AN: Back again! This will be a mentor fic, and though it does step backwards, it's not a usual time-travel story. I'm going to weave as much cannon into this as possible, and it'll be updated once a week or so until finished. Higher rating for swearing and a bit of violence, there won't be any abuse or crazy punishment or anything like that. As always, check my profile for a note if the next chapter is delayed a day or two. Hope you like it!
To Recollect the Future
A strong odour of moss, fallen evergreen and death invaded his nose; and a thin layer of damp forest dirt was stuck to his lips and the cold sweat on his cheek. A chill, one caused by dampness and fatigue, hard labour and a continued heightened sense of vigilance ran through his body with shivers and jerks of his limbs. His body, lighter than he remembered, was twisted in a way that staved off his muscle cramps- but only just. His arm started to prickle and ache, as it slowly lost feeling under the weight of his body. Harry Potter opened his eyes, disoriented in the evening dark of the forest and the overly large glasses on his face.
"It didn't hurt," he whispered, the dirt on the ground moving around his breath. "It didn't hurt, Sirius."
With as quiet of grunt as possible, he pulled himself up to look around, gauging his immediate threat level at zero. He could feel that his wand was in his pocket, his invisibility cloak under his shirt, and he wondered how long he'd been unconscious that Voldemort and the Death Eaters had left. Harry steadied himself and began to panic as he stood, noticing for the first time that his body was smaller than it had been when he'd gone to die in the forest. His clothes were the same, the mud, the small cuts on his hands and face, the scratches on his glasses, the map in his pocket. His size though - somehow he'd been shrunk, or gotten younger.
A raspy cough to his left startled him, and Harry whipped his wand out to point it at the black lump leaning against the tree off in the distance. Focusing his gaze, Harry recognized that it was actually a man, slumped against the tree and in sodden dark robes. A man who looked half dead, a wizard who'd…
"Snape!" Harry hissed, tripping over a tree root in his too-large shoes as he tried to reach the man. He landed with a soft 'oof' next to his professor, ignoring the dull pain in his knees as he used his small dirty fingers to raise Snape's head. There was a lot of blood on the man's collar, and dark patches across his chest and abdomen. Harry searched carefully, his wand drawn and episkey on his lips, but could not find any open wounds to cause the bleeding. Nagini's wounds were there, but they'd scabbed over. The black eyes opened suddenly without warning, and Harry stumbled back onto the forest floor in surprise. He suddenly realised where he was, back in the Forbidden Forest, younger than he could remember being, and staring at the intense gaze of a man he'd seen die.
"No, you're dead," Harry hoarsely whispered, never taking his gaze from Snape's. "It's not possible…I chose to come back…"
"Potter?" Snape hoarsely demanded, his wand steadily directed between Harry's eyes.
"Harry," was Harry's answer, his own wand also up. It was then that he noticed that Snape also looked younger, slightly healthier, and with fewer worry lines and creases on his face. The scowl, which had become all but permanent after fifth year, hadn't seemed to set yet. Harry pulled his torn tan jacket tighter around himself as he scrutinized Snape, as if he was seeking further protection.
"What were the last words I said to you?" Snape asked, never wavering his wand, but sitting up straighter against the tree.
"Look at me," Harry immediately answered. "Where was the sword of Gryffindor when I got it?"
Snape seemed to consider him and nod, before finally answering.
"In the forest of Dean, under a pond," he answered, lowering his wand. "You nearly drowned retrieving it."
"That's right," Harry said, more to himself as he slowly stood up. He looked down at his body, at the jeans pooling around his feet and his inner black fleece jacket folding over itself. It felt like he was back in Dudley's clothes.
Snape was ignoring everything Harry was mumbling, and instead was just staring.
"What have you done?" the voice was calm and emotionless, but Snape's eyes showed a brewing storm.
"Nothing," Harry stammered, hating how his voice was so high pitched. He rubbed at his scar instinctively, surprised and yet not that it was still there.
"Potter, you're the size of an eleven year old," Snape sneered, standing up and dusting his trousers off. He did nothing about the bloodstains on his collar or robes.
"Why are you alive?" Harry demanded, taking his glasses off and holding up his wand at them. He'd forgotten the spell to resize them, though, and merely pointed them at Snape. "I watched you die!"
