the humiliation it will cause should my personal life be shared in relation to this. Considering I help at all."
Harry wanted to object, but he held his tongue and nodded.
Severus cleared his throat. "I meant to tell you, since learning how life was in the other timeline, that I prefer this one. So thank you." Severus extended his hand.
Harry ignored the offer and pulled him into a hug before he could object.
At first, Severus leaned back as if to pull away, but very cautiously his hands settled on Harry's back.
When they separated, Harry noticed Severus' startled expression. He knew then that it was because he had unconsciously adopted his mother's style of embrace. Even though Harry hadn't known his mother as a child to be able to adopt her mannerisms, he knew he had at least that part of her.
Harry watched as Severus half-hid his face with his hand, head turned. It seemed Occlumency was no longer enough to hide his emotion.
The sun blinked past the horizon, the change bringing Severus out of his thoughts. He drew a deep breath and said, "I will help you."
Harry beamed. "Thank you. It means a lot, you know."
Severus nodded once. "After what you said about me in your interview, I realized I have high standards to live up to…"
"You read Luna's article? What did you think?"
"Please do not do anything like that again. At least, not until I am dead."
Harry was surprised to see the barest hint of a smirk on Severus' lips, overshadowed by the step he took back to leave.
Harry had one more question. "Are you going to teach at Hogwarts again?"
Severus turned toward Harry. "I imagine the school could use a competent Defense Against the Dark Arts professor." And with that, he walked away, Disapparating in mid-stride.
Harry, dazed, returned to the roar of the party. Eyes prickling, he sat down next to Ginny.
"Are you okay?" Ginny studied him.
Harry squeezed her hand, then smiled. "Yeah." Finally, the world was falling into place. "I'm okay."
**EDIT September 28, 2015**: THERE IS A (pseudo) SEQUEL TO TURNING TIME ON THIS ACCOUNT. The Untold Story of Sirius Black, 70,000 words, completed, with overlap into this universe.
First, thank you for loving Harry Potter.
The story has been, for me, a representation of life after the Harry Potter series ended. Like Harry, I felt lost without the home and family I grew up with. Like Harry, I didn't know all of the story, and had people, or characters, I wanted to get to know, respectively. I also felt like I owed Severus for disliking him over the years, and his death hit me hard. As Harry changed time with his letters, I felt as though I changed time with my story.
Turning Time was originally named "Meant to Be" because I had envisioned an ending where both Harry and I realized some things can't be changed, either because death makes for a good story, or because it actually wouldn't work within the plot.
Maybe, then, I've grown more optimistic over these three years. As the original series focused on the power of love for friends and family, I focused on the power of love for strangers, rivals, even enemies. Yes, a little preachy, but for Severus it made all the difference in the world.
**EDIT September 28, 2015**: THERE IS A (pseudo) SEQUEL TO TURNING TIME ON THIS ACCOUNT. The Untold Story of Sirius Black, 70,000 words, completed, with overlap into this universe.