Snape's reply was cut off by a snapping twig to the far right.
It was Professor Quirinus Quirrell, sounding nervous and twitchy, just like he had the very first day Harry had met him.
Harry lost all of the colour in his face and dropped his glasses to the forest floor.
"No," Harry gulped, shaking his head violently.
"Muffliato," Snape cast, moving toward Harry. They could still hear Quirrell wandering through the path.
"Potter," Snape tried, snapping his fingers in front of Harry's face. Harry's eyes jumped up to the dark ones, not even registering the concern in them or the streaks of coagulated blood under Snape's chin. Harry's body started to shake, and he could feel his heart racing.
"No, I can't be back here. I can't do this again," Harry said, hugging himself as he continued to shake his head. His voice got louder, and he nearly fell over as he tried to back up in his overly large shoes. He felt a panic rising up within him, acidic in his throat as his memories rushed at him and everything he'd gone through in the past seven years twisted and pulled at him again.
Snape's hands gripped his shoulders, strong and unyielding against Harry's trembling.
"Harry, stop," Snape ordered, his voice low and calm. Harry didn't hear it, though he was somewhat able to focus on Snape. The graveyard. Voldemort would try to kill him in the graveyard again. And he'd have to face the dragon in the Triwizard tournament, he'd have to deal with everyone hating him, and Dumbledore, he'd have to see Dumbledore die…
Rough black wool scraped against his cheeks as everything went dark. The peat smell here was added to by the coppery scent of blood, dried but still strong enough to turn his stomach slightly. Heavy weight was on his shoulders, a cool metal button was pressing against his cheek, and Harry then realised that Snape was actually hugging him.
"Stop, Harry," Snape murmured.
Harry still shook, his body hitching with his breaths as he stayed held against the warm man in front of him, the man who for years he'd thought had never been capable of any sort of softer emotions. He was offering comfort though, and Harry thought that if he could just convince Snape that he couldn't physically live through it all again, the nightmare of being back in first year would go away.
"Why are you doing this?" Harry asked instead, trying his hardest to blink away the wetness in his eyes. He was an eighteen-year-old man, but he was falling apart. He couldn't remember the last time he'd broken down, and it left him feeling utterly exposed.
Snape pushed him back a little and looked down at Harry, his hair falling forward a bit. Off in the distance, they heard Quirrell calling Snape's name again.
"A panicked Potter will not help figure out what brought us here," Snape said, logic superseding any other reason he may have had.
Harry sniffed discreetly and picked up his glasses.
"I'm not…" Harry said, his hands and fingers feeling clammy.
"You are," Snape corrected. He didn't seem to be angry though, and Harry thought that it was a mark of everything that they'd gone through in seven years that Snape seemed to understand his panic. "We could be much worse off, Potter."
"You do remember everything too, then?" Harry asked, looking around the clearing as if he still didn't believe where he was.
"Everything," Snape confirmed, his wand moving over his throat as the blood stains slowly disappeared.
Snape cancelled the muffliato, checking the watch that he had on his wrist under his long sleeved robes. Harry thought it odd that he'd never noticed the watch before, or seen Snape checking it. Snape cleared his throat and looked up, as if confirming that Harry was composed enough to stay quiet when Quirrell found them. Harry shoved his glasses up his nose again, and looked at Snape with bright green eyes.
"Thanks," Harry said, gesturing between them. "And, err, sorry."
"I did not expect to see you again after giving you my memories," Snape commented, seeming to be rather uncomfortable. "It would seem that after our experiences in the past seven years, a show of comfort would not be amiss for a fellow Order member."
"Severus? Whe-whe-where are you?" Quirrell asked again, sounding very close to them this time.
Snape twirled angrily toward the voice, and then back to look at Harry.
"All right?" he demanded in a quiet voice.
"Yeah," Harry muttered. He'd already yanked his cloak out, and was partially invisible. He could hold it together while Snape talked to Quirrell. He remembered Quirrell as not being much of a threat, not after his varied experience with a full grown and human Voldemort.
"Hide, Potter," Snape growled, a low order. "But do not leave this clearing."
"Wait!" Harry hissed, only his head showing. He felt slightly less panicked now, more on alert, because he knew that no matter what, Snape was there to help too. "How do we know there's not another version of us here? Doesn't that happen with time turners?"
Snape appeared to give this only a second's considering, as they heard more crashing through the brush.
"I would have found myself by now," Snape judged, steeling himself to meet Quirrell.
Harry shrugged at that, and disappeared fully under the cloak.
Snape straightened his robes, masking his surprise as he reached up and twisted the cricks out of his shoulders. The missing seven years made a difference, and his shoulders weren't nearly as sore as they'd been only that morning. Seven years…the last he could remember was lying on the dirty shack floor, the snake slithering away from him and an intense pain pulsing in every nerve. And then the boy had appeared, with his impossibly green eyes and actual care in which he'd held Snape's hand as he'd lain dying. Snape pushed the thoughts aside, crossing his arms and making himself look imposing. He needed to deal with Quirrell at the moment, and they'd work out the accidental time travel later. He and Potter – what a mess.
Quirrell stumbled toward the clearing, crashing through the underbrush like a wild boar as he stammered to himself.
Snape waited, in the shadows, until Quirrell was close enough to grab. Potter was standing off to the side against a beech tree (if the little twerp hadn't moved), and Snape swiftly caught Quirrell and pushed him up against a strong oak tree.
"Good evening, Quirrell. We're going to have a little chat," Snape said, his voice low and menacing. He remembered having the meeting with Quirrell all those years ago, but not quite what he'd said.
"But…but…why here, of of of all p-p-places Severus?"
"Because students aren't supposed to know about the Philosopher's Stone," Snape sneered, his memory sharpening into clarity.
"The Phil-Phil…they don't!" Quirrell insisted, pushing against Snape.
Snape pushed back, keeping Quirrell sufficiently pinned against the tree. He took malicious pleasure knowing that the Dark Lord was somewhere in the back of Quirrell's head, and ensured to knock it at least once against the massive tree.
"I don't trust you, Quirrell. You do not want me as your enemy. I expect that your little enchantment will be ready to protect the Stone shortly, and that you will not lay any sort of trap with it."
"Se-Se-Severus I would n-never!"
"See that you don't," Snape said, stepping back and releasing Quirrell. "We shall have another conversation shortly, to ensure your loyalties lie with the right side."
Snape raised an eyebrow at him, and watched with no short amusement as Quirrell stumbled away. He resisted the urge to give any indication that he was aware of the Dark Lord's presence. Snape knew it was best now to keep his cards close, something he'd have to import to Potter. It wouldn't do for either of them to reveal their knowledge prematurely.
Once the cloak was removed, Harry angrily resized his clothes with slashes of his wand.
"I'm back in first year, and you're still the evil potions professor" Harry whispered, his angry disbelief evident. "What's happened to us?"
Snape clutched his arm and pulled him close, so they could talk quieter and not be overheard by anyone roaming about the forest. He seemed to be oddly pleased that Harry was together enough to be angry.
"I don't know what's happened," Snape answered, lips tight and eyes flashing. Harry struggled a bit but Snape squeezed his arm harder. "Something obviously has and we will not find the answer in the Forbidden Forest."
"But," Harry said, ready to argue back. He still couldn't get his arm free.
"You have a detention tonight, Potter, for spying on myself and Professor Quirrell."
Outrage sparked on Harry's face, and Snape leaned closer.
"Think, Potter!" Snape hissed. "You will come to the dungeons, the warded dungeons, and we will discuss this further."
Understanding dawned in Harry's eyes, and Snape let him go.
"Transfigured your clothing into something proper, and do not give yourself away. I trust you can find my office once again."
"What? Just go back to school as normal?"
"Yes," Snape said, unsuccessfully trying to spell away the blood on his robes. "You must make an appearance. Do not tell anyone what has happened. Not even your little friends."
"Fine, sir," Harry grumbled. "See you at eight."
Harry turned to stomp off, but Snape stopped him.
"Seven. We have a lot to discuss; it will be an all night detention."
The black eyes were as focused as ever, and Harry saw the same tiredness in them that he felt. They may have ended up back in 1991, but the war was still very fresh on their minds.
Harry stood outside the portrait for five minutes, stammering in embarrassment at the Fat Lady.
"I have no idea what the password is," he admitted, scratching the hastily conjured quidditch uniform he wore.
"Hit with a bludger once too many times, dearie?" the Fat Lady teased, holding up a corked bottle of something.
"Can you ask someone to come out?" Harry crossly muttered.
"Harry!" Ron yelped, coming up the stairway. "Where have you been?"
Harry turned and felt his breath hitch, seeing Ron, Hermione, George, and Fred walking toward him. Hermione and Ron had books in their arms, likely from the library, but George and Fred were looking as innocent as they ever got.
Ron's face was so small, his cheeks reddish and clashing with his orange-red hair as his eyes widened with the importance of what he had to say. Hermione, holding a book that looked to be more than half of her body size, smiled widely at him beneath frizzy hair. Harry felt a rush of horrible guilt revolting in his stomach, guilt for everything he knew they'd have to go through in the future.
"What's the matter Harry?" George asked, ruffling Harry's hair.
"You look like you've seen a ghost," Fred chimed in.
"Yeah," Harry trailed off. God, their voices hadn't even fully deepened yet. "I got a detention," he blurted.
"What?" Ron demanded, in outrage. "From who? We weren't even in class!"
"Pixie wings," Hermione told the portrait. They all clambered through, and Harry felt a huge rush of homesickness being back in the common room. The fireplace was merrily crackling, and chairs were filled with students half asleep as they drank hot chocolates and tea, the twins were whooping as they ran up the stairs, and Percy was muttering to himself as he inspected the notice board.
"Harry," Hermione's voice broke through his thoughts. "What are you looking at?"
"And what'd you get detention for?"
"For spying on Snape," Harry said, remembering to sound excited. He couldn't believe back in first year they'd been so concerned about Snape stealing the Philosopher's Stone. It just seemed to ridiculous now, compared to everything they'd gone through since then. "All night detention, something to do with collecting ingredients."
Ron gave Harry a disgusted look.
"But I did find out something about Quirrell," Harry whispered, pulling Ron and Hermione over to a warm cushy chair by the fire. He was amazed that they could almost all fit in it at the same time.
By the time he'd finished spinning his tale on what he'd 'overheard' about the Stone and its protections, Ron had decided he was brave and stupid for spying on Snape alone, and Hermione had lectured him. He couldn't think up a viable excuse for such a rash action, but neither Ron nor Hermione seemed to require one. Harry had just enough time to take a hot shower before going down to the dungeons, luxuriating in the steam, heat, and clean bathroom. The year of camping had been acceptable, and they'd made the best of it, but Hogwarts would always be home. It certainly felt like it was welcoming him back.
Changing into warm clothes for the evening, Harry checked the pockets of his war-torn clothes. They'd been discreetly transfigured back –and shrunken –, and Harry found his Marauder's Map folded up in his back pocket. He didn't know if the twins had a copy in this world or not, but he did have a valid excuse to go to the dungeons at least. It had been bothering him since the clearing though, and Harry unfolded the map and held it up against the loo wall.
"I solemnly swear I am up to no good," Harry whispered. He could hear an upper year boy coming into the washroom, but he'd chosen a stall furthest from the door and doubted he'd be bothered. Making sure he still had enough time to run downstairs, Harry scanned the map. Just as he'd suspected – only one Snape was on the map, in his office. And only one Harry. They hadn't simply travelled back in time like his previous adventure with a time turner.
Harry followed the small winding staircase he'd been rushed down in fifth year to get to Snape's office. None of the Slytherins were about, and it took Harry a minute to realize that he felt so uneasy because the castle wasn't. Voldemort hadn't returned yet - the castle was mostly safe. He knocked three times on Snape's office door, before it was yanked open and he was pulled through. Only one candle was lit in the room, and Harry reacted instantly to seeing Snape's face only in shadows.
"Fodio!" Harry reacted, wrenching his arm away as Snape hissed at the stinging jinx. Both ended up at wand point again.
"What memories did I see when I used legilimency against you?" Harry interrogated.
Snape bared his teeth angrily, but answered. "Me as a child and my parents arguing. What curse did you attempt to murder Draco Malfoy with?"
"I didn't," Harry immediately denied, but Snape jabbed his wand against Harry's cheek to demand an answer. "Sectumsempra."
Satisfied, Snape threw a strong locking charm at the office door and spun back to the shadows, not checking to see if Harry was following.
There was a narrow recessed door on the far side of Snape's bookcases, out of sight to almost anyone who'd entered the office. Harry had certainly never seen it before, and he'd been in Snape's office plenty of times.
"I have yet to discern how you managed to send us back seven years, Potter," Snape said, with no small amount of resentment. He stalked down a narrow stone hallway that was lit with two sconces. There was a plain coat rack at the far end, onto which Snape had hung two outer cloaks and a thick grey scarf. Harry stared at it, unsettled by the domesticity. Even after seeing the man's memories, and evidence that Snape had, in fact, been a normal human child like himself, Harry's brain still stupidly assumed that Snape slept and lived in his robes.
"I didn't do anything," Harry insisted, following Snape into a warm living room. It was like a different world from Snape's office. The walls were painted a dark grey-blue colour, but there were lots of lights and the light wood furniture felt sparse and almost airy. Paintings and pictures covered the walls, a worn Slytherin pennant hung over the doorway to what looked to be a small kitchenette. There was a scuffed and well used leather chesterfield in the room, a matching armchair by the fireplace, a rattan foot rest that looked as if it had been used every day of it's life, and a small writing table in the corner covered with books, a robe, three candlesticks, and various scrolls. No less than three tea cups sat on random book shelves and the side table next to the chair, and Harry was unexplainably pleased to find that nearly every book in the room had little scraps of paper, parchment, ribbon, and in one case a thin stirring ladle, sticking out from it.
"Sit," Snape ordered, pointing to the chesterfield. It had a knit blanket haphazardly thrown on it, as if Snape had used the couch for a kip not that long ago. Harry continued to inspect the room, watching the mugs lazily float back to the kitchenette.
"You will not breathe a word to anyone, alive or dead, about my living space," Snape said, fixing him with a stern look.
"No, no of course not," Harry said, wiping his hands on his jeans. He'd managed to get most of the dirt off them, but the bloodstains were slightly more resistant to cleaning. Which made sense, when Harry thought about it. Blood magic was very strong. He'd have to ask Snape what spells he'd used on his robes.
"Tea?" Snape asked, pulling a small pewter pot down from the fireplace mantel.
"Yeah, thanks," Harry said, still looking around the room. It was disconcerting being back at such a peaceful Hogwarts, and his body was thrumming for him to go out in search of Quirrell and to destroy Voldemort.
Snape knelt down and spoke into the fire, ordering some sort of pasta dish for them both. Harry's stomach grumbled loudly, as if to remind Harry just how hungry it was. The room was quite warm though, and it felt like the Gryffindor common room. Like it was private and cosy and a place that he could let his guard somewhat down in.
"What is the last thing you remember, during the battle?" Snape bluntly asked, turning around and setting down a battered tray on the ottoman. The house elves had provided them with two steaming dishes of lasagne, some buttery garlic bread, and a large teapot with a hot pink tea cosy covering it. They'd not provided any cups or cutlery though, so Snape held his wand up to summon them. Two matching mugs appeared – that looked like they'd come from a dish set at Marks and Spencer's – along with a small bowl of sugar and a tiny cup of milk. There was also a plate of what looked to be plain tea biscuits from a store-bought package. To keep his hands busy, Harry began to prepare his own tea.
"Voldemort killed me," Harry answered just as matter of factly, catching Snape's wince. "I ended up at a very misty King's Cross with Dumbledore. He said I could go on, or go back to face Voldemort."
Snape's intensely focused eyes were unnerving, and Harry spooned out some sugar into his mug. He noticed tiny tea shaped clumps in the sugar bowl, the result of a tea-dampened spoon used to scoop the sugar out, and realised that Snape likely used the sugar bowl every day for his own tea.
"Did you specifically wish to go back here? To 1991?" Snape urgently asked. He had his own plate in his lap and was cutting into the pasta, causing waves of steam to escape and encircle his gaunt face.
"No," Harry softly said, shaking his head. "I knew exactly what I was going back to, and it was the only thing on my mind. Voldemort and a forest of Death Eaters."
Snape sat back to think about this, his eyebrows narrowed in thought and his thin fingers wrapped around his tea mug as he picked it up. Harry found it slightly interesting that Snape never took his spoon out of his tea as he drank it. How did the man not stab himself in the eye?
"I experienced something similar," Snape finally said, as if he'd just come to the decision that Harry was worthy of hearing it. "I met your mother, at the park near Spinner's End."
Harry's eyes snapped into focus, but Snape's gaze was at the fire sparking in his fireplace.
"You saw my mum?" Harry asked, the jealousy seeping into his voice. He'd been in the middle of cutting up his own food, but his knife and fork stayed suspended above a thick covering of melted cheese and noodles.
"Albus Dumbledore was the main guidance and influence in your life," Snape firmly said. "I believe that is why he was there for you."
Still momentarily stung that he'd not gotten to see his own parents, Harry took a bite of dinner and looked away. Snape was right, Dumbledore had been the near constant guidance in his life, and had looked out for Harry in a somewhat twisted way, more so than his relatives had ever done.
"Did you choose to come back here?" Harry asked, taking a sip of tea and not caring much that he nearly burnt his tongue.
Snape gave him a withering look.
"You can't possibly imagine I want to experience all that again."
Harry yawned, and reached down to kick off his shoes. The couch was comfortable, but he was too short to reach the ground and he wanted his feet up. For a multitude of reasons he felt safe, ensconced here in the dungeons with Snape. Snape, who probably understood more about him than most other people.
"Have you seen the headmaster at all, since our return?" Snape asked. He was treating Harry as an adult – despite Harry's physical appearance – and it made Harry feel like he was finally a worthy colleague from the Order.
"I've not," Harry shook his head. "Just the twins, Ron, and Hermione."
"I have," Snape muttered, taking a large bite of his lasagne. He looked like he was mentally reviewing the conversation he'd had with Dumbledore.
"Did he know that we've come back?"
Snape shook his head slowly, and Harry took another bite of lasagne as he waited.
"He realised that I was tense. He commented on it, and made some banal remark regarding your skills at today's match. However, I do not think he knows that we are from a different time."
Snape looked satisfied at this summary, but Harry was staring at him.
"You didn't tell him? I thought you trusted Dumbledore. He always told me he trusted you with his life."
Snape took a rather loud inhalation of breath, and closed his eyes. Harry could have kicked himself once he reviewed what he'd said.
"He did," said Snape. He leaned toward Harry though, pointing a sauce-covered fork at him. "However, Potter, remember this. Never give anyone your complete and utter submission. Always question in your mind if they have your best interests in theirs."
"Alright," Harry quietly said. It was a very solid piece of advice, and Harry was grateful for it. He was having a hard time picturing Dumbledore as anything but the grandfatherly-like old man he was so used to, but even Harry knew that Dumbledore didn't always choose the wisest course of action when it came to him.
"Back in my first year, Dumbledore said something which has always stuck out to me," Harry started, taking a sip of tea. "He said that to the intelligent mind, or well sorted, or something like that, death is but the next great adventure."
The sour look that came upon Snape's face would have been comical if Harry wasn't sitting close enough to the man to see the vein under his eye pulsing with annoyance.
"Naturally he would see it that way," Snape grumbled. "However, if I am not mistaken, you were one step away from winning the war when we arrived here?"
Harry nodded, and Snape looked satisfied.
"Not even the headmaster would send us back in time when you were that close to ending the Dark Lord."
Harry considered that, and Snape divided up the garlic bread for them both. It was thick and cheesy, with a tastefully light spread of garlic on it.
"Maybe he did it so that less people would die. Now that I know about the horcruxes, and where they are – "
"Horcruxes?" Snape asked, nearly dropping his plate. "That's what you were searching for last year?"
Harry gave him a tired look.
"Seven of them."
Snape muttered what Harry thought was likely quite a curse in Latin.
"I had suspected," Snape muttered, standing up and stalking toward the kitchenette.
"I didn't think he wouldn't tell you," Harry offered as a feeble excuse. Harry knew that Dumbledore had always like to play his cards close, but he'd never thought that Snape wouldn't be told about the horcruxes.
Snape came back out, with what looked like a large bar of Honeyduke's milk chocolate.
"The ring?" Snape asked. He already knew, but Harry just figured he wanted confirmation.
"The ring," Harry nodded. "The diary, a cup, a locket, the snake, a diadem."
Snape was quick to count though, and tapped his foot impatiently.
Harry raised his small finger and pointed to the scar on his forehead.
"The scar," Snape confirmed, his voice laced with defeated irritation.
Neither sad anything for a few moments, and Harry put his empty plate on the coffee table. His belly was warm, and he was feeling tired. He pulled the blanket over himself again, watching as Snape furiously worked through the information Harry had given him.
"Are you entirely certain that those horcruxes exist, and are what is keeping the Dark Lord alive?" Snape asked.
"I saw – they're interactive. I know they're bits of his soul."
"Perhaps we have been returned, because they have been destroyed," Snape thought aloud. He flicked his wand once at the fire, raising the flames again.
Harry figured Snape meant a time quest of some sort, almost like when Dudley was playing one of his video games. He had to complete certain smaller quests in order to continue along the main storyline of the game.
"We can find out," Harry said, tucking his feet under the blanket. "There's a horcrux here at Hogwarts."
"Where?" Snape coolly asked, his tea halfway up to his mouth. He didn't sound remotely surprised.
"In the Room of Requirement," Harry answered slowly. He was comfortable on the couch and couldn't remember the last time he'd slept. Was it just yesterday they'd broken into Gringotts? He shook his head and looked back at Snape.
"It'll take a bit to find, but it's there."
For the first time since Harry had woken up, he saw a small smirk form on Snape's face.
"The come and go room, of course."
"You knew about it, too?" Harry asked. He reached over to grab a biscuit, noticing that it looked just like the plain digestive biscuits Aunt Petunia served her guests.
"A few people from every generation of Hogwarts students find it," Snape said patronizingly, as if he couldn't believe that Harry was dumb enough to assume he'd been the first.
"I figured," Harry replied, dunking another biscuit in his tea and not taking Snape's baiting. "The way Dumbledore spoke of it, he made it sound like it was a brand new addition to the castle."
Snape snorted somewhat derisively. "Cheap motivational trick."
"How so?" Harry asked, peering curiously up at Snape. The clock on the mantel gave a shudder as it clicked over for the hour, signalling eight o'clock. Harry glanced around the room, but didn't see any other timepiece. "You don't have a magical clock? Nothing to signal school times?"
Snape scowled, and snatched his biscuit plate back.
"I have been teaching at this school for nearly twenty years," he scornfully said. "It's a cheap trick because it made students like yourself think they were the first to discover everything. And it made you try harder to impress him."
Harry swallowed at that, pointing his wand at the fireplace and beefing up the fire. Dumbledore had been gone for almost a year, but of course Snape would be the one that could strike a horrible pinch in Harry's heart.
A somewhat uneasy silence descended on the room, and Snape seemed to be looking anywhere but at Harry. He finally cleared his throat, and stacked the plates on the table.
"Will you recognize if the horcrux is live or not?" Snape asked, sounding slightly gruff.
"Yeah," Harry immediately replied. The familiar ache in the front of his forehead from Voldemort's presence wasn't there, but Harry had a strong feeling that he'd not lost the connection.
"If we find the diadem tonight, we'll know."
"How long will it take to find the horcruxes?" Snape asked, leaning back into his chair.
Harry had never noticed that Snape's suit, up-close, was so black that it almost appeared to have a purple tinge to it in the right light.
"How do you fancy a year of camping?"
The look Snape gave him was almost worth the horrible first year potions classes Harry had had to endure.
"Absolutely not," Snape spat, once some colour had returned to his sallow cheeks. "With my intelligence and your…memory, the horcruxes – if they exist – will be destroyed in less than six months."
"You're joking," Harry said, dropping the tight hold he'd had on his blanket. "They're not exactly easy to find!"
"It's February twenty-second," Snape said, raising his wand to summon a calendar and ignoring Harry's objection. "You will return to your relatives at the end of June."
"I'm not going back there," Harry protested, leaning over to see the calendar. Snape had things scribbled on it that Harry was surprised to see. Medical check up. Tax bill to be paid. "I'm eighteen years old."
"You're eleven, now," Snape said, with a cruel smile.
"I will find a way to go back to our time," Harry determinedly said. "I refuse to go back to the Dursleys, and have to grow up again."
"You may not have a choice," Snape maliciously reminded him. "We have yet to ascertain how we arrived back here."
Harry snapped his mouth shut, conceding mentally that Snape had a point. In any case, it was a useless argument at the moment.
"Let's just see if the horcrux is still there," Harry suggested. He was getting too comfortable on the couch, and knew that in fifteen more minutes he'd likely fall asleep.
I need to access the place where everything is hidden, Harry thought, closing his eyes as he walked back and forth along the seventh floor corridor. It was not yet nine, and while the upper students didn't have curfew yet, the hallway was empty. Snape leaned against the wall near Harry, his arms crossed and his fingers tapping against his forearms. The tapping slowed as the imposing and heavily carved door started to appear out of the wall stones.
Harry pushed his way inside, this time fairly sure that Snape was following him. The second set of footsteps behind his confirmed it, and Harry looked around at the messy room. The last time he'd seen it the room had been engulfed in flames.
"Where is it?" Snape asked, moving about the room in a way that made Harry think he'd used the space to hide something before.
"It's on Malfoy's vanishing cabinet," Harry answered, climbing over to the spot where the old ugly bust was. He remembered the panicked rush he'd been in when he'd placed the bust on top of the vanishing cabinet, ugly wig and old tiara and all. Instead of reaching for the tiara, Harry cracked open the cabinet just enough that his body blocked the view from inside. It was empty though, and Harry felt a flash of disappointment before he remembered that his special potions book was likely in the potions classroom itself. How he'd get it back without Snape knowing was another matter.
"There it is," Harry needlessly said, nodding upward. Snape made no move to reach for it.
"Well?" Snape asked, his voice seemingly empty of emotion. "You said you'd recognize if it were live."
Harry turned to look at Snape, curious suddenly to know if Snape would feel the connection. He carried the Dark Mark, and Harry figured that might be enough.
"It's in there," Harry said, feeling the bile-like presence from the diadem. He suspected the only reason he'd not noticed it in sixth year was his sole focus on hiding the potions book.
Snape did reach this time, with his wand, and levitated the diadem off the statue.
"Perhaps we should return it to my lab to study it," Snape said.
"That's probably for the best," Harry confirmed. "They like to try to kill whomever is trying to destroy it."
Snape cut him a quick look and lead them out of the room, the diadem disillusioned and floating in front of them.
Snape's quarters were still very warm from the fire, and Harry was pleasantly surprised that Snape's lab was as well. He clearly remembered the freezing potions classes in the dungeons during winter, but it seemed like Snape liked his own living space to be rather warm.
"Touch it," Harry said, watching Snape carefully place the diadem on an empty workbench.
"Potter," Snape evenly replied, as if he were talking to a moron. "You said not moments ago that it would try to kill whomever wanted to destroy it. I assure you that I very much wish to destroy this."
"You don't have anything to destroy it with. I want to see if you see what I do when you touch it," Harry reasoned. He was sitting on a stool, his short legs swinging in the air below him.
Rolling his eyes at Harry, Snape reached out and very lightly touched the diadem with his fingers. He remained still, his eyes opened and focused at Harry, and his lips in a low scowl.
"The only difference I feel is a slight elevation of malevolent magic," Snape said. "Any first year student casting a strong enough jinx can cause an identical reaction."
"No, you –," Harry jumped down off the stool and strode forward, reaching for Snape's hand before he thought too much about doing it. "You have to see."
Harry touched the tip of the diadem, one of the jewels, and let out a strangled gasp as a menacing darkness rippled through his body and images flashed through his mind. He could tell Snape was experiencing the same, as Snape's body was tense and his fingers were gripping into Harry's skin. A dark forest appeared before him in his mind, a Muggle peasant in work-worn clothes walking along a path with a basket of mushrooms, a glittering diadem in a tree, a cold malicious smile, dark eyes, a voice they both knew, and a green flash as the Muggle fell. A feeling of horror and damnation as a grey shadow grew darker and darker.
Harry staggered back against the stool, dropping the diadem to the floor and feeling very light-headed. Snape wasn't faring much better, clutching at his arm and his mouth slack as he stared at the tarnished diadem.
"I think the horcruxes remember me," Harry gasped, lowering himself to the floor. He lasted all of six seconds sitting up, before everything went black.